ENTRANCE TO THE GREAT PERFECTION:
A Guide to the
Dzogchen Preliminary Practices
compiled, translated, and introduced by
Dharma Quote of the Week
The whole point here is to destroy impure perception. So what do we mean by impure perception? Impure perception is basically everything that we see, perceive, and label at the moment. It is not that something is wrong out there and that's why everything is impure. Instead, it is because, at the moment, whenever we perceive something, it is always filtered through our emotions, our desire, jealousy, pride, ignorance, and aggression. When we look at a person, we may see him or her through the filter of our passion, and will therefore see him or her as very desirable. We may look at another person through the lens of aggression, which will cause us to see him or her as very ugly and hideous. When perceiving others through our own insecurity, we make judgements, refer, and compare, and end up trying to defend or boost our pride, which all stems from ignorance. The list goes on and on.
All the different perceptions we have arise from our very own minds and are coming through these emotions. That is why everything we experience ends up being a disappointment. Regardless of whether it is felt in a big or a small way, the point is that there is always a little bit of disappointment. This is what we are trying to purify.
This all comes down to training the mind. In the Shravakayana tradition, one trains the mind through physical and verbal discipline; by shaving the head, begging for alms, wearing saffron robes, and refraining from worldly activities, such as getting married. In the Mahayana, on top of that one trains the mind by meditating on compassion, bodhichitta, and so forth. In the Vajrayana, over and above these two, we try to transform our impure vision into something pure.
We learn to do this by going step-by-step through the ngondro. Our very first step is to stop the chain of thoughts. We then expel the stale breath along with a bit of visualization. Finally, we cultivate the notion that the very place where we are is no longer an ordinary place. With these steps, we have begun to transform this impure vision.
--from Entrance to the Great Perfection: A Guide to the Dzogchen Preliminary Practices compiled, translated, and introduced by Cortland Dahl, published by Snow Lion Publications
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Eva Orner - Secret Fear
From Oscar-winning producer Eva Orner (Taxi to the Dark Side), this multi-faceted documentary explores the full spectrum of anxiety-related disorders, from panic attacks and phobias to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Everyone experiences anxiety at some stage in their lives, but for an estimated ten percent of the population, anxiety will become debilitating to the point of illness. Many may believe that they are on the verge of insanity, while others try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. In many cases anxiety disorders may lead to depression and some victims come to believe that suicide is the only escape. This documentary focuses on the lives of several people who suffer from or have recovered from disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, phobias such as agoraphobia, social phobia, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, compulsive hoarding, cutting or other self-injury, compulsive hair pulling, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
In addition to the firsthand accounts of a thoughtful and appealing group of anxiety “survivors,” the documentary uses expressive imagery and reenactments which bring the trauma of these personal experiences into vivid reality for viewers. In pursuit of recovery, they have explored conventional medical approaches as well as Tai Chi, medication and other alternative approaches. Many have benefited from cognitive behavioral therapy. The film provides no neat answers, but invites understanding of these often underestimated disorders.
ETHICS FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
by the Dalai Lama,
edited by Alexander Norman,
translated by Dr. Thupten Jinpa
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week
We have a saying in Tibet that engaging in the practice of virtue is as hard as driving a donkey uphill, whereas engaging in destructive activities is as easy as rolling boulders downhill. It is also said that negative impulses arise as spontaneously as rain and gather momentum just like water following the course of gravity. What makes matters worse is our tendency to indulge negative thoughts and emotions even while agreeing that we should not. It is essential, therefore, to address directly our tendency to put things off and while away our time in meaningless activities and shrink from the challenge of transforming our habits on the grounds that it is too great a task. In particular, it is important not to allow ourselves to be put off by the magnitude of others' suffering. The misery of millions is not a cause for pity. Rather it is a cause for developing compassion.
We must also recognize that the failure to act when it is clear that action is required may itself be a negative action....inaction is attributable less to negative thoughts and emotions as to a lack of compassion. It is thus important that we are no less determined to overcome our habitual tendency to laziness than we are to exercise restraint in response to afflictive emotion.
--from Ethics for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama, edited by Alexander Norman, translated by Dr. Thupten Jinpa
Friday, January 15, 2010
Ajaan Lee explains how the Buddha gave us the tools to free ourselves.By Ajaan Lee
Buddha Camp, Ran Hwang, 2006, buttons and pins, installation view
THE BUDDHA NEVER meant for us to take as our mainstay anything or anyone else aside from ourselves. Even when we take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, he never praised it as being really ideal. He wanted us to take ourselves as our refuge: "The self is its own mainstay." We can depend on ourselves and govern ourselves. We're free. When we can reach this state, that's when we'll be released from our enslavement to greed, anger, and delusion—and be truly happy.
When we are slaves to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, we're told to be generous, to observe the precepts, and to practice meditation—all of which are things that will give rise to inner worth within us. In being generous, we have to suffer and work because of the effort involved in finding wealth and material goods that we then give away as donations. In observing the precepts, we have to forgo the words and deeds we would ordinarily feel like saying or doing. In both of these activities are ways in which we benefit others more than ourselves. But when we practice meditation, we sacrifice inner objects—unskillful thoughts and mental states—and make our minds solid, sovereign, and pure.
The Buddha praised the practice of meditation as a way of paying homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha that was better than offering material objects. The practice of training the heart to reach purity pleased the Buddha because it is the way by which a person can gain release from all suffering and stress. The Buddha taught us to meditate so that we can free our hearts from their slavery to the defilements of the world.
We're still not released from suffering as long as our minds still have worries and concerns. Being a slave to our concerns is like being in debt to them. When we're in debt, we have no real freedom in our hearts. The more we pay off our debts, the more lighthearted we'll feel. In the same way, if we can let go of our various worries and cares, peace will arise in our hearts. This is why the Buddha taught us to center our hearts in concentration so as to give rise to stillness, peace, and the inner wealth with which we'll be able to pay off all of our debts. All our burdens and sufferings will fall away from our hearts and we'll enter full freedom.
Buying ourselves completely out of slavery is like farming land so that it can bear abundant fruit. When the mind is pure and the body soothed, it's as if our farm has plenty of rain and groundwater to nourish our crops. Our concentration is solid and enters the first stage of absorption, with its five factors: directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, and singleness of preoccupation. Directed thought is like harrowing our soil. Evaluation is like plowing and scattering the seed. Rapture is when our crops begin to bud, pleasure is when their flowers bloom, and singleness of preoccupation is when the fruits develop until they're ripened and sweet—and at the same time, their seeds contain all their ancestry. What this means is that in each seed is another plant complete with branches, flowers, and leaves. If anyone plants the seed, it will break out into another plant just like the one it came from. When we practice in this way, we'll come to the reality of birthlessness and deathlessness—the highest happiness—and on into liberation.
