Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind

#129: Mar. - May 2014 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor
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Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
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geo
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Probably one of the more important concepts in this chapter has to do with "negativity bias." Our reaction to negative things is stronger than our reaction to positive things. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Haidt says, if you were designing a fish, would you have it respond as strongly to opportunities as to threats? No, because the cost of missing a food signal has much less drastic consequences than missing the cue of a nearby predator.

As such, our behavior has opposing motivational systems: "an approach system, which triggers positive emotions and makes you want to move toward certain things; and a withdrawal system, which triggers negative emotions and makes you want to pull back or avoid other things."

It's no surprise to me that I'm more of a withdrawer than an approacher. So in the little survey, I picked Set B. What did you guys pick?
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geo wrote:It's no surprise to me that I'm more of a withdrawer than an approacher. So in the little survey, I picked Set B. What did you guys pick?


I'm definitely a "B" as well. This chapter made me want to take some Prozac.

Also in this chapter, the story about the separated identical twins was pretty amazing, how similar they are. And quite interesting about how much your happiness level is genetic.
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I tend to be a "B" as well. But I'm always stuck when asked to make forced choices like this, because I can be highly inconsistent. It's the same reason that the Myers-Briggs personality inventory dives me nuts. "Would you rather go out for a hike or curl up inside with a book?" Both!

I thought I'd comment on JD's endorsement of Prozac as one leg of the happiness-making trinity. I think he's a little hasty here in telling us that Prozac and the other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are our friends. It's puzzling because he tells us that he himself had to stop taking it due to memory side effects. Does he suppose that he is the only one who was so affected? Or is he saying that for the rest of us, having a crummy memory wouldn't be so big a deal :hmm: ? It's not only this, but if you just glance at the published information on long term use of Prozac, you see that this little pill should be taken only by those with true psychiatric needs. There are several other common side effects, the most common being loss of sexual libido. I ask, what would tend to lessen happiness more than that? Making matters worse, there is the phenomenon of Prozac washout, the failure of the drug to deliver its effect after a while, essentially the development of tolerance to it.

These meds have their place; I'm not anti-drug in that sense. But I do think that the spread of psychiatric medication to the population of the "worried well" is a trend to be resisted. So, go instead with the meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy that JD also recommends for those of us who didn't win the "cortical lottery."
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My wife is a psych nurse practitioner who works with children and sees a lot of kids with dire psychiatric conditions who really do need psychiatric drugs just to function. But my youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed with Ritalin to help him pay attention in school. I've always wondered if this isn't just a preference of our society for everyone to learn the same way. Instead of adapting to the student, we are adapting to the institution.

There's no question that I'm ADHD as well. I was very unsuccessful in school until I reached my twenties and then something clicked, I don't know what. I've been diagnosed with adult ADHD and I do take stimulants occasionally when I need to be "on" but I feel a little guilty about it. As Haidt says, I feel like I'm cheating a little. I'm not sure about the "cortical lottery" business. Maybe we don't value diversity. Maybe introverts and those with ADHD are perfectly adapted for different kind of social environments, and gregarious people simply are better suited for life in the 21st century.
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geo wrote:... and gregarious people simply are better suited for life in the 21st century.

Bingo! I recently read a whole book that revolved around this idea.
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geo wrote:My wife is a psych nurse practitioner who works with children and sees a lot of kids with dire psychiatric conditions who really do need psychiatric drugs just to function. But my youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed with Ritalin to help him pay attention in school. I've always wondered if this isn't just a preference of our society for everyone to learn the same way. Instead of adapting to the student, we are adapting to the institution.

There's no question that I'm ADHD as well. I was very unsuccessful in school until I reached my twenties and then something clicked, I don't know what. I've been diagnosed with adult ADHD and I do take stimulants occasionally when I need to be "on" but I feel a little guilty about it. As Haidt says, I feel like I'm cheating a little. I'm not sure about the "cortical lottery" business. Maybe we don't value diversity. Maybe introverts and those with ADHD are perfectly adapted for different kind of social environments, and gregarious people simply are better suited for life in the 21st century.

I read him as talking about those whose affective styles identify them as more subject to negativity bias regarding themselves. There may be only a little bit of water in their glass, as they give themselves credit for little of what others will see as positive and magnify their faults. I guess the cover term is 'insecure.' These are the candidates for Prozac.

