My Thoughts – Page 2 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Category: My Thoughts (Page 2 of 18)

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Why We Remember Faces But RARELY Names

Whenever I meet new people, I try my best to remember their names but just have SUCH a hard time of it. I’ll remember their faces for years after we’ve met, but I’m lucky to remember their name for more than a few minutes.

I always considered myself a bit of an odd case, but it turns out that particular trait isn’t as unique to me as I’d thought. Two psychologists gave an interesting insight into as to why faces are so much easier to remember than names:

Names referring to people are arbitrary and totally unrelated to anything we’re familiar with. We can recognize apples, cars, and knives by their shape, but there’s no way to remember why some person is named James, Bob, or Matilda. They just are, with no connection in our minds.

Names are long, sometimes with 3 or more strung together. To remember someone accurately, you need to remember ALL the names, not just the easy first name. Even worse, some people (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Saoirse Ronan, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) have names that are hard to pronounce, much less remember.

There are no synonyms to names. While “shoes” is a synonym for clogs, pumps, and rocket boots, “Bill” isn’t a synonym for Harold, Wilhelm, or Ulrich.

On the other hand:

Faces can resemble other faces we’ve seen. You have no idea how many people have told me, “You remind me of X family member”, usually due to my height, but sometimes my blue eyes, brown hair, or some other facial feature. Our mind can make connections and find the “synonyms” with other faces.

Shapes are easier to remember than sounds. Children can learn the SHAPE of letters faster than they learn the sounds. Babies know what circles look like before they recognize the word “circle”. Studies have proven that we remember what we see more than what we hear.

Your brain places more emphasis on visual stimuli than auditory. One study found that visual stimuli (emotion-eliciting pictures) could modulate the response to loud, sharp, unexpected, and abrupt sounds, but sounds didn’t alter the reaction to visual stimuli. Another study found that we react to the SIGHT of threats more than the SOUND of them.

The information here won’t help you be any better at remembering the names of the people you meet—you’ll have to find other tips and tricks for that—but at least it gives you an understanding of WHY you remember faces so much more easily.

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A Scientific Explanation for “Magical” Visions?

The concept of “visions” or “magical dreams” has been around since the beginning of time. People have been reporting these experiences for centuries:

  • 6th century BC: The visions of Daniel the Prophet
  • 1st Century AD: St. Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus
  • 312 AD: Emperor Constantine’s  vision of the cross (Christ’s sign)
  • 1619 AD: Rene Descartes’ series of dreams
  • 1820: Joseph Smith’s visions that lead to the formation of the Mormons
  • 19th Century: Ramakrishna’s visions of Jesus, Sita, Muhammed, and Kali

These visions have been perceived as life-changing, a religious or spiritual experience that shaped the lives of those who experienced them.

I’m not going to disparage those visions—there’s a very good chance they are real. However, here’s something that I found interesting:

Formed and unformed visual hallucinations occur as a result of cortical lesions involving the occipital and temporoparietal areas.

Simply put: hallucinations (the scientific term to describe “visions”) could be the result of brain damage.

I came upon this idea while doing research for the Dark Fantasy Romance novel I’ll soon be writing. I like to use a scientific approach to writing fantasy “magic”, so I need a real-world explanation to make these things understandable (to myself as the author, and to the reader). This seemed the perfect way to go.

To explain the “visions” my character is having, all I have to do is add a head injury in the right place (according to one study, “the modal lesion area was the right temporal area, followed closely by the left temporal and frontal areas”) and voila! Science explaining “magic”.

I won’t bore you with all the research into this sort of brain-injury-induced hallucinations, but here are a few things I think you’ll find fascinating:

Risk Factors: Several risk factors for PSTBI have been reported. They include male gender, premorbid neurological abnormalities such as early head injury or neurological disorder (Fujii and Ahmed, 2001), previous psychological disturbance (Violon, 1988), family history of psychotic illness, or mental retardation (Achte et al., 1969). A family history of schizophrenia was reported in 2.9% to 18% of patients with PSTBI, thus appearring to be higher than in normal patients, but less than in patients with schizophrenia (Davison and Bagley, 1969).

Hallucinations have been reported in sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE), which involves the central nervous system, may present as hallucinations.

