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Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience Forum

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Greetings ...
Name: Serendip
Date: 2003-08-24 15:07:55
Link to this Comment: 6289

Welcome to the forum area for discussion of Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience: Enemies, Acquaintances, Bedfellows?. Like other forum areas on Serendip, this is a place for public informal conversation. Read what other people have to say, and leave your own thoughts and reactions for others. The idea is that thoughts in progress are important: everyone can learn from what other people are thinking and have their own thoughts changed by reading the thoughts of others. So relax, enjoy, and let's see what sense we can make of the relation between psychoanalysis and neuroscience, and what contributions we can make to others thinking about this and related matters.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-28 20:33:03
Link to this Comment: 6653

Greetings. I'm glad to be here, and looking forward to an engaging and important conversation, both here and on Wednesday evening, 8 October, and hopefully continuing after that.

I'm a neurobiologist rather than a psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, therapist, or social worker. But I'm also a parent, an educator, and a human being concerned for all these reasons (and personal ones as well) about the current state of mental health care in our culture (and elsewhere).

My sense is that, for very pragmatic reasons, there is a compelling need for the various professional communities with interests in mental health to make common cause, to recognize both their commonalities and the usefully different perspectives and methodologies they have to contribute to a shared enterprise. I hope this conversation will contribute to steps in that direction.

Of course, I also think our conversations will address fascinating and quite significant intellectual questions needing to be clarified in ways that yield both new understandings and new lines of productive exploration. For both reasons, I'm very much looking forward to the sharing of ideas both here and in person.

Name: Elio Fratt
Date: 2003-10-01 07:09:50
Link to this Comment: 6741

I'm a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and I'm pleased to be on this exciting panel with my friends Paul Grobstein, Syd Pulver, and Susan Levine. But I don't think we're going to be able to get an interesting discussion going here just by being friendly. We need a little controversy. So let me start by registering a concern:

If neuroscientists generally treat the meaning of psychoanalysis the way Paul treated the meaning of Emily Dickinson's poem in the paper he posted for this conference, then psychoanalysis is in big trouble!

THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

Paul thinks Emily means that the self is really in the brain, explainable as a function of the brain, or, as Paul put it, that "the brain might indeed prove to be the repository of all aspects of human behavior and experience, up to and including the self." And I learned by doing a simple google search that quite a few neuroscientists including Nobel-Prize winner Gerald Edelman agree with Paul and like to cite this stanza on behalf of their own belief system. But they are all wrong. But apparently it takes an English major to see that they are wrong.

The key point of the stanza is that "The brain is wider than the sky." How so? Because, Emily says, it "includes" the sky. And, she adds as a kind of afterthought, it includes "you" as well. Clearly she is implying that the brain includes "you" -- the self -- in exactly the same way that it includes the sky. So if that means that the self is a function of the brain, as Paul asserts and as he believes, then it would also have to mean that the weather is a function of the brain (which I am pretty sure he does not believe). In other words Paul's reading of the poem is absolutely and irrefutably NOT what the poem could possibly mean, NOT what Emily could possibly have meant to say. And this is even more apparent if you look at the rest of the poem:

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.

I read this as saying that the brain is the physical expression (weight) of the spirit of God. So that would make the self a function of God, something that permeates the brain in the same way that water permeates a sponge.

So what am I trying to prove here, that I was an English major and Paul wasn't? No. I'm trying to make the point that neuroscience can be dangerous, especially in this "age of the brain," because it can easily seduce us into missing the forest for the trees, limiting the horizon of our understanding to things that can be studied in a laboratory experiment. Freud made a similar point in his autobiography where he described the relationship between psychoanalysis and neuroscience in the 1890s:

"...[T]he direction taken by this enquiry was not to the liking of the contemporary generation of physicians. They had been brought up to respect only anatomical, physical and chemical factors.... They obviously had doubts whether psychical events allowed of any exact scientific treatment what-ever... Even the psychiatrists, upon whose attention the most unusual and astonishing mental phenomena were constantly being forced, showed no inclination to examine their details or enquire into their connections. They were content to classify the variegated array of symptoms and trace them back, so far as they could manage, to somatic, anatomical or chemical aetiological disturbances. During this materialistic or, rather, mechanistic period, medicine made tremendous advances, but it also showed a short-sighted misunderstanding of the most important and most difficult among the problems of life."

The uses of literature .... and history
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-10-06 22:10:01
Link to this Comment: 6816

Its always a pleasure to have Elio around. One can reliably count on erudition and ... combativeness. I freely admit I was not an English major. Whether that puts me at a disadvantage in reading Dickinson I will leave others to decide. I will though insist that it is not MY fault if Gerald Edelman happens to share my interpretation and that my agreement with him on that score does not necessarily imply agreement with him on any others.

Despite being a biology major, I actually like both the Bible and Freud. As stories ... written by interesting and wise people ... many years ago , And hence as inevitably not taking into account additional observations made over the years since those that motivated the stories.

To put it differently, I'm interested in what stories make sense NOW, and take it as a given that they are likely to be (indeed OUGHT to be) different from the old ones.

Sure "neuroscience can be dangerous". So too can Freud and (forgive me) the Bible (which is not well know for its recent history of expanding "the horizon of our understanding").

Psychoanalysis, I would suggest (to meet fire with fire) is ALREADY "in big trouble". And I don't think its going to get out of that trouble by trying to prove that studies of the nervous system are either irrelevant (they aren't) or ungodly. More importantly, I don't think we're going to have an effective mental health care system so long as psychoanalysis and neuroscience are warring with each other (cf Of Two Minds). Both psychoanalysis and mental health care have a better shot at success if we can collectively turn our attention to what it is that psychoanalysis and neuroscience have to offer each other. Which is, I'm pretty convinced, quite a lot.

Another Useful Model
Name: Daniel MA
Date: 2003-10-09 20:34:04
Link to this Comment: 6871

Before Freud, before Shakespeare, and before the birth of 'science,' the ancient Chinese offered a perspective that has been handed down through the centuries and that may be useful for contemplating our multiply-dimensioned quest for understanding.

The Chinese story of "The Blind Men and the Elephant" goes beyond the polarization of an adversarial (enemy) perspective as opposed to affiliative (acquaintance or congruent bedfellow) perspectives described in our title.

Everyone is familiar with this story: One blind man (grasping the elephant's leg) decided that an 'elephant' is a tree trunk. Another (grasping the tail) declared that an 'elephant' is a broom. Still another (grasping the trunk) determined that an 'elephant' is actually a fire hose. Et cetera.

What none of these thoughtful men, searching for knowledge and groping toward the unknown, adequately understood was how incomplete (albeit valid) their observations were, and how little they actually understood. Despite making careful observations and obtaining relevant data, none could comprehend the outlines of the 'whole' entity, nor understand how the parts they were exploring were interrelated and related to the total system. Although each man thought that he could be sure of the correctness of his conclusion, none understood the essence.

