How can I contribute more to society?

Thanks for the A2A. This is a huge question and could take you in many different directions depending on how you begin to answer it. So I’ll focus mainly on that beginning. In order to ferret out how you - with your unique values, resources, perspective and abilities - can best contribute to society, you will first need to:

Clearly define your personal, interpersonal and social values. I saw that you began to do this in your response to one of the answers here, but IMO you could really drill down deep to understand and document what you think is most important in your relationships, your personal standards of ethics, and in what you believe to be societal standards and mechanisms for good.
Clearly understand what you bring to the table. What are you strengths, aptitudes, skills and resources? What is your work style, relationship style and communication style? What are you really good at, and what do you enjoy doing the most?

Begin to explore how your values intersect with your individual strengths, aptitudes, skills and resources. This can be the trickiest part of the process, and it is important to avoid locking yourself into a single trajectory too quickly - instead, you can remain open, and look at what is already being done in the world that resonates with both what you care about, and what you are good at.
Identify communities, collaborators and institutions that support your values and strengths. Make an extensive list of these, research them online, and talk with as many people as possible about the options that already exist (there are likely many!). There are probably whole communities whose philosophy of values and approaches to societal contribution align closely with yours.

Try things on for size. Try out a number of different possibilities that you think will allow your values and strengths to be put to good use. Take some classes in a promising field, do some volunteering at a promising organization or work in an entry level position, engage in some activism with a like-minded group of folks, etc.

Be willing to start something on your own if you need to. For me, it became clear after a few decades of “trying things on for size” that there wasn’t a prefect match for me already out in the world in terms of a career, volunteer organization, community, etc. So I started my own business, wrote exclusively about what I was passionate about, and began more informally connecting with folks who had similar values and concerns.

This can be a lengthy process - it took me nearly twenty years to figure all of this out. So be patient, and persistent. Also, to begin with step #1, check out the Self-Assessment Resources on my Integral Lifework website.

I hope this was helpful.

Is there a relation between human brain's ability to switch to Default Mode and the development of ego stages?

Thanks for the A2A.

I had to laugh when I saw your question because…well this is an extremely complex topic and there seems to be very little agreement among neuroscientists regarding these kinds of correlations. You could, in effect, say “Sure! DMN activation has a direct impact on ego development and stages. Why not?” And you could probably find some research to at least marginally support your view. But in reality…we just don’t know - in fact we don’t even know (for certain) if the DMN actually exists, or just captures a current picture of a certain combination/distribution of brain functions. In other words, it may only be a placeholder for a more complex understanding still waiting in the wings.

That said, here’s my take using what I believe to be a relatively current inclusion of relevant placeholders….

I suspect that ego formation and development relies on equal involvement from several systems and regions of the brain. These probably include the Default Mode Network, the Salience Network, the Central Executive Network, various avenues of inter-hemispheric exchange, MTL structures and their communication with higher level cortical regions/functions, and many more contributive regions, structures and functions. In fact I would further assert that without all of these components interacting smoothly and in healthy harmony with each other, ego formation and development would be difficult - and perhaps not occur predictably, or at all. This balance is so orchestral in nature that emotional trauma or physiological disruption to any of these components could sabotage the expected course of how narrative self relates to ego, how ego relates to the perceived world around it, how egoic impulses are managed and so on. And then there are the more conscious or deliberate modes of ego-transformation, which likely depend on additional variables and involvements.

So I suppose the moral of this answer is: we should be wary of overzealous reductionism.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Prasanth Chandrahasan: There is a background to this question. Unfortunately, when trying to add this as a question detail, I am exceeding Quora’s word limit. Please don’t downvote and collapse because this is important.

Ken Wilber has argued, citing the work of developmental psychologist late Skip Alexander that only meditation can bring about a change in ego development between the ages of 25 to 55. Specifically, any one who meditates regularly for at least five years is shown to jump two levels in an ego development cycle. Wilber refers to Loevinger's stages of ego development and also to several other models as well.

Alexander’s research focused on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which is known to activate the Default Mode in the brain (I am aware of the ambiguity of this term but herein it is referred as per the research papers). So putting these together, one could argue that the brain’s ability to wander around (or be in Default Mode) is actually helpful in ego development.

Sure enough, there is a lot of research in the field all of which are coming from the TM organization (Alexander too). Not that I don’t trust it, just wondering if this is an area of active research and if so, is there any definitive results.

I have read your post Prasanth. I appreciate Ken’s work but he is mistaken in this regard - I think he is probably referencing his own experience, but there are many different ways to encourage development along any trajectory (that is, whether one agrees with Loevinger’s stages or not). Consider, for example, the different non-meditative paths of yoga, any of which could enhance the maturation of ego state. As for research to support this assertion, that is sparse. Additionally, some forms of meditation activate the DMN, but others do not, so that is not a reliable touchstone for comparison. In fact I would return you to my original answer, in that even with meditation, unless there is integration and harmony via all of the components referenced, ego development will not occur. Incidentally, I would offer a slightly different take on ego development that I think exceeds Loevinger’s schema and is inclusive of moral development. You can view that here (just scroll down page to view document): Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations


What actually makes scores of people disapprove of kind/soft males?

Hello Chrysovalantis and thank you for the A2A.

In my experience this is purely a cultural phenomenon. I’ve known men all my life for whom “masculinity” was defined by toughness, harshness, and a certain degree of cruelty or indifference, and an aversion to emotional vulnerability. “To be male is to be mean,” seemed to be the standard. That’s how they were raised by their parents, how their peers also acted, how they saw men portrayed in movies, how their sports heroes behaved in public and so on. A sensitive, kind male growing up in such communities was almost always viewed as someone who (please excuse the coarse language): a) “Needs to go get laid,” b) “Should grow a thicker skin,” c) “Had better man up,” d) “Is a girly little bitch,” e) “Is a weakling and a cry baby,” f) “Should go join the military to toughen up,” g) “Is probably gay.” When reacting to a sensitive male, no compassion, patience, understanding or friendship would be offered.

Until those big strong men needed someone to understand their pain.

Then, suddenly, they would seek out the kind, soft-hearted friend who would listen to their suffering, offer insight and advice, not judge them when they became upset or (horror of horrors) actually allowed themselves to cry. But of course all of this would have to be in private, and when back out in public they would return to their old ways of a tough, implacable brashness.

So if this is the cultural standard that you have encountered…I would move somewhere where the culture is different. University towns tend to have a different standard for masculinity. Cities with lots of arts and progressive politics are often equally celebratory of a kind, soft-hearted male. Blue collar factory communities and rural farming towns tend to revert to the mean male meme - at least in the U.S. and in the parts of Europe I have lived. In any case, cultures differ from place to place, and the are many that embrace what other cultures criticize.

My 2 cents.


