Category: Articles

On Becoming More Stress Free

If I told you that spending 15 minutes a day doing something would change your life for the better - would you be interested?

The Back Story

In 1979, when I was 34 years old, I had a chance meeting with the writer, James Michener, that changed my life forever. We had just finished wrapping the movie, Honeysuckle Rose, starring Willie Nelson in Austin, Texas. I had been in a few of the scenes in the movie and thus was able to attend the wrap party, where Willie was giving a concert for those that had contributed to the movie and a few close friends. I was sitting in the front row next to Darrell Royal, the University of Texas football coach. About 45 minutes before the concert started, Darrell asked me if I would like to meet Mr. Michener, who was his guest at the concert and sitting on the opposite side of him. Of course, I welcomed the invite and Darrell made the introduction and we exchanged seats.

For the next 45 minutes, Michener bombarded me with open-ended questions about where my life was going and where I wanted it to end up. Michener listened intently as I explained that at age 34, I was still not where I wanted to be in my life. Michener was 72 years old at the time and explained that he too had made a lot of mistakes early in his life and he wanted to give me some advice so that I might be able to end up with a better lifestyle than if I continued on the same path I had been on.

For those who do not know who Michener. He was born in 1907 and put up for adoption. He never knew his parents, his birth name or even where he was born. He was raised by his adoptive mother, Mabel Michener, in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. After attending university, he taught both high school and university English for while, then worked as social studies education editor for a publishing firm. When World War II broke out, Michener served as a lieutenant in the Navy in the South Pacific as a naval historian.

He later turned his notes and impressions into Tales of the South Pacific, his first book, published when he was 40 in 1947. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948, and Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted it as the hit Broadway musical South Pacific, which premiered on Broadway in 1949.

Michener explained to me the benefits of becoming a writer, of which there were many. For the past 32 years, he had lived one of the most stress-free lifestyles one could live. He was self-employed and never had to be concerned about meeting his readers. He only had to write what they wanted to read and in the end, he made a very good living. And the best part was the residuals from his writing allowed him to retire early with any financial worries as the royalties from his 40 books was far more than his cost of living.

So, yes, as you can guess, thanks to Michener's mentoring, I became a writer or what I like to think of as communicating my knowledge.

How This May Relate to You

I am going to explain how you can eliminate or at least help you not only deal with the stress but how spending 15 minutes a week doing just one thing could change your life for the better.

That one thing is to spend just 15 minutes a day writing. That's right just 15 minutes each work day, or just over an hour a week can relieve any stress that attempts to overtake you. And, it will also improve your health, while improving your creative thinking process.

Dr. James W. Pennebaker, currently chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas, Austin, conducted research on the health benefits of expressive writing. In one early study, Dr. Pennebaker split 46 healthy college students into two groups and asked them to write about either personally traumatic life events or trivial topics for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. For six months following the experiment, students who wrote about traumatic events visited the campus health center less often, and used a pain reliever less frequently, than those who wrote about inconsequential matters. Not only were they not becoming ill as often, but their stress levels were far less than the other group.

You might say that Dr. Pennebaker built a bridge in which you can cross over you more stressful moments and continue on to a more healthy lifestyle. How fitting it was when they were building the Highway 360 and need a bridge over the Colorado River it was named the Pennebaker Bridge, which coincidentally was just a walk away from where we filmed one of the scenes for Honeysuckle Rose.

Pennebaker Bridge

Yes, writing can lower your stress level. And, other studies have shown that writers that are not necessarily any more intelligent, have an increased ability to think.

I really believe that communication is that powerful. I have had no stress in my life during the past 38 years. I am in great health, despite the fact that I am 71 years old. And, yes, I have experienced things in my life almost daily that should be stressful or even traumatic, just like you. But stress, real stress, is alien to me.

You see, writing is a meditative endeavor and it is also an exercise for the mind — like taking a brisk walk or going for a run each morning. The process of writing enables the ability to learn to better regulate emotions. Writing fosters an intellectual process — the act of constructing a story — that allows the author to break free of the endless mental cycling more typical of brooding or rumination. The act of thinking about an experience helps people to organize thoughts

Now, if spending that 15 minutes seems much like all those other resolutions that you never get around to each New Years, I will give you another incentive. The time you spend writing also has the ability to increase your income. Everyone has stories to tell.

One woman did not have a particularly happy life before she started writing. She came from a difficult family. Her mother's 10-year battle with multiple sclerosis took a toll on her and the family. When she was 25-years old, her mother died on New Year's day. After her mother's death, she sought a fresh start and taught English as a foreign language.

She started dating and immediately became pregnant, and the couple moved into a small two-bedroom apartment with his mother. The couple miscarried, but they married, and a year later she delivered her first child.

The rocky marriage lasted only 13 months, and she and her daughter moved into a cramped apartment, jobless and penniless. She fell into a deep depression and admits she even considered suicide. She was forced to rely on state benefits and spent much of her time writing in small cafes with her daughter sleeping next to her.

An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, she was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be, without being homeless ... By every usual standard, she admitted she was the biggest failure she knew. Still, she kept writing.

With her first book finished, she spent 5 years sending it to publishing houses. She received "loads" of rejections from book publishers until finally, one publishing house decided to take a chance on the unknown author with a children's book.

For her, the writing was a way to get rid of the stress in her life. And, it paid off handsomely. She has sold more than 450 million books, which have been made into movies, she has won innumerable awards, and writing has transformed her life. She had an estimated net worth of over $1 billion dollars until she decided to begin contributing some of her wealth to charities. Today, J. K. Rowling remains one of the most powerful celebrities and the world's top-earning authors.

The Process

If you write one quality article of at least 500 words every week and post it on a website, you will start getting noticed online. As the average typing speed is 40 words a minute, it will take you 12.5 minutes to write those 500 words. All you have to do is allocate 15 minutes a week into your schedule and when the time arrives - write your article.

If you think that you are not a writer, you are on the wrong path. The goal should be to communicate what you know. This is much the same as what you do every day - communicating your thoughts to others. The words that you put down on paper are exactly what you would say to someone who asked you a question about something that you already know.

As an example, think back over the last week. How many times did you explain something to one of your friends, and as did you thought, "I wish I had a nickel for every time I that story to someone!" and begin to get stressed? What you communicated to that person, and all those that came before them is an article in the making. Make a note of the subject that you explained for the umpteenth time, and during your communication time that you have set aside for the week, start working on writing down how you would explain this to the next person who asks you the same question.

As you write, think about the type of person who would ask that question. Imagine them sitting across from your desk and instead of speaking to them, type the words into your article. Write in such a way that they can understand perfectly what you are writing, i.e. on their comprehension level.

Also, consider that the imaginary person sitting across your desk has pains that they want you to resolve for them. Explain what benefits will resolve that pain — much the same as I am doing with this article.

Do not write articles to attract people to you, as the work will end up being nothing more than self-promotional and turn people off. Put yourself on the other side of the desk, alongside your imaginary person and tell them what they want to hear. Write about their concerns and you will be surprised at how quickly your health will grow.

James Michener lived a stress-free life for many years before he succumbed to kidney disease at the age of 90 on October 16, 1997. He might have lived much longer, rather than continuing the daily dialysis treatment that had kept him alive for four years, he decided to cease the treatments. He said he had accomplished what he wanted and did not want further physical complications.

I am now 71 years old and working to stay stress-free every day with my writing in hope that I too will live to be 90, or even older. Time will tell. In the meanwhile - happy writing!

Three Words You Should Never Use

There are three words that are often used in an introduction that are actually the wrong thing to say.

by Bill Hood

Today, I watched a webinar from a very popular writing coach that gets over 1-million page views a month on his website. He is an author of New York Times bestseller, as well as Wall Street Journal, USA and Amazon. He worked in the publishing industry as the Chairman and CEO of a large publishing company for many years before striking out on his own 12 years ago to teach others how to get their work finished faster and published. His introduction ruined it for me!

The moderator had just spent 5 minutes building up the audience with the background and credentials of the speaker, which were illustrious. Then he stated, "So, without further ado, allow me to introduce...”

I know this is an oft used phrase when introducing someone. Well educated emcees, moderators, and hosts use it during their introductions. Perhaps you have used the phrase in the past. However, you need to know that it is incorrect and is actually demeaning to the speaker.

The problem lies in the word "ado", which connotes triviality or fuss, especially about something that is unimportant, as if to say that everything you just said was not important. Or, it could be taken as if what follows is not important, if one were to use the original meaning from late Middle English (originally in the sense ‘action, business’): from northern Middle English at do ‘to do.’ In this instance, it is like saying, "without further action or business, let's proceed to the trivial section of the event."

And, no it is not "adieu", which means goodbye. Which is poor English, meaning, “without further goodbyes.”

So, please, let's cease using the phrase as an introduction. Quit implying that what you’ve said before introducing the speaker was useless and a delay that wasted the time of everyone in the audience.

If you can’t stop yourself using "Without further" as a transition phrase it would be better to say, “Without further delay.”

You should always deliver the introduction with the importance it deserves, pause, and then simply say, “Now, I present…

The phrase became popular from the the title of a Shakespeare play, "Much Ado About Nothing." In the play, the phrase implies that there was, "Much fuss about nothing!" It seems that many people think that by quoting Shakespeare it makes them sound more educated, when in this instance it works against them.

While the phrase is common in the United States, it remains incorrect, and should never be used. It tells the audience, at least those who are familiar with linguistics, that the person making the statement is not well-educated.

The Definition of Insanity

Perhaps you have heard the quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Do you think you know who made this statement?

In my profession as a consultant in the screenprinting technologies I am often called upon to perform research and development of processes. In research and development I tend to do the same thing over and over and I tend to get different results. Granted the variables change through the course of the process, however, each experiment must be performed repetitiously as close to the same way as possible to account for the various results and determine what variable must be changed to achieve a different and sometimes desired result.

My clients and those who know me well, certainly do not think of me as being insane.

Actually, the definition of insanity is a term pertaining to an individual's inability to determine right from wrong.

Insanity. n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.

While there are many great quotes ascribed to even greater individuals, there is a dark side to this quote. Often it is used as a way of avoidance. And, of course, avoidance is little more than a defense mechanism. It comes from fear. Rather than facing their fears of possible failure, pain or rejection, they simply use the quote to avoid having to take responsibility of their fears.

Also, it is important to understand that some forms of dementia, traumatic brain injury, anxiety and OCD can cause some people to repeat or prolong an action, thought, or utterance after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased, which is the definition of perseverate - not insanity. Those who perseverate use repetition as a way to solve those problems that they do not fully understand. Of course, the repetition does little to solve the problem.

There are instances where repetition can be useful. As a writer, at times I will not be able to recall a particular word that I want to use, such as perseverate in the previous paragraph. I have found that if I repeat, "people who repeat or prolong an action are given to..." several times the word will come to me, as it did in this instance.

There is another term that was part of my socialism classes in university - repetition compulsion. It is used to describe people who in an attempt to rid themselves of feelings of rejection. This brings us to another well-known saying about persistence, that too, has become an energyless cliché, "If at first you do not succeed, try again." It was first mentioned in writing by  Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock, in his essay, “Simple Stories of Success or How to Succeed in Life” published in 1917 that only attributes to "an old motto".

"According to all the legends and story books the principal factor in success is perseverance. Personally, I think there is nothing in it. If anything, the truth lies the other way.

There is an old motto that runs, 'If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.' This is nonsense. It ought to read—'If at first you don’t succeed, quit, quit at once.'

If you can’t do a thing, more or less, the first time you try, you will never do it. Try something else while there is yet time."

It is natural for individuals to want to finish unfinished business. They will often re-create old, unresolved problems for the potential of a better outcome. A person who has failed in business will open another business, in spite of the fact that they have no sense of business. A woman who has suffered rejection in her adolescence will seek out attachments, but live in fear of rejection, which keeps her from having a fulfilling relationship. A person who is apathetic will surround themselves with other apathetic individuals. It further promotes repetition and upholds the "Law Of Attraction."

The law of attraction states that “like attracts like.” This means that people with a low frequency — people who are insecure and self-abandoning — attract each other, while people with a high frequency — people who love and value themselves — also attract each other. People who are positive, open, secure, giving, caring and kind to themselves and others are not attracted to people who are closed, negative and needy of approval and attention.

While no one deliberately seeks out someone who is closed, negative and needy, there are those who possess these traits and tend to attract similar individuals into their life. And they keep placing themselves into relationship that can never have a decent ending. That is unless they wake up one morning and realize that they no longer want to live without a partner in life begin the task of learning how to take emotional responsibility.

Now, we are back to , “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." and the question of whom first utter the statement. It has been erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain, but there is no written record published these individual. The mystery writer Rita Mae Brown is also attributed as she used the phrase in her 1983 novel, "Sudden Death."

But, the first written instance of the phrase was in the publication, Narcotics Anonymous: Approved Literature (also known as the Red Book). The original preview of the NA handbook was issued in 1981, but was written in the 1979 manuscript of the publication. The phrase from NA handbook was, “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” I repeat the definition of insanity here...

Insanity. n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.

Yes, this does seem to fit well with those who are addicted to narcotics and their uncontrollable impulsive behavior.

So, who really know today, when the phrase was first used. It may have very well been Sun Tzu!

Facebook Friends

Astrology may be bogus, but the month you're born has certain undeniable coincidences

I read an interesting comment concerning one's Facebook friends today. The study stated that in general people will have more "true" Facebook friends (those which you actually have a close relationship) that are born in the same month as they are. Of course, there is a good reason for this — people born in the same month often share very similar personality traits and they even tend to suffer from the same health risks.

It can also point to those who you are more likely to be drawn toward based on platonic attraction. Common interests are often a building block to deep emotional connection and forming friendships.

The scientific community has long since discarded astrology as pseudoscience. Yet new scientific research suggests your "astrological sign" actually may have more to do with your health than you might think. This is not because of the influence of any heavenly bodies, but because of the time of the year you are born. A new study suggests that your birth month has a connection with the diseases you might develop in your lifetime.

Whether the reason is purely coincidental or is due to some yet unknown factor remains unknown. What is known is that there have been a number of studies into the relationship between personality traits and birthdays, and all the studies have reached the same conclusion — that there is a strong correlation between the two factors.

Dr. Mark Hamilton, a social scientist and researcher at the University of Connecticut, authored a widely circulated study on the topic, which was published in the academic journal Comprehensive Psychology. He examined data on a variety of celebrities from a range of fields which included actors, sports stars, politicians, writers, other types of artists, and more. His researched concluded that their birthdays were concentrated around certain times of the year and that those born in the same month shared similar personality traits.

Other studies have linked health risks with birth months.  They also found a significant connection between an individual’s lifetime chances of developing certain health risks and their birth month.

One that was published in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association identified 55 diseases linked to one’s birth month. Mary Regina Boland, Nicholas Tatonetti and other researchers at the Columbia University Department of Medicine examined records for an incredible 1.75 million patients born between 1900 and 2000 who had been treated at Columbia University Medical Center. Using statistical analysis, they combed through the list of myriad diseases and found 55 that had a correlation with birth month, including ADHD, reproductive performance, asthma, eyesight and ear infections.

The researchers emphasize that other environmental factors, such as diet, medical care and exercise, are more likely to influence whether you get a disease. And since these numbers are culled from New York City, they may not be applicable to babies born in other places.

It’s important to note that all these findings show correlation, not causation, but either way it’s all so intriguing! Perhaps there is more to the old adage that "birds of a feather flock together" than we might believe.

Join me in an experiment. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/birthdays and you will find a list of all of your friends on Facebook, sorted by month. Note which month contains the most friends and in the comments section here. Simply write your own birth month and the month which contains the most Facebook friends on your list.

For me it turns out that I was born in October and I have more friends born in October than any other month. So October/October! What about you?

Facebook Friends

Is Our Universe Real or Simply a Simulation?

At the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, the seventeenth such event, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the question was asked whether the universe as we know it, is in effect a simulation. Five esteemed panelists discussed the possibility that maybe everything that's happening is just a simulation being run on a computer by some smarter, higher order being (with a weird sense of humor).

It turns out that for these scientists, whose job it is to probe the nature of reality, the answer is actually: Maybe.

Depending on whether you want reality to be real or not, the answers from some panelists may be more comforting than the responses from others.

The question of whether we know that our universe is real has vexed thinkers going far back into history, long before Descartes made his famous "I think, therefore I am" statement. The same question has been explored in modern science-fiction films like "The Matrix" and David Cronenberg's "Existenz."

But most physicists and philosophers agree that it's impossible to prove definitively that we do not live in a simulation and that the universe is real.

One of the main arguments that physicists use to talk about what's known as the "simulation hypothesis" is that if we can prove that it's possible to simulate a universe — if we can figure out all the laws that govern how everything works, which physicists are trying to do — that makes it much more likely that it is actually simulated. If we know that it's possible to do something, it's much easier to think that thing is being done

We haven't been able to figure out how to simulate a universe — yet. But it's not too hard to imagine that some other creature out there is far smarter than us.

We humans have always defined ourselves as the smartest beings alive, orders of magnitude more intelligent than species like chimpanzees that share close to 99% of our DNA. We can create symphonies and do trigonometry and astrophysics — some of us, anyway.

Tyson uses a thought experiment to imagine a life-form that's as much smarter than us as we are than dogs, chimps, or other terrestrial mammals.

"What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence," he says.

Whatever that being is, it very well might be able to create a simulation of a universe.

"And if that's the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment," Tyson says. "I'm saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, 'I'm not surprised.'"

And maybe that means there's some chance of doing a reset at some point.

Check out the full American Museum of Natural History discussion here:

And, if you believe we might not be in a simulation, consider the following video:

tips-from-an-old-mezcalero

Tips From An Old Mezcalero

A Mezcalero is a person who grows the agave that produces mezcal and especially enjoys the pleasures that can be derived from partaking in the “Juice of Life.” The older Mezcaleros live to a ripe old age and seemly do not have a problem in the world. Here are some bits of sage advice from an old Mezcalero in his nineties that I met once in San Luis Potosi in Northern Mexico.

He was walking from San Juan de Vanegas to the market in Cedral in the state of San Luis Potosi in Northern Mexico. I stopped and offered him a ride to the market as it was on my way. He was quiet and only spoke when I would ask him a question.

It was a 12 mile walk each way and I learned the old man made the walk twice a week to purchase groceries. It is surprising what you can learn in 12 minutes if you stop talking and listen. When I asked him for his secret to longevity, he responded with the following sage advice.

When you can eat, eat.

When you can sleep, sleep.

When you can enjoy, enjoy.

When you can work, work.

Have a few drinks now and then.

Play dominoes.

Make love in the shower.

Be thankful if you still have your health.

Do not pass the time complaining. Life has its ups and downs and always will and you cannot change it by complaining.

If you can not sleep, get up and do something - clean your home, write a letter, read and learn something new.

You cannot fix the big problems in life. Fix what you can and let those who can fix other problems do so.

Do not take what is not yours! You should only expect what you deserve.

Whatever you do, do it well or do not do it at all.

Do not be envious of others.

Beware of negative people and move away from them as quickly as possible, and never act like them.

Listen attentively to your others and help them when you can.

Never speak ill of others.

Be proud, but not arrogant or overbearing.

Be humble, but never crouch.

Be brave but never reckless.

Smile when you win.

When you lose, do not act with drama or cry.

When you fail, try something else.

Never worry about what you do not have.

When we reached the market in Cedral, the old man thanked me for the ride. I explained that I would be returning in a bit and if he wanted a ride back to his home, I would be glad to take him. He accepted the offer and and set about to do his shopping. I did my shopping and when I returned to my car, the old man was waiting for me. After we loaded the car with our purchases the old man handed me a bottle of mezcal and offered this one last bit of advice.

When life hands you lemons, don't attempt to make lemonade! Instead, add some mezcal and salt. Because that beats plain old lemonade any day and will make you much happier.

Although, it has been years since the old man shared his advice to me, I am sure he is still alive and well, living in his small adobe home in San Juan de Vanegas. And me - I still keep a few bottles of mezcal in my pantry - ready for the lemons that life throws at me.

Living Happily Ever After

If you are old and reading this I have some advice that will make what years you have left some of the happiest years of your life. If you have someone in your life that is old, share it with them. If you are still young, print this out and start following the advice now, so you will not ever act old.

I have lived a bit over 70 years now and I've learned a lot along the way. I certainly do not profess to have all the answers, but I am happy with my life today. Sure, I made a lot of mistakes, but I turned them into learning experiences and continued on down the road. Some of the mistakes were repeated a few times, some repeated too often to remember how many times, but they all led me to being here today.

I am not alone in my thinking, as I have many friends my age that live their life much as I do, and they too are leading what we consider a most pleasant, peaceful, serene and tranquil life and are happy - most of the time. Obviously, everything I have learned has been through my contact with other individuals, listening to them as they spoke, or reading their written words, which led me to think about the many little nuggets of information they supplied to me along the way. So, in a way you can consider this a compendium of sorts.

Take what you want and leave what you don't. Life is like that, too!

It is no secret that humans are in a worse state of affairs today, than they have been for thousands of years. Most humans are unhappy! There are many who are living in absolute poverty without sufficient resources to live a healthy lifestyle, while their neighbors are spending money they don't have on the many non-essential necessities of life and are also unhappy.

I will leave it up to you to consider why the human race is not progressing towards happiness as there are scores of reasons that could fill hundreds of books. As those who are in power often state when asked why so many people are unhappy with the current state of affairs will often respond with, "It's difficult!"

What I can tell you is while you or I may not be able to fix the world's problems, we can - as individuals - make choices that will lead to our own happiness most of the time. I only use the phrase, "most of the time" because there are others who seemingly surround themselves with a contagious, dark cloud of unhappiness. If you get too close to these individuals some of that dark cloud will attempt to attach itself to you and will remain there until you shake it off. Thus, since there are more unhappy people in the world than happy ones, it will be difficult to achieve perfection in happiness.

Segments of the Day

Most of our lives are rigidly defined into three periods of primary activities.

Education, Work, Retirement, Playing

This brings me to the first bit of advice.

Surround Yourself with Happy People

Obviously, the goal to being happy is to simply get rid of unhappiness. In the beginning, you will often find yourself surrounded with unhappy people who seeming only want to bring you down to their level. You have to resist them and move away in your search for happy people to surround you. The more happy people who surround you, the further you are from that contagious, dark cloud of unhappiness. The bigger the happy crowd around you, the more you are protected from unhappiness.

Resist the temptation to attempt to fix the world of others who you really do not care about, because you can't fix their unhappiness any more than you can fix stupidity. If you do run into a truly deserving person whose dark cloud has not yet consumed their life and you feel you can help them, then by all means give them what you can. If they want to change, they will. Otherwise, you have to keep progressing on your own road to happiness and leave them behind.

Eat Healthy

One of the biggest problems that leads to unhappiness is being overweight. The population is growing more obese by the minute and diabetes is on the rise due to the massive amounts of sugar that people take in. The solution to losing weight is to only eat what you need to eat - not what you want to eat. There is no reason to gorge yourself when eating. Only one meal will be your last, and you will have other opportunities that come several times a day to enjoy a small meal. Eating smaller portions increases your ability to enjoy the food that you do eat. Make yourself happy several times a day.

I lost 75 pounds in one year with most of the loss in the first six months by simply giving up bread, and I have kept it off without being unhappy. True story! Bread is extremely fattening and most breads that are consumed do not offer any real substance to your diet. You do not have to drink sugary drinks and eat a candy bar every day to be happy. Consider natural sugars available in fresh juices, rather than the commercial juices that have water and sugar as their main ingredients. Sugar will only make you more thirsty, so drink water instead.

Most alcoholic drinks are full of sugar and completely unnecessary to your happiness. Try drinking water the next time you are out with friends who are drinking and you will find more happiness as you will increase your comprehension and better understand the humor in watching them become intoxicated. The only downside is that you will have to drive them home later.

Quit Complaining

You may be surprised to find that when you choose to complain rather than look for the good and positive in everything, you will only be making yourself more unhappy. Give thanks for every minute that you have in your life. Really, if nothing else you were still here this morning when you swung your feet off of the bed and they hit the floor. Be thanking for that!

 

Relationship Necessities

Are you waiting for the right person to come into your life? You know that special person that will meet your expectations and ideals? Be honest with yourself. Do you desire a certain height, hair color, body style, language, skin color, or other physical attribute?

You may be surprised to learn that you are only 0.1% different genetically from any other human[1], or that you are only 1.2% different from your closest living relative - the chimpanzee [2].

Yes, most people have the same basic needs and wants in life, with very little differences. In truth, most people need to feel loved and want to be happy. It is only a small difference in how each gets what they need and want in life.

If you do not like who they are as they come to you, it may be that your dream relationship may not be entirely well thought out. Perhaps in your dreams you have come to have expectations or ideals and of course if you do, they will never be met, as they are only your fantasy and not a reality.

There needs to be, in any relationship, a great desire for a relationship to begin and of course a reason to have a relationship continue to be. A purely physical relationship is never enough. Any relationship needs substance to sustain for any length of time.

It is important to want to be with the other person. To simply sit and listen to them speak, without the need to interrupt for any or no reason. You should want to hear what they have to say, more than that of your own voice, or to give them your own opinion - all with the patience of an owl sitting on a limb below a starlit night sky.

To sit and watch them perform the most mundane task - combing their hair, enjoying a meal, or walking away or toward you.

You should want to make them smile and watch them laugh. To make them feel that they are all that you need - in just the way that they are - and not what you wish them to be. If you feel the need to change them or something about them - you do not want them - you only want them to become what you want. If you are demanding, and unwilling to accept what is or what the future holds, you almost certainly going to be disappointed.

To have expectations and ideals concerning a relationship partner, will only invite disappointment and prevent you from accepting others just as they are. To not be accepting, you lose the richness of that 1.2% difference than can prove to be quite invaluable - what another can bring to the relationship that you may need and want - perhaps not at the moment - but at some point in the future. You will miss out on what they can provide when it is needed. What they can share with you when you want it.

It serves no purpose to disagree with others, when they state how they feel - to disagree with someone about their feelings will often be considered an insult to them. If they feel that you said something that they find to be insulting to them, and you disagree with them, you only add to the problem. Listen to them when they tell you that they are hurt or feel insulted. Whether you meant to be insulting or not makes no matter - to the individual their thoughts and feelings will be of utmost importance to them - and should be to you. They are making every attempt to be sincere and you should understand the importance of their sincerity.

If your actions or acts of insincerity hurt others, they will not want to be with you, let alone be your friend. Accept their feelings and attempt to find out what was said that made them feel the way they do. Then move to correct your approach if you want to have a sincere relationship with them.

And, yes, there will be times when the other person's actions hurt you. If it is your desire to be in a relationship with them, then it is your turn to show your sincerity and let them know that their words or actions hurt you. Remember, that running away from your problems or the other person's problem never solves anything - other than to create pain for both individuals.

If you continue to insist that others say and act only as you want them to, then neither of you will be happy. Love is unconditional and to create conditions, to be controlling or manipulative in order to attempt others to be the person you need or want them to be, will be seen as a negative insult to their desire to be just who they are. It sends the message that they are not needed, unwanted and undesirable.

Be yourself, but only when it is positive for both individuals and not a one sided game where you are the only winner and right no matter what. No one likes to play games in a relationship for long. Be happy but not at the expense of others.

[1] Understanding Human Genetic Variation
[2] Genetics of the Chimpanzee

You Can’t Judge…

Glass RoomMost have heard some version of the adage, "You can never tell a book by its cover." The phrase first appeared in print in the 1946 novel, "Murder in the Glass Room, by Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller.  Even then it was an adaption of "You can't judge a book by its binding", from the Journal of American Speech (1944). Some purport that the phrase can be traced to Roman author Juvenal who wrote in Satires, "Fronti nulla fides," which translates as, "Never have faith in the front." as far back as the 1st or 2nd century AD.

Like many adages, this is not uniquely true. You can read the entire book and as you close the cover, you will note that the words on the cover describing what's inside has not changed. And, no matter how many times you read the book, nothing about the book changes. Neither the cover nor the content change with multiple readings. The cover looks the same and the description remains the same. The words inside say the same thing.

What does change is our understanding of the book. As with our relationships with others, every time we open the book and study it, we learn a bit more about the author's original intent. Or, in some instances, we mistakenly come to believe the opposite of what the author intended, depending on just how vivid our imagination is and how much we want to believe our own version of truth rather than accepting what is real and intended.

The words in books can form ideas in some readers that spread like a virus, infecting and destroying the truth of the matter. The same thing may happen with relationships as we allow our imagination to wander in search of our own truth. That truth will depend on how we perceive what it is that we want or need at the moment.

Those who attempt to judge you with either a single or multiple reading, for the most part, rely on the adage that the outside and inside are somehow different and that the outside is not to be trusted. That they somehow need to construe what they will about character. For those who believe that you cannot judge a book by its cover, they will never know who others really are - only their own ideas - which can never be correct.

Perfection

Perfection

Perfection

Perfection is a state of mind – a choice.
Your success in all things begins with your will,
If you think you can, your will can pull you through.
If you have no will, it is almost certain you cannot.

Without will, you assign yourself to failure.
If you wish to win, but think that you cannot,
You have already lost all chance of winning.
It is all a state of mind.

If you think that you will lose whatever you attempt,
You will think that winning is impossible,
Your attempts to find success will be minimal,
And you will fail to realize your true potential.

The person who thinks well of themselves,
The one who think highly of their potential,
Who gets better with each and every day,
Will always emerge as the winner.

Life is a battle began at birth,
The winner is not the fastest or stronger person,
Surely not the weakest either,
And, the winner is the one who thinks they can win.

Their precious, perfect life occurs at birth,
To do with as they see fit in their accomplishments or failures.
Some will never try, others will not try hard enough,
But those with the will to win will always live a perfect life.

It's up to you to make your own choices in life,
To make the right choice to be as perfect as you should,
Either you will or you won't be successful,
But in the end it is your choice and no other can help you.

- Bill Hood

 

Negativity

Eliminating Negativity From Your Life

How to rid your life of negativity and be truly happy

I greatly dislike the root word NO! It has a way creating problems for me and creating a ton of anxiety in my life. Then there is also the word not, as in cannot “can’t”, do not “don’t”, and will not “won’t”. And, for good measure I will add “never” and “always” to the list of my dislikes. Note, that this the last time you will find any of those words in this article. Why, because I am at peace and happy in my life and I can write in a positive tone when I want.

What do all those words have in common?

1. They all have negative connotations.
2. They are commonly used by negative people.
3. They destroy happiness.
4. They destroy trust between two people.
5. They drive a stake into any relationship
6. And, they create stress for all involved in a relationship

The Beginning

Unlike most of the columns on This Week I Learned, I have a personal stake in this column. Let me take you back to February 28, 1961. I was a teenager and anxious to get on with my life after school, get a job, earn some money of my own, and find my self.

Unfortunately, the U.S.A. was in the middle of the Cold War. The Kennedy administration remained essentially committed to the Cold War foreign policy inherited from the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, which opposed any government that thought differently than that of the U.S.A.

In his inaugural address, Kennedy made the ambitious pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."

While Kennedy was against the deployment of American combat troops and observed that to introduce U.S. forces in large numbers, while it might have an initially favorable military impact, would almost certainly lead to adverse political and, in the long run, adverse military consequences. However, Kennedy, acting on advise from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and his advisors John Kenneth Galbraith, Maxwell Taylor and Walt Rostow recommended that U.S. troops be sent to South Vietnam. By November 1963, there were 16,000 American military personnel in South Vietnam.

And, thus I found myself as a young teenager, embroiled in a war that was beyond my understanding, and my personal support.

During the Vietnam Era it is has been estimated that as many 1,170,476 people died and another 608,200 were wounded, although the actual numbers could be much higher as these are only the reported casualties.

Unless you have personally been involved in the killing of massive amounts of individuals, including innocents; men, women and children you have little idea how that can impact a young impressionable teenager. And, how it continues to haunt those involved for decades, until they pass on.

The Journey

After Vietnam, I was changed forever. Today, I have put behind me the negative aspect of war or for that matter any form of negativity. It was after experience the horrors of war that I began my search for peace, serenity and tranquility.

Sri AurobindoMy journey was to take much longer than I thought, and it would eventually take me to the southeast coast of India, where I became a follower of Aurobindo Ghose (Sri Aurobindo) who lived from 15 August 1872 – 5 December 1950 and his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfas (The Mother) who lived from 21 February 1878 – 17 November 1973.

Sri Aurobindo developed a method of spiritual practice he called Integral Yoga. The central theme of his vision was the evolution of human life into a life divine. He believed in a spiritual realization that liberated man but transformed his nature, enabling a divine life on earth.

I visited The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which is a spiritual community (ashram) located in Pondicherry, in the Indian territory of Puducherry. The ashram grew out of a small community of disciples who had gathered around Sri Aurobindo after he retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry in 1910. On 24 November 1926, after a major spiritual realization, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from public view in order to continue his spiritual work.

I also visited the village of Auroville (City of Dawn), which is an experimental township, near Pondicherry. It was founded in 1968, and is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.

The Present

Like, Aurobindo, I chose to spend my time writing in solitary, rather than fight the negativity that might be imposed on me by those outside my own life. In order to escape the negativity, I decided — like Aurobindo — to withdraw in search of peace, serenity and tranquility. For me, my personal choice was the south of Mexico, just six degrees north of Pondicherry.

Here, I have found — for the most part — my happiness.

It is only when I come into contact with others outside of my peaceful existence in Cuernavaca that I am confronted with negativity. And, I have — for the most part — learned how to avoid negativity in my life. I am able to go outside of my home, traveling internationally where I come into contact with a wide diversity of individuals, cultures and societies. I have been able to create many long-lasting relationships with people who think differently than I, but in which I find great joy.

How, you might ask is this possible? It took me years to learn how to deal with others, especially negative people. I have found that the key lies in simply accepting the fact that they are simply a different individual. They think differently than I. They act differently. And, most of all I only have to live up my own expectations of me.

I have learned to successfully avoid the negative aspects of others. When confronted with negativity, I push it away. And, if another individual is persistent in their negative manner, I push a bit harder each time. There are times when another person will continue to persist even becoming angry that I disagree with their actions and thoughts.

Usually, I opt to simply leave the conversation or walk away from the individual until they have come to their senses and realize that they too, must accept me for who I am. That to attempt to force me to believe in their negativity is counter-productive and they will lose.

Many fail to understand that they must be responsible for the consequences of their own behavior. I am solely responsible for my own as well. This means that one should look inward at their own problems, needs and wants. Take the responsibility for changing what you will about yourself, allowing others to do the same.

In other words, I believe that a person must stand up for their beliefs, take responsibility and act on their own. Like Kennedy I am willing to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty." My liberty — and I am willing to allow you the same measure — as long as you respect my rights.

If you can find it in you to take control over your own responsibility for the consequences of your behavior and allow me to do the same with my life, perhaps we can have a friendship. I know it is possible — as I have a great many close friendships with people around the world that are based on that very principle.

Life

Saturday Conversations

Having good friends is extremely important to one’s overall enjoyment of life. ~G. William Hood

For the last several years, I have had a wonderful friendship that has continued to grow and become deeper over time.

I met Enrique Fuentes when I saw a posting on a community forum that gave the coffee he was selling great reviews. I decided to call him about purchasing some of his coffee. Enrique explained that he would deliver it with the hour.

When the doorbell rang – exactly one hour later – on a Saturday afternoon, I walked through my garden and opened the front door, I was greeted by a huge smile and warm handshake as Enrique and I introduced ourselves to one another. I invited him into the main house and asked if he would like to share cup of coffee with me.

Not only did he readily agree, he came into the kitchen with me to assist in the preparation of a my first pot. I thought at the time that this was done to assure that I would measure out the right amount to assure that his coffee would surpass my taste test. I later found out that this was one of the many wonderful traits of Enrique – to be helpful.

In a few short minutes we were sitting at the dining room table and sipping what turned out to be an extremely wonderful coffee that came from the side of the Soconusco Volcano,  in a region in the southwest corner of the state of Chiapas in Mexico along its border with Guatemala. It is a narrow strip of land wedged between the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountains and the Pacific Ocean and has the perfect altitude and climate for growing outstanding coffee.

Our conversation was one of the most engaging that I had enjoyed in decades. It is not often that you come across a person capable of having a great conversation, let alone making it enjoyable for both parties. The art of conversation has all but been lost over the years.

When I was a young boy in the late 1940s, my father would hold court at the dining table with members of the family and his many friends, as I sat and soaked up knowledge. There would be large amounts of coffee consumed with the sharing of stories of the past, politics, life, relationships, philosophy, and seemingly endless humorous tales.

Today, conversations are limited to shorthand messaging on social media sites and there is nothing of substance. Most people want and need human contact, and in the past that connection often took the form of a simple conversation. Those conversations rested on four key principles:

  1. Taking the initiative and reaching out to the other person;
  2. Showing genuine interest in the other person;
  3. Treating others with respect and kindness; and
  4. Valuing both as unique individuals who have much to share and offer one another.

