Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

What We Can All Learn From The Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford Episode

October 5, 2018

The American political world has been on high alert these last several weeks as everyone, it seemed, became immersed in the ins and outs, highs and lows of the Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford controversy.

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Unfortunately, Americans have no Holy Oracle to go to to resolve such difficulties.  And our media, including social media, which is good at giving us lots of information and view points (often political propaganda), which is good for our animal and herd instincts, often cannot get us to the core problem troubling the intellect.

We offer this as a glimpse of light in an effort to find the potential “core problem.”

Every human being, from every part of earth, and in every era of history, has suffered some dreadful wrong, painful event, disease or hardship.  People on this planet have gone through poverty, drought, cancer, stroke, war, rape, assault, revolution and every other kind of hardship.

In just the last few days, the people of Indonesia experienced earthquake, tsunami and then a volcano eruption.

In each and every hardship, each human being is called to figure out what happened and what to do.

We happen to know many immigrants and refugees. Almost every one of them wants to get on with his or her life. They want jobs, families and the “American Dream.”

Among all the refugees and immigrants we know, not one has elected to return to Cuba, or Venezuela, or Honduras, or Vietnam, or China or Yemen, or Ukraine, or Poland or anywhere else and make a life built upon tearing down the government they hold responsible for their pain and suffering.

The want jobs, good lives, families and the American dream.

It just seems to us that wanting to lash out at a part of the human race is of almost no avail. Human beings cannot run their lives for long on hatred, anger, resentments and rage.

After World War II, even most Holocaust survivors wanted to get on with life, family and whatever prosperity they could muster. Usually, people who survive such ordeals have a deep sense of gratitude, often a sense of some Godly intervention in their unexpected salvation and deliverance.

Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl which explains his personal response to the death camps and his life after.

Although there were Nazi hunters, who made it their duty to find and bring to justice certain people responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the mass of society is often ill suited to such work and they “just want to get on with their lives.”

The Nazis were deplorable, but Victor Frankl didn’t write books about the deplorables.

In my own family, after the War Between the States, people wanted to return to their families, to their farms and to their homes. Some were “broken” but they wanted whatever happiness they could find.

One, ancestor, a Catholic Chaplain during the Civil War, wrote a book about his wartime experience that is almost completely devoid of resentment, or anger or the notion to hold others accountable.

But after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, a wide mass on the left decided to “resist.”

To me, the very word “Resistance” has a kind of sacred connotation, being the name of the freedom fighters in occupied France under the Nazi government.

But America has no Nazi government — but a lawfully and democratically elected President. To say otherwise does damage to those that unjustly claim it — and to the fabric of the democracy we call America.

By living life in a frenzy of anger, shouting, fear and disruption a segment of our society has made it their mission to go to any length to get what they want. One wonders when and where such a turmoil will result in violence.

We wish both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford well. In fact, we pray that each will find peace — despite the likelihood of a long-term kind of psychological hangover these kinds of traumatic encounters often-times inflicts.

Every American can consider him and her self at a crossroads. We have all, to some extent, been witness to a gut wrenching event. It isn’t a diagnosis of cancer and death — unless we choose it to be.

As in every case of pain and suffering, we have to choose. To make life, our lives, our families and our nation a place of peace and justice and goodness.

Or Not.

Today, my Grand Daughter, a First Grader, is coming for lunch. I am told she wants to ask me about my Guardian Angel.

My Guardian Angel, is, in fact, her other Grand Father. He survived the war in Vietnam, many years of re-education in a communist run prison camp, and untold suffering and torture.

When he got to America, all he wanted was a job, his freedom and a peaceful life. For many years he had the life he wanted — and every one of his children is now married and has children of their own. A stroke crippled his body and much of his brain, but we could still pray together, in English and Vietnamese. That was what we could do — so that is what we did.

He died with no resentment, no anger and no urge to blame anybody for anything.

We should all be so lucky.




Prayer and Meditation Aid Mental Health — Afternoon Prayer for Tuesday, September 18, 2018

September 18, 2018

“Anxiety increases in direct ratio and proportion as man departs from God. Everyone in the world has an anxiety complex because each of us has the capacity to be either a sinner or a saint.”

“Despair and anxiety are possible because there is a rational soul. They presuppose the capacity of self-reflection. Only a being capable of contemplating itself can dread annihilation in the face of the infinite, can despair either of itself or of its destiny.”

— Both quotes from “Peace of Soul,” Chapter 2, By Fulton J. Sheen, first published in 1949.


The most often repeated instruction to man in the Holy Scripture is: “Do not be afraid.”

This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Nada Te Turbe (Let nothing disturb you)
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa of Avila


Raising Kids With Religion Or Spirituality May Protect Their Mental Health: Study

A new study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that kids and teens who are raised with religious or spiritual practices tend to have better health and mental health as they age. But not to worry if you’re not a service-attender. The research, published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, finds that people who prayed or meditated on their own time also reaped similar benefits, including lower risk of substance abuse and depression later on.

The team looked at data from 5,000 people taking part in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study II and its next generation Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). They were interested in whether the frequency with which a child/teen attended religious services with their parents or prayed/meditated on their own was correlated with their health and mental health as they grew into their 20s. The young people were followed for anywhere from eight to 14 years.

It turned out that those who attended religious services at least once a week as children or teens were about 18% more likely to report being happier in their 20s than those who never attended services. They were also almost 30% more likely to do volunteer work and 33% less likely to use drugs in their 20s as well.

But what was interesting was that it wasn’t just about how much a person went to services, but it was at least as much about how much they prayed or meditated in their own time. Those who prayed or meditated every day also had more life satisfaction, were better able to process emotions, and were more forgiving compared to those who never prayed/meditated. They were also less likely to have sex at an earlier age and to have a sexually transmitted infection.

“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices,” said study author Ying Chen. “Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”

Previous studies have suggested similar connections—for instance, that people who are more religious are often happier, and that people who believe in something greater than themselves are more resilient to stress. Other work has shown that in meditation and in prayer, the “me” centers of the brain—those that are active when you’re thinking self-referential worry-based thoughts—quiet down, and areas involved in perceiving the external world as “other” also deactivate. This might suggest that at least one way in which religion/spirituality benefits mental health is to reduce our tendency to think about ourselves and at the same time dissolve our sense of separateness.