This is how we repay all our debts without the least bit remaining. As the texts say, "In release, there is the knowledge, 'Birth is no more, the holy life is fulfilled, the task done.'"
For this reason, we should be intent on cleansing and polishing our hearts so that they can gain release from their worries and preoccupations, the source of pain and discontent. Peace, coolness, and a bright happiness will arise within us, in the same way as when we unshackle ourselves from our encumbering burdens and debts. We'll be free—beyond the reach of all suffering and stress.
From Food for Thought: Eighteen Talks on the Training of the Heart © 1989 by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Available online at http://www.accesstoinsight.org.
Image: © Ran Hwang, courtesy of 2X13 Galley, New York City
- The 1950s -- a decade defined by conformity, consumerism, and conservatism -- were coming to a close, and a new era of social, spiritual, sexual, and psychological revolution was beginning. By the end of the century, Americans would have a new outlook on religion and new ways of practicing medicine, and the Mind/Body/Spirit movement would make things like yoga, organic produce, and alternative medicine commonplace.
This is the story of how it all began. Three brilliant scholars and one ambitious undergrad -- widely known today as leaders in the fields of spirituality (Ram Dass), world religions (Huston Smith), hallucinogenics (Timothy Leary), and holistic medicine (Andrew Weil) -- came together in the winter of 1960-61 around the Harvard Psilocybin Project, an infamous series of experiments with psychedelic drugs. Seeking spiritual enlightenment, their research brought them together before bitterness and betrayal tore them apart, and as they forged their own paths and changed their own lives, they would also transform the culture of America.
The Harvard Psychedelic Club takes readers into the heart of the 1960s and back into this era of "peace, love, and joy." With cameos by some of the best known and most beloved cultural figures of the era -- including John Lennon, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey, Joan Baez, Keith Richards, and Aldous Huxley -- this book presents a comprehensive and compelling picture of a nation undergoing great and lasting change, and the four men who took us there.
Dreams feel meaningful—drawn from a mishmash of content from our waking lives. But it's a hot debate among scientists, who are yet to confirm why we sleep, let alone dream. Neuroscientist Matthew Wilson's extraordinary experiments involve eavesdropping on the sleeping minds of rats. He proposes dreaming is central to how we remember and learn.
Matthew A Wilson
Scholar, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Professor, Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biology
Investigator, RIKEN-MIT Neuroscience Research Center
Massachusetts Institute of Learning and Memory
Edwin M Robertson
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Harvard Medical School
Discuss the show on the All in the Mind blog
Read Natasha Mitchell's blog post about this program, and feel free to leave your comments.
Easy to do - just fill out the Comments form underneath the blog post for this week. You can use a pseudonym, your email address is not published but is needed to prevent spam. You don't need to enter a web address.
Cockroaches - sleep deprivation leads to memory loss (The Science Show, 2009)
Broadcast on The Science Show, ABC Radio National, 2009.
Maia Ten Brink is a senior high school student. She set out to determine the effects of sleep deprivation in cockroaches on memory retention. She taught her roaches to associate smells with tastes as rewards, then deprived them of sleep by movement through shaking. Over 4 days, the tired roaches demonstrated significant memory loss.
Dreams: The Body Alive! (Part 1 of 2)
An interview with psychoanalyst Robert Bosnack on dreams and the idea of embodied cognition. (Broadcast on All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2009)
Bionic Brains and Memory: World's First Brain Prosthesis?
Broadcast on All in the Mind, 2003
Is your memory failing? Considered popping in a memory chip? Philosophical fantasies meet the world of the modern 'neural engineer' as All In the Mind ponders a curious future where brains are wired to computers, and silicon neurons replace your own. Scientists have just developed an early silicon model for an artificial hippocampus, a part of the brain so crucial to our sense of self. Its helps us make memories, and is often damaged in those with Alzheimers or after a stroke. But will these silicon recollections be your own?
Nightmares: Scars of the Soul
Broadcast on All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2004.
Title: Memory - An Anthology
Author: Edited by Harriet Harvey Wood and A.S Byatt
Publisher: Chatto and Windus (Random House), 2008
Title: From creation to consolidation: A novel framework for memory processing (Essay)
Author: Edwin M. Robertson
Publisher: PloS Biology, January 27, 2009
Title: Firing rate dynamics in the hippocampus induced by trajectory learning
Author: Daoyun Ji and Matthew A Wilson
Publisher: The Journal of Neuroscience, April 30, 2008, 28(18):4679-4689
Title: Reverse replay of behavioural sequences in hippocampal place cells during the awake state
Author: David J Foster, Matthew A Wilson
Publisher: Nature 440, 680-683 (30 March 2006)
Title: Coordinated memory replay in the visual cortex and hippocampus during sleep
Author: Daoyun Ji & Matthew Wilson
Publisher: Nature Neuroscience 10, 100 - 107 (2007)
Title: Inducing motor skill improvements with a declarative task.
Author: R Brown & E.M Robertson
Publisher: Nature Neuroscience 10, 148-149, (2007)
Title: Off-line processing: reciprocal interactions between declarative and procedural memories.
Author: R.M Brown, & E.M Robertson,
Publisher: Journal of Neuroscience 27, 10468-10475. (2007)
Title: Off-line learning of motor skill memory: a double dissociation of goal and movement.
Author: Cohen, D.A., Pascual-Leone, A., Press, D.Z., Robertson, E.M.
Publisher: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102, 18237-182341 (2005)
EVOLUTION'S ARROW, by John StewartRead the whole article.
Is there a direction imbedded in the very fabric of evolution? Are we moving toward something, or is reality as we know it just an infinite process of trial and error, with no overall wider evolutionary directive. What are some of the most current observations of the nature of our universe, and what deeper knowledge of our existence is this information communicating? Jonas Salk made the following statement of what he thought the process of directional evolution appears to be:
"The most meaningful activity in which a human being can be engaged is one that is directly related to human evolution. This is true because human beings now play an active and critical role not only in the process of their own evolution but in the survival and evolution of all living beings. Awareness of this places upon human beings a responsibility for their participation in and contribution to the process of evolution. If humankind would accept and acknowledge this responsibility and become creatively engaged in the process of metabiological evolution consciously, as well as unconsciously, a new reality would emerge, and a new age would be born." Jonas Salk
A major evolutionary transition is beginning to unfold on earth. Individuals are emerging who are choosing to dedicate their lives to consciously advancing the evolutionary process. They see that their lives are an important part of the great evolutionary process that has produced the universe and the life within it. They realise that they have a significant role to play in evolution. Redefining themselves within a wider evolutionary perspective is providing meaning and direction to their lives - they no longer see themselves as isolated, self-concerned individuals who live for a short time, then die irrelevantly in a meaningless universe. They know that if evolution is to continue to fulfill its potential, it now must be driven consciously, and it is their responsibility and destiny to contribute to this.
