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  • 3 Best Ways to Face The Future With Enough Confidence

    Vulnerability Makes You Anxious? 3 Ways to Face the Future with Enough Confidence

    Everyone feels on edge when they're questionable of what's coming. Nonetheless, a few of us permit uneasiness assume control over our life. Not exclusively does this damage our mental, physical, and enthusiastic well-being; it likewise influences our future (for the most exceedingly terrible). We're generally confronted with tension when we feel vulnerability in ourselves, such as going on a first date or meeting another person surprisingly. This horrendous, terrible feeling is profoundly established in each one of us.

    Envision yourself preparing for a meeting. You have the ideal outfit, the ideal hairdo, and you comprehend what to state to truly prevail upon them. Out of the blue you consider situations that could happen and begin to feel overcome by uneasiness. Before you know it, you're caught in an endless loop of feeling like you will establish a horrendous connection or not landing the position. A great many individuals confront nervousness like this consistently. All in all, what would we be able to do to abstain from feeling like this?

    1. Quit thinking about the past 

    Everybody has done things that they lament. It's just human to commit a couple of errors each once in for a moment. Keep in mind this: The main time you should think back in your life is to remind yourself how far you've come. On the off chance that you persistently feel that you will botch something up due to past involvement, odds are you will. You need a brighter point of view keeping in mind the end goal to exceed expectations.

    2. Consider something that you're great at 

    Whenever uneasiness strikes, rather than agonizing over what will happen, pause for a moment to truly consider what you're great at. It may be your appealing aptitudes, your masterful capacities, or simply realizing that you can make everybody giggle. Whatever it is, keep that idea in your mind until the point when you begin to rest easy. Recall a period when you felt large and in charge. Before sufficiently long, you'll feel that way once more. Appreciation is at the core of the accomplishment of each extraordinary individual since it works. It's difficult to feel thankful and irate in the meantime, so this one feeling could change your life for eternity. It's surely changed mine.

    3. Try not to belittle your self-esteem 

    Uneasiness has the ability to influence you to feel fantastically powerless and little, and even leave you speechless. Never dismiss what you merit! You are deserving of more than you might suspect! While nervousness is beginning a war in your brain, get your commendable troops together to battle back. Nervousness may influence you to feel that you don't should get an advancement. Be that as it may, you know how much work you put in to get it. Never dismiss how far you've come to be the place you are today. What's more, believe constantly in a superior tomorrow. Concentrate on improving, only 1% better, each and every day. At that point, you'll be fruitful and cheerful in the blink of an eye.

    In conclusion

    In case you can't see all that you bring to the table, it may be a smart thought to look for offer assistance. There are huge amounts of individuals that you can converse with about your uneasiness issue, (for example, specialists, advisors, and even individuals that have experienced a similar thing). You're just a single individual; you can't ward off the greater part of the devils in your mind without anyone else's input. To get the future you want, you should find a sense of contentment with your present self.

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  • Why Aren’t People With Disabilities Talking About This?

    Maybe you haven’t heard of CRISPR-Cas9. To be honest, if I hadn’t previously worked atthe Center for Genetics and Society, I probably wouldn’t have heard of it either. It’s a new genetic technology that brings modification of the human germline closer in reach than ever before.

    Wikmedia Commons
    Source: Wikmedia Commons

    Driven by the promise of allowing parentsto avoid passing on incurable genetic diseases to their offspring, the use of CRISPR to engineer human embryos presents serious risks with particularly strong implications for people with disabilities—in the present and future. It’s been getting plenty of press. And yet, as someone who tries to stay up to date constantly with what’s trending in the disability social media scene, it has seemed to me that CRISPR has been more or less absent. 

    Why aren’t people in the disability community talking more about this?

    Why should people with disabilities have to keep spending their time justifying their existence rather than just enjoying it at present?

    The Longmore Institute on Disability
    Source: The Longmore Institute on Disability

    I recall a conference I organized with the Longmore Institute in 2013, “Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, and Strange New Worlds.” Disability studies scholar and activist Marsha Saxton began her panel by sharing a memory of talking with agenetics counselor while contemplating getting pregnant. The counselor exclaimed, “Gee, if I’d have known Spina Bifadas turned out as well as you, I would not have recommended selective abortion as much as I’ve done!”

    Similarly, a conversation comes to mind that I had with another disability activist, who previously focused on the neo-eugenic uses of genetic technologies but left because she was burnt out. As a person with a disability, she didn’t want to continue spending her life’s work validating her own existence, and moved into the arts instead to celebrate the beauty that disability brings.

    Despite the disability rights movement’s progress, both of these stories help illustrate why people with disabilities might not want to waste their time thinking about these issues. Indeed it suggests that my own lack of understanding of why people with disabilities aren’t more interested in following this comes from a place of privilege as a nondisabled ally. It seems that for many, engaging in the debate is just too hurtful. Why should people with disabilities have to keep spending their time justifying their existence rather than just enjoying it at present?

    Yet when it comes to CRISPR for human reproduction, disability is at the center of it all. Whether or not CRISPR takes hold in the fertility clinic, the scientific and philosophical debate is constantly centered on disability. So here are five reasons why CRISPR and disability are dangerously intertwined, exemplifying why we need the perspectives of people with disabilities weighing in on this debate, as unappealing as diving in may be:  

    1. Modern-day eugenics. For me, it’s pretty much that simple… and that scary. Advocates of using CRISPR for heritable genetic modification argue that we can distinguish to ensure this is only used for deselectinggenetic diseases (“germlinetherapy”), rather than using the technology to select for more desired traits (“enhancement”). But even this binary presumes we can draw clean lines to eliminate diseases that don’t also suggest preventing disabilities. It brings up questions of what we should and shouldn’t value in future generations. Knowing that these choices are being made in a deeply ableist culture—where people like Marsha Saxton would likely not have been born because of fear of the “spina bifidas”—illustrates how hard it would be to draw lines about what genetic diseases “we” agree to engineer out of the gene pool and which are allowed to stay. 
    2. We are moving backwards. Even as opponents of CRISPR germline modification make their case, it often hinges on the idea that we don’t need CRISPR because we already have preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to allow parents to have children free from genetic abnormalities. However, disability advocates still contest PGD as socially harmful genetic selection and disability prevention. The Center for Genetics and Society’s Executive Director Marcy Darnovsky recently shared with me that when she points out this tension to the press, they rarely if ever include it. 
    3. It’s selling disability as tragic. This isn’t new. It’s how preimplantation genetic diagnosis was sold. It’s how stem cell therapy was sold. Before we even develop the technology, we develop the story: people with disabilities are living a sad, tragic existence, and only through progress in the genetic sciences can we spare their suffering in future people. This tragedy gets retold and retold, creating urgency for the technology in question: Forget the vibrant disability community. Forget the changes in technology, art, and culture that people with disabilities bring to our world from the insights of living with a disability. We don’t have time to worry about ethicsor risks! Selling the need for the cutting edge technology comes on the backs of people with disabilities, so science policy and debates become one more place where the tired trope of disability as “the worst” thrives.
    4. Nondisabled people won’t get it unless people with disabilities are part of the debate. Nondisabled proponents are arguing we need to use CRISPR to prevent disabilities. Nondisabled opponents suggest we should be wary of CRISPR for its threat to disability justice. Both sides are talking about disability, but the conversation would carry more weight if disability activists were involved. 
    Still image via Vimeo
    Source: Still image via Vimeo