Types of Hallucinations:

  • Olfactory hallucinations and gustatory hallucinations are usually associated with temporal lobe lesions and lesions in the uncinate gyrus.
  • “Crude” auditory hallucinations are more common in these conditions than formed ones.
  • Peduncular hallucinations produce vivid, non-stereotyped, continuous, gloomy or colorful visual images that are more pronounced in murky environments.
  • “Complex visual hallucinations arise due to lesions that straddle the cerebral peduncles or involve the medial substantia nigra pars reticulata, bilaterally.
  • Auditory hallucinations are most common in all groups except organic brain syndromes, where visual hallucinations predominate.

 

This data leads to an interesting question: are these famous visions from history real, or are they nothing more than the result of the risk factors mentioned above? I’m not going to shut the door to the possibility that these visions are real—it’s very possible God, Muhammed, Kali, or any other celestial being could take advantage of hallucinations to share important messages. However, for those of us (like me) who like a more concrete explanation for this sort of phenomena, it gives a potentially rational explanation for “magical visions”.

Join the Celebration + Giveaway!

It’s time to celebrate!

My super secret, super awesome reader group on Facebook (Andy Peloquin’s Fantasy Fiends) has reached 200 members—a  HUGE milestone for me. So, as I promised the members of the group, we’re going to celebrate with a Facebook Party.

Click here to join the party…

The celebration will take place this coming Friday, all day long. Prepare for crazy amounts of fun. Or fun amounts of crazy—I’m not sure which.

What can you expect at the party?

  • Giveaways
  • Competitions
  • Prizes
  • Games
  • Laughter
  • LIVE readings from my books (I’ll be breaking out my best voices for this one!)
  • and so much more…

Best of all, I’ve got a big giveaway going on all week long. You can enter to win an Alexa Echo, signed paperbacks of the Queen of Thieves series, e-books, and more.

See the giveaway here…

I hope to see you there this Friday!

 

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If You Read This, Let Me Know

As I take on more and more writing projects (new novels, short stories, collections/anthologies, etc.), I have to find ways to “trim the fat” from my life. With only so many hours in a day, it’s tough to know where I should be focusing my time and efforts.

For close to three years now, I’ve been trying to keep up with this blog as faithfully as possible. The two to four blog posts I write a week are time-consuming, but I always thought of them as an important part of being an author.

But in analyzing the web traffic I’ve been receiving over the last few months, I’m not certain I should keep up with the regular blogging efforts. So I’m asking you to let me know what you think:

Should I keep posting regularly?

If you read my blog posts, drop a comment below or on whatever social media page you found this on. Let me know that you read even SOME of the posts I share on this blog.

This isn’t a cry for attention (heh) or a way to pat myself on the back. I want to be certain that everything I share is quality, and if the blog posts aren’t where it’s at, I will focus my efforts on other content to share.

So, if you read this blog post, let me know. Even a one word comment will do. If my blog posts make a difference to even just a few people, I’m happy to continue posting.

Alternative:

If you haven’t been reading any/many of my blog posts, I’d like to know why and what I can do to make them more appealing and engaging.

  • What sort of content would you like to read? What topics?
  • Longer or shorter posts?
  • More/less frequent?

Thank you!

 

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My Religious Beliefs Summed Up

I know religion is one of those “taboo” topics you’re not supposed to talk about. However, the rebel side of me is going to do it anyway!

I was raised in a Christian household, with all the prayers, devotions, congregations, and other religious activities common among Christians of all denominations. However, as I hit my 20s, religion became less important for my daily life. I no longer consider myself a religious person; of anything, I’d say I’m “irreligious”, meaning indifferent to religion.

But I will say that I hold one simple belief to be true: “Good is good, no matter whose name it’s in.”

I, like every young fantasy reader, LOVED the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read them more times than I can count. Amazing stories filled with magic, mystery, action, adventure, and excitement. What’s not to love?

But now that I’m a bit older and (I hope) wiser, I realize there are a lot of deeper truths hidden in the stories. One is a truth that I’ve based my religious beliefs around.

In The Last Battle, after everything is said and done and the characters are in “Heaven”, there is a character from the “enemy kingdom”, who served a god named Tash instead of Aslan. He’s sorrowful because he believes he won’t be allowed to enter Heaven because of this.

Here’s how the scene goes:

Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.

But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome.

But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.

He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.

Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?

The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.”

Truth bomb, right there! Such a beautifully simple summation.

People can argue over God, Allah, Buddha, the Universe, Gaia, Odin, and everyone else until they’re blue in the face, but does the name really matter? As this scene illustrates, it’s not about the name of the God/god you serve. What matters are the actions!

