Sunday, April 15, 2018

A System for Spiritual Development: Hacking Your Brain Chemistry Without Drugs



Below are links to, and excerpts from, four related articles on my blog and website which together describe a set of practices that can produce positive feelings and reduce stress. This can help you live according to spiritual values such as love, kindness, forgiveness, and tolerance.

The subjects covered in the articles include:

  1. How to use meditation to set up a feedback loop in the brain that increases production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol.

    A meditation technique is described that produces a relaxed mental state and a pleasant contented mood. Taken further, it can produce intense positive emotions and spiritual experiences. However, the main purpose of the meditation is to give you the skills you can use in daily life to maintain a pleasant relaxed mental state and contented mood between meditation sessions.

  2. What it is like.

    This is a description of extreme spiritual experiences that can be produced by the meditation technique described in the first article.

  3. How to increase serotonin production in the brain through diet and nutrition.

    This article explains how eating carbohydrates and protein in the right sequence and at the right times can help increase serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in how the brain produces pleasant feelings. This can be helpful in producing the experiences described in the first two articles.

  4. How to turn off the body's reaction to stress.

    This article tells you how to turn off the body's reaction to stress naturally by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. This is helpful in learning to breathe in a relaxing way and can help you make more progress faster using the meditation technique described in the first article.

Links and Excerpts

  1. How to use meditation to produce spiritual experiences by setting up a feedback loop in the brain that increases production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol:
    https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/meditation-1#meditation_serenity
    Simplified Instructions

    Sit comfortably in whatever way you prefer, in a chair or on the floor. No special meditation posture is needed. Close your eyes. Notice how you feel throughout your body. Do you feel anxious or tense? Try to relax your whole body. Take a deep breath and relax your whole body as you exhale. Notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation? Now breathe normally and relax your whole body as you exhale. Notice the same feeling of relaxation. Relax your whole body as you inhale and notice a similar feeling of relaxation. It might help you to relax if you slow down your breathing somewhat. Continue to relax your whole body as you inhale and exhale and notice the pleasant feelings of relaxation. Your whole body may begin feel heavy as you become more and more relaxed. While you meditate this way, also say to yourself, (inwardly not aloud) "in" as you inhale, and "out" as you exhale. Notice the absence of mental chatter as you focus your attention on the words "in" an "out". Meditate this way with the understanding that you are trying to have a pleasant, relaxing, calming meditation session. After a while, observing the pleasant feeling of relaxation as you inhale and exhale might make you want to smile.

    If you feel like it, go ahead and smile, even if it's just a little bit, and notice the pleasant emotions that accompany smiling as you continue to meditate

    ...

    Smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which are molecules that will elevate your mood. Smiling also reduces levels of the anxiety causing stress hormone cortisol. These chemical changes will produce a pleasant effect and may make you want to smile even more. This can result in a feedback loop that produces intense feelings of feelings of happiness, loving kindness, and connectedness.

  2. What it is like:
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/02/joy-during-meditation.html#joy_trip
    But this type of serenity meditation creates a feedback loop causing the brain to release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.

    It really is like a drug trip, maybe not a psychedelic trip but it's not normal meditation. Every breath you take is like a hit from a bong, but there's no bong. And it is hugely spiritual. It doesn't require super intense concentration so I think most people could learn to do it. I had to stop the other day because it was so intense I was getting nervous. How many people do you know who were feeling so happy, and connected to all things and feeling such intense metta that they were worried they might never get back to normal? And I felt the presence of non-physical entities too.

    It also creates a kind of synesthesia where everything I see and hear I also feel in my body as if they are part of me. There is an effect like the brain is a virtual reality machine and what I see is really a movie inside my head projected on the unchanging screen of pure awareness, like my mind contains the whole universe including me walking around inside it. Other times I feel like my self and its boundaries are dissolving and I am expanding to merge into infinite space. It's not scary, it's like coming home.

    This meditation changes the "energy" of your surroundings too. You could go to the filthiest shack in the poorest slum in the most miserable godforsaken corner of nowhere and meditating this way would make it a place of beauty and joy. These effects are not gross like a psychedelic trip they are subtle like a change in understanding. And these experiences are not restricted to sitting meditation, you can have them walking around town or out in nature. When you do this, you see it transforms reality because when you walk around smiling, people smile back. In that way, it doesn't just change you, it changes the people around you. It doesn't just make you happy, it makes the world friendly.

    It also produces a state of mind where nothing can upset you because you find something within you which you can relax, and when you do, any unpleasant emotions flow away as soon as they arise. It's as if relaxing opens a door and unpleasant emotions go out through the door as soon as they appear. They just appear and go. Not just during meditation but during daily life.

