Al Jazeera released a new mini-documentary yesterday on the Koch Brothers — the multi-billionare energy tycoons who have spent over $50 million on campaigns to tear down the science of climate change and clean energy policy.
The documentary features a lengthy interview with our colleague Lee Fang, an investigative reporter with Think Progress, who has played a major role in uncovering the strong “web of influence” of the Koch Brothers on state and federal politicians. The film touches on the Koch role in everything from health care to energy policy. It’s worth the watch. (Note: much of the energy and climate stuff is in the second half, after about 15 minutes.)
This is exactly why “the other 99%” of Americans are protesting in the streets.
http://www.ted.com Psychopathic killers are the basis for some must-watch TV, but what really makes them tick? Neuroscientist Jim Fallon talks about brain scans and genetic analysis that may uncover the rotten wiring in the nature (and nurture) of murderers. In a too-strange-for-fiction twist, he shares a fascinating family history that makes his work chillingly personal.
...physiology of both illnesses, though, they actually do share several features.
Both involve an inability to focus attention and difficulty learning.
Both involve an in ability to tune out environmental stimulus.
Both involve dysregulation of several neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain).
And at least some people with both illnesses, it seems, respond to the class of drugs called neurostimulants, including Ritalin and Adderall.
Research on neurostimulants for chronic fatigue syndrome is in its early stages, but so far it looks promising -- at least for some subgroups. Some specialists recommend them and prescribe them regularly for this condition.
This morning, we're going to hear how neuroscience has entered the courtroom as neuro-law. And some scientists and legal philosophers say the law should give psychopaths a break because their brains may function differently from most people's.
Kent Kiehl has studied hundreds of psychopaths. Kiehl is one of the world's leading investigators of psychopathy, and a professor at the University of New Mexico. He uses a scale called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, to measure traits such as the inability to feel empathy or remorse, pathological lying, or impulsivity.
The scores range from zero to 40. The average person in the community, a male, will score about four or five. Your average inmate might score about 22. Brian scored, like, 38 and a half, basically. He was in the 99th percentile.
Brian is Brian Dugan, a man who is serving two life sentences for murder in Chicago. Last July, Dugan pleaded guilty to raping and murdering 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in 1983, and he was put on trial to determine whether he should be executed. Kiehl was hired by the defense as an expert witness.
In a videotaped interview with Kiehl, Dugan describes how he only meant to rob the Nicaricos' home but then he saw the little girl inside.
Mr. BRIAN DUGAN: She came to the door and I clicked.
Prof. KIEHL: Okay.
Mr. DUGAN: I turned into Mr. Hyde from Dr. Jekyll. I couldn't stop.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Notice the flatness of Dugan's voice. That's typical of a psychopath. And note how he describes his emotions.
Mr. DUGAN: And I have empathy, too, but it's like it just stops. I mean, I start to feel, but it just, something just blocks it.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Kent Kiehl says he's heard that before. All psychopaths claim they feel terrible about their crimes.
Prof. KIEHL: But then you ask them, what does that mean, you feel really bad? And Brian will look at you and go, what do you mean, what does it mean? You know, they look at you like, can you give me some help? You know, hint? Can I call a friend? You know, they have no way of really getting at that at all.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: And, Kiehl says, the reason they can't get to their emotions is because their physical brains are different.
Prof. KIEHL: We have a lot of data that shows that psychopaths do tend to process this information differently. And Brian looked like he was processing it like the other individuals we've studied with psychopathy.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Kiehl says the emotional circuit may be what stops us from breaking into that house or killing that girl. But in psychopaths like Dugan, the brakes don't work. Kiehl says psychopaths are a little like people with a very low IQ who are not fully responsible for their actions. The courts treat people with low IQ differently. For example, they can't get the death penalty.
Prof. KIEHL: What if I told you that a psychopath has an emotional IQ that's like a five-year-old? Well, if that was the case, then we'd make the same argument for individuals with low emotional IQ - that maybe they're not as deserving of punishment or not as deserving of culpability, etc.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: It's a controversial argument, but a number of prominent scientists and legal scholars at places like Harvard and Princeton agree. And that's exactly what Brian Dugan's lawyers argued at trial last November. Attorney Steven Greenberg said that Dugan was not criminally insane. He knew right from wrong, but he was incapable of making the right choices.
