The Interpretation of Dreams PDF Summary

The Interpretation of Dreams PDF Summary

The name is Sigmund Freud.

The book: The Interpretation of Dreams.

The summary: a must-read.

Who Should Read “The Interpretation of Dreams”? And Why?

Love him or hate him, together with Marx and Nietzsche, Freud is widely considered one of the three people (all of them Germans) which revolutionized how we think about the world and paved the way for modernity, the age in which man is much more than the sum of his parts.

The Interpretation of Dreams is his magnum opus.

Do we need to say more?

About Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist, widely considered the father of psychoanalysis and one of the most important intellectuals of the modern age.

Born to Jewish parents in present-day Czech Republic (then part of the Austrian Empire), Freud became a professor of neuropathology in 1902 at the University of Vienna, the city in which he spent all, but the last year of his life.

In 1938, he left Austria to escape the Nazis and died the next year in the United Kingdom at the age of 83.

Even though widely criticized today, Freud was one of the first people to explore the unconscious and to develop a more complex model of being, which scorned the idea of humans as rational beings and introduced the concept of a divided self: id, ego, and super-ego.

Freud won the Goethe Prize in 1930 and was a towering influence over a whole new generation of psychologists even while alive.

“The Interpretation of Dreams PDF Summary”

“In the following pages” – thus begins Sigmund Freud’s masterwork, The Interpretation of Dreams I shall prove that there exists a psychological technique by which dreams may be interpreted and that upon the application of this method every dream will show itself to be a senseful psychological structure which may be introduced into an assignable place in the psychic activity of the waking state.”

And he goes on:

I shall furthermore endeavor to explain the processes which give rise to the strangeness and obscurity of the dream, and to discover through them the nature of the psychic forces which operate, whether in combination or in opposition, to produce the dream. This accomplished, my investigation will terminate, as it will have reached the point where the problem of the dream meets with broader problems, the solution of which must be attempted through other material.

So, put simply, Freud unabashedly claims that in The Interpretation of Dreams he uncovers to the world the skeleton key to all dreams; moreover, he also claims that he has discovered the precise stuff dreams are made of. Literally.

Freud died four decades after having written the chapter above and even on his deathbed he still believed that his most significant contribution to the history of ideas is the theories presented in The Interpretation of Dreams.

In fact, in a 1931 preface to a later edition of this book – Freud revised his magnum opus eight times during his life – he explicitly stated that “Insight[s] such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.”

The Interpretation of Dreams consists of seven chapters and is the book where some of Freud’s most famous ideas – dreams as wish-fulfilments and “royal roads to the unconscious,” psychoanalysis, the Oedipus complex – are first proposed and examined.

Chapter I: The Scientific Literature on the Problems of the Dreams

Since The Interpretation of Dreams is a scientific work – at least it was when first published – it is only natural that it begins with a review of the scientific literature on dreams written before Freud.

The father of psychoanalysis also reviews some philosophical notions about dreams, as well as ancient religious and folk beliefs.

Interestingly enough, he sides with the latter much more than with the former.

Why?

Because, as mysterious as it is, the object of dreams has usually been treated by folk and religious beliefs as something mysterious but also as something which has some meaning.

In other words, something which can be interpreted.

Contrary to this, “stern science, as it confesses itself, has contributed nothing beyond attempting, in entire opposition to popular sentiment, to deny the substance and significance of the object.”

Freud is very much aware of how his ideas differ from everybody else’s. “My presumption that dreams can be interpreted at once,” he states loud and clear, “puts me in opposition to the ruling theory of dreams and in fact to every theory of dreams.”

So, in other words, unlike all scientists, Freud believes dreams can be interpreted; unlike popular and religious thought, he believes that dreams should be interpreted in relation to a man’s past, and not in relation to his/her future.

You’ll understand the meaning of this in a bit.

Chapter II: Method of Dream Interpretation: The Analysis of a Sample Dream

This chapter contains one of the most famous dreams ever dreamt: the dream of Irma’s injection. Freud uses it as a sample dream, i.e., the dream to show how all dreams must be interpreted.

Now Irma – which is, of course, a pseudonym – was a patient of Freud. He treated her during the summer of 1895. The treatment went well for the most part, but, due to the unwillingness of Irma, it had to end before it was completed.

On July 23, 1895, Freud visited a colleague who knew Irma and asked him about her condition. His colleague responded: “better, but not quite well.”

And that very night, Freud dreamt the dream he narrates in this chapter.

In his dream, he and his wife receive numerous guests in a large hall. Irma is among the guests. Freud immediately confronts her and berates her for not having accepted his solution to her problems.

He says to her: “If you still get pains, it’s really only your fault.” She replies: “If you only knew what pains I’ve got now in my throat and stomach and abdomen – it’s choking me.”

Freud reexamines Irma by looking at her throat where he notices a white scab. Interestingly enough, while he does this, Irma starts looking much more like one of her friends and much less like Irma.

Surprised by the scab, Freud calls Dr. M. for a second opinion. Upon investigation, Dr. M. says: “There’s no doubt it’s an infection, but no matter; dysentery will supervene, and the toxin will be eliminated.”

The meaning of it all?

Freud’s dream releases him from the guilt he feels over not helping Irma as well as he could.

And that’s only one of the wishes fulfilled by his dream.

Could it be that all dreams are wish-fulfilments?

Chapter III: The Dream Is the Fulfilment of a Wish

Yes – and that’s Freud’s great discovery!

For example, in the dream of Irma’s injection, the very idea that Irma’s disease is the cause of an infection which should be cured by itself suggests that Freud has nothing to fret about, since Irma’s disease is actually her own fault, and not his.

Moreover, the fact that he substitutes Irma with a friend of hers suggests that Freud didn’t even want to have Irma as a patient; her friend, being a more rational and intelligent person, would have probably agreed to Freud’s solution.

The appearance of Dr. M. is also a wish-fulfilling event related to Freud’s past guilt. Long before Irma, Freud had prescribed toxic medicine to one of his patients; eventually, this led to the worsening of his symptoms.

Dr. M. saves the day in the dream – as it should have happened in reality.

This is the case with all dreams, says Freud in the third chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams: they fulfill a wish unfulfilled in reality.

And there’s a reason for that, perhaps best illustrated by a dream Freud claims to be able to dream as often as he likes.

Namely, if in the evening he eats “anchovies, olives, or other strongly salted foods,” he becomes thirsty at night and awakes to quench his thirst.

However, before waking up, he dreams that he drinks a drink as sweet as nectar.

The reason why he dreams this is simple: his body doesn’t want him to wake up and fulfills his wish in a simulated manner:

If I succeed in assuaging my thirst by means of the dream that I am drinking, I need not wake up in order to satisfy it. It is thus a dream of convenience. The dream substitutes itself for action, as elsewhere in life.

Chapter IV: Distortion in Dreams

Now, dreaming of a sweet drink when thirsty is a pretty straightforward dream. As is Freud dreaming of getting revenge over some of the acquaintances he has actual problems with in real life.

Unfortunately, in the former case, the body remains thirsty, and he needs to awake to change that; in the second, the simulated action in his dream appeases him and makes him calmer in real life as well.

However, these dreams are straightforward – i.e., they are pretty easily interpretable – because their manifest form mimics pretty closely their hidden meaning.

This is not the case with all dreams, some of which hide content at a deeper level.

Why aren’t they as clear as the others?

Well, because dreams are not always –a 1:1 simulation of a wish fulfilled; they are also often restructured – i.e., distorted – by an internal psychological censor.

To better understand this, think of politically active authors writing novels in totalitarian regimes. Their wish is almost always to ridicule the ruling parties; however, if they do it in an explicit manner, they risk being prosecuted; in addition, their novels may never get published.

However, if they write books which, on the surface – explicitly and manifestly – say one thing, but deep down – implicitly and latently – another, they may get their message across.

This is how Freud explains all unpleasant dreams; even though on the surface they appear to not fulfill any wishes, on a hidden level – they do.

And these are, usually, our most forbidden desires.

Speaking of –

Chapter V: The Material and Sources of Dreams

According to Freud, all dreams have four possible sources:

• Recent and significant experiences and memories;
• Important childhood events;
• Physical sensations during sleep (e.g., thirst or alarm clocks);
• Trivial experiences.

In this chapter Freud also analyzes some dreams which are universal, such as those of appearing naked in public, flying or hovering, failing a test, missing a train, witnessing the death of a relative…

He shows that all of them are fulfilments of a wish as well; however, since they are dreamt by almost everybody, they must reveal something profound about the human nature.

And this is where Freud first proposes his idea of the Oedipus complex, the underlying reason for all repressed desires.

Since the Oedipus complex concerns one’s wish to kill his father and sleep with his mother – the biggest no-noes of all – these are wishes which will never become a reality.

That’s why they are such an authoritative source for dreams in all people.

Chapter VI: The Dream-Work

In the unnecessarily long and pretty dull sixth chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud introduces the idea of the dream-work.

By “dream-work” Freud refers to all of the censorship-processes which transform the latent content of your dreams (aka, your thoughts and wishes) into their actual content (the narrative of your dream) when the dreams are not readily interpretable.

The most important two are the following ones:

• Condensation is a process by which many images are condensed within one; for example, some of the people you dream about are actually a combination of at least two real-life individuals;
• Displacement works by substituting abstract thoughts with more concrete representations; this is why you sometimes dream bizarre and unusual things;

In this chapter, Freud also explains how dreams find a connection between ideas and introduces the concept of secondary revision.

This is when the conscious intrudes in the spheres of the unconscious, aka the reason why your dream changes when you start talking about it.

More importantly, this is where Freud gets the idea that if we want to analyze unconscious thoughts more clearly, we have to create an environment in which the patient feels as relaxed as when in bed.

Wait… did I say “as when in bed”?

Lightbulb!

Chapter VII: The Psychology of the Dream Activities

In the seventh chapter, Freud explains his quasi-scientific theory of how the mind must work based on his still unproven theory of how dreams are created.

Consequently, you can skip this chapter and lose nothing of the book – many of the things Freud says in here are not merely speculative, but outright wrong.

Appendix A

In an “Appendix,” Freud examines a dream which seems to question his theory: one which supposedly foretells the future.

Naturally, if this is the case – if it can be proven that some dreams refer to the future and not to the past – then his theory that all dreams are wish-fulfilments must be wrong.

However, Freud successfully demonstrates that the ostensibly supernatural dream he examines is really a bizarre embodiment of – well, that was expected – a repressed sexual wish.

In other words, the dream “carries us to the future, but this future is a copy and reproduction of the past.”

Key Lessons from “The Interpretation of Dreams”

1.      All Dreams Are Wish Fulfilments
2.      Nightmares Are Your Mind’s Way of Telling You “Don’t Go There”
3.      You Love Your Mother and Want to Kill Your Father

All Dreams Are Wish Fulfilments

This is the main idea of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams.

In a nutshell, when you’re asleep, your whole body is at equilibrium and will do anything to keep you in that condition.

Enter your dreams.

They are not an obstacle, but your brain’s way of telling you “keep sleeping, everything’s OK.” That’s the reason why your brain incorporates even external stimuli in your dreams – such as the alarm clock or the doorbell.

More importantly, that’s why you dream of drinking water when you’re actually thirsty and need to get out of bed to drink water in real life.

Put simply, each and every one of your dreams are wish-fulfilments.

Nightmares Are Your Mind’s Way of Telling You “Don’t Go There”

Yes – that goes for nightmares as well!

Even unpleasant dreams are wish-fulfilments, argues Freud; however, they look the way they do because the wishes they embody are forbidden and not exactly friendly.

That’s why your brain distorts them in a way which hides their meaning behind seemingly incongruous images. Because when your wishes are cruel, your brain censors them and turns them into something less harsh.

You Love Your Mother and Want to Kill Your Father

Which brings us to the Oedipus complex.

You know its meaning: every child wants to kill his father and sleep with his mother. And since this is a wish which, unlike your thirst, cannot be satisfied in reality, it’s so deeply repressed that it reappears over and over in many dreams.

Sometimes, it also leads to neurotic conditions and diseases.

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“The Interpretation of Dreams Quotes”

The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life. Click To Tweet Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. Click To Tweet The dream is the liberation of the spirit from the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter. Click To Tweet Our memory has no guarantees at all, and yet we bow more often than is objectively justified to the compulsion to believe what it says. Click To Tweet Nothing that is mentally our own can ever be lost. Click To Tweet
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Our Critical Review

The Interpretation of Dreams is widely considered Sigmund Freud’s masterpiece – and the father of psychoanalysis shared the same belief.