At the heart of this evolutionary awakening is the understanding that evolution is directional. Evolution is not an aimless and random process, it is headed somewhere. This is very important knowledge - once we understand the direction of evolution, we can identify where we are located along the evolutionary trajectory, discover what the next steps are, and see what they mean for us, as individuals and collectively.
Where is evolution headed? Contrary to earlier understandings of evolution, an unmistakeable trend is towards greater interdependence and cooperation amongst living processes. If humans are to advance the evolutionary process on this planet, a major task will be to find more cooperative ways of organising ourselves.
The trend towards increasing cooperation is well illustrated by a short history of the evolution of life on earth. For billions of years after the big bang, the universe expanded rapidly in scale and diversified into a multitude of galaxies, stars, planets and other forms of lifeless matter.
The first life that eventually arose on earth was infinitesimal – it was comprised of a few molecular processes. But it did
not remain on this tiny scale for long. In the first major development, cooperative groups of molecular processes formed the first simple cells. Then, in a further significant advance, communities of these simple cells formed more complex cells of much greater scale.
A further major evolutionary transition unfolded after many more millions of years. Evolution discovered how to organise cooperative groups of these complex cells into multi-celled organisms such as insects, fish, and eventually mammals. Again the scale of living processes had increased enormously. This trend continued with the emergence of cooperative societies of multi-celled organisms, including bee hives, wolf packs and baboon troops.
The pattern was repeated with humans – families joined up to form bands, bands teamed up to form tribes, tribes joined to form agricultural communities, and so on. The largest-scale cooperative organisations of living processes on the planet are now human societies.
This unmistakable trend is the result of many repetitions of a process in which living entities team up to form larger scale cooperatives. Strikingly, the cooperative groups that arise at each step in this sequence become the entities that then team up to form the cooperative groups at the next step in the sequence.
It is easy to see what has driven this long sequence of directional evolution – at every level of organization, cooperative teams united by common goals will always have the potential to be more successful than isolated individuals. It will be the same wherever life arises in the universe. The details will differ, but the direction will be the same – towards unification and cooperation over greater and greater scales.
Life has come a long way on this planet. When it began, individual living processes could do little more than influence events at the scale of molecular processes. But as a result of the successive formation of larger and larger cooperatives, coordinated living processes are now managing and controlling events on the scale of continents. And life appears to be on the threshold of another major evolutionary transition – humanity has the potential to form a unified and inclusive global society in symbiotic relationship with our technologies and with the planet as a whole. In the process, “we” (the whole) will come to manage matter, energy and living processes on a planetary scale. When this global organisation emerges, the scale of cooperative organisation will have increased over a million, billion times since life began.
If humanity is to fulfill its potential in the evolution of life in the universe, this expansion of the scale of cooperative organisation will continue. The global organisation has the potential to expand out into the solar system and beyond. By managing matter, energy and living processes over larger and larger scales, human organisation could eventually achieve the capacity to influence events at the scale of the solar system and galaxy. And the human organisation could repeat the great transitions of its evolutionary past by teaming up with any other societies of living processes that it encounters.
“We are the product of 4.5 billion years of fortuitous, slow biological evolution. There is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation.” …“We are set irrevocably, I believe, on a path that will take us to the stars--unless in some monstrous capitulation to stupidity and greed we destroy ourselves first.” Carl Sagan
The great potential of the evolutionary process is to eventually produce a unified cooperative organisation of living processes that spans and manages the universe as a whole. The matter of the universe would be infused and organised by life. The universe itself would become a living organism that pursued its own goals and objectives, whatever they might be. In its long climb up from the scale of molecular processes, life will have unified the universe that was blown apart by the big bang.
As life increases in scale, a second major trend emerges - it gets better at evolving. Organisms that are more evolvable are better at discovering the adaptive behaviours that enable them to succeed in evolution. They are smarter at finding solutions to adaptive challenges and at finding better ways to achieve their goals.
Initially living processes discover better adaptations by trial and error. They find out which behaviours are most effective by trying them out in practice. Initially this trial and error search occurs across the generations through mutation at the genetic level. An important advance occurs when this gene-based evolution discovers how to produce organisms with the capacity to learn by trial and error during their lives.
In a further major transition, organisms evolve the capacity to form mental representations of their environment and of the impact of alternative behaviours. This enables them to foresee how their environment will respond to their actions. Rather than try out alternative behaviours in practice, they can now test them mentally. They begin to understand how their world works, and how it can be manipulated consciously to achieve their adaptive goals.
Evolvability gets another significant boost when organisms develop the capacity to share the knowledge that they use to build their mental representations. Imitation, language, writing and printing are important examples of processes that transmit adaptive knowledge. These processes enable the rapid accumulation of knowledge across generations and the building of more complex mental models.
Eventually organisms with these capacities will develop a theory of evolution - they will acquire the knowledge to build mental models of the evolutionary processes that produced the living processes on their planet, including themselves. For the first time they will have a powerful, science-based story that explains where they have come from, and their place in the unfolding of the universe.
"Only after we had absorbed Darwin and recalculated the age of the universe, after the vision of static forms of life had been replaced by a vision of fluid processes flexing across vast tracts of time, only then could we dare to guess the immensity of the symphony we are part of." Christopher Bache
"None of the scientists of the seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth centuries knew the larger implications of what they were doing or the discoveries they were making. Yet each of the major figures was contributing something essential to a pattern of interpretation that would only become clear in the mid-twentieth century. Only now can we see with clarity that we live not so much in a cosmos as in a cosmogenesis, a cosmogenesis best presented in narrative; scientific in its data, mythic in its form.” Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry
On any planet where life emerges, the trend to increased evolvability is likely to eventually produce organisms who awaken to their evolutionary history and its future possibilities. They will begin to understand the wider-scale evolutionary processes that have produced them and that will govern the future of life on their planet. The organisms will begin to see themselves as having reached a particular stage in an on-going and directional evolutionary process. They will know where evolution is headed, and what they must do if they are to advance evolution on their planet.
