Archives for July, 2012
C.R. writes: By studying lucid dreamers, scientists are finding more of the "meta-consciousness" spots in the brain. According to this article at ScienceDaily.com: "Studies employing magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) have now been able to demonstrate that a specific cortical network consisting of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions and the precuneus is activated when this lucid consciousness is attained. All of these regions are associated with self-reflective functions. This research into lucid dreaming gives the authors of the latest study insight into the neural basis of human consciousness." Self-perception has an apparent functional location in the brain. Does it seem reasonable to suggest that studies like these might help us answer, at least in part, the question, "Who am I?" Or, "Who is this being I call myself or I?" Perhaps.
In the previous Healing Your Thoughts posts, (Imagination and Belief; Being and Flowing; Despair Vs. Repair) and some of the God In Therapy posts, we began to explore ways in which your thoughts seem to have a life of their own, how you can be become more aware of your thought process, and even feel more in control. It might seem like your thoughts are steering or directing your emotions, but if you are a go-with-the-flow kind of thinker, generally speaking, emotions, especially strong ones, can spark your thoughts. In truth, there is a chicken-egg cycle and the debate about which comes first, your thoughts or your emotions, might not be all that relevant. However, by slowing down your thoughts through relaxation or meditative techniques, prayerful meditation, and so on, you allow yourself to experience yourself and your thoughts as never before. For some, this can be painful. It can be frightening to be alone with yourself. For many, it is good. It is freeing. There is a technique that can help you if you're a newbie to relaxation. It begins by getting out of the house and finding a natural spot you love.
James Holmes has added his name to a very repulsive list: Jared Loughner: Nidal Malik Hasan; Jiverly Antares Wong: Seung-Hui Cho: Michael McLendon: Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold; Stephen Ressa, — American killers, all. Unlike serial killers, these men might be categorized as "spree killers" or "rampage killers." We don't know all that much yet about James Holmes. In 2011, Jared Loughner had abused drugs and alcohol. His schoolmates and employers had noticed he had undergone personality changes at some point. He had frequently expressed personal hatred for George W. Bush and his intended victim, former U.S. Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. Less than two years earlier, Jiverly Antares Wong murdered 13 people, mostly immigrants, at an American Civic Immigration center in Binghamton, NY. You can Google the rest. In order to make sense of the most recent tragedy, mental health professionals, social psychologists, sociologists and media pundits are looking for similarities between the killers or patterns.
After reading this excellent article in Psychiatric Times, which comments on the new definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the DSM-5, we had a long conversation about NPD. We've both interviewed several people who've had relationships with people who had NPD and I've worked with clients with this challenging disorder. We all like and dislike people, often for reasons we're not proud of. But people with NPD can be very charming and easy to like—until you spend time trying to get to know them. They are often hard to get to know because they have no idea who they, themselves, are. Perhaps the new DSM definition will enrich our understanding of this complex disorder. We were reminded of *Helen, whose therapist we interviewed several years ago. Helen was extremely talented; she was a **musician, an artist and a poet. But although she had a tremendous amount of technical skill, her performances and art never was quite able to break through to the next level. She never received much positive critical feedback. She couldn't understand why. Of course, she took this all very personally. And in fact, it was personal.
They're back. Those political prognosticators who say they know how we'll vote (or why). This time, two marketing firms say they have their finger on the pulse. Of course, it's only a matter of time before social psychologists will publish their findings on why we'll vote the way we do in the upcoming presidential election. Engage and GetTrendsetter, the two firms, have combined forces to analyze what your Facebook likes have to say about who you'll vote for. In this neat graphic, they reveal that people who like, for example, Spotify, Buzzfeed, and Reddit are Obama all-the-wayers. If you like Amazon.com, Bing, and Ebay, you're most likely a Romney-ite. (Of course, there are several more examples).
If you believe you can damage, believe you can repair. —Rebbe Nachman of Breslov There is no such thing as despair. —Rebbe Nachman of Breslov There is no such thing as despair? Sounds like a koan, but it's not. Rebbe Nachman was saying (in part) that despair is manufactured by the negative inclinations of those who believe they have no choice but to give up on themselves, or the world. They feel so down on themselves, so down on the world, that they are convinced that hope is the illusion, despair the reality.
C.R. shares more thoughts on trauma: I watched in horror as a little boy of about five was whacked—hard—across his face on the subway. His mother began to berate him, calling him names ("retard" was one of the ones I remember), ridiculing him. He didn't cry. He just stared straight ahead, as if he wasn't in his body. I desperately wanted to do something, but there was only a subway worker in uniform and me on the train and she just looked the other way. Plus, it looked like the mother had some kind of weapon stuck in the top of her jeans. At the next stop, I got off and asked another woman what to do. She, too, told me it's not a crime to smack your kid. But this mother didn't just "smack" him. She put all her force into the blow. I knew I couldn't identify her (I mainly looked at the little boy and then turned away in case I would incite her anger against him.) I didn't know what else to do. I felt defeated. This was quite a while ago. But, if you live in New York, and you take public transportation, this is not all that unusual. More recently, I was privileged to attend an educational seminar on women and trauma and peer support. The session was informative, and really opened my eyes to the need for trauma-informed care. A significant number of people with mental illness and addiction have had serious trauma in their youth. I wasn't surprised to hear that multiple traumatic experiences are, sadly, not uncommon, and for some women, the norm.
C.R. writes: As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day, someone I work with asked me if I'd ever read the Declaration of Independence. I was embarrassed to admit that I hadn't really read it all the way through in many years. Just the popular bits. He chided me, "Why not? That's the reason why we celebrate 4th of July." He's right. And, since I wanted to write something different than we've done in the past - Nation Is A Verb - I went to the government archives and looked it up. And you know—it was way more radical than I remembered. The Declaration of Independence (DI) begins with, well, a declaration of independence: