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11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting

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Stephanie A. Sarkis writes in Psychology Today to list some red-flag warning signs. Do these remind you of anyone? Say, someone in public life? A famous person?

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind.

In my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – and Break Free  I detail how gaslighters typically use the following techniques:

1. They tell blatant lies.

You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.

2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof. 

You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. 

They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.

4. They wear you down over time.

This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.

5. Their actions do not match their words.

When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are sayingWhat they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue.

6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you. 

This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.

7. They know confusion weakens people. 

Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.

8. They project.

They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.

9. They try to align people against you.

Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.

10. They tell you or others that you are crazy. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 December 2019 at 6:43 am

A Theory for Why Trump’s Base Won’t Budge

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Dan P. McAdams, Psychology professor at Northwestern University, writes in the Atlantic:

Senator Ted Cruz once described Donald Trump as “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.” That characterization echoes what many psychological researchers and therapists have long concluded. Although the American Psychiatric Association strongly discourages mental-health professionals from assigning mental-illness labels to public figures, some clinicians have even suggested that President Trump has narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD. In a recent article in The AtlanticGeorge T. Conway III argued that Trump exhibits all the classic signs of NPD, and that for that reason, among others, he is unfit for office.

But Trump is stranger than any diagnostic category can convey. Narcissism is a psychological construct with profound implications for an individual’s well-being and interpersonal relationships. Personality and social psychologists have done hundreds of studies examining narcissistic tendencies, revealing certain patterns of behavior and outcome. In some ways, Trump fits those patterns perfectly. But in at least one crucial respect, he deviates.

Back in June 2016, I wrote in this magazine about how narcissists “wear out their welcome”:

Psychological research demonstrates that many narcissists come across as charming, witty, and charismatic upon initial acquaintance. They can attain high levels of popularity in the short term. As long as they prove to be successful and brilliant—like Steve Jobs—they may be able to weather criticism and retain their exalted status. But more often than not, narcissists wear out their welcome. Over time, people become annoyed, if not infuriated, by their self-centeredness. When narcissists begin to disappoint those they once dazzled, their descent can be especially precipitous. There is still truth in the ancient proverb: Pride goeth before the fall.

Nearly three years into Trump’s presidency, how does this generalization about narcissism hold up for him? On the one hand, many of the people who have staffed Trump’s administration have learned that he is not the “stable genius” he claims to be. Disappointed and beaten down, they have left in droves. On the other hand, Trump has retained the loyal backing of many voters despite scandal, outrage, and chaos. How is this possible? Why has Trump followed the predictable course for narcissism in one way, alienating many who have served in his administration, and defied expectations in another way, by continuing to attract an adoring core?

At its mythic heart, narcissism is a story of disappointment. The ancient source is the Greek tale of Narcissus, a beautiful young boy who falls in love with his reflection in a pool. Captivated with his beguiling image, Narcissus vows never to leave the object of his desire. But the reflection—forever outside his embrace—fails to reciprocate, and as a result Narcissus melts away (in one version of the story), a victim of the passion burning inside of him. The lover’s inconsolable disappointment is that he cannot consummate his love for the reflection, his love for himself.

A real-life narcissist, by contrast, manages to take his eyes off himself just long enough to find out if others are looking at him. And if the narcissist has admirers, this makes him feel good. It temporarily boosts his self-esteem.

Likewise, his admirers feel a rush of excitement and allure. They enjoy being in the presence of such a beautiful figure—or a powerful, creative, dynamic, charismatic, or intriguing figure. They bask in his reflected glory, even if they find his self-obsession to be unseemly. As time passes, however, the admirers grow weary. Once upon a time, they thought the narcissist was the greatest, but now they suspect that he is not. Or maybe they just get tired of him, and disgusted with all the self-admiration. They become disappointed, for very few narcissists can consistently provide the sufficient beauty, power, and greatness to sustain long-term unconditional devotion. In the end, everybody loses. The former fans loathe themselves for being fools, or else they blame the narcissist for fooling them. And the narcissist never attains what can never be humanly attained anyway: supreme and unending love and adoration of the self.