The conversation I had that day with Enrique possess all four of the key principles. And, he was warm, engaging and best of all the conversation covered a wide ground. As well with his extreme intelligence, being well traveled, educated on a great number of subjects we were able to carry on conversations that were extremely esoteric in that they were likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

At the end of the afternoon, as I walked Enrique to the front gate, we both decided that not only had we thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, but we made plans to meet the next Saturday when he brought me more coffee.

That was the beginning of our Saturday Conversations that would continue over the next many years. The conversations that we have enjoyed would grow to fill a book, perhaps several.

We have spoke of the migration of people from China and Africa to populate the rest of the world and what it must have been like for those early explorers, the habits and traits of different cultures, spoke of the books we have read and what the author intended, the philosophy of relationships, how to brew the perfect cup of coffee, as well as thousands of other subjects.

As an example it is not often that you can find a person who can hold their own in a conversation about how the universe is an ocean, consisting of a superficial layer of life where one finds apparent confusion and disharmony. From a deeper point of view everything flows in unity in the sea of human thoughts.

Indeed, while the universe does not have long-enduring secrets based on separateness or absence of communication, and it does not allow them to exist, there are some facts which many do not understand, and to which many are unprepared to discuss.
Most people will never be able to enjoy what Enrique and I have found in our Saturday Conversations, which have occurred on planes of abstract thoughts and universal perceptions that those who are unprepared and non-attentive could not easily grasp.

Mental Telepathy

We have spoken often about why we were drawn together and have enjoyed our time together in such a manner. Was it just luck that brought us together? Or, perhaps it is that no one is a passive victim of circumstances. That individuals create a psychic atmosphere in which they breathe and live. I believe the latter to be true — a form of mental telepathy, the most fascinating function of human consciousness, the perception and transmission of feelings and ideas between individuals, even at a distance.

The word telepathy much more than it’s Greek origin of two words combined “tele” [distance] and “pathos” [feeling, suffering], to feel at a distance. It surpasses the mere transmission of logical and clear-cut thoughts. It includes all kinds of contact between two or more minds, when such an interaction transcends — though often includes — the help of the five senses.

The number of times that Enrique and I have been on the same wave-length or were able to see the others point-of-view, even when we had not previously held the same beliefs, give testimony of something beyond either of our individual selves.

The phenomenon of telepathy is more frequent than people generally think, but in most cases it happens in semi-conscious, unperceived and sometimes undesired ways. Telepathy is present in the various aspects of daily life, and in partial and distorted ways. It is because of our unconscious belief in telepathy that we are careful to not think bad thoughts about persons or situations for fear that our very thought may cause it happen. Or that we think in a very positive way, that we can somehow control the good fortune of another.

This belief in telepathy is where the odd thought of “I’ll keep you in my prayers and hope that you get well quickly” for a friend with an illness. As an aside, this cannot possibly be from a Christian philosophy that people would actually believe that a God would consider what is good for all based on the number of individuals who believe it to be righteous. If one were to read and believe in the Christian bible, they would see that their Jesus, the so-called Son of God, went against the wide-spread beliefs of the general populace to show them the right way to live their life. That same philosophy continues today in that right is in the heart of the individual and not what is considered by the majority.

No, I believe that Enrique and I were drawn together by a magnetism that exists in the universe in which we think in right ways to intensify the unconditional practice of right thought. Some might call it friendship for all the right reasons.

Friendship

I began this article with the quote, “Having good friends is extremely important to one’s overall happiness.” There has been much research into the benefits of friendship and most agree that the better the quality of the relationships you have; the more likely you are to be happy. Therefore it’s good for your happiness to be a great friend to someone and to have a great friend supporting you. It is even better if you can have a group of truly great friends supporting you. But it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a good friend.

A friendship begins when you decide to give another your friendship and they give their friendship to you — the same as with love. You cannot simply ask someone to be your friend and expect them to give in to your needs or wants, no more than you would ask someone to love you. Both friendship and love are gifts that you give to another.

Friends will come and go in your life, much the same as love, but more important than how long a friendship lasts, is that a good friend will love you for who you are. Yes, the more someone loves you for who you are, the stronger the friendship.

We all have “friends” who are present in our life for a reason. They may be in a “club friend” where we share a like interest. Or a “church friend” that we only see on church occasions. Or a “school friend” that we went to school with and we sometimes get together for a reunion. And, of course there are “Facebook friends” who we can tell where we had dinner and what we had to eat, even posting a photo of the dish in front of us at the moment.

But a true friend is so much more than an occasional friend. They are the one that you invite to your family dinners, birthday dinners, holiday celebrations, and proudly introduce to others as your Best Friend. Enrique was quick to introduce me to his family members, who I have become close to (his girls refer to me at Uncle Bill), his mother, his other friends and co-workers and has invited me to share many special occasions with he and his family over the years. Just yesterday, he had a gathering of his co-workers from the university where he is a professor and he invited me. I was the only one who did not work at the university and he introduced me to each of the arrivals as his best friend of many years.

The way you can tell the sign of a good friend is by looking at the actions they take – big and small – that show they care. Some common signs of a good friend include the traits below. They will meet and often exceed these traits and more:

1. Trust - Friends trust one another with a firm belief in their  reliability, truth, ability, or strength. Friends accept what the other believes and allows them to hold their own beliefs. Friends are responsible for one another.

2. Non-Judging - Friends are beyond judging, understanding that judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are. They attempt to understand where the other person may be coming from. They try to rephrase any critical internal thoughts into a positive ones, or at least neutral ones.

3. Kind - Friends are always kind to one another and will never put each other down or deliberately hurt each other. They have a kind and sympathetic nature toward one another.

4. Respectful - They have a feeling or show deference and respect to each other at all times. They act in a reverent, dutiful, polite, well mannered, civil, courteous, and gracious manner at all times.

5. Loving - Friends give their love to each other because they choose to, not out of an obligation. There is great feeling and showing of love and great care for each other.

6. Enjoyable - Friends enjoy the company of the other and especially in giving delight or pleasure to the other.

7. Loyal - They are consistently and freely giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to the other. They are always there for one another no matter what. They can depend on each other to do what they say they will do and not change their plans once made.

8. Truthful - Friends will always tell each other the truth - even when it is hard.

9. Communicative - Telling a friend how you feel about them and your friendship is important. You don’t have to make a big deal of it all the time but sometimes there are moments where letting someone know that they’re important to you through something you say, can make a big difference to how someone is feeling.

10. Fun - Smiles and hugs are a great way to show friends that they’re not alone, that you’re there for them, and that they are important. Friends make one another smile and laugh - often.

11. Present - Friends are present and stick around, even when thing get tough. If you’re worried about someone and you want to be there for them, just ask them what they need– that way you know what they find helpful during tough times, and you can be there in a way that’s most useful to them.

12. Listen - Listening is so important not to underestimate, but it can be hard to do. The best way to listen is to try and understand the situation from your friends’ point of view. If you aim to do this, you’ll naturally find yourself beginning to ask the right sort of questions and they will appreciate having someone who really cares about how they feel and what they’re going through. You don’t have to have all the answers, and you shouldn’t assume your friend wants advice – they might just want to talk so that they can work out what they’re going to do themselves.

13. Supportive - A friend can be trusted to support you even when you are at your lowest low. They will cry when you cry. Even if are not in close proximity of one another, making an effort to keep in touch through Facebook, emails, texts and calls will show your friend you are there for them. A friend is someone who will take a few days off from work and visit you on your birthday to make it special for you, or to stay with you during an illness and spoon feed you chicken soup.

14. Accepting - Ever wonder if your friends are real? You’ll find out when you do something wrong. If a person cannot deal with your vices, addictions or bad decisions, they are only a fair-weather friend.  They will say that they do not judge others, but they will judge you at your worst and decide when and how they will treat you on that basis, not on who you really are. A real best friend loves you when you’re occasionally drunk and acting belligerently, when you are angry and raising your voice, or need a shoulder to cry on.

If you want to do all or many of the things listed above for someone you care about, you’re already a good friend. It’s also common though, to not know exactly what to do or say in order to simply be there as a friend for someone.

My friend, Enrique and I have shared all (and more) of these friendship traits and that is why our friendship has endured. It is certainly my hope that all are able to embrace these seven traits so that they too can find that one person in their life that is a true friend.

Misery

The Misery Game

What people do to make each other miserable

Misery is that state or feeling of great distress or discomfort of the mind, which can affect the body - making one feel ill. In more severe instances, it can lead to depression.

Hedonism[1], as an ethical theory, claims that good and bad consist ultimately in pleasure and pain. Many hedonists advocate that we should first seek to avoid suffering and that the greatest pleasure lies in a robust state of profound tranquility that is free from the worrisome pursuit or the unwelcome consequences of short-term pleasures.

While, those definitions seemingly makes long-term pleasure the ultimate goal, for many it is the most difficult goal to achieve as they are hell-bent on making themselves and others miserable and devoid of any pleasures of life.

It is a pretty good bet that you have been miserable in a relationship before - maybe more than once. Obviously, most people believe that someone in their life has made their life miserable. It seems to be inborn into some - okay - most of people to make others miserable. One of the most common complaints that are heard is, “He - or she - makes me miserable!” The obverse is that there are just as many - or more - who make their own life miserable. The solution is simple:

“Learn to Think, Think to Learn”

Learn how to think for yourself and you will think about how you can fix your problems one at a time - as they arise - learning how to make each day better than the day before.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship is aware of the myriad games that people play during the meeting, getting to know one another, friendship, dating, and getting serious. While, relationships do not always produce happiness they certainly do not have to produce misery.

The art of relationships is more than a game; it is a process of coming to know and being known by another person. It is also an opportunity to discover new levels of intimacy across a variety of intimate relationships; friendship, dating, or married. Whether you are currently single, in a friendship, dating, married, divorced, or widowed, it is always a good time to start becoming the right person rather being fixated on finding the “right person.”

In a relationship, you must realize that it is not about you, your needs, or your wants. Those are your personal responsibilities to yourself and they should not play a pivotal role in your expectation of others.

Stop trying to make everyone else - or even your partner - responsible for you, your wants and needs. It isn’t their problem and they certainly can’t fix you or solve your problems for you. Only you can do that. In a relationship it should be your goal to build the absolute best relationship. If you satisfy yourself, and meet all of your own needs and wants - you get what you want. If you expect others to give these to you - you are always going to be met with misery.

How anyone can possibly reach the dating age and not do everything that they can to make themselves and the other person happy is an age old question - and certainly one with no answer, other than there are people who simply thrive on making others miserable.

Let’s think about the ways in which people make themselves and other miserable and possibly learn something about ourselves and solve the problem of being miserable. We will begin with how you may be your own victim.

What you do to make Yourself Miserable

“Unfortunately, too many blame others for their misery, rather than accepting the fact that they just might be the source of their misery.”

If you have a sense that the beliefs you hold are correct and that others are the ones with the problem, you may have a problem. If you are perfectly happy when you are alone or with the close friends that you have, but have trouble meeting and making new friends, you may have a problem. Because if you are correct and others that are wrong then you might as well head out and buy that winning lottery ticket right now - because you won’t have to share your winnings with others who chose the same numbers.

No, the truth of the matter is that you and pretty much the rest of the world are wrong more often than right. You didn’t win the lottery, you don’t have all the world knocking on your front door wanting to be your best friend because everyone tells them how great you are, and you would have stopped reading this segment of the article if you really thought you were not partially to blame for your own misery.

Of course, you have the choice of not accepting the blame for being your own victim of the misery and continue to live your life in the way it is, or you can consider that you might be partially to blame and begin working on some of the myriad problems that are causing the misery in your life. Get your pen out and check these off if you can accept some responsibility for being guilty of some of the following. Be real with yourself because only you will see your score. Some ways that people make themselves miserable are;

Being Demanding

If you really want to make yourself miserable try making demands of others in your life. No one that has a healthy mental outlook will allow you make demands of them and you will only suffer the consequences of your own behavior, which will guarantee your misery.

If you are intrusive, persistent, and demanding of others you cannot expect that they are going to be happy to be around you. No more so, than if you bring anxiety in their life, act in an agitated manner to get your way, or attempt to force others to do as you wish. If others are not happy to be around you because of your demanding attitude you can pretty much bet on being miserable.

If you want to be happy forget about your sense of entitlement, empathize with others, cease trying to control the actions of others, act in a decisive manner, make the right choice for all concerned, be committed to success, learn that others - and yourself - are not perfect and accept them as they are, respect the structure and limits of others, cease making others responsible for meeting your needs and wants, lose the fear of dealing with the realities of life and learn that when others say no it means no!

People are what they want to be and they will never measure up to what you want them to be - live with it - or be miserable.

Comparing Yourself to others

Stop looking in the mirror every time you pass it to compare your looks to what you looked like the last time you looked. Face it - our physical features change - and that there is nothing you can do other than have cosmetic surgery to mask the problem. Does it go away when you have the surgery? No more so than the flaw you cover with makeup or the comb over to make it appear that you are losing your hair.

Stop spending hours putting on makeup fretting over how you can make yourself more beautiful than others. You say you want to be accepted as you are, but then you spend hours trying to appear to be something else with the attention to your makeup or that comb over. Stop worrying that you are not as creative enough, not intelligent enough, not insightful enough, as others. Your are only going to make yourself miserable when you think about it, or look in the mirror without your make up or before you have combed your hair over your baldness.

Interrupting Others

Do you interrupt others while they are speaking or perhaps do others and then forget what you were going to say? Why is this? Could it be that you simply want to be the center of attention and love nothing more than hearing your own voice?

The rules of conversation state that, obviously, interrupting another person is disruptive and can be perceived as inconsiderate or even rude. Knowing what to say at the right time is important. More importantly is knowing what to leave unsaid at the wrong time.

The first step towards correcting any communication problem is to become aware and recognize that your behavior is negatively affecting others. Certainly everyone knows what it feels like to be interrupted, but not everyone is aware that they are the ones doing the interrupting.

Yes, interruptions happen all the time, everyday. People interrupt people. People even interrupt themselves (with phone calls, or email). Sometimes people interrupt for good reasons (like asking for clarification) but often it’s just a bad habit!

Don’t expect to find happiness if you are constantly interrupting another, especially when you have nothing to add to the conversation, but drone on and one about something completely unrelated.

Simply wait for your turn to add your own comments about what is being discussed. Knowing that others may have more to say or take longer to explain their thoughts that you might like. Afford others the same compassion as you wish to receive. If you do not enjoy being interrupted - then don’t interrupt them.

Interruptions make people miserable and thus you will become miserable if you are making others miserable. Don’t do it.

Listening to Others

When you listen to others tell you how great of a person you are, especially very close, long-time friends - no matter how much you want to believe that they would never lie to you, fight that belief. It’s only going to make you miserable to believe them. It should come as no surprise that people almost always tell you want they think you want to hear, because they can’t face the truth about themselves any more than you can. They, like all people, have been led to believe in the Golden Rule:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When you place your beliefs in what others tell you - you are giving them control over your life. They tell you that you are a great person, even when you know you have flaws and are not perfect. But, pretty soon you start buying into what others are telling you and you begin to believe it yourself - you are a great person. But, then you look in to the mirror and realize that you are not happy with what you see - what you think they saw - and you become miserable none the less.

When you give others that kind of power over you, belief things that you know are really not true, do things that you do not want to do, or allow other people to choose your life direction and your priorities for you, you will most likely be setting yourself up for the inevitable misery that will befall you.

If are willing to really think about it, you will see that you allow others to this in order to avoid the responsibility. And, when you end up being miserable, you can blame those who you allowed to make the decisions for you. And you are still miserable.

The bottom line is that - just as you - your friends and family members, not matter how much you love and trust them have also been wrong more often than they have been right. You should never gamble when your life and well-being are subject to loss.

Living in the Past

An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression and certainly make you miserable. We are supposed to learn from our mistakes and failure and move forward - not bury our head in the sand and expect that the world is going to cease if we make one more mistake.

No, you are going to make many mistakes in your life. But you do not have the make them again. No matter what happens in your life, no matter how many times you fail don’t allow the downside of life to take over your life. Find out what you did wrong, what you wanted to have happen and fix it. Patch it up, stop the leak, replace the faulty part with a new and better part.

You only have three choices, live with it, throw it away or fix the problem and do not allow it to continue to make you miserable.

“To live fully you must learn to welcome and embrace change.”

Loving Yourself

If you believe in the old and grossly incorrect adage that your peers tell you over and over - “You have to love yourself first if you want to be happy” - you had best get other that idea immediately. The truth is that not only is the adage wrong - it is one of the (if not the most) greatest cause of misery in the world. No matter how many times you have heard others say it - it doesn't make it correct. And, if it where then why are your peers who told you this not extremely happy in their own lives?

Self love has often been seen as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness. Cicero[2] considered those who were “lovers of themselves without rivals were doomed in the end to failure” Francis Bacon[3] in his condemnation of self-lovers described them as those “who would burn down their own home only to roast themselves an egg.”

If you are a religious person, of any faith or spirituality you should have read in one or more of the world’s 53 religious texts[4] - from Adidam[5] to Zoroastrianism[6] - that state to love one’s self goes against every religion.

If you love yourself more than others you are going to be stuck in the mire of misery until you get over it and realize just how wrong you are. Giving your love to another is the greatest gift that one can give. The second is being present in another's life. You cannot give your love if it is more important to you than receiving love in return and you will only find misery and heartache by trying to keep it to yourself.

If you love yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you will resent the time and energy you give another person that you are not giving to yourself.

Pleasing Others

While it should be the goal of all people to share their happiness and bring joy to others, this should not include pleasing others by basing your life decisions on the needs and wants of others. You are ultimately responsible for your own life decisions.

For most, people pleasing is a deeply ingrained habit with roots in the way that you view yourself and others. In following the Golden Rule, people often get into the habit of pleasing others because they want other to please them. Perhaps not surprising, is that being a people pleaser makes you vulnerable to mean, controlling people and are often the primary target of bullies, which only leads to the people pleaser being miserable.

People-pleasing drains you and prevents you from concentrating on your true needs and wants. It opens you up to others who are intimidating and demanding. You will only make yourself more miserable as you try to go along with keeping them happy. While it may seem to work momentarily - the pleasure will be short lived - as others become more demanding, and often treat you even more poorly over time.

It is far better to make others responsible for their own needs and wants and concentrate on what you need and want in your own life to maintain your own happiness.

Thinking of Yourself

There has been an extensive amount of research performed that explains that egocentric[7], self-centered, individuals score lowest in any test for measuring happiness.

When asked a question about what another person just said, do you have to ask them to repeat what they said? Do you find yourself unable to keep up with what another person is saying because you are thinking of what you might say to contradict their thoughts?

If someone asks you how your day went, do you tend to give them a detail account of your day, from the time you woke up, what you had for breakfast, where you went, who you met, and what time you arrived back home? This may because you love talking about yourself more than listening to others.

Those that only talk of themselves, do so because they have not yet figured out who they are.

If you are not interested in listening to others speak then you certainly cannot expect them to be interested in you and what you have to say. Having compassion for others is giving them what you wish to receive in return.

Waiting for the perfect time

If you find yourself waiting for a situation to be just right before accepting to enjoy you are going to be waiting for a long time and find yourself being miserable while you wait. This is true of just about everything from the right job, the right house, the right friend or the right life partner.

The more one expects of another to match their ideal, the less one loves the person for who they are. And that is not love - but love of ones self.

If you allow this to become a habit, you will quickly find yourself putting off life altogether and end up with only regrets to look back on. When an opportunity is presented - the almost perfect mate proposes - and you are stuck with fear that it might not work out, you will never know one way or the other. Is it not better to live with a bit less than perfection than to be miserable by yourself?

At 70, I have many friends who are old, some in their nineties. During conversations we will look back on our lives. It seldom has to do with their accomplishments or the mistakes they made, but what they regretted. It was what they regretted not doing, the risks they didn’t take, the friendships and loves that they didn’t allow to happen. Life is either a daring risk or it is nothing at all. Don’t let yourself be miserable by what might have been.

The 4-Way Test

That was 2,346 words explaining how to make yourself miserable, and I could have written an entire book on the subject. To simplify how to be happy and make others happy only takes twenty-four words:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Those twenty-four words comprise four questions of the 4-Way Test[8] that are used world-wide as a moral code for relationships, be they personal or business. You would do well to follow them to find joy in your life and with others.

What You Do to Make Others Miserable

“Far too many people contribute to the misery of others - which is then reflected back on them.”

Consider if you are actually creating the very problem of your own misery - contributing to the misery of others. Perhaps you have a problem with your own self-esteem, or it was inherited from growing up in a dysfunctional home where one or both of your parents acting in the same manner.

Or perhaps you learned it from your peers. Either way, you should consider that you may be creating the problem or at the very least be partially responsible for perpetuating it’s existence in the relationship.

The good news is that most problems can be solved - either by acknowledging that your actions are not giving you what you desire out of life and making the necessary changes to take back your own life and health to create a happier, healthier and more fulling life, or seeking professional help to resolve deep-rooted problems that are buried in your subconsciousness.

Let’s take a look at the obverse of the situation, where you are doing every thing in your power to make others miserable. You can add these to any of the things you are doing that were in the previous segment on “What you do to make Yourself Miserable” to come up with more ways to improve the situation and be happier.

Hopefully, this will point out the destructive behavior that you may be engaged in that ultimately is creating misery for you when it is reflected back onto you. Have you still got your pen handy? Good, then you can check off the following that you have been guilty of. If you can learn to avoid the following you can make yourself and those around you much happier.

Assigning Blame

“Anyone can praise or blame. It is both human virtue and human madness.”

Assigning blame to others for everything that goes wrong, or at the very least asking them to accept at least half of the blame will ensure that others will avoid you like the plague. They will have little choice other than to fight back (which will give you more opportunity to blame them), choose to accept blame in order to keep you happy because hey - it’s free! - or they will run away and leave you miserable.

Who knows, you may get lucky and find a whiner, because when you put a blamer and a whiner together you get maximum miserability, which is exactly what you should have expected - mutual misery.

When things don’t go well or as you expected, instead of assigning blame, use problem solving to figuring out what went wrong so that you can ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Being Controlling

“Nothing good ever comes from acting in a controlling manner.”

One of the most common ways to make another person miserable to be controlling. You control by withholding — your presence, your speech, loving words, love itself, sex, information, and more — because you know it will drive others into a frenzy when you withhold these. And, the more the other person likes you - the easier it is for you to control them.

You do not want to be the victim, so you make the other person the victim of your controlling efforts. You demand so many demands on others that they are so busy trying to meet your expectations that they ask for little in return. Sooner or later however, others finally get the idea that you are bringing nothing to the table in return for all their hard work and they move on to someone who is less controlling. Now, who is the victim?

Nothing good ever comes from acting in a controlling manner, because quite frankly no one ever gets good enough at it. Others run away far quicker than the controller can work to improving their controlling skill set.

Comparing

“The need to compare self or another is an exercise in futility and misery that is a glorious waste of time.”

One of the quickest ways to kill a friendship or intimate moment with another is compare them with an ex-friend or lover. Comparing your friend to another or even comparing yourself to another will show them that you are a comparer - someone that has expectations that they may not be able to live up to. Even if you are attempting to paint them in a favorable comparison with others, they realize right away that you do not live in the present - but in the past and are searching for ways to feed on being miserable or to spread your misery to them.

When you make any comparison you move out of the present moment and all hopes of intimacy that you might have shared with another will fly right out of the window. Comparing is just another way of being judgmental, which is never pleasant. And, of course, the comparison may very well backfire when the other person decides to compare you to another, which will feed your misery factor even more.

There's the story of Nasruddin[9], who was asked why he never married and answered, "I was looking for the perfect wife. I went to Damascus and met a wonderful woman but she had no spiritual side. Then I went to Cairo and met a woman who was deeply spiritual, but we didn't communicate well. I went from place to place looking for the perfect woman, then finally I found her and she was beautiful and spiritual and we communicated well. She was perfect in every way!”

Then his friend asked why he didn’t marry her, and Nasruddin replied, "Unfortunately, she was looking for the perfect man!"

Few of us are perfect. The perfection we seek is not the perfection of a person but the perfection of love. In that way, when we join in a relationship, the commitment to love allows us to serve something greater than ourselves or the other person, to serve a mystical third - the spirit of the relationship.

Complaining

“Unless you are willing to give intimacy, you will never experience it.”

This is especially useful when you are not getting what you need and want from others. Like complaining, “You never ask about me!” This usually right after yet another of those long-winded stories about comparing your friend with someone you met once. Why would he ask you about you, since he has listened to you talk incessantly about nothing else?

Or, when you complain about someone that you both know. Could you possibly be so transparent in showing your social flaws? Not only is this a sure fire way to lose the person you are complaining to but your friends as well - moving you from misery to abject misery.

If you are a female, you have become an expert at complaining, as women grow up sharing their problems with their sisters, mother or best friends. For women is is art form and socially acceptable with the gender.

However, males hate to think that you might be sharing really intimate things with your best friend, daughter, sister or mother. Who they know will share those intimacies with other women and eventually it will come back to them on the golf course just as he is making his putt.

When things are not going as well as what you need or want, that you will become anxious and call off the relationship, only to tell all to every woman that will listen. Then two days later, you call him up and tell him how miserable he made you and that you want to get back together if only he will change.

However, the damage is done as the cycle of rumors have began with the women you shared with. And, now that you are happy again with him changing, you don’t have the time or inclination to talk about him with your tribe members. They are left with only the bad stuff that you shared.

Every time you introduce him to your best friend, your daughter, sister or mother, he can see the reflection of Hitler or Jack the Ripper in their eyes. He will become the Antichrist in your family gossip circles forever. And, you will be Mrs. Antichrist for having chosen this terrible man. Now, who is the victim and miserable?

If you really are such a terrible person and can’t help complaining about others, at least complain to the person who is making you unhappy, where there is some slim chance that they will change. If you are too much of a coward to do that, then at least complain to someone who will never meet the person that you are complaining about.

Fault Finding

“The quickest way to misery is to find fault”

This is the biggie! The absolute very best, number one way to make someone miserable. With fault finding you can incorporate being judgmental, blame, complaining, and whining into one well turned phrase. And, the best part of fault finding is that since no one is perfect, you will have lots of opportunity to cast your net wide and scoop up a large catch. You will be in heaven - happy with yourself but miserable without those in your life that you need and want.

It is so easy to do. Just ignore all the things that others do right and fixate your thoughts on what what they do wrong. You will want to look for any mistakes, faux pas, or other missteps, then attack them with a litany of their faults, making them feel terrible. But don’t slow down - keep the negative feedback coming until they finally break down and leave you and your misery to suffer in solitude.

People shine in the face of praise. When others do something good, right or well, it is an opportunity to praise them for their efforts - increasing the opportunity for both of you to be happy and share an intimate moment together. Why risk that moment for a few minutes of abject fault finding? Lighten up and make life more fun and happy.

Getting Angry

“It should come as no surprise that opposites attract and aggravate the hell out of one another.”

When it comes to undermining a relationship, becoming angry is almost as effective as fault-finding. The real advantage is that when you become angry over a very small thing and work it into a conversation there is a good chance that the other person will raise their voice in protest at a decibel level that befits the minimal size of the problem that made you angry. This gives you an addition to either find-fault with or to become even more angry over. Things can really get out hand quickly with this one. Even the slightest show of anger on your part can set off a fuse in the calmest individual that can create a huge explosion. Then you can take on an air of looking frightened by the other person’s actions of raising their voice in protest. Surely you can see how to turn this into an advantage to become absolutely miserable and go from 0 to 120 in just a few short seconds.

The victim will have no other recourse than to shut down or walk away. Either way you win on achieving misery in a very short time, with very little work.

Getting angry is normal, and even part of good communication. And, if someone is a great communicator, you may meet your match and your anger will backfire on your attempts to achieve misery. But, don’t worry - there are plenty of people who are terrible communicators you will soon have another opportunity at achieving misery.

Grasping

“Arguments are inevitable in all circumstances.”

Keep these three words within your grasp for instant misery; you, always and never. With these you can begin a statement with either, “You always…” or “You never…” These are guaranteed to give you ammo to use anytime you get stuck with someone who is attempting to be constructive. As soon as you get the sentence out of your mouth, the other person must come up with a counter example, then all attempts of constructive interaction disappears.

These are especially helpful when someone is disagreeing with you as a way of diverting the conversation and escalating it from a simple disagreement into a full scale war.

Arguments are inevitable, but be specific, stay in the present, and look for solutions, not blame.

Having unrealistic expectations

“Expectations are the death of serenity.”

Everyone has expectations of others in that they want to be treated fairly. This is your opportunity to make someone really miserable. Since they know that expectations are normal, you have every opportunity to slip in some of the most outrageous examples of expectations that you fully know that the other person cannot possibly meet. The more expectations that you can throw at them the better your chance of achieving misery for both you and the other person. Who knows, they might actually meet a few of them, but if you are really good at choosing the exceptions you can really shine here.

Relying on others to make up for gaps in your life, or trying to emotionally provide for another’s deficiencies is a mistake that therapists agree is ultimately damaging and undermining to relationships.

You should never ask another to be responsible for your feelings. When this happens, it sets up a dynamic in which there is no longer a partnership between two adults but a childlike relationship of the needy child to a providing parent.

Ask yourself, do I feel it's the other person’s role to make things better for me? Or on the other side, someone is upset, is it my job to fix things for him/her? If the answer to either question is yes, this understanding can help you start to change this pattern.

Sulking

“Sulking or pouting is akin to emotional terrorism: It’s a way to walk away emotionally while staying in the same room.”

This is the easiest way to make some miserable as it requires nothing more of you than to say nothing and let the problem fester in the other person’s mind, where it will grow and build until they can’t take it any more and has to approach you to apologize. Good for you! You get your way by doing nothing.

You know how this goes. When others want you to do something that you don’t want to do, make you feel bad or ignored all you have to do is is sulk or pout until they give in. While it may make you feel better to feel sorry for yourself, sulking or pouting will only usually make your partner feel guilty enough to say sorry. And, you don’t have to be too careful with this because you might anger the other person. Then you get a double whammy - double the misery for doing nothing. What could be better than that?

Disagreements inevitably occur between two people who are trying to function, no matter how temporarily, as a unit. Each has different experiences, background, expectations, skills, strengths, weaknesses — even different sexes. The question is, what happens when there’s a problem?

Why engage in constructive, helpful conversation when you can demonstrate your unhappiness without taking responsibility by acting sullen, sulking, and being unwilling to discuss the matter?

By not saying what’s wrong and not working toward a solution, you hold your partner hostage.

As with all situations in a relationship, honesty is the best policy. If something is bugging you, the last thing you should do is cover up the problem by causing a new problem. Sulking and playing child-like games can also blow a situation out of proportion. Just talk to the other person and resolve the issue. It will save you a lot of time and frustration and get you back into good communication and warm feelings again faster.

Whining

“Misery is contagious!”

While happiness may or may not be contagious, misery certainly is. If you can find something negative to say you’ll find that even the most energetically happy person gives up on you, gets angry, or walks away. The best part is that it doesn’t take very long to make others just as miserable as you.

If you want misery to ruin your relationship, think to yourself, “Why be miserable alone when I can make others miserable, too?” and then show your misery — don’t keep it bottled up. The hallmark of misery is the whine — that noise you make when you are uncomfortable, tired, or sick and feel the need to share your misery with others.

When you whine or whimper it makes others more miserable than opening the photo app on your iPad and start showing them the photos from your latest vacation. If they try to change the subject to something more pleasant, revert to phrases such as, “You are never interested in me”; “No matter what I do, it’s not enough for you,”; or “Why was I born?” (or its cousin, “I wish I were dead”), “That’s okay, even my mother doesn’t like me,” “Go ahead and leave me; everyone I’ve ever loved has.” Before you know it, you’ll be alone again with no one to blame for your misery except… well, just about everyone.

You do not want to ever be constructive or specific with your whining, because somebody might actually be able to help.

Whining doesn’t accomplish anything except aggravate and annoy the people you’re around. So instead of whining, figure out what’s making you unhappy and then try to really talk about it. You may be surprised how far real communication can take you.

Conclusion

Obviously, this is a short list of the ways in which you can make yourself and others miserable. It could have filled a book. It is one chapter in my soon to be released book, The Game, which addresses the games people play at the beginning, during and after a relationship. Making others miserable is just one part of the The Game, but it is a biggie. The items listed here are the Number 1 reason for most relationship failures.

Is your pencil now dull from checking off the ones that you are already expert? Have you worn the eraser quite well from your indecision? We all have quite a way to go in our relationship improvement skills. Hopefully, this helped you in some small way!

References:

  1. Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the primary or most important intrinsic good. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure, i.e. pleasure minus pain. Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them, assuming that their actions do not infringe on the equal rights of others. It is also the idea that every person's pleasure should far surpass their amount of pain. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by Aristippus of Cyrene, a student of Socrates. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.
  2. Marcus Tullius Cicero - 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist.
  3. Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist and author.
  4. There are at least 53 religions with texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books. There are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or central to their religious tradition. Many religions and spiritual movements believe that their sacred texts are divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_text
  5. Adidam refers to both the organization of that Adi Da Samraj founded in 1972 and the religion itself. Adi Da Samraj, (November 3, 1939 – November 27, 2008), was an American spiritual teacher, writer and artist. Fundamental to Adidam’s philosophy is the essentially "eastern" religious concept that the purpose of human life is spiritual enlightenment, an awakening to ultimate reality that is the natural state of all human beings. Many of the most intelligent religious scholars considered Adi Da the greatest spiritual realizer of all time with his profound and unequaled revelations.
  6. Zoroastrianism or Mazdaism is one of the world's oldest religions. Leading characteristics, such as messianism, the Golden Rule, heaven and hell, and free will influenced other religious systems, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Gnosticism. Ascribed to the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, its Supreme Being is Ahura Mazda. Zoroastrian followers number at around 2.6 million currently.
  7. Egocentrism is the inability to differentiate between self and other. More specifically, it is the inability to untangle subjective schemas from objective reality; an inability to understand or assume any perspective other than their own. Although egocentrism and narcissism appear similar, they are not the same. A person who is egocentric believes they are the center of attention, like a narcissist, but does not receive gratification by one's own admiration. An egotist is a person whose ego is greatly influenced by the approval of others while a narcissist is not. Similarly, egocentrism and absolutism appear to be the same but are not.
  8. The 4-Way Test was developed in the early 1930s by Herbert J. Taylor in an attempt to find a simple, easily remembered guide to right conduct that would change the ethical climate regardless of one’s faith or thinking. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages and hangs on the wall of the most ethical people in the world. See http://www.4waytest.org/ for more information.
  9. Nasreddin was a Seljuq satirical Sufi, believed to have lived and died during the 13th century in Akşehir, near Konya, a capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, in today's Turkey. He is considered a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. He appears in thousands of stories, sometimes witty, sometimes wise, but often, too, a fool or the butt of a joke. A Nasreddin story usually has a subtle humour and a pedagogic nature. The alleged tomb of Nasreddin is in Akşehir. The International Nasreddin Hodja fest is celebrated between 5 and 10 July in Akşehir every year.
Self-Interest

Friendship Should Be Without Self-Interest

In 2004, I attended a funeral service at the Mount Zion church in Austin, Texas. Mount Zion is a large church nestled among the small wood-framed homes of the working-class neighborhood on Austin's east side. I had arrived just as the service was to begin. I had not realized that I would have to park so far from the church, as there were a large number of cars parked for blocks on end between the driveways of the neighboring houses. Side streets were filled with cars, as well. As the church was filled, I was escorted into an adjoining building to listen and watch the services on a wall-sized projection system. Many others had also arrived too late to enter the church and the adjoining building was filled with more than 100 other attendees.

I wasn't surprised to see so many people, as I knew that Reverend Ted Jackson had touched many in his life of service to others. Ted had been driving fellow parishioners to a church service in Cameron, Texas when a young girl driving towards Austin had lost control of her car and unexpectedly veered into Ted's lane crashing head-on into the church van. The young girl, Ted and two of his passengers died in the crash. Another passenger in the church van was left in critical condition. I was attending the service to honor Ted, not realizing that it would be a double service until I was seated and looked at the program. I had never met Reverend Kenny Himes, but even in his death he was to impact my own life as he had with so many others throughout his life.

A pillar in our community, Ted was always there with the church van to drive those in need of transportation to church, the doctor's office or to purchase groceries. One never had to question Ted, for he was always ready and willing to offer a helping hand. Perhaps it was due to his generosity that a mutual friend, Robb Hinkelman, had asked Ted to become a member of the Austin Northeast Rotary Club where I had been a member for many years. Ted had joined the club, as others have, so that he could be of benefit to others. Service Above Self is the motto of Rotary and Ted epitomized that motto in his ways.

I also wasn't surprised when one after another, people stood at the pulpit to speak about the two ministers - taken much too early in life, in the midst of raising families, working jobs, and helping others in the community in so many ways. Both ministers had been mentors to many young men in the community. Several of the young men had gone on to become ministers and had been invited to the service to speak of the relationships with their mentors.