Why don't positive thoughts flow like negative thoughts?

Thanks for the A2A Arti. Good one!

So here is my take on this: negative thoughts are a product of millions of years of successful survival of the human species. Pete Ashly touched on this in one of his comments in this thread, indicating we have “a million ways to die and one way to live.” As it turns out, that “one way to live” involves constantly scanning our environment for things that a) benefit individual or collective survival in some way, or b) threaten individual or collective survival in some way. Evolution itself has ensured that we are hard-wired to develop this constant situational awareness. The product of that awareness, in terms of cognition, is that because fundamental structures of the human brain are designed to identify such existential threats and beneficial opportunities, our higher brain functions also tend to mirror those fundamental structures in working out predictions for the near future. In this sense, the impulse to think negative thoughts is really no different that the impulse to have sexual fantasies about someone we are attracted to, or replay memories of enjoyable sexual encounters, or have violent thoughts about someone who feels threatening to us, or imagine how good our favorite food would taste right now, or revisit memories where we achieved something important for ourselves or others - or indeed repeatedly revisit memories where we felt embarrassed or defeated. Again, all these thoughts bubble up from very pragmatic reflexes of consciousness to satisfy basic survival instincts to thrive or perish.

Now one really nifty ability humans have is our capacity to manage this reflexive thought flow in various ways - and indeed to channel our basic drives into what I call the “fulfillment impulses” of our choosing. Allow me to illustrate what I mean. In Integral Lifework, there are four primary drives: to exist, to experience, to adapt, and to affect. All of our motivations, reflexes, habits, strategies and so forth to fulfill these four primary drives can issue from two places: from within ourselves, or from outside ourselves. What others have alluded to in this thread is that modern commercialistic culture is quite adept at conditioning us to rely on exterior guidance and fulfillment, rather than looking within ourselves for resources. “Don’t think, just consume!” And of course this has helped us become very good - and rather dependent - mass consumers. However, the alternative is to take matters into our own hands as far as we are able, and cultivate intrinsic qualities and character that will guide our fulfillment of primary drives, relying more and more on resources from within ourselves. This is a very different mode of being, and can feel quite foreign to someone who is unpracticed at it, but it’s actually a skill that has been practiced and promoted by everyone from meditation teachers to cognitive behavioral therapists for quite a long time now. It is a core discipline of Integral Lifework.

But what is the point of all this? Well, the point is that we don’t have to submit to our seemingly “automatic” negative thought flow, and we don’t have to identify with it either. That is not to say we should reject negative thoughts - on the contrary, we will tend to navigate them more constructively if we can learn how to recognize and accept them in a relatively detached way, realizing “These thoughts and impulses are happening within me right now, that is true…but they are not the essence of who I am.” My having a dream about ecstatically flying through the sky doesn’t make me a bird - nor does it mean I can simply jump off a cliff and fly. These are thoughts and feelings that have meaning, can be instructive, can provide insight and guidance about the self…but they are fleeting events - a map that reflects elements of our consciousness, but not the territory itself.

Further, we can also transform the habits of our mind to bias our thoughts and feelings towards the positive instead of the negative. Remember that there are two factors in play on an instinctive level: resources that are beneficial, and threats to avoid - thrive or perish. Well it turns out that if we practice things like gratitude meditation, or habitual generosity, or letting go of our need to control outcomes, or any number of other constructive habits, our tendency to have negative thoughts will relax a bit. It won’t go away, but we will, as some other answers here allude to, strengthen alternate, more positive pathways for our thoughts and emotions to travel. In Integral Lifework, there is an additional piece to the puzzle: it turns out that in order to sustain positive thoughts and emotions, we also will need to make sure all dimensions of our being are fully nurtured and loved. This is profoundly important, because without support from all dimensions, our generosity can, after a time, begin to feel empty and strained; our sense of gratitude can become more irregular and superficial; our meditation more shallow and scattered. We will, essentially, lack the internal resources to sustain our positivity.

Lastly, there are also issues of personality or disposition, along with the dominant tendencies of our surrounding culture. Some people are just more cynical and pessimistic than others - in my experience, a majority are. Being persistently optimistic is rare enough to even be described in a negative light - as overconfidence, naïveté or pollyannishness. There are also cultural factors, as some cultures seem (as a very broad generalization) more prone to pessimism than optimism. Here again, the pessimists seem to be in the majority, and tend to view the persistently optimistic cultures as either naive, suspect, delusional or megalomaniacal. And within the suspicion and mistrust of the pessimist towards the optimist is the very kernel of the governing negativity: fear. If we or our culture mainly operate from fear, we will be pessimistic; if we mainly operate from affectionate compassion, we will be more optimistic. So part of the shift from negativity to positivity also requires letting go of fear, and strengthening love.

In any case, to explore some of the practices that support positive self-talk, positive emotional cycles and a positive outlook, please check out the ideas, practices and resources in this paper (you can scroll down to read document without downloading it or logging into the Academia website): Integral Lifework Concepts, Tools & Assessments

My 2 cents.


Why would someone say "pride is ignorance"?

Thanks to Pete Ashly for the A2A.

Clearly, from the eight answers already offered, this could mean many different things to different people. So it probably would be wise to ask whoever is expressing the sentiment in a given moment what they, specifically, mean by it.

In part, I think the difficulty in interpretation is a result of the words being used. Because of my own consideration of this topic over the years (and my own unfortunate firsthand experiences with its implications), I immediately translated the phrase to “arrogance = ignorance.” And even then, what I really am thinking when I say that is “reckless arrogance = willful ignorance.” But, as we see in Charles J. Hunsinger’s answer, not everyone views pride as “reckless arrogance” (or even, using different language, “excessive overconfidence” or hubris), and Chas Warren doesn’t view ignorance as a willful lack of knowledge. So here again, for different people this phrase will inevitably be interpreted in different ways.

Interestingly, we actually see this difference echoed in the dictionary definition of “pridefulness:”

1) A reasonable or justifiable sense of one's worth or importance

2) An often unjustified feeling of being pleased with oneself or with one's situation or achievements

That said, because of how I filter the phrase through my own experiences, what resonates about this statement runs along similar lines to what Pete Ashly and Ankur Sah shared in their responses: if we truly understood the cascading dependencies of cause and effect - and the complete entanglement of our own agency with other forces and conditions - our pridefulness (in the sense of arrogance or overconfidence) would be greatly attenuated as a general rule - at least regarding our own choices and accomplishments. So, in this sense, a functional deficit in the accuracy of one’s own conceptions about the self and its surrounding world - as well as in the ultimate efficacy of one’s own actions in that context - is created by ignorance; in a way, excessive overconfidence is just one of many such deficits that result from not knowing.

