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Japan seeking revenge: Paul Watson

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has accused Japan of hunting him down in revenge for his attacks on its whaling operations, in his first comments since he jumped bail and fled Germany.
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The militant environmentalist who is in hiding, says he felt betrayed by Germany, where he was under house arrest for 70 days, because it had negotiated with Japan to extradite him to Tokyo.

"I am very disappointed with the German government. For me it is obvious that the German government conspired with Japan and Costa Rica to detain me so that I could be handed over to the Japanese," he said on Tuesday in a message to his supporters.

Mr Watson, who for years has harassed Japan's annual whale hunt off Antarctica, was arrested in Germany in May for extradition to Costa Rica on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

He was detained for a week before being released on bail. He was ordered to appear before police twice a day. But the 61-year-old skipped bail on July 22.

Mr Watson said Costa Rica and Germany had been "pawns in the Japanese quest to silence Sea Shepherd", which has for close to a decade clashed with harpoon ships in the Southern Ocean.

"This was never really about Costa Rica. It has been about Japan all along," he said.

"We have confronted the Japanese whalers for eight seasons and we have humiliated them at sea and more importantly we have frustrated their illegal profiteering from the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

"This is not about justice; it is about revenge."

Mr Watson, a white-haired Canadian national known as "Captain" to supporters, refused to reveal his location and said that if he was extradited to Japan he would "never be released".

"I am presently in a place on this planet where I feel comfortable, a safe place far away from the scheming nations who have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of our oceans," he wrote.

But he indicated that he would continue to harass Japanese harpoonists.

"I can serve my clients better at sea than in a Japanese prison cell and I intend to do just that," he wrote, saying that Sea Shepherd would sail on its ninth campaign against Japanese whalers in December.

Australia is the launch site for Sea Shepherd boats each year as they chase the Japanese whalers.

AFP

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When is an affair, not an affair?

Cheating is not always easy to define - though it is always centred upon a breakdown of trust, say experts. Infidelity, cheating, adultery, threesome, love triangle.
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We've seen the steamy clinch, we've watched the fall-out.

Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were both in committed relationships - one has a long-term boyfriend, the other is married - when they had a so-called "momentary indiscretion."

Some say the affair was many months in the making, others that the assignations involved "no sex of any kind" - at least according to Stewart's friend and former producer, Giovanni Agnelli.

That there was a relationship beyond the platonic is a given - or at least so public apologies suggest. But there are clearly differing views as to the extent of the affair.

Which begs the question: what counts as cheating?

We posed the question to friends and family - and who knew there were so many shades of infidelity... a kiss, sex, emotional cheating, sexting, sex with the same sex, plain old animal attraction. With such a minefield out there, no wonder so many of us have had to face the reality at some stage or other: how do you define infidelity in your relationship?

Well, as much as many may have attempted to argue otherwise, it's a pretty straightforward delineation, says Fairfax's RSVP resident relationship expert and psychologist, John Aiken.

There are no degrees of infidelity, he says. "All infidelity is bad on relationships. It's breach of trust, which sees you engage in behaviour that is secretive, dishonest, sexually charged and hurts your partner.

"It might be an emotional affair - sexualised texts, coffee dates, talking down about your partner, being flirtatious, having pet names and fantasising about them. Or a physical affair - kissing, touching, having sex. Any way you look at it - it's not going to help your partner's level of trust in you."

Alarm bells! Did Aiken include fantasising in that list? Guilty, guilty, guilty. But while we all let our imaginations run riot, the relationship expert is keen to point out that to qualify as cheating, fantasising must be in combination with those other, let's say, symptoms.

Whether it's the case of a friend's brother-in-law who emailed naked photos of himself to another woman, or an acquaintance who found that his girlfriend was 'emotionally cheating' by sharing intimacies with an ex-boyfriend, the core motive is the same: they are manifestations of the moment that someone chooses to withhold an element of themselves from their primary partner - and, by doing so, to step over a boundary.

There is no reason to treat kissing differently to sex, Aiken says, as these are things that you only do with your partner. "It's intimate and personal. Doing this with someone else is cheating."

Not all couples will agree with his diagnosis of relationship disaster. Everybody knows the boundaries of their own relationships and what works for some will be beyond the pale for others.

Bill Hewlett, a counsellor with Relationships Australia, is sanguine when it comes to the scale of cheatdom. "It depends to a large extent on the rules in each relaltionship. You need to negotiate your own understanding of what's infidelity and what's not."

He says that the early exploratory stages of coupling will largely determine boundaries - and that much of the conversation about the positioning of a line will be a result of trial and error.

