I woke up with a different sort of clarity than I’ve had for a while. I thought it was worth memorializing. I slept well. My energy is different. I love rainy days. I’m spending the afternoon with my daughter. I’m traveling to South Dakota to visit my family on Saturday. It’s spring. It’s trivia night at our social club. I’m alive and that simply on its own is something to be truly grateful for.
Excerpt from James Comey’s New York Times Op Ed: “You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America.”
It’s a curious process to see where the mind goes first thing in the morning.
“This world of ours…must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Fear in America”—mixed media • layered digital image—2018
NOTE: There is no pattern. I doodled. It’s random.
Our brains don’t like chaos, we want to believe things are connected, not random.
Researching pattern seeking got me thinking about conspiracy theories…of which I am not immune. I went down a rabbit hole after 911, wanting to make sense of the attack on our nation and all of the lives we lost. I really thought I was finding all sorts of insider information. I wasn’t.
Humans are pattern seeking creatures. There’s so much interesting research on this subject. Our brains are capable of gold medal worthy gymnastic moves to confirm our preconceptions. I know I like feeling that confirmation buzz. That heady feeling has a shadow side though.
“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” —Daniel Kahneman
This quote reminded me of when I hear a song I initially don’t like. If I hear it over and over, it begins to grow on me. Next it becomes familiar…I even begin to like it…hell, maybe even love it, playing it often. With repetition my brain will eagerly override my initial dislike and discernment. This is great when you’re making a conscious choice.
Not so great when the goal is manipulation or brand loyalty.
hate + repetition = acceptance
“The premise of (most) conspiracy theories is inherently unscientific.”
“You should be skeptical of any theory that starts out with the exact same premise every time: Some malevolent and ill-intentioned individual, group, or organization is somehow out to get you.”
“It is not wrong to have a hypothesis. What is suspicious, however, is when that hypothesis never changes.”
“The interesting thing about conspiracy theories is that they start out with the need to confirm a particular premise (i.e., some evil actor must be responsible).
“…psychologists refer to it as a fundamental attribution error—the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being (intentional) rather than simply the product of (random) situational circumstances.”
Here’s an example of FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR:
My husband started the laundry SO obviously he thinks I’m lazy and not holding up my end of our shared household responsibilities. OR…and far more likely, he needed some clothes washed and is just doing the laundry.
It’s so easy to make this error. I know I need to slow my brain down a lot more often before I jump to conclusions in many aspects of my life.
We inadvertently create mini conspiracy theories when we attribute people’s actions as personal and not situational in their nature.
The trick is to learn when to take a moment to see if our attribution is actually accurate.
When I slow down my pattern-seeking brain, I feel more in control of the chaos around me. When I don’t, and I often don’t I feel far more anxious and uncertain.
If all thoughts are creative & inform our reality, then noticing our thoughts must be a survival skill of sorts. We can see our though patterns emerge by paying attention. I think about this, I feel hopeful. If I think about this, my heart races. If I think about this, I feel rage. We don’t have to stuff our negative emotions, they’re trying to tell us something. It just means asking questions about why these particular thoughts are so front and center right now. WHY?
Here’s my noticing list from this morning…6 to 8am.
MUSIC & HEART: My husband plays Summer’s End by John Prine on the guitar. Today, there was a story in the NEW YORK Times about this gorgeous song. Jeff watched the video through the eyes of a father. I watched through the eyes of a child. Summer’s End video & lyrics
DEFINE: I learn something when I look up the definitions even of common words.
- FEAR/transitory adjective—1.to be afraid of 2. to have a reverential awe of
- OTHER/adjective—1. not the same 2. different
- EQUAL/adjective—1. like for each member of a group, class or society
THOUGHTS ON GRIEF: Elizabeth Gilbert from the Brain Pickings Newsletter.
“People keep asking me how I’m doing, and I’m not always sure how to answer that. It depends on the day. It depends on the minute. Right this moment, I’m OK. Yesterday, not so good. Tomorrow, we’ll see.”
INSPIRATION: An 18-year-old delivery guy at Steve’s Pizza in Battle Creek, Michigan does something so full of heart. Steve’s Pizza story on CNN
ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL: South Dakota’s democratic gubernatorial candidate, Billie Sutton was on Morning Joe today. www.suttonforsd.com
I believe that differing viewpoints bring dynamic ideas to our challenges whether in our civic, social or private lives.
