Priming, Framing, Transcending & Enjoying

framing-psychology

There’s a battle going on. It happens in your brain. Do not be alarmed. It only affects every decision you’ve ever made and will ever make. It only affects your health, wealth and opinion and how you think and behave. No biggie.

icebergThe battle goes on beneath the surface of consciousness. That’s why you sometimes say, “Why did I do that? Did I say that? That wasn’t me.” Like everybody, you’re under a misconception. You think you know what influences you and how those influences affect you.

Freud (1915) described the conscious mind as the tip of the iceberg because a lot goes on beneath the surface (source). We can like or dislike something instantly without knowing why.

It goes like this (cue music: Ulf Söderberg “Tide” part 1).

chickenfreudpartyFirst you have a feeling, then you make up something to explain that feeling. The explanation becomes a label. The label is declared true. It influences you. You become a self-fulfilling prophecy primed by what you do.

Think badly and badly you become.

You’re framed by spin.

In You Are Not So Smart (2011) David McRaney wrote, “You move through life forming opinions and cobbling together a story about who you are… taken as a whole it seems real” (p. xi).

you-are-not-so-smartBut it isn’t.

It’s how you look at it. Out of the randomness of life you try to make sense and create meaning for yourself (McRaney, 2011). It’s what humans do. We interpret reality. We look at stars and see constellations. We see patterns in bullet holes on country signs.

With facial suggestions, we are “uniquely wired” to see faces in breakfast (source).

jesus-on-toast
Jesus on toast.

We connect the dots of what goes on by combining expectations (what we think will happen) with mental models (how we think something works) and five senses (source: Myth or Science?).

act-naturally
See: “Act Naturally,” 1963

With confidence you see your history like a movie with characters, plots, themes and settings. You see yourself as a protagonist, but it’s a beautiful confabulation. The truth is: You make yourself up as you go. You’re a work in progress and like Buck Owens and a Buckaroo think, “All I gotta do is act naturally.” 

You are the tale you tell. It’s “The Story of Me!” as told by you. Memories are daydreams: part true, part fantasy, but you believe them completely.

Look at your surroundings. Set your mind “Open!” Realize that what matters most is to enjoy the significance of existence by loving the life you are given and giving the life you are living.

sunset on melting snow.jpgThere’s nothing you must do. There’s no mountain you must climb. Success and failure don’t matter. Just contentment. Contentment is not death! Contentment is bliss! In dictionaries contentment and happiness are interchangeable.

loser-stampIt’s all in how you frame it. What’s your spin on things? How do you see yourself? Is life bliss-filled or disasterous? You decide. You choose. It’s simple really. Nothing to it. Live a pleasant life by living wisely, justly and well (Epicurus). And yet, living a pleasant life can be difficult when you’re with a species hell-bent on making the earth a landfill.

How is it that humans are such brilliant numbskulls (or is it boneheads)?

numbskull-boneheadIn 1982 when Alice Cooper (aka Vinnie Furnier) sang, “We’re all clones. All are one and one are all” (“Clones”) he anticipated a people without individuality singsonging, “No more problems on the way!” 

It’s not a new idea. People have always cloned around. In 1802 Willy Wordsworth put it this way:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; –
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

landfill

Why have humans declared war on nature? Is it because we construct reality and meaning within our minds? Is it because we have a bias towards confirming ourselves? Is it because we have a bias towards the present? What is it? The news is not good.

Is it any wonder so many want a new drug like Huey Lewis did?

Here we come to the crux of the matter. The trick to enjoying in the midst of humanity’s idiocy is in framing, priming and transcending.

larry-davidFraming is a bias towards a given choice depending how it’s presented. It’s how the cover of a book influences your judgement. Framing moves you to react in certain ways based on how your brain makes comparisons between loss/gain, good/bad, half-full/half-empty. In framing you decide what’s important.

Framing is how you find patterns in chaos to survive and create meaning out of meaninglessness. The way you choose to frame things determines how you see.

Amelie-Bridge-End
See: Amelie frames and primes les petits plaisirs (the little pleasures).

Priming happens when subtle triggers influence your behavior without your awareness (Gladwell, 2006). Almost everything you perceive with your senses can blitz you with associations in your mind and cause you to act in certain ways without your awareness.

For example, if asked to name a fruit and you see the word “RED,” you’re more likely to think “apple” than “banana.” The word “RED” is priming the word “apple” into your brain.

magritte
Detail of  René Magritte’s “Son of Man” (1964).

René Magritte painted a self-portrait with his face behind a green apple and said, “Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see” (source). Maybe that’s why we don’t see what’s in front of us. We’re looking for something hidden.

beacon-of-beauty

Priming works best when not over thinking. You know you’re priming when time disappears. The trick is to let human bumbling cruelty prime you for transcendence by framing it differently. Frame it: They don’t know what they’re doing! They’re doing the best they can. Frame yourself freedom and then see beauty in a dump.

kite“Transcend” comes from Latin trans-, meaning “beyond,” and scandare, meaning “to climb” (source). It’s simple: to transcend is to climb beyond your usual physical needs and realities.

