When Technological Progress Stirs Up Anxiety

Technology and Anxiety

In many sci-fi movies and novels, human beings create technology in the hopes of simplifying and enriching their lives and instead it ends up ruling them. The “man subsumed by the machine” motif has been appeared in Star Wars, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, Frank Herbert’s Dune and many other places. Such stories speak to the underlying anxiety that we can feel when reflecting upon our own inventions. Can we learn to trust all this technology that we’re so often reliant upon?

Nowadays many people strongly depend upon things like search engines, social networking technology, digital publishing and so many other marvels of the computer age even though they may not actually understand how such things work. They may not even grasp the basic principles behind many of them.

Some apt statements about the psychological and spiritual ramifications of technology were made by the late great mythologist Joseph Campbell. Campbell pointed out that our culture’s technological progress has outstripped our ability to cope with it on a feeling level. We place our fate in technology’s hands, but do we really understand the bargain we’ve made? Do we know where technology is leading us? Can we sense how it might possibly be changing us?

Getting to the bottom of any form of anxiety typically involves finding and examining the beliefs that may be fueling it. This approach can also work for addressing “techie anxiety”. Here’s a few of the underlying realities that can make people feel uneasy about progress in the modern day:

  • History has taught us to question the motives of those who invent and manufacture technology. An obvious example of this is the phenomenon of splitting the atom, which led to one of the greatest horrors of the modern world: Nuclear weapons.
  • It is easy to blame technology for the rapine of the natural world. Of course, the real issue is our own personal choices, and the uses to which we put our technological knowledge. But we need only look at our litany of modern ecological ills to see the devastation that “progress” can wreak.
  • It all seems to be developing too fast and we feel unable to keep up with it. It’s been estimated that technological progress is occurring 20,000 times faster now than it did in 1900.

The idea that we are ruled by our environment – whether it’s natural or machine-made – is actually a myth. The technology that dominates our culture is merely a reflection of our values, our beliefs and even our fears. It serves as a mirror for us. If we treat it as such, we do not need to feel that it dominates us. It can remain a tool to be used, not to be used by.

Understanding Your Personality Type

Personality Types

Many schools of modern psychology have recognized four basic personality types, with various sub-groupings being comprised of mixtures of these basic traits. The main four are like the “primary colors” of the social palette. Although people can oftentimes find labels confining, an understanding of these basic personality types – and their distinctive approaches to life – may help you to understand how you see yourself and others, as well as your place in relation to the world.

The idea of personality types is not a modern concept. The ancient Greeks, for example, recognized that humanity’s approach to life and problem solving tended to fall within four key categories, and this idea may have originated even earlier. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung made an extensive study of personality types, and many of his deductions have survived into modern psychological practice.

While labels can oftentimes be restrictive – and fail to honor the uniqueness of each person – some understanding of the basic personality types can help you to interact with others and make decisions with a greater degree of self-awareness. While most of us will share in the qualities of each group to some degree, you may find yourself resonating strongly with one in particular as you read its description. You could think of this as your primary stance in life, the way in which you see yourself in relation to the world.

Choleric people are drivers and doers. This type is the prototypical extravert. People in this category tend to be driven, organized and disciplined in the pursuit of their goals. Decisiveness is the dominant fact of their nature, and they back this up with a strong will. The shadow aspect of their will can express itself as stubbornness, arrogance and lack of consideration for the perceptions and feelings of others.

Sanguine (also known as expressive) people are filled with spontaneous, creative energy. This type makes for a good entertainer as well as a fun and energetic friend. The shadow side of the sanguine can be very self-centered, caught up in its own world. This can express itself in an overall lack of organization, and the inability – or unwillingness – to reciprocate in personal relationships.

Phlegmatic (also known as amiable) people are peacekeepers. They dislike conflict and strive to promote harmony. They tend to be good listeners. Amiable people can be counted on; they consistently pull through even when the going gets tough. On the downside, they may have problems communicating or setting limits because they’re so averse to confrontation. They may avoid certain responsibilities – particularly those involving decision making – for this reason.

