Brighten Someone’s Day With Some Feedback

Positive words to another person can really go a long way. Humans are social beings and our words are powerful things. In fact there are entire fields of psychology and philosophy dedicated to language and social interaction. When we are talking to people we can make ourselves and the other person feel pretty good, sometimes with a few simple words.

Research shows that compliments stimulate the part of the brain associated with performance and according to CARLA (Center For Advanced Research on Language Acquisition) compliments can have a variety of uses:

A great majority of compliments are addressed to people of similar age and status to the compliment giver (Knapp, Hopper, & Bell, 1984 [©]).

The way a compliment is received is dependent on the context in which it is given and the self-esteem of the receiver. People with a low self-esteem aren’t as receptive to compliments as people with a normal or high self-esteem.  Culture and upbringing can also affect this. For example there are cultures where it is more acceptable to compliment children or cultures where it might not be acceptable to compliment a person’s spouse…etc. Depending on upbringing, ideology and circumstances compliments may or may not be well received.

However when the situation allows it a compliment can go a long way to helping ourselves and the other person feel great. One study shows it stimulates the part of the brain responsible for a feeling of reward

Compliments are little gifts of love They are not asked for or demanded. They tell a person they are worthy of notice. They are powerful gifts.

Hara Estroff Marano

Even constructive criticism (i.e. You are doing it too fast, slow down a little and you will notice more detail or you’re soup will taste a lot better with a bit more onion…etc.) can be very positive. We must be careful to keep this kind of feedback positive but when carefully worded constructive criticism is often a practical way to help someone improve their job or life somehow.

Never be afraid to give someone a compliment. Even if the compliment is not well received no one in their right mind would ever get or stay angry and we have a much greater chance of brightening their day and your own.

 

 

 

 

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Journal Sunday August 26th, 2018: A New Resource Page

As ardent web surfer I have discovered so many great websites and resources I thought it was high time to start sharing them all. So this site will soon include a hope and happiness resource page.  I will likely do overviews of the really good ones individually before adding them because some warrant exploration and praise above and beyond others. The page will also include media resources such as books, movies and journals and links to people and organizations that can provide hope and happiness in some way.

It’s truly amazing the hope and happiness we can bring to each other and ourselves. We don’t need the external help of unproven entities, religious dogma or superstition. We don’t need the false promises of charlatans who lie and cheat and lighten our wallets. There are countless websites, people and organizations that can do that for us and in ways based on the sciences and the humanities. Bringing as many of these together in one resource page would be very useful indeed.

 

 

 

 

Duty to Love

Duty is such a great word. It implies that whatever that person is talking about is an obligation. Duty is something you must do or risk harm to your reputation or lose your job or lose respect or some other very undesirable consequence. As such it’s not a word to be used lightly but this particular meme is using it appropriately, Love, in whatever for from that is, is most definitely everyone’s duty.
Image result for there are more things to admire.

Acceptance and Action Part 1

Determinism has it’s fair of supporters and deniers but what they all have in common is a desire to have a solid answer to the philosophical question of fate’s existence. Supporters say that everything, even our choices, are the result of some other cause or causes such as natural laws or our biology.  These causes can be explained or unexplained, understood or not understood but there is always a cause. In the extreme case fatalists believe that these causes are entirely out of our control, that our lives are at the mercy of the Gods or some other supernatural force.

Indeterminism or freewill rejects the idea of fate and predictability, especially so with our choices. Supporters of free will say that our choices are ours to make and that we have a moral responsibility to make the right choices as much as possible. Even in circumstances beyond our control such illness or the death of a loved one we can still choose how we handle whatever our circumstances are in some way (i.e. instead of mourning the death of our lost loved one we can choose to remember how lucky we were to have them in our life).

Most people accept that our lives are some combination of determinism and free will. What degree of determinism and/or freewill we have is a debate as old philosophy itself. There exists two ways of handling each situation we find ourselves in:

Action: The first and most important step in shaping our lives. This is what we do when we use our power to make things better. Even by deciding to take action we reject determinism and take responsibility for our own lives. This has three parts:

  • Knowledge: We use our cumulative knowledge to asses our situation.
  • Experience: Drawing on past circumstances to help us determine the best course.
  • Morals: Doing our best to be sure the decision we have made falls within our boundaries of what’s right.

