5 Perspectives On Mental Health And The Human Brain That Will Blow Your Mind

Neil Conway

1. On the Fickle and Troublesome Manner in Which the DSM-5 was First Created

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For six years Spitzer held editorial meetings at Columbia. They were chaos. The psychiatrists would yell out the names of potential new mental disorders and the checklists of their symptoms. There would be a cacophony of voices in assent or dissent — the loudest voices getting listened to the most. If Spitzer agreed with those proposing a new diagnosis, which he almost always did, he’d hammer it out instantly on an old typewriter. And there it would be, set in stone.

That’s how practically every disorder you’ve ever heard of or been diagnosed with came to be defined. “Post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Spitzer, “attention-deficit disorder, autism, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, panic disorder…” each with its own checklist of symptoms. Bipolar disorder was another of the newcomers. The previous edition of the DSM had been 134 pages, but when Spitzer’s DSM-III appeared in 1980 it ran to 494 pages.

“Were there any proposals for mental disorders you rejected?” I asked Spitzer. “Yes,” he said, “atypical child syndrome. The problem came when we tried to find out how to characterise it. I said, ‘What are the symptoms?’ The man proposing it replied: ‘That’s hard to say because the children are very atypical’.”

He paused. “And we were going to include masochistic personality disorder.” He meant battered wives who stayed with their husbands. “But there were some violently opposed feminists who thought it was labelling the victim. We changed the name to self-defeating personality disorder and put it into the appendix.”

— Jon Ronson, The Psychopath Test

2. On Anxiety and Negative Emotions Being Reflections of Our Position in the Social Hierarchy

“You have a counter at the bottom of your brain that keeps track of where you are in terms of your status. And it bloody well regulates the sensitivity of your emotions. So if you’re at the bottom of the hierarchy, barely clinging on to the world, everything overwhelms you, because you’re damn near dead. and so everything should overwhelm you, you have no extra resources, any more threat and you’re damn near sunk. And so you become extremely sensitive to negative emotion, and maybe also impulsive, you grab while the grabbings good. And if you’re near the top in the dominance hierarchy and your counter tells you that, then your serotonin levels go up, you’re less sensitive to negative emotions, you’re less impulsive, you live longer, like everything works in your favour. Your immune system functions better. And you’re oriented to at least some degree towards the medium and long term future. And you can afford that, because all hell isn’t breaking loose around you all the time. And so the question is, is there a way of being that increases the probability that you’re going to go up the dominance hierarchies? Well that doesn’t seem a particularly provocative proposition, unless you think it’s absolutely arbitrary and random…In sexual selection we impose criteria…..We’re prey animals, we’re predators, we’ve been threatened by reptiles forever, why wouldn’t we use the predator that lurks in the dark forest or water. As a representative of the unknown. Why wouldn’t we harness that circuitry, we already have it at hand, and even more to the point, how could we do anything else? It makes perfect sense. So what would we want to be king? You could say king of the world, king of your own soul, what else do you want to subordinate yourself to? How about your heroic willingness to encounter the unknown and articulate it? And share that with people? There’s no nobler vision than that..And I don’t see that it’s merely arbitrary. To the degree that you do that, assuming your society isn’t entirely corrupt, you will be successful. You’ll be admired. You’ll be valued. And you know that, because if you look at the people you admire and value…you just have to watch the people that you admire and try to figure out what’s common across them and draw your own conclusions….”

— Jordan B. Peterson, How to Rise to the Top of the Dominance Hierarchy

3. On How your Body Language Creates your Mood & Confidence, And Shapes your Life

“When our body language is confident and open, other people respond in kind, unconsciously reinforcing not only their perception of us but also our perception of ourselves.”

“Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”

“He speaks in a deep, calm, resonant voice. He is honest and humble yet confident and strong. He never rushes. He does not fear pauses, and because he doesn’t fear them, neither do we. That’s how presence begets presence.”

“She worked many jobs, many hours a day, for many years, and at thirty-four, she graduated from college. She then slowly taught herself, through small, incremental changes, to treat ‘even the most difficult interactions as opportunities for me to reveal what I’m capable of and to express my worthiness.’ Imagine that. That sounds like presence.”

“Expanding your body physiologically prepares you to be present; it overrides your instinct to fight or flee, allowing you to be grounded, open, and engaged.”

“We know that our minds change our bodies. But is it also true that our bodies change our minds?…We know that in primate hierarchies, If an individual needs to take over an alpha role suddenly, within a few days that individual testosterone has gone up significantly and his cortisol has dropped significantly….We have evidence that role changes can change the mind.”

“When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us, and what the outcomes are. We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals, and that’s ourselves.”

“Expanding your body physiologically prepares you to be present; it overrides your instinct to fight or flee, allowing you to be grounded, open, and engaged.”

“We know that our minds change our bodies. But is it also true that our bodies change our minds?…We know that in primate hierarchies, If an individual needs to take over an alpha role suddenly, within a few days that individual testosterone has gone up significantly and his cortisol has dropped significantly….We have evidence that role changes can change the mind.”

“When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us, and what the outcomes are. We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals, and that’s ourselves.”

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges & Your Body Language May Shape Who you Are, Amy Cuddy

4. On Minimizing fear & Developing Confidence

“If you view everything through the lens of fear, then you tend to stay in retreat mode. You can just as easily see a crisis or problem as a challenge, an opportunity to prove your mettle, the chance to strengthen and toughen yourself, or a call to collective action. By seeing it as a challenge, you will have converted this negative into a positive purely by a mental process that will result in positive action as well. ”

“True ownership can come only from within. It comes from a disdain for anything or anybody that impinges upon your mobility, from a confidence in your own decisions, and from the use of your time in constant pursuit of education and improvement.”

“Fear creates its own self-fulfilling dynamic- as people give into it, they lose energy and momentum. Their lack of confidence translates into inaction that lowers confidence levels even further, on and on.”

The 50th Law, Robert Greene

5. On How Mindfulness Literally Grows the Grey Matter in your brain Associated with Personality Change and Mental Health

“‘A Harvard Medical School study that looked at the brains of 17 study participants before and after an 8-week mindfulness program found that you can actually grow more brain in certain places by doing mindfulness meditation, which sounds amazing: “Analyses…confirmed increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus. Whole brain analyses identified increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum in the MBSR [mindfulness meditation] group compared to the controls.” The study authors go on in detail: “The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.’“

Starre Vartan TC mark

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