“The stories a culture tells itself -- and which are told to it -- have the capacity to shift mass consciousness profoundly and rapidly. We see this phenomenon in politics, PR and mass media every day. This fact inspires some of us to work with the framework of the sacred Great Story of Evolution, to make it into a mainstream cultural narrative. It is, by its nature, a story that almost everyone can share and find meaning and inspiration in. We dream of a movement that spreads this story AND supports it in having its transformational impact by waking up millions of people on the edge of evolution, and helping them live into their own 14 billion year evolutionary story and grow into their evolutionary role with others in ways which have actual impact on the fate of humanity and the Earth.” Tom Atlee
Neurons genetically rendered hyperactive (red) survive better than normal neurons (green). Traces at bottom of the image show the electrical activity of genetically-manipulated neurons (red trace) and normal neurons (green trace). Photo - Image courtesy of Carlos Lois
(PhysOrg.com) -- MIT neuroscientists have discovered that when it comes to new neurons in the adult brain, the squeakiest wheels get the grease."Before, scientists believed the cells with the most accurate performance were selected and the others were rejected," said Picower Institute for Learning and Memory researcher Carlos Lois. "Our study shows that it doesn't matter what the cells are doing, as long as they are doing something, even if it is wrong. It's like musicians being chosen in an audition based not on how well they play, but how loudly."
Neuronal survival is a key component to the success of cell replacement therapies in the brain. Current therapies have hit a roadblock because the vast majority of grafted cells do not survive and do not integrate into adult brain circuits. "Our discovery of a survival-determining mechanism in new neurons is likely to have a significant influence on such treatments," said Lois, Edward J. Poitras Assistant Professor in Human Biology and Experimental Medicine at the Picower Institute.
In addition, the observation that the "noisiest" neurons have a survival advantage helps explain the prevalence of epilepsy, in which some neurons become hyperactive and fire in an uncontrollable fashion. "Our work suggests that any perturbation that increases the activity of neurons will enhance the likelihood of their survival. Thus, during childhood, when many neurons are still being added to the brain, it is likely that neurons that become pathologically hyperactive will be preferentially selected for survival, and these abnormal neurons will be the trigger for epilepsy," Lois said.
To investigate whether activity levels—and the source and pattern of activity—are crucial in governing whether an individual new neuron survives or dies, the researchers used new technology to genetically enhance or dampen the electrical excitability of single adult-generated neurons. An important technological advance, the methods used in this study allow for single-cell genetic manipulation of electrical activity in living animals.
Investigating the molecular signals launched by neuronal activity will potentially lead to new drugs that bolster the survival of new neurons. These drugs could be used to increase the efficacy of treatments that depend on grafting stem cell-derived neurons into the adult brain to treat neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
More information: "Genetically increased cell-intrinsic excitability enhances neuronal integration into adult brain circuits," by Chiawei Lin, Shuyin Sim, Masayoshi Okada, Alice Ainsworth, Wolfgang Kelsch and Carlos Lois in Neuron, published Jan. 14, 2010.Provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thursday, January 14, 2010
A 2006 article from Psychotherapy and Psychometrics looking at the DSM-IV panel found some alarming numbers:
Of the 170 DSM panel members 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. One hundred percent of the members of the panels on ‘Mood Disorders’ and ‘Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders’ had fi nancial ties to drug companies. The leading categories of financial interest held by panel members were research funding (42%), consultancies (22%) and speakers bureau (16%). Conclusions: Our inquiry into the relationships between DSM panel members and the pharmaceutical industry demonstrates that there are strong financial ties between the industry and those who are responsible for developing and modifying the diagnostic criteria for mental illness. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the fi rst line of treatment for mental disorders.The situation seems not to have improved much in the DSM-V process, though we may not know for sure until after the revision is finished. According to a 2009 article in Psychiatric Times:
As long as the pharmaceutical industry has so much pull on the DSM task force, the future does not look good for a more human-based diagnostic approach.
Last year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest in its May 5 Integrity in Science publication noted that more than half of the 28 members of the DSM-V task force have ties to the drug industry. “They ranged from small to extensive. Leading the pack was William Carpenter Jr . . . who over the past 5 years worked as a consultant for 13 drug companies.”
The disclosure statements released to the public have been criticized in blogs and news articles as being remarkably spare, because they show only the existence of corporate connections—not dollar amounts or duration.
John Grohol, PsyD, founder and publisher of Psych Central, warned in his November 17 blog that the DSM-V process contained a “glaring loophole.” Appointees could make a million dollars a year for 10 years from a company before beginning work with DSM-V. He said, “All you need do is to cut off that relationship for a few years and then come back to it when you’re done.”
If you don't believe me, Mojtabai & Olfson (2010) report that not only are psychiatrists prescribing a lot of drugs to their patients, but they are prescribing multiple drugs to many of their patients.
There was an increase in the number of psychotropic medications prescribed across years; visits with 2 or more medications increased from 42.6% in 1996-1997 to 59.8% in 2005-2006; visits with 3 or more medications increased from 16.9% to 33.2% (both P < .001). The median number of medications prescribed in each visit increased from 1 in 1996-1997 to 2 in 2005-2006 (mean increase: 40.1%). The increasing trend of psychotropic polypharmacy was mostly similar across visits by different patient groups and persisted after controlling for background characteristics. Prescription for 2 or more antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedative-hypnotics, and antidepressant-antipsychotic combinations, but not other combinations, significantly increased across survey years. There was no increase in prescription of mood stabilizer combinations. In multivariate analyses, the odds of receiving 2 or more antidepressants were significantly associated with a diagnosis of major depression (odds ratio [OR], 3.44; 99% confidence interval [CI], 2.58-4.58); 2 or more antipsychotics, with schizophrenia (OR, 6.75; 99% CI, 3.52-12.92); 2 or more mood stabilizers, with bipolar disorder (OR, 15.46; 99% CI, 6.77-35.31); and 2 or more sedative-hypnotics, with anxiety disorders (OR, 2.13; 99% CI, 1.41-3.22)Those numbers are alarming at best, especially considering that no one really knows how these chemicals interact. We are creating a nation of zombies, so drugged up that they are barely conscious. This is definitely the shadow side of medicine and psychiatry.
In the Comment section of the article, the authors list some of the drug interaction concerns for both schizophrenia, where there is no benefit in combining medications, and major depression, where the evidence for benefit is limited at best.
