Dr. Seuss Cancelled

It finally happened. The wonderful Dr. Seuss books have been cited for racism. One of his cartoons showed a Chinaman eating rice with chopsticks. As a Jew, I would not be offended by a cartoon of a Jew eating matzoh. This is what we do. It is an accurate stereotype. Though not all Jews eat matzoh nor do all Chinese use chopsticks, many or most do. Microaggression is when another assumes something about someone else (e.g., he likes matzoh or uses chopsticks) that the other does not agree with (e.g., I don’t like matzoh). Maybe people should not be “cancelled” due to having committed microaggressions. The ‘micro’ is the issue. Give the guy a break.

First Class Citizen, Second Class Citizen

My sister just went to get hearing aids. She could get two of the best ones that the technician said, “filter out noise better”. The next level of quality was “it works okay”. She could have good enough ($1400), or First Class ($2100) hearing with two new hearing aids.

The inclusion of services that make something first rather than second or third class allows the higher class person to feel good about him or herself. They are ‘above the fray’. Life can be a quality experience if one can pay. At least I can strive to get into first class. Get education, a better job, and so on. If there is some class mobility things are sort of okay. Without it, however, frustrations with class limitations grow. We will see what happens over the next years perhaps in America and the rest of the world.

From the book “Sophistication”

Self Help books

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was published in 1936. It is still one of the better-selling books in the world. Carnegie was somewhat sophisticated about human psychology.  He had read the work of Sigmund Freud, who died in 1939. Freud’s ideas about how the mind operates consciously and unconsciously are called psychoanalysis or depth psychology.

I read Carnegie’s book long ago, but I am pretty sure it suggests that influence over others can be promoted by using their names a lot, being friendly, and dressing nicely. Wearing a hat may have also been suggested. These recommendations were not psychoanalytic depth psychology.  But they were plausible enough and people bought the book.

Since How to Win Friends, thousands or millions of books have been written that help readers become more popular, happy, rich, thin, spiritual, and so on.  These are called self-help books. Self Help books are ‘how to’ books or instruction manuals. They promise to increase readers’ success in achieving social goals like popularity and wealth.  This is somewhat different than manuals that help you fix a car, for example.  In self-help instruction manuals, you are the car.

This book may be of some practical help to readers. It is based very loosely on a formal neuroscience theory (Bernstein 2011, 2014, 2015). The theory, experiences I’ve had doing biology and psychology, plus some limited knowledge of Yiddish have contributed to what I say here.

The book describes four states of mind that we all experience.  When a state of mind becomes very habitual or chronic, it defines who you are.  It is your personality.  I call these mind states or personalities: shmo, schmuck, schadenfreudist, and sophisticate.

 A personality is made up of all of one’s strong habits of thinking and acting.  We have thousands or tens of thousands of habits that are in mutually controlling relationships.  If some of your habits persist long after childhood, such as being afraid of strangers, you probably have what is called a personality disorder.

In any case, our personal mental habits influence the nature of the decisions we make.  The primary function of the mind, which sits in the brain, is to make decisions.  Most generally we can only make three kinds of decisions in response to objects in the world and in our minds: avoid, approach, or freeze.

You can move your legs and approach another person on the street. Or, you can run the other way when you see them.  And freezing or ‘playing dead’, has some advantages. Physical approach involves moving your muscles. Mental approach involves moving your mind’s eye to attend to or avoid specific contents of mind (e.g. thoughts, feelings, intentions).  Moving the mind’s eye is neurologically very much like moving the muscles that control the eyeballs next to you nose.

Decisions controlling your organs are made mostly automatically, unconsciously in the brainstem. The neocortex, which sits on the top of brain, is where conscious awareness works to form intentions and control overt behavior and private thoughts.

Unlike other organs that have very few conscious inputs, the lungs are controlled 50% by nerves emanating from the neocortex. Breath control is so important in yoga inasmuch as the lungs represent equally unconsous and conscious processes—the borderline between psyche and soma. 

Deciding explicitly or unconsciously to avoid thinking about an upcoming colonoscopy is somewhat like avoiding looking at parts of the body associated with the feared procedure. That is, the derriere.  Conflicting thought and conflicting real things can cause confusion and nervousness.  Being nervous can degrade a person’s ability to think and make good decisions.

I am assuming here that a person in a mental state of sophistication can make better decisions than others. If sophisticates make better decisions than do shmos, schmucks, and schadenfreudists, they should be more successful at work and love than others.  This book offers some suggestions about to become more sophisticated.  These might lead somehow to you becoming more successful in life.  Or not.

