Monday 24 July 2017

Short Observations

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JMH International Essays — Announcement

Original Essays on the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence 

We thank all those who have submitted an essay to the JMH International Prize Essay Contest. As of now, February 1, 2017, we have decided not to continue with the contest.

For those who feel they have an important contribution to the subject of the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence, please feel free to submit your essay with the form provided here. If the judges agree that the essay is a significant contribution, we will publish it here (subject to agreement with the author).

We include here links related to past essays — For the 2014 contest, click here for the summary article and here for the list of winners; for the 2015 contest, click here for the summary article and the list of winners; and for the 2016 contest, click here.

Longer Observations

Good-Bad, Right-Wrong

  • a pact with the Devil

  • Bad Behavior—Good Behavior

  • Film & Stage: A Psychological Approach to the T.V. Series, "Mad Men"

    A Psychological Approach to the T.V. Series, "Mad Men."

    It is April 9, 2014, and it is four days until the beginning of the seventh and last season of the T.V. series, Mad Men. By the time the series is complete, there will have been, roughly, seventy five hours of the program. If a person wanted to watch all episodes of the series from beginning to end, it would take almost two, forty hour work weeks.

  • Film & Stage: A Psychological Question about the Film, "Casablanca"

    A Psychological Question about the Film Casablanca

    Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest film trailerfrom the 1936 film Petrified Forest (photo in the public domain)

    My question is: Why was Humphrey Bogart chosen to play Rick in the film, Casablanca? There must have been commercial reasons involved in the producer, Hal Wallis' choice of Bogart, but, as a psychologist, I can not help but search for deeper reasons he might have had. Why was Humphrey Bogart chosen, a man who was known for his gangster roles — such as Duke Mantee in the Petrified Forest (see above photo) and Roy "Mad Dog" Earl in High Sierra? When movie goers of the day thought of Bogart, they thought of a desperate, selfish killer, but in Casablanca his role was to inspire men to leave home and go to war. Bogart seems about the least likely choice for this kind of role.

    Each reader will have his or her own answer to this question. My goal is to present the question, and, in what follows, to express a few psychological observations on the subject.

  • Film & Stage: Silence of the Lambs

    The Silence of the Lambs: A Psychological Review

    Psychologists are not trained to evaluate the artistic merits of a film, but we may try to analyze a film very much as we analyze other products of the human psyche such as dreams or myths. In fact, a film, in so far as it "grips" people, is a myth in action, and to comment on a film that fascinates its audience is to comment on a living myth, a snap-shot of the American psyche.

  • good people

  • honest

  • honorable, honored

  • I'm worse

  • Longer Observation 003: Why suffering?

    Longer observation (3): "Why do Good People Suffer?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

  • Longer observation 015: Bad or Mentally Ill?

    Longer observation (15): Is he Bad or Mentally Ill (or Both)?: In these modern times we hear people discussing people who have done something bad. One person says, "He's just bad! No excuses! He should be punished!" and the other person says, "No! He's mentally ill! You would have done the same thing if you had been through what he has been through! We should be compassionate!" The person in question could be a criminal on trial or a political tyrant or even a family member who is hurting and, maybe, tyrannizing, people within the family.

  • my function

  • my responsibilities, obligations

  • my value

  • on Good & Evil

  • Senses of Value & Right & Wrong

  • Short idea 003

    Short idea (3): "Everybody is a moon, with a dark side never to be seen by others." — Mark Twain. This was true when Mark Twain was alive, but now psychology gives us ways of seeing the dark sides of ourselves and others — if and when we want to.

  • Short idea 006

    Short idea (6): The way humans are built we can not see the back of our heads directly, no matter what we do.  We can get around this, if we want, by setting up a few mirrors or by asking others to look and tell us what they see. We also can't see the "back sides" of our own personalities. If we want to get around this we can look at our dreams (which reflect the sides of ourselves we can't see) or ask people how we look to them.

  • Short idea 031

    Short idea (31): Having a positive First Impression of something is different from judging it to be Good. You can often tell immediately if you like something. If you begin not to like it after a week or a month, you say, “It turned out to be no Good in spite of my early impressions." Whether or not something's Good for the whole world may take a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand or even a hundred thousand years to tell. If something turns out to be Bad, then it was just a Fad. A fad can last for a hundred thousand years.

  • Short idea 038

    Short idea (38): For many, the things they are most proud of when they are doing them are the very same things they are most ashamed of when they reflect on them later.

  • Short idea 041

    Short Idea (41): If Moses had decided never to come down from Mt. Sinai and to stay forever with the Lord, we might not have learned we shouldn't steal or kill or disrespect our parents.

  • Short idea 051

    Short idea (51): There may be a difference between what you think you value, what you want to value, what you tell others you value, what values you act in accordance with even though they are not your own, and what you value. It may not be until you are an old man or woman and have seen yourself react in many different situations that you become conscious whether you value this more than that or that more than this, when it comes right down to it. Sometimes it is only in extreme and unusual situations that we see what is really and truly important to us. What you value is connected with how you choose to behave, not just with how you picture yourself.

  • Short idea 054

    Short idea (54): Being decisive is not always good. With some people it's better if they never make up their minds. If you're getting ready to do something bad, we pray you will waiver.