I tried a stimulant once, but there were side effects, so I decided to work with what I have, for better and worse. That's interesting that your wife is a psychiatric nurse. I've worked with several adult psychiatric nurses and admire the work they do. I do have to wonder about prescribing of psychiatric meds from some of what I see. Also I read a book called Saving Normal, by Allen Frances, MD, who was a heavy hitter in the psychiatric establishment but now has gone partly rogue. He talks about the twin problems of diagnostic inflation and aggressive marketing by Pharma. He admits that it is probably impossible to statistically prove that more harm than good is done by casting a wider net for mental illness, but that's his strong contention from data he has selected and his own experience.
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Saffron wrote:
geo wrote:... and gregarious people simply are better suited for life in the 21st century.

Bingo! I recently read a whole book that revolved around this idea.

What was that book?
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DWill wrote:
Saffron wrote:
geo wrote:... and gregarious people simply are better suited for life in the 21st century.

Bingo! I recently read a whole book that revolved around this idea.

What was that book?


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain

http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/about-the-book/

Apparently Susan Cain did a TED talk; guess I will have to take a look. I thought the main idea of the book was on the mark, but I did not think Cain had enough for a whole book.
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Saffron wrote:Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain


Wow. Over the Christmas break, we went out west to see the in-laws (and do some skiing). On the last night, my wife's younger brother who's a bit of an eccentric introvert like myself, handed me a book that he thought might interest me. So I have a copy of this book in front of me right now. It looks quite good.
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geo wrote:
It's no surprise to me that I'm more of a withdrawer than an approacher. So in the little survey, I picked Set B. What did you guys pick?


I don't fit wholly in A or B. I am 1/2 A + 1/2 B = An anxious optimist.
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Does anyone here have experience with meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy?
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geo wrote:Does anyone here have experience with meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy?


I'm an amateur meditator. I'll let you know the results in 10 years. I think it is slow progress for me.

I've also done quite a bit of reading on the subject, and became interested in Buddhism as well. I think that tradition has very powerful insights about the nature of the mind, how we attach to our thoughts and our notion of self, and how that creates suffering.

Another link from Sam Harris if you're interested, he's coming out with his next book on the topic:
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-meditate
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Thanks for Sam Harris' link. I'm going to read that later.

Karen Armstrong's book on the Buddha had an impact on me. My own (probably naive) impression of letting go of the self seems a change in perspective, seeing your self as a part of a bigger whole. Sagan's view that "we are starstuff" seems Buddhist-esque to me.

I've tried cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with anxiety. I went to two or three sessions with a therapist, but it felt like a waste of time and I didn't really connect with the therapist. To some extent I think I already use CBT techniques, challenging my own thoughts when I realize that it's not doing any good. For example, if I find myself worrying about financial matters, I'll take a moment to acknowledge that I am worrying, and to recognize that constant (neurotic) worrying isn't going to help the situation. So I give myself permission to stop worrying about it. To help, I might envision my worry as an object on a conveyor belt and when it comes around I'll flag it. And when it comes around again, I can see it's already been flagged, so I can stop worrying. Sounds stupid, but it does work. Maybe the most important part of CBT is simply being aware that you are worrying or obsessing about something and deciding to do something about it.

I've only tried to meditate a few times, but I do find that kayaking or hiking is a meditative thing for me. Maybe it's not the same thing, but it seems to do me a lot of good. The problem is that you can't always go hiking or kayaking. Meditation sounds empowering. I'd like to try it.
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geo wrote:For example, if I find myself worrying about financial matters, I'll take a moment to acknowledge that I am worrying, and to recognize that constant (neurotic) worrying isn't going to help the situation. So I give myself permission to stop worrying about it. To help, I might envision my worry as an object on a conveyor belt and when it comes around I'll flag it. And when it comes around again, I can see it's already been flagged, so I can stop worrying. Sounds stupid, but it does work. Maybe the most important part of CBT is simply being aware that you are worrying or obsessing about something and deciding to do something about it.


I'm not really familiar with CBT, but I've seen those kinds of techniques talked about in some of the literature on mindfulness and meditation. Being aware of your thoughts is pretty much the name of the game. We are often not even aware of the endless chatter in our mind. When you sit down to meditate, you become aware of what Buddhists call "monkey mind."
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