"A kiss is just a kiss" is the line one married couple in their 30s, very close friends, take. Alcohol, great company and being away from each other has seen that couple forced into some very frank admissions - but the strong marriage has not faltered. The relationship is worth more than diverted and momentary affection, they say.

But while definitions of infidelity may be black and white within a relationhip - "It's the same breakdown of trust and the same recovery process to rebuild" - how a couple deals with the pain can vary vastly, says Aiken.

"Some will want to talk it out, some will want to punish their partner, while others will look to avoid the event and try to downplay the hurt and pain. There are those that are prepared to do whatever it takes to repair the damage, while others don't see the big deal in all of it."

To move forwards from there, a "safe and useful conversation", says Hewlett, is the first step - and that often needs third party help.

"It's hard to survive a knock. Both partners will have to go through a stage of renegotiating. You have to re-establish trust and that won't happen quickly."

On the plus side, he has seen couples whose relationships have been rejuvenated by an affair. The trick, he says, is to "talk about feelings, not behaviour."

Either way, when it comes to shades of flings - and there is a vast range of sexually-charged pantones out there - you need to set some rules at the start of a committed union.

"What's important is that you must have a conversation about infidelity and your position on this before it occurs so you know where you both stand," says Aiken.

Hard as that particular dialogue may be, he says it is crucial because of the ramifications infidelity can have. "For many, this is a deal-breaker and it needs to be out on the table early on in your relationship."

Where this leaves Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders - and their betrayed partners - is not pretty, sadly.

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Drug in workout drinks to be illegal

A number of popular workout supplements will become illegal from next week, following a decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
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DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) - ound in popular pre-workout drinks like Jack3d - was recently banned in Canada and New Zealand after reports of adverse health effects.

The drinks, which are usually bought as powder and mixed with water, are said to heighten energy and alertness.

The TGA was initially considering classing the stimulant in the same category with drugs such as heroin. But today's decision puts it in a slightly different banned substances category. While it has been identified as a public health risk, it will not incur the serious criminal penalties of hard illicit drugs.

The decision follows public consultation and advice from an advisory committee. Of the six public submissions received, one supported the proposed ban, noting DMAA is addictive, while the other five argued it is safe, effective and has no negative health effects.

"If up to me you couldn't ban DMAA quick enough. Tomorrow is too late," the supporting submission said.

The TGA's decision was based on "reports of adverse events including high blood pressure, psychiatric disorders, cerebral haemorrhage and stroke". It also found there are no approved therapeutic uses for the stimulant, it presents a high risk of abuse and little is known about its long-term effects.

DMAA was found in ''party pills'' in New Zealand, leading to its ban in April.

The chair of toxicology at the Australasian Society for Pharmacology and Toxicology, Ian Musgrave, thinks the increasing recreational use was the tipping point for the TGA.

"They probably felt the harms from its use as a party drug outweighed any benefits in its use as a supplement in bodybuilding and weight loss," he said.

He was "baffled" last month when he learnt it was being considered in a similar category to drugs such as heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine and thinks this is a more appropriate classification.

"It's more harmful than not," he said "But it's not so harmful it's like heroine."

Food Standards Australia New Zealand advised anyone who has consumed products containing DMAA and is concerned about health risks to consult their doctor.

The decision will be implemented from August 8. It is then up to state and territory governments to implement any changes to legislation.

The NSW Health Department said the ban would automatically be implemented across the state. DMAA will be listed as a Schedule 7 "highly dangerous substance" on the NSW Poisons List. The maximum penalty is a $1000 fine for each instance of supply.

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How we fantasise about sex

We all fantasise about sex, but men tend to indulge in "exploratory" and "negative" imaginings of sex more than women.We've all heard it before: Our brains are our most powerful sexual organs.
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But what goes on inside those well-used organs is largely down to gender.

According to new research, while both men and women will have "intimate and romantic" fantasies about their partners, they go about their lusty imaginings in very different ways.

While men tend to fantasise about "exploratory" sex, women migrate towards "pleasant" encounters, say a team of scientists from the University of Granada.

But many respondents, regardless of gender, had fantasised about "negative" sexual experiences, too. The new study of Spanish 18 to 73 year olds has lifted the lid on our wildest sexual dreams, with a vast 80 per cent of respondents admitting to fantasising about "unpleasant" scenarios.

Almost 100 per cent of the 2,250 respondents said they had imagined "pleasant" encounters.

Exploratory encounters - more frequently indulged in by men - include group sex, swinging parties, promiscuity and orgies.

And definitions of "unpleasant" and "pleasant" shifted. For men, the most common "unpleasant" fantasy was a homosexual encounter, for women one of the most common was "being forced to have sex."

Women fantasised about being submissive on average just once in a lifetime, but men had negative sexual fantasies "sometimes" or "once a year."