During the time when the young Donald Trump was laying plans for the construction of Trump Tower in New York City, the social critic Christopher Lasch published The Culture of Narcissism, in which he lamented the American preoccupation with self-glorification. According to Lasch, the 1970s narcissist saw the world as “a mirror of himself,” and had “no interest in external events except as they throw back a reflection on his own image.” The narcissistic person is adept at manipulating others for his own ends, Lasch wrote, but he has no genuine feeling for other people, because he is too caught up in the love affair with himself.

Lasch’s cultural critique dovetailed with clinical writings from Otto Kernberg and other psychoanalytic theorists of the time, who detected dark and malevolent features of narcissism in a number of their most difficult patients. Kernberg wrote that “malignant narcissists” often exhibit a superficial but seductive charm, a “glittery fascination” in the eyes of others. At the same time, they are interpersonally ruthless, incapable of expressing empathy, and suffering from fragile self-esteem. They have an impoverished inner life, to the point of feeling empty inside, and they are roiled by anger, resentment, and grandiose fantasies of revenge.

Contemporary researchers tend to focus on two core features of narcissism: grandiosity and vulnerability. Grandiosity comes across as unabashed hubris, boasting, and the projection of one’s perceived magnificence onto the world. Vulnerability manifests as defensiveness, emotional fragility, resentment, and the derogation of enemies. The grandiosity is more apparent early on, and it can serve to attract others. With time, the narcissist’s vulnerability becomes apparent too, which tends to push people away.

Picking up the vulnerability theme, research shows that people high in narcissism tend to show more anger and hostility when challenged or insulted, compared with people low in narcissism. They show sharper mood swings, oscillating between exuberance and negativity. As they rage against those who cross them, they make enemies. Many narcissists rise to positions of leadership in various kinds of groups because group members are initially impressed with their confidence and strength, but research shows that many of them turn out to be bad leaders, incompetent and unethical. In matters of romance, narcissists often have little trouble attracting mates—the peacock with the brightest plumage is hard to miss. But their romantic relationships turn out to be highly volatile and unstable.

In love, leadership, or social life more generally, the predictable narcissistic arc thus resembles yet another ancient Greek myth: the story of Icarus. He flew high and magnificent, until the sun melted the wax in his wings. Then Icarus plummeted to the sea below.

Trump’s relationship to the important players in his administration seems to have followed that rise-and-fall arc over time. He filled his Cabinet and the White House staff with early supporters such as Jeff Sessions and Hope Hicks; military generals such as Michael Flynn and John Kelly; Tea Party conservatives such as Mick Mulvaney; nationalist firebrands such as Steve Bannon; and even a few establishment Republicans such as Reince Priebus. The day before his inauguration, he announced, “We have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.” In the first full Cabinet meeting, televised to the world, each participant (beginning with Vice President Mike Pence) began with a little speech proclaiming how proud or humbled or honored he or she was to serve in this great and historic administration, basking in the reflected glory of their leader—all except Secretary of Defense James Mattis, it should be acknowledged, who kept his dignity and praised the American armed forces instead. This kind of sycophantic love fest would make most people cringe, but narcissists love it.

The majority of those advisers and officials are now gone. As national-security adviser, Flynn lasted 24 days. Chief of Staff Priebus was gone in six months. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price made it eight months. Anthony Scaramucci held the position of White House communications director for all of 10 days, following the 49-day tenure of Sean Spicer, who was preceded by Mike Dubke (88 days), who was preceded by Spicer the first time (45 days). In less than three years, six different people have held the position of White House communications director.

A recent study by the Brookings Institution shows that the turnover rate in the Trump White House is higher than that of any other recent administration. “It’s historic, it’s unprecedented, it’s off the charts,” the study’s author, Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, remarked in an interview with NBC News. In just 32 months, Trump’s rate of change has surpassed that of “all of his predecessors who served four-year terms.”

