i’m not sure how much a presence on the website www.tumblr.com can make someone a “warrior.” combative language doesn’t always accompany combative behavior… this shit just seems so arbitrary when there’s a disconnect from reality. is the internet an extension or stagnation of behavior? what do you think???
9:42 pm • 24 July 2014 • 1 note
at my parents’ place there’s no backyard, just a park right behind their townhouse. i don’t like staying there but when something rose glows on my face and i run outside to take a picture of it having a park instead of a backyard is really nice
9:10 pm • 24 July 2014 • 1 note
I made a group of fifteen-year-olds do black-out poetry with a piece of my writing today. It yielded some beautiful results. Wish I’d recorded them.
8:37 pm • 24 July 2014 • 1 note
mid july--a playlist
so my taste in music has really changed this summer. music has become something for the time in between shifts at work. it’s weirdly more enjoyable that way.
11:10 am • 24 July 2014 • 1 note
Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms
I keep thinking about this paper about loneliness that we read in my social psychology class. You can read it here if you’re interested.
The researchers open by discussing loneliness in the context of basic human needs, like hunger or thirst. I like the way this view normalizes the mental state of feeling lonely and equates it to a physiological need. They define loneliness as “a distressing feeling that accompanies the perception that one’s social needs are not being met by the quantity or especially the quality of one’s social relationships.” The perception. Already, loneliness is viewed as a subjective state of mind not grounded in any objective status, but one’s own, questionable perception. There are severe consequences of this perception: loneliness is detrimental to cognition, emotion, behavior, and health. Loneliness is a risk factor for obesity, impaired sleep, and substance abuse. Feeling socially isolated has also been shown to contribute to cognitive decline and dementia later in life. Lonely thoughts, lonely feelings, lonely actions, and a lonely body. This is not an optimal frequency on which to experience life.
They discuss how people who perceive that they are socially isolated in fact feel unsafe. Loneliness leads to the perception of the world as a dangerous place, and accompanies hostility, stress, pessimism, anxiety, and low self-esteem. These traits, again, manifest in cognition, emotion, behavior, and health. The constant fear response that the body exhibits in reaction to the perception of the world as dangerous takes a heavy toll on the brain, as well as the rest of the body. And it makes sense—we’re social creatures, and we need a feeling of connectedness in our everyday life in order to feel safe. It’s sad to think about how I react to these qualities in other people—if someone exhibits hostility, I naturally move away from them. But there’s no way of knowing if they’re hostile because of something about me, or if the hostility is a symptom of feeling unsafe and alone—in that case, I’m aggravating their loneliness.
A diminished capacity for self-regulation accompanies loneliness as well. Attentional processes are compromised in lonely people, and the prolonged experience of loneliness is associated with less effort given to the maintenance and optimization of positive emotions. This is why empty, positive statements like “cheer up!” or “you’re not alone!” don’t have much of an effect on people who are already so entrenched in loneliness that they cannot maintain a positive thought.
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Here’s an accompanying TED talk that one of the researchers gave last year.
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I remember this paper because it was scary as well as intuitive. I know so many people who seem to feel alone even when they’re surrounded by friends and family. Loneliness is a subjective state of mind, and it reflects a need to seek new connections and recognize existing ones. It especially requires an assessment of the quality as well as quantity of one’s social connections.
In an interesting paradox, most of us have loneliness in common. We’ve all felt that way at some point in time. I wonder what would happen if we turned perceived isolation on its head and made it a unifying force.
We all perceive that we are alone. That is exactly why we are not alone.
I watched a TED talk on positive psychology (and of course forgot its name) that presented the idea that making a point to focus on positive thoughts literally rewires the brain to think more positively and feel less lonely or sad. It sounds like self-help-y, bootstrapping rhetoric, but when you look at it from an empirical point of view, it makes a lot of sense. That’s what convinced me—feelings of isolation, sadness, and negativity are detrimental to cognitive processes. We could say they lead to brain damage if we wanted to make a headline. That being said, so many people reach remarkable places in life while feeling lonely. It is not a disability so much as it is a risk factor. And, as David Foster Wallace mentions in his graduation speech for Kenyon College, we have the incredible ability to choose what to think about, and we don’t have to trust everything we think. Which means we have the ability to rewire our cognitive processes to a certain degree by focusing our attention on things that make us happy, things that make us feel grateful, and people whose company we enjoy. That’s not to say we need to turn our head away from negativity in our lives. That’s not to deny people facing inner and outer battles the space to work through their struggles. I think it’s more liberating than that—we can acknowledge things that make us feel bad and still choose not to ruminate on them. We can deal with terrible things in our objective reality and still maintain a safe subjective interior. We emerge from terrible things with resilience when we have support.
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This all seemed so obvious and intuitive to me. But at the same time I wondered why I didn’t already do these things if they were so intuitive. It seems like it’d be in my best interest to optimize my brain’s functioning, yet I still find myself making myself crazy focusing on terrible things. Few people can make me cry, but my own mind can. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It reflects the incredible power of my own cognition, and my own ability to fixate on a certain thought. The freedom of choice exists within my own consciousness.
I’ve been happier this year than any other year in my life. I think it has less to do with my objective reality, which is far from perfect, and more to do with my subjective perception of the world. My inner subjective state works hand-in-hand with my objective actions in my reality. My cognition reinforces my behavior, and my behavior reinforces my cognition. I think I’ve created a really positive feedback loop between the two at this point in my life, and I really hope it lasts.
11:45 pm • 23 July 2014 • 1 note