Tag Archives: psychology

Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness by Anne Whitaker

wisps-from-the-dazzling-darkness

Anne and I connected through our blogs. We share many similarities in interests and experiences. I just finished her wonderful memoir and I’m happy to share it here.

Over a thirty year period, Anne was challenged by many happenings which left her baffled. As a skeptic, she tried to come to grips with them as she managed a career and family. But how does the rational mind grasp phenomena like atmospheres, ghosts, poltergeists, mediumship, premonitions, reincarnation, mystical experience, and telepathy and make sense of them? The prevailing worldview of scientific materialism insists they’re not possible. Using diary notes and drawing upon recall, Anne categorizes the events and digs deeper. Her writing is straightforward, honest, and from the heart.

Most of us have probably had some kind of weird experience that defies rational analysis. In 2009, a Pew Research study revealed that 29% of Americans report they have had contact with the dead and 18% have had an encounter with a ghost. Furthermore, 49% report mystical experience as defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening.” In this context, Anne is far from alone. Many of us dismiss these events because they’re uncomfortable. We shrug our shoulders and try to forget them. This is where one of the powers of Anne’s writing grabs us. As we read about her experiences, we begin to remember our own. Anne is fueled by open-minded curiosity coupled with rationalism in her search. And just like her, we’d like some answers too.

Anne Whitaker

Anne turns to science and finds the reductionist materialism paradigm to be inadequate to address her experiences. At the same time, she knows that current theoretical physics has offered hope. New scientific theories are starting to make inroads toward the mainstream. In the final part of the memoir, she takes on the science and realizes the paradigm for our reality must shift to accommodate what many of us have experienced. Kudos to Anne for boldly sharing her journey. May her book encourage others to do the same.

You can purchase the book here: http://anne-whitaker.com/wisps-from-the-dazzling-darkness/

To learn more about Anne and her work: www.anne-whitaker.com

Anne Whitaker has worked in the fields of adult education, social work, and counselling. She has been a practicing astrologer, teacher and writer since 1983. Her first book was entitled Jupiter Meets Uranus (2009). She lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

Pew Study Link: http://www.pewforum.org/2009/12/09/many-americans-mix-multiple-faiths/

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, PSI

A LOOK AT SYNCHRONICITY

 Buddha

Years ago when I returned to Buddhism and began meditation, I opened a door which, even after ten years, remains open. We can call them synchronistic events (SEs), meaningful coincidences. They come and ping in my environment especially when I’m working intensely on something. The easiest examples to share have to do with my writing. When I was writing INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, all manner of Tibetan symbols and objects showed up in my environment. Where before I knew nothing about Tibet, and relatively little about Buddhism, I started to see various things each and every day. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it was alarming- what did it mean? Why was it happening? Thankfully, my immediate family was supportive and I explored various ideas before finally embracing the idea that these events were like warm embraces from the universe.

Synch

Enter psychologist, Kirby Surprise who has written a book called Synchronicity- The Art of Coincidence, Choice, and Unlocking Your Mind. He was about to challenge my warm, fuzzy world. Has he won or can we come to a… middle way? Some believe these coincidences are tied to archetypes and Jung’s collective unconscious. Others see the hand of God or some unifying force at work. In Surprise’s career, he has seen clients attribute these “signs” to Gods, saviors, demons, devils, nature spirits, people with extraordinary powers, ETs, ghosts, and/or secret agencies or governments. Our psychologist proposes an alternative. We cause our own SEs because the universe mirrors us. Therefore, what we project is what we get. Many mystical traditions (becoming co-creators) and science itself seems to support the idea.

Current theories of quantum physics play with the idea that the universe has 11 dimensions. In N Space, there are an infinite number of parallel universes. And then there is M Space which has probable universes. Brain activity as thoughts and powered by emotion, move across these spaces creating change. In a sense, we exist in in infinite number of alternative and probable universes all at the same time. The changes we create in these universes ripple back to us as SEs. We are indeed very powerful- but limited according to Surprise, because we can only travel so far. Rhine’s early parapsychology experiments at Duke University seem to suggest we influence our world by 3-5% and that may reflect a typical SE. However, there are exceptional cases of SE which are life changing and may be more in line with a 60-90% change.