Considered “epochal” by none other than Joseph Campbell, undoubtedly this is one of the greatest books of the modern age.

In a way, it doesn’t matter whether Freud was right or wrong; because even in the case of the latter – which is probably closer to the truth – this is the book which paved the way for many scientific analyses of dreams and the unconscious, none of which would have even existed without Freud.That’s why, The Interpretation of Dreams is – in one word – essential.

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Brain Rules PDF Summary

Brain Rules PDF Summary

12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

Do you know how your brain works?

Let us burst your bubble: you don’t.

Which is why it’s more than necessary that you take some time to learn the 12 most essential

Brain Rules.

Who Should Read “Brain Rules”? And Why?

Even though this book is suited for neuroscientists and psychologists as well, it probably works best as one of the best popular science books on how the brain works for laypeople and students.

It would be great if people in power read it too – Medina’s ideas on how our classrooms and business environments should look like seem to us not only great but revolutionary.

If only some of them could become reality.

About John Medina

John Medina

John J. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant, working primarily on issues related to mental health with pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies.

The author of the “Molecules of the Mind” column in the Psychiatric Times journal, he is also the founding director of the Talaris Research Institute.

Brain Rules, part of a trilogy of similarly titled books (with Brain Rules for Aging Well and Brain Rules for Baby) is one of the many books on the subject he has so far authored, such as What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s, The Clock of Ages and Depression.

Find out more at http://www.medinascientific.com/

“Brain Rules PDF Summary”

“I am a nice guy, but I am a grumpy scientist,” says John Medina in the “Introduction” to Brain Rules, a reader-friendly exploration of our brain powers with applicable revelations, based exclusively on peer-reviewed scientific studies.

That’s what the sentence above refers to, in fact: for a study to appear in his book, Medina goes on, “it has to pass what some at The Boeing Company (for which I have done some consulting) call MGF: the Medina Grump Factor.”

What does Medina Grump Factor mean?

“That means,” explains the guy after whom it is named, “the supporting research for each of my points must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal and then successfully replicated.”

In other words, all of the rules presented here are factual and verified; they are, as Medina calls them, “things we know about how the brain works.”

Unfortunately, it seems that most of these things are either willfully ignored by the people who have created – and carry on creating – our societies or are not known to anyone outside the neuroscientific community.

Because, in a nutshell, what they all point to is this:

If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.

Well, this is to book which can help you start off on the right foot.

Key Lessons from “Brain Rules”

1.      Rule #1: Exercise Boosts Brain Power
2.      Rule #2: The Human Brain Evolved, Too
3.      Rule #3: Every Brain Is Wired Differently
4.      Rule #4: We Don’t Pay Attention to Boring Things
5.      Rule #5: Repeat to Remember
6.      Rule #6: Remember to Repeat
7.      Rule #7: Sleep Well, Think Well
8.      Rule #8: Stressed Brains Don’t Learn the Same Way
9.      Rule #9: Stimulate More of the Senses
10.      Rule #10: Vision Trumps All Other Senses
11.      Rule #11: Male and Female Brains Are Different
12.      Rule #12: We Are Powerful and Natural Explorers

Rule #1: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Let’s get straight to the point: your body is not built to sit 8 hours a day; your brain likes that even less.

Think of it this way: you’ve become who you are – aka homo sapiens – not because your predecessors say 8 hours a day, but because they walked at least 10 and as much as 20 kilometers a day.

The point?

Your brain still craves this experience!

All of the studies consistently prove this: exercise boosts brain power, especially in sedentary populations.

Whether it’s long-term memory (see Rule #6) or problem-solving tasks, attention (see Rule #4) or reasoning – exercisers always outperform couch potatoes.

And there’s a physiological reason for this!

Namely, exercising stimulates the production of certain hormones, one of which is the BDNF.

That acronym stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the scientific community, but in layman’s terms, you can translate that to “boost dem neurons, friend.”

Because BDNF refreshes your neurons and strengthens the connections between them and that’s great both for your problem-solving capabilities and long-term memory.

To sum up in Medina’s words: “To improve your thinking skills, move… Aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of dementia.”

Rule #2: The Human Brain Evolved, Too

Now, it’s important to note that when we use the word “brain,” it’s almost more appropriate to use it in the plural.

Because we don’t have one, but three brains inside our skulls.

The oldest one is the lizard brain, which is “lively as Las Vegas” and controls “most of your body’s housekeeping chores;” namely, “breathing, heart rate, sleeping, and waking.”

The second one is the (paleo)mammalian brain, which is responsible for your survival, or as some scientists say, the four F’s: “fighting, feeding, fleeing, and … reproductive behavior.”

Finally, the third one is the human brain, the one responsible for all the complex tasks, the pinnacle of evolution.

Now, everybody expects from you to have your human brain active at all times; the problem is the other two brains are still there; most of these rules concern the mammalian brain which is a large part of us and is still too powerful to be ignored.

The lesson?

Until we evolve to become something more than sapiens, we’re still part animals; and we need to react appropriately to this fact.

Rule #3: Every Brain Is Wired Differently

The brain may have evolved historically in humans as species, but it is also continually evolving (well, sort of) inside each and every one of us.

“What you do and learn in life,” writes Medina, “physically changes what your brain looks like – it literally rewires it.”

Think of your brain as an empty map containing no roads. More or less, all humans share the same blueprint (the same locations and places, the same milestones), but no two humans connect these by drawing upon the map the same, exact roads.

In other words: “no two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.”

It is wiring – connecting the different regions of the brain – which makes virtuous pianists and it is wiring which helps some people be so great at chess.

However, wiring is also the reason why some people score high at IQ tests, and others don’t.

“We have a great number of ways of being intelligent,” writes Medina, “many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.”

Rule #4: We Don’t Pay Attention to Boring Things

When it comes to paying attention, your brain is, simply put, not evolved enough to multitask.

So even though you try to talk on your cell phone while driving, the fact is that your brain is constantly switching on and off between the two; what actually happens inside your brain when you think you’re multitasking is chaotic singletasking between more than one assignment.

It is literally impossible to multitask: “the brain’s attentional ‘spotlight’ can focus on only one thing at a time.”

Also, as you know full well from every single PowerPoint presentation you’ve seen so far in your life, it is impossible for you to pay attention for more than 10 minutes at anything.

So if you want to keep your audience’s attention, do something which will arouse their emotions at 9 minutes and 59 seconds!

Rule #5: Repeat to Remember

The Romans had a nice saying: repetitio mater studiorum est; repetition is the mother of learning.

Why?

Because that’s precisely how your brain works when it tries to remember things; it first encodes them, and then stores them; however, unless you try to decode the info repeatedly, your brain just forgets the code, and, thus, you forget the information.

This is the reason why you sometimes can suddenly recall something you’ve forgotten after reproducing the environment or the immediate surrounding information of the one you’re interested in.

The more elaborate the initial encoding, the longer you’ll remember the info; the more often you visit the information stored, the more likely it will become part of your long-term memory.

Which brings us to Rule #6.

Rule #6: Remember to Repeat

“Most memories disappear within minutes,” says John Medina, “but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time”:

Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex – which can take years.

After this process is finalized, you don’t even need to think to remember something: your brain does it by default.

But what does this mean in practical terms?

Simply put, it means that the schools of the future should completely eliminate homework and instead focus on initiating “review holidays.”

In other words, if every third or fourth day, you repeat with your class your notes of the previous days (in summarized form), then you’ll have no need of homework.

Rule #7: Sleep Well, Think Well

Let us ask you a question: do you feel tired every day around 3 o’clock?

If so, do you know why?

No, it’s not because of your work or your kids or what not – it’s because your brain really needs a nap from time to time!

Put it this way: sleeping is not exactly something evolution should encourage; after all, it’s not a great idea to sleep for 8 hours when there are lions around you; and yet, sleeping has endured to this day.

The reason?

It’s just too essential.

Afternoon naps especially!

Because, even though “people vary in how much sleep they need and when they prefer to get it, but the biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal.”

Don’t believe us?

According to one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent!

So, what are you waiting for?

It’s time for a sleep revolution!

Rule #8: Stressed Brains Don’t Learn the Same Way

As we have already told you, stress is the direct product of your body’s defense mechanism.

In a nutshell, when in a fight-or-flee situation, your body switches off all the systems which are not necessary for your immediate survival and turns on all those which are.

The problem?

Your body’s defense system – the release of adrenaline and cortisol – is built for an immediate response to a serious but passing danger, such as a saber-toothed tiger. Chronic stress, such as hostility at home, dangerously deregulates a system built only to deal with short-term responses.

So, in other words, when the danger of a saber-toothed tiger attack passed, the bodies of the Neanderthals went back to normal; however, ours don’t – because saber-toothed tigers have evolved into never-ending streams of abstract fears, be they deadlines or homework assignments.

Unfortunately, chronic stress causes your brain to stop working properly, “crippling your ability to learn and remember.”

Want better schools and offices?

Make them as stress-free as possible!

Rule #9: Stimulate More of the Senses

You know why some people have unlimited memories?

Because they include more of their senses to remember things.

Just ask synesthetes, aka people who smell colors or see sounds; apparently, they also remember things unusually well.

But there’s a very understandable reason for this.

“We absorb information about an event through our senses,” reminds us John Medina, “translate it into electrical signals (some for sight, others from sound, etc.), disperse those signals to separate parts of the brain, then reconstruct what happened, eventually perceiving the event as a whole.”

Memory, as we learned above (Rules #3, #5 and #6) is all about your capability to connect the dots, aka wire the parts of the brain which keep the information.

Just imagine the power when you are hardwired to connect them because you experience everything in more than one sense!

Why not use this while learning new things?

Also, an interesting trivia: because smell signals bypass the thalamus, smells bring back memories most forcefully.

However –

Rule #10: Vision Trumps All Other Senses

Leonardo da Vinci knew this intuitively; science has all but proven it: “vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.”

In fact, it’s wrong to say that we see with our eyes; we’re, in truth, seeing with our brains. Consequently, “what we see is only what our brain tells us we see.”

It’s only natural that this is not 100 percent accurate; in fact, this explains, in no uncertain terms, why some people see ghosts or visions. Simply put, their eyes are seeing what their brain tells them to see, even though there’s nothing of that sort in reality. 

Vision is so important, in fact, that, as Wittgenstein argued, it’s possible that you can’t really understand things unless you translate them into images.

That’s the reason why you use analogies and why the only way you can comprehend the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth is by saying that it’s Destiny knocking on the door.

“We learn and remember best through pictures,” concludes Medina, “not through written or spoken words.”

Rule #11: Male and Female Brains Are Different

No matter what religions say, women are actually the more complex sex: the X chromosome (which females have two of, and men only one of) carries “an unusually large percentage of genes involved in brain manufacture.”

Also, the X chromosome carries about 1,500 genes, fifteen times more than the number of genes in the corresponding male Y chromosome.

In other words, the brains of males and females are different both structurally and biochemically; even though this explains how men and women react to stress and why men are generally the more stable sex, we don’t know if the differences go past, say, the speed of serotonin production.

Also, we don’t know whether we should encourage these differences or balance them out; and, if the latter one, in which direction.

So, anyone who says that he knows and he’s advocating either of the views, he’s lying – because science hasn’t said the final word on this just yet.

Rule #12: We Are Powerful and Natural Explorers

If you observe a baby for a while, you’ll immediately understand that we’ve evolved to learn new things “not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion.”

In other words, you posit a hypothesis (“lions are great creatures”), then look for errors in it (“wow: that look is slightly menacing”), and then, another part of your brain tells you that you need to change your behavior if you want to survive on this planet (“you better run”).

The great news?

“Some parts of our adult brains stay as malleable as a baby’s,” says Medina.

Yes, that means exactly what you think it means: you can create neurons and learn new things throughout your whole life.

Since you’re reading this summary, you’re actually doing that right now.

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“Brain Rules Quotes”

The most common communication mistakes? Relating too much information, with not enough time devoted to connecting the dots. Click To Tweet We must do a better job of encouraging lifelong curiosity. Click To Tweet One of the greatest predictors of successful aging, they found, is the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle. Click To Tweet Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50 percent more errors. Click To Tweet Emotionally charged events are better remembered—for longer, and with more accuracy – than neutral events. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Brain Rules seems like one of the best candidates for the Brain 101 book you’ve always wanted to find, but never could.

It’s science-based, nicely structured, simply written, and offers many practically applicable ideas.And there’s a whole website – which includes references and a film – if you want to delve into the subject further once you finish the book.