Post-Election America

Many pundits have warned that the polarization of America that began with Reagan and spun out of control with Trump will continue and worsen. I don’t think so. Without an immature leader at the helm, polarization should at least stop accelerating. The importance of a leader has never been more apparent than over the last four years. Up until 2016, all presidents, competent and incompetent, were “presidential”. They continued a tradition of behaving overtly with civility and humility. How unseemly it is when the powerful boast of their power. Trump constantly behaved from a more or less unconscious assumption that he lacked power. He had to fire everyone who disagreed with him. Some democracy.

Lyndon Johnson made awful decisions on Viet Nam. But he was otherwise a great president. He kept his less than civil habits behind closed doors. And, he had a sense of humor. Trump on the other hand is completely without a sense of humor. Have you seen him at one of those dinners where the powerful gather to poke fun at each other? He is entirely tone deaf. And frankly, so have been the late night talk show hosts who assumed that they had hit the jackpot with a dope like Trump as president. The problem is that Trump is inherently a sad bully. Making fun of a bully who is constantly trying to overcompensate from a, more or less, unconscious assumption that he is essentially without competence and power is very hard to do. It is like ridiculing a disabled person. Nothing sticks to Trump because he has the emotional intelligence of a child. His defenses are too impermeable.

He should have been ignored not ridiculed each and every night for four years on talk shows!! You can’t get to an 8 year old who says when insulted, “I know you are but what am I?” Partisanship will persist. But it will lessen without a humorless, insecure, child in the White House who has made everyone, left and right, miserable. Trump’s biggest effect on the country was to leave all his critics unable to effectively criticize him. He was not funny and none of the critics were funny. He should have been entirely ignored. Why listen every day to a liar? You can say what he lied about with ‘fact checking’. But what a waste of time.

Observations on an Experiment with the Body-Mind Device

The other day, I made a demonstration video on the effect of depressive and activating stimuli on the output of the Body-Mind Reader. Making that video was a pain. I’m new to Youtube production, but I rather imagine those of you who do this sort of thing, have had days like this, where nothing goes right. Take 1: Barrage of text messages. New Tik Tok video for you! Call the bank! Take 2: Cat walks on keyboard. Take 3: Internet goes on the fritz. You get the picture.

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Get the New Body-Mind Reader

WHAT IS THE BODY MIND READER?

Heart rate gives you information about how your nervous system–the sympathetic part– is working to increase arousal or energy. High heart Rate (HR) usually indicates higher energy than lower rates. The interval between heart beats, changes moment-to-moment. These changes are called Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV is regulated by the parasympathetic part of the nervous system. Compared to slow change, fast change is associated with more control. The Body-Mind Reader measures both HR and HRV simultaneously and gives a user feedback about the alignment of their energy and control moment to moment. This promotes learning how to regulate ones body and mind.

See a demo of how the Body-Mind Reader works at video at:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/PDvTu4oFBxs? version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&start=4&wmode=transparent

http://kck.st/2JubuvW

The device is amazing. At first I guided the Reader by changing activity, and I noticed the color changed as soon as I formulated the intent to do something. I can see that being “in the green” is a state of mind, not necessarily linked to any particular activity, or even the extent to which that activity is burdensome or enjoyable. That’s the potential of this device: to help us get into the right state of mindfulness no matter what the task.

David M, MD. Neurologist

Conspicuous Consumption

I just came back from a Walmart Super Store. Therein one can seemingly buy ANYTHING. The place is gigantic and stocked with food, clothing, hardware, kitchen ware, camping gear, drugs, electronics, home and office furniture, bath items, toys, automotive items, and on and on. It is the the Mount Everest of an economy built on constant demand for many essential and many stupid products. To me, the place is entirely depressing. Maybe it’s efficient to be able to buy anything you want in one place. But this is not what is disheartening about being there. It is seeing all the buyers trudge sadly through the aisles looking for what they think they need. They search for crap instead of feelings of friendship and love. The things that really matter. These feelings have been replaced by the need to acquire things.

I found it telling that when the virus quarantine was first lifted, people crowded into stores in order to buy new clothes! Modern societies depend on constant demand for consumer goods, needed and inane. This requires constant production, ruthless competition for money, and status seeking. These in turn create alienation, class warfare, envy, denial of health needs, environmental degradation, racism, and the election of a schmuck like Trump. Consumer economies have worked to overshoot the carrying capacity of the planet and of human societies. I think this may all end soon and violently .

