from the world's big
“I Am Whatever You Say I Am”?
It is gratifying when people see you just as you want to be seen.
But don’t count on it.
If you like to think of yourself as a gentle person of few words others may nevertheless find you boring and pathetic. You may like to think of yourself as curious and passionate about ideas, while others find you loud and arrogant. You may imagine yourself a real do-gooder, while people around you role their eyes, viewing your efforts as mere self-aggrandizement under the cover of moral pretense. You may fancy yourself a sophisticated wit with a clever ironic take on the world, while others find you juvenile and irritating.
However you present the narrative arc of your life to yourself, there will always be others who would tell your story quite differently. And among those, there may be some who would tell it exactly in the way that you dread it might be told.
Heightened awareness of this dissonance can feel unbearable.
How do people cope?
Some people isolate themselves from others: the less you expose yourself to others, the less opportunity others have to form and express an opposing opinion of you.
A person might, on the other hand, surround himself with people who will reliably mirror-back his preferred self-image. Securing high status in some sphere of life is very helpful in this regard: if others are compelled to placate you as a result of your power or prestige, if they want something from you like money, connections, or prestige-by-association, then you can count on them to calibrate their deference to your expectations.
The problem, of course, is that this requires you to suppress any knowledge of the fact that others are propping-up your self-portrait under duress. It will not be a problem, though, if you are sufficiently delusional or unwilling to consider seriously how others around you may be experiencing the world.
There is also the strategy of total war: tightly wound, back up, on edge, confrontational, ready at every moment to defend your idea of yourself against all challenges, and ready to quash even the slightest suggestion of an alternative. Where too many people go in this direction there may be violence at the end of the road.
None of these responses are admirable. But it is only in rare cases that a person appears always and entirely locked in one of these defensive postures. In our scientistic age, such extreme cases are usually described in terms of “mental disorders.”
Most of us, I assume, behave in the above ways to varying degrees throughout our lives depending on how well things are going. When things are not going well – when something inside you feels persistently and painfully unsettled, when you feel disrespected, invisible, demoralized, or that people unbearably see you in the wrong way – you are more likely to find yourself alone, surrounded by sycophants, or mired in one confrontation after another.
To be sure, isolation, the accrual of sycophants, and constant confrontation are not necessarily signs that things are going badly: you may be isolated for a long period of time trying to accomplish an important and admirable task, you may accrue sycophants as a result of some great achievement and be unable to shake them, and you may find yourself incessantly in confrontations because you hold a justifiable but unpopular view about something.
Be careful, though. These are also the very reasons that people who are not doing well and responding unadmirably often give to themselves in order to avoid being troubled by greater self-awareness (which would reveal that things are not actually going very well).
I assume that “greater self-awareness” is generally worthwhile, even at the expense of a comforting delusion. This is in part because I take a high level of self-awareness to be integral to an admirable disposition in social life, where there is always some dissonance between how you want to be seen and how others see you.
Along with a high level of self-awareness, it may be beneficial to have a sense that you are somehow affirmed, recognized, worthy of respect, or even loved from an impartial third-person perspective. The moral idea that you are a person worthy of equal respect like every other person can provide a good basis for a sense of self-respect. The political idea that the state, your country, recognizes you as a citizen among citizens with basic rights can support confidence in your fundamental dignity. The theological idea that God loves you unconditionally can be a basis for self-love.
Self-respect, confidence in your own fundamental dignity, and self-love are all stabilizing forces amidst the tumultuous relativism of how you appear to yourself and others.
But third-person “common denominator” perspectives (like those derived from morality, constitutional law, and theology) ultimately provide minimal compensation for the failure of others to see you more precisely as you would like to be seen: as a tough guy, an intellectual, a victim who has survived great hardship, a good-hearted Christian, an intrepid free-thinker, an endearing schlemiel, wise, cosmopolitan, down-to-earth, smart, etc.
So what does an admirable response to “self-image relativism” look like? Here is a preliminary sketch:
An admirable person maintains relationships that challenge her preferred picture of herself. She cultivates an environment where she is recognized as the kind of person she imagines herself to be, but she is nevertheless happy to enter other environments where she is seen very differently. Her diverse relationships and spheres of experience function as “checks and balances” on her less admirable tendencies.
In general, she has a studied awareness of her usual reactions to the uncontrollable eyes of others: a sense for the little twitches of envy and resentment, the subtle compulsion to compete and dominate, the feeling of claustrophobia quietly compelling her to flee, and so on. She manages these tendencies with grace, finessing them to the margins of her mind so that they do not obstruct healthy interaction.
She places a reasonable amount of faith in others, assuming that they too are trying to manage themselves. She remembers that others are also vulnerable to the way that she sees them and she modifies her behavior accordingly. She tries to be charitable when others present themselves to her. But she knows when there is enough trust and mutual understanding to challenge another person’s self-image if needed. Thus, when she is challenging her spirit of friendship is self-evident.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?