Some vantage points and observations may even focus upon portions of the totality that aren't necessarily 'congruent' with, or particularly relevant to, one another. For example, whereas each of the elephant's legs does have congruence with and relevance to the functioning of the other legs, the tail and the trunk have little congruence or relevance to one another.

Thanks for a stimulating conference!

Danny Freeman

The Uses of Literature, continued
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-10 12:46:04
Link to this Comment: 6877

I attended the panel presentation on Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience last Wednesday night, and was intrigued by Susan Levine's closing quip that she was following good psychoanalytic practice by "denying gratification" to all those still waiting (it was testimony to the interest generated by the conversation that there were quite a few of us still waiting) to ask questions. I wonder if Susan (or someone else who is a psychoanalyst) could explain her observation to me. Was she simply gesturing toward what is commonly acknowledged among literature professors: that narrative will always exceed analysis, that interpretation will always be "belated," always lag behind, always be but an incomplete-inadequate-and-unsatisfactory account of what has happened? Or is there a pointed psychoanalytic understanding expressed in the principled "refusal to gratify"?

I actually have a couple of other questions I'd be gratified to have addressed, should anyone have the interest/inclination. I was particularly struck by the shared use, in the essays Elio, Syd and Paul posted prior to their presentations, of the key word "experience," of their repeated insistence on the importance of "what the mind is experiencing." It seemed to me that, despite the shared valuing (actually: valorization) of the term, each of you was using it to mean something different. When you say "experience," are you referring only to what we are conscious of? Only what we know we know? (I'm drawing here on a very interesting conference I had with a student yesterday, who told me of a rubric she'd learned from a course at Penn on "writing memory"; the prof drew a quadrant, composed of

Is experience, as each of you describes it, only what we know we know (plus, perhaps, what we know we don't know)? Or does (and if so, HOW does) it encompass/intersect with the other quadrants?

All of this is preparatory to circling back to my own professional community, those who earn their livings (more importantly: find their meanings) by writing/reading/studying/interpreting literature: the site where "what it feels like on the inside" has been so often and so well represented, and which of course also has contributed thereby quite a bit to conversations about and understandings of mental health and illness. I've never much liked Emily Dickinson's "The Brain--is wider than the Sky" (or rather, I've never much liked that gesture, @ the end of the first stanza, in which she so "easily contains" "You"--which I understand as ME, the reader--within her own brain). Is that comparable to what Susan is talking about in her upcoming essay "On the Experience of Having an Other"?....

Anyhow: ED has at least twenty poems in which the brain engages in all other sorts of intriguingly quirky behavior. The brain "laughs" and "giggles" and "bubbles cool" in her poetry, and is very hard to repair, once damaged:

The Brain, within its groove
Runs evenly--and true--
But let a splinter swerve--
'T were easier for you--

To put the current back --
When floods have slit the hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--

A number of ED's brain-poems are very acute descripions not only of the immense capacity of the brain, but of its materiality and--most striking to me--its bipartite quality. A few of them meditate on the difficulty of knowing the brain of another--"whom we can never learn"--but the poems most clearly prescient for our 21st-century conversation about the complexities of brain activity are those with a very striking sense of a self divided, a self conscious of its unconscious processes. Paul and I actually played, a few years ago, with the notion of writing an essay about ED's unusual brain poetry; we didn't get very far, but I've just uncovered my notes from that short bout of thinking. You can find The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson on-line. I also extract and offer here, as gifts to each of the Wednesday night panelists, and for anyone still listening in the audience, three of the most astonishing, most "psychoanalytic," and (to me) most interesting contributions to our contemporary exploration of these matters.

First for Sid, because he's written so powerfully about the the difficulties of understanding "memory organization" when one models the brain "topographically":

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind--
As if my Brain had split--
I tried to match it--Seam by Seam--
But could not make it fit.

The thoughts behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before--
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
Like Balls--upon a Floor.

For Paul, who briefly fancied himself a Texas Ranger, ED offers this account of the horror of meeting oneself in a (non-?) material place:

One need not be a Chamber--to be Haunted--
One need not be a House--
The Brain has Corridors--surpassing
Material Place--

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than an interior Confronting--
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop
The Stones a'chase--
Than, Unarmed. one's a self encounter--
In lonesome Place--

Ourself, behind ourself, concealed--
Should startle most--
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror's least.

The body--borrows a revolver--
He bolts the Door--
O'erlooking a superior spectre--
Or more--

And finally, for Elio, for obvious reasons, the one moment when Emily allows for the existence (and importance) of a soul separate from brain:

If ever the lid gets off my head
And lets the brain away
The fellow will go where he belonged--
Without a hint from me,

And the world--if the world be looking on--
Will see how far from home
It is possible for sense to live
The soul there--all the time.

Further literary analysis, anyone?

Wednesday evening
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-10-10 16:50:39
Link to this Comment: 6880

My thanks to all involved for an enjoyable and stimulating discussion Wednesday evening. It was good to have Bruce remind us that Freud was in fact originally a laboratory neuroscientist, and left an unfinished Project for a Scientific Psychology. I was, by coincidence(?), browsing An Autobiographical Study and picked up an additional tidbit suggesting that Freud would probably have had less trouble dealing with neuroscience than some modern psychoanalysts do. To wit:

"I should have been very glad if I had been able, later on, to make a psycho-analytic examination of some more cases of simple juvenile neurasthenia, but unluckily the occasion did not arise. To avoid misconceptions, I should like to make it clear that I am far from denying the existence of mental conflicts, and of neurotic complexes in neurasthenia. All I am asserting is that the symptoms of these patients are not mentally determined, or removable by analysis, but that they must be regarded as direct toxic consequences of sexual chemical processes"

It sounds to me like Freud's available observations were such that he wouldn't have been entirely relucant to make use of chemical therapeutics in at least some cases and contexts. The fragment resonates as well with our efforts to clarify the concept of two interacting systems, and the broader concern to try and understand the place of psychoanalysis in the more general task of improving mental health care for all.

I thought I'd try and set down here a few of the other issues and thoughts that made the evening a stimulating and productive one (for me at least), despite being acutely aware that it can't not but be my own story (and so hopeful that others will add their different ones)

Elio's bashing of the "Freud-bashers" was, of course, neither unexpected nor unwelcome. What was somewhat more surprising (and gratifying) was his acknowledgement that there could/might be "good neuroscientists" to counter the bad. Surprising or not, Elio's first point remains an important one. There IS a real and present danger that contemporary trends will further militate against the practice of longer-term "talk therapy". I think this has more to do with unresolved issues within and among psychiatry (cf Of Two Minds), psychoanalysis, psychology, and social work, as well as broader social trends (aspirations for security, insurance, managed health care), than it does with neuroscience. Regardless, the important question is whether this unfortunate trend (unfortunate in my mind/brain at least) is more likely to be reversed by attacking neuroscience or by trying to build an alliance between psychoanalysis and neuroscience (and others). I'm inclined to think the latter, and, like Syd, I'm inclined to think the latter is possible (indeed I think its already beginning to get underway and would like to see our conversation as a part of that effort).

