Is Me cRaZie!? - Blog#22 - 9 August 2019

No one wants to be “crazy,” and most of us would prefer to be considered normal. On the other hand, most people want to be “unique,” not a cookie-cutter clone of some middle-gray cardboard portrait of normalcy. But how do we determine what is psychologically normal? What is mental illness? Most angles on this issue are quite subjective, involving obvious or subtle value judgments. We can distinguish between statistical normal and healthy normal, but common behavior (e.g., Nazi compliance) is not necessarily healthy, and the context of your unhealthy or atypical behavior (e.g., a history of trauma) is also relevant. Your degree of control over your mind and emotions, your ability to adapt to various situations, and your internal and external connectedness are also relevant. Ultimately, mental health is just as much a social value judgment as a psychological fact, and compassion serves us well when we are judging our self or others.

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Secular Spirituality, aka, Spiritual Atheism - Blog#21 - 12 July 2019

The following blog recreates the lecture I recently provided, on June 30, 2019, to the members of the United Universalist Fellowship of the Emerald Coast, in Valparaiso, Florida. The topic of secular spirituality requires us to define spirituality, its evolving meaning, and why it is important to human beings. It further requires us to distinguish between secular and religious versions of spirituality. And what is nonreligious spirituality?

Is there evidence to support disembodied consciousness, as in gods, ghosts, and souls? If spirituality isn’t about spirits, what is it about? Spirituality lies at the intersection of consciousness and connectedness. We can celebrate our consciousness of the gift of life, and our connectedness to each other, and the “All,” without believing in spirits or immortality. We can practice the positive spiritual emotions: existential joy and gratitude for the gift of life, humility regarding our special, small place in the universe, awe regarding existence, and love for our brethren. We can indeed be spiritual, but nonreligious.

 

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Managing Sadness and Depression - Blog#20 - 7 July 2019

Clinical depression goes well beyond sadness and related feelings. It is best viewed as a syndrome with cognitive, behavioral, and physical, as well as emotional symptoms. To reduce depression, we often need to grieve, and replace or accept significant losses that led to our depression. But we also need to address behaviors and thought patterns that contribute to or maintain depression. Specifically, we need to counteract depressive withdrawal, and change negative thoughts about our self, the world (and people), and our future. And sometimes we need to muster the courage to address childhood issues that continue to dog us well into our adult years. If you get stuck in the blues, or experience more pronounced clinical depression, join us for this foray into perspectives on the alleviation of depression.

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Psychomechanics Has Arrived! - Blog#19 - 16 June 2019

For all subscribers to my blog, and all current clients at Turning Point, an e-copy of my newly published self-help book, Psychomechanics – Tools for Self-Regulation of Emotions, will be available FREE for 3 days: June 21-23. Thereafter, the e-book will be available for $5.99. The printed copy, due to printing costs, cannot be offered free, but is available for $12.99 through Amazon. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement down through the years, and thanks to my current and past clients, who have taught me as much as I’ve taught them.

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Birth, Death, Sex, Awe, and Mars - Blog#18 - 7 June 2019

Birth and life are amazing, and reproduction all the more so. There is incredible variation in the ways that living species recreate themselves, and thereby produce the gift of life. Our daily dose of spiritual awe is bolstered when we take time to notice the diversity of life, and appreciate the intricate wonders of its recreation. Whether sexual or asexual, single-gendered or hermaphroditic, there are a host of ingenious strategies out there that renew life, propelling it forward, generation after generation. We hear about them in school, but appreciate them more with age.

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Why was Giordano Bruno Gagged and Burned at the Stake? - Blog#17 - 24 May 2019

Between the death of Copernicus and the birth of Galileo, Giordano Bruno was born in 1548 in Nola, Italy. Fifty-two years later, at the turn of the 17th century, he was gagged and burned at the stake in Campo de’ Fiori in Rome. His books were to be “publicly destroyed and burned in the square of St. Peter,” and placed in the Index of Forbidden Books. Why? He reaffirmed the Copernican view that the Earth circles the sun. But he went much further. His heresy argued that the universe is infinite, composed of “innumerable worlds” similar to our own solar system, and that our sun is not the center of the universe. His true sin? Proposing a cosmology that removed human beings from the center of the universe.

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Inner Parenting - Blog#16 - 10 May 2019

Self-nurturing is easier if we have a history of being nurtured by our own parents. If not, we are more challenged. Religious folks can use the power of prayer to access and bathe in God’s love. Others require more evidence for their beliefs. In the absence of faith in the love of an invisible God, a secular approach to self-soothing is required. If we have a history of abuse, rejection, or other experiences that have led us to internalize negativity, resulting in rejection of our self, self-nurturance is a bigger challenge. The inner-child approach is one route through this dark forest. By tapping our capacity to nurture those we love, particularly our own children, we can access our nurturance skills and apply them to our self, developing self-compassion.

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The Gift of Consciousness - Blog#15 - 27 April 2019

Consciousness and matter are two fundamental properties of the universe, radically different from, and irreducible to each other. Consciousness is an incredible gift, and can be deliberately developed, mentally, not just chemically. We can identify various dimensions and dichotomies of consciousness. It can be private, or shared as a means of connecting, since connected consciousness is the essence of spirituality. It can be externally or internally focused, rational or intuitive, conscious or unconscious, and goal-directed vs. associational. Consciousness is as complex as matter, and just as fascinating. But it needs to be understood, managed, and altered to meet our needs and influence our feelings.

