Friday, May 31, 2013

The Need for Validation

In my new book, We Are ALL Innocent by Reason of Insanity, I say that everyone is insecure, including celebrities. After reading it a friend asked, “Is that really true? I know I’m insecure, but famous people seem so certain of themselves.”
I replied, “They just have a better act.” But not being a celebrity myself, this statement might have come across as envious or bitter. It certainly wasn’t based on personal experience.
Today I got confirmation of this proposition from none other than Oprah. In a Washington Post article about commencement speakers—Oprah is the speaker at Harvard this year—the author wrote:
In doing more than 35,000 interviews, she’s [Oprah] learned that everybody wants to be validated. Everyone she’s ever sat down with, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to “Beyonce in all her Beyonce-ness,” has asked, in his or her own way, after the TV lights went out, “Was I OK?” [Watch Oprah's speech here, this passage is at 20:25 in.]
Insecurity is common to all of us because our personalities are an act, a role we put together as children and then play for a lifetime. On some level we’re aware that it’s an act; we fear that other people are more “real” than we are; and we’re afraid that one day the curtain will be pulled aside to reveal that there is nothing but our act.

Who are we really? None of us absolutely know who, what, where, when, or why we are. No wonder we are all in need of validation.

Oprah continued, "The common denominator is we all want to be validated, we all want to be understood...We all want to know, 'Did you hear me?' "Do you see me?'" She finished her speech with, "Was that okay?" 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reputation is a Resource

Among the innumerable benefits of the Internet, I love the ubiquitous ratings systems. I really appreciate customer comments and ratings on products and services. Before I buy anything, or hire someone to do a job, I can find out what other people’s experiences were. Often I will look at the one-star reviews first—what was it that really bugged people?
No longer can companies dazzle us with advertising that hides a shoddy product—once the bad reviews start piling up no ad can make up for the bad reputation. Whole businesses revolve around reputation. For example, Angie’s list helps you find the best service professionals in your area.
Reputations also help me evaluate a book or blog post. When I’m reading about a subject in which I have no expertise, looking the author up online can give me some insight into whether I should trust his or her research and arguments.
As a young woman, I was taught to be careful of my reputation (that is, don’t be too easy with the boys) but other than that I never gave the concept much thought. But two of the books I’ve read this year mentioned the importance of reputation in human life.
The first book was on human evolution: Wired for Culture, by Mark Pagel. As the title suggests this book argues that the defining aspect of humanity is our complex social organizations, built on cooperation within groups. Reputation, Mr. Pagel says, is vital to making our societies work: cooperation requires trust, and we use reputations to tell us whether we can trust a person.
"Our social systems of cooperation and helping are revealed as sophisticated marketplaces, capable of generating both individual returns and goods that benefit others. They work like a monetary system, with our personal reputations acting as the currency we use to buy trust and cooperation. Reputations are valuable, so we have to earn or pay for them. Once purchased, a good reputation can then be used to buy cooperation from others, even people we have never met, just as we can use money to buy goods from people we have never met…Indeed, our reputations represent the first ‘monetary union’ or single currency. We could even see them as a form of credit, because a good reputation might allow you to negotiate an exchange on the promise you will produce your part of the bargain later (in this context it is noteworthy that ‘credit’ derives from the Latin credo or ‘I believe’)…So fundamental are our reputations to our social systems that comparing them to a monetary system is not merely apt, it should probably be made the other way around."

Monday, May 13, 2013

We Are ALL Innocent by Reason of Insanity on sale!

My book, We Are ALL Innocent by Reason of Insanity: The Mechanics of Compassion, is now available as an e-book at and At Smashwords you can read the first four chapters for free.

Here's a brief description:

Most of us think we perceive reality directly and accurately, but we don’t. What we see is an individual mind-generated reality, heavily distorted by our beliefs and assumptions. We erroneously believe our subjective reality is actual reality. We’re all insane because we’re deluded about what is real.

What better explanation for dysfunctional human behavior than universal insanity? What better way to explain why loneliness, fear, and hatred are so familiar and love so rare? Why so many people need to use alcohol and drugs just to get through another day? Why half of all marriages end in divorce?

We are ALL Innocent by Reason of Insanity presents the idea that the primary cause of human suffering is universal insanity. Insanity is defined as: confusing our mind-generated reality with actual reality. In practical terms, this translates as confusing subjective opinion with objective fact.

For example: “I made a mistake” is an objective fact. “I made a mistake because I’m a loser” is a subjective opinion. When I think and act as if the subjective opinion is an objective fact I’m confused about what is real. It is this confusion of fantasy with fact that makes me insane.

Free will is shown to be a complete myth. Insane people do not have free will. We are driven by subconscious psychological forces over which we have no control. Recognizing our insanity means the end of blame, shame, and arrogance.

In addition, the recognition of universal insanity is the key to compassion: we’re not right in our minds.
By understanding that all hurtful behavior—from gossip to mass murder—proceeds from insane thinking, we can experience compassion for ourselves and everyone else.

The book includes references to recent scientific and psychological research that demonstrates how out-of-touch with reality we really are. Other references range from Zen stories to the Three Stooges.

I use examples from my own life to illustrate how we all build a personal subjective reality—My Story. I also share my personal growth as I face my own insanity.

This book is for adult audiences. There is a chapter on sexuality and passages in other chapters that discuss sex in an explicit manner.

Sanity is love. Love is defined as: the experience of unconditional acceptance of what is. This means that when we experience acceptance of reality exactly the way it is we experience love.

This book may transform the way you see yourself and the world.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Robot Future

I was a child in the 1960’s, and one of my favorite cartoons was “The Jetsons.” 
I expected that my future would look like the world portrayed in the show—I particularly wanted to jet around in my personal rocket ship. (I didn’t play too much attention to how boringly conventional the family structure was—dad goes to a dull job while mom goes shopping.)

In the 1950s and 60s the technological advances of the twentieth century inspired dreams of a future of leisure. “Design for Dreaming” wonderfully illustrates these dreams  (This is the MST3K version and well worth watching!), including technology that liberates women from the drudgery of housework. And that has come true: I can remember my mother laboriously defrosting our refrigerator on a regular basis. Now my refrigerator does the work for me.
But as the century wore on it seemed like the grandiose dreams of the future were just a fantasy. What happened to our personal rocket ships? We did get lots of new technologies, like computers and smartphones that have made life more interesting and productive, but they have also made our lives more complex and caused us to work more, not less.
What happened to that dream of leisure?
Kevin Drum warns in a recent Mother Jones magazine article (May/June 2013, “Welcome Robot Overlords. Please Don't Fire Us?”), that most of us will soon be living lives of leisure, but it’s not going to be pleasant.
He provides a fascinating analogy to describe how the foundation for this future has been building so slowly that we are mostly oblivious to it; but we are just a decade or so away from seeing it transform our world (see the bottom of the article for a description of this analogy).
The essence is that artificial intelligence (AI) and robots have been steadily increasing in computational ability and numbers, and they are about to put almost everyone out of work. In fact, Drum suggests that this is already happening: this is why the unemployment rate has stayed so stubbornly high in the last few years.
When is the last time someone pumped your gas for you? Think of how many service station attendant jobs have been eliminated. Grocery store cashiers are soon to be obsolete. How many receptionists have been put out of work by businesses using interactive phone answering software?
Some new products coming that will reduce the need for humans in other jobs: driverless cars mean we’ll no longer need taxi drivers; implants that sense an impending heart attack and call 911 via your smartphone will reduce the need for all kinds of medical services; computers that grade student’s papers and scan legal documents eliminate the need for teacher’s assistants and lawyers.