    It's not nirvana, I still experience some worries, annoyances, and emotional ups and downs, but this type of meditation showed me that happiness is a choice.

    The best thing about this type of meditation is not the intense experiences, the best thing is that between meditation sessions I'm happier and I worry less.

    And it doesn't cause vomiting or diarrhea like Ayahuasca does. It's 100% free. And as far as I know it's legal everywhere.

  3. How to increase serotonin production in the brain through diet and nutrition:
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/occasionally-i-post-something-to.html#misc_diet_mood
    It is possible to increase serotonin production in the brain by eating protein 20 to 40 minutes after eating carbohydrates. Eat at least 25-35 grams (about 120 calories) of carbohydrates, wait 20 to 40 minutes, and then eat protein. (The source of carbohydrates should be low in protein and fat.) A simple way to do this is to eat the carbohydrate portion of your meal first then wait 20 minutes before eating the protein portion...

  4. How to turn off the body's reaction to stress:
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-parasympathetic-nervous-system-and.html
    The sympathetic nervous system is involved in producing the body's response to stress. The parasympathetic nervous system is involved in turning off the body's response to stress.

    Anything that activates the parasympathetic nervous system suppresses the sympathetic nervous system and helps you to relax.

    There are many undesirable effects of stress on physical and mental health so learning to turn off stress can make your life better in many, many ways.

    Learning to turn off stress is also helpful in spiritual development because when you are stressed, you are more likely to be thinking about yourself and your problems ie. being egocentric. But when you are relaxed, you are less likely to be thinking about yourself and more likely to be in harmony with spiritual values like love, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance etc.

    ...

    The best way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and turn off stress that I know of is to do exercises which involve gently moving or stretching your muscles while exhaling slowly as you count to ten. This technique is extremely effective because it combines four separate methods for activating the parasympathetic nervous system in one technique...

Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Turning Off Stress: The Parasympathetic Nervous System And Spiritual Development



Contents
Introduction
Turning off Stress
How to do the Exercises
Simplified Instructions
Related Articles


Introduction

Your sympathetic nervous system produces your body's response to stress. Your parasympathetic nervous system turns off your body's response to stress.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in opposition. Anything that activates the parasympathetic nervous system suppresses the sympathetic nervous system and helps you to relax, to turn off stress. In this article I will describe easy exercises you can do that will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, help you to develop it, and teach you how to turn off stress.

The opposite effects of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are similar to the way the analytical neural network in the brain and the empathic-intuitive network cannot both be in use at the same time (which I have written about on my web site). In our modern civilization, many people become unbalanced with their analytical network being overdeveloped and their empathic network underdeveloped. This can make them callous. Meditation helps to develop the empathic network bringing the analytical and empathic networks into balance. This is one reason meditation can be a helpful practice in spiritual development and psychic development.

Learning to turn off stress is also helpful in spiritual development because when you are stressed, you are more likely to be thinking about yourself and your problems ie. being egocentric. But when you are relaxed, you are less likely to be thinking about yourself and more likely to be in harmony with spiritual values like love, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance etc. And just like with the analytical and empathic networks in the brain, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems can get out of balance. In our busy modern society people experience a lot of stress and their sympathetic nervous system can become overdeveloped and their parasympathetic nervous system can become underdeveloped. Doing exercises like those described below can help you to develop your parasympathetic nervous system and bring it into balance with your sympathetic nervous system.

There are also many undesirable effects of stress on physical and mental health so developing the parasympathetic nervous system, learning to turn off stress, can make your life better in many ways.

Back to Contents


Turning off Stress

The best way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and turn off stress that I know of is to do exercises which involve gently moving or stretching your muscles while exhaling slowly as you count to ten. This technique is extremely effective because it combines four separate methods for activating the parasympathetic nervous system in one technique:

  • Deep Breathing
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Body Awareness
  • Meditation

Some other relaxation techniques such as guided meditations, visualizations, hypnotic inductions, etc. work by making you sleepy or putting you in an altered state of consciousness, and when you return to normal consciousness, the stress comes back. This technique works by turning off the body's stress response, and the effect stays with you long after you are done. When practiced over a period of weeks or months it can strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system improving your ability to turn off stress and keep it turned off.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in opposition. Anything that counters the sympathetic nervous system's stress response activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps turn off stress. The stress response involves increased muscle tension, mental fixation on the source of the stress, and shallow rapid breathing. By moving slowly and gently and or stretching your muscles, you counter muscle tension. By meditating, ie. focusing your attention on your breathing, body movements, and counting, you counter mental fixation. By breathing slowly and deeply, you counter shallow rapid breathing. Deep breathing and meditation alone can be relaxing but when you combine them and add stretches or gentle slow movements you counter the stress response on multiple levels and together they form a powerful way to turn off stress.

