Image courtesy of: Stuart Miles
When economic bad news piles on as it has since 2007, end of times feels certain. The truth is however, economies cycle. What falls off the cliff creeps back and in the process, we gain insights and wisdom. So stay hopeful. Happy days will be here again.
Doom and gloom popular programming
Apocalyptic gloom has become highly marketable. Shows like Doomsday Preppers andDoomsday Bunkers have added their names to the reality TV roster. Website Shtfplan.com offers visitors this friendly tagline: When it hits the fan, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The popular Left Behind series, first introduced through novels then with a series of movies, offers the Rapture end of times warning. As the presidential campaign approached Dinesh D’Souza rolled out his movie 2016: Obama’s America, as an omen to voters. Obama’s mission were you to accept him as President, D’Souza claimed, is to even the global playing field and in doing so, deflate our nation’s superpower influence.
“He (Obama) wants Americans to have less so the rest of the world can have more.” D’Souza tells Piers Morgan, “He wants America to have less power so that other countries can come up in the world. He’d like to see a multi-polar world in which America is not the sole super power.” (Piers Morgan Tonight. August 12, 2012).
So, take heart. If the Rapture doesn’t swallow you up, ready yourself for economic and societal collapse, war, pandemics, geomagnetic reversal, the electromagnetic pulse, terrorist acts, nuclear incidents and fuel shortages.
Feel better yet or are have you curled into a fetal ball of “Why bother?”
Essentially the gray skies are going to clear up message of what’s going right in the world has the distinct disadvantage of grabbing less air time and social media stir. What’s going right in your daily existence has the mundane quality of just sitting flat and unnoticeable. Good news just is.
Bad news however, irritates and buzzes; it jars our eyes and ears awake with adrenaline and fear.
I will say however, anyone with an ounce of sensitivity wouldn’t expect citizens terrified about where their next mortgage payment, health care coverage or meal will come from to be Pollyanna about the nation’s state of economic affairs. There is however, something to be said for acknowledging that economies (and politicians) cycle. Moreover, with each economic crisis our nation gains new knowledge about where things went terribly, terribly, wrong and more importantly, where things went incredibly right.
“For the past 15 years, home-price changes and sales volumes have either been boosted by a bubble mentality or crushed by crash psychology,” said David Stiff, Fiserv’s chief economist in a March 2013 Orlando Sentinel online article.
The term “crash psychology” struck me.
I assume it has something to do with what Jim Taylor refers to in his July 2012 Psychology Today.com article as herd behavior, the bandwagon effect and recency (paying more attention to latest data than putting market conditions into long term perspective) and loss aversion (an inclination to avoid losses rather than produce profits).
“This is it, the big one,” Sanford of the old sitcom Sanford and Son grumbled before he grabbed his heart for the nth time.
Just last night I heard someone say to a friend who doesn’t happen to share her political view, “Yeah well, good luck. See if you have any money left in the next few years.” As she said this another woman smirked and nodded emphatically across the table.
In my experience naysayers don’t need a crushing presidential election to feel the world is going to pot. Naysayers are universally bi-partisan yet unilaterally pessimistic. They see the world changes as an eventual avalanche and that the latest election out of their favor is simply speeding up our demise.
But, how many false alarms before we decide the Great Depression isn’t coming, again?
Not that I want to downplay or arrogantly dismiss the harsh economic blows affecting millions. The reality is, we have had plenty of fuel to create real fear and economic end of times worry. People are hurting and cheerful mantras won’t hold off creditors. But, previous generations have been hit by recessions and generations to come will as well.
Since December 2007 our economy and global reputation has been beaten up. Businesses scaled back dramatically. Markets crashed to record lows. Real estate dumped. Housing starts halted. School budgets were slashed. Unemployment skyrocketed and remains high in many areas. Gas prices are headed towards Europe’s. Entire countries are being downgraded. Healthcare costs are now a primary cause for personal and small business financial ruin. And, one of the United State’s historical industrial strongholds, the auto industry, is limping along.
For an added kick to our lagging morale, we watched our government save Wall Street (which I was all for given the potential fall-out). The sub-prime mortgage mess was a house of cards with multiple players including overzealous lenders and consumers, borrowers confused by loan fine print and families just trying to tread water. But in the end, throwing a life raft to the Too Big to Fail market makers who knew better than to invest in deep murky waters — hurt.
Pile on this much economic instability in a short time span and indeed, the world can feel apocalyptic.