But this is only one side of the coin, which effectively relates one consequence of pridefulness to a condition of ignorance. The other side of the coin, also pointed out by other answers offered by Hipcat Printery, Kayla Choi and User, is that a condition of ignorance can result in the consequence of pridefulness. In this sense, a functional deficit in the accuracy of one’s own conceptions about the self and the surrounding world - as well as in the ultimate efficacy of one’s own actions in that context - is created by hubris; and here, too, ignorance is just one of many potentially negative outcomes that may result.

With these two perspectives in mind, we might propose that the phrase “pride is ignorance” is a sort of dialectic koan from which a well-rounded truth can be synthesized, describing a feedback loop that will snowball into greater and greater error. Aspects of this idea are captured in the Dunning–Kruger effect; here we see the two sides of the coin mirrored, with ignorance invoking pridefulness, and pridefulness invoking ignorance.

What is most interesting to me is how this dynamic can be amplified in groups, where pridefulness and ignorance play off of each other not just in one individual, but between individuals as they interact with each other and conform to the group’s agenda, thereby enlarging the scope of both hubris and a pervasive lack of understanding. The disastrous historical consequences of such interplay are well-known - with everything from the Inquisition to the Red Scare being fed by the ignorance/arrogance snowball effect - which is, I think, why Santayana intoned: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Lastly, for me this question also evokes thoughts about a contrasting dialectic: “humility is insight.” Here, too, there are variations of interpretation, but a case can be made for humility leading to insight, and insight leading to humility. And here, too, a group of people that embrace an ongoing dialectic synthesis around these concepts can amplify effects both individually and collectively.

My 2 cents.


Why do I get intense while trying to learn about rules?

Thank you for the A2A Claudia, and for helping me better understand your question.

For some people, I think rules can often be the calm in the storm of chaos in life, and in many ways they can help them feel safe - like having a secure place to rely on where A + B always equals C - and so they may become very fond of rules and increasingly indignant, panicked or upset when rules are not followed. For others, rules can feel oppressive because there may be too much structure and rigidity in their lives, and too little freedom, so that it no longer seems like an issue of safety, but one of being controlled and dominated. For other people rules are simply “optional” or contextual - they are to be used to accomplish a desired end…but if they aren’t working in a given situation, then the rules will be bent or circumvented so that a particular goal can be reached. Then again, some people reflexively reject rules, choosing the opposite response in a conformism to non-conformism, out of a sense of rebelliousness or a feeling of being outside of society or social norms, or because of a desire to depart from the status quo as a matter of conscience or conviction. I could go on…but as you can see there are many variations of how people react to rules. In fact, all of the reactions I described could be experienced by the same person over time.

So then, what is happening here? In my view nearly all of these responses are about “finding our place in the world.” We want to understand where we fit in, what power and influence we have, how to navigate our relationships, the tools available to us to achieve certain ends, and so forth. Rules - whether legal, familial, cultural, or linguistic - are the arena within which we define our place, role, purpose and power. So when we have intense feelings around rules, I think we are most often actually having intense feelings about those dynamics: the efficacy and limits of our personal agency, the strength and depth of our connection and trust with other people, the extent of our freedom, and our understanding of meaning and purpose. Rules are just representations, just the surface, symbolic of these underlying dynamics. Thus our relationship with rules is a fair indicator of our relationship with ourselves, and of how we see ourselves in the world.

I hope this was helpful.


On average are older humans proportionately more functionally intelligent than younger humans based on age?

Answering the question: "On average are older humans proportionately more functionally intelligent than younger humans based on age?"

Thanks for the A2A Carl.

I think the key to your question is the use of the term “functionally intelligent.” Here is a paper I wrote on this subject:, which you can also read online here (just scroll down on the page): Functional Intelligence. The essence of this hypothesis is that “functional intelligence” is the skillful operationalization of a well-defined values hierarchy; in other words, intelligence that actually matters in both day-to-day life and in what we might call the grander scale of complex interdependencies and relationships. As I disclose in the paper my IQ has declined since my early twenties (by roughly 8%), but my functional intelligence is considerably improved (I would estimate it roughly doubled by age 50). This “real-world” advantage more than makes up for the fact that I likely couldn’t get into Mensa anymore, that my thinking isn’t as quick and agile, and I can no longer memorize text in an eidetic fashion. I am much, much “smarter” than I was at age 20 in almost every dimension - emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally, in terms of abstract reasoning, etc.

To draw a parallel, in my twenties I hiked a lot all around the North Cascades in Washington State. I was in incredible shape. Now I am in much worse shape physically, without the same strength, swiftness or bursts of energy. However, my physical stamina and endurance are far greater than I had back then, and I could easily achieve hiking feats I could not have dreamt of at that time. Why? Because I know my body’s limits very well, I can pace myself perfectly without even thinking about it, I know just how much to drink and eat as I hike to keep my energy up without inducing lethargy, and I know how to carefully avoid injury or overextending myself. In my twenties I was still figuring all of this out, taking unnecessary risks, struggling to appreciate my limits and capacities.

Now of course society in general (and the STEM community in particular) still loves their child geniuses, ivory tower savants, hyperspecialized experts and so forth - and these celebrity intellects can rely on general intelligence (G factor) as a metric for performance in their field. But how well are they doing in their personal relationships? How are they feeling about their life purpose and happiness? How easily can they navigate complex social situations that are unfamiliar to them? How fuidly can they “think around corners” (in terms of accurate predictive capacity) in fields outside of their specialty? How broad and interconnected is their knowledge…? These are, I believe, the more inclusive and multidimensional descriptiors of “intelligence” we should be promoting in our society. Why? Because doing so will encourage a wiser, more skillfully capable society that can engage both complexity and change with powerful capacities of unitive insight - instead of a hopelessly fractured Cartesian mess where each field can barely understand itself in the most self-referential terms…let alone comprehend anyone or anything outside of it.

My 2 cents.

Can emotions be controlled, the same way we control our thoughts or actions?

Quora answer to "Can emotions be controlled, the same way we control our thoughts or actions?"

Hi Christopher and thanks for the A2A.

"Control" is a tricky word. I would avoid using it with respect to emotions, because all emotions have a basis, and understanding that basis is the key to influencing how we feel. But the emotions themselves are not something we should try to "control," IMO, as that response evokes ego, repressive reflexes, self-judgement, and a host of other potentially unhealthy responses.

The other answers so far have focused on methods of influencing emotional patterns, habits and reflexes, and indeed CBT is an excellent therapeutic resource for this. There is a workbook called Mind over Mood by Greenberger and Padesky that provides an excellent practical approach to this method. Another method called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and which is largely derived from CBT, may be an even more effective approach. Although it is relatively new, DBT incorporates Buddhist mindfulness in the mix, and emphasizes a tools-based approach to emotional regulation that can be especially effective when there are barriers to introspection. In concert with these modalities there is also "Motivational Interviewing," which uses additional guided techniques to align behavior (and ultimately thoughts and emotions) with internalized values. Something all of these approaches have in common is a fundamental honoring of the individual's sovereignty over there own person: a "client-centered" and collaborative engagement that aims for fairly rapid benefits produced mainly by the client themselves.