Prime yourself aware! Create meaning! Climb beyond ordinary feeling. Transcend transcendence by enjoying.

References:

Glandwell, M. (2006). Blink. Little Brown & Company.
McRaney, D. (2011). You Are Not So Smart. Gotham Books.

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Beautiful Enjoyable Virtue With More Cowbell

autumn-trees

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a hell-fire preacher and philosopher. His book, The Nature of True Virtue (1765), is a hard book to read (without falling asleep), but what he said in his wordy way is that virtue, a.k.a. moral excellence, decency, and courage is a kind of sixth sense like Spider-Man’s spidey sense except instead of sensing imminent danger, one senses a beautiful feeling of virtue.

Virtue is “founded in sentiment and not in reason,” said Edwards meaning: virtue is a beautiful feeling. If you enjoy strolling a tree-lined path, you don’t need reason to explain beauty to you. You know its beautiful because you feel it! Virtue is like that. It’s something “immediately pleasant to the mind.”

jonathan_edwards
“…virtue most essentially consists in love…”  Jonathan Edwards

Edwards may have been indecisive about what to wear, “Should I wear the black jacket or the black jacket?” but when it came to virtue, he was never conflicted because virtue is not relative to culture. Virtue is universal. It may not come to everyone (even though it could), but with genuine concern for what is good, virtue has already come.

Edwards (a.k.a Mr. Bluesky) called true virtue the “benevolence of being” or “beauty of the heart.” The heart being symbolic home to emotions of love, affection, and courage and where people say they feel a heartwarming sensation (as opposed indigestion).

If you are touched by an insurance commercial and “believe in good,” that is true virtue. It isn’t beautiful like a flower, house or body. It isn’t a thing. Virtue is feeling beauty in good doings.

flowers-sidewalk-crack

Taking an opposite stance to “feelings, nothing more than feelings,” (not the Offspring version) is Ayn Rand (1905-1982). To her, reality is exclusively perceived by the physical senses and only REASON can take sensory data and arrive at objectively valid conclusions (source). Her philosophy, Objectivism, is based on reason, egoism, individualism and capitalism.

aynrandreason
“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue,” Ayn Rand.

With Rand, prickly analytical type people are either critical (Was Ayn Rand Evil?) or evangelical (The Atlas Society).

Rand argued that morality is a code of values that guide the choices we make which determine the course of our lives (source), but we’ve been offered two false alternatives: be moral – sacrifice yourself to others, or be selfish – sacrifice others to yourself (source). Which did she choose?

Be selfish. 

Edwards probably wouldn’t buy Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness.” He believed in feeling beyond reasoning, but he did say that some virtue comes from self-love (even if it isn’t true virtue).

The Golden Rule for example (treat others as you wish to be treated) treats virtue as an exchange for mutual benefit (reciprocity), but when treated poorly, do people say, “That’s OK,” (true virtue) or do they say, “How dare you treat me this way?” and demand retribution?

goldenwizard10

Cue music. Edwards said that “self-love” is to feel “one with one’s self” and true love (like parent for child), is to feel a union of the heart with others: a kind of enlargement of the mind, whereby it so extends itself as to take others into a man’s self.”

In eastern traditions, feeling separated from the earth and each other is a trick. Our brains put things into intellectual boxes that we label, but we are all a self and an other to each other and everything goes together: back with front, sound with hearing, inside with outside.

cardboard-box-head.jpg

Edwards probably believed in a higher self (good) and a lower self (bad), but in Zen there’s no such thing. There’s just you as far as the eye can see! Poetically speaking, “We’re rays of the same sun,” or as Oliver sang it in ’69, “Good Morning StarshineThe earth says hello. You twinkle above us. We twinkle below.

shadowAnd yet, feeling at one with everything sounds like a fantasy because it feels like there’s a self “in here” (with your name on it!) and a world “out there,” (that’s scary sometimes) but this is a trick we play on ourselves (source).

Reality is a feeling of colour, sound and sensation. We receive this as an entirety, but tell ourselves that some of it is “me” and some of it is “you.”

Pristine enjoyment is total acceptance: acceptance of yourself, of this universe as it is in this instant without any feeling of separation between self within (yes you!) and world without (look around!).

True virtue is to enjoy walking 500 miles in comfortable shoes like the Proclaimers claimed they’d do for no good reason but love.

Martial artist, Morihei (“abundant peace”) Ueshiba (1883-1969), said in The Art of Peace, “Foster peace in your own life then apply the Art to all that you encounter” (p. 13), but how do you do that?