    This is why the work of disability activist and writer Harriet McBryde Johnson was so powerful. In a series of conversations with philosopher Peter Singer, one of the most outspoken advocates of preventing children with disabilities from being born, McBryde Johnson put a face to his theoretical exercises and argued that they had life or death consequences for people like her.

    When I share my interests in these sorts of debates, I often get this wave of enthusiasm from other nondisabled people who seem to find it fun to sit around and discuss how much better the world would be if we could prevent or cure all disabilities. They want to talk it out through thought experiments and philosophical exercises. I mean no disrespect to those who think that way. After all, I’m married to someone with a philosophy degree, and some philosophers with disabilities have made important contributions to the way disability is theorized in ethical debates (e.g. Adrienne Asch andAnita Silvers). However, I think the debate needs more perspectives and personal stories coming from people with disabilities who help us to attach faces and lives to the debate and to remind us what a loss it would be to live in a world with less disability.

    (At the 2015 National Academies' International Summit on Human Gene Editing, the conversation did not include any featured speaker open about being a person with a disability. There were efforts to invite one or two, and Ruha Benjamin did give a wonderful presentation which you can view here, but the omission was startling.)

     5. It impacts the fight for disability equity today.  When cures and the end of
    disability are always cast as “just around the corner,” it continues to make it harder to fight for what we need today. We continue to invest millions of dollars on anything that might help us eliminate disability. Meanwhile people with disabilities struggle to implement things to make our society more accessible right now,  as these social changes are always framed as “too costly.” This doesn’t mean that we need to be entirely anti-cure and certainly not anti-research, but again, we need people with disabilities to play a central role in this debate. A diversity of voices speaking to their experiences with disability can teach us that we don’t need CRISPR to “solve” the disability = tragedy equation. Social changes to the built environment and cultural changes to discriminatory attitudes are a safer bet with more widely shared impacts.


    2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of GATTACA’s release, a film which brought to the big screen issues of genetic discrimination resulting from the effort to control human reproduction (for a great disability take on it, read here). The “not too distant future” imagined in the film grows closer with CRISPR.  I wish I could just turn away from CRISPR to hope it’ll pass over—I far prefer spending my time on our disability film festival or promoting disability history. Yet disability culture and arts are more related to CRISPR than one might think. They provide a powerful illustration of how disability enriches our world. It just might be worth making time for the CRISPR debates (even though the emotional labor of doing so is huge), to help ensure a long-term future for disability as a creative and generative force.


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  • The Enlightenment Gap and Psychology's Metaphysical Problem

    Thanks for clicking on the title of such an abstract-sounding blog! I hope that you will find what follows to be a clear articulation of important pieces of psychology’s history and that it explains some of the key reasons psychology has had some difficulty getting its concepts right and how we can fix the problem going forward.

    Let me start by explaining the word “metaphysical”, because that word sounds academic and highbrow. “Metaphysics” is a formal branch of philosophy, and you don’t hear this word used in everyday conversation all that much. But it really should not be a scary word. In fact, I think it is a word that everyone who thinks about stuff—even in a fairly straightforward commonsense way—should be familiar with. Why? Because metaphysics refers to your understanding of reality. Consider the following questions: What do you think the world is made of? Why is the world the way it is? What is our (human) place in the world? If you think about these kinds of questions at all, you are (at least) a novice “metaphysician” and you have a “metaphysical” view of the world. (Note that “world” here refers to everything that exists). 

    What about the Enlightenment Gap? What is that? Before I define that, let’s start with the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is the age that valued the power of reason (and for some, the power of reason over faith). It was an age in which leading intellectuals argued that we could understand the natural world using logic, math, and the scientific method.Although the Enlightenment is often formally dated to begin 1715, the roots of it date back further. Certainly the work of early scientists/natural philosophers like Galileo (1564-1642) and Descartes (1569-1650) laid key parts of the foundation.

    Some argue that the Enlightenment should be dated to the publication of Isaac Newton’s (1642-1726) “Principia” (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) in 1687, which is the single most important scientific publication in history. What did Isaac Newton do in Principia? He developed a mathematical framework that described matter in motion (this is sometimes called "classical mechanics"). He did this so well and so completely that he basically offered a mathematical theory of matter that was the foundation of our understanding that lasted almost 225 years, until the development of modern physics (which involved the development of general relativity and quantum mechanics and took place between 1900-1930).

    So the Enlightenment is the Age of Reason and is the beginning of the modern age, when folks started to see the full power and possibility of a scientific understanding of the world. What, then, is the Enlightenment Gap? 

    The Enlightenment Gap is what I use to refers to “space in between” the tensions and contradictions between the worldviews of Christianity on the one hand, and the picture of matter in motion that emerged via Newton’s physics on the other. Let’s tie this back to the term metaphysics. The Christian perspective had one metaphysical worldview and the new physical science perspective had another. Let’s spell them out in terms of: 1) What they say the world is made of; 2) Why the world is the way it is; 3) What is the place of the human in the world.  (I am indebted to Peter Van Inwagen’s Metaphysics for this framing of the issues).

    The 19th Century Christian Metaphysical Worldview

    1. The World consists of God and all that He made. Everything exists because of God and exists because God chose it to exist. God created both the material world of things and the spiritual world of the soul.

    3. Human Beings were created by God to love and serve him forever. He infused in them the power of the spirit, which allows them to be connected to God, if they choose to embrace this calling. In the same way that the heart is designed to pump blood, human beings are meant to serve God and their lives are a testament to the extent to which they do so. The course of human history is nothing less than a record of the extent to which humans have chosen to do what they were made to do.

    The Metaphysical Worldview of 19th Century Physics (What I call below an Atheistic Physicalism, see here for a modern version         

    1. The World consists of matter in motion, and there is nothing but matter. Matter obeys strict laws and everything is determined by these laws.

