Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Poem: Oracles


Strange candles flicker
in darkness

the same way sunlight
shimmers on water,

but not the same at all
really, quite different

as I sit here writing
these words, wondering

why the ravens
are so much more quiet

than crows, loners, really,
not the friendly birds

I grew to love,
to resemble, to know

as mirrors of my soul,
dark shadows haunting

my dreams and mocking
my self-importance,

teachers of another source,
another way to be

in the world, but not of it,
walking in the streets

with my head down,
kicking through leaves,

eager to be back
in my cave, alone

with my candles,
cradled by shadows.

New Poem: On Loss

On Loss

I can't remember what the question was,
but I know it involved oak and maple leaves
rotting in autumn rains, cold winds and fog.

Perhaps something about the passage of days,
gray stubble on my chin in the mirror,
a new season, the ice-bound heart.

I saw her sitting beside me on the couch,
a wine glass in her hand, soft jazz playing,
then realized it was only a ghost.

Empty days pass one after the other,
a parade of memories, her sleeping body
beside me, hot coffee on quiet mornings.

I watch the clouds drift by, wonder
why it never rains, miss the damp
comfort of autumn nights, the chill.

I still don't know the question, but
I know it involves loss, the only constant
in a life devoid of falling leaves.

A Brief History of Burma

I found this at News Bloggers:

As events continue to unfold in Burma I come across a couple videos that will help everybody get up to date on the events. First, a recent clip from CNN International where in under 10 minutes they explain the lead up to this month's protests and also explain how the pro-democracy activists have been using the internet to get their message heard around the world, although the Internet has since been shut down in Burma.

In that last video they referred to Shwe's ritzy wedding clip on youtube, that can be viewed here.

This second video is a documentary about the Burmese struggle for Democracy. John Pilger went undercover into Burma 11 years ago and produced this documentary.
'Inside Burma: Land of Fear' was first broadcast in May 1996. It was written and presented by John Pilger and produced and directed by David Munro. The film detailed the many injustices and human rights abuses that have so badly marked the country's past and present. Amnesty International has described Burma as a 'prison without bars' of a country which has a beauty and resources probably unequalled in Asia.

The Mystic Heart -- Integral Mysticsim

A seven-part video from Integral Naked.

In this dialogue series, Brother Wayne Teasdale and Ken Wilber discuss the advent of an integral mysticism in the postmodern world. Reflecting on their own spiritual experiences, the relation of science to spirituality, the lives of the great inter-spiritual pioneers, and how youth culture is revitalizing the mystical traditions, Brother Wayne and Ken show how an integral perspective can bring the revelations of mysticism into everyday life. In so doing, we learn to give fullest expression—as parents and professionals, students and seekers—to the Mystic Heart in each of us.

If, as historian Arnold Toynbee put it, the introduction of Buddhism into the West "may well prove to be the most important event of the 20th century," we might also argue that the re-discovery of the contemplative roots of Christianity will be equally important. And as we enter the 21st century, it stands to reason that the recognition of a common mystical ground between Buddhism, Christianity, and the other World Religions will be the most important event of all.

Part 1- The Supreme Identity

Part 2 - A Likely Story

Part 3 - Intellectual Illumination

Part 4 - All Reality in One Moment

Part 5 - Psychosis or Mystical State?

Part 6 - Picking a Path

Part 7 - Out of the Self, Into the Light

What is Integral Psychotherapy?

A video from Integral Naked.

Daily Dharma: People We'd Rather Avoid

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle offers some good insight on practicing loving-kindness.

People We'd Rather Avoid

Metta (lovingkindness) is to be extended towards all beings and all manifestations, yet most of our difficulties lie with people. It is much easier to love birds, dogs, cats, and trees than it is to love people. Trees and animals don't answer back, but people do, so this is where our training commences. . . .

Sometimes people find they don't feel anything while practicing metta meditation. That is nothing to worry about; thoughts aimed often enough in the right direction eventually produce the feelings. All our sense contacts produce feelings. Thoughts are the sixth sense, and even if we are only thinking metta, eventually the feeling will arise. It is one means of helping us to gain this heart quality, but certainly not the only one.

In our daily activities all of us are confronted with other people and often with those whom we would rather avoid. These are our challenges, lessons and tests. If we consider them in that manner we won't be so irritated by these experiences. . . . When we realize that such a confrontation is exactly what we need at that moment in order to overcome resistance and negativity and substitute metta for those emotions, then we will be grateful for the opportunity.

~ Ayya Khema, When the Iron Eagle Flies; From Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Daily Om: Shifting With The Tide

This was yesterday's Daily Om -- as is often the case, a little too woo-woo, but still some useful advice.