Negative economic warnings hide good news
Like the hot issue climate change, while the frequency of out-of-range weather patterns areabsolutely influenced by human behavior, it’s also a product of cyclical weather changes. So too, massive changes to our economy and worldwide standing may seem sudden and cataclysmic, but they occur over time and courtesy of multiple administrations’ policies.
Yet, time and time again our nation returns from recessionary slumps and economic turmoil armed with new knowledge. We’re painfully forced, as we’ve seen with the recent budget crisis in Congress, to adapt, create new or compromise, unless however, you believe we’re destined to repeat our past.
While I do believe in cyclical human and earth behavior, I also believe we’re destined to make new mistakes, not old ones. We evolve.
It’s hard to believe we’re actually advanced beings given Snookie, Jerry Springer, Dance Momsand Tosh O. But indeed, humans have progressed from our early knuckle dragging days.
And, with every crisis we’re forced to re-visit and re-balance. Consider the gas shortage, savings and loan crisis, Enron, the Exxon Valdez, over lending, over spending, over reliance on oil, over fishing, over eating. Too much regulation and we pull back. Too little, we add oversight.
Optimistic outlook in economy
Take a look at our economic indicators (Kiplinger economic outlook). They reveal policy ripple effects and red flags long, long in the making, arrived tipping points, but not eventual collapse or the Great Depression.
Take a look at these positive economic signs:
- GDP crept ahead at a snail-like 0.1-percent pace in last year’s closing quarter, but at least it didn’t contract, as initial estimates had shown.
- There is still no reason to look for an early end to the lengthy period of extremely low interest rates.
- Inflation will edge up a bit this year, but not to troublesome heights.
- On the positive side, and despite a bump upward at the start of the year, core inflation, which excludes food and energy costs, will see only muted increases.
- Spending by businesses this quarter gets the benefit of renewed tax breaks for new or leased equipment. The recent spike in gasoline prices has run its course.
- Crude oil prices will take a breather.
- But expect overall retail sales to climb about 5% this year
- Look for the trade deficit to widen by 2% in 2013, presenting a slight headwind to U.S. economic growth
- Export growth will be held in check by recession in Europe and moderate growth in China.
- We expect imports to increase about 5% for the year, with most of the growth coming in the second half.
- Gains in the housing market will solidify this year.
- Overall, we anticipate sales of existing homes to climb about 7.5%
Granted I cherry picked, which is exactly my point. Look for positive signs. Become aware of the negative only to the degree it informs key decisions about your life. For example, it’s useful to know which industries are cycling, dying and expanding. And, it’s good to know that every financial and investment guru can be dead wrong – or dead right.
Pick your point of view.
In June 2011 James Altucher wrote in the Wall Street Journal that an impressive rise in the stock market was coming…”The market fell like a brick on Wednesday. People can’t handle any piece of bad news without saying ‘this is the big one.’ But it’s not going to happen. Even God took one day to rest. The market every now and then needs a day or two to rest. Maybe even more than a day or two. But over the next 12 to 18 months I expect to see Dow 20,000.”
Nearly two years later, it appears he was on the right track. Andrew Tangel, LA Times, March 6, 2013 writes:
“The Dow Jones industrial average has barreled to an all-time high, erasing $11 trillion of losses racked up when the financial crisis began five years ago. The stock market’s revival — with the Dow at a record 14,253.77 — has some respected minds on Wall Street suggesting the Dow will puncture 20,000 in just a few years. But, as investors may recall, the last few times the stock market seemed headed for records, disaster soon followed.”
Granted it took five years to reach the record high. As well, my husband a trader, reminded me that had we not crashed in 2008 we would have hit 20,000 soon enough. Moreover, the stock market isn’t the best signpost for recovery because it’s not adjusted for inflation. However, consider Daniel Gross’s recent analysis:
“Regular readers will note that I’ve long been pushing back against the notion that the U.S. is in economic decline. A stock market index like the Dow and the S&P 500 may not be the best barometer of national well-being. But it does say something about the ability of U.S.-based companies to thrive in an era when domestic growth is slow and when most of the growth takes place in unfamiliar foreign terrain.”
Certainly Gross or any other pundit isn’t the final word on predicting economic movement. You’ll find plenty of people ready to pick apart his argument line by line. But my philosophical point, and I generally write from philosophical underpinnings, is that the market is on the up, again. The Second Great Depression never came, as more than a few people predicted it would.