stage

All well and good. So what can we do with SEs? Why are they important? SEs give us insight into who we are and how the world functions. For those attuned to SEs, they shake up our world and force us to look at the big questions- who are we, what is the nature of reality? Surprise cautions us here because whatever our belief structure is, meaningful coincidences will conspire to confirm it. Believe a loving, powerful God underlies everything, he shows up. Believe the devil is at the heart of your misery, he’s there too. How about a shadow government conspiring with aliens to take over the world? Suddenly, conspiracy theories are everywhere and intruding into your daily life. While SEs are often fun and exciting, they can also be scary and throw your world into chaos. The trick here is to maintain a sense of humor without believing everything we are being shown. We are the actor on the stage as well as the playwright.

Not that everyone is happy with the book. Surprise does explore the idea that SEs point to deep connectedness, but he is pretty tough on organized religions sometimes putting it on the level of his patient’s other delusions. And while he does admit that SEs can be powerful at times, he tends to dismiss their overall importance. I think he’s done a good job in opening up some speculation on how the mechanics of SEs work, but he may have only part of the story. We need magic and mystery.

Image by: Kevin McGill

Image by: Kevin McGill

Surprise’s book gives some exercises to try so that you can create thoughtforms and see what happens. He goes to great length stressing that everyone has this ability, but many aren’t aware of it. You can live a full life and never recognize SEs- but for those of us who do, it will permanently shift your frame of reference. All spiritual paths tell us this, once you open the door and step through, you can never go back. Some are not up to the journey.

 

48 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Spiritual/Mysticism

Part II: THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

 Continuing with JH Brennan’s, Whisperings: The Secret History of the Spirit World, I wanted to mention the research conducted by Dr. A.R. G. Owen a few years after Bacheldor’s work. A Canadian research group led by Owen wondered if they could create a ghost.

Working a lot like fictional writers, the group created “Philip” and gave him a whole history. Philip had been a Cavalier officer during the English Civil War and had resided at Diddington Hall (a real place). The story of his life was a fabrication and went like this. Although Philip was married, he had an affair with a gypsy girl which had enraged his wife. The wife managed to have the girl denounced as a witch and burned. So distraught was Philip that he threw himself off the battlements of the hall committing suicide. Poor Philip!

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

The group held séances for a year trying to contact the Cavalier with no luck. I think it’s pretty amazing they’d keep at it that long with no result. One of the group eventually read Bacheldor’s work and wondered if a lighthearted atmosphere might make a difference. Giving it the old college try, they sang and told jokes, and oddly enough, after a few more séances, things started to happen. They heard their first rap and the table slid across the floor. Success at last! Encouraged, someone asked if Philip was doing it and was answered back with a loud rap. Having contacted the entity, the group used the one knock for yes and two for no method, to go on to communicate with Philip. Phillip affirmed the basic facts of his fictional life story and went on to reveal additional details the group had not created. The séances also produced various physical phenomena. The most spectacular was recorded for a television program. A table climbed a set of steps joining the panelists being interviewed.

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

I’ll leave you to ponder the significance of the Philip research. As a fiction author, I’m already concocting plots about how the other side conspires to have a good laugh at Owen and the other sitters.

7 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books

THOSE THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

whisperers

JH Brennan’s, Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World explores the powerful undercurrents flowing just beneath the surface of the history we’re taught in school. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, spirits, or faeries, is immaterial (pun intended). The fact that various phenomena have been occurring throughout pre-history right up until today is undeniable. Brennan doesn’t set out to prove the existence of ghosts as disembodied, earth-bound entities but rather he examines the effect they may have played on history.

It’s a fascinating book with lots of little surprises. I read the last two sections first and went back to the older histories later. While I love a good ghost story (and Brennan does share two personal experiences), it was some of the research into the phenomena that caught my attention.

ghost1

There have been many theories put forth to explain all manner of ghostly happenings, but none seem to fully explain everything. Indeed, although we tend to lump everything under the vast heading of the paranormal (or PSI), different phenomena may be different things entirely.

Brennan cites two studies which are fascinating. I’m going to outline the first one here and then take on the second in a follow-on piece.

