Musings full of nothing significant: Do you believe in ghosts?

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During a meditation not too long ago I found my mind carried away by a quote that I heard during the new Cosmos series I had been watching the day before.

The quote in and of itself wasn’t particularly significant but it’s what it stimulated in my subconscious that then found its way to the surface the following day that caught my attention and dragged me away from a perfectly good meditation.

So what was the quote you may ask? It came from the son John of William Herschel, the 18th -19th century astronomer and composer, then a young boy when he asked his father, “Father do you believe in ghosts?”

His father said yes, but not in the human kind and then went on to explain how the light from many of the stars we see in the night sky has taken millions or even billions of years to reach our eyes and how those very stars may no longer exist because they have long since died. In this way he explained we really do see the “ghosts” of the dead, the ephemerae of the past.

The truth is that you and I are always seeing what was, that every event, every object that we see is but an image from the past. This is because it takes time for our brains to process a sensory input. Not very much time, granted i.e. 80milliseconds to be precise and we wouldn’t even notice except in those cases when there are two sensory inputs such as visual and auditory and if the object of the sound/vision stimulus takes more than 80 milliseconds to reach our eyes/ears. When this happens sound and vision are out of sync thus producing a lag between the two. Ever notice that during a fireworks display that there’s a lag between the flash and the bang? In this case the “ghost” is two fold i.e. the flash is 80 milliseconds dead while the bang is at least 160 milliseconds from the past. What we see and hear is but a ghost from the past. Fundamentally what we are conscious of doesn’t exist in the here and now. Consciousness is only of the past. Consciousness is but a ghost.

No wonder science has trouble with consciousness and try as they might scientists can’t even agree on what ”consciousness” is, they don’t seem to be able to account for it. They know a lot about ‘how’ the brain functions but can’t explain what consciousness is or how it works– science simply cannot measure it and if you can’t measure it, then you can’t do what science does, test it. We know it’s there because we’re all walking around with it, but how do we find out what it is if we can’t use the scientific method on it?

What do I mean by consciousness? It’s the ability to have mental experiences and we do that all the time whether awake or asleep (your dreams are part of your consciousness).

Some scientists and philosophers have wondered if at the atomic level of existence our consciousness may be like that of a photon of light i.e. massless. It seems as though neither light nor consciousness exist within the same time/space paradigm as we do, as our bodies do. “How is that so?” you may well ask. Our bodies have mass and can never attain the speed of light because, according to the Einsteinian equations, that would require that they become infinite in their mass. But light can travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles/second) because it has no mass. And from the point-of-view of a photon of light time has stopped– it “lives” within no time i.e. the present. If you look at consciousness closely it also seems to have no mass therefor not a part of the body. In a material world of bodies space and time exist as a single entity, space/time, but in the world of the photon and perhaps as I’m suggesting the world of mind, time doesn’t exist and thus nether does space. As Einstein suggested time/space may be only a function of the observer, the brain.

So let me get back to this hypothetical photon. This is the same as the light that left the body of a star and traveled across time. If this photon could think it wouldn’t know that its body may already be dead and that what it “sees” of itself is only its ghost.

This seems to be what happens at the event horizon of a black hole, that line of demarcation that defines what’s outside the hole and what’s inside. If you were to step across this line it would look to others outside as though you were forever trapped within the horizon itself when in reality you had early on been crushed and torn into atomic flotsam. All we see out here is the “ghost” of who you were.

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There are some theories that suggest that we ourselves are dead the moment we are born, that our light has traversed time and that like my make-believe photon we only see the ghost of ourselves and that it is always in the present moment. Light does funny things to time and because it helps to define existence we may see that our existence is relative to the observer as well. While in the ship of our bodies we see one reality but to an observer outside this reality quite another reality exists.

Now, I’m not suggesting that any of this proves my musings, but it does perhaps show that ghost images of what once was can far outlive their original existence especially from an observer (the brain) on the outside of consciousness.

Do you believe in ghosts? Perhaps we are one!

It’s a different world now

 

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All through our lives there are events that encourage us to look at life differently. There are times when what used to work no longer works, when friends we were once close to then become not so much and new friends beckon, when an exciting job becomes dull and a chore, when children come in and out of our lives, when we lose jobs or get new ones, parents die or we ourselves become sick, or when we gain or give up relationships.