Now there is a deficit to these approaches: they don't address what I would call deeper, structural barriers that may be at the root of some patterns of thought and emotion. These barriers can be neurological, chemical, psychological, energetic or spiritual - and cognitive approaches simply fall short of penetrating them at all. There are therapeutic approaches like Hakomi that are more effective at getting at some of these issues, and it is worth taking a close look at why and how Hakomi works. I have also proposed something called AMR (Active Memory Reorganization) which also attempts to address deeper, multidimensional structures that cognitive approaches can't reach. But there isn't a lot of science around either of these yet. Which is one reason why mainstream Western medicine defaults to pharmacology, surgery, ECT or other extreme interventions when confronted with severely destructive, seemingly intractable emotional, behavioral or cognitive cycles. But I think that, ultimately, the scientific community will have to conclude that body-centered psychotherapy with cognitive, energetic and spiritual components will probably be the most client-centered, efficacious and compassionate course of collaborative action.

There are also other several other, alternative approaches which can have substantial impact on this area of our well-being in the short-term. Among these are modes of bodywork that activate or release repressed material, forms of hypnotherapy that find alternative pathways to the same, or energetic healing modalities that can circumvent or repair structural barriers. I've practiced many of these, and seen various levels of success with them - usually dependent upon a client's receptivity, *and some sort of cognitive, habit-changing follow-up*. In other words, these methods can provide temporary or cathartic relief, but if the underlying factors (be they core material from childhood, repressed memories of traumatic events, physiological issues, self-care habits, etc.) aren't consciously addressed in an ongoing fashion by the client themselves, the results tend not to be enduring ones. In our consumer-based society, it's easy for people to become habituated to externalizing their healing, rather than taking personal responsibility for it. Likewise, modern Western medicine incentivizes repeat consumption of superficial treatments, rather than preventative medicine or addressing causal issues. So this is an uphill challenge to be sure.

My 2 cents.

Is super intelligence artificial or real?

In answer to Quora question "Is super intelligence artificial or real?"

Thanks for the A2A Carl.
Discussions of superintelligence as an outgrowth of strong AI often restrict themselves to a reductionist, mechanical view of human intelligence, and to replicating and amplifying a narrow set of cognitive processes from this perspective. Confined to this line of thinking, "superintelligence" is a predictable development IMO - I just wouldn't call it that. Why? Because, as with many monodimensional views of intelligence, that development emphasizes quantitative, objective metrics that sidestep important qualitative and subjective and intersubjective issues - or even the full spectrum of objective ones. To appreciate what I'm getting at, take a look at my paper Functional Intelligence ( It is easy to lose sight of the full breadth of intelligence and its evolutionary implications when employing reductionist perspectives and methods. In a way it is easy to understand why this happens when the fields of science and technology themselves disproportionately attract people who exhibit Asperger's or other Autism Spectrum Disorder, and who are often high achievers in these systematizing fields. Among this population, the objective narrowing of "intelligence" is a comfortable way to systematize its functions. Add to this the fact that science and technology themselves have undergone increasing specialization, where the relationship with other fields or a broader, more inclusive understanding has been either crippled or abstracted. In my view, until the vastly more multidimensional spectrum of human experience (perception, insight, complex and nuanced ideation, intuition, emotional sophistication, somatic felt sense, etc.) becomes part of the generative synthesis of superintelligence, that synthesis will remain monodimensional, incomplete, and not representative of the evolutionary trajectory already established in homo sapiens. In other words, it will fall short. To fully expand what I believe to be a more appropriate (and ultimately more useful) avenue of heightened intelligence, we would need to answer Chalmer's hard problem - the whys of consciousness itself. This is what would allow us achieve something truly superintelligent in the most inclusive, multidimensional and holistic sense. Otherwise, we are just creating systems and tools, expanding on mechanization, and not really on intelligence at all. Thus the development of strong AI may indeed lead to supertools, but not to a superintelligence that represents the complexity and integrations of consciousness itself.

My 2 cents.

On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?

In answer to Quora question: "On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?"

You asked about a basis. For a mystic that basis is the personal experience of a unitive condition inclusive of subject and object - and indeed all objects -as the result of disciplined mental, emotional and physical practices. Direct experience of this felt reality is profoundly persuasive. However, how we react to or interpret such unitive apperceptions tends to reflect the structural sophistication and moral development within which our own consciousness currently operates. Wilber examines this idea in his discussion of a "pre/trans fallacy." Panpsychism is one response or explanation in a spectrum of responses and explanations to unitive apperception, but is really an abstraction of the core experience. Another response was Gutei raising a single finger. Another is immersion in profound love-consciousness. Another is worshipful gratitude toward the Divine. Thought-without-thought, action-without-action, no-self, Atman Brahman, supramentalisation...this list is varied and endless, but the core experience that inspired these reactions or conditions is the same; it has undifferentiated unity. So to appreciate the "mechanism of consciousness" in seemingly inanimate objects, you would need to commit to a mystical practice that could eventually offer you a directly apprehended answer. Then again, you might interpret your experience differently. But if you constrain your answers to rational arguments, you will tend to become mired in endless loops that can't resolve themselves. It would be equivalent, say, to trying to explain the relationship between manifest and unmanifest, or characteristics of the Ayn Soph, or what Buddhist "emptiness" is, etc. without experiencing these directly.

I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Why don't philosophers speak normal understandable language? You probably said something interesting and meaningful, but I only understood a few words"

Dimage I apologize. Sometimes trying to be precise with words can result in less easy-to-understand language. If I try to simplify what I'm saying, it may also be misunderstood, but I'll give it a try: If I meditate, and have a sudden "aha" moment in which I perceive everything as one - completely the same in its essence or in its relationship to everything else - I may conclude that "everything is conscious," because I cannot separate my own consciousness from my mind's penetration of (or entanglement with?) everything that I perceive. In fact, I may discover that what I believe to be "real consciousness" is actually something very different than my own "monkey mind," and that aspects of this "real consciousness" are in fact present in everything around me. But this experience is extremely personal and is challenging to explain it in rational terms. However, as a basis for "universal consciousness," it feels very convincing to the person experiencing it.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Yep, but if you think about the experience of other people who feel quite the same, you know that they have very different experience from yours. Their consciousness actually doesn't get included with yours while you feel as one with the universe. Isn't that a contradiction to what you are saying?"