In 1966, Kenneth Batcheldor (a UK psychologist) published findings in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research concerning the levitation of tables. Recall from the Victorian era, the spiritualism craze which involved spirit contact and various physical manifestations including rappings, materializations, levitation, etc.

ghost2

In 1964, Batcheldor conducted a series of 200 séances with a small group of sitters. In 120 of the sessions, no phenomena were observed but in 80 of them (40%), physical phenomena was seen. While table movement early in the trials could possibly be dismissed by involuntary muscle movement, by the 11th session, Batcheldor watched as a table rose and floated in the air. At this point he couldn’t rule out fraudulent means so he worked with an engineer to tighten his experimental controls. Once the controls were in place, the phenomena stopped- but over time, the phenomena returned. This was a pattern Batcheldor saw over and over again. Introduced slowly, the sitters appeared to acclimate to the controls and the happenings would start anew. Astonishingly enough, Batcheldor observed not only table movement and levitation, but a whole range of spirit phenomena reported by Victorian spiritualists and witnesses. Amongst the phenomena observed were rapping sounds, breezes, lights, the feeling of being touched, movement of objects including the pulling back of chairs, apports, and holding the table to the floor so it couldn’t be lifted.

levitation

The experiments seem to indicate people have the ability, through unconscious means, to produce a variety of physical phenomena. While it doesn’t definitively rule out spirit action, it does point toward interesting avenues for further research. Batcheldor theorized that early movement of the table due to muscle contractions conditioned sitters to expect phenomena and opened them up to actually producing it. This is something later PSI researchers discovered when examining other kinds of phenomena in a lab setting. Belief makes a difference, and in Batcheldor’s case, seeing the phenomena may have led to its manifestation. So here we learn nothing really about spirits, but it does indicate how little we (or science) know about the mind.

The book on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Whisperers-Secret-History-Spirit-World-ebook/dp/B00EOARZGY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395336244&sr=1-1&keywords=whisperers+the+secret+history+of+the+spirit+world

11 Comments

Filed under Book Review, PSI

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR: SHAMAN ELIZABETH HERRERA

Shaman Elizabeth Herrera

Shaman Elizabeth Herrera

Shaman Elizabeth is a healer whose life has been filled with miracles. She is dedicated to helping others believe that miracles are possible and encouraging them to accept these wondrous gifts for themselves. She offers healing and spiritual advising to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. With deep connections to the Divine and help from enlightened guides and teachers, Shaman Elizabeth accesses your spiritual Self through the visionary process of shamanic journeying (Native American spirituality) to heal and offer guidance.

shaman-stone-soup-cover-large

For those unfamiliar with shamanism, a shaman is a person who accesses the spirit world for the purpose of divination or healing. Shamanism is ancient drawing from multi-cultural roots throughout Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas.

Elizabeth is another author I had the good fortune to connect with through blogging and I’m so glad I did! She has several books published and today we will concern ourselves mainly with a discussion of Shaman Stone Soup. This book is an account of her spiritual life and healing experiences over the course of her spiritual development. It is a delightful, engaging read for both those on a spiritual path, and those interested in the shared human experience.

Welcome Elizabeth and thanks for joining me to talk about Shaman Stone Soup!

Hello! It’s an honor to be featured on your website.

In Shaman Stone Soup, you talk about being an unlikely, and perhaps, reluctant candidate for shamanism. Can you talk a bit about how this path emerged for you?

It was totally unexpected! Although I knew I was searching for something, I never expected it to be Native American spirituality (shamanism). I went from being a Christian to an atheist to discovering shamanism.

When I first began shamanic journeying (communicating with spirit guides in the spirit realm), I didn’t believe the visions were real. All I knew was that every few weeks I would hear a persistent call asking me to journey, which I couldn’t ignore. It was like someone kept knocking on the door of my consciousness and the only way I could get them to stop was to journey.