Shifting With The Tide
Energetic Motion

Since our lives are constantly in motion energetically, change is a constant element of our existence. As dynamic as that energy is, it is not random or haphazard in nature—the shifts in energy that are constantly taking place are the result of our choices. The formulation of intention, a change in perspective, or the creation of a goal can transform our lives in blink of an eye. We think positive thoughts and the world becomes a brighter place. Or we decide who we want to be and become that person. With each passing moment, we are given innumerable opportunities to create change using nothing more than our awareness.

In the span of a single second, our lives can change immeasurably because energy moves at a pace more rapid than anything we can consciously fathom. Though we may not at first be sensitive to the vibrational shifts taking place, our choices are ultimately at the heart of these transformations. We can typically recognize the consequences of key decisions because we anticipated the resultant energetic shifts. But many, if not most, of the choices we make each day are a product of instantaneous reactions, and these still have a significant impact on the energy of our existence. It is for this reason that we should learn to wield what control we can over these shifts. If we bear in mind that all we think and all we do will shape the existence we know, we can deliberately direct the energetic motion of our lives.

Each day, you make an infinite array of decisions that cause energy shifts in the world around you. In many cases, these transitions are almost imperceptible, while in others the change that takes place is palpable not only to you but also to those in your sphere of influence. Your awareness of the immediate energetic consequences of your thoughts and actions can guide you as you endeavor to make the most of the autonomy that defines you as an individual. The myriad choices you make from moment to moment, however inconsequential they may seem, represent your personal power, which sanctions you to transform the energetic tide of your existence with nothing more than your will.

Insanely dangerous Himalayan plank path

The video quality isn't good, but you can get a sense of how freaky this path is.


There's not enough anything in the world to make me walk that path.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Progressive Buddhism Blog

I was kindly invited to contribute to the new Progressive Buddhism blog by Justin. I just posted my first entry: A Post-Modern Buddhism?

Stop by and check it out.

The Extra Degree . . .

A cool little motivational video. (Hat tip to Alwyn Cosgrove)

Speedlinking 9/28/07

Quote of the day:

"The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it."
~ Bertrand Russell

Image of the day:

~ Boost your body image -- "Get real about your body."
~ Preventing liver disease through healthy eating -- "Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) refers to a range of conditions from cirrhosis to liver inflammation that can lead to liver disease and death, and afflict individuals who drink little to no alcohol. Why should you care about this? According to some recent research, NAFLD affects nearly one-third of all American adults."
~ The MH Minute: Great Squat! -- "Test your core strength and balance with the single-leg squat."
~ High-carb diet may help you think faster -- "A low-carbohydrate/high-fat diet and a high-carbohydrate/low-fat diet both improve weight loss, enhance mood, and speed thinking, a study shows, but the low-carb diet may offer less benefit in terms of the rate of cognitive processing." This is a bit misleading -- at first the brain is sluggish when using ketones for fuel, but it eventually adapts. I eat less than 50 grams of carbs most days with no brain sluggishness.
~ ISSA Explains How To Protect Yourself Against Fraudulent Supplement Claims -- "Although nutritional supplements are viewed as an important component of the International Sport Sciences Association's overall integrated approach to personal training, these products should not be taken without doing the proper research first. The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) reminds consumers of a few easy rules to remember in order to protect yourself against fraudulent supplement claims."
~ Why Americans 'Tune Out' Fat Talk -- "Despite more information and resources, we're still getting fatter. Why?"
~ Quit counting calories if it doesn't add up -- "Good news for anyone who hates number crunching: You don’t need to add or subtract a thing to get slim."
~ Health Tip: Considering Low-Carb? -- "Low-carbohydrate diets are rich in proteins (such as meats) and low in carbohydrates (such as breads and pastas). Because of the limited food choices offered by these plans, some people on a low-carb diet may need to take a multivitamin and a fiber supplement to get needed nutrients, says the American Academy of Family Physicians."
~ Fried Food Compounds May Harm Heart -- "Foods high in compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) -- such as hamburgers, french fries and other fatty foods cooked at high temperatures -- cause a short-lived but significant dysfunction in blood vessel dilation that can lead to heart disease, a new study suggests."