Back to Contents

How to do the Exercises

Here are a few pointers on doing this type of exercise.

  • If you have back trouble or any other type of physical ailment, don't do anything that would be bad for your condition. Consult with a doctor if necessary.
  • You can use any combination of:
    • Yoga postures
    • Stretches recommended for use before a workout
    • Tai Chi movements
    • Qi Gong movements - For example, 8 Brocades or Ba Duan Jin (Baduanjin) can be done sitting or standing. There is a diagram at Tai Chi Village that is useful as a memory aid and Wikipedia has a brief description of each movement.
    • Progressive muscular relaxation
    • Isometric exercises (Allow several seconds between exercises to let your muscles relax).
  • The type of movements and stretches should not be strenuous, they should be relaxing, and you should not stretch beyond what is comfortable, the purpose is to relax.
  • Remember to exhale slowly counting to ten as you do each posture or movement, or for simple movements such as those used in progressive muscular relaxation, exhale slowly counting five to ten repetitions of the movement. You don't have to count exactly to ten while exhaling - do whatever number feels most relaxing. If you find yourself counting too high, count more slowly. Or you can just say to yourself, "in" as you inhale, and "out" as you exhale.
  • Try to relax your whole body as you exhale and try to notice the feeling of relaxation in your whole body as you relax. Do the same as you inhale, try to relax your whole body and notice the feeling of relaxation in your whole body. This will help make turning off stress a conscious process. It can also be helpful to practice sitting in a chair, relaxing your whole body as you inhale, relaxing your whole body as you exhale and noticing the feeling of relaxation in your whole body.
  • Ten to twenty minutes of gentle stretches and/or slow gentle movements is an appropriate length for a session.
  • You can do longer sessions or multiple sessions per day if you want to.
  • You can do some or all of the session sitting in a chair if you use postures and movements that can be done while sitting.
  • You can also use this technique during daily activities. Breathe slowly, move in a relaxed way, and notice the feeling of relaxation while you do daily activities like washing the dishes, walking, taking a shower, etc. It is commonly believed that people are tense and hurried because they are stressed. But if you put what you learn from these exercises into practice in daily life, you might see that it is also true that people are stressed because they are tense and hurried. When you relax and slow down you feel less stressed. This is because the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in opposition. Anything that reduces the effects of one system does it by activating the other system.

These kinds of exercises together with Meditation make up a very powerful system for spiritual development.

Back to Contents

Simplified Instructions

Here is a simplified form of his technique that is very easy to do: Sit comfortably the way you normally do, for example, when watching TV or eating dinner. Try to relax your whole body. Notice if there is any tension in your body such as in your jaw, or shoulders and try to relax it. Then hold your hands in front of your abdomen with your palms facing each other a few inches apart. As you inhale, slowly separate your hands by moving them apart a foot or two while slowly saying to yourself, "in". Then slowly bring the hands back together until they are a few inches apart while slowly saying to yourself, "out". Repeat this for ten to twenty minutes. Feel free to make slight variations in the movements of the hands or arms to produce a more graceful flowing movement.

You can do this lying down with a slight modification: Instead of moving your hands apart, keep your hands at your sides and gently and slowly open and close your hands as you slowly inhale and exhale. Any simple movement will work because the parasympathetic nervous system acts in opposition to the sympathetic nervous system. Any slow gentle movement in one part of the body activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to counteract muscle tension and other effects of stress throughout the mind and body.

Back to Contents

Related articles from my blog:

  • Spiritual Living: Hacking Your Brain Chemistry Without Drugs

    Back to Contents


    Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


  • Sunday, April 1, 2018

    Your logical mind is an illusion.


    Materialists like to claim they are more rational and logical than other people. However, those claims do not mean what they think they mean. When it comes to matters of spirituality, you will do better to use your intuitive / empathic mind. Many of the mystical concepts you read about: oneness, unconditional love, God is love, egolessness, no-self, not-self, are things you have to feel to understand. The rational / logical mind is not going to help with that. Furthermore, contrary to the materialists claims, you cannot trust the logical / rational mind to help you find the truth.

    Scott Adams, who in addition to being the author of the comic strip Dilbert, is a trained hypnotist. In an interview on FoxNews@Night with Shannon Bream on March 19, 2018, Scott Adams explained that hypnotism teaches us that people don't use logic to make decisions even though we think we do. (2:59: https://youtu.be/vLhcrbtbCEg?t=2m59s):

    We humans ignore facts but we think we don't. The great illusion of life is that we're rational beings making rational decisions most of the time. But when you become a hypnotist, the first thing you learn is that that's backwards and that mostly we're deciding based on our team, our feelings, our emotions, irrational reasons, we make our decision and then we rationalize it no matter how tortured that rationalization is."