And as most people know, there’s also a huge body of research showing what meditation itself does for the brain and for mental health, from reducing symptoms of depression to increasing attention and creativity. Additionally, other research has shown that experiencing awe, spending time in nature, and spending time in silence are all linked to greater happiness and well-being, through mechanisms that are very likely related to those in the current study.

One drawback of the new study was that although it tried to control for socioeconomic status and other confounding variables, most people in the study were white, female, and of higher socioeconomic status. The study would need to be repeated in a more diverse population to see whether the phenomenon holds for other demographics.

In the meantime, the research definitely hints that we might want to take a little time to meditate or pray, whatever that might look like for you. Even if you’re not religious in the classic sense, just observing something bigger than you—perhaps nature or the night sky—might tap into the same mechanism. Like many other studies, the new one also suggests that some of the fundamental habits that humans have been doing for eons (praying, meditating) might actually have a lot more value than we tend to think.

Loneliness is on the rise: Smartphones and social media are blamed, particularly among the young

September 1, 2018

Smartphones and social media are blamed, but moderate use can be beneficial particularly among the young

DOCTORS and policymakers in the rich world are increasingly worried about loneliness. Researchers define loneliness as perceived social isolation, a feeling of not having the social contacts one would like. To find out how many people feel this way, The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), an American non-profit group focused on health, surveyed nationally representative samples of people in three rich countries. The study found that over 9% of adults in Japan, 22% in America and 23% in Britain always or often feel lonely, or lack companionship, or else feel left out or isolated.

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One villain in the contemporary debate is technology. Smartphones and social media are blamed for a rise in loneliness in young people. This is plausible. Data from the OECD club of mostly rich countries suggest that in nearly every member country the share of 15-year-olds saying that they feel lonely at school rose between 2003 and 2015.

The smartphone makes an easy scapegoat. A sharp drop in how often American teenagers go out without their parents began in 2009, around when mobile phones became ubiquitous. Rather than meet up as often in person, so the story goes, young people are connecting online.

But this need not make them lonelier. Snapchat and Instagram may help them feel more connected with friends. Of those who said they felt lonely in the KFF/Economist survey, roughly as many found social media helpful as thought it made them feel worse. Yet some psychologists say that scrolling through others’ carefully curated photos can make people feel they are missing out, and lonely.

It is not clear whether it is heavy social-media use leading to loneliness, or vice versa. The most rigorous recent study of British adolescents’ social-media use, published by Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein in 2017, found no link between “moderate” use and measures of well-being. They found evidence to support their “digital Goldilocks hypothesis”: neither too little nor too much screen time is probably best.

The World Isn’t as Bad as Your Wired Brain Tells You

August 31, 2018

Magnified by the internet’s algorithms, our primitive biases make our fears go viral

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Ever wonder why people’s perception of the incidence of crime, terrorism, kidnapping and other violent acts is often much higher than the reality? Why the U.S. is becoming a low-trust society? Why Americans are collectively in a funk?

A big part of the answer, according to experts in social science, psychology and computer science, is that the biases that were once useful to our primitive forebears have become—like the craving for sweet foods—detriments in our modern world. Instincts that may once have saved us from real dangers have now, thanks to global instantaneous communication, turned us all into Chicken Littles.

Our best hope for breaking their spell may lie in understanding the workings of our cognitive and social biases—and the algorithms of online social networks that reinforce them.

The Availability Basis

First described in 1973 by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, author of the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” the availability bias refers to our tendency to think that whatever we heard about most recently is more common than it actually is. This might have been useful when we had to make life choices based on a trickle of information, but now that we have a fire hose of it, we can’t seem to be rational about the likelihood of bad things happening.

The availability bias helps explain why people are afraid of shark attacks, even though they’re more likely to drown at the beach. People fear terrorism, even though the odds they will die in a plane crash are far higher—and the odds that they’ll be killed walking down the street are many times higher still.

Sometimes known as the availability heuristic, this bias is one reason parents are afraid to let children play unsupervised, though it’s never been safer to be a child in America.

Mass media has leveraged this bias since at least the birth of so-called yellow, or sensationalist, journalism in the late 1800s, but the internet makes every child abduction, shark bite and terrorist attack seem like it’s happening in our backyards, says Lenore Skenazy, president of Let Grow, a nonprofit that advocates for childhood independence.

The Extremity Bias

We also have social biases that come out when we’re in crowds, says Jonah Berger, a professor at Wharton who studies how ideas spread. The “extremity bias” is our tendency to share the most extreme version of any story, to keep our listeners rapt. A positive story becomes absolutely glowing, a negative one turns horrific, like the tall tales of ancient oral tradition.

Online, this tendency goes into overdrive. “Our audiences are getting larger and larger, so our bias is to make things more and more extreme to engage those audiences,” says Prof. Berger. Note the rise of hyperbolic phrases—things aren’t merely “exciting,” they’re “extremely exciting.”

Content that evokes both positive and negative response at the same time is even more viral. For example, sharing content about children being abducted from their parents by strangers—an exceedingly rare phenomenon—simultaneously arouses feelings of anger and feelings of self-righteousness, says Ms. Skenazy. Even as we’re incensed, we feel we are helping to protect children by sounding the alarm. “It is this double whammy of outrage and virtue.”

The Confirmation Bias

We have a natural tendency to seek information that confirms our pre-existing views and discount information that doesn’t. That’s confirmation bias, and ironically, it may have evolved as a way to keep us from succumbing to manipulation by others.

Confirmation bias has come to the fore this week as President Trump has seized on a perception in conservative circles that Google elevates critical news articles about his presidency to threaten action against the search giant. Google says its search results aren’t politically biased.

Social media’s algorithms tend to lump us into buckets and feed us information that more or less conforms to what we’ve previously showed an interest in. Doing this across millions of people has meant dividing and polarizing populations into nonoverlapping views of reality.

As a result, when inaccurate information infects one of these echo chambers—for example, that kidnapping is on the rise or that vaccines cause autism—there are few checks on its spread.

When Algorithms Augment

Algorithms that maximize engagement play off our biases, or unwittingly fuel them. Either way, this leads to a litany of well-documented ills, from mental-health issues to ever-deeper political polarization.