There was an interesting difference of opinion between Elio and Syd about Eric Kandel's role in this process. I'm not going to cast a vote here. My life as a young scientist was a little too entangled with that of Eric as a more senior figure. It is though worth noting that Eric was a psychiatrist and had aspirations to becoming a psychoanalyst before becoming a "neuroscientist" (a Freud inversion?). If nothing else, that's another indication that similar interests may draw people into either psychoanalysis or neuroscience and hence another reason for believing the two lines of inquiry are similar enough to provide common ground for productive interaction.

Syd's suggestion that we could work toward "congruence" made sense in these terms. To me at least. If indeed Emily Dickinson was right (as I interpret her), then of course the theoretical/conceptual structures used by psychoanalysis and neuroscience can each be usefully modified by comparison with the other, and will progressively converge. After all, the theoretical/conceptual structures are efforts to tell useful stories about the same thing: human behavior and one's experience of it. A key question here, of course, is whether neuroscientists are willing and able to include "one's experience of it" within their domain of inquiry. Some of us certainly are already (cf Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, and my own The Brain's Images: Co-Constructing Reality and the Self), and my sense is more will inevitably find their way there. The converse questions are whether psychoanalysts will be welcoming, and whether they will in turn be interested in and regard as relevant to their concerns the stories neuroscientists have to tell about our more extensive explorations of other parts of the nervous system.

Along these lines, I thought that the issue of whether the "neurobiological unconscious" is or might become the same thing as the "psychoanalytic unconscious" (raised both by Syd and several audience participants) was one of the the questions that arose during the conversation that most warrants some serious and focused further consideration. My own sense, as a neurobiologist, is that there is very little difference between what goes on in filling the blindspot, in a number of phobias, and in transference and counter-transference; they all involve things going on in the unconscious part of the nervous system without information about them being conveyed to conscious processing. At the same time, there are clearly some practical differences among these things, and there may be important neurobiological ones as well. The "topography" of the unconscious is still, I gather, a matter of debate within the psychoanalytic community, and certainly is not fully worked out within the neuroscientific one. My guess is that some "congruence" efforts in this realm would be quite productive.

Pleased as I am to endorse and enthusiastically participate in efforts to achieve "congruence", there remains for me something just a bit wary and standoffish about it, particularly in the context of Syd's "astonishing clinical irrelevance of the neurosciences". My fantasies still run to something a little more intimate. It was for this reason that I was pleased/delighted with Elio's offering of Hamlet as a candidate for a comparison of clinical approaches as they emerged in the mind of a psychoanalyst and a neuroscientist (yes, of course, a PARTICULAR psychoanalyst and neuroscientist, and so "not necessarily the opinions of the sponsors").

I suspect Elio wouldn't want to have to defend a therapeutic procedure conceived in the absence of more extensive engagement with the patient (and know I wouldn't), but there were some general differences in approach that suggest why a more intimate relationship between psychoanalyst and neuroscientist might be productive in dealing with the unconscious, not only theoretically but practically. For a neuroscientist, the unconscious is neither pristine humanity nor raging lust, just as the conscious is neither; both are mixes of both (and a few other things), but the two handle them in quite different ways (trying to characterize how these styles are different is one of my current preoccupations). And depression is ... an adaptive response? needed suffering? conflict? paralysis? boredom? or a failure of the unconscious to communicate with the conscious? Which should be treated .... how? Think or feel or act ... or some combination of the above? I suspect what we need is a few brave neuroscientists who are willing to let some brave psychoanalysts into their laboratories, and a few brave psychoanalysts who are willing to let some brave neuroscientists into theirs.

The other particularly generative issue (for me) arose at the very end of the conversation. Susan asked "Is psychoanalysis science or hermeneutics?", with the thought (I think) that the answer to that question was needed to decide whether an alliance between psychoanalysis and science was in fact possible. My own feeling is that that question presumes that one already has at hand a particular answer to a prior question: "Is science science or hermeneutics?". And my answer? See, treating the probelm probably at perhaps more length than some will want , Getting It Less Wrong, the Brain's Way: Science, Pragmatism, and Multiplism . In short form, being a neuroscientist inclines one to argue there is much less difference between science and hermeneutics than many people (both scientists and non-scientists) think .... which may be why I think that neuroscience and psychoanalysis are actually closely related , and could easily be more so?

One man's story ... of what has been, could/might be? Very much looking forward to what others saw/heard/thought, and, perhaps to this forum and the associated website continuing to play a role in moving us in positive directions. There is, among other things, a resource list on the website; suggested additions to that list can be posted here or sent to me by email for addition. Let's see what we can keep rolling in the way of a conversation and resource list. In our own interests, and in the interests of mental health care generally (see Mental Health on Serendip).

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-12 14:30:34
Link to this Comment: 6888

Would like to pick up here on Paul's musings that there is much less difference between science and hermeneutics than many people (both scientists and non-scientists) think ....

To do so, I went first to the OED, where I found "hermeneutics" DEFINED as "the ART OR SCIENCE of interpretation, esp. of Scripture. Commonly distinguished from exegesis or practical exposition." The etymology of the word actually goes back to 1737, and the OED takes it forward to 1967, when J. MacQuarrie suggested, in God-Talk, that "history is the hermeneutic of historical existence," "physics...the hermeneutic of nature."

If, as this definition suggests and I think useful to presume, ALL inquiry is an act of interpretation, then clearly psychoanalysis and neuroscience (and literary interpretation, and art history, and chemistry, and...) are aligned. I was thinking about this alignment again last night, as I was talking w/ my son Sam (a freshman at Haverford, home this week for fall break). Sam's taking a course on "Global Wisdom," and has just finished reading some of the Platonic dialogues. After he reviewed for me the concept of Ideal Forms ("triangle-ness" and "table-ness," etc.), we got into an interesting discussion about where change comes from. If, as Plato said, all we are doing is perceiving what is already there, where's creativity come from? Where does newness arise? How can one alter what IS--including unhelpful/pathological patterns in one's own brain? Sam and I ended by acknowledging both that there IS a world existing independently of us (if I say to the tree, "drop your leaves," or "rise up and walk," the tree will not alter its behavior) AND that we can act to change it/ourselves. If we don't actually CREATE it/ourselves, in any primal way, the accounts we give of it/ourselves--the interpretations we provide--can be small contributions towards changing its shape, and our own.