Mr. STEVEN GREENBERG (Attorney): Someone shouldn't be executed for a condition that they were born with, because it's not their fault. The crime is their fault, and he wasn't saying it wasn't his fault, and he wasn't saying, give him a free pass; but he was saying, don't kill me because it's not my fault that I was born this way.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: This argument troubles Steven Erickson, a forensic psychologist and legal scholar at Widener University. He notes that alcoholics have brain abnormalities. Do we give them a pass if they kill someone while driving drunk?
Dr. STEVEN ERICKSON (Forensic Psychologist, Legal Scholar, Widener University School of Law):
What about folks who suffer from depression? They have brain abnormalities too. Should they be entitled to excuse under the law? I think the key idea here is that the law is not interested in brain abnormalities. The law is interested in whether or not someone, at the time that the criminal act occurred, understood the difference between right and wrong.
Dr. JONATHAN BRODIE (Psychiatrist, NYU Medical School): There may be many, many people who also have psychopathic tendencies and have similar scans, who don't do antisocial behavior.
Prof. KIEHL: In the meantime, this case signals the beginning of a revolution in the courtroom, says Kiehl. Just like DNA, he believes that brain scans will eventually be standard fare. And that, he and others say, could upend our notions of culpability, crime and punishment.
Neuroscience and neuroimaging is going to change the whole philosophy about how we punish and how we decide who to incapacitate, and how we decide how to deal with people.
New discoveries about the brain are raising the question: Can your genes make you kill? Already, neuroscience has been presented as evidence in more than 1,200 cases. It's being called neuro-law, and it played a role in a murder trial in Tennessee last year. That trial is one of the first where jurors heard evidence from neuroscience to help them decide guilt or innocence.
NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty has this final story in our series on the criminal brain. And a warning to our listeners: This report contains graphic descriptions of violence.
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: When the police arrived at Bradley Waldroup's trailer home in the mountains of Tennessee, they found a war zone. Assistant District Attorney Drew Robinson says there was blood on the walls, blood on the carpet, blood on the truck outside.
Mr. DREW ROBINSON (Assistant District Attorney): This is the defendant's hands as he's being handcuffed.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: They're bloody.
Mr. ROBINSON: Oh, they're just covered in blood.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Waldroup shot his wife's friend, Leslie Bradshaw, eight times, and sliced her head open with a sharp object. Prosecutor Cynthia Lecroy-Schemel says when Waldroup was finished, he chased after his wife, Penny, with a machete, chopping off her finger and cutting her over and over.
Ms. CYNTHIA LECROY-SCHEMEL (Prosecutor): There are murders and then there are just hacking to death, just trails of blood. No, I've not seen one like this, and I've done a lot.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Prosecutors charged Waldroup with the felony murder of Leslie Bradshaw, which carries the death penalty, and attempted first-degree murder of his wife, Penny. It seemed clear to them that Waldroup's actions were intentional and premeditated.
Ms. LECROY-SCHEMEL: One of them was, he told his children to come tell your mama goodbye, because he was going to kill her. And he had the gun, and he had the machete.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: It was a pretty straightforward case. Even Bradley Waldroup said so during his trial last year.
Mr. BRADLEY WALDROUP: I killed Leslie Bradshaw. I attacked my wife. I'm not proud of none of it.
Mr. WYLIE RICHARDSON (Defense Attorney): It wasn't a who done it; it was a why done it.
Mr. RICHARDSON: And in this particular case, the testimony - we knew before we even, you know, well before we got to trial, was going to be very graphic. We had to do something to try to not dismantle, but to give a broader and fuller picture of what that was.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: How to do that? The answer, it turned out, lay in Bradley Waldroup's genes.
Richardson went to forensic psychiatrist William Bernet of Vanderbilt University, and asked him to give Waldroup a psychiatric evaluation. Bernet also took a blood sample and brought it to Vanderbilt's molecular genetics laboratory.
Since 2004, Bernet and lab director Cindy Vnencak-Jones have been analyzing the DNA of people like Bradley Waldroup.
Dr. WILLIAM BERNET (Forensic Psychiatrist, Vanderbilt University): We've tested about 30 criminal defendants since then, most of whom were charged with murder.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: They were looking for a particular variant of the MAO-A gene also known as the warrior gene because it has been associated with violence. Bernet says they found that Waldroup has the high-risk version of the gene.