Every event requires some kind of adjustment, some kind of shift and some kind of detachment. To hold on to the old can cause sickness. It’s like the germ of life within a seed that has to break through its skin in order to grow, to continue to live, and where not shedding the old skin to make room for the new can result in death and in our case it can be a slow death of our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.

Life is often about learning when to let go, when to allow for the shift, and how to expand the container where we are to hold all our experiences gracefully so that we can come alive again.

Nearly four years ago I lost three close friends, people that I would have gladly called brother and mentor, three who at varying levels impacted my life greatly. Their deaths have to this day left me at times lost and scrambling for new meaning in my life. I was someone different when they were around and now that they are gone something about who I am has changed.

It is truly a different world for me now that they aren’t in it, my definition of reality isn’t quite the same, isn’t quite as solid, more surreal than real, and more made up than true. My emotions have also become more raw what with feeling both love and anger more acutely. It feels as though I’m at the edge of something new and I’m trying to just let this be and not fight it so as to not squash what is about to grow before it gets started. For me letting the feelings just be what they are is a means of watering the garden and watching the seeds do what seeds do when left to grow.

What I’ve learned from my dreams: If you are the director of your life’s story is it time for a rewrite? It depends on who you think is producing and showing the movie.

 

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“I am the light.” “You are the light of the world”. Are these just quotes from a biblical text or something much more profound?

When you hear people use phrases such as “You are the light” or “All is light” or “The light within” what is meant by Light? The Light, being talked about is the metaphysical essence of all life e.g. the soul or spirit– basically what we are.

Think of a movie being shown on a screen. What’s on the screen isn’t real but there is a light coming from a projector behind you and it is that light that is being projected onto the screen. Our natural level of consciousness is like that screen. What we think is real is actually a projection of light upon this screen we call life. But where’s the projector, behind us or is it in us? I contend that we are the projector of our own light upon the screen of our lives and therefore the producer of our reality.

We keep projecting all kinds of silly stuff onto our screens, the list is long for example, such things as, “I’m too helpless and small to make a difference in the world”, or “I only have so much time, life is short, we can’t get it all done, take what I can before it runs out”, and don’t forget the iconic, “I am separate from everyone and everything”, “The circumstances of my life determine what I do or don’t do”, “The best way to deal with things that make me anxious is to put them out of sight”, or “God hasn’t got time for us little people.”

This list and way of thinking assumes that the projector is behind us in the theater of our lives and that something else is the producer of this project called life. The list of course is very much longer than what I’ve laid out. I could fill several books with these falsehoods and fantasies. It would be folly to try to deal with each as a means to gaining enlightenment. To try is to make the false assumption that the solution to all our problems lies at the level of the problem. Though most self-development gurus, advertisers, and politicians would like you to believe that this is so, it is not.

But if you were to think of yourself as the projector, the one responsible for the pictures that are produced on your personal picture screen i.e. your life, perhaps you’d have more control over the picture being viewed? Better yet, what if you were the light itself that shines through your projector and animates the figures on the screen? Then no matter where you pointed your projector you would see only your light and it is only your light you know. Everything on your screen is the light you are projecting.

Very much like all the images and characters in your sleeping dreams everything you see is an aspect of you and you have the power to adjust what it is you’re focusing on i.e. you can focus on the real you or a facsimile. Do you focus on the you that you were born with or the you of your parents and the society and culture you grew up in?

Bring your full light to the image and you’ll begin to be aware of what you really are– you are the light. This is your true self and we’re all projecting some part of it. What you see “out there” is a projection of your own light. If you are seeing it half darkly know that you need only shift the focus to bring greater light to the image. I’m talking about ‘awareness’, looking beneath what appears obvious, and adjusting your lens so that the picture becomes clearer. The outside world isn’t out of focus it is your projection that is out of focus. By refocusing your awareness away from the image on the screen and more toward your inner self you can begin to notice what it is that’s running this film.

So how does one begin to see the show differently? How does one take the focus in hand? Remember that everything is an aspect of you and with this in mind one way might be to give greater attention to the subtleties of everyday life e.g. you know the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, you know that you like that smell, but how is it making you feel, what images, thoughts, and feelings in your mind does it bring up, what does that first taste of the hot brew hitting your tongue do to your body, your mood, your outlook on the moment?

Furthermore what are you projecting onto the first person you meet in the morning? What part of you are you shining onto them, your light or some part of your darkness? Look closer, who is that really out there? If you adjust your focus a little does that clear them up somewhat?

