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Zara Michaels

@zara_michaels

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... is an emotionally unhealthy psychological strategy used by people who are incapable of asking for what they want and need in a direct way, to control someone or something to their advantage, often without anyone knowing it.

@zara_michaels

How to Tell If Someone Is Manipulating You-And What to Do | Time

time.com

Common Types Manipulators

The two most common types of manipulators are bullies and “victims”.

Bullies make you feel fearful and might use aggression, threats and intimidation to control you, while “victims” engenders a feeling of guilt in their target by acting hurt when denied something.

Gaslighting

The term refers to manipulation that gets people to question themselves, their reality, memory or thoughts. Gaslighters twist what you say and make it about them, hijacking the conversation or making you feel like you’ve done something wrong when you haven’t.

Gaslighted people often feel a false sense of guilt or defensiveness, as if they failed completely or did something wrong when they didn’t.

‘Mr. Nice Guy’

This manipulator might be helpful and do a lot of favors for other people, but they have secret expectations and not meeting them makes you out to be ungrateful.

Exploiting the norms and expectations of reciprocity is one of the most common forms of manipulation. 

A global interest in all things cosy

Cosiness is a broad concept. It is a feeling of refuge, comfort and wellbeing. It is the idea of being in a space where you feel completely content and at ease.

During the pandemic, global interest in all things cosy has risen. Across interiors products, keywords related to cosy living rose 46% in the UK and 11% in the US. "Cacooning" was one of Pinterests' top trends for 2021, and "cosy aesthetic outfits" rose 100% from last year.

Why we're obsessed with cosy living more than ever

bbc.com

The fixation on cosiness dates back to about 2015. The Danish concept of "hygge" - a sense of cosy togetherness an appreciation of simple pleasure, entered the cultural lexicon in the English-speaking world, and hygge became marketing gold to sell everything.

Related concepts were also offered as lifestyle ideals - Norway's koselig, Sweden's mysig, the Netherlands' gezellig, Germany's Gemütlichkeit, and Scotland's còsagach.

Other ideas that picked up steam were JOMO (the joy of missing out), "domestic cosy" that describes an attitude and aesthetic among those that rejects pretentious displays for real comfort. The "homebody economy" became very lucrative, with direct-to-consumer bedding start-ups and alcohol brands.

The young generation caused the rise of trends like "cottagecore" and "grand millennial" - related to a romanticised ideal of cosy living.

Biophilia is one possible reason humans are attracted to cosiness. Biophilia refers to the innate attraction that people have for the natural world. Viewing something natural can sharpen your concentration and relieve stress.

To a lesser degree, interacting with natural elements and materials such as a fire (candles), wood (rustic cabins), and wool (knitted blankets) can have a similar effect.

The "prospect and refuge" theory may also explain the human attraction to cosiness.

It asserts that people have a preference for smaller cave-like places that open onto brighter views. The small area provides safety and refuge, while the expansive outdoors allows you to see any threats or opportunities.

Short Zen Stories: An Old Farmer

A farmer, who got really old,was useless in the fields where his son worked. A frustrated son built a wooden coffin and told his father to get inside, planning to drop him off a high cliff.

As the son approached the cliff, his father tapped the lid, and said “Throw me over the cliff if you like my son, but save this good wood coffin, as your children might need to use it”.

10 Short Zen Stories | The Unbounded Spirit

theunboundedspirit.com

Short Zen Stories: Working Harder

A martial arts master was approached by a student, who asked him how long it would take him to master the martial arts system.

The master casually said “Ten years” to which the impatient student replied that he wants to master is faster and would work extremely hard for ten hours or more if required. He was expecting the teacher to provide a shorter time, but the teacher thought for a moment and said “Twenty years”.

Short Zen Stories: The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Ryokan, a Zen Master, was living a minimalist life in a hut on a mountain. A thief came and saw there is nothing to steal.

Ryokan caught the thief but gave him his clothes so that he did go away empty-handed. Once the bewildered thief was gone, Ryokan mused about how he wished he could have gifted him the beautiful moon in the sky.

Short Zen Stories: A Cup Of Tea

A university professor came to visit Nan-in, a japanese master, to enquire about Zen. As Nan-in served tea he deliberately overflowed the cup and kept spilling the tea, much to the surprise of the professor.

When the professor finally called out that the cup is already full, Nan-in said “just like this cup, you are also full of your own opinions and speculations, I cannot show you Zen unless you first empty your cup”.

Short Zen Stories: The Gates Of Paradise

A soldier comes to a Zen Master and inquires if there is really a paradise and a hell. The Zen master asks the soldier who he is, and the soldier replies ‘I’m a Samurai’.

The Zen master then provokes the soldier till he loses his temper and draws his sword, ready to cut the head of the master: The master calmly says “Here open the gates of Hell!” and the samurai soldier instantly perceives the master’s discipline and bows to him. ‘Here open the gates of Paradise’, says the master.

Short Zen Stories: The Other Side

While on a long journey, a young Buddhist comes across the banks of a deep, wide river. He doesn’t know how to cross the big obstacle and ponders for hours. He sees a Zen master on the other side of the river. He yells to the master “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to cross this river and get to the other side?”

The Zen master replies “My son, you are on the other side”.

Short Zen Stories: Time To Die

When Ikkiyu, a Zen master, was a teenager, he accidently broke a precious cup which was a favourite antique of his master. When he heard the footsteps of his master from behind, he quickly asked him, ‘Dear master, why do people have to die?’

The old master replied, ‘Death is natural, everything has to die and has just so long to live’. Clever Ikkiyu produced the shattered cup and said to the master, ‘It was time for your cup to die.’

Short Zen Stories: Moving Mind

Two men saw a flag flapping in the wind and were on loggerheads over whether it was the flag which is moving, or the wind which is moving.

A Zen master overheard the debate over the trivial matter and said, ‘It is neither the flag or the wind which is moving, and it is the MIND that moves.’

Short Zen Stories: It Will Pass

A meditation teacher explained the similarity between happiness and sadness over this:

A student is feeling bad because the meditation experience was horrible. The teacher calmly replies ‘It will pass.’.

A week after, the student is delighted because the meditation experience was great. The teacher calmly replied again, ‘It will pass.’.

Short Zen Stories: Cliffhanger

A man, walking through the forest, finds a vicious tiger attacking him. As he runs, he is cornered and climbs a vine which is dangling above the tiger.

Two mice start gnawing the vine and it is clear that in a short while he will be food to the tiger. He notices a plump wild strawberry and eats it. It tastes divinely delicious to the dying man.

The first views on motivation
  • At first, psychologist William James thought that only the initial act was conscious, thereafter behaviour was a spontaneous cascade of habits. He suggested we struggle with motivation when there are competing ideas.
  • Sigmund Freud theorised that we are largely unconscious of what drives our behaviour.

The Complete Guide to Motivation | Scott H Young

scotthyoung.com

When Ivan Pavlov and his dogs led to the discovery of learned behaviour through repeated exposure, and Edward Thorndike discovered the Law of Effect that stated that rewarded behaviours tended to increase, many psychologists were impelled to separate psychology from armchair introspection and formulated their theories as mathematical formulas.


  • The Drive x Habit Theory. Clark Hull's formula was sEr = D x sHr, which states that excitatory tendency (E) is the result of the drive (D) combined with the habit (H). The drive is nonspecific, such as hunger or thirst. The habit, however, depends on the stimulus (s) and response (r). But the theory turned out to be wrong and even opposite in many cases. 
  • Expectation x Value Theory. Drawing on ideas in economics and game theory, Edward Tolman and Kurt Lewis formulated an alternative account by evaluating motivation based on expectations. Tolman expressed the ideas as the mathematical formula: Subjective Expected Utility = Probability1 * Utility1 + P2U2 + P3U3 + … where subjective expected utility of an action equalled the motivation to act. But, if you expect a reward, why act and not simply passively wait for the expected reward? 

Donald Hebb realised that existing theories were too focused on reacting to the immediate environment. Thoughts, ideas and goals could be just as strong for triggering action as sights and sounds.

Together with John Atkinson, they noted that the study of motivation had undergone a "paradigm shift", where motivation couldn't be seen as how actions get started, but how the organism decides to change its behaviour from one thing to another.