The respondents, who had all been in heterosexual relationships for at least six months, confirmed the long-held belief that men think about sex more than women.

More research is needed into attitudes towards the encounters, but it's no secret that, as the researchers put it, sexual fantasy "favors some aspects as sexual desire and arousal".

In fact, as Dr. Logan Levkoff told the Huffington Post: "We are supposed to have an active fantasy life. Sexual fantasies do not make us sluts. Nor do they suggest that we have trouble in our current relationship. Fantasies make us healthy sexual beings."

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Red China? Not quite

CityKat. Chinese women are in no hurry to adopt lipstick.
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Wear red lipstick. If you do, men will want to have sex with you, possibly even propose marriage, and definitely rate you hotter than your pink or brown-lipped girlfriends.

Really? Well someone should, like, tell China.

Yes dear readers, I am back from the PRC. And boy did I learn a few things about love and sex and dating while in the world’s most populous country, including why some young women maintain hairy armpits: they symbolise virginal purity.

But perhaps what I found more striking – especially when compared to my journeys through Japan, Korea, and even Thailand – is just how poorly Western beauty culture has managed to penetrate the place. Life without lipstick is, for example, still overwhelmingly the status quo.

And there’s nothing especially wrong with this from where I’m sitting. How refreshing, I thought, to be a woman and not worry whether your makeup really was making you more attractive - attractive to men, and other women.

Though if the massive shopping ‘mansions’ of consumerist pleasure bedecked in posters of a very red-lipped Emma Watson are anything to go by, it could well be Beijing verges on vanity’s seductive, addictive edge. Seemingly time, not the Great Cultural Wall, is the only barrier before the multi-billion dollar industry and the very lucrative (read: big) Sino market.

And why is this good? Or, more specifically, why should Chinese women learn to love lipstick?

Well, there’s a new psychological study doing the rounds which basically confirms (again) men pay more attention to women who wear it. But not just any shade – it has to be red, bright, bold, flushed-labia memory-inducing red.

Because, according to the literature, “red lips are associated with an indication of oestrogen levels, sexual arousal and health which in turn led to increase the positive perception of the women's faces”. Or, as the authors of the study put it, “makeup increases women's attractiveness”.

Which is, y’know, totally important and stuff for women everywhere, especially women in China.

But pause, I hear you say. Don’t women in China have the odds in their favour? Hasn’t sex-selectivity has helped bred a men-heavy generation presumably desperate for wives? Why would these ladies need the same sort of ‘help’ offered to those poor, hopelessly competitive, single white females in the West?

Well, life for a lovelorn, single sister in the nation’s capital and other major centres is not really that simple.

Witness the rise of “Sheng nu” – China’s so-called ‘unwanted’ or ‘leftover ladies’. The term made the official dictionary while I was there, and I met more than a few definitive types in downtown Beijing. They are educated, financially independent women over the age of 27 who are unmarried, but want to be wed.

Tough love indeed. And clearly the problem runs deep below the surface. Probably even beyond the superficial remedy of any barbarian lip-schmear.

But it got me thinking about what makes women attractive to men, and whether, despite a vast array of profound cultural differences, there are commonalities between Aussie Bridget Joneses and the Chinese Sheng nus. Are educated, financially independent women really so undesirable for example? Do women here struggle with the same (totally offensive) ‘use-by date’ as women in China? And why are men not afflicted with the similar problems (or are they?).

On one hand, it may be a good story about liberation from the marriage ideal, which constrains human relationships to quite a narrow field. For surely while a Sheng nu technically desires marriage, some educated, financially independent women are the ones doing the rejecting – of matrimony specifically, or men in general.

On the other, however, it’s a sad story about gender stereotypes and the pervasive ideal of a submissive bride. Something I accept should exist to counter-balance aggressive Iron Wives, but perhaps not a role I’m interested in playing. And shouldn’t we all be free to decide for ourselves, independent of social expectation?

Of course we should. Of course I like to think I do. But then, I possess a full, feminine palette of lipsticks. And sometimes I wear red, so I can catch me a man and take him in, or under, my bed...

What do you think about make-up and success when it comes to love, sex and dating? Are you a man who is more attracted to painted ladies? Or do you prefer a natural face? Are you a woman who spends $45 on a lippie, because ‘you’re worth it', but can’t help but wonder which shade will make you most sexy?

And do you think women in the dating pool are advantaged by money and education? Or, was Gloria Steinem right: Women have become “the men we wanted to marry”?

**While I’ve got your attention, I’d just like to say a whopping Yippeecayaye to the wonderful blogging that went on in my absence. I hope you enjoyed reading the entries as much as I did. Certainly some excellent discussion ensued. A particular shout-out to our reader-entry winner – Mr Michael Durrand. I doff my cap to you, and your views, sir. 