Analytical people are neat and organized. They live their lives according to high personal standards. Their approach to life’s various challenges is typically persistent and thorough, and it proceeds according to a well thought out plan. They are good problem solvers for this reason. On the downside, the analytical tendency towards high standards can become overly rigid and demanding. Such people can become pessimistic or easily hurt when the world doesn’t live up to their expectations. The original word for this personality type was melancholy, but this is not so often used nowadays because of people’s tendency to associate that word with despondency.     

Understanding which personality type you resonate with most strongly can help you to interpret your interactions with other people better. It helps you to perceive the various conflicts in life as less a matter of right or wrong and more a matter of people’s different values. This awareness can serve you well when making major life decisions – for example, those involving career choices or the pursuit of an intimate partnership.

Wanna find out what your personality type is? Take a free, confidential assessment here. Once you’re done, let me know if the results align with what you perceive as your personality. I’m especially interested in hearing about anything you might disagree with or results that you find surprising.

Witch Persecutions and the Perils of Shadow Projection

Image Credit: Hjoranna/Deviant Art

Image Credit: Hjoranna/Deviant Art

The history of our race is highlighted by many bright peaks and shadowy valleys. We have seen lofty heights and despairing lows. Occasionally there have been black gulfs almost too horrible to contemplate. The Holocaust in Nazi Germany is assured a permanent place on this list. Another black splotch upon the tapestry of human history is the rampant and mindless persecution of alleged witches, which cast its cruel shadow over many parts of Europe and the New World over a span of nearly three centuries (roughly 1450 to 1750). Oh, and let’s not forget 2013Read More →

The History and Basic Principles of Archetypal Psychology

Archetypal Psychology

The basic philosophy behind archetypal psychology was inspired by Carl Jung’s concept of the archetypes: Primordial symbols, appearing predominantly within our dreams, which are the common heritage of all mankind. The concept of archetypes implies that there are sources of health, healing, strength and wisdom within the psyche that are accessible to all of us. Archetypal psychology seeks to open up connections to this deeper source, believing that the true cures for a wide array of mental and emotional problems can be found there. Read More →

Beliefs and Questions About the Paranormal

Heaven

While people of different beliefs from all over the world believe in an afterlife, many of them can’t seem to agree with each other or accept views other than their own. Yet, men have talked about the supernatural since the beginning of time. Recently, authors like Bill Guggenheim, Dr. Raymond Moody, and Dr. Eben Alexander have written books that explore the existence of the consciousness after death. Read More →

Mind Over Evolution: An Alternative Vision of Humanity

consciousness

Part of the reason why fierce debates rage around the origins of man – in the conflicts between Creationism and Darwinism that we see within many schools, for example – is because our beliefs about where we came from can strongly influence our sense of identity and our feelings of self-worth. It’s impossible to separate our self-image from our life philosophies in that regard. The stories we cling to will paint our inner pictures of who we are, where we come from and what our race can achieve.

Unfortunately, the stories that we’ve inherited in our culture paint a fairly unflattering picture that does little to inspire us to discover and express our true potential in this world.

Science spins its own version of reality. If you believe that the sky is blue because of the chemical composition of the gases that exist up there, and the way that light refracts off of them, then that’s all you’ll ever see. You won’t perceive the unfathomable mystery of it all. What is the true nature of light, or gases, or the color blue? Questions like these are beyond our ken. The theory of evolution teaches us that it’s useless to ask such questions anyhow, though. This theory, which forms the backbone of so much scientific thought and of our very definitions of humanity, maintains that matter came first and consciousness emerged later – almost as an afterthought; and certainly by accident.

consciousness (1)What if the mind formed matter? What if consciousness preceded everything else, and created form? Our scientific indoctrination has convinced us that reality works the other way around, but we’ve been offered little actual proof of this. What is obvious, however, is that the belief that consciousness always comes first would do much more to uphold the beauty, grace and potential of our natures than does the belief that our existence was the random result of accidental evolution.