The authors offer this conjecture:
A change in the style of psychiatric practice may have contributed to the increase in antidepressant-antipsychotic polypharmacy. Some psychiatrists may be placing greater emphasis on symptom reduction while lowering their concerns over the number of medications required to achieve this clinical goal.This is indicative of the problems with the medical model: symptom reduction, rather than treating the cause.
The most prominent side effects of many of these medications includes metabolic syndrome and diabetes (both are associated with weight gain and increased HDL cholesterol), especially in polypharmacy for schizophrenia (Suzuki, et al , 2008).
In fact, the DSM has moved increasingly toward diagnosing behaviors - not feelings or emotions (nothing subjective) - and they acknowledge this, seeing it as a more reliable approach in that it removes some of the subjective diagnostic element. This is a kind of flatland approach to the human mind and human suffering. Except there is one problem - the same person might receive five different diagnoses from five different therapists, especially in personality and dissociative disorders.
For one diagnosis, antisocial personality disorder (Hare, Hart & Harpur, 1991), the review committee objected to "the focus on antisocial behaviors rather than personality traits central to traditional conceptions of psychopathy and to international criteria" - and this was going into the DSM-IV, where the goal was to create a more objective, behavior-based diagnostic model.
Yet, this approach poses its other problems in reliability and validity, especially in the psychotic disorders where behaviors and interior states might be at odds. One of these - schizoaffective disorder (Maj et al, 2000) - is subject to removal from the DSM-V, suggesting the tenuous nature of some diagnostic labels.
Other diagnoses will also disappear or be heavily revised - autism and Asperger's (Anestis, 2009) will likely become a spectrum disorder; PTSD (Rosen, Spitzer & McHugh, 2008) is likely to be heavily revised. Other diagnoses are also subject to change and deletion, or new ones might be added.
Here are some other diagnoses under review, with citations:
Pedophilia: "The DSM diagnostic criteria for pedophilia have repeatedly been criticized as unsatisfactory on logical or conceptual grounds, and that published empirical studies on the reliability and validity of these criteria have produced ambiguous results." (Blanchard, R. The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Pedophilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Sept 16, 2009)A big issue with the DSM diagnoses is the seeming lack of consistent reliability and validity, which are defined as follows:
Gender Identity Disorder: "These problems concern the confusion caused by similarities and differences of the terms transsexualism and GID, the inability of the current criteria to capture the whole spectrum of gender variance phenomena, the potential risk of unnecessary physically invasive examinations to rule out intersex conditions (disorders of sex development), the necessity of the D criterion (distress and impairment), and the fact that the diagnosis still applies to those who already had hormonal and surgical treatment. If the diagnosis should not be deleted from the DSM, most of the criticism could be addressed in the DSM-V if the diagnosis would be renamed, the criteria would be adjusted in wording, and made more stringent."(Cohen-Kettenis PT, Pfäfflin F. The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents and Adults. Arch Sex Behav. 2009 Oct 17)
Adult ADD: Some people want an even more rigorous medical definition of this disorder: "Future DSM field trials should assess symptoms and domains of impairment that are developmentally appropriate for adults. Symptom thresholds for diagnosis should be established with consideration of adult norms. Consistent with earlier DSM field trials, the age-of-onset criterion should minimally be increased to age 12 or—in the absence of strong empirical support—be abandoned altogether." (McGough, J.J. & McCracken, J.T. Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Moving Beyond DSM-IV. Am J Psychiatry. October 2006; 163:1673-1675)
Technically, the reliability of a diagnosis is the percentage of the person-to-person variability in a given population that relates to the variance of the ‘true’ values of the diagnosis (Lord and Novick, 1968). Less technically, it relates to the extent to which a second independent diagnostic opinion about a patient agrees with the fi rst, and is best measured by the correlation coeffi cient between independent test–retest diagnoses for a sample of subjects from that population.Kraemer is advocating for a dimensional model for the DSM-V, rather than the traditional categorical diagnoses, which have limited validity and reliability. Others have taken up the same issue (Brown & Barlow, 2009) for anxiety and mood disorders.
Validity, however, is the percentage of the person-to-person variability of the diagnosis in a given population that relates to the variance of the disease for which the diagnosis is meant, and is consequently always lower than the reliability of a diagnosis (Lord and Novick, 1968). To date, the DSMs have focused solely on face or clinical validity, the assertion that the diagnosis corresponds to clinicians’ subjective views of a disorder. This is a weak but necessary form of validity achieved by requiring consensus among clinicians expert in that disorder, and such consensus has to date been the primary basis of DSM modifications. Ideally the validity of a diagnosis represents the correlation between the diagnosis and a ‘gold standard’ determination of the disorder. For example, one common form of validity is expressed by the sensitivity and specificity of a categorical diagnosis relative to its corresponding disorder, where sensitivity is the probability that a person who has the disorder is diagnosed positive, and specificity is the probability that a person who does not have the disorder is diagnosed negative. (Kraemer, 2007, p. S9)
A very different issue, however, is how these diagnoses impact the person who then carries the label. When people accept and internalize their "medical diagnosis," they are more likely to be depressed, according to Sonja Grover (2005).
Consider in this regard that there is evidence that internalizing the medicalization of one's DSM-defined "mental health problem/disorder" is a strong predictor for depression (White, Bebbington, Pearson, Johnson & Ellis, 2000). Further, it has been found that those who accept explanations of their experience as one of having experienced a "psychotic episode" are also more prone to depression than those who resist integrating the experience in this way (Jackson et al., 1998). One is safe to assume that the client had acceded to the DSM label, to the extent they did, in the hopes that the entire process would alleviate psychological distress. (p. 78)Grover, who is writing specifically on confidentiality issues, goes on, however, to make the following important points about the validity and reliability of DSM diagnoses:
The fallaciousness of reifying DSM diagnostic categories is evidenced, for instance, by the fact that the validity of various long-established DSM categories such as schizophrenia has been attacked in part due to the non-specific nature of many of the attributed symptoms (Gallagher, Gernez, & Baker, 1991). The scientific status of other "conditions" such as "post-traumatic stress disorder" (PTSD) has also been held suspect since there is no certain way to distinguish between the alleged genuine disorder and simple malingering of symptoms. (p. 79)And . . .
In addition, the validity of DSM categories in general has been challenged on the basis that often the categories cannot be reliably measured and therefore their validity also cannot be assessed (reliability here referring to mental health workers independently reaching the same conclusions regarding diagnosis when using the same DSM eligibility criteria and the same assessment tools [Kirk, 1994]). Due to such evidence as the foregoing, it is therefore not reasonable to hold DSM categories to be relatively accurate and definitive statements about the nature of the person so diagnosed. (p. 79)In Grover's opinion, to give someone a label, especially one that defines them psychologically, is to remove their freedom to self-define and to stigmatize them in their social context. She is not alone in her concerns - others have found the same results in their studies (Rosenfeld, 1997; Link, et al, 1997). We've known for decades that mental illness carries a powerful social stigma, but we are beginning to get clear that labels impact the person being labeled, as well.
