Author Archives: Sharon Faktor

Happiness – 4/9

In “The Art of Happiness,” the Dalai Lama explains his belief that the purpose of life is to find happiness. But wouldn’t this make us all selfish? Isn’t finding happiness all about oneself? To illustrate the contrary, Howard C. Cutler cites a survey in which unhappy people are actually more self-centered, less loving and less forgiving than happy people. More so, several experiments have exemplified the idea that happy people are more willing to help others and spread positive feelings. For example, in an experiment that Cutler describes, half of the subjects were set up to find money lying on the ground in a phone booth while the other half were not. When an experimenter walking by posing as a stranger “mistakenly” dropped a stack of papers, the participants who had found the money were more likely to help this “stranger,” compared to those who had not.

So how does someone go about increasing his or her happiness? On the surface, according to the Dalai Lama, it’s about purposely cultivating positive states like kindness and compassion. While I was studying abroad last year, my positive psychology class took a trip to London to study and explore the topic for a week. For one of our assignments, our professor split us into groups and gave each group 10 pounds. The assignment was simple: Do a random act of kindness in the city. My group and I brainstormed for a while — we considered buying food and a blanket for a homeless person or giving out balloons to those walking by. We ultimately decided to go to a frozen yogurt shop and pay for the next person to walk into the store, without them knowing.

It was debatable who was the happiest — my group, the people receiving the free frozen yogurt, or the employees helping us plan the surprise. With this assignment, I definitely experienced firsthand how kindness helps increase happiness and how contagious it is. The class got so much enjoyment from this activity.

Life Before Life – 4/2

Jim Tucker tells the story of Kendra Carter and her swim instructor Ginger in Chapter 6 of his novel, “Life Before Life.” Kendra was first introduced to Ginger when she was four and a half years old and instantly felt very connected to her. Although the two had only seen each other during Kendra’s swim lessons and talked about nothing other than swimming, Kendra told her mother a couple weeks after her first lesson that Ginger had lost a child. Surprised and skeptical, Kendra’s mother asked how she knew this. Kendra responded, “I’m the baby that was in her tummy.” She continued to describe an abortion to her mother, “saying that Ginger had allowed a bad man to pull her out and that she had tried to hang on but could not.” She further described being in a cold and dark place. Kendra’s mother later learned that Ginger had had an abortion nine years before Kendra was born.

While Kendra was very happy and warm towards Ginger, Ginger wasn’t the same way back. Rather, she was quiet and cool. Kendra insisted on seeing Ginger outside of swim lessons. She claimed she loved her. While Kendra’s mother wasn’t very fond of the idea, she allowed Kendra to stay with Ginger for three nights a week, because Kendra wasn’t happy otherwise. In fact, prior to staying with Ginger, Kendra had an intense fear of dying and told her mother that she wouldn’t come back if she died again.

Kendra’s mother and Ginger eventually had a falling out and Kendra was no longer allowed to see Ginger. Because of this, Kendra did not speak for over four months. Kendra’s mother (naturally) had a very difficult time dealing with this. As a conservative Christian, she didn’t believe in reincarnation and felt as though she were committing a sin by even considering the idea.

Of course, there are many unanswered questions to this story. How did this four year old describe an abortion? Was it a dream or was it real? As Kendra’s mother, how do you deal with this? Furthermore, I found it fascinating that Kendra felt so strongly towards Ginger even though Ginger wasn’t the same way back. I appreciate the way Tucker tells the stories throughout his book and lets the reader decide what theory best explains these incidents. He makes a point to state that the stories aren’t proof — they’re evidence.

3/26 – “Across Time and Death”

“Across Time and Death” is a story about Jenny Cockell’s journey in finding her children from a supposed previous life. When she was a little girl, Jenny had reoccurring vivid dreams about the death of a woman named Mary. Jenny could describe in great detail the architecture of the room Mary died in, the feeling of what it was like being in the room, the cottage Mary used to live it, a map of the village where Mary used to live, and perhaps the most significant, Mary’s children. The dreams were intense and would leave Jenny sobbing in the middle of the night, worried about what happened to Mary’s children. Jenny kept to herself as a child, as she was too nervous to tell her mother and father about the dreams.