Watching simulated horror in The Walking Dead show is popular, but in such places as ISIS territory, in flooding refugees, in crowded slums and extinction of species from inharmonious activity, a leaden-hearted brain-dead zombie apocalypse of a kind is happening now.

That a terrifying show about death feeding on life should provide advice about love and peace just goes to show, “You never know.”

In the non-horrible video below we meet Mr. Eastman who shows a man how to live a peaceful philosophy of nonresistance: redirect, evade, accept, care, protect, move forward and remember: All life is precious (and carry a big stick).

Enjoy living in the beauty of virtue. In the words of the band Blue Oyster Cult, “Don’t fear the reaper,” but if you do, amuse yourself with a little more cowbell!

And remember: Living in peace is better than resting!

What if…

Hare in November

The computer is often used as a metaphor for the brain. We talk of the brain being hard wired and re-wired, but then: If the brain is like a computer, who’s controlling the keyboard?

tree fourLikening the brain to a computer has been around for awhile. We think  of ourselves in machine terms. We enjoy time on our computers but lose contact with the natural world.

Nature deprivation due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens is associated with depression (University of Minnesota).

In Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv explains how not spending time in the natural world is linked to depression and attention deficits. The Biophilia Hypothesis is about how humans have an instinctive bond with living systems and suffer when deprived of them.

Sometimes all it takes is an enjoyable walk in nature to improve memory and mood in people diagnosed with depression, but people continue to separate themselves into abstractions and spend inordinate amounts of time in front of screens as ‘experts’ debate separations of mind and brain, subjectivity and objectivity… man and reality.

Such chatter takes us down a “rabbit hole” where we associate more with information and less with the natural world. 

rabbit holerabbit in Alice in WonderlandThe rabbit hole is a metaphor for that which takes us to difficult truths and the bizarre. It is a reference to the rabbit hole leading to Wonderland in Alice in Wonderland.

Spend an evening looking at nefarious activities on the internet and Wonderland looks normal. It’s hard to know what’s real. Much is rooted in ego, delusion and fear.

morpheusAs Morpheus softly said, clad in leather sitting on his Santa Claus chair in The Matrix, “You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” In electronic worlds we lose touch with the natural world.

face
Not a face.

Humans have a tendency to perceive meaningful patterns in randomness. We see faces in circles, lines and linoleum patterns. We see what we want. Meanings become self-referential and paranoid. We think that our own existence is the only thing that is real so instead of epiphanies we have apophanies.

An apophany is not an insight into reality but a “process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field” (Klaus Conrad, Die beginnende Schizophrenie). In other words, like schizophrenics, people see meanings that aren’t there.

brain xrayBack to the question: If the brain is like a computer, who’s controlling it? Some scientists say it’s the brain controlling the mind and some say it’s the other way around (Does the Brain Control the Mind…?). In California Gladding and Schwartz say that with their 4-Step Solution you can rewire your brain with your mind and find your Wise Advocate.

stairsThe Wise Advocate (true self or inner guide) can be thought of as a cognitive construct or as something spiritual. It is attentive to the bigger picture. It knows what you’re thinking and feeling and wants the best for you because it cares for you. Here we see hints of science meeting religion.

In the Power of Myth Joseph Campbell said, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Imagine that time spent electronically is time spent on shaky ground. On shaky ground we stare at our feet. Open yourself to full recognition that you partly create yourself. Try less over-thinking and more feeling with heart.

deep rutDissatisfaction and deceptive pleasure habits form neural pathways that cut deep ruts hard to get out of. The life you live may not be the one you envisioned, but with imagination, a spirited effort and new routines, you can travel past trouble and feel enjoyment in the world.

Life is an experience made of happiness and sorrow. There will be rough and smooth places, disappointments, happy surprises, tragedies and discoveries.

Through it all, be brave: then pack some food and a Thermos of tea, cut a good walking stick, and once more travel with face forward towards the enjoyable goal and a song on your lips (perhaps a 1920 hit).

hare in Nov 2To one awake to life in the natural world, to its symbolism as well as its facts, with a Philosophy of Enjoyment, depending where you are in the world, there is always air and quite possibly a hare for you to see and love!

 

“It’s not me. It’s my brain.” Self-Help, Brain Training and the Art of Enjoyment

foggy forestSince Sammy Smiles (yes, his real name!) wrote the bestseller Self-Help in 1859, millions of books have been sold as self-help. In 2008 self-help brought in 12 billion dollars (The New Atlantis) and a recent search of “self-help” in Amazon revealed 436,600 titles.

It just goes to show: people want help.

selfhelpcartoon3In The Pros and Cons of Self-Help Ben Martin wrote, “Self-help books may in fact be helpful, but don’t expect them to work magic” and in The Science of Self-Help Algis Valiunus wrote, “The recidivism rate for self-help users is high.”