    University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt expressed similar views in his book The righteous Mind. He wrote that people don't use reason to form their beliefs, they use reason to justify their beliefs which they form for emotional reasons. William Saletan described Haidt's views in the Sunday Book Review:

    Why Won’t They Listen? ‘The Righteous Mind,’ by Jonathan Haidt By WILLIAM SALETAN SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW MARCH 23, 2012
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/the-righteous-mind-by-jonathan-haidt.html

    The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others.

    People can be persuaded. But we are not persuaded by logical arguments. We are persuaded by psychological tricks of various types that take advantage of various instinctive human behaviors*. These behaviors are probably in some way evolutionarily adaptive but they have little basis in reason.

    Related Links:

    • Persuasion Reading List – Updated 1/18 Scott Adams' reading list on persuasion. You can find information by the authors of some of these books on the internet if you don't want to read the books.*

    • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/you-do-not-think-alone/
      You Do Not Think Alone
      A new book argues that thought and knowledge are community efforts
      By Gareth Cook on June 20, 2017

      ...

      Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, two cognitive scientists, draw on evolutionary theory and psychology. They argue that the mind has evolved to do the bare minimum that improves the fitness of its host. Because humans are a social species and evolved in the context of collaboration, wherever possible, abilities have been outsourced. As a result, people are individually rather limited thinkers and store little information in their own heads. Much knowledge is instead spread through the community—whose members do not often realise that this is the case.

    • https://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21720262-human-cleverness-arises-distributing-knowledge-between-minds-making-people-think
      You're not as smart as you think you are.

      ...

      People overestimate how well they understand how things work. Direct evidence for this comes from the psychological laboratory. The great Yale psychologist Frank Keil and his students first demonstrated the illusion of explanatory depth, what we call the knowledge illusion. He asked people how well they understand how everyday objects (zippers, toilets, ballpoint pens) work. On average, people felt they had a reasonable understanding (at the middle of a 7-point scale). Then Keil asked them to explain how they work. People failed miserably. For the most part, people just can’t articulate the mechanisms that drive even the simplest things.

    Notes

    * Below are some examples of the ways people are persuaded. Notice that they do not rely on logic and reason.

    • Blair Warren wrote: "People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies." If you are aware of this, you will be more resistant to this method of persuasion. Learn more about this at: http://www.actionplan.com/pdf/BlairWarren.pdf
    • It is easier to be fooled by something that seems to agree with your beliefs than by something that contradicts them.
    • Certain words can influence you to think in ways that will cause your own mind to aid in persuading you. For example, if someone says, "Imagine ...", it causes you to visualize what they want to to believe. "Because" is also a "power" word. When you give a reason, even a weak one, people are more likely to do what you ask. "You" is another "power" word.
      More of these "power" words and explanations of why they work can be found at these links:
    • Robert Cialdini is a professor of psychology who is a well known author on the subject of persuasion. He has identified several "principles of influence":
      http://changingminds.org/techniques/general/cialdini/cialdini.htm
      • Reciprocity - We feel obliged to give back to people who have given to us.
      • Consistency and commitment - When we make a promise, we feel obliged to work hard to fulfil that promise. When we make a decision, we like to feel that this is the right decision for us.
      • Social proof - We copy what others do, especially when we are unsure.
      • Liking - If you can make people like you for example by showing them you are like them and or by praising them, they will be easier to persuade.
      • Authority - We defer to people who seem superior.
      • Scarcity - When things become less available, they become more desirable.
      • Click, Whirr - When certain cues are presented to us, we feel an urge to complete actions that have, in the past, been successfully paired with the cue.
      https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/282642
      • Unity - Any sense of shared identity such as family, ethnicity, geography, etc. can aid in persuasion.

      You can take an on-line quiz to test your knowledge of these principles at https://www.qzzr.com/.

    • Subliminal Persuasion, Conversational Hypnosis: The web site nlpnation.com explains several techniques of subliminal persuasion or conversational hypnosis.

      If someone tries to influence you directly you might naturally resist them. But there are several techniques that can be used to sneak information past your "resistance filter". The general principle is that instead of making a statement or suggestion directly, it is included in a broader statement so you hear it indirectly while you are focused on something else.

      1. Questions: If someone makes a direct statement, you might doubt it. But if they put the information into a question that assumes what they want you to believe, you may get distracted thinking about the answer to the question rather than whether the premise is true.