~ Sometimes It's Better To Give Up -- "Are there times when it is better to simply give up? Psychologists have been exploring this question, and more specifically a possible link between tenacity and both physical and mental health. "
~ Bounded awareness: Socrates 2.0 -- "According to an article by Chugh and Bazerman, entitled "Bounded Awareness: what you fail to see can hurt you", economists and behavioral psychologists make the same mistake for which Socrates chastized the ancient Athenians. Researchers in both disciplines, despite believing very different things about human behavior, tend to assume that people will "accurately perceive the stimuli available to them". That is, that people receive, correctly interpret, and use all the information there is."
~ More news from the savannah -- "An experiment just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Joshua New of Yale University shows that people pay more attention to the activities of animals than to those of vehicles. That applies even among urban Westerners who rarely see an animal from one year's end to the next."
~ To Do Lists and Mindfulness -- "There are more than 600 items on my to do list right now. Everything is there. A sea of two-word commands like “organize notes” or “buy Kashi” or “call Judd” occupy an endless hierarchy of spreadsheet cells. Such a document, at first glance, might seem daunting. Rather than inciting angst, however, this spreadsheet is one of my most important tools for cultivating and maintaining mindfulness."
~ Risk Of New Suicidal Thoughts During Antidepressant Treatment Has Genetic Component, New AJP Study Shows -- "DNA samples from patients in the federally funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial have revealed two genetic markers that appear to be associated with the emergence of suicidal thoughts during treatment with citalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. The findings strongly suggest a genetic basis underlying the rare emergence of suicidal thoughts associated with taking an SSRI."
~ Nature and Nocturnal Themes in Positive Psychology -- "Lately I have been thinking about night music, dreams, what Freud and Jung got right, neuroplasticity and positive psychology. Huh? And this column is supposed to be six paragraphs? Yup. I promise."
~ How to Use Mini-Meditations to Relax and Find Focus -- "It’s often hard to be as focused as we’d like to be. Many things in our hectic lives interrupt our concentration and erode focus. Think: cell phones, instant messaging, email, and co-workers vying for our time and energy."
~ Depression: Flesh and Blood Or Thoughts and Emotions? By Alex Ellorde -- "Is depression caused by external factors, or by our own mind and body? The answer may not be as simple as some would like to believe."

~ Bush Vows to Veto Insurance Expansion -- "President Bush insisted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Friday that he's going ahead with his promised veto of a major expansion of a children's health program despite its overwhelming approval by Congress...." Moron.
~ Ang Lee's Lust, Caution reviewed -- "With Lust, Caution (Focus Features), protean Taiwanese director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Hulk; Brokeback Mountain) does something that's unexpected and truly daring. He takes a compact gem of a short story by Chinese writer Eileen Chang and spins it into a 158-minute saga of espionage, deceit, sexual humiliation, and something that could be perversely—but not untruthfully—called love."
~ Burmese Junta Silences the Monks -- "The protests have diminished and the monks have been scattered, as the junta lashes out at Burmese civilians."
~ Satellite Images Show Myanmar Abuses -- "The new photos show disappearing villages and the buildup of army camps."
~ In the Valley of the Shadow -- "At West Point, a professor teaches poetry to cadets and learns more than she expected."
~ Clinton: $5,000 for Every U.S. Baby -- "Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home." It'll never happen, but imagine how much the government could save in financial aid funding alone.
~ The New Affirmative Action -- "Colleges want diversity. Students want diversity. There’s just this little problem with the law."
~ U.S. Missile Claims "Not Correct" -- "A number of top U.S-based physicists have concluded the United States used inaccurate claims to reassure NATO allies about U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe."
~ Previewing the new Supreme Court term -- "As one of the most conservative in recent memory, the just-completed 2006 Supreme Court term has served as a rallying cry for progressives. But will the Roberts Court help bring Democratic voters to the polls for the 2008 election? Because the public's interest in the court is notoriously weak and its memory short, the upcoming term is more relevant to whether the court can be a mobilizing force. And the cases lined up for the new term, which begins next week, strongly suggest that the highest-profile decisions will actually make the court look liberal."

~ Cosmic Ghost Leaves Radio Footprint -- "Astronomers stumble across a very peculiar, yet strong sound from deep space."
~ Beetle to Beetle: Will Mate for Water -- "Thirsty female weevils get a life-saving benefit from mating: hydration."
~ A Kinder Cut: Humanely Raised Meat -- "Humanely or sustainably raised meat has entered the mainstream. Consumers -- already buying local food, free-range eggs, and organic produce at sometimes higher cost -- are willing to pay a premium for the knowledge that their steak didn't suffer on the way to becoming dinner."
~ Doug Rushkoff on the Technologies of Persuasion -- "Doug Rushkoff is a leading author and teacher on the intersections of media technologies with how people communicate, create, and learn. When I read (via that Doug would be teaching an online course about "Technologies of Persuasion" at the distance learning site Maybe Logic Academy, I invited him to stop by and tell us what he's up to."
~ Chimp Not a Person, Court Rules -- "Courts and animal advocates clash over whether a chimp is a 'person' or a 'thing.'"
~ Alien intrusions threaten Sweden's seas -- "A gluttonous American pseudo-jellyfish, giant Japanese oysters, and an unidentified virus killing seals: strange intrusions are threatening Sweden's seas and fishermen are concerned."
~ Risky Science at the Top of the World -- "Geologist recounts her travels to unstable Nepal in the aftermath of 9/11."
~ Recovery from acid rain 'much slower than expected' -- "Acid rain was one of the world`s worst pollution problems of the 1970s and 1980s, affecting large areas of upland Britain, as well as Europe and North America."

