The Robin & Boom Show #13 – Attentiveness, Technology, Empathy and Stillness (Part 2 of series with Mark Weisman)

Mark Weisman

Robin Phillips and Jason Van Boom continue the discussion with Mark Weisman on technology, empathy, attention and EQ. In this podcast you will learn what Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica and the Great Tradition tell us about bringing attentiveness into our relationships. You will also learn the importance of slowing down to take a reflective turn, how to leverage neuroplasticity for good, and the relationship between the brain, body and emotions. Questions discussed include:
  • What tools and  best practices are available for families who want to push back against the culture of distraction?
  • Is empathetic listening an ability that some people simply have while others do not, or is it a skill that can be developed with practice?
  • How does awareness of one’s own feelings relate to sensitivity towards the emotions of others?
  • How can we develop the intellectual virtue of contemplation, and how does this affect our relationships?
  • How does the Sabbath commandment reflect natural law?
From the podcast:
“…be aware of what other people are feeling, and listen to the emotions behind what they are saying rather than just being quick to respond to surface issues. Go deeper and really try to listen with your heart and with empathy. Often we get into fights and arguments about issues that are really just proxies for deeper emotional issues, and these deeper emotional issues, when they’re not being adequately addressed or listened to, can cause problems abort issues that are not really the issue.”

Good Habits and Emotion

In his book Good News For Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do, the Christian philosopher Phillip Carry gives some examples of how our choices and habits affect our emotions.

“There is indeed a sense in which we are responsible for our emotions, though in a different way from our choices, because of course we don’t control our feelings in the direct way we control our choices. You can’t just choose not to be angry the way you choose not to raise your hand. Yet we are responsible for the virtues and vices we develop, which are what tend to produce various kinds of feelings. If we make a habit of gossiping, for instance, we will feed our resentment of other people, which will bear fruit in anger and ill will and eventually cruelty. Whereas if we practice moral disciplines like speaking courteously with people we dislike or being kind to people who annoy us, the emotional shape of our hearts will also change for the better. It takes time, but we can train our hearts to leave their resentments behind, to starve the poisonous feelings in them, while practicing and nurturing the better feelings–even if that practice begins with outward actions like speaking a kind word when we don’t really feel like it.”

Elsewhere he explains how good habits are a composite of emotions, perceptions, choices and thoughts.

“A virtue is a habit that includes all of these things: actions (you take care of your child even when you don’t feel like it), emotions (you are often overtaken by feelings of tenderness and delight), perceptions (you understand your little children better than they understand themselves), choices (you choose to get out of bed and go to the children’s room even when you’d much rather not), and thoughts (you think differently, more thoroughly and carefully, about your children than about anyone else in the world).”

Further Reading

The Robin & Boom Show #12 – With Mark Weisman on Empathy, Technology, and EQ (Part 1)

Robin and Jason are joined by Mark Weisman to discuss some of the ways digital technology is eroding skills in empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ). Mark Weisman contributes to this discussion from his perspective working for years in the tech industry. In this podcast you will learn the difference between “emotional empathy” and “cognitive empathy”, and why EQ is central to human flourishing. You will also learn what the latest brain science shows about the corrosive effect of too much screen-time, particularly in brain regions associated with emotional maturity, introspection, expression recognition and emotional regulation. (For more on this topic, visit out emotional intelligence archives.)

View all Episodes of The Robin & Boom Show

The Robin & Boom Show #05 – Interview with Michael d’Esterre on Classical Education and Emotional Wellness

What is classical education? How can the liberal arts fortify children against anxiety, depression and addiction? What was Charlotte Mason’s contribution to classical education? These are some of the questions that Robin and Jason explore with this week’s guest, Michael d’Esterre. Michael is a clinical social worker in Spokane Washington, who is turning to the liberal arts to find answers to some of our society’s most pressing problems, including mental disorders and addiction.

View all Episodes of The Robin & Boom Show

Self-Esteem, Self-Compassion and Self-Love

Should you love yourself?

