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Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

8A recent study by British and Australians researchers showed that lottery winners were more likely to switch party affiliation to a more conservative or right wing party. In fact, 18% immediately switched from a more liberal to more conservative party. While this is not necessarily surprising, it does bring up some very interesting questions regarding wealth, ideology, and greed.

First of all, the greatest irony is that lottery winners are the people who probably “deserve” their money the least (with the possible exception or rich heirs). They did nothing to earn it, but by the luck of the draw they won. However, regardless of how they earned the money, they choose to hold onto it tight and curse the system that might take some of it for the greater social good, even if they were dependent on those social ideas and protections before.

It is a classic case of forgetting where you came from or more likely, deliberately choosing not to confront it. How does an ideology change so quickly? Well, for most there was most likely no ideological conviction to begin with. It was simply self-interest. When the individuals were poor or middle class, the ideas of the labor of leftist party were more in their self-interest. When they became wealthy, the ideology of the right wing party benefited them. Again, it is not surprising, but  it is a sad commentary on the impact of greed on our psyche.

Studies have shown that the more wealth one has the lower percentage of their income they give away. Why is this? More money by its very nature usually causes us to become more enclosed and greedy. Perhaps, that is why Jesus warns us about money and accumulating wealth. However, this issue does not just apply to Wall Street bankers. It is for all of us. Will we follow the path of Jesus with our finances or will we allow money to blind us to the radical message of the Kingdom of God? A message that calls us to self sacrifice and justice.

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1I lived in Costa Rica the last 4 years, but my wife and I have just moved to South Carolina. For me, it is my third time living in South Carolina, but for my wife it is her first time living outside of the United States. We left Costa Rica in June, but I actually start teaching in about a week and a half.

There is a lot of surrealism that surrounds the journey back into the U.S. There are certainly some positive aspects. In the U.S. many areas of life are simply much more convenient and efficient. There is the opportunity to be around family much more. On a political or social level, I no longer feel like an “outsider” when it comes to any type of political or social activism or discussion. I am also excited about many opportunities that are available in the U.S. Personally, I am excited about the chance to study my graduate degree, have a chance to work and serve in a very challenging yet hopefully rewarding place, earn a better living with more career opportunities, and have a chance to grow deeper in the relationships with my family.

On the other hand, there is a lot of sadness that comes with moving back to the U.S. There is the call of consumerism that seems to engulf so many, and it is very easy if one is not careful to fall into the same cycle. I have also noticed more selfishness and less of a sense of community, especially when comes to issues related to politics or the well being of others in the community. There is an idea of the survival of the fittest, which of course is seen in all countries around the world; however, it is not usually held up as a virtue by most of the society.

For me, change is just hard. It is a realization that life is moving on and evolving, when I often would prefer it to stay the same. I miss the church we went to, the students I was able to teach, and the many friends we were able to share life with. I also miss the beauty of the people and nature in Costa Rica. However, that is the thing about life-it changes. Change is usually exciting and sad at the same time. I would not change my experiences in Costa Rica for the world, and I hope one day we can return. However, during this time of change I pray that we will be challenged, forced to grow, and in the end, in a small way make a better world and live our lives in the full realization of the Kingdom of God.

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4I often have to catch myself from being too pessimistic when I think of the future. I automatically think of growing disparities of wealth, corporate takeover, and a growing police state. However, when I study history, I realize that every generation has had fear of the future.

During the Cold War, the fear was that the U.S. was going to soon be taken over by the Russians. I remember my mom telling me that when she was a young a famous TV Preacher stated with the confidence that the Soviets would be marching down the streets of Washington DC in a matter of years. Of course, that never happened, just like all the other doomsday scenarios that the Cold War brought with it.

During the Industrial Revolution that was a great fear by many. With the new technology what was human society going to be like? And yes..there have certainly been very bad consequences to society and the environment as a result of technological advances, but there have also been a lot of positive changes. The fact that I am sitting here in Costa Rica, writing a blog that people could read in every corner of the globe is a pretty big testament to many the advantages and blessings that technology has brought us.

We could also look at the fear during the cultural changes during the 60’s and 70’s. People were completely fearful of what it would lead to in society. Obviously, there have been negatives that have come of the cultural revolution; however, there have also been many positives and many people have freedom and rights that were completely suppressed in early times. Minorities have been given a voice, and some ideas such as nationalism have lost their edge.

Does this mean that we just not be concerned about the direction the world economy or the nation is going in? Of course not, there could be some very serious problems if we don’t make some major changes. However, that is the beauty of humanity. In the midst of problems, great solutions often come. Maybe we should have a healthy skepticism of the future; however, every once in a while let’s sit back and realize that perhaps that the future is not as scary as we think it is going to be. It will be very different, but it might not be all bad.

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11The old phrase goes that you often don’t appreciate something until it is gone. Right now, this is exactly how I am feeling. This year my wife and I are leaving Costa Rica to teach/study either in the U.S. or another international school. I have loved my four years in Costa Rica, but I am now realizing all the possibilities I may have ignored.