From my discussions with others who have shared their mystical experiences with me, and from my readings of those mystics who have tried to write down their experiences, compared them with the experiences of mystics from other traditions, and so on...I would say that we all have encountered some pretty profoundly similar felt realities, and indeed "shared in the same consciousness." Sometimes our sensations and insights seem almost identical, but, I think more importantly, these mystical "ahas" share powerful central characteristics, such as feeling deep compassion for all human beings that endures into our daily lives, and never fades away entirely. Then again, their are many doors to the palace of wisdom, many paths up the mountain, and even if they at first may seem contradictory, they are ultimately reconciled in mystical union. I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Martin Silvertant: "A really excellent answer, and beautifully worded. I don't at all share Sapelkin's sentiment. I understood everything and didn't feel you were being pretentious in your choice of words.

One question though. What are you referring to exactly when you say one can't explain the relationship between the characteristics of the Ayn Soph? Are you implying it's inherently spiritual rather than rational?"

We can discuss or frame this rationally after encountering it in peak experiences, but I would say the experience itself is "transrational;" it integrates many different input streams, and rationality (or more accurately a "hyperrationality" that excludes felt sense, intuition, spiritual cognition, etc. from the mix) can actually get in the way - or at least cause us to stumble. My 2 cents.

How do I develop an identity and a sense of self?

In answer to Quora question: "How do I develop an identity and a sense of self?"

A2A. Self-concept is constructed and maintained by memories that form a narrative version of our identity, as selectively reinforced by present feedback (perceptions, thoughts, feelings, interactions, experiences, etc.). So although we may not always "feel" like we have an identity or sense of self, unless parts of our brain are severely damaged, we actually do. In order to "reconnect" with that sense of self, all you really need to do is access those memories and experience them in the present. It also helps to contextualize them - to decide what those memories mean to you. Why? Because unless we have an eidetic memory or other substantive structural uniqueness, most memories will be encoded because they connect us to important events or information. They are part of our essential learning - *they are relevant to who and how we are*. So you may need to decide what the relevance is.

Now of course there are people whose conscious recall of memory is impaired, and consequently their sense of self can become unstable. If this is true for you, there may be an underlying psychological or physiological condition for which some professional help may benefit. Psychology and physical medicine have made some extraordinary advances in this area. Then again, this may also be a permanent deficit that can't be remedied. If that is the case, you may have to live with an "unstructured" or absent sense of self.

However a much more common occurrence is simply not being tuned into various kinds of memory. And this really gets to the heart of the issue, because their are many different kinds. There is the sort of visually imaginative memory that plays like a movie in our heads - and this is what many people refer to when they describe long term memories from their past. But there is also emotional memory that expresses as a reflexive emotional reaction to certain situations, and which may feel like a sort of emotional intuition. There is also somatic memory that inspires reflexive physical reactions in the same way. And I believe there is also spiritual memory - something that guides a different kind of intuition - a sort of knowing that transcends obvious, rational information, but isn't emotional or physical in nature. And if we have shut down our sensitivity to (or awareness of) any of these memory streams, we will inevitably begin losing parts of our felt sense of identity.

So when I referred to reconnecting with a sense of self through memory, I meant doing so via all of these different dimensions of memory. And, if those have been closed off to you for a long time, that may require different therapeutic techniques. Bodywork, introspective meditation, breathing techniques...there are quite a few to draw from. And again, if you aren't able to access these memory streams on your own, you may need professional guidance.

My 2 cents.

What is ignorance?

In answer to Quora question "What is ignorance?"

I don't know.

No but seriously: ignorance is both the condition of not knowing, and I think also the inability to recognize this condition in ourselves, and further the deleterious impact on choices and patterns of though, emotion and behavior that such ignorance causes. All of this seems bound up in ignorance. There is a further extreme in which a person forcefully maintains ignorance in the face of knowledge and understanding - a *willful *ignorance. The most profound sort of ignorance seems to fall into this category. And when this willful condition is sustained for long periods, it slowly develops a sort of self-protective arrogance, so that the worldview nurtured by profound ignorance becomes a matter of egotistical pride. So there seems to be a progression here, from simply being naive and without comprehension, to being hardened and resistant to resolving those conditions in oneself, to the adamant trumpeting of clueless egotism. It is almost as if ignorance itself is a living thing...a slothful little demon that relishes the pain of making the same mistakes over and over again. And that demon has a name, I think: The Idiot.

My 2 cents.

What is the relationship between intelligence and consciousness?

In answer to Quora question "What is the relationship between intelligence and consciousness?"

Hi Jeff and thanks for the A2A. Interesting question.

For me it boils don't to qualitative factors: that is, what qualities of intelligence relate to what qualities of consciousness, and vice versa. That begins to plot some interesting correlations, and also excludes some of the more mundane metrics IMO. For example, I have a saying: "Because the Universe has conspired in favor of my consciousness, my consciousness conspires in favor of the Universe." This implies a certain quality of consciousness that engages with an intent that can only be governed by certain qualities of intelligence, and where both consciousness and intelligence have multiple vectors. In particular, it calls upon me to develop a highly functional intelligence that operationalizes a specific values hierarchy. Consider the differentiation between such a clearly conceptualized, clearly felt, and clearly actualized values system, and, say, the qualities of intelligence and consciousness that allow a leopard to stalk its prey, or a human to solve a math equation, or a chimpanzee to use a stick as a tool. There is an indication of orders of magnitude in that difference, or? So that realm of correlation, relationship and calculus that appreciates the complex, nuanced interdependence of an integral (holistic, multidimensional) conception of both intelligence and consciousness does indeed, I think, begin to narrow the field so that "both questions are answered at once." At the opposite end of the spectrum, one could speculate about a more linear correlation, and simply say that "levels of consciousness = evolution of intelligence," but that seems like a shortcut that sidesteps some really intriguing considerations.

On another, related thread, I often wonder about various kinds of curiosity (intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical) and their impact on functional intelligence, qualities of consciousness, and the evolution of both. Is curiosity central to this nexus? I dunno...but it seems like an interesting line of inquiry.

My 2 cents.

How can I be more patient?

In answer to Quora question "How can I be more patient?"

Question details: "I get ticked very easily. Although I try a lot to stay calm and ignore the negativity, there are things that just irritate me to the core. There are only a few people who affect me--perhaps only two or three people. They may talk about a topic which I hate, and which I've told them that I hate discussing, yet they still talk about it. Ignoring it becomes impossible, and I get incredibly angry. No matter how much I try to stay calm, my mind starts to work at the fastest speed possible. My head starts hurting and I know at the end, it's me who suffers. I really don't know how to overcome this."

Thanks for the A2A.

