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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Do we think or are we automatons? Where in our heads does the cinema projection of our sight take place? What is conscious thought?

The argument appears to rage unabatted about all this and each peice of conflicting evidence appears to be just as compelling as the last. I can contribute very little to this – as ever – but I have observed something odd about my thoughts. well, lots of people probably have, but this is about how I have thoughts, rather than what I am thinking!

Often in conversation I will come out with witty and intelligent allusions to quotations and previous moments in the conversation, but I don’t realise I am doing it until someone else notices and acts impressed. I thought it was conincidence at first, but the more it happens the more of an intelligent design there appears to be (ahhh, I am indeed the god of my own thoughts). I now find my conscious mind monitoring what is coming out of my mouth to spot the intelligent references before others do – otherwise it can lead to embarassment and confusion all round!

It seems obvious that a lot of thought comes from the subconscious or some such: after all, if someone swings a baseball bat at your head you will duck before your internal voice has had its say. Either that or wake up with a headache! Is it possible that this obvious reactionary response is actually just the tip of the non-conscious iceburg? Is our conscious mind – that inner chatter that seems to run our analytic thought process – nothing more than a monitoring system for our real thoughts?

We can think without language and did do before we could talk, so perhaps we still do all our real thinking at a pre- or sub-language level. Perhaps what we think of our consciousness and personality is a chimera: the ‘panem et circenses’ with which the real masters of our minds satisfy our egos. It may be impossible to be aware of our real conscious thoughts, since they are the bits that are doing all the thinking – it’s a bit like the impossibility of seeing your own eyeball.

Personally I think that this all rather points to our self-observable thoughts – the inner monologue – being a monitoring and safety mechanism that became necessary as we evolved our complex language and social interactions. It would need someone far brighter than me to work out exactly how and why, though!

Oh, and I have no idea about the cinema-of-our-sight thing.

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No, not that sort of sex you perv – sex as in being male or female (etc). A survey has found that women are less sceptical about climate change than men http://www.springerlink.com/content/llq15510m374583q/fulltext.html.

This concurs with my own experience, which also suggests that men are more vehemently sceptical.  A number of studies into climate denial suggest that it is linked to belief systems, whereby acceptance of an intangible concept creates a requirement to radically change lifestyle or make one ‘traitorous’ to that concept. For instance, if one truly accepts that God exists, how can one carry on a sinful lifestyle and not feel troubled?

The traditional role of man as head of the family, provider of wealth etc still resonates in society today, no matter how out dated this has become in practice. Now, please don’t think I am saying that men are the main movers and shakers in life & women shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about it! Nothing could be further from the truth – I am talking here about perception. However unfortunate, there are still many echos in society relating to the days when men went to work & women kept home. This is entirely anachronous, but there are still a lot of men who feel that it is their duty to protect their family. In the same way that many chaps would consider it their job to confront burglars at night, so many consider it their ultimate responsibility to ensure their family lives well. Perhaps not true, but it is how many men feel.

So, there is psychological pressure on some men to maintain the high quality of life enjoyed by their family, which for many is far easier to do if they continue their consumption patterns and mode of living. After all, many subscribe to the erroneous idea that living sustainable means returning to medieval poverty and eschewing all mod cons. Now, to justify their continued consumptive lifestyle they have to believe that climate change is not happening, as otherwise they would have to face the fact that they are leading their family not into luxury but into turmoil. So they have to be vehement in their denial, to convince both themselves and as many others as possible that they are doing the right thing. There is, after all, safety in numbers; psychological safety, at least.

Personally, I think it goes further than this in the USA, where there are more climate sceptics than anywhere else. This has to do with the American Dream. The USA more or less founded the current consumer capitalist economic system; it is the home of consumerism & has created a global economy of unparalleled success on the back of it. To say that this is no longer a viable system is bound to rub more people up the wrong way in America than anywhere else. To some, their American identity is intrinsically linked to this consumerism, so saying that it is wrong and is causing the destruction of the planet is to attack their belief in themselves and their country. It is heresy.

This is why climate change & religion have so much in common: the most important drivers are not facts & practicalities, but belief and cultural references.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124008307 is a good article on how people accept or reject scientific information, depending on their belief systems or world views.

