Thursday, August 7, 2014

Happiness and other emotional over-generalizations.

In my experience, happiness is not something anyone can make. The frustration that arises from trying to make someone happy when there really is no affect can cause relationships to dissolve.

There are people you grew up with who for no other reason than their genetically designed brain-chemistry cannot conform to your particular perception of what is supposed to be happiness.

Your mood might shift between peacefulness and frustration depending on mitigating or aggravating external circumstances, but your overall mood scale still falls within a larger scale determined by your brain chemistry, such as dopamine, adrenaline and a host of other hormones produced in your body.

Your body generally produces more of some hormones than others, then external stimulus can trigger an additional surge of certain hormones as needed for such responses as the fight or flight response, mating, nutrition-seeking (hunger or cravings), etc.

When like-minded people come together in friendship it would seem logical that the similarity of their perceptions afford them the illusion that they make each-other happy. As people grow and change with age, sometimes their brain chemistry may also change. This divergence of perceptions often happens between married couples and childhood friends as they grow older. Relationships sour often for no real reason other than the shifting balance of brain chemistry.

The relationships between families with one or more natural born children and adopted children can be especially problematic if they do not understand that the adopted child will develop with age a different balance of brain chemistry that may result in slightly different behavior and misunderstandings, like a puzzle piece that doesn't quite fit. 

This is why people need to continue to try and make new friends even in old age. Some people become bitter about their old relationships dissolving, estranged family relationships; and are very hesitant to make new friends because they were misled to believe that it was their fault or their friends fault for the end of the relationships, when really there is no one at fault but basic genetic development.

Try to understand that people are not like you. They don't develop like you. Their bodies don't react to food or exercise the same way your body does. The same things that make you happy may not work for them. They do not have the same metabolism that you do. Please bear this in mind especially if you adopted a child or you have an adopted sibling.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dreaming of Time: A theory

One night a sudden noise woke me up, but I recall having a very long, intense dream that ended with that noise. The noise and my perception of time in the dream were dissonant. This was the moment I realized that the perception of time in dreams is an illusion. While awake we hear and respond to sounds, but while sleeping apparently sounds don't quite reach our conscious mind until they are first embellished by our unconscious imagination. A sudden external noise may create in our dreaming minds an entire scenario that seems to play out over several minutes before ending with what we think causes the noise. One night I dreamed I was on a plane that finally crashed.

The closest metaphor for the experience of the passage of time in dreams is non-linear video editing; a computer program that allows the user to drag and drop short video clips into a timeline to create a story. Many music videos are edited first by laying down the sound track, then inserting the video clips anywhere along the sound track, sometimes starting in the middle, or even at the very end. So too it seems our dreams are made when unusual sounds are present, or we fall asleep with the radio on.

Only in dreams, the clips are fragmented even smaller and more detailed than simple video. The dream clip is like a group of meaningful set pieces from memories on a stage. These can be combined to create completely new dream vistas as well as cause us to infer that time has passed. It's easy to assume that time has passed with all the cues around us we memorize, like street lights, clocks, night, day, etc.

Sometimes I dream of walking through a house I know I never saw before but I did recognize some of its architecture, like the front porch of a friend's house or an odd combination of several sets of stairs from different houses I visited as a child.

Our waking perception of time is based on the frequency of salient, novel stimuli. Sitting at your desk in class, watching the clock ten minutes before the final bell before summer vacation seems to take forever; but a ten hour road trip with your best friends is over too soon. A length of time can crawl or fly depending on the quality and quantity of activities within.

Theory

The world in which we function daily is restricted by gravity and the predictable behavior of machines and most people and animals. During sleep the brain is mostly shut off from the outside world. Something else is stimulating our memory fragments out of order. This has caused great interest in the field of Dream Interpretation pioneered by Sigmund Freud. Unfortunately too many people in their efforts to understand dreams are taken in by the symbolism of the dream contents. Not until very recently has genetics, brain chemistry, and other discoveries such as "Mirror Neurons" begun constructing a platform for more scientific explanation of brain function during sleep.

The surplus or debt of our supply of neurotransmitters may play a larger role in how we dream. It may be that during sleep, our brains shed off the surplus of neurotransmitters that were created as a result of under-utilized neurons during the previous day. If we were awake when this happens it might look like a grand mal seizure. Many people who suffer from night terrors, sleep-walking or other sleep disturbances might only have a partial brain-body sleep disconnection, and signals during the brain's "reset" cycle leak out to cause the resulting thrashing about or walking.