Cheers all,

CK.

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Why can’t we be friends?

Sexual attraction.Oh boy. Here we go again.
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“Men and women can’t be friends because sex always gets in the way”.

Nothing new there, except now, apparently, there’s definitive science to back it up. Hear that? Definitive. Science. So definitive in fact, the story has made it from the Daily Mail, to the Telegraph, theHindustan Times, and now – ta-da – Orstrayra’s own Fairfax digital network (you’re welcome).

So clearly, it must be true.

And hey, I’m not denying it. But I am completely disagreeing with the conclusion subsequently raised: Men and women can’t be friends, because sex always gets in the way, so don’t bother.

I say do bother.

Because who says friends can’t be sexually attracted to each other? Who says there’s anything wrong with that? And who says that sexual attraction is the only kind of attraction we should ‘worry’ about anyway?

Here’s what I do know:

All friends are attracted to each other; they would not be friends otherwise.

Also, attraction is a beautiful thing. As with all things of great beauty, attraction is complex, not one-dimensional. Consider, for example, your friends. Then consider your lovers. And consider, if you have found them, the person you’ve chosen as The One.

Note how each relationship is compelling for different reasons?

And notice how sexual chemistry is just one aspect of the grander alchemy?

Now consider this: sexual attraction is just one of three key prisms through which we might observe how we are attracted to others.

Sexual attraction, or physical attraction, is complemented by emotional attraction and intellectual attraction.

We social creatures need to recognise at least one, preferably two, ideally three of these elements in another fellow before we may consider them special to us. The more tallies under each sub-head, the more attractive that character is, and the more likely we are to want to have them in our lives.

‘The One’ is demonstrative of this. They are our ultimate, our forever, our only, and they are meant to hold our affection in myriad ways: Sexually, obviously and usually at first; intellectually, which can sometimes be more stimulating; and emotionally, wonderfully and enduringly and often long after bodies and mind begin to fade.

So, why is it a problem that friends may be sexually attracted to each other?

Crudely, because we think sexual attraction should be contained. Contained to The One.

For many of us, raised with a pair of Western-heteronormative goggles nose-plonked, have been taught to see relationships beyond family (read: beyond our incest taboo) as potential life partners – as someone we can mate with, engage with and adore, monogamously, ad infinitum.

Outside the fact this narrow view renders homosexual attraction somehow less valid, it’s important to recognise ‘friendship’ exists as some sort of paltry fallback relationship. In this context, friends play second fiddle to the primary social instrument.

And, to ensure friendship doesn’t steal The One’s limelight, they must be of the same-sex variety.  Because we all know, one man wanting to shag another is an outstandingly ridiculous notion... And shagging, which can lead to babies, so-called miracles of life, is a connection oh-so much more profound than one built on ideas or feelings... Which is why ‘cheating’ is a sexual thing. Right?

(Sigh).

There is validity to the above perspective. Indeed, it is the norm. But that doesn’t make it right.

What would be more right is to acknowledge more regularly what I wrote at the start. Attraction is a beautiful thing, and beautiful things are complex.

To say that friends may only be people with whom we share either an emotional connection or an intellectual one – definitely not a sexual one – is to say that these elements are not as important. And as anyone in a long-term relationship knows, so much is utter malarkey.

For, as anyone who’s ever known their partner to share a deep emotional intimacy or profound intellectual affinity with someone outside their couple, love truly is a many splendored thing.

Therefore, if two people are sexually attracted to each other, but perhaps lack the intellectual or emotional bond that could see the relationship transition from a nice one to The One, the only thing ‘getting in the way’ of their friendship is society’s great expectations about what it means to be friend.

Don’t you agree?

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The real secret: self-help works

Read yourself happy ... the self-help genre can be very useful, says Alain de Botton. Teen angst antidote? ... Chicken Soup for the Soul self-help books target the adolescent audience.
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Headmaster of the School of Life ... Alain de Botton in Melbourne.

Do you ever find yourself idly perusing the mountain of self-help books at your favourite literary retailer - and wondering whether these books, whose dust jackets promise so much, really work? Do you decide that they probably don't but then buy them anyway "just in case"?

If so, you're not alone. There's a reason that so many of these books are published every year. Self-help is a popular genre. So much so, that it's made the unlikely leap from page to screen with the recent proliferation of plotless cinematic versions of popular bestsellers such as What To Expect When You're Expecting – a pregnancy guide – and the upcoming Think Like A Man, adapted from Steve Harley's relationship manual Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man.

Clearly, these books speak to a universal urge for auto-didactic success and individual achievement. But self-help, at least in its modern inspirational incarnation, is a relatively recent literary phenomenon that only gained widespread popularity with the publication of Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952.