Is self-esteem good? Should you love yourself? What about self-love? There currently exists much confusion on these questions. Moreover, each of these terms require careful unraveling. Let’s begin with self-esteem.

Self-Esteem = BAD

Self-esteem is generally understood as involving a subjective decision to evaluate oneself (including one’s abilities, accomplishments and circumstances) in a positive way. The goal of self-esteem is not to help a person become better, but merely to feel better. Accordingly, self-esteem is disconnected from questions of virtue (i.e., “is the decision to think of myself in this way moving me closer towards ethical goals?”) as well as disconnected from questions of truth (“is the decision to think of myself in this way in line with the objective reality about myself?”). Through its dislocation from virtue, self-esteem can easily collapse into narcissism, while its dislocation from truth can cause self-esteem to collapse into delusion.

In the mid 80’s, the State of California poured thousands of dollars into an initiative designed to raise children’s self-esteem. Based on the secular humanist wisdom at the time, lawmakers fully expected that an increase in self-esteem would cause a boost grades and a reduction in bullying, crime, teen pregnancy and substance abuse. In reality, the initiative was a complete disaster.

Further empirical research has continued to confirm that self-esteem has many negative effects, including narcissism, self-absorption, contingent self-worth, self-righteousness, aggression in response to threatened egotism, and self-validating assessments of one’s abilities that undermine the process of further improvement. Self-esteem can also lead to a fragile sense of self-worth, since one’s self-worth becomes dependent on self-concepts that may be threatened through failure, lack of external validation or genuine self-knowledge.

Continue reading

Addiction and Pain-Management

Helping people who struggle with pornography has never been a focus of my writing ministry, even though I have written extensively about sexual ethics and modesty. I have never personally struggled with porn and I have always found it distasteful and kind of “icky” to talk about. However, that will be changing. Last Saturday Salvo Magazine asked me to report on a conference at Gonzaga University on how porn has become “the new drug.” I came away from the conference convinced that this is a crucially important topic that requires just as much of my attention as some of the other issues I frequently write about. So keep an eye out for my report in upcoming editions of Salvo Magazine.

Continue reading

Relationships and Attachment Bonds

In their book Created for Connection, Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer have helpfully summarized the findings of formal studies about human attachment bonds and how that impacts our love relationships. I quote from pages 29-30 of their excellent book.

  • Our deepest instinct all through life is to seek out and stay close to a few previous loved ones.
  • Contact with these loved ones offers us a safe haven to go to and a secure base to go out from with strength and confidence. Secure connection makes us stronger as individuals.
  • Loss of a felt sense of connection with such loved ones is painful and creates a disorienting sense of vulnerability. Disconnection at times of high need can be traumatizing for human beings.
  • Emotional accessibility and responsivenes to another’s signals and needs shape secure loving connection. The quality of our emotional engagement is the key element that shapes our love relationships.
  • There are only a few simple strategies that we use to connect and deal with perceived disconnection. When we feel safe enough, we can risk reaching for a loved one and asking for our needs to be met. When we feel unsafe, we resort to demanding and controlling or, if we truly expect rejection and desertion, we try to turn away and shut down our needs for connection.
  • These negative strategies can shape the very disconnection we are trying to cope with or avoid.
  • As adults we can hold loved ones in our minds and find comfort, and we do not always need physical closeness. Adult romantic bonds also have a physical–a sexual–element. Sexuality is part of adult bonding.
  • The relationship between God and people of faith can be understood as an attachment bond in which God is a safe haven, a secure base, and the ultimate source of comfort and case.

The Robin & Boom Show

The Robin & Boom Show is your source for engaging the contemporary world with the Great Tradition. Robin Phillips and Jason Van Boom explore some of the most pertinent issues of our time, drawing on classical Christian approaches to philosophy and society. Topics include technology, politics, education, aesthetics, literature, history, theology, health, science, metaphysics, current events, and much more!

Complete List of Episodes