Monthly Archives: August 2011

I love you, but apparently know why I won’t

Funny little study.

Some researchers got a bunch of people who had recently began dating someone. Both males and females. They then asked the participants to do two things:
1. Rate the likelihood that you and your new partner will be together after 6 months
2. Regardless of when you breakup, for what reasons do you think you would breakup

So all fine and dandy. The researchers go back 6 months later for a little follow up.

And what do they find? Apparently people are terrible at predicting a relationship’s probability of lasting. What they are good at, however, is predicting why the relationship would fail.

Lessons? This goes back to a post I did earlier on a Cabbie’s Wisdom. There’s likely some merit to giving more weight to the reasons we don’t like someone and trying not to be as blind to those reasons or ignore them at the beginning of a relationship.

 

Thoughts?

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Useless information… try harmful

Last night I emerged from the gym to witness a man standing on the edge of a sidewalk with his bike and backpack. His backpack was obviously filled with gym clothes as I could see his yoga mat. And as he stood there, he flipped a coin, lightly shrugged and walked past me into the gym. Odd, I thought, so I asked. He said that the yoga instructor wasn’t his favorite and that he couldn’t seem to decide to whether to go to yoga or simply go for a bike ride instead.

Genius. This man had done something most people these days die over. He had accepted his inability to weigh alternatives and instead of being paralyzed or stressed by indecision, recognized that there was a way he could choose to put himself out of his misery.

In this age of information overload, I think there is an enormous amount to be said for consciously shielding ourselves from useless information. Especially when that information takes us away from our long term goals.

Consider some other interesting scenarios; when you’re crossing the street, do you watch the count-down on the crossing signals so you’ll know exactly when the walk light will turn on? Or do you enjoy the moment and simply watch for the little white man to tell you it’s safe to cross? When you break up with your partner, do you watch their every move on facebook? When I write these blog posts, do I watch for how many people read them? Or do I write them as best satisfies myself and not worry which are most popular?

We all know how hard it is not to do some of these things. But we also know that gathering this information is completely useless and, I argue, detrimental.

If I’m standing at the light. Will watching the other lights count down, so I know how long it will be before my light goes green, help me at all? Does it make the light come faster? No, not in the least bit. Gathering those other pieces of information is useless. After you leave your partner and you have no intention of getting back together with them, does it benefit you at all to know what they’re doing socially? How does that knowledge contribute to your end goal? It doesn’t and yet as humans we have such a hard time shielding our selves from useless information that, in the end, actually harms us by distracting us from goals and using up the mind’s precious time and energy.

Not only is it harmful because it’s a waste of time, but the more you allow your mind to feed off this irrational want, the more your mind will crave these irrational satisfactions. Remember, every time you have a thought, your brain strengthens it’s ability and likelihood to have that thought. But forcefully stop thinking about something enough and your mind will stop wanting to think about it. Neural plasticity axiom: Don’t use it and you’ll lose it.

The idea of spending mental energy thinking about something logically useless is harmful. Will he or she call me? Won’t she? How about “Does thinking about it help one way or the other…?” No? Than why waste the mental energy on it. Let go. Enjoy the sun on your face.
We know humans are irrational beings with irrational wants and urges. And knowing is half the battle, because now that we know, we can use tricks to get us out of it all. Like flipping a coin.

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I know it, but not really

Oh, we’s some funny creatures.

I’ve found one of the funnier things about people is how vast the difference can be between what we logically know in our minds and what we emotionally feel within ourselves.

It’s understandable that people will group these two ways of knowing something together into a mish-mash of understanding in their life. It takes a few steps to consciously parse these things apart in your mind and identify when one system is running versus the other.

I think acknowledging how large this difference can be, between intrinsically feeling something and extrinsically knowing it, can be the first step to making your emotions believe or “feel” what you logically know. So much human and self inflicted stress comes from our two knowledge systems competing or conflicting. And it’s more often than not the emotional or intrinsic system that will win out. But needlessly so.

We have an absolutely phenomenal ability to re-wire the way our brains think. But this ability only comes with an appropriately matched amount of effort. And not just any effort, it has to be CONSISTENT effort.  One of the books I just finished is all about brain plasticity. It presents an important axiom about brain circuitry: You use it or lose it. So the more you allow your brain to make certain neurons connect (aka, have a particular thought), the more easily that thought will occur. The less you allow it, the more it will simply die and your brain will re-organize itself.

But again, this does not happen over night. You have to take specific steps to train your brain.

When my I don’t feel I intrinsically know something, when my emotions don’t match my logical thought patterns, I take a specific set of steps that usually leave me laughing.
1. Recognize – Identify the emotion you’re feeling (whether it’s logical or not). The key here is not to suppress it, but simply to observe it.
2.  Understand – Go through the reasons why you feel this way (whether they are logical/fickle or not). Did a date cancel? Did someone cut you off? Did a friend not call? Did a sibling pass away?
3. Logic – Run through the logic in your head as to why the emotions you’re feeling are illogical. Laugh at yourself and how fickle human emotions can be. Or celebrate the fact that your brother or sister lived an amazing life. Concentrate on the positive.
4. Begin again – You must KEEP reminding yourself why your emotions are illogical. Unless you do this consistently, nothing will change in your mind.