The end result is systems that—whatever their makers’ intent—are highly optimized to make us believe things that aren’t true. Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. (parent of Google and its YouTube division) along with a few other tech companies, have built history’s biggest, farthest-reaching and most profitable delusion machine.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg promised to spend 2018 fixing Facebook’s assorted issues, and pledged to help ensure that users’ time on its services is “time well spent.” Facebook also says it’s actively working to make its platform less susceptible to manipulation of the sort that occurred when Russia used Facebook to attempt to disrupt the 2016 U.S. elections. Whether or not these measures have had any effect, people are spending less time on Facebook.

YouTube previously said it was beefing up content moderation and surfacing more authoritative news sources to people searching breaking-news topics. It has also recently terminated accounts found to be pushing misinformation. It’s not clear what impact that has had on its user experience.


Skeptics might argue that this column is itself a product of our cognitive biases.

“I’m always skeptical of now-more-than-ever observations that are not backed up by time-series data, since they themselves can be products of the availability heuristic and may be inaccurate,” says Harvard University psychology professor Steven Pinker.

The good news, says Peter Reiner, a neuroethicist at the University of British Columbia, is that educating ourselves about these cognitive biases could help. “The best thing you can do to inoculate yourself is to know that they exist,” he adds.

That’s why it’s imperative that you don’t share this column on social media, where it will just become part of one bias-reinforcing echo chamber or another. Instead, talk about it with friends or family members. Or better yet, total strangers. After all, the odds of being killed by one are astronomically low.

Write to Christopher Mims at

Fractured, angry, unhinged social media and society “just not good for human beings”

August 28, 2018

Psychologists tell us that human beings seek intimacy, not anxiety. So why are we all lapping up the current media and social media tidal wave of anger, anxiety and loss of civility? Why do we seek what we don’t want — instead of wanting what we really need?

The New York Times gives us a little insight into this today in a discussion that includes this line:

“The three Great Untruths” of the current moment: “what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker”; “always trust your feelings”; “life is a battle between good people and evil people.”

Does Our Cultural Obsession With Safety Spell the Downfall of Democracy?


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That article could have had the headline: “Think about where you’re driving us, we may not like it when we get there.”

I had to conclude, not too long ago, that God put me on this earth to pass a test. He isn’t so much interested in my ideas on how to fix your problems, or Donald Trump’s problems for even the problems in Bangladesh (or the Democratic party).

He (or she) wants me to turn in a really fine performance by myself. With what I have. No extra points for straitening out the lady across the street or the political bosses in Russia.

I have to be fearless, because anxiety and fear, is just plain bad for the human being. Besides, I am not living in Auschwitz — and even if I was I would still have to turn in my own report card on me, as Viktor Frankl tells us in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

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Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

So I have to start with, “I don’t want to be a snowflake” and move toward “I am nobody’s door mat” and finally get to “I Am Who God Wants Me To Be and That’s Pretty Darn Good.”

If each of us could write that trilogy, just think how wonderful the world could be. But that doesn’t matter. The only score cord I can turn in is my own.

You are on your own too. But help is all around.


Young people

The study found widespread apprehension about the future. Seeking intimacy? Or isolation?


The Two Things We All Want and Need Most

What are our deepest psychological needs?

By Noam Shpancer Ph.D.

What are the fundamental motivations that animate our lives, our deepest needs, the ultimate goals compelling our pursuits and desires? This is an old question in psychology, occasioning much debate.

In thinking about this question, it is useful to borrow a notion from evolutionary science, which distinguishes between proximal and ultimate causes. Proximal causes motivate behavior in the here and now. Ultimate causes are the underlying foundational forces that shape and direct our here-and-now attentions. So the proximal reason you find a woman attractive is her lush hair and smooth skin. But why are lush hair and smooth skin attractive? That’s an ultimate cause question. Proximally, you are excited by the newness of your purchase. But why is “new” exciting, ultimately?

Proximal causes are usually means to ultimate cause ends. In the examples above, lush hair and soft skin are a proxy for youth, which is a proxy for fertility, a winner in the evolutionary gene-spreading game. Novelty excites because new is change, and change requires adaptation if one wishes to survive and thrive; both danger (a predator looking to eat us up) and promise (prey we can catch and eat) lie in that which is new in the environment. Therefore tending to novelty is a winning strategy in the evolutionary game.

As you might have noticed, life is complicated. Thus, any outcome may have multiple, layered proximal and ultimate causes. The proximal causes of the sailboat gliding over the water include the fact that the wind catches the sail, and also that the sailor is proficient, and also that the boom is sturdy, etc. The ultimate causes may include the survival advantage conferred by our ability to get places fast over water, the benefits of territorial control and access to resources, our desire for an increased sense of security achieved through making something unknown known, etc.

Clearly, some ultimate motives are biological. We are biological systems and everything that is possible to us has to be biologically possible. Evolutionary psychology posits the survival and reproductive functions as the ultimate biological motivations. Reverse-engineer anything we do and you’ll find these motives at play underneath. There is truth and elegance to this claim. It’s quite easy to see how underneath all our varied efforts to distinguish ourselves, achieve, accrue fame or amass fortune, lie an effort to improve our access to resources, including protective ones (i.e. survive) and attract the attentions of quality mates (i.e. reproduce).

But human beings are not just the sum of their biological processes and structures. At least not in any way that’s interesting. We also have a characteristic human psychology, which is neither synonymous with nor reducible to biology. Reducing human behavior and experience to their biological functions provides an impoverished, not to say distorted, picture of humanity. It turns out that psychological motivations—perhaps in part because they are born of (and map onto) biological imperatives—are as enduring and fundamental (ultimate) as biological ones, at least insofar as one wants to understand people’s behavior and lived experience.

To wit, a thought experiment: Let’s say we brought a biblical figure—say, Moses—back to life right now. Despite easily passing for a Brooklyn hipster—sandals, beard and all, Moses would nevertheless be utterly perplexed at the sight of your iPhone. Yet he’d be quite familiar with your emotional and relational (that is, psychological) issues—family petulance, greed and lust, your conflict with your boss and rage at social injustice, etc. In other words, while our technology has changed dramatically from biblical times, our psychology has remained more or less the same. The proximal means by which we communicate have changed much; the ultimate need to communicate, not at all.