We would do well to adopt stories that inspire us and offer us a new vision of what humanity can aspire to. When trying to grasp the nature of our reality as human beings, and drawing upon the resources that civilization offers us, we’ve thus far been essentially left with a choice between atonement (the predominant religious thinking of the West), accepting that the world we exist in is illusory (the predominant religious thinking of the East), or the theory of evolution. Typically, we are never taught or encouraged to believe that we are, ourselves, divine.

None of the arguments that uphold a notion of a barren and sterile universe can hold water. Most children know better than to believe in those wet-blanket descriptions of reality. Sadly, though, they eventually learn to accept them. How could they not, when our cultural beliefs make their survival virtually dependent upon it?

Love has to come from somewhere. But within the world’s established religions, love always has its conditions; and within the world of science, love can be explained away in terms of neurological transmissions and chemical interactions. It seems that our race, by and large, is willing to accept practically any belief except for one that maintains that what we are is something miraculous.

Most scientists or religious scholars would dispute that we are miraculous, by virtue of being conscious beings. Could it be that consciousness came first; that we did not become humans by accident? What if consciousness created our world in order to express all that it is, and to become better acquainted with itself? If this is true, how might it change the idea that consciousness will arise in machines once we’ve reverse-engineered the brain?

The Joys that Dogs Can Bring to Our Lives

A strong and unspoken bond has existed between human beings and dogs for centuries. Even prehistoric man considered dogs to be ideal companions, a fact that is attested by numerous cave paintings and ancient remains. What is it about these animals that brings comfort to our hearts and spontaneous fun into our lives? No doubt there are many factors that contribute to our enduring relationship with them, but most of them are connected with the way that dogs, if treated with love, will reflect that love back to us unconditionally.

The bonds that we form with our canine friends can connect us to a whole world of experience that we otherwise might miss out on in our fast-paced and highly technological society. When a dog stops along a woodland path to investigate a scent or sound, then our attention is drawn there as well. Such experiences bring us in touch with the movements and rhythms of nature, which otherwise can escape our notice in our daily lives. Dogs bring a piece of the wilderness into our homes, and remind us of where we came from.

In effect, they bring nature back into our lives. Their response in the moment is immediate, complete and uninhibited – regardless of the situation. They aren’t burdened with the kind of self-consciousness and reflection that can sap so much of the energy and joy out of our lives. Spending time with dogs, we can begin to tap into that sense of spontaneity and abandon ourselves. Dogs may shy away from certain people or experiences, or react with fear or aggression, but they don’t judge. Once they make up their minds to love us, it will take quite a lot for us to fall out of favor with them.

Because they are so uninhibited, dogs can be ideal icebreakers in our social world. We may feel the impulse to approach someone and then consider a dozen reasons why we shouldn’t, but our canine friends have no such scruples. They express their interest in other people as freely as they express everything else. As a consequence of this, we may suddenly find ourselves engaging in a conversation with a nice and attractive fellow dog-walker in the park. Believe it or not, many an entangled leash has led to a first date or new friendship. Dogs not only can initiate conversation with their very presence, but also give us plenty of things to talk about with people who might otherwise remain strangers.

The connection that exists between dogs and their owners is very old, instinctive, and unconditional. It is also uncomplicated, which can be a very heartwarming thing in this oft-times confused and troubled age. Dogs are present with their feelings and needs in ways that we are oftentimes afraid to be. We can learn a lot from them in that regard, and they’re likely to be patient and forgiving teachers. The effort that they demand from us in terms of feeding, exercise, and attention they repay many times over with loyalty, affection, and sheer enthusiasm for our presence in their lives.

