Being Suicidal: What It Feels Like To Want To Kill Yourself

“One of the more fascinating psychotic conditions in the medical literature is known as Cotard’s syndrome, a rare disorder, usually recoverable, in which the primary symptom is a “delusion of negation.” According to researchers David Cohen and Angèle Consoli of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, many patients with Cotard’s syndrome are absolutely convinced, without even the slimmest of doubts, that they are already dead.

Some recent evidence suggests that Cotard’s may occur as a neuropsychiatric side effect in patients taking the drugs aciclovir or valaciclovir for herpes and who also have kidney failure.* But its origins go back much further than these modern drugs. First described by the French neurologist Jules Cotard in the 1880s, it is usually accompanied by some other debilitating problem, such as major depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy or general paralysis—not to mention disturbing visages in the mirror. Consider the case of one young woman described by Cohen and Consoli: “The delusion consisted of the patient’s absolute conviction she was already dead and waiting to be buried, that she had no teeth or hair, and that her uterus was malformed.” Poor thing—that image couldn’t have been very good for her self-esteem.

Still, call me strange, but I happen to find a certain appeal in the conviction that one is, though otherwise lucid, nevertheless already dead. Provided there were no uncomfortable symptoms of rigor mortis cramping up my hands, nor delusory devils biting at my feet, how liberating it would be to be able to write like a dead man and without that hobbling, hesitating fear of being unblinkingly honest. Knowing that upon publication I would be tucked safely away in my tomb, I could finally say what’s on my mind. Of course, living one’s life as though it were a suicide note incarnate (yet remember this is precisely what life is, really, and I would advise any thinking person to stroll by a cemetery each day, gaze unto those fields of crumbling headstones filled with chirping crickets, and ponder, illogically so, what these people wish they might have said to the world when it was still humanly possible for them to have done so ) is an altogether different thing from the crushing, unbearable weight of an actual suicidal mind dangerously tempted by the promise of permanent quiescence.

misanthropy central}}}: Butterfly Suicide GIF: Special Edition

In considering people’s motivations for killing themselves, it is essential to recognize that most suicides are driven by a flash flood of strong emotions, not rational, philosophical thoughts in which the pros and cons are evaluated critically. And, as I mentioned in last week’s column on the evolutionary biology of suicide, from a psychological science perspective, I don’t think any scholar ever captured the suicidal mind better than Florida State University psychologist Roy Baumeister in his 1990 Psychological Review article , “Suicide as Escape from the Self.” To reiterate, I see Baumeister’s cognitive rubric as the engine of emotions driving deCatanzaro’s biologically adaptive suicidal decision-making. There are certainly more recent theoretical models of suicide than Baumeister’s, but none in my opinion are an improvement. The author gives us a uniquely detailed glimpse into the intolerable and relentlessly egocentric tunnel vision that is experienced by a genuinely suicidal person.

According to Baumeister, there are six primary steps in the escape theory, culminating in a probable suicide when all criteria are met. I do hope that having knowledge about the what-it-feels-like phenomenology of ‘being’ suicidal helps people to recognize their own possible symptoms of suicidal ideation and—if indeed this is what’s happening—enables them to somehow derail themselves before it’s too late. Note that it is not at all apparent that those at risk of suicide are always aware that they are in fact suicidal, at least in the earliest cognitive manifestations of suicidal ideation. And if such thinking proceeds unimpeded, then keeping a suicidal person from completing the act may be as futile as encouraging someone at the very peak of sexual excitement to please kindly refrain from having an orgasm, which is itself sometimes referred to as la petite mort (“the little death”).

So let’s take a journey inside the suicidal mind, at least as it’s seen by Roy Baumeister. You might even come to discover that you’ve actually stepped foot in this dark psychological space before, perhaps without knowing it at the time.

Step 1: Falling Short of Standards

Most people who kill themselves actually lived better-than-average lives. Suicide rates are higher in nations with higher standards of living than in less prosperous nations; higher in US states with a better quality of life; higher in societies that endorse individual freedoms; higher in areas with better weather; in areas with seasonal change, they are higher during the warmer seasons; and they’re higher among college students that have better grades and parents with higher expectations.

Baumeister argues that such idealistic conditions actually heighten suicide risk because they often create unreasonable standards for personal happiness, thereby rendering people more emotionally fragile in response to unexpected setbacks. So, when things get a bit messy, such people, many of whom appear to have led mostly privileged lives, have a harder time coping with failures. “A large body of evidence,” writes the author, “is consistent with the view that suicide is preceded by events that fall short of high standards and expectations, whether produced by past achievements, chronically favorable circumstances, or external demands.” For example, simply being poor isn’t a risk factor for suicide. But going rather suddenly from relative prosperity to poverty has been strongly linked to suicide. Likewise, being a lifelong single person isn’t a risk factor either, but the transition from marriage to the single state places one at significant risk for suicide. Most suicides that occur in prison and mental hospital settings occur within the first month of confinement, during the initial period of adjustment to loss of freedom. Suicide rates are lowest on Fridays and highest on Mondays; they also drop just before the major holidays and then spike sharply immediately after the holidays. Baumeister interprets these patterns as consistent with the idea that people’s high expectations for holidays and weekends materialize, after the fact, as bitter disappointments.

To summarize this first step in the escape theory, Baumeister tells us that, “it is apparently the size of the discrepancy between standards and perceived reality that is crucial for initiating the suicidal process.” It’s the proverbial law of social gravity: the higher your majesty is to start off with, the more painful it’s going to be when you happen to fall flat on your face.

Step 2: Attributions to Self

It is not just the fall from grace alone that’s going to send you on a suicidal tailspin. It’s also necessary for you to loathe yourself for facing the trouble you find yourself in. Across cultures, “self blame” or “condemnation of the self” has held constant as a common denominator in suicides. Baumeister’s theory accommodates these data, yet his model emphasizes that the biggest risk factor isn’t chronically low self-esteem, per se, but rather a relatively recent demonization of the self in response to the negative turn of events occurring in the previous step. People who have low self-esteem are often misanthropes, he points out, in that while they are indeed self critical, they are usually just as critical of other people. By contrast, suicidal individuals who engage in negative appraisals of the self seem to suffer the erroneous impression that other people are mostly good, while they themselves are bad. Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, inadequacy, or feeling exposed, humiliated and rejected leads suicidal people to dislike themselves in a manner that, essentially, cleaves them off from an idealized humanity. The self is seen as being enduringly undesirable; there is no hope for change and the core self is perceived as being rotten.

Suicide-Gif | Tumblr

This is why adolescents and adults of minority sexual orientations, who grow up gestating in a social womb filled with messages—both implicit and explicit—that they are essentially lesser human beings, are especially vulnerable to suicide. Even though we may consciously reject these personal attributions made by an intolerant society, they have still seeped in. If we extrapolate this to, say, Tyler Clementi as he was driving towards the George Washington Bridge to end his own life in the wake of being cruelly and voyeuristically outed over the Internet, I’d bet my bottom dollar that he felt even the songs on the radio weren’t meant for him, but for “normal people” more relatable to the singer and deserving of the song’s message.