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“Don’t give yourself a hard time about getting things wrong: to err is human. Be kind to yourself (and others) so that you have room to change for the better.”

It’s about 11pm & I was thinking about going to bed, when my mind got working on the concept of kindness. So here I am downstairs tapping away at my blog. To get in the spirit I have poured myself a wee whisky, even though I have already cleaned my teeth!
 
Such rash, anarchic exuberance!
 
Well, anyway. Being kind starts at home, with yourself. Most people, especially women, are not very kind to themselves. We expect so much of ourselves, one thorny part of which is the expectation to achieve our expectations.
 
We live in an age of Hello Magazine. OK, there are lots of other magazines,papers, TV programs, films etc etc etc, but Hello sums it up quite well. At least I think it does, since I don’t often read/watch much of that kind of stuff so am not an authority. It might sound like I’m being all cultural & high brow by saying this, but it’s actually much simpler than that – I just can’t be arsed with any of it. Anyway, the point is that Hello (et al) pedal the idea of perfect lives led by perfect people. Beautiful, cool, rich, successful, funny, interesting, sexy people that are so much better than we are & who live such better lives. It is almost impossible not to aspire to have some of that: to be those people.
 
Unfortunately, they don’t exist. To start with, the pictures are engineered to be highly flattering or are actually doctored, so give a sheen of beauty to the most haggard of munters. Then the stories are selective in what they portray, exaggerating the heroic & interesting and missing the boring bits or dull depression. Finally, think about why the story is in the magazine in the first place: with billions of people on the planet, there will always be something worth reporting happening to someone that the buying public will pay to read about. It’s just the odds game that it’s not you.
So, this rather leads to a society where people want to emulate the (secretly fictitious) people they read about. They want to be perfect. Perfect in looks, in body, in mind, in aspiration. In fact, we get to the point where we expect it of ourselves. We feel we have failed if we are not gorgeous to look at, toned, tanned & young. We have failed if we are not funny, if people do not flock to our company & hang on our every word. We have failed if we do not wear clothes that emphasis our stunning good looks in a way that is cunningly fashionable yet slightly quirky & unpredictable. We have failed if we are not rich & successful in whatever we do. We have failed if we are not extraordinary.
 
This is, of course, a shame as the vast majority of us are ordinary. By definition, really.
 
So what I am saying is give it up. Let yourself off. Be kind to yourself. If it doesn’t matter if you’re a bit podgy, a bit thick, a bit dull or a bit poor, then oddly you probably won’t be. At least, not to the people to whom it matters, the people that you will enjoy being with & who will be true friends to you. By giving yourself space to fail, you can try whole heartedly to succeed as it will not be catastrophic if you don’t.
 
Take a moment to visualise this: there are no boundaries to what you can try to do, as there are no repercussions for failure (obviously within bounds of moral & legal decency, for those of you going “aha! But what if I tried to……”). Just put yourself in that situation, where whatever you do you will be OK. What would you attempt? Where would you go? What would you try to change?
 
OK, once you have come back down from the space station or finished dismantling government, you can still get some of that euphoric freedom simply by being kind to yourself, albeit in a rather more realistic and manageable way. If you are truly kind to yourself you can be happy with falling flat on your face, as you will be full of self-forgiveness. Having fun & having a go become so much more important than succeeding, which gives you space to become content. Possibly to succeed too, but that won’t be important any more once you’re content.
 
As an added benefit, others laughing at you become a minor irritation or actually quite fun in itself.
 
An example of kindness is my hair. I’m getting a little bit older now & my hair is not quite as rumbustious as it once was. I struggled for a while both with the disappearing hair and the fact that this bothered me, as it shouldn’t: it’s just vain silliness. Then I gave in, admitted that it did & that it was alright to be a bit vain & neurotic, so bought some hair-helping shampoo. It’s got caffeine in it, so as a bonus I am sort of main-lining coffee through my scalp. Anyway, now I have it I have relaxed & don’t mind any more about either the Shiny Scalp Syndrome or my incipient vanity. Hell, with jutting jaw, rippling muscles & sparkling eyes, who wouldn’t be a bit vain? (I assume here that neither of you reading this have actually seen me).
 