    2. Matter has always existed and can never be created or destroyed. Because matter has always existed, there is no reason for the World to be. It just is and always has been and always will be.

    3. Human beings are complex arrangements of matter, and they exist because they just happen to be how matter is organized right now. Also, because all material things obey strict laws, there is no such thing as free will or the freedom to choose. Human lives have no meaning other than what they construct for themselves, and when they die they simply become different (inanimate) arrangements of matter.

    Notice the huge differences between these worldviews. It is worth noting that people like Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton basically held both worldviews. They did so by believing in dualism, which is the idea that there are two fundamental domains in the world, that of matter and that of mind/spirit (see the first point of the Christian worldview). In this way both Descartes and Newton (who was a very religious man) believed more in the first metaphysical worldview than in the second, at least in so far as generating a complete description of the world and our place in it. However, by the time the Enlightenment was in full swing, a number of increasingly skeptical scholars emerged (e.g., David Hume, 1711-1776), and more and more intellectuals began to adopt the second worldview.

    Pierre-Simon Laplace
    Source: wikicommons

    Psychology’s Metaphysical Problem

    Hopefully now you can see the deep and profound tensions between Christian metaphysics and atheistic physicalism. Think of the space between them as a gap. What does this have to do with psychology?

    These were the two dominant worldviews that were operating when the science of psychology emerged. Thus, psychology gets started as a discipline when its founders must choose either the first or second worldview. Because it is defined as a science and the science of the time was the lawful determination of matter in motion, most (but not all) psychological scientists of the day adopted the second worldview, that of an atheistic physicalism. For example, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and John Watson’s behaviorism were both atheistic physicalist worldviews. Both assumed a classical, deterministic, matter-in-motion view of the universe, and believed that, at bottom, people were just complicated arrangements of matter.

    There are several reasons that the second worldview is now considered wrong, but I will list three major ones. First, energy now shares with matter “foundational status” in the sense that both energy and matter are fundamental in physics. Indeed, most physicists now would likely view energy as the more fundamental, if they had to choose. This changes the fundamental essence of the universe from an “object view” to a “process view” (see here for an elaboration of what this means).

    Second, the developments in quantum mechanics in the early portion of the 20th Century blew up the strict deterministic picture that people like Laplace had of the universe. It is now largely understood that the fundamental character of the most basic elements of the universe (i.e., particles) has a random (or stochastic) character. That is, there are unknowable random variations that play a role in what happens in the future, which means that the kind of determinism that Laplace argued for is impossible.

    Third, the rise of information science has provided a whole new perspective on causation. Rather than causation being purely mechanistic in terms of exchange of forces, there are many systems whose causal properties are described in terms of inputs, computational processes, and outputs. Cells, brains, human language, computers and so forth must be understood in the language of information processing, which is not reducible to the language of matter in motion.

    Okay, let’s pause and review. The field of psychology emerged at a time in the mid to late 19th Century when there were two dominant worldviews. Because it strongly identified as a science, it largely adopted the second, atheistic physicalist worldview of the day. But developments in science and philosophy have changed our picture of the world.

    This offers an explanation of why psychology has struggled so. There was no metaphysical worldview that was up to the task for providing psychologists with a conceptual definitional system that allowed them to clearly define and talk about their subject matter. And because of that, many different psychology’s with many different subject matters emerged, and the field has been confused at its core ever since.

    Enter the Tree of Knowledge System

    The above analysis suggests that what is needed is a new metaphysics for psychology. This is what I offer with the Tree of Knowledge System. The ToK System provides a new way to “carve nature at its joints”. Unlike the traditional matter in motion view, this view is consistent with modern science and it provides a way to think about mental and cultural phenomena in a way that is neither physically reductionistic nor does it require asupernatural spiritual dimension. In this way, it is quite different than both worldviews.

    Gregg Henriques
    Source: Gregg Henriques

    Here are the answers that the ToK System has for the key metaphysical questions of: 1) What is the world is made of?; 2) Why the world is the way it is?; 3) What is the place of the human in the world?

    1. The universe is an unfolding wave of Energy-Information that can be described in behavioral terms of objects, fields and change and exists in four different dimensions of complexity, Matter, Life, Mind and Culture. These are separable dimensions of complexity because the behaviors that take place at the levels above Matter are mediated by systems of information processing, specifically, genetic (Life), neuronal (Mind) and linguistic (Culture).

    2. The universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago. There was a “moment of creation” in which a chain reaction in the singularity that created a massive inflation and gave rise to the four fundamental forces (electromagnetic, strong, weak and gravity) and the elementary particles (bosons, quarks, leptons; see below). These forces and particles formed into atoms and galaxies. Because of differential concentrations of energy and matter, there has been a flow of energy across various sections of the universe and this has resulted in the emergence of different forms of complexity. Energy flow on the surface of planet earth resulted in the emergence of self-organizing, self-replicating systems that we call life.

    Gregg Henriques
    Source: Gregg Henriques



    3. Human beings are a unique pattern of Energy-Information flow. First, they are a kind of animal, and in the animal kingdom there arose self-organizing process mediated by the nervous system, which gave rise to experiential consciousness. Humans then developed full, open language capacities, which resulted in them exhibiting unique behavior patterns and having unique capacities for self-reflective knowledge and for generating knowledge about the world (such as the metaphysical picture of the world offered by the ToK!).

    How the ToK Solves the Metaphysical Problem of Psychology

    When psychology emerged on the scene, the early psychologists did not have a metaphysical framework for talking clearly about what it was that they were studying. The absence of the necessary metaphysical frame gave rise to profound questions pertaining to whether psychology was about humans or animals, behavior or “the mind”,unconscious processes or self-conscious reflection, as well as thorny issues pertaining to free will and determinism. All of these problems arise out of a faulty and incomplete metaphysical picture of the world.

    The ToK System offers psychologists a new metaphysical system from which to operate. In doing so, it solves the problem of how to define the science of psychology. For example, it states very clearly that the base of psychology corresponds to the Mind dimension of complexity. That means that psychology’s basic subject matter is the behavior of the animal as a whole, mediated by the nervous system.

    Because there is a break between Mind and Culture, that means that humans, which connect to the Cultural dimension through language, operate on a different dimension of complexity. Thus, human psychology should be a separate sub-discipline from basic psychology.

    For more on “the problem of psychology” and how the ToK System solves it, see here,hereherehere, and here. Here is a visual for the argument.

