Money really can’t buy you love: study finds materialism hard on marriage

It seems that being a material girl — or guy — can be hard on a marriage, especially if both spouses place a high value on money and accumulating possessions, research suggests.

In a study by Brigham Young University, researchers found that materialism in a spouse was associated with lower levels of responsiveness to the partner, less emotional maturity, poor communication and higher levels of conflict.

The study, published Thursday in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, also found that love of money in one or both spouses led to reduced satisfaction in the relationship and threatened the marriage’s stability.

“We did find that materialism is harmful to marriage and that the effect of it seems to be widespread,” lead author Jason Carroll, a professor of family life at Brigham Young in Provo, Utah, said in an interview. “This is more of an erosion pattern, rather than a landfall pattern.”

Carroll said couples in which both spouses reported not caring about money — about 14 per cent of the group — scored 10 to 15 per cent higher on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than did couples where one or both are materialistic.

The effect was particularly pronounced when both the husband and wife worshipped at the altar of consumerism, as was the case in about 20 per cent of participants. “Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at,” he said.

The study involved 1,734 married couples across the United States. Each spouse filled out a questionnaire, which included a self-report on how much he or she values “having money and lots of things.”

Researchers expected there would be more conflict and lower marital satisfaction when there was a mismatch in values between partners, with one being materialistic and the other not, Carroll said.

“However, our study found that it’s actually the couples where both have high levels of materialism that struggled the most,” he said. “So even when spouses were unified in that value stance, they were the couples that (fared the worst).”

Carroll said being materialistic could lead some people to spend more than they can afford, creating debt and financial stress that can wear away the emotional glue that holds couples together. The focus by one spouse on money and what it can buy can also leave the partner feeling neglected and unhappy, he suggested.

With fears about the volatile economy, those whose happiness relies on augmenting and showing off their possessions may have difficulty if forced to tighten their belts, he said, adding that it’s important to sort out their wants from needs.

“The wants in the long run really won’t be the biggest foundation to their happiness because it’s not really getting to what they truly need.

“If we prioritize relationships and keep them at the top of our focus, that really helps us from getting sucked into the materialistic messages in the culture and helps us where true happiness will be found.”

10 Powerful Insights by Eckhart Tolle


The greatest goal you can set this year is to make peace with your life, no matter your circumstances. These 10 powerful insights from Eckhart Tolle will get you started.

Oneness with All Life by Eckhart Tolle

  1. Don’t seek happiness. If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness. Happiness is ever elusive, but freedom from unhappiness is attainable now, by facing what is rather than making up stories about it.
  2. The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is. There is the situation or the fact, and here are my thoughts about it. Instead of making up stories, stay with the facts. For example, “I am ruined” is a story. It limits you and prevents you from taking effective action. “I have 50 cents left in my bank account” is a fact. Facing facts is always empowering.
  3. See if you can catch the voice in your head, perhaps in the very moment it complains about something, and recognize it for what it is: the voice of the ego, no more than a thought. Whenever you notice that voice, you will also realize that you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it. In fact, you are the awareness that is aware of the voice. In the background, there is the awareness. In the foreground, there is the voice, the thinker. In this way you are becoming free of the ego, free of the unobserved mind.
  4. Wherever you look, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence for the reality of time—a rotting apple, your face in the bathroom mirror compared with your face in a photo taken 30 years ago—yet you never find any direct evidence, you never experience time itself. You only ever experience the present moment.
  5. Why do anxiety, stress, or negativity arise? Because you turned away from the present moment. And why did you do that? You thought something else was more important. One small error, one misperception, creates a world of suffering.
  6. People believe themselves to be dependent on what happens for their happiness. They don’t realize that what happens is the most unstable thing in the universe. It changes constantly. They look upon the present moment as either marred by something that has happened and shouldn’t have or as deficient because of something that has not happened but should have. And so they miss the deeper perfection that is inherent in life itself, a perfection that lies beyond what is happening or not happening. Accept the present moment and find the perfection that is untouched by time.
  7. The more shared past there is in a relationship, the more present you need to be; otherwise, you will be forced to relive the past again and again.
  8. Equating the physical body with “I,” the body that is destined to grow old, wither, and die, always leads to suffering. To refrain from identifying with the body doesn’t mean that you no longer care for it. If it is strong, beautiful, or vigorous, you can appreciate those attributes—while they last. You can also improve the body’s condition through nutrition and exercise. If you don’t equate the body with who you are, when beauty fades, vigor diminishes, or the body becomes incapacitated, this will not affect your sense of worth or identity in any way. In fact, as the body begins to weaken, the light of consciousness can shine more easily.
  9. You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you and allowing that goodness to emerge.
  10. If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace.