Dr. BERNET: His genetic makeup, combined with his history of child abuse, created a vulnerability that he would be a violent adult.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Over the fierce opposition of prosecutors, the judge allowed Bernet to testify in court that these two factors help explain why Waldroup snapped that murderous night.
Dr. BERNET: We didn't say that these things made him become violent, but they certainly constituted a risk factor or a vulnerability.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Bernet cited scientific studies over the past decade that have found that the combination of the genes and child abuse increases one's chances of being convicted of a violent offense by more than 400 percent. Other studies have not found such a connection, but Bernet thought the jury should know about the gene.
Dr. BERNET: A person doesn't choose to have this particular gene or this particular genetic makeup. A person doesn't choose to be abused as a child. So I think that should be taken into consideration when we're talking about criminal responsibility.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: The genetic testing was only one piece of Waldroup's defense. His attorneys also argued that he was depressed, suffered from intermittent explosive disorder, and acted in the heat of passion. Still, defense attorney Shari Tayloe Young says the genetic evidence was critical.
Ms. SHARI TAYLOE YOUNG (Defense Attorney): I think that if that wasn't out there, then the jury, all they would have seen were all these horrible pictures where he took a machete and hacked at his wife. And all they would think is, yes, he's the worst of the worst, and that's what the death penalty is for the worst of the worst. But because they heard all the mental issues, they heard all that evidence, they understood what was going on in him, and understood why he did what he did.
Mr. ROBINSON: I would characterize it as smoke and mirrors.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: That's prosecutor Drew Robinson. He says the genetic evidence was just there to confuse the jury. So he called in his own expert, psychiatrist Terry Holmes of the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga. Holmes urged the jury to ignore it.
Dr. TERRY HOLMES (Psychiatrist, Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute): This was somebody who was intoxicated and mad, and was going to hurt somebody. And it had little or nothing to do with his genetic makeup.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Holmes says it's way too early to use this research in a court of law, and he believes Bernet is spinning the data.
But jurors say they weren't spun. Sheri Lard, one of the 12, says it was just one piece of evidence that weighed heavily for some and for others, not at all. But, she says, it did figure into a major decision: whether to find Waldroup guilty of murder and impose the death penalty. They concluded that his actions were not premeditated, and agreed with the defense argument that Waldroup just exploded.
Ms. SHERI LARD (Juror): I remember when we were talking as a jury, the comment was brought up, you know, if I were in this situation, I would snap. But there was more to it. There was more to his whole life that led to that moment.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Including his genes?
Ms. LARD: Oh, I'm sure. And his background, you know: nature vs. nurture.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Another juror, Debbie Beaty, says the science helped persuade her that Waldroup was not entirely in control of his actions.
Ms. DEBBIE BEATY (Juror): A diagnosis is a diagnosis. You know, it's there. A bad gene is a bad gene.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Waldroup of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Leslie Bradshaw, and attempted second-degree murder of his wife.
Prosecutor Drew Robinson was stunned.
Mr. ROBINSON: I was just flabbergasted. I did not know how to react to it.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Nor did fellow prosecutor Cynthia Lecroy-Schemel. She worries that this sort of defense is the wave of the future.
Ms. LECROY-SCHEMEL: Anything that defense attorneys can have to latch onto, to try to save their clients' lives, or to try to lessen their culpability, they will do.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: 'Cause it's a pretty potent weapon.
Mr. ROBINSON: Well, it seemed to work in this case.
BRADLEY HAGERTY: Bradley Waldroup was sentenced to 32 years in prison. At the hearing, Judge Carroll Ross told Waldroup that he should think twice about appealing. The state might not mind trying this again and asking for the death penalty, the judge said. You might not be as fortunate with a jury the next time.
Scientists and legal experts expect to see more cases like this as neuroscience makes inroads into the courtroom - and presents guilt and innocence not in terms of black and white, but in shades of gray.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.
MONTAGNE: Explore the other stories in our Criminal Brain series at our website, NPR.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.
A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY
First in a three-part series
June 29, 2010
The criminal brain has always held a fascination for James Fallon. For nearly 20 years, the neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine has studied the brains of psychopaths. He studies the biological basis for behavior, and one of his specialties is to try to figure out how a killer's brain differs from yours and mine.