Psychical Impotence

Many males have an inability to enjoy sex with one they love or difficulty loving another they have sex with. This Freud called ‘Psychical Impotence’. Usually, a person who the man can perform with sexually is debased, thought of a whore. Hence the syndrome gets its other name: The Madonna-Whore Complex. Freud felt that this occurs when a man has unresolved Oedipus conflicts. That is, tender feelings of love reminds him of his original love, the mother. Having sex with one’s mother, a Madonna figure, is of course, incest. Such a grave sin is imagined to be certainly followed by great punishment. Psychoanalysts call this fear “castration anxiety”. Such intense fear makes it impossible to get an erection, hence the label Psychical Impotence. It’s not impotence proper because the person can perform sex as long as it is not with a loved one.

Much pornography is geared to men with the Madonna-Whore Complex. Woman are debased to make them attractive to the psychically impotent male who fears love. The severity of the complex runs from mild to severe. Patients with a less severe form of the disorder report becoming turned off, even disgusted by sex without love. This is improves their prognosis. The alternative, love without sex may turn into a more complete relationship in which one can have satisfactory sex with a loved one. That is, they can become Psychically and Physically Potent.

The Brain is in the Body, the Mind is in the Brain

This website is nominally about body and mind interactions. The body includes the brain. And the mind depends on the brain to function. Everything is connected. In the not too distant past, the mind was seen as totally ineffable. The words ‘spirit’ and ‘mind’ were often used interchangeably. That is, they were both considered beyond understanding. Today, with MRI devices, we are able to correlate the physical actions of a person’s brain with their subjective experiences of thoughts and feelings. In other words, we can relate body phenomena to psychological events.

Freud was a neurologist who built a psychological theory of the mind. He knew, of course, that the psychology depended on the biology. He thought that 100 years after he built the theory of psychoanalysis, we would be able to see connections between mental and physical events. It turns out he was exactly right! The field of Neuropsychoanalysis came into being in 1999, 100 years after Freud’s publication of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams” of 1900.

The biology of dreaming began to be be studied in the early 1950’s. Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) was discovered then. Kleitman, Jouvet, and others found that the person had the most vivid dreams while their eyes darted back and forth during REM–a clear connection between biological and subjective experience. Animals from sharks to humans have REM sleep. So, certainly, REM sleep has been conserved over evolution as a key feature of maintaining brain functions, and it seems reasonable that lions, dogs, cats and apes have subjective experiences when in REM states.

Besides being able to measure brain and mind connections via MRI and EEG methods, a great deal is now know about how chemicals, especially psychiatric drugs, operate to affect feelings, thoughts and overt behavior. Antidepressants like prozac, stimulants such as ritalin, mood stabilizers like Lithium, and antipsychotics like Seroquel affect subjective experiences in more or less reliable ways. These drugs work at the level of neurons, the single cells which make up the brain and its connections to the rest of he the body.

So body-brain-mind connections are being increasingly illuminated. Today, there are more neuroscientists than any other kinds of scientists. Formerly genetics research drew the most biologists. Now it’s neuroscience. Computer technology is very related to brain-mind studies. Computers made it clear that concrete, physical things could do something like thinking. Such insights have transformed the world. This is very exciting and sometimes disagreeable. While these discoveries can enhance our lives, they also can be used by nefarious forces within governments, the military, and corporations. The world is now in a very unstable condition driven in large part by advances in computing which affect energy, agriculture, communication, manufacturing, education, medicine, government, the military, and frankly everything else.

I am not too optimistic about the short term effect of humankind’s scientific advances. Some lunatics deny the validity of science altogether. They want to think what they think regardless of scientific knowledge. This has been on stark display during the politicization of the Covid pandemic. But whenever one of these science deniers needs heart surgery, life saving medications, or even a root canal procedure, they run to the best scientific medical professional they can find. Go figure.

Seeking Something Old in Something New

When one has lost a cherished relationship they tend to seek a new one. But the new must have elements of the old. All Intimate relations involve satisfaction of needs for the warmth and comfort experienced in childhood. That is, satisfaction of basic, old needs are are a key aspect of all close relations. While the person who can satisfy those needs may be a new person, they still have to met the old, unchanging needs. All of our intimate relations serve the same function regardless of who the other person is.

A barrier to forming new bonds after old ones are severed is feeling of regret and perhaps guilt about the ending of the old connection. This means we may find it hard to be open to a new relationship. So, our basic unchanging needs will go unsatisfied for a long time. Depression, loneliness and despair will occur. How can one overcome this? Somehow we have to honor our needs. Realise that they are universal requirements for life. Denial of our needs is a denial of life. Knowing this can put one in touch with life outside the 3-D. One needs to connect to the ‘spiritual’ side of things. This is a basic need too.