Our Pups:

The Sources of Violence and Conflict Within Us

By and large, humanity has forgotten the relationship between thoughts and reality. The world that we experience is the reflection of what we carry inside us. Mystics, sages and shamans throughout the ages have tried to remind us of this fact. Western culture has largely turned its back upon such notions, however. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve increasingly viewed the world as something separate from ourselves, and thus not responsive to our inner life – something to be manipulated, tamed and conquered. Within the reality painted by such beliefs, thoughts appear to have no influence; and violence seems like power.

When we’re involved in a conflict, it is because something has touched upon an internal wound and/or we’re trying to draw energy from those around us in some way. You could apply this to personal strife as well as to larger global conflicts. Both of these stances are fueled by one underlying assumption: That we do not create our reality for ourselves, but are rather at the mercy of an exterior world separate from us.

The acknowledgment of our personal power to create reality is the key to all forms of healing and problem solving; and the misunderstanding of it is the source of all our problems and sufferings, both individually and collectively. When a country wages war upon another for the sake of resources, it is because of an underlying conviction that abundance is not really created from within. Conflict is always fueled by our ignorance of our own divinely creative natures.

This can be an empowering truth. The next time you feel overwhelmed and insignificant in the face of wars and other predicaments on a mass scale, remind yourself that this world is the mirror of your inner condition. You can then take personal responsibility, explore that inner reality, and see where you are contributing to the light and where you are creating darkness. There is no God to thank or Devil to blame. Tracing everything in our life experience back to their sources within us empowers us to direct our lives in the most positive and expansive way. It also implies that all of our conflicts and dilemmas, collectively, can be conquered with the knowledge and application of our true creative power.

No militaries would exist anywhere in the world if we did not carry the seeds of violence within ourselves. Ages ago, the use of force to settle conflicts was inspired by deep fear within our race. Some of that fear persists today, and is projected upon foreign lands that are then proclaimed our enemies. But much of the persistence of war – of the veritable addiction to violence that afflicts so many people in this world – can be attributed to an underlying sense of powerlessness.

From the standpoint of our separation from our deeper selves, hate seems more powerful than love; and war seems more effective than compassion and understanding. If we don’t understand and feel the connection between our thoughts and our outer experiences, then it seems to us that manipulating the physical environment is the only way to achieve goals and create change. In that arena, so much of the true thrust of love and consciousness becomes invisible. It seems so ineffective alongside a bomb or a machine gun. In reality, it is so much more powerful. Human consciousness created bombs and machine guns in the first place, long before human hands invented them.

Reference:

Pearson DG, Ross FD, & Webster VL (2012). The importance of context: evidence that contextual representations increase intrusive memories. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, 43 (1), 573-80 PMID: 21867664

Grof, S. (1996). Consciousness evolution and planetary survival: Psychological roots of Human violence and greed World Futures, 47 (4), 243-262 DOI: 10.1080/02604027.1996.9972599

ResearchBlogging.org

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) involves a core group of physical symptoms along with frequent and uncontrollable worries that are often irrationally intense. It can be difficult to diagnose GAD, as its severity and nature may dramatically vary from person to person. However, the following eleven symptoms are the most common, so if you experience two or more of these in a short period of time, then you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss how to improve your quality of life by managing your anxiety more effectively.