Exerpted from Oneness with All Life by Eckhart Tolle. Published by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copywright © 2008 by Eckhart Tolle

10 Reasons Your Relationships Never Last

You meet a guy/girl. You’re both ecstatically happy. You’re sure he’s the one. But, as time goes on, things just don’t work out. But why?

Answering this question may allow us to avoid repeating the same relationship mistakes again and again, as so many do. We talked to our married, single and commited friends to get their insight. In hopes of learning from our mistakes, here’s 10 common reasons relationships break down.

1. Unrealistic Expectations


1. Unrealistic expectationsBefore the relationship even begins, we’re surrounded by media that perpetuates the myth of two people meeting, falling in love and living happily ever after. This makes a great story line, but leaves out the part where relationships take work, time and effort to succeed.


2. Being too needy.

2. Being too needy

If you need your partner’s attention all the time and need to be with them 24/7 you’re not in love. A lasting love provides some breathing room for both of you to still have your own lives.


3. A Failure to Communicate

3. A failure to communicateAny relationship whether it’s romantic, platonic or work-based needs communication. If you don’t tell each other what’s going on, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling or what you expect, the other person is inevitably going to disappoint you. Open communication, even if it’s sometimes unpleasant, ensures you both know what your partner wants and needs.


4. Lack of Trust.

4. Lack of trustSome argue this is the biggest issue. After 20 years of studying marriages, scientist John Gottman argues that when trust dies, relationships fail. In The Science of Trust, he argues that if negative events are not fully processed, we fill in the information gaps with our own ideas. If we don’t trust our partner, the motives and actions we attribute to them are coloured with a negativity that grows eroding trust further.

5. Lack of Respect

5. Lack of respect

One reader responded that lack of respect is the root of all relationship problems. No respect for your partner leads to everything from poor communication to infidelity. It’s the minimum requirement when it comes to making a relationship work.

6. Unwilling to Compromise.

6. Unwillingness to compromise

This can also be seen as the desire to always be right. In some people it comes out as always being certain that their opinion is right. However expressed, your partner’s not going to appreciate always doing things your way. For a relationship to succeed, you’ve got to have the ability to adapt to another point of view.

7. Focusing on the Negative.

7. Focusing on the negative

Regan Ross, of PEI responded to our question saying instead of a wife getting mad at the mud on her husband’s boots, she could focus on the fact they brought him home safely. Getting caught up in the negative makes every day harder…especially when someone else is always on the receiving end.

8. Being Defensive

8. Being defensive

This may be one of the hardest habits to break. None of us like being criticized. From the time we’re kids, our instinct is to come up with excuses or deny. In a mature and successful relationship, criticism should be constructive and should be listened to in the same manner.


9. Selfishness.

9. Selfishness

It takes two to tango, you can’t always lead, and yours aren’t the only needs to be met.


10. Not making time.


10. Not making timeWhere you spend your time shows your priorities. If you’re always working late, your partner will get the message that work is more important. Make an effort for your partner and your relationship, or you may risk losing them.

Does things happen for a reason?

When people have to cope with difficult situations in their lives, they sometimes reassure themselves by saying that everything happens for a reason. For some people, thinking this way makes it easier to deal with relationship problems, financial crises, disease, death, and even natural disasters such as earthquakes. It can be distressing to think that bad things happen merely through chance or accident. But they do.

