January 17, 2013 at 10:33 am #40084
Important to make a point to periodically disconnect from
computers, phones, etc. to avoid spending all of your time in
reactive mode . . . S
Manic Nation: Dr. Peter Whybrow Says Were Addicted to Stress
The computer is electronic cocaine for many people, says UCLAs Peter Whybrow. Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. Which is why we cant stop.
June 19, 2012 By Mary A. Fischer 5 Comments and 0 Reactions
Dr. Peter Whybrow is lunching at a sushi bar near his office at the University of California, Los Angeles, but his attention is on the other diners. Even while talking to their tablemates, they are constantly distracted. They text, and repeatedly glance up at the wall-mounted TV screens. Common habits, sure. But to Whybrow, director of UCLAs Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, those jittery behaviors are prime examples of how modern American culture has outrun the biology of our brains.
A British-born endocrinologist and psychiatrist, Whybrow has been fascinated with applying behavioral neuroscience to social issues since he took over the institute in 1998. At the time, with the dot-com bubble swelling and the Internet expanding, he saw a dangerously rising tide of growing psychosocial stress and shrinking physiological balance.
Many of the usual constraints that prevented people from doing things 24 hours a daylike distance and darknesswere falling away, says Whybrow. Our fast new lives reminded him of the symptoms of clinical mania: excitement over acquiring new things, high productivity, fast speechfollowed by sleep loss, irritability, and depression.
Whybrow believes the physiological consequences of this modern mania are dramatic, contributing to epidemic rates of obesity, anxiety, and depression. In his forthcoming book, tentatively titled The Intuitive Mind: Common Sense for the Common Good, Whybrow explores how to repair the damage. Why is it that weve been railroaded down this path of continuous stimulation and cant seem to control ourselves? he wonders. Why cant we just stop?
The good news, he goes on, is that we are now beginning to understand it from the perspective of brain science.
The computer is electronic cocaine for many people, says Whybrow. Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. With technology, novelty is the reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty.
We cant stop because the brain has no built-in braking system. With most natural constraints gone, all weve got left is our own intelligence and the internal regulatory system in the frontal cortex, the most recent evolutionary addition to the brain. This executive brain regulates impulse control and reasoning. But, Whybrow notes, despite our superior intelligence, we remain driven by our ancient desires.
The most primitive part of our brainthe medulla and cerebellumdeveloped millennia ago when dinner tended to run or fly away. It cradles the roots of the ancient dopamine reward pathways. When an action has a good result, like snatching food before it escapes, or finding something new, dopamine neurotransmitters release chemicals that make us feel pleasure. And the more we get, the more we want. When these reward circuits are overloaded with near-continuous spikes in dopamine, our craving for rewardbe it drugs, sex, food, or incoming textsbecomes a hunger that has no bounds, says Whybrow.
While our brains reward centers are in overdrive, so are their threat-warning systems. The brains hard-wired fight-or-flight response, buoyed by a rush of adrenaline, evolved as a response to acute emergencies, like fending off a charging lion. Since the primitive reptilian brain cant distinguish between a real or potential threat, it responds to any psychosocial challenge, be it rush-hour traffic, overdue mortgage payments, or repeated deadlines, by triggering some measure of the fight/flight response. In the past, you either fought and won or you died, but either way the stress disappeared, explains Whybrow. Now the alarm bells go off much of the time as we encounter one prolonged threat.
When the threat is ongoing, stress disrupts the communication network between the brain and immune system and accelerates the production of molecules called cytokines, the overproduction of which can result in inflammation and disease. Prolonged stress also prompts the brains hypothalamus region to release cortisol, a hormone that raises blood sugar and blood pressure. When the stress response is continuously in play, explains Whybrow, it causes us to become aggressive, hypervigilant, overreactive.
Small wonder then that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is now the nations most common psychiatric complaint, affecting some 40 million people. And the connection between mental stress and obesity has been well documented.