~ Preconceived notions… -- "What it boils down to is this: We tend to get into patterns of thought, and what we think about things influences how we see the world. We’ll actually actively ignore plain-as-day evidence of things that conflicts with our preconceived notions. We’ll also believe totally unbelievable things simply because they fit into our scheme of notions."
~ Thoughts, Emotions and the Seat of Consciousness -- "The first step out of this absorption with thoughts and emotions, according to the teacher, is to pull yourself back to the center, which he says is not a place. By "centering", he means that we pull ourselves away from whatever it is we're absorbed in, like a t.v. for instance, and bring our awareness back to where we are."
~ Process, Structure, and Form: An Evolutionary Transpersonal Psychology of Consciousness -- In his seminal book on integral psychology The Radiance of Being (1996), Alan Combs demonstrated that consciousness must be understood from a systems perspective. In the following essay, Alan Combs & Stanley Krippner briefly outline a theory on how consciousness is generated as a dynamical process, both at the level of experience, and at the level of the neurological events ...."
~ Sitting, Sitting, Sitting -- "It's much easier to not sit, to not practice than it is to practice. There's a world of things that need to be done, all of which seem to be more important, exciting and worthwhile than sitting down and doing nothing. Yet we keep sitting, and we keep experiencing."
~ Consciousness: Chaotic and Strangely Attractive -- "In the following essay Alan Combs argues that consciousness is similarly awhirl with motion, both at the level of experience, and at the level of the neurological events which undergird experience."

Cookie Monster Death Metal

This spoof of the Cookie Monster is cool.


Scuba Diving in Thailand and Burma

Nice video.

Burma Update

First a video from the BBC:


Other news:

From Spiegel Online: Burmese Bloggers By-Pass Censors

The world has been watching as thousands of saffron-robed monks march through the streets of the Burmese captial Yangon in protest against the repressive military regime -- thanks to the images seeping out of the country via the Internet. While foreign journalists are being refused visas and are forced to wait in Bangkok hotels, ordinary Burmese are taking huge risks by taking photographs and blogging to communicate with the outside world.

CBS News reports this morning that Burma has shut down internet access.

Myanmar soldiers fired warning shots in the air and hit protesters with clubs to break up a demonstration Friday by about 2,000 people, witnesses said. Five of the protesters were seen being dragged into a truck and driven away.

Myanmar's military government appeared to have cut public Internet access and troops also occupied key Buddhist monasteries on Friday, witnesses and diplomats said, in an effort to end demonstrations against the ruling junta.

The moves raised concerns that the junta may be preparing to intensify a crackdown on civilians that has killed at least 10 people in the past two days. The Internet in particular has played a crucial role in getting news and images of the pro-democracy protests to the outside world.

I see this as a seriously bad development. If you're planning to slaughter people, the first thing you do is eliminate any possibility of images getting out to the rest of the world.

Al Jazeera
is reporting that the monks have three demands they want the government to meet.

Uppekha is Buddhist monk and member of the All Burma Buddhist Monks Alliance, one of the groups that has led the wave of anti-government protests in .

Based at a monastery in the northern city of, Uppekha said he and other monks at the monastery wanted to join the protests, but that their monastery had been surrounded by soldiers.

Speaking by telephone from inside the monastery, he told Al Jazeera of the measures the monks were calling for:

"There are three steps that we want.

"The first step is to reduce all commodity prices, fuel prices, rice and cooking oil prices immediately.

"The second step – release all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and all detainees arrested during ongoing demonstrations over the fuel price hike.

"The third step – enter a dialogue with pro-democracy forces for national reconciliation immediately, to resolve the crisis and difficulties facing and suffered by the people.

Uppekha said he had expected more help from the UN and emphasised that all the protests had been peaceful.

He said: "We have a chance to create our own rights. We have a chance to create our own freedom.

Meanwhile, Michael Gerson, writing for the Washington Post, gets it:

The great virtue of Buddhism is serene courage in the face of inevitable affliction. That courage is on display now in Burma -- a nation caught upon the wheel of suffering.

The sight of young, barefoot monks in cinnamon robes quietly marching for democracy, amid crowds carrying banners reading "love and kindness," is already a symbol of conscience for a young century. On closer examination, these protests have also shown that nonviolence need not be tame or toothless. The upside-down bowls carried by some of the monks signal that they will not accept alms from the leaders of the regime, denying them the ability to atone for bad deeds or to honor their ancestors. These chanting monks are playing spiritual hardball.