Step 3: High Self-Awareness

“The essence of self-awareness is comparison of self with standards,” writes Baumeister. And, according to his escape theory, it is this ceaseless and unforgiving comparison with a preferred self—perhaps an irrecoverable self from a happier past or a goal self that is now seen as impossible to achieve in light of recent events—fuelling suicidal ideation.

This piquancy of thought in suicidal individuals is actually measurable, at least indirectly by analyzing the language used in suicide notes. One well-known “suicidologist,” Edwin Shneidman, once wrote that, “Our best route to understanding suicide is not through the study of the structure of the brain, nor the study of social statistics, nor the study of mental diseases, but directly through the study of human emotions described in plain English, in the words of the suicidal person.” Personally, I feel a bit like an existential Peeping Tom in reading strangers’ suicide notes, but it’s a longstanding cottage industry in psychological research. Over the past few decades alone, nearly 300 studies on suicide notes have been published. These cover a broad range of research questions, but because they tend to yield inconsistent findings, they have also painted a confusing picture of the suicidal mind.

This is especially the case when trying to reveal people’s motivations for the act. Some who commit suicide may not even be aware of their own motivations, or at least they have not been completely honest in their farewell letters to the world. A good example comes from University of Manchester sociologist Susanne Langer and her colleagues’ report in a 2008 issue of The Sociological Review . The researchers describe how the suicide note written by one young man was rather nondescript, mentioning feelings of loneliness and emptiness as causing his suicide, while, in fact, “his file contained a memo inquiring about the state of an investigation regarding sexual offences the deceased had been accused of in an adjacent jurisdiction.”

The more compelling studies on suicide notes, in my view, are those that use text analysis programs enabling the investigators to make exact counts of particular kinds of words. Compared to fake suicide notes, real suicide notes are notorious for containing first-person singular pronouns, a reflection of high self-awareness. And unlike letters written by people facing involuntary death, such as those about to be executed, suicide note writers rarely use inclusive language such as plural pronouns, such as “us” and “we.” When they do mention significant others, suicide note writers usually speak of them as being cut off, distant, separate, not understanding, or opposed. Friends and family, even a loving mother at arm’s length, feel endless oceans away.

Step 4: Negative Affect

It may seem to go without saying that suicides tend to be preceded by a period of negative emotions, but, again, in Baumeister’s escape model, negative suicidal emotions are experienced as an acute state rather than a prolonged one. “Concluding simply that depression causes suicide and leaving it at that may be inadequate for several reasons,” he writes. “It is abundantly clear that most depressed people do not attempt suicide and that not all suicide attempters are clinically depressed.”

Anxiety—which can be experienced as guilt, self-blame, threat of social exclusion, ostracism and worry—seems to be a common strand in the majority of suicides. As I mentioned in last week’s post, we may very well be the only species for which negative social-evaluative appraisals can lead to shame-induced suicide. It’s not without controversy, but the most convincing data from studies with nonhuman animals suggest very strongly that we are the only species on the face of the earth able to take another organism’s perspective in judging the self’s attributes. This is owed to an evolutionary innovation known as “theory of mind” (literally, theorizing about what someone else is thinking about, including what they’re thinking about you ; and, perhaps more importantly in this case, even what you’re thinking about you) that has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it allows us to experience pride, and a curse because it also engenders what I consider to be the uniquely human, uniquely painful emotion of shame.

Psychodynamic theorists often postulate that suicidal guilt seeks punishment, and thus suicide is a sort of self-execution. But Baumeister’s theory largely rejects this interpretation; rather, in his model, the appeal of suicide is loss of consciousness, and thus the end of psychological pain being experienced. And since cognitive therapy isn’t easily available—or seen as achievable—by most suicidal people, that leaves only three ways to escape this painful self-awareness: drugs, sleep and death. And of these, only death, nature’s great anesthesia, offers a permanent fix.

Step 5: Cognitive Deconstruction

The fifth step in the escape theory is perhaps the most intriguing, from a psychological perspective, because it illustrates just how distinct and scarily inaccessible the suicidal mind is from that of our everyday cognition. With cognitive deconstruction, a concept originally proposed by social psychologists Robin Vallacher and Daniel Wegner, the outside world becomes a much simpler affair in our heads—but usually not in a good way.

Cognitive deconstruction is pretty much just what it sounds like. Things are cognitively broken down into increasingly low-level and basic elements. For example, the time perspective of suicidal people changes in a way that makes the present moment seem interminably long; this is because, “suicidal people have an aversive or anxious awareness of the recent past (and possibly the future too), from which they seek to escape into a narrow, unemotional focus on the present moment.” In one interesting study, for example, when compared to control groups, suicidal participants significantly overestimated the passage of experimentally controlled intervals of time by a large amount. Baumeister surmises, “Thus suicidal people resemble acutely bored people: The present seems endless and vaguely unpleasant, and whenever one checks the clock, one is surprised at how little time has actually elapsed.”

Evidence also suggests that suicidal individuals have a difficult time thinking about the future—which for those who’d use the threat of hell as a deterrent, shows just why this strategy isn’t likely to be very effective. This temporal narrowing, Baumeister believes, is actually a defensive mechanism helping the person to cognitively withdraw from thinking about past failures and the anxiety of an intolerable, hopeless future.

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Another central aspect of the suicidal person’s cognitive deconstruction, says Baumeister, is a dramatic increase in concrete thought. Like the intrusively high self-awareness discussed earlier, this concreteness is often conveyed in suicide notes. Several review articles have noted the relative paucity of “thinking words” in suicide notes, which are abstract, meaningful, high-level terms. Instead, they more often include banal and specific instructions, such as, “Don’t forget to feed the cat,” or “Remember to take care of the electric bill.” Real suicide notes are usually suspiciously void of contemplative or metaphysical thoughts, whereas fake suicide notes, written by study participants, tend to include more abstract or high-level terms (“Someday you’ll understand how much I loved you” or “Always be happy”). One old study even found that genuine suicide notes contained more references to concrete objects in the environment—physical things—than did simulated suicide notes.

What this cognitive shift to concrete thinking reflects, suggests Baumeister, is the brain’s attempt to slip into idle mental labor, thereby avoiding the suffocating feelings that we’ve been describing. Many suicidal college students, for example, exhibit a behavioral pattern of burying themselves in dull, routine academic busywork in the weeks beforehand, presumably to enter a sort of “emotional deadness” which is “an end in itself.” When I was a suicidal adolescent, I remember reading voraciously during this time; it didn’t matter what it was that I read—mostly junk novels, in fact—since it was only to replace my own thoughts with those of the writer’s. For the suicidal, other people’s words can be pulled over one’s exhausting ruminations like a seamless glove being stretched over a distractingly scarred hand.