The saying that everything happens for a reason is the modern, New Age version of the old religious saying:  “It’s God’s will.”    The two sayings have the same problem – the complete lack of evidence that they’re true.    Not only is there no good evidence that God exists, we have no way of knowing what it is that he (or she) wanted to happen, other than that it actually did happen.  Did God really will that hundreds of thousands of people die in an earthquake in one of the world’s poorest countries?    What could be the reason for this disaster and the ongoing suffering of millions of people deprived of food, water, and shelter?    Why do people find it reassuring that the Haiti earthquake happened for a reason such as the will of God, when such terrible events suggest a high degree of malevolence in the universe or its alleged creator?    Fortunately, such events can alternatively (and with good evidence) be viewed as the result of accidents, and possibly even of chance.

The idea that chance is an objective property of the universe was advocated in the nineteenth century by the great American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, who called this doctrine tychism, from the Greek word for chance.    Scientific support for the doctrine came in the twentieth century with the development of quantum theory, which is often interpreted as implying that some events such as radioactive decay are inherently unpredictable. 

Even if events that affect human lives do not happen by quantum chance, many of them should be viewed as happening by accident, in the sense that they are the improbable result of the intersection of independent causal chains.    The deaths in Haiti, for example, came about because of the results of many causal chains, primarily (1) the historical events that led to millions of people living near Port-au-Prince, and (2) the seismic events occurring in the tangle of tectonic faults near the intersection of two crustal plates.   These deaths were accidental in that the intersection of the unconnected causal chains was unpredictable.  Neither history nor seismology are random, but their intersections often are so unforeseeable that we should call them accidental.

The doctrine that everything happens for a reason has intellectual variants.   The German philosopher Hegel maintained that in historical development the real is rational and the rational is real.  Similarly, before the recent meltdowns in the financial system, it was a dogma of economic theory that individuals and markets are inherently rational.   Some naïve evolutionary biologists and psychologists assume that all common traits and behaviors must have evolved from an optimizing process of natural selection.   In history, economics, biology, and psychology, we should always be willing to consider evidence for the alternative hypothesis that some events occur because of a combination of chance, accidents, and human irrationality.   For example, Keynes attributed financial crises in part to “animal spirits”, by which he meant the emotional processes that can make people swing between irrational exuberance and pessimistic despair.  

But if the real isn’t rational, how can we cope with life’s disasters?  Fortunately, even without religious or New Age illusions, people have many psychological resources for coping with the difficulties of life.   These include cognitive strategies for generating explanations and problem solutions, and emotional strategies for managing the fear, anxiety, and anger that naturally accompany setbacks and threats.  Psychological research has identified many ways to build resilience in individuals and groups, such as developing problem solving skills and strong social networks. Life can be highly meaningful even if some things that happen are just accidents.  Stuff happens and you deal with it.

Life Rules You Should Ignore

You hear these so-called pearls of wisdom all the time…but maybe it’s time you start completely ignoring this outdated advice!

These days, everyone from your best girlfriend to your hairdresser considers herself an expert on something — freely giving you her two cents on how you should handle your love life, career, living style…you name it. They mean well, of course, but the problem is, a lot of that advice is actually not that wise. Sometimes the rules change (in other words, what worked for your mom’s generation doesn’t cut it for modern women), and other times, the advice was totally off to begin with.

Take these 12 bits of info, for example. We asked experts to tell us why following them will steer you wrong, plus the right spin on each one to help make your life simpler and easier.

1. Never quit a job until you have another.
As long as you can deal with the financial fallout, resigning without a backup plan is no career killer. “If a position doesn’t feel right for you and you’ve tried to work things out with no improvement, you’re better off following your instincts and quitting,” explains Margot Carmichael Lester, contributing writer for the career Website and author of Real Life Guide to Starting Your Career. “Getting yourself out of a dead-end situation will salvage your mental health and kick-start your drive so you can zero in on the kind of job you do want.”

2. It’s always better to break up with a guy in person.
True, if you’re seriously coupled with a man, you owe him the courtesy of a face-to-face explanation. But when you’re parting ways with a guy you’ve been seeing casually, a phone or an e-mail breakup will do. “As long as you aren’t emotionally involved, you can end things with a quick ‘I’m going to be really busy these next few months, and I just won’t have any time to devote to dating,'” explains Darlene Mininni, PhD, author of The Emotional Toolkit. Dumping from a distance helps you articulate your good-bye and clarify that over means over.