I no longer worry about the name of the god/God, or if I’m praying to the right one. Instead, I focus on trying to put good out into the world. I believe that that’s what really matters in the end, not the name I said as I did them.

 

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Why is Self Improvement So Darn Hard?

Realizing we need to change or improve something in our lives or personalities is just the first step, and often the easiest one. After that comes the challenge of actually MAKING the change and keeping up with it.

But change and self-improvement is always easier said than done. It can be bloody difficult to continue making those changes to your lifestyle, speech habits, patterns of thinking, and behavior that leads to personal growth. According to one article on Psychology Today, there are a few factors that make self-improvement difficult:

Wrong motivation. When we’re motivated by negative emotions (fear, guilt, shame, regret, anxiety), it’s nearly impossible to sustain efforts to change. While these negative emotions can be the catalyst to begin the change, it’s positive emotions that lead to long-lasting results.

Too much all at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to be a totally new person overnight. Breaking down your long-term goals into short-term ones will make them more manageable. Instead of seeing things as huge, vague, overwhelming achievement, you’ll be able to tackle everything one bite at a time.

Cognitive biases. It’s easy to think “all or nothing” when it comes to change, but this cognitive bias is basically guaranteeing failure. After all, it’s nearly impossible to reach 100% success at anything. Change that way of thinking and be content with “some” success.

Too many changes at a time. Have you ever tried to change a tire while refilling brake fluid and washing the car? Sounds silly, but sadly we can approach personal growth with the same mentality of “I want to do everything at the same time”. Tackle one change at a time. Once you start seeing real progress, move on to another, but not a moment before!

Lack of commitment. Most of us WANT to change, but it’s hard to commit to lasting change over the long haul. This is where “commitment devices” come in: a plan to change, a commitment with a friend, or anything that provides a physical reminder of what we’ve determined to do.

Forgetting to plan for failure. No one wants to plan to fail, but failure is always more likely than success. The secret is using each failure to help you avoid the same mistakes each time. Plan to pick yourself up and try again when you fail the first, second, and third time.

Focusing on the end result. Self-improvement isn’t about hitting a goal and being content with an accomplishment. The real change comes during the journey, one step at a time. Don’t be so focused on the end result that you fail to see how important each step along the change process really is.

 

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Is Religion a “Safety Net”?

It’s an odd question, but one that’s been in my head for a few years thanks to this picture:

Funny, right? However, if you stop to think about it, it’s actually a bit chilling.

A 17th century philosopher named Blaise Pascal came up with “Pascal’s Wager” in which he approached religion from the standpoint of odds and outcomes:

  • If I believe in God and there is no God, I lose nothing.
  • If I don’t believe in God and there is a God, I suffer eternal damnation.

Logically speaking, everyone would believe in God just to avoid hellfire and suffering, right? Religion is a good “safety net”. We’re hedging our bets against what actually happens after we die, even if we have NO idea what happens or even if anything happens.

But is that actually a good reason to believe? Is that even true belief? Heck, from that standpoint, is there one belief that’s “safer” than others? Is Islam safer than Buddhism, or is Protestantism a better choice than Orthodoxy? Approaching it from this angle, you’re looking at a “numbers game” rather than true faith.

I wish I could have some simple, reductionist answer to this question. However, given that it’s stumped philosophers and theologians for centuries, I’m okay not having “the answer”.

Instead, I’m going to use an example that has stuck with me for decades, courtesy of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

At the end of the series, one of the minor characters is in “Heaven”, but he’s freaking out because he served Tash, the antithesis of the God-esque Aslan. This is what happens:

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.”

“But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?”

“The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.”

That little scene blew my teenaged mind in a way no Bible verse or religious text ever had. It gave me the simple answer that I still hold onto today:

  • Good deeds are to the credit of the positive force in the universe, by whatever name you call Him/Her
  • Bad deeds are to the credit of the negative force in the universe, by whatever name you call Him/Her

Actions = consequences, good or bad. The deity/spiritual entity you’re doing them for is far less important than the fact that you’re doing them. I believe that is the “safety net” that will serve you best in the afterlife or next life. The name you use is far less important!

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Time to Get Rid of Shame!

Shame, like ALL negative emotions, have a place in life. Or at least had a place in our primitive societies.

Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Looking at human society from the perspective of a “pack”, shame lets us know when we’re doing something wrong so we “stay in line” to avoid being rejected by the pack. In the wild, solitude means vulnerability. Staying in a pack is the key to survival.