Yet Jenny was not able to let the dreams go. Once she grew up and had children of her own, Jenny decided she had to find the children of her past life. After much work and dedication, Jenny learned more about the Mary in her dreams. When Jenny first got on the phone with the daughter of one of Mary’s sons, Jenny writes, “I said, ‘I know it’s going to sound very strange, but I remember the family through dreams.'” This (to my surprise) did not scare the daughter away, and Jenny was able to learn more about Mary’s children and where they are today. After this conversation, Jenny describes feeling “curiously free” knowing that the children are now grown up and self-sufficient. She felt more able to move on but still felt a strong tie as a mother.

This story, along with the documentary we watched in class on Monday, leaves me with lots of questions. How can we be sure these aren’t coincidental instances? What is the difference between having a reoccurring dream and believing it was a past life? Furthermore, is this a rare case, since like we discussed in class on Monday, most dreams end in the early teen years and the individual forgets this ever happened? What makes some remember and others not?

Eisenstein – 3/19

Eisenstein questions people’s true judgments — of themselves and others — in Chapter 25. He writes that it’s usually easy to be critical of oneself because it’s something that society values — being too good at something or being too hard on yourself. But what about others? By judging yourself, aren’t you comparing yourself against others? And isn’t that not fair because you don’t know their situation?

To illustrate this idea, Eisenstein tells a story about an experiment conducted by John Darley and C. Daniel Batson in 1973. There were three groups in this experiment, all of which were tasked with traveling across campus to tell the Good Samaritan story from the bible. The story is about a priest and a Levite passing a wounded man on the side of the road without stopping to help. The only one to stop was the Samaritan.

The first group was told, “You’d better hurry up, you’re late for your interview.” The second group was told, “You’d better hurry up, your interview starts in a few minutes.” The third group was told, “Well, you might as well head on over. Your interview doesn’t start for a while, but we’re done here.”

On their way to their final destinations, all the groups passed a wounded man, groaning loudly, in the middle of a doorway — a sight that was impossible for the groups to miss. As one might expect, the groups responded differently. Only 10% of the participants in the first group stopped while 60% of those in the third group stopped. But this can’t possibly mean that all the “good” participants were simply randomly assigned to group three.

Eisenstein reasons that we can’t judge others because we don’t know their situation. We can’t say we’d do something differently from someone else because we just don’t know. And it’s more likely than not that we’d probably do the same.

3/12 One Mind – Sharon Faktor

Discussions about twins are common in psych classes — they’re an interesting segue into the nature versus nurture debate. However, I’ve never discussed twins in the way that Dossey does in Chapter 15 of his book, “One Mind.”

Dossey opens his chapter with the famous “Jim twins” — a story about two identical brothers who were separated at birth and raised by two different families in Ohio. They finally reunited when they were 39 years old. Among many seemingly unbelievable details, both Jims learned that they had both married twice: first, to women named Linda, and second, to women named Betty. Both had sons named James Allen. Both enjoyed math and hated spelling. Both had spent a vacation in Florida on the same small beach. Both drove Chevrolets. Both lived in houses where there was a tree with a white bench on the lawn. Both even shared the unique characteristic of flushing the toilet before using it.

While surely not all twins separated at birth have a story like the “Jim twins,” others do exist. For example, when British twins Bridget Harrison and Dorothy Love reunited, they realized they were both wearing the same number of rings, bracelets and watches on the same hands. One had named her son Andrew Richard while the other one named hers Richard Andrew. Both had daughters: one named hers Karen Louise while the other named hers Catherine Louise.

More so, another set of twins were separated at birth and reunited when they were 39 years old. They walked out of their trains in the same color dress and jacket. Both had fallen down the stairs when they were 15 and had weak ankles as a result. Both met their husbands when they were 16 at a dance.