The study focused on the top 65 positions in the executive office of the president, which includes jobs such as national security adviser, chief of staff, press secretary, and director of national intelligence. The study found that 51 of the 65 positions (78 percent) have turned over since Trump took office, and that 16 of those positions (25 percent) have turned over twice or more. Of the 15 Cabinet positions in the presidential line of succession (which are not included in the 65 executive-office positions), nine have turned over at least once. Tenpas attributed the high rate of change to “the president himself.” She said: “In all of my studies, I’ve never seen a chief executive who fires staff more frequently and more publicly than President Trump.”

After she left her role as a top White House aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman wrote that Trump, as both a businessman and president, “chooses people who are very loyal, who subscribe to the fame and charisma that is Donald Trump’s magnetism. And I was one of those people.” But Trump’s charisma faded for her. She eventually recoiled from his self-centeredness and the disregard he expressed for other people. “Nothing has more meaning to Donald than himself.”

In the long run, it is tough to work with, or to love, a narcissist. Some can survive it all, perhaps because, like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, they lurk behind the scenes. Trump pays virtually no attention to them. He has no interest in education or housing and urban development. But for those who are part of the everyday action in the White House, whose portfolios or reputations place them within the orbit of the chief executive, life is precarious. They live at the whim of an impulsive, self-centered man whose fragile self-esteem soars and then threatens to plummet from one moment to the next. Their boss demands constant praise and unquestioning fealty. For most, the end result is frustration and disappointment.

Trump’s turnover rate is unprecedented—and so are his approval numbers. They are as stable as his administration is volatile. In every other presidency, approval ratings have fluctuated as a function of events over time. For example, Richard Nixon’s approval ratings plunged 40 points from the days following his reelection in late 1972 to his resignation in the wake of Watergate a couple of years later. George H. W. Bush’s approval ratings skyrocketed to nearly 90 percent at the time of the U.S. victory in the 1991 Gulf War, but fell to below 40 percent just a year later, during the 1992 recession. Ranging from the low 60s to about 40 percent, Barack Obama’s approval ratings fell gradually during his first term, rose steadily from 2012 to 2013, fell again from 2013 to 2014, and then climbed from then on.

Trump’s ratings run closer to a straight line. That line is consistently lower than what other presidents have shown: Trump’s approval ratings have generally hovered in the low 40s. Unlike all other presidents, he has never exceeded a 47 percent approval rating. But he has rarely dipped much below 37 percent.

He has a sizable core of support that refuses to shrink. In fact, a recent poll of voters in six battleground states showed that 90 percent of Trump’s supporters from 2016 approve of his performance as president. The support persists despite the constant upheaval in his administration; despite Robert Mueller’s investigation and the impeachment proceedings; despite repeated accusations of sexual misconduct and financial irregularities; despite the roughly 13,000 documented instances of Trump publicly uttering a blatant falsehood (usually via Twitter); despite countless cruelties and insults and instances of shockingly “un-presidential” behavior; and despite his initiating some policies that do not even have a scintilla of support among his loyal Republican allies, such as caving to North Korean demands, betraying the Kurds in Syria, and cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If Trump actually did shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue, as he once famously joked, it’s possible that his approval ratings wouldn’t budge at all. A CNN reporter recently interviewed six loyal Trump supporters in Pennsylvania. When one woman admitted that there was virtually nothing Trump could do to lose her vote, the interviewer asked how she might react if the president were to shoot somebody. She responded that she would want to know what the victim had done to deserve being shot.

Some of Trump’s hard-core supporters can point to specific policies or perceived achievements that keep them on the president’s side. Many conservatives strongly endorse Trump’s judicial selections. Anti-abortion enthusiasts hope that Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will help strike down Roe v. Wade, or at least sharply reduce the number of abortions in the United States. Wealthy voters may be happy about Republican tax cuts. Many in the business community may applaud Trump’s deregulatory agenda. Voters who hated Obama may delight in Trump’s efforts to undo nearly everything Obama did. For many white working-class Americans, Trump’s promise to bring back heavy industry may give them hope for better jobs. His anti-immigration crusade, as well as his implicit endorsement of white racism, represents their last hope, they may suspect, for keeping America white and Christian.

