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Sun, 31 Jul 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


The root of healing from addiction is connection

© Ultra Kulture
Do Stronger Human Connections Immunise Us Against Emotional Distress?

Right now an exciting new perspective on addiction is emerging. Johann Harri, author of Chasing The Scream, recently captured widespread public interest with his Ted talk Everything You Know About Addiction Is Wrong, where he concluded with this powerful statement:
"The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection."
- Johann Harri

These sentiments are augmented by a growing number of experts, including addiction specialist Dr Gabor Maté, who cites 'emotional loss and trauma' as the core of addiction. Compare this 'emotional loss' to Johan Harri's idea about lack of connection and it is clear they're talking about a similar emotional condition.

Limbic Resonance

If connection is the opposite of addiction, then an examination of the neuroscience of human connection is in order. Published in 2000, A General Theory Of Love is a collaboration between three professors of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. A General Theory Of Love reveals that humans require social connection for optimal brain development, and that babies cared for in a loving environment are psychological and neurologically 'immunised' by love. When things get difficult in adult life, the neural wiring developed from a love-filled childhood leads to increased emotional resilience in adult life. Conversely, those who grow up in an environment where loving care is unstable or absent are less likely to be resilient in the face of emotional distress.

Comment: See also: Social connections and bonding: Everything we think we know about addiction is wrong

Book 2

Why we remember very little from early childhood

© Denis Omelchenko/Shutterstock
Most of us don't have any memories from the first three to four years of our lives - in fact, we tend to remember very little of life before the age of seven. And when we do try to think back to our earliest memories, it is often unclear whether they are the real thing or just recollections based on photos or stories told to us by others.

The phenomenon, known as "childhood amnesia", has been puzzling psychologists for more than a century - and we still don't fully understand it.

At first glance, it may seem that the reason we don't remember being babies is because infants and toddlers don't have a fully developed memory. But babies as young as six months can form both short-term memories that last for minutes, and long-term memories that last weeks, if not months. In one study, six-month-olds who learned how to press a lever to operate a toy train remembered how to perform this action for two to three weeks after they had last seen the toy. Preschoolers, on the other hand, can remember events that go years back. It's debatable whether long-term memories at this early age are truly autobiographical, though - that is, personally relevant events that occurred in a specific time and place.

Of course, memory capabilities at these ages are not adult-like - they continue to mature until adolescence. In fact, developmental changes in basic memory processes have been put forward as an explanation for childhood amnesia, and it's one of the best theories we've got so far. These basic processes involve several brain regions and include forming, maintaining and then later retrieving the memory. For example, the hippocampus, thought to be responsible for forming memories, continues developing until at least the age of seven. We know that the typical boundary for the offset of childhood amnesia - three and a half years - shifts with age. Children and teenagers have earlier memories than adults do. This suggests that the problem may be less with forming memories than with maintaining them.

Comment: See also: Why do childhood memories usually completely disappear?


We were made for these times

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.


Incivility is contagious: Working with jerks could harm your personal relationships

There's more to the relationship between your professional and personal life than setting a witty "away" message when you finally go on vacation. Like Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer would say, acting like there's a wall between your "work" and your "life" is misguided, since you're the same being, with the same consciousness, and the same needs, whether you have Slack open or not.

This comes into particular focus with a new study in the Journal of Management. A research team lead by Sandy Lim from the National University of Singapore finds that when people have hostile experiences at work, they're more likely to be angry or withdrawn when they get home. Lim and her colleagues had 56 participants — averaging 39 years old, 72 percent women — from a large public institution in Southeast Asia report their emotional states on an online survey in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Then, at night, their spouses would report on the way that they acted. This went on over two working weeks.

Comment: The corporate work culture is toxic to the human spirit

Brick Wall

Setting boundaries with your narcissistic parents

When adults realize they were the product of a narcissistic parent, it can shock them into a state of grief. Instantly, they go from idealizing the narcissist to grieving their lost childhood and the God-like image of their parent. Suddenly, the parent is transformed from larger than life to a deeply insecure human being. With the rose colored glasses off, the adult struggles to rewrite their history without a narcissistic perception.

It is not an easy process. It requires time to recall events and alter them to a newly discovered reality. It entails massive energy to reprogram the negative words and competitive actions of the narcissist. It necessitates motivation to complete the process until a new level of healthy is achieved. But now that this process is finished, what new boundaries can keep the adult from falling back into old habits?

Think before speaking. Before visiting or speaking to a narcissistic parent, the adult should remember the parent is a narcissist. It might be helpful to review some of their glaring characteristics so expectations can be more appropriately set. Once a person knows a lion is a lion, they should not expect a lamb. Thinking about the conversation before it begins allows the adult to plan accordingly. Boundary = I'm going to set reasonable expectations.