Even the grim, tedious details of organizing one’s own suicide can offer a welcome reprieve:

When preparing for suicide, one can finally cease to worry about the future, for one has effectively decided that there will be no future. The past, too, has ceased to matter, for it is nearly ended and will no longer cause grief, worry, or anxiety. And the imminence of death may help focus the mind on the immediate present.

Step 6: Disinhibition

We’ve now set the mental stage, but it is of course the final act that separates suicidal ideation from an actual suicide. Baumeister speculates that behavioral disinhibition, which is required to overcome the intrinsic fear of causing oneself pain through death, not to mention the anticipated suffering of loved ones left behind to grieve, is another consequence of cognitive deconstruction. This is because it disallows the high-level abstractions (reflecting on the inherent “wrongness” of suicide, how others will feel, even concerns about self-preservation) that, under normal conditions, keep us alive.

A recent theoretical analysis by University of Rochester psychiatrist Kimberly Van Orden and her colleagues sheds some additional light on this component of behavioral disinhibition. These authors point out that while there is a considerable number of people who want to kill themselves, suicide itself remains relatively rare. This is largely because, in addition to suicidal desire, the individual needs the “acquired capability for suicide,” which involves both a lowered fear of death and increased physical pain tolerance. Suicide hurts, literally. One acquires this capability, according to these authors’ model, by being exposed to related conditions that systematically habituate the individual to physical pain. For example, one of the best predictors of suicide is a nonlethal prior suicide attempt.

But a history of other fear-inducing, physically painful experiences also places one at risk. Physical or sexual abuse as a child, combat exposure, and domestic abuse can also “prep” the individual for the physical pain associated with suicidal behavior. In addition, heritable variants of impulsivity, fearlessness and greater physical pain tolerance may help to explain why suicidality often runs in families. Van Orden and her coauthors also cite some intriguing evidence that habituation to pain is not so much generalized to just any old suicide method, but often specific to the particular method used to end one’s own life. For example, a study on suicides in the U.S. military branches found that guns were most frequently associated with Army personnel suicides, hanging and knots for those in the Navy, and falling and heights were more common for those in the Air Force.

So there you have it. It’s really not a pretty picture. But, again, I do hope that if you ever are unfortunate enough to experience these cognitive dynamics in your own mind—and I, for one, very much have—or if you suspect you’re seeing behaviors in others that indicate these thought patterns may be occurring, that this information helps you to meta-cognitively puncture suicidal ideation. If there is one thing that I’ve learned since those very dark days of my suicidal years, it’s that scientific knowledge changes perspective. And perspective changes everything. Everything.

And, as I mentioned at the start, always remember: You’re going to die soon enough anyway; even if it’s a hundred years from now, that’s still the blink of a cosmic eye. In the meantime, live like a scientist—even a controversial one with only an ally or two in all the world—and treat life as a grand experiment, blood, sweat, tears and all. Bear in mind that there’s no such thing as a failed experiment—only data.”

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All About TRUST

“We have all been hurt and experienced pain at some point in our lives. That pain compromises our trust and can transform our perspective on life. It is natural psychologically to defend ourselves when we feel vulnerability would be dangerous, but trust is as much a blessing for our own mental health as it is a gift for those we chose to trust. When trauma or pain takes away our ability to trust others, this means it is continually hurting us and depriving us of deep, meaningful bonds.

Our spiritual heart-felt side cannot thrive if we keep ourselves walled up. While we must be careful with whom we decide to open up with, it is not healthy to withdraw trust from everyone. Every relationship whether intimate, professional or family based requires a certain level of trust.

What is Trust

Trust refers to our ability to confidently believe that someone else’s intentions are good towards us. It is our ability to predict someone’s behavior and how they will respond to situations. Trust is just as much logical and based on evidence as it is emotional and instinctual. We FEEL trust, but we also calculate it.

The Future of Trust | Download

Much of our social interactions are based on a give and take system, trust is a crucial part of this. When we marry someone and choose to trust them with our well-being, we have certain expectations of what they will give to the relationship as well as what we will give. Even if you consider the act of buying a car, it is natural to have more trust in a dealer selling you a certified used car with a warranty versus someone off the street that might give you a better deal but no warranty.

It comes down to this. If you believe someone will do right by you even in a difficult situation, you have trust in them. If you are unsure if someone will do right by you, then you don’t trust them.

Developing Trust

It takes time to develop trust in someone, this is typically not an overnight process although in some social situations such as with a religious leader, we tend to expect trustworthiness out of them. As we have more social interactions and experiences together we start to notice their trends which either indicate they are dependable or not trustworthy.

In some situations, the other person is asked to sacrifice something such as money or time to meet our needs, those situations draw us closer to them and allow us to let our guards down. Although it is inevitable we will have to take a leap of faith at some point to develop deep and significant trust.

Trust in Relationships

The depth of our trust we develop in a relationship is so important as it relates to the extent we commit ourselves and invest. Considering the give and take social system, we give a lot more of ourselves to someone when we trust them and in return, we hope to receive that back. Insecurity about whether someone will act in our better interest causes us to withdraw emotionally, spiritually and often physically from that person. We will create a psychological distance from the other person as a means of defense.

Think of it like building a castle around our heart, we allow them to roam outside of our castle, but we won’t let down the drawbridge so easily. It is impossible to be close to someone if we won’t let them inside. Naturally, the person roaming the castle will grow tired and eventually withdraw, thus ending the relationship. This can relate to business partnerships and friendships just as much as intimate relationships.

Teamwork — Stock Photo © katy89 #32457105

Can You Trust Again?

Even if you have been badly hurt and betrayed, perhaps in a very traumatic situation, you can learn to trust people again. You have the power to decide if you will let their actions continue to hurt you and impact your ability to trust others or if you will make the choice to move forward, heal and work on trusting others.

4 Steps Towards Learning to Trust Again

  1. Trust yourself. You cannot expect to trust others if you don’t trust yourself. Do not blame yourself for the past pain that robbed you of trust. Remember you are making the choice to stop giving power to that pain. Have faith in your judgment and don’t doubt yourself based upon past experiences.
  2. Forgiveness. This doesn’t mean you are forgetting or condoning what the other person did, but you are choosing to be the better person and extend forgiveness to them as well as yourself. You are refusing to let their bad choices dictate your future. Every major religion in the world promotes forgiveness and mercy. Not just as an act of charity, but as a means of healing your own heart.

…you do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness…

  1. Stop victimizing yourself. We always have a choice when we are hurt, to remain the victim or to become stronger. No matter how harsh of a pain you endured, it is your choice to use it as a crutch and stay withdrawn OR take the steps forward toward healing. I have often heard the expression that which does not kill you only makes you stronger, it is true if you allow it to be. Stop being the victim, start being the victor. No one will hand you the ability to trust again, you must work toward it.
  2. Accept vulnerability. Trust requires being vulnerable, which yes that means you must accept the risk you might get hurt. Every time we trust someone it is a careful risk calculation. Without the occasional leaps of faith, you will never know the extent of trust and love you can experience.