The 1990s saw the expansion of the genre into every possible field of endeavour, while a whole new audience was cultivated with the Chicken Soup for the Soul teen series, the first self-help books marketed directly to adolescents.

In this century, self-help has taken another turn with Rhonda Byrne's 20 million+ bestseller of 2006, The Secret - get whatever you want by visualising it - and the bible of the overworked and underexercised: The 4-Hour Body - get fit and slender in just four hours a week. Tim Feriss's follow-up to The 4-Hour Workweek, is subtitled An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, and already in its eleventh printing since its December 2010 release. Ferriss prescribes 'hacking yourself' to become your own life coach, webmaster and personal trainer - all in the name of achieving your genetic potential in just six months. Are these extreme outcomes actually possible or are the books written by charlatans?

Author, philosopher and TV presenter Alain de Botton argues that the genre has an important place in a well-rounded education, but it’s been degraded by exploitative authors hyping unrealistic expectations.

"Most self-help books are written by Americans of the most sentimental and over-optimistic sort," de Botton tells me.

"They promise their readers, variously, eternal life, untold riches, amazing relationships and an escape from every grubby aspect of being human - all within 300 pages of upbeat, relentlessly repetitive and patronising prose."

De Botton firmly believes that the problem isn't with self-help books per se, it's with the way they are written. He cites philosophers like Epicurus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius as the most adept practitioners of the (broadly defined) genre. And at The School of Life, de Botton's London-based enterprise offering a variety of programs and services to encourage mindful living (set to launch in Melbourne later this year), there are moves afoot to reinvent the self-help book for a skeptical audience that might not normally read such books.

A good start, suggests de Botton, would be to reverse the genre's trite formula: instead of relentlessly accentuating the positive, these books would be more useful if they helped readers to accept the negative.

"What unites many modern practitioners of self-help is their fierce optimism, they make the grave assumption that the best way to cheer someone up is to tell them that all will be well," says de Botton.

"They are utterly cut off from the spirit of their more noble predecessors, who knew that the fastest way to make someone feel well is to tell her that things are as bad as, and possibly much worse than, she could ever have thought. Or, as Seneca put it so well, 'What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.'"

But would this approach shift books? It may well be that we devour these books precisely because we crave their rich dose of optimism.

Ellen*, an admitted self-help addict, theorises that the genre's allure rests on its promise of paradisiacal perfection.

"I still regard the type of self-help books you tend to find under that heading in a bookshop as something so absurd and full of fantasy, but raw and coarse and so ridiculously positive about painful things," she says.

"They are never fully satisfying but endlessly promising and addictive! I used to keep stacks of them under my bed to indulge in when no one was around."

But whether it’s the promise or the result that attracts readers, de Botton insists that these books have an important role to play in our lives, even for those not seeking existential navigation lessons.

"After all, you only need to achieve autonomy from your parents, find a moderately satisfying job, form a relationship, perhaps raise some children, watch the onset of mortality in your parents' generation and eventually in your own, until one day a fatal illness starts gnawing at your innards and you calmly go to the grave, shut the coffin and are done with the self-evident business of life. Who needs help with that? It's simple," he says.

De Botton's tone is sardonic but his point is serious. The path of progress is paved with the fruits of self-reflection and self-help provides a practical starting point for a deeper analysis of the life well-lived.

And the philosopher puts his money where his mouth is. As de Botton proudly explains, his School of Life has "produced a set of books to start to address at least a few of these issues; a culture which gives a role to guidance and the self-help book stands a chance of making at least one or two fewer mistakes than the previous generation in the time that remains."

The self-help books that Alain de Botton turns to:

"I'm deliberately stretching the term 'self-help books', because good books are self-help books,' says Alain.

Milan Kundera - The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (good for obsession).

Donald Winnicott - Home Is Where We Start From (great on relations with parents and kids).

Theodor Zeldin - An Intimate History of Humanity (puts a lot into perspective).

Philippa Perry - Couch Fiction (a description of psychotherapy in the form of a graphic novel).

*Name changed to protect identity

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Narcissists Anonymous or the ‘iGeneration’

True love? ... increase in narcissistic behaviour alarms experts.Do you fantasise about being a celebrity? Perhaps you rely on Facebook to promote your successes and achievements? Or do you constantly tell your children how special they are to boost their self-esteem but really think you should be the one getting all the attention?
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You could just be displaying the traits of a confident person with healthy self-regard but some might argue you have the more sinister characteristics of a narcissist.

Lisa Firestone, a psychology expert on relationships and parenting, writing in Psychology Today, explains the distinction. "Self-esteem differs from narcissism in that it represents an attitude built on accomplishments we've mastered, values we've adhered to, and care we've shown toward others. Narcissism, conversely, is often based on a fear of failure or weakness, a focus on one's self, an unhealthy drive to be seen as the best, and a deep-seated insecurity and underlying feeling of inadequacy."

Narcissists come in two forms, says Dr Doris McIlwain, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University. "The grandiose narcissist is out for themselves, pretty hopeless at empathy, likely to make any shame coming their way your problem rather than theirs. They are status-obsessed, unlikely to thank you or apologise. The thin-skinned narcissist is secretly resentful of being imposed on, feels like an unsung hero and, since they are unable to soothe their own ruffled emotions – they will outsource that need by getting others to bolster their ego."

If all this is starting to sound familiar, it's not surprising. Experts are warning of the dangers of narcissism - from celebrity culture promoting fame and wealth above ethics and altruism, to internet-enabled self-obsession and discipline-averse parenting styles.

Larry Rosen, Professor of Psychology at California State University in Los Angeles believes technology is affecting our emotional stability and exposing us to a range of psychological disorders including narcissism. The author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology And Overcoming Its Hold On Us, told ABC Radio National'sAll In The Mind program, "iDisorder is where technology is literally making us exhibit signs and symptoms of a whole bunch of psychological disorders including narcissistic personality disorder, depression, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder even a little bit of schizoid personality."

"While people may not be exhibiting a full-blown narcissism, what they are exhibiting are more signs and symptoms of narcissism" said Rosen. "This narcissism might be manifested on Facebook by collecting friends. I have lots, and lots, and lots of friends; I have a thousand friends, look how wonderful I am. Or look at these photos of me that I'm posting on Flickr. Wow! Look at how much fun I'm having in my life."

"Researchers that have found looking at, say, even popular lyrics in songs that over the last several decades, the songs have become more narcissistic, songs instead of being about other people and love, are more about me, me, me – look at me," he added.

Last month singer Rihanna became the latest celebrity thought to be suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) after the UK's Daily Star said "a string of bizarre messages and pictures she put on Twitter revealed she could have a mental disorder". Relationship psychologist Jo Hemmings told the newspaper: "Rihanna's erratic behaviour could indicate that she suffers from NPD. Symptoms are an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a need for constant admiration, which Rihanna shows by posting semi-nude pics."

Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement believes young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic.

"Overall, we've seen a massive increase in narcissism among college students" she told the American Psychological Association's Monitor on Psychology. The financial crisis may have dampened down materialism but "a lot of other cultural forces — the internet and parenting in particular — are still pushing in the direction of narcissism," she said.

Lisa Firestone highlights the role of parenting in the book she has written with her psychologist father, Robert Firestone, The Self Under Siege. "Vanity is a fantasised image of the self that is formed when parents substitute empty praise and a false build-up for the real love and acknowledgment they have failed to provide to their child," she says.

"Studies have shown that children offered compliments for skills they haven't mastered or talents they do not possess are left feeling as if they'd received no praise at all, often even emptier and less secure," she wrote in Psychology Today. "Only children praised for real accomplishments were able to build self-esteem. The others were left to develop something far less desirable — narcissism."

These arguments have found resonance in Australia where the question of whether young people today are more narcissistic than previous generations is a topic of debate.

Professor Johanna Wyn, director of the Australian Youth Research Centre at Melbourne University, has been conducting research through the Life Patterns project following two generations of Australians, Gen X born in 1973 and Gen Y born around 1989, in areas such as education, employment, health and family as well as learning about their aspirations and attitudes.

Wyn says she rejects the narcissistic label given to young people in Australia today.

"Jean Twenge can't speak for Australians" she says. "I don't see anything like that in the data we've got and we've been researching Generation X for over 22 years," she says. Young people today "have to be really good decision makers, they have to be self-aware and they have to be good navigators of complex times and I think you could be reading some of those traits as somehow being narcissistic because they have to be fairly aware of where they stand, who they are, how they connect, but I see it as a functional and probably inevitable way of operating."

Young Australians "really value family highly and friends and there's a really high rate of volunteering and I think it really doesn't paint a picture of that kind of narcissism or self-interested individual. As they get older volunteering increases so, instead of becoming more narcissistic, they are becoming more community minded in general and I think that's really important. I think there's a lot of evidence to paint a different picture."

Dr Helen McGrath a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Deakin University disagrees. "Parents and teachers always have the best interests of children at the heart of what they do and their involvement in the 'self-esteem movement' has reflected that. However, although well-intentioned, this movement is now seen by many researchers to have contributed to a stronger sense of entitlement and, in some cases, higher levels of narcissism."