Comment: Learning to set boundaries is a key strategy in protecting oneself from the manipulations of narcissists. This is particularly important for those who have grown up in narcissistic families where they have never learned to discern what they need or how to express those needs because they have spent most of their lives tending to those of their narcissist parent.

Alarm Clock

What to believe? Science is a red herring and a wild-goose chase

To be certain about things is reassuring. It allows feelings of safety, security.

For knowledge, for understanding the world, humankind seems to have turned at first to what could be inferred from the spirits of things — the spirits associated with or inherent in everything: in mountains, in trees, in bodies of water. The spirits could be understood, at least partly, because they were similar to people in having emotions and desires.

Eventually — quite recently, only a few thousand years ago — the plurality and hierarchies of spirits and gods yielded to monotheistic religions in most parts of the world. Even more recently, and only in the most powerfully developed countries, religion yielded to science.

That is to say, traditional religion yielded to scientism, the religion of science. Even the monotheistic gods have emotions and desires, but science doesn't. So knowledge became entirely impersonal, at least in principle.

Comment: Related articles:


Why you don't know your own mind

© Inge Morath /The Inge Morath Foundation/Magnum Photos. Masks by Saul Steinberg /The Saul Steinberg Foundation/ARS, NY
It is often said that we can never truly know the minds of others, because we can't "get inside their heads." Our ability to know our own minds, though, is rarely called into question. It is assumed that your experience of your own consciousness clinches the assertion that you "know your own mind" in a way that no one else can. This is a mistake.

Ever since Plato, philosophers have, without much argument, shared common sense's confidence about the nature of its own thoughts. They have argued that we can secure certainty about at least some very important conclusions, not through empirical inquiry, but by introspection: the existence, immateriality (and maybe immortality) of the soul, the awareness of our own free will, meaning and moral value. In a Stone column Gary Gutting explained how this tradition continues to manifest itself in contemporary philosophy as the search for "a 'transcendental' or 'absolute' consciousness that provides the fuller significance of our ordinary experiences." Thomas Nagel has invoked the same source to trump science in this publication as well.

Introspection, "the mind's eye," assures us with the greatest confidence that it is the best, in some cases the only authority on how the mind works, because we all think it has direct, first person access to itself. We're all very confident that we just know what's going on in our own minds, from the inside, so to speak.

Comment: Related articles:

People 2

A simple and cheap alternative to traditional therapy for treating depression

Depression can be more simply treated by behavioural activation therapy, a new study concludes.

Behavioural activation therapy is a more straightforward alternative to cognitive-behavioural therapy — the gold standard of depression treatment.

Clinical depression affects around 350 million people around the world, but only a fraction receive the best care.

Behavioural activation therapy could be a good alternative that provides access to therapy for more people.

The therapy itself focuses on encouraging people to take part in meaningful activities that are linked to their core values.


Listening to 'pink noise' could help you sleep better and enhance memory

Sounds played during sleep can enhance memory and may even benefit sleep, recent research finds.

The sounds, though, need to be in sync with the brain's natural oscillations to work.

In the study 11 people were played 'pink noise' while they slept.

This sounds like gentle hissing that goes up and down — much like the lapping of waves on the beach.

Comment: According to Wikipedia, different colors of noise have significantly different properties: for example, as audio signals they will sound different to human ears, and as images they will have a visibly different texture. The sense of 'color' for noise signals is similar to the concept of timbre in music. Pink noise occurs in many physical, biological as well as economic systems. It is present in heart beat rhythms, neural activity and the electromagnetic radiation output of some astronomical bodies. Pink noise has been compared to the sounds of rushing water, heavy rain or strong wind through leaves.


Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues to build character

Benjamin Franklin by David Rent Etter, after Charles Willson Peale, after David Martin (1835)
At the ripe old age of twenty, Benjamin Franklin set out to make himself morally perfect. Having studied the ancient philosophers and their ideas of the virtues required to be an ideal man, he created his own list of thirteen virtues. Like the virtue ethicists of the ancient past and more modern times, Franklin sought to develop his entire character rather than focus on the question of how to act in a certain situation. His hope being that with the perfection of his character, he would never again have to ask how to act, as he would simply act as a virtuous person would by habit. Never again would he commit a fault at any time, he thought.

His selections were ordered by importance, and he saw the earliest ones as being needed to achieve the latter ones. They were also chosen for simplicity, as each covers a small and defined area of character.
1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13. Humility. Imitate Jesus [Caesar] and Socrates.

Comment: To learn more about improving ourselves and accurately evaluating what's going on inside our minds (and the minds of those around us), read the discussion on our forum based on Timothy Wilson's book, "Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious".

See also: The intelligence of self observation and self-awareness