The way to love someone
is to lightly run your finger over that person's soul
until you find a crack,
and then gently pour your love into that crack.
~Keith Miller

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Notes on the uses of adversity from THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS

Making Molasses Cookies ... I've never baked these before and the freshly ground spices, cinnamon and cloves, smell fabulous. There is ginger in this recipe also, but I used powered ... I wonder how that is made ... I use a lot of fresh ginger root in our meals, but that wouldn't be right for this.
photo seen on PINTEREST site ... unfortunately, it was not credited. I like it.

I'm really liking the book, Happiness Hypothesis. I've just finished the chapter on adversity. Kinda hate to make notes because the author does an awesome job of building a coherent set of "great ideas" which coalesce to tell a story about how humans can find happiness and meaning in life. These great ideas are culled from ... roughly Christianity (Old and New Testament)... Mediterranean Philosphy, the Koran, the writings of Confucius and other Oriental Philosophers, sayings of the Buddha ... etc. ... where an idea was expressed repeatedly within these sources of ancient wisdom, Dr. Haidt identified it as a candidate for a "great idea". Alright, enough background ... Go get the book, it rocks.

When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent. ~ MENG TZU 3rd Cent.BCE

The notion of fate, predestination, kismet, divine foreknowledge is presented and coupled with this ... People need adversity, setbacks, and maybe even trauma to reach the "highest levels of strength, fulfillment, and personal development". Haidt writes, "I don't want to celebrate suffering, prescribe it for everyone, or minimize the moral imperative to reduce it where we can. ... I want only to make the point that suffering is not always all bad for all people. There is usually some good mixed in with the bad, and those who find it have something precious: a key to moral and spiritual development."

Pg 145 ... A mess of mismatched motives and stories (the ones we tell ourselves about our selves) and it may be that only through adversity will one be able to make the radical changes needed to achieve coherence ... . ...mentally healthy and happy people have a higher degree of "vertical coherence" among their goals - that is, higher level/ long term goals, and lower level/ immediate goals fit together well ... So that short term goals support the attainment of long term goals.
Here it is ... Trauma often shatters belief systems and robs people of their sense of meaning ... As we put our pieces back together we may (he says use, I say) find God or some other higher purpose. An opportunity to remake ourselves with all the wonderful "ers". Here's a quote "people sometimes seize such opportunities, too, rebuilding beautifully those parts of their lives and life stories that they could never have torn down voluntarily.

Pg 146 Optimists (me ... and frankly, my very optimistic outlook is sometimes an embarrassment to me ... I know that logically "things" can not always go as well as I reallyreallyreally tend to believe they will) have a high happiness setpoint, they habitually look on the bright side, and they easily find silver linings. ... Because optimists expect their efforts to pay off, they go right to work fixing the problem. But if they fail, they expect that things usually work out for the best, and so they can't help but look for the possible benefits. When they find them, they write a new chapter in their life story, a story of continual overcoming and growth.
Okay so trauma, or maybe how one addresses trauma, helps us live larger, think higher, feel deeper. I think I can agree with that. Every life I have witnessed has "problematic" areas ... In fact, I would even say each relationship presents opportunities for growth. I do say that. I believe that the places and most importantly those people whom we choose to invest our lives in are the life modifiers. Here is something I way underestimated the benefit of ... While the nature of the trauma turned out to be almost irrelevant, talking about it with friends or support groups largely spared the health damaging effects of trauma. !!! That is a small, yet significant pearl. I shared my traumatic story ... it dramatically affected the weight of the load ... I was then able to re-write my story. Thank you friend of my soul.

So, how does one benefit from adversity? May be as easy as 1,2,3.
First, if you tend to be pessimistic, fix that (with meditation, cognitive therapy, and/or Prozac ... making you less subject to negative ruminations ... )
Second, cherish your buddies ... build your social support network.
Third, religious faith and practice can aid growth.

Here's a final tip ... When you catch your breathe on a problem ask yourself
Why did this happen, and what good might be derived from it?

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by evil or commonplace that prevailed round them. They represent a struggle and a victory.”
~ Marcel Proust

What a great quote ... ! How can victory exist without struggle?

Explicit knowledge = all the facts one collects and can consciously regurgitate independent of context ... filed away, ready for use in later reasoning.
Tacit knowledge = wisdom, knowing how rather then knowing that, it is acquired without direct help from others, and is related to the goals that a person values. and that is exactly what I have been thinking. (btw, for later rabbit chasing ... Robert Sternberg, a leading wisdom researcher) Sternberg says wisdom is the tacit knowledge that let's a person balance two sets of things.
First, balance their own needs, the needs of others and future needs. Wisdom can see from other's POV ... shades of grey ... what's best for the long run. Conversely, ignorance sees things in black and white, relying on the myth of pure evil ... strongly motivated by self interest. He chose the word ignorant ... Why not foolish or stubborn ... Hmmmm ... rigid ... well, I'll think about that later.
Second, wise people are able to balance three responses to situations:
Adaption ... changing the self to fit the environment
Shaping ... changing the environment
Selection ... Choosing to move to a new environment

Sternberg's ideas demonstrate why it is impossible for a parent to be able to teach their children wisdom directly.

29O11 discussing this with L this morning over piping hot pancakes, bacon, maple syrup, and most deliciously, coffee, light and sweet. He says that type of optimism is simply a lack of discernment. I laughed. Yes there areas where the sun just won't shine. I'm remembering the sliver of light illuminating the ground a few days ago. Light radiated through a breach in the overcast. I've seen that many times before ... Suddenly light, golden, pouring itself through, cascading ... and one can almost see Jacob's ladder. The other day we flew on before the hole in the clouds closed rendering darkness again ... and did the people down below pause to find their way in the dim light?

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