CONTROL THYSELF..!

I am sure we all have, at some point of time in life, hit the snooze button of a ringing alarm even when we know that 5 minutes more of hiding under the bed covers is going to cost us. “Just stop procrastinating..!”, you would have told yourself when you have a pile of papers to read and you just want to watch a show on TV or sit in the balcony and stare outside. You plan a diet of heavy mornings and light dinners and promise yourself to stick to it for a month. After two days, your mother or wife makes a sumptuous mouth watering meal at night and you just devour it to your heart’s content.

Did you just notice one word that was missing in all these cases which led to disasters? Well, I did (for obvious reasons). This word has very high powers, is preached to us by elders and is an “exhaustible natural resource” in its literal sense.

The word is SELF-CONTROL.

The concept of self control dates back to all the religious books which constantly advocate its practice.

It is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, Quran and also Bible. Here are a few verses which indicate the same.

“He who has conquered his self is in the company of the Supreme. In cold or heat, happiness or sorrow, respect or disrespect, he is always serene.” (Bhagavad Gita Chapter VI)

“O David! …do not follow the whims of your own soul for they will lead you astray from God’s path.” (Quran 38:26)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Bible Galatians 5:22-24)

So what is it that makes our historians mention about this? Why is it so important?

To answer this we need to visit our animal brothers and sisters. Lets see what we have in common with them.

Scientists have found that animals also have care and affection for their peers. They also exhibit social behavior. By social behavior, I mean you could see a herd of elephants mourn for the death of one of its members. They have a helping nature too. Scientists have seen them help an elephant who collapsed in the African forest. Other animals exhibit similar characteristics.

So how are we different from them? We have a power to discriminate between good and bad. When we head towards bad, we try to control ourselves. Without this, we would just be animals.

Now, I said self-control is an exhaustible natural resource. To illustrate this, lets see this experiment which was one of the earliest in self-control.

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Participants were asked to skip their meal and their hunger was further stoked by seating them in front of a tray full of delicious cookies. There was a bowl of radishes alongside.

Half of them were told to eat only radishes and not cookies. The other half were privileged with cookies.

Later, all the participants were given a set of extremely difficult (unsolvable) puzzles and were timed how long they kept trying before giving up.

It was observed that those who ate radishes gave up earlier than the ones who ate cookies.

What can we observe here?

Radishes are not brain food but cookies are..!! 😀 Definitely not.

By resisting cookies, their self-control and hence will power depleted. So they gave up on the puzzles soon.

This may be the reason why dieters eat more fattening food when their willpower has been depleted.

So the question is, how would you save this depleting resource and be a “human”?

Signing off…

Fun with norms

Right from the time you are born, you are governed by rules. As a school going child, you are told to prepare notes. As a college student, you have to attend classes and maintain your attendance. As an employee, you are to be in office for fixed hours.

Now tell me who has told you to eat the food on your plate with a spoon when you go to hotels? Who has told you not to sit next to a stranger in a bus even when there are other empty seats in the bus? Why do you look around before you try to scratch your back in public? Why do you find it odd to yawn with your mouth wide open in an interesting seminar? Have you tried to enter a lift and face your back to the door?

Psychologists have termed these as Social Norms. These are a set of beliefs held by a group of people about how the members should behave in a given social context.

I tried breaking one such norm and tried to record reactions.

COIN POWER

I went to a store to buy a few hair clips. He showed me black colored clips. I asked him, “Do you have different colored ones?” He replied, “Of course madam..!” and started bringing out boxes of colored clips. 

I started looking at them and thought out loud(yes, I mean loud in the literal sense). I picked up the pink clip and said, “Hmm, this can go with my pink shirt…” By then, the shopkeeper had an anxious face and was about to keep it aside to pack. Suddenly, I said, “Oh no it has blue patterns with it…also, its a lighter shade of pink.” I dropped this and picked a red one. 

