Positivity. Purpose gives us access to optimism and hope. It gives us resistance to states of psychological discord such as depression, anxiety, boredom and frustration. It’s usually when we lose our sense of purpose that we become vulnerable to psychological discord. For example, in my view there’s a strong connection between addiction and loss of purpose. In fact, in a strange way addiction can be seen as an attempt to regain a basic sense of purpose when no other is available. The purpose becomes to supply yourself with the substance you’re addicted to. … [Read more...] about A Sense of Purpose Means a Longer Life
Another type of purpose which emerges when we move beyond an egoic orientation is self-expansion, or self-development. (Abraham Maslow referred to this as ‘self-actualisation.’) This is distinct from accumulation in that it’s not about adding wealth or status to yourself, but about uncovering and expressing your potential, and deepening and expanding yourself. For many people, this happens through creativity, or through hobbies and experiences which challenge them and help them to grow. This could include intellectual growth, based on curiosity and a desire to understand the world. It could also refer to spiritual growth. A person who is mainly oriented around a ‘self-expansive’ purpose may undergo therapy to try to overcome obstacles to their development, or meditate regularly in order to try to facilitate a shift in awareness. They may have an impulse to expand or intensify their consciousness, by following a spiritual path such as Buddhism or Yoga. … [Read more...] about Transpersonal Purpose
There are many problems with the attempt to ‘reduce’ our sense of self to brain activity. This is related to the ‘hard problem’ of how the brain might give rise to conscious expeirence. The brain is just a soggy clump of grey matter - how could that soggy mass possibly give rise to the richness and depth of consciousness? To think that it could is a ‘category error’ - the brain and consciousness are distinct phenomena, which can’t be explained in terms of each other. And on a more practical basis, after decades of intensive research and theorisising, no-one has yet put forward an even slightly feasible explanation of how the brain might produce consciousness. The ‘hard problem’ seems completely insurmountable. … [Read more...] about Does Your Self Exist?
Cultural images of a range of mothers and mothering abound. Consider the haranguing critical mother-in-the-sky in “Oedipus Wrecks,” Woody Allen’s segment of the film New York Stories. A female deity with tight curls and a kvetching voice, Sadie Millstein is the intrusive and unescapable mother from Hell, a Medea in her own right. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the all-good mothers, Margaret March, “Marmee,” in Little Women, or the self-sacrificing mother in Fanny Hurst’s novel Imitation of Life. Dickens gives us the negligent Mrs. Copperfield and Mrs. Jellby in Bleak House. Jane Austen’s Mrs. Bennet is a loving mother but a social climbing fool. As we age, witches and hags, fairy godmothers and cuddling mamas tramp through our dreams. … [Read more...] about Our Mothers, Ourselves: the Search for the Whole Story