First, I think many of the answers given so far could be very helpful - in particular Jacky Dror's. Second, I would say that learning to be patient takes time. A lot of time - this is still something I am working on, and I just passed the 51-year mark. So one of the first areas you will need to practice patience is in learning patience. That said, here is what I would add, not knowing all the details of your situation:

1. Anger responses can be the result of underlying physiological and/or psychological conditions. Hormone imbalances, sleep problems, dietary issues, environmental pollutants or allergens, situational stressors, unresolved trauma, ADHD, chronic depression...any of these could be factors. So consulting with both a doctor and a therapist about diagnostic testing could be very helpful.

2. Anger responses can become a physiological addiction in themselves, where we seek the release of certain hormones, and so unconsciously create situations where this will occur. One way to satisfy the same needs in a healthy way is to engage in daily vigorous exercise. This can interrupt the anger cycles. Of course, we may then become addicted to exercise instead...but that isn't such a bad thing, right?

3. In my practice, called Integral Lifework, anger and impatience can be the result of some area of your being being neglected or undernourished. You might want to take the Integral Lifework Nourishment Assessment (free) to see what areas may be interfering with your well-being and begin to address those.

4. I would also take a look at what you are putting into your body that isn't essential food. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, simple carbohydrates and even wheat can be frequent culprits in disrupting mood and evoking impatience, frustration and anger. By taking a few months off from consuming these things, you may find your ability to manage emotions greatly improved.

5. It is extremely common for anyone who has had a difficult childhood, or who had neglectful or abusive family relationships, to have trouble managing their emotions. It's almost a guaranteed outcome. And this is where CBT or DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) can be extraordinarily helpful. I'm also a fan of body-centered psychotherapies like Hakomi.

In the meantime, until you can find healthy ways to process the impatience and anger you are feeling, I would encourage you to remove yourself from the situations that trigger this response. Just take a break from them. I'm a huge fan of meditation, and that can also be helpful, but if you keep placing yourself in stressful situations that you know could upset you, the meditation will not have an opportunity to create new supportive patterns and structures in your mind, body and heart.

My 2 cents.

How can a person be both rational and creative?

Quora answer to "How can a person be both rational and creative?"

Thanks for the A2A. I think this only becomes a dichotomy when we allow analytical reasoning to interfere with creative impulses and vice versa, instead of encouraging harmonious synthesis - we might call this interference "fragmentation." As an example, when I write poetry or a song, I let the words and melody flow from my creative center - the intuitive, emotionally felt, aesthetically-oriented structures in my psyche - and effectively suspend my "editor and arranger," which will only interfere with that flow. Once I've completed my first draft, however, I will take a break (from a few hours to a day) and actively engage my "editor and arranger," which definitely involves more analytical structures. In both cases, it's the same mind being used, but the focus or emphasis of processing - and the structures that are called upon for primary support - are different. Not opposite, but different. And so this is more about shifting the focus of my consciousness between rational and creative, and then into a mode of combining synthesis, which I can do very fluidly now. However, I want to be clear that* this was not always the case*. When I was younger, I had trouble moderating these two modes - I felt more fragmented, as if the underlying structures could only compete rather than synthesize. Either I would remain in my creative space to the detriment of constructive rationality, or I would become hyperrational to the detriment of my creativity. So "being both" required self-discipline and honoring of different dimensions of being and combining them harmoniously, skills which took many years to mature, and the byproduct of which might be called "consilience."

My 2 cents.

Do highly intelligent people tend to have a certain 'glint' or 'sharpness' in their expression which gives the feeling that they are more aware than average people?

Quora answer to "Do highly intelligent people tend to have a certain 'glint' or 'sharpness' in their expression which gives the feeling that they are more aware than average people?"

I thought this question and its answers were so entertaining I just had to respond.
Here are some reasons that people 's eyes "glint" or appear "sharp:"

1. Healthy eyes (clear, unjaundiced, not bloodshot, robust coloring, unscratched, uninjured).
2. Adequate fluid on the surface to reflect light.
3. Eye-smile (attracts attention and invites positive feelings).
4. Excitement (wider open eyes, attracts interest).
5. The quality and intensity of surrounding light.
6. Curiosity or intensity of focus (also attracts attention and triggers attentiveness in others).
7. Anger, love or other strong emotion (can increase tear fluid on the eye surface, open the eyes wider, intensify focus, etc.)

Now it may very well be that an "intelligent" person (however we are going to define that) may exhibit these qualities on occasion. However, to differentiate between the various causes and their relative micro-expressions will require a fairly high emotional or social intelligence (along the lines of MSCEIT), and familiarity with the person would increase accuracy. Which means that, unless you have a high EQ and know someone fairly well, *what you are likely observing as "a glint of intelligence" is just your non-rational presumptive projection onto that person*. And if such projections are partially reinforced (i.e. we see the "glint" in someone's eye whom we have been told is intelligent), then as meaning-making organisms we will tend to create generalizations about such "glinting," which we will then perpetuate with a persisting confirmation bias (and via Quora discussions).

My 2 cents.

How do you keep going on with your ideas facing many setbacks?

In answer to Quora question: "How do you keep going on with your ideas facing many setbacks?"

Question details: In the process of being a creative worker, you face many setbacks, rejections, and obstacles between your original, exciting spark of an idea and reaching your audience or selling it in some way. When you get there you get vindication that your idea was true and real; until you get there you can easily begin to doubt the quality of your idea, your value as a creator and even sometimes your sanity. How do my fellow creators out there in Quoraspace deal with keeping faith with your ideas??

Thank you for the A2A. Since there are already so many fine answers here, I will just add a few tidbits that have helped me over the years:

1. Try not to rely on any single motivation. Motivations will, of necessity, change over time. So have a quiver full of them.

2. Make sure that at least some of those motivations are grounded in something larger than yourself - a desire to benefit society, a conviction that
creativity is a gift to others, a sense of greater purpose for your skills and work, an attempt to give back for all the blessings in your life, an effort that celebrates the mutual joy of collaborating with others, etc.

3. Don't listen to what anyone says (good or bad) with other than a detached ear; it may be beneficial input or it may not...but it need not evoke any emotion other than gratitude that someone cares enough to share their feedback.

4. Honor the process over the outcome. It's great to have goals, but not if they exhaust or abuse your muse.

5. Avoid taking yourself seriously, even if you take your work quite seriously. Separate the two, cultivating humility even as you pursue excellence.

6. Be willing to let go. Always. Be willing to disengage from the process at any time, rather than be emotionally overcommitted or obsessive. And once your creation is complete, move on to your next project.

7. Do other stuff. Mix it up. Make sure all of your dimensions of being are being nourished so that your creative engines don't become depleted.

8. Sometimes setbacks signal that we are actually on the wrong there's that. Knowing if our course is sound requires discernment, perspective and maturity. These form over time and can't be rushed, alas.