Looking at the links, I tend to think diet may partially influence our dreams because of the intake of chemicals that are synthesized into neurotransmitters. Genetics plays a role as well, in the rate of neurotransmitter production and the number and type of receptors. The artificial stimulation of dopamine through persistent intake of alcohol or drugs also creates changes in nerve function. The balance of available neurotransmitters in our brains at the time we go to sleep may have a bigger influence on how we dream.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

So what am I feeling?

Bitterness, hopelessness, anger, agitation, nervousness, sometimes panic but after so many years away from what I thought might be their causes, the feelings are still here. They do not fade because they apparently are part of who I am, not part of some external event or person.

These feelings act as grappling hooks between my consciousness and events in my murky, ancient past that serve as reminders of the way I feel now, but this idea is an illusion. It's not true at all.

I was taught that feelings were caused by memories of events past, that the driving force of who we are was conditioned into us by our environmental experiences. The more complex side of this equation is the supply of brain chemistry with which we are born, responsible for making us chose which external causes are responsible for the way we feel.

Unfortunately for me, my chemistry is out of balance, and as a result I ascribed terrible wickedness and imposed unwarranted retributions on people who never deserved it. I overreacted on many occasions. I also said stupid things in general conversations with people, leading them to eventually avoid me.

So do I beg forgiveness? What does that mean? Forgiveness cannot erase the indelible marks of the past. Forgiveness does not mean that I can change unless my brain chemistry can be altered dramatically to prevent recurring negative behavior. Don't delude yourself into thinking you can change someone unless you can physically alter their brain chemistry.

I was on anti-anxiety medication for a while and it brought me up from the depths of delusion to the surface of perception and it made me realize the negative impact I had on everyone around me. I was overwhelmed by the realization of how I hurt my family and friends growing up. I can't believe I had friends. They were only tied to me by their own innate senses of cohesion. The friends who stuck by me the longest were the ones who only saw me for a few weeks during the summers.

I can try to change; people can try to change, but the expectation is unrealistic that change can be artificially maintained, and the emotional penalty of regression from change is made more harmful by unrealistic expectations. So I should accept being alone so I hurt no others.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What can I do about it?

There are some choices:
  • Vote
    • I've been voting since the 1980's. It didn't help much at all.
  • Protest
    • Protesting didn't do anything but probably get my name on a watch list. Who has such lists?
      • Law enforcement
      • The Chambers of Commerce
      • Opposing political organizations and Think Tanks.
      • Other religious organizations.
      • Seriously though, with our current technology, who would turn down an opportunity to put their opponents on a list of enemies? Think about it.
  • Boycott
    • I boycott everything because I have no money to not boycott anything.
  • Sign a Petition
    • Signing a petition just got my name on someone's watch list.
      • See Protesting above for lists.
  • Donate
    • I have no money to donate.
    • Nothing changed when I did donate.
It feels good to share on social media some article or graphic that expresses an emotion with which you empathize, but that good feeling you get is a false sense of vindication that contributes to your complacency and inaction, and it's not enough anymore. Does everyone feel this way?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Patterns of Bureaucratic Corruption

I'm game if there's a position open on a team somewhere that specializes in bureaucratic behavior analysis, looking for the odd balance of procedures and benefits that lead to identifying criminals shielded by organizational subterfuge. A little more challenging than having an email land in your lap blatantly stating "It's time for traffic problems in Fort Lee."

This inspiration came to me in the form of a petition by MoveOn.org which seeks to deny a former Illinois State Trooper, reinstatement of his drivers license. I was immediately reminded of the scandal that resulted in the conviction of former Illinois Governor George Ryan whose political campaign coffers were filled with bribes paid by unqualified truck drivers in exchange for drivers licenses. This scandal came to light following a deadly crash.

The leniency of justice in Illinois is astounding. The history of corruption in Illinois runs so long and deep it has become tacitly acceptable, and even necessary for survival in a career in the Illinois public sector.

Once upon a time the fourth estate (the news media) was there to publicly humiliate corruption in government. Punishment-avoidance behavior by state officials worked well for generations, but in Illinois, the humiliation of being exposed as corrupt seems like a badge of honor anymore, like an old scar from a knife fight. The public has become numb to the incessant scandals reported. In psychology it's known as "Exctinction."

What may be attributed to Groupthink, the extinction of punishment-avoidance behavior on a cultural level is caused by the total absence of justice that in previous times immediately followed public humiliation.

The public assumes that justice still exists because the media coverage implies that it does, enabling diffusion of responsibility on such a massive scale that nothing gets done.. In reality there is nothing that follows but endless yammering of pundits on news programs, speculating endlessly about what they did and how they got away with it, but the discussion goes no further.

