Neighbor from Hell

neighbor from hellFrom all appearances, this woman seems to have psychological issues. But could there be something else going on here? See Video.

Courtesy MSNBC.com

Many times when I see a piece of human drama, I wonder what the bigger picture looks like.

For instance, with regard to this video, it would be simple to say that one lady seems to have lost her mind and the other side in this drama is doing what they need to do, protect themselves and their property. Beyond that however, doesn’t it seem odd that a woman with a nice home and a good job who is seemingly normal in other ways, would act this way at all, much less for such an extended time?

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How Bias Affects Our Choices

Gershwin-quoteWe may think that our beliefs are based on solid facts and reason, but, in the words of George Gershwin’s old song, “It ain’t necessarily so.” The way our minds work actually limits our ability to discern the truth or make rational decisions. Psychologists have been studying the way we think for many years, and have identified several biases that cause this.

Prejudices and preconceptions
We all tend to pick and choose information that supports our prejudices and preconceptions while ignoring a heap of evidence to the contrary. Right or wrong, climate change deniers provide the most obvious example today, focusing on a tiny minority of expert opinion and brushing aside the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists. Similarly, most of us don’t listen carefully to politicians’ speeches or analyze their policies in detail. Instead we pick up the fragments of information that reinforce our party preference.

This “confirmation bias” even penetrates scientific thinking. For instance, the evidence for the reality of paranormal phenomena is far stronger than the evidence for the effectiveness of many pharmaceutical drugs. And yet most scientists reject out of hand any suggestion that psychic abilities are real because they don’t believe they’re possible. In less-dramatic ways, confirmation bias distorts our thinking and decisions about many aspects of life. Despite my high level of education and career as an academic, I frequently catch myself doing this.

The attraction effect
Another source of bias in our thinking is the “attraction effect.” Imagine you’re comparing smart phone options, and are drawn to the cheaper Basic contract rather than the more expensive Advanced one because it meets your needs adequately. Now suppose that you’ve been offered a third Luxury alternative that costs more but provides no more benefits than the Advanced contract. Research shows that the presence of this third option increases the probability that you’ll choose the Advanced contract. One possible explanation is that the Luxury option makes it easier to justify your choice by claiming you’ve got a bargain — perhaps our decisions are normally biased towards ones we can easily justify rather than what is best for us?

The framing effect
Three decades ago, a third type of bias was identified. The “framing effect” leads us to make choices depending on how the information is presented. In one classic experiment, people were asked to imagine an outbreak of disease threatening a village of 600 people. Plan A would definitely save 200 lives, whereas Plan B would have a 1 in 3 chance of saving An example of how bias affects rational thinking everyone, and a 2 in 3 chance of saving no one.

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Suicide Questions

live-and-let-liveTragedy struck close to home this week with the painful announcement that a family member of a close friend had committed suicide. At times like these, being empathic feels more like a curse than a blessing. I feel acutely the agony of those he left behind — his wife, his daughters, his parents, and all those who loved him. In their struggle to understand the journey that led him to make this fateful choice, they lean on their faith, which is now amplified by the hope of forgiveness, redemption, and a merciful God.

I want so badly to tap them on the shoulder and politely interrupt their mourning to ask them if they would like some insight into this man.
I wonder if it would provide relief or more turmoil for them to know that their beloved did not share the family’s religious views; that he only pretended to because it was easier for him than facing their condemnation. I wonder if the slightest bit of Unconditional Love — the kind that is not predicated on the fulfillment of a pre-defined role or maintaining a certain set of religious standards — might have given him hope to continue living.

Though his family ponders why he would choose to take his own life, I do not. I understand very clearly the depths of his despair. The fear of his family’s alienation kept him trapped.  He spent his whole life struggling to reconcile the glimpses of his inner knowing with the doctrine that was shoved down his throat. He was expected to swallow every bit of the dogma whether he enjoyed it or not, with no consideration for his own personal preferences.
Yes, I understand the torment of a deeply spiritual man who never felt free enough to explore outside of ‘the box’. I do, however, have an entirely different set of questions:

·    How often within the family unit, does one member suffer silently, fearing the judgment and persecution of those  who claim to love her/him the most?
·    When did our culture start withdrawing love and acceptance as a means of punishing the dissenters?
·    Why is the fear of disapproval so much stronger than the courage it takes to trust our own feelings?
·    Why should anyone feel the need to hide their true self? Especially from their loved ones?
·    Do parents and family members understand how damning their condescension and criticism feels? Do they care?
·    Why does it take something as drastic as a suicide for others to consider an alternate, compassionate approach?
·    Is it possible to prevent others from making a similar choice?
·    What would it take?

When I look at this situation, my heart aches for every person who is affected by his death. The loss of a father, son, brother, and friend is tremendous — and when you add the weight of confusion and guilt, the burden may be quite difficult to bear. We can all stand to learn from their experience.

If you recognize yourself as one who is trapped, I am grateful you are reading this. You need to know that you are not alone. Your thoughts and ideas have a basis outside of the limited trappings of religion and you are valued for your uniqueness. There are others who deeply empathize with you and are willing to offer you encouragement and support as you build up courage to acknowledge your truth.

And for the rest of us — we can do more to reach out to those who feel isolated within their own circle of family and friends. Let us extend unconditional love and acceptance to everyone. I invite you to co-create an environment of safety and trust, so that our friends and family members have full confidence they can explore their own questions without fear of condemnation or any kind of repercussion.

by Janet Louise Stephenson

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Looking Within To Find Your Spiritual Direction

inspirational quotes clipart 5Growing up, most of us were told to pay attention, some of us (ahem) probably more than others. What our parents, teachers, relatives or others meant was to pay attention to what we were being told. But no one ever told me to pay attention to myself by listening to the voice inside of me. Don’t get me wrong, listening to others can be fine, because we can learn a lot from their experiences, however nothing beats the little voice when we want information unique to us.

I never knew the voice inside of me even mattered. For a long time I just thought it was my imagination working overtime. I began to realize however, that the messages I was receiving were almost always right. That’s when I started to understand there might be more to it than just imagination and there were more ways to get information than just externally.

To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, Peaceful Warrior, “ I want you to stop gathering information from outside yourself and start gathering it from the inside. It’s the only way people can find the real answers they are looking for.”

I believe the real answers in our lives are found by looking inside of ourselves. The mind is great for the everyday, mundane things. Does the yard need mowing? Do I need to go to the grocery store? But if you want to know why you’re here on earth, or why you’re stopped in some area of your life, the mind can’t help you. Because what’s in your mind has been put there by you or others, (parents, teachers, relatives, television, etc.) and that never seems to include deeper spiritual meaning that is unique to you. To find answers that no one else has for you, you have to look to your heart, the inner voice.

What is the inner voice? Have you ever had a strong feeling about something? A premonition? A little voice, if you will, telling you to do or not to do something. How often has it turned out to be right? Following that voice is following your heart and sometimes it’s in opposition to what your mind is telling you to do.

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