Saturday 21 April 2018

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

Longer Observation (22): Looking for the Best: Some people are not satisfied unless they have the best, whether it be the best car or the best cheese or the best wine or the best house. If they feel they have anything less, they feel dissatisfied, that they are missing something. There is value in this approach to life, in this value system, but there is also at least one important short-coming.

One value in the "holding out for the best" approach is that it focuses a person's attention and energy. If there are one hundred things of equal value, and you have to choose one, how do you know what to choose? And, if you do choose one, where is the motivation to go after it with vigor? And let's say you do get the one you chose: Where is the inspiration and motivation to go on? On the other hand, if you do feel you have found the best, there is a good chance that soon you will be setting out to look for something still better, and so you are always on some adventure or some quest for improvement and for perfection.

It seems that there would be no human progress without the search for the better and the best, the search for improvement, which is another argument for this approach to life, however there is at least one significant negative: If you are only satisfied with the best, with the perfect, you are losing out on many good and even great experiences. Compare two buildings, the Hagia Sophia and the cathedral at Chartes. Surly both are great architectural wonders. Perhaps one is better than the other, but would you prefer a world where there was only one of them? Wouldn't you want them both even if one is rated second? Wouldn't you want to see and experience both and not just the best?

To limit yourself to experiences only of the best, you are limiting your experiences in a way that you might, from an higher vantage point, not wish to limit yourself. Or take cheeses: Perhaps there is one cheese that is the best in the world, but does this mean that no other cheese is fantastic? Even more, there are different kinds and varieties of cheeses: If you pick one cheese as the best, you are cutting out all the other varieties. Even if you allow yourself the best cheese from each of the varieties, different things of the same type have different character. It is limiting to force yourself to choose only one character and ignore the others. You would be limiting yourself to one aspect of reality and be forcing yourself to choose between many interesting variations and then to discard all but one.

In a certain sense, every individual is unique and so best in class. To eliminate anything as unworthy of us is to say "No" to reality (as Nietzsche might have said). It is a kind of running away from reality and demonstrates a kind of weakness, at least from one point of view. 

Of course there are things (and people) that are unpleasant or even dangerous (maybe poisonous), and it makes sense emotionally and biologically to turn from them. But of the many good and pleasant things, do we really have to eliminate the superb for the perfect?

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

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

   the One   the Whole
the Sacred
the Ordinary
feeling stuck
feelings of failing,        of dying
 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