But perhaps THIS is where "neuroscience" and "psychoanalysis" diverge? That the former is seeking "only" to describe what is (the patterns of interactions of neurons, etc.), while the latter aims to "cure," to alter, to CHANGE what is...? I've just finished Keith Doubt's 1996 Towards a Sociology of Schizophrenia: Humanistic Reflections, a critique of post-modernism's tendency to valorize the mentally ill (in particular, to use schizophrenia as a metaphor for the human condition). Doubt (a striking name, in this context!) constructs his critique by using the terms of George Herbert Mead (Mind, Self and Society, 1934): "me" is the attitudes of others, which oneself assumes; "I" is "what we cannot tell in advance," that which "gives the sense of freedom, of initiative," is "never entirely calculable." According to Mead, it is the "social process" of these two distinguishable phrases ("conscious responsibility" and "something novel in experience") which constitutes the self. When the "me" co-opts the "I," it's a tragedy (shades of Hamlet?); when the "me" can't cut or tie "I," it's a comedy. Whatever the genre, it is the synthesis/reflexiveness/dialectic between the two which make up the grounds of identity and self-development.

I hear in this argument strong resonances both to a recent conversation in the Making Sense of Diversity Series: "Asian--Identity or Category?" and to the on-going Brown Bag discussion about What Counts? in which we are interrogating in particular whether the numbers we use to "count" the world reflect what actually IS or what we ASCRIBE to what is...

and whether (in either/both cases) we can alter what it is we are interpreting here.

Comments re Freeman and Dalke's posts
Name: Sydney E.
Date: 2003-10-12 20:04:10
Link to this Comment: 6890

I enjoyed being in the Panel, and would like to make a few additional points.

First, in response to Danny, I don't think that 'congruence' means a point-by-point agreement on every aspect of the phenomena being studied. As Danny points out, there will certainly be aspects of the mind that psychoanalysts study that neuroscientists probably have little to say about (the content of specific fantasies, for example), and the same goes for neuroscience (the areas in the brain that those fantasies activate, perhaps). Congruence just means that we have to be as clear and specific as possible as to what we are talking about, and each side has to take into account (as far as possible) the findings of the other side when they are talking about something that is overlapping. Old psychoanalytic affect theory, which holds that affects are 'discharge processes of instinctual drives', for example, is not congruent with the extensive research done by neuroscience on the way affects are activated in the brain. Faced with that incongruence, psychoanalysis has modified its theories about affect in a way which is by and large congruent with neuroscientific findings. I hasten to say that psychoanalysis began this modification on clinical grounds, long before neuroscience showed that such modification was necessary, but the neuroscientific findings spurred us along. Now the two fields have a theory of affects which do not contradict each other. That is, they are congruent.

To keep this readable, I'll just respond at this point to Anne Dalke's first question: "is there a pointed psychoanalytic understanding expressed in the principled "refusal to gratify"?" Susan was referring to an old principle of psychoanalytic technique which held that unconscious wishes should not be gratified in the psychoanalytic situation. Freud found early on that patients come to desire a lot of things in their analysis, many of them based on early wishes for those things from their parents. They want to be their analyst's 'only child', for example, or (horrors!) they feel that sleeping with their analyst will cure them. He also found that at least some of the early analysts were trying help patients by sleeping with them. His advice basically was that those wishes should be understood, not gratified, and this was generalized to the principle that there should be no gratification, just understanding. That principle got transmogrified into an absolute, resulting in the worst case in the caricature of the silent analyst who didn't particpate in the relationship at all except for a rare interpretation. Now we know that the gratification of some wishes is inevitable, and, indeed, desirable. The wish to be understood, for example, must be gratified. It's an essential part of the analytic relationship. So, the dictum of 'no gratification' has fallen by the wayside, although we still try to understand what our patients are yearning for, and to help them understand it.

More later.

Syd Pulver

painting the conscious & unconscious
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2003-10-13 09:40:50
Link to this Comment: 6891

A couple of ideas have followed me around since Wednesday's panel discussion. I've been musing on the relationship between the mind and the brain, something introduced by Elio during his segment. And, like Paul , I remain intrigued about the "topography" of the unconscious and about the idea of whether there are multiple unconscious: a neurobiological one and a psychoanalytic one.

Since my brain prefers to express in pictures and images, rather than in words, it began playing at a search for representations to describe the dualities of brain/mind and conscious/unconscious. The brain is not the mind, yet they are obviously related. The brain is ... the house and the mind is ... what is happening within it? The brain is clearly a material, objective thing while the mind is certainly (at least to me) not material, not a thing. Perhaps the mind is all dynamic—action, events, processes—the collection of events at any instant. In this view there would be no "mind-as-a-thing" to experience anything.

The mind seems most often to connote conscious brain activity, but of course, it must be informed by the unconscious as well. Both conscious and unconscious information and processing occurs in the brain, in the same space, but in such different ways that makes them seem distinctly compartmentalized. How do these differ? That was the key question that got my brain to play at painting a picture that contains the conscious and unconscious.

So I came up with an image to distinguish conscious and unconscious processes. This image paints the conscious as a network with nodes (with rather unfortunate similarity to the typical image of the neural net). Conscious processes travel as energy on along a network path, following internal instructions* to "turn right, turn left, go straight", thus constructing the thought as certain paths and segments are followed and connected. The unconscious is superimposed on this neural network (since the unconscious seems to have access to the same regions of the brain) but it does not follow the networked paths. The unconscious uses some entirely different process—different, by analogy, like teleportation is to normal travel—to make connections between the different regions of the brain. Unlike conscious activity that appears to be linked to language, the unconscious navigates ("teleports") using images whose form, color and emotion "code" locations in the network thereby making connections between brain regions in a completely different way that remains invisible to the conscious.

Pursuing this admittedly wacky image prompted further ideas and questions: So, is the mind is the summation of both activities in the network, path-travel and teleportation? Perhaps it is when the "teleported" energy of the unconscious intersects (collides with) the conscious energy traveling along the network paths that we experience those too-rare occurrences of sensing the activity of our unconscious? Does psychoanalysis increase the mind's alertness to those moments of such intersection? Perhaps what neuroscience detects are the network paths and sometimes travelers along them but has missed—or does not yet have the tools to detect—the unconscious' mode of making connections when it "teleports" around?

Another more obvious picture gives the conscious and the unconscious each their own elaborate network, both which largely do not intersect with each other. My intuition finds that less appealing, I suppose, because the image fail to explain the invisibility and the very different functioning of the unconscious as compared to conscious.

Fantasy? Of course. But how many times has fantasy preceded discovery and development?
* the "what you know you know, what you know you don't know" in Anne's terms

begging to differ
Name: Elaine P.
Date: 2003-10-13 10:43:55
Link to this Comment: 6892

This is to follow on Anne Dalke (hi Anne) and Elio and Paul on the Dickinson poem and matters psychoanalytic.