Fallon investigated his family lineage.
"There's a whole lineage of very violent people — killers," he says.
One of his direct great-grandfathers, Thomas Cornell, was hanged in 1667 for murdering his mother. That line of Cornells produced seven other alleged murderers, including Lizzy Borden. "Cousin Lizzy," as Fallon wryly calls her, was accused (and controversially acquitted) of killing her father and stepmother with an ax in Fall River, Mass., in 1882.
A little spooked by his ancestry, Fallon set out to see whether anyone in his family possesses the brain of a serial killer. Because he has studied the brains of dozens of psychopaths, he knew precisely what to look for. To demonstrate, he opened his laptop and called up an image of a brain on his computer screen.
This is the orbital cortex, the area that Fallon and other scientists believe is involved with ethical behavior, moral decision-making and impulse control.
"People with low activity [in the orbital cortex] are either free-wheeling types or sociopaths," he says.
He's clearly oversimplifying, but Fallon says the orbital cortex puts a brake on another part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved with aggression and appetites. But in some people, there's an imbalance — the orbital cortex isn't doing its job — perhaps because the person had a brain injury or was born that way.
"What's left? What takes over?" he asks. " The area of the brain that drives your id-type behaviors, which is rage, violence, eating, sex, drinking."
Fallon's brain (on the right) has dark patches in the orbital cortex, the area just behind the eyes. This is the area that Fallon and other scientists say is involved with ethical behavior, moral decision-making and impulse control. The normal scan on the left is his son's.
Fallon says nobody in his family has real problems with those behaviors. But he wanted to be sure. Conveniently, he had everything he needed: Previously, he had persuaded 10 of his close relatives to submit to a PET brain scan and give a blood sample as part of a project to see whether his family had a risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.
After learning his violent family history, he examined the images and compared them with the brains of psychopaths. His wife's scan was normal. His mother: normal. His siblings: normal. His children: normal.
What he didn't want to reveal was that his orbital cortex looks inactive.
"If you look at the PET scan, I look just like one of those killers."
Fallon cautions that this is a young field. Scientists are just beginning to study this area of the brain — much less the brains of criminals. Still, he says the evidence is accumulating that some people's brains predispose them toward violence and that psychopathic tendencies may be passed down from one generation to another.
The Three Ingredients
And that brings us to the next part of Jim Fallon's family experiment. Along with brain scans, Fallon also tested each family member's DNA for genes that are associated with violence. He looked at 12 genes related to aggression and violence and zeroed in on the MAO-A gene (monoamine oxidase A). This gene, which has been the target of considerable research, is also known as the "warrior gene" because it regulates serotonin in the brain. Serotonin affects your mood — think Prozac — and many scientists believe that if you have a certain version of the warrior gene, your brain won't respond to the calming effects of serotonin.
Fallon calls up another slide on his computer. It has a list of family members' names, and next to them, the results of the genotyping. Everyone in his family has the low-aggression variant of the MAO-A gene, except for one person.
"You see that? I'm 100 percent. I have the pattern, the risky pattern," he says, then pauses. "In a sense, I'm a born killer."
Fallon's being tongue-in-cheek — sort of. He doesn't believe his fate or anyone else's is entirely determined by genes. They merely tip you in one direction or another.
And yet: "When I put the two together, it was frankly a little disturbing," Fallon says with a laugh. "You start to look at yourself and you say, 'I may be a sociopath.' I don't think I am, but this looks exactly like [the brains of] the psychopaths, the sociopaths, that I've seen before."
I asked his wife, Diane, what she thought of the result.
... according to scientists who study this area...believe that brain patterns and genetic makeup are not enough to make anyone a psychopath. You need a third ingredient: abuse or violence in one's childhood.
The New World of 'Neuro-law'
Jim Fallon says he had a terrific childhood; he was doted on by his parents and had loving relationships with his brothers and sisters and entire extended family. Significantly, he says this journey through his brain has changed the way he thinks about nature and nurture. He once believed that genes and brain function could determine everything about us. But now he thinks his childhood may have made all the difference.
"We'll never know, but the way these patterns are looking in general population, had I been abused, we might not be sitting here today," he says.
As for the psychopaths he studies, Fallon feels some compassion for these people who, he says, got "a bad roll of the dice."