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What the Dog Saw PDF Summary

What the Dog Saw PDF Summary

And Other Adventures

You’d think that we’ve summarized all of Gladwell’s books, right?

Well, there’s still one left:

What the Dog Saw.

Who Should Read “What the Dog Saw”? And Why?

If you read Gladwell’s New Yorker column regularly, then you shouldn’t read What the Dog Saw: the book is a collection of his best (and best-known) essays, so the chances are you’ve already read it.

However, if you don’t have a New Yorker subscription, then buy this book; it’s Gladwell, so you’ll never regret that decision – even if you subscribe to the New Yorker in the future.

Some of the essays in this book deserve to be read more than once.

About Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a bestselling Canadian author and long-time staff writer for The New Yorker.

He has written five books, and all of them made it to #1 at The New York Times bestseller list: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath.

Gladwell is also the host of the popular podcast Revisionist History.

Read more about him here.   

“What the Dog Saw PDF Summary”

 “Nothing frustrates me more than someone who reads something of mine or anyone else’s and says, angrily, ‘I don’t buy it,’” writes Malcolm Gladwell in the “Preface” of What the Dog Saw.

“Why are they angry?” he goes on:

Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. Not the kind of writing that you’ll find in this book, anyway. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head — even if in the end you conclude that someone else’s head is not a place you’d really like to be.

What the Dog Saw is a collection of 19 articles – all previously published on the pages of The New York Times – in which Gladwell tries to show the world through the eyes of the others, be the others alcoholics (as in the second article of the second part) or dogs (as in the last article of the first part – the one which gives the book its title).

The best part?

By his own admission, out of the countless articles he has written while working for The New Yorker (which is ever since 1996), these 19 are his favorites.

The even better part?

All of them are available on the site of The New Yorker.

And we’ve provided the links!

That way, if you’d like to, you can read this book in its entirety today.

Part 1: Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius

The first section of the book includes six essays and is, in the words of Gladwell “about obsessives and what I like to call minor geniuses — not Einstein and Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela and the other towering architects of the world in which we live, but people like Ron Popeil… and Shirley Polykoff.”

The Pitchman: Ron Popeil and the Conquest of the American Kitchen

First published in 2000, The Pitchman won Malcolm Gladwell the 2001 National Magazine award. It discusses Ron Popeil, an exceptional direct response marketer and the inventor of things such as Showtime Rotisserie and the Veg-o-Matic.

But, wait, there’s more!

No, there’s not. That’s just another thing Popeil has invented.

Yup, we’re talking about the phrase.

(Read the full article here)

The Ketchup Conundrum: Mustard Now Comes in Dozens of Different Varieties – Why Has Ketchup Stayed the Same?

Back in the 1970s, a guy named Howard Moskowitz did a detailed study of the different types of spaghetti sauce on the market and realized something groundbreaking.

Namely, that there isn’t a perfect spaghetti sauce, nor either one of them is better than the others. Simply put, perfection has a plural nature, and intermarket variability became a thing.

And that works for many things – except for ketchup. Many entrepreneurs – the story of Jim Wigon is told here – have tried displacing Heinz’s regular tomato ketchup from the top, but not one of them has succeeded.

Why?

Moskowitz shrugs: “I guess ketchup is ketchup.”

(Read the full article here)

Blowing Up: How Nassim Taleb Turned the Inevitability of Disaster into an Investment Strategy

Nassim Nicholas Taleb needs no introduction – especially not from the guys who’ve introduced him quite a few times and summarized all of his books.

If you’ve read at least some of them, you already know everything you need to know about this essay, which is more than worth the read, because it reveals the roots of Taleb’s Socratic and crucial discovery: we’ll know more once we admit that we don’t know all the things we say we do.

How times change, though!

Just a year after What the Dog Saw was published, Taleb stopped being a minor genius and grew to become one of the celebrated cited thinkers of our time and age.

Some would say even a lot bigger than the guy who profiles him here.

(Read the full article here)

True Colors: Hair Dye and The Hidden History of Postwar America

True Colors tells the story of two exceptional female copywriters of the 1960s: Shirley Polykoff and Ilon Specht.

The first one, irresistibly vain and flamboyantly brilliant, worked for “Clairol” and came up with the branding slogan “Does she… or doesn’t she?” and the tagline “Hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure.”

After this, the percentage of women who dyed their hair jumped from 7% to 40% in less than two decades!

Ilon Specht worked for a competitor of Clairol, L’Oreal. She came up with the slogan: “I use the most expensive hair color in the world, but I don’t mind spending more for L’Oreal, because I’m worth it!”

As you can see, both women summarized the particular feminist sensibility of the day in memorable epigrammatic phrases.

One of the best articles in the book.

(Read the full article here)

John Rock’s Error: What the Inventor of the Birth Control Pill Didn’t Know About Women’s Health

John Rock was an American gynecologist and obstetrician.

Also, a devout Catholic.

Which makes the title of the article already a bit strange: who would have guessed that it was a Catholic who invented the birth control pill? (Monty Python certainly not.)

Now, what the article deals with the most is a possible, and interesting, side-effect of the pill; namely, the fact that it guarantees 12 periods a year means that Western societies – and especially American women – are more prone to cancer.

It’s a taxing task for the body to be subjected to more than 400 menstrual cycles in the space of 40 years!

“What we think of as normal – frequent menses – is, in evolutionary terms, abnormal,” writes Gladwell.

In other words, women may pay more than what they bargain for when using the pill often.

(Read the full article here)

What the Dog Saw: Cesar Millan and the Movements of Mastery

In case you don’t know him, Cesar Millan is the Mexican-American host of the National Geographic show Dog Whisperer. In this essay, Gladwell tells his story, from his humble beginnings on his grandfather’s farm in Sinaloa – where he was called El Perrero, “the dog boy” – to his present-day successes.

The epiphanic moment in Milan’s life: when he realized that “to succeed in the world he could not be just a dog whisperer. He needed to be a people whisperer.”

And his techniques have done precisely that – because they now help two species communicate better. Gladwell unravels what goes on through Milan’s head while he trains a dog – but also what probably occurs in the dog’s head when it is being trained.

(Read the full article here)

Part 2: Theories, Predictions and Diagnoses

“The second section,” writes Gladwell, “is devoted to theories, to ways of organizing experience. How should we think about homelessness, or financial scandals, or a disaster like the crash of the Challenger?

Well, let’s see!

Open Secrets: Enron, Intelligence and the Perils of Too Much Information

That it’d be possible for people to one day start a sentence with “Enron was…” would have made little to no sense to anyone as late as 2000.

And yet, just a year later, Enron, employer of almost 30,000 people and “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six years in a row, filed for bankruptcy.

You should have already learned a lot about the Enron scandal by now, so why should you read Malcolm Gladwell’s article?

Here’s a great reason:

Because it uses the scandal to unravel one of the paradoxes of our age.

Namely, how it is not lies and secrets, but an abundance of available information that obfuscates the darker sides of the complex organizations in the modern world.

(Read the full article here)

Million-Dollar Murray: Why Problems Like Homelessness May Be Easier to Solve Than to Manage

This article is already a classic.

It follows the daily struggles of Murray Barr, “a bear of a man, an ex-marine, six feet tall and heavyset,” but also a hopeless alcoholic roaming the streets of Reno, Nevada.

His routine?

Getting drunk, falling over, then being taken by police officers to the hospital; when he is released, he starts his routine all over again.

Gladwell’s interest in Barr?

Patrick O’Brien and Steve Johns – the policemen who had spent almost two decades years picking up Murray – realized that Murray’s hospital bill is higher than anyone’s in the country.

O’Brien surprising conclusion: “It costs us one million dollars to not do something about Murray.”

(Read the full article here)

The Picture Problem: Mammography, Air Power, and the Limits of Looking

The Picture Problem – at least if you ask us, the least interesting article of the collection –deals with the extent of the faith we put in images.

You see, we are pretty aware nowadays that we see in many images precisely what we want to see in them; and even though sometimes finding the right info in them is similar to searching for a polar bear in a snowstorm, we believe that we are able to do that.

However, that’s not how the Iraq War started.

(Read the full article here)

Something Borrowed: Should a Charge of Plagiarism Ruin Your life?

This article deals with the play Frozenby Bryony Lavery, first performed in 1998 to great acclaim. In fact, in 2004, the play made it to Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.

However, that very same year, Lavery was accused of plagiarizing some parts of it, taking at least 675 words from the book Guilty by Reason of Insanity by Dorothy Lewis and a, especially, a 1997 article about Lewis written by none other than Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell uses the event to discuss the difference between plagiarizing and borrowing and the copyright laws and its limitations.

(Read the full article here)

Connecting the Dots: The Paradoxes of Intelligence Reform

In Connecting the Dots,Gladwell examines the notoriously secret world of military intelligence and turns it on its head (as he usually does).

His goal?

Figuring out a better and more effective way for intelligence agencies to identify terrorists and terroristic patterns.

And, of course, stop them before its too late.

(Read the full article here)

The Art of Failure: Why Some People Choke and Others Panic

There’s a difference between choking and panicking, says, Gladwell, and it’s a big one.

Namely, choking is a kind of failure which results from thinking too much over matters you’ve previously mastered.

This often happens in sports: no matter how good a player is, sometimes the pressure of a moment overwhelms him, and he suddenly leaves the comfortable world of the unconscious and is suddenly unable to shoot properly.

On the other hand, panicking is a failure which results from the absence of knowledge.

In this case, you’re in a situation you’ve never been before, and you have no idea what to do.

As you can see, there’s a big difference between the two. Gladwell paints it vividly in this essay.

(Read the full article here)

Blowup: Who Can Be Blamed for a Disaster Like the Challenger Explosion? No One, And We’d Better Get Used to It

This essay is about the Challenger disaster, and Malcolm Gladwell offers a fresh pair of eyes to it.

His conclusion is a depressing one: no matter what we do, in some spheres of life, disasters will always happen, simply because there are just too many factors which can contribute to them happening:

What accidents like the Challenger should teach us is that we have constructed a world in which the potential for high-tech catastrophe is embedded in the fabric of day-to-day life. At some point in the future — for the most mundane of reasons, and with the very best of intentions — a NASA spacecraft will again go down in flames.
We should at least admit this to ourselves now. And if we cannot — if the possibility is too much to bear — then our only option is to start thinking about getting rid of things like space shuttles altogether.

(Read the full article here)

Part 3: Personality, Character and Intelligence

“The third section,” writes Gladwell, “wonders about the predictions we make about people. How do we know whether someone is bad, or smart, or capable of doing something really well?”

“As you will see,” he adds, “I’m skeptical about how accurately we can make any of those judgments.”

Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity?

In this article, Gladwell shows that there are two different types of creative geniuses: child prodigies and late bloomers.

He uses Pablo Picasso as a metaphor for the former; and Paul Cézanne as a metaphor for the latter.

But that’s not where the differences stop.

According to Gladwell, the Picassos of the world create impulsively and quickly; the Cézannes slowly and incrementally; the former know what they want to do before they start doing it; the latter experiment with their vision while creating it.

The point?

Well, see the title: both are their own type of geniuses, and it’s wrong to consider only the Picassos of the world.

(Read the full article here)

Most Likely to Succeed: How Do We Hire When We Can’t Tell Who’s Right for The Job?

In this article, Gladwell tries to point many of the problems inherent in the process of predicting job performance and evaluating talent in numerous different spheres.

He mainly focuses on three: financial analysts, teachers, and quarterbacks.

Gladwell’s analysis of the failings of the NFL Draft caused a very energetic debate in the intellectual spheres of the Internet soon after this article was published, mainly because it seemed strange to say that the NFL Draft was fraught with errors.

According to Gladwell (and the Berri/Simmons study he cites), per play, “quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top ten positions.”

Among others, Steven Pinker noted that this “is simply not true.”

It turns out that it is; but, then again, it’s far from simple why and Gladwell may be wrong on this one.

(Read the full article here)

Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy

In “Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy,” Gladwell yet again casts doubt over our capability to predict some future event based on the present.

In this case, he examines the methods and practices of the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the FBI and shows that, in reality, “the whole business is a lot more complicated than the FBI imagines.”

In other words, that, for all those CSI TV shows, psychological profiling has never been empirically proven.

(Read the full article here)

The Talent Myth: Are Smart People Overrated?

To those who read us regularly, the idea that talent is overrated should be nothing new.

