The Psychology of Life Stories

Stories matter. Stories have been passed from generation to generation imparting wisdom. When you look back at your life, you won’t remember the numbers (dates, times, analytics, money) but the feelings and the meaning behind the memories. In the end, stories are what mattered the most. To understand people, you must understand their story, how they tell it to others and themselves. Dr. Dan P. McAdams of Northwestern University is at the forefront psychologist studying of narratives. His seminal review of his work published in 2001 provides invaluable insight into the human mind.

McAdams, D. P. (2001) The Psychology of Life Stories. Review of General Psychology, Vol. 5 (2), 100-122.

“In his life story model of identity, McAdams (1985, 1993, 1996) has argued that identity itself takes the form of a story, complete with setting, scenes, character, plot, and theme.”

Your identity is your story, the one you tell yourself everyday, the one you share with other people, and the one you compare upon new and old experiences. Words matter. Character is destiny and words are the steps into the future.

“McAdams (1985) found that, in comparison with adults low in ego development tended to include more different kinds of plots in their life stories, suggesting greater narrative complexity.”

Those that have developed in maturity were also the ones that tended to have a more complicated story. This may have to do with one’s ability to adapt to adversity with using their story to make choices that have important outcomes.

[more later]

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The Women Always Choose

There are countless examples in nature where it is the female that chooses the male to mate with. Humans are no exception.

Men, we try, we do things such:

  • Work out
  • Make a ton of money
  • Wear nice cloths
  • Improve our intelligence
  • Etc.

We do these things to stand out. For a while it seemed in the men’s community that improving your statistics in three main areas: health, wealth, and relationships (love) would be the key to being irresistible to women. Not so.

What most of my male friends fail to recognize is that the women is an individual. She has had twenty plus years of psychological development. She has interacted with her environment, her own thoughts, and inner chemistry (hormones, biological processes, etc.) that has developed her idea of the ideal man. She is programmed to find this individual.

For some women, they like tall guys. Some women will admit they like jerks. Some women like intelligent men. I would suggest most women don’t know what they want. That’s why “techniques” such as pick up lines, or acting assertive, or being an “alpha-male” is attractive to women; even if a woman doesn’t know what she wants in a man her evolutionary biology has geared her to be attracted to status.

So it’s old news: women are attracted to status. As we’ve heard, attraction is not a choice. I say: attraction is not enough. Sure a woman will choose you for a moment, a day, a week, some months, but it won’t last if you don’t meet the requirements of her ideal man.

For some men this is terrible news. They’ve been focusing on their bodies, their pocketbooks, or their intelligence to gain “status”.

Instead focus on what makes you happy. Someone wise once told me that the “more right, you are with yourself, the more right you will be with the one person you finally choose to be with you.” And, really, that means the more right you are with yourself the more right you’ll be with the woman that chooses you.

*This post goes out to a friend that chose poorly. 1. She doesn’t know what she wants. 2. If she does, she doesn’t want anything good. She’ll be singing this song from Adele “Someone like you.”

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Formula for Love

Love is one of those things that psychologists have never much been able to define. Call it the most powerful force on the planet, a source of infinite energy, what makes the… Ahem, well you get the picture. Follow this series as I compile the research on love through a series of (empirical research) quotes.

Jarret, C. & Ginsburg, J. (2008) This book has issues: Adventures in Popular Psychology. New York: Metro Books.

“New York-based psychologist Arthur Arun has found the formula. He had subjects who had never met nor seen one another before reveal very intimate details about their lives for half an hour, then stare silently into one another’s eyes for four minutes. A strong majority of of the subjects reported feeling deeply attracted to one another after the experiment- amazingly one couple even went on to get married”

In a list, How to Fall in Love:

    1. Talk about intimate details about your life, with someone else
    2. Stare silently into each others’ eyes for 4 minutes

Does it work? It’s likely that if you’re able to talk about intimate details of your life with someone else and then be able to stare silently into their eyes, they’ve already have some good feelings for you. But I’d like to hear other opinions in the comments.

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Energy Read: Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies – Peak Oil

Renewable energy books can get outdated pretty fast as the clean technology industry is still in its infancy; I try not to quote energy books without an edition younger than five years. The format of these posts: as I progress through the book I will post 3-5 interesting quotes per chapter.

Shields, C. (2010). Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies. USA: Clean Energy Press.


Five quotes from the Peak Oil chapter:

“ ‘Peak Oil’—the concept that the world’s supply of effectively extractable oil is declining.”

“I basically said that I think within 20 years most of the OPEC producers will not be able to export oil anymore, because their internal use is rising fast and their internal supply flow is shrinking.”