"It's an unlucky day when all of these three things come together in a bad way, and I think one has to empathize with what happened to them," he says.
But what about people who rape and murder — should we feel empathy for them? Should they be allowed to argue in court that their brains made them do it? Enter the new world of "neurolaw" — in which neuroscience is used as evidence in the courtroom.
We begin a series today on the criminal brain, and how breakthroughs in neuroscience are changing the way some think about guilt and innocence. One pioneer is James Fallon. He's a neuroscientist at the University of California at Irvine. For the past couple of decades, Fallon has studied the brains of murderers.
Recently, Fallon made a startling discovery. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty profiles the scientist with a family secret.
BARBARA HAGERTY: Jim Fallon spends a lot of time inside the heads of psychopaths. He studies the biological basis for behavior, and one of his specialties is to try to figure out how - say, a killer's brain differs from yours and mine. It's cutting-edge academic research but recently, it became intensely personal when Fallon had a conversation with his then-88-year-old mother, Jenny.
Dr. JAMES FALLON (Neuroscientist, University of California Irvine): It was four years ago, and we were at a family barbecue in the backyard - it was in the summertime. And she said, what are you doing now? Are you still doing those talks?
Ms. JENNY FALLON: And I says, Jim, why don't you find out about your father's relatives? I says, I think there were some cuckoos back there.
HAGERTY: So Fallon investigated, and it turns out that one of his direct great-grandfathers, Thomas Cornell, killed his mother in the 1600s. And that line of Cornells produced seven other alleged murderers.
Dr. FALLON: There's this whole lineage of very violent people, killers, ending with Lizzy Borden.
HAGERTY: Fallon was a little spooked by his ancestry, so he set out to see if anyone in his family had the brain of a serial killer. He knows what to look for, since he's studied the brains of dozens of psychopaths. He calls up an image of a brain on his computer screen. It's lit up with patches of color.
Dr. FALLON: Here is a brain that's not normal. You can see where this is - this yellow here and red here, and look at it. It's almost nothing here.
HAGERTY: He's pointing to the orbital cortex. It's completely dark. That's the part of the brain that's right above the eyes, and this is the area that Fallon and other scientists believe is involved with ethical behavior, moral decision-making and controlling one's impulses.
Dr. FALLON: People with low activity are either freewheeling types or sociopaths.
HAGERTY: Fallon says that's because the orbital cortex puts a brake on another part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved with aggression and appetites. If there's an imbalance, if the orbital cortex isn't doing its job -maybe because it was damaged or was just born that way...
Dr. FALLON: What's left? What takes over? Well, the area of the brain that drives your id-type behaviors - which is rage, violence, eating, sex, drinking.
HAGERTY: Now, nobody in his family has problems with those behaviors, but he persuaded 10 of his close relatives to submit to a brain scan. Then he examined the images, comparing them with the brains of psychopaths. His wife's scan was normal. His mother, normal. Siblings, normal. Kids, normal.
Dr. FALLON: And I took a look at my own PET scan and saw something a little disturbing that I did not talk about.
HAGERTY: What he didn't want to reveal was that his orbital cortex looks inactive.
Dr. FALLON: If you look at the PET scan, I look just like one of those killers.
HAGERTY: Fallon cautions that this is a young field. Scientists are just beginning to understand this area of the brain. Still, he says, the evidence is accumulating that some people's brains predispose them toward violence, and that psychopathic tendencies may be passed down from one generation to another.
Which brings us to the next part of his family experiment. Along with brain scans, Fallon also tested each family member's DNA for genes that are associated with violence and impulsivity. He looked at 12 genes and zeroed in on something called the MAOA gene. It's also known as the warrior gene because it regulates serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin affects your mood, and many scientists believe that if you have a certain version of the warrior gene, your brain won't respond to the calming effects of serotonin.
Dr. FALLON: So this is the MAO gene. And we can see here my daughter, son, daughter, daughter, brother, brother, wife, brother.
HAGERTY: Everyone in his family has the low-aggression variant, except...
Dr. FALLON: I'm like 100 percent here. I have the pattern, a risky pattern. In a sense, I'm a born killer.
HAGERTY: Fallon laughs as he says this. He doesn't believe his fate, or anyone else's, is entirely determined by genes. They merely tip you in one direction or another. And yet...