Of course there’s numerous times when people predicted a strong bull market and it turned horribly bearish. Outside of getting into the factors around market timing (which I don’t study) if you’re in the “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” mindset then zoom in on Andrew Tangel’s hedging last line:
“But, as investors may recall, the last few times the stock market seemed headed for records, disaster soon followed.”
Can’t we enjoy a moment of celebration? Or is that too naïve, uninformed and resting on our laurels? After five years of getting the recessionary crap beat out of us we still have more economic naysayers who insist on a cover-all-bases prediction caveat of: “It looks good, but it won’t last” than eternal optimists.
Well true, it won’t last. Cycles, cycle.
But, I’d rather wake up every day cautiously optimistic than confidently pessimistic. It feels better. Be on the look out for good news. It’s out there, or it’s predictably on its way.
Perception is reality but the probability of a mass killing, while seemingly high, is actually quite low.
The probability we’re missing critical signs among our mentally ill?
In this NPR interview, Jack Levin, co-director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at Northeastern University in Boston helps listeners understand the profile of mass murderers.
First, do we need to be more afraid? Read more ….
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Decision fatigue, a phenomenon increasingly intriguing psychologists today given the growing culture of endless distractions and over-stimulation, is a term coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister. Vaguely introduced by Freud, he believed people constantly struggle to manage their inner desires against the external pressures of the ego, which in turn requires mental energy. Willpower is much like a muscle and when fatigued through overuse or when the brain is deprived of the energy necessary to sustain willpower, e.g. glucose etc — your willpower wanes.
Every decision you make, even insignificant ones like whether to have lemonade or water, and every temptation you avoid depletes your willpower.
Philosophers, spiritual leaders, self-help gurus, even scientists profess to know what makes a person happy, yet the core principles remain unchanged.
As the ideas surrounding individualism emerged throughout history, some philosophers argued that pursuing personal joy was self-centered, non-altruistic and hedonistic. Yet some argue that placing the pursuit of joy as a central goal in one’s life doesn’t necessarily diminish others’ goals. Cultivating joy can, in fact, become the engine that drives a person towards expressing deep, genuine compassion and kindness.
The formula for happiness is dependent upon a person’s beliefs, experiences and cultural, generational and familial expectations. Yet, the core principles appear universal, invulnerable to social trends or to the inherent differences that exist among people.
Happiness as a Choice and Daily Discipline
In the 2007 LiveScience article “The Keys to Happiness, and Why We Don’t Use Them,” Robin Lloyd writes that while psychologists continue to discuss the “keys to happiness” with patients, many continue to adhere to habitual ways of negative or irrational thinking. It’s believed that people can only change chronic patterns of thought when they actively, with intention, decide they want to. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Individuals can begin by adopting a firm, unwavering belief that they deserve to be happy, and not by taking defensive stances like, “That lucky SOB always gets money, girlfriends and promoted. I deserve that, not him.” Happiness can come in addition to others’ good fortune, not in lieu of it.
A person must also change the commonly held belief that others “make” them happy or unhappy, e.g. “If he would be more attentive,” “If my boss would only give me a raise,” etc. People can’t make another person happy, but they can add to the collective pool of joy that’s available to everyone.
A person can choose to accept with peaceful conviction that they deserve to be happy simply because they do, for no other reason or justification. Some people associate this brand of thinking with being entirely self-serving, and in fact – it is. To joyfully serve self however, means others will be served in the center and the wake of another’s happiness. A joyful parent is more emotionally present, more patient, more fulfilled; children sense this. A joyful spouse is more attentive, loving and appreciative, and as such, more likely to receive the same in return.
Click here for: Amazon’s Highly Rated Books about Happiness
Establishing a daily discipline of journaling, prayer, and/or meditation helps foster a mindset that intuits that joy is natural and deserved, rather than something to be earned. Next, individuals can write a point by point action plan to move towards accomplishing their goals no matter how unrealistic they seem at the moment. Establishing a mindset of deserved joy and expressing the words around what joy means to an individual sets in motion the manifestation of those dreams and goals.
The Dalai Lama on Happiness
The Dalai Lama, in a book he co-authored with psychiatrist Howard Cutler, titled The Art of Happiness, says that transforming one’s mind toward achieving happiness is a gradual process and a lifelong commitment. He says that on a daily basis, individuals should consider and contemplate “reminders of how to speak to others, how to deal with other people, how to deal with problems in your daily life, things like that.” The characteristics of a happy person, he says, include sociability, creativity, flexibility, a loving attitude, and forgiveness.