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Feminism and Religion - Blog#14 - 19 April 2019

God Himself and His patriarchal book of rules, otherwise known as the Bible, is the true glass ceiling, containing and suppressing the rise and equality of women. Feminists remain chained to an implicit Faustian bargain. They have traded mortality for patriarchy. Women have unwittingly sacrificed power and equality on Earth for immortality in the supposed afterlife. Women seldom challenge God’s gender. Only by deposing God, and His biblical male inventors, can women assume a  fully equal role in day-to-day gender politics and the governance of the planet.

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Weird Photos: The ?Aha! Experience and Zoomers - Blog#13 - 10 April 2019

Are you up to your waist in quicksand, stuck within the claustrophobic confines of a straight-jacketed day-in day-out existence, bored with the same old, b-flat, cardboard grey surroundings? It’s time for a safari, a photographic journey outside of the box. Not to worry, you are guaranteed a return ticket back home. And your trip will last a mere ten minutes, without any substances or hangovers. Your exposure will be limited to a few doses of visual fun, with a pile of perplexity and jolt of surprise, and a little zooming through a new neighborhood. Join us on the ?Aha! Express, for a ride into the photographic wilderness, no reservations required.

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Morality: Top Down or Bottom Up? - Blog#12 - 5 April 2019

Many religious leaders talk as if religion has a monopoly on morality, and that one cannot act morally in the absence of religious belief. But despite religious press to the contrary, most atheists, and even some primates, are capable of acting quite morally. And the notion of objective morality, pre-woven into the fabric of reality, and monitored by an eye in the sky, may be seductive as a means of inducing social compliance, but is compliance really morality? Furthermore, morality comes from within, regardless of whether it initially comes from above (from God), or from around us (socially). And it starts out emotionally, not cognitively. In the words of the primatologist, Frans de Wall (2013), who studied morality in other mammals, morality is “bottom up, not top down.” Join us for a discussion of objective versus subjective, religious versus secular, and proactive versus reactive morality.

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Anxiety and Avoidance - Blog#11 - 29 March 2019

“What if…?” is a sure fire cognitive manufacturer of anxiety. Avoidance behavior temporarily reduces anxiety, but maintains or increases it in the long run. The Serenity Prayer is an excellent resource for management of the worry that creates anxiety, and the expectations that create frustration. Approach behavior may temporarily increase anxiety, but it puts you in a position to practice and improve the skills needed to minimize anxiety. Join us for a discussion of anxiety management, focusing on generalized and social anxiety.

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Never Again! Spotlighting the Path to Never - Blog#10 - 16 March 2019

Are mere beliefs sustenance enough? Are moral practices superfluous? Can we espouse love but practice prejudice without even noticing the incongruity? What prismed spectacles must be donned by extremists at the far edges of the politico-religious spectrum to blind themselves to such hypocrisy? Understanding prejudice seemed like a moral imperative after World War II. As a species, we could not let the Nazi slaughter of the Jews pass us by without understanding it, and preventing a recurrence. It was all too easy to blame the inhuman Germans, the Nazi enemy, and more recently, the Muslim jihadists, the despicable “other.” But is there something in the general human condition that ferments these atrocities? The key, perhaps, is to understand us-against-them, ingroup/outgroup thinking, and the danger of focusing on our differences, rather than our similarities to others, when the others also have nuclear toys.

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Environmental Spirituality - Blog#9 - 8 March 2019

Spirituality involves a celebration of our consciousness, gratitude for the gift of life, and immersion in our connectedness to the “All.” We all need to belong, to attach, to connect to something beyond and larger than ourselves, something “trans” personal. We can connect to a lover romantically, to friends socially, and to broader tangible entities such as humanity, the environment, or the universe. We can also connect to invisible spirits, such as God or the souls of deceased loved ones. But we must connect somehow, lest we feel alienated from our surroundings, lonely, isolated, and adrift. How can we re-center ourselves spiritually? Today we focus on environmental spirituality, and eco-awe.

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You Piss Me Off!! (Managing Anger, Frustration, and Vulnerability) - Blog#7 - 22 February 2019

Negative emotions are a mixed bag: they give us feedback on what is wrong, but they are also noxious. When should we listen to them, when do we suppress them, and how do we learn to stop manufacturing them. In addition to examining this broader question, we will delve into anger and frustration today, and the cognitive processes that fuel them: blame and expectations.

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All You Need Is Love - Blog#6 - 14 February 2019

We all want love, and it is one of a handful of spiritual emotions (along with awe, existential joy and dread, gratitude, and humility). Spirituality celebrates both consciousness and connectedness. Love involves connecting via shared consciousness. Thus, love, at its best, can be a very spiritual experience. But what is it, and how do we find safe love?

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Mindful or Mindless: Spirituality by Expansion or Subtraction - Blog#5 - 9 February 2019

By now, we’ve all heard about mindfulness, and we’ve been warned as children about mindlessness, but how can they each add to our spirituality? Both meditation practices, and “higher” spiritual practices, can be categorized in different ways, and understood from different perspectives. One such perspective is whether they expand our consciousness, as in mindfulness, or whether they narrow our consciousness, as in concentrative meditation.

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From "No" to "Yes" - Spiritual Atheism - Blog#4 - 2 February 2019

Yes, atheism is a reasonable response to the emotion/need-driven fantasies and delusions of religions. It is a decent starting point, but it is not a destination, any more than adolescence is a destination in life. It is merely a departure gate for your spiritual exploration. … Spirituality is a much larger tent than religion, and there are many non-religious avenues toward spirituality. If you reject religion, …

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