Tag Archives: Feelings

Choosing Electric Shocks Over Silent Contemplation

Hell, it turns out, isn’t other people.

According to some recent research, published in well-respected journal Science, a whole bunch of people would rather suffer through a self-administered electric shock than spend a measly fifteen minutes sitting quietly alone in a room by themselves with nothing to do.

As hard as it is to believe, yes, I’m completely serious here. I’m not sure I even could make up something as wacky as this.

 ouch2The authors found that “simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 min was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”

Would it, no pun intended, shock you to learn that of those those choosing shock over self reflection, there were many more men than women? If so, maybe you dudes should try and pay a bit more attention to what’s going on around you.

I mean, it’s long been a joke popular with the less-refined comedians that men have the sensitivity and feelings of a particularly large and dense specimen of rock. But still. . .

What are these people so afraid of? Is it being alone with their own thoughts? Possibly being disconnected from their auxiliary brains (or, as most folks know them, smartphones) for a while? Having no one else there to break the silence?

Considering that it was the entire purpose of this paper, the authors of said work do have a few opinions on the subject. (Okay, sure. It sometimes seems as if some of these papers are published merely so we’ll have someone new at whom to point and laugh, but definitely not in this case.)

“Research has shown that minds are difficult to control…and it may be particularly hard to steer our thoughts in pleasant directions and keep them there. This may be why many people seek to gain better control of their thoughts with meditation and other techniques, with clear benefits. Without such training, people prefer doing to thinking, even if what they are doing is so unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it. The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself.”

So, in essence, what the study authors are saying is that people are so desperate to avoid thinking unhappy thoughts that they would rather subject themselves to electricity shooting painfully through their bodies.

If I can’t be constantly happy and thinking continuous happy thoughts, I’d rather be in pain.

That’s just. . . I mean, dudes. That’s crazy, right?

I can’t be the only one who thinks these people are in desperate need of a psychiatric intervention, can I?

Now, I know — KNOW — I’m not the most psychologically stable person around, dudes, but even I would have no problem sitting alone in a white room for a quarter of an hour. I mean, if all else fails, I’d probably just fall asleep.

Fifteen minutes? Sure. No problem. It’s when we begin to talk longer periods of time in solitary confinement that things start to get more than a little scary.

It makes me wonder if these people have ever managed to mature out of childhood, when a time out was one of the worst punishments that could be inflicted on a little dude.

You don’t have to love yourself (although you should), but at least learn to tolerate yourself.

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Happiness Matters To You

If you want to live a better life, then you need to know that happiness matters to you.

Think about it: When you’re happy, you treat others better. Which makes them happy, which makes them treat others better. Etc. etc. etc. etc.

And, yet, how much work do we actually put in on making ourselves happy? Not a whole lot, I’ll tell you. In some instances, it’s like folks think they should suffer, because suffering is good for them. While pleasure and feeling happy is bad. I don’t understand those people.

Henry S. Miller, an author and motivational speaker, is a dude I think I’m starting to understand. He’s been a guest here before and talked about happiness then as well. This time around he’s going to discuss just why, exactly, happiness matters to you dudes.

Although some would have you think otherwise, the uniquely human pursuit of happiness is not merely some frivolous idle-time activity for the fortunate few. Far from it. Instead, it is a serious pursuit—a duty and responsibility for each of us.

 As the progress—or lack thereof—of human evolution has demonstrated, being in a positive, optimistic, and happy frame of mind seems to be what allows some humans to be more successful than others in obtaining life’s essentials: food, shelter, social support, even a mate. So it has always been and so it continues today. And if you still doubt the seriousness of pursuing a happier life, consider your loved ones. Fulfilling the duty of being happy benefits not just yourself but also those closest to you.

 The Benefits

Most of the benefits of living a happier life are familiar, yet they are powerful and seemingly endless—and they far outweigh the costs and work needed to achieve this state. Nonetheless, many in our societies often try to diminish the idea of simple, lasting happiness, instead extolling the thrill of peak pleasures and magnificent accomplishments. As a rejoinder to them and a reminder to us all, here is a consensus of what researchers around the world have proven to result from simply being happy, especially when compared to unhappy, sad or depressed people:

 • Success. Overall, happiness matters because happy people are more successful across multiple major domains of life including work, social relationships, income, and health. In addition, the relationship between happiness and success seems to be reciprocal: not only can individual success—whether in love or at work—contribute to feelings of happiness, but happiness also results in more success. In this way, happiness becomes an even more worthwhile pursuit, both as a desirable end in and of itself and as a means to achieve other significant life goals.

