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Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind 
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
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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.


That's similar to what I do when my brain won't stop. I chunk thinks up, work/wife/money/kids/house. A little worry is helpful to plan the future and solve lingering issues. But sometimes the worry is all in one department, or you go over the same problems / plans to a neurotic degree. At a certain point you need to close the door on a subject and leave it for the following day.


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Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:27 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
Speaking of which, this course is starting tomorrow:

Buddhism and Modern Psychology
https://www.coursera.org/course/psychbuddhism

I doubt I'll be able to keep up with it on schedule, but I'm planning to at least watch the lectures at some point.



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Wed Mar 19, 2014 6:30 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
I don't have any experience with CBT as a client of therapy, have only studied it somewhat superficially. I do think that studying what it's about can probably work pretty well, maybe as well as going to a therapist. Even though I'm sort of connected with the therapy field, I have conflicting feelings about therapy as a service to access. But I will say that for a while I was enthusiastic about Philosophical Counseling and even thought that I wanted to become such a therapist. Philosophical counseling is actually related to Beck's CBT.

Another thing CBT has in common with meditation is that it's a practice and only continues to be effective if the practice is kept up. I don't believe that any therapy can really change what we're like; there are only tools that can help us to adjust better. With psychoanalysis, I think the claim was that by "exorcising our demons" we could actually become different people. I believe it didn't work.

PS--I tried meditation long ago as a college student. My expectations were that it would rearrange my brain somehow, but I found that apparently you have to work hard at it. So then I lost some motivation and stopped. I signed up for the Coursera course, which may reinspire me.



Last edited by DWill on Wed Mar 19, 2014 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Wed Mar 19, 2014 8:33 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
Each chapter features a great idea (usually from antiquity), and Ch. 2 opens with this epigraph:

"The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it." —MARCUS AURELIUS

I would translate this to mean, "(try to) keep a positive outlook!" or “(try to) keep your chin up!”

I add the parentheses because I don't think all the prozac, meditation, and CBT in the world is going to transform a full blown pessimist into an optimist. But maybe it will take some of the edge off.

I almost think Haidt's three methods for taming the elephant apply to people who are already fairly well off in terms of circumstances and the cortical lottery. I'm thinking of the mother who recently tried to drive her little kids and herself into the ocean. Also, my wife works with a lot of kids who lost the cortical lottery big time; they need "prozac" just to stop hearing voices in their heads.

But I do think that keeping a positive outlook is something to shoot for. Finding humor in the mundane or even the tragic is a great coping mechanism. But I guess I find Haidt's conclusion here a tad simplistic or reductive and possibly overly-reliant on pseudo-science:

Quote:
The epigraphs that opened this chapter are true. Life is what we deem it, and our lives are the creations of our minds. But these claims are not helpful until augmented by a theory of the divided self (such as the rider and the elephant) and an understanding of negativity bias and affective style. Once you know why change is so hard, you can drop the brute force method and take a more psychologically sophisticated approach to self-improvement. Buddha got it exactly right: You need a method for taming the elephant, for changing your mind gradually.


I don’t want to come across as being overly critical of Haidt. I’m actually enjoying the book quite a lot. But the pessimist in me perhaps wants to play Devil’s advocate. Isn’t Haidt just replacing Marcus Aurelius’s words with more scientific-sounding words? Is there an element of psychobabble here? Is our understanding of “affective style” a great advancement over the theory of humors in the medieval world (the idea that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids — black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood — in a person directly influences their temperament and health)?

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Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:06 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
Hi geo. Someday I need to learn how to post great graphics. I said in a post about JH's introduction that I had some doubts, too, about whether the modern experimenting and newfangled lingo really does add to what was already known about being happy. Does it just verify empirically what was pat of the common wisdom? I'm less impressed by the experimental data and coinages such as "affective style" than I am with the humanists like Marcus Aurelius who gave us guides for getting over the bumps or earthquakes of life. I might differ from you in that I don't see stoicism as enforcing optimism, really. Stoicism is even a bit of a downer in its view that we should lower our expectations for happiness and settle for a kind of mental peace instead. Joy seems a little unreasonable to stoics, I think.



Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:32 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
Dexter wrote:
Speaking of which, this course is starting tomorrow:

Buddhism and Modern Psychology
https://www.coursera.org/course/psychbuddhism

I doubt I'll be able to keep up with it on schedule, but I'm planning to at least watch the lectures at some point.

I am so glad I saw this post. I have listened to the first set of lectures (first week). This class nicely compliments JH's book. I am beginning to understand that in most cases the words "well-being" should be substituted for "happiness" in order to more accurately capture what we are talking about when we talk about happiness. In actuality happiness is just a fleeting feeling, where as well being better describes a more stable, enduring condition. I see that there is real benefit to make a distinction between the two states by using different words. Happiness just comes over us. Well-being on the other hand implies a more active role because of the verb to be. In order to have well-being we must be well - we must do something to be well. Ok, I've gone off on a bit of a tangent.


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Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:00 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
Saffron wrote:
I am so glad I saw this post. I have listened to the the first set of lectures (first week). This class nicely compliments JH's book. I am beginning to understand that in most cases the words "well being" should be substituted for "happiness" in order to more accurately capture what we are talking about when we talk about happiness. In actuality happiness is just a fleeting feeling, where as well being better describes a more stable, enduring condition. I see that there is real benefit to make a distinction between the two states by using different words. Happiness just comes over us. Well being on the other hand carries a more active role because of the verb to be. In order to have well being we must be well - we must do something to be well. Ok, I've gone off on a bit of a tangent.


I also listened to the first set of lectures. Similar to what you said, he also made the distinction between "suffering" and "unsatisfactoriness." As he says, for some people "suffering" seems overstated to describe the human condition, but if you reflect on your own cravings, you will notice the unsatisfactory nature of pleasure (at least in many cases). Interesting how he connected it to evolutionary psychology to explain why our mind is like this.



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Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:07 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
I listened to the first 23 min. Interesting how the influence of feelings on perceptions and thinking mirrors the rider/elephant metaphor Haidt uses. Robert implies that without some habit of reflecting on our feelings or putting them at arm's length, we'll be more likely to go with the elephant as it leans this way and that. Yet it's also interesting that it's not exactly through what we might call rational thought that we can get some of this ability to separate. Meditation is apparently the effective route. I think also, though, that some people are just "cooler" when it comes to being able to filter feelings before acting (including thinking) on them.

I'm trying not to set up an adversarial relationship between the rider and the elephant. As Haidt said, during the eons of development of our orbitofrontal cortex, the elephant got much smarter, too, so there might be no great problem with going along with it. Robert seems to be telling us that the danger Buddhism warns of is becoming too involved in the transient feelings that course through our brains as the elephant leans. This could be where Eastern religion gets the reputation for being above the world and not passionately involved. Compare to the ecstatic forms of Christianity, which seem to me to be all about running with emotions, not questioning whether where they really lead to the truth.



Sat Mar 22, 2014 11:13 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
DWill wrote:
Hi geo. Someday I need to learn how to post great graphics. I said in a post about JH's introduction that I had some doubts, too, about whether the modern experimenting and newfangled lingo really does add to what was already known about being happy. Does it just verify empirically what was pat of the common wisdom? I'm less impressed by the experimental data and coinages such as "affective style" than I am with the humanists like Marcus Aurelius who gave us guides for getting over the bumps or earthquakes of life. I might differ from you in that I don't see stoicism as enforcing optimism, really. Stoicism is even a bit of a downer in its view that we should lower our expectations for happiness and settle for a kind of mental peace instead. Joy seems a little unreasonable to stoics, I think.

Saffron makes a good point about the difference between "happiness" and "well-being." Above all, we want to feel safe. Applying Maslow's hierarchy, it's difficult to thrive as a human if our basic needs of food and shelter aren't being met.

My mother reminded me once how incredibly important it is to have serenity (probably more or less the same thing as well-being). We had this conversation at a time in my life when serenity was not really in the cards for me. To be able to sit down and enjoy a good book, you have to have a certain amount of serenity or peace of mind.

I don't much like the word "happiness" either. It seems superficial. Should happiness ever be our goal in life? While "well-being" or "serenity" seem more what the Buddha had in mind.

This is such a fantastic discussion, thanks, y'all. I'll need to take a look at the Coursera course this weekend and try to catch up to you guys.


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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
geo wrote:
I'll need to take a look at the Coursera course this weekend and try to catch up to you guys.


It's a great supplement to the book. Also, I listen to it at 1.5x speed on the Coursera website and can still follow along easily.