So what does McGrath think can be done to protect children from these narcissistic tendencies? One approach, she says, is to place more emphasis on self-respect rather than self-esteem.

"We can work with parents to change their focus slightly and identify self-respect as a more useful goal rather than self-esteem," she says. "People who have self-respect have sound values that they use as a 'moral map' they treat others respectfully. They consider themselves equal to other people (neither inferior or superior) and work hard to try and achieve their goals. They are resilient, accept themselves as imperfect and continue to be self-accepting in spite of mistakes or failures. Although they enjoy receiving positive feedback and they are not dependent on it to feel okay."

In the meantime perhaps we can stop seeing celebrities as role models, take a break from Facebook and give our egos a well-deserved rest.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Time to go to dating school

“Sophia Loren, she is a real woman.” CityKat.
Nanjing Night Net

Teenagers in America have been told to define whether they were "just texting, casually hooking up, friends with benefits or monogamous" as part of a new schools program that aims to minimise the harm caused by bad dating habits.

They are also advised on why ending things face-to-face is better than simply changing Facebook statuses to 'single', and how to read signs a relationship may become abusive.

OK.

Such wisdom should not be restricted to American teenagers. Such hot tips could help matters here too.

And when I say help, I’m not just talking horny teens.

Australian adults, by and large, are terrible at ending relationships. Almost as terribly handled? Getting one going in the first place.

In other words, Aussies need help.

I suppose I should explain myself.

Problem one. There is no mature, mainstream dating culture in this country.

Yes, there are plenty of businesses devoted to helping us all each find The One. Yes, there is a nightclub scene where pants-parties are frequently found at the bottom of beer glasses. But it’s not really a culture inasmuch as the status quo.

And fair enough – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Western singles have only had a few generations to go from tight-laced English match-making sensibilities, to today’s ‘wanna get a beer?’ ‘Orright then’. ‘Wanna shag?’ ‘Sure, no worries’.

Or, in the words of my Italian-stallion friend, "Aussies don’t date, they just mate".

“Australian men are not elegant with women – they are brutish, like boys – and they don’t take charge,” he said in response to questions about why he was more successful with local ladies than fellows born and bred.

And while he was less ready to criticise Australian women (“but I love the ladies!”), he did say that, compared to the bella signorine of his homeland, dames from Down Under weren’t “real” women.

“Sophia Loren, she is a real woman,” he said, by way of example. “Australian women – they are less... sophisticated.”

Gross generalisations aside, his insight raises another reason as to why we struggle when it comes to the arts of seduction and swashbuckling. We lack a culture of romance.

In Australia, unlike Italy for example, the cultural credo otherwise vested in legendary lovers, artists and poets is lavished on murderous bushrangers, boozy larrikins, or some such scoundrel battler.

Oh worse, we roll the ideals into one, big, great, reef-n-beef-style monster notion (how else do you explain Shane Warne?).

Which brings me to my final reason we need help: Shane Warne.

But what's to be done?

We can’t exactly mandate every grown person capable of engaging in a romantic relationship, or ending one, first complete a certificate in best practice.

We could have better sex and relationships education programs at schools, but that would require strong government unafraid of backlash from the chastity police who fear condoms and believe homosexuality is contagious.

We can try and be better on a personal level. And thanks to organisations like Relationships Australia (OK, OK, federally funded), various Family Planning sites, and – hey – even the Australian Sex Party, there’s plenty of material out there which might be helpful.

But not everyone thinks there’s a problem with how we are doing it down here.

“What’s wrong with Australia? Nothing,” says my girlfriend, a long-term, happy single-sort-of-looking, emphatically.

“Yes, men don’t ask you out on the street, but who wants that? Yes, online dating is not all it’s cracked up to be, but that’s hardly unique to Australia.

“And sure, most people are asked out through friends of friends, which does create problems for when you break-up. But that’s just the way it is, why should it change?”

Why indeed.

What do you think – do Australians know how to start, or finish, relationships? Are we clumsy maters or elegant daters? How do we compare on a world stage? And what are your pet loves/loathes about how we say 'yes' or 'no' to love?

  @katherinefeeney

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Say it to my Facebook

Looking for faults ... is Facebook turning you into a malevolent voyeur?Occasionally, you come across someone in life who you simply can't stand. They may not be outwardly rude or aggressive, but there is something about them that gets under your skin in a way that isn't easy to explain. Perhaps it's pheromonal.
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Whatever the case, every time you run into them or their name comes up in conversation it makes you inwardly cringe. Yet, due to social mores or plain cowardice on your part, instead of making your feelings known you put on your best fake smile and nod politely.

However, there is one place where you can indulge this ugly, hateful side of yourself unfettered – the internet. Home of many things both positive and negative, the voyeuristic solitude it offers is a breeding ground for spiteful vitriol, both silent and articulated. And nowhere offers as many opportunities for the former as Facebook.

