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Wisdom and age go together

11/04/2010

It turns out we have something to look forward to:  life does get better as we age. Old_Mennonite_Couple_Pennsylvania_1942

This is something that qualitative study has taught many people.  Here’s a wonderful quote from a Facebook post by Psychologist Irving D. Yalom, (Yes, he has a Facebook page, you’re never too old to have one)

“On being seventy-nine. We dread the limitations and losses of old age. But an encouraging word about the positive aspects of aging: this may sound odd but the last decade has been the best one of my life. Gone are many of the anxieties of my earlier days and I’ve been able to bask in the sheer pleasure of being alive in the company of those I love.”

 

This lovely sentiment is now backed up by recent research. 

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University

Peanut allergies and ego boundaries - what research says parents can give their kids without even knowing it

11/03/2010

Peanuts What do parents pass on to their children?  Maybe peanut allergies – maybe more. 

Peanut allergies in children have tripled over the last three years – some three million Americans are now said to have this allergy, which was unheard of 50 years ago.  Millions more children and adults are said to have egg and milk allergies.  If these trends continue, such allergies will be a widespread epidemic. 

Right now the best explanations, emerging from research at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, suggest a potential link involving a mother’s eating habits and the development of food sensitivities beginning in pre-natal development.  The research is proving how a pregnant woman’s eating habits can affect an unborn child’s antibodies and immune system response. It’s possible that a mother can transmit an allergy she doesn’t have to her children. 

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University

Existentialism and voting go together like freedom and responsibility

11/02/2010

Yes, it's another election day.

Are you planning on voting? Maybe, maybe not? Feeling like it won't matter?

Well, you're probably not alone. The polls and pundits believe that voter turnout is going to be low today.  The diagnosis will be apathy.

130 million people turned out to vote in 2008, estimated to be 64% of the electorate. That's pretty good. This year these numbers are expected to drop.

Do potential voters really just not care or is there more to this?

Apathy is a lack of interest or concern, so voter apathy is a lack of interest or concern for voting…but is it that simple?

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University

Sixty years of rallying to restore sanity

11/01/2010

Just before election day comedians John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallied the nation’s attention in Washington, D. C..  Their “Rally to Restore Sanity” brought over 200,000 people to the National Mall. The goal? To use humor and politics to rekindle enthusiasm, turn away from divisive politics, and engender a spirit of working together toward the common purpose of making the world a better place.

Restoring sanity, of course, is a cause psychologists can get behind – but in fact they’ve been ahead of the curve. Humanists, existentialists, and transpersonalists have been proactively leading the way for decades—unequivocally standing in favor of human potential.  

These days it’s not as flashy or well publicized as a rally on the national mall, but by taking a closer look at the theoretical tenants of psychologists such as James Bugental, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Carl Rogers, and Kirk Schneider, one can see the domino effect their work is having in the realms of business, politics and adolescent mental health.

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University

Hate is a 21st century educational problem

10/29/2010

Today there are over 60 hate groups in California alone – including racist skinheads, white nationalists, holocaust deniers, neo-nazis, and Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.  Surprised? 

When President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in 1893, equality left out women, African Americans, indigenous Indians, and many other groups on the outskirts of society.  In the United States today, a recent survey shows that more than 6 in 10 latinos says discrimination is a “major problem”;  a woman is beaten every 18 seconds;  African Americans are arrested in significantly higher numbers for marijuana possession even though statistically they use the drug less; affirmative action continues to be necessary, we have yet to have a female president, and over 932 active hate groups exist, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

For all the strides we’ve made, the 21st century has only made baby steps towards a sociocultural revolution that recognizes all people as equal. 

What can be done to take us to the next level?  What does a humanistic approach to equality in our time look like?

Paulo Freire, a leading expert on multiculturalism, suggests that it starts in school.

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University

In crisis there is opportunity - for community

10/28/2010

It’s not as bad as you think.

I know what the news says:  stagnant economy?  Check.  Millions unemployed?  Check.  Juvenile election that ignores critical issues?  Check.  I know – and it’s terrible. 

