Where Did My Mind Go?


(Originally posted 12/31/16 on Read With The Gringa)

The next time you hear the snarky comment, “It’s all in your mind,” be sure to tell them, “But I’ve LOST my mind!” That’s right. The mind is a crazy place and the truth is that we have all lost our minds. Well, to be more precise, it’s just not in the place you think, your brain. In fact, your mind might not actually be located anywhere in your physical body! Say what?! Yep, the gringa agrees. The mind, or consciousness to be exact, is a mystery without an address.

Medical professionals have traditionally considered the consciousness to be the product of brain activity and chemistry.  They have historically given it an address located at the end of neurons, when it fires off “something”.  But, about 20 years ago, a Psychiatry Professor at UCLA’s School of Medicine turned the medical community on its head (pardon the pun) with the idea that the mind is not confined to the boundaries of the skull.

Dr. Dan Siegel astounded about 40 medical professionals and social scientists at a meeting where he announced his groundbreaking theory. In the end, he won them over. As a result of this brainstorming session of scholarly elites, they came up with a definition of the mind/consciousness:

“emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within us and among us.”

The gringa’s first question is, “What the heck do all of those words mean?” So, the best thing to do when a jumble of important words confuses you is to break it down bit by bit. Let’s go:

  • Emergent: Medically speaking (which these guys were),  it means a comprehensive neural network that creates and analyzes complex models of reality in order to create simulations. Basically, what this means is the brain’s ability to visualize. If you can close your eyes and still see the form of the rose in the vase on your table, you have just performed an “emergent” brain exercise. In short, creating memories.
  • Self-organizing: Spontaneously creating order from disorder. We are constantly surrounded by information and stimuli. Our brain automatically processes every single iota of information and organizes it. We don’t even have to exert ourselves. The brain just does what it does. It’s a processor and vast self-filing file cabinet.
  • Embodied: Within, or having, or giving, a physical form to something non-physical. Happiness is “embodied” in a smile, fear in a scream.
  • Relational: The way in which 2 things, or people, are connected.
  • Regulates: Controlling the speed or activity of a function.

Let’s put all of that together. The human consciousness simulates everything that we experience in the physical world as well as emotions. It organizes all this stimuli and creates a visual/audio/experiential recording within our brain, a memory. Once the memory is filed away in the brain, this memory becomes embodied through different body functions but it originated in the consciousness. This memory is then the resource used to determine our responses to stimuli and how we interact with the physical world and other people. Our consciousness’ are us.

What this means is that our brain is the computer. Our body the different systems commanded by the brain. However, the consciousness is the user that is separate from the computer and operating systems. The consciousness is what controls the computer and decides which operating systems are put to use. So, then, what and where is this consciousness?

The What: Our consciousness is not an experiential function. It is not the reaction of the human to an experience. The consciousness is the experience itself. The consciousness is pleasure when eating chocolate. The mind is fear when watching a horror flick. That means that the bodily responses are our mind manifest in the physical world. It may sound confusing but think about this. Is the shoreline the sand or is it the water? It’s both. One does not exist without the other. Is the smile the happiness? No, of course not. It is the emergent emotion embodied in the lips. The mind is the experience but we cannot share the experience with others unless we are able to have the consciousness emerge through the physical.

The relational aspect of the mind/body connection is key to sound mental health. Modern society may be seeing a rash of mental illness because we are so disconnected with regard to relationships.  The reason for this is based in mathematics. In order for the mind to self-organize the influx of information that bombards us every moment of every day, the brain must be able to determine links and correlations between ideas, feelings, and events. Then it is able to integrate everything in a coherent, stable fashion.

If a person is routinely exposed to relationships that are dysfunctional or, perhaps, not even real (isolation from society and immersion into cyberworld) they will not be able to create healthy order out of chaos. Our consciousness learns by example. The order a person creates who has been chronically exposed to relationship dysfunction, or deprived of relationships altogether, will not be “normal”. The connections they make between stimuli and response may be based on link examples that are downright horrendous or even false.