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In psychology’s early days, human motivation was often attributed to inborn ‘instincts’—innate, fixed patterns of behavior that emerge fully formed in response to certain stimuli. Early theorists such as William James posited lists of human instincts including shyness, love, play, shameangerfear, etc. “Instinct leads,” said William James, “intelligence does but follow.” One problem with instinct theories is that they describe rather than explain motivation, and are tautological by nature (Q: Why am I doing x? A: because you have x instinct. Q: How do you know I have x instinct? A: Because you are doing x).

Given their limitations in advancing understanding and prediction, it’s no wonder that instinct theories soon gave way to drive theories. A drive can be defined as an excitatory state produced by an inner disturbance. In other words, when certain biological conditions are unmet (say, I haven’t eaten in a while), the body produces discomfort, which we are then motivated to eliminate (in this case, by eating).

Drive theories owed a debt to the work of Claude Bernard, a 19th century French physiologist who is considered the father of modern experimental physiology. Bernard discovered one of the fundamental principles of organic life, the concept of “homeostasis”—controlled stability of the internal milieu in the face of changing external conditions (think for example: body temperature), which he reasoned was, “the condition for free life.”

Freud, who developed the first influential drive theory in psychology, saw drives as internal forces that compel a movement toward restoring homeostasis. Freud believed that human behavior was motivated by two fundamental biologically-based drives, sex and aggression. These drives, appearing to us as “the psychical representative of the stimuli originating from within the organism” constitute, “the whole flux of our mental life and everything that finds expression in our thoughts.”

Clark Hull, an influential early 20th century American drive theorist, said it thus: “When survival is in jeopardy, the organism is in a state of need (when the biological requirements for survival are not being met) so the organism behaves in a fashion to reduce that need.” Hull believed that humans possessed four primary drives: hunger, thirst, sex and pain avoidance.

But how does one find the behaviors that serve to effectively reduce the drive? Well, mostly we do so by trial and error, reward and punishment. In other words, we learn from experience how to respond effectively to disruptions in homeostasis.

This idea had by the 1950s worked its way into the behaviorist theory of BF Skinner, according to which we select from a repertoire of behaviors those that produce reinforcements. Skinner, however, had little patience for the notion of internal motivation. While recognizing the existence of inner drives, Skinner nevertheless argued that they did not explain behavior. Rather, the causes of behaviors earlier theorists had attributed to internal drives were actually environmental events, like deprivation and aversive stimulation, not internal states such as thirst or anger.

Drives, as de facto effects of deprivation and aversive conditions, are linked to the probability of certain behaviors, but in a corollary, not causal, manner. For Skinner, internal states like emotion and intention do exist within the brain, but as contingencies, not behavioral causes.

Either way, both classic ‘push’ drive theories and the newer ‘pull’ behaviorist ideas, while useful in their focus on the interplay between our biological make up and the environment, proved wanting as explanations of complex human behavior. For example, why do some behaviors continue long after the biological needs from which they ostensibly emerged are satisfied? People, after all, eat when they are not hungry, and well past the point of satiation. Second, what’s reinforcing, or tension reducing, about a prisoner refusing to divulge secrets under conditions of continued torture?

It turns out that in terms of the human experience, internal psychological processes matter greatly. If you run over me with your car, I’d be interested to know whether you did so intentionally. The court would want to know, as would your friends, and mine, and God at the pearly gates.

The 1960s, the emergence of the civil rights and human potential movements—and with them the humanist school in psychology—saw psychology’s attentions shift from a focus on drives to a consideration of psychological needs, defined as psychological conditions in which something is required or wanted.

“Lists of drives will get us nowhere” wrote the prominent humanist theorist Abraham Maslow, opting instead to create his famous hierarchy of needs, in which biological needs must be adequately satisfied before we may pursue the higher, more delicate self-actualization needs. In Maslow’s words: “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.”

The humanistic emphasis on identifying those parts of human experience that made us unique has also provided fertile grounds for the contemplation of the idea of meaning. The psychologist Victor Frankl famously wrote that searching for meaning is ‘‘the primary motivational force in man.” Existentialist psychologists such as Rollo May in particular spoke of the motivation to find meaning, to make sense of one’s existence, as a defining feature of humanity, separating it from all other living creatures. We are aware that we will die, and we are also aware that we are not dead now. So there is a space for us to be—but how? And what? “He who has a why to live for,” said Nietzsche, “can bear almost any how.” Indeed, research has shown that a sense of meaning predicts health and wellbeing.

The interest in needs and goals has thus replaced the interest in instincts and drives, and, with psychology’s more recent turn toward the study of cognition, the discussion of what needs could be considered fundamental, or ‘ultimate,’ has expanded.

For example, the late Harvard psychologist David McClelland has proposed three such fundamental motivators: the need for achievement (N-Ach) is the extent to which an individual desires to perform difficult and challenging tasks successfully; the need for affiliation, (N-Affil) is the desire for harmonious relationships with other people; the need for power (N-Pow) is a desire for authority, to be in charge.

Looking to integrate research findings on the dual roles of both extrinsic (pull) and intrinsic (push) motivations in shaping behavior, the psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan proposed the influential self-determination theory, according to which human beings are motivated by three basic, innate goals: competence, affiliation, and autonomy. Competence refers to a desire to control outcome, gain mastery, and become skilled. Affiliation refers to the desire to “interact with, be connected to, and experience caring for other people.” Autonomy concerns the urge to be causal agents and to act in harmony with our integrated self.

The diverse work on motivation is not easy to summarize. Yet two threads appear (to me) to weave vividly through all or most of the theorizing in this area.

One is the affiliation need, the need to belong. Human beings can survive and thrive only in well-organized groups, and so our search for belonging is foundational, and urgent. Many psychological theories (beyond those mentioned above) allude to this notion in varying forms.

For example, Freud’s brilliant contemporary Alfred Adler argued that our “social interest”—an orientation to live cooperatively with others, value the common good, show interest in the welfare of humankind, and empathically identify with others—was an innate and foundational component of our psychic architecture. A failure on the part of parents and schools to protect and nurture children’s innate social interest was, according to Adler, the source of much individual suffering and social turmoil.