In short, expand your awareness, look beyond the obvious. Look what else you are projecting and look at what else is in the light. Do this until it becomes second nature.

Fool’s errand

 

the-fools-jester.gif“The arc of the moral universe is a long one but it bends towards justice,” is a quote used by any number of people, the most notable of which was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in one of his speeches. The quote was from a mid-nineteenth century Transcendentalist, Theodor Parker.

But this arc that bends won’t just happen, it has never bent on its own. It has always taken active “benders” to move it towards justice.

Peace and Passive are two words that have often been linked to each other even though Peace requires Active not Passive participation. Peace doesn’t just happen and when it does, it doesn’t come from fear or the need to dominate and control, it comes from positive resolve and intention.

Justice requires positive activism, an activism that promotes a context of positive connection between people and ideas.

I’m using the attribute modifier ‘Positive’ for a reason because both negative and positive create context i.e. the ambient condition in which things exist. Positive and negative motivations can coexist within either context, in fact they can inform each other. But the type of overall context tends to bend things toward one or the other way of being.

This tendency is why some efforts to bring about positive change are frequently thwarted because of negative subtext. For example, when a desire to change something is layered onto an unspoken negative such as a feeling of helplessness (at a loss for what will really work), cynical thoughts (‘they’ could change but probably won’t), or manipulation (if I can get them to change I will benefit e.g. will no longer be in fear or I will get my way) it is doomed to fail at some point.

When I use the word “resolve” I’m referring to the power of intention. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.”

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The typical game of world peace , oops I mean whack-a-mole

I’m suggesting that we stop focusing on the problem and start shifting our attention to what it is we want to create (the ground of being or context for what exists). Tackling problems without addressing the context is like playing “whack-a-mole” at the arcade, it’s a forever exercise with no end goal other than each whack has a momentary and terminal feeling of satisfaction attached.

When you have honestly and truthfully defined what it is that you want for the world you live in and resolve to do what is wanted and needed to create that, the action needed will reveal itself as will the obstacles to achieving it. Do you think the iPhone just suddenly appeared fully functional and ready to transform the world of communication? Obstacles become markers along the road to success when they are included as a necessary part of an intentional context. Great inventors know this as do effective social activists.

Intention toward a context will literally change ones consciousness. For example, if you were to have as your intention to change your negative responses to others, or to events, by actively replacing such things as anger, impatience, or fear with compassion, understanding of differing needs, and calmness/centeredness, your experience of the person or event would shift.

Once the personal context has shifted then one can see the action necessary to shift the overall context.

In short, to focus all our energies on solving individual problems as they pop up without addressing the context in which they are created and sustained is a fool’s errand.

Great Expectations: The unconscious influence on perception and action

 

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Line drawings of our expectations on the left with reality on the right. Note that anywhere along the line on the right one could compare progress with the expectation on the left and be disappointed and/or angry even though the outcome is exactly as hoped for.

 

Last night I had a dream. In the dream things that I expected did not happen and I started to get upset, then angry, with how things weren’t happening the way I thought they should. In the dream I found myself yelling, “Stop doing that, that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it!” When I awoke I realized that this was a reflection of my unexamined feelings associated with being disappointed with something someone had done. I had been chewing on my judgments of them all the day preceding the dream so it was only natural that the issue should show up in a dream.

The issue wasn’t really about the unexplored feelings however, they were important but something else was affecting those feelings. The issue was really about my expectations for their behavior and it was these that were coloring my inner dialogue. And it was my expectations that were affecting what I was feeling about them.

So what about an unmet expectation was causing trouble in my mind or to put it another way when someone or something doesn’t live up to my expectation of the way they should be, why do I find that upsetting? Whoa, the onus of the problem just shifted radically from “it’s their fault” to “It’s mine”. My expectations are affecting how I see the world and then how I react to it.

There have been many studies about the effects of expectations in fields as varied as science, teaching, marketing, and politics. Expectations affect not only the findings of a scientist but on what they choose to study. They affect a journalist, a jury and a judge on what facts or non facts they choose to believe in and they also affect how a teacher perceives a student that can cause the teacher to either not expect much from a student or to expect more. Our expectations affect how we vote, listen to talk show hosts on T.V. / radio, and the products we buy and all of this opens us to manipulation the kind marketers and politicians use to get us to think their way instead of for ourselves. These real world perceptions also affect the decisions and pronouncements that a politician makes once in office and even affect when a policeman chooses to make an arrest or pull his weapon from its holster.