It may seem cold, but you’re actually making the split easier for him to deal with. “You’re sparing him the awkwardness of being rejected in person, which is really hard to take, even if you’re not that close to the person who is rejecting you,” says Mininni.

3. Don’t paint a small room a dark color.
If you want to make a tiny space appear larger, this design decree specifies that light hues work way better than darker ones. But it’s simply not true. “A dark shade actually makes the walls of a room recede into the background, so the space appears more open and vast — similar to the vastness of the nighttime sky,” explains interior designer Candice Olson, host of HGTV’s Divine Design.

What does reduce the size of a room is lots of contrast between the color of the walls and that of the trim and furniture. “The trim acts like a border, so if the tone is too far off from the tone of the main room and the objects in it, a space will seem cramped,” says Olson. Choosing a trim tone and furnishings that closely duplicate the main color scheme creates an illusion of depth.

4. Drink eight glasses of water a day.
The funny thing about this H 2 O rule? A recent study determined that it’s more urban myth than science-backed health fact. “No one knows where it originated, but it isn’t true — the average person does not need to consume this or any set amount of water,” explains Steven G. Aldana, PhD, professor of health and human performance at Brigham Young University in Utah. In fact, most of us suck down more than enough liquid via supersize coffee concoctions and sodas as well as food sources like fruits and grains. “Eight glasses of water on top of this is overkill,” says Aldana.

The best agua advice is to grab a drink whenever you feel thirsty. “Thirst is a sign that your body needs fluid, not that you’re already dehydrated,” he adds.

5. Eating after 8 p.m. will make you gain weight.

Calories are calories no matter what time you consume them — or whether they come from protein, fats, or carbs. “Only when you exceed your daily calorie allotment [an active 20-something chick needs about 1,800 daily] will your scale creep upward,” says nutritionist Christine Gerbstadt, MD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

6. Always Google a guy before a first date.
We’ve all done it: After scoring a dinner invite from a new dude, you type his name into a search engine and scrutinize every link that’s spit back at you. While it’s normal to crave background data on a potential beau, your curiosity could KO any chance of a love connection.

“A lot of women justify cyber-snooping as a safety measure: You want to know ahead of time if his name pops up on a serial-killer Website,” explains Los Angeles psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD. “But what usually happens is, you end up forming an opinion of a man based on the kind of outdated or incorrect information that’s all over the Internet. Plus, you rob him of the chance to share his history with you at his own pace, which puts any flaw or embarrassing story in context.”

7. Wait for him to say “I love you” first.
These days, women are asking guys out and calling the shots between the sheets. But the typical chick will wait… and wait…and wait for her man to drop the L bomb before she does, assuming that if he really felt it, he’d utter it first. “Truth is, often young guys are tentative when it comes to saying ‘I love you’; they’re either afraid of being rejected or aren’t comfortable voicing their emotions,” says Thomas.

If you want to express your love for a steady guy who has so far been mum on his feelings, consider saying it first. Putting it out there may be the cue your guy needs to tell you the same.

8. You’re safe as long as you have your cell.
Don’t count on it. “There are tons of dead zones — even in big cities — where there is no reception at all,” says personal security expert Robert Siciliano. If you do manage to call the cops, it’ll still take 10 to 30 minutes for police to find you because you’re not at a specific address. Never use your cell as a replacement for safety smarts, like not going out late on your own or hitting the road at night solo.

7 types of annoying drivers

The Middle Lane Mike: This type of driver heads from the on-ramp directly to the middle lane and plants him or herself there no matter how slow they drive or who is sitting on their rear bumper.

AP File Photo

The middle lane hog: This type of driver heads from the on-ramp directly to the middle lane and plants him or herself there no matter how slow they drive or who is sitting on their rear bumper.


There are variations in driving styles on our roads and most motorists will fall into a distinct characteristic type depending on how they approach the task of driving. As you read through this list, you are likely to recognize yourself or someone you drive with.

Which driving character are you?


Nervous Nick: This driver lacks confidence in their driving abilities and is intimidated by traffic and highway speeds. The “Nervous Nick” will always drive at the speed limit or lower and will not accelerate enough to merge safely with highway traffic. They will display moments of indecision when it comes to driving options such as making left turns and when to proceed and how fast.