Yeah baby, blood red. This color always suits me and it looks so cute..!” The shopkeeper was happy and moved his hand forward to pick the red one for packing. I stopped him saying, “Wait! I cannot wear it with any other dress. It would be a waste.” His face was as though he had just missed coming very close to winning a trophy.

I continued giving a free peek into my thoughts over colors green, yellow, orange, silver and gold. The shopkeeper’s face was red by now. In the meanwhile, I was feeling very awkward thinking out loud and I was trying to “talk” myself out of it. I was thinking what the shopkeeper might think about me. He might be very wild with me and might think I am a complete dumbo..!!

After a marinated cocktail of feelings within me and a variety of reactions from the shopkeeper, I decided to stay with two black hair clips. The shopkeeper was relieved the free show was over and started packing. Little did he know that this was his unlucky day.

He told me that the total amount payable was fifty rupees. I pulled out a coin purse and poured the coins onto the table. All of them were one and two rupee coins. I started counting them out loud beginning from one. (I felt and looked like a complete idiot. I wanted to stop the counting and apologize to him. I even felt like laughing at how I was trying to make a fool out of myself)

The shopkeeper had entirely different thoughts going on. He just stared at me with an expression that said, “Oh common..!!! Are you serious?? What on earth is wrong with you??”

By the time I reached the count of 30, the shopkeeper was clearly and evidently irritated. He stopped me and said, “Madam, let me count it for you..!” He grouped the coins into five per group and finally made it a half century.

Victorious and relieved, he made the bill and was too glad to send me off.

Try breaking one and see for yourself.

The Silent Spectator

How many of you have witnessed an accident on the road right in front of your eyes and just moved on? How many of you have peeped into your neighbor’s book in class when you don’t catch a dictated word? While travelling in a bus, how many of you sit in your seat & wait for someone else to get up and give a seat to an old woman who is just aboard?

Well, if you have done any of these things above, you are not the only one my friend. The entire human race is just like you. Read on..

Some students were invited to a lab under the pretext that they were taking part in a discussion about personal problems. They were talking to many unknown people (each with 1 to 4 individuals).

Since the nature of the discussion was sensitive, they were told that the discussion will take place over intercom.

During the discussion, one of the members of the group (to which the participant was talking) suddenly appeared to have an epileptic seizure. They started choking for some duration of time and then there was silence at the other end.

REACTION TIME

The experimenters observed that some participants made no move to intervene. Also, the more the the number of people in the group, the slower the participant reacted to the situation.

So what is this that makes us not care for the other person? Are we so ignorant? Are we so selfish?

 Psychologists call this as Bystander effect.

One of the first steps in anyone’s decision to help another is the recognition that someone is actually in need of help. Many of us may fail to recognize the emergency of the situation. For example, imagine you are at a swimming pool and you see a child struggling in the water. What would you do? You would first look around to see if anyone else also feels the same as you do. If no one is reacting, you may just conclude that the child might just be playing in the water. Psychologists call this pluralistic ignorance

Lets say we are not like them and we do recognize emergencies. Then, what do we do? Most of us just wait for someone else to take some action while we just watch what happens. This is called Diffusion of responsibility.

Its human nature to play safe and ensure that we don’t fall for unnecessary trouble. So is it right on your part to just stand and watch a child drown in the water when you know you can save the child? Is it ok to watch someone bleed to death from an accident in front of you and go into a shock later due to witnessing the event?

Thats for you to decide, now that you know the “someone else” who was supposed to help out the sufferer may never exist.

Signing off….

How obedient are we?

This is for all the “last-benchers”, “class-bunkers” and all those who think they have disobeyed someone at some point of their life.

I came across an article in which an experiment was conducted to show how social situations can affect the way we behave. Read on. 

While reading the Sunday newspaper, Bill notices that a prestigious university is recruiting people to participate in a psychological study designed to help people improve their memory. He decides to volunteer for the experiment as he thinks it is interesting and he will also get paid a fee.