So many friends, relatives and co-workers took to the pulpit that each had to limited to only two minutes. Although it would seem difficult to express what a person meant to one in only two minutes, they spoke eloquently. They spoke of the ministers' many accomplishments, their profession of faith, the great number of people who had attended their services, and the positions the ministers had held in the church and community. Indeed, these two men had accomplished much in their short lives on this earth. But, what the speakers overlooked was that these men had accomplished what so many of us can only hope to achieve in our lifetime. Ted and Kenny had both come to realize that the true value of a man is not so much what he has accomplished in life, but how he accomplished it.

In the eulogy, the minister spoke of the importance of always having one's goal in front of oneself. If your goal is behind you - if you are walking away from your goal, then you won't be able to see it and what you don't see, you can't achieve. Ted and Kenny never walked away from anything. They faced their goals and never lost sight of the wonderful friendships that could be cultivated by being genuinely interested in others. Self-interest was never evident in the thousands of relationships that these two men were involved in.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "A friend is a present you give yourself." Like Ted and Kenny, you'll do well to be very generous to yourself in this area. Just remember to always think first of others and your friendships will come easy and be plentiful.

This remembrance came back to me this morning when I awoke. I went to sleep with a heavy heart, frustrated by a close friend who unintentionally, perhaps, creates a huge amount of conflict in my life. The problem is that my friend is seemingly unaware of the need for reciprocation in a friendship.

My days are filled with the great joy in my daily writings, interspersed with painting, reading, and learning. During the day, I take breaks from my work to go on several walks around my neighborhood in Cuernavaca. The sidewalks are filled with my neighbors who bring great joy into my life — always there with a smile and a friendly handshake. They comment that I am seemingly healthy for a 70-year-old person and how much energy I have. They tell me how great it makes them feel to see an older person with a smile on their face and a spring to their walk - hoping that they will be as healthy when they reach my age.

Some days, however, I very much feel like the from Gabriel García Márquez' book, El Coronel No Tiene Quien le Escriba, (No One Writes to the Colonel). It is a story of a colonel, a veteran of the Thousand Days' War, who rises each morning and walks to the post office each day to see if he has received the pension he was promised upon his retirement fifteen years earlier. I too, check each morning to see if I have received a message from my friend. Although I had attempted to write a happy message to my friend each morning for quite some time, I became aware that if I did not take the initiative the message would not be there.

As Stevenson said, "A friend is a present you give yourself," The sad part is that no matter how much friendship and care you give to another, we cannot always expect that the friendship will be returned - we can only hope for the best. What matters most is who you are when you are with your friend to make it as perfect as you can for yourself. It is up to the other person to do the same in order to receive the perfection that they want from the friendship. As St. Augustine said, "The function of perfection: to make one know one's own imperfections."

041-Observations

Observations on a Spiritual Journey

A week ago, I wrote that I was going on a sabbatical from my … well, from everything. I found my life severally spiraling out of my control. Nothing was going as I had planned and I felt lost. So I decided to take a week off from my self-imposed hectic life to go on a spiritual journey in search of a truth of a few things that were on my mind.

I am back, and as I write this, I can tell you that I am more fully focused on the future than ever before. If you have not gone on a true spiritual journey, – not a vacation, which can be more hectic then your day-to-day life – but to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed by any distractions and able to completely and clearly focus on your self-introspection journey, I highly recommend that you do.

I suggest that any real self-introspection should take place in solitary – away from any and all distractions, alone for a week at a minimum. You don’t have to go far. Rent an isolated cabin in the mountains for a week with no contact, no Internet, and no phone. Put your mail on hold, tell your family where you are going and why, then unplug, disconnect, and walk-away. It will be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself – and you may find it, much like I have – becoming a habit.

As I wrote, the journey was to step outside of the reality that I had created in my mind. Yes, we all have those thoughts, that we create to fool us into believing it is a reality. I was looking for the truth, and to find it, I decided to step out of the reality that I had created to look back inside of the world that I left behind to see what was real and what was not. The Truth!

The goal was to avoid holding any expectations that I would find complete resolutions to my problems within a week. Intent on uncovering as much truth as possible, I was searching for a week of self-exploration in which I could uncover the misconceptions that I had instilled in my mind.

And, as I knew would happen, as I uncovered one problem and came to a resolve, another problem would be given to me that I had not considered. With patience and acceptance I grew to a better understanding of the issues I had been facing and came to a resolve.

While I was gone, I celebrated my 70th birthday in complete isolation and content, as I have not actually celebrated holidays of any sort for decades. I will honor those who do celebrate and help them, but celebrations of holidays is simply not for me. There was no party, no birthday cake, or candles to blow out. I did however make a wish, which did come true almost immediately.

The Problems

There are those who wondered what problems I could have. I am in great health, thank goodness. I have a number of close friends, a great many followers and mentees, the world over. I am living my dream life in my home in beautiful Cuernavaca, Mexico, which is called the City of Eternal Spring due to the year round spring-like weather. I have enough money to afford a good life for myself. I make every attempt to live a life of peace, serenity and tranquility – happy in every way. I have appeared to others to be living a great life as it were. But, none of us is without problems.

Problem No. 1 - I am growing older – day-by-day – with no recourse other than to allow it to happen. No matter how young or how active I attempt to stay in my mind, I cannot escape this simple fact. According to the United Nations World Population Prospects, I have almost reached the average life expectancy of 71.0 years for a male. While I have male friends who are in their nineties, I can only hope to follow in their footsteps and last another 20 years.

Problem No. 2 - As I approach a little over 2-billion seconds of life, 25,574 days on this earth, the fact that I presently live alone with no one to share my life has given me concern. Yes, I do have someone in my life to converse with and visit from time-to-time, but she lives in another country and our time together is limited.

I know that for many reading this, who still have some amount of years left, having only two problems seems trivial, but I can assure you that it took a considerable amount of effort to overcome the many problems I had when I was your age. I worked diligently on eliminating them and was successful. I intend to leave this earth without a problem in the world. I wish you the same success as I have found, but know that you must work on the problems if you have any hope of eliminating them. They don’t go away if you hide them in some dark space and try to forget them.

Solutions to Problem 1 - Aging

During my sabbatical I spent time accepting my aging and the inevitable changes of aging, rather than seeing them as aberrant crises.

For those who have not accepted the fact that we are all aging and will someday be quite old – and having come within a year of my own life expectancy – I can tell you that getting old is rife with emotional landmines, including fears of losing one's independence or getting a serious illness.

Aging gracefully isn't always easy, but I have learned that having a healthy attitude matters. While society is obsessed with the negative aspects of aging, I have found that the obsessiveness was unfounded. I have never been one to obsess over what I cannot change. The anxiety of doing so, never complements a healthy lifestyle.

Having a healthy attitude is important. Naturally, I tire more easily and have to take things slower. But, I counter that each morning as my feet hit the floor, with the thought I am able to relish another day that life has given me. While many others have become depressed over growing old – moving into isolation, becoming bitter and with no sense of meaningfulness – I have attempted to grow old with grace and acceptance.

I have navigated through all of the emotional challenges of growing old by acknowledging that I have survived the threats of my physical and psychological integrity that have taken the lives of so many others. And, that there are many others who have survived – including my friends who are 20 years or more older than I am.

During my many conversations with those much older than I, I have found a commonality in their thinking – they all have a very healthy outlook. They think of what they can accomplish with this one more day that they have been given. How they can make a difference that they lived this one more day. They do good – each and every day that they have received – by giving to others. They focus on what is still working rather than mulling over what doesn’t.

Whether through good genes or the luck of having taken the right plane or highway – I have avoided death in the many near fatal accidents I have been lucky to live through, the many times I have had a gun pointed at my head and lived to tell of the experience, so far avoided any major disease, and lived through the many foolish acts of my youth, as one also-old friend recently pointed out, who was there during those follies.

I feel that I have aged well. I am still working daily – writing, reading, working with my consulting clients – and doing so with an ability to continue thinking quickly. Yes, wisdom, resilience and a mature perspective are a result of growing old.

I came to the conclusion that life changes everyone and that I accept that my life won’t stay the same. Accepting that in advance will make it much easier to manage, when I can’t climb the stairs, go on extended long walks, or drive a car. By anticipating that changes are inevitable I will be more flexible in my thinking. As I encounter the changes in my health status, I will deal with them as a natural occurrence in growing older and will be better able to negotiate through it with positivity.

While for some, who worry about the physical changes in their looks, I refuse to dye my hair or worry about the veins on my ankles. There is so much more to life than how I look and what other people think of me.

Having met thousands of older people in my life, I have replaced the stereotypical thinking with a positive view of aging gracefully. All of the people I have met have had incredible lives and careers and still have a great sense of humor with a lot of intellect and I am proud to be right there with them on that level.

What the Future Holds

As for my immediate plans, I intend to continue to find meaning in my life. I long ago gave up my childhood dream of becoming a cowboy on a ranch in Montana. Instead I became many other things; an educator, designer, father, friend, inventor, learner, lover, painter, philosopher, writer, and consultant who has been fortunate enough to travel – beyond Montana – and see the world, several times over. Yes, I put them in alphabetical order, as I always tend to do to avoid giving priority to one over the other, which seems meaningless as the order changes minute-by-minute.

These have all brought meaning to my life and are important to me. And, I will continue to do them as long as my feet hit that floor for another day. I have no intention of retiring and will follow where my passions lie.

Solutions to Problem 2 - Relationship

The need to have someone share the remaining years of my life with has perplexed me for some time. During my many Saturday conversations over the past several years with my best friend, Enrique Fuentes, I often bring up the subject. We are quite different – Enrique and I – in many ways. He has been married for over 30 years to his childhood sweetheart, where mine drifted away. He remains close to his two daughters, where mine drifted away. He is a bit younger than I, but more intelligent in many aspects and I value his friendship tremendously.

I wish I had recorded our conversations over the years, as I could write a best selling book similar to Mitch Albom’s, “Tuesdays with Morrie: An old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson.” Who knows? I may write, “Saturdays with Enrique” someday - before my memory begins to fade.

Enrique’s most common advice is, “Stop wanting love to happen and let it!” only in many more words. Enrique’s advice is well taken.

What I learned during my sabbatical is nothing more than a reinforcement of what I have known for decades, but was not living what I thought. I had allowed myself to slip into a false reality and stepping outside of my life and looking back I could see that I what I have been searching for was to share my life with another person – not to take from another, but to give freely.

Wanting things has always been the greatest problem for mankind. Giving up on wanting almost always assures a better chance of actually receiving the very thing that wanting it will deprive you of.

This does not mean to give up on the relationship, but to think in a different way. It should come as no surprise to those who are or have been in a relationship that being in a relationship can often be difficult, but it is only because of our way of thinking.

There are a few other concepts to consider, two of which are:

1. Love is not a feeling or emotion, it is a gift that you give to others – without strings!

Emotions are a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others; instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. Emotions move about – depending on the circumstances.

Feelings are an emotional state or reaction; a belief, especially a vague or irrational one. Feelings also move about.

While emotions and feelings are constantly changing - love is neither – as it remains steady.

2. Most relationships are based in needs or wants, rather than love.

For most people, they enter into a relationship in order to get what they need or want, rather than the desire to share what they have to offer with another person. When a relationship is based on sharing – rather than one of needs and demands, it is a much stronger and more desirable relationship.

Love is reciprocal only in that it is given and returned. It is mutual, common, and shared with another – without strings, without demanding anything in return, without the demand of if you do this then I will love you.

While I fully realize that the majority people believe differently, it does not mean that I have to live with someone who does not share my idea of seeking a non-emotional love, a love that is not based on how you feel at the moment. A love based on sharing.

Long Distance Relationship

For the past 15-months I have been in a long distance relationship. We have spoken via video conferencing on the Internet almost daily for the past 464 days, exchanged 109,454 words on Messenger and even more words in the hundreds of lengthy emails and during our visits.

In the past long-distance relationships have been impossible to sustain due to travel costs and time. The internet has made it much more feasible, but as you can imagine – and as I have found out – relationships are a different beast when thousands of miles separate you.

The phrase "Absence makes the heart grow fonder” was first published in Francis Davison's Poetical Rhapsody in 1602, where the words appeared as the first phrase of a poem in the edition, written by an unknown author. And, while the phrase continues to have a profound place in and effect on society, I am not so sure that the author was completely aware of the implications of long distance relationships at the time. Speaking for myself;

Long distance relationships can be a very steep roller coaster ride.

Adages offer warm and fuzzy feelings for the confused. No matter how confused they are, there is an adage that will give them comfort and allow them to believe that they are entirely right – no matter how disoriented their thinking. The confused are reassured that someone else felt the same way that they do, and has already figured out the right thing to do — and, most importantly, they’ve already created a convenient saying for it — so they should believe in the adage. It does not matter how right or wrong an adage is.

Cognitive neuroscientists explain that there is great danger in repetitive learning of the misconceptions or mistruths of a thing and that repetition can lead to confirming thoughts that are incorrect.

In this instance, we have at least two adages that are often repeated that are in complete contradiction to one another. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Out of sight, out of mind” are two common sayings we associate with romance that has been forced apart by distance.

Which one is true? It depends on your own need for truth, doesn’t it? Both can be true, but for different thinking individuals – as if both were to be believed by a single individual, then it would only lead to confusion.

While the heart may indeed grow fonder in absence – when one of the parties believes in common adages, there is opportunity for a complete and confusing contradiction of beliefs.

I do not believe in most of the adages that exist in our culture. I often preach to others the danger of actually taking them to heart. That most have more than one meaning and can be interpreted in multiple ways - always giving you a false sense of security in your often erroneous thoughts. Yes, we have all been wrong more times than right – have we not?

I am in hopes that my relationship – this last attempt at finding a steady love – will be successful. That it becomes a mutually accepting and giving love. A more relaxed and authentic love, where there is acceptance of the other as they are. A healthy and more satisfactory interaction that provides for peace, serenity and tranquility.

I wish this for all – not just for this week – but forever.

040-Truth

A Spiritual Journey

I have made a decision to go on a sabbatical from my … well, from everything. I found my life severally spiraling out of my control. Nothing has been going as I had planned and I have felt lost. So I have decided to take a week off from my self-imposed hectic life to go on a spiritual journey in search of the truth. This post is being written and scheduled to auto-post on Monday, October 12 – my 70th birthday.

The journey is not one that I have particularly aspired to. I only want to step outside the reality that I have created in my mind. Yes, we all have those thoughts – that we create to fool us into believing a certain reality that we grow to believe is reality. What I will be looking for is the truth, and to find it I have decided to step out of the reality that I have created to look back inside of the world that I leave behind to see what is real and what is not. The Truth!

I have no expectations that I will find a complete resolution to my problems within a week. I am intent on uncovering as much truth as possible, however. I am searching for a week of self-exploration in which I can uncover the misconceptions that I have instilled in my mind. Knowing before hand that as I uncover one problem, another will be revealed to me that I had not considered, and only make my journey more difficult. I vow to have patience and accept what I will be given to better understand the issues I am facing.

I will be going to a very quiet place where I will not be disturbed. There will be no Internet or phone service, so I won’t be tempted to do any work. I intend to spend the time meditating and focusing clearly on my self-introspection journey for Truth. I hope to come back a better person.

I will be back on October 15th or so. Be sure to check back on the following Monday to read of my journey.

Oh, and please send good thoughts for my success.

Bill

039-Good

What Good Should Mean to You

"Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people." ~Dennis Prager[1]

Today, a friend posted a meme on social media that stated, "Being good is not synonymous with being a jerk. Being good is a virtue that some idiots do not understand."

Like many memes, it can be taken in multiple ways. Does it mean that they believe that anyone who meet their definition of good is a jerk? Or that anyone who they believe is a jerk, it not a good person? Does it mean that believe that they are good and that others do not understand? Or that everyone else is just an idiot? Whatever they were thinking, by posting this the persons risks being labeled as judging others that they do not know. That they feel that they are superior to others. This is just one more example of why you should not post memes, without thinking about the implications of your actions.

Yes, we all suffer when we don't think before we act. We are responsible for the consequences of our behavior.

But what is GOOD?

What is good has been debated for centuries. For most it is simply being kind or all too often what they think of someone who is willing to meet their ever expanding expectations and demands on others — but there is a bigger picture of good that we would do well to consider. While every person will define good in a different manner they usually do so in a way that describes others and not themselves. Yes, we presently live in a most narcissistic world.

Some believe that...

  • It is what feels right
  • Good is a possession of both the mind and heart
  • A universal definition of good arises from nature
  • Good is that which enables the long-term survival of life
  • It is doing what is expected of you
  • Being good is what you do to earn recognition and respect

There have been many definitions throughout history. But, most definitions are based in long-held beliefs that have been passed on from others. It is what your parents told you. It is what is demanded by others. It is what your God told you in a dream. It is what your culture believes you should be, or another belief, as we have all been told by others what it means to them to be good and most ultimately chose that to be their own belief — because if there is one thing that we can all agree on it is that the most commonly asked question in existence is, "What were you thinking?"

You should define good based on what it means to you, personally, not what others want you to believe. You should put some thought into it so that you can ultimately find a way to represent good to others.

A personal definition of good — that which each person will decide — should be based on what it means to them.

Thus, the definition of good should have a lot more to with your personal discovery of yourself and your role in life. You can, of course, choose to continue to define things by what you expect of others, in hopes that they will change their behavior and meet your expectations. However, you get what you give in life. To have others treat you in a good way, you first have to learn to treat them in the way you expect to be treated. They will in turn learn to treat you in the way you want to be treated.

In order to truly be good, you will have to consider what 'good' means to you. It should come directly and purely from your mind and heart. Perhaps this means doing good for others, or simply being an honest and kind person. Being good is not a mask that you put on to make yourself appear to be something you are not — that you can remove at will and be capable of evil when it suits you. Trust me, no matter how good it makes you feel, people can see right through that cheap wig or comb-over.

In order to define good for yourself, you should consider what your own 'code of moral values' are and what matters most to your personal belief system. After all, you have a code of moral values as a way of making decisions about everything you think, say or do — correct? If you have not yet created your own list of moral values, feel free to click here to download the two page Universal Moral Values Checklist for your own use.

Of course, everyone has a different code of moral values, and it is possible that yours may conflict with what other believe. Keep in mind, however, that your dedication to a particular creed, ideology, or set of guidelines does not make you better than anyone else. Do what you believe makes you a good person on your own terms, and remember that it's an individual journey-everyone's path is unique. And, when you do good deeds, do not brag about it to others. As Alexander Pope said, "Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame."[2]

Ruins of Hotel DieuIn 1773, the Hotel-Dieu, the most ancient hospital in Paris, burnt. Marie Antoinette donated money anonymously to the sufferers, but the archbishop told others of her generosity, as she told her mother in a letter:

"All the newspapers have spoken of the terrible fire at the Hotel-Dieu. They were obliged to remove the patients into the cathedral and the archbishop's palace. There are generally from five to six thousand patients in the hospital. In spite of all the exertions that were made, it was impossible to prevent the destruction of a great part of the building; and, though it is now a fortnight since the accident happened, the tire is still smoldering in the cellars. The archbishop has enjoined a collection to be made for the sufferers, and I have sent him a thousand crowns. I said nothing of my having done so to any one, and the compliments which they have paid me on it have been embarrassing to me; but they have said it was right to let it be known that I had sent this money, for the sake of the example."[3]

If you find yourself in a situation with another person who thinks differently that you, consider their views. It is entirely possible that they know something you don't, which case you may learn something from them and update your own values. Or, perhaps their experience is limited, and you have an opportunity to help them broaden their own perspective.

The Consequences of Behavior

Being good should be done for the right reasons. While most understand that the little bad things in life; intentionally doing or saying things that are hurtful to others, lying, giving negative judgment or the big bad things such as intentional murder or theft should be avoided, being good goes beyond these types of behavior. Avoiding these is just the beginning in your journey to be a good person. You actually have to do good things rather than avoiding doing the bad things. And, of course, you will certainly be opening yourself up to judgment by others if you do not avoid these — just as the world judged past-USA-president, Bill Clinton, over the Lewinsky scandal, or Bush for bankrupting the USA in his warmongering greed in advocating aggression toward others for oil rights for his political allies.

When you avoid being good, you can expect to be judged as a consequence for your poor behavior.

On the other hand, there are usually few rewards for doing good, as it is expected that you will do the right thing by others and most of the good you do will certainly go unnoticed. And, rightfully so, as the only reward for being good should be your satisfaction in doing what you believe to be the right thing to do.

Your intentions to do good are not enough. Simply making the decision to do good, or even trying to do good is a start, but it is your actions that make you a good person. You must unselfish in willing to put the needs or wishes of others before your own, just as Marie Antoinette did in donating money anonymously to the sufferers of the Hotel-Dieu fire.

There will be times when you attempt to do good, and it does not work out the way you planned. For example, we all misspeak from time to time or we are late to an appointment and kept another waiting. When we do and are wrong in our actions, we should expect and accept certain consequences for having done so. You must be willing to reconsider your actions and make improvements. Your own morals may imply that misspeaking or being late to an appointment is normal behavior. However, when you inflict some harm to others in your actions, you have to willing to consider not only your own morals, but those of others. As Isaac Asimov said, "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right."[4] In this case, you should apologize for offending the other person's sense of morals.

The Greater Good

Consider the greater (or common) good and its long-term impact needs to be considered in doing what you believe is good. In "The Common Good"[5] the authors wrote:

“The common good, then, consists primarily of having the social systems, institutions, and environments on which we all depend work in a manner that benefits all people. Examples of particular common goods or parts of the common good include an accessible and affordable public health care system, and effective system of public safety and security, peace among the nations of the world, a just legal and political system, and unpolluted natural environment, and a flourishing economic system. Because such systems, institutions, and environments have such a powerful impact on the well-being of members of a society, it is no surprise that virtually every social problem in one way or another is linked to how well these systems and institutions are functioning.”

This past week, there was a huge landslide in the village of El Cambray II, in Santa Catarina Pinula, about 15 kilometers east of Guatemala City, Guatemala. The known death toll has risen to 131 people, including children and newborn babies, and is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 missing people. Authorities say finding any survivors from the landslide that buried hundreds of people under tons of earth is highly unlikely.

Hundreds of rescue workers, many unpaid and attempting to do good by digging to find survivors buried in the 125 homes that were covered by the mud. President Alejandro Maldonado said several countries, including Mexico, the United States and Cuba, are assisting with relief efforts.

The landslide was among the worst ones in the recent history of landslides in Guatemala, and can, by its severity be compared to a landslide in southwestern Guatemala from October 2005, that completely buried the Panabaj village. Hundreds of people died and, unfortunately, a large number of bodies have never been recovered.

However, when the digging stops in El Cambray II and hundreds are left behind buried, the person who signed off on the sale of the land and the permits to build homes in the ravine between these two mountains will likely be considered as acting in extremely poor judgment. They should have never allowed the village to be approved in a country that has suffered heavily from landslides. It is obvious that this person was certainly not acting on the greater good in mind, when they approved the permits. In all likelyhood, this person may and should perhaps be brought up on murder charges.

Yes, sometimes people often do right things for the wrong reasons, and wrong things for the right reasons according to what they believe is good, but that does not make it right to take actions that are not good for long-term impact on others. We must each suffer the consequences of our behavior in every instance.

Open-Mindedness

It is not always easy to be good. If it were, then every good-hearted person would be good, and we know that is not always the case. We all know people who have done good things at one point and still committed bad things, as well. We must find a healthy balance between the two extremes that can lead to closed-mindedness.

In Buddhism, and in most spiritual beliefs, there is a term for this balance known as the 'The Middle Way'.

Some examples are:

Be humble and kind to others, but do not allow them to do harm to your peace and serenity.

Be responsible with your money, but allow yourself to give a helping hand to others in need.

Be positive in your decisions, but learn from your mistakes.

Be honest in your actions, but do not violate others rights to privacy.

Be helpful, but allow others to learn some things for themselves.

Try to find the middle way in these examples when they arise in your life. Never jump to conclusion, but carefully consider what you think, say and do, and assure that you are making the right decision and not one of of closed-mindedness. Be open-minded instead.

If you believe that another person is doing something that your moral code says is wrong to you, give others the benefit of the doubt, as they are acting on their own moral code. Attempt to discover what prompted them to act in the way in which they did, and if appropriate, consider explaining how you feel about the act. Helping others in an open-minded manner may result in your own journey towards being good.

Good in a Relationship

Being good in a relationship may sound like a no-brainer, but surprisingly it creates many of the problems that exist in relationships — one person acting in a manner that the other does not approve of.

It is especially important in a relationship to follow the adage of 'Learn-Give-Get'.

Learn: We must constantly improve upon our understanding of others by learning what the other person considers good and bad and work toward the middle way.

Give: We must act as guide to others by giving them assistance. By being present with a genuine desire to help them thrive.

Get: Our actions will influence others as they recognize that we are acting in a good manner. When other people see you doing good deeds, they will be reminded to take more positive action themselves. In this way we will get goodness returned to us many times over.

Focus on Good

While in our present society there is the inclination to focus on the bad things that are happening around us — it is detrimental to our sense of peace, serenity and tranquility. Instead focus on the good, finding reasons to be happy. Be particularly focused on the small acts of kindness that you or others are doing. These will act as a constant reminder of those things that are more enjoyable. If you fill your day with these positive acts of good, you will find yourself amid the company of good people, doing good acts and will be more likely to act in more positive and good ways in all that you do.

References

1. Dennis Prager - an American, nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist, author, public speaker and founder of the Prager University
2. Alexander Pope - an 18th-century English poet. He is best known for his satirical verse, as well as for his translation of Homer.
3. From The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge
4. Isaac Asimov - an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.
5. Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J. Meyer, The Common Good, Santa Clara University

 

038-Empathy

How Empathetic Compassion Increases Friendship and Love

There are always problems to be resolved in life. The goal should be to concentrate on the solution – not the problem. ~Bill Hood

Yesterday, at the small corner grocery store, which also serves as a cafe, I had an interesting talk with a taxi driver that I know well – Jose Moreno. A cordial, well-spoken and articulate man, Jose often drives me on my errands or to pick up friends at the airport, as I prefer to not drive. After a few pleasantries as he waited for his meal to be prepared, the subject turned to ever growing problem of traffic in our small city. While there are only about 700,000 living in the area, on the weekends, the traffic swells with tourists, weekend residents from Mexico City and abroad to an estimated 2-million people.

As he waited for his meal to be prepared, Jose told me how it was his belief that others drivers seldom understand or have compassion for others. An example that he gave was how he had recently driven past a car parked haphazardly on the side of the street. In the car was an older male driver and a female who was hovering over him at the open driver's side door, as if to shake him out of a sleep. Feeling that there was something wrong with the image, Jose pulled over a bit further down the street and returned to see if the women needed some assistance. As it was the man was having a heart attack and his wife was beside herself without knowing what to do to help her poor husband. Jose quickly called for an ambulance and tried to comfort the woman as much as he could until the ambulance arrived.

While other drivers slowed to see what was going on, no one else bothered to stop to assist. Some honked their horns, as the driver's side door was open as Jose tried to comfort both passengers and partially blocking the path of oncoming cars. Seemingly, other drivers thought their right to drive down the street unimpeded was more important than whatever was going on with the parked car. The drivers in the passing cars seemingly lacked empathy for the man, his wife and the efforts of Jose.

3 Types of Empathy

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's current condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their position and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors. Empathy has long been a topic of interest to psychologists, but it has been studied in a sometimes bewildering number of ways. While our current culture might be socializing people into becoming more individualistic rather than empathic, research has recently uncovered the existence of "mirror neurons," which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them. Hopefully, there may be some cure for those who lack empathy soon.

Empathy-Mark DavisPsychologist Mark Davis, Professor Psychology, at Eckerd College, in his book, "Empathy: A Social Psychological Approach" suggests that there are 3 important types of empathy; Perspective Taking, Personal Distress, and Empathic Concern. These 3 types of empathy represent different aspects of our personalities.

Perspective Taking

The first, "Perspective Taking", is a purely "cognitive" form of empathy. This is being able to see things from another persons point of view. Putting yourself in the position of another. It is important to better understand where someone is coming from, but it's not what we typically think of as empathy.

A person high in "perspective-taking" empathy may be good at understanding others' points of view, but may not get very involved in others' emotions.

Personal Distress

A second type of empathy, and one that is represented (literally) by Jose Marino's action, Davis terms "Personal Distress." This is literally feeling another persons emotions. When Jose saw the woman in distress over her husband's illness, his "personal distress" action kicked in and he went to help. When you are watching a scary movie, and you start to empathize with those in the movie that are in distress and you begin to feel afraid, that is "personal distress" in action. You are actually feeling the other persons emotion through a process called "emotional contagion." The actor, or another person, is actually "infecting" you with their emotion.

An individual high in "personal distress" empathy will, as suggested, be prone to experience others' emotional states, which has good and not-so-good aspects.

Empathic Concern

This is the type of empathy that we most often think of when we hear the word empathy, i.e. to recognize or experience in our imagination the emotions, feelings or actions of another person.

An individual high in "empathic concern" will feel in tune with the other person's emotional state, and whether it is negative or distressful emotion, they will feel and show appropriate concern.

Personal Distress Escalation

Going back to the "personal distress" type of empathy, we all experience some level of "personal distress", but too much of it may not be a good thing. We have all seen examples of "personal distress" escalation, usually in a relationship that is falling apart. Many couples who attend marriage counseling are suffering from this.

Be selfless; concerned more with the needs and wishes of others, than with your own. ~Bill Hood

While it is important to understand and feel empathy for others, you should never allow yourself to mimic their emotions. For example, if someone becomes sad over something you have said, the goal should be to act in a more loving and compassionate manner to resolve the pain that you inflicted upon them. If you mirror their sadness, you do nothing more than escalate the problem that you created.

If a child expresses their fear of clowns[1] you certainly would not suddenly become fearful of clowns. You would work to help the child to better understand their fear and decrease their anxiety.

There are those have trouble controlling their emotions. These are the types that really get involved on a person basis with whatever is put in front of them; as an example they easily cry during emotional scenes in movies, forgetting that those on the screen are actors and the situation is not really happening.

If they are unable to overcome their own sense of distress, they will overreact to their feelings and become so distressed that all they can think about is their own feelings of distress brought on by observing another person with a problem. They move beyond being able to feel any empathy as all for the other person and concentrate on their own stress. As the other person is not receiving any empathy they become more agitated by the lack of empathy and there is an escalation on both sides, which often results in a complete breakdown of communication.

Empathy Starts With You

While, you may learn the importance of showing empathy to those come into your life, you cannot experience it until you actually begin using empathy in your life to increase your personal happiness.

How One of You Can Bring the Two of You TogetherRenowned relationship expert and workshop leader, Susan Page who wrote, "How One of You Can Bring the Two of You Together", gives great advice as to how it does not take two people to make a relationship work.

A key to making any relationship happen - showing empathy - is mentioned 61 times in the book in the 290 pages, which means that she mentions empathy on an average of every 4.75 pages. However, even when the author doesn't use the word empathy, she is using similar words and phrases; understanding, imagine, devotion, seeing the other person point of view, related to empathy.

Obvously, empathy play a very big part in any relationship whether in a friendship or one of a committed, loving relationship. Having devotion for another; being loving, loyal, and having enthusiasm for another person is seen as a positive response.

Letting Others be Themselves

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The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them." ~Thomas Merton
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Love and LivingThomas Merton, (1915 – 1968) was an American writer, Trappist monk, poet, social activist, student of comparative religion and priest. Although, you may remember him for his best selling book, "No Man is an Island," he also wrote among his many books, "Love and Living" in which he stated, "Love is the revelation of our deepest personal meaning, value, and identity."  However, it would prove to be quite difficult to love or be loved without factoring in empathy.

I mention the relationship between the two books to make the statement that few of us live on an "island of solitude", nor do most of us care to do so. We find ourselves seeking out the companionship of others and maybe even finding love in the mix. And, that is where the problem starts, we can't live in solitude, yet we do not understand how to live with others.

Misinformation

We live in a society full of quotes with misinformation as to how we should live our lives. Many are signed simply anonymous, but that doesn't stop us from seeing something that we think is a good way to live our life. One example is the misinformation that we should love ourselves before others, or that we have to love ourselves before we can love others. This is one example of such misinformation entitled, "How To Start Loving Yourself In 6 Easy Steps":

  1. Get rid of the negative influences in your life. First step to loving yourself, get rid of the people that don't love you.
  2. Take more time to do the things YOU want to do.
  3. Take that step out of your comfort zone.
  4. Be active!
  5. Meditate.
  6. Compliment Yourself often.

How would that work out, if your goal is to truly live a life of joy and happiness, with others, or maybe someday finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with? If you get rid of everyone who does not currently love you, then you will be greatly lowering the possibilities of ever extending yourself past what is today. If you spend all your time doing only what you want to do, forsaking what a potential friend or loved one might want to do, you go further down the hill, and while you are stepping out of your comfort zone and active in meditating, while looking at yourself in the mirror, life just slips right by you.

The rule has never been to love yourself, but to accept yourself.

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To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don't try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself. ~Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Art of Power

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Even Thomas Merton, who lived a life of solitude as a monk, knew the importance of showing empathy to others. Of understanding that empathy is an important aspect of a healthy relationship. Indeed, we have to care more for the other person than we care for ourselves.

But, it is not just the elderly that become depressed over the wrong kind of apathy. In studying hospice nurses who cared for terminally-ill patients, it was found that possessing "empathic concern" was positively related to the nurses' performance, but "personal distress" was negatively related. If hospice nurses felt their patients' pain (and family members' distress as well), it made them less able to do their job of providing comfort to the patient and family because they begin to focus on their own emotions more than the patients. And, subsequently they too became depressed.

In reality, we all have some level of each of the types of empathy. The key is to understand the ways that we are empathic with others, and to realize the strengths and limitations of each type of empathy.

Understanding Empathy

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“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” ~ Stephen Hawking

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Obviously you can feel you understand without intrinsically understanding. To understand intrinsically is to think you understand, while the feeling of understanding refers to how you think about your thinking. There are varying degrees of feeling that you understand. There is a wide gap between feeling as if don't understand something and feeling that you understand completely. Understanding becomes problematic when you hold on to the illusion that you believe when you do not.

We are all responsible for the consequence of our behavior ~Bill Hood

I brought my children up to believe the statement above and they still follow it to this day. If only the world could understand that by showing others empathy, they would be happier in life as the empathy was reflected back to them. Not just understanding empathy, but understanding the other person. Just as Jose understood that the women needed help with her husband.

Empathy begins with understanding ~Bill Hood

A healthy relationship needs to focus on the outcome of a behavior; some plausible function of that outcome that can account for the emotion or feeling itself. This is notably easier in some cases than others: understanding hunger motivates people to seek out and consume food avoiding starvation; understanding fear motivates people to escape from or avoid threatening situations, avoiding danger; understanding guilt motivates people to make amends and repair relationships towards those they wronged, avoiding condemnation and punishment while reaping the benefits of social interaction.

The distinction I would like to draw is between understanding per se and the feeling of understanding. The examples given the dictionary reflect understanding per se: the ability to draw connections among mental representations. Understanding per se, then, represents the application of knowledge.

A person that understands the feelings that another after they say something hurtful, is more likely to not continue to repeat the habit of being hurtful and be substantially happier because of their apathy towards others.

Live your life with compassion and understanding, be responsible for the consequence of your behavior. You will find more happiness in your own life if you follow the right path. ~Bill Hood

References:

  1. The term coulrophobia describes the fear of clowns in informal studies. In the Space To Care study aimed at improving hospital design and physicians' office settings for children, researchers from the University of Sheffield polled 250 children regarding their opinions on clowns; all 250 children in the study, whose ages ranged between four and sixteen, reported that they disliked clowns as part of hospital decor. Many of them, including some older children, stated in the poll that they, in fact, actively feared clowns. Researcher Dr. Penny Curtis said, "We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found the clown images to be quite frightening and unknowable." According to Ron Doctor, Ph.D, (Doctor Doctor; his real name!) a psychology professor at California State University, Northridge, young children are "very reactive to a familiar body type with an unfamiliar face".
Love Is

Love is a Gift – Not an Emotion

Up until the late 16th century, everyone "knew" that the sun and planets revolved around the Earth. Up until the late 19th century, epidemic illnesses such as cholera and the plague were "known" to be caused by a poisonous mist filled with particles from rotting things. Up until the early 20th century, the most common procedure performed by surgeons for thousands of years was bloodletting, because we "knew" that blood drained from the body balanced the whacky humors responsible for poor health.

But as misinformed as all that may sound now, our predecessors believed these "facts" with the same certainty that we believe that dogs age at seven years per one human year1 and that Vikings wore helmets fitted with horns2, right? As it turns out that if you believe these statements, your beliefs are incorrect, as well.

Living in a time of such dazzling science and technology, we continue to stand firmly behind our beliefs … even if so much of what we think we know to be correct is actually wrong. Most of the more common misconceptions, ideas that may have started as myths or that came from a faulty study that were later proven wrong (like dogs and Vikings), but not before they were firmly established as beliefs, which have proven almost impossible for weaker, non-thinking individuals to let go of.

