The Things We Do For Control

How much of human behavior comes from a need for a sense of control?  More than you might want to believe.  When it comes to health, money, love or safety, people get very insecure. We want more control, and this drive can take us to some unhappy places.

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Born Again

“This has not been easy,” my friend Marlon said.  “But after 29 years I can tell you, the worst day out here is better than the best day in prison. I’ve come a long way.”

In 2014, I wrote about Marlon’s impending release, his struggle to come home, and the challenges he still faced. Two years later, he has accomplished astonishing things.

Marlon’s story inspires me from two sides. He has received blessings and help from the world, and he has transformed himself.  His patience and persistence made people want to help him.  His energy, flexibility and determination enabled him to benefit from their help.

As Laurel Mellin wrote in The Solution, “Nobody is going to rescue you from your life.” But you can rescue yourself, and when you try, the world may help you in unexpected ways.  It’s working that way for Marlon.shelby

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Life Imitates Facebook

Lately my newsfeed on Facebook has been painful to read. FB sends me stories of war, of death and political corruption. They make me feel bad, yet they keep sending them.

Why? Because I’m telling them to.  Facebook is a bunch of computers. They are programmed to send me more of what I like. How do they know what I like? Because when they send stories about police violence or Palestine, I am likely to click on them. I’m more likely to interact with them with a comment or a “like.” The computers even  measure how much time I spend looking at a picture or video and include that data in their analysis of using Internt

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Don’t Ask Why

Last week was a hard one on Planet Earth. News came of 500 African refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. On the same newsfeed, I saw a report of the death by global warming of the Great Barrier Reef near Australia, the world’s largest living thing.

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef in happier days

I grieved.  Who wouldn’t be saddened by such enormous losses? I stayed sad for days. I tend to such reactions, but there was more going on, and it might be valuable to look at the causes. 

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Five Things Not to Think About

“Name one thing that you can do better without thinking,” my science loving friend Parrish challenged.  It took me a while to call them to mind, but here are five such things.  It turns out a pretty important list.  If you think all the time, you will miss out on the best life has to offer and cause a lot of grief in the process.  Give your thinking brain some time off when you want to:

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Improv with God

Dev Rogers treated her cancer as a kind of liberation. Diagnosed when she was 70, she underwent a year of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation with all the misery and fear those treatments bring. Her response: she took up acting.

“Cancer gave me permission to act,” she says. “I was attracted to acting as a child, but it never translated. Now I thought, ‘Why not?’”  She took a class at her Neighborhood Playhouse, joined a theater company and has since played in several off-Broadway shows.

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Why Fear is Boss

Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux says “When we feel anxiety, fear, or depression, we cannot force our emotional brain to stop them.” No amount of thought can convince the emotional brain that things are all right. Because life was so dangerous for millions of years, brains evolved to put fear first, ahead of love, pleasure, and rationality. Fear bosses us around for a reason.

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The Metropolis Within

The single most mind-blowing factoid I ever heard – the human body produces about 2.4 million new red blood cells (RBCs) every…..second. Day and night, second after second, 2.4 million new life forms. There is more going on in your body at this very moment than in all of downtown Tokyo at rush hour.


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Addicted to Sad

Yesterday on Facebook, near the top of my newsfeed, I saw a post from a page called Disarm the Police in America. It started “The following families will have an empty chair at their Christmas dinner.” I clicked on it and found a long series of pictures of victims of police shootings. Under each one, page host Rick Hill had written: “Our family will keep your family in our prayers.” In the comments under each post, a woman named Patricia had typed “JUSTICE for (the person pictured.”) In some cases, family members of victims had commented things like “Thanks everyone for your support.” “Still fighting for justice,” “It still hurts.”

On and on for at least 30 people whose cases Disarm the Police are following. I was sobbing after the first three, but I couldn’t stop reading. I’m crying about it now, just thinking about it. But that brings up the question, why was I reading it? Why couldn’t I stop? It’s not like reading their stories was doing the families any good. I wasn’t learning anything new. These were just 30 cases out of thousands in the USA and thousands more worldwide.

All I was getting out of it was sadness. So why look?

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It All Starts with You

If you want to get anywhere or change anything, you have to start with yourself. My friend Sinead ignored that starting point, as so many of us do.

When Sinead got together with her man Connor, she was about 20, and he was brilliant but troubled. She got off her academic track and devoted most of her time to taking care of him, protecting him from the world and soothing his fears. She said it got to where, “There wasn’t much me left. I was so involved in making things OK for him.”

They did pretty well together for 15 years and made quite a bit of money in tech, but Connor didn’t learn to manage his fears. One day, they overflowed and he started beating Sinead brutally. After he knocked her to the floor and started kicking her, she says, “A wave of clarity came over me. I realized I had been trying to save him out of fear, and I decided, I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to act out of love. I stood up. I walked out.”

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