      2. "And" and "But": If someone tells you something you don't want to hear you might start to argue with them. But if they give you the bad news first followed by "but" and something good or positive, you are less likely to start arguing. They also might add more positive statements linked by "and".

      3. Because: People are more likely to do what they're asked if given a reason even if the reason is not very compelling. If things seem to make sense people don't look too closely at it and it may slip past their resistance filter.

      4. A means B: This is another way to sneak things through your resistance filter. If you're reading this, it means you are learning important information that will help you avoid being manipulated. That sentance was an example of a means b. Did you notice it?

      5. Awareness patterns: Certain words and phrases cause you to assume what is being said is true rather than question it. For example, "As you know ... ", "Clearly...", "Undoubtedly ...", "I'm sure you realize / notice / see ..."

      6. Agreement Frames: Instead of disagreeing outright someone may say they agree, but then try to convince you of something else. "I agree, and this means ..." or "I agree, and what's more ...". Notice they use the word "and" not "but". They may agree in principle or agree that something about what you said is true without ever directly saying they disagree.

      7. Pacing and Leading: This technique tries to sneak a suggestion past your resistance filter by presenting you with a natural progression of events. You get distracted by the logic of the progression and are more willing to accept the suggestion.

      The article at nlpnation.com has links to pages with example that illustrate these methods.


    Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

    Sunday, March 4, 2018

    Love is the natural state of consciousness.


    God is love.

    When people experience the presence of God, they perceive this.

    The natural state of conscoiusness is love.

    At a higher level people naturally love each other. But on the earth plane we may be fooled by the illusions of the physical world. Fooled into thinking we are not loved. Fooled into not loving.

    When you are relaxed, you approach your natural state.


    Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

    Friday, March 3, 2017

    Most News Stories are Crafted to Misinform and Manipulate You



    Problems can be identified and solutions found without experiencing anger, fear, and hate. But we are programmed by the media to react with those emotions every time we think of the other political party or hear their views expressed. It is a major cause of political polarization in the US.

    Contents

    Introduction

    Those of us who follow the news on TV, radio, newspapers or the internet are bombarded by so many unreliable sources of information, if we don't make a concerted effort to pay attention to whether the information is reliable or not, we are very likely to be misinformed and manipulated by journalists, politicians, and political organizations who are taking advantage of us to advance their own personal agenda. The vast majority of what is considered "news" is crafted to get your attention, influence your opinion, make you react the way they want, and keep you coming back for more. Accuracy is of secondary importance. The news rarely gives you an accurate objective representation of reality. We are programmed by the media to react with anger every time we think of the other party or hear their views expressed. It is a major cause of political polarization in the US. This post should help you understand why and how the news media misinforms and manipulates you. With that knowledge you will be able to see through the illusions spun by media manipulators.

    A good introduction to this subject is the article at Cracked.com 5 Ways To Stay Sane In An Era Of Non-Stop Outrage which discusses media techniques used to manipulate the public. In the article, the author David Wong, discusses President Trump's media strategy. The principles he outlines are generally applicable so it is worth looking at the article even if you don't share the author's political views.

    Here is a brief excerpt along with the section titles to give you an idea of what the article is about:

    Hey, you know what happens when you read something really enraging on the internet? You get a hit of dopamine. And even though it's a "bad" feeling, you immediately want to feel it again, because anything is better than being bored. Well, people who know how to manipulate this mechanism rule the world. Here's what you need to know now:
    ...
    Ignore Headlines Telling You To Feel An Emotion
    ...
    Remember That People Literally Get Paid To Upset You
    ...
    Know That If You Can Be Trolled, You Can Be Controlled
    ...
    Understand The "Firehose Of Falsehoods"
    ...
    You Must Separate The Signal From The Noise

    Dopamine is a chemical found in the brain that plays a role in addiction (see below). Journalists want to get people addicted to the news because journalists make more money that way.

    Firehose of Falsehoods referrs to a modern propaganda technique (see below).

    Back to Contents

    Trolling and Provocateurs

    The term "Trolled" is used by Wong to mean that there are people who are deliberately outrageously provocative. They are not really trying to convince anyone of their way of thinking. They are trying to provoke people to react in a way creates publicity (or has some other effect) that helps the provocateur make money or accomplish their aims. They are controlling people (manipulating people) by provoking a reaction from them.

    For example, Milo Yiannopoulos, a British public speaker and writer, often makes provocative statements. Recently, at the University of California at Berkeley, protesters demonstrating against Milo rioted and the ensuing publicity increased sales of his books. Some people who might not otherwise be sympathetic to Milo became sympathetic to him because of their outrage at the violence. Those rioters didn't understand they were being manipulated by Milo into helping him sell books and gain supporters.