Final Thoughts

Trust is a critical component of our mental well-being, if we cannot trust anyone else then we lack trust in our own judgment. To achieve our happiest and most positive state of mind, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean we never have our guards up, of course, we must be mindful of who has access to our heart and the ability to harm us. Trust is a careful calculation of risk and reward. You have the ability to learn how to trust again, I did.”


Shamanic Journeying To The Spirit Of Fibromyalgia

Samsara' [2011] - Olivier de Sagazan (FullHD) on Make a GIF

The shaman I am working with journeyed to the spirit of fibromyalgia recently as we wanted to find out how I could be helped and what is going on on a metaphysical level with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Basically, it feels like hot acid burning all over my body 24/7 brought on by many theories circulating – trauma, stress, infection.

The shaman journeyed into another realm of existence and said he saw a castle, a castle with traps all around it and a draw bridge. Inside the castle the shaman found a man wrapped totally and suffocating in bandages; he was wrapped in total fear. ABSOLUTE FEAR.

The man would not reveal anything. The only way to get through to him was to surround him with love, shower him with love. With that, the bandages started to unravel themselves. That’s all he found out…..

PSYCHOLOGY: The Art Of Lying

“Lying is among the most sophisticated and demanding accomplishments of the human brain. Children have to learn how to lie; people with certain types of frontal lobe injuries may not be able to do it.

Electrical stimulation of the prefrontal cortex appears to improve our ability to deceive. This region of the brain may, among other things, be responsible for the decision to lie or tell the truth.

Most people have trouble recognizing false statements. Some polygraph tests are better at it yet are far from perfect. Researchers are trying to use imaging methods to distinguish truth from lies. Intensified activity in the prefrontal cortex may be an indicator of the process by which we decide to lie or not—but it tells us nothing about the lie itself.

A 51-year-old man I will call “Mr. Pinocchio” had a strange problem. When he tried to tell a lie, he often passed out and had convulsions. In essence, he became a kind of Pinocchio, the fictional puppet whose nose grew with every fib. For the patient, the consequences were all too real: he was a high-ranking official in the European Economic Community (since replaced by the European Union), and his negotiating partners could tell immediately when he was bending the truth. His condition, a symptom of a rare form of epilepsy, was not only dangerous, it was bad for his career.

IAS Lies: Bacon's Truth - How the path of modernity was paved by lying |  Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) - UCL – University College London

Doctors at the University Hospitals of Strasbourg in France discovered that the root of the problem was a tumor about the size of a walnut. The tumor was probably increasing the excitability of a brain region involved in emotions; when Mr. Pinocchio lied, this excitability caused a structure called the amygdala to trigger seizures. Once the tumor was removed, the fits stopped, and he was able to resume his duties. The doctors, who described the case in 1993, dubbed the condition the “Pinocchio syndrome.”

Mr. Pinocchio’s plight demonstrates the far-reaching consequences of even minor changes in the structure of the brain. But perhaps just as important, it shows that lying is a major component of the human behavioral repertoire; without it, we would have a hard time coping. When people speak unvarnished truth all the time—as can happen when Parkinson’s disease or certain injuries to the brain’s frontal lobe disrupt people’s ability to lie—they tend to be judged tactless and hurtful. In everyday life, we tell little white lies all the time, if only out of politeness: Your homemade pie is awesome (it’s awful). No, Grandma, you’re not interrupting anything (she is). A little bit of pretense seems to smooth out human relationships without doing lasting harm.

Yet how much do researchers know about lying in our daily existence? How ubiquitous is it? When do children usually start engaging in it? Does it take more brainpower to lie or to tell the truth? Are most people good at detecting untruths? And are we better at it than tools designed for the purpose? Scientists exploring such questions have made good progress—including discovering that lying in young children is a sign that they have mastered some important cognitive skills.

The Art of Lying by Kazuo Sakai

Of course, not everyone agrees that some lying is necessary. Generations of thinkers have lined up against this perspective. The Ten Commandments admonish us to tell the truth. The Pentateuch is explicit: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Islam and Buddhism also condemn lying. For 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant, the lie was the “radical innate evil in human nature” and was to be shunned even when it was a matter of life and death.

Today many philosophers take a more nuanced view. German philosopher Bettina Stangneth argues that lying should be an exception to the rule because, in the final analysis, people rely on being told the truth in most aspects of life. Among the reasons they lie, she notes in her 2017 book Deciphering Lies, is that it can enable them to conceal themselves, hiding and withdrawing from people who intrude on their comfort zone. It is also unwise, Stangneth says, to release children into the world unaware that others might lie to them.

It is not only humans who practice deception. Trickery and deceit of various kinds have also been observed in higher mammals, especially primates. The neocortex—the part of the brain that evolved most recently—is critical to this ability. Its volume predicts the extent to which various primates are able to trick and manipulate, as primatologist Richard Byrne of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland showed in 2004.

In our own kind, small children love to make up stories, but they generally tell their first purposeful lies at about age four or five. Before starting their careers as con artists, children must first acquire two important cognitive skills. One is deontic reasoning: the ability to recognize and understand social rules and what happens when the rules are transgressed. For instance, if you confess, you may be punished; if you lie, you might get away with it. The other is theory of mind: the ability to imagine what another person is thinking. I need to realize that my mother will not believe that the dog snagged the last burger if she saw me scarf down the food. As a step to developing a theory of mind, children also need to perceive that they know some things their parents do not, and vice versa—an awareness usually acquired by age three or four.

People cook up about two stories a day on average, according to social psychologist Bella M. DePaulo, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who conducted a 2003 study in which participants filled out “lie diaries.” It takes time, however, to become skilled. A 2015 study with more than 1,000 participants looked at lying in volunteers in the Netherlands aged six to 77. Children, the analysis found, initially have difficulty formulating believable lies, but proficiency improves with age. Young adults between 18 and 29 do it best. After about the age of 45, we begin to lose this ability.

A similar inverted U-shaped curve over the life span is also seen with a phenomenon known as response inhibition—the ability to suppress one’s initial response to something. It is what keeps us from blurting out our anger at our boss when we are better off keeping silent. The pattern suggests that this regulatory process, which, like deception, is managed by the neocortex, may be a prerequisite for successful lying.

Current thinking about the psychological processes involved in deception holds that people typically tell the truth more easily than they tell a lie and that lying requires far more cognitive resources. First, we must become aware of the truth; then we have to invent a plausible scenario that is consistent and does not contradict the observable facts. At the same time, we must suppress the truth so that we do not spill the beans—that is, we must engage in response inhibition. What is more, we must be able to assess accurately the reactions of the listener so that, if necessary, we can deftly produce adaptations to our original story line. And there is the ethical dimension, whereby we have to make a conscious decision to transgress a social norm. All this deciding and self-control implies that lying is managed by the prefrontal cortex—the region at the front of the brain responsible for executive control, which includes such processes as planning and regulating emotions and behavior.