 • Personally. Happy people more frequently exhibit characteristics such as being strikingly energetic, decisive, and flexible. They are more creative, more helpful to those in need, more self-confident, more forgiving, more charitable, more sociable, and more loving. Compared to unhappy people, happier people are more trusting, more loving, and more responsive. They have greater self-control, can tolerate frustration better, are less likely to be abusive, are more lenient, and demonstrate enhanced coping skills.

 • Socially. Happy people have more friends, richer social interactions, Henry S. Miller wrote The Serious Pursuit of Happiness and he's given A Dude's Guide to . . . Everything a not-even-close-to-exclusive excerpt from the book.correspondingly stronger social support, and experience longer and more satisfying marriages.

[Excerpted from the book The Serious Pursuit of Happiness: Everything You Need to Know to Flourish and Thrive]

Yep, that little ol’ note up there means it’s time for us to close up shop for the week. We’ll be back on Sunday with a little fun and video and then on Monday, April 18, we’ll have the second half of the guest post from the happiness matters dude.

 Henry S. Miller knows happiness matters. He is the author of The Serious Pursuit of Happiness:  Everything You Need to Know to Flourish and Thrive and Inspiration for the Pursuit of Happiness:  Wisdom to Guide your Journey to a Better Life. He is also the creator of the online membership program Get SERIOUS About Your Happiness:  20 Transformational Tools for Turbulent Times. As President of The Henry Miller Group (www.millergroup.com), he is a speaker, trainer, and consultant helping organizations improve engagement, performance, and productivity specifically by increasing employee well being.

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I Feel Your Pain. . .

I feel your pain. . . but I just don’t care.

Empathy is great. However, on its own, it’s worthless. Feeling someone’s pain as if it were yours does absolutely no one any good if you don’t engage the second, most important, part of empathy.

You must act on your empathic feelings.

Consider this situation:

A young boy near you in the park falls down, skins his knee and starts Empathy is feeling the pain of others as you feel your own, but an often overlooked aspect to empathy, is the ability and choice to act on that empathy and ameliorate the pain others are feeling.screaming and crying and holding his knee. You see this and your knee flashes in empathic pain as you relive similar incidents in your own life.

So, we’re all in agreement that the above constitutes empathy, yeah. What happens next?

You shrug and go back to reading your Kindle. Or, seeing that no one has come to the little girl’s aid, you look around and spot the girl’s mother, who is deeply involved with changing another child’s diaper. You let the mom know that her child is in pain and then offer to help.

Which reaction actually does anyone any good? Well, I suppose the first one could do you some good if it’s a really good book you’re reading, but that’s not really what I’m getting at here.

Realizing someone is in pain and choosing to do nothing about it is, to me, even crueler than not even recognizing the pain in the first place.

What you’re saying is that the pain of other people doesn’t matter to you. And we’re back at questioning whether other people really, truly exist as anything other than NPCs wandering through your staged life.

They do exist. I exist. You exist. I’m not so sure about Rush Limbaugh**, but you get the point.

When you feel pain, when you’re in pain, you don’t simply sit there and let the pain continue. You actively do something to ameliorate your pain, whether that be talking with someone about your bad breakup or removing your hand from the natural gas flame on the stove.

You do something.

Because your parents did their job right, you also possess empathy and feel the pain of others as if it were your own. Since you understand/feel their pain, to consider yourself fully human, I think if your actions can make an impact* on the situation, you must actively do something to end the pain they feel.

Once little dudes and dudettes understand that other people really, truly exist and deserve consideration, they really do internalize the empathy. They begin to live it out. When they see another little kid in pain, they’ll walk over and (as the above picture shows) put an arm around the kid and show support.

It’s only as we grow older that we begin to regress in how we deal with empathy. We begin to ration our empathic responses. We begin to categorize the pain of others as worth less than our own.

Is that really what we want to do? Is that really the legacy we want to pass down to our kids?

Footnotes & Errata

* Note the use of impact as a noun. Because it is a noun. Impact is not a verb. You can make an impact, but you cannot impact something. And don’t even get me started on the abomination that is *shudder* impactful.
** Because no one could really believe what he says and act like he does. I’m almost certain he’s a performance artist doing a long-term installation.

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