I am intrigued by the way in which the neurosciences get privileged as a necessary adjunct (or enemy) of psychoanalysis and then poetry gets pulled in as a way of contesting and establishing "meaning".

The Dickinson poem intrigues me (another English major) for a number of reasons. For one, her syntax is deliberately indeterminate; the brain can encompass (and name) the sky and the sponge and the bucket just as readily as the bucket can contain the sponge and the water. The "you, beside" at the end of the last stanza can be read as Anne does, as "you, as well" including "you" in my brain. It can also be read as "you, apart from" or "you, to the side", introducing the subjectivity that is,or always perceives itself to be, in a condition of differentiation from that which is perceived. This interpretation makes sense to me when I consider the lines,"and they will differ, if they do/ as syllable from sound." What difference obtains between a syllable and a sound, is in the space between them, the introduction of necessary gaps and silences so as to allow syllables to emerge from sound. This analogy preserves a space, even if imaginary, around each subject, as around each word, that is constitutive and, in itself,resistant to interpretation.

On Anne's quadrants, then, I would only point out that the last possibility, that we don't know what we don't know, would serve as a continual disruption or undermining of the first quadrant, that we know what we know. This dynamic sense of an unconscious operation is, for me, the realm of psychoanalysis.

On the gratification of psychoanalysis, I would add to what Syd said, that making an interpretation can be more gratifying to the analyst than the analysand; can, in fact, be analogous to the brain of the analyst containing the 'you' of the analysand in the way Anne objects to in the poem. Denying gratification in this sense, then, would be to the point of maintaining the "differ"-ance between the two, so as to allow the words, and subjectivity, of the analysand to emerge.

Finally, I'd like to quote from Lacan's "Function and field of speech and language" :

"The list of the disciplines named by Freud as those that should make up the disciplines accesory to an ideal Faculty of Psychoanalysis is well known. Besides psychiatry and sexology, we find 'thehistory of civilization, mythology, the psychology of religions, literary history, and literary criticism'....For my part, I should be inclined to add: rhetoric, dialectic inthe technical sense that this term assumes in the Topics of Aristotle, grammar, and, that supreme pinnacle of the aesthetics of language, poetics, which would include the neglected technique of the witticism....For psychoanalysis in its early development, intimately linked to the discovery and study of symbols, was on the way to participating in the structure of what was called in the Middle Ages, 'the liberal arts.'...But we should not disdain this aspect of the early development of psychoanalysis; it expresses in fact nothing less than the re-creation of human meaning in an arid period of scientism."

Gratification, clinical and literary
Name: Susan Levi
Date: 2003-10-13 11:45:15
Link to this Comment: 6893

Yes, gratification does have a rather specific meaning within psychoanalysis, as Syd has noted. I also think it may well be related to your comment about literary interpretation as always being incomplete in the sense that the Lacanian understanding of desire includes the idea that desire can never be satisfied.
My comment about the non-gratification of the audience's wish to ask questions the other night was an ironic nod to a classical position to which I do not subscribe. The notion of gratification in clinical psychoanalysis refers to the principle that if the patients' wishes are not gratified by the analyst then the wishes will have no place to go but to the verbal arena where they become grist for the mill. The idea was that if the analyst gratifies a wish, then, the early analysts thought, it is no longer available to be worked through in the treatment. The wish usually has to do with wanting to know something about the analyst or wanting something from the analyst, neither of which the analyst is supposed to gratify (according to orthodox clinical practice). The most essential meaning of non-gratification has to do with actions: the analyst does not touch or have sex with a patient who want to be touched or had sex with with. This clinical principle was also understood to extend to such practices as not answering questions posed by the patient. Thus, the parody of the silent analyst.
There is now a more sophisticated understanding of these issues. As Jay Greenberg puts it, "Consider the standard injunction, 'Don't just do something, sit there!' That is often good advice, but the implication is that it is possible to do nothing, which seems unlikely to me. . . . ." (Greenberg, J. (1995) "Self-disclosure: is it psychoanalytic?" Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 31,2: 193-205.) In other words, the analyst is always gratifying some wish, and he/she must be aware of this and try as much as possible to understand with the patient what has happened between them and what it means. (Just to be completely clear, I want to state that gratifying a patient's sexual desires is absolutely unethical.) When silence and not responding to a patient's questions are excessive, it creates not a neutral situation in which the analyst and patient may discover the patient's unconscious material but rather a contrived situation. By not answering questions, for instance, the analyst may be gratifying the patient's masochistic aims.

If one believes in the power of the unconscious, then it is clear that it is truly difficult to prevent the patient's unconscious fantasies, desires, fears, and efforts to reenact traumatic situations to emerge in the treatment situation. As long as the analyst is relatively neutral and anonymous and does not consistently act in such ways as to block the patient's self-expression, then the unconscious will do its thing and the treatment will progress. And, following Lacan, desire will always remain unsatisfied and will continue to press for satisfaction. Or, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, "I don't have to worry about spoiling my appetite because I know there's always another appetite coming along after this one."

gratification and beyond ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-10-13 21:07:40
Link to this Comment: 6895

Re Syd, Susan:

The gratification issue, as it plays out interpersonally, has bedeviled psychoanalysis since before its official birth. Freud broke with Breuer, his first serious collaborator, because of related sexual hanky-panky (on Breuer's part, not Freud's, at least according to Freud). And, as noted, there have been major course adjustments within the psychoanalytic community over the years and are likely to continue to be.

An interesting more general question, for me at least, is what one can learn from this ongoing evolution for broader issues of mental health care? Are difficulties in negotiating what needs will and will not be addressed by whom and when idosyncratic to the psychoanalytic setting or are they more generic? They are clearly not specific to the sexual realm, but perhaps to the interpersonal one?

For what its worth, my own reading of Susan's closing comment had to do not with frustration but rather with my understanding of the psychoanalytic "hour": an interval of time which is defined in advance (and adhered to) in order to avoid any expectation (on the part of either analyst or analysand) that some problem is going to be discussed until it is solved. Such expectations would detract from the open-ended exploratory character of the enterprise. In these terms, perhaps the gratification issue isn't even essentially interpersonal? Perhaps intra-personal conversation similarly requires a sense of open-endedness (rather than a problem-solving bent) for its success? In re many mental health contexts, not only in psychoanalysis?

Re Sharon:

Sharon is a colleague in chemistry, a painter, and the person who asked me several years ago, what DOES the world look like to the unconscious? (given that what WE see is only the painting after the fact, after the blindspot is filled in and etc). Sharon and I have been playing with that question for some time, her in art and me in .... whatever my medium is called. The image to the right is one of Sharon's contributions to the discussion (other images, related and unrelated, are available at Transformation).

