Archive for psych

Waiting for it to start, waiting for it to end …

I like my friend Jonathan Mayhew’s recent insight into procrastination:

Procrastination is the avoidance of a particular emotion associated with a task. It could be boredom, frustration, fear or dread, shame or guilt. The avoidance of the task, though, does not mean an avoidance of that emotion, but it’s prolongation. You are essentially carrying around that emotion with you all the time. Completing the task, then, is a release from that emotion, not its prolongation.

So there must be some positive benefit to procrastination: one could become habituated to that tension and release of emotion, or thrive on the adrenaline of almost missing deadlines.

Professor Mayhew’s been really good on this theme over the years.

“Like cutting doorways into an empty building”

Amy Barnhost’s opinion piece in today’s New York Times, “The Empty Promise of Suicide Prevention,” is important to read.

As doctors, we want to help people, and it can be hard for us to admit when our tools are limited. Antidepressants may seem like an obvious solution, but only about 40 percent to 60 percent of patients who take them feel better. …

Nonetheless, mental health providers perpetuate the narrative that suicide is preventable, if patients and family members just follow the right steps. …

But it is not that easy. Good outpatient psychiatric care is hard to find, hard to get into and hard to pay for. Inpatient care is reserved for the most extreme cases, and even for them, there are not enough beds. Initiatives like crisis hotlines and anti-stigma campaigns focus on opening more portals into mental health services, but this is like cutting doorways into an empty building. …

We need to address the root causes of our nation’s suicide problem — poverty, homelessness and the accompanying exposure to trauma, crime and drugs. …

If we ignore all this, and keep telling the story that there is a simple solution at hand, the families of suicide victims will be left wondering what they did wrong.

Love

I loved hitch-hiking more than anything. More than sex, more than writing, more even than friendship. I knew that the next person I would see would be a stranger who would be open to communication, and that I would be on my way somewhere.

Scientific thinking

overdosearticle

Solving the Heroin Overdose Mystery: How small doses can kill.”

This is a fascinating article. (Short take: Getting messed up in unusual places prevents your body’s “conditioned” anti-intoxicating responses.)

Whiteboard insight

When I went back into my bedroom just now, I noticed that I had written something on the whiteboard next to my bed. I hazily remembered waking up last night in the middle of a dream and thinking, “Ooooh, this is really important. Write it down or you will forget.” This is what I wrote down: “Chocolate control technology!”

Aeon: Intellectual Culture

aeon

My new favourite place to go very morning is Aeon, a marvellous multimedia site devoted to intellectual culture: “big ideas, serious enquiry, a humane worldview and good writing.”

From the About page:

Aeon has four channels…. Most weekdays, it publishes Essays – longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers.

From Monday to Friday, it also publishes Opinions – short provocations, maintaining Aeon’s high argumentative standards but in a more nimble and immediate form.

Aeon’s Video channel streams a mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon content, including a series of interviews with experts at the forefront of thought.

Finally, Aeon’s Conversations channel invites the reader in to put their own arguments and points of view. With Conversations, old-style web comments give way to a new form of collective inquiry.

This morning I read a lively, lucid opinion piece by Cory Powell arguing that Galileo’s reputation might be more hyperbole than truth – the author chooses “is” for “might be,” no surprise. (Hint: Kepler was the real giant of science who explained heliocentrism and the laws of planetary motion.)  A 4-minute animation directed by Sharron Mirsky showed me how to enjoy a blackout. Reading an essay by Frank Furede called “The Ages of Distraction,” I learned that moralists and philosophers have complaining about how distracted humans are for hundreds of years:

Attention was promoted as a moral accomplishment that was essential to the cultivation of a sound character. The philosopher Thomas Reid, the foremost exponent of 18th-century Scottish ‘common sense’, argued in his Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind (1788) that ‘there are moral rules respecting the attention’ which are ‘no less evident than mathematical axioms’. The moral rules of attention required cultivation and training and it was the job of educators to ensure that the young were protected from acquiring the ‘habits of inattention’. Inattention was increasingly perceived as an obstacle to the socialisation of young people.

Countering the habit of inattention among children and young people became the central concern of pedagogy in the 18th century. Educators have always been preoccupied with gaining children’s attention but in the 18th century this concern acquired an unprecedented importance. Attention was seen as important for the nourishment of the reasoning mind as well as for spiritual and moral development. Advice books directed at parents, such as Maria Edgeworth’s Practical Education (1798), insisted that the cultivation of concentration and attention required effort and skill.

After reading this wonderful essay, I quickly zipped over to The Drudge Report, alas, to see what crazy things were happening all over the world – well, mostly all over the United States. Shame on me!

Returning to Aeon I got caught up with a high-toned and truly friendly discussion that addressed the question, “Can a mystical tradition within a religion be said to express its true spirit.”

As an author, editor, and publisher, I could not be more impressed and gratified by this initiative. Salut to co-founders Brigid and Paul Hains.

cross-posted at NoContest.CA

This morning there’s a really good opinion piece, “Why mothers of tweens – not newborns – are the most depressed,” by Suniya Luthar and Lucia Ciciliola, who explain:

That tweens roll their eyes at their parents is not news. What is new is evidence, in our study, that these behaviours can be deeply hurtful to mothers. Women who saw their children as rude and rejecting were among those who felt most distressed.

A central take-home message from our findings is that the big ‘separation’ from offspring, the one that really hurts, comes not when children leave the nest literally, but when they do this psychologically – in their complex strivings to become grown-ups, in their tweens. …

And all this comes at a time when many mothers first experience the signs of approaching middle age, with declines in physical and cognitive abilities, and increased awareness of mortality. It also is a period when, according to studies other than our own, marital satisfaction is the lowest and strife the highest.

It’s no wonder that middle-school mothers are so stressed.

Aeon has a lively twitter feed.

Goodness

Two posts from basil.CA’s seventh year:

15 Jan. 08: When it comes to fostering moral and humane conduct, courtesy is superior to compassion. It certainly springs from a deeper well.

10 May 08:  Can a person be vain about his or her own goodness and still be truly good? I have wondered about this for years. I think the answer is yes. [I did not tend to like such people very much, though. Still don’t, a pity.- Oct. 18, ’15]