Quantity undermines the quality of our engagement.
Shakespeare: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Great Ideas: found across multiple zones of ancient thought
positive psychology - Helping people find happiness and meaning is precisely the goal
Our Social Lives
Happiness Source: Relatedness - the bonds we form with others
Happiness comes from within (Eastern & Stoics), and happiness comes from without (Western). We need the guidance of both ancient wisdom and modern science to get the balance right.
Positive Psychology offers a way to diagnose and develop personal strengths and virtues
Vertical, spiritual dimension of human existence: nobility/virtue/divinity, a perceived sacredness, holiness, or goodness
For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
— S T . P A U L , G A L A T I A N S 5 : I 7
If Passion drives, let Reason hold the Reins.
— B E N J A M I N F R A N K L I N
For Freud, the goal of psychoanalysis was to escape this pitiful state by strengthening the ego, thus giving it more control over the id and more independence from the superego
The Mind's Divisions
Failures of Self-control
Children who were able to overcome stimulus control and delay gratification for a few extra minutes in 1970 were better able to resist temptation as teenagers, to focus on their studies, and to control themselves when things didn't go the way they wanted.
Successful children were those who looked away from the temptation or were able to think about other enjoyable activities. These thinking skills are an aspect of emotional intelligence—an ability to understand and regulate one's own feelings and desires.
The Imp of the Perverse - E.A. Poe
As the act of monitoring for the absence of the thought introduces the thought, the person must try even harder to divert consciousness.
The Difficulty of Winning an Argument
Moral arguments often rely on a instant reaction feeling, and are formed on the fly to justify said feeling.
The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it.
— MARCUS AURELIUS
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.
Why is the automatic brain so pessimistic and worrying?
You have a like-dislike reaction to everything you are experiencing, even if you're not aware of the experience.
Negativity Bias - bad is stronger than good
relationships: it takes 5 good actions to make up for the damage done by one destructive act
finance: losses are felt more than gains
Your behavior is governed by opposing motivational systems: an approach system, which triggers positive emotions and makes you want to move toward certain things; and a withdrawal system, which triggers negative emotions and makes you want to pull back or avoid other things. Both systems are always active, monitoring the environment, and the two systems can produce opposing motives at the s a m e time
Amygdala is a neural shortcut of sensory data pathway to the frontal lobe which responds to patterns associated with danger and triggers the fight/flight response. Amygdala also talks to the frontal lobe to shift your thinking: Emotions triggering thoughts vs. the opposite
The Cortical Lottery
Affective Style - a person's average level of happiness.
Most people show more activity in either the right or left frontal cortex - and that correlates to tendencies toward positive/negative emotions.
How to change your mind
Can't be done by force of will, you have to do something to change your repertoire of available thoughts.
The three best methods:
Ultrasociality - extension of kin altruism beyond relatives
A species equipped with vengeance and gratitude responses can support larger and more cooperative social groups because the payoff to cheaters is reduced by the costs they bear in making enemies
In the animal kingdom, the logarithm of the brain size is almost perfectly proportional to the logarithm of the social group size
Gossip paired with reciprocity allow karma to work here on earth
humans are partially hive creatures, yet in the modern world we spend nearly all our time outside of the hive. Reciprocity, like love, reconnects us with others
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
— MATTHEW 7 : 3
It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one's own faults. One shows the faults of others like chaff win-nowed in the wind, but one conceals one's own faults as a cunning gambler conceals his dice.
Scandal is great entertainment b e c a u s e it allows people to feel contempt, a moral emotion that gives feelings of moral superiority while asking nothing in return. With contempt you don't need to right the wrong (as with anger) or flee the scene (as with fear or disgust). And best of all, contempt is made to share.
Moral Hyprocrisy - tendency to value the appearance of morality over the reality
"makes sense" stopping rule - we take a position then look for evidence to support it and stop there
"naive realism" - Each of us thinks we see the world directly, as it really is. We further believe that the facts as we see them are there for all to see, therefore others should agree with us. If they don't agree, it follows either that they have not yet been exposed to the relevant facts or else that they are blinded by their interests and ideologies.
Good and evil do not exist outside of our beliefs about them.