Dr. FALLON: When I put the two and two together, it was, frankly, a little disturbing. You know, you start to look at yourself and you say, I may be a sociopath. I don't think I am, but this looks exactly like psychopaths, sociopaths that I've seen before.
Ms. DIANE FALLON: I wasn't too concerned. I really wasn't. I mean, I've known him since I was 12.
HAGERTY: That's Jim Fallon's wife, Diane. She probably doesn't need to worry, according to scientists who study this area. They believe that brain patterns and genetic makeup are not enough to make anyone a psychopath. You need a third ingredient: childhood abuse.
Ms. D. FALLON: And fortunately, he wasn't abused as a young person, so I've lived to be, you know, a ripe old age so far.
HAGERTY: Jim Fallon says he had a great childhood. And, he says, this journey through his brain has changed the way he thinks about nature and nurture. He used to believe that genes and brain function determine everything about us. But now, he says, he thinks his childhood may have made all the difference.
Dr. FALLON: We'll never know. But had I been abused, I think we wouldn't be sitting here today.
HAGERTY: As to the psychopaths he studies, he feels some compassion for these people who got, as he put it, a bad roll of the dice.
Dr. FALLON: It's an unlucky day when all of these three things come together in a bad way. And I think one has to empathize with what happened to them.
HAGERTY: But what about people who rape and murder? Should we feel empathy for them? Should they be allowed to argue in court that their brains made them do it? Tomorrow, we look at the brain of a psychopath and how scientific discoveries are changing our notions of morality, crime and punishment.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.
MONTAGNE: Want to compare the brain images of Jim Fallon and his son? Go to npr.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio
Look to this day,
The very life of life,
In its brief course lies all,
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power.
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived,
Makes every yesterday
A dream of happiness
And every tomorrow
A vision of hope.
Look well, therefore,
To this day.
"The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away."
~ David Viscott
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or to be the mirror that reflects it.
- Edith Wharton
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
You need to know what it is you want from life so that you can effectively direct your energies to making that dream a reality. Steven Covey says to begin with the end in mind.
The picture to the left is of an Earthrise seen from the Moon. John Kennedy is famous for coalescing a nation around the Dream of putting a Man on the Moon.
Martin Luther King, jr. gave a famous speech, "I Have a Dream". You might say that 40 years later Barack Obama is a part of that dream.
You need a dream of your ideal way of living your life. The lifestyle is all we have. Habits make the man. So you need to determine who you want to be and go about being that person. Aristotle said,
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
Therefore, we need to have a Big Picture of our ideal existence to determine our habits and priorities:
The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
- Bertrand Russell
And believe me this is a sticking point because the pressure starts here.
"The secret of getting started is breaking
your complex, overwhelming tasks into
small manageable tasks, and then
starting on the first one."
- Mark Twain
My experience tells me that Twain is right. In fact, at first we need to take very small steps in the direction of our goals to build momentum, motivation and confidence. Practice makes perfect in converting knowing to doing. Start with one good habit at a time and over a few months you will have patched together an improvement to your way of living.
"One important key to success is
self-confidence. An important key to
self-confidence is preparation."
- Arthur Ashe
Napoleon Hill is a great educator in this area and he repeatedly says about dreams and goals that if you can conceive it, and believe it, you can achieve it. God does not taunt us with dreams we have no hope of achieving.
"Don't be afraid of the space between your
dreams and reality. If you can dream it,
you can make it so."
- Belva Davis
Do not be afraid to dream big and to dream often. He who dreams more, accomplishes more, according to Twain.
Belief in our Dreams is one of the secrets to great achievements:
"The only limit to our realization of
tomorrow will be our doubts of today."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
Of course no achievement is without a price and without effort but if your desire is intense you will find a way to achieve your goals.
"What lies behind us, and what lies before
us are small matters compared
to what lies within us."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is important to get started and to learn by doing.
Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all. Norman V. Peale
You can achieve great things and accumulate wealth without harming your fellow man by your greed and deception. Follow the Golden Rule.
Three keys to more abundant living: caring about others, daring for others, sharing with others.
If this sounds like Sunday school, do not let it deter you. Many years of observing men and markets has introduced me to the idea of right work. Warren Buffett is a man of honor and Bernard Madoff is a crook. Warren is among the World's richest men and Bernie is in jail for the next 150 years.