9. Make sure you embed yourself in a community and relationships that share your values - and value your creativity.

10. Remember that the Universe owes you nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that success of any kind (even being able to bring your vision to completion) has more to do with timing, relationships, and dumb luck than anything else.

My 2 cents.

How do you stop someone who's willing to die for his beliefs?

In answer to Quora question: "How do you stop someone who's willing to die for his beliefs?"

Thank you for the A2A.

I think you need to understand what energizes the belief. For example is it:

- Acute depression?
- Existential desperation?
- Abject humiliation that triggers a frantic desire for revenge?
- Moral immaturity where an adult may be trapped in a 3-year-old's moral reasoning?
- A strong desire to conform or belong to a group that provides protection, acceptance, and approval?
- Fear of being ostracized, rejected or persecuted by one's family, community or tribe?
- An eagerness to embrace a sense of purpose, without which life seems empty and futile?
- A passionate devotion to a cause that seems singularly important or just?
- A desire to martyr oneself to prove one's purity and conviction?
- A substantial bribe - for example, benefit to one's family as a result of the suicide?
- Mental illness - delusion, psychosis, etc.?
- Severe drug abuse?
- Cultural conditioning?
- Profound ignorance of any other method to achieve the same ends?
- Severe physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse at a young age?
- Some combination of the above...?

Once you are able to understand the drivers of the behavior, it will be possible to enter into a dialogue about them - if the person is open and willing. There is a method called Motivational Interviewing which helps people compare their own fundamental values to their patterns of thought, emotion and behavior, with the aim of better aligning all of these. But this requires willingness to engage and, in severe situations like the one you describe, willingness to heal and learn, and to separate oneself from the environments and relationships that reinforce a suicidal conclusion.

My 2 cents.

Is the encounter with the Shadow, as illustrated by Carl Jung, the same as the Dark night of the Soul?

In answer to Quora question: "Is the encounter with the Shadow, as illustrated by Carl Jung, the same as the Dark night of the Soul?"

The simple answer would be no, they are not the same, even though they may (superficially, at least) seem to share similar characteristics and, potentially, one or two “consequent changes,” which again are more superficially related than substantive. For example, we might say they both involve a “letting go” in some way, but each type of “letting go” has unique and differing qualities. And there are other differences as well. To elaborate….

First, regarding the Shadow, almost everyone has repressed material that they can come to recognize, own and integrate by cultivating self-awareness. And, in general, almost everyone will benefit from this awareness and integration process. Furthermore, the practice is easily learned and practiced – even without a psychotherapist – and, for many people, engaging their Shadow is a spontaneous and natural consequence of their psychosocial development. As an example, our first serious romantic relationships will often disgorge plentiful Shadow material in both parties, which we can then choose to consciously engage, or continue to repress.

The Dark Night, on the other hand, is the result of specific mental, physical, emotional and spiritual disciplines, which few people choose for themselves, and even fewer are able to continue to their ultimate union with the Divine. It has two distinct phases – and transitions within each of those phases – that are sequential in nature and dependent on preceding conditions. It is also less likely (than Shadow work) to occur spontaneously – especially not in its second, more advanced phase, or even in an enduring way (rather than as occasional peak experiences). And lastly, the Dark Night engages spiritual faculties, intuitions and sensitivities that Shadow work generally does not, and its aim is union with God in the fires of Divine love after several components of self are utterly annihilated. Shadow work, though it may engage compassion-for-self and moderate ego-attenuation as engines of healing and transformation, does not quite aim for the same heights, or require the same despairing depths, to be actualized.

Now it could be said that the Dark Night is a kind of spiritual Shadow work in which the repressed understanding of a union with God, an understanding which some might argue could be intuited or "remembered" by our soul, is brought to the surface, accepted, owned and integrated. Jung even wrote about our need to listen to the prompting of our soul, and so he might well agree with this approximation. However, I do not believe he ever equated the two, and most modern Jungian therapists would, I suspect, tend to keep them separate. I also do not think St. John of the Cross would agree that the soul can intuit or anticipate what Divine union really is, and that it therefore could not be “repressed” as other Shadow material is. It would certainly be interesting to hear Jung and St. John of the Cross work this out. For now, from what we have of their writings and can understand from personal experience of each course of practice, encountering the Shadow and the Dark Night of the Soul are, well, as different as night and day.

My 2 cents.

Psychology: Does the complexity and depth of our language affect the depth and complexity of our thought?

In answer to Quora question: "Psychology: Does the complexity and depth of our language affect the depth and complexity of our thought?"

I think the only tenable answer to your question is "it depends." In particular, it depends on what you mean by "complexity and depth." It also depends on the style of thinking a particular person might have, as well as their innate processing bias and preceptive abilities. Some scenarios:

1) Someone whose thought process is grounded in felt experience and emotional intuition may increase their emotional vocabulary (their ability to describe and define different emotional states in more and more subtle ways) and perceptive faculties, and thereby increase the accuracy and nuance of their thought process. In this case, linguistic facility/complexity would seem to parallel complexity of thought as it intersects with a broadening and increasingly sophisticated perception-cognition loop, but only with respect to felt experiences and intuitive perception.

2) Someone whose primary mode of processing is hyperrational to the exclusion of felt experience and intuitive insight could increase their sophistication of language (vocabulary, structure, etc.) and perhaps have an impact on the specificity of conceptualization, but be completely blind to nuances or subtleties of differentiation and experience (especially nonrational ones). In this case, linguistic facility would seem to have less of a correlation with broad or multifaceted complex thought because the perception-cognition loop is too narrowly focused.

3) Someone with broad and multidimensional experience in a particular field, who is fluid at integrating different modes of interior processing (rational, emotional, somatic, etc.), and has developed complex conceptualization and language around their experiences, but who is chronically overwhelmed by anxiety and depression, may experience a paralysis of complex thought despite their linguistic facility. In this case, disruptive emotions override the potential breadth and nuance of the perception-cognition loop.

4) A monk who has meditated in silence for fifteen years may have insights and experiences that are profoundly complex, abstract, multifaceted and nuanced, but be unable to express them in words at all. In this case, linguistic facility has zero correlation with depth and complexity of thought, and this even despite a narrow focus of perception-cognition.

As you can see...I think it depends on a number of different variables. For me personally, metacognition is essential to what I consider "complexity and depth" of thought, but knowing what "metacognition" means is not.

My 2 cents.

What are common fallacies about psychotherapy?

Answer to Quora question: "Psychotherapy: What are common fallacies about psychotherapy?"

Thanks for the A2A.

- Psychotherapy is somehow different than any other healing modality. It isn't - or at least it's not supposed to be. If we have a (mental-emotional-relational) health issue we want to address, a good psychotherapist should be able to help.