    During the last presidential election campaign, Donald Trump made many provocative statements which attracted so much attention they nearly obliterated the other primary candidates from coverage in the news media. This publicity advantage helped him win the Republican nomination even though his statements were offensive to many people. The outraged reaction of many Democratic party supporters delighted some Republicans and moved them to support Trump. Trump's nomination stunned establishment Democrats and Republicans because they were not aware of how trolling and manipulation works.

    Be wary of provocateurs on both sides. They are not telling you about anything real. The "ideology" they espouse is not a real threat because it is invented and inflated to promote themselves. Nobody, including themselves and their "supporters" really believe what they are saying. Many Democratic supporters were stunned and frightened when Trump won the general election. Many of Trump's supporters thought this reaction was humorous because they never took Trump's rhetoric literally.

    The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
    -Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally by Salena Zito, theltlantic.com.

    The provocateurs are trying to upset you, to distort your view of reality for their own personal gain. Don't fall for it.

    And the news media is a willing and deliberate accomplice, sensationalizing news, spreading rumors, giving the provocateurs lots of publicity because the journalists capitalize on the public's addiction to outrage by turning it into an addiction to news that they can personally profit from.

    Many politicians are also ready to jump on the bandwagon, taking the side that will get them the most votes, and benefiting from publicity. Many politicians perform for the voters in whatever way they think will get them the most votes. Unfortunately this too often involves playing on the voter's emotions by demonizing people with different political views. This increases polarization and is tearing our society apart. A true leader would explain why the policies he espouses are for the best without denying that the other side can have legitimate concerns because of their different circumstances and situations.

    Back to Contents

    Media Tricks

    Be aware of these media tricks that are used to manipulate you and keep you hooked on the news.

    • Be suspicious of headlines that stir up emotions.

    • But also notice how an entire story can be crafted to produce emotional reactions.

    • Be suspicious of rumors presented as news, and news stories based on unnamed sources. That unnamed CIA official might not exist or might be a retired administrative assistant who has no qualifications to make their opinion newsworthy.

    • The other side is not necessarily evil or stupid. Partisan journalists and commentators often to stir up hate by demonizing people on the other side.

    • A subtle but common method of demonization involves describing extremists as members of a group. For example, associating anarchists with Democrats or white supremacists with Republicans. This tends to create the impression that they are typical of the group and that all members of the group are extremists. During the civil rights era, journalists stopped mentioning the race of criminals for this reason. But it is still one of the leading causes of polarization because each side comes to believe the other is mostly extremists when in fact most people are usually quite reasonable. And it can be a self-fulfilling cycle because when people on one side stereotype the other side, it will make the other side less tolerant of them and more likely to demonize them in return.

    • Another method of demonization is the use of inappropriate or undeserved epithets such as lefty, snowflake, social justice warrior, Nazi, misogynist, or racist to describe someone or a group. These types of epithets are used to deliberately prejudice you by making you think someone is an extremist when their point of view might be reasonable. You will often find, if you look carefully, that people who have different political views from you are not evil or stupid. They are just in a different situation or circumstances and they are affected by government policy in ways that are different from you.

    • Problems can be identified and solutions found without fomenting anger, fear, and hate. Those who are fostering those emotions are not the good guys no matter which side they claim to be on.

    • Even reading an article or watching a video made by someone who is angry can influence you and make you angry too. Many bloggers are angry and write posts that spread their anger to their readers.

    • In many cases in history, people who were on the wrong side thought they were doing good. If your basic assumptions about people who disagree with you are wrong, you can easily be on the wrong side and not know it.

    • Out of context quotes are often used to make people think someone said something they never really said. In written articles, notice if quotation marks are used to indicate a direct quotation. If not, they may be paraphrasing or mischaracterizing what someone said. If you can find a video of the story that has the person making the quote that shows what they said before and after they made the statement, that can be very helpful, but video clips with just the quote might be taken out of context too.

    • Predictions of doom and disaster that never really occur are another way they play on our emotions.

    • Be suspicious about "ordinary people" or "protesters" who are really political operatives impersonating ordinary people. Sometimes they fool the journalists quoting them, sometimes the journalists are complicit in the fraud.

    • Headlines are often misleading. Writers want you to read their stories so they often use misleading headlines to spark your interest or get a rise out of your emotions. Just scanning the headlines without reading the stories is a good way to becomes misinformed. When you read an article, you should try to click through to the original source of the information if possible so you can better assess if it is reliable or not. If possible, use a search engine to see what other information is available and if there are corroborating sources or other points of view.