In The Talent Myth, Gladwell revisits this idea through the example of Enron, a company which took so much pride in its employees that one of its CEOs once noted: “The only thing that differentiates Enron from our competitors is our people, our talent.”

 “Enron hired and rewarded the very best and the very brightest,” Gladwell writes in this thought-provoking essay, “and now they are in bankruptcy.”

Why?

Let us answer that question with a rhetorical question: “What if Enron failed not in spite of its talent mindset, but because of it? What if smart people are overrated?”

(Read the full article here)

The New-Boy Network: What Do Job Interviews Really Tell Us?

Story-driven – as all Gladwell articles are – The New Boy Network tries to answer the question posited in the subtitle “what do job interviews really tell us?”

Apparently, some of the things they do are not the ones you’d expect them to.

The main reason: something called the Fundamental Attribution Error.

The Fundamental Attribution Error – or FAE, for short – is “the tendency to believe that what people do reflects who they are.”

In job interviews, it means that interviewers believe that interviewees would always behave the way they do during the interview.

This, of course, is not the case: excellent workers are sometimes very nervous during an interview, while excellent rhetoricians may be pretty average workers.

You want to avoid making the FAE?

Instead of informal conversations, use structured three-way interviews.

(Read the full article here)

Troublemakers: What Pit Bulls Can Teach Us About Crime

Breed-specific legislation (BSL) – in case you don’t know – is a law which prohibits the keeping of particular types of dogs.

The reason?

They may be dangerous.

The usual culprit?

Pit bulls.

In this article, Gladwell argues that it’s not that simple; in other words, that any dog can be trained to be evil, and that no dog is genetically predisposed to violence.

If you don’t believe us, just think of Pete the Pup, the dog from The Little Rascals; yup, he was an American Pit Bull terrier.

The simple solution?

Laws should target dog owners and not dogs.

(Read the full article here)

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“What the Dog Saw Quotes”

You don't manage a social wrong. You should be ending it. Click To Tweet What does it say about a society that it devotes more care and patience to the selection of those who handle its money than of those who handle its children? Click To Tweet To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish. Click To Tweet Happiness, in one sense, is a function of how closely our world conforms to the infinite variety of human preference. Click To Tweet There is more courage and heroism in defying the human impulse, in taking the purposeful and painful steps to prepare for the unimaginable. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

What the Dog Saw is Malcolm Gladwell at his best; and that’s basically as good as any modern popularizer of science at his/her best.

But, really, don’t take our word for it.

Check this book out and see for it yourself.

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Chasing the Scream PDF Summary

Chasing the Scream PDF SummaryThe First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

There’s a high chance that everything you know about addiction is wrong.

Why?

Because you have been methodically brainwashed by the so-called War on Drugs.

Chasing the Scream is here to settle the score.

Who Should Read “Chasing the Scream”? And Why?

If you want to find out more about how the War on Drugs started and who, in fact, was behind it, then there are not many books better than Chasing the Scream.

If you don’t have the time, then do yourself a favor and at least watch Hari’s TED Talk.

It will definitely change how you think.

About Johann Hari

Johann HariJohann Hari is a Swiss-born writer and journalist.

A regular columnist for The Independent, he was deemed one of Britain’s most influential leftists before two high-profile scandals in 2011 severely marred his reputation.

First, it was discovered that he had plagiarized some of his sources, and then that he used different accounts to vandalize the Wikipedia articles of some of his criticizers.

However, Hari’s books published since then – Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections – have been widely praised and debated.

 “Chasing the Scream PDF Summary”

Chasing the Scream was published in January 2015, exactly one century after the quiet commencement of the War on Drugs.

Now, War on Drugs – just like War on Poverty or War on Terrorism – is such a universally accepted war that it’s difficult to think what could be wrong with it.

In fact, it almost sounds like something nobody should have anything against. However, Johann Hari was a bit skeptical about that. And if we’ve learned one thing summarizing books here, it’s undoubtedly that it’s always good to be skeptical about things that people accept without thinking twice.

And Johann Hari wanted to think things many times over; in fact, he wrote Chasing the Scream because he didn’t think he could think of a satisfying answer to some quite interesting and vital questions:

Why did the drug war start, and why does it continue? Why can some people use drugs without any problems, while others can’t? What really causes addiction? What happens if you choose a radically different policy?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions either – and, believe us, chances are you don’t – then read ahead!

You’ll be shocked by some of the answers.

“Many of our most basic assumptions about this subject are wrong,” notes Hari. “Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. The drug war is not what our politicians have sold it as for one hundred years and counting.”

Harry Jacob Anslinger

Remember that marvelously comical scene from Dr. Strangelove when General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) tries to convince Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) that water fluoridation is a Communist plot devised to sap Americans from their bodily fluids?

Well, believe it or not, the war on drugs seems to have started in a somewhat similar manner.

Just a century ago, people regularly drank cocaine-infused Coca-Cola and bought medicines which incorporated drugs such as heroin. Hell, you could even buy a tin of heroin from a department store if you were a high-society lady!

However, on December 17, 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was approved in the United States, the first drug controlling regulation in the world. Even though the act made prescribing drugs for the treatment of addiction illegal, it was still legal to distribute cocaine if you were a registered seller well into the 1930s.

And then Harry Anslinger happened to the world.

The guy – a staunch supporter of criminalization and prohibition of drugs – was the first commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics. And he held that position for more than three decades, from August 12, 1930, to May 1962!

Now, Harry seems to have hated a lot both drugs and communists.

And he was so obsessed with them that sometime between the two world wars he made a startling connection which at the start must have been evident to him and to nobody else in the world.

Namely, that communists were smuggling drugs in the United States so as to make Americans addicts and undermine the strength of the United States.

OK, Harry!

We dig ya.

And apparently, that’s precisely what every country in the world said after Anslinger made his case before the UN in the 1950s.

Only without the sarcasm.

The War on Racial Minorities

But why was Anslinger so interested in suppressing drugs? Did he care so much about the American people?

Of course he did.

Only in his mind, the phrase “American people” seems to have had somewhat limited meaning, encompassing everybody but the African-Americans, the Hispanics, the Chinese, the communists, etc.

What we’re trying to tell you is not that the man who banned drugs was a racist; it is that he banned drugs because he was a racist.

In other words, he used drugs as an excuse to put many entirely innocent people – mostly African-Americans – in jail for, say, smoking marijuana.

Here’s how scientific were Anslinger’s claims about drugs:

1. “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
2. “Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy.”
3. “The increase [in drug addiction] is practically one hundred percent among Negro people.”

Think today is in any way different?

Think again:

“More than 50 percent of Americans have breached the drug laws,” remarks Hari. “Where a law is that widely broken, you can’t possibly enforce it against every lawbreaker. The legal system would collapse under the weight of it. So, you go after the people who are least able to resist, to argue back, to appeal—the poorest and most disliked groups. In the United States, they are black and Hispanic people, with a smattering of poor whites.”

The Birth of the Modern Junkie

Have you ever thought about how the junkies of pre-war US looked like?

Probably not.

And even if you did, almost certainly you can’t picture them in any way different from the ones living in your street. Namely, small-time thieves who regularly prostitute themselves for money and who are unable to function in any way whatsoever.

However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Before the Harrison Act and Anslinger’s all too personal war, drugs were cheap enough to allow many drug addicts to live quite normal lives.

However, once drugs were criminalized, their prices went up, and the living standard of drug addicts went severely down.

In fact, the word “junkie” itself may originate from this time (the 1920s) either because early addicts collected and sold scrap metal (junk) to pay for their addiction or because they bought narcotics which suddenly people started referring to as “junk” (not earlier than 1925).

The irony is rather staggering:

It was the War on Drugs which (practically out of nothing) created its enemy: criminal drug gangs; not the other way around.

The War on Drugs Today

In Ghettoside – an excellent book – Jill Leovy points out that “gangs are a consequence of lawlessness, not a cause.”

Well, as we explained above, the exact same thing seems to have happened with drug gangs.

Interestingly enough, it is still happening.

You see, drug dealing is a pretty lucrative, which also means a pretty risky, business. In other words, whether you’re cultivating, transporting or selling some drug, you’re pretty vulnerable to attacks at all stages of production and distribution.

However, if someone steals your drug from you, you can’t complain to the police about it, can you?

So, the lack of government laws – the lawlessness – incites you to implement some laws of your own. In other words, even if you want to merely transport cocaine and do nothing more, there’s a high chance that you’ll be unable to earn money from it unless you have a gun.

Or, better yet, a gang.

And the more gangs they are, the violence between them is more brutal; it is, after all, their only way to solve their problems; anything different means they will all go to prison.

And arresting drug dealers doesn’t help with violence reduction either; on the contrary, stats show that it aggravates things.

Why?

Because it creates a power vacuum.

And someone will almost certainly try to exploit it.

The Solution: Decriminalization

No, Hari is not talking merely about decriminalization of possession; he is talking about decriminalization and legalization of drugs altogether.

Here are some of the benefits we should expect if such a thing ever happens.

Humanization of Addicts

This is probably the most important benefit of them all: the humanization of addicts.

Even though these are human beings with serious problems (read more in the Key Lessons section), according to our present laws, these are criminals.

It is obvious that people who cause pain need discipline; but people in pain need a helping hand.

That’s why the governments of several European countries (Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany) have decided to set up supervised injection sites (SIS). These are centers where addicts can go and have their daily fix in sanitary conditions.

And in 2001, the Portuguese government decriminalized possession of any type of drug up to ten days; interestingly, it was the only European country to report a decline in drug use in the years which followed.

The Reduction of Drug-Related Crimes

As we explained above, legalization of drugs will, in turn, make stealing drugs a crime. This will have an enormously positive effect on the amount of violence among drug-related gangs. Put simply, you don’t need guns to protect yourself when you can call the police to protect you.

Furthermore, legalizing drugs should put in question their very existence. After all, when pharmacies and stores are able to sell drugs, their prices will suddenly go down.

Economic Rewards

Speaking of money, legalizing drugs should be enormously beneficial for the government as well.

Johann Hari has calculated that it should not only save the government about $40 billion dollars (usually spent on arresting and jailing dealers), but it should also earn it at least as much via taxes.

All in all, that’s more than $80 million dollars on a yearly basis!

Key Lessons from “Chasing the Scream”

1.      The War on Drugs Was a Pet Project of an American Racist
2      “The Opposite of Addiction Isn’t Sobriety – It’s Connection.”
3.      Drug Decriminalization and Legalization May Solve a Lot of Problems

The War on Drugs Was a Pet Project of an American Racist

Drugs weren’t illegal before the First World War.

In fact, they weren’t illegal in the sense they are today even during the decade after it.

But, then, Harry J. Anslinger became the first chief of the US Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. And he started an all-out attack War on Drugs.

In fact, he criminalized drugs so that he can settle some scores with the people he hated: African-Americans and communists.

And then he convinced the world to do the same.

“The Opposite of Addiction Isn’t Sobriety – It’s Connection.”

Have you ever wondered why people whose injuries are so severe that their pain must be alleviated with opiates don’t become addicts even if given loads of diamorphine for weeks?

An interesting experiment with rats may explain why.

Namely, if you put a rat in a cage with two bottles – one filled with water, and the other filled with water and heroin – there’s a high chance that the rat will only drink from the heroin-laced bottle until it dies.

However, as Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander realized in the 1970s, if you make that cage a healthy environment (a sort of a Disneyland for rats) and the rat is not alone, then this doesn’t happen.

Hari’s conclusion:

It isn’t the drug that causes the harmful behavior—it’s the environment. An isolated rat will almost always become a junkie. A rat with a good life almost never will, no matter how many drugs you make available to him. As Bruce put it: he was realizing that addiction isn’t a disease. Addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you—it’s the cage you live in.

Drug Decriminalization and Legalization May Solve a Lot of Problems

Above everything else, the decriminalization and legalization of drugs could help transform drug addicts from criminals in need of discipline into human beings in need of a helping hand.

But, in addition, legalizing drugs should also reduce drug-related crimes and earn the government billions of dollars!

So why are we still in a war when everybody should benefit from the peace offer?

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“Chasing the Scream PDF Summary Quotes”

The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection. Click To Tweet

It is a natural human instinct to turn our fears into symbols, and destroy the symbols, in the hope that it will destroy the fear. It is a logic that keeps recurring throughout human history, from the Crusades to the witch hunts to the… Click To Tweet

It took me a while to see that the contrast between the racism directed at Billie and the compassion offered to addicted white stars like Judy Garland was not some weird misfiring of the drug war—it was part of the point. Click To Tweet

Problem drug use is a symptom, not a cause, of personal and social maladjustment. Click To Tweet

Wouldn’t it be better to spend our money on rescuing kids before they become addicts than on jailing them after we have failed? Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Johann Hari’s career may have been marked by difficult-to-explain plagiarizing and sockpuppeting scandals in the past, but he arguably makes amends with Chasing the Scream.