Once again -- as in the American civil rights struggle and the end of communism in Eastern Europe -- religion is proving to be an uncontrollable force in an oppressive society. Religious dissidents have the ability not only to organize opposition to tyrants but also to shame them. Political revolutions often begin as revolutions of the spirit.

But the spirit, at least for the moment, is fastened to the body, which is subject to truncheons, tear gas and imprisonment. The junta in control of Burma, as we are seeing, is capable of extraordinary brutality. A regime that employs forced labor, conducts war on ethnic minorities and engages in systematic rape will hardly balk at the murder of monks and other protesters -- something it has done before by the thousands.

Read the rest.

The Fountain - Ending Sequence

The Fountain is one of my favorite movies. If you haven't seen it yet, don't watch this video -- get thee to a video store and rent it tonight.

The closing sequence is visual poetry.


Rolo May Quotes

I found these at clipmarks -- the site is Brainy Quote. I've long been a fan of Rollo May's work, especially Man’s Search for Himself. May embraced a developmental scheme for human beings that is useful in an integral model:

  • Innocence – the pre-egoic, pre-self-conscious stage of the infant. The innocent is only doing what he or she must do. However, an innocent does have a degree of will in the sense of a drive to fulfill needs.
  • Rebellion – the rebellious person wants freedom, but has yet no full understanding of the responsibility that goes with it.
  • Decision- The person is in a transition stage in their life where they need to break away from their parents and settle into the ordinary stage. In this stage they must decide what path their life will take, along with fulfilling rebellious needs from the rebellious stage.
  • Ordinary – the normal adult ego learned responsibility, but finds it too demanding, and so seeks refuge in conformity and traditional values.
  • Creative – the authentic adult, the existential stage, beyond ego and self-actualizing. This is the person who, accepting destiny, faces anxiety with courage.

This basically reflects the first five memes of the Spiral, Beige through Orange (see sidebar). Although I think he conflates Orange, Green and Yellow into his "creative" stage.

Anyway, here are some cool quotes:

Care is a state in which something does matter; it is the source of human tenderness.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.

Courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.

Creativity is not merely the innocent spontaneity of our youth and childhood; it must also be married to the passion of the adult human being, which is a passion to live beyond one's death.

Depression is the inability to construct a future.

Freedom is man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves.

Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.

Human freedom involves our capacity to pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.

If we admit our depression openly and freely, those around us get from it an experience of freedom rather than the depression itself.

If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.

It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.

It requires greater courage to preserve inner freedom, to move on in one's inward journey into new realms, than to stand defiantly for outer freedom. It is often easier to play the martyr, as it is to be rash in battle.

Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity.

Life comes from physical survival; but the good life comes from what we care about.

One does not become fully human painlessly.

The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.

The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it's not without doubt but in spite of doubt.

Darwin Award Nominee?

This guy is living proof that some people simply should not be allowed to pass on their genes. From

Sixty pint beer binge leads to four-week hangover

It may be the longest hangover in the history of binge beer drinking. When a 37-year old man walked into a hospital emergency room in Glasgow, Scotland last October complaining of "wavy" vision and a non-stop headache that had lasted four weeks, doctors were at first stumped, the British journal The Lancet reported Friday.

The unnamed patient "had no history of head injury or loss of consciousness; his past medical record was unremarkable, and he was taking no medications," Zia Carrim and two other physicians from Southern General Hospital said in a case report.

Body temperature and blood pressure were both normal, and a neurological exam scanned negative.

But when an eye specialist was called in, the fog began to clear, at least for the doctors.

The patient, said the ophthalmologist, had swollen optical discs, greatly enlarged blind spots and what eye doctors call "flame haemorrhages," or bleeding nerve fibres.

"We sought a more detailed history" from the patient, noted Zia drly.

That is when the man revealed he had consumed some 60 pints -- roughly 35 litres -- of beer over a four day period, following a domestic crisis.

Severe dehydration caused by the alcohol, the doctors guessed, had led to a rare condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). A scan of the brain's blood vessels confirmed the diagnosis.

CVST -- which can cause
seizures, impaired consciousness, loss of vision and neurological damage -- strikes three or four people per million, mainly children, every year in Britain. The cause is generally unknown.

It took more than six months of long-term blood-thinning treatment to restore the man's normal vision -- and to get rid of the headache, the doctors reported.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gratitude 9/27/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) I had nice "first workout" with a traveling nurse new to Tucson. She might become a client, but if she doesn't it was nice to meet an interesting new person.

2) I got to talk about Internal Family Systems a bit tonight -- always grateful to share a useful system.

3) Tomorrow is Friday, although I am working on Saturday. It's the psychology of Friday that I like.

What are you grateful for today?

Self-Help: Shattering the Myths

Psychology Today has an interesting article on self-help myths. I'm not sure I agree with everything the article says, but I certainly agree with their recommendation to be critical of anything that sounds too easy, or that comes from non-experts. Witness The Secret for some real bad "self-help" advice.