Problem: an all-powerful god either allows evil or can't control it
We all commit selfish and shortsighted acts, but our inner lawyer ensures that we do not blame ourselves or our allies for them. We are thus convinced of our own virtue, but quick to s e e bias, greed, and duplicity in others. We are often correct about others' motives, but as any conflict escalates we begin to exaggerate grossly, to weave a story in which pure virtue (our side) is in a battle with pure vice (theirs).
Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Aggression - Baumeister "The myth of pure evil"
4 causes of violence and cruelty:
The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are -
If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease.
-- Sen-ts'an, an early Chinese Zen master
Feelings Good - David Burns -- popular guide to cognitive therapy
Write down your thoughts, learn to recognize the distortions in your thoughts, and then think of a more appropriate thought
pre-goal attainment positive affect - the pleasurable feeling you get as you make progress toward a goal.
post-goal attainment positive affect - arises once you have achieved something you want
the progress principle: Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them
Happy people grow rich faster because, as in the marriage market, they are more appealing to others (such as bosses), and also because their frequent positive emotions help them to commit to projects, to work hard, and to invest in their futures
Happiness - strong relation to genes, weak relation to environment
The level of happiness that you actually experience (H) is determined by your biological set point (S) [actually a range] plus the conditions of your life ( C ) plus the voluntary activities (V) you do.
Some Conditions (C) [environmental factors] do matter to happiness:
Keys to Flow: There's a clear challenge that fully engages your attention; you have the skills to meet the challenge; and you get immediate f e e d b a c k about how you are doing at each step
You can increase your happiness if you use your strengths, particularly in the service of strengthening connections — helping friends, expressing gratitude to benefactors.
Conspicuous consumption - things that are visible to others and that are taken as markers of a person's relative success. a zero-sum game: Each person's move up devalues the possessions of others.
Inconspicuous consumption - goods and activities that are valued for themselves, in private
Paradox of Choice applies mostly to "maximizers" versus "satisficers". Maximizers engage in more social comparison, and are therefore more easily drawn into conspicuous consumption. Paradoxically, they get less pleasure per dollar spent.
Behaviorist child rearing theory: Don't pick them up when they cry, don't cuddle or coddle them, just dole out benefits and punishments for each good and bad action.
Attachment theory begins with the idea that two basic goals guide children's behavior: safety and exploration
2/3: Secure attachment. 1/3: Avoidant and Resistant insecure attachment
4 defining features of attachment relationships:
Oxytocin hormone - stress hormone in women is secreted when attachment needs are not being met
Adult love is built out of two ancient and interlocking systems: an attachment system that bonds child to mother and a caregiving system that bonds mother to child.
How did human females come to hide all signs of ovulation and get men to fall in love with them and their children? (versus animal behavior)
Humans are the only creatures on Earth whose young are utterly helpless for years, and heavily dependent on adult care for more than a decade. This dependency means hunter-gatherer mothers had to rely on men to collect enough calories. Active fathers, male-female pair-bonds, male sexual jealousy, and big-headed babies all co-evolved. A man who felt s o m e desire to stay with a woman, guard her fidelity, and contribute to the rearing of their children could produce smarter children than could his less paternal competitors. Thus completes the speculative theory tying attachment system to mating system.
passionate vs companionate love (Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Walster) -
"wildly emotional state in which tender and sexual feelings, elation and pain, anxiety and relief, altruism and jealousy coexist in a confusion of feelings." vs "the affection we feel for those with w h o m our lives are deeply intertwined."
Passionate love functions like a drug in terms of dopamine release and reported symptoms. The brain reacts to a chronic surplus of dopamine, develops neurochemical reactions that oppose it, and restores its own equilibrium. At that point, tolerance has set in, and when the drug is withdrawn, the brain is unbalanced in the opposite direction: pain, lethargy, and despair follow withdrawal from cocaine or from passionate love. Strict believers in true love would leave once the passionate love flames out, as it must eventually.
Passionate love and companionate love are two separate processes, and they have different time courses which do not overlap or lead into one another.
The Time Course of the Two Kinds of Love (Short Run)
Danger points: making big commitments while under the influence of the passionate love drug and the day the drug wears off
The real true love is strong companionate love, not passionate love.
The Time Course of the Two Kinds of Love (Long Run)