This is all part of brain training – and there’s a couple more things I’ll post soon on how to train your brain 🙂

Do this enough (we’re talking months and years especially if you’re older) and the control  you’ll have will amaze you.
You’ll be able to release yourself from your own self induced stress.
You’ll conversely also be able to enjoy your positive emotions even more! You’ll be able to completely let go of all your mind’s inhibitions and allow your positive emotional passions to more fully express themselves.

It’s about controlling that monkey of a mind you have. And only letting it loose when it’s on a positive path.

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Fields of what?

So one of the current books on my roster is Energy Healing Experiments by Dr. Gary Shwartz.

He’s got some great experiments and really pushes the boundaries of what the scientific community is familiar with. His other book, The G.O.D. Experiments is very well done. I don’t agree with his conclusions, but that’s another story.

The very simple (yet highly controlled and clinical, dude has his PhD from Harvard in psych and is a prof at the University of Arizona) experiments are what intrigue me about this book (so far). The experiments involve testing whether humans can sense both the physical presence and/or conscious intention of another human being. One involves participant 1 staring at participant 2 or away from participant 2 and participant 2 having to guess what participant 1 is doing, and to what degree they are sure of this guess.

Try it with a friend in a quiet room. Have person 1 stand 6 feet behind person 2 and give both a paper and pen to record each round. Put a clock with a second hand in front of the 2 people. Have person 1 use excel to randomly generate his or her sequence of “staring intensely at back of head” or “staring intensely away from person 2”. Then do 30 rounds and have person 2 record every 30 seconds where he or she thinks person 1 is staring for those 30 seconds. See if there’s a statistically significantly “higher than chance” probability of predicting where person 1 is staring!

The results are nothing short of amazing and show that humans have some ability to detect the energy of other things in this world. After all, on the most basal level in physics, everything is just made up of energy.

Though I can’t go much further than this in explaining things, science having proved that humans have the ability to detect energy opens the door to an entire realm of thought and understanding  of the world in which we live. How strong are these influences? How much of it do we ignore? Or how much of it is influencing us but just on a subconscious level? If we can detect it, can we influence it? How much?

I think these questions are so interesting because older or eastern cultures always reference this other, ‘unscientifc’ realm and deem it highly important. Western science threw all that out the door and called it all bunk and fabricated. But western science is just now developing techniques to research and understand what others have believed for a long time.

Are we on the verge of understanding God from a western science perspective?

This is just damn-well interesting stuff.

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A little less rational hate

The energy drink market has struck me as something a little bit less than rational.

In my office, there are numerous people who will have one energy drink per day. Sometimes more. These people are perfectly smart. They know the drink probably isn’t as healthy as a bag of brussel sprouts, but they assess the risks and go ahead with their $4 purchase.

Now when I buy something once a day, usually I’m smart enough to just buy a ton of it at once. I don’t buy 5 brussel sprouts  each time I want them with my dinner. I buy a bunch and eat them over a while. Or any other consumer product/grocery item. And that’s rational, because I know I’ll consume them.

If I thought I was only going to drink/eat something once in a while, fine, I’d buy the item individually.

But these people in my office, every day, walk all the way down to the corner store and buy a $4 energy drink. Why aren’t they buying a case? We have a beer fridge in our office that would keep them cold.. WTF?

I think what’s happening here has to do with the fact that these energy drinks are bad for the body and my co-workers KNOW it. They therefore don’t want to admit to themselves that they will be consuming such a large quantity of something that’s bad for them.

SO WHAT?

Well does that mean there’s a sweet spot for products that are daily consumables and kind of bad for you? I would imagine the energy drink makers love it that people buy their product one by one… I know I damn-well would!

What other products have these attributes? Because they obviously carry disproportionate value.  Hmm……

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Prunes and organization

Changing yourself is hard. And apparently science wants us to know that it’s even a little bit harder now too.

The leading theory on sleep and memory says (among other things) that during our brain prunes down memories from the day. It consolidates things into a form more easily described in a storied format.

But what’s interesting about this is not the fact that your mind prunes or consolidates memory, but the way in which it typically chooses to prune. It’s not random.

Evidence shows that our minds prune such that the memories are most similar to our already present sense of (or definition of) self.

It’s like our brains will actively ignore events or actions we take that are outside of our self-definition. The most interesting part of this, for me, is that when trying to change yourself, this is another obstacle in the way. Your brain has so many tricks to get around and develop new habits and this is just another reason why only extremely hard and consistent work will create enduring change in your mind and life.

 

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