Archives for August, 2012


Drive-Thru Smoking Cessation

The standard smoking cessation quit-date timeline is 1-2 weeks.  Here’s an example of this kind of blitzkrieg quit-date advice from a 2003 American Cancer Society publication, “Kicking Butts”: “Pick a quit date – about seven to fourteen days from now.” (p. 88)
7 to 14 days?  Really?!

Here’s another recent (2008) example of the same: “Setting a definitive quit date […] is one of the surest steps a smoker can take to promote successful quitting.  […]  We recommend that the quit date be no more than 2 weeks away when set.  This gives smokers adequate time for preparation without allowing too much time during which [smokers] can lose motivation to quit” (Perkins, p. 83).

Two weeks are “adequate time” for quitting one of the hardest habits?  If that were, indeed, so, why would we see such sky-high relapse rates so early in the recovery process?

“Without allowing too much time during which [smokers] can lose motivation to quit”? Wait a second: if the smoker’s motivation is so frail as to expire within a couple of weeks then what are we doing rushing people into the batting cage of post-quit cravings?
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The Lila of Eating

As kids we like to role-play, pretending and testing the boundaries of our reality. We even play dead. Any game of pretense is both a learning about the world and a learning about oneself. In trying to divine what it would be like to be so-and-so or such-and-such, we figure out who we are as we notice our sameness through all the roles we play.
But what is it that remains constant and immutable as we morph from one pretense to another?  What can we learn from play about our inner nature, about who/what we are?
This question is an ancient game of knowledge, and we play it out every day when we eat. Eating is also an exchange of information, a role reversal: The eater eats food and becomes food for another eater, for no other reason than to live.
Eating is also a form of play or
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Psychology of Presidential Ambition

["Psychology of Presidential Ambition" was originally posted on 6/12/2010.  On the encouragement of a reader, I decided to re-post this blog-post.  The players have changed, but the central question of the article remains: What is the psychology of presidential ambition?]

A moment before I sat down to write this blog, I poured myself a cup of lotus tea and yelled the following into the...
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Smoking as an Expression of Mind-Over-Body Values

As a smoker, you probably haven’t thought of yourself as a health-nut, but, in a way, you are.  If you are not a smoker, surely, you haven't thought of smokers as health-nuts.   And yet an argument can be made that a smoker is a health-nut.
(If you are a smoker, you are probably slightly intrigued and want to read on.  If, however, you are a non-smoker, let alone a public health...
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Mindful Eating: Open Your Mind Before You Open Your Mouth

Mindful Eating: Process is the Point

What’s the point of eating? To live. What’s the point of living? To eat. See the circle? Sometimes people ask, “Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat?” My answer is usually “both and neither.” Notice the circle disappear.
As you eat your next meal, ask yourself, “What is the point of all this?”

Then consider this: Life is a process, not a point. To reduce the process of...
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Eating is Yoga

The Sanskrit root of the word “yoga” means “to yoke.” Therefore, yoga is literally union. In truth, all of your existence is yoga. You are made of this world. You depend on this world. If this world ends—locally or globally—you end too. There...
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Acceptance-Based Perfectionism

Self-Esteem vs. Self-Awareness

As a clinician, I believe that self-esteem (as a treatment goal or as a self-help goal) is overrated.  I am a far bigger fan of self-acceptance.  Here are some thoughts regarding self-esteem and self-acceptance.
On Conditionality of Self-Estimation & Unconditionality of Self-Acceptance

However you slice it self-esteem begins with self-judgment.  After all, to estimate is to evaluate, to appraise, i.e. to judge.  Judgment is when we evaluate something against a standard, against a condition of worth and value.  As such, self-estimation is inherently conditional. 

Through the process of self-estimation we try to see if we meet a certain condition of worth.  If we do, we have self-esteem.  If we don’t, we don’t.  This dichotomous, dualistic, conditional view of self cuts us apart and fragments our wholeness.

The process of self-evaluation is never over.  As we go from one situation to another our evaluation of ourselves changes.  If I play chess with my neighbor, I feel like a king.  If I play it with a grand-master, I feel like a pawn.  This is the inherent instability of self-esteem: it is dependent on the circumstance and the yardsticks of worth by which we evaluate ourselves.
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Brain-to-Brain Interface

In 1963, a Spanish-born neuroscientist, Jose Manuel Rodriguez Delgado, stopped a charging bull with a remote control.  Delgado - a kind of neuro-torero - implanted a radio-controlled electrode inside the bull's brain (in the caudate nucleus area) and, in so doing, set a historical precedent of connecting a living brain to a machine.

The brain-machine interfaces have come a long way since those days.  The 2014 World Cup in Brazil - if all goes as expected, with the help of the Brazilian scientist-physician Miguel Nicolelis - will open with a kick-off by a paralyzed man wearing a brain-controlled exoskeleton.

But, as is always the case with technology and science, we are running a little ahead of ourselves.  While, as a civilization, we are essentially (in a historical sense) on the verge of Cyborg-dom, we are yet to fully plumb our own Humanity.  And for that, we need not brain-machine interfaces but brain-to-brain/mind-to-mind interfaces.

So far our attempts to understand each other have been indirect and sloppy.  With nothing but language, empathy, and arts in our toolbox we've been mostly lost-in-translation.  Is direct inter-personal contact with each other even a possibility?  What would it feel like?  What would it mean?  Would the inter-personal suddenly become intra-personal?  Would a Collective of Us experience itself as a We or an I? After all 100 billion stand-alone neurons inside your skull do experience themselves - in all their multitude - as a Oneness that You Currently Are.
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Ordinary Perfection

Completely Incomplete, Perfectly Imperfect

Everything that can exist – at any given moment – exists.  Reality is entirely complete.  It has no holes.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, is amiss.  The discrepancies that we see are the differences between the ideal reality that we have dreamed up and the actual reality that has manifested at a given moment.
Whether we like what we witness or not, whether it matches our definitions of perfection or not, it is what it is and it is continuously changing.  This is the mind-boggling perfection of reality: it is ever renewing, progressing from one state of completion to another, with or without us, with or without our consent or approval.
My guess is that this stubborn independence of reality rubs you the wrong way.  It threatens your sense of control.  You don’t like this constant change (and resist it), you like status quo (and try to preserve it), and you struggle with constant succession of unfinished business (and seek closure). 
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