It is here that you can nurture your dislike for an individual without interruption. Sometimes it's even the source of your burgeoning loathing, offering you an endless smorgasbord of opportunities to feed the beast.

Between the narcissistic and relentless posting of self-portraits to banal or offensive updates you find that instead of defriending your object of disaffection or hiding their posts, you keep them on your feed solely because you secretly love to hate on them – checking their page every other day as if it were your private soap opera.

"Facebook can become like a reality TV series of your very own, depending on the friends you have. The voyeur in us may see this as a cheeky way of being entertained, and not wanting to miss out on the juicy gossip," said Nicole Greentree, CEO and founder of Empower Social Media. "I have heard of many unfortunate stories that have been a result of inappropriate Facebook posts. Relationships being ended with embarrassing explicit photos being posted, jobs lost due to employees whinging about their employer, friendships being lost due to misinterpretation of a post... I believe it can become an obsession."

A modern-day interpretation of glancing into a neighbour's living room as you walk past their house under the cover of night, at what point do you cross the line from casual observer to Facebook's version of a malevolent neighbourhood peeper?

A friend explains that she logs on to find out what's been going on in the online life of those she doesn't particularly like and finds that these people often hold her interest more than genuine friends – though she can't pinpoint exactly why.

"I wonder why I do it to some and get rid of the feeds of others that annoy me. If I have a cohort who gets just as annoyed by a particular person's feed as I do I find joy in complaining about how outrageous their postings are today," she said. "I guess it's the equivalent of passing notes around class bitching about someone. I know it's wrong and a waste of time but there is some satisfaction in it."

Adding that she's always polite and civil when interacting with these people in person but would never actively seek out a connection otherwise, she's unsure whether her animosity is driven by annoyance, jealously or a gentle blend of the two. Though she finds that the common link is usually a seemingly wilful display of arrogance.

"There is one particular person that I will always seek for their annoying take on their day, maybe a part of me is jealous, I don't know. I am not sure, why it gets to me so much," she said. "They are in the same line of work and seem to be quite successful, I guess I don't like that they make broad statements as if they are the first to discover something, somewhere or someone and urge the rest of us to do ourselves a favour and check it out – such arrogance. They often put up quotes from writers or the like which I find annoying. I'm not a fan of the Facebook quote in any form."

But what starts off as a bit of idle backstabbing can quickly descend into something more closely resembling a fixation. Where you were once checking their page every other day it begins to occur more frequently until you find yourself monitoring their activity as part of your regular routine. A behavioural trap that is all too easy to fall into when you work with computers as part of your everyday.

Beyond being a little bit depressing – presumably these targets don't spend nearly as much time thinking about you as you do about them – clinical psychologist Jo Lamble says fostering such behaviour often reveals more about you as a person and warns that it can lead to a lack of contentment in other areas of your life.

"The lower your own self-esteem, the more likely you are to engage in this sort of behaviour. That's because people who don't feel great about themselves can feel the need to rip others to shreds in order to feel better about themselves," she said. "Unfortunately, social media is encouraging narcissistic behaviour in some people and narcissism is all about feeling superior to others because of low self-worth... I see it as a very negative activity. Judging others is not good for us. It's the opposite to compassion and compassion leads to greater happiness and contentment than being judgmental."

She adds that a simple way to gauge if things are getting out of hand is to take stock of how much mental energy you are expending on this person. If you find that you're often thinking about them and the urge to check their updates grows so strong that you feel you are unable to stop it's a clear indication that things have gotten way out of hand.

Though we may feel fear around defriending someone because it sends a clear message about the direction of the relationship, if it's grown into an obsession Lamble strongly recommends that you take the plunge. Or in the event that doing so might cause complications – if they are work colleagues, for example – you should hide all updates from this person in a bid to break away from the unhealthy behaviour.

"There are all the excuses in the world for not defriending someone, such as the fact that they're colleagues," said Lamble. "But, as I said, hating or judging others is so bad for your own mental health that it's time to ditch the excuses and do something more positive with your time."

It's advice that my aforementioned friend has taken to heart. Feeling that she was spending far too much time focussing on the perceived faults of others, she noticed it turned on a faucet of negativity that was hard to turn off. Since culling unnecessary individuals from her friend list and hiding the updates of the ones she's unable to at the present time she says she's never felt better.

"I am finding that I do it less and less now. I used to have more people on my feed but got rid of them," she said. "I was in a hate spiral once, checking a page that particularly pisses me off and reading all the comments underneath which could go on for hours. I felt dirty afterwards so I unsubscribed from their Facebook feed and now it doesn't enter my life."

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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