Thorndike’s Law of Effect led B.F. Skinner to the study of instrumental conditioning, where behaviour could be manipulated by applying rewards and punishments.

To describe this paradigm, some terminology is useful since they are often confused in popular discussions:

  • Positive reinforcement. Rewarding a behaviour.
  • Positive punishment. Something bad decreases a behaviour, such as shocking an animal that gives an incorrect response.
  • Negative reinforcement. Removing something bad to increase behaviour.
  • Negative punishment. Removing something good to decrease behaviour.

Neuroscience offers clues on how motivation works within the brain.

  • Taking action. The motor loop in the brain enables one-action-at-a-time control. (We can't sit down and stand up at the same time.)
  • The dopamine network explains which action we will pick. It signals to the brain which action will bring a reward. It uses that anticipation to guide our thoughts and behaviour.
  • Addiction is a motivational disorder. Some drugs act directly upon the motivational circuitry of the brain, and cause the motivation to do something to far exceeds its value.
  • Fear and anxiety compel us to do the opposite of motivation. The amygdala is a "threat detection centre" and forces us to suppress and avoid actions when we are anxious.

This theory is not focused on how human motivation can be controlled and manipulated from without, but how it is functionally designed and experienced from within.

Intrinsic motivation is when we are more motivated to pursue actions when it emanates from the self. Extrinsic incentives and rewards have the potential to decrease intrinsic motivation. However, the form of reward matters greatly. If the reward is not directly related to the completion of the activity, it does not have a negative effect.

  • A-motivation. An utter lack of motivation to act.
  • External regulation. When you're motivated to act based on external rewards and punishments.
  • Introjection. Your motives to act come primarily from guilt/shame. Even when contingencies are removed, you may perform it, such as going to a medical school because your parent's desire it.
  • Identification. When you agree to the behaviour and identify personally with the reasons.
  • Integration. When identification becomes a part of your identity.
  • Intrinsic motivation. When you spontaneously engage in the activity for its inherent value.

The experience of actions starting from oneself is a matter of degree. Some actions are controlled, while others feel spontaneous. Most are somewhere in-between.

People have three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Our internal motivations often depend on how these needs are met.

Goals that satisfy these needs tend to be more motivating, while goals that don't may cause harm. The underlying reasons for a goal may matter more.

  • Rational choice theory suggests that human behaviour is underpinned by the motivations of each individual. More specifically, this theory models human beings as utility-maximizers, according to a set of preferences. If you give people a set of actions to choose from, they will do whatever improves their utility the most.
  • Signalling is the idea of taking an action because of what it communicates about you. For example, we care more for credentials in education than learning.
  • The prospect theory states that we are reliably irrational in our decision-making. One possible bias is loss aversion that argues that we'll work harder to avoid losses than to get equivalent gains.
  • Information-gap theory of curiosity. This theory argues that the intensity of curiosity is controlled by the gap between what you know and what you want to know.
  • Friston and free energy of human neuroscience places the search for information as the central organizing principle of the entire brain. It argues that we are motivated to reduce uncertainty.
  • Learning progress is a simple model that states that we are motivated to learn wherever we experience the most gain. When we focus on learnable situations we haven't yet grasped, we can unlock new opportunities.
  • Boredom signals that you're not engaged with the material. It may be a sign that you need to adjust your attention rather than change tasks.

Procrastination is delaying an intended course of action despite expecting negative consequences for the delay.

Possible causes for procrastination:

  • Task unpleasantness. Boring, frustrating and aversive tasks.
  • Self-efficacy. Believing in your ability to do a task.
  • Task delay when rewards and punishments are more distant.
  • Impulsiveness. You are easily distractable and less able to resist it.
  • Organization. Being more organized is associated with less procrastination.
  • Achievement motivation. The higher you value achievement, the less you will procrastinate.

Learned industriousness claims that when you are rewarded for expending higher effort, the experience of effortful activity itself is reinforced, leading to a willingness to work harder for bigger payoffs.