Brain-imaging studies have contributed to the view that lying generally requires more effort than telling the truth and involves the prefrontal cortex. In a pioneering 2001 study, the late neuroscientist Sean Spence, then at the University of Sheffield in England, tested this idea using a rather rudimentary experimental setup. While Spence’s participants lay in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scanner, they answered questions about their daily routine by pressing a yes or no button on a screen. Depending on the color of the writing, they were to answer either truthfully or with a lie. (The researchers knew the correct answers from earlier interviews.) The results showed that the participants needed appreciably more time to formulate a dishonest answer than an honest one. In addition, certain parts of the prefrontal cortex were more active during lying (that is, they had more blood flowing in them). Together the findings indicated that the executive part of the brain was doing more processing during lying.

I know you're lying. I don't need eyes for that. | Horror art, Art, Drawings

Several follow-up studies have confirmed the role of the prefrontal cortex in lying. Merely pointing to a particular region of the brain that is active when we tell an untruth does not, however, reveal what is going on up there. Moreover, the situations in these early experiments were so artificial that they had hardly anything in common with people’s everyday lives: the subjects probably could not have cared less whether they were dishonest about what they ate for breakfast.

To counter this last problem, in 2009 psychologist Joshua Greene of Harvard University conducted an ingenious experiment in which the participants had a monetary incentive to behave dishonestly. As subjects lay in an fMRI scanner, they were asked to predict the results of a computer-generated coin toss. (The cover story was that this study was testing their paranormal abilities. Even neuroscientists sometimes have to employ misdirection in the name of a higher scientific goal!)

If the volunteers typed the correct response, they were given up to $7. They lost money for wrong answers. They had to reveal their prediction beforehand for half of the test runs. In all the other runs, they merely disclosed after the coin toss whether they had predicted correctly. Subjects were paid even if they lied about their advance conclusions, but not everyone exploited the situation. Greene was able to read the honesty of the participants simply by looking at the hit rates: the honest subjects predicted correctly half the time, whereas the cheaters claimed to have come up with the correct answers in more than three quarters of the runs—a rate too high to be believed. After the study was over, a few liars were bothered by a bad conscience and admitted that they had cheated.

Greene asked himself what distinguished the honest from the dishonest participants. Analysis of the fMRI data showed that when honest subjects gave their answers, they had no increased activity in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex known to be involved in self-control. In contrast, those control regions did become perfused with blood when the cheaters responded. The analysis of reaction times told much the same story. The honest participants did not hesitate even when they were given the opportunity to cheat. Apparently they never even considered lying. Conversely, response time became more prolonged in the dishonest subjects.

Particularly interesting was that the cheaters showed increased activity in the control regions of the prefrontal cortex not only when they chose to behave dishonestly but also when they threw in occasional truths to distract from the lies. Greene suggests that activity in the control regions of the prefrontal cortex in the cheaters may reflect the process of deciding whether to lie, regardless of the decisions those cheaters finally made.

Instead of assessing individual brain regions at the same time as someone told the truth or a lie, psychologist Ahmed Karim of the University of Tübingen in Germany and his colleagues influenced brain activity from the outside, using a method known as transcranial direct-current stimulation—which is safe and painless. In this method, two electrodes are attached to the scalp and positioned so that a weak current hits a selected brain area.

To make the experimental situation as lifelike as possible, the team invented a role-playing game. The test subjects were to pretend they were robbers, sneak into an unobserved room and steal a €20 note from a wallet in a jacket pocket. They were told that some participants in the study would be innocent. After the theft, they were subjected to an interrogation. If they got through the interrogation without getting tangled up in contradictions, they could keep the money. They were advised to answer as many trivial questions as possible truthfully (for example, giving the correct color of the jacket) because nonguilty people might remember such details just as easily as thieves did but lie at decisive moments (for example, when questioned about the color of the wallet). The electrodes were applied to everyone before questioning, but electrical impulses were administered to only half of the participants (the “test” subjects); the other half served as the control group.

In Karim’s study, the electrodes were arranged to minimize the excitability of the anterior prefrontal cortex, a brain area that earlier studies had associated with moral and ethical decision making. With this region inhibited, the ability to deceive improved markedly. Subjects in the test and control groups lied about as frequently, but those who received the stimulation were simply better at it; their mix of truthful answers and lies made them less likely to get found out. Their response times were also considerably faster.

The researchers ruled out the possibility that brain stimulation had elevated the cognitive efficiency of the participants more generally. In a complicated test of attention, the test subjects did no better than the control group. Apparently Karim’s team had specifically improved its test subjects’ ability to lie.

One possible interpretation of the findings is that the electric current temporarily interrupted the functioning of the anterior prefrontal cortex, leaving participants with fewer cognitive resources for evaluating the ethical implications of their actions; the interruption allowed them to concentrate on their deceptions. Two follow-up studies conducted by other teams were also able to influence lying using direct current, although they used different experimental setups and target brain regions. But all the test subjects in these studies lied at essentially the press of a button. Whether electrically stimulating selected brain areas would work outside the laboratory is unknown. In any case, no instrument has yet been developed that can test such a hypothesis.

On the other hand, devices that supposedly measure whether a person is telling the truth—polygraphs—have been in use for decades. Such tools are desirable in part because humans turn out to be terrible lie detectors.

In 2003 DePaulo and her colleagues summarized 120 behavior studies, concluding that liars tend to seem more tense and that their stories lack vividness, leaving out the unusual details that would generally be included in honest descriptions. Liars also correct themselves less; in other words, their stories are often too smooth. Yet such characteristics do not suffice to identify a liar conclusively; at most, they serve as clues. In another analysis of multiple studies, DePaulo and a co-author found that people can distinguish a lie from the truth about 54 percent of the time, just slightly better than if they had guessed. But even those who encounter liars frequently—such as the police, judges and psychologists—can have trouble recognizing a con artist.

Will A.I. End the Art of Lying? - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Polygraphs are meant to do better by measuring a variety of biological signs (such as skin conductance and pulse) that supposedly track with lying. Gestalt psychologist Vittorio Benussi of the University of Graz in Austria presented a prototype based on respiration in the early 1910s, and detectors have been refined and improved ever since. Even so, the value continues to be a matter of contention. In 1954 the West German Federal Court of Justice banned polygraph use in criminal trials on the grounds that such “insight into the soul of the accused” (as a 1957 paper on the ruling put it) would undermine defendants’ freedom to make decisions and act. From today’s perspective, this reasoning seems a bit overdramatic; even the latest lie detectors do not have that ability. More recent criticisms have been leveled at their unreliability.

