Sunday, January 09, 2011

Non-materialist psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz's new book: You Are Not Your Brain

The new book, written with Dr. Rebecca Gladding and to be released June 2011, provides a four-step guide to getting control of behaviours we know are bad for us.

Trouble is, we've practised them for so long that everything in us knows the routine, like the proverbial retired fire horse, and that's why we feel helpless to change.

Dr. Schwartz's breakthrough UCLA research work in treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) provided hard evidence that the mind can control the brain's chemistry. And
“You Are Not Your Brain” focuses on helping people use the Four Step method to deal with anxiety, depression, overeating, overthinking/overanalyzing, as well as find new, lasting ways to change habits that are unhelpful to them, such as using alcohol, substances or unhealthy behaviors to alleviate stress or deal with unsettling feelings and experiences.
Dr. Gladding shares his perspective:
Dr. Gladding has been working with Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz since 1999 and shares his philosophy that the mind can change the brain – most often without medications (or at the very least minimizing their use as much as possible). She is an expert in the biology underlying deceptive brain messages, mindfulness and the Four Steps and regularly teaches people how to apply the Four Steps to their lives, businesses and relationships.
Here's Dr. Schwartz on "Eye on Entertainment":

More on Dr. Schwartz here:

Neuroscience: The importance of focused attention

Do animals have souls?

The recent New Scientist flap re non-materialist neuroscience


Disgust: Psychologists wrestle with explanations

At First Things, Joe Carter wrote recently "In Defense of Disgust" (Dec 15, 2010), quoting Charles Darwin:
"In Tierra del Fuego a native touched with his fingers some cold preserved meat which I was eating at our bivouac, and plainly showed utter disgust at its softness; whilst I felt utter disgust at my food being touched by a naked savage, though his hands did not appear dirty."

As Darwin discovered, while we may differ about what evokes the response, disgust is one of the few universally shared human emotions. The native was expressing what psychologists call "core disgust." Unlike animals, which instinctively seek out certain foods, humans have to learn what to eat and are justifiably cautious about sampling new foods. Since Darwin’s cold, soft piece of preserved meat had a tactile resemblance to animal feces, the native was understandably disgusted by the thought of eating it. The revulsion was triggered by the idea that "like produces like"; since the preserved meat had many similarities to feces, the native assumed it might be similarly contaminated.

Darwin's unease was also based on a variation of the same core disgust. While his dinner companion worried that an object (the meat) could be contaminated because of its similarity to another object (feces), Darwin feared the contagion could be spread by contact with the native.
Carter discounts Darwin's natural selection as providing an explanation for the obvious reason that children learn disgust - and they learn disgust for whatever they are taught to. For example, whereas typical non-Muslim Canadian children are accustomed to "hero" police dogs, a British force had to apologize for using a puppy mascot due to British Muslim disapproval.

Carter notes,
In the seminal psychological research paper "Body, Psyche, and Culture: The Relationship Between Disgust and Morality", Jonathan Haidt and his coauthors note that disgusting events remind us of our animal nature. Because we feel the need to hide these markers of our kinship to lower creatures, we develop humanizing rituals and practices.
Now, that all sounds way off the track to me. First, anyone who has lived with a cat knows that cats are well able to express disgust, and I am sure that many other intelligent animals do the same, though their methods of expressing it might require some interpretation. They reject things that promise unpleasantness without being obviously dangerous. That's disgust.

Second, disgust for human behaviour often involves issues well beyond the reach of animals. Consider how we tend to feel about Saruman, for example, who tries to sell out his multi-intelligent species civilization to gain a foothold of power in an almost unthinkable barbarism. Disgust, yes, but "animal" doesn't come to mind. Going from bad to worse, he ends as a fist-shaped column of smoke somewhere, not as a jellyfish or rodent.


What it means to be a rational animal: Incalculable even to ourselves

Man is a rational animal. If one knew only the definition and had never met a man, one would assume that a rational animal meant a reasonable animal. In fact we know that man is, just as often, unreasonable. The possession of reason, which distinguishes him from the lower animals, means that he can act reasonably as they cannot, but also unreasonably, as they cannot.

The animals, not having reason, cannot misuse it. Man has it, can misuse it, does misuse it. ... Man is endlessly ingenious in discovering ways of misusing his reason. The commonest way, perhaps, is to leave it unused. Most of us would rather not think at all when any effort is involved. The use of the body is easy, and promises pleasure. The use of the mind is difficult and holds out no such promises. So man is always trying to by-pass the use of the mind.

He thinks with reluctance, which makes him a slave to habit. He thinks with the will, which makes him a slave to desire. He thinks with the imagination, which makes him a slave to slogans. Not using the full power of his mind, he loses perspective. Things closest -- that is, closest to the body’s power to respond to them -- loom biggest. ...

One result of all these ingenious ways of avoiding the use of the mind is that man is intensely gullible: offer him happiness, and all his defenses are down. And the trouble is that man is not consistent: you cannot even rely upon him to act unreasonably: for he is damaged, but not wholly; and he is free. ... The wandering mind can concentrate, the tired will can make a stand, the thrusting self is capable of supreme sacrifice. You never know when. There is that element in man which makes him incalculable, even to himself” - Frank Sheed (1897-1981), Society and Sanity (pp. 55-58).
It was not science that moved away from incisive explanations like this in favour of rubbish about the “God gene” or the evolution of the delusion of free will. It was society, wanting simple answers to come from science, which require no effort on anyone’s part.

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