The Danger: They cause traffic to “rat pack” around them on highways. This leads to multiple lane changes and drivers becoming impatient and making dangerous choices or lane changes. Driving slower than the “flow” of traffic can cause traffic mayhem behind the slower driver as others must negotiate a way around the slow moving vehicle.

Middle Lane Mike: Will head from the on-ramp directly to the middle lane and plant them selves there no matter how slow they drive or who is sitting on their rear bumper. They are convinced this is the best lane to drive in and they are the safest drivers on the road.

The Danger: Traffic will pass on either the right of left sides of this driver causing traffic flow chaos. Large trucks will sit impatiently on their rear bumper trying to intimidate this driver into moving over. They are in danger of causing a crash or being rear-ended. Vehicles moving slowly in the middle lane are like a rock in a stream. They cause turbulence and in this case traffic turbulence.

Overconfident Owen or Arrogant Andy: These drivers are usually driving in an aggressive manner as they are very sure of their capabilities. They are usually speeding and changing lanes often. This aggressive driver feels they are more important than everyone else on the road. All other drivers are just in “their” way and should not be on “their” road.

The Danger: This driver has the confidence and sometimes even the driving talent that will allow them to handle their vehicle while speeding, but when things go wrong they lack the skills to recover or avoid an incident. This driver has confidence that far out strips their “driving smarts” and they make poor choices in their driving situations. They are usually driving too fast for weather and traffic conditions. They often drive an SUV or other large vehicle that adds to their sense of superiority. This driver will tailgate others and try different means of intimidation to get others out of their way. These drivers have been known to pass on the shoulder and lane hop. During the winter months, they are often found in the ditch.

Bored Bobby or Busy Betty: Usually found talking on a cell phone or chatting with passengers. Their mind will be focused on anything but driving safely. Even though they know the distraction of talking on the cell phone is dangerous, they feel their business is more important.

The Danger: This motorist is not paying attention to driving and invariably will end up crashing or cutting someone off. The “Bored Bobby” is just as dangerous as the other drivers on this list. They are not processing all their driving information that will help them make wise driving choices. They are driving distracted which is the leading cause of crashes. After being involved in a crash, they usually cannot figure out what happened.

This is what I see everyday when I drive…

Solo Sandy: This driver believes they are the only one on the road. They rarely check their mirrors and have no idea other vehicles are near or beside them. You may see this motorist heading down a highway with the only other vehicle in sight directly beside them or in front of them. Also known as “Blinder Billy” as they appear to have blinders on allowing them to only see directly in front of them.

The Danger: Not knowing what is around you in your driving environment is very dangerous. Each driver needs to know what vehicles are in their immediate vicinity to make intelligent lane or avoidance choices. This driver is often hoping others will yield to their lane changes. If they encounter a “Bored Bobby” or a “Busy Betty” the results are usually costly.

Immortal Ivan: Believes no matter what they do behind the wheel, nothing bad will happen to them. When people die in car crashes, it is always going to be someone else, not them. This driving symptom tends to come in the teenage years and can last into middle age if the driver makes it to that age. Too many car crashing video games can exacerbate the problem.

The Danger: Their fearlessness leads to very poor driving decisions and reckless driving. Many younger drivers and their passengers succumb to this syndrome. If “Immortal Ivan” survives, they often age to become an “Arrogant Andy”.

Dangerous Don or Silly Stevie: These drivers believe they know it all about driving. They have been on the road for a number of years and have survived. To them, their experience means they are the best drivers on the road. All those around them are morons or crazy. For drivers like “Dangerous Don”, their frustration with other motorists can lead to high risk driving and poor decisions.

The Danger: Their survival in many ways was a product of luck and not so much skill. One day that luck will run out and the resulting crash will be anyone else’s mistake and not theirs. They will blame the other driver, black ice or anything else since they could not possibly be at fault. Their closed minds mean they will never learn the skills that could keep them from that future crash.

Smart Susie: The rarest of drivers. Understands that driving is the most dangerous daily task they will face and prepares for it. This driver realizes they need to upgrade their driving skills to be prepared for the perils of driving. They focus on the task of driving and are always making driving easier for those sharing the road with them.

The Danger: There are not enough of these drivers on our roads!