.. we cultivate in our culture: the pursuit of perfection.. reinforced in the media, in TV ads, magazines and newspapers. Everyone is at risk ...cultural messages feed the deepest insecurity in ourselves and encourage us to hold ourselves to an impossible standard: perfection.
Balance those external expectations with reality.
...psychological maturity includes awareness, self-regulation, responsibility, interdependence, honesty and integrity.
Psychological maturity requires the ability to willingly shift our perspective and to have an adaptive healthy self-esteem. These qualities can only be cultivated through our inner quest for self-knowledge.
Some people are obsessed with the continuous pursuit of flawlessness...as addicted to the pursuit of perfection similar to being addicted to a drug or any other destructive behavior. As Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst and author of "Addiction to Perfection," wrote,
"Perfection is defeat ... Perfection belongs to the gods; completeness or wholeness is the most a human being can hope for ... It is in seeking perfection by isolating and exaggerating parts of ourselves that we become neurotic. The chief sign of the pursuit of perfection is obsession. Obsession occurs when all the psychic energy, which ought to be distributed among the various parts of the personality in an attempt to harmonize them, is focused on one area of the personality to the exclusion of everything else. Obsession is always a fixation -- a freezing-over of the personality so that it becomes not a living being but something fixed, like a piece of sculpture, locked into a complex. Addiction to perfection is at root a suicidal addiction. The addict is simulating not life, but death.
... To move toward perfection is to move out of life, or what is worse, never to enter it. A problem arises when our external focus inhibits our ability to focus within, to develop our spiritual, mental and psychological selves."
...spend more time, energy and money learning new skills, gaining insights and strengthening your inner landscape to deepen and broaden your experience of life... cultivate a profound sense of understanding and acceptance for yourselves and others just the way you are. Don't worry quite as much about the effects of aging, see your lives as an opportunity to develop wisdom... focus more upon your inner connection... and celebrate aging. ...embrace the passage of time that produces mature wisdom
Mature wisdom doesn't necessarily make us richer, thinner or land us a fabulous looking mate. However, it's exactly what we need to weather life's inevitable changes.
It may feel confusing from the quick-fix perspective but focusing inwardly, we develop the strength and compassion that makes life easier, more peaceful and happier.
Matthew 5:48 says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." The Greek origin of the word "perfect" means "to be whole." so read this passage as,
"Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly father is whole?"
Optimism and laughter, while enjoyable in their own right, bring benefits like health, longevity, and a decrease in stress. You may also know that a positive attitude can be cultivated, meaning even if you're not naturally prone to bright-side looking, you can actively change that.
October is Positive Attitude Month, which reminds you to make the effort to cultivate the attitude that can bring you greater health, happier relationships, and more luck in life.
It's true that we are all born with a certain "set point" for some traits, such as openness, agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, an neuroticism (known as "The Big Five" in the world of psychology), and these inborn personality tendencies influence our levels of optimism, positivity, and happiness.
Positive Psychology research has found, we can alter our habitual thought patterns by actively changing the way we choose to see things.
If we challenge negative thinking patterns, for example, and replace them with more positive patterns, the new, more positive patterns become our habit, and we can actually create a new set-point for happiness.
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."
We are all fighting a great battle in our lives as we seek more happiness and avoid pain therefore, we need to adopt attitudes that buoy us in turbulent moments. Having a positive outlook is a tool you can use to motivate yourself to find solutions. Learned helplessness is an attitude to avoid because you are going face daily difficulties. Deal with the problems as they arise and do not waste energy worrying about the future or regretting the past. Life unfolds in moments and our power to act is in the now.
I cannot think of a better way to counteract the pain and uncertainty of living with M.S. than to manage your attitude. We can choose how we feel about our situation. Feeling better about ourselves will give us the motivation to take better care of ourselves. M.S. is a disease with no cause, no cure and no effective treatment which forces us to take some responsibility for our well-being. Addressing areas of your lifestyle such as, diet can exert many benefits in dealing with chronic illness. We are fighting a great battle and need a Warrior's attitude towards our enemy within.
When dealing with challenges in life, we tend to find situations more stressful if we have less control over our circumstances. Often, we may feel that we have virtually no control in some of the situations we face, but we always have some control over our responses to these situations. the one thing we can control is our thoughts. We can control our thoughts, and on what we focus on in any situation, which can help control how we react.
