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Death of a Giant!

Death of a Giant!

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, “Common Sense,” who has been with us for many years.  No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.  He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– knowing when to come in out of the rain;

– the early bird gets the worm;

– life isn’t always fair; and

– maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.  Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student, but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot.  She spilled a little in her lap and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, “Truth” and “Trust,” by his wife, “Discretion,” by his daughter, “Responsibility,” and by his son, “Reason.”

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers – “I Know My Rights,” “I Want It Now,” “Someone Else Is To Blame,” and “I’m A Victim.”

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The Dark Triad – Part 4

The Dark Triad – Part 4 Psychopath

Skip to: Part 1 Intro –       Part 2 Narcissist –      Part 3 Machiavellian

The hallmark of psychopathy is a lack of empathy.  In fact when it comes to empathy, psychopaths have none; they have special difficulty recognizing fear or sadness on people’s faces or in their voices.

In a 2002 Study, David Kosson and Yana Suchy, asked psychopathic inmates to name the emotion expressed in each of 30 faces; compared to controls, Psychopaths had a

significantly lower rate of accuracy in recognizing disgusted facial affect.

Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion.

The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth.  It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths.

For Psychopaths other people are just a mark, to be duped, used and discarded.  They lack any sense of guilt or remorse for any harm they may have caused others, instead rationalizing the behavior, blaming someone else, or denying it outright.

Psychopaths also feel no anticipatory fears, they are virtually oblivious to the threat of punishment.

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The Dark Triad – Part 3

The Dark Triad – Part 3 Machiavellian

Skip to: Part 1 Intro –        Part 2 Narcissist –        Part 4 Psychopath

Hello Machiavellian

Deriving from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolo Machiavelli, Machiavellianism is defined as “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”.

For the Machiavellian, the ends justify the means, no matter what human pain he may cause.  They tend to be cynically calculating and arrogant, readily behaving in ways that undermine trust and cooperation.  They see others strictly as things to manipulate for their own ends.

A Machiavellian may not consider his actions to be selfish or evil; he may come up with convincing rationale, even one he believes.  People like North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, for example, may justify his tyranny as needed to protect the state from some sinister enemy, even if only a concocted one.

Some talents of the “Mach” (shorthand) are glib charm and confidence.  They can remain coolheaded in their social interactions, but are uninterested in establishing emotional connections.

Although the Mach shares many traits with Narcissists and Psychopaths such as disagreeable nature and selfishness, he stands alone in his ability to remain realistic about himself and others, neither making

inflated claims nor striving to impress.  The Mach prefers to see things clearly, all the better to exploit them.

Daniel Goleman, in his book Social Intelligence, describes Machs  as having tunnel-vision empathy:  they can bring someone’s emotions into focus mainly when they wish to use that person for their own ends.  Otherwise, Machs are generally poorer at empathetic attunement than others.  The coldness of the Mach seems to result from this core deficit in processing emotions – both in themselves and in others.

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The Dark Triad – Part 2

The Dark Triad – Part 2 Narcissist

Skip to: Part 1 Intro –       Part 3 Machiavellian –       Part 4 Psychopath



Hello Narcissist

Narcissists are driven by dreams of glory.  They flourish in the face of difficult challenges  and shine when performance under stress counts the most.

Many Narcissists are drawn to pressured, high-profile jobs where they can use their talents well and the potential laurels are great – despite any risks.  Michael Maccoby, a psychoanalyst who has studied (and treated) narcissistic leaders, observes that the type has become increasingly common at the top echelons of business today as competitive tensions have escalated.

Healthy narcissistic leaders have the ability to analyze their performance and are open to criticism.  But unhealthy narcissists crave to be admired more than to be loved.  They are very much driven to succeed, not because of some standard of excellence but because they want the glory that comes with such success.  They feel free to pursue their goals aggressively, without any thought about how their actions may effect others.