  1. Restlessness and concentration problems:
 If you have GAD, you probably fidget quite often and find it hard to sit still for long periods. You may feel on edge, as though you cannot relax even when you are in a safe environment. In addition, concentration problems are common. It might be tough for you to focus on studying or working, and your short-term memory may be worse than it used to be.
  2. A sense of impending doom:
 Most sufferers of GAD regularly experience a crushing and acute sense that something bad is about to happen. This feeling is baseless, but it can crop up in perfectly normal circumstances. When it does, you will suddenly feel as though you are about to die (or about to be in some form of life-threatening danger).
  3. Experiencing fear before or during social events:
 While going out to dinner or attending a party should be an exciting and fun event, you might find that such invitations fill you with dread rather than pleasure. GAD sufferers commonly find that they are disproportionately concerned about how to dress, what to say, and how to act in social groups. Additionally, even if you are being treated with kindness and respect during a social outing, you may still experience an increased heart rate, sweaty hands, and the desire to leave as soon as possible.
  4. Feeling out of touch with reality:
 This symptom is sometimes called depersonalization, and it tends to make you feel as though you are in a waking dream. You may also experience dizziness and feel as though you are moving at a slightly different speed to everyone else.
  5. Irritability and impatience:
 You might snap at other people without thinking, and will probably find that you easily become annoyed by unexpected slowness. Most people with GAD also respond defensively when questioned about their anxiety, knowing that they have irrationally intense fears but feeling extremely embarrassed that an outsider has recognized this.
  6. Obsessing about physical sensations:
 Although GAD does not have to be associated with any particular phobias, sufferers are often hypochondriacs. This means that they live in a constant state of fear that something is wrong with their bodies. You might interpret every ache or pain as a symptom of cancer, or you may habitually check yourself for signs that you are having a stroke. This obsession with physical sensations can be especially difficult to live with, as it can create an unproductive loop. Unusual sensations cause feelings of anxiety, but suffering from anxiety can cause unusual sensations (therefore creating even more anxiety).
  7. Heart palpitations:
 Anxiety problems are often connected to a fast or irregular heartbeat. Even when your pulse rate is normal, you might notice that you are uncommonly aware of your own heart beating. However, it is important to note that you should always have a racing or irregular heartbeat investigated thoroughly (in order to make sure that you do not have a potentially dangerous heart condition).
  8. Excessive sweating:
 GAD is connected to frequent and uncomfortable episodes of sweating. These are usually accompanied by racing heart or particularly strong worries about your own well-being (whether social or physical).
  9. Stomach aches and diarrhea:
 Being constantly or frequently anxious can easily leave you with a malfunctioning digestive system. As a result, those who have GAD commonly experience intestinal cramping and loose stools.
  10. Being scared that you are being negatively evaluated:
 GAD sufferers often experience acute anxiety at the thought of making a fool of themselves in public, and so social situations are regularly perceived as dangerous chances to be ridiculed. You might even find that you feel uncomfortable just walking down the street, worrying that strangers you encounter are thinking that you are unattractive or poorly dressed.
  11. Poor quality of sleep:
 Finally, insomnia is a common symptom of GAD. In addition to have trouble sleeping, you might feel unrested even after a full eight hours of sleep.

Suffering from general anxiety disorder can be very upsetting and confusing, as it often involves periods of intense anxiety during which the cause is not readily identifiable. If you suspect that you might have an anxiety problem, see your doctor as soon as possible. You may be worried that you’ll be viewed as being over-dramatic, but you shouldn’t be. Doctors regularly see and treat people with anxiety issues. Your feelings and concerns will be extremely familiar to your doctor, and they will put you on the path towards managing your anxiety more effectively (using medication, therapy, or a combination of both).

Reference:

Dupuy, J., & Ladouceur, R. (2008). Cognitive processes of generalized anxiety disorder in comorbid generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22 (3), 505-514 DOI: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2007.05.010

Barrera, T., & Norton, P. (2009). Quality of life impairment in generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and panic disorder Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23 (8), 1086-1090 DOI: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2009.07.011

Lawrence, A., & Brown, T. (2009). Differentiating Generalized Anxiety Disorder From Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197 (12), 879-886 DOI: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181c29992

Additional Learning Resources:

ResearchBlogging.org

From Mathematician to Futuristic Celebrity: Meet Freeman Dyson

Most fans of science fiction are familiar with the Dyson Sphere concept, but fewer people are familiar with the man who developed that concept. Freeman John Dyson (1923- ) is the son of a famed composer. His parents were always concerned about his interest in mathematics when he was growing up. He didn’t seem like much of a social child, and his interests were at odds with his family’s role in the performing arts. Read More →