“Well, the proof points begin with a number of very important key oil producers. Nobody’s data is perfectly accurate because of the way we measure oil flows, but take the North Sea’s for instance. This was the last great significant new frontier; between the two big producers in that area—Norway and the UK—in 1999 the North Sea produced 6.1 million barrels a day and today it’s down to about 2.5. Mexico’s Canterell field peaked in 2005 at 2.2 million barrels a day and today it’s 500,000 barrels a day. The North Slope peaked at 2 million barrels a day in 1989 and today they struggle with about 600,000 barrels a day.”

“Crude oil is 72 million barrels per day. Total petroleum is about 85. So we are squeezing out the rest through a bunch of miracles. The 72 is going to drop to 60 within the next 5 to 10 years. While we at the very minimum have a world that is expecting to use 105 to 120 million barrels a day two decades from now.”

“I’ve never asked anyone that who has never run out of gas, and I’ve never had someone say “No, no, I knew I was going to run out of gas”. You just forget to look at your gas gauge. We have no national—let alone global—gas gauge.”

Next energy post: 3-5 quotes from the Energy and National Security chapter of Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies.

To order Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies, by Craig Sheilds, 2010: $15 for paperback and $8 for ebook.

Photo Credit: madaboutasia

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Mating Lessons from Zoology: Male Dawson’s Bees go to War

Zoology is “the scientific study of the behavior, structure, physiology, classification, and distribution of animals.” Often comparisons are drawn from animal behavior with human behavior, especially in regards to mating sequences.

Male Dawson’s bees (Amegilla dawsoni) are large burrowing bees that nest in the soil of the Australian outback. During mating season, the males will emerge from the soil before the females and wait. Larger males will patrol the entrance and smaller males will patrol the perimeter. Once the females emerge, war breaks loose as male bees will kill each other in order to attain a female. In the end, at least one male will emerge while most perish.

Application to human society: Competition. There is no guarantee that a male, bee or human, will attain a partner and advance their genetic code into the next generation. Males must compete to prove their genes worthy. Interestingly, there are two strategies employed by Dawson’s bees and yet it is unclear whether the larger male bees win due to size or smaller bees win due to strategy. Regardless, every generation, bee or human, will produce two types of males with two types of strategies.

Click for Video: LiveLeak.com

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Energy Read: Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies – Intro

Renewable energy books can get outdated pretty fast as the clean technology industry is still in its infancy; I try not to quote energy books without an edition younger than five years. The format of these posts: as I progress through the book I will post 3-5 interesting quotes per chapter.

Shields, C. (2010). Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies. USA: Clean Energy Press.

Four quotes from the Introduction:

“Very few people doubt that our current fixation on fossil fuels will implode on itself as our population grows and its hunger for energy increases over the coming few decades.”

“I offer here a survey of the subject of renewable energy, provided from a number of different perspectives that I hope will be useful to people trying to make sense of a subject of such enormous complexity. In fact, I find that the most interesting aspect of this whole topic is, in fact, its very complexity—the way it taps into virtually all our disciplines of thought and learning. Here, one finds pieces of math, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, sociology, marketing, psychology, international relations, history, and political theory… the entirety of what one can study in college all comes into play here.”

“We live in a world of tough realities—technological, economic, and political—and we all would do well to understand those realities if we are to have relevant discussions as to what we must do as a civilization.”

“I honestly try—at a surface level at least—to cover the gamut of the sciences, the business issues, and the underlying political foundation that collectively determine our best course vis-à-vis clean energy.”

Next energy post: 3-5 quotes from the “Peak Oil” chapter of Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies.

To order Renewable Energy Facts and Fantasies, by Craig Sheilds, 2010: $15 for paperback and $8 for ebook.

Photo Credit: menesis

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The Single Most Important Dating Skill

 The Single Most Important Dating Skill: Choosing. More specifically, the single most important dating skill is choosing the right person within the first five minutes of that first conversation. The closer to five-seconds in which you can make that decision the better off you’ll be. 

Choosing the right dating partner is the first step to a healthy, fulfilling relationship. That initial step is like pouring the concrete for the foundation of a building. If you don’t do this right, the structure of the dating relationship will be weak and ugly looking.

Think of dating partners as pieces of heart candy. Everyone more or less has the same parts. For the candy, the parts are sugar and spice. For people the parts are eyes, ears, hands, noses, feet, etc. What you want to pay attention to is what they say. In general people, can be summed up like a phrase on heart candy. Find the one’s that say “Mr. Right”, not “Mr. Right Now”.

The single most important dating skill is choosing the right person to engage in, within the first five minutes to five seconds of that initial conversation. I have seen too many of my friends get into relationships that are poorly matched. Then they become “invested” into their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife and are unwilling to move on despite a crumbling relationship.

Photo Credit: ButterflySha

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