Here is the introduction:

It's no surprise that America, land of second chances, fabled site of self-invention, also harbors an endless appetite for self-help. From Poor Richard to Dale Carnegie to Tony Robbins, we love the idea that we can fix what's broken by ourselves, without the expensive ministrations of doctor or shrink. The limits of HMOs, and the limitlessness of the Internet, have lately made self-help even more appealing: Americans spent $563 million on self-help books last year, and surfed more than 12,000 Web sites devoted to mental health. An estimated 40% of all health-related Internet inquiries are on mental health topics, and depression is the number one most researched illness on the Web.

In the spirit of pioneers, we're concocting our own remedies and salving our own wounds. But is it good medicine? Once the preserve of charlatans and psychobabblers, self-help has undergone its own reinvention, emerging as a source of useful information presented by acknowledged authorities. That's not to say snake oil isn't still for sale. Often, the messages of self-help books tend to be vast oversimplifications, misrepresenting a part of the truth for the whole, as the following list of popular misconceptions and distortions demonstrates.

The antidote -- the "good" kind of self-help, grounded in research -- is also available to those who help themselves. Just keep in mind that even the best self-help may be too simplistic to manage complex problems, and that research, with its emphasis on straight science, may not always offer a clear course of action.

And here are the five distortions they attack.

1) Vent your anger, and it'll go away.
2) When you're down in the dumps, think yourself happy by focusing on the positive.
3) Visualize your goal, and you'll help make it come true.
4) Self-affirmations will help you rinse low self-esteem.
5) "Active listening" can help you communicate better with your partner.

You'll have to go to the article to see why these are distortions, what the research says, and what they recommend.

They conclude the article with a list of resources:



The Authoritative Guide to Self-Help Resources in Mental Health By John C. Norcross, Linda Frye Campbell and Thomas P. Smith (Guilford, 2000)


A Topic-by-Topic Guide to Quality Information By Stephen B. Fried and G. Ann Schultis (American Library Association, 1995)

Caring for the Mind: The Comprehensive Guide to Mental Health By Dianne and Robert Hales (Bantam, 1995)


An End to Panic: Breakthrough Techniques for Overcoming Panic Disorder By Elke Zuercher-White (New Harbinger Publications, 1998)

Anxiety & Depression: The Best Resources to Help You Cope Edited By Rich Wemhoff (Resource Pathways, 1998)


Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy By David D. Burns (Avon, 1992)

Understanding Depression: A Complete Guide to Its Diagnosis and Treatment By Donald F. Klein, M.D., and Paul H.Wender, M.D. (Oxford University Press, 1993)


Getting Control: Overcoming Your Obsessions and Compulsions By Lee Baler (Plume, 1992)

The OCD Workbook: Your Guide to Breaking Free from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder By Bruce M. Hyman and Cherry Pedrick (New Harbinger Publications, 1999)


Coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder By Carolyn Simpson and Dwain Simpson (Rosen Publishing Group, 1997)

Coping with Trauma: A Guide to Self-Understanding By Jon G. Allen (American Psychiatric Press, 1995)

* * * *



Knowledge Exchange Network (operated by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Center for Mental Health Services)

eNational Center for PTSD (operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) www.dartmouth. edu/dms/ptsd

eNational Institute of Mental Health


eAmerican Psychiatric Association

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

The Help Center of the American Psychological Association

The International Society for Mental Health Online

eNational Alliance for the Mentally III

National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association


Online Psych

eBasic Information

eSelf-Help and Psychology Magazine

An Unquiet Mind

Freaking funny . . . and a bit too accurate about the night yips. [Hat tip to the Last Psychologist.]

Speedlinking 9/27/07

Quote of the day:

"In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time."
~ Edward P. Tryon

Image of the day:

