Tag: Psychology

Against Self-Righteousness: Anne Lamott on Forgiveness, Self-Forgiveness, and the Relationship Between Brokenness and Joy

Few things in life are more seductive than the artificial sweetness of being capital-R Right — of “winning the narrative,” as my friend Amanda likes to say. This delicious doom and glory of being Right — which is, of course, a matter of feeling rather than being it — tends to involve framing our emotional […]

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The Psychology of Code-Breaking: 100-Year-Old Insight from Cryptography Pioneers William and Elizebeth Friedman

“We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves. A pattern is a message,” the mathematician, philosopher, and cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener wrote in his landmark treatise on communication, control, and the morality of our machines. We are patterned messages, and we make and exchange patterned messages in order to describe, understand, and […]

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Against Common Sense: Vladimir Nabokov on the Wellspring of Wonder and Why the Belief in Goodness Is a Moral Obligation

“Once we leave those domains of human experience, there’s no reason to expect the laws of nature to continue to obey our expectations, since our expectations are dependent on a limited set of experiences,” Carl Sagan observed in considering how common sense blinds us to the reality of the universe. Perhaps worse yet — worse […]

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Incubation, Ideation, and the Art of Editing: Beethoven on Creativity

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos,” Mary Shelley observed in contemplating how creativity works in her preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. “It is strange the way ideas come when they are needed,” the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote nearly two centuries later […]

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How to Weigh Your Options and Decide Wisely: Benjamin Franklin’s Pioneering Pros and Cons Framework

When the 29-year-old Charles Darwin made his endearing list of the pros and cons of marriage, he was applying a now common decision-making technique pioneered half a century earlier by another revolutionary mind on the other side of the Atlantic: America’s polymathic Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706–April 17, 1790). Not since the Stoics […]

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Elizabeth Gilbert on Love, Loss, and How to Move Through Grief as Grief Moves Through You

“All your sorrows have been wasted on you if you have not yet learned how to be wretched,” Seneca told his mother in his extraordinary letter on resilience in the face of loss. One need not be a dry materialist to bow before the recognition that no heart goes through life unplundered by loss — […]

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Enjoy this strange new audiovisual illusion from Caltech scientists

Caltech researchers developed the illusion above to illustrate postdiction, a sensory phenomenon “in which a stimulus that occurs later can retroactively affect our perceptions of an earlier event.” From Caltech Matters: “Illusions are a really interesting window into the brain,” says first author Noelle Stiles (PhD ’15), a visitor in […]

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Loving vs. Being in Love: Jane Welsh Carlyle on Navigating the Heart’s Contradictions

Like Alice James — the brilliant diarist who lived and wrote in the shadow of her brothers, Henry and William James — Jane Welsh Carlyle (January 14, 1801–April 21, 1866), unpublished and shadowed by her famous husband, was a literary genius whose private letters stand as masterpieces of prose in their own right. Virginia Woolf […]

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How to Break Up with Integrity: Rilke on Unwounding Separation and the Difficult Art of Recalibrating Broken Relationships

We speak of love as a gift, but although it may come at first unbidden, as what Percy Shelley called a “speechless swoon of joy,” true intimacy between two people is a difficult achievement — a hard-earned glory with stakes so high that the prospect of collapse is absolutely devastating. When collapse does happen — […]

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“Panacea” by Benjamin Garcia

New works by Venezuelan artist Benjamin Garcia (previously featured here). Delving into the various impulses competing within any single identity, Garcia highlights his subjects in a state of transformation or becoming. Rife with tension, distress and disorder, the “Panacea” Garcia offers can be seen as the healing work of the paint or the act of […]

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The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage

“Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls,” the great Lebanese-American poet, philosopher, and painter counseled in what remains the finest advice on the secret to a loving and lasting relationship. Our paradoxical longing for intimacy and independence is a […]

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Against the Illusion of Separateness: Pablo Neruda’s Beautiful and Humanistic Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

The great Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904–September 23, 1973) was only a small boy, just over the cusp of preconscious memory, when he had a revelation about why we make art. It seeded in him a lifelong devotion to literature as a supreme tool that “widens out the boundaries of our […]

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Epictetus on Love and Loss: The Stoic Strategy for Surviving Heartbreak

“Future love does not exist,” Tolstoy wrote in contemplating the paradoxical demands of love. “Love is a present activity only. The man who does not manifest love in the present has not love.” It is a difficult concept to accept — we have been socialized to believe in and grasp after the happily-ever-after future of […]

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Van Gogh on the Beauty of Sorrow and the Enchantment of Storms, in Nature and in Life

Chance doesn’t deal happiness with an even hand — some lives are more weighed down by sorrow than others. It can be easy, and misguided, to romanticize suffering — despite Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s superb admonition against it, we have a long cultural history of perpetuating the “tortured genius” myth, the reality behind which is far […]

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When Teen Depression Eases With Treatment, So Does Parent’s

New research shows that when a teen’s depression improves through treatment, so did depression experienced by the parent. “More young people today are reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts,” said Kelsey R. Howard, M.S., of Northwestern University, who presented the findings at the 2018 annual convention of the American Psychological Association. […]

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Bluets: Maggie Nelson on the Color Blue as a Lens on Memory, Loneliness, and the Paradoxes of Love

“We love to contemplate blue,” Goethe observed in his theory of color and emotion, “not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it.” This particular color — or, rather, this universe of hues — seems to have drawn after it more minds than any other, inking the body of culture with […]

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“Meaningless rituals” boost self-control

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (paywalled, no Sci-Hub mirror) describes a fascinating experimental outcome in which subjects were asked to enact “meaningless rituals” (“knocking the table with their knuckles, closing their eyes and counting, among other things”) before being confronted with a self-control challenge (eating two carrots, then deciding […]

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Political and Social Differences Can Encourage Paranoid Thinking

Interacting with someone of a higher social status or opposing political beliefs may increase paranoid interpretations of the other person’s actions, according to a new UK study by researchers at University College London (UCL). Paranoia is the tendency to assume other people are trying to harm you when their actual motivations are unclear. “Being alert […]

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Many Psychopaths Unable to Detect True Fear or Sadness in Others

Individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits tend to have difficulty detecting genuine expressions of fear or sadness in others, according to a new study by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU). Psychopathic traits may include lack of empathy, a grandiose sense of self-worth, lack of remorse or guilt, superficial charm, a high need […]

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