    Gregg Henriques
    Source: Gregg Henriques
    Gregg Henriques
    A ToK Taxonomy
    Source: Gregg Henriques


    Metaphysics is a highbrow term, but really it just refers to one’s version of reality. The version of reality that intellectuals had during the Enlightenment consisted of two very different pictures: one of a Christian worldview, and the other of an atheistic physicalism. Neither was up to the task of effectively providing psychologists with a definitional system for their objects of study. Because of this Enlightenment Gap, psychology never got off on the right footing conceptually and it has been fragmented ever since. The ToK System offers a totally new metaphysical system for understanding the world and our place in it. It can solve the problem of psychology and assimilate and integrate the key insights from various perspectives to offer a coherent picture of the whole.


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  • Research Tip: Ask About What You Want to Measure

    Recently I served as a reviewer for a research article that had been submitted to a journal for publication. Without going into too much detail as to why, the authors of this paper wanted to control for people's attitudes towards casual sex when conducting their analysis. They thought that it was possible people who were more sexually-permissive when it comes to infidelity might respond to certain scenarios differently than those who were less sexually-permissive. If you were the sensible type of researcher, you might do something like ask your participants to indicate on some scale as to how acceptable or unacceptable they think sexually infidelity is, then. The authors of this particular paper opted for a different, altogether stranger route: they noted that people's attitudes towards infidelity correlate (imperfectly) with their political ideology (i.e., whether they consider themselves to be liberals or conservatives). So, rather than ask participants directly about how acceptable infidelity is (what they actually wanted to know), they asked participants about their political ideology and used that as a control instead.

     "People who exercise get tired, so we measured how much people napped to assess physical fitness"
    Source: Flickr/Seniju


    This example is by no means unique; psychology researchers frequently try to ask questions about topic X in the hopes of understanding something about topic Y. This can be acceptable at times, specifically when topic Y is unusually difficult—but not impossible—to study directly. After all, if topic Y is impossible to directly study, then one obviously cannot say that studying topic X tells you something about Y with much confidence, as you would have no way of assessing the relationship between X and Y to begin with. Assuming that the relationship between X and Y has been established and it is sufficiently strong and Y is unusually difficult to study directly, then there's a good, practical case to be made for using X instead. When that is done, however, it should always be remembered that you aren't actually studying what you'd like to study, so it's important to not get carried away with the interpretation of your results.

    This brings us nicely to the topic of research on sexism. When people hear the word "sexism" a couple things come to mind: someone who believes one sex is (or should be)—socially, morally, legally, psychologically, etc.—inferior to the other, or worth less; someone who wouldn't want to hire a member of one sex for a job (or intentionally pays them less if they did) strictly because of that variable regardless of their qualifications; someone who inherently dislikes members of one sex. While this list is by no means exhaustive, I suspect things like these are probably the prototypical examples of sexism; some kind of explicit, negative attitude about people because of their sex per se that directly translates into behavior. Despite this, people who research sexism don't usually ask about such matters directly, as far as I've seen. To be clear, they easily could ask such questions assessing such attitudes in straightforward manners (in fact, they used to do just that with measures like the "Attitudes Towards Women Scale" in the 1970s), but they do not. As I understand it, the justification for not asking about such matters directly is because it has become more difficult to find people who actually express such views (Loo & Thorpe, 1998). As attitudes had already become markedly less sexist from 1972 to 1998, one can only guess at how much more change occurred from then to now. In short, it's becoming rare to find blatant sexists anymore, especially if you're asking college students.

    Many researchers interpret that difficulty as being the result of people still holding sexist attitudes but either (a) are not willing express them publicly for fear of condemnation, or (b) are not consciously aware that they hold such views. As such, researchers like to ask about questions about "Modern Sexism" or "Ambivalent Sexism"; they maintain the word "sexism" in their scales, but they begin to ask about things which are not what people first think of when they hear the term. They no longer ask about explicitly sexist attitudes. Therein lies something of a problem, though: if what you really want to know is whether people hold particular sexist beliefs or attitudes, you need some way of assessing those attitudes directly in order to determine that other questions which don't directly ask about that sexism will accurately reflect it. However, if such a method of assessing those beliefs accurately, directly, and easily does exist, then it seems altogether preferable to use that method instead. In short, just ask about the things you want to ask about. 

    "We wanted to measure sugar content, so we assessed how much fruit the recipe called for"
    Source: Flickr/LongitudeLatitude


    If you continue on with using an alternate measure—like using the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI), rather than the Attitudes towards Women Scale—then you really should restrict your interpretations to things you're actually asking about. As a quick example, let's consider the ASI, which is made up of a hostile and benevolent sexism component. Zell et al (2016) summarize the scale as follows:

    "Hostile sexism is an adversarial view of gender relations in which women are perceived as seeking control over men. Benevolent sexism is a subjectively positive view of gender relations in which women are perceived as pure creatures who ought to be protected, supported, and adored; as necessary companions to make a man complete; but as weak and therefore best relegated to traditional gender roles (e.g., homemaker)."

    In other words, the benevolent scale measures the extent to which women are viewed as children: incapable of making their own decisions and, as such, in need of protection and provisioning by men. The hostile scale measures the extent to which men don't trust women and view them as enemies. Glick & Fiske (1996) claim that  "...hostile and benevolent sexism...combine notions of the exploited group's lack of competence to exercise structural power with self-serving "benevolent" justifications." However, not a single measure on either the hostile or benevolent sexism inventory actually asks about female competencies or whether women ought to be restricted socially. 

    To make this explicit, let's consider the questions Zell et al (2016) used to assess both components. In terms of hostile sexism, participants were asked to indicate their agreement with the following three statements:

    • Women seek power by gaining control over men
    • Women seek special favors under the guise of equality
    • Women exaggerate their problems at work

    There are a few points to make about these questions: first, they are all clearly true to some extent. I say that because these are behaviors that all kinds of people engage in. If these behaviors are not specific to one sex—if both men and women exaggerate their problems at work - then agreement with the idea that women do does not stop me from believing men do this as well and, accordingly, does not necessarily track any kind of sexist belief (the alternative, I suppose, is to believe that women never exaggerate problems, which seems unlikely). If the questions are meant to be interpreted as a relative statement (e.g., "women exaggerate their problems at work more than men do"), then that statement needs to first be assessed empirically as true or false before you can say that endorsement of it represents sexism. If women actually do tend to exaggerate problems at work more (a matter that is quite difficult to objectively determine because of what the term exaggerate means), then agreement with the statement just means you accurately perceive reality; not that you're a sexist.