When I was a Freshman in High School we read Charles Dickens’ book “Great Expectations”. I loved the story but don’t think I really understood how the expectations of both the protagonist of the story, Pip, and the adults and others around him were affected by their expectations and how these judgments of the way life should or had to be ran their lives.

And behind every expectation there lays a judgment, a judgment that anything other than ones expectation is less– less important, valuable, honorable, patriotic, or correct… well you get the idea.

But let me narrow the field a little. In my dream as well as in my waking life I tend to let my judgments get in the way of what I am seeing. All too often I let my labels of what something is or should be affect what it actually is. All too often I will let my labels get in the way of my love for someone or something. This is true for not only how I see others and treat them, but for how I see myself that then will often lead to how I treat myself.

But I will always have judgments, I am like most people a “judgment machine” either judging something “good” (meaning it agrees with my point-of-view) or that it is “bad” (meaning that it doesn’t agree with my point-of-view)– yes I can choose to be tolerant of the so-called “bad” but often that’s just a personal expectation that I hold for myself because I judge myself to be a “good” and tolerant person. See? I’m a judgment machine!

One way that I deal with my judgments that affect my expectations, that affect how I feel about and how I interact with others, is to first become aware that that’s what I’m doing. For example, if I were to have the judgment that what someone is doing is stupid I just say to myself, “I’m having that “stupid judgment” thought again. What this does is to take the thought out of the automatic mode of perceiving the world and allows me then to shift my perspective and to look at myself to see what of myself that I may be projecting onto the event or the person.

Sometimes my judgments lead me to evil thoughts where I play a game in my head of tit-for-tat or an eye for an eye and I spiral down into negativity. What has helped me here is another expectation for myself i.e. that when I notice that I’m playing this negative scenario in my head that I will notice and never meet or counter evil with evil, negativity only breeds more negativity. I can use this negative energy to protest the evil in such a way that it makes some people stop and think about their actions or the actions of others.

But mostly I find that I just make these automatic judgments, expectations and decisions without assessing them and that of course doesn’t allow me to be at choice with either the perception or the response to them. This begs the question as to what degree am I really at choice with anything in my life, especially if I’ve allowed most of it to be run by my unconscious points-of-view – those unconscious points-of-view that the sleeping brain presents to us in our dreams in an attempt at trying to bring consciousness to our choices?

Ah, “free choice”, real choice, of what to think, what to feel, or how to act, how much do we really have? That’s a topic for another time.

Does objective reality exist?

 

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Now I want to make everything perfectly clear I AM NOT A PHYSICIST! I also was not a math major. The hard sciences fascinated me but ultimately it was what are called the soft-sciences (psychology, mythology) that attracted me. I say this to make it clear that I have no credibility when it comes to anything that smacks of physics and yet I’m arrogant enough to want to use it as a means of taking a closer look at what’s behind the theoretical curtain of reality that interacts with psychology.

We’ve all been taught about how BIG the universe is and have been introduced to theories about how it came to be e.g. the Big Bang. Seems simple enough though I’ve always imagined the physics behind it all to be much more complex.

Here’s a basic equation describing the Big Bang or expanding universe cosmology        H2=(a/a)2=8 πG/3• ρ–kc2/a2+ Λc2/3* It seems almost too simple to describe something so big as our universe.

And you’d be right if you were to think that because a physicists’ reality never seems to be that simple.

Steven Hawking at Univ. of Cambridge (holding the same chair as Isaac Newton) suggested that the universe has no boundaries—no beginning and no end. To do this, he uses Imaginary Time that runs perpendicular to the past/present/future, “regular” time you and I experience (I know, don’t ask). However, when using “regular time” there will always be a beginning, or T=0.

Abhay Ashtekar, a Penn State physicist uses a model of gravity that allows him to mathematically waltz right up to T=0 and then pass on through to the other side where he says is another universe that is in the process of collapsing rather than expanding like ours. Does this mean that there is a T= minus 0— A previous cause of a first cause, or a first cause before a first cause, or an effect before a first cause? It boggles!

Now here’s a boggle: The London physicist David Bohm believes that objective reality does not exist, that at the heart of it all is a phantasm—a hologram if you will. He argues that at the deepest level of reality everything is actually an extension of the same basic something.