The Dalai Lama also believes that showing compassion towards others helps unify the common goal people have of achieving happiness. Cutler gleaned great insight from this new knowledge. “I’m trained in medicine and science,” he says, “I probably wasn’t aware enough to realize the importance of kindness and compassion. And these qualities are critical. I’m now able to see people differently, that they are the same as me, striving to be happy. It’s about human connection, you know?”
And while following a spiritual path is deeply rewarding and some believe essential to create authentic joy, one particular religion is not the key to happiness, says the Dalai Lama. “There are five billion human beings, and in a certain way, I think we need five billion different religions. I believe that each individual should embark upon a spiritual path that is best suited to his or her mental disposition, natural inclination, temperament, belief, family and cultural background.”
Healing, Happiness and Health through People, Nature and Animals
Most people understand the intrinsic value of connecting with others or the feelings of awe and joy that come with appreciating nature’s boundless beauty. Owning a pet it turns out, can also foster emotional and physical well-being.
A growing body of research is showing the benefits of human-animal bonding for child development, elderly care, mental illness, physical impairment, dementia, abuse and trauma recovery, and the rehabilitation of incarcerated youth and adults.
Dr. Froma Walsh and her colleagues conducted a study that showed bonding with pets strengthened human resilience through crisis, persistent adversity, and disruptive transitions, such as relocation, divorce, widowhood, and adoption. Pets increase well-being and healing through their relational benefits, with stress reduction and playfulness, loyal companionship, affection, comfort, security, and unconditional love.
“The powerful meaning and significance of companion animals is underestimated,” says Walsh. Mental health professionals however, rarely consider the value and implications of human-animal bonds. Deep pet attachments after the loss of a pet are often marginalized, seen as abnormal, or ignored in theory, training, and practice.
Money Boosts Satisfaction But Other Factors Create Daily Happiness
Money can buy happiness, sort of.
Ed Diener PhD and Robert Biswas-Diener, a father-son research team, conducted research on the origins of happiness and found that a large income was more directly related to a strong sense of happiness than any other factor. Overall, people who said they had a great life reported higher income.
Click here for: Amazon’s Highly Rated Books about Happiness
Yet, having a larger salary did not mean people felt happier on a day-to-day basis. Possessing “psychological wealth,” the ability to adapt to both good and bad events in order to move forward in life, was a key factor. “Essentially, we have two forms of prosperity: economic and psychological,” said Diener. “I don’t know if one is better than the other. But what we’ve found is that while money may make people lead more comfortable lives, it won’t necessarily contribute to life’s pleasant moments that come from engaging with people and activities rather than from material goods and luxuries.”
In a follow-up study, the team looked at a long list of attributes of respondents, including their income and standard of living. Participants answered questions about positive or negative emotions they experienced the previous day, whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency, and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do “what one does best.”
Like previous studies, the researchers found that life satisfaction rises with personal and national income. But positive feelings, which also increase somewhat as income rises, are much more strongly associated with these other factors:
- Feeling respected
- Having autonomy
- Having social support
- Working at a fulfilling job.
This was the first happiness study to differentiate between life satisfaction, the philosophical belief that one’s life is going well, and the day-to-day positive or negative feelings that one experiences, Diener said. “Everybody has been looking at just life satisfaction and income,” he said. “And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life.”
The “secrets” behind happiness are likely the intersection of psychological, physiological, spiritual and meta-physical occurrences in an individual. Yet, the answers behind feeling positive emotion, behind experiencing daily happiness and joy appear timeless and universal to all humans.
Click here for: Amazon’s Highly Rated Books about Happiness
C. J. Boyce, G. D.A. Brown and S. C. Moore. “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction.” Psychological Science, 2010.
E Diener, Ng Weiting, J. Harter and R. Arora . “Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010.
F. Walsh et al. “Human-Animal Bonds I: The Relational Significance of Companion Animals.” Family Process, 2009.
A.J. Oswald and S. Wu. “Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A.” Science, 2009.
Let me disclaim upfront, the findings represented in this article don’t suggest Facebook users are narcissists, rather narcissists can be spotted on Facebook based on certain indicators.