Acceptance: When circumstances are out of control there is always one option: acceptance. Acceptance takes back our power even in the most unpreventable of circumstances because we can always choose to accept our situation. We must be careful with acceptance because it’s a dangerous slippery slope to apathy and so acceptance is a last resort but it is always a feeling that we can choose to have.

Free will most certainly exists when we understand that acceptance is always an option. Some things are extremely hard or impossible for us to accept for many reason but the choice is, at least fundamentally, ours. So we therefore always have some power to control how we feel. Choosing what to accept and when to take action is a complicated matter but will be covered in future articles. Just  remember you can always choose acceptance and take back your power to be content no matter what situation you find yourself in.

 

Journal May 20th, 2018: A new look

A new look and a title change. The look is likely to change to over time until it is perfected. I was also able to overcome the technical problem by choosing a different theme and making only the most recent ten posts available without clicking the plus button at the bottom of the page. Seven years of content was just too much for the old theme to load. In the mean time some words of wisdom and back to regular posting after a break.

The Little Things:

I was going through a not so nice split from my wife, working a job I hate and living somewhere I didn’t want to. On top of life’s normal problems with bills and relationships it was getting to be too much to handle. I made a coffee and sat in my lazy-boy chair , looked out the window and I noticed the leaves on the trees. They are pretty complex organisms onto themselves. The BBC has 5 webpages explaining the complex science of photosynthesis and that one tree is full of them. It’s a very calming affect to realize how amazing life is, if a single leaf is that complex imagine how sophisticated we are. Even on molecular level a single cell is an entire universe of atoms and particles…etc. We are very lucky to get to observe things like this. Remembering how amazing it is that we exist and how much has to be right for even a single leaf to function is a humbling reminder that our day to day problems are pretty insignificant against how much of a natural miracle life is.

I’m happy to be back after a long break and some technical problems and look forward to regular posts again.

 

 

 

The Miracle of Life: Against all Odds

Science, from the outside, can seem cold and calculating. The vision many people have of the sciences is lab coats, beakers and calculators. The scientist is too often pictured as a person in a white coat with glasses conducting their experiments and crunching boring, monotonous data to come to conclusions many of us may not even understand. One of the only things we really need to understand about the sciences is why the sciences have proven our lives to be a miracle. For example take what had to happen for you to be here:

    1. The Universe had to start to exist: Scientists, for the most part, use the Big Bang as the model to describe the origins of the universe. It’s not known what caused it but was the start of a process that created the Universe.
    2. Our planet had to be createdThe Earth was created approximately 4.6 Billion years ago and lived it’s early life in a chaotic state.
    3. Our planet needed to be able to support life: Life started approximately 3.7 billion years ago (The BBC website has a very good and thorough examination). At this point the Earth had survived bombardment by comets and asteroids, super-volcanoes and many other planet destroying phenomena. The Earth also just happened to be orbiting the habitable zone of our sun.
    4. Evolution: Human evolution started aprox. 13 million years ago. For evolution to even start complex amino acids had to form (aprox. 10 to the power of 40 chance according to some).
    5. Humans have had to survive:
          1. War: Humans have been fighting wars since at least 2700 BCE when Sumer and Elam went to war. We have been fighting ever since including two world wars and multiple close calls with nuclear war.
          2. Disease: Smallpox, measles, typhus, cholera and the plague to name only a few of the many diseases we have managed to survive so far.
          3. Famine: The great famine of Ireland, The Russian Famine, The Chinese Famine of 1907 and many others.
          4. Disasters:  We have survived numerous volcanoes, earthquakes and even an ice age.
    6. Your parents had to meet (and there parents and so on). Harvard Possessor Binazir actually calculated and came up with this great infographic showing the odds of you being born. According to Binazir it’s one in ten to the power of 2.685 million. So that’s a one in ten followed 2.865 million zeros chance that you could come into existence.