On his arrival at the university’s laboratory, Bill is greeted by the researcher and introduced to a second applicant named Douglas. The experimenter explains that the research study will test a new method of improving people’s learning and memoryby punishing them for their errors.

The task is straightforward: Bill will play the role of the “Teacher” and give Douglas, the “Learner,” a set of word pairings to memorize in a given time period. Every time that the Learner provides the correct answer, the Teacher gives him a verbal reward, “Good” or “That’s right.”When wrong, the Teacher is to press a lever on the impressive looking shock apparatus that delivers an immediate shock to punish the error.

The shock generator has 30 switches, starting from a low level of only 15 V and increasing in intensity all the way up to 450 V. The control panel indicates both the voltage level of each of the switches and a corresponding description of that level. For instance, the 25th level (375 V) is labeled “Danger, Severe Shock.” The experimenter goes on to note that every time the Learner makes a mistake, the Teacher must press the next higher level voltage switch.

The Learner is escorted into an adjacent room, where his arms are strapped down and an electrode is attached to his right wrist. The shock generator in the next room will deliver the shocks to the Learner—if and when he makes any errors. Doug mentions that he has a slight heart condition and hopes the shocks will not hurt him much.

He is reassured not to worry, that the shocks may become strong but will not cause any permanent damage. Bill administers the test material and communicates over the intercom to Doug, while the Experimenter stands near him.

Initially, Doug performs well, getting rewarding praise from Bill. However, he soon starts making errors, for which Bill immediately starts pressing those shock switches. As Doug messes up more and more, the shock levels are going up, and he complains that the shocks are starting to hurt.

At 75 V, he moans and groans; at 150 V, the tenth level, Doug (Learner) has had enough and demands to be released from the experiment. Bill looks anxiously at the Experimenter, who nods that he must continue.

As the shock levels increase in intensity, so do the Learner’s screams, as well as his reminder that he has a heart condition. Bill is now really distressed: “Sir, who will be responsible if anything happens to that man?” The Experimenter dismisses his concern about personal responsibility by declaring, “I will be fully responsible, now continue your task, Teacher.

At 300 V, the Learner demands to be freed and complains louder about his heart condition. Bill has had enough, he verbally dissents,“I can’t continue to hurt him, sir, I refuse to go on.” The Experimenter calmly insists that Bill must continue because he has a contract to complete the experimental procedure.

Reluctantly, Bill goes on punishing Doug for his errors until he reaches the level of 330V. Bill hears screams, a thud, and then silence from the shock chamber.“He is not responding; someone should go in there to see if he is all right.” But the Experimenter is impassive and tells Bill, “If the learner doesn’t answer in a reasonable time, about 5 seconds, consider it wrong.

Now, I will stop here and pose a few questions.

  1. At what shock level do you think Bill stopped the experiment?
  2. How do you think you would act if you were in place of Bill?
  3. At what shock level would you absolutely refuse to continue?

Okay, let me answer the first question for you.

Every two out of three people (500 participants) on whom this experiment was conducted went up to the maximum shock level 450 V !!! And Bill was one of the two.

You would have thought that most of them would have verbally dissented or just walked out of the room right? I mean who would sell out their morality for a few currency notes. Would you?

Thats the power of an authority over you. I would rather call it a social situation.

But remember that although there was a majority that obeyed fully, there was the other one of three people who refused to give in to unjust authority. So what makes people help others, serve the poor or even act heroically?

Welcome to Social psychology. I will share more as I learn more. Stay tuned.

Signing off…

Am I dreaming? – Part 2

As promised, I am here with the interpretation.

Very recently, our dreamer(identity not disclosed) had this dream in which she saw
her own home.