Because the body's stress response is triggered by perceived threats as opposed to objectively verifiable ones, we know that shifting our focus away from seeing every stressor as a threat, and toward seeing stressors as challenges or even potential opportunities, can make a significant difference in how stressed we feel. However, it can be difficult to find a way to alter our thoughts and patterns of thinking about things, especially when stressed. It helps to know what to do.
That's where positive psychology research can help. One study in particular shed some light on a few areas of how to change your perspective and feel less stress and depression. The study, built upon previous research that showed that finding the hidden benefits in a difficult situation can be an effective way to reduce depressive symptoms and associated stress, examined a couple of unique ways to achieve this state of mind. Specifically, the researchers looked at two routes to gaining a 'benefit-finding' frame of mind: optimism, and maintaining a good mood (also known as 'positive affect') in patients who had been diagnosed with MS. In this randomized clinical trial, 127 MS patients were given telephone counseling, and assessed at the beginning of the study, at 8 weeks, and 16 weeks into counseling sessions, using four separate assessments. After adjusting for time since MS diagnosis and type of treatment, assessments affirmed that decreased depression was associated with increased benefit-finding over time, and that benefit-finding was affected by both increased positive affect and increased optimism. This study not only affirms that finding the positive in a negative situation can indeed bring real benefits for mood, but sheds some light on effective ways of altering your perspective long-term.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system involving the breaking down and scarring of the myelin sheath by the immune system which no longer recognizes the myelin as "self." When this fatty insulation of the nerve fibers is disturbed, the messages that control bodily movements/functions are distorted or blocked or communicate to the wrong muscular destination. The condition tends to have an uneven course of exacerbations and remission; however, stress frequently precedes exacerbations. In general, medical treatment is focused on symptom relief.
Present theories concerning MS involve: (1) a viral etiology, (2) an autoimmune dysfunction, and (3) a combination of the two (the immune system attacking a virus sleeping deep within the cells of the myelin sheath).
DESIRED IMMUNE RESPONSE
* Immune system recognition of myelin sheath as "self"
* Harmonious interaction of immune system with the body, especially the myelin-recognizing and loving "self" cells.
* Increased suppressor cells
SEEDS FOR IMAGERY
A honey-like substance coats the nerves- melting tough scars into viable powerful myelin material- filling any gaps in or degeneration of the myelin sheath, perfectly protecting and insulating the nerve fiber, allowing it to carry the nerve impulse precisely from the brain to the muscle where it is needed.
See a substance pouring over the tangled nerves in nerve trunks, like a soothing oil poured over spaghetti, coating the nerve strands so that they untangle and magically fall into relaxed, straight strands.
See the damaged nerves arcing like frayed electrical wires. See maintenance workers reweave the tattered insulation so the nerves cease short-circuiting each other.
Hand and Foot Warming Exercises
See white clouds in the head (MS scarring as seen in an MRI) being blown away by a powerful wind.
See the nervous system n an indigo blue color. Where there is damage, the scales and scars are greyish-white. See a swarm of mud-daubers flying to a palette heaped with translucent myelin. Some of the mud-daubers use their stingers to cut away the damaged myelin and scales from the nerves. Others pick up the myelin compound and spread it into the area perfectly. When the repairs dry, they turn dark indigo blue, blending so perfectly that no trace of the repair work remains.
See a big eraser rubbing out the lesions in the brain.
Imagine a worker with scrub brushes, pumice, and rouge cloths scouring away the scars and then painting fresh myelin into the area, which turns indigo blue to match the rest of the system.
See calamine lotion being patted onto areas by the immune system. See the immune system change from being irritable and angry to protective, loving, and friendly. See the whole body experience regeneration.
Demand inwardly that your body (and any medication that you are taking) produce all its healing substances. Sense and feel the substances being released...sense the suppressor T cells...teaching the other white blood cells to distinguish friend (the myelin sheath) from foe (bacteria). Sense and see this happening all along the spinal column, from the bottom to the top and up into the brain, as a ladder of flashing lights sending sparks of electrical energy throughout the body" (Epstein, 1989, pp. 149-150).
AUTHORS: Deirdre Davis Brigham with Adelaide Davis and Derry Cameron-Sampey.