Getting away with it is only temporary, and the standoff with Clive Bundy is a symptom of the stress levels building up everywhere. People from all over are under so much pressure they will jump at any cause that will provide an outlet, no matter how illegal it may be. They are getting so fed up that they will take what they perceive as justice for themselves.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Misattribution of Arousal and relationships.

How misattribution of arousal from an old incident involving
simple gossip can create a permanently hostile work environment.
Affinity-seeking behavior drives the bulk of social media. Posting signals to everyone in the hopes of finding like-minded people. I tend to look for explanations or rationalizations for the way I feel and then post them hoping to find people who feel the same way, but the effect is quite different. The consequence of posting things I tend to think make me feel the way I do, tend to make other people feel the way I do. In other words, I seek out and post bad news as a reflection of how I feel but its taken by others as an attempt to make them feel bad.

The internal reality of how we feel has little to do with anything external, which is why the slogan rings true, "money doesn't buy happiness." So, why do I seek out bad news? Is it just a morbid sense of curiosity? It's more like a quest for an explanation for the way I feel. I think we all make the false assumption that our feelings are tied to happenings outside ourselves. After over a year of isolated introspection I have arrived at this conclusion.

This has been a problem for my my whole life. I blamed the way I felt on everyone or everything around me. I think there were times when this was pointed out to me but it never took root. I may have thought about it for a while, but then forgot. This is called "misattribution of arousal." It comes from the primitive part of our brain responsible for the survival of our species over the eons. It supersedes the rational part of our brain and makes us forget, unless we continue to remind ourselves every day that we own our feelings. It's very difficult, at least for me. Tomorrow I will probably wake up and blame the weather for the way I feel.

Misattribution happens all the time with powerful emotional states. Everyone close to someone who, regardless of the situation persistently feels sadness, anger or anxiety, may feel guilt for a while and may try to resolve what they believe is a temporary problem, but this usually ends in frustration and dissolution of the relationship. The emotionally disabled are left with abandonment issues unless they can recognize the problem first.

This emotional imbalance is also blamed on addiction to substances, but the substances are not the cause of the addiction, they are an attempt at solving the way we feel but it's only temporary. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, caffeine, sugar, salt and probably fat are among the chemicals that can alter moods temporarily. Activities are also temporary mood-changers, like sex, video games, skydiving, running, gambling, making money, hoarding, donating or volunteering beyond one's means of self-sustenance. 

My emotions led to my actions which led to the responding actions of others. If I had feelings of abandonment, they traced back to me. Ultimately my current feelings have no external cause. Everyone acts on their baseline standard emotional state. What ever transpires from that, you can construe all the chain reactions you want, but it's all emotional in origin. I feel terrible guilt for my behavior growing up, blaming other people for the way I feel. What good is an apology? They only work when you have time left to repair the damage and rebuild their trust.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Logical Fallacies

I'm getting more frequent ad hominem arguments against posting videos from Russia Today, even from people I thought were trained to recognize such logical fallacies. This suggests the influence of propaganda from another series of logical fallacies that falls under the same category of Relevance, called "Irrelevant Appeals"

Many of these irrelevant appeals cross the big fat red line between reporting news and consumer marketing strategy. The most powerful of which is the repeated assertion. Apparently some people can forget a repeated assertion for a while, even knowing it's false, and then hearing a key word after a while, vaguely and falsely remember the claims of assertion.

  • Antiquity/Tradition
    • The source is has a long record of reporting facts.
    • The source has been around for a long time
    • Because it's old
  • Authority
    • The source is a well-known opinion leader
    • The source is a government official
  • Consequences
    • The consequences of not accepting the claim will have negative consequences.
  • Force
    • Not accepting the claim makes you a traitor, subject to banishment or sanctions.
  • Novelty
    • It's a whole new way of looking at the information.
    • The latest trend or newest development.
  • Pity
    • Depicting suffering persons or animals that will be marginally, if at all, addressed by your donations.
  • Popularity
    • Claims that don't refer directly to sources that can be checked, but instead, attribute a claim to a vague source by using the synecdoche:
      • "Many people"
      • "Some people"
      • "Other sources"
      • "Executive branch"
      • "Liberal Left"
      • "Neocons"
      • "Tea Party"
      • "Politically Correct"
      • "Four out of five doctors"
  • Poverty
    • "Money doesn't buy happiness."
    • "Hard work is its own virtue."
  • Wealth
I often wonder how this is done. I imagine the news media could repeat several false assertions about a subject, switch to another tragedy to report on, then later occasionally refer back to the first subject and leave the audience with a "gut feeling" about the first topic that falls in line with the original false assertion.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Food and psychological conditioning

It wasn't until I made this chart that I realized how
my eating habits were so destructive. It's not
just about what you eat but how often as well.
I couldn't see what I was doing or what was happening to me. It was totally automatic. I was incorrectly, unconsciously attributing my need to get up and walk around for a signal to get something to eat, and I was doing it about every hour and a half to two hours instead of restricting myself to eating only every six hours.