However, our misconception of dogs and Viking don't really hurt anyone or do any great damage, other than offending our sense of being correct. However, a very different story emerges concerning our emotional beliefs and what love is or isn't.

The Definition of Emotion

 

emotion |iˈmōSHən|
Noun

an agitation of mind; an excited mental state. Subsequently: any strong mental or instinctive feeling, as anger, pleasure, grief, hope, or fear, deriving esp. from one's circumstances, or mood.

• a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, or mood, as in: she was attempting to control her emotions, his voice was low and shaky with emotion, fear had become her dominant emotion.
• instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge: responses have to be based on historical insight, not simply on emotion.

ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (denoting a public disturbance or commotion): from French émotion, from émouvoir ‘excite,’ based on Latin emovere, from e- (variant of ex-)‘out’ + movere ‘move.’ The sense ‘mental agitation’ dates from the mid 17th cent., the current general sense from the early 19th cent.

 

As we have just learned from the dictionary3 meaning emotions are agitated feelings based on circumstances and mood. They play an extremely important role in our awareness, intelligence, social skills, and our ability to communicate. Most well-thought people can easily identify and describe the emotions of pleasure, grief, hope, or fear. We know with a great amount of surety when an emotion of fear comes over us, or an emotion of grief.

And, while we may be able to identify and describe our emotions with great clarity, we often have difficulty controlling the circumstances of our emotions, feelings or moods. We often find ourselves overwhelmed with an emotion and tears roll down our cheek out of both pleasure and grief.

In, "The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You4" the author states,

"Every emotion has a specific function, a specific purpose, and a specific action for you to complete so that it can move on and make room for your next emotion, your next thought, and your next idea. As we explore emotions as distinct and separate entities that require unique responses."

Yes, all emotions, feelings and moods are constantly moving in and out. We are laughing at one moment and crying the next. We are extremely happy in one moment and become angry in the next. Every person has mood swings and it is consider a normal reaction to our circumstances. They are usually an action that comes over us momentarily due to the circumstances of our environment. We may experience an emotion of pleasure until someone makes us feel sad. Our emotions turn from happiness to anger because someone says, or does something, that changes that emotion.

And, these normal emotions that are felt by everyone, have been responsible for an extensive amount of damage inflicted by those who do not have an understanding of that all emotions are nothing more than a momentary outlet that will rise and subside based on nothing more than the way in which we communicate. Often, the lack of empathy is also to blame. Have you ever said something to another person and had them react in an emotional manner that caused you to cry or fear them? Sure you have!

Those that have empathy for others would understand that this is a natural reaction and feel guilty or ashamed of creating unhealthy emotions in another person. Just as you would have an emotions of pleasure if you had said something that brought them happiness.

And, if you felt an emotion of fear or unhappiness repeatedly, you would know that there is something wrong.

And, that brings us to this week's subject: that Love is a Gift - Not an Emotion.

Any person who has opened their eyes to the world around them, have noticed that there is a problem with how they interpret love. We entered into a loving relationship with the intent of it lasting forever, yet that is often not the case.

Failure

Past statistics have shown that in the U.S. 53% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. Today, one in four marriages fail in 58% of all countries. (Download available here) What are the reasons for this high and progressive increase in divorce rates?

Conventional wisdom tells us that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, so why are second and third marriage so much more likely to fail? Could it be that we are wrongly interpreting the meaning of love? That are expectations are not being met? The research has shown that to the case in the great majority of failed relationships.

Those who believe that love is an emotion are doomed to failure.

Love is not a song

There are those who are led to believe that "love is" a song by Alannah Myles, but she is only repeating commonly held misunderstandings...

Love Is by Alannah Myles

Hard to get, impossible to hold
Straight and narrow like a burnin' fuse
In all cold dawn by the side of the road
I hope this case, a perfect thing

Love is (love is) what you want it to be
Love is (love is) heaven to the lonely
Show me what you wanted to do
Love is what I got for you

I close my eyes, search the stars
Cryin' for help, I wake up cold
You're in my system, under my skin
Throw emotion, please don't fall

Love is (love is) what you want it to be
Love is (love is) heaven to the lonely
Show me what you wanted to do
Love is what I got for you

Can't live on promises, won't sleep alight
Don't understand a thing to say till I read 'em in your eyes
Gotta run on instinct, gotta go by feel
Gotta touch for sandstep, now it is for real

Can't live on promises, won't sleep alight
Don't understand a thing to say till I read 'em in your eyes
Gotta run on instinct, gotta go by feel
Gotta touch for sandstep

Love is (love is) what you want it to be
Love is (love is) heaven to the lonely
Show me what you wanted to do
Love is what I got for you
Love is (love is) huh
(Love is)
Love is (Show me)

Writer(s): David Tyson, Christopher Ward

As long as we allow song lyrics to guide our beliefs about important things such as love, with their only need to sell music and earn a living, we won't get far along the road to being happy and loved.

Real, Healthy Love

This is because healthy emotions arise only when they are required, they shift and change in response to a person's environment, and it recede willingly once the emotion has sufficiently addressed an issue and are no longer needed. When we believe that love is an emotion, we allow it change in response to our whims. Real love when healthy, does none of these things.

Real love repeats itself endlessly, and hopefully with the same intensity over and over, every day of your life and even beyond death itself. We continue to love others even after they have died. Unlike an emotion, love does not increase or decrease in response to its environment. Real love is categorized differently. Love is not an emotion and it does not behave in the way that emotions do. If it did change with like emotions, then we would question it's existence in our relationships.

Stay the Course

If we fell in love with another, who consistently and repeatedly changed their mind and kept running away from the relationship as their love wavered, we would begin to realize that there is something terribly wrong with the way in which they love. Only an empath, who was raised or exists in a narcissistic lifestyle would allow their love to waver with the tides. No, real love never wavers. We stay the course and stay in the relationship if real love exists. And, even when someone is too dissimilar to remain in a relationship with, we may not continue to live with them, but we don't stop loving them.

We do equate some things with love – the additive cycles, desire, longing, lust, passion, physical attraction, projections, sharing, yearning, and more – those things that change, fluctuate and move in the ways emotions do, but these things are not love in themselves. We can be frightened with people we love, furious with them, and become disappointed with them, but the love never wavers like an emotion.

When we truly love another person, we can experience all of our free-flowing, mood states, and intense emotions – anger, fear, grief, guilt, hatred, rage and shame – and continue to love and honor the person. Because love is not the opposite of anger, fear, or other emotions. Real love is much, much deeper than that. And, if you allow your emotions to drive the love for another, then you are not really in love, you are simply in an emotional state, and likely only feeling the emotion of co-dependency. If you really want to experience true love, you have to move past your unhealthy emotional states.

Adoration

In some relationships the only glue that holds two people together is adoration, which is merely projection. A person with low self-esteem becomes love-struck when the find a person who adores them and lives in a trance like state. And, the relationship continues until one or both realize that the only thing holding them together is based solely on the desire to be admired. When the projection fails, they see the person for who they truly are and become disillusioned. The only resource is to attempt to reattach the projection or see another who will fulfill the emotion of desire.

That's not love - because real love does not play games. It is not dependent on what one can project onto another, or what they can receive from a relationship. Real love is a gift that we give to another person – hoping that they will accept it, honor it, and hold it forever – and we never take back.

Commitment

Real love is a commitment, a promise, an unwavering dedication to a loved one, to be there for them, forever.

Emotions and desires can increase and subside as they will. Circumstances can change rapidly, but real love never subsides. It grows stronger, enduring all the emotions that come over us. It survives betrayal, death, divorce, and yes, even trauma.

Unconditional

I have loved many and have failed many times. In searching for the answers as to why my relationships failed – using critical thought – I have come to realization that in every instance my partner believed love was an emotion that they could turn on and off as their mood changed. I loved unconditionally and they loved by nothing more than emotion.

As Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote in, "Real Magic: Creating Miracles in Everyday Life:5"

"My purpose has been clearly revealed to me through the process of prayer and meditation. It matters not all to me how others view my behavior in getting to purpose in my life. The knowledge that I have has been revealed to me in the clearest and most profound manner. My purpose is to give, to serve, to promote peace and prosperity and to become totally, unconditionally loving to all people."

Understanding

Legendary Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh explores in "How to Love"6 — a slim, simply worded collection of his immeasurably wise insights on the most complex and most rewarding human potentiality.

At the heart of Nhat Hanh’s teachings is the idea that “understanding is love’s other name” — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering. “Suffering” sounds rather dramatic, but in Buddhism it refers to any source of profound dissatisfaction — be it physical or psycho-emotional or spiritual. Understanding, after all, is what everybody needs — but even if we grasp this on a theoretical level, we habitually get too caught in the smallness of our fixations to be able to offer such expansive understanding. He illustrates this mismatch of scales with an apt metaphor:

"If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform."

Love is being totally, unconditionally loving towards others, with understanding, and to accept others as they are with compassion at all times.

Love is not an emotion or feeling. Love is constant.

Love is in the hug of a child, the rich concern of a good friend, in the center of your family, in the soul of your pets and can be realized in a relationship if we only accept love for what it really is and cease treating it as what it is not. If love is failing or has failed you, you are to blame for not truly realizing that love is a gift that you give to another and that in return you will receive love in return.

Act in a loving manner and you will find your love enriched.

References

1. Your 3-year-old dog is 21 years old in human years, right? Not according to experts. The general consensus is that dogs mature faster than humans, reaching the equivalent of 21 years in only two, and then aging slows down to more like four human years per year. "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan recommends this way to calculate your dog’s human-age equivalent: Subtract two from the age, multiply that by four and add 21.

2. Is there anything more "Viking warrior" than a helmet fitted with horns? Nary a portrayal shows the seafaring Norse pirates without the iconic headgear. Alas, horned hats were not worn by the warriors. Although the style did exist in the region, they were only used for early ceremonial purposes and had largely faded out by the time of the Vikings. Several major misidentifications got the myth rolling, and by the time costume designers for Wagner’s "Der Ring des Nibelungen" put horned helmets on the singers in the late 19th century, there was no going back.

3. The Oxford English Dictionary, published by the Oxford University Press, June 2015

4. The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You, Karla McLaren, 2010

5. Real Magic: Creating Miracles in Everyday Life, Dr. Wayne Dyer, 2001

6. How to Love: Mindfull Essentials, Thich Nhat Hanh, 2014

035-Narcissism

The Me-Me-Me World of Narcissism

Sigmund Freud is probably jumping with joy in his grave to know that the concept of psychoanalytic theory that he introduced in his 1914 essay, "On Narcissism" is still alive and flourishing 101-years later. Of course, this leads one to ask that if psychoanalysis is so great, why are there an ever-growing number of people with mental and personality disorders and why have they not invented a cure for any of these?

It seems that Narcissus has outpaced Oedipus as the myth of the day. Narcissism is at fault for everything from the rise in violent behavior to the dissolution of romances. It has spawned an industry of "reality" shows on television to the basis for a great number of recent novels and movies.

Narcissism in Social Media

It appears that narcissism has grown to epic proportions in the last 30 years. Today, we have Facebook, where everyone seems to be in a race to talk about themselves without regard for others. We are inundated with self-taken photos (selfies), look what I had for lunch, look where I am right now, look who I am standing next to, or the millions of memes about what they believe in or wish to criticize. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have become the new online home for the narcissists of the world, and it seems like they are a growing group of individuals in pursuit of egotistic admiration and gratification.

The growing number of self-help books on narcissism attest to the increase, as their are 1,986 best-seller titles available from Amazon at the moment, from "Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism" by Sandy Hotchkiss and James F. Masterson M.D. to "How to Survive Loving a Narcissist" by Dr. Andrew M. Goodman. And, there is even a book "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell that could have been the title of this article, had I not changed it after noticing it was already in use.

Narcissism in Song Lyrics

Recent studies, from the article, "Tuning in to psychological change: Linguistic markers of psychological traits and emotions over time in popular U.S. song lyrics", published in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, have shown a rise in narcissistic behavior in song lyrics over the past 30 years, with a growth in the use of first-person singular pronouns that reflect a greater focus on the self, references to antisocial behavior, as well as a diminution of words reflecting a focus on others, positive emotions, and social interactions.

Narcissism in Mass Media

Similar patterns of change in cultural narcissism have been noted in the linguistic analysis of publications finding that the use of self-focused and individualistic terms have increased in frequency by 69% while collectivist terms declined by 32%. References to narcissism and self-esteem in popular print media have experienced vast inflation since the late 1980s. Since 1987 direct mentions of self-esteem in leading newspapers and magazines have increased by 4,540% while narcissism, which had been almost non-existent in the press during the 1970s, is today a commonplace topic.

Indeed, narcissism is so prevalent in our culture that it seems we all know someone who is overly arrogant, shows an extreme lack of empathy, or exhibits an inflated sense of entitlement for having their unrealistic expectations met. Those that exploit others and place them on a guilt trip by not accepting any guilt or responsibility of their own.

Indeed, they will make others personally responsible for their every need and if their expectations are not met, they act with aggression in the most frustrating, and intimidating manner, threatening you with abandonment from the center of their universe, because as a narcissistic personality, they are much happier to be alone than with a loving and caring partner. They have no idea of compassion or empathetic communication, making it extremely difficult to get your point across, as they are constantly interrupting you simply because they do not care about your feelings.

Traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

One book suggests that power-hungry narcissists typically display most, and sometimes all, of the following narcissistic personality disorder traits:

  • An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
  • Problems in sustaining healthy and satisfying relationships
  • Constant abandonment in relationships
  • Statements of blame toward others
  • Refusal to accept guilt for their actions
  • A lack of psychological awareness
  • Constantly pointing out that they are happier when alone
  • Difficulty with empathy towards others feelings
  • Problems distinguishing the self from others
  • Possesses an inflated sense of entitlement to act in an inappropriate manner
  • Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
  • Inability to accept any responsibility for their own needs
  • Shaming others without accepting guilt for having done so
  • Intimidates others with aggression for not meeting their expectations
  • Would rather hear their own voice and insist on interrupting others
  • Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them
  • Bestowing gifts on others in order to buy attention
  • Detesting and abusive behavior towards those who do not provide their needs
  • Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
  • Pretending to be more important than they really are
  • Refusal to listen to or accept others points of view
  • Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
  • Denial of remorse and gratitude
Don't bother showing this list to your narcissistic friend, as they will most certainly deny that they actually have any of those traits.

Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism

In their book mentioned above authors Sandy Hotchkiss and James Masterson identified what she called the Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism:

Shamelessness: Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.

Magical thinking: Narcissists love to point out that others think they are perfect, as a way of using counter distortion and perpetuate illusion known as magical thinking. They use projection of their own idealization of perfectionism to dump shame onto others.

Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may re-inflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.

Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.

Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage and they dump you from their world.

Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.

Bad boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist, there is no boundary between self and other.

Healthy Narcissism

Yes, there is healthy narcissism, just as there is destructive narcissism. Narcissism is present in everyone, and most people have a tendency toward healthy narcissism. People generally seek out others that exhibit the same qualities present in themselves. It is only when you have become deeply involved in a relationship that you may realize that other person possesses qualities that are more or less than your own. The person with healthy narcissism will attempt to work with the destructive narcissist in an attempt to promote a healthy relationship, where the destructive narcissist will only work on destroying the relationship.

Roy Lubit MD, Ph.D. is board certified in Forensic Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Psychiatry and Neurology. He proposed the following:

Characteristic Healthy Narcissism Destructive Narcissism
Self-confidence High outward self-confidence in line with reality Grandiose
Desire for power, wealth and admiration May enjoy power Pursues power at all costs, lacks normal inhibitions in its pursuit
Relationships Real concern for others and their ideas; does not exploit or devalue others No concern for others. Will start and stop relationships multiple times in order to exploit others without remorse. Places limits on others. High expectations of having their needs met
Ability to follow a consistent path Has values; follows through on plans Lacks values; easily bored; often changes course
Foundation Healthy childhood with support for self-esteem and appropriate limits on behavior towards others Traumatic childhood with parents who were absent or undercutting true sense of self-esteem and/or teaching that he/she doesn't need to be considerate of others

The Good News

People that are high in narcissism may also be fun to be with, charismatic, and actually very good at what they do. Not all narcissists are alike. The healthy narcissistic, if given a choice, can "reform" the destructive narcissistic and help to create a highly desirable relationship. The destructive narcissist will benefit from learning from the healthy narcissist how to recover from being "over the top" and tone down their needs to a more healthy and realistic set of expectations that result in an improved lifestyle.

Advice for the Healthy Narcissist

When you interact with a friend, family member, intimate partner, or coworker who is a narcissist, there's no give and take. The relationship only goes one way-their way-and you constantly have to adjust your own expectations and behavior to meet their standards. That's because people with narcissistic personality disorder, are preoccupied with seeking admiration and power and find it difficult to empathize with others' feelings. And, as if maintaining a good relationship with a narcissist weren't hard enough, most narcissists do not realize or believe that they have a disorder at all. However, there are ways to effectively improve and ultimately transform your relationship with the self-absorbed, self-centered, or narcissistic individuals in your life.

Your best course of action is to understand the mind of a narcissist and how narcissistic behavior affects the way you feel, think, and behave around this person. You need to learn practical strategies for making yourself heard during interactions with a narcissist. Eventually, you'll be able to have regular contact with self-absorbed individuals comfortably, effectively, and without frustration.

The first step is in realizing that the destructive narcissist has a great fear of being vulnerable. They are prone to exaggerations of emotions; extreme sadness, outbursts of crying, demanding, anger, threats, refusal of your ideas, blaming you for not meeting their unrealistic expectations, and much more.

While you will have your hands full in attempting to assist them in toning down their needs, if successful you will find that they can be lovable and fun to be around. It all depends on how hard you want to work at helping them and how much time you are willing to invest in the person. However, some destructive narcissists are so deeply entrenched in their ways that your attempts will only be met with rejection and treated in a manner that will prove to be difficult to handle for anyone who is not strong of character. You will be prepared to fight your own emotions at every turn and you must be ready for the rejection that you will face.

The destructive narcissist may truly believe in their own greatness and they may even be almost as good as they think they are. They do have strong character traits that if toned down a bit will make your time and energy a worthwhile investment.

Psychologist Vincent Egan led research with a group of his colleagues into determining the relationship between subjective well-being and narcissistic personality tendencies. Previously, narcissistic behavior was divided between "vulnerable" and "grandiose" types.

  • A vulnerable narcissist’s outward shell of self-centeredness and self-absorption often masks a weak inner core.
  • A grandiose narcissist truly believes in their own greatness—and has moved to extremes of narcissism.

Both are varieties of narcissism, but particularly those of the grandiose type may share the larger “Dark Triad” traits, along with so-called "Machiavellianism" (manipulativeness) and psychopathy (lack of remorse and empathy).

People high in both narcissism and Machiavellianism, Egan and his colleagues pointed out, are the ones who really get under your skin. Their antagonism makes them particularly hard to live with, and they’ll almost always get in the way of the healthy narcissist accomplishing their goals. Machiavellian narcissists have mastered the art of one-uppance as they try to show their superiority while steamrolling over everyone else’s feelings and opinions.

In their study, Egan and his colleagues pointed out that no previous researchers had looked at the role of emotions, especially positive emotions, in studies of the Dark Triad. They believed that narcissism might have differing relationships to happiness than would psychopathy and Machiavellianism. In other words, it might be possible to be a happy narcissist—but less possible to be a happy psychopath or manipulator.

In the study, participants were rated with a personality test that provided ratings on the “Big Five” or “Five Factor” traits of Extroversion, Emotional Stability/Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, and Conscientiousness. They also rated their “Dark Triad” personality qualities. Their subjective well-being was assessed with one scale measuring happiness and another measuring their satisfaction with life.

After condensing and analyzing the scores on all of these measures, Egan and his colleagues were able to identify 4 groups within the sample:

  1. vulnerable narcissists
  2. grandiose narcissists
  3. overall unhappiness; a group identified by their overall unhappiness with their lives with high narcissism scores; and
  4. overall happiness; a group identified by overall happiness of their lives and with low narcissism scores.

Comparing the groups of narcissists, Egan and his colleagues found that the grandiose narcissists tended to be happier, more extroverted, and more emotionally stable. The vulnerable narcissists were less agreeable, less emotionally stable, and higher in the other Dark Triad traits of manipulativeness and psychopathy.

Theodore Millon was a psychologist known for his work on personality disorders. He identified five additional variations of narcissistic behavior. Any individual narcissist may exhibit none or one of the following:

  • unprincipled narcissist: possesses antisocial features, is a fraudulent, exploitative, deceptive and unscrupulous individual
  • amorous narcissist: prone to histrionic features, is often erotic, exhibitionistic
  • compensatory narcissist: will be negative (passive-aggressive), and have avoidant features of not accepting blame or guilt
  • elitist narcissist: variant of pure pattern. Corresponds to Wilhelm Reich's "phallic narcissistic" personality type

Campbell and Foster (2007) review the literature on narcissism. They argue that narcissists possess the following "basic ingredients":

  • Positive: Narcissists think they are better than others.
  • Inflated: Narcissists' views tend to be contrary to reality. In measures that compare self-report to objective measures, narcissists' self-views tend to be greatly exaggerated.
  • Agentic: Narcissists’ views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain.
  • Special: Narcissists perceive themselves to be unique and special people.
  • Selfish: Research upon narcissists’ behavior in resource dilemmas supports the case for narcissists as being selfish.
  • Oriented toward success: Narcissists are oriented towards success by being, for example, approach oriented.

It is important that you understand the differences between the 4 groups and know what you are working with. Obviously, if you are attempting to work with the vulnerable narcissist, you will have less work on your hands.

Let's review the concepts above with the understanding that many narcissists fall into more than one group type:

Type Traits
Vulnerable outward shell of self-centeredness and self-absorption often masks a weak inner core
Destructive truly believes in their own greatness—and has moved to extremes of narcissism.
Unhappy overall unhappiness with their lives with high narcissism scores
Happy overall happiness of their lives and with low narcissism scores
Unprincipled possesses antisocial features, is a fraudulent, exploitative, deceptive and unscrupulous individual
Amorous prone to histrionic features,engaging members of the opposite gender in the game of sexual temptation, there is an indifferent conscience, an aloofness to truth and social responsibility that, if brought to the amorous narcissist's attention, elicits an attitude of nonchalant innocence, totally self-oriented
Compensatory will be negative (passive-aggressive), most suffered wounds in early life, may have been exposed to experiences of negativistic, avoidant, and antisocial types and in essence, these personalities seek to make up or compensate for early life deprivations; seldom accept blame or guilt for their actions due to their learned behavior
Elitist self-assured, arrogant, energetic, often impressive in his bearing, and are ill suited to subordinate positions, more taken with their inflated self-image than with their actual self
Positive they think they are better than others.
Inflated views tend to be contrary to reality. In measures that compare self-report to objective measures, narcissists' self-views tend to be greatly exaggerated.
Agentic views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain.
Special perceive themselves to be unique and special people.
Selfish research upon behavior in resource dilemmas supports the case of being selfish
Oriented toward Success oriented towards success by being, for example, approach oriented.

Let’s examine ways that you can better deal with destructive narcissism:

  1. Determine which type you’re dealing with. There are vulnerable narcissists do not feel particularly good about themselves at heart. In contrast to grandiose narcissists, they’re less likely to show emotions, and so you might not realize when a grandiose narcissist is undercutting your desire to be happy. The grandiose narcissist might be your best ally, albeit with more work—as long as you can get that person on board with your overall goals of happiness for both you and the other person.
  2. Acknowledge your annoyance. Narcissists can be antagonistic towards you and cause you to show emotions that you do not wish to exhibit. If you’re trying to get something done, and one person is always interrupting or trying to place more emphasis on himself or herself, recognizing where your frustration is coming from can help give you the strength you need to put a stop to it. You need to tell the narcissist that you are annoyed with their behavior. They will attempt to reject you and place the blame back onto you, but you must resist allowing them to get to you emotionally.
  3. Appreciate where the behavior comes from. Vulnerable narcissists need to make themselves feel better about themselves, which is why they can become sneaky and undercutting. They may question your authority just to create mischief. Once you recognize that they are coming from a place of insecurity, you can provide them with just enough reassurance to get them to settle down and focus on what needs to be done. Too much reassurance and you'll fan their egocentric flames, but the right amount will allow them to calm down and get to the task at hand.
  4. Evaluate the context. Narcissism is not an all-or-nothing personality trait. Some situations may elicit a person’s insecurities more than others. Let’s say a person in your life experienced a failed relationship (or several) and he or she is attempting to judge you based on her past relationships. They are fearful that this new relationship will turn out just like the others. Their insecurity will only worsen with time, leading them to become defensively narcissistic, vindictive, and attempt to label you in ways that mirror their past relationship. If you know a person like this, it's important to remember that the situation helped create the monster with whom you must now interact.
  5. Maintain a positive outlook. If you are dealing with narcissists who derive pleasure from watching others suffer, then seeing the pain they cause will only assist them on to more aggressive counter-behavior. Don’t look ruffled, even if you’re feeling annoyed, and eventually that behavior will diminish in frequency. Furthermore, by keeping the previous suggestions in mind, you may be able to help ease the situation so things actually improve.
  6. Don’t let yourself get derailed. It’s easy to lose your own sense of purpose or goals when a narcissist tries to take center stage. You don’t need to attend to everything this person says or does, no matter how much he or she clamors for your attention. Find the balance between moving forward in the direction you want to pursue with the person and alleviating the vulnerable narcissist's anxieties and insecurities. If it's a grandiose type of narcissist, you may want to acknowledge his or her feelings but then proceed.
  7. Keep your sense of humor. Calling a narcissist’s bluff may mean that you ignore the person, but it might also mean that you meet that bluff with a laugh at least once in a while. Without being cruel about it, you can point to the inappropriateness of the person’s egocentric behavior with a smile or joke. This would be particularly appropriate for the grandiose type of narcissist, who will probably find it entertaining and possibly instructive.
  8. Recognize that the person may need help. Because some narcissists truly have low self-esteem and profound feelings of inadequacy, it’s important to recognize when they can benefit from professional intervention. Despite the belief that personality is immutable, psychotherapy research shows that people can change even long-standing behaviors. Bolstering the individual’s self-esteem may not be something you can tackle on your own, but it is something you can work on with outside help.

Advice for Destructive Narcissists

Your fear of vulnerability has left a lot of wreckage in your past. Failed relationships, a constant fear of rejection powered by a sense of unworthiness, the panic attacks created by those indelibly terrifying experiences of your past, the abandonment, the terror that surfaces when you feel unprotected, the knot in your stomach that turns into irritable bowel syndrome and then ulcers, or worse. Your unhappiness with others doesn't have to be a lifestyle that you must suffer through. There is a better model of yourself, hidden deep-down inside you, waiting for a release, and bringing you a life of peace, serenity and tranquility, where you can be happy for the rest of your life.

You can make the fear go away!

Every person has that responsibility to our self. When we attempt to delegate that responsibility to others, we just as often wind up being despising of them – and they of us. It is a fact of life that by asking our partners to be responsible for our inner self, our relationship becomes eroded. The partner, over time, come to resent the responsibility that you saddled them with, and they lose respect for you.

In the long run, we expect a certain equality of self-responsibility. You alone must find a way of dealing with the panic that can well up at moments that recapitulate very threatening earlier experiences. Bad things happened to you, none caused by you, but they had a huge impact on your sense of self.

If you have read this far into this article and are still here, there is no better time to begin working on attaining your goals. You are in a perfect position to critically examine your deep-seated beliefs and feelings about yourself that have their roots in the past. It is likely that you will need some help in doing it, because it may be painful before it will be triumphal. If you are in a relationship with someone that you want to be with, then obviously, there is more at stake to compel your to face your own inner self.

You have three choices to finally get rid of the fear and start living a better life. These are in order of preference to attain the goals that you need to set:

  1. Throw money at the problem: If you have the financial resources to do so, seek out an excellent therapist that specializes in Narcissistic Personality Disorder and place your trust in them to attune you to your very formidable survival skills.
  2. Give your trust to one special person: Find that special friend that will be willing to invest the time and effort into creating a relationship with you based on peace, serenity and tranquility and your future happiness. Listen to them, much more than your speak. Carefully consider their sense of annoyance with your behavior and make the changes to bring yourself more in line with their happiness.
  3. Buy the best book that you can find: Hopefully you can find one with a long range plan, complete with examples and exercises that you can follow to help you along your path. It will take much longer to recover from your fears, but if you do not have the financial resources or that special someone in your life that is willing to assist you, it may be the only solution left.

Steps To Take Toward Success

Ultimately there are some steps that you should consider taking:

1. Focus primarily on the others in your life that you deeply care about or want to remain in your life.

2. Place your trust in these persons and put their needs above yours a bit at a time, as you begin to feel more comfortable in doing so.

3. Listen much more than you speak and consider the things that you will learn about the other person that will bring the two of you closer together.

4. Develop new attitudes toward anger, unhappiness or sadness. Don't allow them to take over your life. Learn to take a break and calm down before these emotions become overwhelming. Learn to stay calm. If you are with a partner, interact only when both of you are cool.

5. Avoid erupting in anger if you believe that you are a victim and make threats or give the other person ultimatums. Anger outbursts often develop into a form of bullying; "If you don't do what I want it will hurt my feelings and I will leave you!" is the cry of a troubled narcissist. This is inappropriate in the eyes of the other and creates a relationship based on coercion – not love or cooperation. It can only produce an inability to sustain positive gratifying relationships.

6. Stay calm. Everyone gets angry – even Buddhist monks, according to Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh. Even young children get mad – often. However, while it is normal for even mature adults to become angry and frustrated over even the smallest of things, frequent anger outbursts are totally incompatible with mature relationships.

7. Avoid disagreeable phrases. People will often disagree with others, however, phrases such as, "what I want", "what I want you to do", "I don't care what you think", "I don't want to listen to you", and "that's your opinion" will only block the absorption of information from others about their opinions and preferences. Thinking in either-or, winner-loser patterns worsens the problem.  "I don't want to hear what you want or think" is often finished with, "because then I may not get my way or win the discussion."

8. Take others' perspectives into account. Train yourself to take others' perspectives more seriously. It is a key antidote in the art and skill of listening. Retrain yourself to ask others what they think and feel.  Seek to understand and become responsive to others' concerns when you and they differ.

9. Find agreement. As others answer your questions, focus on what makes sense about their perspective. Listen for what you "can" agree with, not on what you want to disagree with. It is a common communication trait to understand that if the other person does not openly agree with you on a statement, then they are being kind in not disagreeing. Comment favorably on what you can agree with before moving forward to add your own perspective.

10. Learn to really listen. To accomplish true listening you'll need to dump the word "but" from your vocabulary. The word "but" negates your prior agreement.  It subtracts, dismisses and eliminates whatever came before, undoing your initial good efforts to understand others' points.  Instead of using "but", link others' thoughts and yours with either "and" or "and at the same time".  That way instead of indulging in the patterns of ignoring and disputing others' viewpoints, you will begin to be able to add others' viewpoints to your own.  I.e., you will begin to shift from "My viewpoints are the only ones that count"  to "There's two of us here and both of our perspectives matter."

11. Don't personalize. You should not tend to block data regarding others' feelings. When another feels sad, anxious or upset, the response should not be to personalize it. That is, do not take the others' feelings as critical statements about you. Be supportive when others express negative emotions like anger or sadness.

12. Avoid arguments. Implement early exits from conversations at the first signs of your emerging anger. If you cease to engage in arguments, there will no longer be arguments. Instead stand and remove yourself from the argument. Pleasantly excuse yourself to go get a drink of water, and exit the room.  Return as soon as you feel calmed.  Initiate positive conversation on a safe topic before returning eventually to the original difficult issue.

13. Validate others. When others do not agree with you, attempt to see it from their standpoint and suggest alternatives that you can live with. Digest their feelings and validate an alternative perspective. Then put yours back on the table. Become an expert in saying, "Yes, ...., and at the same time....."  

A: "Why don't we go out to dinner, tonight?"

B: "I am really tired and don't feel up to going out."

A: "Yes, I should have seen that you are tired. And at the same time I'm up for enjoying something different tonight. I'd be glad to order in some Chinese that we could share here in the house. And, perhaps we could watch a movie afterwards?"

This strategy enables you to give the other person a second and even third opportunity to hear you. Most people do better on their later drafts of writing, and also of listening. In addition, after your partner feels heard, she or he is more likely to be able to relax enough to be able to hear your perspective as well.

14. Radiate. Everyone relaxes when we feel loved and valued. The more agreement, affection, appreciation, smiles, sexual affection, hugs and other positives you shower on others, the happier you both will be.

15. Freeze your fears. When you feel the need to Fight or Flight coming on, remember that there is a third choice; to Freeze. Simply do not do anything for the moment. Your fears will diminish if you do not feed them.

16. Be demonstrative. Show others interest in a warm and caring interpersonal manner. Do not become defensive or offensive.

17. Be self-regulating. Strive to feel positive, happy, loving, caring, loose and conscious of your ability to make others feel the same. Avoid blaming, criticism, rigidness, totalistic, shaming, placing guilt, abusive.

18. Do not seek constant approval. Most people will go out of their way to give you their approval and admiration if given the chance. However, by asking for their approval or demanding their admiration, you are only driving them away from you.

19. Be giving – not demanding. People no more like demands being placed on them than you do. It never works for long as they become annoyed at having to meet your demands without reciprocation and eventually walk away.

20. Accept change and it will happen naturally. Yes, often all that is needed is a change of attitude from, "I can't change and neither can you!" to "I accept that change is possible!"

Resources

In order to write this article, I went through several weeks of research in which I accumulated a number of reference resources. As they are in the public domain, I will share them with you below. You can download these as PDFs that can be read on your computer, iPad and most smart phones with the free Adobe Reader software. Click here to download any or all of the resource files listed below...Or you may click on any individual resource below to download just that resource.

  1. The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy, Delroy L. Paulhus and Kevin M. Williams, University of British Columbia
  2. Teaching Generation Me, Jean M. Twenge, Department of Psychology, San Diego State University
  3. Mind-Reading and Metacognition; Narcissism, Not Actual Competence, Predicts Self-Estimated Ability, Daniel R. Ames and Lara K. Kammrath Columbia Business School and Department of Psychology, Columbia University
  4. Narcissism and Social Networking Web Sites, Laura E. Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell, University of Georgia
  5. Rethinking "Generation Me": A Study of Cohort Effects from 1976-2006, Kali H. Trzenniewski and M. Brent, University of Western Ontario and Michigan State University
  6. Co-Narcissism: How We Accommodate to Narcissistic Parents, Alan Rappoport, Ph.D.
  7. DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders, American Psychiatric Association
  8. Loving Yourself Abundantly: Relationship of the Narcissistic Personality to Self- and Other Perceptions of Workplace Deviance, Leadership, and Task and Contextual Performance, Timothy A. Judge, Jeffery A. LePine, and Bruce L. Rich, University of Florida
  9. Narcissism, Narcissists, and Abusive Relationships, Epistolary Dialog between: Stephen McDonnell and Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
  10. Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, 167 page eBook, Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
  11. What Make Narcissists Tick: Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder, 506 page eBook, Kathy Krajco
  12. A Principal-Components Analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and Further Evidence of Its Construct Validity, Robert Raskin, The Institute of Personality Assessment and Research. University of California, Berkeley, and Howard Terry, The Institute of Human Development, University of California, Berkeley
  13. Narcissism on Facebook: Self-Promotional and Anti-Social Behavior,
    Christopher J. Carpenter, Department of Communication, Western Illinois University
  14. Social Exclusion Decreases Prosocial Behavior, Jean M. Twenge, San Diego State University, Roy F. Baumeister and C. Nathan DeWall, Florida State University, Natalie J. Ciarocco, Florida Atlantic University and J. Michael Bartels, San Diego State University
  15. A Brief History of Narcissism, 208 page eBook, SH Konrath
  16. Narcissism Book of Quotes: A Selection of Quotes from the Collective Wisdom of Over 12,000 Individual Discussions, Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
  17. Egos Inflating Over Time: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Jean M. Twenge, San Diego State University, Sara Konrath, University of Michigan, Joshua D. Foster, University of South Alabama, W. Keith Campbell, University of Georgia, and Brad J. Bushman, University of Michigan
  18. Declines in Trust in Others and Confidence in Institutions Among American Adults and Late Adolescents, 1972–2012, Jean M. Twenge, San Diego State University, W. Keith Campbell, University of Georgia, and Nathan T. Carter, University of Georgia
  19. Two Faces of Narcissism, Paul Wink, Institute of Personality Assessment and Research, University of California Berkeley
034 Tipping

Some Work Harder Than Others

My late father, Tom Hood, was born in Texas in 1911. He later remembered, although he was only a boy at the time, how World War I influenced the financial stability of his family. Still later, when he was a young man trying to raise a family World War II came along and again took a toll on his finances. He never complained about, and in fact seemed quite content to live a middle-class life.

My father's brother, Shorty Hood, upon returning from World War II, opened a restaurant in Cedar Hill, Texas. Most of the family worked in the restaurant. My mother was the manager at the restaurant for over 25 years. My brother and I washed dishes and my sister waited tables. My dad painted highway signs for the restaurant and did whatever maintenance was required.

