Archive for August, 2010
One of the reasons that Cognitive Therapy and Buddhism are useful, to some extent, is that an overwhelming number of the messages that parents and society give us are in opposition to reality. And since, starting at a very young age of 9 months or so, one of our main priorities is to find ways to accept what those we are closest to are offering, we have a natural instinct to believe what our parents and society are telling us.
So a child who does something, and is then told that they “can’t” do that very thing that they have, in reality, just done, does their best to find a way to incorporate that faulty logic into their normal way of thinking: “I can’t do things that I can do.”
And a young person who does something that comes naturally to them, and then is told “That’s not what we do.” has to rearrange their logical thinking to somehow either disassociate themselves from being a part of that “we”, or has to disassociate themselves from being a part of their natural selves. Either way, it’s a painful, unhealthy, and clearly an unnecessary process.
So a main part of CBT, Buddhism, non-violent communication, Byron Katie’s “The Work” inquiry process, and other therapeutic techniques aimed to change the thinking in order to improve one’s health, is to overwrite that faulty logic, and replace it with something more in line with reality.
In which case, it might be useful to consolidate the most effective elements of these processes, and simply aim for helping people become more and more aware of what actually is happening, in a neutral, fact-based, truly logical manner by having them literally practice describing what’s going on in words that reflect only the elements of “time and space”. Specifically listing only the things that can be measured and universally described as truths. Names, shapes, sizes, distances, weights, dates, quantities, and other measurements are the things that are healthfully included in what we call “facts”. Everything else is subjective and, at best, only a partial truth, which can be valued, but only as a statistical possibility…
The message that young, growing, absorbant minds do need to hear for healthy thinking is that:
Sometimes “we” do that, and sometimes we do other things, depending on the situation, and what our needs are at the moment. As our goal in life is to take good care of ourselves, and get the things we need to be healthy, which includes nutritious food, clean water, fresh air, warmth, light, and the freedom to express our extra solids, liquids, gases, and energy. So if you do do something that is what some people say you shouldn’t do, you know that you have done it because you are trying to get one of these needs, and you can look to see what it is, and work with others to see if there is some other way that you can get what you need, so that they can also get what they need…
Try saying that to a young person, and see what happens. :-)
I’m going to try something new here for a moment. I’m going to use a theory from evolutionary biologist and researcher on the science of love, Helen Fisher, to chemically define the four main levels of development in the human brain. The second term in the following list is Helen Fisher’s name for that particular personality type, and the third term is Plato’s and Keirsey’s “temperament” type. And the final item is the primary chemical governing that state/stage of human motivation (personality), according to Fisher’s fMRI research.
Physical – Explorer – Artisan (xSxP) – Dopamine
Emotional – Builder – Guardian (xSxJ) – Serotonin
Intellectual – Director – Rational (xNTx) – Testosterone
Spiritual – Negotiator – Idealist (xNFx) – Estrogen
Ideally (Hi I’m mostly a spiritual “Negotiator” type these days, can you tell? :-) everyone would have all of the positive abilities, and healthy levels of these brain chemicals, of all of these different stages by the time they reach middle age. But those who have major deficiencies and/or toxicities during one of the stages of development will probably not be as strong in that area. And will likely either try harder to get that chemical, by forcing themselves to be more like that type in some way (possibly by even taking drugs), or might rebel against that type, and be antagonistic towards anyone showing that sort of personality (including themselves). Though my guess is that it might not be possible for them to ever be strong in that area, and they might be better off focusing on their abilities and strengths in other areas, and accept their “disability” and just get on with life. :-)
This is just a very early test of this idea. So comments are especially welcome. Next comes some more research into the parts of the brain that Fisher identified for these types and their chemicals. But it’s promising, as a way to help match the patterns with the specific biological and chemical processes of the brain, for a more well-rounded understanding of healthy growth and development in humans.
I suggest that our biology defines our highest motivations in life to be to get enough healthy inputs so that we are able to procreate in some way — to create and pass on valuable information about how to survive and grow to individuals in the future. And I suggest that we do this procreation in a variety of ways:
genes – passing on information via physical, biological children
emes – passing on information via emotionally expressive movements such as art, smiling, yelling, music, etc.
memes – passing on information via intellectually symbolic language in the form of complex ideas
xemes – passing on information spiritually via cultural, mythological, and social traditions
So, it makes logical sense that the people that our brains are going to make us go all gooey for, the ones who we are going to be the most motivated to invest the majority of our extra resources in and spend the most time with, are going to be the people who seem to have the most potential to help us do one or more of these things. We biologically assess someone to see how well they will be able to help us pass on the most important information we’ve managed to collect in our lives up until this point in time.
It’s not terribly romantic sounding at this level of understanding, of course, but on a less detailed and less memetic level, love and procreation with those we love, are certainly the most powerful and moving experiences we can have as humans.
However, when love causes suffering, which it often does, it can indeed be useful, in a moment of calm reflection, to look at what’s going on in a more detailed, scientific way, so that it can all be understood, and so that problems that exist on an emotional or physical level can be solved in a more rational, intellectual way.
In which case, you might be interested in taking a calm, reflective moment — after you’ve had some healthy greens to eat, gotten a drink of clean water, and taken a few deep, oxegenating breaths of fresh air — as you consider which of these ways the ones you love seem to move you to create.
Do you want to make a baby with them because they have physical qualities that really complement your own physical traits that you think the world needs more of? (One way your body tells you this is that they smell good to you! Though you don’t have to make a baby with everyone who smells good to you, as making babies takes more resources than pretty much all other kinds of procreation, and is the most risky investment you can probably ever make, since babies are very fragile packages of information :-)
Or, do you want to smile at them and sing songs with them or make giant sculptures of sad robots with them?