My weight was getting out of control. I could see it in the mirror every day and I complained to myself about straining to do something as simple as getting dressed.

I was either in denial or some kind of mental wall was thrown up between what I saw in the mirror and my recollection of eating habits. I find this particular psychological barrier interesting because it's an important part of marketing strategy and social engineering.

At first I thought something triggered my behavior to switch to autopilot. I would suddenly get up from my desk (probably only because I just needed to move around a bit) and the next thing I knew I was looking in the refrigerator. Just moments ago I caught myself standing up for no apparent reason.so I washed some dishes and put away some things instead.

I think I'll print some signs and post them behind my chair so I will see them when I get up. They will say "Why are you standing up?" just to make me think about it. The problem is the longer the signs stay up in the same place, the sooner they become habituated and tuned out of conscious thought. I would need to make an effort to change the picture or position of the sign every week, perhaps as infrequently as every month which would be good for calendars but I don't want to push my luck.

P.S. I picked up some of those dried pork and bacon sticks at the grocery stored and noticed that each one has over 1100 mg of Sodium, or around 48% of the daily recommended amount. Crap! I can't eat more than two of those per day and I used to eat one about ever couple of hours. What have I done to myself? I can't believe I'm still alive!
Update: I added this chart to see how many hours I should wait until I can next eat.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Global Warming isn't just about rising sea levels due to melting ice.

When I was growing up, meteorologists and weather reporters included the dew point as part of their weather news coverage. After all the recent reports on the most severe weather I've seen in my memorable lifetime over the last 40 years or so, I noticed that Dew Point was absent from reports. I guessed it might have been replaced with the term "relative humidity" because the public was mostly interested in just temperature and precipitation for immediate comfort.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
The dew point is the temperature at which the water vapor in air at constant barometric pressure condenses into liquid water at the same rate at which it evaporates. At temperatures below the dew point, water will leave the air. The condensed water is called dew when it forms on a solid surface.
Dew Point is important to consider because changes in the atmosphere over time may determine how much water can be suspended in the air. Ice doesn't just melt into liquid and raise the water level, water also evaporates into the air, but nobody seems to be discussing this. Over the last several decades we have introduced other particles and chemicals into the atmosphere that may enhance humidity.

Under current conditions, what is the maximum possible water volume that can be suspended in the atmosphere at the average global temperature? What was the average global temperature ten years ago and what was its water volume potential at that time?

Since we don't see humidity until it becomes dense enough to form clouds or fog, we don't think much about it. Most of the media has been reporting for years about how long it will take for the sea level to rise enough to flood major cities, but I never seem to hear reports on the density of water vapor in the atmosphere responsible for increasing the severity of hurricanes, tornadoes, flash-floods,  blizzards, and the "Arctic Vortex" driving extremely severe cold weather into subtropical regions everywhere.

The Earth Observatory at NASA compares water vapor with other substances in the atmosphere over time. Climate.gov has a detailed page on Humidity. The Storm Prediction Center at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's website  (NOAA) has tons of raw data for research.

Given recent weather events it seems the atmosphere's capacity to hold water and conduct thermal energy is long overdue for public scrutiny. Instead, the main-stream corporate media prefers to leave its audience with the assumption that "It won't happen in my lifetime, what do I care?"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Profit and power in 2014

This year starts out with a win for the Poverty Industrial Complex as our latest addition to the United States Supreme Court halts the birth control portion of the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/31/22128010-supreme-court-halts-contraception-mandate-for-religious-groups?lite

More poverty and hunger is in store as the "Work-Making" activity of our government will soon reap the rewards of expiring unemployment benefits that economically conscript new military personnel. http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=15773

Since the military became voluntary after the Vietnam War, the motivation to artificially inflate the unemployment rate as a means of conscription has an economically advantageous side-effect of creating a new captive slave class. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

The full force of economic pressure will be brought to bear on our next generation, along with unemployment benefit cuts we already have in effect a cut to the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3899

Lack of birth-control availability runs counter to continued cuts in social service programs for the poor. The outcome for most Americans will be an increase in activity associated with psychological pressures, such as domestic violence, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, burglary, shoplifting, armed robbery, rape.

The subsequent governmental costs in law enforcement and emergency medicine are of course not a coincidence. People allegedly smarter than me are running things. I can only deduce that since they seem to not recognize these facts that they are in reality fully aware of them and are deliberately engineering them for profit and power.