In narrative theory, such a powerful label can create a "monological" self-narrative, one devoid of diversity and prone to repeat itself over and over again (Singer & Rexhaj, 2006). Healthy psyches have dialogical self-narratives, meaning multiple perspectives. But when these heavy labels are being carried, the self-narrative often (not always) narrows to one centered on the label.
Individuals should not have to carry stigmatizing diagnostic labels, either against their will or willingly - either way, they will carry that label and self-define with that label for the rest of their lives in many cases. We can treat people without these harsh labels.
Finally, there were some efforts to construct an alternative to the DSM model, for many of the reasons presented here.
When drafts of the DSM (4th ed.; DSM–IV;American Psychiatric Association, 1994) were being circulated, it became clear to a number of researchers that the DSM influence was getting more strongly entrenched in several ways. First, economically the mental health care delivery system was increasingly dependent on the DSM as a way of classifying patients for getting reimbursement. Second, the scientific community was being increasingly constrained to organize its research around the DSM. Journals, grant agencies, conventions, and even talk among colleagues was increasingly reifying diagnostic categories. This would not be bad if the DSM had earned this considerable influence on a level scientific playing field. Instead, this was and is happening despite the fact that the DSM has not been particularly successful as an organizing principle for guiding science, and its assumptions about how to interpret behavior seem inadequate from many perspectives. (Follette, 1996)The Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology (1996 Dec; Vol. 64 (6)), did a special issue, the introduction of which was the source of the previous quote, devoted to looking at the other options. That was 14 years ago - clearly, they have not been successful. Another approach has been offered more recently (Andrews, Anderson, Slade & Sunderland, 2008), one that seems promising (or at least a move in the right direction, though still burdened with labels) if enough professionals support it.
But we have options in how we relate to our clients. We do not need to burden them with labels. Many therapists working with parts or subpersonalities, such as Richard Schwartz (who I mentioned in part one) do not even used diagnostic labels. His patients get well without them.
We need to emphasize our clients' humanity, not their illness. If we can reconstruct their sense of identity to revolve around the Self, we will have taken a huge step toward both their healing and their evolution as human beings.
Andrews, G., Anderson, T., Slade, T., & Sunderland, M. (2008). Classification of Anxiety and Depressive disorders: problems and solutions. Depression & Anxiety (1091-4269), 25(4), 274-281.
Anestis, M. D. (2009) The fate of Asperger's syndrome in DSM-V: A follow-up to last week's article. Psychotherapy Brown Bag. Nov. 10: http://2a1w.sl.pt.
Brown, T.A. & Barlow, D. (2009) A Proposal for a Dimensional Classification System Based on the Shared Features of the DSM-IV Anxiety and Mood Disorders: Implications for Assessment and Treatment. Psychological Assessment; Sep;21(3):256-271.
Cosgrove, L., Krimsky, S., Vijayaraghavan, M., & Schneider, L. (2006) Financial Ties between DSM-IV Panel Members and the Pharmaceutical Industry. Psychother Psychosom. 75:154–160.
Follette W.C. (1996) Introduction to the special section on the development of theoretically coherent alternatives to the DSM system. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology. Dec; 64(6):1117-9.
Grover, S. (2005) Reification of Psychiatric Diagnoses as Defamatory: Implications for Ethical Clinical Practice. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Spring;7(I):77-86.
Hare, R., Hart, S. & Harpur, T. (1991) Psychopathy and the DSM—IV Criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. August 1991. 100(3): 391-398.
Kaplan, A. (Jan i, 2009) DSM-V Controversies. Psychiatric Times. Vol. 26 No. 1: http://w.dc.sl.pt.
Kraemer, H.C. (2007) DSM categories and dimensions in clinical and research contexts. Int. J. Methods Psychiatr. Res. 16(S1): S8–S15.
Link, B.G., Struening, E.L., Rahav, M., Phelan, J.C. & Nuttbrock, L. (1997) On Stigma and Its Consequences: Evidence from a Longitudinal Study of Men with Dual Diagnoses of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Jun;38(2):177-190.
Maj, M., Pirozzi, R., Formicola, A.M., Bartoli, l. & Bucci, P. Reliability and validity of the DSM-IV diagnostic category of schizoaffective disorder: Preliminary data. Journal of Affective Disorders. Jan; 57(1): 95-98.
Rosen, G.M., Spitzer, R.L. & McHugh, P.R. (2008) Problems with the post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and its future in DSM V. Br J Psychiatry. Jan;192(1):3-4.
Rosenfeld, S. (1997) Labeling Mental Illness: The Effects of Received Services and Perceived Stigma on Life Satisfaction. American Sociological Review. August; 62:660-672.
Singer, J.A. & Rexhaj, B. (2006) Narrative Coherence and Psychotherapy: A Commentary. Journal of Constructivist Psychology. 19:209–217.
Suzuki T, Uchida H, Watanabe K, Nakajima S, Nomura K, Takeuchi H, Tanabe A, Yagi G, Kashima H. (2008) Effectiveness of antipsychotic polypharmacy for patients with treatment refractory schizophrenia: an open-label trial of olanzapine plus risperidone for those who failed to respond to a sequential treatment with olanzapine, quetiapine and risperidone. Hum Psychopharmacol. 23(6):455-463.
[This is part one of two - part two is at the link.]
Have you ever gone to see your doctor about some issue, say a broken ankle, and felt that the doctor was only concerned with the broken ankle, or felt that he barely even noticed there was a body attached to the leg attached to the ankle?
I have, only it was my wrist. I might as well have been invisible because all the doctor could see was my broken wrist, and all he could imagine was surgical intervention to fix it. He dismissed my educated questions and barely acknowledged my presence. Not all doctors are like this, but the production-line nature of modern medicine makes this far more common than is good.
This is the medical model, an approach that is sometimes also known as the illness model. In essence, it is the application of objective medical criteria in treating dis-ease. In many ways, it's an excellent system, except for one thing: In this model, the subjective experience of the individual is largely irrelevant.
This approach has slowly been staking out its claim to mental realm and its illnesses, as well, over the last 40 years. And this is, in my opinion, not a very good thing for counseling and psychotherapy.