Courts in other countries do accept results from lie-detector tests as evidence. The case of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer who, in 2012, shot a black teenager—Trayvon Martin—supposedly in self-defense, is well known. Zimmerman’s acquittal triggered a debate about racism across the U.S. The police interrogation involved a particular variant of a lie-detector test that includes what is called computer voice-stress analysis. This analysis was later placed in evidence to prove the innocence of the accused, despite vehement scientific criticism of the method.

Polygraphs do detect lying at a rate better than chance, although they are also frequently wrong. A questioning technique known as the guilty knowledge test has been found to work well in conjunction with a polygraph. The suspect is asked multiple-choice questions, the answers to which only a guilty party would know (a technique very similar to the study involving the pickpocket role-playing described earlier). The theory behind it holds that when asked questions that could reveal guilt (“Was the wallet red?”), a guilty person exhibits more pronounced physiological excitation, as indicated by elevated skin conductance and delayed response time. This method has an accuracy of up to 95 percent, with the innocent almost always identified as such. Although this test is by far the most precise technique available, even it is not perfect.

Recently experiments have been conducted to evaluate whether imaging techniques such as fMRI might be useful for detecting lies. The proposed tests mostly look at different activation patterns of the prefrontal cortex in response to true and false statements. In the U.S., a number of companies are marketing fMRI lie detection. One advertises itself as useful to insurance companies, government agencies and others. It even claims to provide information relating to “risk reduction in dating,” “trust issues in interpersonal relationships,” and “issues concerning the underlying topics of sex, power, and money.”

But fMRI approaches still have shortcomings. For one thing, differences in responses to lies and truths that become evident when calculating the average results of a group do not necessarily show up in each individual. Moreover, researchers have not yet been able to identify a brain region that is activated more intensely when we tell the truth than when we lie. As a result, a person’s honesty can be revealed only indirectly, by the absence of indications of lying. Another problem is Greene’s finding that elevated blood perfusion in parts of the prefrontal cortex might indicate that a person is deciding whether to lie and not necessarily that the person is lying. That ambiguity can make it difficult to interpret fMRI readings.

So far courts have rejected fMRI lie detectors as evidence. The efficacy of the method has simply not been adequately documented. A machine that reads thoughts and catches the brain in the act of lying is not yet on the near horizon.

This article is reproduced with permission and was first published in Gehirn&Geist on April 3, 2018.”


SHAMANISM: Soul Loss, Soul Fragmentation & Soul Retrieval

Feeling stuck? Or maybe you feel like some part of you is missing? Or that you have not felt fully yourself ever since that tragic experience occurred, that you wish never happened?

Try as we might, all of us, at some point in our lives will be hurt by people, circumstances, and other forces that are out of our control. Whether these are self-inflicted or not, the natural response is often to want to forget that the trauma happened in the first place, and to move on as quickly as possible. However, this approach often leaves people with the lingering sensation of loss, that some part of them is missing, in spite of having returned to normalcy in their lives.

It may feel like lower energy or vitality. Or it may feel like an aching pain, lodged in your body, often in the area of the heart, especially if the trauma was due to a romantic breakup. It may feel like living a zombie-like existence, in spite of all outward vital signs being normal and healthy.

In shamanism, this experience is called soul loss. Soul loss occurs when a traumatic event (be it physical or emotional) causes the energy to fragment, whereby parts of the soul flee for safety and end up trapped in the locale of the trauma or lost, and adrift in the world.

Soul retrieval is an ancient practice that shamans use in order to bring an individual who is suffering from soul loss back to wholeness. In order to understand how it works – and whether you need it – it’s necessary to first understand what triggers soul loss, what the symptoms are, and how to heal this energetic fragmentation of the Self.

What Causes Soul Loss?

Everyone experiences soul loss in their lifetime, because human existence can be stressful and nobody escapes suffering. There are so many reasons why soul loss occurs. Some of these are the following:

-Abuse of any form that may be emotional, physical, sexual or mental in nature.
-Experiencing prolonged pain, grief, or fear that could have made you feel helpless.
-Addictions such as drug dependency.
-Out-of-body or near-death experience.
-Seeing someone die unexpectedly.
Being rejected or abandoned.
-Forced to act against one’s will or morals.
-Being caught in an accident.
-Being in an unhealthy relationship which made one lose personal power.

Not sure if you might be experiencing soul loss? Here are some of the common symptoms:

-You can’t remember certain parts of your life.
-You are plagued by constant feelings of fear or anxiety.
-You feel like there’s a missing part of yourself.
-You have strong periods of depression.
-You are not sure about your purpose in life.
-You experience long periods of insomnia.
-You feel mental or physical fatigue that does not have any medical explanation.
-You feel lost.
-You have difficulty overcoming certain issues in your life.
-You feel like you’re not in control of yourself.

Why Does the Soul Fragment?

In psychology, soul loss bears similarities to dissociation , where a person experiences splitting of the psyche as a result of trauma or difficult situations. Dissociation is “any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.”

Is dissociation bad? Not necessarily. It’s considered to an essential psychological mechanism that helps people survive trauma and get through episodes of extreme stress. Dissociation is common reaction to severe stress and tends to pass on its own when the stressful or traumatic event goes away. Dissociative symptoms are defined broadly and range widely from daydreaming, being lost in your thoughts, to extreme focus in work – which can activate Flow states – to confusion, inability to cope with day-to-day responsibilities, and disruptive anti-social behavior. For this reason, “it’s important not to oversimplify dissociation as always being a bad thing. Dissociation becomes a problem when it is severe, persistent, distressing, or disabling. It is a common aspect of many mental illnesses such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Major Depression.”

From a shamanic point of view, soul loss is not necessarily a bad thing either. Your soul “knows” if you are capable of handling a traumatic experience or stressful situation. The wounded part of your soul leaves your body so that you won’t feel the ego-annihilating fullness of the pain. Soul fragmentation protects the person undergoing some trauma or loss, shielding them from the bulk of the pain, and helping the individual get through the traumatic event. It’s a survival mechanism that protects your soul from being annihilated, and shields the individual from the pain of physical or emotional traumas.

While soul loss may have been unavoidable or necessary at the time of the trauma, neglecting the hurt fragmented parts of the soul and going on with life with a fragmented soul leads to other problems, such as depression, susceptibility to disease, behavioral patterns from the unhealed trauma that lead to self-sabotage, and mental illness. Besides, it’s no fun going through life feeling like a zombie.

Just like with any other wound, that wounded part of the soul should at some point undergo some healing. That’s where shamanic soul retrieval comes in.

What is Soul Retrieval?

Soul retrieval is the process of recovering the lost soul fragments, and is typically performed by shamans. Soul retrieval practices exist in many cultures.

