Supernaturalism, Imagination & Assumptions

Where there is no imagination there is no horror. ~Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

I love me a good horror movie. One with lots of supernatural terror. This may seem strange, since I am a Humanist and a naturalist (note – naturalist is not the same as naturist – the former is about embracing the natural world, the latter is about wandering about naked – as nature intended).

Anyway – while I love contemplating supernaturalism, I don’t worry about it. It’s safe horror fun. Which is why I enjoy horror movies. It’s harmless fun. Mostly.

The problem is when belief in supernatural things exceeds common sense.

I have a kid. He loves to imagine scary supernatural things. But the reason he does it is because he has a good imagination.  And what he doesn’t know, he imagines. And he makes assumptions.

Upon seeing a dark room, he can’t see what’s in it. So his imagination runs wild. Is that dark room empty, like his mom says? Or does it have a Neanderthal in it (don’t ask – geeky kids have unusual fears). And if there is a neanderthal in the room, does it want to eat him? As this point my son doesn’t know and he doesn’t want to find out – so I am called to turn on the light for him – so he can put his fearful imagination to rest and realize – yes – the room is indeed empty.

While this might seem like typical child stuff – some adults do this too. They don’t know something, so they imagine something. Their imagination scares them and they don’t seem to have the courage to turn on the light to find out if what they imagined is real or not. So they assume what they imagine to be real and rather test their assumptions, because that is scary, try to avoid the room altogether.  It’s not a very adult way of dealing with problems is it.

Why do Humanists reject supernaturalism?  Because, we all suffer from the supernatural imagination assumption problem. We all have irrational fears.  When we explicitly choose to reject supernaturalism, we remind ourselves that things aren’t probably as bad as we imagine them to be. It’s unlikely there is a monster in my room and so if I just add a little light of science – I might actually be able to see reality for what it really is instead of how I imagine it to be.

And if I have the courage to face my fears, I may just be surprised by how amazing life can be.


Have a Plan

Dealing with a kid that throws fits when they don’t get their way?  Have a plan for the next time.

I was speaking with a parent of an autistic child the other day. Her son is a teenager and is addicted to video games. He insists his mom buy him a new game every week and when she doesn’t he throws a fit and throws things, so she gives in. Her son doesn’t care if the game is new, as long as it’s new to him. But still, it’s expensive and the mom doesn't want to do it, but she doesn't know how to stop, because whenever she says no, her son throws a fit that is pretty violent.

My response. Have a plan!!!!  You know he’s going to throw a fit, so plan for it in advance. When he is out of the house – remove everything that is breakable. Everything.  Is it an inconvenience?  Yes. Of course it is.  But what you are doing isn't working – so it’s time to try something else.

What this woman was hoping for was a magic solution. Something she could do that would make her son suddenly not throw a fit when she said no. But it doesn't work that way. To extinguish behaviors you don’t want and replace them with behaviors you do takes work.  Real work. Difficult work.

Why? Because whenever any habitual behavior is not rewarded, the animal in question will have an extinction burst. Meaning, they will try harder to get their reward.  Stopping any behavior pattern takes time and you will experience and extinction burst. And extinction bursts can be nasty. Extinction bursts are also known as blowouts because it can seem like an explosion is happening when a kid throws a fit to get their way.

So, instead of spending your time wishing you could say no and have your child accept it. Plan for the fit. You know it’s going to happen. It’s a pattern. You say no, your child throws a violent fit.  So, plan for it.  Make sure they can’t break anything when they throw their fit so that you can say no, and they can throw their fit and so that you aren't put in a position to give in to their demands.

The first time you do this is the worst. But it gets easier every time you do this. So stop wishing for a magic solution to your temper tantrum problem.  Make a plan based on what you know your child does so that they can do it and you won’t feel pressured to give in and let them throw their fit. Once it’s over, they and you will be happier if you do.

Don’t Give Up

The past few years have been really hard for me and my family. Medical problems, financial problems, emotional problems that come with having medical and financial problems.  And while we aren’t out of the wood yet, I am a firm believing in not giving up.

One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill. “If you are going through hell, keep going.”  Don’t stop and don’t give up – keep on going until you get out of there.

That doesn’t mean we can do it alone or that we don’t need to take breaks. It just means that we need to not accept the status quo if the status quo sucks.  Keep working on trying to change it until things get better.  Baby steps if you have to.

This encouragement to keep at it doesn’t mean to keep doing the same things that aren’t working.  If something you are doing isn’t working, try something else.  Keep experimenting until you find a way through.

To motivate you on your way today – enjoy this version of Peter Gabrial’s Don’t Give Up sung by Pink with Herbie Hancock and John Legend


Dealing with Disappointment

Question: 

Disappointment - in work and life - is inevitable. Whether it's being passed up for a promotion or finding out from your crush he/she's just not that into you, what are some healthy techniques for getting over a setback? Is it having a 24 hour pity-party?

Answer: 

Disappointment – of the type you are asking about – is basically a grief process.  We have to go through the stages of grief before we can actively move on to be more productive and “rebound.”

When we are disappointed, we try to deny what happened. We get mad that it didn’t happen. We try to bargain to see if we can still make it happen.  We get depressed that it didn’t happen. And eventually, we accept – it’s not going to happen.

Knowing that the only way past this is to accept it, I try to get to acceptance as quickly as possible.  I do this by embracing reality.  I don’t try to deny it or bargain with it. It is what it is and the sooner I accept that, the sooner I can move on.

It’s not pretty, and it doesn’t feel good – but this is a lot like ripping off a bandage – just do it and get it over with.  Stop fighting with reality – you are going to lose.

Interestingly enough, as soon as you accept reality, that’s when you can start working on your work arounds and either come up with another goal or figure out another way to get to the original one.  I think what happens is that people are so afraid of losing their dream; they fight the reality of things not happening the way they want.  What I have found is that by accepting reality fearlessly and quickly, I am more agile and better able to adapt to the reality of my situation and I am better able to turn things around in my favor.

So reality based problem solving. That’s my advice.

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