Unhealthy narcissists are not very good empathizers, usually ignoring those who do not feed their striving for glory.  They can lay off multitudes of employees without feeling any sympathy for those for whom those decisions are personal disasters.  In short they have no regrets and are indifferent to the need or feelings of others.

Typically the Narcissist also lacks feelings of self-worth and avoids even constructive criticism in any form.  Rather than listen they prefer to preach and indoctrinate.

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The Dark Triad – Part 1 Intro

Skip to: Part 2 Narcissist –       Part 3 Machiavellian –        Part 4 Psychopath


Name Tag Dark Triad-1

As discussed in an earlier post, what makes life worth living comes down to feelings of well-being through happiness and sense of fulfillment.  And that this happiness and fulfillment can best come through a life of rich and rewarding relationships.  On that note, also in a previous post, we discussed the four human temperaments, also known as personality types, as a tool to understanding ourselves and learning to get along with others.  In this 4 part series we look at personality types of a different kind, specifically personality types which people would generally define as undesirable.  Psychologists have dubbed these  personality traits as “The Dark Triad”.  The Dark Triad consists of three personality deficiencies Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy.

Narcissists are driven by one motive: dreams of glory.  Narcissists flourish when they are facing a difficult challenge, they shine when performance under stress counts the most.  However they have little capacity for empathy and the more impaired a person’s ability to consider others, the less healthy their narcissism.

For the Machiavellian the ends justify the means, no matter what human pain he may cause.  They tend to be cynically calculating and arrogant, readily behaving in ways that undermine trust and cooperation.

The hallmarks of the Psychopath’s behavior are deceit and reckless disregard for others.  The Psychopath also lacks empathy and are completely indifferent to the emotional pain others may suffer because of his actions.

To varying degrees, all three personality types entail a dark, interpersonally destructive character with tendencies toward grandiosity, emotional callousness, manipulation and dominance. Psychopaths and Machiavellians have high self- esteem, and are charming and fun but psychopaths are also impulsive and cunning. Narcissists are grandiose and have high self esteem, and may also be intellectually gifted.

A common theme that underlies The Dark Triad is a preoccupation with dominance and power.  The problem with this preoccupation with power is that it suppresses the development of empathy.  When empathy is not practiced, it diminishes.  We are designed this way because assertion of dominance often necessitates overt or covert aggression.  Can we be aggressive towards someone we have empathy for?  Of course not, thus the most loving people are the least aggressive and the least domineering.

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Juxtaposition: “I Am So Starving”

I Am So Starving

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Oh, my God, I am so starving. I swear, if I don’t get something to eat in like two minutes, I am going to die.

I cannot believe how completely famished I am. Why do we have to wait for Tyler to get home from soccer practice? I want to eat now. It’s almost 6:15.

I didn’t even get to eat lunch today. Erica and I had to sign up for kickline tryouts at noon. We got to the cafeteria way late, and we weren’t about to stand in line with the sophomores. All I had was a Twix and half a bag of Fritos. Plus, the stupid machine was out of Diet Coke.

No, I did not still have those carrot sticks left at lunch. I ate them all after second period. Duh.

Did you hear that? I can totally hear my stomach making these weird growling noises. I think I’m going to faint.

Please, please, please let me eat now so I can go up to my room–I have a ton of people to call tonight. It’s so lame how you make us all wait to eat dinner together. Erica always gets to eat by herself in the living room with the TV on.

If we’re going to wait this long for Tyler, he has to load the dishwasher. I did it last night, and it was totally nasty because you made that lasagna, and I had to scrape all the gunky cheese off the pan.

I am so totally starving. You know, it’s against the law to treat your kids like this. You could get thrown in jail by the social-services people for this kind of abuse.

Oh my God, what are you taking out of the oven? Is that, like, salisbury steak? I could seriously puke just looking at that. You actually expect me to eat that? Yeah, right. Like I’m really gonna put that in my mouth. I’ll be in my room if I get any phone calls.

Ugh. I swear, I could just die.

I Am So Starving

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My God, I am starving. If I do not find something to eat soon, I will surely die.