The Dream

All she remembers is the appearance of a completely white background and then the
appearance of her own room.
The only element she sees in the room is the brown door. The room is completely
silent and peaceful and she feels very relaxed. She opens the door and enters her living
room only to see a lot o hassle. There are many strangers in the hall who are acting
very uncultured and are making a lot of noise. She is panicking and is struggling to
get those people out of her home.
After sometime, she recalls that some event happens and suddenly all the people vanish
from the hall and its restored to a calm state and she feels relaxed.

The interpretation

Now there are different ways to interpret this dream. Since she sees her own home,
it may indicate that her feeling of security was being questioned through the dream.
It may also indicate her thinking about venturing into a settled life(which I get to
know from checking her current details). The color white might have portrayed the
feeling of inner peace which she might get out of settling down.

The next element is the doorway she sees which opens into a disturbing situation. This
may represent an unwanted change which is making her panic.
The dream also shows the disturbance vanishing and restoring calm. For one thing,
this may be indicating her to stop panicking. Or, it maybe giving her the feeling
of what might happen if that unwanted change which she wished never came true, did
not really happen.

By looking at this, I feel dreams are just a way of restoring order in a being and
giving him a peek into his/her own subconscious self.

Interpretations may vary depending on how they are associated with the emotional self
of the individual.
The question is to whether blindly believe these interpretations and actually
consider the meaning behind it or just wake up the next morning and forget
the dreams we ever had.

As Yann Martel says in his book Life of Pi, “faith/belief is a house with many rooms
having doubts on every floor“.

Feel free to post your opinions on the topic..

Signing off..

P.S: The dream is disclosed with complete consent from the person.

Am I dreaming? – Part 1

I am jumping straight from study of active behavior to analysis of the subconscious for sometime.

I have been looking through many dream analysis books of late.
They say dreams represent the emotional state of a person.
Dreams use a variety of weird combination of elements to suggest
the subconscious state of the mind.By saying weird combination, I mean the most unrelated elements possible.

The combinations range from snakes in bed and computers being hacked to cars flying in the air and many more.

How to interpret a dream?

Now, many of us take the dreams in their literal senses.
For example, when a mother gets a dream of her daughter getting married, she may think
that is an indication that her daughter will soon be married.
Dream analyzers suggest that there is more to a dream than just its literal meaning.
In our example, the mother may be having this dream due to her anticipation of seeing
her daughter’s marriage. She may be looking forward to this event so much that her dream
had to give her the joy of the event to satisfy her expectations.

Dream Ingredients

They also talk about elements in dreams and the significance of these elements.For example, a house indicates security, basic needs and values. One may be getting dreams of home to indicate the feeling of being settled or wanting to settle. Of course, its the combination with which one dreams a home that leads to a meaningful interpretation. 

Color Magic in dreams

Colors also have significance in dreams. For example, white may be featured in many dreams with spiritual overtones. Its also recognized as an emblem of hope. For example, when people feel they have lost everything, they usually see the color white in  their dreams as an indication to restore hope and have faith.

But beware ! White does not always indicate positive potential. It can also
indicate a growing uneasiness with a similar approach to life.

The Great Fall

There are some dreams which feel so real that one cannot forget for a long period
of time. For example, dream of having a powerful sensation of falling. Falling
reflects the feeling of loss of control.

Based on my understanding of these concepts, I have tried to interpret a dream in the next part. Kindly check and any suggestions related to it are welcome.

 

Psyche-ed !!

A major misconception about psychologists is “Ooh you are a psychologist? Then I should be careful with you..you can read my mind..!” 

For all those who think the same, here is a very quick history of its terminology.

  • In the early days, when psychology was first introduced, they called it as the study of the “psyche” which means “soul”.

Well, has anyone seen “soul”? If not, then how can you study it ??? :O

  • So, they re-defined it as the study of the “mind”.

I thought mind was an expirience and could not be seen…confused !!O.o

  • Finally, they called psychology as the study of “behavior”.They defined it as the scientific study of human behavior.

Ah !! Now that makes sense..! 🙂