I’d also like to look at more current research to see if the 2008 findings I reference in my article change over time. As social media, particularly Facebook, becomes increasingly the cultural norm for communication, media and public opinion, the factors used to spot narcissists from Facebook posts/profiles may no longer hold true.
Increasingly these findings may simply represent the majority of online users who are now becoming the populous. For example, many users have lots of “friends” and a flattering photo and are not in any way borderline or full-blown narcissists.
Facebook, like all platforms for expression will eventually blend seamlessly with the population rather than differentiate. Facebook will increasingly, I believe, define, parse and profile people to the same degree all forms of communication offer a form of expressing who we are.
It’s not the communication medium that makes the person, it’s that people are finding new, increasingly more convenient, and in the case of the shy or introverted, more comfortable ways to express who they are anyway.
I will say however, online communication offers a form of emotional protection with its absence of face to face cues and reaction. This form of social connection fosters, I think, a safe camaraderie and an easy kinship that isn’t always gained so fast when people are eyeball to eyeball for the first time at a party, fidgeting with their shyness, pregnant pauses, agendas, or moment to moment social awkwardness.
Just last night someone told me she’s more outgoing on Facebook than she is in person. Communication outlets don’t turn us into who we are, we use them for how we need them, how they complement or at times, hinder our authentic self.
Facebook Wall Posts and Profile Can Predict Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A 2008 study showed that social media sites may offer a vivid snapshot of a person’s true personality. With the explosive growth of online communities like Facebook, social psychologists are studying how personality traits are expressed in cyberspace. A 2008 study from the University of Georgia found narcissists are likely to have a large number of Facebook friends and wall posts as well as a glamorous, self-promoting profile picture.
Researchers at the University of Georgia administered a personality questionnaire to 130 Facebook users, analyzed the content of their pages and asked untrained observers to view and rate the pages. Results indicated a correlation between the number of Facebook contacts and wall posts and narcissism.
The results of the study don’t suggest people who use Facebook are narcissists, rather narcissists are likely to have these particular traits.
The behavior of narcissists on Facebook is often consistent with their real world behavior. In both arenas they tend to have numerous shallow connections because the disorder influences their ability to form healthy, long-term relationships. ”Narcissists might initially be seen as charming, but they end up using people for their own advantage,” said associate professor W. Keith Campbell. “They hurt the people around them and they hurt themselves in the long run.”
Facebook Users Not More Narcissistic, Narcissists Often On Facebook
Researchers found that even untrained observers could detect narcissism in Facebook users. Observers tended to use three characteristics to form an impression of the individual’s personality:
- Quantity of social interactions
- Degree of self-promotion in the main photo
And while the observers were not 100% accurate in their assessments, they were able to form a relatively accurate impression.
Campbell notes that there’s no research suggesting that Facebook users are more narcissistic than others. “It seems to be a normal part of people’s social interactions,” he said. Although because narcissists tend to have more contacts on Facebook, a typical Facebook user is likely to have a higher proportion of narcissists in their contact list than in the real world.
Online Profile and Photo Accurately Convey Real-Life Personality
First impressions count, even online. A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found people learn a lot from a person’s appearance. In the study observers looked at 123 photos of strangers and were asked to rate them across ten personality traits.
Ratings were compared to the photo subjects’ self-ratings and those provided by close acquaintances. Results indicated that regardless of whether the person stood in a controlled or neutral pose, observers were able to accurately judge major personality traits including extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity.
When subjects were in a neutral position, observers accurately predicted nine of the ten personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness, likability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation.
Simine Vazire, an assistant professor of psychology who runs Washington University’s Personality and Self-Knowledge Lab and an author of the study warns that strangers can find out as much about someone’s personality as acquaintances, just by looking them up on the Internet. “It’s another example of how pervasive personality is,” she says. “You can’t outrun your personality. It’s going to follow you everywhere.”
Psychological Science researchers found that online social networking sites don’t convey an “idealized identity.” Instead, these sites often portray a person’s personality quite accurately, a finding that might help explain online sites’ popularity. While online users might believe they’re creating a particular persona, their content, number of online friends, frequency of posts and profile picture are fairly accurate indicators of their actual personality.
MayoClinic.com,”Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” November 19, 2009, Retrieved January 15, 2010.
University of Georgia (2008, September 23).”Facebook Profiles Can Be Used To Detect Narcissism,” ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
Johannah Cornblatt, “Making a Digital First Impression: Why You Can’t Fake Your Facebook Profile,” Newsweek.com. November 10, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010.