To make this statement he cites the work of the Parisian physicist Alain Aspect who performed an experiment with amazing, some might say magical, results. He and his team discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance between them e.g. one foot or one billion feet between them it makes no difference. But, but… what about Einstein’s nothing can go faster than the speed of light rule?

Bohm says that they are able to do this because their separateness is illusory! They are extensions of the same thing. He uses the following illustration to get a handle on the boggle: Imagine that there is an aquarium with one fish in it swimming around. Now imagine that the only way you can observe the aquarium is via a camera recording the fishes every move. Imagine now that there are two cameras projecting pictures onto two monitors but the second camera is shooting at right angles to the first. If you were to believe you were watching two aquariums and two fish you would see two different movements. But if you were to watch more closely you would see that these movements seem to be linked e.g. when one faces the front the other is facing the side. Because you don’t see them as the same fish its hard to understand the link.

The bottom line is that we are only seeing a portion of the reality and that is what is happening to subatomic particles that are “instantaneously” communicating. At the deepest level of reality the universe is a projection and everything is interconnected.

This sounds like as many theologists’ claim, that everything including you and I are at a fundamental level connected. And the concept that everything is a “projection” appears to mirror what Depth Psychologists have been saying for years i.e. that our reality is but a projection of our own minds.

Science and theology get closer and closer.

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*The Alexander Friedman equation for the expansion of the universe.

 

 

 

10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them.

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10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them. (based on an article from Reddit.com)

We are living in a time of easy access to an overwhelming amount of information and of much over-the-top rhetoric with questionable fact delivery and weakened logic that seems to be driving a fear-based narrative. Part of what reinforces this negative stream are what are called errors of cognition or just thinking errors. These show up more often than not when we are in fight or flight mode and weary of all the negative input that inundates us at every turn.

Note that these are “errors” and not necessarily “disorders” unless of course one uses them all the time and in a way that affects their ability to function effectively and appropriately.

In September of 2016 I wrote about the effects that fear has on our thinking in Fear breeds bigotry and bullying .

The following is a deepening of this idea:

Based on the work of Aaron Beck and others, in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, which he calls cognitive distortions.

  • ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING – Also called Black and White Thinking – Thinking of things in absolute terms, like “always”, “every” or “never”. For example, if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Few aspects of human behavior are so absolute. Nothing is 100%. No one is all bad, or all good, we all have grades (I call this ‘absolutism’ and I find that I use it most often when I’m having an argument with my spouse. Nope, it doesn’t work).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “Has there ever been a time when it was NOT that way?” (all or nothing thinking does not allow exceptions so if even one exception can be found, it’s no longer “all” or “nothing”)
    • Ask yourself, “Never?” or “Always?” (depending upon what you are thinking)
  • OVERGENERALIZATION – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generalizations. For example, you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat: “She yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.”
 I’ve also seen this when people support or discount a reality because they “Knew someone who…” or “Read about someone…” or “I have it from a ‘good’ source and then apply that info globally. This falls into the category of “There are huge drug cartels in Mexico, therefore all or most Mexicans are drug dealers”. 
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • When you catch yourself overgeneralizing say to yourself, “Just because one event happened, does not necessarily
 mean I am (or you are or he/she is…[some way of being])”
  • MENTAL FILTER – Focusing exclusively on certain, usually negative or upsetting, aspects of something while ignoring the rest. For example, you selectively hear the one tiny negative thing surrounded by all the HUGE POSITIVE STUFF. Often this includes being associated in negative (“I am so stupid!”), and dissociated in positive (“You have to be pretty smart to do my job”). Boy do I over use this one! Both on myself and on certain politicians and political parties.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Learn to look for the silver lining in every cloud
    • Count up your negatives vs your positives – for every negative event,
stack up a positive against it. Make a list of both negative and positive
character attributes and behaviors.
  • DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, ad hoc reasons. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. The good stuff doesn’t count because the rest of your life is a miserable pile of doo-doo. “That doesn’t count because my life sucks!” To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “So what does count then?” “In what way?”
    • Accept compliments with a simple, “Thank you.”
    • Make lists of personal strengths and accomplishments (I’ve found this to be particularly helpful though you may need to keep it nearby to remind yourself.)
  • JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it. Two specific subtypes are also identified:
    • Mind reading – assuming the intentions of others. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check it out. To beat this one, you need to let go of your need for approval – you can’t please everyone all the time. Ask yourself, “How do you know that…?” Check out “supporting” facts with an open mind.
    • Fortune telling – anticipating that things will turn out badly, you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. To beat this, ask, “How do you know it will turn out in that way?” Again, check out the facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • When the conclusion is based on a prior cause (for example, the last time your spouse behaved in this manner s/he said it was because s/he felt angry so s/he must be angry this time, too), ask yourself, “What evidence do you have to support your notion that s/he feels…” “How did you arrive at that understanding” “What other conclusion might this evidence support?”
    • When the conclusion is based on a future consequence (“I’ll die for sure if she keeps harping on this…”) Ask yourself, “How does this conclusion serve you?” and “If you continue to think that way… [what will happen to you]?” and “Imagine 5 years from now…” (Future Pace)
  • MAGNIFICATION AND MINIMIZATION–
    • Exaggerating negatives and understating positives (I do this when I’m going down the rabbit hole of ‘absolutism’). Often the positive characteristics of other people are exaggerated and negatives understated. There is one subtype of magnification/catastrophizing – focusing on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinking that a situation is unbearable or impossible when it is really just uncomfortable: “I can’t stand this.”
    • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What would happen if you did [stand this]?”
    • Ask yourself, “How specifically is [this/that/he/she] so good/too much/too many/etc. or so bad/not good enough/too little/etc.?”
    • After asking the second question, ask yourself, “Compared to what/whom?”
  • EMOTIONAL REASONING –
  • Making decisions and arguments based on how you feel rather than objective reality. People who allow themselves to get caught up in emotional reasoning can become completely blinded to the difference between feelings and facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) patterning interrupts and creates new ‘anchors’ that are the most powerful state changers – interrupt anything negative: “X makes me mad” “How does what I do cause you to choose to feel mad?” Interrupt: “How could you believe that?”
  • SHOULDING ( or Oughting)–  “Must”, or “Can’t” thinking.
  • Shoulding is focusing on what
 you can’t control. For example, you try to enlighten another’s unconscious – they should get it (for me this comes from my self-centered ego self, after all I got it why can’t you? This assumes that I actually got it). Concentrating on what you think “should” or ought to be rather than the actual situation you are faced with will simply stress you out. What you choose to do, and then do, will (to some degree, at least) change the world. What you “should” do will just make you miserable.
 Often these come from the expectations (values?) we were fed as we grew up.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “What would it feel like, look like, sound like if you could/did or could not/did not?” or, “What would happen if you did/didn’t?” or, “What prevents you from just doing it then?” or, “What rule or law says you/I SHOULD?” or, “Why should I?” or, “Could you just prefer instead?” or, “Why SHOULD I/YOU?”
  • LABELLING and MISLABELLING – Related to overgeneralization, explaining by naming. Rather than describing the specific behavior, you assign a label to someone or yourself that puts them in absolute and unalterable negative terms. This is a logic level error in that we make a logic leap from behavior/action (“he called me a name…”) to identity (“therefore, he’s a jerk”).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What could be a better way of looking at this that would truly empower you/me?” or, “Is there another possible more positive meaning for this?”
    • When you recognize you are labeling or are being labeled, ask, “How specifically?” Example: “How specifically am I a jerk?” – which will evoke behaviors rather than identity (what helps is for me to see where the other fellow’s “jerk” shows up in me because it almost always does to some degree).
    • Remember who you/others are in spite of behaviors: “Even though I failed the test, I’m still a worthy person.”
  • PERSONALIZATION & BLAME – Burns calls this distortion “the mother of guilt.” Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. For example, “My son is doing poorly in school. I must be a bad mother…” and “What’s that say about you as a person?” – instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “lf only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. On the flip side of personalization is blame. Some people blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” – instead of investigating their own behavior and beliefs that can be changed. I will use this one just about every Father’s day to explain any problem facing my kids.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “How do you know [I am to blame]?” “SAYS WHO?”
    • Ask, “Who/what else is involved in this problem?”
    • Ask yourself, “Realistically, how much of this problem is actually my
responsibility?”
    • Ask, “If there was no blame involved here, what would be left for me/us
to look at?”

These 10 cognitive errors are all habits of thinking that are deeply ingrained. The good news is, like any habit, these patterns of thinking can be broken and discarded through awareness and practice.