Over the last couple of decades, as psychiatrists (medical doctors with some psychology training) have become the dominant force on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnostic committees (it is produced, after all, by the American Psychiatric Association), the focus of the DSM has moved increasingly toward the medical model of diagnosis and treatment.
In this view, nearly all mental distress has a biological basis (partial truth) and can be treated with a chemical, if only we can find the right ones (very partial truth). Here is one summary of the medical model in psychology:
The medical model of psychotherapy contains five components. In the medical model, (a) the client presents with a disorder, problem, or complaint; (b) there exists a psychological explanation for the disorder, problem, or complaint; (c) the theoretical conceptualization and knowledge are sufficient to posit a psychological mechanism of change; (d) the therapist administers a set of therapeutic ingredients that are logically derived from the psychological explanation and the mechanism of change; and (e) the benefits of psychotherapy are due, for the most part, to the specific ingredients. The last component, which is often referred to as specificity, is critical to the medical model of psychotherapy and gives primacy to the specific ingredients rather than common or contextual factors. (Wampold, Hyun-nie, & Coleman, 2001, paragraph 4)In opposition to this model, which reduces the human being to a diagnostic issue, the authors propose a "contextual mode," which offers a more rounded view of the person and the interaction with the therapist:
The contextual model presented by Wampold (2001), which borrows heavily from Frank and Frank (1991), contains four components. The first component is an emotionally charged, confiding relationship with a helping person (i.e., the therapist) in which the client expects the relationship to develop as he or she divulges emotional and psychologically sensitive material. The second component is a therapy process that transpires in a healing context; the client believes that the therapist will provide help and will work in the client's best interest. The third component stipulates that there exists a rationale, conceptual scheme, or myth that provides a plausible explanation for the client's symptoms and is consistent with the client's worldview. The final component of the contextual model involves a procedure or ritual that is consistent with the rationale of the treatment and requires the active participation of both client and therapist. (Wampold, Hyun-nie, & Coleman, 2001, paragraph 5)After a thorough review of the evidence, and rebuttal of the main medical model's arguments against anything like the conceptual model (for another version of this issue, see the recent LA Times article), the authors conclude in their final paragraph:
We use “old habits die hard” to suggest that the medical model is a habit that should die (or at least be extinguished, if the patient's therapist is a medical model adherent). The empirical support for a medical model of psychotherapy is nonexistent. We contend that it will neither scientifically explain research results nor further the field. The alternative contextual model is scientific and culturally appropriate and will, in the long run, sustain counseling psychology as a field.This article, as noted below, is from 2001 and there have been some important discoveries since then of biological markers for mental illness, but one thing that is seldom (if ever) addressed is whether the markers cause the illness or whether the illness causes the markers. No one has an answer for this, but the integral model of psychotherapy would suggest it is not either/or but, rather, both/and.
James Hansen (2005) argues that part of the reason that the medical model has been triumphant is the lack of cohesion and cross-support for the alternate, more humanist (and post-modern) perspectives:
There are many reasons for the rise of the medical model, including the discovery of chemical agents that alleviate symptoms (Shorter, 1997), the fact that third-party payers are structured according to a medical perspective (Hansen, 1997), and, perhaps most important, because of the economic benefits of this model for organized psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry (Leifer, 2001). However, another possible reason, which I am now proposing, for the dominance of the medical model is that theories that emphasize human complexity, notably humanism and postmodernism, do not provide a conceptually unified alternative to theories that blur individual differences through categorization, such as the medical model. That is, there is little dialogue or cross-fertilization between humanistic and postmodern orientations. As isolated perspectives, neither humanism nor postmodernism has the critical mass to challenge the dominant medical model. (p. 4)Post-modernism, which allows for and includes a variety of perspectives, admits the biological element for some mental illness issues, but also allows for and honors the subjective experience of the client, as well as the interpersonal relationship between the client and the therapist. Many of the therapies based in this perspective (narrative, dialogical, client-centered, and so on) honor the subjective experience of the client and the interpersonal connection between the client and the therapist.
I agree with this stance, but I want to go even a step further in my position.
I abhor the labels in the DSM and the whole objective model of treatment - people are not their disorders. No one is a borderline, or a narcissist (one of the most misused words in our culture), nor are they depressed, anxious, or phobic. We are more than our illnesses - we would never call someone fighting malignant tumor a cancer. Nor would we refer to someone with a fracture femur as broken. So why do we refer to people with mental illness as their illness? [One exception is diabetes, where people identify and are identified as diabetic, partially, I think, because it is a disease that is avoidable (with the exception of type I).]
People pay lip service to this truth, but it gets lost in the working of the medical model approach to ilness. This is dehumanizing at best.
Many of the models of therapy I am most drawn to take a very non-pathologizing view of the individual and the illness. None better reflects that perspective than the Internal Family Systems Therapy (1995) model developed by Richard Schwartz. Here is how he sees it:
To experience the Self, there’s no shortcut around our inner barbarians – those unwelcome parts of ourselves, such as hatred, rage, suicidal despair, fear, addictive need (for drugs, food, sex), racism and other prejudice, greed, as well as the somewhat less heinous feelings of ennui, guilt, depression, anxiety, self-righteousness, and self-loathing. The lesson I’ve repeatedly learned over the years of practice is that we must learn to listen to and ultimately embrace these unwelcome parts. If we can do that, rather than trying to exile them, they transform. And, though it seems counter-intuitive, there’s great relief for therapists in the process of helping clients befriend rather than berate their inner tormentors. I’ve discovered, after painful trial and much error at my clients’ expense, that treating their symptoms and difficulties like varieties of emotional garbage to be eliminated from their systems simply doesn’t work well. Often, the more I’ve joined clients in trying to get rid of their destructive rage and suicidal impulses, the more powerful and resistant these feelings have grown – though they’ve sometimes gone underground to surface at another time, in another way.
In contrast, these same destructive or shameful parts responded far more positively and became less troublesome, when I began treating them as if they had a life of their own, as if they were in effect, real personalities in themselves, with a point of view and a reason for acting as they did. Only when I could approach them in a spirit of humility and a friendly desire to understand them could I begin to understand why they were causing my clients so much trouble. I discovered that if I can help people approach their own worst, most hated feelings and desires with open minds and hearts, these retrograde emotions will be found not only to make sense and have a legitimate purpose in the person’s psychological economy, but also, quite spontaneously, to become more benign.