  • Goals direct your attention to relevant information and tasks.
  • Goals give you the energy to act on various physical and cognitive tasks.
  • Goals increase your persistence. It enables you to endure for longer before giving up.
  • Goals encourage you to find better strategies. Having a better method can lead to better performance.
  • Harder goals that are accepted by the participant will lead to better performance than easier goals.
  • Focusing on a specific target will produce better results than merely doing your best. However, the goal should not be set too high, as it can have the opposite effect.
  • Goals can be made more effective when they are connected to implementation intentions. "I intend to write every morning at 7 am."
  • Self-efficacy. When we feel we can do something. The social-cognitive theory is the idea that we learn by witnessing others, not only by trying things ourselves. Yet, sometimes we don't (or choose not to) learn from the example of others. If you believe you cannot perform well or master a particular skill, you're unlikely to do so.
  • Group impact motivation. When you are attending a school which out-performs you academically, you may be highly motivated. But placed in a superior school where everyone is equally talented, your self-conception and motivation may drop.
  • Self-comparison. If you are good at more than one thing, you may be more motivated to focus on what you are better at. For example, preferring maths over English, if your self-concept is that you are a "math" person.

While motivation is a huge topic, and the science on it is not in agreement, there are many takeaways we can use to understand how motivation operates and use it to improve our lives.

  • Rewards and punishments are at the centre of motivation. For example, we may not be able to consciously link our love of sports to early childhood experiences.
  • Consciously setting our intentions greatly impacts our performance. When we reframe a situation, we can be more motivated to do it.
  • There are many positive feedback loops. Set hard goals and commit to them, and our performance increases. If you feel you can't do anything, your motivation diminishes.
  • Motivational struggles are caused by competing forces. We might find it harder to read books in our spare time when we have easy access to Netflix.
  • Many sources of motivation may be hidden from view. Our motivation is often hidden from us. Sometimes it is simply because the hardware that runs our motivation is not expressible. In other cases, motivations may be subtle and complex.

People tend to procrastinate to avoid emotionally unpleasant tasks - so they choose to focus on something that provides a temporary mood boost.

This creates a vicious cycle: procrastination itself causes shame and guilt — which in turn leads people to procrastinate even further.

Why your brain loves procrastination

vox.com

Progress on our goals feeds our well-being. So the most important thing to do is bootstrap a little progress: get a little progress, and that’s going to fuel your well-being and your motivation.

This is a self-regulatory strategy in the form of an "if-then plan": "If the phone rings, then I’m not going to answer it." "If my friends call me to say we’re going out, I’m going to say no." So you’ve already made these pre-commitments.

When we watch a horror movie or are on a roller coaster, we feel certain tingling sensations in our bodies, which is telling us to be cautious, warning and signalling any danger that may be around us.

Our bodies have a primary directive: To protect our life, and a person who is taking any kind of risk, like a trapeze artist, for example, has to actively listen to the various signals given by the body.

‎TED Talks Daily: An aerialist on listening to your body's signals | Adie Delaney on Apple Podcasts

podcasts.apple.com

  • As soon as there is an imposition from a parent, spouse, boss or partner, the body senses and provides us with signals of resistance. These signals are often overlooked or dismissed.
  • We need to trust the natural indications and signals that the body is providing us with, understanding the communication that is often neglected.
  • Youngsters need to listen to their bodies and trust their ‘gut instinct’ more than what is being thrust upon them.
We don't know what we like

We often don't like what we say we like. We come to enjoy things we thought we hated and we are poor at predicting what we will possibly like.

We can't articulate the reasons we prefer one thing over another. We often decide we like something without cause or like something that was subtly suggested.

Why We Like What We Like

newyorker.com

Any action that entails a choice also entails a preference, for example, what to read, what to wear. We try to find work we like, entertainment we like, people we like.

Behind every preference is a combination of inputs including reasons, hunches, bodily needs, past experiences, unconscious desires, social pressures, and price point.

  • Online marketing strategies have become very sophisticated. The Internet uses a huge amount of data collected from clicks to produce a taste fingerprint for every consumer that uses a Web site or app.
  • Customer reviewing is lay expertise and not trustworthy. We often find ourselves identifying with one-star hotheads. We want to know if things go wrong, how bad it will be. High number ratings may reflect "positivity bias."