Apparently not all selves in the self-help game are helping. (Big surprise.) Maybe it’s a, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” kind of thing.

chickeneasySelf-help is defined as, “the use of one’s own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others” (Google).

Is a Philosophy of Enjoyment any different from other self-help stuff out there? No. Not really.

But it’s a bit like asking, “What’s the difference between you and Jimmy over there?” or “What’s the difference between Bieber and Beethoven?” 

bethoven and bieberIt’s obvious: Each is unique. You are you. Bieber is the Biebs and Beethoven only looks constipated.

frankensteins-monsterPeople have a mania for comparing and under or over rating each other. We’re opinion machines.

If the intent of self-help is to teach readers how to solve personal problems and achieve success, then a philosophy of enjoyment will do the trick.

Everyone has problems. That’s life, but you deal with them and success, what is that? How is it measured? If you enjoy life, isn’t that success? In a Philosophy of Enjoyment, external problems are secondary and outward appearances of success is meaningless. What is foremost is sensory awareness.

cartoon3This has nothing to do with your self. It’s not about you. That is, the thing to do is to forget yourself. Enjoy all you see, hear and feel. No ego. No win. No lose. No success. Be as 24 hour radio: All humility! All the time!

Stop what you’re thinking. Take a break. Look at something small (a leaf, a stone, a fairy) and calmly abide. If you get distracted by negativity, return to abiding (like the Dude). With awareness of yourself in this world you can experience ecstasy as you are right now.

bird on postYou, in the form of criticism, regret, worry and fear, are a distraction. Only when you are gone do you know. You don’t need drugs to remove the gauze of yourself. Use your senses. You are an observation post for the earth. Like a bird. Like a frog.

Be free.

The greatest thing is to forget yourself completely and to live in the sensations of hearing, feeling, seeing, and tasting. Attend to experience in a particular way: on purpose. When you work, work. When you look around, enjoy paying attention non-judgementally.

It’s a zen thing.

moon reflectionA zen story tells of a woman carrying water in a bucket. She glances across the surface of the water and sees the reflection of the moon in the bucket. As she looks, the bucket breaks and the water runs into the soil and the moon’s reflection goes with it.

The woman realizes that the moon she’d been looking at was just a reflection of the real thing like her whole life had been (No Moon, No Water). In other words, thought colours what you see.

Jump thousands of years and science discovers what is there.

SchwartzResearch psychiatrist and neuroplasticity – conscious use of directed thoughts – expert, Jeffrey Schwartz says, “You Are Not Your Brain.” He explains that the mind or, “directed attention,” changes how the brain sends messages.

Schwartz says, “The brain puts things into our consciousness, but it is the active mind that makes choices about whether to listen and how to listen… the reward centre sits right embedded in the habit centre. Both are run by dopamine…Dopamine gives you pleasure, but in the process of doing that it gives you embedded habits… anything that gets that reward pleasure centre activated rapidly becomes a habit…balance the relationship between pleasure, reward and habit…Your brain becomes what you focus on ” (You Are Not Your Brain).

Moreover – and, in addition to – science says that our brains have a negativity bias (Our Brain’s Negativity Bias). Don’t you hate that?

water on leafNicole Force (yes, her real name) writes, “Although some people are naturally more negative, negative events still have a greater impact on everyone’s brains…” (Humor, Neuroplasticity and the Power to Change Your Mind).

Neurobiologist Carla Shatz calls Hebb’s Rule, “Cells that fire together, wire together” (The Organization of Behavior).

endymionIt’s not that we want to stop firing, it’s that we want things firing to help us enjoy. The trick to beautiful enjoyments is to realize that what your brain is doing isn’t you, as in: “Excuse me. That wasn’t me. It was my brain.” Schwartz calls this your “true self” or “wise advocate. You can change your brain effectively through “wise focus of attention.”

Shift attention to the beauty of the world like poets of long ago.  

In 1818 doomed poet John Keats wrote:
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing” (from Endymion).

alley catA poet of enjoyment lives in song. Try: Run Runaway, Alley CatMoulin Rouge, Walk A Thin Line, My Best Friend’s Girl, Ballroom BlitzPart of the UnionChirpy Chirpy Cheep CheepLily The Pink! or enjoy silence and stillness. Whatever! Life is your song.

Reader, breathe deeply! Let go of what you think about money, ego drives and and materialistic success. Focus on your true goals. Live good and wholesome in a goodly way with tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks until the day you die!

Only you can see and feel what you feel. You are the window. It’s true! Lighten-up to humour, love and sadness. In kindness go. Enjoy this sometimes beautiful world. What have you got to lose?

It’s all good even when it isn’t. Enjoy it all in spite of everything. 

Let success be measured in moments of attention and awareness.

Wales-Great-Britain