In some cultures, the elders will say a prayer to their younger ones whenever they hurt themselves, in order to call their souls back. In the Bon shamanic tradition of Tibet, the soul is comprised of vital energies that derive from the 5 elements – space, wind, fire, water, earth – so soul retrieval involves invoking the 5 elemental deities and displaying an altar that offers a ransom to the spirits of the lower realms who may be holding soul fragments hostage.

In Northern Thailand, soul retrieval rituals involve Buddhist prayers and also an altar filled with offerings, including moonshine and bon bons, to entice the soul that got frighted away by a traumatic event to come back to its owner. Mmmm, rice wine and candy…

As with the story of the Weeping Camel, a camel who rejects its newborn calf, soul retrieval can even be performed on animals.weeping camel movie

Shamanic cultures understand that whenever you’re hurt either physically or emotionally, it’s a spiritual illness that affects the soul, which can later on, turn into physical disease.

This is because you lose vital life force energy when your soul fragments, and if this illness is not healed, it can manifest as a physical, emotional, or mental disease.

On a collective level, soul loss is so widespread that some believe that it is the root cause of many of the problems plaguing society today. Disease, abusive relationships, crime, workaholism, chronic illnesses, addiction, corruption, terrorism and war – these are all indications of soul loss.

In order to help a person with fragmented soul feel whole once again, soul retrieval is an essential part of the healing process. Once the other pieces of the soul are retrieved, the next step is reintegrating them back together, which will bring back the power and potential energy of the person. Soul retrieval and reintegration provide the following benefits:

-You’ll feel grounded
-You’ll be energized, awake, and feel more alive
-You’ll notice that you seem to have greater influence in the world
-You’ll become more aware of decisions, choices and behaviors
-You’ll have an unexplainable surge of joy or feeling of lightness
-You’ll notice better physical well being and experience lesser sickness
-You’ll sleep better
-You’ll be more equipped to battle addictive tendencies
-You’ll feel a sense of belongingness or wholeness
-You’ll notice better mental clarity

Why Psychotherapy May Not Heal Soul Loss

Psychotherapy is often used of help treat dissociation. While this can work in some people, it may not result in a “return to wholeness” in others. This is because psychotherapy only addresses the dissociative symptoms in the individual as it pertains to the patient’s emotional or mental state. Psychotherapy rarely address the spiritual component, let alone recognize the existence of a soul, or energy body. Therefore, it rarely addresses solutions that may lie in the realms of the collective unconscious. From the shamanic point of view, psychotherapy does not address the person from a holistic level – that of spiritual being who is having a human experience.

In comparison, shamanism considers soul loss as a spiritual illness, that causes emotional sickness and physical disease. As a result of a trauma or stress, fragments of the soul – crucial parts of ourselves that provide us with life and vitality – can leave the energy body and go wander in different realms. The said realms are more often than not, inaccessible because these are guarded by heavy defenses. People may not or have difficulty accessing these on their own. This is where shamans can help.

Shamanic Healing Through Soul Retrieval – How It Does It Work?

Shamans have always been the healers and psychologists of their communities. As Sandra Ingerman, writes in her book Soul Retrieval, Mending the Fragmented Self, “Around the world and across many cultures a person who deals with the spiritual aspect of illness is a shaman. A shaman diagnoses and treats illnesses, divines information, communicates and interacts with the spirit world…and helps souls cross over to the other world.”

Because of their ability to navigate the spirit world, shamans can guide you through these realms to help retrieve the lost fragments of your soul.

A shaman will enter trance states together with the affected person. Together, they will journey through the spirit worlds, accompanied by spirit helpers, setting the intention to retrieve the lost parts of the soul. The journey is narrated to the client or could also be visualized through active imagination.

These journeys may involve encounters with dark energies that may show themselves as dangerous beasts like monsters, reptiles or dragons. The beasts in question are the guardians of the soul, or known as defense mechanisms in psychotherapy. Successfully retrieving the fragmented parts of the soul means having to overcome these dark energies.

Once the shaman and the client are able to retrieve the missing parts of the soul, the shaman will reintegrate these back together with the client. Reintegration can be done several ways such as by blowing the energy back into the body, through a ceremony, or could also be done with the use of cognitive tools like inner child work or Gestalt therapy.

You don’t have to go through life feeling lost or wondering why it feels like there is a missing part of you. With the help of soul retrieval, you can reintegrate your soul and get to experience what it feels like to be thriving and whole once again.”



“Love is a driving force for many people. People generally want more of it, and they go searching for it in a whole host of places. Other people don’t really know what love is. Their quest may be to figure out what love is since it drives so many other people to great lengths.

Let’s start with that question too. What is love?

People put an enormous amount of time, energy, and money to find it, but what is really being sought?

On this spiritual awakening blog, I regularly talk about true love and loving kindness, and I will offer some explanation of the differences between the two. But before I get to them, let’s talk more about what people are actually seeking, and–spoiler alert–it’s not love.

Understanding What You Are Actually After
People have a lot of different beliefs about love, and all those beliefs start in childhood. Whatever was told and taught to them was “love,” and that’s what love will generally be for that person for the rest of his/her life. That understanding of love will be unconsciously used as the yard stick (or meter stick if you prefer) to measure experiences against. This will happen unless someone lives in such an unhappy situation that they never learned what love is, and this lack of a yard/meter stick will generally cause the individual a lot of consternation whenever anyone talks about love much less tells the person that they love the individual.

So what is love to you?

As always this is a great journaling activity, but generally speaking, this is what someone finds after they peel away the beliefs and specific interactions:
An emotional and physical sense of safety
A sense of validation and appreciation for who they are
There may be more basic elements to love, and there are certainly a whole bunch of different physiological responses that can arise. If you think of other aspects of love, please feel free to leave a comment below.

But these are certainly 3 of the biggest for people with a healthy orientation towards love and other people. When someone has had a lot of pain in childhood, love can become a scary thing, which makes many people feel conflicted about love. Love and a feeling of obligation can also be intertwined. However, the key point here is that these all these aspects and experiences of love are feelings.

Your Feelings Come From You
One of the central illusions of the ego is that what you really want–whether it is love or something else–is out there somewhere. This illusion drives people to go on all kinds of journeys to find the best job, best romantic partner, best spiritual teacher, best friends, best athletic feats, best massage therapists, and so on. This quest is never-ending because our feelings are always changing. Even as the ego is dissolved, the body–which is the source of our emotions and sensations–has good days and bad days. Some days the body doesn’t produce the same cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters that made a person feel in love with a romantic partner. Is that the romantic partner’s fault? No. They can’t make you feel your feelings.

And neither can anyone else.

Certainly, we can manipulate our body’s chemical balances to achieve certain feelings, but that’s a real slippery slope that leads down into addiction. Drugs and all the ways our ego tries to manipulate us and life are going to create–at best–momentary contentment and enjoyment amidst all the striving and craving. More often than not, this craving and desiring will get in the way of love.

The point in all of this is that we choose most of our emotions, and the ego is doing most of the choosing.