It is, undoubtedly, the high point of his career.

The book is so great that Noam Chomsky called it “wonderful,” Bill Maher “terrific,” Naomi Klein “thrilling” and Stephen Fry “screamingly addictive.”

And do visit its site: it contains recordings of all the interviews inside the book just in case you’re wondering if some of them are plagiarized. (Kudos to rationalwiki.org.)

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12 Rules for Life Summary

12 Rules for Life Summary

An Antidote to Chaos

Ready for a dose of Jordan Peterson?

Even if you’re not – here it comes!

Tight-packed in the form of his 12 Rules for Life.

Who Should Read “12 Rules for Life”? And Why?

There’s probably nobody as famous as Jordan Peterson in the intellectual world nowadays.

Which means that each and every one of his moves is carefully inspected by a host of people – both his two million (and counting) active followers and as many criticizers.

12 Rules for Life, however, is a much lighter and less controversial read than we’ve come to expect from Peterson.

It feels as if it is mainly aimed at teenagers and young people who are trying to find their way in life.

If you are one of them, based on many testimonies,

About Jordan Peterson

Jordan PetersonJordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and cultural critic – quite possibly, “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.”

He studied at the University of Alberta, where he obtained a BA in political science in 1982. After a year off in Europe, he returned to Alberta and received a BA in psychology in 1985.

Six years later, he earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from McGill University where he remained as a post-doctoral fellow for the next two years. He then moved to Harvard University, where he became an associate professor of psychology.

He published his first book, Maps of Meaning, in 1999, two decades before he published 12 Rules for Life.

In the meantime, he became an Internet celebrity, propelled by his argumentation against the Canadian government’s Bill C-16.

Find out more at https://jordanbpeterson.com/

“12 Rules for Life Summary”

As Jordan Peterson explains in the Overture to his 12 Rules of Life, this book grew out of one of his most interesting hobbies.

Namely – answering questions posted on Quora.

Well, one time he tried answering the question “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”

His answer – which then included 40 rules – was, to say the least, quite popular.

As Peterson explains, it “has been viewed by a hundred and twenty thousand people and been upvoted twenty-three hundred times. Only a few hundred of the roughly six hundred thousand questions on Quora have cracked the two-thousand-upvote barrier.”

So, in other words, he had already written this book before he had even started writing it.

To complete it, he just combined some rules and dropped out the redundant ones.

And he came up with the 12 rules for life.

Key Lessons from “12 Rules for Life”

1.      Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back
2.      Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping
3.      Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You
4.      Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today
5.      Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them
6.      Put Your House in Order
7.      Pursue What is Meaningful, Not What is Expedient
8.      Tell the Truth
9.      Assume that the Person You are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t
10.      Be Precise with Your Speech
11.      Leave Children Alone when They are Skateboarding
12.      Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

Rule 1: Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

For his first rule, Jordan Peterson casts a cold look upon the nature and the “society” of the lobsters. But you probably already know this, since it has already been made stupendously famous via his debate with Cathy Newman.

The main reason for the analogy: the basic chemistry of a lobster’s brain is not that different from the chemistry of your brain.

And we know for a fact that, after a fight, “a lobster loser’s brain chemistry differs importantly from that of a lobster winner.” And this is “reflected in their relative postures,” which depend on the serotonin/octopamine ratio: more from the former makes you stand up straight and enthuses you with confidence.

Rings a bell?

It should – if it doesn’t.

Because it basically echoes Amy Cuddy’s exceptionally popular TED Talk: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

Now, the rule makes much more sense: if octopamine makes you slouch when you’re feeling bad, then stand up straight, and the serotonin wills start flowing:

So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.

Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

We live in a scientific, materialistic world and we are pitifully unaware of the fact that there are different ways to understand it.

However, for most of history (back to, say, Newton), humans understood it in a profoundly different way, i.e., via myths. And myths had the power to give their lives some meaning and orientation.

Now, interestingly enough, the fact that we are aware that the universe has no obligation to make sense to us (Neil deGrasse Tyson) makes us cruel to, well, ourselves.

We are capable of inventing meaning even for our dogs and cats – but we are incapable of doing the same for us. And statistics show this: “People are better at filling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves.”

And, as Peterson says, “that’s not good. Even from your pet’s perspective, it’s not good. Your pet (probably) loves you, and would be happier if you took your medication.”

Peterson analyzes the Genesis story in order to find an answer to the question of why we prefer our pets to ourselves. And – after few pages which concentrate on the order/chaos dichotomy – he finds it.

And it is the same Viktor Frankl discovered while going through the Hell of Auschwitz. Namely, the ones who go forward are the ones who have something to go forward to.

He whose life has a why can bear almost any how,” Peterson quotes his favorite philosopher Nietzsche to make his point once again.

How this relates to Peterson’s second rule?

Well, if you believe your life has a Meaning – with a capital M – then you will have to treat yourself as someone who deserves it. And if that’s the case, you will be able to recognize your problems.

And consider them accordingly.

Just like you would your dog’s.

Rule 3: Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You

A highly personal lesson dipped in Jordan Peterson’s childhood experiences.

And as simple and obvious as a lesson can get: “Friendship is a reciprocal arrangement.

Peterson goes on:

You are not morally obliged to support someone who is making the world a worse place. Quite the opposite. You should choose people who want things to be better, not worse. It’s a good thing, not a selfish thing, to choose people who are good for you. It’s appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve.

People who don’t want to improve are not exactly people you want to be around with. By definition, they can’t be helped. They will merely drag you down to their level to make themselves feel better, using you as an object instead of a human being (contra Kant).

If you spend your time around them, you are not helping yourself and, thus, you are not helping the world either.

Because the people who don’t want to improve are the same people who will give a cigarette to a former smoker or beer to a former alcoholic.

They don’t want to make the world a better place by improving; they want to make the world a worse place and, thus, simulate improvement.

To hell with them!

Make friends only with people who want the best for you, people you’d easily recommend to others for

Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today

We’ve told you before that happiness may be a relative category.

In other words, that how you feel at this moment depends not on how close you are to some definitive state of things (i.e., Happiness with a capital H), but on how better off you feel when compared to those around you.

Regardless of the fact that happiness is not precisely Peterson’s cup of tea – it’s a fact that, for millennia, this may have worked for people in one way or another.

Nowadays, it’s all but a recipe for disaster!

Why?

Because, nowadays, you have the media and the Internet continually feeding you with images and news about the best of the very best.

And it’s only sensible to come to terms with a simple fact: no matter how good you are, there will always be someone better than you out there.

Look at it this way: millions of kids are at the moment playing basketball and dreaming of becoming the next LeBron; only a handful or one or even no one will do that!

What does that leave for the rest of the bunch?

Misery.

That’s why Jordan Peterson advises you to introduce a Copernican revolution inside your existence. It’s time to stop being the object revolving around some objects with a stronger mass; it’s time to become the object around which everything else revolves.

In other words: don’t compare yourself to other people; compare yourself with, well, yourself from yesterday. If you’re better than that guy – then you are on the right track!

Rule 5: Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them

Parenting is an art.

And the most artful part about it is learning – and, then, communicating – the rules of it.

It’s only obvious that not everybody can be a good parent. What separates the good from the bad is their capability to guide their children on the road of improvement.

Because children are born into chaos. They learn the rules of life by constantly hitting walls – both literally and metaphorically.

A parent’s job is to organize the metaphorical part of his/her child’s existence in a way which will give it some meaning.

And that, in Peterson’s dictionary, doesn’t mean “happiness.”

After all, a child will always feel a little happier when given a candy; but that doesn’t mean that you should give your child candies all the time.

Your purpose as a parent is to be the superego to your child’s ego: to be the link between the chaos of the child’s world and the order of society.

If a child receives no feedback, then the chaos into which it is born will permeate well into his or her adulthood; and society will punish it, much less mercifully than you.

However, if it receives too much feedback, then the order will limit too much its potential; society will punish that as well.

The lesson here: set clear rules and proper discipline for your children; because if you don’t – society will.

Rule 6: Put Your House in Order

This one of Jordan Peterson’s rules goes back to Voltaire’s Candide.

If you recall, the book ends with a conviction that the only way to counter the evils of this world is by cultivating your own garden. That way, Voltaire believed, you can free yourself of the “three great evils: boredom, vice, and poverty.” And contribute to a better future of everybody.

Jordan Peterson rephrases this thus: put your house in order before you start philosophizing about how we should put the whole world in order.

Don’t blame other people for your own troubles, because, chances are, you haven’t taken advantage of every opportunity coming your way.

“Don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies,” Peterson goes on. “Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule a city? Let your own soul guide you.”

The actionable lesson: “Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong.

Rule 7: Pursue What is Meaningful, Not What is Expedient

Life is suffering.

Many ancient religions and mythologies have tried articulating that in some of the most famous stories we have inherited from our ancestors.

There is basically no way around it: no matter what happens, one day the people you love will inevitably die; and you will as well.

There’s an easy solution to this problem: hedonism. “Pursue pleasure. Follow your impulses. Live for the moment. Do what’s expedient. Lie, cheat, steal, deceive, manipulate—but don’t get caught. In an ultimately meaningless universe, what possible difference could it make?”

However, there’s also a more difficult answer, one which makes much more sense. Namely, if suffering is real – and no one can deny that – and if it is that painful to live with suffering, then certainly the worst thing you can do is cause someone else’s suffering.

And we know this intuitively: even if we don’t know what is good, says Peterson, we certainly know a priori, what is bad.

Well, Meaning – once again, with a capital M – must be doing good; and doing good is the negation of doing bad.

“If the worst sin is the torment of others, merely for the sake of the suffering produced—then the good is whatever is diametrically opposed to that. The good is whatever stops such things from happening.”

(No, that’s not diametrically opposed to tormenting others, Jordan.)

Rule 8: Tell the Truth

This rule is Jordan Peterson’s gospel to the Truth.

Let us quote its most beautiful part:

To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being. Truth builds edifices that can stand a thousand years. Truth feeds and clothes the poor, and makes nations wealthy and safe. Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become a partner, rather than an enemy. Truth makes the past truly past, and makes the best use of the future’s possibilities. Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.

In other words, just like God does at the beginning of John’s Gospel, we too have the power to organize the chaos of the world into something much more tangible.

Lies are only temporary and do service only to those who use them to manipulate. Truths don’t serve anyone per se. They can’t, since they are as they are, regardless of our interests and feelings.

So, they serve the world.

Your duty: “Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.”

Oh, if only it were as easy?

Rule 9: Assume that the Person You are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t

This one’s pretty much self-explanatory.

If you are merely telling somebody something, then the existence of that person is irrelevant. You might as well be talking to yourself in the mirror.

The problem?

You’ll never get anywhere with that kind of attitude.

For a simple reason: you are sabotaging your own improvement. There’s no way you know as much as you think you do – no matter who you are.

So, why don’t you start learning something from those around you?

Instead of a talker, become a listener; you’ll do your talking later; in the meantime – you may actually learn something.

And this reminds us of one of our favorite movie scenes.

Watch it straight away.

And don’t be a marketing rep; be a human!

Rule 10: Be Precise with Your Speech

Ah, good ol’ Wittgenstein!

If you talk about something you don’t understand, then you are contributing to the Chaos which engulfs the world.

You must, in fact, confront it!

Precision and specificity – just like truth – turn the Chaos into something treatable.

If you don’t know the specific destination you want to reach, there’s no way you’ll ever reach it. And being ambiguous about something is not much different from providing a wrong map for someone and telling him/her that following it will lead him/her to the right location.

Naturally, that will never happen.

Rule 11: Leave Children Alone when They are Skateboarding

Look aide, lefties: this is the part you are definitely not going to like at all!

It starts quite innocently: modern parenting is overprotective. And it is: called helicopter parenting, it risks raising children who are not prepared for life, but protected from it.

So far, so good.

However, according to Jordan Peterson, there’s a difference in what overparenting means for boys and what it means for girls.

Why?

Because boys and girls are different; and because, if not for overparenting, they would develop their sexual differences even more visibly.

So, let them do!

Why should we feminize boys and masculinize girls – when their differences are so natural? After all, “if they’re healthy,” says Peterson, “women don’t want boys. They want men.”