Those who can’t point to specific achievements may remain loyal supporters because they hear relatively little that is expressly negative about their hero. If the president shot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue, would Fox News even cover it? Trump supporters and Trump detractors live in different worlds. They may not speak to one another about politics, knowing that such a conversation is likely to end badly. They get their news from different sources. They stay faithful to their respective political tribes.

But the crux of the matter—the secret to Trump’s success with the base—may be that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2019 at 12:42 pm

Quite an amazing — and therapeutic — Twitter thread

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2019 at 11:39 am

‘There’s something terribly wrong’: Americans are dying young at alarming rates

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The US is in bad shape and it seems to be getting worse. Joel Achenbach reports for the Washington Post:

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Death rates from suicide, drug overdoses, liver disease and dozens of other causes have been rising over the past decade for young and middle-aged adults, driving down overall life expectancy in the United States for three consecutive years, according to a strikingly bleak study published Tuesday that looked at the past six decades of mortality data.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was immediately hailed by outside researchers for its comprehensive treatment of a still-enigmatic trend: the reversal of historical patterns in longevity.

Despite spending more on health care than any other country, the United States has seen increasing mortality and falling life expectancy for people ages 25 to 64, who should be in the prime of their lives, while other wealthy nations have generally experienced continued progress in extending longevity. Although earlier research emphasized rising mortality among non-Hispanic whites, the broad trend detailed in this study cuts across gender, racial and ethnic lines. By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 — 29 percent — has been among people ages 25 to 34.

The findings are sure to fuel political debate about causes and potential solutions, because the geography of rising death rates overlaps to a significant extent with states and regions that are hotly contested in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

About a third of the estimated 33,000 “excess deaths” that the study says occurred since 2010 were in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana — the first two of which are critical swing states in presidential elections. The state with the biggest percentage rise in death rates among working-age people in this decade — 23.3 percent — is New Hampshire, the first primary state.

“It’s supposed to be going down, as it is in other countries,” said the lead author of the report, Steven H. Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. “The fact that that number is climbing, there’s something terribly wrong.”

He said many factors are at play. The opioid epidemic is a major driver of the worrisome numbers, but far from the sole cause. The study found that improvements in life expectancy, largely because of lower rates of infant mortality, began to slow in the 1980s, long before the opioid epidemic became a national tragedy.

The 33,000 excess deaths are an estimate based on the number of all-cause midlife deaths from 2010 to 2017 that would be expected if mortality was unchanged vs. the number of deaths actually recorded by medical examiners.

“Some of it may be due to obesity, some of it may be due to drug addiction, some of it may be due to distracted driving from cellphones,” Woolf said. Given the breadth and pervasiveness of the trend, “it suggests that the cause has to be systemic, that there’s some root cause that’s causing adverse health across many different dimensions for working-age adults.”

The all-cause death rate — meaning deaths per 100,000 people — rose 6 percent from 2010 to 2017 among working-age people in the United States.

Men, overall, have higher all-cause mortality than women, but the report pulls out some disturbing trends. Women are succumbing to diseases once far more common among men, even as men continue to die in greater absolute numbers.

The risk of death from drug overdoses increased 486 percent for midlife women between 1999 and 2017; the risk increased 351 percent for men in that same period. Women also experienced a bigger relative increase in risk of suicide and alcohol-related liver disease.

Increasing midlife mortality began among whites in 2010, Hispanics in 2011 and African Americans in 2014, the study states.

Outside researchers praised the study for knitting together so much research into a sweeping look at U.S. mortality trends.

“This report has universal relevance. It has broad implications for all of society,” said Howard Koh, a professor of public health at Harvard University who was not part of the research team.

The report reveals a broad erosion in health, with no single “smoking gun,” said Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

“There’s something more fundamental about how people are feeling at some level — whether it’s economic, whether it’s stress, whether it’s deterioration of family,” she said. “People are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health.”

The JAMA report looked at life expectancy and mortality across the country from 1959 through 2017. Final life expectancy numbers for 2018 will soon be released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The general trend: Life expectancy improved a great deal for several decades, particularly in the 1970s, then slowed down, leveled off, and finally reversed course after 2014, decreasing three years in a row.