Shorty's Cafe was located on a busy highway in a rural community of farmers and a few ranchers, mostly coffee drinkers. The regulars hardly ever tipped, partially due to a lack of funds and mostly because of ignorance of the wages paid to wait staff at the time. The diners tended to be tourists, traveling salespeople or politicians on their way from Dallas to the state capitol in Austin. We were always happy when a bus of tourists pulled up. Although we knew we would be running ragged waiting on the tables and then cleaning up afterwards, we could always count on enough tips to make the day financially rewarding.

One evening in the late 1940's, my dad and I had stopped by Shorty's to pick up my mother after work. She was busy and explained that she would be another 10 minutes or so. My father and I sat down at the long counter, ordered coffee to drink and made small talk with Juanita, the waitress.

Shortly, my mother emerged from the back with purse in hand and announced that she was ready to go home. Dad and I finished off our coffee, pushed the cups away and arose from the counter. It was customary that we, as family members and employees of the restaurant, never paid for meals or drinks. Much to my surprise, Dad reached into his pocket and pulled out a dollar and slid it across the counter towards the Juanita. Their eyes met, Dad nodded his head and said, "Thanks, Juanita!" To which, Juanita replied, "Thank you, Tom!"

When we got in the car to head home, my amazement turned into bewilderment as I asked Dad, "Why did you give the waitress a dollar tip for two five cent cups of coffee?"

My father smiled at my mom and gave her a wink and told me, "Son, waitresses work hard for their money, son. Always tip them well ."

Friday Tacos

This evening, as is my habit on Fridays, I go to my neighborhood grocery, a half block from my home here in Cuernavaca for tacos. The grocery is always filled with people from the neighborhood and taxi drivers who stop by to get a coke or snack as they drive by. It also serves as a community social spot, where neighbors greet each other and exchange pleasantries. I go to the grocery store almost daily to buy fresh vegetables, meat, cheese, and other necessities, and so I get to spend quality time with my neighbors who I might not other wise see, as we all live behind stone walls.

During the day, I will see Helen, the owner of the grocery carefully selecting the best cuts of meat from the display case, seasoning the meat just so, and cooking it to perfection. Late each afternoon, a girl from the neighborhood, will handmake the tacos to order for the hundreds of people who stop by to buy tacos for their family or to sit at the tables and enjoy with a chilled coke. Atop and in front of the stainless steel stove on the sidewalk in front of the grocery are all the condiments that go with the tacos; freshly diced onions, chopped cilantro, sliced radishes and cucumbers, and of course lemon wedges to drizzle on the tacos. There are a choice of three wonderful salsas to choose from; one green and two red that will spice up the meal.

I get a large chilled apple juice from the drink display at the rear of the store, and move to the checkout counter where Helen or one of her sons tallies up the groceries and put them into bags to carry home. It is a thriving little store and there is always a line. When it is my turn, I am always greeted with, "¡Buenas noches, Don Guillermo! After the exchange of the evening pleasantries where I ask about their family and wish them well, I place my order for four tacos. A small slip of paper is produced to give to the girl who makes the tacos, "4 tacos, sin cebolla, para comer aquí." (4 tacos without onions to eat here). The cost is $40 pesos ($2.30 USD) including the large apple juice. As I am used to paying that much for the apple juice alone in the United States, in my way of thinking the tacos are free of cost.

After greeting the girl who will prepare my tacos and handing her the slip, I find a comfortable seat at one of the tables, which might be shared with a neighbor or another diner that I have yet to meet, in which case I'm given the opportunity of making a new friend. A few minutes later the girl brings my order to the table and always asks if they are prepared to my liking. Nodding my agreement I state, "¡Sí, son perfectos! Gracias!" (Yes, they are perfect! Thank you!). One of the little pleasures about living in Mexico is that people are so kind and always caring!

When I finish my meal and return the dish to the girl, and remember the lesson from my late father, I hand her $10 pesos ($0.76 USD) as a tip, which she seldom sees from others in the neighborhood. She always blushes and thanks me profusely as $10 pesos may be more than 1/5th of her daily income. I passed on the words of my father - "Usted trabaja duro por su dinero! Agradezco la atención extra. ¡Gracias!" You work hard for your money! I appreciate the extra attention. Thank you! b30

034 Enlightenment

20 Ways to Live Better

For as long as I can remember, I have been seeking permanent peace, serenity, and tranquility in my life. And, sometimes I add joy and happiness to my list. Today, for the most part, I have found peace, serenity, and tranquility in my life. But it has not been a easy road to travel, only because there are so many who do not embrace my thoughts of goal of remaining enlightened. Too many are living in the past, tied to the moment, and fail to understand the importance of becoming more than they are.

The quest to enlightenment, is to let go of all the conditioning, worries and ego that we each carry with us every day. It requires that we accept life as it is and stop struggling against it. We slowly learn how to tear down all the walls that protect us and to let the light shine in. We learn how the heart reacts to life and then the mind afterwards, creating unnecessary pain, insecurity and worry. We learn how to not react and to not keep the pain inside of us. We also learn to accept suffering, instead of avoiding it and move on. We learn to let it all go. We learn to use our consciousness. We learn to be truly happy.

We cannot find enlightenment if we think that the world revolves around us and we are each the most important person to us. We live on a planet of a little over 7-billion people, and most will find fault with your thinking. That's a lot of people to disagree with. And we are just one spinning planet of dirt and water, orbiting around a star, among hundreds of billions of stars in just our own galaxy. Tonight, step outside and look up to the stars in the sky and think about how trivial each of us really are.

For me, I am learning to accept everything life has to offer. My time is limited on this planet. I want to spend the rest of it experiencing peace, serenity, and tranquility in my life. And, yes, sometimes joy and happiness. As for love, I have given it many times, but have thus far failed to have it returned to the same degree. I hope you choose to join me on my journey and that you will find all that you are searching for.

Here are a 20 tips I have learned along the way towards living to live a more enlightened life and learning to enjoy the journey.

1. Drive out negativity: Eliminate all negative habits, people and influences from your life, and replace them with a positive attitude.

2. Don't make assumptions about others: Don’t assume that you know who people are as they probably don't know themselves, what they want because they keep changing their mind, or how they live their lives today because they will change soon enough.

3. Love does not discriminate: So be gentle and less critical of of others beauty, brains and body.

4. Get up and get out: You will not find new opportunities and great people if you are sitting on your sofa.

5. Your self is not permanent: Be constantly and consistently engaged in self-transformation.

6. Acceptance is one of life’s greatest values: Accepted others for who and what they are, and they will treat you well.

7. Fight fears by facing them: Conquering your fears is the most exhilarating and rewarding experience you can have.

8. Make good use of your time: When you are planning to do anything - consider what it would be like to do that same thing every day of your life. How you spend your time today, is how you will spend your life.

9. Status is a symbol - happiness a state of being: There are plenty of miserable married rich people.

10. Never trust your intuition: To do so means that you have never been wrong or made mistakes. Learn to think and think to learn instead.

11. Your mind controls your life: When you step out of your thoughts and use your conscience you will realize you are in control, not your thoughts. You are more than your thoughts.

12. Practice Openness - Understand that fanaticism and intolerance create suffering, but are the result of perceiving things in a dualistic or discriminative manner. Train yourself to look at everything with openness and the insight of interbeing in order to transform ourselves and the world around us.

13. Don’t go to the liquor store for milk: You will not get milk where it is not sold. So to avoid disappointment, don’t expect positive responses from people that may not be emotionally, psychologically or mentally equipped to give you.

14. Passion is not anger - The next time you believe that someone is angry, ask instead if it is only their passion speaking. Those who are passionate about something are usually capable of being passionate about other things. How great it would be to have a friend or lover who is passionate towards you.

15. Do much for others, but one thing for your self: Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit, especially, with your words. For yourself - Do not let the others choose who you are or how you should act.

16. You don't build anything in a day: Expect that anything worth doing will take a very long time.

17. Practice gratitude each day: Every day is a small miracle. Be grateful for being born on a planet spinning in a vast universe surrounded by trillions of stars. Find a bright star in the sky and make it yours.

18. Use truthful and loving speech - Always be aware that your words are interpreted by others and they may create both happiness and suffering. Be committed to learning to speak truthfully, lovingly and constructively. Use words that inspire joy, confidence and hope as well as promote reconciliation and peace in ourselves and among others

19. Choose to be loving and accepting: One of the most important journeys to go through is to open your heart to love. This is to truly find spiritual love, not necessarily an emotional love.

20. Giving your love to another should be permanent: Instead of changing your mind, change your attitude instead. Consider your negative thoughts and let them go.

This was originally published in "This Week I Learned" (http://thisweekilearned.com) in 1996, but it is too good to allow it to languish in the archives. I hope you enjoyed it.

032 Friendship

Expectations of a Friendship

For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods. ~Aristotle

This week I want to discuss "Expectations", as they relate to friendships and relationships with others.

Today, a man wrote on Facebook:

"I feel like most of the people that I care deeply about are upset with me. I don't mean to mess up the relationships I have with those that I love, yet it always seems to happen. I feel like I am a very giving person, and I would help anyone, anytime if they needed it. I guess my perception of reality must be skewed. It just sucks feeling like the ones I care about most seem to want nothing to do with me. I mean, am I really THAT bad of a person?"

And on Tumbler a woman wrote:

"Why does it seem that people are “fascinated” by me when we first start hanging out… and the more we hang out the less people seem to like me. I mean, am I really that shitty of a person? Do I have no personality? Am I that annoying? WTF, it's not like I am ever going to change how I act around people - EVER... Well, whatever! I guess I'm doomed. Bah!"

Expectations

In both of these instances, there are common threads in which both men and women seem to have similar problems, and it seems that the friends are not exactly virtuous. Note that the two people are saying the same thing; that people seem to like them at first, then later decide that the person is not meeting their expectations. And, if the "friend" does not feel like their expectations are being met, they decide to become upset with the person, not like them as much or even end the relationship.

Everyone has a list of expectations. Of course, many will never admit to having a list because it exists only in their mind and not on paper, but we all have expectations of others. It is only human nature to have preferences. We like people who are fair. We do not like people who seem to have no self-control. We like people who act appropriate. We do not like people who are intimidating. In other words, we all want friends who have the same qualities as we. Or, at least, the qualities we believe we have.

And, it is okay to have preferences. What is wrong is to dislike someone or end the friendship because they do not meet certain expectations or that they do not hold the same virtues that we believe we possess. The truth is, all too often, those expectations may not be met. The two people above obviously do not want to end the relationships that they have. Why? Because they realize that no one is perfect!

We become friends with another person because we see enough good in them that we "can" accept them for who and what they are. A true friend will never expect another to meet every minute detail of their expectations. A true friend will perhaps explain what they do like and what they do not like. That's good communication, that most friends have with one another. By communicating what they perceive as a problem gives the friend an opportunity to contemplate by looking inside of themselves and possibly making a change in their virtues. But, then again, they may be quite content with who they are and do not want to change. Everyone has certain virtues that they will stand fast and hold onto, no matter what.

This should never be a problem. No two people are exactly alike and there will always be differences. As Stephen Covey wrote in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Powerful Lessons in Personal Change1":

"The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and goals"

Whether we are dealing with the question of who does what, how to communicate, we can be certain that unclear expectations will lead to misunderstanding, disappointment, and withdrawals of trust.

All too often, expectations are implicit, in that they have not been explicitly stated, but none the less, they are brought into a particular situation. In most relationships, whether a friendship or a marriage, there may be expectations of each other in their roles. Although these expectations have not been discussed, or perhaps not even recognized by the person who has them, fulfilling them makes great deposits in the relationship and violating them makes withdrawals.

Women are more attuned to implicit expectations than men. They seldom tell the men in their lives what there expectations are, and when their expectations are not met, the statement they make is often, "You should have known what I wanted!" or "If you really loved me, you would change for me!" This is because men and women are different in their thinking. Men will never be able to understand the female mind, as they are wired completely different. They know and accept this fact. Women, on the other hand, mistakenly believe that men possess some sort of ability to read their minds and know implicitly what is required of them.

It is extremely important to whenever you come into a new situation to get all of the expectations out on the table. And, unbelievably people will begin to judge each other through those expectations. And, if they feel like their expectations are not being met, they become disappointed in the relationship. We create many negative situations by simply assuming that our expectations are self-evident and that they are clearly understood and shared by others. For many, these become deal-breakers, that unless they are met, there can be no relationship.

Control Issues

The problem begins when a friend (or you) explains that they find something that they deem annoying, and states that if the other person does not change, they can no longer be a friend. That is nothing more than attempting to control another, which is wrong. And, it begins with a very small issue and blows up quickly, if their demands are not met. However, their tirade is only serving as a mask in that they are unwilling to make a concerted effort to improve the relationship - with threats of ending the relationship - unless their every expectation is met. Controlling people often participate in emotional extortion with phrases such as, "Agree with me, or else...", when it is always best to agree to disagree. The sure sign of a controller is the silent treatment where they cease being your friend or take a break from the relationship as punishment for not going along with their need for control. Suffering in silence isn't love. And, it enables the controlling behavior to continue, if you give in to them cheating the relationship.

I am not saying that anyone should stay in a relationship if there is physical or emotional battering taking place and there is fear of their life. That is a different matter all together. I am saying that if a person threatens to end the relationship over something they find annoying, they have a control issue. The problem exists from their need to control others. It becomes even worse when the other person throws a childish tantrum or goes on a rant, when they do not get their way. That is just more controlling behavior.

And, yes, if you are in a relationship in which another is attempting to control you, especially with threats, perhaps you should not be in that relationship. But what if you are the one doing the controlling? What if you are the one attempting to end the relationship, simply because the other person does not meet your expectations? Instead of defending your rights to insist on having another person do what you want them to do, or to cease that which annoys you, perhaps you need to look at your own behavior and your own virtues before passing judgement on the virtues of others.

Being in a relationship with a person who needs to be critical and in control of everything can be exhausting. However, it is even more exhausting for the controller who does not understand that they are the controller. They will become emotional over issues that only they are concerned about and that no one else cares about. They hold to exceptionally high standards because they have a fear of judgment or what other think of them, when in truth they would not worry so much what people thought of them if they knew how seldom they did. They end up pushing away friends and loved ones by being a prisoner to their sense of order. This is, of course, unhealthy and neurotic.

While it is fine to be attentive to details, we must realize that perfectionism is an imperfection and we cannot hold others to the same values that we hold. This is especially true if we are driving away, or sending away those in our life that would be our friend or loved one. This alone is reason to re-examine your behavior. If you trust yourself enough, have enough self-worth to believe that someone would want to be with you if you do not make them meet your expectations. It is important to be secure enough with yourself so that you are not clingy, needy, controlling and demanding. Learn to trust yourself and realize that perfectionism is an imperfection. Embrace the spirit of acceptance. Find strength in resiliency, depth and flexibility in all circumstances.

Whether you are being controlled or a controller, you would do well to learn how to identify your own emotions, deal with and channel them, as well as learn how to accurately interpret the emotions of others to become more effective and productive. This allows you to know the true meaning of empathy - walking a mile in the other person’s shoes and being able to feel what they feel.

Friendship

For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods. ~Aristotle

It should be obvious that there are many kinds of friendship. In a particularly influential section of "Nicomachean Ethics2", Aristotle considered the role of human relationships in general and friendship in particular as a vital element in the good life. Differentiating between the aims or goals of each, he distinguished that most friendship can be broken down into three kinds that we commonly form; for Pleasure, Utility, or for Good.

Pleasure - A friendship for pleasure comes into being when two people discover that they have common interest in an activity which they can pursue together. Their reciprocal participation in that activity results in greater pleasure for each than either could achieve by acting alone. Thus, for example, two people who enjoy a love of literature might derive pleasure from discussions of literature with each other. Such a relationship lasts only so long as the pleasure continues.

Utility - A friendship grounded on utility, on the other hand, comes into being when two people can benefit in some way by engaging in coordinated activity. In this case, the focus is on what use the two can derive from each other, rather than on any enjoyment they might have. Thus, for example, one person might offer to pass along some knowledge about a thing for a fee: where one benefits by learning and the other benefits financially; and their relationship is based solely on the mutual utility. A relationship of this sort lasts only so long as its utility.

Good - A friendship for the good, however, comes into being when two people engage in common activities solely for the sake of developing the overall goodness of the other. Here, neither pleasure nor utility are relevant, but the good is. Thus, for example, two people with create a loving relationship with each other for the sake of that which contributes to the overall physical and mental health of both over time. Since the good is never wholly realized, a friendship of this sort should, in principle, last forever.

Rather conservatively representing his own culture, Aristotle expressed some rather peculiar notions about the likelihood of forming friendships of these distinct varieties among people of different ages and genders. But the general description has some value nevertheless, especially in its focus on reciprocity, i.e., the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one to another. Mixed friendships—those in which one party is seeking one payoff while the other seeks a different one—are inherently unstable and prone to dissatisfaction.

Virtues

Every friendship and ultimately every relationship is dependent on virtues. Recently I wrote about Core Virtues, in which I stated:

"Meaning, and ‘meaningful’, are very subjective terms. Pretty much everything we see, hear, and feel is open for interpretation, and skewed by our past experiences. I believe it’s the meaning that we choose to place on things, whether deliberately, or without thought, that is the driving force to why we make all of our daily and long-term decisions.

"Knowing this, it’s just a matter of really deciding what our virtues are, and then basing our decisions based on these core virtues. The quality of our life from day to day, as well as where we end up in a year, five years, or even ten is going to be greatly altered. The satisfaction that we have with our life will also greatly increase if we’re acting from our core virtues."

 The cardinal virtues are a set of four virtues recognized in the writings of Classical Antiquity and, along with the theological virtues. They consist of:

  • Prudence: also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time.
  • Justice: also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue.
  • Temperance: also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, and moderation tempering the appetite.
  • Courage: also named fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.

These were derived initially from Plato's Republic - A Socratic Dialogue3. The term "cardinal" comes from the Latin cardo or hinge; the cardinal virtues are so called because they are the basic virtues, required for a virtuous life. Aristotle

Today, there are those who want to replace the original four virtues by new ones. Scholars, Daniel Harrington and James Keenan4, find the four cardinal virtues in need of replacement. The reasons they give are:

  • Contemporary writers repeatedly express dissatisfaction with the insufficiency of justice.
  • The modern era insists that moral dilemmas are not based on the simple opposition of good and evil but, more frequently, on the clash of goods – thus a constellation of heuristic guides that already resolves the priority of one virtue over another by which a preconceived hierarchical structure preempts realism.
  • The primary identity of being human is not as an individual with powers needing perfection, but as a relational rational being whose modes of relationality need to be made virtuous or to be rightly realized.

Consulting multiple sources related to virtues: Artistotle, Aquinas5, the Torah, Upanishads, The Scouts Handbook and more, we find an extensive list of 37 universal moral values, including, the original four cardinal virtues in alphabetical order.

Go over the list with an extremely critical eye to see how many of the values you believe you possess. Then give the list to several of your friends and ask them to judge you on your values. You may be surprised that you need to work on some of them.

Appreciation - recognition, full understanding and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something

Bravery - courageous behavior or character

Charity - voluntary kindness and tolerance in judging others

Citizenry - ability to find comfort in any country or with other cultures

Courage - the courage of one's convictions act on one's beliefs despite danger or disapproval

Curiosity - motivation to explore new things with enthusiasm, fundamental to creativity

Empathy - to understand and share the feelings of another

Endurance - to withstand an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way

Faith - complete trust or confidence in others

Faithful - loyal, constant, and steadfast; true to the facts

Fearless - lacking fear of uncertainty

Flexible - accommodating, amenable, willing to compromise, cooperative, tolerant, easygoing

Forbearance - patient self-control; restraint and tolerance

Fortitude - courage in pain or adversity

Gratitude - thankful for what they have received from life and the universe, rather than lament what they lack.

Grit - passionate commitment to a mission and dedication to its fulfillment

Hope - feeling of trust, a belief of goodness

Hospitable - friendly and welcoming to strangers or guests, pleasant and favorable

Humble - having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance

Integrity - honest and having strong moral principles

Justice - a sense of fairness, impartial, objective and honest; of high morality

Kindness - friendly, generous, and considerate

Loving - demonstration of feeling or showing love or great care

Merciful - feeling or showing love or great care; bringing someone relief from something unpleasant

Optimism - hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something; the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe

Prudence - to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time

Reconcilable - to coexist in harmony; to be compatible; able to restore friendly relations

Reliable - to possess trustworthy qualities; consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted

Respect - due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others

Self-control - to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations

Sense of humor - possessing a mood or state of mind; the ability to perceive and appreciate humor

Social Intelligence - to acquire and apply knowledge and skills in social situations

Strength - the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult

Temperance - having restraint, abstinence, and moderation

Vigilant - keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties

Wisdom - having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise

Zest - motivation to enjoy and take full advantage of opportunities to participate actively in life situations

What would you add to this list of socially acceptable moral values?

Feel free to click here to download the two page Universal Moral Values Checklist for your own use.

Checklist

Notes

1. Covey, Stephen. "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Restoring the Character Ethic", New York: Free Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-7432-6951-3. The book has sold than 15 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies. It remains one of the best selling books on the market, after people learned that it was not just a "business" book, but a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving both personal and professional problems.
2. Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics", approximately 350 BC
3. Plato, "Republic - A Socratic Dialogue", approximately 380 BC.
4. Harrington, Daniel, and Keenan, James. "Jesus and Virtue Ethics: Building Bridges Between New Testament Studies and Moral Theology." Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2005. ISBN 0-7425-4994-1
5. Aquinas, Thomas - Born Tommaso d'Aquino, (1225 – 7 March 1274), also known as Thomas Aquinas, was an Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest who was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the "Doctor Angelicus" and "Doctor Communis". He is heralded as the most influential Western medieval legal scholar and theologist.

031-Self

Is Self Real or an Illusion?

During a conversation with a close friend, she intimated that I seem to be more than one person; sometimes quiet and peaceful, and at others animated and excited. She was of the opinion that this was abnormal in some manner, however I am quite accustom to the shifts in behavior. She, like many others, believe that we are all individuals making our own decisions and should remain true to our self with only one personality or behavior. But, is this possible?

I am reminded of a book that I read not too long ago, "The Self Illusion - How the Social Brain Creates Identity1" in which the author writes that most of us believe that we are an independent, coherent self--an individual inside our head who thinks, watches, wonders, dreams, and makes plans for the future. This sense of our self may seem incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that it is not what it seems--it is all an illusion.

He revealed how the self emerges during childhood and how the architecture of the developing brain enables us to become social animals dependent on each other. Humans spend proportionally the greatest amount of time in childhood compared to any other animal. It's not only to learn from others, he noted, but also to learn to become like others. We learn to become our self. Even as adults we are continually developing and elaborating this story, learning to become different selves in different situations--the work self, the home self, the parent self. Moreover, the author shows that this already fluid process--the construction of self--has dramatically changed in recent years. Social networking activities - such as blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter--are fast becoming socialization on steroids. The speed and ease at which we can form alliances and relationships are outstripping the same selection processes that shaped our self prior to the internet era. Things will never be the same again in the online social world. The author offered a glimpse into this unchartered territory.

Who we are is, in short, a story of our self--a narrative that our brain creates. Like the science fiction movie, we are living in a matrix that is our mind. But he concluded that though the self is an illusion, it is an illusion we must continue to embrace to live happily in human society.

Are we so familiar and comfortable with the experience of our self that for us to question it might imply that we may be suffering some incoherent illness? It is in reality as if we are asking if we are real or not. Or perhaps more aptly, is our life real or is it a figment of our own intent. The question we often ask, or should ask, is there a single self inside each of us? Or, are we all mistaken when it comes to knowing who we are?

How many, wake up each morning in a haze of our dreams and for the moment, are unsure of where we are - remaining in our dream world or awakening to leave behind our dreams and become who we are? However, think about that moment when we first awake, right before we actually open our eyes. As that moment of recognition overcomes the dream world and we begin to recall our memories to form a consciousness. Do these memories that are brought forward in our consciousness - the belief of who we were when we retired the evening before - shape who we are to be with the dawning of a new day? Or, as some do, relish the beginning of a new day to alter our past and make the most of the opportunities that a new day brings? Do we become a new person or do we simply remain the person that we recall from our past?

As we lie there in that moment, we each make a conscious decision to do one or the other. Or do we? Is it fate that attracts us toward what we will be as we arise from our sleep? As most do, we stumble into the bathroom to relieve ourselves and as we past the mirror we see our reflection. We see that we are the same person that we were when we retired the evening before and thus we are either forced to accept that nothing has changed or we become aware that we are aging. In doing so, some of us begin making decisions to spend a bit more time exercising and perhaps altering our diet to become healther and extend our lifespan.

It what we see in the mirror our true self, or simply an illusion of what we want to see? Psychologist Susan Blackmore, the English psychologist and physiologist, who wrote "Conversations on Consciousness2" among many other books, has made the point that...

"The word 'illusion' does not mean that it does not exist—rather, an illusion is not what it seems. We all certainly experience some form of self, but what we experience is a powerful deception generated by our brains for our own benefit."

But there is a real difficulty in discussing the self illusion. We use words to describe and discuss the self, such the terms I, me, my, mine, you, yours, our, us, and we are used, to refer to the human existence. It would seem that our use of these terms imply the existence of a self or multiple selves. This might lead you to believe that self as an illusion is false simply because these terms seem to acknowledge the existence of the self in the first place. However, these are just descriptive words used to communicate our thoughts and do not necessarily imply existence of self.

Yes, the self seems real enough, but many aspects of our experiences are not what they seem. Throughout each day, we are forced to admit that our perceptions of time and space were incorrect, such as when we state, "I thought I would have arrived on time," when we are late for an appointment. The same deception is true for all human experience, from the immediacy of our perception to the contemplation of inner thoughts, and that includes the self. As it turns out the self is nothing more than the sum of our thoughts and actions.

The findings of studies in contemporary brain science have enlightened the nature of the self, and refer to self as the ego, the "pearl view" of the self, as defined by philosopher Galen Strawson3. This pearl view is the common notion that our self is an essential entity at the core of our existence that holds steady throughout our life. This ego experiences life as a conscious, thinking person with a unique historical background that defines who he or she is. This is the “I” that looks back in the bathroom mirror and reflects upon who is the “me.”

Who we are is a story of our self - a constructed narrative that our brain creates. Some of that simulation is experienced as conscious awareness that corresponds to the self illusion that the average person comes to believes. At present, we do not know how a physical system like the brain could ever produce those nonphysical experiences, like the conscious self. In fact, it is turning out to be a very hard problem to solve. We may never find an answer, and some philosophers believe the question is misguided in the first place.

The self illusion makes the fundamental attribution error an easy fallacy to accept. Also, putting all the blame on the individual self is tantamount to excusing all the policies that create inequality in our society. Maybe it’s time to redress this imbalance by rethinking success or failure not so much as issues of the self alone, but more of society in general.

Knowing that the self is an illusion cannot stop you thinking that it exists, and, even if you succeed, as Buddha4 and Hume5 did, then maybe it is best not to try in the first place. But knowledge is power. Understanding that the self is an illusion will help to reconcile the daily inconsistencies that you may experience in the way you think and behave. We are all too quick to notice how others can be manipulated, but we rarely appreciate how our own self is equally under the influence and control of others. That is something worth knowing and watching out for.

References:

1. "The Self Illusion - How the Social Brain Creates Identity", Bruce Hood, ISBN-13: 978-0199988785

2. "Conversations on Consciousness", Susan Blackmore, ISBN-13: 978-0195179590

3. Galen Strawson - a British analytic philosopher and literary critic who works primarily on philosophy of mind, metaphysics, John Locke, David Hume and Immanuel Kant.

4. Gautama Budda - also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, Shakyamuni, or simply the Buddha, was a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in eastern India sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.

5. David Hume - (1711-1776) - a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential and cohesive system of radical philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism.

 

032-Learning

Never Expect Instant Results

Like many people, I have been able to speak since I was perhaps 4 months old. But, I was unable to speak in complete sentences and much of my "speech" was still babbling, but as speech-language pathologist Sherry Artemenko says:

"Babbling is an important milestone because it represents the beginning of real communication, when a baby starts experimenting with sounds, listening for a reaction, responding, and building social relationships."

According to my mother, I was able to speak at about 12 months old, which was 6 months early when compared to what is average. That is I could say perhaps 10 simple words. My mother could point to a familiar object and I could say the word that described that article. I was obviously only repeating the words that I had heard her say.

As my cognitive development progressed, I was able to memorizes and repeats more sounds, taking the time to think about what I wanted to "say," and learning how to use verbal and nonverbal actions to express my wants and needs. Obviously, there was the social component, too. Long before I ever said a word, I learned the rules of language and socialization by watching how my mother reacted to my sounds and I begin to learn conversation skills with partners as we took turns speaking to one another. This was possible at the time, because babies are hardwired to learn language and are affected by how others engage verbally with them.

By the time I was 18-months old, I was able to form short sentences. And, the length of the sentences increased as my need to use to words to describe what I saw, heard, felt, thought and wanted. I was able to tap into the power of communicating my needs through words and thus the importance of language was tantamount in my life at that time of my life.

While I had been traveling to Mexico at a very early age, I was with my parents and had no need to speak Spanish, but by the time I was forty, I realized that I wanted to live in Mexico and began to think that I needed to learn the language. However, I was not actively trying to learn to speak Spanish. Everywhere I went there was also someone who was bilingual and could translate for me. And, like I did as a child, I could simply point at the item I wanted and it would magically appear before me, without having to speak one word of Spanish.

Now, at seventy, I live full time in Mexico, and I still do not speak Spanish fluently. The schools here require English as a second language, and most children know more English than I do of Spanish. As well, most of the people that I deal with in my consulting practice are well educated and speak English quite well. In fact, most speak English better than I. I have never really had to struggle to try to make my brain learn Spanish.

Today, I watch a video made by Destin Sandlin1,  in which he had to learn to ride a bicycle that was designed by the welders at his job. It was comically named the "Backwards Brain Bicycle" because when you turned the handlebars to the left, the front wheel turned to the right. It took Destin 8 months to learn how to ride the bike, but as he explained:

"I was only picking up the bike and running to the end of the driveway and back every day. I wasn't "ACTIVELY" trying to learn. Meaning... I wasn't struggling and trying to make my brain learn. I simply got on the bike every day, tried to operate it to the end of the driveway, turned around and tried to operate it back. The goal was to understand how my brain figured things out on its own, without trying to force it to. Many people have built bikes like this and figured it out in much less than 1 day by staying on the bike until they were able to master it. I had no timelines, and was using this as an exploratory activity to learn how I learn. Do not misinterpret this to mean that I struggled and tried very hard every day for 8 months. That's simply not true."

Destin went on to explain that while it took him 8 months to learn to ride the "Backwards Brain Bicycle" he actually forgot how to ride a normal bicycle. That's right, he could no longer simply get on a normal bicycle and ride it. He had to alter the cognitive part of his mind, which took some twenty minutes of trying really hard to re-learn how to ride a normal bicycle. Then to ride the "Backwards Brain Bicycle" again, he had to once again alter the cognitive part of his mind to accept the difference between the two bicycles. And, any slight distraction would throw his brain back into the old control algorithm and he would crash.

Because of Destin's age (31) he found it really difficult to learn how to ride the "Backwards Brain Bicycle" and to shift back and forth between the two types of bicycles. However, his 6 year old son, who has been riding a normal bicycle for 3 years (half of his life) only took two weeks to learn how to ride the "Backwards Brain Bicycle". Why? Because children have more neural plasticity than an adult. That is why the best time to learn a language is when you are very young. The older you become, the more difficult it will be to learn a language.

So, the truth of the matter is that I have waited much too long to learn Spanish, and even if I did learn to speak Spanish, then I would forget how to speak English. And then each time that I had to shift between the two languages it would take me 40 minutes, as I am twice Destin's age.

Now, enjoy the video below and don't ask me to learn Spanish today. It will take me at least 1 year and a half to just learn how to ride the "Backwards Brain Bicycle"!

1. Destin Sandlin is the creator of the YouTube channel Smarter Every Day. He has credited his fascination with the scientific method and his job as a rocket engineer for having inspired him to make educational videos. Most episodes of Smarter Every Day feature scientific experiments with Sandlin hosting or narrating. He has demonstrated experiments such as tracking the movement patterns of a chicken’s head, a do-it-yourself high-speed camera, and other content designed to educate viewers on a variety of scientific topics. As of 2015, the channel has over 2.7 million subscribers and 188 million views. If you have not yet visited Destin's YouTube channel, you should, but be prepared to waste a better part of what ever is left in your day watching the videos. Like I found, Destin is akin to eating Doritos - you can't just watch one! And, there are already over 200 videos on his channel.

Free Speech

Hiding Behind The Shield From Criticism

If you are a user of social media and are of the belief that you have a right to "free speech" you should read this article. Most people are not completely aware of the implications of speaking openly in social media or for that matter in public.

You may be surprised at what you do not know about your rights as given in the U.S.A. First Amendment to the Constitution or that it might affect you as a foreigner who is speaking on a site located in the U.S.A.

While most articles on this site are of a global issue, this topic is mainly USA-centric due to the topic of the First Amendment the USA Constitution. However, freedom of speech is a global issue.

The truth is, what your freedom of speech is and where it applies is actually very simple, but our understanding of it has been distorted, mostly because people use "free speech" as a weapon where it doesn't really apply, and often as a shield to hide behind when they're being criticized. Even so, free speech has never been a more valuable right as individuals all try to control their image and what people say about them.

There are plenty of ways to exercise your speech freely, but first, let's brush up on our USA civics:

What the First Amendment Really Says

The first amendment to the Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This amendment (and all of the other amendments to the Constitution) were added because the Constitution itself, according to its drafters (and the states, which had to ratify it), didn't offer enough protections for the civil liberties from the powers of government. This is very important: freedom of speech, along with the other freedoms in the first amendment, are designed to protect the liberties of the populace against an oppressive government that would seek to squash those rights in its own self-interest.

Private entities such as individuals and businesses, however, are largely not required to protect your speech, and the first amendment does not protect what you say—only your right to speak. This means that you can say what you choose, but the nature of free speech is that others are free to say what they choose as well, even if it means disagreeing with you or mounting a campaign of people to respond to you. Keep these points in mind as we discuss how your freedom of speech plays out.

Slander

Slander, when used a noun legally means oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. So, while many believe that they have the "right" to say whatever it on their mind, this is one are where the misguided definition of "free speech" can create a civil lawsuit against the person that has defamed another and end up in the poor house.

Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages unless there is malicious intent, since such damages are usually difficult to specify and harder to prove. Some statements such as an untrue accusation of having committed a crime, having a loathsome disease, or being unable to perform one's occupation are treated as slander per se since the harm and malice are obvious, and therefore usually result in general and even punitive damage recovery by the person harmed. Words spoken over the air on television or radio are treated as libel (written defamation) and not slander on the theory that broadcasting reaches a large audience as much if not more than printed publications.

Other words that are used in describing slander that are deserving of study for free speech advocates are abusive language, accusation, aspersion, calumniation, calumny, censure, character assassination, damaging report, defamation, defamatory words, denigration, denunciation, disparage, execration, false report, imprecation, insinuation, libel, malicious report, malign, obloquy, reproach, revilement, scandal, scurrility, slur, smear, stricture, tarnish, traducement, and vilification.

Some associated concepts are: malice, publication of defamation, slander of title, slander per quod, and slander per se.

You can be sued for slander. However, there are different types of rules for different types of defamation targets. Generally speaking, the more well-known you are as a public figure, the less protection you have against defamation.

Free Speech and Censorship

Earlier in our nation's history, most towns and cities had a "public square" at the heart of a community where people could meet, discuss, and hear the news and issues of the day. It was usually the place where officials made proclamations, candidates spoke and stumped for votes (directly analogous to today's "town hall" meetings), and in general where the people could gather and speak freely. Those public squares have all but disappeared, and while there are still town halls and other public spaces for speech, the true heart of most communities today are private places of commerce or entertainment (malls, stores, stadiums.)

Today, most of us turn to the internet because the tools are free and available: Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, newspapers, blogs with comment sections, forums, they all offer one-click methods for us to speak our minds if allowed to commit. However, when you leave a comment on a company's Facebook page, post to a Reddit thread, or tweet your grievances, you're speaking in privately owned spaces. This means you should have no expectation that your speech is somehow protected beyond that service's terms of use. That said, when it comes to freedom of speech on the internet, there are two truths that are almost universal:

  • Most spaces on the internet are privately owned, and the owners of these spaces have no obligation to allow you to speak freely in their space. Whether it's Facebook removing content that violates its own terms of service, a blog owner deleting a comment they find offensive, or a big company deleting user posts from its Facebook page, your speech may be censored, but you have no first amendment right to free speech in those places. This includes our discussions on This Week I Learned — we've always held this community up to high standards, and if you start a discussion we find isn't up to those standards, we reserve our right to dismiss it.
  • Most owners of private spaces and businesses know it's in their own best interest to allow you to speak freely on their platforms. When you hear any business owner say "we support/stand for freedom of speech," what they really mean is that by honoring your freedom of speech, they know they can successfully build a community, attract users, attract views, as well as perhaps attract advertisers, and make money. They may truly value free speech, and most companies know that success means taking the bad with the good, but that doesn't make it your right. They just know it's in their best interest to say they value it, and act accordingly.