Now, correct us if we’re wrong, but isn’t this somewhat contradictory to Rule 5? We know people who would be ashamed of hearing their sons got expelled from school

How do you know when to put your foot down?

Or is it, unfortunately, not as apparent as Peterson proclaims it to be?

Rule 12: Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

So, all in all, suffering is an inescapable part of life.

There are two paths you go from here: either you are going to blame the universe, or take the sins of the world upon yourself.

If the former, you are never going to be happy; you’ll become resentful and bitter and a pain to be around with.

If the latter, there are, once again, two paths to choose from: either you are going to be smashed by the burden, or you are going to stand up straight and carry it.

And the best way to deal with your burden: to pet a cat when you encounter one. That is – to enjoy the little beautiful and good things happening all the time around you:

If you pay careful attention, even on a bad day, you may be fortunate enough to be confronted with small opportunities of just that sort. Maybe you will see a little girl dancing on the street because she is all dressed up in a ballet costume. Maybe you will have a particularly good cup of coffee in a café that cares about their customers. Maybe you can steal ten or twenty minutes to do some little ridiculous thing that distracts you or reminds you that you can laugh at the absurdity of existence.

Peterson’s way of dealing with suffering: watching a “Simpsons” episode at 1.5 times regular speed – “all the laughs; two-thirds the time.”

We promise we’ll try that.

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“12 Rules for Life Quotes”

It took untold generations to get you where you are. A little gratitude might be in order. If you're going to insist on bending the world to your way, you better have your reasons. Click To Tweet

You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself. Click To Tweet

’No tree can grow to Heaven,’ adds the ever-terrifying Carl Gustav Jung, psychoanalyst extraordinaire, ‘unless its roots reach down to Hell.’ Click To Tweet

Ideologies are substitutes for true knowledge, and ideologues are always dangerous when they come to power, because a simple-minded I-know-it-all approach is no match for the complexity of existence. Click To Tweet

So, listen, to yourself and to those with whom you are speaking. Your wisdom then consists not of the knowledge you already have, but the continual search for knowledge, which is the highest form of wisdom. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life will, undoubtedly, help some; it will also, undoubtedly, irk others.

In our opinion, there’s plenty in the book to justify the behavior of each of these two parties.

Because, unfortunately, as much as Peterson is trying to convince the world in the opposite, language is not precise.

And he’s not exactly telling the truth when he’s saying that his words have only one interpretation.

They have many.

Fortunately, some are encouraging and uplifting.

So read the book because of them.

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Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers PDF Summary

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers PDFThe Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping

This is not just another book about stress.

In fact, it’s probably the only one you should read.

Since it’s written by a renowned scientist and a brilliant science writer and since it will not only expose many of the other stress-related books as fakes, but it will also offer you science-backed tips on how to control your stress levels.

And since, let’s face it, there’s not another book on the market which actually explains “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”

Who Should Read “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”? And Why?

Even if it certainly looks that way – trust us – we didn’t oversell “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” in the introduction above.

So, if you feel under a lot of stress and want to understand its origins and learn a few coping mechanisms – this is the book we recommend.

It’s a book we most warmly recommend to anyone who is even remotely curious about human behavioral biology and the inner workings of the human’s body.

About Robert Sapolsky

Robert SapolskyRobert M. Sapolsky is an American neuroendocrinologist, a professor of biology and a widely revered science writer.

Born in 1957 in Brooklyn, New York to Soviet immigrants (hence the surname), Sapolsky obtained a Ph.D. in neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University, after spending some time in Kenya to study the social behavior of baboons and a few years more working in the lab of noted endocrinologist Bruce McEwan.

Dubbed “one of the best science writers of our time” by none other than Oliver Sacks, Sapolsky has authored seven bestselling books, including “The Trouble with Testosterone,” “A Primate Memoir,” and “Behave.”

He is currently the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor at Stanford University

“Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers PDF Summary”

All animals – humans notwithstanding – possess basically the same stress-response mechanism, grounded in something aptly called the “fight-or-flight syndrome.”

“Aptly” because we practically don’t need to explain it: when in the presence of great physical danger, your only two choices are to either fight back or flee.

Now, if you are a lion attacked by another lion, there’s a good chance that you’ll try not to be a coward; however, if you are a zebra and you happen to notice a lion lurking in your vicinity, well, you better run!

Strangely enough, as far as the biology of the response is concerned, it matters not whether you fight back or flee: in either case, vast amounts of energy are delivered to your muscles, so that you are able to fight or run away.

If you want the response of your body broken down a bit, here’s an explanation of what the fight-or-flight syndrome actually does inside you!

First, your liver and your fat cells release glucose, fats, and simple proteins, and feed the muscles you’re going to need the most during the next few minutes; so, if you are a zebra, you suddenly get super leg muscles!

At the same time, your blood pressure, your breathing rate and your heart rate increase dramatically in an attempt to acquire and send more nutrients and oxygen throughout your body.

Chances are you’re not going to eat anything or have sex with someone while a lion is chasing you down the African savannah, so – in an attempt to conserve all the energy it possibly can – your body shuts down both your digestive and reproductive functions.

What happens next is the most interesting part if you have that misfortune of being a human: the minute the danger passes, the stress-response mechanisms shut down, and everything’s suddenly back to normal, regardless of the fact that you had been in a life-or-death situation just a few moments ago.

And why is this interesting?

Well, because, as Sapolsky notes, even though “zebras and lions may see trouble coming in the next minute and mobilize a stress-response” they “can’t get stressed about events far in the future.”

So, in a way, their fight-or-flight apparatus is finely tuned to their ways of life.

Because as great as it is to have super legs when you’re running for your life, it’s all but pointless to keep having them – and have problems eating and reproducing – even when you’re trying to calmly lie down or graze in the savannah!

And because:

Sustained or repeated stress can disrupt our bodies in seemingly endless ways… Many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can be either caused or made far worse by stress.

That’s where we, the humans, come in.

You see, we have – fortunately – developed the very same mechanisms to cope with danger, but we have – unfortunately? – developed a highly complex brain as well!

The result?

We get stressed by a job interview or the taxes, by a tight deadline or an expected visit from our parents – the same way a zebra does when attacked by a lion; and, what’s even worse, we do that not in the immediate presence of this danger, but way in advance of it!

So, basically, we have mastered the art of wasting our body’s energy on the wrong places and at the wrong time while leaving some other parts of us completely bereaved of energy when they need it the most.

Let’s go back to our example with the zebra.

If the stress-response mechanism causes its digestion and reproductive functions to shut down, what do you think it will happen to it if this fight-or-flight syndrome grows into something of a chronic nature?

You’ve guessed it: serious, serious problems!

Now you probably get why zebras can’t get stress-induced ulcers and why men regularly get them!

And you finally understand why you had problems maintaining your erection that night before the interview for that coveted job.

Key Lessons from “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”

1.      Stress-Response Mechanism = Fight-or-Flight Syndrome
2.      How to Treat Stress: Few Practical Bits of Advice
3.      Stress Is Bad… But Let’s Not Stress Out Over It

Stress-Response Mechanism = Fight-or-Flight Syndrome

Humans and animals share the same fight-or-flight mechanism.

In a nutshell, this means that in the presence of great physical danger, our bodies react in much the similar manner: they release vast amounts of energy and direct it to the most important centers at the moment to prepare us to either fight back or flee.

This is basically what stress is.

However, humans react in much the same way even in the absence of danger, namely, even if merely thinking about it.

And that’s very bad.

How to Treat Stress: Few Practical Bits of Advice

Stress can be reduced – but it’s impossible to eliminate it altogether.

There are no magical cures for it, but there are a few things that seem to help:

#1. Exercise: self-explanatory; demonstrated to reduce stress in numerous studies.
#2. Socialization: the more time you spend with friendly people – the right people – the less time your body will think that it needs to fight someone or flee from somebody else.
#3. Predictability: as we explained above, only humans can stress over future events; which is especially dreadful, since sometimes these events don’t happen at all; so, try to establish predictability when you can so that you can prepare your body in advance.
#4. The 80/20 Rule: Be aware that the first 20% of your efforts should reduce about 80% of your stress.
#5. Find an outlet: find something that gets you back to normal; it can be anything depending on the person; in our case, is playing or watching soccer.
#6. Serenity now: OK, that didn’t work that well for Frank Costanza! But something similar worked more than perfect for both the Stoics and the numerous people who know the Serenity Prayer by heart.

Stress Is Bad… But Let’s Not Stress Out Over It

There is a strong relationship between stress and some illnesses and a moderate one in the case of some other diseases.

However, stress is almost always just a part of the equation.

So, please stop giving money to people who say otherwise:

Everything bad in human health now is not caused by stress, nor is it in our power to cure ourselves of all our worst medical nightmares merely by reducing stress and thinking healthy thoughts full of courage and spirit and love. Would it were so. And shame on those who would profit from selling this view.

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“Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Quotes”

Sustained or repeated stress can disrupt our bodies in seemingly endless ways. Click To Tweet

What goes on in your head can affect how well your immune system functions. Click To Tweet

Many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can be either caused or made far worse by stress. Click To Tweet

If you’re running 26 miles in a day, you’re either very intent on eating someone or someone’s very intent on eating you. Click To Tweet

Hope for the best and let that dominate most of your emotions, but at the same time let one small piece of you prepare for the worst. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

We absolutely adore Robert M. Sapolsky!

So, it’s kind of difficult for us to be objective about any of his books.

We won’t be about this one either: already in its third edition, this is far and away the best book on stress out there!

Sapolsky knows his stuff, and he has a way with both words and images. So, there’s not only plenty you’ll find enjoyable here – but there’s also plenty you’ll never forget.

10/10!

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I Contain Multitudes PDF Summary

I Contain Multitudes PDFThe Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

I Contain Multitudes” is a verse written by Walt Whitman, used, obviously, in a strictly metaphorical sense.

Well, Ed Yong borrows it to talk about something much more literal.

Of course it’s a book about microbes!

Who Should Read “I Contain Multitudes”? And Why?

“I Contain Multitudes” is a book about the microbes which live inside your body, which means that it’s basically a book about you.

Merely glancing through it, you’ll be surprised by the sheer number of things you don’t know about yourself – let alone by the fact that cleanliness was not exactly next to godliness!

So, germaphobes, gastronomes, and geeks – please, be Ed Yong’s guests!

About Ed Yong

Ed YongEdmund Soon-Weng Yong – more popularly known as Ed Yong – is a British science journalist and beloved popularizer of science.

After receiving a Master of Arts degree in Natural Science (Zoology) from the University of Cambridge, Yong was awarded an MPhil from the University College London for his thesis on the human resolvase in 2005.

Ed Yong is a permanent staff member of “The Atlantic,” and his work has appeared in numerous magazines; his blog – Not Exactly Rocket Science – is published as part of the “National Geographic” blog network.

Critically acclaimed and popularly well-received, “I Contain Multitudes” is his first book.

“I Contain Multitudes PDF Summary”

Animals might be evolution’s icing,” paleontologist Andrew Knoll once said, “but bacteria are really the cake.

And what a cake they are, ha?

But, that description is straight to the point in more senses than one!

Consider it first chronologically: microbes are here for almost the same amount of time as the Earth itself! Being single-celled, microbes are naturally the first forms of life to have ever developed, about 3 to 4 billion years ago!

To put that into perspective, the Earth is barely half a billion years older; modern humans, on the other hand, appeared about 300,000 years ago.

Which, in other words, means that if we think of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years of existence as if one calendar year, then homo sapiens appeared about 30 minutes ago, and microbes have been around ever since March!

Interestingly enough, even though microbes and humans have spent such a small amount of time together, they’ve managed to build a quite flawless type of interaction!

What do we mean by that?

Simply this: out of the 69 trillion cells in your body, 39 trillion are microbial. In other words, about 57% of you is microbes!

And if you think that’s one of those yuck-kind of facts, consider this: your health has depended on each and every one of those 39 trillion microbes ever since you were born!

You may not know what B. infantis is, and it’s certainly of no help to you if we tell you that you can read more about in the Wikipedia article titled Bifidobacterium longum.  

However – who would have thought? – unless that B. infantis bacterium planted itself firmly in the gastrointestinal tract of the baby you, your earliest food intake would have been a lot less nutrient!

Because, you see, even though breast milk contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), babies can’t digest them.

And that’s where B. infantis comes to the rescue, processing HMOs and turning them into digestible proteins. Some of these proteins are anti-inflammatory, which means that they assume a role in our immune system afterward!

Speaking of the immune system – did you know that it is actually microbes which calibrate it?

Let’s pause to note how peculiar this all is. The traditional view of the immune system is full of military metaphors and antagonistic lingo. We see it as a defense force that discriminates self (our own cells) from non-self (microbes and everything else), and eradicates the latter. But now we see that microbes craft and tune our immune system in the first place!

In other words, children should be exposed to dirt and dust in their early age, because that’s the only way the organism can adjust its internal “immunostat,” i.e., the thermostat-like functioning immune system.

In case your “immunostat” has been exposed to too few microbes in your childhood years, then it may end up being a bit jumpy later, overreacting to even the smallest of threats like pollen. Hence, serious allergic reactions!

So, you need to balance your alliances with microbes the best way possible.

Because strictly speaking, there aren’t good or bad microbes by themselves – but there are good or bad environments for different kinds of microbes.

A killer in one environment, a microbe may become a rescuer in another. And thanks to science – now we know enough about some of these microbes to use them to our benefit.

Check our “Key Lessons” section for some other interesting microbes-related trivia!

Key Lessons from “I Contain Multitudes”

1.      Microbes Created the Earth’s Atmosphere
2.      Superpowers Due to Microbe/Animals Symbiosis
3.      Microbes, the Puppet Masters

Microbes Created the Earth’s Atmosphere

A million microbes can fit on the head of a single pin!

However, even though they are that small, this doesn’t mean that they are insignificant as well. On the contrary: more or less, they are the reason why we are able to exist on this planet.

You see, microbes were the first organisms who taught themselves to photosynthesize, that is, use the power of the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugar.

The latter they used to feed themselves and go on evolving; the former created an atmosphere suitable for the life of more complex organisms.

Superpowers Due to Microbe/Animals Symbiosis

Some microbes have superpowers by themselves, being extremophiles capable of surviving in the most extreme environments.

However, a much more interesting case is when certain microbes and animals form symbioses which provide the single-celled organisms with food and the larger animals with a superpower.

Consider, for example, the bobtail squid. This animal lives in a symbiotic relationship with Aliivibrio fischeri, bioluminescent bacteria which inhabits the special light organ in the squid’s mantle.

The bobtail squid feeds the bacteria sugar and acid and, in return, the bacteria produce light which matches the amount of light hitting the top of the mantle. You’ve guessed it: this makes the squid practically invisible for anyone below it!

Microbes, the Puppet Masters

Our darkest fiction is full of Orwellian dystopias, shadowy cabals, and mind-controlling supervillains,” writes Edward Yong. “But it turns out that the brainless, microscopic, single-celled organisms that live inside us have been pulling on our strings all along.

That’s right: the microbes in your body are capable of controlling your brain from time to time! However, so as to save you a nightmare or two, we’ve opted for an example from, ahem, the much less nightmarish world of microbes and rodents:

The brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii is another puppet master. It can only sexually reproduce in a cat; if it gets into a rat, it suppresses the rodent’s natural fear of cat odors and replaces it with something more like sexual attraction. The rodent scurries towards nearby cats, with fatal results, and T. gondii gets to complete its life cycle.

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“I Contain Multitudes Quotes”

All zoology is really ecology. We cannot fully understand the lives of animals without understanding our microbes and our symbioses with them. Click To Tweet

Your right hand shares just a sixth of its microbial species with your left hand. Click To Tweet

Within 24 hours of moving into a new place we overwrite it with our own microbes, turning it into a reflection of ourselves. Click To Tweet

Much of modern medicine is built upon the foundations that antibiotics provide, and those foundations are now crumbling. Click To Tweet

So, here’s the irony: toilets that are cleaned too often are more likely to be covered in faecal bacteria. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

In a million tiny ways,” – states its blurb – “’I Contain Multitudes’ will radically change how you think about the natural world, and how you see yourself.

We know that many blurbs state unsubstantiated claims such as this, but in the case of Ed Yong’s marvel of a book, this is more than true! God knows how many new things we learned from it, and how many of these things will effectively change the way we act and behave in the future!

Bill Gates more than shares our opinion, calling the book “super-interesting” and describing it as “science journalism at its best.”

It really is.

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The Hero with a Thousand Faces PDF Summary

The Hero with a Thousand Faces PDFQuick: what do Osiris, Prometheus, Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Frodo and Harry Potter have in common?

Answer: Everything.

They are all variants of the same story.

Joseph Campbell has all the details.

And he shares them under a beautiful and fairly suggestive title: “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Who Should Read “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”? And Why?

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” combines Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of mythology with Jungian psychology in a way which makes both of them not just comprehensible, but also irresistibly alluring.

However, even more than people involved or attracted by either discipline, the book should interest novelists and screenwriters, since Campbell breaks down the universal myth of the hero in a way which makes his scheme usable as the background for almost any work of art.

Don’t believe us?

George Lucas used Campbell’s scheme to write “Star Wars.”

About Joseph Campbell

Joseph CampbellJoseph Campbell was an American mythologist and author.

Born in New York City in 1904, he was educated at Columbia University in medieval literature, before continuing his studies in Europe, Paris, and Munich specifically.

Here, influenced by the work of Freud and Jung, the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and the literary works of James Joyce and Thomas Mann, Campbell developed an interest to pursue the study of Sanskrit and Modern Art, something which his alma mater rejected.

Even though this meant that he would never obtain a Ph.D., in 1934, he became a Professor of Literature at Sarah Lawrence College, a position which he held for the next 38 years, until 1972.

He died fifteen years later, just a few months after completing the widely revered series of interviews with Bill Moyers, “The Power of Myth.”

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces PDF Summary”

The basic premise of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is remarkably simple: every important myth you can think of shares the same fundamental structure.

And the reason why this shouldn’t strike anybody as odd or fascinating is even simpler: myths are manifestations of humanity’s deepest (and, thus, usually unconscious) urges and needs, fears and desires.

And since humans everywhere share the same psychology, the myths of many cultures through many different times must be the same as well.

Of course, it’s easy to say such a thing and much more difficult to prove it.

Hence, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” which not only lays out the structure of the monomyth (in its first part) and the cosmogonic cycle (in its second part) but also offers hundreds of different examples from hundreds of different cultures as evidence to back the scheme.

Since the first part is the much more interesting and influential part of the book – borrowed from Joyce, “monomyth” is Campbell’s term for the underlying scheme of the hero’s adventure – we’ll leave the cosmogonic cycle out of our discussion for now, and, hopefully, extend our summary in the recent future.

Let’s begin with Campbell’s summary of the basic structure of the hero’s journey:

The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.

These – the taking off, the adventures, and the returning – are the three main stages of the hero’s journey, and Campbell dedicates a chapter to each; each of these chapters is further divided into several sections outlining different phases of that respective stage.

Nicely illustrated, the hero’s cycle looks like this:

The Hero with a Thousand Faces Summary

Of course, not all heroes pass through all stages (in fact, a hero rarely does), but there is basically no myth of a hero which includes an episode that won’t fit into Campbell’s beautiful scheme.

Here’s what it says, broken down, section by section:

#1. DEPARTURE

A hero’s journey starts with a call to adventure: the hero is summoned by someone to venture from his normal world into the world of the unknown for one of many different reasons.

Sometimes, this call is just too strange or dangerous or ethically problematic, so the hero refuses the call. However, after some hesitation and in the presence of just enough evidence (say, Hamlet seeing the Ghost of his Father), the hero eventually agrees.

Once he/she embarks on the adventure, his supernatural aid – the mentor – appears or becomes known to him.

With the help of his aid’s advices or magical talismans, the hero is able to cross the first threshold and finally enter the unknown, the field where the laws of the normal world don’t apply anymore (aka: “that creature was actually a vampire!”)

A minor setback or danger may appear at this stage, such as Jonah – or Geppetto – ending up in the belly of the whale.

OK – not that minor in real-life terms.

#2. INITIATION

But that’s when the real adventure commences!

The Hero is now in a world of “monsters,” treading the road of trials. After several heroic endeavors, he encounters the goddess or the temptress – either way, the woman who will make or break him (remember Gilgamesh?)

Now, comes the center point of the journey: the hero meets the person/figure which holds the ultimate power over his identity or life. Campbell calls this stage the atonement with the father which means that if you had known the contents of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and taken it literally before watching “Star Wars,” you would have guessed one of the most famous twists in cinematic history!

Apotheosis is an Ancient Greek word meaning deification, which makes this stage self-explanatory.

The ultimate boon is the goal of the quest: the thing due to which the hero’s journey started in the first place. It can be the Holy Grail or the elixir of life – or just some type of knowledge. But once the hero obtains it, the journey is complete.

Time for coming back.

#3. RETURN

Sometimes, however, the hero may refuse to return: the grass is greener on the other side for me, he thinks, so who cares about the people awaiting the boon.

And sometimes, returning from a journey may be just as difficult as going on one: so, at this stage, the hero must perform the magic flight.

If it doesn’t go well – say, he is wounded or weakened – he may need to be rescued from without by a supernatural aid, a beloved person, or a completely unassuming figure.

Next follows the crossing of the return threshold after which the hero usually shares his boon with his original community.

Now, he is the master of two worlds, both his brutal physical force and his inner spiritual understanding of what it means to live in a human society.

In some cases, he makes one more step upward, achieving the freedom to live by the total annihilation of his former fear of death.

Key Lessons from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”

1.      All Heroes are the Same
2.      The Basic Structure of the Monomyth
3.      Why All of This Matters

All Heroes are the Same

The main thesis of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is there in the book’s title: Osiris and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are all just different manifestation of the same character, the Archetypal Hero.

The Basic Structure of the Monomyth

The universal pattern of the hero’s journey – the monomyth – can be summarized, in Campbell’s words, thus:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Why All of This Matters

Because, to quote Campbell, even though “there are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind,” once the similarities are understood, “the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly (and politically) supposed.”

Campbell’s hope?

Unification in the sense of mutual human understanding.

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“The Hero with a Thousand Faces Quotes”

Regrets are illuminations come too late. Click To Tweet

Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required. Click To Tweet

Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. Click To Tweet

Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. Click To Tweet

Perhaps some of us have to go through dark and devious ways before we can find the river of peace or the high road to the soul's destination. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Soon after the release of the first “Star Wars” film in 1977, George Lucas stated that his script was influenced in large part by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Since then, numerous different authors have used the same recipe to recreate the story of the hero, in more than one way, in more than one medium.

“Indiana Jones,” and “The Matrix,” “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Lion King,” “Community” and “Lost” – they all owe their structure to Campbell’s monomyth.

Just a few reasons to consider “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” one of the best nonfiction books of all time!

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Feeling Good PDF Summary

Feeling Good PDF SummaryThe New Mood Therapy: The Clinically Proven Drug-Free Treatment for Depression

If you suffer from some mild form of depression – or even anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse – “Feeling Good” can help you possibly even more than medications.

But even if you suffer from major depressive disorder, please read this book and use its suggestions in combination with your medications.

It does help.

Who Should Read “Feeling Good”? And Why?

According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people around the world suffer from depression. In more comprehensible terms, that is almost equal to the whole population of the United States, and it amounts to about 1 in every 25 people!

If you are one of them, “Feeling Good” is certainly a book that should be on your radar. It’s the book which basically introduced the world to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), according to Wikipedia, “the most widely used evidence-based practice at improving mental health.”

Which means that Burns’ subtitle is not an exaggeration.

We certainly hope the same will prove true in your case as well.

About David D. Burns

David D. BurnsDavid D. Burns is an adjunct professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

He is primarily known as the popularizer of Aaron T. Beck’s cognitive behavioral therapy through his “Feeling Good” bestselling series of books.

Burns is the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

“Feeling Good PDF Summary”

About half a century ago, David D. Burns received an M.D. from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Three years later, he went to the University of Pennsylvania to start his training as a psychiatric resident.

Fortunately for him, a guy named Aaron T. Beck, now regarded as “the father of cognitive therapy,” was doing his pioneering work in the field during these very years.

Contrary to what Freud and most psychoanalytic approaches taught at that time, Beck was all but certain that depression wasn’t an emotional state, but a cognitive problem.

He devised this theory by working closely with depressed people and realizing that most of them had actually a lot of friends and had managed to achieve a lot in life but were still stuck in an emotional prison which made them feel as “losers” and “loved-by-no-one” outcasts.

Now, how could that be? – Beck thought.

Or, to rephrase that, if an emotion is an uncontrollable natural reaction to an external event, then why are some people so unhappy even though, rationally examined, the events which trigger this unhappiness are, at worst, agreeable?

His answer: because thoughts predate – and, even more, create – feelings.

And that’s the first of the three principles of cognitive behavioral therapy:

#1. To formulate it once again, this time in the words of Burns, “all your moods are created by your ‘cognitions,’ or thoughts.”
#2. Consequently, depression is nothing more but the result of negative thinking, i.e., “when you are feeling depressed, your thoughts are dominated by a pervasive negativity.”
#3. Your negative thoughts function the same way the mirrors in amusement parks do: “negative thoughts which cause your emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortions.”

To sum up – no matter how naïve it may sound:

Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking.

Now, since feelings, in turn, influence your thoughts, depression is actually the result of a wicked Catch-22: the worse you feel, the more grotesque and misleading your thoughts are, which creates even more depressing and dispiriting feelings.

Fortunately, there is a way out?

So, “what is the key to releasing yourself from your emotional prison?”

Simply this: Your thoughts create your emotions; therefore, your emotions cannot prove that your thoughts are accurate. Unpleasant feelings merely indicate that you are thinking something negative and believing it. Your emotions follow your thoughts just as surely as baby ducks follow their mother.

In simpler words, according to cognitive behavioral therapists, depression is not an emotional disorder, but a thinking problem.

And can be solved by challenging the suffering person’s negative thoughts, i.e., cognitive distortions.

Burns lists eleven of them:

#1. All-or-Nothing Thinking. Technically known as “dichotomous thinking,” all-or-nothing thinking is when you portray yourself in black-or-white terms. It’s obviously not true that it’s worthless if it’s not perfect.

#2. Overgeneralization. If something happened to you once, it doesn’t mean it will happen to you again. And even if it happened to you twice, the third time may be the charm!

#3. Mental Filter. Also known as “selective abstraction,” mental filtering means being unhappy because of that lost point on your exam even though you got an A. Really?!

#4. Disqualifying the Positive. Nothing good ever happens to you? How about the fact that your boyfriend kissed you lovingly this morning, or that you were promoted just a week ago! All of that matters!

#5. Jumping to Conclusions. This can come in at least two different forms: as mind-reading (“I know she doesn’t like me…”) or fortune telling (“I can feel something’s bad about to happen!”)

#6. Magnification. This is when you start worrying about your lifetime reputation because everyone saw you spilled your coffee on your shirt this morning. Also known as – somewhat unscientifically, but quite fittingly – “catastrophizing.”

#7. Minimization. Ah, the other side of the “binocular trick”: shrinking things until they become insignificant, be they other people’s imperfections or your own qualities.

#8. Emotional Reasoning. Your emotions are not true; if they were, then how would you explain the fact that you wanted to smack your sister on the head with a frying pan that time she invaded the privacy of your room? Consequently, if you feel like a dud, that doesn’t mean you are a dud.

#9. Should Statements. This is when you try to improperly motivate yourself by saying “I should do this” or “I must do this.”

#10. (Mis)Labeling. “Personal labeling,” writes Burns, “means creating a completely negative self-image based on your errors. Mislabeling involves describing an event with words that are inaccurate and emotionally heavily loaded.”

#11. Personalization. Personalization means assuming personal responsibility for an event contrary to the evidence. Burns calls this distortion “the mother of guilt.”

If you want to learn more about cognitive distortions, read here.

And then start doing something about them!

Key Lessons from “Feeling Good”

1.      Your Feelings Are Actually Mirroring Your Thoughts
2.      The Three Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
3.      The Real Founder of CBT: Epictetus

Your Feelings Are Actually Mirroring Your Thoughts

Most people think that they should believe their gut.

In other words, that if their feelings tell them that something is true – this guy is bad, that girl is the love of my life – it is inevitably true.

The problem?

Feelings are not merely transitory, but they are also just a reflection of your thoughts.

Consequently, almost all of your bad feelings are actually negative thoughts.

The Three Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based practice for improving your mental health, is based on three principles first developed by Aaron T. Beck:

#1. Our emotions are created by our thoughts; how you are feeling at the moment is actually the same as what you are currently thinking about;
#2. Depression is an emotional prison created by constant negative thoughts;
#3. The majority of our negative thoughts are not true, i.e., they are cognitive distortions.

The Real Founder of CBT: Epictetus

As Burns points out, CBT is actually as old as philosophy, since it shares some of its beliefs with Stoicism.

In other words, thinkers as ancient as Epictetus realized that our happiness doesn’t depend on the external events themselves, but on the way we decide to feel about them.

So, if you are feeling depressed, find some solace in Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” or Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life.”

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“Feeling Good Quotes”

Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking. Click To Tweet

Your thoughts create your emotions; therefore, your emotions cannot prove that your thoughts are accurate. Click To Tweet

Your feelings result from the meaning you give to the event, not from the event itself. Click To Tweet

Every time you feel depressed about something, try to identify a corresponding negative thought you had just prior to and during the depression. Click To Tweet

By learning to restructure (your negative thoughts), you can change your mood. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

When a book is written with an objective to help you, the only question that really matters is “does it in practice?”

A 1989 article says it does. And a 2005 study published in the “British Journal of General Practice” confirms this.

It’s something scientists call “bibliotherapy” and we strongly advise you to try it by reading this very book.

At worst, it has no side-effects.

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The Fabric of the Cosmos PDF Summary

The Fabric of the Cosmos PDFHow many times have you encountered upon a book whose subtitle or blurb claims that everything you know about something – success, economics, the world – is altogether wrong?

Chances are: too many to remember them all!

Well, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” doesn’t need a subtitle or a blurb with such a claim (though it does have the later).

But we guarantee you that’s what you’ll be saying to the many people to whom you’ll give this book as a gift.

In other words: prepare to be shaken to your very core!

Who Should Read “The Fabric of the Cosmos”? And Why?

You may be one of the many people believing that physics is not about everybody and that only those who understand equations should dabble with it.

“The Fabric of the Cosmos,” however, is so abundant with perfect analogies and appropriate metaphors that, in addition to being “a must-read for the huge constituency of lay readers enticed by the mysteries of cosmology,” it should also be a comprehensible read for almost anyone.

Be warned, though:

If you have come here without at least some average understanding of physics, then your whole worldview is about to be radically altered.

Bear in mind that very few things in this book are scientific speculations (and, obviously, they all come with an appropriate footnote).

Most of it is cutting-edge science.

And it’s thought-provoking and, well, breathtaking!

Brian GreeneAbout Brian Greene

Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist, dubbed by “The Times” as “the new Hawking, only better.”

After graduating from Harvard University in 1980, Greene earned a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar seven years later. Ever since 1996, he has been a professor at Columbia University.

Published in 1999, his first book, “The Elegant Universe,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize nonfiction and earned a Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

“The Fabric of the Cosmos” appeared five years later, followed by the children’s book “Icarus at the Edge of Time” (2008) and “The Hidden Reality” (2011).

“The Fabric of the Cosmos PDF Summary”

“The Fabric of the Cosmos” is a gargantuan 5-part 600 pages’ long exposition on the nature of the Universe and some of its most eluding secrets.

So, don’t expect a summary which will do the book enough justice.

We’ll just take a brief look at two of the concepts Greene explores – space and time – and tell you why this very sentence is wrong.

On the flip-side, just like Greene’s previous book (“The Elegant Universe”), NOVA adapted “The Fabric of the Cosmos” into a 4-part documentary series hosted by Greene himself.

As you can see from the full playlist, Greene discusses a few more things:

You may know Sir Isaac Newton as the guy who robbed God of his job when he rendered all motion comprehensible and predictable through his laws of motion.

However, that wasn’t the only thing Newton did.

Among the many other, he also initiated the great debate on the nature of space and time.

In Newton’s opinion, space and time were basically axioms, things which exist in and of themselves as absolutes, “without reference to anything external.”

Newton’s life-long archrival, German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, couldn’t disagree more: “space” and “time,” in his opinion, were no more than language tricks, just convenient words to talk about ordering and positioning.

In other words, according to Leibniz, space and time are relational categories, and we can’t think of them in the absence of objects.

It would be as if we’re talking about an alphabet without letters!

Both parties traded blows, but then, in 1689 Newton delivered the most damaging one: the water bucket argument.

The argument is relatively simple: take a bucket filled with water and hung it by a cord. Then twist the cord tightly on itself and release. The bucket should start spinning rapidly.

Now, even though the relative motion at the first stage is the greatest, the surface of the water will remain flat.

After a while, however, as the water starts to spin in the bucket, its surface will become concave. And it will remain so even when the bucket is stopped.

The conclusion?

The concave surface can’t be the result of a relational interaction between the bucket and the water since the water assumes different shapes regardless of whether the bucket is spinning or not.

Leibniz conceded defeat:

I grant that there is a difference between absolute true motion of a body and a mere relative change of its situation with respect to another body.

However, as we found out about two centuries later, Leibniz shouldn’t have: it seems he was the one who was in the right.

First Ernst Mach, in the second half of the 19th century, decided to join the discussion by reintroducing Leibniz’s concerns.

In his opinion, Newton’s experiment doesn’t prove that space and time are absolute, but merely that the water is not moving in relation to its immediate surrounding, i.e., the bucket.

But it can be moving in relation to something else – the fixed stars, for example:

Newton’s experiment with the rotating vessel of water simply informs us that the relative rotation of the water with respect to the sides of the vessel produces no noticeable centrifugal forces, but that such forces are produced by its relative rotations with respect to the mass of the earth and other celestial bodies.

And then came Albert Einstein and simply blew everybody away when he proposed that not only Leibniz and Mach were right, but also that the relativeness of space and time was linked and relational to an absolute: the speed of light.

Think of it this way:

You can measure the speed of an object if you divide the distance it travels over an interval by the duration of that same interval.

However, all experiments suggested that the speed of light is always 671,000,000 mph in a vacuum with respect to any reference frame!

But, how can that be?

Shouldn’t the speed of light from the lights of a moving car be faster than the one from the light bulb over your head: the former moves over a greater distance for a shorter period of time.

Strangely enough – it is not.

And as Sherlock Holmes says, “once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

After Einstein, the thing which remained was that space and time must work together to adjust so that the speed of light remains the same!

And that’s how the idea of spacetime was born, a continuum in which space and time are relative, but together they form an absolute.

The consequences of this are too numerous and mind-blowing to list them in a sentence or two.

But be sure the check them out!

Key Lessons from “The Fabric of the Cosmos”

1.      Spacetime Is as Real as You
2.      Gravity Is a Warp in the Spacetime Continuum
3.      Quantum Mechanics Is Incredibly Strange

Spacetime Is as Real as You

Brian Greene has picked just the appropriate title for his work: “The Fabric of Cosmos.”

Why?

Because one of the things we’ve realized during the past century or so is that spacetime is real, i.e., there are billions and billions of particles all around you constantly coming into existence and disappearing.

So, thinking about spacetime as fabric may mean something more than a simple analogy!

Gravity Is a Warp in the Spacetime Continuum

Gravity itself is a consequence of the curvature of spacetime, i.e., a warp in the spacetime continuum created by anything that has some mass and energy.

It is gravity which gives us weight.

So that means that if you put a scale under the feet of an object in free fall, the scale won’t register any weight.

Quantum Mechanics Is Incredibly Strange

We didn’t even get to speak of quantum mechanics.

But that may be for the better, because if we speak of it, who knows – we may disturb the whole field.

Just joking!

But appropriately:

Believe it or not, quantum particles assume characteristics only when observed!

For now, let’s leave it at that.

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“The Fabric of the Cosmos Quotes”

Absolute space does not exist. Absolute time does not exist. But according to special relativity, absolute spacetime does exist. Click To Tweet

Observers moving relative to each other have different conceptions of what exists at a given moment, and hence they have different conceptions of reality. Click To Tweet

Our entire existence - everything we do, think and experience - takes place in some region of space during some interval of time. Yet science is still struggling to understand what space and time actually are. Click To Tweet

Scientists have now established that, through the wonders of quantum mechanics, individual particles can be – and have been – teleported. Click To Tweet

The quantum uncertainty ensures that the microworld is a turbulent and jittery realm. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

According to the “Science” magazine, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” is the best exposition and explanation of early 21st-century research into the fundamental nature of the universe as you are likely to find anywhere.

In addition, writing for “The New York Review of Books,” Freeman Dyson – a guy we’ve mentioned here, in relation with another great science communicator – recommended Greene’s book “to any nonexpert reader who wants an up-to-date account of theoretical physics, written in colloquial language that anyone can understand.”

One of the very best books you’ll ever read on any scientific subject.

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