Two years went by before I asked for a healing for a friend. When the healing came true by morning, it caused me to reconsider the “reality” of what I was seeing in the spirit realm. To see if it was a fluke, I asked for healings for friends, neighbors, people on TV or whomever I thought needed a healing, and the healings would occur just as the spirit guides described. Still filled with doubt, I wondered if I was psychic and simply being shown the future. An opportunity to prove these were miracles came very quickly. My husband was diagnosed with Crone’s disease during this time. It’s a treatable, but not curable, disease with Western medicine. He was in tremendous pain, weighed about 115 lbs., and couldn’t work or do much of anything. I finally asked him if I could request a healing for him. He agreed, probably because he was desperate, since he didn’t (and still doesn’t) believe in a higher power. During the healing, the spirit guide said my husband would be well within two weeks. The spirit guide also said the illness wouldn’t bother him again, but that my husband would always carry a “sign” of it with him. And, just as the spirit guide promised, my husband was fine within two weeks and never had an episode again. Two doctors felt he must have been misdiagnosed and performed additional tests, but both tests proved he did indeed have the signs of Crone’s, but was non-symptomatic.

My book, Shaman Stone Soup, details 20 stories of miracles, including this one.

A Chakapa used by a Peruvian Shaman

A Chakapa used by a Peruvian Shaman

Shaman Stone Soup makes shamanism easily accessible to both those who know about shamanism and those who don’t. Readers have also pointed out that the book really explores universal themes, which unite us all in the human experience. How can an exploration of those human experiences (the search for self, growing love & understanding, practicing forgiveness) bring about a wider audience for understanding the shamanic path?

Not sure if this answers your question, but I believe shamanism, ACIM, Reiki, religion, yoga, meditation, etc. are all tools that help open our consciousness to the Love that surrounds us. My only goal is to fully know Love. Shamanism provided a portal to Love. It’s not the only modality that offers this, but it is the oldest-known spiritual practice.

A spiritual path doesn’t have to follow any specific practice. It could be as simple as loving everyone who comes your way. Everyone we meet is an opportunity to see the divine within them. When we see the divine in others, we remember it in ourselves.

Do you have to believe in miracles to have one happen to you? Does it help? How can openness to spirituality help us in our daily lives?

Considering I performed healings for five years as an atheist, I guess you could say faith isn’t required. The only requirement is to ask for a miracle, then step out-of-the-way. The higher power will do the work.

I meditate daily (or almost daily) to connect to the loving energy. When I do, I am peaceful, centered and have direction throughout my day. It’s a moment-by-moment thing. You don’t reach a state of bliss and stay there without focus and devotion.

How did A Course in Miracles (ACIM) add to your spiritual journey?

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) answered a lot of questions for me, such as: Why are we here?”, “How did we get here?” and “Where are we going?” which I’m sure would have been answered eventually through shamanic journeying. The Course saved me a considerable amount of time, which is what the Course is about…reaching enlightenment sooner. Oddly enough, ACIM is perfectly compatible with shamanism. The two spiritual paths seem very different on the surface, yet their truths are the same.

Saami Turist Rune Drum Photo by: Petr Broz (2007)

Saami Turist Rune Drum
Photo by: Petr Broz (2007)

How do your power animals facilitate your healings?

My power animals guide me through the spirit realm, taking me to the spirit guide who is best suited to perform the healing. Power animals can be helpful for providing archetype power that instills a person with the energy/confidence they are lacking.

In my book, one of the stories talks about a deer totem animal that appeared in a healing for a client. The next evening, I believe this archetype power saved my life or at least prevented serious injury. Below is an excerpt that explains:

During a shamanic healing session for a client, her power animal appeared as a herd of deer, which was surprising because a power animal usually appears as a singular animal/bird/fish that represents the species as a whole. At the time, it seemed interesting, but not overly important.

The next morning, the client sent me a message that her sister had emailed her an inspirational video of a deer. It was a wonderful “coincidence” that helped to confirm the healing for her.

That night, after returning home late from a friend’s home, I called my sister to stay awake while driving on the desolate highway. She lived out West, so while it was close to midnight in North Carolina, it was only 9:00 p.m. in Nevada. We had talked for 10 minutes when she suddenly became extremely nauseous. She said that it was odd, since she had been fine all day. She needed to end the call and we said good-bye.

A few minutes later, while driving down the highway, I came over a hill and was confronted with a herd of deer crossing the highway. I looked in every direction for a path to avoid them, but there was no visible escape route.

I remembered thinking, “There is no way I won’t hit those deer!” I expected to hit not just one, but several deer, and I surrendered to the inevitable.

