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 some of what they need and much of what they could do without.

I found it telling that when the virus quarantine was first lifted, people crowed into stores in order to buy new clothes! You know what makes up the largest percentage of land fills? Clothes. Things people throw away. 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 will 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

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Do You Consult Astrologers or Tarot Card Readers?

I wrote two days ago about two different ways people use to comfort themselves. One is getting comfort from themselves or other people. The other is asking god for help. The latter method involves appealing not to a human being but to a giant force that is thought to have created the entire world and should thereby be able to solve any problem. When a problem seems too great to overcome by oneself or other mortals, people often turn to the universe or god to help us. Awful problems for which we seem to need divine intervention include losing a spouse, losing children, terminal disease, and so on. These things no person can undo.

Besides god proper, there are other systems of belief that people seek out when help seems unavailable in the 3-D world. These include astrology, tarot cards, fortune tellers, and other so called ‘mystical’ or ‘occult’ methods. These sorts of comfort systems involve an appeal to the mysterious forces of the universe, as do appeals to god. Belief in the occultism is often called ‘spiritual’. Many people today say, “I am spiritual, not religious”. So there is an assumption that belief in god, which is central to all religions, is not the same as belief in, for example, astrology. But both sorts of things involve some belief in the power of invisible forces.

Tarot card readings can no doubt help one feel better when there are no obvious solutions to their problems. Most of the tarot and astrology experts on the internet make predictions and give advice that are comforting. Of course, this increases business. No one wants to hear from a psychic or anyone else that the future looks gloomy. Practitioners of spiritual practices explain this bias by imaging that ,in the end, spirits will make everything okay. This assumption is not too different from that made by religions. But religious faith usually includes the idea that if one’s behavior has been sinful, it may take some special effort to get god to help you out. You might go to hell perhaps. In some contrast, spiritualism has less rules. Everything will be okay eventually, regardless of how much of a miscreant one has been.

Some say, “Everything happens for a reason” Now that doesn’t seem especially profound. Of course everything happens for a reason if you believe in causality. What happens today is caused by something that happened previously. But religious and spiritual traditions suspend the usual rules of causality prefered by science. Scientists would think that if a giant rock rolls over you, it is likely you’ll never get up again. But religious or occultist might imagine that the rock fell on you due to your ‘karma’ or ‘god’s will’. These things plays out in the long run. Bad and good karma , and good and sinful behavior will influence what happens in the long run.But as the economist John Maynard Keynes said, “The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.” And that kind of sums this all up. Death seems inevitable unless one imagines that one’s soul never dies. This is, more or less, what both religionist and spiritualists think. Isn’t it?

Horrid Health Care System in USA

I know both the patient and provider sides of healthcare delivery in America. To bill insurance companies for patient visits I had to hire a biller to navigate the absurd complicated rules for getting reimbursed. I had to pay the biller 7% of my fees just to collect the money. Insurers in America are horrible institutions. Every claim they pay is a business “loss”. Of course, they don’t want to pay for what customers pay them to pay. They exclude this or that type of treatment and charge ridiculous premiums. For myself, I had to pay $550 per month for my health policy, and it didn’t include dental care. Aren’t teeth a critical part of the body? Most plans don’t pay properly for mental health disorders. Isn’t the mind important? Most CEO’s of insurance and drug companies may make as much as $30,000,000 a year!

In American health, A few people get wildly rich and most others get shafted. We have to pay too much for less than adequate coverage. Copays, coinsurance, exclusions, and deductibles all obscure the costs policy holders have to pay. Have you tried to read the contracts for the health care insurance? As Woody Guthrie said, “Some will rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen.” Corporations don’t exist to serve your needs but to get more and more of your money in exchange for fewer and fewer services and products.

The insurers’ key advantage is if you don’t treat a heart attack, stroke, brain aneurysm, cancer, mental illness, lung disease, etc, you will die. This motivates every shmo to buy the crappy insurance. Everyone knows the system stinks, unless you are an insurer or biller or drug company. But somehow many if not most hospitals in the US are very close to bankruptcy. I don’t quite understand this but I think it is because insurers benefit from cost cutting measures enforced on hospitals. After all, hospital stays cost an immense amounts of money. Insurers want to discourage hospital spending so they underpay for hospital costs. This had led to, for example, breast cancer surgery being an outpatient procedure. Keep ’em out of the hospital or ’em get ’em out as fast as possible. Lot’s of healthcare and comfort in that, right?

I have seriously considered dying before getting medical services that might push me into bankruptcy, as it has very many patients. “Your money or your life?”. I would like say, “Go to hell, shoot me!”. Of course, that is a rather radical decision. But if everyone did it the medical industrial complex would collapse. Its like with Trump. The only way to defeat him is to not pay attention to him. Call his bluff. Ignore the bastard who is working to ruin your life. “Yeah, come and get me!” Would you sacrifice your life to take down the oppressors? It a war. And, in war people often sacrifice their lives for something they believe in.

#cheatsheet.com #fiercehealthcare.com #wiliambernstein.com

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Healing after Trauma

The photo above has the qualities of a ‘reversible figure’. At one moment it looks like a happy girl facing right with arms behind her, a life ahead of her. Then, the photo seems to show a sad, dejected girl looking left with her arms hanging limp in front of her. Reversing one’s interpretation of a visual stimulus can happen in less than a second. Reversing one’s mood from sad to glad usually takes more time.

Victims of trauma caused by, for example, parental abuse, combat in war, and betrayal in marriage need to ‘reverse their understanding’ of what has happened. The most basic feature of this change is the realization that the traumatizing event is in the past. Panic attacks, dissociation, and depression occur when memories of the injury become conscious. This is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In other words the person is still suffering from an injury that occured in the past. They are now no longer in danger. But somehow memories associated with the trauma causes a ‘reliving’ of the pain in the present. This is an awful thing to live with. As Freud said, these patients are suffering from memories.

How can one get over this? Another way to ask this question is, “What gets in the way of recovery in this and other mental disorders?” Triggers related to the original trauma such as a car backfiring, reminds the veteran of gunshots. The sound triggers memories of the original trauma, and symptoms like panic. Neurologically, trigger information reaches the amygdala, the fear avoidance part of the brain, a fraction of a second before it gets to the neocortex. This means that tendencies to flee from the trauma memories gain momentum before they reach the part of the brain that can reason. The part that can say “that was then, this is now”. But fleeing from memories one needs to understand in order to heal, makes the healing process tortuous.

In treatment, aspects of the personality least injured should be enlisted in the healing process. For example, if one has a particular expertise that has remained in tact, such as painting, it should be practised as much as possible. Creative processes cause good feelings somehow. And the better one feels, even if for a limited time of day, the more one ‘learns to feel good (again)’. The memories of being creative in the morning can work to displace bad memories at night. It is the nature of the creative experience, making something new, that gives one hope for remaking an injured mind. This is like seeing the better side of a reversible figure—the hopeful girl. In the throes of a mental illness like depression or panic, it is hard to imagine not being depressed or anxious. To imagine accomplishing anything like writing a book, composing music, or cooking a meal promotes an image of oneself as not being imprisoned by memories. People who get over PTSD, by definition, will experience a greatly expanded idea of what life is about.