~ All Hail Peanut Butter! -- " Calling peanut butter a diet food, with 180 to 210 calories per serving, may seem counter-intuitive. But it has the enviable combination of fiber (2 g per serving) and protein (8 g per serving) that fills you up and keeps you feeling full longer, so you eat less overall. Plus, there's nothing more indulgent than licking peanut butter off a spoon--and indulgence (in moderation) helps dieters fight cravings and stay on track." And don't forget cashew butter and almond butter, both of which are very good.
~ Skin Deep: Nutrition and Good Skin -- "Whether you're a pock-marked adolescent or a 35-year-old who prematurely looks like an old catcher's mitt, the health of your skin is probably important to you. Dr. Alan Logan knows how to use nutrition to fix you up."
~ BONUS ARTICLE: The Step Construct -- "Building your body ain't just physical — you gotta' use some gray matter, and we're not talking about your underwear. Here's a simple mental technique to help you achieve your goals while simultaneously showing up those loser bastards who dared to piss on your ambitions."
~ ASK LARA: Three yoga poses for runners -- "I am a big fan of yoga myself, and that’s because I believe yoga is a great accompaniment to running training. Stretching helps to return your muscles to their normal resting length. And, in my experience, many yoga poses seem to hit just the right spots. The following are just some of my favorites."
~ Link Discovered Between Hormone Regulating Appetite And Stress -- "A hormone system linked to reducing food consumption appears to do so by increasing stress-related behaviors, according to a new study."
~ "Good" Cholesterol Earns Its Name -- "High HDL "good" cholesterol levels may help heart disease patients, even those with very low LDL "bad" cholesterol levels, doctors report.
~ Health Tip: Finding Fiber in Your Diet -- "Fiber should be an important part of every diet. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, dietary fiber can help prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and even some types of cancer."
~ Ground-breaking study links food additives to hyperactivity in children -- "In a landmark study published in The Lancet, commonly used artificial food colorings and the preservative sodium benzoate have been strongly linked to hyperactivity in children, triggering renewed vigor in the decades-long campaign by activists to ban artificial food additives from food marketed to children."

~ Social skills spell success in school -- "Good manners and basic social skills such as taking turns are just as important to kids' success in school as a focus on reading, writing and arithmetic, a new book suggests."
~ This Wednesday: Nine tips for giving yourself an energy boost in the next TEN MINUTES -- "It’s hard to feel happy when you’re dragging around. Simple tasks seem overwhelming, people seem annoying, and nothing seems fun."
~ a question of integrity -- "these “integrity questions” are focused mostly around what i would call our civic and professional duties, and i think they’re important questions. often we seem to look at integrity only in reference to others. what about integrity vis-à-vis ourselves, our bodies, minds and spirit?"
~ What Guilt is Good For -- "Guilt is quite a useless feeling, unless it is used for something worthwhile. In other words, having done something that makes you feel guilty, the actual feeling of guilt is worth nothing to anyone, particularly for the other person, unless you use the feeling to change something in you."
~ The Body Has a Mind of Its Own [Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)] -- "This quiet but well-written book explores the interconnection between the environment, the body and the brain; discusses that the body is more just than a container for the brain and a vehicle that moves it around; and reveals how the brain depends upon sensory feedback from the environment in order to develop properly."
~ False Memories vs Veridical Recall: Negative Correlations Among Adults [Developing Intelligence] -- "Cognitive scientists are increasingly aware of how individual differences can confound experimental results. That is, differences in group means cannot always be interpreted clearly if, for example, only some subset of individuals in each group demonstrates the effect. Consequently, even the oldest paradigms in cognitive psychology are undergoing a revival with new mixed experimental/correlational methods."
~ The High Price of a Broken Heart -- "Yes, you can die from heartbreak."
~ How to Cure your Road Rage -- "Do you find yourself getting angry while driving? Is that an understatement? Does your blood boil? Do you curse like a sailor and secretly wish to launch projectiles at fellow drivers? Would you like to break this cycle of road rage? Well you can and it's not that hard to do." I posted this for me, mostly.
~ How to Accept Criticism with Grace and Appreciation -- "How do you deal with criticism? I think the first reaction for most of us is to defend ourselves, or worse yet to lash back. And yet, while criticism can be taken as hurtful and demoralizing, it can also be viewed in a positive way: it is honesty, and it can spur us to do better. It’s an opportunity to improve."

~ Towers Fell, and Attitudes Were Rebuilt -- " Ms. Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of two previous books, was perplexed by the cultural fallout from that day. What she found, she says, was a powerful resurgence in traditional sex roles and a glorification of he-man virility as embodied by Wayne, the ur-savior of virtuous but helpless damsels in distress." She has a point, but she's filtering a larger issue through her pet meme of gender politics.
~ Poetry Prize Sets Off Resignations at Society -- "The board of the Poetry Society of America has been rocked by a string of resignations after a dispute over the society’s choice for an annual award." This is a political correctness issue -- can and should a writer's body of work be separate from his personal views?
~ Sarah Kernochan: Across the Universe: Acid Redux -- "Even more shaming, when my kid asks me what it was like in, say, 1967, what instantly springs to mind is lying, more or less unclothed, in the summer grass and looking up at the sky and being both in the grass and in the sky, and filling up with so much love I could have burst into smithereens. Yup, that's my Proustian souvenir: acid (blotter variety)."
~ Kim Morgan: Bugs in the Belfry: The Crazy Genius of Bug -- "As I sat in the theater (I saw the movie alone, on my birthday, which was an oddly perfect personal present) I heard jeers, witnessed walk-outs and when the credits rolled, grumblings of "wanting my money back." I however, couldn't wait for the fascinating freak-out to come out on DVD. Happily, since yesterday, it has done just that, and after watching the picture for the second time, I'm re-running my review. If you missed it on the big screen, now's your chance to catch up on one of this year's best movies. Or rather, catch this Bug."
~ Should Schools Fingerprint Your Kids? -- "Some schools believe it is a way to make lunch lines more efficient. Parents see "Big Brother" lurking."
~ Hirsh: Bob Gates Scores Quiet Victories -- "To little notice, the Defense secretary has gotten his way on Iraq, and possibly on Iran. Now, Gates is about to appoint a former top Clinton official to prove he means business."
~ A Historic Loss for U.S. Women’s Soccer -- "The once dominant American team has its championship dream crushed by Brazil." Never bench a goalie with 300 shut-out minutes in the World Cup.
~ Blackwater Blamed for Guard Deaths -- "Blackwater USA triggered a major battle in the Iraq war in 2004 by sending an unprepared team of guards into an insurgent stronghold, a move that led to their horrific deaths and a violent response by U.S. forces, says a congressional investigation."