Believe it or not and I don’t lie when I say this but I really do drive within the speed limit and I am constantly checking my speed. And when someone is tailgating me, I drive slower on purpose. Why? DON’T BULLY ME cause I become evil. And I view it as bullying, here comes some twit telling me to drive faster.  I am not going to get speeding ticket because of some idiot that’s in a hurry. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. SO move to the next lane, BITCH!


To Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity

To all my readers, the best therapy is to smile and laughter. When someone sent me this it made me do just that, I love humor. And if you don’t think this funny, you need to get yourself some humor at the HUMOUR STORE.

Well, a couple of these are not funny.


To  Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity

1.. In  the Memo section of all your Cheques, Write ‘ For Marijuana.

2. Order  a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat, with  a serious face.

3. Specify  That Your Drive-through Order Is ‘To  Go’.

4. Sing Along At  The Opera.

5. Five  Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can’t Attend Their Party  Because You have a  headache.

6. When  Leaving the Zoo, Start Running towards the Parking  lot, Yelling ‘Run  For Your Lives! They’re Loose!’

7. Tell  Your Children Over Dinner, ‘Due To The  Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You  Go.’

And  The Final Way To  Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity

If dogs were teachers this is what we would learn;

If Dogs Were Teachers This Is What We Would Learn:

1. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
2. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride
3. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
4. Take naps
5. Stretch before rising
6. Run, romp and play daily
7. Thrive on attention and let people touch you
8. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do
9. On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass
10. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie in the shade
11. When you’re happy, show it, dance around and wag your body
12. Delight in the simple joy of a walk
13. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm and stop when your full
14. Be loyal
15. Never pretend to be something you are not
16. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it
17. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
18. Always be grateful for each new day and for the blessings you have.

That’s what dogs teach us!

The Psychology of Addiction

Why do people perform addictive acts?

Marion put down the phone after hearing her husband’s command to prepare dinner for him and a group of business guests that evening. Now she would have to shop and prepare instead of go to the gym. As she stood there she felt the familiar, nearly overwhelming, urge to take some of her Percodans. The question is: Why?

In my last entry on this blog I noted that psychology can’t be reduced to the biology of the brain any more than biology (life) can be reduced to the chemicals that comprise it. Like other complex behaviors, addiction has to be understood in psychological terms. Marion’s story provides a good illustration. Virtually all addictive acts are triggered by emotionally significant events, and Marion’s situation is typical. She felt that she was in a trap. For emotional reasons of her own (arising from her past) she was unable to defy her husband’s insistent demands. But she couldn’t simply comply with them, either. The helplessness she felt was too deeply enraging. She had to do something to feel less helpless. For her, that something had always been taking her pills.

 I have found that virtually all addictive acts have this form. This psychology that drives addictions can be summarized in three elements:

I. Every addictive act is preceded by a feeling of helplessness or powerlessness. The issues that precipitate these overwhelmed states of helplessness are unique to each person (correspondingly, treatment must be individualized toward understanding these issues). Addictive behavior functions to repair this underlying feeling of helplessness. It is able to do this because taking the addictive action (or even deciding to take this action) creates a sense of being empowered–of regaining control–over one’s emotional experience and one’s life. Drugs are particularly good for this purpose because altering (and thereby controlling) one’s emotional state is just what they do. However, non-drug addictions can be shown to work in exactly the same way, since they are also acts that work to change (and therefore reassert power over) how one feels. The reversal of helplessness achieved by these addictive acts may be described as the psychological purpose of addiction.

II. States of overwhelming helplessness, such as the feelings that precipitate addictive acts, produce a feeling of rage. This rage is actually a normal response to the serious emotional injury of losing a sense that one is in control over oneself and one’s life. This rage is the powerful drive behind addiction. And we know something about great anger at powerlessness: it has the capacity to overwhelm a person’s judgment while he or she is in the throes of the rage. It is precisely the presence of this rage at helplessness that gives to addiction its most defining characteristics: great intensity with loss of usual judgment and seemingly irrational destructive behavior.