None of us are perfect. Very, very, very few of us are actually beautiful. But most of us are attractive and would be more so if we allowed ourselves to be. Allow yourself your flaws & you will become an attractive person through being content. Why? Because you will have become what even the most rich & famous out there want to be: content, centred, enlightened. Even that Holy Grail of modern psychological achievement – Confident!
 
People find this attractive as it is infectious: once you have allowed yourself to become content, you will be well placed to help others find the ability to be kind to themselves and become content too.
But please just remember, being kind to yourself does not mean giving up & becoming a slob. It usually means giving yourself room to try harder, as there is truth in the saying ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’.
 
Well, maybe just one more wee whisky to read through with!

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Research shows that knowing about climate change does not lead to action. 45 years of research costing around £100 billion has resulted in only about half the developed world admitting that we have anything whatsoever to do with climate change. The evidence is there for everyone to see, but people chose not to believe it. Even those that accept the evidence often do not act, such as climate scientists flying long-haul for holidays. It seems that there is something more fundamental than knowledge at work here: belief. Climate change and religion appear to have a lot in common. To those that do not ‘believe’, the idea of belief is extremely scary: to fully believe is to recognise that you should give yourself over wholly to the way of life prescribed by that belief, which can mean a radical alteration in lifestyle.

I think religious belief goes even deeper, as accepting that there is a God means accepting that all your core principles need to be reassessed in light of how He would want you to act. The same is true for climate change, albeit without the praying. Now, the truth of both climate change and religion is slightly different from the perceptions of the unbeliever: not all religious people give all their possessions to the poor and go off to become missionaries. This is fairly easy to recognise logically, but the emotion of belief is a very powerful thing. Perhaps it is the danger of losing self respect that is most important, as to truly believe something without acting upon it whole heartedly is incompatible with the ‘I must be perfect’ culture that has arisen lately.

Some may accept the evidence of climate change and accept logically that it is occurring, but many still do not allow it to influence their core belief system and so can carry on life as usual. Others simply deny that it is happening at all and avoid the whole knowledge/belief imbroglio. Hence Zeta – a way to be content with who you are and what the world has to offer, without fear of fashion and the consequences of following your convictions. After all, Zeta is all about following your convictions to get the best out of life – do that and the rest will fall into place, all the barriers and fears to living the best life you can will melt away; although admittedly it requires some bravery and strength of character to be Zeta.

But more about that later.

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I have noticed a surprising number of climate sceptics on things like facebook and Yahoo Answers. Now, the surprise is not that some exist, but that so many are vehemently opposed to any suggestion that there is even the slightest possibility that we are altering the climate. Most don’t even admit that there is any climate alteration in the first place – a flurry of snow anywhere on the globe is, to them, enough to show that Global Warming is a fantasy.

Now, from the general tone, language and references of these violent sceptics it is apparent that most come from the US of A and nearly all of those talk about misinformation and manipulation by liberals and left-wingers in an attempt to take over government & business. They seem to think there is a massive, organised conspiracy to falsify scientific data and rob them of all that is rightly theirs; and since most scientists are long-haired commy weirdos, they are in on it too.

I don’t know if it is fair, but the mental image I get from their posts is of big, burly men in plaid shirts, carrying large knobbly guns and spitting torrents of tobacco. I often hear banjo music too. ooof – shivers down the spine!

Perhaps is has something to do with the capitalist, consumer philosophy that current economic wisdom is based on. This has been pioneered by the US over the last 100 years or so and exported to much of the world with an almost religious zeal. It seems to represent, for some people, the essence of being American and the American Dream.

To accept the ‘green’ message is to accept that classical consumer capitalism is wrong: you cannot live a truly sustainable lifestyle in a system that demands constant expansion and therefore an ever-increasing drain on resources. It is like pyramid selling, which is well documented as making a few people very wealthy before collapsing. So for those people that feel the current economic situation is a core part of their American identity, telling them to plant a few veg in their yard is tantamount to treason or heresy

the Guardianhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2009/mar/09/denial-climate-change-psychologyhas a good article about the psychology of climate denial and why it is still so prevalent, although it doesn’t go into the whole sister-marrying banjo thing.

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