Suddenly, my body had a mind of its own! A presence took control of me and slammed my foot on the brakes, the screeching sound filling the night air. Time began to move in slow motion, and as I passed a deer on my left, I looked into his wide eyes that were staring back at me. He was so close that I watched the side-view mirror miss his antlers by inches. When he was safely out-of-the-way, my hand cranked the wheel sharply to the left to dodge the deer on my right, who kindly took several steps in the opposite direction to avoid being hit.

Now, I was driving in the bumpy, grassy median and was about to plow into another deer in front of me, when my hand swerved the wheel back to the right, narrowly missing the doe. I was back on the highway and looked in the rearview mirror to see the deer still standing there stunned. The two cars in front of me had their brakes on, no doubt wondering if they would need to stop and call 911. But, when they saw me putter along the highway unharmed, their brake lights went off and everyone resumed driving.

Time returned to normal and I began to take assessment of what had just occurred. Unscathed, I first thanked God for saving the deer’s lives. Then, another mile down the road, I realized that I could have been killed and thanked him for saving mine!

When speaking with my sister the next day, I told her it was a blessing in disguise that she had gotten nauseous, or I would have had a cell phone in my hand when I encountered the deer. It would have been nearly impossible to avoid hitting them with only one hand on the wheel. She replied that it was the weirdest thing, but shortly after getting off the phone, the nausea went away. Divine intervention is a wonderful thing!

White-tailed_deer

The Meaning of the Deer Power Animal
The archetype power of the deer power animal offers many attributes, among them are the following: Manifesting for a higher good, surrendering to the Divine will, and the ability to move with intention, complete awareness and speed while remaining centered. It also represents abundance, the advent of new adventures, and the power of family or group dynamics.

If someone were interested in learning to shamanic journey, how would you advise him or her to proceed?

Find a teacher. I offer lessons in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, but Sandra Ingerman is a well-known teacher and healer who has a great website that lists teachers throughout the world. My teacher happened to be taught by her as well. If time or money is an issue, Sandra has a book, Learn to Shamanic Journey that takes you through the process.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

My latest book, Dreams of Dying, released this January. It features a mother who vacillates between two lives…before and after a tragic car accident that kills her family. As she struggles between realities, Jesus Christ suddenly appears and offers her unorthodox guidance. He accompanies her to the grocery store and for walks on the beach, while answering life’s toughest questions. His answers challenge her traditional beliefs and repeatedly emphasize there is no death, only dreams of dying.

Dreams of Dying is found in the visionary fiction genre, but it’s a difficult book to categorize because, although it features Jesus, it’s not Christian (much like my life!). If someone is exploring the concept of Oneness or ACIM, they’ll love Dreams of Dying.

dreams-of-dying-front-cover

I’m working on my third book, Earth Sentinels, which is also visionary fiction and will release this spring. It offers compelling insights into current environmental concerns woven into a fictional story. Its filled with characters, such as the fallen angel Bechard, Master of the Elements, shamans, spiritual beings and earth’s creatures, who collaborate using supernatural powers to fight against greed and corruption, demanding that mankind changes its way…or else.

The idea for the Earth Sentinels started while eating breakfast with my family at Burger King. Nobody was talking, so I thought I’d liven things up with an impromptu story. In a scary voice, like one might use over a campfire, I described animals attacking mankind in retaliation for all the damage to earth. When I finished, my gentle 14-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Yes!” and clenched her fists. It then occurred to me that I might be onto something. I wrote it for adults, but I am considering a second version for young adults.

earth-sentinels-cover

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your experiences and introducing us to the fascinating world of shamanism. For more information about Elizabeth’s work please visit her social media sites. 

www.shamanelizabeth.com (healing site)

www.shamanelizabethherrera.com (author site)

www.blog.shamanelizabeth.com

https://twitter.com/ShamanElizabeth

https://www.facebook.com/ShamanElizabethHerrera

19 Comments

Filed under Blog Interview, Book Review, Books, Spiritual/Mysticism

THE UNEXPLAINED POWERS OF ANIMALS

LUKE

LUKE

In the last two weeks, my husband and I have welcomed a new dog into the family. Luke is a friendly, almost two year old, Golden Retriever who has had a rough start in life. As we are getting to know each other, I’m drawn back into the routine and wonder of dog ownership. All the while, our elderly cat, George, raises an eyebrow and wonders why he can’t live in a one cat household.