    • Many journalists are not objective reporters of facts. They may have strong opinions and instead of trying to write news stories objectively, they deliberately try to sway public opinion through their work by expressing opinions, making partisan arguments, using compelling images and audio, or withholding information that doesn't support the point of view they are trying to spread. When journalists try to influence pubic opinion, it can be particularly effective because many people assume journalists report objectively and if they don't suspect someone is trying to manipulate them, it is much easier for them to be influenced because they will not be as critical in judging what they hear or read. Also, many journalists might not be deliberately manipulative, but everyone has their own opinions and will influence others through the way they communicate through their tone of voice, choice of words and facial expressions. Even if journalists think they are being objective, the are most probably not.

    • Astroturf movements are political movements that are orchestrated by political organizations but made to look like they are grass roots movements - movements rising spontaneously among ordinary people. When you hear about protests, try to find out who is funding them. If they are not funded by many individual donations from the public but by one or a few foundations or political organizations, then those protests are not genuine, they are political operations designed to manipulate the public. The astroturf link above also discusses how people are manipulated and includes a few videos on the subject.

    Back to Contents

    Addiction to the News

    An article at bigthink.com, by David Hirschman explains how dopamine causes addiction.

    "If a drug produces increases in dopamine in these limbic areas of the brain, then your brain is going to understand that signal as something that is very reinforcing, and will learn it very rapidly," says Volkow. "And so that the next time you get exposed to that stimuli, your brain already has learned that that's reinforcing, and you immediately—what we call a type of memory that's conditioning—will desire that particular drug." Over time, the consistently high levels of dopamine create plastic changes to the brain, desensitizing neurons so that they are less affected by it, and decreasing the number of receptors. That leads to the process of addiction, wherein a person loses control and is left with an intense drive to compulsively take the drug."

    The article is about addictive drugs but the article at Cracked.com linked above explains that the same process occurs when you experience anger from items such as news articles you see on the internet.

    Back to Contents

    Firehose of Falsehood: Modern Propaganda

    The term "Firehose of Falsehoods" mentioned in the article at cracked.com refers to a Russian propaganda technique that is very similar what happens when we follow the news. It is explained in the article The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Mode by Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews at rand.org. Below are excerpts that give a brief overview of what it is and how it works.

    Distinctive Features of the Contemporary Model for Russian Propaganda

    1. High-volume and multichannel

    2. Rapid, continuous, and repetitive

    3. Lacks commitment to objective reality

    4. Lacks commitment to consistency

    ...

    Why Is Rapid, Continuous, and Repetitive Propaganda Successful?

    • First impressions are very resilient.

    • Repetition leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to acceptance.

    ...

    How Does Propaganda Undercut Perceptions of Reality?

    • People are poor judges of true versus false information—and they do not necessarily remember that particular information was false.

    • Information overload leads people to take shortcuts in determining the trustworthiness of messages.

    • Familiar themes or messages can be appealing even if they are false.

    • Statements are more likely to be accepted if backed by evidence, even if that evidence is false.

    • Peripheral cues—such as an appearance of objectivity—can increase the credibility of propaganda.

    The full article contains a section on how to combat this kind of propaganda ... it is not an optimistic assessment.

    Every day we are bombarded by so many sources of information that are unreliable, if we don't make a deliberate effort to notice whether information is reliable or not, we are very likely to be misinformed and easily manipulated by journalists, politicians, and political organizations who are using us for their own personal gain.

    Back to Contents


    Copyright © 2017 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

    Sunday, February 19, 2017

    What Someone Should Say at a Political Rally


    I watched President Trump's rally yesterday. When he invited a supporter from the crowd to come up on the stage and speak, it made me think about what I would like someone to say to the TV cameras. I wished that President Trump would do more to help unite the country. I am not very fond of the news media but I have mixed feelings about the way he attacks them. I think someone should call them out, but the way he does it keeps the anger and hate circulating. Anyway, this is what I wish someone would say to the TV cameras at a rally. It fits in with President Trump's theme of making America great again:

    ...

    The people here tonight are a great group of people. You are really great.

    I love this country and the people in this country.

    We are a great people. We are a great country.

    We have great musicians, entertainers, athletes, scientists, workers, and entrepreneurs. We have a great economy, a great political system, and great defense forces. We have great people.

    Many people from all over the world want move here and become citizens.

    They believe we are a great country.

    We can believe that ourselves - that our country is a great country.

    But we can become even better. We can try to reduce the political polarization in this country.

    We can understand that people with different views can still be good people.

    Here are a couple of examples to show what I mean:

    Globalists want to increase immigration to help refugees. Nationalists want to control immigration to keep wages from falling so they can provide for their children. Both sentiments are understandable. As a great people, we can find a compromise through honest discussion and democratic processes.