Dossey considers the idea that this is not all coincidental — that this can’t be all because of chance. He entertains the idea of sharing consciousness, of a “one mind,” which would explain these incredible similarities. He hypothesizes that twins who grew up apart may be more similar since they’re not resisting the shared mind, like many twins who grow up together do.

2/19 Medium Biographies

Eileen J. Garrett is said to have been one of the most influential mediums of the 20th century. Garrett was born in 1893 in Beauparc, County Meath, Ireland. Her aunt and uncle adopted her and raised her after her mother and father committed suicide when she was very young. Different from the mediums that came to class on Monday, Garrett claims that she tended to see light and energy around people, along with sensing them and feeling them too. Growing up, Garrett had many playmates, who she referred to as “the children.” According to Garrett, she didn’t have to do anything special to make the children appear — they just would. And they would only be visible to Garrett.

One of Garrett’s first experiences happened when she was very young. Garrett saw her favorite aunt walking down the street, holding a baby. When Garrett reached her aunt, her aunt said to her, “I am going away now and I must take the baby with me.” Garrett thought this was a little strange, and went back to her adoptive aunt to tell her the story. Garrett’s adopted aunt didn’t believe her and punished her for making up this crazy story. The next day, Garrett’s favorite aunt died in childbirth, as did the baby.

After this experience, Garrett became interested in life and death and what happens after. She would perform experiments on her aunt’s baby ducklings — killing them to try to understand what happened to their energies and spirits afterward.

Garrett’s most well known experience was in 1930 with the British plane, the R101. Garrett sensed that the plane was going to crash and so she told the Director of Civil Aviation. Of course, he did not believer her, and shortly after, he died along with 45 others. Two days after the crash, flight lieutenant and captain H.C. Irwin communicated through Garrett a detailed explanation of why the plane crashed. Experts later said that what Garrett communicated was the same conclusion that famous naval architect E.R. Spanner came to in his book about the crash.

Later, Garrett founded the Parapsychology Foundation in 1951, which is thought to be one of her greatest achievements. She died from bone cancer on September 15, 1970.


For my next biography, I wanted to find a more current medium. Rebecca Rosen is a 37 year-old wife and mother, residing in Denver, Colorado. Rebecca grew up in a household where there was never any talk about psychics or mediums. When Rebecca was 20 years old, a sophomore at the University of Florida, she suffered from severe depression. After struggling alone for quite some time, she told her parents about her feelings and shortly after began antidepressants. Yet after 6 months on the antidepressants, she still felt the same. She decided to go off the medicine.

Still suffering from depression years later, Rebecca found an “angel board,” which she describes as similar to a Ouija board. One night, Rebecca brought the board into her room and claims her deceased grandma spoke to her and told her to watch the candle behind her. When Rebecca turned around, she noticed that her candle was dripping wax all over the floor.

Shortly after this incident, Rebecca, still suffering from depression, went to a bookstore to write in her journal. At the bookstore, Rebecca felt her grandma communicating through her hand and onto the page — something Rebecca describes as “automatic writing.” She took up 15 pages in her journal with her grandma’s stories that only her father would know. When Rebecca went home to show her father, he couldn’t believe it. He confirmed it must be his mother.

Rebecca’s grandma took her life when Rebecca was 11. She too was depressed. She explained to Rebecca that she needed to help so that what happened to her would not happen to her granddaughter.

When Rebecca was able to love herself, according to her grandma, she’d meet her lover. The clues she had were that his name would be Ryan, he’d give her a rose and his birthday would be September 24.

Once Rebecca was healthy, she was introduced to Brian Rosen, who she married shortly after. Rebecca interprets his name as “Rian Rose” if you eliminate the first and last letters, as the clues her grandma gave her. Rebecca now feels as though it is her job to help others connect with their loved ones when they need them most. She is a full time medium and has appeared on many TV Shows.