The average life expectancy in the United States fell behind that of other wealthy countries in 1998 and since then, the gap has grown steadily. Experts refer to this gap as America’s “health disadvantage.”

There are some factors that manifest themselves only gradually, such as the effects of smoking. For example, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, cigarette companies aggressively marketed to women, and the health effects of that push may not show up for decades.

Princeton professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton, whose much-publicized report in 2015 highlighted the death rates in middle-aged whites, published a paper in 2017 pointing to a widening gap in health associated with levels of education, a trend dating to the 1970s. Case told reporters their research showed a “sea of despair” in the United States among people with only a high school diploma or less. She declined to comment on the new report.

Obesity is a significant part of the story. The average woman in America today weighs as much as the average man half a century ago, and men now weigh about 30 pounds more. Most people in the United States are overweight — an estimated 71.6 percent of the population ages 20 and older, according to the CDC. That figure includes the 39.8 percent who are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher in adults (18.5 to 25 is the normal range). Obesity is also rising in children; nearly 19 percent of the population ages 2 to 19 is obese. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 12:48 pm

Pointless work meetings ‘really a form of therapy’

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Sean Coughlan reports for BBC:

Meetings at work should be seen as a form of “therapy” rather than about decision-making, say researchers.

Academics from the University of Malmo in Sweden say meetings provide an outlet for people at work to show off their status or to express frustration.

Professor Patrik Hall says they are becoming increasingly frequent – as more managerial and “strategy” jobs generate more meetings.

But he says despite there being more meetings “few decisions are made”.

Prof Hall has investigated an apparent contradiction in how people can have a low opinion of work meetings, yet their numbers keep increasing.

Looking for a purpose

The political scientist says the rise in meetings reflects changes in the workforce – with fewer people doing and making things and an increase in those involved in “meetings-intense” roles such as strategists, advisers, consultants and managers.

“People don’t do concrete things any more,” he says.

Instead he says there has been a rise of managerial roles, which are often not very well defined, and where “the hierarchy is not that clear”.

“Many managers don’t know what to do,” he says, and when they are “unsure of their role”, they respond by generating more meetings.

“People like to talk and it helps them find a role,” says the professor.

Many of these people can spend half of their working hours in meetings, he says.

These can spill over into pre- and post-meetings, to such an extent that people might begin to “disguise” how much time they spend attending them.

Prof Hall, who has co-authored a book on meetings, gives the example of the Swedish border police, who describe their overseas meetings as “power weeks”.

‘Opportunity to complain’

Meetings can “arouse feelings of meaninglessness”, he says. But he argues that is often missing their point.

Once in a meeting – particularly long ones – their function can become “almost therapeutic”. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2019 at 4:44 pm

Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed

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This post by David Cain at Raptitude.com is well worth reading — and in connection with it, I recommend also revisiting “The Gospel of Consumption.”

Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months of traveling.

Because I had been living quite a different lifestyle while I was away, this sudden transition to 9-to-5 existence has exposed something about it that I overlooked before.

Since the moment I was offered the job, I’ve been markedly more careless with my money. Not stupid, just a little quick to pull out my wallet. As a small example, I’m buying expensive coffees again, even though they aren’t nearly as good as New Zealand’s exceptional flat whites, and I don’t get to savor the experience of drinking them on a sunny café patio. When I was away these purchases were less off-handed, and I enjoyed them more.

I’m not talking about big, extravagant purchases. I’m talking about small-scale, casual, promiscuous spending on stuff that doesn’t really add a whole lot to my life. And I won’t actually get paid for another two weeks.

In hindsight I think I’ve always done this when I’ve been well-employed — spending happily during the “flush times.” Having spent nine months living a no-income backpacking lifestyle, I can’t help but be a little more aware of this phenomenon as it happens.

I suppose I do it because I feel I’ve regained a certain stature, now that I am again an amply-paid professional, which seems to entitle me to a certain level of wastefulness. There is a curious feeling of power you get when you drop a couple of twenties without a trace of critical thinking. It feels good to exercise that power of the dollar when you know it will “grow back” pretty quickly anyway.

What I’m doing isn’t unusual at all. Everyone else seems to do this. In fact, I think I’ve only returned to the normal consumer mentality after having spent some time away from it.

One of the most surprising discoveries I made during my trip was that I spent much less per month traveling foreign counties (including countries more expensive than Canada) than I did as a regular working joe back home. I had much more free time, I was visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world, I was meeting new people left and right, I was calm and peaceful and otherwise having an unforgettable time, and somehow it cost me much less than my humble 9-5 lifestyle here in one of Canada’s least expensive cities.

It seems I got much more for my dollar when I was traveling. Why?

A Culture of Unnecessaries

Here in the West, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business. Companies in all kinds of industries have a huge stake in the public’s penchant to be careless with their money. They will seek to encourage the public’s habit of casual or non-essential spending whenever they can.

In the documentary The Corporation, a marketing psychologist discussed one of the methods she used to increase sales. Her staff carried out a study on what effect the nagging of children had on their parents’ likelihood of buying a toy for them. They found out that 20% to 40% of the purchases of their toys would not have occurred if the child didn’t nag its parents. One in four visits to theme parks would not have taken place. They used these studies to market their products directly to children, encouraging them to nag their parents to buy.

This marketing campaign alone represents many millions of dollars that were spent because of demand that was completely manufactured.

“You can manipulate consumers into wanting, and therefore buying, your products. It’s a game.” ~ Lucy Hughes, co-creator of “The Nag Factor”

This is only one small example of something that has been going on for a very long time. Big companies didn’t make their millions by earnestly promoting the virtues of their products, they made it by creating a culture of hundreds of millions of people that buy way more than they need and try to chase away dissatisfaction with money.

We buy stuff to cheer ourselves up, to keep up with the Joneses, to fulfill our childhood vision of what our adulthood would be like, to broadcast our status to the world, and for a lot of other psychological reasons that have very little to do with how useful the product really is. How much stuff is in your basement or garage that you haven’t used in the past year?

The real reason for the forty-hour workweek

The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.

I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing.

The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.

Suddenly I have a lot more money and a lot less time, which means I have a lot more in common with the typical working North American than I did a few months ago. While I was abroad I wouldn’t have thought twice about spending the day wandering through a national park or reading my book on the beach for a few hours. Now that kind of stuff feels like it’s out of the question. Doing either one would take most of one of my precious weekend days!

The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is exercise. It’s also the last thing I want to do after dinner or before bed or as soon as I wake, and that’s really all the time I have on a weekday.

This seems like a problem with a simple answer: . . .

Continue reading. It’s much more problematic and interconnected that it seems at first. Do read the whole thing. It’s almost like the Abilene paradox writ large, over all our society.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2019 at 3:48 pm

Nearly All Mass Shooters Since 1966 Have Had 4 Things in Common

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David Noriega and Tess Owen report in Vice:

The stereotype of a mass shooter is a white male with a history of mental illness or domestic violence. While that may be anecdotally true, the largest single study of mass shooters ever funded by the U.S. government has found that nearly all mass shooters have four specific things in common.

A new Department of Justice-funded study of all mass shootings — killings of four or more people in a public place — since 1966 found that the shooters typically have an experience with childhood trauma, a personal crisis or specific grievance, and a “script” or examples that validate their feelings or provide a roadmap. And then there’s the fourth thing: access to a firearm.

The root cause of mass shootings is an intensely partisan debate, with one side blaming mental health and the others blaming guns. Researchers hope that the findings in the study could usher in a more holistic and evidence-based approach to the issue — and provide opportunities for policy action.

“Data is data,” said Jillian Peterson, a psychologist at Hamline University and co-author of the study. “Data isn’t political. Our hope is that it pushes these conversations further.”

The study, compiled by the Violence Project, a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to reducing violence in society, was published Tuesday and is the most comprehensive and detailed database of mass shooters to date, coded to 100 different variables. Its release comes less than a week after a teenage boy killed two students at his high school in Santa Clarita, California, before fatally shooting himself in the head.