While "censorship" can apply to any type of speech suppression, censorship in the context of "free speech" is generally reserved for speech that's suppressed by government or state actors. A company deleting your post on their Facebook page about how their product was a waste of your money, even if you think the post was relevant or witty, is not state suppression of your speech. It may be censorship, but your freedom of speech has not been violated.

Remember this when you speak on the internet. While Facebook and other social sites may feel like the new "public square," they aren't. This means your speech is not constitutionally protected unless specified in the terms of use for that service, and those can change at the whim of the service or platform provider. Plus, governments know that they can lean on companies to change their rules and restrict private speech as well, regardless of whether they can do it in public. All isn't lost though—some speech is protected, and there are places where you can say what you choose.

Finally, it is constitutional for the government to censor some speech if it would severely compromise national security—particularly during a time of war.

Is Speech on the Internet Protected?

That's a difficult question, but the short answer is NO! Legal challenges abound on this topic, many of which attempt to define what's protected in an era the line between public and private is blurred and the vast majority of people treat the internet like a public space. For example, some argue that clicking "like" is protected speech because of its public nature, and others argue that your tweets and blog posts are protected speech. To date, most courts have come down on the side of "use a private service, you're subject to their rules and moderation."

Remember when we noted that freedom of speech doesn't stop others from speaking out against you? This point is important too: too often on the internet "freedom of speech" is used as a defense mechanism to deflect criticism, when in reality it was framed in order to promote self-policing and self-criticism of communities and governments by the people. In short, freedom of speech means everyone gets to speak publicly, whether they agree or disagree with you. If you speak your mind (in a public space) and find a group of people shouting back at you, your rights aren't being trampled, you're just unpopular—and all of you have the right to speak.

Just remember that when you speak out in such a way that slanders another individual, company, or product you may indeed be opening up the opportunity for them to bring a civil suit against you in a court of law. And, there are limited instances where speaking your mind is a crime for which you may be indicted, such as in threats against others, politicians or law enforcement officials.

Freedom of speech is definitely more complicated than "I can say what I want where I want to," depending on where you are saying it and and what you're saying. For instance, on the Internet, you may be logged in from a computer in France, but to a site that is located in the USA. You are "speaking" on USA soil and in some instances may be taken to court for either civil or criminal charges.

Public Spaces

There are certainly some instances where your freedom to speech can be limited or banned by the government. While you may believe that what are often mistaken for pubic spaces such as sidewalks, the streets, and government buildings, they are not actually public at all. There are police and guards that will stop you from speaking openly and if you resist you may be arrested.

Obscenity

Under First Amendment constitutional analysis, obscenity is not protected speech and you can be arrested for obscenity. However, you have to meet a very long list of requirements in order to have something labeled as obscenity. One of the requirements is the speech in question must not have any social, political, artistic, scientific, etc. value at all—which is tough for a jury to find even if it the video in question is a compelling video.

Incitement

There are rules against incitement of violence or panic, which you can find in Brandenburg v. Ohio. On the other hand, this legal test probably does say that you can be arrested for shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Hate Speech

Although hate speech can technically be subject to government regulation under the Constitution, the courts have generally taken a broad reading of the First Amendment in these instances.

Sexual Harassment

It may be that the words that you speak are of a nature that can bring about a civil lawsuit. For example, a boss who says, "Have sex with me or else you're fired," is engaging in speech of a sexual harassment nature. He can be penalized for saying those words through civil suit.

Use of Ideas Theory

It is important to note that the First Amendment was originally set up under the "use of ideas theory". Basically, the idea was that popular opinions would gain social currency while unpopular ideas would be driven out of use and fall into disuse. Thus, it is up to each of us to vocally drive out unpopular ideas from use of ideas in order to keep the system working. This fact has become lost in the whole, "Respect everyone's ideas," idiocy that's gone around. It is literally up to us to criticize people who spread ideas we find disgusting to the point that it becomes a stigma to hold those ideas.

As such, most people who argue that they have the freedom of speech to say whatever they want to be completely misguided about the meaning of free speech. Namely, that free speech is partially about the brutal and vicious destruction of terrible ideas through public humiliation and criticism.

The First Amendment is supposed to apply even to infringement on free speech by businesses and private citizens, especially if that infringement on free speech is done by threatening another person with physical injury, loss of job or death.

In short, yes, you can say a whole lot; however, it is inaccurate to say you can say anything you want.
Perspective

Perspective

There is an experiment where two groups of individuals are shown four identical illustrations - three were labeled differently - and given an opportunity to comment on what they believe. As most humans have the ability to make an opinion the results are telling. The opinions of the four groups varied widely. Does this prove that people will believe what they are told? No, because in each group the opinions split. However, it was interesting that in each group there were those who were led by the statements, those who were not led and gave statements of opposition.

Observe the image below in which you can see how the same phenomenon (the extruded star hovering in the center) can have two different perceptions depending on the position of the observer.

The shadows on the wall show what the participants might see if they were standing to the left or right of the suspended object. A person standing to the left would see the outline of a star, where a person standing to the right would instead see a square, and be oblivious to the shape of the star. Neither, might assume that the object was indeed three dimensional unless they were to change their stance.

Consider whether the statement in the illustration actually led you to believe that all three were the truth or not. Then give your opinion in the comments box below...

 

Truth

While, the first thought is that this explains how our perspective determines what we see as the "truth", this may or may not be the truth as it is universally defined. Does it show that what is true for me and what is true for you are neither the real truth, but our own version of reality?

In the end, any representation that purports to change the truth in one's mind will only change the perceptions in that mind, but not in other minds, which are isolated and not interacting in the same manner.

In physics this may relate to the wave/particle experiments where observation changes how we must reconcile what is actually happening.

Charisma

The Platinum Rule

You have probably seen many quotes on the Internet that you thought sounded like a good idea, until you begin to consider them from another person's viewpoint and realize that they sound a bit egotistic. The Golden Rule is one of those quotes that we have come to believe in as being a great idea - and it is on the surface.

However, the Golden Rule, "Treat others as you want to be treated" has a fatal flaw: it assumes that all people want to be treated the same way. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things.

I saw a quote this week by Travis Bradberry online that proposes a different viewpoint that is not so egotistical. It seems that some people are born likable, i.e. they have a tremendous amount of charisma. But, as it turns out charisma is a learned behavior and anyone can immediately be more likeable with a simple twist of the Golden Rule. If you really want to be liked by others and seen as charismatic, you might want to give it a try and see what happens.

The golden rule says that you should treat others with the same respect you would want to be treated with. However, Bradberry suggests there’s a better approach to take when you want others to like you more:

The Platinum Rule—treat others as they want to be treated.

In doing this you are not treating them with excessive kindness. You are simply extending the courtesy of appealing to who they are as an individual. If someone likes public recognition, give it to them. If they don’t like to be the focus of attention, however, keep them from feeling uncomfortable. You should definitely use the golden rule as a baseline no matter what, but keep the platinum rule in mind for when you get a feel for how someone likes to be treated. And, you will have the opportunity to make someone feel special.

tests

A Moment of Testing

We are each tested in every minute of our lives. Yes, life is just one test after another. It has always been and will always be. There is no way to avoid the test of the moment. It is laid out in front of us and we will either pass or fail. It is up to us to decide how we will complete the test.

Life is filled with moments that test your very being. Moments, when you feel that you are being tested beyond your very limits. Tests that often stretch you into an expansion of your limits and your level of tolerance.

The "life tests" that allow you to become more emotionally mature and step up to the demands that life throws your way to become a better person. A moment of testing that gives you an opportunity to better understand yourself and others.

A test that allows you to remain steadfast in your past beliefs that you hold so closely, but in fact have never worked well and have only brought to this very moment - to another test. Or, to be understanding of others and attempt to accept them from moment to moment as they seek to better understand you and meet your expectations.

Tests that give you the opportunity to help another that professes to be suffering and asking you for your help. You can either help or not help, as it is your choice to do so.

Tests that help you mature either emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes both. The purpose of tests in our lives is to see how much we have grown beyond a previous challenge that life placed before us. They show us our current maturity level, our personal evolution. More importantly, our ability to help others pass their own similar test.

Tests are reviews of previous experiences. They are not unfamiliar - we know the answers and we know how to pass the tests that we must take moment by moment. And sometimes, the tests are put before us only to help us learn something new and expand our wisdom.

How will you decide to finish the test that life presents at this very moment? Will you make the right decision to accept what is your destiny to provide a brighter, more enjoyable future for yourself and others? Or will you stand firm in your decision to live in the moment and accept what may or may not happen in the future?

Or will you simply reach out, take the test and crush it into a ball and throw it away, erasing any possibility of growing emotionally and spiritually, erasing the dreams, wants and needs of the future? Crushing the dreams, wants and needs of another in doing so?

Is it really so easy, to simply destroy all that with a push of a button in a moment of indecisiveness?

-30-

Decisions

Living For the Future

Each moment of every day, many are given the opportunity to make decisions that effect their future. Be thankful that you are given the opportunity of the moment, as there are millions who do not have the opportunity to make decisions that effect their future.

Read more

Awareness

Learning Awareness as a Path

As I go about my daily walk in the neighborhood surrounding my home in Cuernavaca, Mexico I am filled with awareness. Today, I am more aware than I was during my early life and my move to Cuernavaca has increased my awareness tremendously. I cannot remember a more phlegmatic time in my life; calm, serene, tranquil, but yet with a sense of excitable emotions in everyday occurrences.

I have lived in some great places during the past seventy-years of traveling several times around the globe, but I have found that Cuernavaca, located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountain range, provides the perfect place to live. The temperature is kept at a fairly constant 72˚F year round and we have no need of air conditioning or heating. In the early morning, the warm air flows up the mountain from the valley below to remove the slight chill from the night before. In the late afternoon, the cooler air flows down from the higher elevations allowing a pleasant sleep unencumbered with the weight of blankets on the bed.

As I walk about the neighborhood I am aware that with all of its blessings Cuernavaca has lain in a sort of stupor, ravaged by 4000 years of an ever changing civilization since the Olmec, the mother-culture of Mesoamerica first came to the area. In 1100 AD, the Tlahuica indians arrived and began building Cuauhnahuac as a settlement. They constructed the Teopanzolco Pyramids, just two short blocks behind my home, where they could observe the valleys below with their crops.

However, with the increasing aggressiveness of the Aztec emperor Moctezuma Ilhuicamina, they decided in the later part of 1100 AD to move their settlement so as to mount a better defense. Moctezuma conquered the peace loving Tlahuica in 1427 AD with a huge force and they were obliged to integrate into the Aztec Empire and participate in the Aztec military campaigns. Then, in 1521, the Spanish arrived from Europe and conquered the Aztec Empire, freeing the Tlahuica to begin farming again, although still in the debt of others to pay tribute for the right to farm their land.

The Teopanzolo Pyramids, forgotten on the hill behind my home languished in ruins. The winds brought dust until nothing was left but a mound of dirt that completely covered the pyramids, hiding them from civilization for another 760 years, until the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

During the revolution, the forces of Emiliano Zapata installed cannons atop the hill to shell federalist positions in the center of Cuernavaca. The cannons shook loose the soil, revealing the stonework below.

However, it would not be until 1956, when Mexican archaeologists Román Piña Chan and Eduardo Noguera investigated the temple of Ehecatl and provided a sequence for the site. Further archaeological investigations began in 1968 by Angulo Villaseñor and in 1980 by Wanda Tomassi. The National Institute of Anthropology and History begin maintaining the site in 1985.

Today, as I sit in the protected park of Teoplanzolco reading one of Gabriel García Márquez novels, I am aware that what was once a battlefield, today provides peace, serenity and tranquility. The place, like myself has been transformed with time.

As I walk about the neighborhood I become aware of the myriad jumble of the sidewalks that remind me not to shuffle along but to carefully raise my feet lest I stumble on the uneven surface. The combination of loose soil, which makes gardening a delight, coupled with the tremors from earthquakes some 200 miles away near Acapulco cause the sidewalk to heave unevenly here and there. As I watch my footing I become aware how what was once smooth has become cracked and pitted, much like the skins on our bodies as we move through time towards the peaceful end.

On every street there are friendly dog-tribes of two or three, who wander about in search of a few scraps of food. In the afternoon, they plop down on the cool sidewalks providing a barrier to pedestrians who must step around them. Or, during the late afternoons as the temperatures begin to drop, the dogs may choose to lie in the street where they can soak up the heat from the asphalt. Drivers weave left and right to avoid the sleeping dogs who pay no attention to the cars. There are animals everywhere in Cuernavaca that lie about seemingly unworried - even the birds do not take flight from people as they do in other places.

For me, the dogs in the street, the birds in the garden, and the jumble of the sidewalks bring awareness of the importance of all around me. The ability to trust that we can control the actions of others by paying them no mind.

At small corner grocery a half block from my home, my friend Geobany Lopez serves up tacos for the neighbors and taxi drivers who stop to take away the hunger pains of their stomachs.

In order to get to the store, I must cross over Amacuzac, which is quite busy with traffic. I am aware that I must look carefully look both ways and determine the speed of the approaching cars, which have the right away in Mexico, in order to avoid being hit by an oncoming car.

I am encouraged by the fact that the drivers pay attention to small children and the aged residents, and the fact that I am no longer young and with my gray hair I have acquired a certain right to move more slowly across the street. All that is required is to pay them no attention. If you look into the eyes of the approaching car, they sense that you know of their existence will fear them because their car is larger, more powerful. Avoidance, along with awareness, brings about control of the situation. Even the smallest matador can face down a huge bull.

In Mexico, you do not have to attend mass, or church services. Faith comes to you in the sense of awareness as we move through our daily life. Awareness is everywhere, the ambient temperature of a place, the solitude of a serene park that was once a battlefield, the aged and crumbling sidewalk, a sleeping dog, a bird pecking away in the garden, or the driver who will respect you if you avoid his eyes. They are all a constant reminder to be reverent, or at least aware, of all of life and it's wonderful possibilities.

In India, they have a saying,

"Care for and watch over a cow for six months and you will find more spiritual awareness."

I learn from those everyday things around me as I learn to think and think to learn! I invested in my life so that I can live well today. We cannot change today, but we can prepare for the future.

Right

You’ve Been Wrong About… Well, Everything!

I know, you are thinking that it could not possibly be that you have been wrong about everything you have said, thought or done in your life, right? Take a deep breath, believe it or not, we are seldom right.

Perhaps you are one of those extremely rare individuals who have never been wrong about anything in your life, but history would prove you wrong on most everything. What we believe is right is nothing more than our current perception in the moment and that perception changes over time.

Is it even possible to ask for a reasonable expectation of competency? Not really as it turns out.

Even scientists are not always right, even though most of us put science on a pedestal in thinking that if it can be scientifically proven then it must be correct. We believe scientists to be among the most correct experts in their field. We often put our money on it, as we buy things that are "scientifically proven" to work better, right? As it turns out those highly intelligent and regarded scientists are correct no more than the average human. In truth, they are just as human and we should not really expect any more perfection from them than our next door neighbor.

You see, our words, thoughts and actions are often wrong, and perhaps only right for the moment. Man once thought that the earth was flat, that man could not fly, the second-century Greek physician Galen believed that the liver circulated blood and the heart only circulated the "vital spirit." The astronomer Ptolemy's earth-centered model of the solar system was in vogue for over a millennium. Up until 1860 when Louis Pasteur pointed out that doctors were passing along life threatening germs that doctors saw the need to wash their hands before operating on an open wound. Up until the 17th century, man believed that the earth was only 6,000 years old, not the 4.5 billion years we know it to be today. Or, that millions continue to believe that the bible is actually  the "word of God."

Aristotle the Greek philosopher and scientist (384 BC -322 BC) was convinced that heavier objects fall faster than light ones. More than 2300 years after his death, Aristotle continues to remain one of the most influential people who ever lived. He contributed to almost every field of human knowledge then in existence, and he was the founder of many new fields. Over the years, evolving science has disproved some of Aristotle's claims and continues to do so. What was once thought correct is no longer so.

If we continue to live in the moment, then everything we think, say, or do is correct. However, only those who are open-minded as to the possibility of being wrong can ever be correct in their thinking.

As an example, my mother taught me to tie my shoes as a youth over sixty years ago. I have assumed for all these years that I know how to tie my shoes, but as it turned out, I was wrong. And, there is at least a 50/50 chance that you have been wrong as well. That is if you believe that the purpose of tying your shoelaces is for the purpose of producing a knot that will hold and not come loose. But, really, how many times have you tied your shoelaces with what you believed to be a perfectly good knot, only to have your shoelaces come undone during the course of the day? How many times have you observed someone re-tying their shoelaces, or walking along with one shoelace dragging along behind them?

It turns out that there at least 18 knots used by people to tie their shoelaces and quite possibly dozens more, if one were to expend the time to take a factual survey of the seven billion people on earth.

Last year, I purchased a rather expensive pair of shoes in London that had round shoelaces. Up until that time, all of shoes had flat laces. After a week of failure after failure of attempting to tie these round laces without them coming undone during the day, I resorted to researching how to properly tie these round shoelaces and spent perhaps 10 minutes on the Internet to solve my problem. What I realized that over the the past 60-plus years I had been tying even my flat laces wrong. I had inadvertently been tying my shoes with the most common, but unbalanced slip knot. And, my perception that I had held for 60 years changed in just ten minutes of research.

Not only had I been tying my shoelaces improperly, but since the rule applied not only to shoelaces, most of the knots that I had been tying were actually insecure, as well. This explained why none of my bows on presents came out looking right. Today, I know how to tie a bow that will be balanced so that not only do my shoelaces hold better, but that the bow will sit left to right, instead of heel to toe as they did before.

I learned that when both the starting knot and the finished bow were tied in the same direction, those twists compound each other, resulting in an "unbalanced" knot that sits crooked (bows lying along the shoe from heel to toe) and that comes undone more easily. In knotting terminology, this is known as a "Granny Knot" or "Slip Knot."

If both stages are tied in opposite directions, those twists cancel out each other, resulting in a "balanced" knot that sits straight (bows lying across the shoe from left to right) and that stays securely tied. In knotting terminology, this is known as a "Reef Knot" or "Square Knot."

Allow me to illustrate the differences;

Unbalanced-Slip-Knot

Balanced-Square-Knot

While there's only a subtle difference in tying technique, there is  a big difference in security and visual beauty. However, while the visual beauty may not be your cup of tea, think about how this one little thing can make a huge difference in your life. What if you never had to stop to retie your shoelaces again? Better yet, what if you never had to tie your shoelaces but once? That's what happened to me. After I learned the proper way to tie my shoelaces, I realized that if I allowed just enough room and used a shoe horn, I could easily slip into the shoes without untying them. It has been a year and my new found balanced square knot is still holding securely.

Yes, it takes an open mind that is open to the possibilities of what could be in order to make the changes that matter most in your life. No matter what it is that you believe in this moment can be altered to make your life better, more enjoyable and more profound. Never say never!

 

 

Perceptions

The Price We Pay for Not Knowing the Truth

The donkey has nothing on humans when it comes to being stubborn. During World War One a scientific test was undertaken to find whether donkeys could be used in combat. As it turned out donkeys are incredibly intelligent and manage to complete a series of puzzles and challenges including undoing a locked pack lock with their mouths. But as they are closely related to horses the tests were also carried out on horses and they were found to be even smarter and were used in many operations through out the war.

Marilyn Vos Savant

Perhaps you have heard of Marilyn vos Savant, national columnist and author, who was listed under "Highest IQ" for both childhood and adult scores, has been inducted into the "Guinness Hall of Fame" and was named in "Women of the New Millennium" by the White House Vital Voices: Women in Democracy campaign, as a winner of the "Women Making History" award from the National Women's History Museum and a recipient of Honorary Doctorates of Letters.

Since 1986, Marilyn has been writing the "Ask Marilyn" question-and-answer column for Parade, the Sunday magazine distributed by 379 newspapers, with a circulation of 34 million and a readership of 79 million, the largest periodical in the world. Questions from readers range from philosophical to mathematical to "just plain nuts," as Marilyn puts it. But, her real work takes place at Jarvik Heart, which manufactures artificial hearts for permanent and temporary use in the treatment of heart failure. Marilyn is married to Robert Jarvik MD, the inventor of the Jarvik 7 and Jarvik 2000 artificial hearts.

The Game Show Problem

In 1990, Marilyn answered a question from a reader who asked;

Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors. Behind one door is a car, behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say #1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say #3, which has a goat. He says to you, "Do you want to pick door #2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice of doors? ~ Craig F. Whitaker, Columbia, Maryland

Her answer was succinct;

Yes; you should switch. The first door has a 1/3 chance of winning, but the second door has a 2/3 chance. Here’s a good way to visualize what happened. Suppose there are a million doors, and you pick door #1. Then the host, who knows what’s behind the doors and will always avoid the one with the prize, opens them all except door #777,777. You’d switch to that door pretty fast, wouldn’t you?

This column proved to be one of Marilyn's most commented on bits of all time. At first it seemed that everyone thought she was wrong including the Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information and a Research Mathematical Statistician from the National Institutes of Health! Of the letters from the general public, 92% were against Marilyn's answer, and of the letters from universities, 65% were against her answer. Overall, nine out of ten readers completely disagreed with Marilyn. Some of the letters were telling;

Since you seem to enjoy coming straight to the point, I’ll do the same. You blew it! Let me explain. If one door is shown to be a loser, that information changes the probability of either remaining choice, neither of which has any reason to be more likely, to 1/2. As a professional mathematician, I’m very concerned with the general public’s lack of mathematical skills. Please help by confessing your error and in the future being more careful. ~ Robert Sachs, Ph.D., George Mason University

You’re in error, but Albert Einstein earned a dearer place in the hearts of people after he admitted his errors. ~ Frank Rose, Ph.D., University of Michigan

I have been a faithful reader of your column, and I have not, until now, had any reason to doubt you. However, in this matter (for which I do have expertise), your answer is clearly at odds with the truth. ~ James Rauff, Ph.D., Millikin University

May I suggest that you obtain and refer to a standard textbook on probability before you try to answer a question of this type again? ~ Charles Reid, Ph.D., University of Florida

You made a mistake, but look at the positive side. If all those Ph.D.’s were wrong, the country would be in some very serious trouble. ~ Everett Harman, Ph.D., U.S. Army Research Institute

As it turns out Marilyn was, of course, correct in her reply, but the perceptions of thousands of extremely intelligent individuals kept them admitting that they could be wrong. After receiving so many letters of disagreement, Marilyn, explained in the next column.

My original answer is correct. But first, let me explain why your answer is wrong. The winning odds of 1/3 on the first choice can’t go up to 1/2 just because the host opens a losing door. To illustrate this, let’s say we play a shell game. You look away, and I put a pea under one of three shells. Then I ask you to put your finger on a shell. The odds that your choice contains a pea are 1/3, agreed? Then I simply lift up an empty shell from the remaining other two. As I can (and will) do this regardless of what you’ve chosen, we’ve learned nothing to allow us to revise the odds on the shell under your finger.

The benefits of switching are readily proven by playing through the six games that exhaust all the possibilities. For the first three games, you choose #1 and "switch" each time, for the second three games, you choose #1 and "stay" each time, and the host always opens a loser. Here are the results.

GAME DOOR 1 DOOR 2 DOOR 3 RESULT
GAME 1 AUTO GOAT GOAT Switch and you lose.
GAME 2 GOAT AUTO GOAT Switch and you win.
GAME 3 GOAT GOAT AUTO Switch and you win.
GAME 4 AUTO GOAT GOAT Stay and you win.
GAME 5 GOAT AUTO GOAT Stay and you lose.
GAME 6 GOAT GOAT AUTO Stay and you lose.

When you switch, you win 2/3 of the time and lose 1/3, but when you don’t switch, you only win 1/3 of the time and lose 2/3. You can try it yourself and see.

Alternatively, you can actually play the game with another person acting as the host with three playing cards—two jokers for the goat and an ace for the prize. However, doing this a few hundred times to get statistically valid results can get a little tedious, so perhaps you can assign it as extra credit—or for punishment! (That’ll get their goats!)

Still, the letters of disagreement flowed, forcing Marilyn to submit a second reply to her column;

Gasp! If this controversy continues, even the postman won’t be able to fit into the mailroom. I’m receiving thousands of letters, nearly all insisting that I’m wrong, including the Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information and a Research Mathematical Statistician from the National Institutes of Health! Of the letters from the general public, 92% are against my answer, and and of the letters from universities, 65% are against my answer. Overall, nine out of ten readers completely disagree with my reply.

Now we’re receiving far more mail, and even newspaper columnists are joining in the fray! The day after the second column appeared, lights started flashing here at the magazine. Telephone calls poured into the switchboard, fax machines churned out copy, and the mailroom began to sink under its own weight. Incredulous at the response, we read wild accusations of intellectual irresponsibility, and, as the days went by, we were even more incredulous to read embarrassed retractions from some of those same people!

So let’s look at it again, remembering that the original answer defines certain conditions, the most significant of which is that the host always opens a losing door on purpose. (There’s no way he can always open a losing door by chance!) Anything else is a different question.

The original answer is still correct, and the key to it lies in the question, "Should you switch?" Suppose we pause at that point, and a UFO settles down onto the stage. A little green woman emerges, and the host asks her to point to one of the two unopened doors. The chances that she’ll randomly choose the one with the prize are 1/2, all right. But that’s because she lacks the advantage the original contestant had—the help of the host. (Try to forget any particular television show.)

When you first choose door #1 from three, there’s a 1/3 chance that the prize is behind that one and a 2/3 chance that it’s behind one of the others. But then the host steps in and gives you a clue. If the prize is behind #2, the host shows you #3, and if the prize is behind #3, the host shows you #2. So when you switch, you win if the prize is behind #2 or #3. You win either way! But if you don’t switch, you win only if the prize is behind door #1.

And as this problem is of such intense interest, I’m willing to put my thinking to the test with a nationwide experiment. This is a call to math classes all across the country. Set up a probability trial exactly as outlined below and send me a chart of all the games along with a cover letter repeating just how you did it so we can make sure the methods are consistent.

One student plays the contestant, and another, the host. Label three paper cups #1, #2, and #3. While the contestant looks away, the host randomly hides a penny under a cup by throwing a die until a 1, 2, or 3 comes up. Next, the contestant randomly points to a cup by throwing a die the same way. Then the host purposely lifts up a losing cup from the two unchosen. Lastly, the contestant "stays" and lifts up his original cup to see if it covers the penny. Play "not switching" two hundred times and keep track of how often the contestant wins.

Then test the other strategy. Play the game the same way until the last instruction, at which point the contestant instead "switches" and lifts up the cup not chosen by anyone to see if it covers the penny. Play "switching" two hundred times, also.

Then the unexpected happened. Educators, from middle school to the most prestigious universities begin performing experiments in the classroom. It is unclear whether they were performing the experiments to prove or disapprove Marilyn's statement, but in the end the tests were unanimous. Here is Marilyn's response;

Wow! What a response we received! It’s still coming in, but so many of you are so anxious to hear the results that we’ll stop tallying for a moment and take stock of the situation so far. We’ve received thousands of letters, and of the people who performed the experiment by hand as described, the results are close to unanimous: you win twice as often when you change doors. Nearly 100% of those readers now believe it pays to switch. (One is an eighth-grade math teacher who, despite data clearly supporting the position, simply refuses to believe it!)

But many people tried performing similar experiments on computers, fearlessly programming them in hundreds of different ways. Not surprisingly, they fared a little less well. Even so, about 97% of them now believe it pays to switch.

And plenty of people who didn’t perform the experiment wrote, too. Of the general public, about 56% now believe you should switch compared with only 8% before. And from academic institutions, about 71% now believe you should switch compared with only 35% before. (Many of them wrote to express utter amazement at the whole state of affairs, commenting that it altered their thinking dramatically, especially about the state of mathematical education in this country.) And a very small percentage of readers feel convinced that the furor is resulting from people not realizing that the host is opening a losing door on purpose. (But they haven’t read my mail! The great majority of people understand the conditions perfectly.)

And so we’ve made progress! Half of the readers whose letters were published in the previous columns have written to say they’ve changed their minds, and only one of them wrote to state that his position hadn’t changed at all.

A few of the letters from readers who actually attempted to disprove Marilyn wrote;

You are indeed correct. My colleagues at work had a ball with this problem, and I dare say that most of them, including me at first, thought you were wrong! - Seth Kalson, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 The teachers in my graduate-level mathematics classes, most of whom thought you were wrong, conducted your experiment as a class project. Each of the twenty-five teachers had students in their middle or high school classes play at least 400 games. In all, we had 14,800 samples of the experiment, and we’re convinced that you were correct —the contestant should switch! ~ Eloise Rudy, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina

After considerable discussion and vacillation here at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, two of my colleagues independently programmed the problem, and in 1,000,000 trials, switching paid off. The total running time on the computer was less than one second. - G.P. DeVault, Ph.D., Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Perceptions

What does this say about the perceptions? Plenty, as there is a price to pay in not knowing the truth of things. Most of us hold the perception that not only do we not want to be wrong, we do not want the other person to be right, even when they are one of the most intelligent people on earth. And, that we will go to great extremes to prove that our perceptions are correct.

The fallacious and self-destructive ideas interfere with the ability to engage life effectively. But we are the sort of creatures that do not learn new things easily, if they contradict what we think we already know. We hear and read selectively. That is the way things are. It is so important for us to maintain our long-held perspective on ourselves and on the world, that we are more likely to martyr ourselves for our beliefs than admit to ourselves, and to others, that we may be wrong.

Perceptions can be altered. Anyone reading a newspaper can see reports of people, especially in groups, misperceiving events. Crowds look up at the sky and see stately space ships gliding by because everyone else in the crowd sees them also. The face of the Virgin Mary appears on a piece of toast and is venerated. Law schools have classes in which it is readily demonstrated that eye-witness testimony—however sincere—is often wrong. The growing number of convicts demonstrated by genetic evidence to be innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted on eye-witness testimony demonstrates that fact over and over again. People claim to have been abducted by space aliens and interfered with sexually; and others believe them. Some individuals see ghosts, or communicate with the dead. And other people believe them. There are superstitions that hold many in thrall. I have patients (a number of them) who have to pick the “right clothes” to wear in the morning, lest something bad happen to someone in their families. And they truly believe that.

The world is full of people who believe opposite things. To mention a few: matters of religion, ethics, historical fact, politics, and even science, and so on. Our political scene is dominated by men and women who do not seem at first glance to differ much by education or intelligence coming down very strongly on opposite sides of the abortion and contraception controversy, the social obligations of government, the appropriateness of different military interventions at different times and, it seems, almost every other act of policy. None of us is surprised by these revelations as they come to our attention. They are what we have come to expect of each other. What is astonishing—at least to me—is how certain we are in our beliefs. Given the fact that we readily recognize folly in others, why can we not entertain the idea that we, ourselves, may be in error from time to time when we remember something, or when we think we experience something, or when we have come to believe something?

Believing is Seeing

What we believe is important because our experience is likely to be twisted in ways that support those beliefs. We perceive things we expect to perceive; and we then behave in ways consistent with those beliefs. These are sometimes called “self-fulfilling” predictions. What troubles people most often are precisely these preconceived notions, whether positive or negative.

Negative ideas are, of course, crippling. They undermine the confidence and lead to withdrawal and depression. They undermine any chance for success, whether it is success in business or in social relationships. Some will see psychotherapists in an attempt to better see himself/herself, and the world in general, more accurately. However, often the fact that these ideas are held to stubbornly, interferes with their therapy. “I know the way I am,” people sometimes say, to devastating effect. If they cannot be different, their experience of the world cannot change.

Right

It would be nice also, I can’t help thinking, if everyone was less certain of being right all the time. We would all get along better. I am tired, though, of inveighing against the self-righteousness of others and the smug certainty of ignorant people. I have no reason to think I am any better than they are. In fact, I have some reasons to think I may be worse. I know when I am proven wrong about something, I am bothered more than other people would be.

Since these defects of thinking seem to be part of the human condition, it is worth wondering why. Why do some people hold onto their ideas in the face of overwhelming evidence of being wrong? The best examples of these are scientists, who, after all, are supposed to be dealing with objective fact. Still, those geologists who ridiculed the idea of continental drift never changed their minds. They died first. Similarly, the theory of relativity when it first was published was dismissed by some of the world’s great physicists. And some of them continued to feel the same way long after everyone else was convinced of its accuracy. Just as a body in motion tends to remain in motion, beliefs tend to continue even when contradicted by facts.

I think these are some of the reasons:

  • We are pack animals, much like the donkey discussed at the beginning of the column. We have evolved to live and work in groups, and we are inclined to share ideas and ideologies intrinsic to those groups, including among them religious and political beliefs. There is a survival advantage to belonging. We feel comfortable with others who think the same way. Sometimes reality is shunted aside.
  • Most of the time what we learn from others is reliable. Think of the weatherman or the doctor. Skepticism is less useful more of the time than the willingness to be instructed by people in whom we believe. Sometimes, obviously, we are led astray, but there is an advantage in holding to ideas that have formed over a long period of time, instead of being pulled in different directions all the time. It is anxiety-provoking to be in doubt.
  • Many fixed ideas are self-congratulatory. We feel morally superior. We know the truth. That is a comforting idea and colors our reaction to anything that seems contrary to what we believe. (Think of the cable news channels. Conservatives tend to watch the same news channel all the time while liberals watch a different one.) It is embarrassing to be wrong about important matters, especially when we have expressed ourselves strongly about them.
  • Changing our attitudes and ideas is likely to imply that we should change our behavior. Behaving differently risks failure and ridicule. It is easier to justify to ourselves continuing to do whatever we are accustomed to doing. We have a stake in being right.
  • Perception is so malleable, we miss the chance to learn something new at the very first instant of hearing it or seeing it. Seeing is not believing. It is the other way around. Believing is seeing. All of experience tends to confirm what we already think.

There is a price to pay in not knowing the truth of things. The fallacious and self-destructive ideas that most psychotherapy patients have, some of which I mention above, are good examples. They interfere with the ability to engage life effectively. But we are the sort of creatures that do not learn new things easily, if they contradict what we think we already know. We hear and read selectively. That is the way things are. It is so important for us to maintain our long-held perspective on ourselves and on the world, that we are more likely to martyr ourselves for our beliefs than admit to ourselves, and to others, that we may be wrong.

References:

Parade Magazine, 1990-1991, Marilyn vos Savant
Fighting Fear, Fredric Neuman, M.D.

Truth

What We See

How Many Balls

As with all things in life, we seldom see the truth. It is not normally, what is right in front of our eyes and we must search for truth. Take for example this illustration of billiard balls. How many balls are there? Most people will simply count the balls in order to come up with the correct answer. However, the majority of people will usually come to an incorrect conclusion of sixteen balls. Did you?

Truth

Truth is one of the central subjects in philosophy. In addition, because mankind has had so much trouble defining truth, it is one of the largest areas of philosophy. Truth has been a topic of discussion in its own right for millennia. Moreover, a huge variety of issues in philosophy relate to truth, either by relying on theses about truth, or implying theses about truth.

The problem of truth is in a way easy to state: what truths are, and what (if anything) makes them true. However, this simple statement masks a great deal of controversy. Whether there is a metaphysical problem of truth at all, and if there is, what kind of theory might address it, are all standing issues in the theory of truth. We will see a number of distinct ways of answering these questions.

Unfortunately, mankind has always created their own version of truth to allow them some measure of lead-way around those uncomfortable moments when they must decide whether to tell the truth or lie to some degree. In addition, of course, this is not being truthful. It is only an excuse for being dishonest. Most people believe themselves to be honest. They use phrases such as, "I am basically an honest person," which is to say that that in reality they are not. They may state, "I feel uncomfortable telling the truth when it would hurt another," but the reality is that being dishonest only harms the reputation between the person being dishonest and the person who might be hurt. It is impossible to shield others from harm by being dishonest.

Truth is the expression of what exists in reality. It is quite simply that which exists and what exists encompasses the truth. Ultimately, truth is comprised of all known factual information, in all space, time, frequency and dimension of existence.

Truth must be relentless and it must be always simple to understand and state. It is mankind's perception of truth that fluctuates between truth and the non-truth. It is often easy to understand what is and what is not, but the truth is always that which is and cannot be disputed by learned individuals. Truth is knowable in that it is quite simple to understand what actually exists and what does not exists. If there is a question in the mind as to whether a thing exists it is possible that the perception of the thing cannot be understood or it is not the truth. It then becomes a matter of intuition or ignorance of a thing. As well, our intuition is only capable of making decisions on what is known to be the truth as we are capable of understanding. Moreover, since no one is all knowing and incapable of total perception it is often difficult to discern truth.