A fork in the road indeed for the good people of the 605.
We all are a bunch of contradictions. It’s hard for me to admit that this is true—every part of me wants to deny this about myself. I would rather have elective dental surgery than investigate this further. Actually I need some dental surgery, I’ve been putting it off…another contradiction.
I did this quick check today to notice my noticing.
I stared at the words I wrote that are entirely at odds with each other.
Can I actually hold all of these contractions at the same time?
YES. I can easily throw all of these messy, contradictory emotions into my bag, grab my keys, walk out the door and go on with my day. We all do it all the time.
NOTICING is helping me understand myself a little better.
I have a lot of emotional work to do
AND I don’t really want to do it.
LIFE IS AN ABSURD AMOUNT OF GREY AREA.
BLACK & WHITE thinking can make us rigid, limiting available options.
Just ask my kids, well, no actually please don’t.
Head or Heart. Winner or Losers. Right or Wrong.
This just isn’t the way the world works. When it does, things can fall apart.
I came across this website today…interesting: DIFFERENCE BETWEEN.
“‘Believing’ means that you have chosen a truth, but ‘knowing’ means that you are certain about that truth.”
I had to read that line about ten times.
AND JUST FOR FUN…
Good luck with your noticing.
I don’t excel at sleeping. I really never have, but now in middle age, my sleep is interrupted constantly. I’ve decided to not fight it, embrace my natural rhythms and see how the universe wants me to use my extra waking time. Last night was no exception.
I went to sleep around 10:30 and was wide awake at 2:50. Our cat, Karen was sleeping soundly next to me. My husband is gone and I don’t mind waking up Karen, so I felt free to roam. I got up to pee and I noticed that all of the windows were covered with the soft, haze of humidity.
The whole world seems to be trapped in heat and haze right now.
I wondered how I could photograph Cape Cod’s humidity in the middle of the night without leaving my bedroom. I took a few shots. The camera wasn’t capturing what I could see. I decided that wasn’t the inspiration I was searching for, not at all what the universe wanted me to do in the middle of the night on August 9th.
I decided to get back into bed and listen to a guided mediation on the INSIGHT app, which I highly recommend. I have a favorite voice, Sarah Blondin who guides me with her Live Awake series. I consider her a very close friend. Sarah’s voice and words have provided so much, well, insight and spark since I downloaded the app in January.
This morning at 3:10am I chose Life is Kind. Here is the start to her meditation.
“Though we are strangers, we are kindred in spirit. There’s no difference between us. We are the same.
We are here in the name of our hearts, in the name of opening, in the name of unstitching what has overtime grown closed within. We are each here in the name of reuniting with our soft centers. It is the place we are most alive, most accepted, most whole.
It is where we seek refuge from the from the weight of the world.”
I fell back asleep shortly after these lines and had a remarkable, beautiful and kind dream.
I’ll share that dream with you tomorrow.
The way our brain equates repetition for truth.
YOU ONLY USE 10 percent of your brain.
Eating carrots improves your eyesight.
Crime in the United States is at an all-time high.
NONE OF THESE STATEMENTS ARE TRUE.
They FEEL TRUE because of repetition.
“Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”
—Hitler in Mein Kampf
“But the facts don’t actually matter: People repeat them so often that you believe them. Welcome to the “illusory truth effect,” a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth. Marketers and politicians are masters of manipulating this particular cognitive bias—which perhaps you have become more familiar with lately.”
After I read this, I wondered…
What can I do if I notice my brain is on autopilot?
Pinch myself? Snap a rubber band on my wrist?
Seek more sources to confirm or dispel my TRUTHS?
Let me know if you come up with a trick.
SOURCE: WANT TO MAKE A LIE SEEM TRUE? SAY IT AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN.
by Emily Dreyfuss
I realize that TV shows from comic books (even the genius of the MARVEL world) don’t work for everyone. So, I wanted to just share a few passages of dialogue from the FX show LEGION that really made me think about how we think. I recorded this passage on my phone while watching the show and I’ve listened to it a few times. Today, I finally transcribed it.