The researchers used the FBI’s definition of a “mass murder” — four or more people killed, excluding the perpetrator — and applied it to shootings in one public place. The dataset stretches back to August 1, 1966, when a former Marine opened fire from an observation deck at the University of Texas, killing 15 people. It wasn’t the first mass shooting in the U.S., but researchers chose it as a starting point because it was the first to be substantively covered on radio and TV.

The database delivers a number of arresting findings. Mass shootings are becoming much more frequent and deadly: Of the 167 incidents the researchers logged in that 53-year period, 20% have occurred in the last five years, and half since 2000.

They’re also increasingly motivated by racial, religious, or misogynist hatred, particularly the ones that occurred in the past five years.

And in an era when tightening gun laws, including background checks, is a national political issue, the study found that more than half of all mass shooters in the database obtained their guns legally.

But researchers said they were particularly struck by how many mass shooters displayed symptoms of being in some sort of crisis prior to the shooting. “Those are opportunities for prevention,” said Peterson.

5 profiles of mass shooters

Experts have long cautioned that there is no single profile for a mass shooter. But the Violence Project researchers found some personal characteristics often align with certain types of locations targeted by shooters, and created five general categories:

  • K-12 shooters: White males, typically students or former students of the school, with a history of trauma. Most are suicidal, plan their crime extensively, and make others aware of their plans at some point before the shooting. They use multiple guns that they typically steal from a family member.
  • College and university shooters: Non-white males who are current students of the university, are suicidal, and have a history of violence and childhood trauma. They typically use legally obtained handguns and leave behind some sort of manifesto.
  • Workplace shooters: Fortysomething males without a specific racial profile. Most are employees of their targeted location, often a blue-collar job site, and have some grievance against the workplace. They use legally purchased handguns and assault rifles.
  • Place of worship shooters: White males in their 40s, typically motivated by hate or domestic violence that spills out into public. Their crimes typically involve little planning.
  • Shooters at a commercial location (such as a store or restaurant): White men in their 30s with a violent history and criminal record. They typically have no connection to the targeted location and use a single, legally obtained firearm. About a third show evidence of a “thought disorder,” a term for a mental health condition, like schizophrenia, that results in disorganized thinking, paranoia, or delusions.

Hate on the rise

The study shows that the number of shooters who are motivated by racism, religious hate, and misogyny have increased since the 1960s — most dramatically in the last five years.

Since 2015, hate-fueled shootings targeting black churchgoers in Charleston, Jews at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, and Latinos at a Walmart in El Paso, have dominated national headlines and added another layer of complexity to the problem of mass violence in America.

READ: A Marine used a neo-Nazi site to recruit for a “racial holy war.”

Between 1966 and 2000, there were 75 mass shootings. Of those, 9% were motivated by racism, 1% by religious hatred, and 7% by misogyny. Of the 32 mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. just since 2015, 18% were motivated by racism, 15% by religious hatred, and 21% by misogyny.

The increase in ideologically motivated mass shootings has coincided with the emergence of a newly emboldened far right, who’ve forged national and even international alliances of hate online. The sharp rise in misogyny-inspired shootings also squares with the rise of the “Incels,” short for “involuntarily celibate,” an online subculture comprised of angry young men who deeply resent and blame women for their isolation.

Mental health is a factor — but rarely the cause

Two-thirds of the mass shooters in the database had a documented history of mental health problems. While this seems high, researchers point out that roughly 50% of Americans have experienced some kind of mental health problem at some point in their lives.

Moreover, the percentage of shooters whose crimes were directly motivated by the symptoms of a mental disorder (such as delusions or hallucinations caused by psychosis) is much smaller: roughly 16%. That is a smaller percentage than shooters motivated by hate, a workplace grievance, or an interpersonal conflict.

“If someone has a mental health history, I think we’ve gotten in the habit of blaming that for their actions,” said Peterson. “But someone can have, say, depression, and it’s not like everything they do is driven by that.”

READ: Trump blamed “mentally ill monsters” for Dayton and El Paso massacres.

That said, the study found strong links between suicidal motivations and mass shootings. Nearly 70% of shooters were suicidal before or during the shooting, and the numbers are even higher for school shooters.

These findings could have powerful implications for . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2019 at 1:01 pm

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