 

George

George

I’ve been re-reading and thoroughly enjoying Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals) by Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake is a biologist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge. As a pet owner himself he wondered why the stories of pet owners were so universally ignored by scientists. He felt that confining research to lab animals or wildlife observation misses entirely to capture a unique understanding man has with his companion animals. Sheldrake set out to mine this field for its gold. He interviewed hundreds of people with experience with our closest companion animals. These included dog trainers, vets, zoo keepers, kennel owners, and pet owners. Later, he conducted formal surveys in Britain and the US to quantify the frequency of the most commonly reported behaviors in the area of perceptiveness. He took a special interest in reports of dogs that seemed to know when their owners were coming home. These dogs displayed anticipatory behavior which included alertness and going to a particular spot to await their owner’s return. Using a scientific approach, Sheldrake set out to learn what was at work in this commonly reported behavior.

He examined the common explanations many have given for this behavior. An established routine by the owner, a dog’s superior sense of smell, a dog’s keen hearing ability, human cueing, and the use of a familiar mode of transportation did not seem likely. When these things were eliminated, case histories suggested a human/animal bond along the lines of telepathy.

sheldrake

The best way to understand this is to look at the case of Jaytee and owner Pam Smart. Pam often left Jaytee with her parents when she went out and over time, the parents noticed Jaytee would go to a window and wait for Pam to return. Often the parents had no idea when Pam would return but started to trust Jaytee’s signal because Pam did show up shortly after the dog would go to the window. The Smarts kept logs of the incidents and before long an opportunity arose to film what was really going on. A camera was set up to watch Jaytee and a film crew followed as Pam was sent out. At a randomly selected time Pam was told to return home. On split screen and with the times synchronized, the film shows Pam being told it’s time to return while Jaytee reacts at the same moment with alertness and ears pricked. While Pam walks to a taxi stand, Jaytee goes to a window to wait. Jaytee seems to be responding to Pam’s intention to return suggesting a mind to mind connection. Telepathy! Further research carried out in 1995 and 1996, confirmed that Jaytee anticipated Pam’s arrival at randomly chosen times and in unfamiliar vehicles. Psychic debunker, Dr. Richard Wiseman, conducted his own experiment and found the same result.

Work with filming several other dogs indicated that Jaytee is not alone in her ability. Surveys indicate that the behavior is widespread in all kinds of dogs. About 51% of dogs seem to do this. Males display the behavior slightly more than females. A close bond with a human does seem to be necessary to induce the dog to engage in the behavior. Sheldrake advances the idea of morphic fields to explain the mind to mind connection we have with our pets. This invisible connection is likened to a rubber that can stretch over large distances to facilitate communication.

Sheldrake’s book is a delight. There are many stories of dogs, cats, parrots, horses and other animals engaging in behaviors because they are so connected to us. In later chapters, animal empathy, telepathy, precognition, and sense of direction are covered. I invite you to explore this fascinating book and rediscover your pet through the eyes of science. And don’t forget to share your stories here. I spent a lot of time on dogs, but how many of you have cats who know when there is a vet appointment? Mine does and not because the cat carrier is left out.

Watch the videos:

Unexplained Power of Animals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLgyFQZxs40

Science Deluded       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO4-9l8IWFQ

123 Comments

Filed under animals, Book Review, Books

ARE YOU A POST MATERIALIST?

My son’s home from university and one of our conversations turned to the economy and how hard it is to find even part-time, entry level work. He’s sent out something like 80 applications, done some interviews, and over the course of months, has just recently landed something part-time. The talk eventually wound around to the idea that my husband and I are post materialists. Now that’s not a term I know and my son delights in sharing what he has learned. As a parent, I love these times when the kids get to educate me. “So what are your girlfriend’s parents then?” I ask him. “Materialists”, he answers as if I should already know that. I actually did know that.