I’ve seen this happen over and over again. As I help clients begin inner dialogues with the parts of themselves holding horrible, antisocial feelings and get to know why these internal selves express such fury or self-defeating violence, these parts calm down, grow softer, and even show that they also contain something of value. I’ve found, during this work, that there are no purely “bad” aspects of any person. Even the worst impulses and feelings – the urge to drink, the compulsion to cut oneself, the paranoid suspicions, the murderous fantasies – spring from parts of a person that themselves have a story to tell and the capacity to become something positive and helpful to the client’s life. The point of therapy isn’t to get rid of anything, but to help it transform. (2008, paragraphs 29-31)
This is the vision I want to take into practice as a therapist. This is the hope and healing I want to be able to offer my clients.
In part two, I will examine some of the issues with DSM diagnoses, which are not as reliable as people would like to believe.
Hansen, J. (2005). Postmodernism and Humanism: A Proposed Integration of Perspectives That Value Human Meaning Systems. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development, 44(1), 3-15. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Schwartz, R. (1995). Internal family systems therapy. New York: Guilford Press.
Schwartz, R. (2008) The Larger Self. Center for Self-Leadership, http://www.selfleadership.org/about/theLargerSelf.
Wampold, B., Hyun-nie, A., & Coleman, H. (2001). Medical Model as Metaphor: Old Habits Die Hard. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48(3), 268. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
This article from New Scientist, based on a variety of research, offers up some new candidates. Here are some pieces of the longer article, which I encourage you to go read. [For a counter-argument to the piece, see Uh-oh, more emotions to worry about.]
For me, gratitude is less an emotion than a state of mind, a perspective, so I would have a hard time adding that one to the list.
ELEVATIONThe uplifting emotion
Elevation seems to be a universal feeling. Although not yet studied in modern-day pre-literate societies, it has been documented in people from Japan, India, the US and the Palestinian territories. That puts it in the same league as the Big Six. But to be considered as a basic emotion it should also have a purpose. If emotions are to fulfil their role as survival aids, they must motivate activities that help us thrive. So what is elevation for? Originally Haidt thought that it makes us nobler towards others. But when he asked volunteers to watch either an uplifting episode of Oprah or a non-uplifting scene from the sitcom Seinfeld, and then gave them a chance to help a stranger, there was no difference in behaviour between the two groups.* * *
INTERESTThe curious emotion
Interest may be trickier to pin down than fear or joy but it nevertheless possesses one of the hallmarks of a basic emotion - its own facial expression. Since the 1960s when Paul Ekman pioneered the field, psychologists have looked for universal, characteristic facial expressions to help measure and classify emotions.
Interest also seems to have a purpose. Psychologist Paul Silvia at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, believes it motivates people to learn - not for money, not for an exam, but for its own sake, to increase their knowledge just because they want to.
* * *
The relationship-boosting emotion
Gratitude has a way to go before it satisfies the most stringent emotion criteria. The facial expression has yet to be identified, although it is easy to speculate what it might involve - a smile and a dip of the head, perhaps. Furthermore, studies have yet to be carried out in non-western cultures. This could be important, as expressions of gratitude may be culturally ingrained. Expectations of which situations will generate gratitude certainly are: waiters in the US will stand at your elbow until you tip, for example, whereas in Japan they will chase you down the street to return the extra cash you left on the table.
Like all emotions worth their salt, though, gratitude motivates us to act: it makes us want to acknowledge and repay a kindness or thoughtful gesture. So gratitude might simply ensure a quid pro quo repayment mechanism, but new research suggests there may be more to it than that.
* * *
PRIDEThe emotion with two faces
We all know the contented sense of achievement and self-worth that comes with having done well at something, whether it be achieving a promotion, building something, winning a race or figuring out a cryptic crossword clue. That's why Jessica Tracy at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, one of the few psychologists focused on pride, makes the distinction between what she calls "hubristic pride" and "authentic pride".
Pride may manifest itself in two different ways, but we cannot tell these apart by their outward appearance, she says (Emotion, vol 7, p 789). Both types cause people to tilt their heads back, extend their arms from their body and try to look as large as possible. As Charles Darwin noted in his book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), a proud person looks "swollen or puffed up". So there is a characteristic prideful look, but in contrast to the basic emotions, the face only plays a small role, with a slight smile creeping across it.Pride also differs from the Big Six in being a "self-conscious" emotion.* * *
CONFUSIONThe time-for-change emotion
Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that it is the "feeling that the environment is giving insufficient or contradictory information". But is confusion really an emotion?
For some psychologists, the idea is scandalous. Others describe confusion as the fringiest of the fringe. Nevertheless, Silvia thinks there is a good case to be made for considering confusion as a basic emotion, not least because it is so easy to spot. The brow furrows, the eyes narrow, the lip might even get bitten - you know confusion when you see it. In fact, one study found it was the second most recognisable everyday expression, only surpassed by joy (Emotion, vol 3, p 68).* * *
In fact, many of these violate the research done by Antonio Damasio into the body-based nature of emotions. He outlines all of this in his excellent book, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (2000). Here is part of an article published just before the book, in which he defines the terms emotion and feeling.
The terms emotion and feeling are usually used interchangeably but I have suggested that they should not be. From a research perspective it is advantageous to use separate terms to designate separable components of this enchained process. The term emotion should be rightfully used to designate a collection of responses triggered from parts of the brain to the body, and from parts of the brain to other parts of the brain, using both neural and humoral routes. The end result of the collection of such responses is an emotional state, defined by changes within the bodyproper, e.g., viscera, internal milieu, and within certain sectors of the brain, e.g., somatosensory cortices; neurotransmitter nuclei in brain stem.I think the folks looking at emotions and how universal they might be need to be talking with the folks who understand how emotions, and then feelings, arise in the body - we need a more integrated understanding of the process before we start adding new emotions.
The term feeling should be used to describe the complex mental state that results from the emotional state. That mental state includes: (a.) the representation of the changes that have just occurred in the body-proper and are being signaled to body-representing structures in the central nervous system (or have been implemented entirely in somatosensory structures via ‘as-if-body-loops’); and it also includes (b.) a number of alterations in cognitive processing that are caused by signals secondary to brain-to-brain responses, for instance, signals from neurotransmitter nuclei towards varied sites in telencephalon. (Damasio, 1998)
In fact, many or most of what we know as emotions are more correctly termed "feelings" in Damasio's model - and he is the recognized expert in the field. And from there we need to bring the cultural psychologists into the discussion, since they looking at how consciousness is a culturally and environmentally embedded process.
Damasio, A. (1998) Emotion in the perspective of an integrated nervous system. Brain Research Reviews 26: 83–86.