Hunger consumes my life. My young body is hunched and weak, as if I were an old man. Some days, I pass the time by counting my bones.

I would walk 100 miles through the desert to reach a handful of millet. The sight of a sparrow carcass would make my mouth water, if only I were not too dehydrated to salivate. I have not eaten a full meal since the last rain, which caused a few precious patches of field grass to sprout. Soon, there will be none of us left.

I am so very, very hungry. I grow thinner and thinner, as my body starts to digest its very self. The last thing I ate was a small lizard. This was nine days ago. I gave half of it to my only remaining brother. I did this to return a favor: Last month, he discovered a piece of tree bark and shared his bounty with me. Unfortunately, my body was so unaccustomed to food, I was soon doubled over in pain, as a flood of liquid shot from my bowels. Ever since then, my rectum has protruded from my anus. My lower intestines have begun to push their way out, as well.

They say it is almost the new year, but I do not know if I will live to see it. My stomach is swollen as if I were pregnant. I joked with my brother about this yesterday, rubbing my bloated belly and calling it “my little one.” My brother did not laugh. He lowered his head and cried.

My legs are like sticks and my eyes nearly sightless. I am careful not to allow myself to daydream about the harvest feasts of my youth, for my weak heart might race and burst in my chest. Those who are still alive have taken to swallowing dirt and rocks in an attempt to stop the hunger pains. Oh, God, why are we made to suffer so?

My only distraction from the constant, gnawing hunger is the chill that runs through my bones. Even in the sweltering heat, I am cold. Perhaps I will soon die of pneumonia. This would finally quell the pangs of hunger. I long to live, but, even more, I long to die.

 

The above was originally written for the onion and can be found here 

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Butter-Side-Down Syndrome

Butter-Side-Down Syndrome

 

bread

Why does toast almost always fall butter side down?  The experts say it boils down to  the fact that when toast falls gravity makes it start to spin, and this natural consequence of gravity acting on the typical height of the average breakfast table causes the toast to land butter-side-down.  As an alternative you could eat breakfast atop a ladder so that the toast has time to turn right-side-up again.  

Of course how it happens doesn’t matter to us nearly as much as the simple fact that it does happen.  Since eating breakfast is one of the first things we do to start our day, when our toast falls (usually butter-side-down) its often our human nature to attribute it to the start of a bad day.  In truth though, we should count ourselves lucky that our toast even had a chance to fall when you consider that as many as 600 Americans every year are said to be killed falling out of bed.  The fact is “stuff happens”, that’s not in our control.  But its not what happens to you that’s important, its how you react.

Optimism is an outlook on life such that one maintains a view of the world as a positive place, or one’s personal situation as a positive one.  Optimists believe that regardless of the external world or situation, one should choose to feel good about it and make the most of it.  Having a “glass half full” attitude and thinking optimistically from an early age in life predicts health and well being in later years.  Optimism has demonstrable benefits, and pessimism has drawbacks.  This according to Christopher Petersen, PhD & author of A Primer in Positive Psychology.  He goes on to say that optimism has been linked to positive mood and good morale as well as success, popularity and good health.  Even if you have been a pessimist for many years, its not too late to change your way of thinking and reap the benefits of a positive attitude.

Indeed one source of positive or negative outlook may well be inborn temperamentthat is that, by nature, some people tend one way or the other.  But temperament can be tempered by experience.  Optimism and hope, like helplessness and despair, can be learned.  Self-efficacy is what psychologists refer to as the belief that one has mastery over the events of one’s life and can meet challenges as they occur.  A researcher on self-efficacy, Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura, states: “People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities.  Ability is not a fixed property, there is a huge variability on how you perform.  People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failures; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong.”

So as the saying goes, some days we’re the windshield and some days we’re the bug and on those days toast will inevitably fall, airlines will “misplace” our luggage and car engines will break down when we most need them to work.  But a positive attitude helps us cope more easily with our daily struggles, and effects critical aspects of our life such as success, popularity and health.

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