Life Outlook Enhancing Methods
Changing one's emotional reactions or behavior has been a topic of discussion a couple times on MoreLife Yahoo and Paul provided the method that has used successfully for himself for many years to reprogram emotions. Kitty too used similar techniques with varying degrees of success but since her partnership with Paul has found that his steps below are a better formulation. The following has been taken from the comments Paul made in MoreLife Yahoo Message #301 and most recently discussed in the thread beginning with MoreLife Yahoo Message #2122.
- Any emotion needs to be seen as a habit - a subconscious reaction to some event, which reaction assigns some positive or negative emotional value to the event.
- If you have emotional responses to events which are not consistent with how you actually value the event when it is consciously examined, then this is an unhealthy conflict situation for your mind. It is also not very functional in that you cannot rely on your emotional response as a quick indicator of how you should act consistent with the emotion. (Being a "quick indicator" is one of the major uses of emotions - I have often thought of them as one of my "tools" of cognition.)
- Just as with "breaking" a habit, the first step to changing an emotion is to recognize when it occurs and to not evade it. You must bring it clearly into your consciousness and focus on it.
- It may even require some other observer to give you a hand with this (just as it often requires some other person to remind you that you are performing a external bad habit).
- With a bit of work and help, you will soon be able to detect the unwanted emotion earlier and earlier and thus to focus strongly on its initiation.
- Your conscious focusing should consist of basically "squelching" the emotion! - ultimately "nipping it in the bud". Each time it occurs and you catch it happening, review with yourself the reasons why it is an incorrect emotion (ie why it is inconsistent with your rationally held convictions), and tell yourself very strongly (as done by an admonishing parent or conscience): "I must not feel that way".
- In time by doing this process, you will find that you no longer have that emotional response to that event.
- A variant depending on the particular situation, is to replace the unwanted emotion, by another (more correct) emotional response to the same event. This just means that in 6 (above), instead of merely denying or squelching the unwanted emotion after reviewing your rational evaluation of the event (which would leave an emotional vacuum with respect to the witnessed event), you imagine having the new emotion about it, one which is fully consistent with your rational thinking.
Improving One's Thinking while Increasing Spoken and written Vocabulary for Effective Communication
A non-native English speaking poster to MoreLife Yahoo asked about ways to improve his English vocabulary. The following has been taken from the comments Kitty and Paul made in MoreLife Yahoo Message #134.
I do not think that you can improve your vocabulary (in any language) in
isolation (or that it would be very useful) without also improving your thinking
and writing. Thus, you should only seek to improve your English vocabulary while
you also improve/hone your thinking ability and philosophical views. There are
a number of authors/books that I can suggest; here are just a few that come
quickly to mind:
- Henry Hazlitt - economics writer; the tops, IMO, for making free market
economics understandable to laypersons (See Hazlitt Bio at Mises.org and
another Hazlitt Bio
"Economics in One Lesson" - should be a textbook in high schools
"Science of Thinking" - excellent guide written when the author was only
21 years, updated slightly twice later; currently out of print but some copies
available on used book market. I've got one I wouldn't part with for anything.
- Frederic Bastiat - invaluable contributor in the 1800s on the free market.
Wrote numerous pamphlets that were very popular in his day and are still very
much worth reading. (See Bastiat Bio at Mises.org)
- Ludwig von Mises - extremely learned economist of the early and mid 20th
century who had an uncharacteristic understanding for his time (and even now) of
the requirements and motivations of humans for their lives on earth.
(See Mises Bio at Mises.org) His works are more technical then those of the 2
above since he was writing for fellow economists, but the value of what he wrote
is worth the mental exercise. A number of his students (particularly Murray
Rothbard) and their students have written other almost countless essays and
books on Austrian Economics (the school of thought based on the works primarily
of von Mises) and can be reached through the link above.
- Ayn Rand - philosopher novelist in the mid 20th century who was extremely
influential on current libertarian type thinkers; my first introduction to
rational thinking was her writings. All her works are in print and many
websites exist about her and her writings; some are unfortunately hosted by
acolytes who have not digested and progressed, but merely regurgitate her works.
"Anthem" - very short novel about a dismal collectivist future where
even the word "I" has disappeared from the human language and how one man
rediscovers it. I read this first at the age of 16 in studyhall my 3rd year. (45
mins without stopping; when I did at the conclusion, I remember gazing at the
clock on the library wall in a state of amazement.)
- Robert A. Heinlein - Grand Master sci-fi writer in mid 20th century with a
heavy dose of rationality in his protagonists and many of the societies he
portrayed. His most famous character, Lazarus Long, has been one of my and
Paul's greatest fictional heroes - living thousands of years, exploring hundreds
of worlds, and confronting and resolving problems along the way. LL's tidbits
of wisdom are priceless. Here is just one of many
sites about his numerous works of which Paul and I have probably read virtually
The above are just a brief sampling of writers Paul and I have read and still do
periodically. There are also a number of good suggestions for expanding your
world - and therefore your vocabulary - from the links on MoreLife Links page
and the links within the Practice and Science Indexes as well as the Glossary.
As Hazlitt recommnends in his guide on thinking, writing one's thoughts is an
invaluable way to improve one's thinking. Writing critiques of what one reads
provides the combined value of exploring new or deeper ideas and then exercising
one's brain by formulating analyses and evaluations. The old adage of "use it
or lose it" applies to all parts of the human body; the human brain as the
essential organ for man's survival (he's slower and weaker than many other
animals on earth), let alone his progress, requires far more attention than,
unfortunately, most people give it.
Good reading and clear thinking to you! **Kitty
PS. All those like Chip for whom English is not their first language, are really
at an advantage since proficiency in more than 1 language is extremely mentally
stimulating. But of course this also applies to those who speak multiple
languages (not just related dialects), none of which may be English. However,
since so much of the accumulated knowledge through the ages has been stored in
English and it is a dynamically changing language, it is the most logical for
those communicating on the Web. Still, being able to go back to the original
language of the writer - say Bastiat's "The Law" in French, would be a good
experience. It's especially desirable when reading technical papers since
sometimes a limited English speaking researcher's/academic's translation does
not convey complete clarity. **Kitty
Paul added his comments to this same message:
It is probably even more important to read and critically analyze things with
which you do *not* agree than those with which you do agree (and will likely not
think about so deeply, but merely "nod" and proceed). But "nodding and
proceeding" are not what digesting, understanding and learning are all about.
Even when you agree with something, you must focus on every aspect of it and
consider all possible alternatives in order to truly understand it. In the same
manner, when finding something with which you disagree, it is not sufficient to
merely think/say "I disagree", "that's wrong", etc. If you cannot formulate a
coherent, logical argument demonstrating and stating (in writing) *why* you
disagree and *why* the statement/idea is incorrect, then you really have no
*grounds* for your statement of disagreement. (All you will have done is
asserted your *opinion*.) Writing down your argument is imperative when
analyzing and arguing in this manner because:
- it gives you time to think more deeply about the issues involved,
- enables you to step "outside" for a different viewpoint, and
- allows you to revisit your argument after a period of additional consideration
by you mind's background processors and with the new perspective gained by the
passage of time.
During this process you will almost certainly need to consult dictionaries and
thesauruses (thesauri? -:) in order to hone the description of your argument. An
additional aid would be to get a second party to read and try to understand your
writing once you have got it to a high level of completion on your own.
These same needs (albeit somewhat less) also apply to merely writing a
comprehensive report on something which you have read so that you or others can
truly understand it.
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