Or, do you have the great desire to do research, politics, or lead an organization with them?
Or do you want to change the whole world, in some grand and majestic way, with them by your side?
In math, when looking at the interactions between individual numbers, one looks for the common denominators – a way to look at all of the individual numbers involved at the same simple level of understanding. Similarly, in life, when looking at the interactions of individual humans, one also looks for the common denominators – again, a way to look at all of the individual humans at the same detailed level of understanding – and in the case of humans, looking for the highest common denominator can be even more helpful than looking for the lowest common denominator.
The lowest common denominator for humans is what I call “love”. It is indeed a universally applicable way of looking at human relationships.
But, not surprisingly, I believe that when looking at things at a more detailed, intellectual, level, the most useful common denominator that we humans all share is the highest common denominator, which is the set of five inputs – the “negatives” of our empty spaces that we can fill with food, water, air, warmth, and light – and the set of four outputs – the “positives” of the human byproducts of solids, liquids, gases, and energy. (And yes, I know it’s not symmetric, and I’d love to see both sides be 4 or both be 5, but so far I don’t see any value to decreasing the inputs or increasing the outputs, so for now, 4 and 5 are the best options, which reflects the fact that life is never perfectly symmetric!)
So when I look at the world of humans, I see a whole lot of individuals (nearly 7 billion these days, though we only hit 6 billion in the 90’s!) who are seeking the same shared goals in life, of wanting quality food, water, air, warmth, and light, and of wanting to use their extra solids, liquids, gases, and energy to do more useful things for the individuals they care about. And each one has some fraction of the whole – each of us has just a portion of our input and output needs met, but never all of them at once, i.e., nobody’s perfect, while we all keep trying to be. :-)
So looking at our relationships in this logical and simple, yet reasonably detailed, way is helpful in working with each other, as we can see how we all relate to one another. And thinking about this mathematically, it’s easy to see how one could set up a more balanced equation for the world…
People speak of “abusive relationships” all the time. But they don’t go much into detail about what it all entails, which seems like a valuable thing to do.
So, for starters, we can define “abuse” as intentionally being given the opposite of what you need to be healthy. The needs being nutritious food, clean water, fresh air, warmth, light, and the freedom to express your body’s excess solids, liquids, gases, and energy. And the opposite of these can be anything from being given toxic versions of things, to being prevented from getting them at all.
Being given fire when you indicate that you are thirsty is abuse. Being given water when you indicate that you need warmth is abuse. But giving someone fire and water is not, in and of itself, abusive, as there must be clear intent to give you the opposite of what you need, for it to be abuse.
The primary cause of abusive relationships can stem from someone either being ill in some way, and thus not being healthy enough to care for others effectively, or from someone simply not having the right information about how to care for others effectively. Someone might have an excess of fire in their belly, and thus be harmful to those who are thirsty, or someone simply might not know that others are thirsty and instead think that some toasty fire is just what they need to warm them up.
People who’ve been raised in abusive environments who go on to abuse others on a regular basis usually have both of these elements – illness and lack of information – while many doctors and other health professionals in the medical industry, for example, generally are just lacking information when they give drugs and other treatments that end up harming their patients.
Another detail about abuse that isn’t so commonly spoken of is that one doesn’t necessarily need to “get out of an abusive relationship”. And that’s not just because “get out of an abusive relationship”, quite literally isn’t in the list of things humans do need, it’s also because there are other solutions that often can work even better at eliminating or at least reducing the abuse to a safe enough level. (For example, being called a “poopiehead” is quite safe, while also satisfying the definition of abuse, of being intentionally given the opposite of your needs. So one could say that some abuse is perfectly reasonable and harmless.)
Looking at the causes of abuse – illness and/or lack of information – we can see that these other solutions, aside from leaving the relationship, are helping the other person heal by taking care of them (rather than expecting them to take care of us) by helping them get their needs met, and/or giving them more information about the specifics of what taking care of us looks like.
Obviously, if we ourselves aren’t reasonably healthy, we’re not going to be able to take care of others, so leaving the relationship, temporarily, to get what we need elsewhere, might be the best option. But when we are healthy enough, we can return to the relationship to invest our extra resources into making the relationship healthy by offering what the other person needs to be healthy, and by clarifying what these basic needs for health are – food, water, air, warmth, light, and freedom of expression.
Sometimes, a relationship will be seen as mutually abusive, and both parties will have both of the primary causes (illness and lack of information). In this kind of extreme case, it will take much more of an investment of resources to heal. Many relationships won’t seem worth investing such an exceptional amount of resources in, but some, clearly, are very much worth it – usually close family members, such as parents, children, and spouses. So having this practical, specific list of needs is extremely handy for healing the most valuable relationships you have, if they have, in the past, involved any kind of abuse.
Binikou needs just two more comments asap to get a $100 bonus in the Global Giving Evoke fundraising challenge. If you haven’t already, can you spare a few minutes and leave a comment one one of the project updates?
$100 will really make a huge difference to Binikou, as we’re excellent at making a little money go a very, very long way. Much, much longer even than a long cat. Seriously.
Also, if you haven’t taken a look at the new Hierarchy of Needs over at Binikou, you might be interested. I’ve updated it recently, and it’s got some interesting new info.
But please,comment first, if you are supportive of this new educational venture of mine! Then go explore all the other wonderful things out there in the world… :-)
Whether you are novelty seeking or novelty fearing is completely effected by whether you are getting your basic needs (physical needs) or not. Here be both dragons and hidden gems.
We can make this issue far more complicated and muddy, or we can see clearly what is going on.