Radiolab has a great story on ‘learned pain’ (story 2 in this podcast, starts around minute 14:30). It describes an amputee and his persistent phantom pain from his previously debilitated arm. His arm was no longer there, yet the pain he used to feel in that arm persisted. His doctor— V.S. Ramashandran— suspected this pain was learned, and devised a successful method of unlearning pain felt in a non-existent limb. Ramashandran jokes: “This is the first example in the history of medicine of a successful amputation of a phantom limb.” Continue reading
If you are uncertain about the value of actively curating your thoughts, a study of breast cancer survivors conducted at Canadian cancer centers should increase your certainty.
The study, led by Dr. Linda E. Carlson, showed participants who regularly practiced mindfulness activities “had longer telomeres, part of the chromosome thought to be important in physical health”.
Mindfulness isn’t goody goody nonsense, it improves health and well-being. The study I’d like to see next is a measure of the bodily effects of habitual stressful thinking.
It seems silly to have to defend the value of an emotion, but anger often gets a bad rap. The value of anger is wonderfully illustrated in Mike Hrostosky’s piece, Fuck You Spiritual People For Using Gratitude As A Bypass To Your Anger. Continue reading
Joseph Campbell on refusing the call that life presents you (a.k.a saying ‘no’ to life, emphasis mine):
“When this refusal of the call happens, there is a kind of drying up, a sense of life lost. Everything you knows that a required adventure has been refused. Anxieties build up. What you have refused to experience in a positive way, you will experience a negative way.“
If you are having a negative experience of something, ask yourself, “where am I saying no when yes may be the better answer?”
“When you see a good move, look for a better one.” —Emanual Lasker
This chess strategy is also good advice in so many other areas: programming, business strategy, relationships, politics, and on and on.
“If you are sure of your facts, you should defend your position.” – Cecilia Payne
Cecilia Payne was an astronomer and astrophysicist who discovered how to understand the composition of stars in terms of the relative abundance of hydrogen and helium. Her thesis was attacked by a superior claiming it could not possibly be true that hydrogen is 1 million times more abundant in stars than on earth. This attack prompted her to add a final sentence on to her thesis acknowledging that it cannot be true.
Four years later superior realized his mistake. To his credit he gave her due credit for her discovery. After this was over, she said about this experience:
“If you are sure of your facts, you should defend your position.”
Alex Spiegel over at NPR quoting Alia Crum regarding the findings in her recent study indicating that our beliefs about food effect how our bodies metabolize that food:
“Our beliefs matter in virtually every domain, in everything we do,” Crum says. “How much is a mystery, but I don’t think we’ve given enough credit to the role of our beliefs in determining our physiology, our reality. We have this very simple metabolic science: calories in, calories out.”
People don’t want to think that our beliefs have influence, too, she says. “But they do!”
read the full article
Science emerged in a time when superstition led to attributing causes to unrelated things and religion was abused to promote suppression/oppression of ideas. Whenever people organize, organization can magnify our undesirable tendencies; religion and science are no exceptions. No institution is immune from human failings. Continue reading
Jeremy Dean’s (PsyBlog) recent nuance-light headline caught my attention: Why Positive Thinking May Be Harmful for Some
A recently published study by researchers at Michigan State University revealed that habitual worriers’ (Dean calls them “natural worriers”, a specious phrase) brains ‘backfire’ when trying to put a positive spin on a scenario that seems negative. Lead study author Jason Moser:
“The worriers actually showed a paradoxical backfiring effect in their brains when asked to decrease their negative emotions.
This suggests they have a really hard time putting a positive spin on difficult situations and actually make their negative emotions worse even when they are asked to think positively.”
Leading Moser to conclude:
“You can’t just tell your friend to think positively or to not worry — that’s probably not going to help them.
So you need to take another tack and perhaps ask them to think about the problem in a different way, to use different strategies.”
Returning to PsyBlog’s headline, it would be accurate to say positive thinking may be harmful to some if Moser’s alternate strategies are not also ‘positive thinking’. I’m not sure that considering other ways of thinking about a situation in order to reduce worry is not positive thinking.
Never ask a man if sexism exists.
Never ask a white person if racism exists.
Never ask Scott McGreal over at Psychology Today if there is a scientific taboo against ESP.
Ask four-time president of the Parapsychology Association, Dean Radin: