Category Archives: tolerance

Brain Mush? Review of Lukianoff and Haidt’s “The Coddling of the American Mind”


Several years ago when I worked as a psychologist I met a woman in her early thirties. She came to see me because she felt overwhelmed by current life challenges. I asked her how she had handled difficult times in the past. She told me that could not think of any such times in her life. Now that she finally faced a challenge she had no idea where to start in dealing with it.

This is the theme of the book. Our children from their first years through college have often been overprotected (coddled) to the point where they have little resilience when faced with challenges which are an inevitable part of life. The authors present three untruths which have gotten us into trouble. These are as follows:

  1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. Always trust your feelings.
  3. Life is a battle between good and evil.

Together these myths lead us to being fragile in the face of difficulty, relying on our emotions when we should think rationally and seeing life as a battle between us (good) and them (evil).

By coddling the authors mean over concern about emotional safety. By protecting our children from any emotional unpleasantness, we make them less resilient in the face of difficulty. They are not suggesting that reasonable care in the face of danger is unwise. But they do hold that children and adults learn to be resilient by facing challenges and learning to manage them rather than be overprotected from them. They also suggest that be seeing potential enemies as less than human it is extremely difficult to find mutually agreeable solutions to our differences.

Much of the book addresses the nature of our conflicts with each other, how false ideas keep us apart and trends in society which reduce our ability to become resilient.

To address these negative and unhelpful trends, the authors suggest ways to reverse them. Among these approaches is preparing children for life rather than trying to smooth out every bump in their life’s path. A second approach is learning how to evaluate the usefulness of our own thoughts which can harm us even more than others can when we take them at face value. Napoleon Hill would have asked what evidence you have for what you believe. Another is to refrain from seeing everyone as good or evil by giving people the benefit of the doubt and practicing emotional humility. Finally we need to help our children become resilient by giving them opportunities to learn problem solving and conflict resolution by not protecting them from anything unpleasant.

Finally they see education as not just an exercise in memorizing facts. It should also be a laboratory for students to learn how to manage their difficulties and conflicts and to learn to challenge their own thoughts and emotions. This also includes learning to understand others and to negotiate resolution of our differences.    

I found this to be a comprehensive treatment of the mistakes we make in judging our own thoughts and emotions and how we get stuck in our differences with others. They also suggest clear paths to learning how to deal with others in a compassionate way and how to teach these values to our children. They also present the principles of cognitive behavior therapy which we can use to evaluate our own thoughts and emotions and replace them with more rational beliefs when necessary. If this becomes too difficult to manage alone, they suggest approaching a therapist who can help you think more clearly for the sake of your own life and your relationships.  

Remember to consider your humanity before attacking others


   “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” ― Ernst F. Schumacher

In times of distress, destruction and violence seem to be good solutions. People don’t resort to these because they are full of hatred and anger, but because they are often driven by fear.

It’s easy to prepare for the worst and immediately jump to conclusions. As a society, we often want to be prepared for whatever situation life throws at us.

But when we become preoccupied with our fears, we often forget the bigger picture. Read More.

Personal Origins of Violence

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible
will make violent revolution inevitable.

~John F. Kennedy~


Have you ever seen a violent newborn baby? I haven’t. No one seems to be born violent. So how does someone become violent? Psychologists and sociologists have conducted quite a few studies over the years to try predicting violence.

To the best of my knowledge no way of predicting it has ever been perfected to the point of knowing whether any given individual is about to become violent. Once a person displays such behavior, it is clear then that he or she is capable of aggression and likely to take this course in the future.

The question remains: where does such behavior come from come from? Let’s look at some contributors. One is the path your life takes. The way you live and how you think about life can incline you toward acting violently, peacefully or somewhere in between.  These patterns are often shaped by how your parents lived and what you made of their lives. Dramatic events in your life can also steer you toward a peaceful life pattern or a not so peaceful one. Someone you know and respect could have helped divert a major disaster. Or someone you know and respect could become so frustrated with his or her life that explosive results follow.

Violence as we view it here is brought about by an individual or group of individuals. A person may be influenced by what happens in his or her culture or peer group. It may also be a group effort in which more than one person is responsible for what happens. You can be seen as violent by associating with individuals who show such a pattern whether or not you actually participate in the group’s actions. This is known as guilt by association.

What makes a person violent? Researchers have long debated about whether a tendency toward such behavior can be inherited. This debate continues and has yet to be settled despite years of research.

Aggression is generally viewed as quite similar if not identical. Men tend to engage in more physical forms of aggression while women tend more toward verbal aggression although neither form of aggression is unique to one or the other gender.

Life circumstances appear to play a significant role in all our behavior whether positive or negative. How you are treated in your family, how stable your family is, the safety of your neighborhood, whether you have adequate housing and food, how others react to your racial or ethnic background and how you learn to react to threats can all contribute to how you act. Feeling in physical danger, how you think about yourself, others, your life situation and your prospects for life and what resources you see yourself as possessing also make a contribution.

You may never have acted in such a manner. However you might have considered it at least in passing. Take some time to think about how you got to feel that way and what you did to head it off. Maybe this will help you begin to understand violence in the world.

Life Lab Lessons

  • What has happened in your life to lean you toward violence?
  • What have you experienced which let you toward a peaceful life?
  • What has helped you to control aggressive tendencies?
  • What have you done to provoke others anger?
  • What have you done to keep the peace between you and others?

Tibet’s spiritual leader speaks on love, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness


Bengaluru — In reply to a question about whether it is possible to preserve religious values without religion, the spiritual leader of Tibet suggested that in a world of 7 billion people, where 1 billion express no interest in religion, there has to be a way of exchanging the understanding of love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.

Excerpt from Jane Cook’s article in the Tibet Post- read more