  • Short idea 055

    Short idea (55): Learning and Knowledge are not always good. It depends on what people learn and what they do with the knowledge.

  • Short idea 056

    Short idea (56): Knowing thyself is a means, not an end. Unexamined lives may not be worth living, but it doesn't mean examined lives are. Knowing you're a jerk isn't enough; you have to do something about it. But what and how?

  • Short idea 078

    Short idea (78): There are two psychological states, A (withdrawn) and B (involved). One's self = A + B. It is only while in A that a person can learn about A, about B, and, therefore, about A + B. While in B there is too much activity, and so no time to look at B. Yet to know about oneself it is not enough to know only A. A has to look out at B and examine it as well. — Further, no one can be in A and B at the same time. It is probably impossible to be good without knowing oneself, which requires A. It is impossible to be good while in A. A good person must act in B based on what is learned in A.

  • Short idea 086

    Short idea (86): When good people become bad, they often become very very bad, and when bad people become good, they often become very very good.

  • Short idea 094

    Short idea (94): Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, according to Lord Acton. In our day, with our microscopic focus on human motivation, we might look at it even more cynically. Human nature is already corrupt, but most humans don't have the power to act it out. Fear keeps most of us in check. Give us power, and we let go. Give us absolute power, and look out. — On the other hand, we know there are other, more positive forces working in us, and, in some of us, they hold sway no matter what.

  • Short idea 104

    Short idea (104): People do the worst things when they think they're right. They can do even worse things when they know they're right.

  • Short idea 106

    Short idea (106): Everyone has two sides to one degree or another. There is the normal, sane side and the wild, crazy side. People feel good when they manage to let out the wild, crazy side in a normal, sane way. They feel bad if they never are able to let it out or if it bursts out in a wild and crazy way.

  • Short idea 118

    Short idea (118): Psychotherapists learn quickly that people who appear good are almost never as good as they appear, and people who appear bad are rarely ever as bad as they appear.

  • Short idea 133

    Short idea (133): If a person's goal is power, then winning feels good (even if he or she is seriously wounded in the process). However, if a person's goal is to be good, then winning will feel bad (as well as good), because it brings with it responsibilities (that is, responsibilities to the ones who have lost to you).

  • Short idea 134

    Short idea (134): Just as there are people who are stronger than me and people who are smarter than me and people who have more money than I do, there are also people who are morally better than me. And the same goes for you.

  • Short idea 147

    Short idea (147): It is easy to have bad motives and to try to cover them over with warm smiles and expressions of care and concern and with promises to always be helpful. So it is possible to be doing very bad things and to appear like an angel. We all fall for this. It is also possible to be doing very good things and not to care at all about how you look. You can be so involved in doing this good thing that you forget about others around you, and they can think you are selfish and self-centered and short-tempered and bad. We all make the mistake, at times, of thinking people are being bad when they are really being very good.

  • Short idea 148

    Short idea (148): We all have good tendencies, and we all have bad tendencies. We all have saintly tendencies, and we all have evil tendencies. We all even have godly tendencies, and we all even have demonic tendencies. A tendency we have that isn't always good and can be evil or even demonic is to think we are being good or saintly or even godly when we are being bad or evil or even demonic.

  • Short idea 154

    Short idea (154): Good Action along with periods of Silence and Aloneness can be a shield, a refuge, and a hospital for a weary, lost, bloody soul.

  • Short idea 187

    Short idea (187): In my experience everyone is bad. In my experience everyone is good. In my experience, when focusing on the bad of a person, the person is experienced as all bad and when focusing on the good of a person, the person is experienced as all good. In my experience, when focusing on the reality of a person, the whole person, the good and bad of a person recede into the background as natural properties inherent in everyone.

  • Short idea 189

    Short idea (189):We tend to believe "he was a good man": 1. If he was polite to us and 2. if he gave us things or helped us. If he was difficult with others it does not make as great and deep and lasting an impression on us as how he was with us.

  • Short idea 192

    Short idea (192): There are two political parties in the United States. Younger members of each party are sure they are right and members of the other party are wrong and maybe even evil. Older politicians may feel this but become more practical and are willing to compromise in order to get anything done. But there is a third position: Neither party is completely right but that each expresses a part of the truth. Compromise is not a process where good makes a deal with evil to get at least some good. Rather it is a struggle that leads, if it works, to incorporating the goodness and truths of both parties into a higher, more complete good and truth. This struggle can take centuries.

  • The Good & The Evil

  • The Value of Feeling Good

    The Value of Feeling Good

    We don't want to feel bad and can spend time and money trying to feel better. If we start feeling pretty good, we want to feel better and better and better. Therapists, clergy, politicians, entertainers, insurance salesmen, and many others tell us and sell us methods for making ourselves feel better. Is the quest to feel good, itself a good thing, psychologically and morally? To begin this discussion I will place before us a definition of feeling.

  • to change for the better

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

via reflection on the world
via reflection on one's immediate experience
Close




   the One   the Whole
the Sacred
the Ordinary
People
Action
Experience
Consciousness
Universals
feeling stuck
feelings of failing,        of dying
waiting
 waking up — feeling reborn
   focusing   on the self
confronting the   unconscious
the whole person
living in multiple       worlds
learning about     the world
feelings of success,     of the good life