III. In addiction, the rage at helplessness is always expressed via a substitute behavior (a displacement). If this feeling were expressed directly, there would be no addiction. For example, if a man were flooded with feelings of intolerable helplessness when he was unfairly criticized by his boss (because the criticism touched on old sensitivities, for instance), and he then charged into his boss’s office furiously complaining, there would be no addiction. But if he displaced his need to reverse his helplessness, and instead of charging in to the boss’s office he went home to drink, then his drinking would be driven by the same rage he would have expressed toward his boss. If drinking were the way he regularly dealt with states of overwhelming helplessness then he would have a repetitive, intensely driven, apparently irrational drive to drink. We call such compulsive behavior an addiction.

Marion could not take the direct action of telling her husband to make his own dinner, or find another way to directly address her helplessness. Instead, she reacted with her usual emotional mechanism to deal with the emotional trap in which she lived. She suffered with an addiction.

Treatment for addictions has had a relatively poor success record in large part because the psychology of addiction has not been well understood. But once a person understands how his or her addiction works, the way is open to mastering it. Marion was able to master her addiction and I describe her full story, as well as stories of many others, in my book, The Heart of Addiction.

Understanding the Psychology of Twitter

Twitter has officially become the next big thing in terms of Internet social phenomena, so I can’t resist writing about it… just like everyone else. Understanding the psychology of Twitter as a case study helps innovators learn how to better predict and even invent emerging white space market opportunities. And so, this is an exploration into the existential psychology of and underlying meaning – and meaninglessness – of Twitter, to understand its meteoric rise in the Internet world.

First of all, if you’ve never used or even heard of Twitter, don’t worry, you’re not alone. As of now, less than 10 percent of American Internet users actually Twitter, but it’s growing like crazy: unique visitors to Twitter increased 1,382 percent year-over-year, from 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008 to 7 million in February 2009, making it the fastest growing social media site in the world.

Essentially, Twitter is an automated service for sharing of short 140-character communications. Why the 140 character limit? So you can send tweets from your cell phone as well as your computer. Pretty much every major celebrity has a twitter channel, from Britney Spears to Stephen Coubert and John Cleese, as the system has become the promotional channel du jour. In fact, Twitter’s greatest challenge is the risk of collapsing under its own weight, as servers crash due to the unprecedented volume of traffic and the complexity of revenue models beckon.

Some feel that Twitter is the killer app for killing time, filling any moment with useless drivel – “boy, I love lightly scrambled eggs”, “appletini or dirty martini? reply now to tell what I should order”, “stop & shop is out of weight watchers brownies, but price chopper has ’em.” I mean, it’s crazy. NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program even figured out how to get plants to twitter  when they’re thirsty!

Most interesting is how the Twitter system acts to fill a deep psychological need in our society. The unfortunate reality is that we are a culture starved for real community. For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings have resided in tribes of about 30-70 people. Our brains are wired to operate within the social context of community – programming both crucial and ancient for human survival.

However, the tribal context of life was subverted during the Industrial Revolution, when the extended family was torn apart in order to move laborers into the cities. But a deep evolutionary need for community continues to express itself, through feelings of community generated by your workplace, your church, your sports team, and now… the twitterverse. This is why people feel so compelled to tweet, to facebook or even to check their email incessantly. We crave connection.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It’s useful to dig a bit deeper into our need for community. In fact, needs analysis one of the most powerful tools for innovators to understand, which invariably leads to the meaning of their products. So let’s look at Twitter in the context of Abraham Maslow’s concept of a hierarchy of needs, first presented in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.”

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is most often displayed as a pyramid, with lowest levels of the pyramid made up of the most basic needs and more complex needs are at the top of the pyramid. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to higher levels of needs, which become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship and intimacy become important. Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment become important. Finally, Maslow emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person to achieve individual potential.

Twitter aims primarily at social needs, like those for belonging, love, and affection. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community or religious groups. Clearly, feeling connected to people via Twitter helps to fulfill some of this need to belong and feel cared about.

An even higher level of need, related to self-esteem and social recognition, is also leveraged by Twitter. Twitter allows normal people to feel like celebrities. At its worst, Twitter is an exercise in unconditional narcissism – the idea that others might actually care about the minutiae of our daily lives. I believe that this phenomena of micro-celebrity is driven by existential anxiety. I twitter, therefore I am. I matter. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggoneit, people like me!