Sat Mar 22, 2014 3:26 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
Dexter wrote:
geo wrote:
I'll need to take a look at the Coursera course this weekend and try to catch up to you guys.


It's a great supplement to the book. Also, I listen to it at 1.5x speed on the Coursera website and can still follow along easily.

So, to take the blue pill or the red pill . . .


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Sat Mar 22, 2014 4:39 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
geo wrote:

I don't much like the word "happiness" either. It seems superficial. Should happiness ever be our goal in life? While "well-being" or "serenity" seem more what the Buddha had in mind.
This is such a fantastic discussion, thanks, y'all. I'll ne

Yeah, I love the way this discussion has been going. It's really nice when connections seem to radiate from a topic. Example: I'm doing the other Coursera on Thomas Jefferson (as a Virginian--not native--I have to). It was old, learned TJ himself who put the word 'happiness' in neon lights forever for us Americans and in fact for the rest of the world. I don't know whether in the intervening 230 years, the meaning of happiness has become trivialized. Maybe even for TJ's contemporaries, his choice of words seemed unusual, although they went along with it.



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Sat Mar 22, 2014 9:26 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
I was going to post this earlier in the day, but thought maybe it would be too far off the discussion. After reading the posts made by Geo & DWill, it seem I have an invited to go off on a side street. A guy named Ben Henretig is making a documentary about Bhutan's policy of Gross National Happiness. He just invited people to send him 3-minute videos of what happiness means to them. The first link is to the film's webpage and the second is to his invitation.

http://thehappiestplacefilm.com/
What Can We Learn From Bhutan's Policy of Gross National Happiness?

The Happiest Place is a feature-length documentary telling the story of one filmmaker's incredible journey to uncover the secret to Bhutan's happiness. With unprecedented access, the film offers a glimpse into a forgotten world that may have hidden within it the key to responsible progress in the 21st century.

http://thehappiestplacefilm.com/thisishappiness


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Sat Mar 22, 2014 9:34 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
Good one. Now I'm thinking of something critical I heard recently about Bhutan's policy of GNH, which just goes to show you....well, something.

But I'll trade you tangents. I was listening to some of the TED radio hour yesterday and Mike Rowe was interviewed. He's the guy who has the show on a cable channel (and he advertise Fords as well) called "Dirty Jobs" (I think). It was just interesting to me what he observed about the happiness and satisfaction of people who do the grungiest and most distasteful jobs out there. They're really happy, he claims, and have a kind of freedom that many of the more conventionally employed don't. Rowe also reflected on the now-common adage of following your bliss or passion to find out what to do in life. He thought that the people he has met over the past several years would say that's malarkey. Although they bring passion to the work, they arrived at the work by much more prosaic means. All in all, this brings to mind the insight that researchers have documented that we can be lousy at predicting what's going to make us happy, so maybe it's just as well not to consciously shoot for it.



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - Changing Your Mind
DWill wrote:
Good one. Now I'm thinking of something critical I heard recently about Bhutan's policy of GNH, which just goes to show you....well, something.

But I'll trade you tangents. I was listening to some of the TED radio hour yesterday and Mike Rowe was interviewed. He's the guy who has the show on a cable channel (and he advertise Fords as well) called "Dirty Jobs" (I think). It was just interesting to me what he observed about the happiness and satisfaction of people who do the grungiest and most distasteful jobs out there. They're really happy, he claims, and have a kind of freedom that many of the more conventionally employed don't. Rowe also reflected on the now-common adage of following your bliss or passion to find out what to do in life. He thought that the people he has met over the past several years would say that's malarkey. Although they bring passion to the work, they arrived at the work by much more prosaic means. All in all, this brings to mind the insight that researchers have documented that we can be lousy at predicting what's going to make us happy, so maybe it's just as well not to consciously shoot for it.

I heard it too and had the thought that I hoped you were listening! I think there really is something to the thoughts expressed by Mike Rowe. Following ones bliss is useless if it makes the rest of ones life miserable or just sucks up a disproportionate amount of energy and time. And as you have said, it seems we humans are horrible at predicting what will make us happy. There is that word again, happy, that I think confounds us and our pursuit of a life worth living. I suspect that what made the folks doing the dirty jobs "happy" is that the jobs freed them to put energy and time into other areas of their lives that mattered, thereby creating greater wellbeing overall in their lives.


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Sun Mar 23, 2014 9:29 am
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