    • Women have a quality of purity few men possess
    • Men should sacrifice to provide for women
    • Despite accomplishment, men are incomplete without women

    Again, I see no mention of women's competency, ability, intelligence, or someone's endorsement of strict gender roles. Saying that men ought to behave altruistically towards women in no way implies that women can't manage without men's help. When a man offers to pay for an anniversary dinner (a behavior which I have seen labeled sexist before), he is usually not doing so because he feels his partner is incapable of paying anymore than my helping a friend move suggests I view them as a helpless child. 

    Flickr/Andrew Magill
    "Our saving you from this fire implies you're unfit to hold public office"
    Source: Flickr/Andrew Magill


    The argument can, of course, be made that scores on the ASI are related to the things these researchers actually want to measure. Indeed, Glick & Fiske (1996) made that very argument: they report that the hostile sexism scores (controlling for the benevolent scores) did correlate with "Old Fashion Sexism" and "Attitudes towards Women" scores (rs = .43 and .60, respectively, bearing in mind that was almost 20 years ago and these attitudes are changing). However, the correlations between benevolent sexism scores and these sexist attitudes were effectively zero (rs = -.03 and .04, respectively). In other words, it appears that people endorse these statements for reasons that have nothing at all to do with whether they view women as weak, or stupid, or any other pejorative you might throw out there, and their responses may tell you nothing at all about their opinion concerning gender roles. If you want to know about those matters, then ask about them. In general, it's fine to speculate about what your results might mean—how they can best be interpreted—but an altogether easier path is to simply ask about such matters directly and reduce the need for pointless speculation.

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  • Exercising our Freedom and Intelligence: Part 9

    In his book, Societal Systems: Planning, Policy and Complexity, John Warfield (1976) -- motivated by our inability to resolve societal problems -- focused on developing methods to support our collective intelligence.  Although Warfield was writing 40 years ago, in 1976, his words resonate today, in 2016:

    “Examples of important societal problems abound – wars, crime, poverty, urban problems, regional problems, international problems, inflation, malnutrition, starvation, and disease. Experience shows how imperfectly we deal with these problems…Shortages impend in energy, food, water, affection, wilderness, knowledge, personal freedom, and wisdom. Excesses impend in pollution, population, crime, hatred, war, ignorance, and human suppression…Societal problems, being interlocked, challenge human ingenuity” (p. 1 – 3). 

    Facilitating collective intelligence is a subtle, fascinating, and incredibly challenging and rewarding activity.  Groups working to maximize their collective understanding and problem solving ability need a space where they are free to exercise their intelligence, and they also need sound methodologies to help them synthesize their knowledge and maximize the power of their collective intelligence.  I’ve worked with John Warfield’s methodology, Interactive Management, for the past seven years now. It's a very useful methodology for both basic and applied social science research and it has been central to work we have done on critical thinkingmusic listeningfacebook usage, technologydesign for literacy, technology design for democracy, national well-being measurement, and much more.  I’m currently writing a book, Facilitating Collective Intelligence, where I expand upon Warfield’s vision for applied social science. Freedom is central to my vision. 

    Warfield was a methods man and a consummate genius. He didn’t write about freedom, but I believe that freedom permeated his worldview.  Freedom is something we all value and I argue that it needs to be built into the social infrastructure that supports our collective intelligence.  Given the political nature of our societal problem solving activity, it’s important to develop a political philosophy that guides our work together.  I’m hugely impressed by the clarity and power of Philip Pettit’s political philosophy, which is fundamentally grounded in a unique perspective on freedom (Pettit, 2014).  While many people define freedom as the absence of interference – we are left alone to do as we please – Pettit proposes a much more subtle and reflective and relational model of freedom.  Pettit argues that, in their basic life choices free persons should not be subject to the power of others – they should not be subject to a power of interference on the part of others; they should not be dominated by others.  Politics isn’t about leaving people alone per se – at its best, it’s about working with people to make collective decisions.  But when we work with other people, we should not work to dominate them.  This principle offreedom as non-domination provides a simple, unifying standard for evaluating social and democratic progress, says Pettit. It also provides a basis for progressively redesigning our approach to political decision-making, and for analyzing the political decisions we make.  As noted by Pettit, freedom as non-domination, an ideal that was central to the Roman Republic, implies a free citizenry who enjoy equal status with one another, being individually protected by the law that they together control.  It is a powerful principle with implications for social, political, and international justice.  It is also a principle upon which to build an approach to applied social science that upholds social, political, and international justice. We can synthesize Pettit's philosophy and Warfield's method within an approach to applied science that helps us to collectively resolve societal problems.

    Freedom as non-domination is a principle that implies a specific approach to the practice of communication, meaning-making, and problem solving in a group.  As everyone in the group is empowered, and explicitly works to uphold the power of everyone else, their communication and interaction reflects this principle in a dynamic practice of engagement.  Indeed, outside of the specific rules, infrastructures, technologies, and artefacts of culture that we may design specifically with freedom as non-domination in mind, our everyday communication and interaction are the primary means through which we exercise our collective freedom as non-domination.  Communication in this context manifests in the form of a dialogue where everyone is equally empowered, not a series of monologues where people hold on to some modicum of power for a time before another person ‘takes to the stage’.  Indeed, in the monological tradition to communication and ‘group learning’, some people may never even make it onto the stage.  Genuine group learning requires that everyone is involved – everyone is on stage, much like a choir performing in unison. Unlike the long monologues of the scholars at academic conferences (and the often-humorous antipathy to questions and discussion after the long monologue); and unlike the long, berating monologue of the teacher in the classroom followed by an abrupt response to a student who has a question, enacting the principle of freedom as non-domination in a group problem solving session implies a dialogue, not a series of frustrated monologues and brief divisive discussions. 

    Michael Hogan
    Source: Michael Hogan

    Figure 1. Theoretical views on dialogue

    Carl Rogers emphasized that the interdependence of dialogic relationships also requires a unique concern for human feelings, human relationships, and human potential. Rogers developed a view consistent with the principle of freedom as non-domination: he emphasized the importance of empathy and careful listening, and cultivating a genuine trust in the wisdom of human beings. As noted by Broome (2009):

    “He encouraged stripping away facades and moving away from “oughts,” expectations of others, and attempts to please others. Rogers believed that a space could be opened for dialogue when relationships are characterized by a willingness to listen and to enter into a meaningful relationship with the other, genuineness in sharing feelings and ideas with the other, respect and regard for the other, and empathic understanding, which he viewed as entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming “at home” in it.” (p. 2).