“We are the most narcissistic age ever ,” agrees Dr David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist and director of research based at the University of Sussex. “Using Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognize you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won’t cure it.”

This leads me to a few other problems I have with Twitter and social activity monitoring in general. First, it makes it much easier for stalkers to follow you. Stalkers give me the willies, and better tools need to be in place to identify those you don’t want following your every move. However, in Los Angeles, most people celebrate their first official stalker as a benchmark of success. Second, there is a remarkable loss of focus and presence that comes with the information overload that multi-tasking brings. Twitter is like digital crack that invariably turns you into a tweetker – no matter how much of it you get, you’ll never be satisfied. If you’ve ever woken up at 3 am to check your email or read tweets, you know what I mean. You know the cold clammy fingers of existential anxiety.

Self-Actualization via Tweets

A more valuable technology tool for humanity might be the opposite of Twitter – an application that removes distractions from life, reconnects you to real relationships and human touch, and helps you find the time to focus on what really matters in life. It’s an old joke, “Second Life, heck! I can’t even keep up with my first one!”

Which leads me to return to the remaining highest level in the Maslovian hierarchy of needs – how people might use Twitter to self-actualize. Currently, there are over 200 marketing guru’s teaching about how to use Twitter as a marketing channel. How far behind could the spiritual guru’s be? The spiritually ubiquitous  Deepak Chopra has a twitter channel. So does the motivational guru Tony Robbins. Existential psychology theory explains that the core tendency of the self-actualizing person is to achieve authentic being. Can Twitter possibly aid in achieving authentic being, or is it fundamentally “mitwelt” – reinforcing the social and interpersonal aspects of life, and thus a distraction from “eigenwelt” – where the treasure of the self is hidden? What would Rollo May do? What would Heidegger say?

Perhaps this is the highest meaning of Twitter: it’s really just a massive social art project. It’s really nothing more than a fun and immersive conceptual art installation about humanity and by humanity, composed of individual 140 character haikus. (In fact, there’s even a name for the perfect tweet haiku… twoosh! It’s when your tweet hits exactly 140 characters and makes that sound. Tweet + swoosh. Nothing but net.) In fact, all the twooshes in the world add up into a giant global pachinko machine, made all the more addictive because Twitter’s software designers were clever enough to program in tenacious intermittent reward systems, so you end up like a loser in Vegas, behaviorally trapped at the slot .

Ask yourself, when you twitter, are you tweeting like a caged bird or exclaiming your passion and enjoying the spaciality of existence? Medard Boss, a Swiss psychiatrist who developed daseinsanalysis  and who coined the term, wrote, “Openness constitutes the true nature of spatiality in the human world. I am more open to my distant friend and he is clearer to me than my neighbor is.” Isn’t that exactly what the openness of the Internet enables – making distant friends clearer than the neighbor next door?

Perhaps the key distinction lies in whether you are truly enjoying humanity’s meta-haiku, or is the motivation to twitter actually a fear of being alone? Kierkegaard once said that true heroism is “daring to be entirely oneself, alone before God.” Is Twitter actually powered by a global case of monophobia?

Perhaps a more enlightened way to look at it is that you aren’t adding to the spam or garbage-in-garbage-out overload, you’re really just enjoying a cyber-zen moment of mindfulness to be present and tweet thyself. We’re all interconnected now – each of us acting like a single neuron in humanity’s brain, firing bits of electricity at one another, slowly coadunating and collectively struggling toward a great awakening. That awakening could turn out to be the next stage in our evolution, and a single tweet the butterfly’s wings that eventually leads to a big bang of global meta-consciousness.

To me, the twitterverse is like a river of human awareness, composed of billions of tiny 140 character molecules – each a snapshot of life or a thought or a reflection. A river of pure information that equals energy, according to the laws of quantum thermodynamics and stochastic processes. A river of life flowing by us as we meditate at its bank like some Siddhartha wannabe, in tattered jeans and Oakley sunglasses instead of orchid robes and begging bowl. And now, after long last, we see.

We see the beauty of the river, that some now call ambient awareness.

We reach in and touch the water of human consciousness.

Little eddies form – those are called tweetclouds.

We can be one with the river.

Or not.

It’s all good.