Dr. Siegel has continued to be a pioneer in psychiatry, authoring many books, instructing medical professionals and practicing innovative medicine at the clinics he has established. His focus is on how relationship experiences shape our emotions and behavior, eventually molding us into who we are. In essence, relationships form our consciousness. Our consciousness controls our brain. Our brain drives our body.

The Where: Who knows? Our mind has nothing to do with our physical body. If that’s the case, does it survive the death of our bodies? If the mind is not dependent on the body for survival, but only needs the body to embody in the physical world what is created through the emergent process, what happens to it after death? What are the possibilities?

Dr. Siegel offers no answers yet on that front. So, the gringa is going to have to get hot on the trail of those answers because it is bad enough that I’ve lost my mind in the here and now. I certainly don’t want to lose it after my body expires! Where the heck is my mind?

Sources:  www.drdansiegel.com

Dr. Dan Siegel Video Clips

Image Credit:  huuhaablog.wordpress.com

 

Anger Rooms Make You Dumber & Sicker


Have you seen the new trend in dealing with feelings? Anger rooms. When the gringa first saw these advertised I got a kick out of the thought of unleashing all the destructive forces within me. What a hoot to smash some bottles or tear up a sofa. But then, as so often happens, I had a shower epiphany. The shower is where I do some of my deepest thinking. And as I soaked I began to be sad as to why we even need places like anger rooms. And, according to medical studies of what anger does to the brain, they could be the worst idea ever.

Think about it. We can’t afford to indulge the base instinct of anger. The human body does not indulge disease, giving it a safe place to wreak havoc. Instead, white blood cells gather the troops and wage war until the disease is eradicated. Indulging anger doesn’t just make us sick with all sorts of stress related health problems like high blood pressure. Indulging anger also makes us dumber. And judging by conditions today, the world really can’t afford an influx of dumbness into society.

What exactly happens to the brain when we let ourselves rage and scream and break things and slam doors? First of all, at the root of anger, is a desire to inflict harm upon another person, whether it be through word or deed.  But anger isn’t just a character destroyer. It also destroys your physical and mental health.

  • Anger calls every organ and muscle group into action. This is nature responding to a threat.
  • This heightened state of arousal is draining, exhausting and creates a brain chemistry by-product of depression.
  • Chronic anger is a natural resource depleter that shortens your life span and compromises your immune system as T-cells are destroyed.
  • Heart rate accelerates.
  • Pupils dilate.
  • Digestion comes to a standstill. This can result in vomiting or extremely high acid content in the stomach. This is natural survival mode as the body attempts to empty a stomach because a full stomach impedes fighting for your life.
  • Pain receptors block signals which can result in imprudent behavior that causes severe injury to self and/or others.
  • Throat nerves and muscles are stimulated making it difficult to do anything but scream.
  • Energy surges through your body.
  • As the sympathetic nervous system jumps into high gear, sensitivity heightens which can lead to irrational conclusions of what is going on around you.
  • Brain chemistry changes result in problem-solving skills being suppressed as energy reserves are redirected to muscle groups key to physically fighting.
  • Chronic anger causes damage to brain structure and connectivity due to high levels of cortisol frequently flooding the brain.
  • Elevated levels of cortisol overproduce cells that create myelin rather than functional neurons.
  • Myelin is the brain’s “white matter”. As opposed to the higher functioning gray matter, it is the material that encases axons and controls the communication flow of electrical signals.
  • Too much myelin, in essence, “strangles” the wiring of the brain, impeding the flow of electrical signals.
  • As myelin increases, so do episodes of anger.

So, in a nutshell, giving sway to anger makes you sick, dumb and more prone to be angry again. Give sway to anger habitually and you basically become an anger drone unable to think rationally, get along with others and destined to live a miserable, shorter existence of paranoia. So, no, the gringa is no fan of anger rooms. Rather than be a safe space for people to vent their anger, they are the recruitment centers for the future zombie apocalypse.