~ Flesh-eating strain of MRSA spreads to schools and gyms -- "The MRSA superbug is invading homes, schools and gyms, scientists have warned. And the strain found in the community is a particular threat to young, healthy people." Never touch your face while in the gym, and wash your hands regularly.
~ Why have municipal Wi-Fi networks been such a flop? -- "It's hard to dislike the idea of free municipal wireless Internet access. Imagine your town as an oversized Internet cafe, with invisible packets floating everywhere as free as the air we breathe. That fanciful vision inspired many cities to announce the creation of free wireless networks in recent years. This summer, reality hit—one city after another has either canceled deployments or offered a product that's hardly up to the hype. In Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, and even San Francisco, once-promising projects are in trouble. What happened—was the idea all wrong?"
~ Spatial Patterns In Tropical Forests Can Help To Understand Their High Biodiversity -- "In a study published in the American Naturalist a German-Sri Lankan research team has now undertaken thousands of spatial pattern analyses to paint an overall picture of the association between tree species in one of these plots in Sri Lanka."
~ Nanowire Generates Power By Harvesting Energy From The Environment -- "As the sizes of sensor networks and mobile devices shrink toward the microscale, and even nanoscale, there is a growing need for suitable power sources. Because even the tiniest battery is too big to be used in nanoscale devices, scientists are exploring nanosize systems that can salvage energy from the environment. Researchers have now shown that a single nanowire can produce power by harvesting mechanical energy."
~ Cockroaches Are Morons In The Morning, Geniuses In The Evening -- "In its ability to learn, the cockroach is a moron in the morning and a genius in the evening. Dramatic daily variations in the cockroach's learning ability are reported in a new study. The few studies that have been done with mammals suggest their ability to learn also varies with the time of day."
~ Exotic Parrots Return to Cook Islands -- "Two centuries after a dazzlingly feathered parrot called the Rimitara lorikeet disappeared from the Cook Islands, a breeding colony of the birds has been re-established with the help of the islands' royalty."
~ In Hot Water: Ice Age Defrosted by Warming Ocean, Not Rise in CO2 -- "Warmer waters in the deep Pacific triggered the end of the last ice age, preceding the rise in greenhouse gas levels."
~ Mars Rover Reaches Crater Sweet Spot -- "The rover Opportunity rolls into a huge Martian carter."

~ Addressing Comments From the Meditation Thread -- "At the end of last year I wrote a post detailing the fact that meditation is far from a common or universal practice in Buddhism; indeed, meditating Buddhists are well in the minority. A terrific discussion ensued, both at this blog and in other venues."
~ Relating to Buddhist Monks and Nuns -- "As Buddhism permeates our western culture, more and more students are taking ordination. Ven. Robina Courtin provides insight into the role of the sangha (monastics) in our communities, guidance in how to relate and support them in their spiritual life. Ven. Monlam helps us understand the importance of monasticism to keep the Buddhist teachings present." Audio.
~ Numskulls, Dumskulls and the Evolution of the Mind -- "So I have betaken myself to a cafe where I have been preparing my next class in my Introduction to Consciousness series. Tomorrow we are looking at the idea of the Cartesian Theatre, and trying to gnaw away at that persistent hunch that we humans seem to have that somewhere lurking in the brain or the mind there is a little homunculus who is taking in all the data and then, little the rational little philosopher that he is, pulling the right levers to cause us to act."
~ the solution -- "Sometimes the uneasy heart demands a solution: There must be a resting place, a place where all of this is resolved and easy and doesn't nag or whisper or nudge or irritate the scene. There MUST be!"
~ The Soporific Warrior -- "It's too late for me; save yourself! Two hours, anyway. Don't watch 'Peaceful Warrior.'" Liz wasn't entertained.