Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Power of Belief in getting over a break-up? I'll try it.

Thank you Mr. Sutton and to everyone else for your encouragement on a previous blog post, I do appreciate it. As you know, my 7 year relationship has recently ended so I have been googling information related to “getting over a breakup” and “getting over someone” and I stumbled across this site.

I discovered that there was a book entitled “How to get over anyone in a few days”.  I also read a little bit of the information on this page and immediately noticed the very large number of views this site has received. Next, a weird thing occurred.  I suddenly noticed a positive change in my state of mind. I started to instantly feel better just knowing that there were obviously millions of other individuals having the same kinds of issues and searching for content related to the same situation.

While my X was able to move on quickly and replace his thoughts of me with a new woman he met, I’ve been having major struggles. I would keep on thinking of him and all the memories.  I wouldn’t let go. The sudden nature of the breakup paralyzed me. I had absolutely no expectation that this would happen.

As I searched the site of “How To Get Over Anyone in a few days” I began to feel a deeper sense of tranquility and my thought process was exactly like this, “If others can move on and get over someone, maybe I can make it through this too.” What I did, was I started to believe that I could do it. My thought process shifted and I temporarily started to feel differently. I felt noticeably better for the rest of my work-day.  It is important to recognize what, exactly, causes your thinking to change and, as a result, your feelings and behaviors. Once you do that, you can implement that same strategy (pattern of thinking) in your next emotional battle or even for that “bad habit” you have ingrained.

The other day I was at a local bookstore skimming through a book entitled, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.  I came across a couple paragraphs that seemed to concur with my experience of feeling better after thinking a certain way.

“In 2005 a group of scientists affiliated with UC Berkley, Brown University and the National Institutes of Health began asking Alcoholics anonymous about all kinds of religious and spiritual topics. Then they looked at the data to see if there was any correlation between religious belief and how long people stayed sober. Alcoholics who believed that some power had entered their lives were more likely to make it through stressful periods with their sobriety intact. It wasn’t God that mattered the researchers found out.  It was belief itself that made the difference.”

“Once people learned how to believe in something, that skill spilled over to other parts of their lives until they started believing they could change. Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior.  You don’t have to believe in God but you do need the capacity to believe that things will get better.  Alcoholics Anonymous trains people in how to believe in something until they believe in themselves. It lets people practice believing that things will eventually get better, until things actually do.”

Although these are very simple “no-brainer” thoughts, not often are they considered as paramount to the healing process of a breakup or to any other habit or bad situation. This wasn’t the direction my mind had been going all along. I was expressing my feelings to anyone who would listen, I was writing my thoughts down. Since I’m not gregarious and therefore don’t have a robust social life, I would call my 2 female friends whom I’m sure were quite annoyed with my grieving. I wasn’t exercising, I wasn’t eating and I was indulging in the painful feelings associated with the breakup. Also, I couldn’t wait to go to work each day to escape.  Never was I telling myself “I believe I can cope. I believe I can get over him.” I never thought of “believing” as a skill.  I never thought that simply by believing can I let go of him.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Personal Relationship With Jesus?

“We need to be willing to risk embarrassment, ask silly questions, surround ourselves with people who don’t know what we’re talking about. We need to leave behind the safety of our expertise.”  Jonah Lehrer, “Imagine: How Creativity Works”      random quote of the day...

These are simply speculations…informal, unguided postulations about the nature of “A personal relationship with Jesus”.

If one could have a personal relationship with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit (or maybe just a Holy Trinitarian threesome), how are we to know that it was a relationship with them and not simply the individual’s thoughts bouncing around inside their brains? It appears to me that we cannot falsify this claim that one can have a personal relationship with God. More clearly, in what circumstances do we know that it was the individual being influenced by a psychological expression or disorder and not “Jesus” or vice versa? How can we differentiate between these experiences?

Today I’m going to suggest that a “Personal relationship with God” is really the individual’s mind as it reflects upon the various views and philosophical positions of their faith and the decisions they make in response to it.