People, we need to promote positive thinking and mindful meditation if we want society to evolve as a more civilized people. Humoring angry people will drag us back to a time of dungeons and cave dwelling. Promote positivity and mindful meditation for the well-being and survival of our species and planet.

Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Don’t worry. Be happy. When concerned, take a deep breath and think your way through. If you find you are getting mad, detach from the person or situation if possible. Meditate until you feel your body relaxing and returning to a state of control. Then begin the process of changing your perspective. Rather than look at the situation from your own point of view, approach it from every angle. How is the other person perceiving things? What might the perspective be of an objective, uninvolved third party? And be open to every perspective. You may discover a truth that is difficult to accept but still true. Accept it. You may also discover that every perspective is legitimate. Life and humanity is almost always complex and extremely nuanced. Don’t let anger keep you focused only through your own lens. And, for heaven’s sakes, stay away from those anger rooms!

 

Sources:

www.psychologytoday.com/stress-damages-brain

www.psychologytoday.com/evolution-of-self

LinkedIn

www.angerroom.com

Image Credit:  www.hdwallpapers.in

 

 

What Does Your “SNIP” Say About You?


A team of researchers have been studying 17 “snips” and recently published their findings in Nature Genetics. “Snips” are known as genetic tweaks found in DNA. These scientists delved deep into the genetic material of thousands of humans who participated in the study, all hoping to contribute to the future of medicine by doctors and patients, alike, being able to discover reliable genetic markers that will indicate certain diseases.

One of the lead researchers involved in the project is a Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Roy Perlis, who serves as Associate Director of the Psychiatric Genetics Program for Massachusetts General Hospital. His greatest hopes have been realized in the findings of the research. Discovered were genetic variations that occurred consistently in people who suffered with depression. What is the potential of this discovery in providing relief for depression sufferers and possibly preventing its development in a person who is genetically marked as a potential candidate?

There exists private genomics companies where a client can basically spit in a cup, have their DNA analyzed and learn any number of secrets that may be hiding there, like the potential for developing depression. This type of information, long before the onset of an illness, can transform healthcare as we know it. Rather than show up at a psychiatrist’s office in a full-blown state of debilitating depression, a person can begin preventative measures far in advance, thus improving their chances for a depression-free life of the highest quality.  This could potentially save patients and health insurance providers thousands of dollars per patient throughout that patient’s lifetime (and this could possibly be the motive behind some of the loudest critics).

The findings of the research determined 17 DNA markers linked with Major Depressive Disorder. Some of these variations are also connected with other psychiatric disorders thus connecting depression as a role player in the development of other forms of mental illness. If depression is, say, step one down the road of developing schizophrenia, imagine how many lives can be saved from such suffering if that single step can be avoided altogether.

Because effective treatment of any mental illness depends on patients self-reporting their symptoms and cooperating with treatment measures, mental illness is often under-reported and under-treated as a natural result of the mentally ill not having the capacity to recognize symptoms, or in denial of what they indicate, and often inconsistently participating in the critical component of treatment. By establishing awareness and beginning preventative treatment long before a patient becomes symptomatic, the chances of long-term success are greatly increased because medical professionals are dealing with a psychiatrically healthy  individual from the beginning.

The gringa sees all the critics and naysayers have to say. They are worried about misdiagnosis. They are worried about genomics companies offering unauthorized medical advice. But the gringa is not a Negative Nellie. The gringa is a Positive Polly. I believe that any person who is seeking out the services of a genomics company, willing to pay their own hard-earned money to get an analysis of their DNA in order to better understand their health risks, is a person who is not going to make bad decisions such as exploring medical treatment and advice from non-professionals. I also don’t believe they will be the type of people to be hampered with a misdiagnosis. I believe they will be some of the best informed patients a doctor will ever deal with. So enough with the criticism and embrace an advance in medical science that will most certainly save lives, preserve lives and improve the quality of those lives, as well as the lives of the loved ones surrounding them.

Sources:

www.nature.com

http://chgr.org/index-faculty_perlis.html

www.businessinsider.com

www.theguardian.com

Image Credit: images.boomsbeat.com