    Another example. Environmentalists want regulations that protect the environment. But workers could benefit from less regulation because that would increase economic growth which would improve working conditions and salaries that would help them provide for their children. Both sentiments are understandable. As a great people, we can find a compromise through honest discussion and democratic processes.

    I could go through every issue that divided us in the last election and show that both sides have legitimate concerns*.

    We have to come together as a people. We have to solve this problem of political polarization because it is getting worse and worse and it is tearing apart our culture. The news media and the politicians react to public opinion. Politicians want your vote, the news media wants you to watch their programs and read their papers. They are not going to help us change. We have to change ourselves and then they will respond to that change.

    There is a sociologist, Jonathan Haidt (H a i d t) who studies political polarization. I hope the news media will look at his work and discuss it on their programs. And I hope everyone else will look up his videos on youtube. Jonathan Haidt (H a i d t), he is a sociologist who studies political polarization.

    Thank you.

    More info on Jonathan Haidt here:
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2016/01/jonathan-haidts-constructive-approach.html


    Notes

    * Below is a list of political issues and differing opinions about them. My aim is not to convince anyone to change their opinion but to show that reasonable people may have different opinions for legitimate reasons.

    Abortion

    • A woman has a right to control her body.

    • The rights of a person start at the moment of conception and it is wrong to destroy a helpless individual.

    Immigration

    • People should be allowed to come to the US to have the same economic opportunities as citizens or to find sanctuary from war or persecution in their home country.

    • Immigration should be regulated because too many immigrants may lower wages or compete for jobs. Terrorists, drugs, and criminals might enter the country when borders are not protected. Too many illegal immigrants may strain the resources of cities causing property taxes to rise which also increases the cost of rental housing.

    Environmentalism

    • Regulations are needed to protect the environment.

    • Unnecessary regulations hinder economic growth. Reducing regulations will cause economic growth which will force employers to compete for workers resulting in improved working conditions and raiseng salaries that will help workers provide for their children.

    Government funding of arts and media.

    • Art and media enrich our culture and government funding is needed to support works that would not be produced by private enterprise.

    • Different people have different opinions about art and media and it is not the government's proper role to force people to pay taxes for works that they do not want to pay for or that express opinions they disagree with.

    Judicial Appointments

    • The US constitution was written a long time ago when our culture was different than it is today and we need judges who will interpret the constitution in a way that is appropriate for our current conditions

    • Different people have different opinions on many issues and judges should interpret the law as it was written not according to their personal opinions or preferences. Some judges might hold progressive views, others might hold conservative views and the only way to ensure fair rulings is for judges to rule on the law as it was written not according to their personal views. Appointing a judge who will interpret the law as it is written is the best way to compromise between those who want a progressive interpretation of the law and those who want a conservative interpretation of the law. If the laws that were written in past times are not appropriate for us today, then there are mechanisms to update and amend them. It is not appropriate for judges to do this unilaterally.

    The Electoral College

    • It is undemocratic and unfair when the candidate for president who gets the most votes does not win the election.

    • When the states agreed to form a nation, the less populous states were concerned that their interests would be ignored by the more populous states so they all agreed to put protections for smaller states in the constitution. These protections include the electoral college and the US senate. Every state that joined the US since that time agreed to abide by the constitution and eliminating the electoral college after this agreement would be unfair to less populous states.

    The Minimum Wage

    • Working people deserve a wage that will provide for the necessities of life.

    • When the minimum wage is too high, it makes it impossible for young people to find entry level jobs because they lack skills that can provide an adequate value to their employer. If young people cannot get entry level jobs, then they will never develop skills and experience needed to get higher paying jobs. Raising the minimum wage also increases the incentive for employers to use automation to replace workers making jobs for unskilled workers even scarcer.

    Copyright © 2017 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Compassion


    Evil can only exist if you are thinking of yourself. Good and bad ultimately resolve to "I like" or "I don't like". Without "I" there is no liking or disliking.

    People think of self as different things, the body, the brain, the mind... Self is just a word. It means what people think it means. It is an opinion. When you notice how many unpleasant emotions disappear when you stop thinking of yourself, you realize that self is an opinion, an option, an illusion. Noticing how unpleasant emotions disappear provides positive reinforcement that can help condition you to dispense with the idea of self.

    That doesn't mean you should indulge in uncompassionate actions or ignore uncompassionate actions by others. It means you can act out of clear sighted wisdom and compassion unpolluted by anger. And it doesn't mean you don't feel compassion, it means you feel compassion for everyone not just some people.


    Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.