    Building upon the principled stance of Buber and the empathic ground of Rogers, Gadamer noted that it is through language that understanding is built in dialogue.  Language and emerging understanding clearly manifest in a dialogue as a living, dynamic process that is open to continual development and change as people continue to engage with one another.  People come to a dialogue with unique prior knowledge, understanding and prejudices, and the context within which the group engages with one another is always unique.  Prejudice, or the various assumptions and biases of individual group members, comes to be recognized and understood as a feature of communication, which forms the basis for deeper understanding as a fusion of horizons develops between members of a group engaged in dialogue. Ultimately, says Gadamer, a “higher universality” emerges that overcomes the limited horizons of each participant. This is a view consistent with the principled methodological approach to collective intelligence developed by John Warfield, in the sense that, in a structured dialogue, thinking develops from the separate positions of individuals to a synthesis that combines individual views.

    This is consistent with the view of Bakhtin, who noted the need to balance any emerging dialogic synthesis and common understanding with the uniqueness of individual perspectives. This implies a certain tension in the fluid, open, dynamic dialogic interaction, where, as Broome (2009) notes:  “there is a dynamic interplay of expression and non-expression, certainty and uncertainty, conventionality and uniqueness, integration and separation…an emergent process in which the interplay of contradictory forces creates a constant state of unrest and instability, while also bringing moments of unity and synthesis.” (p. 3). John Warfield’s effort to develop a methodology and technology to support collective intelligence was designed to produce more than mere ‘moments’ of unity and synthesis – it was designed with the specific intention of producing a synthesis that makes concrete key aspects of the group’s collective intelligence in the form of graphical and linguistic products that showcase the synthesis of language and logic generated by a group during a structured dialogue.  At the same time, Warfield recognized that the process of developing these enduring, consensus-based products entails a dynamic process which requires careful facilitation of dialogue in the room. Consistent with Böhm’s view on dialogue, participants in a collective intelligence session need to be patient with the facilitator and with one another; they need to suspend judgement in relation to their own and others' beliefs and opinions, thus allowing a variety of perspectives to co-exist in tension, without premature attempts to resolve them or achieve a ‘quick synthesis’ at the expense of a fuller, deeper synthesis.  It is the fuller, deeper synthesis and more coherent understanding of a problematic situation that sustains the work of the group into the future. 

    Consistent with Paulo Freire, it is important to ground our ongoing collective intelligence work at a societal level with a solid foundation of dialogic education– we need to learn very early in life, and throughout our lifelong education, how to engage in dialogue and how to learn through dialogue.  We need to learn how to protect the dignity of learners, allowing for exploration of new ideas without fear of humiliation. We need to learn how to affirm others in this dialogic learning process, says Freire, and help to instill hope in the minds of an otherwise oppressed community.  Indeed, we remain oppressed to the extent that we inhibit dialogue and collective learning and rely instead on the authority of others and their monological wisdom.  As noted by Broome (2009, p. 3), in this view:

    “Dialogue is built on humility to learn from the other, guided by trust between communicators, and pushed forward by hope for liberation from oppression.”

    Dialogue, in this view, allows us both to challenge forms of domination that result in oppression and fashion together a new scenario for our future.  Dialogue is more than just idle chatter: it is a form of action that inspires change that helps to transform our world.  Of course, in order to transform our world for the better through dialogue, we need to perform well as a group.  As Warfield hoped for, our collective intelligence should inform effective collective action, whatever this means for the group in context of their local problematic situation.  It can help to gain some perspective on this issue by examining some of the recent empirical literature on key aspects of effective collective intelligence and how dialogue, in its fullest sense, might help to support these outcomes.

    Beyond ‘the talk’ of dialogue – searching the deeper aspects of collective intelligence

    In a recent paper, Wegerif and colleagues (2016) highlight a number of interesting theoretical and empirical issues in relation to dialogue and collective intelligence.

    First, we can happily report that Paulo Freire’s call for more dialogue in educational practice has not fallen on deaf ears, and many studies have investigated the effects of classroom dialogue on educational outcomes (Howe and Abedin, 2013).  However, many of these studies begin by proposing a model of good dialogue and then they work to assess the impact of their educational intervention on key measurable aspects of this model. Wegerif and colleagues draw our attention to many different models of ‘effective talk’ for group thinking, including: Accountable Talk (Michaels, O'Connor, & Resnick, 2008), Exploratory Talk (Mercer & Littleton, 2007), Progressive Enquiry (Muukkonen, Lakkala, & Hakkarainen, 2009), Quality Talk (Davies & Meissel, 2016) and Collaborative Reasoning (Resnick & Schantz, 2015).  These models assume a priori that certain features of group talk are more ‘effective’ than other features. But there is a major problem with intervention studies that exclusively use outcome measures derived from these models – specifically, unless one measures group-level performance outcomes, there is no way to know if any increase in ‘effective talk’ is related to an increase in group performance or the overall efficacy of group thinking.  It’s not enough to say there was ‘more effective talk’ observed in the classroom – one needs to evaluate the group-level product of this talk.  One needs a measure of overall group performance in these studies if one is to assess any proposed link between effective talk and group performance outcomes.  Similarly, while dialogue and a push for quality talk in the classroom may have positive effects of individual learner outcomes, as indicated in a recent meta-analysis (Davies and Meissel, 2016), these studies say nothing about the impact of dialogue on collective or group-level thinking and performance outcomes.  Collective intelligence and group-level thinking outcomes are a unique product of group work. If one is focused on enhancing these collective outcomes a specific lens of enquiry and unique group-level performance measures are needed.

    At the same time, Wegerif and colleagues remind us of an earlier classroom study they conducted (Wegerif, Mercer, and Dawes, 1999), where two split-half versions of Raven's non-verbal reasoning matrices were created – one for a group to work on and another for individuals to work on, independent of other students in the class. They found that, compared to a control group who received their usual classroom instruction, an intervention group who were supported to engage in Exploratory Talk showed improvements not only in their individual test performance on Raven's non-verbal reasoning test, but also on their group-level performance when working with others to solve the puzzles.  These findings suggested that instruction in a specific form of dialogue, Exploratory Talk, may enhance group-level performance in addition to individual student achievement, but the study did not allow for a deeper analysis of the mechanisms through which this intervention worked to enhance performance.  Aspects of the intervention other than the exploratory talk itself may have been instrumental in enhancing performance.