But in the midst of all this there are increasing reports that communities and individuals are coming up with ways to live better lives in the shadow of the crumbling rat race. 

 There’s something truly amazing that happening right now in this country.  Surviving in spite of loss, some are coming together in the spirit of community – and discovering personal growth.

 How do we find personal growth in the midst of crisis?  There are many ways, but I suggest four steps, which center around a deeper engagement with one’s interiority and a more active engagement in building community: 

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University

The benefits of adversity are very, very real

10/27/2010

Score one for Nietzsche:  studies show that what does not kill you actually does make you stronger.  At least in moderation. 

A recent report, “Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability, and Resilience” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that yes, when bad experiences happen we do suffer from mental, physical, and spiritual pain – but in that suffering many of us develop a greater understanding of hardship and are more prepared for it when (not if) it comes again.

While the concept has been around ever since Nietzsche first put it into words (if not longer), this is a relatively new area for serious psychological research.  Past research tended to focus on how we reacted to when things fall apart – but not how we recovered. There are a number studies, stories and blogs that tell us that when hit by adversity we just crumble. Our health collapses, we eat terrible food, don’t exercise, fall into despair and hang on to the pain for far too long.  End of story. 

But humanistic thinkers and spiritual practitioners have long known there is another chapter. 

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University

How to drive innovation (and maybe reduce ADHD): eliminate standardized tests

10/26/2010

There are record numbers of unemployed, a shrinking pool of jobs, and an increase in school failure  rates.  Is now really the time to shift our education system to a nurturing system that focuses on growth? 

Absolutely.

This economic collapse presents an opportunity to transform not only our economy but how we live within it. Schools are intended to be the incubators for future workers. Maybe that’s the problem. We don’t need more workers as so much as we need more creatives and innovators to lead us out of this busted wreck of an economy. This shift has to start in our schools.

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University

Sorry about your research: the science of apologies

10/25/2010

How many times do you apologize per day? 

We are a nation of apologists. Do we mean it? Is this just a euphemism to settle tension? Or do we really have that much to be sorry for?

Studies show it depends on if you’re a man or a woman.

Research psychologists in Canada have found that both genders are equally willing to apologize. However, women apologize more often than men; in fact four times as much.  The disparity exists in what constitutes a transgression, and therefore requires an apology. Men, the studies suggest, have a higher threshold for insult and insensitivity – and therefore see less need to apologize.  

Who we apologize too is just as interesting as how often.  We apologies to friends first - 66% of the time;  strangers 22% of the time;  romantic partners 11% of the time;  and family members 7% of the time.  Sorry mom and dad:  that’s just the way it goes.

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University

The psychological secrets of autobiography

10/22/2010

Read any good autobiographies lately? 

Rolling Stones founding member Keith Richards, best known for his shepherd’s pies, rock and roll, and bloody noise, releases his autobiography Life on October 26. The book, written by Keith himself, speaks to the glories and tragedies, the days of Boy Scouts and addictions for the originator of the Rock and Roll lifestyle.

There’s no shortage of autobiographies to read, however:  held from the public for more than a century, Mark Twain’s autobiography came out just two days ago.  Where Richards’ biography tells the story of a man who came to define his time, Twain’s depicts a man before his time.  In his own words, Twain is markedly more political and repulsed by imperialistic militarism than we remember him.  He emphasizes how greed and selfishness obliterate the founding father’s intention for instinctive American goodness.

Is it strange, when we stop and think about it, that two such radically different people – Richards and Twain, 100 years apart – both turn to the same medium, autobiography, to express their sense of their own lives?  It’s not just famous performers:  presidents, teachers, housewives, soldiers and scholars all have felt equally well represented in the form of an autobiography. 

The reason might be because our psychology is geared towards the creation of narratives in our own lives:  we think of ourselves as central figures in a narrative arc.  The stories we tell about ourselves – often to ourselves – are narrative structures that parallel the autobiography. 

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