“So what have we learned? That a delusion is an idea. That an idea can be contagious. That human beings are pattern-seeking animals. By which, I mean we prefer ideas that fit a pattern.
In other words, we don’t believe what we see. We see what we believe. And when we are stressed or our beliefs are challenged… When we feel threatened… The ideas we have can become irrational, one delusion leading to another, and another, as the human mind struggles to maintain its identity. And when this occurs, what starts as an egg can become a monster.”
—LEGION Season 2 Episode 7 on FX
APOPHENIA is the tendency to perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. Apophenia has come to imply a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information, such as gambling.
After seeing episode 7 of LEGION, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time trying to make ideas & events fit a certain pattern of thought. I committed to noticing when I was pattern seeking. It’s really challenging at first. However, with practice, I now feel more in control of my mind. I haven’t eliminated the tendency, but I’ve increased my ability to notice more quickly when it’s happening.
“And now we come to the most alarming delusion of all. The idea that other people don’t matter. Their feelings. Their needs. Imagine a cave where those inside never see the outside world. Instead, they see shadows of that world projected on the cave wall. The world they see in the shadows is not the real world. But it’s real to them. If you were to show them the world as it actually is, they would reject it as incomprehensible.”
—LEGION Season 2 Episode 8 on FX
LEGION (David Charles Haller) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, part of the X-Men series. He is the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. Legion takes the role of an antihero who has a severe mental illness including a form of dissociative identity disorder, in which each of his alternate personas controls one of his many superpowers.
The television series Legion premiered on FX network in 2017. The lead character is portrayed by Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey). The series is developed, written, directed, and produced by Noah Hawley.
Relationships. Advertising. Entertainment. Politics. Religion.
Mostly though, I believe the distortion can be how we see ourselves.
Next, I stumbled upon this article on the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY website and thought it was worth sharing. Joe Navarro has studied the life, teachings and behavior of cult-leaders; Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Bhagwan Rajneesh and Warren Jeffs, just to name a few.
What he said was that these individuals were or are all pathologically narcissistic.
Then I started wondering about the differences between narcissism v. self-esteem. It’s pretty stark and worth understanding better. I thought I knew the difference. I didn’t really.
Here’s a quick guide of the differences.
Hey, the more we know, well, the more we know, right?
We all possess some narcissistic traits. I’ve certainly had to take a look at myself. It wasn’t easy at the time, but I’m grateful I did, and my relationships improved because of more awareness
It’s the extremes of these traits we need to notice.
Healthy narcissism is the characteristic of possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life, as unhealthy narcissists tend to be.
Joe Navarro (former FBI agent): “From my studies of cults and cult leaders during my time in the FBI, I learned early on that there are some things to look for that, at a minimum, say caution, this individual is dangerous, and in all likelihood will cause harm to others.”
They all have or had an over-abundant belief that they were special, that they and they alone had the answers to problems, and that they had to be revered. They demanded perfect loyalty from followers, they overvalued themselves and devalued those around them, they were intolerant of criticism, and above all they did not like being questioned or challenged.
And yet, in spite of these less than charming traits, they had no trouble attracting those who were willing to overlook these features.”
Here are some of the traits to watch out for and avoid if possible.
Link to entire list: https://www.psychologytoday.com/dangerous-cult-leaders
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.
- Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
- Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.
- Has a sense of entitlement—expecting to be treated special at all times.
- Is arrogant and haughty in behavior or attitude.
- Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows them to bend rules and break laws.
- Is hypersensitive to how they are seen or perceived by others.
- Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
- Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.
- Insisits in always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.
- Doesn’t listen well to others, communication is one-way in the form of dictates.
- Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling.
- Behaves as though people are objects to be used or exploited for personal gain.
- When criticized, lash out not just with anger but with rage.
- Refers to non-members or non-believers as “the enemy.”
- Habitually puts down others as inferior.
- Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere them.
- The word “I” dominates their conversations, oblivious to how often they reference themself.
- Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly – if so, acts out with rage.
- Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything, never apologize for their actions.
- Believes they possess the answers and solutions to world problems.
- Works the least but demands the most.
- Highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.
- Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from believers.
- Sees self as “unstoppable”, perhaps has even said so.
- Conceals background or family which would disclose ordinary they are.
“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”
— Aldous Huxley, writer & philosopher