    In an effort to examine some key predictors of group-level collective intelligence performance, Woolley and colleagues (2010) made use of a similar individual and group-level Raven's non-verbal reasoning matrices test, along with other individual and group-level tasks, to examine variation and predictors of group level performance in particular.  Factor analysis indicated that group-level performance across multiple tasks was identifiable as a unique factor or construct which could not be predicted in any simple way by the individual-level performance of group members.  Woolley and colleagues called this factor ‘c’, or collective intelligence, and they found that, much like the individual ability of group members was not a good predictor of ‘c’, measures of motivation, group cohesion, and satisfaction did not predict ‘c’.  But three measures the research team had available to them did predict group-level performance: more equal distribution of turn-taking when talking, the presence of women, and the individual ability of group members to infer emotions from photographs of eyes in the reading the mind in the eyes (RME) test.  Further analysis revealed that the positive impact on group-level performance of having more women in groups was largely explained by the fact that women also scored higher on the RME test.  Indeed, a more recent study by the same team found that higher RME test performance of individual group members predicts higher group-level performance in online tasks, even though group members were not interacting face to face in the onlineenvironment (Engel et al., 2015). This is interesting, as it suggests that the ability to infer the underlying emotions and intentions of fellow group members is critical for good group-level performance.

    However, Wegerif and colleagues (2016) note that the approach to the analysis of collective intelligence adopted by Woolley and colleagues does not measure the process of dialogue or the nature and quality of group thinking leading to variation in collective intelligence outcomes.  In order to do this, one needs to video record group interactions and code key aspects of those interactions – both verbal and non-verbal.  This is what Wegerif and colleagues did.  Using a similar non-verbal matrix reasoning test, Wegerif and colleagues developed separate individual and group-level tests matched on difficulty.  By comparing group- and individual-level performance profiles, Wegerif and colleagues were able to identify three types of groups: (1) Value Added Groups (i.e., groups that score over one standard deviation more than the highest score of any of the individuals in the group, (2) Value Detracting Groups (i.e., groups that score more than one standard deviation lower than the highest individual performer within the group, and (3) Value Neutral Groups(i.e., groups that score within one standard deviation of the score of the highest individual performer within the group).  Careful analysis of the video recordings, one matrix puzzle at a time, revealed a range of behaviors that characterized successful problem solving and key features of Value Added Groups more generally.  More successful groups engaged in the following behaviors (Wegerif et al., 2016, p. 8):

    • Encouraging each other, for example responding to suggestions with ‘could be … ’
    • Expressions of humility, for example ‘I do not understand this.’
    • Giving clear elaborated explanations, for example ‘the triangle here is removed and here it turns around by 90_’
    • Equal participation with everyone in the group actively involved in each problem.
    • Actively seeking agreement from others, for example by asking ‘do you agree?’
    • Not moving on until it is clear that all in the group understand for example asking ‘I do not understand it, can you explain again?’
    • Open questions, for example ‘can anyone see a pattern here?’ and ‘what do you think?’
    • Warm positive affect with shared smiles and laughter.
    • Willingness to express intuitions, for example, ‘I am not sure but I have a feeling it is that one’
    • Indications of mutual respect in tone and responses.
    • Taking time over solving problems seen in accepting pauses and giving elaborated explanations when asked. 

    Wegerif and colleagues note that, while many of these behaviors feature in existing models of effective talk noted above, linking these behaviors specifically to better group-level performance is innovative and requires further research.  Notably, a number of the behaviors linked to successful group performance including the use of humor and efforts to express intuitions in the absence of supporting reasoning do not feature strongly in many models of effective talk and thus warrant further theoretical and empirical consideration.

    Returning to Warfield’s collective intelligence method, a key outcome of which is a systems model describing a specific issue (see example here), one can immediately see that the nature of the collective intelligence product that Warfield was interested in is very different from the nature of the collective intelligence product both Wegerif and colleagues and Woolley and colleagues are interested in.  However, the same lens of enquiry advocated by Wegerif and colleagues can be applied to Warfield’s method, in the sense that we can examine the impact of key group processes and key group behaviors on overall group performance.  Although the criteria for measuring group performance may be different when we compare the solving of puzzles with the construction of systems models, criteria can be established that are useful for groups to reflect upon.  I will examine some of these criteria in a future blog post.  My closing point for now is a simple one: while key aspects of effective dialogue may indeed support both individual and group-level learning and performance outcomes, the way in which we support and facilitate dialogue needs to cohere with, sustain, and enhance the specific type of collective intelligence outcome we are aiming for.  There are many different types of collective intelligence outcome we might aim for, and we need to know what we are aiming for, why we are aiming for it, and how best to support groups with specific aims.  Facilitating collective intelligence is a subtle and naturally fascinating field of activity.  I believe we are on the cusp of some radical breakthroughs in our understanding and application of collective intelligence. Warfield would no doubt be proud of our progress.

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  • Showing the World Her Wabi-Sabi Humanizes Hillary Clinton

    On September 11, 2016, Hillary Clinton had a medical incident at a Ground Zero memorial and needed to leave unexpectedly early. It was an unseasonably hot and humid day in Manhattan. As the Associated Press reported, "The Democratic presidential candidate abruptly left Sunday's event after feeling 'overheated.' A video later posted on Twitter showed her staggering and eventually slumping forward before being held up by three people as she was helped into a van."

    In an interview with Anderson Cooper the following day, when asked whether she fainted, Clinton replied: "No, I didn't. I felt dizzy and I did lose my balance for a minute. But I got in, once I could sit down, once I could cool off, once I got some water, I immediately started feeling better." Clinton went on to explain the situation to Cooper saying, "What happened yesterday was that I just was incredibly committed to being at the memorial—as a senator on 9/11, this is incredibly personal to me . . . I just didn't think it was going to be that big a deal," speaking of the pneumonia diagnosis she had received last Friday. Clinton told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" that despite doctor's orders to rest for five days, she thought she could "just keep going forward and power through it and that didn't work out so well."  

    As an ultra-endurance athlete who has run the Badwater ultra-marathon 135-mile nonstop run through Death Valley in July three times, I can relate to the impact of dehydration and the ability to bounce back once you've cooled off and had some water. Every time I compete in that race, I have some type of meltdown that, to onlookers, would appear very similar to images of Clinton stumbling to get into that van. 

    Courtesy of Kiehl's Since 1851, used with permission
    Christopher Bergland ascending out of Death Valley on foot during the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon after suffering heat exhaustion miles earlier. 
    Source: Courtesy of Kiehl's Since 1851, used with permission

    On one occasion, "60 Minutes" was following the race and had their cameras rolling a few feet away from me as my legs turned into the "Rubberband Man." I looked as if I was suffering from a neurological disorder as I wobbled along the pavement—which was hot enough to fry an egg on—but I bounced back a few miles later.