 

Sources:

Captive Hearts: Captive Minds, by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich, Hunter House, 1994; pgs 101-103

Take Back Your Life Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns, M.D.

Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, by Anthony Robbins, Joseph McClendon

Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding, by Robert Dilts & Judith DeLozier

 

Some comments on human existence

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I woke up not so long ago with this silly little idea running through my brain and thought I’d share it if for no other reason than I’m obsessing and need to get rid of it.

So the thought started out innocently enough, “Why are we here?” But then it got more complicated (of course, because that’s what my brain does, complicate– nothing ever gets to be simple). Perhaps the answer is that it’s an experiment in species survival, or to learn lessons, or how about as entertainment for the Great and Infinite?

If human beings are only an evolutionary experiment designed to test the parameters of species survival, what would be the point? God already created the ant that for tens of millions of years* has survived quite well, thank you, and without the encumbrance of self-awareness (unless of course you believe the Aesop fable of the ant and the grasshopper).

But, but… some would say that we increase the likelihood of survival by being a species that can function beyond its instinctual software and no one would argue that the ant is predominantly an instinctual being.

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But instinct can actually become a downfall. Take for example the “death spiral”, or “ant circle” phenomenon of an endangered colony of ants where everyone follows the ant in front of them as a means of self-protection but at the possible consequence of just continuing on and on until they all drop dead.

But humans too have instinctual responses that their so-called self-awareness won’t pull them out of, witness also the fear response that the American Republican party taps into to get the masses to vote for people and things that are not in their best interest i.e. walking around with guns on their hips because they’re convinced that this will handle their fear and make them safer. Or how about societies that demean and make all their women second-class out of some fear that to do otherwise will upset the spiritual order of things? In a very real way these are human equivalents to the ant colonies’ death spiral.

Okay, perhaps we’re here to learn lessons?

That would work if the lessons were either for us individually so that we could then take them to the next dimension of existence, or to the next inhabited being, or to use the lessons to increase our chances of survival as a species (see paragraph one). Certainly they’re not for God in that an omniscient being has already learned all the lessons, heck, it created them in the first place including the answer sheet. But an awareness extended beyond the physical being into non-physicality i.e. life beyond death, would fit with the idea of the Great Infinite we imagine God to be so why not expand the lessons infinitely as well? Maybe we can actually take it with us!

being-of-light-energy1.jpgLastly, maybe we’re here as a means for God to see itself, thus we’re imbued with infinite ideas and personalities (something I’ll bet all those ants don’t have). When you’re the only one, that is if you’re everywhere, the only thing in a universe, there’s really nowhere to stand and observe yourself. Seems to me you would need to create something “not you” through which you could look back and say, “Damn I’m good looking!” And you would have to create infinite permutations of the “not you’s” because after all you’re, well, infinite.

I guess we’ll find out when the body dies i.e. we continue to be conscious, though bodiless or we won’t and won’t know that we won’t– pretty much a win-win I think.

My head’s starting to hurt again so I think I’ll stop. But now you’ve got my silly idea running in your head, sorry!

And I’m transported into a world where everything is possible, where I’m connected to everything and everyone else, where I no longer have to defend myself or my positions, where survival is not my main purpose, where I am just fine the way I am, and where I’m no longer alone and asking this question of why am I here.

Have a great day and peace be with you!

_______________________________

* Some researchers suggest it’s been as much as 110 – 130 million years. That’s about as long as dinosaurs, though the ant lived through what it was that killed all the dinosaurs, so take that you big bullies! Currently they are Earth’s most successful species, though certainly I’ve tried to make it otherwise when they keep crawling into my food pantry.

Do you know what reality is? I’ll bet you don’t!

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“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”

 –Henri Bergson French philosopher, 1927 Nobelist

Where the optic nerve enters the retina of the eye there is a blind spot that registers nothing. But the mind, the brain, makes up for this empty space by filling in what it thinks ought to be there, not what’s actually there, but what it creates. When seeing in low light there’s an additional blind spot, the Fovea Centralis, that is unable to see color and the objects that are seen are indistinct. As with the optic nerve the brain also fills in the fovea “blindness”.

Don’t believe the blind spot exists? Close your left eye and cast your right eye on the black “cross” sign of the figure below. Move your head close to the screen until the black dot on the right suddenly disappears. The “missing” information will be “patched in” using the surrounding parts of the picture and you see only a white area.

 

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The brain also estimates the size of things by contrasting with surrounding objects. Ever notice how the moon looks at least twice the size when it first rises above the horizon than it does high in the sky? Actually they’re both the same size 1. Also if you were to stand in front of a mirror looking at your face, all looks normal or what you’re normally used to seeing, right? But have you noticed that regardless of how close you are the reflection is only half the size of your real head (measure the mirror image then your head)?

Notice the illusion below: Two different tables right? No, they are actually the same table if you measure them with a ruler.

 

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The above illusion, moon, and mirrored face visuals are all a part of unconscious processes going on in our minds.

And every time we shift our visual attention, the attention of the mind shifts as well. This is part of the bag of tricks wielded by a magician, or even a con artist e.g. shifting your visual attention so as to do something outside your minds focus.

With only a few exceptions in so-called eye-witness testimony people are drastically affected by their level of stress i.e. efficiency of memory goes down with higher stress and then what was seen is stored into recall in a way that makes the most sense to the witness. This is highly dependent on past experiences and prejudices and/or social values. People often will add meaning to their observations that of course affects the observation. For example, the mind will often edit any puzzling or incongruent observations.

Most importantly, and more to the point of this article, what we see is determined by context. A simple proof of this is how we use visual context clues in order to read e.g. You and I can rad this sntnc vn though w hav lft out th ee’s.

Context is also what makes a movie, well… move. In reality it’s just 24 pictures shown per second that when the mind stitches them into a sequence makes it look as though something is moving. 2

 But notice it’s not the context of the external reality that I am referring to. It’s our internal reality that provides the context for what it is we see.

And that brings me back to Bergson’s quote from the beginning of this article. What our minds are ready to comprehend is determined by our beliefs, our past experiences, our prejudices, and expectations. In short, our experience of reality is determined by something other than reality–we see what we believe, not the other way around as the popular quotation goes, “seeing is believing”.

Our mind is conditioned to seeing what it thinks that it should and anything outside that conditioning is just not seen.

In order to open ourselves to new possibilities we must first look at the contexts we have created to see what we are currently looking at. We might also be willing to question what it is we are seeing and what about our own minds may be affecting that vision.

So what really is reality?

Are you sure?

____________________________________________________

1See Emmert’s Law to explain this phenomenon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmert’s_law
2 There are some theoretical physicists who have asked the question as to whether there is any movement other than several moments of time stitched by the mind into what appears to be a moving sequence.

 

 

Embodied Cognition: The enlivened Dream

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Not too long ago I was reading an article in the Jan/Feb 2011 Scientific American Mind Magazine. The subject was how body movements and fleeting sensations affect our thinking. This is called “Embodied Cognition.” It reminded me how when I used to give seminars and workshops in the 70’s and 80’s I used to always wear a light colored pastel sweater with audiences that I thought might be resistant, or even hostile to my message. My own research, though narrow, seemed to reinforce the calming and trust inducing effect this had on the audience. Mr. Rogers and his blue cardigan seemed to have it right.

In the article, researchers at Yale University found that rough textures in the environment tend to make social interactions go roughly and that while touching hard/cold objects in the environment would affect the perception of rigidity. The article implied that drinking something warm on a first meeting between people would increase the feeling of warmth toward each other vs. the drinking of something cold.

Physicality has always played an important role on our perceptions and our learning. Educators have known for years that children learn their letters and words easier when they use large arm movements to ‘draw’ the letter, or word in the air.

Using “manipulatives” while learning math principles has also proven effective in elementary learning situations. Adults build models of chemical reactions to extend their learning and to enhance the discovery process.

We also know that simulating an action while reading a story increases the comprehension of that story. This concept is one of the generating principles behind the effectiveness of Gestalt therapy and Active Imagining, both of which I’ve mentioned in earlier Blogs. Mentally simulating body movements has been a technique to help embody a routine in gymnastics or on the field of various sporting activities. When I was in community theater the director would have us go through all our movements mentally before the play so as to help build the action into the body’s memory.

Re-embodying a dream after you have awakened by selecting a prominent image from the dream and bringing it back into the imagination while quietly meditating can allow one to interact with the image and gain greater insight as to why it has visited the dream.

The embodied cognition effect also shows up when you journal a dream. The mere act of writing a dream down immediately after waking stimulates and reinforces the recall of that dream and in many cases the recall of many subsequent dreams.