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.

Considering Heart Rate (HR) and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Simultaneously with the Body-Mind Reader

Heart Rate (HR) and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) each indicate aspects of physical and mental functioning. Compared to Low HR, High HR indicates the person has more ENERGY. HRV, the change in the interval between heart beats, is a measure of CONTROL. Greater variability produces greater CONTROL. When we consider these variables simultaneously, we can assess the degree of ALIGNMENT in one’s nervous system. The chart below shows nine combinations of ENERGY and CONTROL. When aligned, CONTROL is proportional to ENERGY. We can think of ENERGY as the accelerator of a car, and CONTROL as the brake. More braking is required at high speeds than low speeds. Having too much or too little braking creates an unbalanced, unaligned nervous condition.

Read more

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

Losing A Close Friend

Friendship represents one of the highest social achievements. A friend is not a family member. They are someone who has chosen to be close to you not because of some genetic connection. Your best friends reflect back to you who you are. If you have disappointed a best friend so badly that they cut you loose, it hurts. It causes one to wonder what they did wrong. Or, if you know why the other rejected you, regret follows.

On the other hand, often your friends project their own unconscious, denied ideas on to others, especially best friends and lovers. This means that when they reject you they are rejecting or denying part of themselves. Psychoanalysts say, “Projections have to have a hook”. In other words, we don’t project our unconscious ideas on just anyone. The target of projection has to have some similarity to the projector or, at least, bring up some aspect of the self they are conflicted about. Now, not everything one thinks about us is a projection. So it is more than possible they have seen something in us that is in fact true about us. But why have they decided to be our close friends for so long? Social psychologists have found that ‘similarity’ is the best predictor of who are friends are.

It is awful when friendships that have lasted for a lifetime break. You can plead with the other that you have changed, learned from your mistakes. But they have known you too long. They have seen bad behavior in the past and forgiven you. But then one more time and they have had enough of you. This can stimulate a change in you and the other person. But they will not likely believe you have changed. They block your phone number. There is no chance to plead. A helpless feeling comes over you. I want them back! But it’s not likely to happen.

So, what do you do? Unless you can blame them, you change. The sad part is that they will never know if and how you changed. In the end, that is their loss. Something of value about you, something that is also in them, will never be recognized consciously. Being able to take a very high perspective on human affairs allows people to forgive. It hurts when they don’t. But, of course, it takes two to tango.

What Does One Expect from Suicide?

After an uninterrupted, prolonged period of unhappiness, a person may contemplate if not execute suicide. They hope to end their suffering. But does relief imagined to follow death occur? It seems only if one is alive and conscious can relief from sorrow be felt. In the meantime, the suicide has hurt countless others who care for them. One’s life has meaning if it benefits members of the species and, of course, the individual is a member of the species. Even if one has failed so far in achieving their prosocial goals, living is the only way to do it. And, there is likely no perceptible relief from pain via suicide.

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 .

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.

Despair and Giving Up

Have you ever reached a point when nothing works to solve a problem? I have. I have been trying for over a week to achieve a very important life goal. I need not go into the specifics about this. It is enough to say that it is very important to me to do this and, at this point, it seems impossible. Just now I decided to give up. All my attempts have ended in failure. I have been frustrated and depressed about it all.

It is not my fault that I have failed. I have persisted and tried everything possible. At some point one must give up or experience constant anxiety and sadness. At what point should frustration and despair be relieved by giving up? Frankly, I can’t really give up the effort. But for now I will. Life will have to go on without my achieving a critically important goal. I tell myself, “Don’t do what does not work”. Turn your attention to something else. I am not one who gives up easily but constant futility seems worse than abandoning the effort . When the universe is against you, go in a different direction. Take it as a signal that your efforts are blocked by invisible forces. Now, for many this might seem to be a rationalization or excuse. For me that is not so. I am always persistent to a fault.

Decisions to give up on relationships or career goals are very difficult to make. But often giving up on something starts you on a different, more promising path. This happens to all of us, more or less, at various times in life. My experience is that forsaking goals has always led to new growth in different directions. Don’t try to push a rock up hill. Find paths of less resistance. The adage, “No gain without pain” is not always true. Pleasure is a greater motivator than pain. Changing life goals might be the way to become who you are meant to be. If relationships or careers are unattainable, move on to goals that are achievable.

I Hate the Internet

It is a cliche to start a conversation or an essay with the phrase, “I don’t know about you but…”. However, I am going to say it anyway. I don’t know about you but I really hate how life has been overtaken by the internet. I am too old to have grown up with this annoying thing. Early in my career, I was entirely up to date. ‘Time Sharing’ was big in 1975. At The University of Texas we would sit at a portal in the Psychology Department logged into the mainframe computer that resided about 300 yards away. It was the time when IBM cards were being phased out. One could write FORTRAN code right on your screen. This replaced the cards. There was no internet. One was securely communicating with the big mainframe.

When Personal Computers arrived, I bought one of the first IBM PCs. It cost $6000 and had a tiny memory the size of, well, I don’t even know the difference between megabytes, gigabytes, and those little bytesized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But with a Hayes Modem I could still hook up with the big mainframe at the Columbia computer center. I was really current. But when Windows came on the scene I was totally flummoxed. Things that were supposed to be ‘intuitive’ in Windows never made sense to the FORTRAN crowd.

But things really went sour with the internet. As an aging academic, I can not keep track of the 700 passwords I have for every website that performs every function that used to be written on paper. This includes accounts for banking, credit cards, phone, taxes, utilities, music, you know what I mean. I don’t know about you, but even if I could remember or store the passwords somehow, I can’t seem to enter them correctly using the tiny “keyboard” on the tiny “phone”. It is ridiculous. It actually used to be fun to pay paper bills at the end of the month with paper checks, stuck in paper envelopes with a paper stamp.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Hate_the_Internet

https://williambernstein.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1401&action=edit