John Bowlby’s influential attachment theory emphasizes the importance of healthy caregiver-child bonds—the so-called ‘secure attachment’—for later emotional health and adaptation. The seminal Russian developmental theorist Lev Vygotsky has written about how development entails a process of “apprenticeship in culture,” where more expert and competent individuals teach children through assisted (‘scaffolded’) interactions how to achieve social competence. More recently, psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, in arguing for the existence of a universal ‘need to belong,’ summarized their case thusly:

“People form social attachments readily under most conditions and resist the dissolution of existing bonds. Belongingness appears to have multiple and strong effects on emotional patterns and on cognitive processes. Lack of attachments is linked to a variety of ill effects on health, adjustment, and well-being…Existing evidence supports the hypothesis that the need to belong is a powerful, fundamental, and extremely pervasive motivation.”

A second dominant thread weaving through psychological theorizing and research on motivation is that individual human beings move invariably to develop a unique and coherent identity, a psychological sense of self to match the embodied physical self. In fact, the need to belong implicitly presupposes the existence of someone to do the belonging. When the Beatles sang, “all you need is love” they were correct insofar as implying that all love also needs a ‘you.’

The American psychologist Gordon Allport argued that it is this innate sense of individual coherence, agency, and continuity that allows us to wake up every morning with the deep certainty that we are the same person who went to sleep last night.

Deci and Ryan put it thusly: “all individuals have natural, innate, and constructive tendencies to develop an ever more elaborated and unified sense of self. That is, we assume people have a primary propensity to forge interconnections among aspects of their own psyches as well as with other individuals and groups in their social worlds.”

It is true that the concept of self emerges in a social context. We define ourselves vis-a-vis other selves. Cultural norms and traditions heavily influence the kind of selves we construct. Yet it is also incontrovertibly true that there is a universal quality to the notion of self. Selfhood is recognized everywhere—everybody has a name—and many of its characteristics are common across cultures.

The individual body provides a universal framework. We are all embodied, and conscious of that fact. People everywhere develop an awareness of themselves as physically distinct and separable from others. We also share an awareness of our internal activity. “A purely disembodied human emotion,” wrote William James, “is a nonentity.”

We are aware of our stream of consciousness as manifested in thoughts and feelings and its common disruptions, as experienced in sleep and intoxication, for example. We are aware of the existence of a private realm of self, unknown to others.

My (invariably) astute readers will note readily that these two motivations, while entwined, are also in some fundamental way at odds with each other. For one, group functioning requires cohesion and conformity, which in turn involve a reduction in personal individual autonomy. Likewise, the need to define and express a coherent and unique self in part entails differentiating from the crowd in some meaningful way. Individual caprice is often at odds with communal goals and standards. As Rollo May has written: “Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, this is me and the damned world can go to hell.”

The developmental psychologist Erik Erikson has alluded to this inherent tension in his developmental theory. According to Erikson, we develop in a sequence of stages, each involving a distinctive psychosocial ‘crisis,’ the resolution of which may have a positive or negative outcome for personalitydevelopment. Erikson saw these crises as “psycho-social” in that they pit the individual psychological needs against the needs of society.

Yet I would argue that it is quite heuristically useful, and justified by much evidence, to think about human motivation on the psychological plain as the interplay of these two fundamental motivations: the ‘need to belong,’ to feel embraced and connected with other humans, loved, protected, accepted and understood, a member of a tribe; and the ‘need to be’—to define and assert a coherent, unique self. There is, it seems to me, a strong case to be made that all our consequential psychological machinations can be traced back to these two motives, our deepest needs: to belong somewhere and to be someone.

If we wish to go further with this model, we may imagine these two motives as dynamic continua: separation-connectedness, marking the ‘need to belong,’ and dependence-autonomy, representing the ‘need to be.’ Placed in a 2×2 table of the kind psychologists love, these categories yield four possible combinations:

Dependence + Connectedness, a state of affairs we may label ‘Infancy’

Dependence + Separation, a state of affairs we may label ‘Anxiety’

Autonomy + Separation, which we may label ‘Identity’

Autonomy + Connectedness—let’s call this state ‘Intimacy

Dependence                       Autonomy

Connectedness             Infancy                              Intimacy 

Separation                     Anxiety                              Identity

These combinations describe, I think, with some elegance, the developmental path toward personality maturity, the journey of becoming.

The infant in the first years of life is both dependent entirely on others for survival and connected, as she posses no clear awareness of a separate self. As the child matures, she acquires an awareness of self that is distinct from others, yet remains thoroughly dependent on them, unfit for autonomous existence. Through adolescence and into young adulthood, one may reach autonomy (psychological, legal, geographical, financial, etc.). Yet, having left childhood and its ways of affiliating behind, must engage the search for adult connectivity—the partner(s), friends, and communal life that are chosen rather than assigned by birth. Later in adulthood, if all works well, one may get to be both genuinely connected (belonging somewhere) and confidently autonomous (being someone).

This, I’d argue, is what our psychology is ultimately after.

Can search engines sway our minds? Can Google and Facebook sway elections? Manipulate People and Elections?

August 25, 2018
Tucker Carlson on the Fox News Channel again last night (August 24, 2018)  interviewed Robert Epstein, a psychologist with the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California.
Epstein believes Google, Facebook and other social media can impact our psychology to change the way we look at things, perceive the world and even vote. At first blush he sounds a little like a George Orwell dystopian conspiracy theorist. But to people who live and work on the Internet, he strikes a chord and some even say he speaks the truth.
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The topic is intriguing and tricky. Gillian Tett looked at it for the Financial Times last may and other references are below for thinkers to ponder…
Gillian Tett — MAY 2, 2018 
Financial Times

A couple of months ago, a veteran investor in Silicon Valley conducted an experiment: he extracted all the data that Facebook and Google each held about him and compared the files.

The results startled him — Google held dramatically more information, by a large multiple. “It’s amazing,” he told me over breakfast in San Francisco. “Why is nobody talking about that?”

It is an interesting question, particularly if you use Google’s services numerous times each day, as I do. One answer might be that Google executives have been savvy in building political support networks. Another is that Google hangs on to the data it collects itself, and then uses it to create targeted search-and-advertising offerings, customised for users. Facebook lets third-party developers access its data, which is why the antics of Cambridge Analytica have sparked so much furore.

This distinction may make Google sound more benign, but does it mean we can relax? Robert Epstein, a psychologist with the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California, thinks not. In recent years, he has conducted extensive research with fellow psychologists and data scientists into Google’s “search”, or “autocomplete”, function. This has left him convinced that search engines can sway our minds in extraordinarily powerful and largely unnoticed ways too — and not only about politics.

“A search engine has the power to manipulate people’s searches from the very first character people type into the search bar,” says a research paper that this group presented to a psychology conference in Oregon last month. “A simple yet powerful way for a search-engine company to manipulate elections is to suppress negative search suggestions for the candidate it supports, while allowing one or more negative search suggestions to appear for the opposing candidate.”

Image result for Mark Zuckerberg announces Facebook dating feature, photos
Mark Zuckerberg announces Facebook dating feature

Epstein’s group asked 661 Americans to pick one of two candidates in an Australian election. Since it was presumed they did not know much about Antipodean politics, the participants were instructed to research them with a Google-type search engine that offered the usual autocomplete suggestions when words were typed in.

However, the researchers also varied the search suggestions shown beneath a candidate’s name, including a range of positive and negative words. The results were stark. When participants were later questioned about their voting preferences, changing the ratio of positive to negative suggestions in the autocomplete was shown to be capable of shifting the preferences of undecided voters by nearly 80 per cent — even though participants seemed free to search for any material they wanted. Another study found that when participants were only offered four autocomplete suggestions, they were very easily manipulated; when there were 10 to choose from, they were not.

These results do not demonstrate that Google — or any other search-engine company such as Bing or Yahoo — has used this power to manipulate its users. But Epstein’s paper highlights some patterns that he considers strange. At that time he discovered that on Google, Bing and Yahoo you could get negative search results about Bing and Yahoo; but you could get negative search results about Google only on Bing and Yahoo.

Another striking pattern cropped up in August 2016. When the words “Hillary Clinton is” were typed into Google’s search engine, the autocomplete offered phrases such as “Hillary Clinton is winning”; on Yahoo and Bing, the autocomplete suggested “Hillary Clinton is a liar” and “Hillary Clinton is a criminal”.

Google executives say these different auto-suggestion patterns arose because the company has a policy of removing offensive auto-predictions. “Google removes predictions that are against our autocomplete policies, which bar . . . hateful predictions against groups and individuals on the basis of race, religion or several other demographics,” wrote Danny Sullivan, a company senior executive, in a blog post last month.

They have also firmly denied they have ever tried to use the autocomplete tool to manipulate users. They have said Epstein’s work was based on a small sample size, using a Google-style search engine rather than Google’s own data. In a rare official comment in 2015 about some of Epstein’s work, executives said: “Google has never ever re-ranked search results on any topic (including elections) to manipulate user sentiment.”

If nothing else, this research should make us all ponder the way in which we use that “autocomplete” function. The better auto-prediction becomes, the greater the potential risk that users will become lazily sucked into digital echo chambers. Among other things, Epstein believes search engines should put a simple “health warning” about the dangers of echo chambers — and manipulation — on their sites to counter these possible risks.

Whether or not you accept Epstein’s research, this seems a good idea. But don’t expect it to happen soon — or not unless more consumers, and regulators, do what my Silicon Valley breakfast companion did: namely look at the data that all the biggest tech companies hold on us, starting — but not finishing — with Facebook.

This article has been amended since publication to clarify findings on Google, Bing and Yahoo made in a paper by Dr Epstein

See also:

Masters of the Universe Town Hall: Robert Epstein Claims ‘You Have No Idea of the Extent of Surveillance’


See also:

Top Psychologist on Tucker Carlson: The Threat of Google-Facebook to Manipulate Elections is Absolutely, Positively Profound 



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Neuroscience may help explain a current lack of social and emotional skills, impulse driven decision making and mob-like behavior in society…

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Social media is making children regress to mentality of three-year-olds, says top brain scientist

Social Media Psychosis: Musk-Trump Disease is Born

August 24, 2018

In the age of social media, every opinion counts. Everyone feels free, and in fact empowered, to state his own views publicly.

But this may not be a good thing for either individuals or national governments.

Many learned scientists have said that social media encourages mob behavior. While democracies used to rely mostly upon the ballot box, with relative calm between election cycles, our current state of affairs is a continuous volley of charges and counter charges, in public, and not necessarily “in the public interest.”

Over night, Australia removed and replaced its prime minister in a vote of lawmakers, apparently because he was too calm and plodding for the current world.

People seem to be “juiced” toward conflict, anger, retribution and upheaval.

Wasn’t the Russian election meddling campaign about creating disunity?

How are they doing?

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Human being don’t normally thrive on upheaval as a way of life. And the psychological toll this takes, though difficult to measure, seems to be one declared universally “bad” by experts in the human brain.

Video games have been declared addictive yet parents seem not to care. Maybe because, social media like Facebook itself may also be addictive, and capturing the brain of many adults.

As a newspaper opinion writer, or columnist, I was once told by an angry reader to “stay in my lane.” Almost without thinking, I responded, “My lane is the world.”

Most psychologists — then — would have called that an egotistical, narcissistic and potential psychopathic response.

Today, everyone thinks he  or she can comment upon everything and anything on social media. Day and night.

But nobody seems to know or care that this could be a wave of egotistical, narcissistic and potential psychopathic mob behavior difficult if not impossible to stop.

Fortunately we haven’t had any social media related lynchings as yet, except in India and who knows  where else.

Competent medial authorities have told me that Elon Musk and Donald Trump are two people that just should just get off Twitter. Their unrestrained outbursts may be amusing but they could also be self destructive.

Maybe some bright young psychologist will study and name this self-destructive social media psychosis: Musk-Trump Disease.

This should be a lesson to us all to back off our social media use and give our brains a rest.

But it won’t. Your brain is too tricky for that.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom


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The face of the Big Data backlash? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg—pilloried here at a protest in Washington, D.C., earlier this year— is the most visible tech executive to grapple with fallout from a data scandal.
The face of the Big Data backlash? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg—pilloried here at a protest in Washington, D.C., earlier this year— is the most visible tech executive to grapple with fallout from a data scandal. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

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Neuroscience may help explain a current lack of social and emotional skills, impulse driven decision making and mob-like behavior in society…

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Social media is making children regress to mentality of three-year-olds, says top brain scientist

Is America Moving More Toward China’s “Algorithmic Governance”?

August 22, 2018
To Silicon Valley idealists, technology promises greater freedom. But in China, innovation is shepherding in an authoritarian hellscape.
By Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images.