This brief look at human history doesn’t even begin to explore the destruction in the cosmos (like asteroids and rogue black holes ), the miracle of evolution that gave us our complex brains and bodies fit to survive in so many of the Earth’s  environments or how the Earth is perfectly suited for life. Despite all of the wanton destruction, disease, death and mayhem of the universe and life itself here you are in the year 2018 reading this article on your electronic device.  Congratulations you have beat everything the universe could throw at you to prevent you from coming into existence.  You can now enjoy being able to take a look around and enjoy life from the vast (family, friends, career..etc) to the simple (fresh air, good food..etc). and this fact is a miracle.

 

 


Forgiveness Is…

When one considers the stress of carrying all the resentment, anger and hate that goes with not forgiving “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” (Louis B. Smedes). Forgiveness is important for many reasons and Positive psychology says forgiveness is:

“a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

It’s also important to recognize what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness doesn’t mean idly accepting wrongdoings or forgetting that a person has a tendency to act badly in some way. ‘You do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.’ (Greater Good Berkeley)

Psychology Tools has an excellent PDF defining what forgiveness is and what it is not:

Once we understand forgiveness the next step is practicing it and lucky for us experts like Robert Enright have defined a process for doing this. Enright’s  Eight Keys to Forgiveness:

  1. Know what forgiveness is and why it matters: We understand what forgiveness is and what it is not (see above). So why does it matter? Psychologically it relieves us of the burden of resentment, anger and hate. Depending on the situation forgiveness also allows for a rebuilding of damaged relationships,  closure in unfortunate situations (moving on), and the learning that goes with positive reflection on a wrongdoing.
  2. Become “forgivingly fit: Forgiveness, like most things, improves with practice. “It’s important to cultivate this mindset of valuing our common humanity, so that it becomes harder to discount someone who has harmed you as unworthy.”
  3. Address your inner pain: Know who has hurt and why. Acknowledge the bad feeling or harm that person has caused you and address it in a healthy way (i.e. talk to someone or seek professional help) “There are many forms of emotional pain; but the common forms are anxiety, depression, unhealthy anger, lack of trust, self-loathing or low self-esteem, an overall negative worldview, and a lack of confidence in one’s ability to change. All of these harms can be addressed by forgiveness; so it’s important to identify the kind of pain you are suffering from and to acknowledge it. “
  4. Develop a forgiving mind through empathy: Research shows that forgiving someone activates the parts of your brain responsible for empathy. When we forgive we begin to see why the person responsible did what they did and what issues they might be dealing with that caused them to do you harm. It works both ways: when we understand we can forgive and when we forgive can begin to understand. “Recognizing that we all carry wounds in our hearts can help open the door to forgiveness.”
  5. Find meaning in your suffering: This can be hard to do when feeling angry, resentful or hurt by someone but an important part of the process. We can learn from what went wrong and ‘try to see how our suffering has changed us in a positive way.’ Some people see it as learning experience (i.e. that’s a person I can’t trust or that person doesn’t like it when I so such and such or I need to be better prepared next time….etc.). Some people view suffering as a building of their ability to cope (resilience) “To find meaning is not to diminish your pain or to say, I’ll just make the best of it or all things happen for a reason. You must always take care to address the woundedness in yourself and to recognize the injustice of the experience, or forgiveness will be shallow.”
  6. When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths: Forgiveness can be hard, even seemingly impossible and in these times we can call upon other supports to help us.  We can do this by first accepting that we aren’t perfect either and forgiveness will not always be easy. We can then call upon other supports in our lives to find the courage to forgive.
  7. Forgive yourself: We can be hard on ourselves when we are the ones who have done wrong in some way. However when we forgive ourselves we “offer to yourself what you offer to others who have hurt you: a sense of inherent worth, despite your actions.”
  8. Develop a forgiving heart: I’m not one to simply copy and paste content but I could not find better words:When we overcome suffering, we gain a more mature understanding of what it means to be humble, courageous, and loving in the world. We may be moved to create an atmosphere of forgiveness in our homes and workplaces, to help others who’ve been harmed overcome their suffering, or to protect our communities from a cycle of hatred and violence. All of these choices can lighten the heart and bring joy to one’s life. Some people may believe that love for another who’s harmed you is not possible. But, I’ve found that many people who forgive eventually find a way to open their hearts. If you shed bitterness and put love in its place, and then repeat this with many, many other people, you become freed to love more widely and deeply. This kind of transformation can create a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone.” (Enright, 2015)