- All psychotherapists are equal. Therapists are like violinists - there are virtuoso soloists, first chair orchestral violinists, second chair and so on all the way down to the squeaky fiddler performing on the street. Really capable virtuosos are pretty rare. Street fiddlers are a lot more common. So shop around! (see selecting therapist on

- All psychotherapeutic approaches are equal. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and some work better for one condition than another. Researching what technique tends to work best for a particular need can be very helpful.

- Degrees and certifications equate competence. One of the best therapists I ever experienced was a minister with no psychotherapeutic credentials. Another was an "intuitive healer" who provided some timely and effective insights. Another was a social worker. Another was a counselor in grade school. I'm sure you are getting the picture. The skills and qualities a good psychotherapist will usually have - humility, empathy, engaged listening, validation, intuitive intelligence, carefully probing questions, etc. - can be found in many people who aren't psychotherapists. I am not saying we should not use psychotherapy licensing and credentials to help separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of competence and professionalism, but those shouldn't be the only criteria. Because there are a lot (far too many, IMO) of really crappy psychotherapists out there.

- A good psychotherapist is highly directive, having a position of power over a client. I think one of the more harmful fallacies is the belief that therapists are supposed to take control, telling us what is wrong with us and then how to fix it. This passive expectation is incredibly disruptive to the client-centered, collaborative therapeutic processes that have proven the most effective. Therapists are supposed to empower their clients, not themselves.

- Psychotherapy is for crazy people. This is just dumb. Psychotherapy is for everyone who wants to improve their mental, emotional and psychosocial well-being, regardless of how "high-functioning" they may be.

- Psychotherapy is long-term and expensive. There are many short-term approaches that have proven quite effective - so much so that only three or four sessions may be enough to create positive change. Again, this goes to the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.

- Psychotherapists can prescribe drugs. Psychiatrists are MDs who practice psychotherapy and can also prescribe drugs...psychotherapists cannot.

There are probably many more fallacies out there...but those are some off the top of my head that I have encountered quite often.

Treating Animals Better than Humans

From the Quora discussion "How can some people treat animals better than they treat humans?"

Here's my take on this....

Most animal species cultivated as pets have commonly been bred for characteristics that reward human interaction with them. For example, we think of dogs as devoted, attentive and unconditionally loving; cats as affectionate, clever and mischievous; birds as cute, quirky and funny; horses as powerful, graceful and exciting; and so on. These behaviors and characteristics are somewhat predictable, emotionally honest, generally positive and for the most part "safe" in ways that interactions with fellow humans are not. When you then involve a person who may be naturally shy and introverted, or who has trouble with complex social situations, or who may have been abused or mistreated by others and suffered some emotional trauma or alienation from human society, then the safety and genuineness of interaction with domesticated animals can seem like a haven. For this group, the compassion and empathy they demonstrate for animals does seem to extend to humans, but they simply choose to lavish their attentions on species that have a natural propensity or selective breeding to reciprocate in a more honest and trustworthy way.

On the other hand, there is a certain segment of folks who seem to lavish pets and stray animals with gifts, medical attention, affection and gourmet meals that they would never consider providing for fellow humans or even themselves. In fact they seem to excessively invest in animals to the exclusion of everyone and everything else, and to a degree that seems pretty pathological - whether putting their lives at risk to rescue one feral cat, or mortgaging their house to pay for an aging dog's kidney operation. Rather than based mainly in emotional honesty or empathic connection, these folks seem to possess a deep-seated compulsion or addiction that obsesses over animals in essentially destructive ways. For this group I suspect there may be an underlying personality disorder involved, or a brain chemical imbalance similar to what presents as OCD.

The final group that comes to mind, and one that (sadly, IMO) seems increasingly common across many demographics, are pet keepers who mainly view animals as novelty, a breeding investment, an indication of social status, or some sort of materialistic benefit. They seem primarily concerned with appearance and grooming, animal performance, rarity of breed, pedigree, etc. and so "treat animals better than humans" only to obtain the highest return on their investment, the best performance in a competition, the highest fees for breeding services or offspring, the greatest appreciation from their peers, increased status in some social stratum, and a sense of advanced social privilege and sophistication in their own self-concept. This group is, I suspect, a natural product of commercialism, consumer identity and the materialistic fixations encouraged by endless capitalist propaganda that seeks to profit from every aspect of our existence.

So these are three groups off the top of my head, but I suspect there are more, and certainly even crossover between even these three, so that each person has a unique combination of reasons for giving animals preferable treatment to human beings.

My 2 cents.

Depression and "Cheering yourself up"

From the Quora question "Do we have proof that depression cannot be relieved by "cheering yourself up"?"

First I think it would be necessary to define what you mean by "proof," what you mean by "depression," what you mean by "relieved," and what you mean by "cheering up." Here are some scenarios:

A mild depressive mood swing caused by situational stresses combined with poor eating, sleeping and exercise habits could be fairly rapidly and permanently alleviated through eliminating the stressors and engaging in healthier diet, sleep and exercise routines. In this sense, specific steps can be taken to rapidly "cheer oneself up."

A severe, chronic, structural depression (i.e. caused by physiological factors that may be hereditary) will often require intervention with antidepressants, coupled with intensive cognitive retraining such as CBT, followed (when the downward spiral has been interrupted and mood stabilized through this intervention) by rigorous preventative measures involving diet, sleep, exercise and other positive self-care habits. Over time, the capacity to manage depressive tendencies may be improved with all of these factors, and pharmaceutical intervention attenuated to whatever degree the depression sufferer can tolerate, but only in some cases; for others the structural depression is so strong that no amount of cognitive restructuring or self-nurturing habits will alleviate the downward spiral without additional long term treatment.

In an acute depressive state brought on by tragedy and grief, it is my observation and experience that engaging the grief over time, and slowly working one's way through the emotional process of grieving, is the only reliable remedy. Short term relief may be afforded by pharmaceuticals masking the intensity of pain, but those drugs will also interfere with requisite emotional processing. In the case of grief, it seems to be that "feeling the pain" is the only avenue back to cheerfulness. At the same time, some people will nurture, deepen and extend their pain, which may then require intervention from a professional who can help them learn new cognitive tools to let go of a particular stage of grief in which they have become arrested.

In all of these cases, however, it is my view that the long term, qualitative "proof" of relieved depression can really only be measured via the subjective, ongoing emotional experiences of the person who has suffered depression. Sure, there are studies that demonstrate how various methodologies reduce self-limiting, negative and destructive emotions and thought patterns associated with depression, but to my knowledge very few have been able to capture any long term qualitative results other than with fairly extreme metrics (such as suicide prevention).

By the way, you may want to take a look at research on treatment of depression with CBT to further explore the correlations between cognitive habits and depressive mood swings. Dennis Greenberger's book "Mind over Mood" is an excellent starting point for exploring and practicing these techniques.

My 2 cents.