For example, this past weekend, I decided to climb the mountain in my town. I just started walking up from our house until I reached the very top. For some reason, in my three years of living at the same house, I have never taken the time to climb the mountain. However, as I am leaving I am realizing the natural beauty around me that I have often taken for granted. I have also decided to eat as many of the cheap, exotic, and abundant fruits that I can before I leave. How foolish has it been for me to pay for a 6 dollar box of cereal, when I have an abundance of bananas, papayas, pineapples, and other tropical fruit to choose from.

How often do we do this? It takes us realizing that something dramatic is going to change in our life for us to actually appreciate what is around us. This is probably why many cancer survivors or other people who have had a close brush with death say that would not take back the experience if they could. The sense of loss made them appreciate the friends, family, and life all around them. It is unfortunate that as humans we often need this sense of loss to gain appreciation.

How much of our life do we savor everyday? How many great adventures or opportunities have we passed up because we think we have forever to do them? We were never guaranteed another day, yet we live our lives thinking that we have forever to live out our dreams. The reality is that we do not. This time as we are getting ready to leave Costa Rica has reminded me of that. As I look around me at this beautiful country with all the life it has to give, I am much more appreciative. It is my prayer that I can live with those open eyes through my life and refuse to take the beauty and grace around me for granted.

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If you haven’t seen the news, you will in the next day or so. The main film maker of KONY 2012 was hospitalized for what seems to be a serious mental breakdown. After reading a few stories, it is shocking to see the comments that are many are making, mocking and insulting Jason Russell. Many automatically assume that he is on crack cocaine or crystal meth or at the minimum that he brought it on himself.

A part of us loves to see when people fall. There seems to be some sick voyeuristic pleasure in it for many. Perhaps it makes many feel better about their own lives. However, it is saddening. I do not know if Russell and the makers of Invisible Children’s strategies on stopping on child soldiers are the best or wisest, but I do believe that they did have good intentions. You can argue with them about their message or their methods or even how exactly they run their finances, but it is very dangerous to accuse their motivations.

Mental illness seems to still be something that people feel privileged to make fun of and mock. You wouldn’t see anyone mocking a patient with cancer or a heart disease, however, when people have a mental breakdown, it is often made out to be that they are a bad or irresponsible person.

Those with mental illness are not freaks to be made fun of; they are children of God who should be loved, protected, and cared for. In our country, many of them are simply thrown out to the streets and are forced to live a life of homelessness. Hopefully, this episode with awaken people to realize that mental illness is something that we are all susceptible at some point in our life, and we need to create a society where people who do fall unto hard times are cared for and loved.

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It seems that many in the U.S. and Israeli governments are moving closer on another way with Iran, out of sheer and irrational paranoia. If we were to look at it objectively, there is no real reason to go to war with Iran. They have not even developed a nuclear weapon, there is debate if they are even going to, and even if they did, there is no legitimate threat to the U.S. or Israel.

However, this call for war is not based on objective rationality; it is based on a subjective and irrational fear. That fear could lead us to major problems. In the processes of protecting ourselves from a “possible threat”, we could be bringing real disaster and a costly and widespread war. More people could be killed than would ever be killed in an airstrike from Iran.

There is a lesson to be seen here for all of us. How much of the time do we act or fail to act out of mere paranoia and thinking of the worst possible outcome? How many great possibilities have we missed out on in life because we live in fear of something go wrong? How many mistakes have we made out of the motivation of protecting ourselves, our families, and our assets from an irrational threat?

Obviously, this needs to be put in balance; we should not make foolish decision or purposely put ourselves in harm’s way. However, I am convinced if we lived more of our lives out of optimism and reaching for possibilities instead of running away from our fears, we could do amazing things. Maybe, we could even change the world.

The next time you hear the paranoia about Iran, do not only think about the foolishness of the political rhetoric, consider how we make our own decisions out of paranoia and fear. The disease that plagues many in the U.S. and Israeli governments is something that plagues all of us from one time or another. Let’s pray that the U.S. and Israel move past their paranoia and let us resolve to not let paranoia hinder us from doing something great with our lives.

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I have finished recently listening to the audio book called the Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, who is a Psychologist from Harvard University. While the very name can obviously make one very skeptical, it was a very well rounded book that gave clear scientific and psychological examples and studies to back up its claims. It was not like many self-development manuals which is full of mere ideology that the author has created. The basic thesis is that happiness creates success and not the opposite which is usually taught in society that success creates happiness.

There were many powerful aspects to the book which I will be dealing with in future posts, but one of the most intriguing parts of the book was the link between happiness and gratitude. Now, we all know the basic idea that gratitude makes us have a better view of the world and therefore, we become happier. However, Achor goes into more depth and points out the scientific studies that actual show this reality. In one study he cites, a group of individuals are asked to write down the things in their life they are grateful for every afternoon for just a few days. The results are astounding as the participants are not only much happier when the study is being done, but continue to be much happier after the study compared to the control group who did not write down what they were grateful for. The simple act of remembering ones blessings had a large impact.

In the end, gratitude is not just something we should practice; it is essential for our well-being and our happiness. It allows us to get out of the rut of only looking at the negative in our lives and actually begin to see the positives that are all around us, but that we usually miss. Today, a great activity you could start would be to simply write down the blessings of the day, no matter how small, you may see your view on the world start to change and your happiness grow.

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