With the Internet, we do not see reality. We're seeing what the algorithms want us to see. We spend half our days in the digital mall without borders doing work and errands.

Digitalization promises to absorb existing technologies, from paper and vinyl to maps, newspapers, cameras, telephones, and lecture halls. With it comes some loss—the three-dimensionality of certain experiences, e.g., acoustic, theatrical, and the palpable such as a book.

The Internet won't replace everything, and one day something else will replace the Internet. Then we will all be used to it, and we will miss it when it's gone.

If taste were not easily changeable and people only liked what they have always liked, we could never develop a taste for something else,

Two factors that influence our taste are social consensus and familiarity. We need time and help to appreciate a work of art.

Art appreciation develops in the same way as other tastes. One person will comment on liking something, and a consensus builds that it is worth liking. Aesthetic appreciation is then supposed to be learned and shared.

Smiling is important for leadership
  • It helps others relax. A smile communicates that you are safe and can be trusted.
  • It draws people to you. If you want others to follow you, you can start by smiling more.
  • It enables you to connect.Even if you don’t speak the same language, a smile is universally appreciated.
  • It creates positive culture. Smiles communicate that your organization is a happy place to work.
  • It elevates your mood. Smiling has numerous physical and psychological benefits, including relieving stress, lowering your blood pressure, and boosting your immune system.

5 Reasons You Should Smile More as a Leader

michaelhyatt.com

The One Thing We Can Control: Ourselves

Self-control is a necessary and much sought-after skill in this increasingly complex world. There are a million distractions, multiple stress-inducing outlets and a chronic lack of sleep for most of us, and self-control becomes the only bandwidth that we have.

People who are reactive will find self-control challenging, as compared to resilient and conscientious individuals.

The One Thing You Can Control Right Now: Yourself

wsj.com

  • Form better habits: you can practice self-control on a daily basis by switching off the phone when you need to sleep or work, walking more, and getting to bed early to be able to wake up early.
  • Reframing your thinking: also called cognitive reappraisal, it essentially means broadening your perspective beyond the present moment.

By using a third-person point of view, you create a psychological distance between you and the ‘object of your temptation’.

Studies prove that this quirky practice of talking to yourself decreases anxiety and stress.

  • A new identity, even if only in our imagination, makes us mentally transform into that person and imbibe their habits, and working style.
  • When kids pretend to be their favorite characters, they are able to regulate their emotions and manage their frustration.
  • Adults can use this ‘alter ego’ method to channel someone who is competent for the task at hand.

Thinking about past challenges that were resolved by us helps us get into the ‘glory’ mode and reclaim it in the present, along with envisioning a future point in time when things will be better.

Imagining our future self makes us harder to take the bait of instant gratification, and helps us identify the various challenges and obstacles that are inevitable.

Clutter increases stress

"Cleanliness is next to godliness," theologian John Wesley said in a sermon.

When we see clutter, we can't think of anything else until it is dealt with. This feeling has intensified as more people have had to live and work at home. Researchers confirmed that disorganized or cluttered workspaces seem to increase stress and anxiety.

Why pandemic stress breeds clutter—and how to break the cycle

nationalgeographic.com

  • Lawrence J. Peter famously asked, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"
  • Albert Einstein had a messy desk, so did innovative thinkers, such as Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs.
  • One study confirmed that students working in disorderly spaces came up with more creative ideas than those in clean areas. Clutter then causes more stress for some people, while others can cope with it.

Many people are not good at processing clutter. It can become overwhelming and make our brains do more work to complete tasks.

The more stimuli we receive, the more the brain has to filter out the necessary. When you remove the competing objects, focusing becomes much easier, and productivity increases. Clutter can cause our bodies to release cortisol, the stress hormone. Long-term exposure to clutter can result in chronic stress.

Organized, comfortable areas that feel inviting make for more productive environments than chaotic and messy ones.

If cleaning up is difficult, one can implement a strategy of mindfulness. When you notice you're having cluttered thoughts, ask if you really need to be thinking about that now? Could you write it down instead? The people working from home best might not be the neatest people, but they have trained themselves not the react to the distractions.

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