How to cultivate moral resilience instead

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“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is a centuries-old proverb inspired by a Japanese carving that depicts three monkeys, each with a hand covering eyes, ears, and mouth, respectively. In the West, the phrase has come to be associated with turning a blind eye to something that is legally or morally wrong, but the original meaning was that a person should always avoid evil, including in deed.

But what do we do when we find ourselves in a situation where “evil” is unavoidable? When we can’t stop seeing or hearing it, or else are powerless to prevent…


The human conscience may be thought of as an “inner voice,” but we can’t listen to it unless we are conscious of what we’re paying attention to.

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I was once physically assaulted by a man with a bag of rocks who was likely strung out on drugs while sitting in my car, waiting to get onto the Bay Bridge in California. The experience was disconcerting to say the least, but what I also remember is the shock of looking around at nearby cars that were likewise stopped. One guy was chatting on the phone, sipping a drink, casually glancing back and forth between me and my car being attacked and the road ahead. A woman next to me was holding up her phone in my direction, presumably…


The space in between us and another person, us and ourselves, and us and life may look like ordinary air, but don’t ever treat it that way.

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I never considered what the descent into madness looks like, but as they say, you know it when you see it.

The space that surrounded the madman and I was the size of small conference room, only it was well lit with natural light, thanks to a large window that faced the street. The space was an office. It was located on the first floor of a lovely brick building, on a quaint street that overlooked the water.

The sun was just starting to make its decent. Shadows from blossoming trees cast layers of light into the well-decorated room: a…


Parents who endlessly post on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites are risking their children’s safety and robbing them of creating their own stories

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Austin never got to choose not to be on the internet.

Beginning with annals of his parents’ previous attempts at conception, through two rounds of IVF, a photo of the plastic stick that finally held “two pink lines,” and the real-time video of them receiving the sonogram, even before he had inhaled his first breath, Austin’s story was already being written for him.

Eleven years on, the saga continues: harrowing tales of learning to walk and #poopingonthepotty; the time a bout of diarrhea and his mother’s Facebook friends’ cure-all advise went viral; a video of getting ready for his first…


Confronting a new wave of moral injury with the fall of Afghanistan

Put down the espresso and stop filtering photos for social media. It’s time that we as a society really listen to those at the frontlines of moral pain — otherwise we are bound to keep repeating the sins of the past.

Photo: Andrew Simboli

It’s late afternoon on an unremarkable day. The sky is blah; the wind is blah; even the birds struggle to give a shit. It a perfect backdrop for Wyatt, the titan of a man I’m walking beside. Looking at him is like staring at Everest — unwavering; formidable strength; the pinnacle of its rank; the one everyone fears and…


The new science on human goodness

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I ditched my cable subscription in May. If I had to hear one more antagonistic screaming head or screaming politician or screaming anything who pits one person or one side against another purposefully for ratings or dramatic effect, I was going to lose it — seriously. It was either the black metal box beneath the television or my sanity and soul — I chose the latter.

I also didn’t like what was happening to me. In watching 24-hour “Breaking News” or, for that matter, doomscrolling social media about the COVID pandemic, political polarization, misinformation, disinformation, race and culture wars, economic…


A small shift in sleep time can help boost your mood exponentially

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When it comes to sleep, it can seem the world is divided into “Larks” and “Owls”. Larks are those who bound out of bed at the first glimmer of dawn, whereas owls just get going when darkness sets in.

We often assume that these labels are immutable. I think of my mother who still needs her “tup of toffee,” as I called it at three years old, before she can have a coherent conversation after rising, or conversely my father who happily got up with me at 5:30am on Christmas morning to inspect Santa’s gifts.

“You’re not going to change…


The fascinating science of silence and why it’s healthier to embrace it than fight it

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I used to think he was ignoring me, or else that he just didn’t hear me, so I would repeat myself.

This “he” is my boyfriend, and almost without fail, any question I ask is met with prolonged silence. Early in our relationship, when this silent scenario played out, each second that passed absent a response would make my heart speed up and my patience level drop with a dramatic thud.

“Hello! I’m talking to you!” I would want to yell. “Bueller, why aren’t you answering?!” …


The soulful science behind woulda, coulda, shoulda

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Which is worse: regretting what you did or didn’t do? Which is harder to live with: a misstep or a missed opportunity?

This is a writing prompt I’ve used in a class I teach called “Writing Your World.” The best writing prompts are evocative, and because much of life writing comes down to better understanding ourselves — and our decisions — in relation to the past, as an instructor, I’ve found this prompt particularly useful.

As a therapist and clinical ethicist, I’m always fascinated at the follow-up discussion. …


Balancing head and heart is key to making the “right” decision. Here’s how it’s done.

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When I think back to some of the most pivotal moments in my life, I realize how profoundly different the outcomes were when I paused to really consider the decision in front of me. Hard won wisdom has taught me that a gut instinct — which is a good thing, and ought to be factored into any decision-making process — is decisively not the same thing as wish-fulfillment, which, if rashly followed, easily sends us running off a cliff.

So often, we go through life oblivious to the feelings, thoughts, emotions, and sensations that are driving our actions. For big…

Michele DeMarco

Award-winning writer, therapist, clinical ethicist, and researcher specializing in moral injury. I talk about the stuff many won’t. micheledemarco.com

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