Two things strike me as interesting about Sharon's current thoughts. One is that she identifies here networks as the "conscious" whereas in her earlier painting the networks seemed (to me at least) to represent the "unconscious" with the view as we actually see it above. The other interesting aspect of Sharon's image (at least in words) is that she identifies networks as rule-bound and hence needing some magic "teleportation" to account for some of the things invisible/surprising to the conscious.

What amuses me about this is that in my current understanding/story, it is in fact one of the important properties of network information storage that "teleportation" is inevitable, and hence not a surprising property of the unconscious. Because networks do not "code" things in particular locations but rather in the pattern of activity across the entire network, there are in fact quite natural ways for one thing to be closely related to another thing, even quite distant things from the perspective of the conscious which is more used to "categorizing". The distinction is one between metonymic and metaphoric forms of representation (see Theorizing Interdisciplinarity: Metaphor and Metonymy, Synecdoche and Surprise, and Story-Telling in (At Least) Three Dimensions). What this particular story raises as a new problem is why the conscious (presumably also consisting of neural networks) DOESN'T "teleport" (or at least doesn't as often)?

So how SHOULD one think of the unconscious, and its relation to the conscious? Sharon's way, my way, or .... ?

Re Daniel, Anne, Elaine, and others past/present/future

Delighted to have elephants (a favorite of mine, both in "reality" and fable), hermeneutics (fine by me as long as not restricted to the interpretation of human artifacts, and having some way to distinguish more wrong from less wrong), and Lacan (as long as somebody will interpret it for me) on the table. Suspect, in fact, that we could use more on the table to help make sense of what's already here. Along with some further conversation about existing issues. To facilitate that:

Gratified by the conversation so far, and looking forward to it continuing, both virtually and in whatever other arenas people are inclined to develop.

Power Games
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-14 12:51:29
Link to this Comment: 6896

Powerful to me, in the postings foregoing, are Syd's description of "trying to understand what our patients are yearning for," and Susan's replacing the (now-outdated?) notion that "the gratified wish is no longer available to be worked through in the treatment" with the (more current?) understanding that "desire will continue to press for satisfaction..."

It's been so rich to have had so much more "put on the table" since last week's panel session... but I'm not gratified yet. Each satisfaction seems only ground for yet another "appetite"....

so/and I wanted to go on thinking, this morning, not by (as Elaine noticed) "pulling in poetry as a way of establishing 'meaning,'" but rather by using Sharon's pictures (which have been SUCH a rich resource for me, over the past couple of years, in understanding/perceiving the loopy relationship between conscious and unconscious understandings) to gesture towards (actually, I think, BEYOND) further understandings of the relationship between neuroscience and psychoanalysis...

Contra Paul, I think Sharon has ALWAYS painted (for years in watercolors and this week in words) the conscious mind as a box/network/grid, and the unconscious as its creative explosive expression. This week she described the brain as a house and the mind as "what is happening within it," also "the conscious is a networked path and the unconscious teleportation." But her pictorial representations of this relationship go back to 2000, when she first showed that

"Understanding is a Booby Prize"; include her portrayals of the emergence of

"Creation" and of its

"Power"; as well as her more recent SO-powerful representation of the


of "feeling and thinking " (where I see Emily Dickinson's creative/"cleaved"/"split"/"unraveled"/ "haunted" mind, w/ its "lid lifted off," drawn large).

Struck again, as I walk through her gallery, by the force of Sharon's paintings, I am reminded of my husband's resistance, each morning, to my desire for an interpretation his (equally striking) dreams: there is an experience there, he claims, that cannot be contained, that can only be--that is ALWAYS--reduced, by the analysis. Shades of Elaine's notion that "making an interpretation can be more gratifying to the analyst...can be analogous to the brain of the analyst containing the 'you' of the analysand..."

Anyone want to chew on/dig into that mine/line of thinking, pictorially, poetically, analytically, scientifically....??

Free associations
Name: Elio Fratt
Date: 2003-10-18 10:16:02
Link to this Comment: 6914

There are enough threads in the messages posted so far that a consciousness seeking some kind of integration or even some kind of coherence really couldn't know which way to turn along the network of ideas (let alone neurons) that have been expressed so far.

I have a hard time imagining how this discussion could ever evolve into a discussion (let alone an implementation) of how psychoanalysis and neuroscience can work together to improve the mental health care system, which I understand is Paul's ultimate agenda.

The phenomenon that feels to me like teleportation (magic, unexplainable by science as we will ever know it) is that forever-mysterious leap from the neural network and/or the neural energy field to conscious awareness ("bare attention" as the Buddhists say) and the equally mysterious leap back. We can say metaphorically that a consciousness tries to find its way along a neural network but unless we stop to look at the meaning we assign to the metaphor, we won't notice that it has quietly collapsed a mystery into one of two assumptions: either that consciousness is some kind of neural homunculus that lives right next to the on-ramp of the network or that consciousness is an "I" that is outside the neurally networked "Me" in much the same way that I am currently outside the computer that is compliantly receiving and transducing the impression of my ghostlier-than-a ghost thoughts.

I didn't understand what Anne said that Doubt said that Mead said about the Me and the I, but there's something in there that I probably agree with. "Me" certainly does include the instructions (learning) "I" receive from the world about how I/Me am and should be, but it also includes the instructions "I" receive from my genes and from my neurally encoded affects, dispositions and drives (whether genetically programmed or not) and from whatever modifications "I" have managed to make along the way to these assorted environmental/biological instruction sets by dint of my freely deconstructive will. "I" am somebody else again, possibly related to the I who am who am.

Having said that, when I think about Hamlet it becomes clear to "I" that "I" must be more than who I know I am, and so must "Me" be. The aspect of Hamlet's Me coopting his "I" would seem to be his impulsive "drive" for revenge PLUS the ghost of his father and his culture conspiring to coopt his freely deconstructive will. But then what in the world is his depression that can presume to interfere with this mighty "Me"? An ""I"" that his "I" doesn't know about instructing a ""Me"" that coopts the "Me" that is trying to coopt his "I"? More things in I and Me than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio. Enter Prozac (standing in for Rosenkranz and Guildenstern who, in this post-modern performance of Hamlet, appear to be dead), stage left.

Psychoanalysis is first and foremost about inner conflict because, as Emily Dickinson understood from her own experience, the root of human suffering is inner conflict. In that sense schizophrenia IS a metaphor for the human condition. Conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Conflict between feeling and thinking. Conflict between feeling and acting. Conflict between thinking and acting. Conflict of the "I" with the "Me," of the "I" with the ""Me,"" of the ""I"" with the "Me," of the ""Me"" with the "Me." If psychoanalysis and neuroscience are to collaborate the neuroscientists have to acknowledge that these different levels of inner conflict exist and that they are central to the phenomena of mental illness. Otherwise, what we get (and it is exactly what we are currently getting) won't be a collaboration. It will be a co-optation.