Until recently in Silicon Valley, it was taken as an article of faith that technology could enhance democracy. “One could change the world with one hundred and forty characters,” Twitter C.E.O. Jack Dorsey declared in 2007. That may be true to some extent—in many countries, services like Twitter and Facebook have made it easier than ever to organize, and have eliminated many media gatekeepers.

 “The goal is algorithmic governance.”

But in China, which is undergoing a tech boom, innovation seems to be expanding in the opposite direction: instead of allowing for free and open platforms, the country is implementing an authoritarian tech dystopia. Already, local Chinese governments and schools have employed surveillance technology to do everything from fine residents for jaywalking to pinpoint an alleged thief in a 20,000-person crowd. It is, as The New York Times reports, a chilling alternative vision of the future—and one that will almost certainly go global. While the use of facial-recognition software has inspired some backlash in the U.S., China has rapidly embraced A.I.-based surveillance technologies to police its 1.4 billion people. By 2020, analysts estimate that China will have nearly 300 million cameras installed, and Chinese police will spend $30 billion on surveillance technology. “This is potentially a totally new way for the government to manage the economy and society,” Martin Chorzempa, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told the Times.

China, a semi-authoritarian state, is in a unique position to implement such technology, even if it hasn’t yet done so on a mass scale. Political dissent is repressed. Restrictions on Internet use limit the information available to the public. And with few laws in place to protect consumer privacy, many tech start-ups are already handing their data over to the government, enabling a dystopian marriage of human policing and surveillance. In Zhengzhou, law-enforcement officers use facial-recognition glasses to apprehend drug smugglers at train stations. In the western part of the country, mass-surveillance technology is used to track members of the Uighur Muslim minority, mapping out relationships with friends and family. Information on plane trips and hotel stays is readily available. A start-up called Eyecool gives more than 2 million facial images every day to a big-data policing system called—perhaps a bit heavy-handedly—Skynet.

The human psyche has played a crucial role in the success of China’s new system. Last summer, when police posted a large, outdoor screen showcasing the photos, names, and government I.D. numbers of people who sped or jaywalked at a certain intersection, the number of incidents quickly declined. “If you are captured by the system and you don’t see it, your neighbors or colleagues will, and they will gossip about it,” Guan Yue, a spokeswoman, told the Times. “That’s too embarrassing for people to take.”

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And while the technology itself may only be partially effective right now, the perception of surveillance has an equally powerful effect. Bureaucratic inefficiencies have so far prevented the country from creating a truly national surveillance network: cameras on one block, or in one town, may not be functional in another, preventing the state—for now, anyway—from fully tracking its citizens. But that’s not necessarily common knowledge to China’s citizens. “The whole point is that people don’t know if they’re being monitored,” Chorzempa explained. “And that uncertainty makes people more obedient.”

Despite some setbacks, China’s hunger for surveillance appears to be fueling an investment boom. Companies like SenseTime, Megvii, and Yitu are raising hundreds of millions of dollars with investments from traditional players like Tiger Global Management and Temasek, as well as state-sponsored funds created by the country’s leadership. Some of these companies are already expanding beyond China’s borders: at Yitu, an artificial-intelligence start-up whose Shanghai headquarters includes a network of surveillance cameras linked to a facial-recognition system that tracks and monitors its own employees, talks of Southeast Asian and Middle East expansion are already underway. Similar efforts are taking root in countries like India, where the government is collecting biometric data and linking it to things like welfare programs and pensions. For certain services, biometric registration is mandatory, resulting in the creation of one of the largest stores of biometric data in the world. Countries like Britain, Russia, and the Philippines are studying India’s efforts, according to the Times.

Similar technologies have been deployed in the United States, although some have been scaled back in the face of public protest. Amazon, whose Rekognition facial-recognition software has been used by some national law-enforcement agencies, was recently pressured by its employees and shareholders to stop selling the tech to law enforcement, citing the potential for abuse. “Along with much of the world we watched in horror recently as U.S. authorities tore children away from their parents,” read a letter from employees, distributed on a mailing list called “we-won’t-build-it.” “In the face of this immoral U.S. policy, and the U.S.’s increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.” (Microsoft saw a similar revolt last month over its own contract with immigration-enforcement agents.) Yet even if Silicon Valley giants discontinue their government partnerships, other companies will likely step in to fill their place—even now, the Department of Health and Human Services is planning to test the DNA of immigrant children separated from their families, potentially establishing a database which the government could later access. It’s still uncertain which company will step in to carry out the task. But without a doubt, one will.

Videogame Developers Are Making It Harder to Stop Playing

August 20, 2018

layers are logging more hours as developers find new ways to keep them engaged

Attendees play ‘Fortnite’ at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles in June.
Attendees play ‘Fortnite’ at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles in June. PHOTO: PATRICK T. FALLON/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Videogames have gotten harder to turn off, mental-health experts and parents say, raising concerns about the impact of seemingly endless gaming sessions on players’ lives.

Game developers for years have tweaked the dials not only on how games look and sound but how they operate under the hood, and such changes have made videogames more pervasive and enthralling, industry observers say.

The World Health Organization in June added “gaming disorder” to an updated version of its International Classification of Diseases, warning about a condition in which people give up interests and activities to overly indulge in gaming despite negative consequences. It is expected to be formally classified in January 2022.

Many games today are free, available on multiple devices and double as social networks. Where once games were played and put away for a while, now game companies are routinely delivering new content aimed at keeping players constantly engaged. Some new content is available only for a limited time, a maneuver that tugs at people’s fears of missing out, psychologists say.

“Videogames are engineered specifically to keep people playing,” said Douglas A. Gentile, a research scientist focused on the impact of media on children and adults. “They’re designed to hit the pleasure centers of the brain in some of the same ways that gambling can.”

The growing allure of games has parents such as Tracy Macon worried. Her 14-year-old son Matthew plays the tactical shooter game “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege” around the clock, she said. Taking away the computer he plays it on has caused meltdowns.

“He has no motivation to do anything else,” said Mrs. Macon, a 40-year-old office manager in Minneapolis. “It’s hard for the whole family.”

The videogame industry has long challenged criticism about the harmful effects of games. Its biggest trade group—the Entertainment Software Association—said the WHO’s proposal is based on “highly contested and inconclusive” research.

Some mental-health professionals say games can have a positive impact on players. They can help students improve in math and history, plus nurture team-building skills and creativity, said Rachel Kowert, a research psychologist focused on game technology. “The reputation games have is fueled by a moral panic, but their impact is more positive than negative,” she said.