Even what we interpret using the five traditionally recognized senses of humans; of sight (ophathalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception or olfacception), and touch (tactioception) are incapable of determining the truth as others might interpret it. While our senses can send signals to our brain such as loud or quiet, rough or smooth, sweet or sour, it is our own perception that we experience and certainly not that of others.

The Mind - A Sixth Sense

During a stay in South India a few years ago, I became aware of Tolkāppiyam, a work on the grammar of the Tamil language, which is said to be the first in the world to describe six senses. While the exact date of the Tolkāppiyam is not known, based on linguistic and other evidence, it has been dated variously between the third century BCE and the 10th century CE. Within the Tolkāppiyam, we find a verse, which states...

"Beings with one sense are those that have the sense of touch. Beings with two senses are those that have the sense of taste along with the above. Beings with three senses have sense of smell in addition. Beings with four senses have sense of sight, along with the above. Beings with five senses have sense of hearing, in addition. The beings with six senses have a mind, along with the above."

While our sensory organs are capable of perceiving information only within the very narrow bandwidth of the particular sense, the mind is where the various perceptions come together to form a consensus of the truth. The individual senses of a person are incapable of knowing the absolute truth. It is impossible to simply touch a surface and know what it is made of. We can perceive, by touch, it is surface irregularities, whether it is soft or hard, and a relative indication of its temperature. We can tap on it, and in hearing the sound, determine that perhaps it is metal or glass if it is thin enough to send a true indication, but a sheet of glass that is 2-inches thick cannot be perceived as glass without sight. We need multiple sensory perceptions to be fed to the mind to assist in determining the truth.

There are those who have attempted to unsuccessfully compare the mind and intuition as one. They cannot be the same as the information of the mind is fed by the senses, while intuition is little more than a guess and a guess cannot distinguish without some uncertainty between what is real and what is imagined. When we hear what is proposed as the truth, there is only one sense involved - audioception - which alone cannot determine truth. We hear a sound that may be lightening, a gunshot, or something hitting another thing. In most cases is it extremely difficult to ascertain the truth from a single instance of sensory perception. Our intuition could make us believe almost anything if we allow it, or want a certain thing to be true, but with intuition we are incapable of knowing the truth of the matter. Thus when we act on our intuitions we can only be correct a percentage of the time. It is always a gamble - a roll of the dice - and we must use our other senses and are mind to better discern the truth.

In 1975, the mathematician S. L. Berensky in a study of primate language reached a conclusion that creates many concerns over truth:

"There can be no doubt that primates are far superior in intelligence to man. The salient question - which every human visitor t the zoo intuitively asks - is, “Who is behind the bars? Who is caged, and who is free?” On both sides of the bars primates can be observed making faces at each other. It is too facile to say that man is superior because he has made the zoo. We impose our special horror of barred captivity - a form of punishment among our species - and assume that other primates feels as we do.

"Apes have for centuries managed to get along with human beings, as ambassadors from their species. In recent years, they have even learned to communicate with human beings using sign language. However, it is a one-sided diplomatic exchange; no human being has attempted to live in ape society, to master their language and customs, to eat their food, to live as they do. The apes have learned to talk to us, but we have never learned to talk to them. Who, then, should be judged the greater intellect?"

Is it true, as most people might believe that we are superior to the apes, with which we share a DNA? We cannot be sure so it is not truthful to say that man is superior to apes. We can hold our own beliefs, but our belief is not the truth. The belief is only our perception of the truth.

There is the belief, held by some who are ill-informed, that there is no truth, as that which is true can never be known, or that it is only our perceptions of the truth that comprise reality. They will attempt to explain that was the truth at one time would change, as when mankind discovered that the world was indeed round. However, it was only the perception of those who lived before the true was known as to the shape of the earth and not the truth in reality. Therefore, yes, perceptions can become reality or truth, but until they are proven they are only guesses based on assumptions.

Creation

As humans, we are incapable of receiving information that exists outside of our perceptual limitations. Today, we use science and technology as an extension of our senses to better understand that which our senses cannot ascertain. As humans, we are only capable of knowing the truth that has been manifested by our senses, science and technology. In addition, as our senses evolve and we see, increase in both science and technology, the truth becomes known on many of those perceptions that we believed and thus we are constantly learning and evolving.

Unfortunately, the perceptions or beliefs that we hold as humans are often misconstrued as the truth. If we believe strongly enough in our perceptions we create scenarios in our mind that prove to us that our thoughts are real but those are - only thoughts, perceptions and beliefs - never the truth.

While, we may be capable of discerning that which is happening within ourselves, much of it is only a belief or perception. We must still go to the doctor and have tests performed to ascertain the truth. We cannot possibly know the truth of whether our body contains cancers that may be killing us with being tested using science and technology.

Likewise, we may belief we know what is happening in the world around us, but again it only a belief or perception and not the truth. We have come to know that some or most of what we have been told by others and led to believe as the truth was in fact incorrect - misinformation as it were. Most recently, it has become known that the much of the media in the USA is controlled by the government and that television and radio corporations are being paid huge sums of revenue to distort the truth in only reporting what the government wants the public to know. A recent study on the truth in news conducted in Canada, resulted in Fox News losing it's license to broadcast in Canada when it was proved that the great majority of what was reported was not true and that Fox knew beforehand that is was reported a distorted view.

As we continue to discover through science and technology that the cosmos in which we live, we have learned that the world was not created some 4,000 or 5,000 years ago as many believe but millions of years previous to what was believed.

We now know that hominids (members of the human lineage) existed at least 2.1 million years ago. At the Olduvai Gorge paleoanthropological site in the eastern Serengeti Plain, within the boundaries of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northern Tanzania, excavations have yielded the fossilized remains of 60 people, providing the most continuous known record of human evolution, as well as oldest known archaeological find of stone tools and man-made structures described as a house. Even two million years ago, man was not satisfied with caves and other natural shelters and created his own accommodations. Mankind has always altered the natural world to suit their purposes.

Hopefully, you will recognize the difference between beliefs, perceptions and truth and that you understand that truth is ultimately the most powerful tool that mankind can use. Be honest with yourself and others in all that you think, say and do. It is the best way!
So, how many balls are in the illustration at the top of this article? There are at least 30, as that is how many it would take to create the pyramid that is shown. We can never know the absolute truth, as there could be many more balls hidden behind the pyramid, but we do know that without the minimum of 30 balls we could not have created the pyramid. Truth is relative to what we know to be fact.

Answer

Relationships

In Interacting With Others, We Learn About Ourselves

“He loved her for everything she was and she decided
that was enough to let him stay for a very long time.” ~ Brian Andreas

Every relationship takes a lot of work and patience. Those who know me well know that I am not a perfect man. It took me years to find out what is needed to have a successful relationship. Unfortunately, for me, it came late in life and my chances of finding someone to share my life with have greatly diminished with age. In looking back, I see all the things I did wrong and what I would do differently if I had the chance.

I should state right up front that I am no expert on relationships, because like every other person, I am still learning. For that matter, I do not believe there can be an expert, as no one person can know everything about what will make a relationship work between two unique individuals that the so-called expert may have just met. They can only speak in generalities. I have friends, both men and women, who claim to be relationship experts, but as I know them well, I realize that they are just as lost as their clients are, when it comes to understanding any more than what their mates are telling them. None of us are mind readers that would the best bet when it comes to having a successful relationship.

Let me break that down for you with a bit of advice my late father passed on to me, "If you want to know what she knows, just ask her, and then try to figure out what she is really saying!"

This is necessary because a relationship between two individuals is very personal. Each relationship is different and even if both parties have been in a relationship before, what worked and did not work certainly will not apply to the new relationship. How could it? There is a completely new mix in the relationship. As humans, we interact with others on a personal level. We may be cold to one person and warm to the next, based on the attitude of the other person. That is not to say that we are two-faced, only that we do treat others on a slightly different scale.

Personal Readiness Level

Before we get too deep into the study of relationship, I should explain that it would prove to be quite difficult to have a successful relationship unless you are at the stage in your personal readiness to accept that change is necessary to accomplish anything. You must be ready to accept change in order to find success at any new thing.

Life itself is change, but growth is optional. We must learn to choose wisely between the two. However, life is a persistent teacher and when we fail to learn from life's lessons the first time around, life has a way of repeating these lessons to foster a better understanding. Our lives are often shaken by dramatic circumstances, which are mostly non-permanent, but have a way of taking over our entire being. We struggle with these circumstances due to our inability to accept and embrace change in our lives. When we resist the lessons that life throws at us and resist the change that is necessary, we find our life often spiraling out of control.

Life moves far to fast for most of us, and we find it overwhelming at times. When we allow ourselves to lose control over the events of life, we often find ourselves experience fear, loneliness and anxiety, even when surrounded by family and close friends. We can attempt to mask these experiences with by busying ourselves with daily tasks of cleaning, a hobby, a movie, but in the end, these are only band-aids and the depression can still set in - even becoming deeper and more intense. At moments like these, our life seems as an exquisite mirror shattering into a million pieces. The only way to stop the spiral is to deal with it before it gets out of control.

We do this by embracing the impermanency of our live and the changes that we must make. This embrace is our Personal Readiness Level - how ready we are to accept our ability to embrace change. We can do this by reducing our expectations, acknowledging that change must happen, accepting change into our life, learning from our experiences, recognizing our growth and embracing wisdom.

Reducing Expectations

We each have expectations of our life’s circumstances; we often have high expectations for our family, our work, and our relationships. We expect each to remain constant and to last forever. However, we know that nothing lasts forever.

We can have reasonable expectations of how we would like something to work, but we cannot accept failure. Reducing or having no expectations about relationships, work, or a situation will certainly help us to accept whatever may come from it.

When we set reasonable expectations, and do not expect or demand a particular outcome, we are better able to manage any changes that do come our way. Unreasonable expectations of life, however, will usually be met with disappointment, loss and even pain. We must have very real expectations that can be easily met or none at all.

Acknowledging Change

Many people believe that change is outside the realm of possibility. They believe that they and others are incapable of change. However, change is just as real for humans as it is for the plant that grows in your garden. If you nurture it, it may grow into a thing of beauty and if you ignore it the plant will cease to be in most instances. We must accept that change is necessary and nurture it by acknowledging that change is our personal responsibility.

While we are faced with change every day, it often moves so slowly or so quickly that we fail to realize that it happened at all. How many times have we realized that the sun has set so slowly that we suddenly find ourselves struggling to continue to read in the dark, or that the day has past so quickly that we have ran out of time to do those things that needed to be done?

Be aware that change can and does happen in your life. This means understanding that things can and will be different from how they are now. Acknowledging change is allowing it to happen when it unfolds instead of approaching change from a place of denial and resistance.

Accepting Change

Most people spend far too much time attempting to prevent or stop change from happening at all. This is impossible of course, just as we cannot stop time from passing. We try to control our surroundings and in the end only forging blindly ahead even in the most futile situations. We often continue working on a project until we realize that we have painted ourselves in a corner with no way out. We get into and stay in relationships long after that moment of failure happens. We cannot easily accept the change that happened.

Instead of resisting change, we must allow it to unfold and try to understand what is transforming and why it is happening.

Circumstances will not turn out the way we want them to, and that is perfectly all right. Embracing the situation can help us deal with the change effectively, making the necessary shifts in our life to embrace the change, and help us move forward after the event.

Learning from experience

If we accept and embrace change, we will start looking for and finding lessons in the change that is happening.

When dramatic changes are happening in our life, we may find ourselves refused to acknowledge them at first, and the change leaves us distraught and without meaning. Once we reflect back and finally accepted the changes, the lessons we absorb will be profound.

Change becomes is greatest teacher, but only if we give ourselves permission to learn from it.

Recognizing Growth

When we accept, embrace, and learn from change, we inevitably grow stronger. The ability to continuously accept change allows us to become as solid as a rock in the midst of violent storms all around us—even when we feel afraid of change.

Embracing Wisdom

The more we permit change and impermanence in our life, the more we grew as a person. Embracing change brings about a new found strength into our life and surprisingly, more inner peace.

When we proactively embrace change and learn to accept it as a part of life, we are filled with more calmness, peace, and courage. When life fails to shake us up with its twists and turns, we realize that changes cannot break us down.

Once we have reduce our expectations, acknowledged accepted change into our life, learned from our experiences, and became aware of our growth we will have reached a level of understanding in life that is know as wisdom. We reach a point where change is no longer feared and we are better for experiencing change in our life. We will have reached our Personal Readiness Level, where we can proceed toward a more successful relationship.

Causes of Failure

Perhaps a look at the most common reasons for the failure of a relationship will give insight into what not to do if a relationship is to be successful will help. The most recent studies show that there are five reasons that relationships fall apart.

  • Infidelity; adultery, sex with others outside of relationship - 27%
  • Intervention; strain from familial or close friends - 21%
  • Abuse; physical and verbal abuse - 18%
  • Crisis; grief, unemployment, underemployment, expectations not met - 15%
  • Addictions; alcoholism, gambling, work-life balance - 12%
  • Other Reasons; age, maturity, sex ratio - 7%

Infidelity is the primary source of failed relationships. While most studies have shown that both men and women are almost equally guilty of infidelity at various stages of a relationship, it is not surprising that men are naturally more forgiving and thus not only is the likelihood of women's infidelity on the rise, it is seldom reported in the statistics. Even with such a low reporting, the statistics show that 27% of relationships fail due to infidelity.

The intervention of family members and close friends is the second most common reason for failure of relationships. Statistics show that in the case of intervention being the cause of relationship failures females who allow their family members and close friends to decide whether they should stay in a relationship account for 78% of the failures, where only 22% of men listen to others. The take away would be that if you do not have the support of the other person's family and close friends, there is a strong likelihood of failure in the relationship.

Abuse comes in at third place with emotional and physical abuse being more evenly split, with females affected in 60% and males in 40% of the reported cases of abuse being responsible for the failure of the relationship. Yes, contrary to popular believe men often find themselves in a relationship where the female is abusive, especially in emotional abuse where the female is constantly complaining. No one wants to be in a relationship where the other person is not agreeable.

The inability to handle crisis is no surprise in failed relationships. Most individuals have great difficulty in dealing with crisis. The loss of work, or having to work below one's abilities all create moments of frustration that must be resolved. In addition, it should not come as a surprise that most crises arise from making poor decisions or having expectations that will be difficult to achieve. Learning to make better decisions will eliminate most of the crises that enter into our lives. Coupled with having realistic expectations, one can find happiness in life.

While addiction is at the bottom of the list, it should not be overlooked. This includes both substance dependence and behavioral addiction. Addiction is the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences. Addiction may also be caused by a neurological impairment leading to addictive behavior. Addictions may also be habits or patterns characterized by immediate gratification coupled with delayed deleterious effects - short-term rewards versus long-term costs. Potential addictions that affect relationships include drug abuse (legal and illegal), as well as addictions to gambling, sex, work, career, exercise, food, gaming, sports, social networking (texting, Facebook, etc.). Any addiction that consumes more of your life than the relationship with another may have negative effects.

The Biggest Mistake

In addition, a factor, which is seldom discussed as a reason for relationship failure is the trial relationship. It has been consistently shown that cohabitation is no guarantee of a successful relationship. In fact, in divorce rates of married couples it has been shown that cohabitation before marriage is associated with higher divorce rates. It is so common that it has been given the name of the cohabitation effect. Researchers have found that this is partly due to selection in that cohabiting couples are more likely to marry with low levels of commitment, as well as the effect of cohabitation itself on the likelihood of cohabiting couple to naturally move into marriage. There is a consensus among researchers that both of these factors explain the cohabitation effect.

The majority of social scientists that study relationship failures agree that delaying the movement through the steps of a relationship provide more opportunity for making the correct choice of a compatible partner in the relationship.

Would it not be better to first consider, with great thought, the basis for a solid foundation of a successful relationship before embarking on what may be failure? You bet it would! Slow and easy will always result in a better choice and provide more success than rushing.

Today's thought is that if you find someone that you like - you should live together and have a sexual relationship as a trial. The transformation from a single person, to being in a relationship, or being married by jumping into cohabitation with another actually works against human nature.

Transformation

Let us consider the very word, "transformation" for a moment. The prefix "trans" means "beyond," "above," or in literal terms, "over." The "form" describes the physical that is you. It includes the body that you live in. When we place the prefix "form" before "form”, we get "transform," which means "beyond the physical." Now, let us add the suffix "ation" which mean "action" or "result," and we have the word "transformation." This word means the result or action of going beyond one's physical form. However, it is important that we see the true self, not just the physical self if we desire to really achieve success in our relationships.

Your physical form is not much different from any other living human. Physically you are quite similar to others in that you have same bones, skin, and component parts. Everything that is your physical form is also existent in most animals, such as a cow or a whale. Buckminster Fuller said that 99% of who you are is invisible and untouchable. The real you, the unique you, is your ability to think and go beyond your form. That is what determines the quality of your life. The major transformational difference between you and others is your ability to think and feel beyond your simple form. The ultimate in transformation is to see ourselves as unlimited by our form.

When you live exclusively in form, you live in a world of limitations that dictate the outcome of your experiences. You can only have a successful relationship when you cease to limit your opportunities and live in a dimension of transcending your form. Who you really are is beyond form. The real you, is in your mind, which has been called your higher consciousness, and is not form. The mind is affected by the five traditionally recognized senses, sight (ophthalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception or olfacception), and touch (tactioception), as well as by feelings, emotions, thoughts, and intuition.

You would be very wise to move beyond your physical form in which you place value on the external, physical appearances and place more emphasis on a formless self, which contains the real, you. We are each a soul with a body, rather than a body with a soul. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Once we understand that every experience of our humanness is guided by forces that are independent of our form, we can find ourselves with the ability to live at an entirely new level and enjoy a higher awareness of life itself. Once you begin to use your mind properly, you leave behind all excuses, fatigue, fears, and anguish and are left with an energy that will flow through you unheeded and without limitations.

Do not allow yourself to attempt to conform to the world around you, but be transformed by the abilities of your mind that dismisses the limitations of physical limits and you will arrive at the dimension of thought. Once there, you find there are no limits to your ability to think. You can then have a perfect relationship in pure thought, exclusive of form. Leave behind the emphasis of your culture to place value on the external.

Common Traits of Every Relationship

Seven things are universally accepted as important in a successful relationship. The first three are necessary; Trust, Selflessness and Openness. If you cannot commit to these three, your successful will be greatly hampered. The last four will help build on and reinforce the first three.

Building a successful relationship requires trust in yourself and others, giving your time and resources to the other person instead of yourself, and being open to the other person.  These three most important steps in building a relationship are perhaps the three most difficult things for many to accomplish in the beginning of a relationship. However, in a strong relationship they become habit and are quite easy to both give and receive when you care about the relationship. If these are not present in the beginning of a relationship, you will need to work hard to acquire them before progressing into a more meaningful stage of the relationship. Without them, the relationship will be weak and may fall apart.

Trust

A relationship without trust will not last very long.  You have to be able to trust your partner and at the same time be trusted by your partner. Trust is the act of placing confidence in someone or something else. It is a fundamental human experience, necessary for society to function and for any person to be relatively happy. Without it, fear rules. Trust is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of degree, and certain life experiences can influence a person's ability to trust others.

Everyone has uncertainty about whom to trust, how much to trust, when not to trust, and so forth at one time or another. In fact, every day we make choices about whom and how much to trust, and sometimes we are more willing to trust than at other times. That is a good thing; a total lack of mistrust would indicate a serious psychological problem. Judgments about when and whom to trust help keep us safe and alive!

When mistrust seems to play a dominant role in a person's relationship, past disappointments or betrayals may be at the root of the issue. Mistrust is a valid and reasoned response to feeling betrayed or abandoned, but the relationship can be adversely affected when feelings of mistrust are pervasive, resulting in anxiety, anger, or self-doubt. Fortunately, a person can learn to trust with a little personal work.

Unfortunately, there are extreme instances where some are incapable of trust. This may stem from or are linked with depression, adjustment disorders, anxiety, and more severe mental health conditions like schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress. Those diagnosed with schizophrenia and related conditions may experience paranoia - the unfounded but rigid belief that others are trying to harm them; delusions - false beliefs, often with themes of mistrust; or hallucinations - usually, imagined voices that may be critical or malevolent. This serious condition is today thought best treated with a combination of medications and intensive therapy.

Signs that a person may be excessively mistrustful include:

  • A slight or total lack of intimacy or friendships due to mistrust
  • Mistrust that interferes with one's primary relationship
  • Several intensely dramatic and stormy relationships in a row or at once
  • Racing thoughts of suspicion or anxiety about friends and family
  • Exhibition of fear of physical intimacy in public or private
  • Belief that others are deceptive and malevolent, without real evidence


Selflessness

This word does not come up as much in day-to-day conversation as compared to the word selfish.  If you want to build a successful relationship, you have to let go of your wants and needs and concentrate on the other person’s needs and want. You must be willing to give them what they need and want, if you expect to get what you need and want. Life, nor relationships, are never one-sided.

You will find that if you are in a successful relationship that the other person will be doing the same thing for you, so in the end it all works out.

Hard work

When it is talked about that hard work is required to build a successful relationship they are not talking manual labor.  What this means is that you cannot sit back and let the relationship work itself out - it never happens.  If you want this relationship, you are sometimes going to have to fight for it.  For example, if you and your partner are separated because of work, send emails and text messages telling them that you miss them.  Think about them during the day and go out of you way to get them a special present just because you know that they will like it.

The same goes for when you do not really like each other at the moment, be the first one to accept at least partial responsibility to say I am sorry, and really mean it.  It does not matter if you started the argument or problem it takes two to disagree.

Trust, selflessness, and hard work are not the only things needed for a successful relationship, but they are the most important.  Accomplish these three and anything else that is needed will be easy to do.

Accepting your partner as they are

The best time to decide what kind of partner you want is before you commit to being in a relationship. If you are always trying to change your partner, the only thing you will accomplish is that your partner will resent you. It does not get much more insulting than that. However, being accepting does not mean you act like a doormat, either.

Most of us already have training in this area, especially if we have had pets. Take for instance having a dog as a pet. We never expect our pet to be anything that they are not. Our pet is completely authentic in every way. We expect them to be just as they are, drooling, barking, and of course wagging their tail when they are happy. They are perfect just they way they are and we accept them. Why should we expect more from our partner? Why do we have so much trouble in accepting them just as they are?

Being more concerned with being kind, than with being right

Everyone has a desire to be right. In addition, there are many occasions where being right will take you far; like choosing the best place to live. However, most of the time, insisting on being right will drive you and your partner apart.

We have all been in relationships where we have insisted at times on the other person seeing things our way. We can only take this so far before we end up losing sight of what we were in disagreement about in the first place. It is no longer about a point, or anything else important. It is just about being right. In the end, this just drives a wedge between you and your partner.

Which would you rather be: kind or right?

Being the best partner, you can be

If you are not in a relationship, you are probably looking for the perfect partner. Maybe the reason you are not with anyone right now has something to do with not being able to find the perfect person. Perhaps you were with someone, but the reason you are not is that you felt he or she were less than perfect. On the other hand, let us be honest, maybe the other person was just crazy.

If you are in a relationship, you probably have many expectations for your partner. You probably expect them to think as you do, and make the same type of decisions you would make. Chances are you hold it against them when they think otherwise.

We spend a lot of time searching for the perfect partner and then expecting our partner to be perfect. However, how much time do we spend trying to be the perfect partner for our partner? We have all these expectations for the other person, yet we do not hold ourselves up to this as well. Does that not seem like a double standard? I think so.

When something is not going well in you relationship with your partner, try to think of how you can be a better partner. Instead of reacting and thinking “Why cannot they just be like this?” try to think, “What can I do to be a better partner?” None of us are always perfect, but every time we do this, we will be rewarded with the feeling that our relationship is progressing a little more consciously in the directly we want it to.

Not making assumptions or taking things personally

We have a tendency to think that everything is about us. We have this thing called personal importance. The truth is, not everything is about us. Everything anyone else does is really about him or her, and that is including your partner. I know, hard to believe, but true. If we take things personally when our partner acts not so wonderfully, we are likely to feel unloved. We think it is about us, when it is really something they are personally dealing with. That does not mean we do not call them out when they are acting a fool. We just do not make it about us.

It is also important to not make assumptions. How many times have you felt hurt because you thought your partner should have known something? Most of the time when we are upset at our partner - for some reason or another - it is because we assumed that they automatically knew something. We assumed that they knew we did not want to go somewhere with them because we had a headache. They did not know and thought we were upset at them for some reason (they took it personally). Then we become upset at them because we thought they should trust us enough to know that we love them enough to go somewhere with them when we feeling up to it. Then they are upset at us because they think that there’s no reason we should be upset at them, when we are the one that did something wrong in the first place.

See the pointless cycle this creates? All of this confusion can be avoided if we simply do not make assumptions and do not take things personally.

Instead of making assumptions we can ask for what we want. It seems so simple, right? If you do not ask for what you want, how do you expect to get it? It appears that my father was right when he stated, "If you want to know what she knows, just ask her, and then try to figure out what she is really saying!"

We have a tendency to want to be understanding of the other person. We think it will make them feel inadequate if we ask for what we want. We think we will make them feel bad for not meeting our needs, so we stay quiet, hoping that some day soon our partner will develop telepathy and figure things out. That will, of course, never happen!

You should inspire your partner to be a better partner and vice versus, every moment of every day. Being a better partner makes you a better person. It is in interacting with others that we learn more about ourselves.

-30-

Impressions

Rules for First Impressions

There is not a person alive who does not meet others for the first time occasionally. Some of us meet several new persons every day, some may only meet one person a day or even a week.

But meet we will, and when we do that first meeting can bring mixed emotions into play. Some are great at starting conversations with total stranger, while others would rather avoid doing so like the plague. This article is for both. Those that are great at staring conversations may learn to better their approach, and those that are having difficulty will find it is really quite easy once you know a few rules to follow.

I have never met a stranger. No, really, I think of everyone that comes into my proximity as an opportunity to find a conversation that may be enjoyable, or at worse I will learn something new from the experience. I win either way and I try to make enjoyable an educational for the other person as well. No matter which type of the personalities I mentioned in the first paragraph, this will work well for you, as well. If you set your mind to your first meetings with others to be both enjoyable and educational as your baseline, then it becomes quite easy.

This week I attended a conference hosted by Universidad Internacional (UNINTER) The Center for Linguistic & Multicultural Studies and the Government of the State of Morelos. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the Study Abroad and the Interplay of Culture and Tourism in Morelos Mexico.

The conference was attended by officials of the State of Morelos, the City of Cuernavaca, UNINTER and other language schools in Cuernavaca. Guest press were flown in from around the world and included the Guardian Newspaper of UK, the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and local writers as well. Educational guests included universities and colleges from the Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Korea, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

I believe that I spoke with everyone at the conference at one time or another over the two days. And, even though I was surrounded with highly educated individuals, I found myself having to divert many conversations away from the very things that we should not have been talking about.

During the initial morning talk, the subject was steered towards the notion that Mexico was a dangerous place. While this has been reported in the news within the United States and the stories that were printed were picked up the press that in their desire to promote sensationalism in order to sell papers and advertising, it simply is not true. However, safety is a concern when the universities are sending students abroad and for tourists as well. One of the underlying goals was to show our guests how safe Mexico really is.

As the conversation continued about violence and was obviously taking up more time than necessary, I took to the microphone to address the congregation. I explained how I had been traveling and living in Mexico my entire life and had not experienced the dangers that have been reported. Yes, violence exists throughout the world, but one is 4.6 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime in Austin, Texas (a very liberal and laid back community the size of Cuernavaca) than in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

My brief speech led many members of the conference to approach me over the two days in an attempt to discuss the dangers of Mexico and I was able to quickly turn the conversation around and move onto more important issues.

During a 30 minute conversation with Jorge Morales Barud, the Mayor of Cuernavaca and his wife Maria Teresa, the subject of violence again came up and I quickly explained how with a $17-trillion debt, the United States of America was only interested in keeping their citizens from leaving the country and spending their money abroad. And then we moved the conversation over to how Jorge and his wife attended the University of Texas in Austin and still have a home there. We found many more commonalities and mutual friends to discuss that were more important than something neither of us has any control over. And, we set up a meeting in which I would be able to assist the city with tourism efforts.

While, there will be moments during first meetings that the conversation is steered in the wrong direction, the object is go get it back on track as quickly as possible. What should we not discuss?

First, there is a list of things that one should never speak about during a first meeting. Most are obvious, but I can honestly tell you that I have had more people attempt to steer the conversation toward one or more them all too often. Including any of these in a conversation has the potential to offend the other person.

Obviously, being offensive is one of the least conversational skills, since alienating the other person means that they will probably want to avoid speaking with you in the future. During a first meeting you should avoid mentioning the following and I will place them in alphabetical order:

Ex-spouses or friends
Gossip of any kind
Money
Negative statements
Off-color humor
Politics
Religion
Sex

There are exceptions to these. If for instance you were to have the meeting while attending a fundraiser for a politician, it might be safe to assume that both individuals have at least that in common and there might be a mention of the politician interjected into the conversation. It would be best to move on to other subjects as quickly as possible until you get to know the other person better. Or, if you are both attending a financial management seminar there might be the inclination that you have this in common, but it would still be best to avoid discussions of personal or business finances, keeping the conversation limited to the seminar and again moving on as quickly as possible.

These topics give offense for different reasons: in the case of the latter two, it’s a matter of comfort zones. Some people are totally uninhibited when it comes to talking about sex, while others need to know the person they are talking to quite well, and still others feel totally uncomfortable discussing the topic at all. The reasons for these preferences are unimportant — they have to be respected, and the surest way of doing so is not to raise the subject at all until you know that you are not going to tread on anyone’s toes. You do that by getting to know them, of course.

Jokes about sex and bodily functions fall into the same category, with the added aspect that senses of humor differ, and it may simply be that your conversation partner finds no humor in the subject matter, rather than being actually offended by it. If that is the case though, they will simply mentally label you as a person trying hard to be amusing and failing, which, again, is not an impression you want to leave. The conversation tip here is to simply steer clear, unless you know your audience shares a similar taste in jokes.

Politics and religion, on the other hand, do not offend because of taste or comfort considerations.  They cause discord for the reason that people tend to identify their beliefs with their identity, whether those beliefs are religious or political. The beliefs we adopt align us to a tribe. When our beliefs come under attack, in our heads, so does the tribe we belong to, and, by extension, our very identity. So we go on the counter-offensive, defending what we believe even when it is illogical to do so, and finding reasons why the person we are talking to is wrong. And, put simplistically, our response to such attacks is to either back away and become very quiet, or to go on the offensive and defend the tribe we belong to. The result then, of course, is an argument. In extreme circumstances, the result is a fight. The result is rarely what might be termed a pleasant conversation.

There are only two safe ways to introduce religion and politics into a conversation, and they are 1) discussing political or religious belief systems that neither you nor your conversation partner ascribe to or 2) discussing political or religious belief systems that both of you agree on. That way, in theory at least, no one will take anything personally, and the conversation will have a smooth outcome. But that cannot be guaranteed.

To sum up, as a general rule, these four areas should only be explored with people you know well, and who you know will not be offended. If you’re still working on your conversation skills and techniques, just steer clear of them.

Loneliness

The Difference Between Being Alone and Lonely

Having someone wonder where you are when you
don't come home at night is a very old human need."

- Margaret Mead

Most of us are filled with a sense of wonderment as to what new opportunities the future holds for us. Of course, it is and will be what we want it to be. I am hoping and working for changes in my life. The one thing that I am hoping for is someone to share my life. Do not get me wrong, I am perfectly happy to live alone and I am not lonely (there is a difference), but there is that never ending need for someone, that special someone to share one's life with. Let me explain...

Have you ever been lonely? Every person at one point in his or her life felt lonely. Loneliness is simply a part of the human condition. However, know this - there is a big difference between being alone and being lonely.

On Being Alone

As I have grown old, I often consider the fact that I am alone in my life. It is not my own choosing. There are those, I suppose that would disagree with me. So many people have entered my life over the years, only to try to change me from who I am, to what they wanted me to be.

I have always been a bit of a rebel - doing things my own way. I do not like being part of an organization, or going along with the status quo or being led. I have enjoyed being able to think for myself and come to what I thought were intelligent decisions about the things that affect me personally. However, I have been a failure in finding someone long-term to wonder where I am, when I do not come home at night.

From my rooftop terrace, I can see the city and beyond. If it were not for the palm trees blocking the view to the rear, I could see the mid-13th century Teopanzolco Pyramid, built by the Tlahuica people, just a block behind my home. Or the snow-capped top of Popocatepetl Volcano, (El Popo as those who live here refer to it) which inspired Malcolm Lowry to write "Under The Volcano" in 1947, which is still considered one of the top five greatest novels of the twentieth century, and has never gone out of print. However, to the front of my home, I can see the city sprawled out before me with the mountains in the distance.

I enjoy sitting on the rooftop terrace and watching the people walking by on the sidewalk below, returning from the tortilleria with fresh tortillas for the evening meal, or a couple walking hand-in-hand on their way to the movies or other evening entertainment. Some drive down the street in their cars, going much too fast for the neighborhood where one is more likely to find a sleeping dog in the street than a tope (speed bump).

At night, I watch the twinkling lights throughout the city. There are lights in the homes where people are enjoying the company of family and friends. There are people sharing a meal, watching television or listening to music. The parents reading to their children or teaching them lessons about life. Others who are not home, are perhaps in the many nightclubs, as I can hear the music and can attest that karaoke is alive and well in the neighborhood.

Yes, I enjoy sitting on the rooftop watching the world below, and as long as there is movement, I do not feel alone. I have never enjoyed having someone demand that I go to bed when they do or at least make me feel guilty for leaving the light on or producing the clatter of the keyboard as I type the words that float from my mind. I like having a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich when I want one, without having someone point out to me that it would be much wiser to have an apple or yogurt instead. I enjoy writing without interruption, or spending an afternoon at the easel painting. I like watching my own version of life unfold before me, rather than a manufactured version intended to force us into a state of lemmings that meet the social criteria of the masses.

You see being alone is not something I crave as some crave alcohol. I rather enjoy being alone and I understand that the feeling is not shared by the masses that are bewildered by that statement. In fact, many of my visitors and even my housekeeper wonder about my being alone. They are continually asking about my mental health and how I can stand being alone. The fact is that I have become quite good at being alone. There is after all a since of power and peace in being alone. I have more time to be productive, especially when I am on a roll with a new idea and want to spend the entire night writing and drinking cup after cup of coffee to move my brain to an ever increasing level of thought.

And, when I want, just past the garden, with it's bougainvilleas and Birds of Paradise, there is a gate that I can walk though at anytime and mix with a great variety of the most interesting people. As there is a need, at times, to enjoy a walk around the town square Zocolo with it's throngs of locals and tourists enjoying the sunshine, songs, children with balloons and a snack from one of the many street vendors selling everything from corn on the cob (sprinkled with chili powder if one desires) to snow cones.

Most people never understand the bliss of being alone, because most believe that eventually you are supposed to stop being by yourself and find someone to be with instead. They incessantly attempt to help me find the perfect mate, but in fact, they are just wanting me to be like them, as it is much easier to invite me to their homes for a dinner or cocktails if I were a couple.

There is the thought, prevalent in society that men who are alone have a problem or a multitude of problems. They are felt to be regretfully inadequate or oversexed and asexual, which someone recently mentioned, stringing all three words together as if it would be possible. Maybe it is possible - I am no expert on any of them.

Women who live alone are often pitied through their seeming vulnerability or sadness or with such a multitude of inadequacies that no man in his right mind would date them, let alone move in with them. Most people think of being alone as sad and that no one in their right mind would enjoy. No, they want to believe that everyone else in the world would want to be just like them, what ever that means.

As for me, I like being alone most of the time. It is something that I choose. However, let me make it clear that even though I like being alone, it is what I choose to do. This is not to say that I am not lonely, because being alone and lonely are not the same thing. And no - one does not lead to the other.

On Being Lonely

While being alone is a choice, loneliness is a human emotion. Being lonely is often more about a feeling of emptiness, a sense of boredom, social alienation and perhaps even apathy. It can also be a part of the natural process of grief as the result of a separation in space or time, and as well, it could be brought on by the death of another.

Loneliness is complex and unique to each individual dependent upon their needs. Moreover, as I choose to be alone, my needs vary, perhaps greatly from another who has chosen to live with another only to have had that individual die. For this person, loneliness can set in, causing a great amount of depression and health consequences. I have been there, as well, many times - but loneliness can either be a fleeting pain or if one chooses a chronic illness.

For those who crave another person in their life, who need human contact, loneliness can create an empty feeling and the person will feel alone even when in the midst of a great number of others. Because you see, loneliness is not necessarily being alone, but having the perception of being isolated. Those with low self-esteem are most likely to have the biggest set of problems with loneliness. My friends, who do not have someone in their life that they can rely on, often express a feeling of isolation from the rest of the world and are saddened by it.