But now, in our modern society, shame is a negative emotion that may be doing more harm than good. We are no longer part of a pack, but we are a society made up of individuals, each with their own unique quirks and characteristics. We’re not dependent on the alphas for food and survival, but we’re able to live in our own little “pack of one”. The feelings that kept our primitive ancestors alive may no longer be necessary.

Shame stops us from doing things that could damage important social relationships, thus preventing our devaluation. But if it becomes the strongest feeling in our lives, it can stop you from doing things that could lead to healthy social relationships.

Think about it: how many people attended comic book conventions when it was seen as “dorky” or “geeky”? I’ve had so many people tell me, “Oh, I remember when San Diego Comic Con was just 1,000 people.” Now, you get numbers in the hundreds of thousands attending a single event, coming from around the world. What was once a potentially “shameful” activity is now accepted as the norm.

Shame is no longer needed to survive, so it’s time to get rid of it. We need to stop being ashamed of the things we like, love, want, need, and feel. Shame will distort our perspective on things, tell us it’s “wrong” or “bad”. Really, shame is a form of anxiety—our worries that something we do will make you undesirable or devalued.

Say no to shame! Don’t let that anxiety stop you from doing something if it makes you happy, or to be who you want to be. Understand that shame is an instinctive reaction intended to keep you alive, but don’t let it control you. Knowledge is power, so know your shame and take power over it.

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The Misshaping Effects of Childhood Trauma

Our childhood is often called “the formative years”, and for very good reason! As hundreds of studies have proven, the things we see, learn, and encounter during our childhood years often stick with us for the rest of our lives. And, the traumas we experience will play a significant role in the formation of our identities as adults.

Psychology Today posted an interesting article describing ways that developmental trauma can affect adult identities. For example:

People who say “I never really had a childhood” are often missing pieces of their childhood because their brains suppressed traumatic memories. They’ll often have vivid memories, but their recollections of their childhood will often be disjointed or lacking context.

People who tend to self-destructive relationships are often repeating the trauma they experienced in their relationship with an important figure (key caregivers) in their lives. Unconsciously, they are repeating that relationship over and over.

People who say “I’ve always felt a part of myself was missing” may have dissociated themselves from a traumatic memory or experience in order to cope with it. They may also rely heavily on one aspect of their persona, leaving other aspects underdeveloped or even ignored.

People who avoid relationships are often those who have experienced trauma involving intimate relationships during their developmental years. They isolate themselves as a method of protection from further pain.

People who say “I don’t really have strong feelings about things” often come from families where strong emotions weren’t important or didn’t belong. Emotional numbing doesn’t actually mean people don’t feel emotions; they simply don’t know how to process, predict, or manage them.

People who avoid thinking or talking about themselves are often trying to avoid recalling negative memories from their developmental years. Any reminder could bring those memories bubbling up, which is why they prefer to avoid it.

Fascinating, isn’t it? So many of us have these attitudes or perceptions, so it’s interesting to examine them critically and find out WHY we think and act this way.

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Why You Should Be Happy About Disappointment

That sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? How can you possibly be happy with something that disappoints you?

Well, to answer that question, you have to delve a little deeper into what disappointment really is…

The dictionary defines it as “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.”  Basically, it means we’re sad/displeased because we didn’t get the thing we hoped/expected would make us happy.

Which leads to the question: what if that wasn’t really the thing that would make us happy?

In my post “The Endless and Exhausting Pursuit of Happiness“, I talked about how we’re often so busy looking for something we believe will make us 100% happy that we fail to enjoy the things that hit the 50% happiness mark. And, when we never find that 100% happy thing, we feel dissatisfied.

How does this connect? Simple: disappointment can help us to evaluate our perceptions of the things that make us happy!

When we’re disappointed about something, it gives you a chance to look at WHY we feel that disappointment. There’s a very real chance the thing we’re disappointed about is something that we believed would make us happy, but in reality it won’t. We’re so fixated on something or someone that we feel that disillusionment when we fail to get it.

Next time you get that feeling, stop to examine what it is you’re disappointed about. Maybe it’s a “future hope” that brings more anxiety than is healthy, and you’ll actually be happier if you live in the present moment. Or it’s something you were 100% certain you wanted, but in reality you’re just as happy without it (once the initial disappointment passes, of course).

Disappointment is a negative feeling, but it can bring about a positive outcome. If you take the time to examine the thing that’s causing the feelings, you can discover just how wrong or right your perceptions, hopes, and expectations are. In the long run, that self-examination will lead to personal growth.

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