Videogames are more popular than ever. Game-software revenue rose 80% between 2013 and 2017 to $97.6 billion world-wide, and this year is projected to reach $108.4 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. By comparison, spending at the box office and on home-movie entertainment reached a global record of $88.4 billion in 2017, according to the latest data available from the Motion Picture Association of America.

Among the biggest changes fueling more interest in videogames is that many, such as the megahit “Fortnite,” encourage players to socialize, acting as social hot spots that are replacing malls and other teen hangouts.

After “Toon Blast” added the ability to chat and compete in tournaments with friends, people started playing 45 minutes a day on average, up from 30 minutes, according to its developer, Istanbul-based Peak Games Inc. “People like to help each other and socialize,” said Ömer İnönü, director of strategy.

The average amount of time each week people in the U.S. aged 13 and older spend playing videogames rose to 7.8 hours in 2017, up 60% from 2011, the first year the survey was conducted, according to Nielsen. It doesn’t survey children younger than 13 for research in this area.

The latest survey, taken in January, showed a drop to 6.5 hours a week. Nielsen didn’t give an explanation. Kit Yarrow, a psychologist who specializes in consumer behavior, said people likely are more reticent about their activity given repeated warnings over the years. “Once people realize they have a problem, they tend to underreport their usage,” she said.

“Fortnite,” which has amassed at least 125 million players since its July 2017 debut, embodies many of the tactics game creators use to keep people playing. It is available on many devices—consoles, computers and smartphones—and its popular last-person-standing mode is free.

Players can customize characters and buy virtual goods in ‘Fortnite’
Players can customize characters and buy virtual goods in ‘Fortnite’

Epic Games Inc. routinely changes the “Fortnite” landscape and storyline to keep players engaged. Virtual goods are frequently added to the game’s store, nudging players to customize their characters and show them off to friends.

Jake Claborn, a 16-year-old from Whitewright, Texas, said he logs into “Fortnite” for several hours daily in part because “all of my friends play it.” He says he frequently argues with his parents over the habit. “They usually have to tell me three or four times” to stop, he said.

Epic Games declined to comment.

One common feature that can help hook players is a virtual reward for logging in or completing a list of tasks daily.

“These types of extrinsic rewards build habits of regular engagement with a game, and can lead some players to compulsive or addictive behaviors,” said Patrick Jagoda, a professor at the University of Chicago who has researched how game-play techniques are used in business and culture.

Dan Hacker, a 25-year-old musician in Detroit, spends about three hours daily playing Electronic Arts Inc.’s FIFA franchise. The more time he invests in the soccer game, the more free virtual currency he acquires to spend to create a dream team.

“It definitely feels like I have an obligation to play,” he said.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at


Morning Prayer for Saturday, July 28, 2018 —

July 28, 2018

God can be your shield. Then no problems of the world can harm you. Between you and all scorn and indignity from others is your trust in God, like a shining shield. Nothing can then have the power to spoil your inward peace. With this shield, you can attain this inward peace quickly, in your surroundings as well as in your heart. With this inward peace, you do not need to resent the person who troubles you. Instead, you can overcome the resentment in your own mind, which may have been aroused by that person.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may strive for inward peace. I pray that I may not be seriously upset, no matter what happens around me.

Photo: Colorado River cuts through the Grand Canyon

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From: Integrated Catholic Life

Darkness. We have all experienced it. Darkness can be anything from a darkened room to darkness of soul and heart. No one escapes. We may think we know people who lead charmed, untroubled lives, but these seemingly perpetually worry free individuals are out there, struggling and crying every day—by the hundreds, if not thousands.

The only way to Jesus is through the crosses in our lives. As the late Fr. Groeschel writes, “it is not enough merely to survive the trials of life, it is necessary to go beyond them.” Arise from Darkness—What To Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense is Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s testament to navigating dark times, the seemingly endless tunnels of pain that we all endure at one time or another. “Why me, Lord?” The answer is, “Why not you?” Fr. Groeschel, priest and psychologist, approaches his topic with the wisdom of his experience in both roles. With his unique approach, he touches all the soft and hard spots that are recognizable to anyone who has lived through their personal darkness. The universal answer to the question of pain is, of course, Jesus Christ.

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The topics he covers are varied and universal. Beginning with betrayal by friends, threats to our security and, perhaps, most difficult, when the Church fails us, Groeschel writes succintly of the paths to be taken for rising again. In answer to the question of why the Church fails, it is because “it is made up of human beings.” He further counsels “don’t depend on a particular part of the Church”, depend on God. Adding to that would be that before you get yourself wrapped around the axle over an issue—do your homework.

The section on being our own worst enemies is a treasure trove of insights. As the beloved comic strip character Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” Denying reality gets people into amazing messes. Denying God is an open door to destruction. People live stressed out on anger, past resentments and jealousy, it is a “diet of pure psychological cholesterol.” God is always there for us—we have only to approach and ask. People often shoot themselves in the foot and then spend the rest of their lives limping around on it. Without the tools to heal it is a wound that never goes away.

The last section is on death. Death robs us all. It is inevitable and unavoidable and needs to be addressed head-on. Loss of parents, a child, family members and friends strike a blow in the worse way. The only way to deal with it is to go through our grief, not around it. Through these times we need to hold the hand of Jesus. Prepare for death by knowing it will come to all of us. Those left behind suffer and need prayers and support. In time grief lessens, but may never go away. We need to remember that God is as close as our breath, always there.

Evil has a place in the darkness. Evil is darkness. People often ask, “Why does God allow evil?” The answer “is in eternity when our minds will be large enough to deal with the mystery of evil because we shall be changed’ .” (1Cor 15:51) In this book, however, Groeschel addresses the further question “How am I going to go on to arise from darkness?” This is what the book addresses.

The wonderful treasures in this book are the prayers at the end of each chapter and an entire section of prayers at the end of the book—Prayers for Dark Times. The authors of these prayers range from Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Augustine, Father Thomas à Kempis, Saint Faustina Kowalska, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Frank Sheed, and Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.

When All Seems Dark

Most high, glorious God,
lighten the darkness of my heart
and grant me, Lord,
a correct faith, a certain hope,
a perfect charity, and a sense of knowledge,
so that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.

— St. Francis of Assisi