    Another year, ESPN was following me every inch of the way along the Badwater course. Overcome by heat exhaustion, at one point, I had to be pulled from the course for a few minutes and put in a white air-conditioned van to recuperate. I had ice packs laid all over my body and drank electrolyte fluids until I was ready to re-emerge and run one more marathon to reach the finish line. I describe this incident on p. 32 of The Athlete's Way,

    "Regardless of a few extra degrees of mercury inside a thermometer, Death Valley in July is always hot. It is a grueling climate and terrain. It is called "the world's toughest footrace" for good reason. 

    I went into the race fearlessly the first year, but got slam-dunked with heat stroke and kidney stuff at about mile 110. I found myself a greenish-blue shade of pale in the back of a white van—shaking, puking, shitting myself—with sheets held up by my sisters to block the ESPN camera. [I was] ice cold in Owens Valley—Rigormortus Rex and looking like a cadaver with twenty-six miles to go. 

    Somehow, with the help of my support crew, I pulled it together and basically crawled up Mount Whitney like a "little ole ant" on bloody elbows and skinned knees, humming "High Hopes" by Frank Sinatra. Because no matter what, even when you feel meek and weak, you hold it together, you get up the mountain, you reach the finish line, because that is the human way; that is the athlete's way."

    The paradoxical lessons I learned about the fragility and resilience of the human condition—by finding myself so close to complete and utter collapse, yet, prevailing with the help of others—are the most valuable lessons I learned as an endurance athlete. 

    Prior to having my ass kicked in Badwater, I thought I was invincible as an athlete. I never let anyone see the chinks in my armor. This created an emotional disconnection between myself and any onlookers who didn't really know me. This metaphor is applicable to my life, too.

    As a closeted gay teenager, I learned through sports training how to create an impenetrable place inside myself that was always safe. This inner sanctuary was surrounded by Kevlar coated one-way glass—I could see out, and I could feel all the emotions inside. But nothing could touch me or hurt me when I was inside this asylum—unless I decided to let it in. Yes, the homophobic haters who surrounded me were deflected. But, unfortunately, very few outsiders could penetrate this fortress, either.

    From years of being bullied in high school, I created a psychological armor that was like a house of mirrors meticulously designed to keep people from seeing who I really was. I took this shield of privacy with me to the battlefield of ultra-endurance athletics around the world. Eventually, I cracked. This ended up being a blessing in disguise. As Leonard Cohen once said, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." 

    Based on my intimate and very public meltdowns as an athlete, I empathized deeply watching Clinton lose her footing as she struggled to climb into that black van at Ground Zero. Personally, I was humiliated and full of shame watching myself on CBS' "60 Minutes" having a complete meltdown in the limelight of national TV. 

    Because of this experience, I could easily put myself in Clinton's shoes. I've been there myself. I know how it feels to publicly struggle with heat exhaustion when you've repeatedly pushed the 'override button' and run your body into the ground. Regardless of your politics, I'm sure anyone watching Clinton suffer a momentary physical meltdown publicly felt a similar type of empathy for her on a universal human level. 

    In listening to her interview with Anderson Cooper last night, I realized two things about Hillary Clinton. First, she has the athletic mindset of determination and resilience to "power through" that rivals anyone I've ever competed against in an ultra-endurance marathon. Second, admitting that she is human and needed to take a couple days off to recuperate revealed a vulnerability and "wabi-sabi" that made her seem more human to me than ever before.

    What Is Wabi-Sabi? 

    In Japanese culture, there's a concept called wabi-sabi, which represents an aesthetic and mindset based on embracing imperfection or flaws. Wabi-sabi can serve as a reminder to us that nonconformity and irregularity are actually more relatable on a human level than styrofoam, cookie-cutter perfection. The roots of wabi-sabi can be traced to the core tenets of Buddhist teachings.

    In the past month, I've written a few Psychology Today blogs about the power of "wabi-sabi." These posts were initially inspired by the juxtaposition between USA Teamswimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte's ability to make themselves emotionally vulnerable in the public eye. 

    The words wabi and sabi are difficult to translate. That said, the connotations of wabi can be described as quirks, glitches, and anomalies that add uniqueness to something or someone. Sabi could be seen as the beauty of an individual or object that is embellished with a unique patina that comes with age. In a person, it reflects how a myriad of diverse life experiences have shaped the 'fingerprints' of your psyche and gestalt.

    love the idea of wabi-sabi as a way to take away the power of shame to make you feel "less than." You can proclaim your wabi-sabi by consciously making yourself vulnerable through the act of publicly acknowledging specific traits that could be viewed as imperfections—or genuinely expressing remorse for a specific behavior you regret.

    I have a hunch that when the dust settles from all the hysteria surrounding Clinton being diagnosed with pneumonia, that there will be a powerful silver lining to this debacle which is that the public got to see a vulnerable side of Hillary Clinton that humanizes her. 

    As I mentioned in my Psychology Today blog post, "Proclaiming Your Wabi-Sabi Is a Cathartic Antidote for Shame," I believe that having the courage to admit your imperfections and that you are sometimes weak publicly is the key to letting the world see your true human nature. This observation is not empirically based, but founded on my life experience. I've found that whenever I expose the chinks in my armor and make myself vulnerable to the outside world, instead of being shunned, I am made to feel more worthy of love and belonging. 

    Conclusion: Acknowledging Your Wabi-Sabi Makes You Seem More Human and Relatable

    Historically, as a fundamental aspect of Zen Buddhism, embracing imperfection was honored as a tantamount first step to satori, or enlightenment. The concept of satori refers to the enlightening experience of kenshō, which implies "seeing into one's true nature or essence." According to D. T. Suzuki, satori is, in many ways, the lifeblood of Zen Buddhism. Over the centuries, the concept of wabi-sabi has evolved to become more playful, lighthearted, and relatable to everyday life. 

    You don't have to be a Zen Buddhist living in a monastery to embrace the power of wabi-sabi. For example, in recent months I've made a conscious effort to tap into the essence of my self-nature by exposing my personal struggles with substance abuse and mentalhealth. The outpouring of loving kindness I've received from complete strangers has been overwhelmingly positive.

    Interestingly, the older I get, the more I realize that maintaining equanimity and not holding a grudge against myself (or others) for being less than perfect is of paramount importance. The term wabi-sabi can serve as quick shorthand to remind us all of the lessons Brené Brown speaks of in her TED lecture on The Power of Vulnerability. Living wholeheartedly and letting the world see who you are (warts and all) is the key to nurturing feelings of love and belonging.

    Hopefully, looking at Hillary Clinton's bout with pneumonia through the lens of the athletic mindset and wabi-sabi offers a fresh perspective. You don't have to be an ultra-endurance athlete or presidential candidate struggling with a bacterial infection to benefit from acknowledging the catharsis that comes from admitting you are human and have chinks in your armor.

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