A personal relationship with God always requires 2 components: a faith structure (religion) and a mind. The unique expression of the individuals mind as it considers the sundry elements of their faith is the “personal relationship” part. The fact that an individual will usually weave in their own personal preferences to synchronize with their faith seems to underscore the fact that the Christian religion is based on an individual’s preferences and emotional style rather than on reason---or even a strict adherence to dogma. There is great flexibility in the Christian faith.  This is evidenced by the diversity of denominations—and all of these denominations probably appeal to slightly differing mind-sets along a conservative (mind?) continuum.

I think that the “Personal Relationship with God” strategy endorsed by a large number of Christian theists is really just an emotional proposal that coaxes over individuals’ who have no interest in science, reasoning or empirical evidence. Instead of bringing up factual claims about one’s faith, how Biblical doctrines are verifiable or how living the Christian life offers a distinct advantage (are divorce rates really lower?) they latch on to this easy, unfalsifiable strategy of   “A personal relationship with Christ”.

If one is going to fully believe that they have a relationship with an invisible entity who offers advice and direction throughout the day, who guides them in their every decision while others starve to death, who unfolds a plan for their life path… well, there should actually be stricter, higher standards of evidence for the existence of this entity.

Someone might suggest “Whether or not an idea is falsifiable cannot be employed in a variety of daily life circumstances so therefore it shouldn’t be used in the case of a personal relationship with God”.  Um, this is a God we’re talking about. This is the ultimate Creator Being who, from it, came everything else. Thus, the evidence for God should be overwhelming and the criteria to determine the existence of God should be crystal clear, not full of convolutions in logic. There shouldn’t be hundreds upon hundreds of unanswered questions or attempts from both the Biblical text and its followers to suppress and demonize questions and honest inquiry.

Ideas that are extraordinary always require more consideration of the evidence and more subjugation to higher standards of criticism—not less.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I joined a philosophy group!

I went to a philosophy club the other evening. While I have read or engaged in philosophy discussions on the internet over the years, I’ve never physically gone to a group.  The topic was on “After-birth abortion".  I will not go into any detail regarding the various positions in this blog post. This is more of a descriptive account of my experience and a couple thoughts that have emerged from it.  

I went in, thinking that I was sufficiently aware of both sides of the issue: the nebulous concept of personhood and the sanctity of life endorsed by the pro-life side, and the mother’s rights as well as the arbitrary, slippery-slope nature of when an abortion was permissible wielded by those in the pro-choice camp.  This was my superficial thinking anyhow. I was pleasantly amused by the gaping holes in my knowledge as I listened, transfixed, by quite possibly some of the most scintillating minds I think I have ever been around.

The room seemed to be pulsing with thought and ideas. Concepts and thought experiments volleyed back and fourth between participants with undue ease. I didn’t know that discussions like these were almost akin to watching a sports event. There was this kind of intense competition between ideas going on.

For once in my life I felt “at home with my mind”. I really felt comfortable in this group even though their brightness of mind was orders of magnitude beyond my own. No one was disparaging or condescending but very interested in making the points clear and resolving misunderstandings. The discussion went on smoothly enough for me to follow.  There was always a response that clarified a previous point or teased it out further or one that examined a hidden assumption in an argument that an individual didn’t know they had.

Over the years I’ve heard plenty of people say, “Discussing abstract ideas does nothing to help or change society”—but I think this is where the battle is being fought.  What is going on right now is a war of ideas.  People who choose to simply follow ideas that they haven’t examined—or worse, people who are apathetic of them—haven’t participated in one of life’s most valuable experiences—the application of one’s mind.  Cue in the famous Socrates quote: “The unexamined life is not worth living”

The universe is intelligible and that is remarkable quality.  We should make extraordinary use of this. Furthermore, your time to examine the world that surrounds you is very short.

Sure, most of us are pathetically ignorant as we consider all the knowledge that currently exists, but no one person can tackle all ideas or download all knowledge. It is going to take a lot of us who are interested in learning or who want to devote our time to some area of research that might be fundamental to society’s progression.

Couldn’t we suggest that sitting around talking about our comical drinking binges or the events on a reality television show are LESS valuable than pursuing a deeper, more nuanced understanding of concepts?  I can’t wait to attend more philosophy discussions.