I very much liked what Elaine Zickler said about non-gratification. So much so that I'm going to quote it right now. "On the gratification of psychoanalysis, I would add to what Syd said, that making an interpretation can be more gratifying to the analyst than the analysand; can, in fact, be analogous to the brain of the analyst containing the 'you' of the analysand in the way Anne objects to in the poem. Denying gratification in this sense, then, would be to the point of maintaining the "differ"-ance between the two, so as to allow the words, and subjectivity, of the analysand to emerge." So in that sense non-gratification is really a good thing. It's an anti-cooptation technique.

I would add that the excesses of anonymity that Syd and Susan referred to that have given the technique a bad name generally missed the real utility of the technique. They focused on not gratifying consciously expressed wishes (like "Where are you going on vacation?") and, more importantly, not gratifying what the analyst imagined the unconscious wish might possibly be (which since there's always presumably an unconscious wish hiding behind what a patient says, meant not saying anything at all until you knew what the unconscious wish really was and could make a balanced interpretation about it). But the real action of psychoanalysis comes in the transference and countertransference which involve the "Me" of the patient unconsciously trying to coopt the "Me" of the analyst and the analyst unconsciously "gratifying" this unconsciously co-opting wish by reacting in kind without the "I" of the analyst recognizing it. Effective non-gratification involves the "I" of the analyst feeling the co-opting push or pull on his "Me" -- being conscious of his countertransference impulse -- and instructing his "Me" to remain calm so that he doesn't enact the impulse (enacting means doing the same emotionally charged interpersonal dance that the patient elicits--is driven to elicit--in other important relationships outside analysis, like "I'll be the victim and you be the abuser" or "I'll be the victim and you be the rescuer" or "I'll be the hero and you be the dragon" or "I'll be the top and you be the bottom," "I'll be the smart one and you be the stupid one," "I'll be the skeptic you be the believer." etc. etc.). In other words non-gratification means being reflective rather than reactive about these interpersonal agendas that can be felt in the mutually co-optive emotional interplay of transference and countertransference.

Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are NOT dead!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-19 14:57:57
Link to this Comment: 6919

Contra Elio, I'm having a very easy time imagining/feeling/knowing that this conversation is a much-needed contribution to and intervention in the current state of mental health care in our culture; at the very least, we are making public and archiving here a conversation about what happens in the analytic situation that can prove very useful to those who have not engaged in that experience. What I see going on is much more than "brave" neuroscientists and psychoanalysts letting one another into their laboratories: rather, the doors of both sorts of labs are being thrown open here for all sorts of amateurs and professionals with interests in mental health to look in/listen in/speak up...

and I have an amusing contribution to make to the discussion. Just about the time, yesterday, that Elio was declaring the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and their replacement, in this post-modern performance, by Prozac), I was taking my children to see Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Arden. This was the first time I'd seen the play; I laughed heartily throughout (as did my kids)...and lay awake for hours afterwards, thinking through its ramifications/contributions to our conversation about mental health...

In hopes of sleeping tonight, I write some of them out here (including some of what I learned from a good lecture on the play I found on-line. What interests me about Stoppard's play, in light of where Elio began our talking (w/ his performance of Hamlet's depression) are three things:

(Occurs to me that this might be a fine dramatic representation of figure of the three "interacting "loops" Paul handed out @ the panel:

To "play" out this interpretation a bit...

And it is in this movement from interpersonal to intrapersonal dialogue, the ways in which, in psychoanalysis (in Elio's striking formulation) delayed (interpersonal) gratification can lead to (both interpersonal and intrapersonal) reflection... that a way emerges to make meaning in an absurd world. In their affectionate engagement with one another, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern put into action what Hamlet has been unable to do alone. Their verbal exchanges are not just clever for the sake of being clever; it is in their imaginative, interactive exuberance that the world gets made, and re-made...

as it is being re-made here.

For which, again, my thanks--

P.S. For those who (like me) get at these things best through art, two further suggestions: R&G Are Dead is running @ the Arden til Nov. 9; I highly recommend the performance. And: Mark Lord will be staging a performance of Hamlet @ Bryn Mawr, Nov. 14-16 and Nov. 20-22. Mark's work expresses an aesthetic he once described to me as "belated nostalgic modernist"--which I take to mean that his playful deconstruction/dissassembly of classical scripts is a means to reconstruction, to enable us to see them freshly, fully, in all their range of possibility and meaning (his gesture, in other words, is ultimately toward meaning and purpose, a recognition of the absurd that insists on stepping beyond, stepping out....). I recommend this performance as well (based on all his earlier work I've seen/enjoyed/been stretched by) and will ask Mark to post details here...

science, hermeneutics and psychoanalysis
Name: Dorothea L
Date: 2003-10-24 11:20:40
Link to this Comment: 6990

First of all my thanks both for the forum and for this opportunity to continue the discussion, which is opening a wealth of interesting questions. My background is psychology (in Munich, at the time a center ofr Gestalt psychology (perception - not clinical application, with interest in bioloby and philosophy, the social work and psychoanalysis with a "hobby" in neuropsychology. Most of my time is spent in clinical practice,working with people with pre-oedipal issues.

I found it fascinating that in the discussion "scientific" and "artistic" understanding started to emerge as focal points. I believe that they reflect cognitive preferences, and that the question of hermeneutics vs. science is releated to them, as well as the question between conscious and unconscious. I will use some analogies to describe my ideas: if we want to paint a picture of something, we can use two basic strategies one would be a line drawing, which is more common. The same picture could also be completed by using shadings, and the "lines" would emerge in the perception of the viewer. In a more scientific analogy, the line drawing ould be more the equivalent of a measure of central tendency, whereas the "ciauroscuro" picture would be more equivalent as an indication of the spread around that central tendency. Gestalt psychology (and now neurobiology) show us how extremely intricate the sampling and other organizing processes are that lead from more basic levels of stimulation to our subjective perception,largely based on statistical filters. With that in mind, I believe that (over-simplified) conscious experience is similar to the "line drawing" or an "executive summary" as a result of the manipulation of the bsic "cloud" of data that comes into our subconscious. The "teleportation" in unconscious processing may allude to this more global quality. Cytowick's studies of synaesthesia are interesting in this context, because they hint at coordinating structures in the limbic system where intra-modal integration takes place and by the same token seems to give rise to some transmodal aesthetic qualities. I don't believe it is an accident that he was also interested in the "art-science" conflict. I also like his work, because it reminds me of neurology in Freud's tradition, with a holistic, systems perspective (as referenced in Kaplan-Solms).
Kaplan-Solms seems to hint that our brain hemispheres are geared for this "dual processing" with the right hemisphere having more impact on procedural learning/memory (which I suspect may be more related to primary process, with art as conscious, abstract expression) and the left hemisphere being more influential in declarative memory, our paradigm of consciousness.
Functionally, suboncscious and conscious could be seen as analogous to vision, with our consciousness being equivalent to our focused vision and the subconscious dealing with the vast amount of information in our peripheral vision (and telling us where to focus).