So how does Whybrow himself cope, given the demands of running a huge institution with 400 faculty, a fast-approaching book deadline, and constant speaking engagements?
In his office, during an hour-long interview, there was not a single interruption. No email or text pings. No ringing phones. His computer was closed. His cell phone was turned off, as it usually is. He sometimes works until 9 at night, but he doesnt work at home. On weekends, he checks his email just once a day.
The idea is not that you dont work hard, Whybrow explains. You do. But you have to be able to switch it off and create space. Ive made a conscious decision to live a life that is not driven by someone elses priority. No matter how good that dopamine feels.January 21, 2013 at 8:09 pm #40085
…as we become socialized, human beings are tamed, just like an animal is domesticated, by the power of stimuli and punishments.
“We have been trained to live and die meekly, following unnatural codes of behavior
which soften us and make us lose that initial impulse, until our spirit is hardly noticeable.
We are born as a result of a fight. By denying our basic tendencies, the society we live in eradicates the warring heritage that transforms us into magical beings.”
He added that the only available way to change is to accept ourselves just as we are, and work from there.
“The warrior knows that he lives in a predatorial universe. He can never let his guard down. Wherever he looks, he sees an incessant fight, and he knows that it deserves his respect, because it is a fight to the death.”
-ARMANDO TORRES, Encounters with the Nagual
Control the urge to spit up vile worms…
Locked in a world of vomit-soaked skin heaven…
But my PAO system pales in comparison to the system that Ben Pridmore uses for cards. In the fall of 2002, he quit the job he’d held for six and half years as an assistant accountant at a meat factory in Lincolnshire, spent a week in Vegas counting cards, and then came back to England and spent the next six months watching cartoons, getting qualified to teach English as a second language, and developing an entirely new mnemonic nuclear arsenal. Instead of creating a single persion-action-object image for each card in the deck, Ben spent dozens of hours dreaming up a unique image for every two-card combination. When he sees the queen of hearts followed by the ace of diamonds, that’s unique image. When he sees the ace of diamonds followed by the queen of hearts, that’s different unique image. That’s 52 times 52, or 2,704, possible two-card combinations for which Ben has an image pre-memorized. And like Ed, he places three images at each of his loci. That means he’s able to condense an entire pack of cards into just nine loci (52 divided by 6), and twenty-seven packs of cards-the most he’s ever been able to memorize in an a single hour-into just 234 places.
-JOSHUA FOER, Moonwalking with Einstein
Tardigrades can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water. They can survive pressures greater than any found in the deepest ocean trenches and have lived through the vacuum of outer space. They can survive solar radiation, gamma radiation, ionic radiationhundreds of times higher doses than would kill a person. They can go without food or water for nearly 10 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce.
Dreaming begins as a unique state of awareness arrived at by focusing the residue of consciousness, which one still has when asleep, on the elements, or the features, of one’s dreams.
The residue of consciousness, called the second attention, is brought into action, or is harnessed, through exercises of not-doing . The essential aid to dreaming is a state of mental quietness, called “stopping the internal dialogue,” or the “not-doing of talking to oneself.” To teach you how to master it, I’ve made you walk for miles with your eyes held fixed and out of focus at a level just above the horizon so as to emphasize the peripheral view. This method is effective on two counts. It allows you to stop your internal dialogue, and it trains your attention. By forcing you to concentrate on the peripheral view, I reinforced your capacity to concentrate for long periods of time on one single activity.
-CARLOS CASTANEDA, The Eagles Gift
The cut-up technique is an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text.
The concept can be traced to at least the Dadaists of the 1920s, but was popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by writer William S. Burroughs, and has since been used in a wide variety of contexts.
Yes one must learn some new way of being awake.
…and must learn also to invest enough time for spiritual practices.
And if one first learns to sleep segmentally, the one might learn to employ some of the time normally lost in slumber or…?
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