Anyway, further investigation on my part revealed that Ronald Inglehart developed the idea of post materialism in the 1970s as a sociological theory to explain an ongoing transformation of individual values within a society. He argued that as western nations achieved a level of economic prosperity and physical security, its members transformed their values seeking more autonomy and self-expression. Ah, this sounds a lot like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As people meet their basic survival requirements, we move up the pyramid until we are striving for self-actualization. Maslow confined his theory to how individuals are transformed and Inglehart wanted to see how societies as a whole might be transformed.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, created by J. Finkelstein, 2006

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, created by J. Finkelstein, 2006

 

So to be a post materialist, you must first meet your basic survival needs (food, shelter, security). OK, done. Once that is accomplished you move up Maslow’s hierarchy and as you do, you start to realize you’re no happier than when you were struggling. This brings to mind Daniel Gilbert’s book, Stumbling on Happiness. I believe it was in that book that I first learned American happiness peaked in the 1950s. BEFORE I WAS BORN! Sixty plus years later, we have higher incomes, higher levels of education, better health care, bigger houses, more cars but we are less happy overall. Remember when we were told (and believed) that he (or she) who has the most toys wins? We played the game, we toed the line, we consumed and bought all the right stuff, we competed with the Joneses, and we became… less happy. Maybe we were even miserable because the promise of happiness slipped away as we had to go looking for a storage shed to rent for all the loot that was supposed to make us positively giddy.

Stumbling on Happiness

 

We looked around and saw it wasn’t working. We stopped playing the game. We got rid of the excess stuff and looked inside to see what would fill the void. We began to talk about “downsizing”. The value shift from possessing things to experiencing and self- expression took hold.

Inglehart recognized that younger people (raised in economic security) were more likely to identify with the values of post materialism. But older people who were raised with the struggle of material existence may or may not shift out of that paradigm. Actually, Inglehart’s ideas remain controversial. Surprisingly, we don’t have good statistical information to measure value changes in the US. The World Value Survey of 2000 (Wikipedia) did give some indication of post materialism worldwide. The highest percentage of post materialists were found to be in Australia with 35%. Canada has 29% while the US has 25 % of the population being post materialist.

So being a minority in the US, I will be moving this year and continuing my efforts to downsize. I will continue to reject the notion that he who has the most toys wins. I will refuse to believe that my worth as an individual comes solely from consuming. I will pursue balance and harmony. And I will remember happiness is a choice for the post materialist and materialist alike. Happy 2013!

135 Comments

Filed under Books, Political, Spiritual/Mysticism

ON HABITS

habit

We all have habits. Some are good and some are not so good, but it’s amazing to consider how much of our lives are given over to them. We get up in the morning and activate those circuits and we’re off. If you doubt how much habits rule you, just try to change something. Do your morning routine or just a couple of things out-of-order and see how discombobulated you become. What’s that saying? We are creatures of habit.

In The Power of Habit, New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg, discusses why habits exist and how they can be changed. The power to transform habits allows individuals, organizations, and societies to implement changes.     

In part one of the book, we learn about the habits of the individual. The author delves into the neuroscience of the habit loop and how cravings are created. The real insight here is that habits are not broken, rather they are transformed. The stimulus (or cue) for a habit, along with some kind of payoff will always remain. The individual however can modify the response to the cue and substitute a new behavior. This creates the “new” habit. Be warned, this is not a magic bullet. Changing habits still remains hard work.

The habits of successful organizations are covered in part two. Here we learn how keystone habits are fundamental to the organization and how changing these can have powerful ripple effects. Alcoa, Starbucks, and Target are examined in detail but take care. Not everything about habit change is positive. While Alcoa’s focus on employee safety is to be applauded, Target’s computer marketing data collection may set your teeth on edge. Don’t worry about Big Brother, worry about how you and your purchase information is being exploited.

Part three concerns itself with the habits of societies. The success of Saddleback Church and the Montgomery bus boycott are used as examples of how societal rules and pressures can be brought to bear to affect change. The author concludes with a section called the neurology of free will. This is a last foray into recent discoveries about neuroscience and asks the reader to consider the cases of a murderer and a gambler. Both have habitual behaviors but are treated very differently under the law. It’s a rather odd ending for the book and I wonder if the dichotomy the author was aiming for might better have been used as an introduction to the subject rather than a stomach punch at the end.

The book wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. It is not a self-help book and no one will be really motivated to implement change by it. It does make you feel change is possible. There are some good discussions about brain science and recent discoveries. However, much of the book is episodic and anecdotal. I wouldn’t use it in a business management setting, so I guess it’s sort of a general interest introduction.

30 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books