As a humanist the sentence “a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone” as a lot of meaning.  Humanists like myself don’t believe in the afterlife as described by religion.  Our only eternal life is the one that resides in people’s memories of us and so we strive to make that afterlife a good one and it must include forgiveness.

 

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

https://psychologytools.com/positive-psychology.html

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/forgiveness/definition#what-is

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/forgiveness/

Meaning From Multiple Sources

In the PERMA model the M is for meaning and purpose, a crucial part of living a happy life.  All of us have either found meaning or are looking for it, whether we realise it or not.  To find our meaning we first list our values and priorities. At the top of that list will be what matters most, your meaning in life. Attaching yourself to this higher value or priority does for the nonreligious and unbelievers what religion can: attach meaning to something bigger than you are. Even better is that meaning can come from multiple sources, thereby boosting our ability to get through life happy and fulfilled.

One of the founding father’s of modern humanistic psychology is Victor Frankl. He founded Logotherapy which is literally ‘meaning therapy’. Fankl was a holocaust survivor and finding meaning in the face of something that terrible was the only way he found to cope:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  Victor Fankl

Frankl spoke of three main sources of meaning:

  1. Work: Not necessarily just a job but any purposeful work.
  2. Love:  Love in any form it comes in (spouse, family, friends..etc). Frankl felt love to be the person that brings out the best in you. “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” Victor Frankl
  3. Suffering: Courage in the face of difficulties. “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.’ -Victor Frankl

The most recent and comprehensive study found four main areas of meaning:

  1. Purpose: Present events draw meaning from their connection to future outcomes — objective goals and subjective fulfillment.
  2. Values: Which can justify certain courses of action.
  3. Efficacy: The belief that one can make a difference.
  4. Self-worth: Reasons for believing that one is a good and worthy person apparently are what results from immersion in our natural talents or what we excel at.  (Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs (2005, p. 610))

Studies vary about where people get their meaning from. One study found ‘Family was by far the most commonly cited source of meaning in life, with an overwhelming majority of mentions (36.14%). Interpersonal relations was the next most mentioned source of meaning (14.40%), followed by personal life (9.65%) and work (8.83%).” (Melissa E. Grouden, Paul E. Jose) But another one found 10 sources of meaning (Reker and Wong (1988)). Yet another study by Westerhof, Bohlmeijer, and Valenkamp (2004) found 5 sources of meaning. They all have 2 things in common:

  1. Internal sources of meaning: Personal growth, values and ideals, religious/spiritual enlightenment, emotional intelligence…etc.
  2. External sources of meaning: Work, leisure, relationships, cultural and religious activities…etc.

What all of this tells us is two things: First, that you don’t need to take meaning from just one thing and second that meaning can also change. Taking meaning from multiple sources ensures us that if we ever lose one source of meaning another is always there to keep us going through life, a safety net and the bigger the net the better. Also, our lives can change at any given moment and so it is prudent to regularly re-examine what gives our life meaning.  Knowing this we will always have a source of strength and a fundamental tool in our ability to cope with life.

 

Sources:

Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. Print.

Making Meaning in Life. Michael F. Steger. Psychological Inquiry , 23: 381–385, 2012 Copyright C ©Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. http://www.michaelfsteger.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Steger-PI-2012.pdf

Emmons, R. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Wellsprings of a positive life. In C. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.)

Baumeister (1991). Meanings of life. New York:

Guilford.Baumeister, R. & Vohs, K. (2005). Meaningfulness in life. In C. R. Snyder & S. Lopez, Handbook of positive psychology, pp. 608-618). Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.

Emmons, R. (1997). Motives and goals. In R. Hogan & J. A. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology, (p 485-512). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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