Do We Have Free Will?

Ego Beliefs and Limitations on Love
It is important to understand that the spiritual path isn’t about constantly feeling good all the time. There are deeper forms of love. But when we begin to understand our ego self, we begin to realize that we won’t even let ourselves feel enjoyable love without trying to meet a whole bunch of ego beliefs first.

Our ego beliefs decide when, how, and with whom we can offer love. Think about that. Think about how many rules you have that stop you from experiencing love in everyday life.

Keep thinking about it.

Keep going.

Okay, do you get a sense of how few opportunities your ego allows just for loving kindness? Most people will have many, many rules against love. They can be beliefs such as:

You aren’t allowed to feel love driving in your car because that’s just a boring commute.
You can’t have it studying at school.
You can’t have it cooking dinner.
Your relationships have to do and say things before you can have it, and
You certainly can’t share love with a stranger or receive it back.

Obviously, these ego beliefs are wrong, and these are just the tip of the ego iceberg. The reality is that there are NO LIMITS on when and how you can experience love. Understanding that your craving for love is equally being thwarted by your ego rules is important if you want to invite more love into your life.

Loving Kindness and True Love
Okay, here are two forms of love that must be understood on the spiritual path:

Loving kindness–Receiving or sharing a sense of appreciation for another through words or touch that elicit a sense of happiness and safety. There’s probably a sense of relaxation in the body as well for someone who is emotionally healthy.

Loving kindness if very much subjective, and how everyone feels it is different. This form of love also comes and goes. It is unlikely to be present at a funeral or after a car wreck.

True love–The unconditional acceptance of what is.

In the space of true love, nothing is rejected. Everything is accepted. When a parent approaches a petulant child from true love, they address the child as they are in the midst of their tantrum. The parent doesn’t need to be angry. The parent doesn’t need to try and offer loving kindness unless they feel it is appropriate. They don’t need to manipulate the child’s feelings. They accept that the child is upset. Sometimes, the child needs a time-out or some form of non-violent tough love, meaning that the child won’t necessarily like their parent’s response but s/he is not hurt emotionally or physically. So tough love is absolutely NOT spanking or yelling at the child. True love gives the parent a full range of conscious possibilities in how to approach the child.

Craving You GIFs | Tenor

How to Become a Better Spiritual Parent

In the same way, true love gives ourselves the permission to be as we are. In turn, that tends to unlock more possibilities for the expression and experience of loving kindness with others and within ourselves.

Maturing Love
Maturing love is a reference to what happens to us the more we let go of the ego and stay in the space of true love–the space of awareness. While loving kindness is generally about enjoyable and comfortable experiences, true love has space for so much more. Because of that, our sense of how to interact from love changes to incorporate more and more difficult and uncomfortable situations.

Consider getting fired from a job. To most egos, this is a bad thing. For others, they may try to turn it into a good thing, but that becomes another ego game. Instead, true love accepts the reality, and this, in turn, creates space for ease and a peaceful parting. Most employers and managers don’t enjoy firing people, and to have an employee facilitate an easy transition can be a powerful experience for everyone involved. People remember these things, and if the organization does better in the future, they could hire you back. They’d hire you back, in part, because of love–the love you shared with them by being at peace with the end of the job and helping things go smoothly.

While not all jobs are worth going back to and there are all kinds of different job situations people have, take the above example for what it is; it is a metaphor for how true love evolves us and creates a more mature version of love beyond the loving kindness we are used to seeking.

Signs of a Maturing Soul

One quick note about craving: craving is an ego desire. Desires, in and of themselves, ultimately need to be investigated. Here’s a blog post to help you go further in letting go of craving, which generally can never be satisfied and will keep finding things to desire until it is let go:

Cracking Open Craving and its Hidden Desires

Unreasonably Loving
The ego creates reasons about when we can love others. The spiritual inner work we do takes those reasons away. Without those reasons, we can be happy for no reason at all.

Think about that.

Keep thinking.

You don’t need a reason to feel love. You also don’t need to a reason to share love.

To be sure, we don’t generally go laughing and skipping along with a friend who just had a bad divorce and lost a relationship they truly believed would have lasted their whole lives. While their feelings are also choices, the space of true love within us makes us wise. You can still be happy when someone is sharing their pain, but how you express love in that moment is different than in another. Thus, a mature sense of love doesn’t get trapped in having to be expressed in the same ways of affection. There are many ways love can be expressed, and true love gives people the ability to access them.

And none of that love needs a reason to be experienced. That is the beauty of learning from the space of unconditional acceptance within you–true love. You can open your heart and express love now. There’s no need to wait.

As you learn to unreasonably love everything, you can then find new and more mature ways of sharing love, including those expressions that might not have seemed like love before.

Craving love from others is often the result of not fully loving or understanding yourself.

Constantly feeling as though people do not love you is a sign that you need to learn to love yourself. Always craving love is a cycle that must be stopped as soon as possible. By acknowledging the positive traits about yourself and learning to live for you, eventually, the love craving cycle will end. You will begin to realize that you do not need love from others to be happy with your life. In the end you may be surprised; when you give yourself real love, so will others.

Step 1

Think about the things you love. Knowing and understanding the things that make you happy is vital in stopping the cycle of craving love from others. Write down a list of all the hobbies you enjoy such as reading or writing. If you do not have a hobby that you enjoy, write down hobbies that you have always wanted to try such as knitting or hiking.

Step 2

Write down your favorite characteristics about yourself. Instead of focusing on physical characteristics, think of personality traits. For example, if helping others brings you joy, write down that you have a big heart. Only write down your positive attributes.

Step 3

Consider the aspects of your life you want to improve. Instead of thinking about things that you cannot change, look at areas of your life you can improve. Some people are unhappy with their financial situation. Other people believe that they are not open enough with friends and family. Whatever you feel needs improvement in your life, write it down.

Step 4

Make a promise to yourself to focus on you and not everyone else. People often get caught up in trying to please others because they believe that giving and never receiving is acceptable. Constantly trying to make others happy and never doing anything for yourself only hinders you in the end. Begin focusing on improving yourself and making yourself happy rather than everyone else around you.

never ending gif | Tumblr

Step 5

Work on one thing at a time. Read the list of improvements you want to make and choose one to start working on. Start with small improvements and work your way to larger tasks. For example, if you want to feel healthier and you are a smoker, begin walking every day and then quit smoking. Small accomplishments encourage you to tackle larger tasks.

Step 6

Start enjoying yourself. Refer to your list of hobbies or potential hobbies. Choose a hobby that you enjoy or want to try. Do the hobby and forget the parts of your life that cause you stress. This is your time to enjoy yourself and do something that you want to do.

Step 7

Regain your confidence. Refer to your list of characteristics. Whenever you feel discouraged or upset, remember that you have a list of characteristics that show your good qualities. As you gain more confidence, add more positive characteristics to the list.


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