Those who follow my column may know that I have always been a spiritual person. I have studied most of the world's religions and found only spiritualism to my liking. While Christianity views a state of emptiness as a negative and undesirable condition, to a Spiritualist, emptiness is an achieved state of mind - a form of meditation. Emptiness is accepted as a transitory state as a means of liberating oneself for personal growth.

During my productive times - when I am writing for hours on end - I never feel empty or lonely, as it is greatly suppressed by my joy for writing. The same is true when I am painting. I will spend hours in front of the canvas, as it is very much like writing - applying bits of color, blending and shaping the paint or words - until they make sense. During these times, I live in a virtual vacuum where there is no loneliness or emptiness. Both are a joyful experience for me.

Those who choose to live a vague life of nothingness, without an obsession of creativity or another, often suffer from loneliness and find themselves addicted to other attributes, such as fatty foods, illicit substances, poorly contrived relationships, ill-gotten financial gains, and the hoarding of material things. However, understand that these are choices that are made. Perhaps poor choices, but choices nonetheless.

If only the world would understand the consequences of behavior, there would be no addiction. It is far better to live a fulfilled life of one's own creativity than one of isolation, emptiness, pain, fear and a disembodiment from society. And thus I write, paint, think, invent, design, and keep my mind active on creation - not to ward off loneliness or reduce the negative health consequences associated with this state of mind, but rather because I enjoy these things.

I have my confidants - those that I feel close. They are people that I can rely on to help ward off any loneliness that might creep in. I can walk just a half block from my front gate and spend an enjoyable afternoon speaking with a friend and confidant that owns a small tienda there. He was a policeman who was forced into early retirement due to being shot in the line of duty.

We have many things in common; he has children who are the same age as mine, he lives alone as I do, he does not drink, and he has a profound enjoyment for attaining knowledge. Yesterday, on my way to buy bread, I passed by his tienda and noticed that he was reading a newspaper that was browned from obvious age and indeed, on closer inspection; I noted the date of the paper was 1956. I asked him if he had found anything interesting and his reply was, "On every page there is knowledge, if one only searches intently!"

I have my Tuesday Night Boy's Night Out (BNO) Group that I sometimes attend. It is currently a group of perhaps 30 English-speaking expatriates living in Cuernavaca. They are comprised of a great number of nationalities, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds. I know that once a week, if I choose, I can always find a great conversation within the group. No subject is off limits as we enjoy a dinner and drinks at Armando’s' Restaurante, which is owned by a transplanted Canadian. We speak of many things including; race, religion, politics and sex (or the lack of sex as most of the individuals in the group are advancing in age).

My best friend is Enrique Fuentes, a college professor, who while a few years younger than I can hold his own on just about any discussion that I throw out. We have enjoyed many an afternoon at my home or his (along with his beautiful and gracious wife and daughter that I think of an extended family) discussing history, biology, health, global economy (or the lack of), world politics, our children, and a myriad number of other interesting subjects. I know that I can rely on Enrique as a confidant at any time for any reason. It is a wonderful feeling to have someone in your life that will care about you as an individual.

However, of course, all that is not to say that I do not wish that I had someone in my life to share my joy. That someone who would wonder where I was if I did not come home at night - someone who can help me as I change my life and not just my relationship status. I am not willing to settle for a relationship. I have been in love, many times, and never really found that perfect relationship. The perfect relationship seems to escape those who are happy to fall in love, instead of loving themselves primarily.

I do not need someone in my life to increase my social status with those who would invite me to their parties because I fit into their cookie-cutter lifestyle of man and woman paired together. No, I am searching for another who can accept me for who and what I am and be comfortable with that.  That strong someone who makes me feel good about who I am and understanding that I do not need molding any more than they do. Someone who accepts me for the way in which I do look and what I can do for them.

Someone who always tells the truth, uses kind words, keeps their promises, giggles and laughs, stays happy and is positive, accepts love as much as they give, is grateful, understanding that forgiveness is unnecessary, gives thanks to life, is willing to try new things, says please and thank you, and most of all smiles constantly.

Is that person out there? I certainly hope so! If it is meant to be, then it will happen and I can live out the remainder of my life with what my friend, Jim Bearden calls, Happily Ever Afters!

Marriage

Marriage is Not an Empty Box

 

A friend posted a meme on Facebook the other day that I find to be a bit strange in many ways. It was called the Marriage Box, originally written by J. Allan Petersen. It read...

Most people get married believing a myth--that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, sexual fulfillment, intimacy, friendship. The truth is that marriage, at the start, is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage; love is in people, and people put it into marriage. There is no romance in marriage; people have to infuse it into their marriages. A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising--keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.

Petersen seems to want to follow along with the current declining society in his determination to redefine marriage. Marriage is already far too complicated to redefine in a Facebook meme. As a society, we have already done far too much damage to marriage. Even the legal structure in many countries allows for no-fault divorce, which has destroyed the future of joining together in a union from which we take an oath to never allow ourselves to withdraw from.

Marriage is not a box. It is the process by which two people who love each other and feel romantic about one another, make their relationship public, make it right in the eyes of their God, in a bond that putatively lasts until death separates them. Over the course of time that the relationship exists, a lot occurs. People change in myriad ways, their personality changes, they age, the body changes, and the hair turns grey. And of course the romantic love between them changes, sometime growing and becoming more intense or in today's culture increasingly ending in divorce. No marriage should start with an empty box, which is certainly not a foundation that will hold the marriage together.

You should never start a marriage with an empty box. To do so would of course be a loveless relationship and no one in their right mind would consider marriage with the proper ingredients; Trust, Intimacy, Passion and Commitment.

Of course, trust is a product of intimacy, which is a closeness, connectedness and a bonding between two people. Passion, in the context of marriage, is the deep and encompassing feeling that we have about another person. It is an intense emotion that signifies a compelling enthusiasm or desire for another person. Commitment involves the ability of both individuals to pursue the relationship no matter the physical beauty, economic status, or health of the other person. Unless trust, intimacy, passion and commitment exists in both individuals a marriage would be nonsensical. You cannot put them into a marriage latter, because without these you have no foundation.

There should be love in a marriage. You don't put it in after the honeymoon! There should be romance in a marriage and you shouldn't expect to infuse it later. Without love and romance in a marriage it will prove to be a very rocky road that few will survived.

Together a couple should enter into a marriage, creating a relational bond, moving forward with the miracle of a new life. It requires possession of the traits necessary to fulfill that miracle. Along with a high degree of intensity, with strong impulses toward a successful union, bound together, in spite of the deep, permanent, and often disturbing emotional differences between one another. That is what makes a marriage work.

To have a good marriage you will also need to have the potential for continuous growth, which requires skills, a caring nature, the need for reciprocity, to be giving, and choose to put forth the effort to make the marriage strong, healthy and satisfying for both individuals. The most vital marriages include:

  • Knowing that a good marriage requires flexibility and effort to keep it alive.
  • The ability to be giving, meeting the emotional needs of each other without keeping score.
  • Being open-minded, accepting of the others rights to their beliefs.
  • The sharing of thoughts about a great variety of subjects.
  • A strong sense of commitment to make the marriage work, despite differences.
  • Being sensitive to each other, recognizing their needs, respecting them, being considerate at all times.
  • A positive outlook on life, never allowing negativity to come into the marriage.
  • Valuing the independence of one another to form their own opinions, make their own decisions and pursue their own goals.
  • The need for a vigorous sexual drive, which is profoundly important in marriage.
  • Never taking thing for granted, but expressing appreciation for one another and be generous with praise.
  • The faith that together they can overcome any crises by working together.
  • A willingness to grow, change and work hard on the marriage.

The truth is that marriage, at the start, is never an empty box, but should be quite full of everything that is necessary to maintain the union. You don't get there by starting with an empty box and then attempting to fill it with all that you need. You will need more than an empty box to hold all the things that will make a marriage (or any relationship) strong, healthy, satisfying and enduring. And, you cannot simply assure that the box stays full. If all of the ingredients of such a marriage were to be put into a box it would truly be overflowing and continuously spill out into your life, overwhelming you with all you need and more. Don't cheat yourself by jumping into a relationship with an empty box!

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Reality

Worldly Lenses

One of the master skills for individual success in life, is understanding how the mind of other people works – why people say what they do. It’s all about the lenses they use, to view the world around them. We each see the world through a unique set of lenses - our eyes. Our lenses are created from our lifetime of experiences. That experience is created from what we know and how we feel about what we know. So, when we examine others, it’s important to consider the lenses through which that person sees the world around them. Read more

Prophecies

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Even if the past may have been disappointing, your future might be better than you could ever imagine.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a statement that alters actions and therefore comes true. For example, a person stating “I can't have a decent relationship,” might alter his actions so that such a prediction is fulfilled by his actions. This may be an unconscious gesture. A person who might espouse a self-fulfilling prophecy in a positive way “I’m going to to have a great relationship,” might act in ways that will actually make this prediction true.

One such person is "Beth", who has been married four times, none of which worked out well for her. She admits to feeling like a failure herself because of the failures of her marriages. Beth also has self-esteem issues where she finds herself saying, "I don't deserve to have a decent relationship."

Beth has trouble accepting responsibility for her failure, holding onto the false belief that the external forces of others create the general thoughts, feelings, impulses and behavior that she acts upon. She often falsely believes that others in her life are having affairs, with no proof to back up her claim, and the mere mention by a person whom she is in a relationship with about her male friends causes her to believe that she is being accused of infidelity. She holds onto the false belief that insignificant remarks, events, or objects in one's environment have personal meaning or significance.

Beth's past relationships have resulted in broken hearts, ruined marriages, and damaged families. However, Beth continues to seek a relationship with someone, as she has no desire to live alone. Obviously, Beth is continuing to set herself up for failure.

Beth readily admits that she has issues, the biggest of which is jealously, but also including other important issues, such as, a fear of opening up to others, suspicions about the commitment of another, the need to deceive, all out of a fear of rejection. And, of course these actions, once realized by a partner will certainly lead to a failure in the relationship.

What Beth suffers from is little more than a behavioral confirmation effect, which is also referred to as "self-fulfilling prophecy" or the Pygmalion Effect. This occurs because she is allowing her behavior, influenced by expectations, to cause those expectations to be fulfilled. Put another way, Beth falsely believes that her relationships will fail and her fears of failure actually cause the relationship to fail. Her own negative prophecy, held together by her own delusional and strongly held beliefs, will in most instances, influence others so that their reactions ultimately fulfills the prophecy.

Example of Prophecies

There is nothing new in Beth's story. Individuals have experienced similar prophecies since ancient times. There are many stories in ancient Greece and India that tell of how a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.

The best known example from Greek legend is that of Oedipus. Warned that his child would one day kill him, Laius abandoned his newborn son Oedipus to die, but Oedipus was found and raised by others, and thus in ignorance of his true origins. When he grew up, Oedipus was warned that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Believing his foster parents were his real parents, he left his home and traveled to Greece, eventually reaching the city where his biological parents lived. There, he got into a fight with a stranger, his real father, killed him and married his widow, Oedipus's real mother.

In ancient India, self-fulfilling prophecies appear in classical Sanskrit literature. In the story of Krishna in the Indian epic Mahabharata, the ruler of the Mathura kingdom, Kamsa, afraid of a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of a male son that would be born to his sister, the princess Devaki and her husband Vasudeva. Kamsa had her cast into prison where he planned to kill any children she would bear. Devaki bore eight male children during her years of incarceration, six of whom were killed. The seventh son, Balarama, was transferred to the womb of Rohini, Vasudeva's first wife who bore the child in secret. The eighth son, Krishna, was smuggled out of the prison by Vasudeva to be raised by his foster parents Yashoda and Nanda in the village of Gokula. Years later, the ruler Kamsa learned about the child's escape and kept sending various demons to put an end to him. The demons were defeated at the hands of Krishna and his brother Balarama. Krishna as a young man returned to Mathura to overthrow his uncle, and Kamsa was eventually killed by his nephew Krishna. It was due to Kamsa's attempts to prevent the prophecy that led to it coming true, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

As recent as the turn of the last century, sociologists suggested the "Attraction Factor", created by a focus on positive or negative thoughts, could bring about positive or negative results.According to the Attraction Factor the beliefs in mind affect someone's intentions which makes the expected result happen. There have been many cases where positive or negative attitudes produced corresponding results (principally the placebo and nocebo effects), in which individuals who were given a placebo showed signs of improvement due to their own pronounced focus on the positive. Yes, the mind is an extremely powerful tool.

Explaining Prophecies

While, the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy has been around for centuries the term was coined by Robert K. Merton, who formalized its structures an consequence in his book, Social Theory and Social Structure, first published in 1949, but revised in 1957 and 1968. The book has been translated into 20 languages and is one of the most frequently cited texts in social sciences. In 1998 the International Sociological Association listed this work as the third most important sociological book of the 20th century.

Explaining the causes of self-fulfilling prophecies is challenging, but several theories have been developed by psychiatrists. One is the genetic or biological theory, which states that those with close relatives that suffer from self-fulfilling prophecies are at an increased risk of the trait. Another theory is related to poor cognitive processing (thinking), which states that problems often arise in people that hold onto a distorted manner of explaining life to themselves. A third theory is called motivated of defensive method, in which some are predisposed to suffer when coping with life and attempting to handle self-esteem becomes challenging. In this instance, the person views others as the cause of their personal difficulties in order to preserve their own positive self-view.

Self Fulfilling Prophecies
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The problem of self-fulfilling prophecies is that they can be construed as a vicious circle as seen in the Self Fulfilling Prophecy illustration above.

  • Our beliefs about us influence our actions toward others.
  • Our actions toward others impact others beliefs about us.
  • What others believe about us cause others actions toward us.
  • Others actions towards us reinforce our beliefs about us.

And, on it goes in a perpetual state, until a change is made. Obviously, we will have little control over what others believe about us or the actions that they take until they see the change in us. However, it only requires that we alter our believes about ourselves and our actions toward others to create a huge difference in what others believe and the actions they take toward us.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it is already true. Our expectation that we will see a particular outcome changes our behavior, which shapes the way others see us. In turn, others provide the feedback we’ve set ourselves up to get, which serves to reinforce the original belief.

As an example, Beth wants someone that will trust her implicitly and she wants to trust others, but that has not always been the case in her past. She worries that the other person in her life is not being totally honest with her. Trust is a product of intimacy, a closeness, connectedness and a bonding between two people. The intimacy between two people grows first by spending time with another person. Then it grows deeper when the two people find that they can trust each other and begin sharing every aspect of their lives. Trust is the very foundation of intimacy.

In Beth's case, it is her own ability to open up with others that causes her problem of trust. By creating a change in her own believes that she is always honest and can be trusted it will influence her actions toward others. Once she believes that she is an honest person, she will be able to treat others with trust. That in turn will impact how others think of her, causing them to treat Beth with trust, which only serves to reinforce the change she made. It is basically the old "carrot on a stick" as their will be in most cases positive reinforcement of the changes she made.

This may be slow in coming if the other person has the same tendencies as Beth has, but the cycle has to be broken by someone in order to have the relationship move forward. Once the other person finds the change pleasing Beth's actions will be mirrored to the other person, who will see that they too much create their own changes. Thus the cycle is broken and broken and the relationship has a chance of success.

What are some ways you see self-fulfilling prophecies operating in your life? Where are they holding you back?

Using Self-Fulfilling Prophecies to Your Advantage

While, a proper solution to any problem is difficult to define in individual circumstances, there are ways in which the process of finding a solution can begin. One such method is The Inquiry Wheel, which I use in my consulting practice. We begin with a question and work to resolve an answer in a defined manner.

Inquiry Wheel
Click to Enlarge

Observation - In order to solve any problem, you first have to accept that there is a problem and accept responsibility for solving the problem.

Define Problem - What is the problem specifically? Write it down and expound greatly upon on it. The better you define the problem in depth be more chance for success.

Form Question -  What is known about the problem? What do you need to know?

Investigate Known - What is known and what do you need to know? What are you feelings and how are they likely to change during the process?

Articulate Expectation - What are your expectations of a proper solution?

Study - What kinds of resources are there that might help? Where do you find them? Is the information valid?

Interpret Results - After taking action, what results were seen?

Reflect on Findings - Think about what you have learned and how it might be used to find solutions for other problems.

Communicate Findings - Social interaction gives positive feedback for positive solutions. It also helps to tell others what you are working on or how you solved a problem. Once you have committed your attempts or success to others you will be better able to continue moving forward in your quest.

Observation - Yes, we are back to observation, but this time our actions are altered. We must keep a constant watch over our change to be sure that we do not falter.

I wish you the success that you are working toward. I know it is hard work, but it will pay off in the end.

 

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Think

Learn to Think – Think to Learn

Many would say that I was blessed at birth, not with a silver spoon in my mouth but a microphone. You know the guy, the one that a microphone is handed and he just won't give it back as he rambles on and on with lots of ah... and uh... interspersed with bad jokes. I was that guy once upon a time. Read more

Love

Open Letter to a Friend

 

Bill Hood
Cuernavaca, Mexico
April 26, 2014

Dear Friend:

I received your email this morning. You wrote to tell me that you were in love, and of course, that is wonderful news. You asked me to help you understand what you are feeling and if you should pursue the love that you have found. Of course, while you know better than anyone what you feeling, allow me to give you my point of view.

You say that you have found love, yet you have trouble accurately describing what love means to you. Of course, there are many kinds of love and it would be difficult to expound on the many different types of love, but to give you a few to consider…

Like - Intimacy Alone

Infatuation - Passion Alone

Empty Love - Commitment Alone

Romantic Love - Intimacy and Passion

Fatuous Love - Passion and Commitment

Companionate Love - Intimacy and Commitment

Consummate Love - Intimacy, Passion and Commitment

Intimacy

There is intimate love, and by intimate, I am not strictly speaking of intimacy in the all too common expression of intimacy in a sexual nature. We can be intimate with a friend, such as what you and I have between us, sharing a deep feeling of intimacy in sharing our thoughts. Intimacy can leads to attachment, to the point that you do not want to be separated from the person that you have become intimate. It creates closeness, connectedness and a bonding between two people. The intimacy between two people grows first by spending time with another person. Then it grows deeper when the two people find that they can trust each other and begin sharing every aspect of their lives. Trust is the very foundation of intimacy.

One cannot love without a feeling of intimacy between the two people. It is key to every relationship. Far too often individuals will skip this step and become immersed in a relationship that will eventually fall apart. In many of today's societies people jump into relationships all too easily only to break their heart when they find that the person they thought they were in love with is dishonest in some way. It is impossible to have intimacy between two people if there is distrust and suspicion.

Since intimacy takes patience to develop, many are not prepared for such task. It is work. It implies spending a lot of time together, requiring both talking and disclosure between the two. Often one will be more open than the other and may create a feeling of suspicion by the more open of the two, while in truth the other person may only be shy. If a person has been hurt in previous relationships, then they will have great difficulty finding closeness due to previously existing walls of distrust. The tendency will be to project past hurts on the present relationship.

Given time, energy, and an open mind, intimacy can be developed, but it will take work. Be prepared to give the other person time to come around and catch up with your level of intimacy if you really care for them.

Passion

Becoming passionate can include includes either physical or sexual attraction. It is quite possible to be passionate about another person without being intimate. Every person has felt passionate about a screen idol, an athlete, an entertainer or other high profile person. Being passionate about another does not mean that you are in love with the person, only that you feel passion. We often use the word love when we are only passionate about another, but we should not become confused to mean that we would actually commit ourselves to that person that we may not even know in a personal manner.

When we feel passionate about a person that we have actually met and spent time with the attraction can often become overwhelming. This is especially true when both individuals possess the same passionate feelings toward one another. As pheromones rise, the electricity and chemistry between two individuals can often outweigh common sense and they can impulsively take their relationship to a higher level, without regard to the need for the trust of intimacy.

Without the trust that intimacy provides, one partner can begin to obsess about their personal needs and require that their feelings be reciprocated. Of course, it the other person does not have the feeling of trust, the relationship will begin to disintegrate. It would be wise to build on intimacy before pursuing a physical relationship with another person.

Commitment

Commitment implies the ability of two individuals to remain connected no matter what. The test comes from considering if both individuals remain committed if the other gains weight, lose their hair, become ill with a chronic disease, become disabled, or their economic status changes. Far too many find the loss of another a deal breaker. We rush into a relationship with another based on physical beauty, status, economic reasons, or perhaps only to avoid the feeling of loneliness. In addition, when one or more of the traits that we enjoyed are removed from the relationship, our feelings change. This, of course, is self-serving and belies the commitment that is necessary to sustain a proper relationship.

Life has a way of throwing obstacles in our path. We should understand that two individuals would not always agree on every detail. And, yes, sometimes words will be spoken that will hurt another person. Working through misunderstandings and hurts a level of maturity for both individuals. The key to keeping the relationship going is to always believe the best of the other person, and not judge them with your own, and perhaps misguided motives. Both must work in a positive manner at all times to resolve issues. If one or the other possess negative thoughts, this will prove difficult. For a couple to stay together they must consistently break through the barriers of being hurt while if the other person wants to resolve the issue also.

Commitment involves the ability to pacify and pursue the relationship no matter how you feel. That is why we have social contracts such as engagement and marriage. Sure, these can be broken, but it will make you think twice before breaking them, especially when you have a lot of “equity” invested into the relationship. Commitment is not for the lighthearted. Commitment does not mean you have to agree with everything, just that you can respect the others differences.

Consummate Love

True love is consummate love and has all three of these components. I hope that you have found the kind that possesses all three; intimacy, passion and commitment. That you have only good meanings in your heart, full of kindness, consideration and respect, not only for what you desire most in life, but also the respect for another in knowing that they are unique and valuable to you.

True love can help you find strength that you never knew you had courage to move forward, goodness in all that you experience, and become enlightened beyond belief. The object of love is the greatest feeling one can have and if what you are feeling is there for all the right reasons for both parties involved, then be grateful that you have found what escapes most.

Know that most times, what you are feeling may not be returned in exactly the same manner, for one reason or another, as we are all unique in our thinking that is derived from our past experiences that cannot be easily changed. That does not make what you are feeling any less valuable or good. Understand that the feeling of love is not stagnant. It is in constant movement reaching extremely high points one moment and crashing down the next. Have no fear of true love, as it has the ability to get up, brush off the dust and reach the heights again quite quickly.

Moreover, do not worry about failing. If the love that you feel is truly right for you, it will persevere. The only way true love can die is to push it away. If you really want anything in life, such as this love you have found, you must embrace it and hold it close.

Having only two of these traits or only a percentage of each will show that the relationship needs work before it can work well. The famous wise king Solomon once said, that “many waters cannot quench love” True love is like a flame, that the heaviest rains, hurricanes, and floods cannot extinguish. What is your love made of?

With Much Love,

Bill

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Incompetence

Incompetence

Do you know why your job sucks? Do you know why millions of people work for minimum wage? Why people don’t have proper health care? Why far too often you feel that life itself sucks almost daily?

Because incompetence has become a cancer in our society. Competency is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. Incompetency has infected our society to the point that laws have been created to maintain incompetence, hence the minimum wage. If people were to become competent leaders of government, or of firms that hire workers, there would be no need for a minimum wage. Wages would be based on competency - not on a minimum wage. If competency existed in hospitals, with doctors and scientists we would have low-cost cures for diseases. If everyone possessed the ability to become efficiently successful and being successful were suddenly made easier, then most crime would disappear because crime would be more difficult than becoming successful at a more worthwhile venture.

If I see nothing else in my lifetime, I would want to see incompetence disappear from the face of the earth.

Incompetence forces you to self-center yourself. That's right, concerned solely with your own desires, needs, or interests.

It also forces you to believe in something you don’t believe in, the destruction of society. Yes, the cancer that is incompetence is destroying society a little bit at a time and soon there will not be any such thing as competence.

It’s time for people to stand up for competence, not what they believe in, but the correct thing. There are two kinds of standing up for what you believe in. either it is the truth or it is not. It should come as no surprise that the majority of people are simply standing up for what they believe in - not what in inherently the truth.

Every day, where ever you go you are surrounded by so much incompetence that it has become second nature and you take one of three courses:

1. You simply ignore the incompetence and hope that it will go away. Newsflash - it is not going away!

2. You accept incompetence into your life and become just another lemming in the race to the bottom.

3. You fight against incompetence and become the solution instead of remaining a part of the problem.

That’s also know as: Give up, give in or give it all you got!

Yes, we are supposed to be a great society or at least a democracy where everyone has a right to their own beliefs. But you know what? That may be our biggest problem - the right to be incompetent.

We are not suppose to offend others. We don’t want to hurt others and make them look stupid because they believe in the wrong things or in the wrong way.

However, there is a great division between maliciously offending others and telling them the truth.

Of course, it is wrong to maliciously hurt others. That’s nothing more than using strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. and bullying someone will never get them to becoming competent. It pulls them down and destroys their self-esteem - the very thing that they needed to become competent in the first place.

No, incompetence is created by a lack of the truth and often this is beyond your ability to intercede with help on your own. Because those that are offended by the truth have such a severe problem that they are in need of professional help and nothing you as a layman can do will ever bring them back from their delusional state of mind. You have no obligation to defend those who do not believe in the truth. All known things are either the truth or just an opinion and any sane person knows whether what they are speaking or thinking has been proven or is simply a product of their own over-imaginative mind. To those people the truth will always be offensive because it shows them implicitly that they are wrong in their thinking and they will be offended by the truth.

We have a problem in society today that far too many people become offended at the truth. Because we have lost the meaning of what truth is. Anyone - with a great speech writer who can twist the meaning of words around - can get elected to the highest post they wish. Anyone with a great lawyer - who can put a shadow of doubt in the minds of a jury - can get away with almost any crime. Hospitals and doctors have become nothing more than large corporations responsible not so much for your health but to the building of wealth for themselves and their shareholders.

Yes, truth has become arbitrary in the minds of far too many. We don’t expect that others, even elected officials or the doctor who is responsible for saving your life (or not) will speak the truth any longer. People can just make things up for your own. They don’t have to be right or have a better point of view.

Those with the power of words - learned from repetition over a lifetime of being wrong - will become offended by those who disagree with them and begin attacking the truth. They know the game and know that they will win. Because those that know that they are right will either give up, give in or give it all they’ve got! They automatically lose on the first two, and will lose on point three if they cannot hold out long enough, because the more intelligent person will get tired of the game and dealing with incompetence and go home.

In order to be competent, you must possess the truth - knowledge of a thing. If you cannot not speak the truth, you have nothing of value to add to society, or to a conversation. Because if you only have your opinion, that is only based on what you believe to be the truth, then opening your mouth to speak or making a comment on a social media site will only further promote your inability to speak coherently and everyone will then know that you are incompetent.

Of course, you can cease hanging out with your competent friends or posting on ideas that you have no knowledge of, but that would prove to be a lonely existence indeed. And most would find it quite difficult to live in such as vacuum.

We should not allow incompetence to continue to destroy our work, our wages, our health, or our very life. And, you my friend can do something about it. You can help wipe out incompetence. All you have to do is educate yourself with the truth and give it all you’ve got to assure that everything you think, say or do is the truth.

Cease to give an opinion that you only “believe” is truthful. Cease to forward those emails that you only “believe” are the truth. Cease to re-post all those cliché memes on social media that you only “believe” are truthful.

Because believing that something is truthful does not make it the truth or the right thing to do.

Educate yourself! Yes, educate yourself. But not just reading the opinions or beliefs of others. Instead learn to think for yourself, then go about attempting to "prove" what you believe to be the truth before you open your mouth and assure everyone that you are only the problem and not the solution.

Think to Learn - Learn to Think!

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Compatibility

The Fallacy of Compatibility

Yesterday, a friend re-posted an article about "The Ideal Partner," which attempted to point out what aspects should be present in a relationship before you take the big leap. The article was simply another example of Internet Myth. The article did not have a byline for the author, nor any references to factual studies or research. As with many writings it was simply one persons thoughts, and in this case it seemed not to be well thought out. The article espoused the popular misconception that two people are not compatible unless they have the same tastes, interests, values and common goals. And, while this is often heard, it is far from the truth.

The problem with espousing these common misconceptions is that people often actually believe what they read or hear and accept it as truth. In doing so, their conceptions are clouded and they are unable to make the correct decisions about some of the most important events in their lives. They grow anxious, and become stressed out over the smallest things in life, as they are torn between what they feel and what they have heard and came to accept as truthful. Yes, these misconceptions can actually make us unhappy.

I will not post the article in question as I do not have the right to, but more importantly, it is not factual and will only end up hurting others that might believe that the content makes sense on some level. However, I will discuss the factual science and research that has been done to discount pretty much everything that is in the article and present a better way of dealing with finding the "The Ideal Partner!"

For instance, to address the compatibility issue. The article suggested that to consider a partner who is an opposite is "pretty risky," because while someone may be attracted to another that is different will prove to impose difficulties in the relationship over time.

The start of a new relationship is nearly always one of the most exciting times, as two people explore their hopes, dreams and bodies. Each hopes to turn that short-term fling into a longer-term relationship. Keeping those characteristics you found exciting and different in a romantic partner requires thought, dedication and yes - effort.

It is no secret that opposites attract and much has been written about being compatible. However, the relationship is controlled by the brain and not all in-love brains look alike. Years ago, Xiaomeng Xu, a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University School of Medicine and her colleagues performed MRI scans on men and women who reported being in the early stages of love. Though all the study participants showed clear signs of being in love - looking at the face of their beloved triggered a flurry of brain activity in the areas of their brains involved in reward and motivation. The researchers discovered that were differences between the individual brain scans. When the researchers followed up with the study participants years later they found a surprising strong correlation between certain characteristics in the original brain scans and the participants’ current relationship status.

As it turns out, the longevity of a relationship has little to do with whether two people have the same tastes, interests, values and common goals. Or, for that matter, their cultures, religions, life priorities, or even intimacies. Yes, these are important, but as it turns out they have little to do with the longevity of a relationship. The truth is that it is almost impossible to find another person who is not different in some way, and finding that one person who is exactly like you in every way is certainly impossible. There would be no relationships between two people if the everyone waited to find that perfect match in every way.

The two key aspects of longevity turned out to a decrease in activity in regions of the brain in which we associate with making judgements, and also a decrease in activity in systems associated with a person’s sense of self or a person’s awareness of one’s own existence, interests and desires.

The researchers wrote that the most promising relationship is one in which people refrain from judging their partners, and instead, tend to overrate them, finding the positive aspect of a patently negative trait. The long-term relationship is also based on giving great importance to the loved one’s interests and desires, even to the subjugation of their own. The conclusion was that these two traits; not judging and finding positivity in place of negativity are the greatest signs of a healthy relationship.

Take a look at your own parents, whom you know quite well. Ask them what differences there were in the beginning of their relationship, and you will get a long list from both. Are they closer in their thinking today? Of course, they are! Because any two people who spend a lot of time with one another grow to conform the relationship through a series of giving and taking to meet in the middle.

The only thing the article got right was in the last paragraph is that a relationship should be about the opportunity of making another person happy.

008 Virtues

Making Decisions on Core Virtues

Meaning, and ‘meaningful’, are very subjective terms. Pretty much everything we see, hear, and feel is open for interpretation, and skewed by our past experiences. I believe it’s the meaning that we choose to place on things, whether deliberately, or without thought, that is the driving force to why we make all of our daily and long-term decisions.

Knowing this, it’s just a matter of really deciding what our virtues are, and then basing our decisions based on these core virtues. The quality of our life from day to day, as well as where we end up in a year, five years, or even ten is going to be greatly altered. The satisfaction that we have with our life will also greatly increase if we’re acting from our core virtues.

At a meeting I attended we each gave suggestions and finally chose a topic to discuss - Think big, think about the reasons, no BS, just total honesty, were the instructions. Knowing my love of personal development and introspection, you can only imagine the glow in my eyes when I heard this question.

There are so many things I hope to accomplish in life, and I’m frequently adding and subtracting from that list as I learn more about myself, what I value, what I respect, and how I envision the design of my life.

At the present time, the most meaningful thing I hope to accomplish for myself is not a thing. Having the right car and house seem rather insignificant to me in the grand scheme of the way I look at life. I’m not saying I won’t have these things in the future, just that they’re not the MOST important.

Being with the person I love, having a loving family and children, and a career I’m totally engaged with are way up there, but still not the MOST important thing… I mean, if I had to pick. They’re a bi-product of the most important thing though; a lovely side effect if you will.

The most important thing I hope to accomplish in life is to be the person that I set out to be. I know that if I am that person, then everything else I desire in my life will be within my reach, and I’ll create the energy, courage, and resources to get the rest. The person that I’m talking about, the one that I want to grow into, is the one I’ve written my mission statement for.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is less about where we were, and more about who we’re becoming, based on where we’re striving to be. It’s a moral backbone that will give us integrity, guide us, and allow us to draw wisdom towards every decision that we make. Here’s mine:

I am an outstanding human being in every respect
I am honest, kind, loving, loyal and true to everyone who knows me
I am a positive, optimistic, confident, warm, friendly person
I am an excellent human being
I always do my best in everything that I take on
I uplift, encourage and inspire everyone I meet – everywhere I go

This list makes me uncomfortable, because it’s a stretch and a growth from where I am right now. Some days I’m some of these things, some of them I haven’t been able to achieve yet, but all of the things on this list are pointing me into a certain direction. In a way, they color my perceptions of people, places, and things. They skew my decision making mechanism every day. They’re bringing me a step closer to MY most important thing.

I believe it’s very important to earn the greatest things in life. To become the type of person that can acquire them, and handle them, without letting them go sour or slip through our fingers. It’s like people that win a tremendous sum of money, or become overnight celebrities, but then encounter a downward spiral and end up broke and addicted. We hear this all the time, and it’s because they weren’t prepared for it, they did not build themselves up as a person to control such a situation. To me it seems that becoming an outstanding human being is the foundation for the other great things in life.

You have to remember, this is my opinion, and it happens to be right for me. For you, according to your core virtues, something else might feel right and is totally and equally just as acceptable. What’s the most important thing you hope to accomplish in life?

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Happy

Finding Peace, Serenity and Tranquility

How many times have you been asked, "Are you happy?" and quickly stated yes, without so much as a thought? How many times have you been asked, "What do you really want in life?" and again answered quickly, "I don't know!"

In truth few people are truly happy in their life, with their current circumstances of living, work, relationships and more. Read more

Balance

Be in the Moment – Balanced

As a serial entrepreneur and confirmed workaholic driven by epistemophilia I have always had a ton of projects in work at any given time and thus my life was in a constant hectic state. I had lived in Cuernavaca intermittently for a number of years until I finally made the full time move to Cuernavaca, Mexico. It was here I finally found my utopia in La Paz, la Serenidad y la Tranquilidad (peace, serenity and tranquility).

After a few years of total bliss in my new home, I discovered the euphoria of being still in a calm place. I had not given the concept much thought of euphoria before moving here as I had been much too busy pursuing my many interests with a great amount of anxiety. It was the anxiety that drove me, as I worried about every little detail of my life and the process of living. Upon moving here, and dealing with my new culture, I discovered that what I had once made ridicule of as the "Manana Theory" of putting things off, was instead a wonderful way of life that in reality better suited my purposes.

A friend recently suggested that I was a hermit, because I spend too much time in my home. She thought it would be better if I spent more time going out into the world. She equated it with getting old. What my friend failed to realize is that I am happy in my home where I am calm and at peace. I have everything I need in my life to be happy. I no longer have to go in search of happiness as I have found it. I am not a recluse. I do go out almost daily to get my fix of friends, intelligent conversation, and enjoy dining in restaurants. Like most, I have to shop for groceries and do my banking. I go out to listen to live music almost once a week. When you are content with who you are as an individual, and are surrounded by calm, the need to seek excitement is greatly unnecessary.

I began to let go of being engaged in anxiety. I exchanged the anxiety for meditation, which allowed me to engage in the moment. I began to realize that when I was working on my various writing projects, spending time in the studio painting, or marketing one of my entrepreneurial projects, that in effect I was not living - only moving through space - and I would often forget to eat or even to breathe. Yes, I would actually stop breathing and it was only when I yawned in the middle of writing a paragraph that I would realize I was starving myself of oxygen. I would push myself away from the computer and move to the sofa. There I would remove my glasses, lie on my back and reflect in a state of meditation for 30 minutes.

In the beginning, this would happen only once a day, but I found that after "taking my med" that I would not only return to my writing with a new vigor, the work went faster as I had effectively cleared my mind and yes, even my soul. At first, I assumed it was just rest, but I have since come to the realization that it is much more. I began to be more happy, more insightful, and my ability to think in a more creative way became easier. Words that once escaped me begin to come to mind more quickly. Now, I meditate twice daily, when I close the computer, unplug the telephone, flip off the front doorbell and spend the most remarkable 30 minutes working on my physical happiness. And, I do arise feeling as though I am truly blessed.

The very idea of being still in a calm place is the most invigorating exercise that one can do both from a physical and mental standpoint. Meditation removes the noise, that is the cause of almost all sickness and sadness, from our lives. Calming the noise brings about untold benefits. I've come to another realization that is perhaps most important of all - happiness is inside of each of us - all we have to do is reach inside to find it. There is nothing greater than being in the moment and finding balance.

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