In my mind, much of the discussion on 10/8 dealt not necessarily with neuro science vs. psychoanalysis but with a mindset which sees systems as linear (the old machine model) vs. complex (and evolving). What we experience in everyday practice with "brain science" is bad science, which sees the brain as much too static, and disregards psychoanalytic evidence for its complexity. In addition, there is a confusion between the brain as a structure and the mind as a process and result of a process. Knowing the structure can tell us some of the limits of what the brain cannot do, but can't predict the mind, because all the possible interactions of the substructures and feedback loops are too many. No one expects biologists to predict the next step of evolution. I think that good neuroscience may acutally help us, by providing "hard data" for the brains plasticity and showing the error of the old, overly static models, and give us new respect for the organizational feats the brain is capable of (as platform for the mind).

Even the question about gratification is related to this issue: the damage of gratification can be explained within a systems perspective - gratification, through satiation, temporarily tends to "close" the system. If you are happy you don't have to think about why. Premature gratification therefore undercuts the psychoanalytic attempt to become aware of the systemic aspects of our experience and learn to integrate them for future increased efficiency.

psychoanalysis, neuroscience, and evolution
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-11-02 12:28:46
Link to this Comment: 7077

I confess freely to the "ultimate agenda" of having this forum "evolve into a discussion ... of how psychoanalysis and neuroscience can work together to improve the mental health care system". Along which lines a couple of thoughts, based on the preceding, and some other post-panel exchanges.

The issue of what we MEAN by the conscious and the unconscious continues to seem to me a fruitful area of exchange, not in order to be able to say "I'll be the smart one and you be the stupid one" but rather because there's clearly a potentially fruitful lack of gratification around this issue (assuming we are willing to postpone gratification), and so it is a place where our differing stories (conceptual frameworks) each have the potential to be productively altered by the others.

Dorothea has added the useful (to me at least) thought that the conscious and the unconscious differ not only in the degree to which "we" are aware of what is going on but also in the STYLE of what is going on. I think some more exploration of the differences in style between the two would be helpful in better understanding (and productively dealing with) not only the conscious and the unconscious but also the nature of communication between them (if the styles are different then they have an interesting communication problem/challenge). Several of us have written a paper on "interdisciplinarity" that characterizes the style difference as "metaphoric" vs "metonymic", a distinction with interesting similarities to Dorothea's "central tendency" vs "spread", and suggests some ways that these differing styles can productively intersect. While this is one difference between the two systems, its not the only one. There's an old list of some other differences at Exploring the Consciousness Problem.

What's not on that list is what I suspect is another important difference between the conscious and the unconscious systems that has been in the back of my mind for some time, for both neurobiological reasons and because of "clinical observations" (both of myself and of others). It was crystallized by an email from Thomas Bartlett, assisting with my needed Lacan education. According to Tom, Lacan makes a major point of "negative hallucinations" and the "falsifying ego". A hypnotized subject told there is a table in an empty room, for example, will, when brought out of hypnosis, walk AROUND the (absent) table, and will, when asked, provide various explanations (other than the existence of the table) for doing so. The point is that it is the business of the conscious (the ego in Lacanian/Freudian terms, if I understand correctly) to "account for" or "bring coherence" to one's behavior and one can, in some situations, observe the "falsifications" it uses to achieve this (for me, the point is equally well made with the blindspot or ambiguous figures).

What I suspect is quite different about not only the "style" but also the underlying organization of the unconscious is that "coherence" is of very much less significance to it than to the conscious. The unconscious, as I understand it, is a series of semi-independent modules each of which has its own information and objectives. The unconscious is organized in such a way as to adjudicate more or less effectively among the expressions in behavior of its components but not organized in such a way as to give any priority (or even meaning) to being "coherent". To put it differently, the unconscious is fragmented, rather than unitary, and organized in such a way that there is nothing at all amiss if behavior indicates a belief in Santa Claus at one point in time and a disbelief in Santa Claus at another. "Fragmentation", and one's fear of it (if one experiences such fears) are a concern of the conscious. They are, quite to the contrary, the essence of the unconscious.

Does this have clinical implications? I think so. Among other things, what it suggests is that "inner conflict" may occur between the conscious and the unconscious but may equally occur between various of the semi-independent components of the unconscious. We all know the phenomenon of people knowing quite clearly at a conscious level what is bothering them but not being "helped" by so knowing, so maybe we need to work not only on making things conscious (ie being sure the conscious and the unconscious are not in conflict) but also on helping to resolve conflicts between different parts of the unconscious (a matter for which making things conscious may or may not be helpful)?

It strikes me that there are interesting broader implications of the coherent/incoherent distinction as well. Maybe "gratification" for the conscious consists in coherence, and so may oppose/inhibit other kinds of gratification? And perhaps if we get too caught up in being coherent it also inhibits our ability to hear the stories of others and allow our own to be modified by them? I'm enjoying/learning from this particular less than coherent forum, hope others are as well, and that we can/will continue the rich"complex (and evolving)" process we've started here.

tolerance for conflict
Name: Anneliese
Date: 2003-11-02 21:14:39
Link to this Comment: 7081

Paul, I'm a little confused--you say first that the unconscious comfortably holds two (or more) 'conflicting' notions at once; but then you suggest that such differences at the unconscious level may be distressing. What am I missing?

unconscious conflict
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-11-03 08:05:25
Link to this Comment: 7085

Anneliese, I don't think you're "missing" anything. I think you've identified a problem with what I said. An interesting one. Maybe even a VERY interesting one.

You're right. The notion that the unconscious can without conflict act so as to express a belief in Santa Claus and not express such a belief means that something else has to be going on to create troublesome "internal conflict" of the class II (within the unconscious) type.

Betcha a million dollars that the "something else" that is going on involves consciousness, ie what creates trouble/discomfort is not actually a conflict within the unconscious (at least not usually; I can imagine such a thing but it would manifest entirely differently) but rather that the conscious is getting conflicting signals from the different areas of the unconscious and not knowing how to adjudicate between them.

This remains different from the conscious/unconscious conflict but, you're right, it isn't accurate to describe it as simply "between ... components of the unconscious". THEY don't notice or care about it; only consciousness does. So we could (1) remove consciousness or (2) help it adjudicate the conflict or (3) try and alter one or more of the conflicting components of the unconscious.

I suspect most people wouldn't favor (1) and might be most comfortable with (2). But ... what about (3)? It seems to me in many ways the most appropriate, if perhaps the riskiest/most challenging?

global? fragmented?
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2003-11-03 08:55:06
Link to this Comment: 7088

Paul, I like your prompt to consider the different styles of the conscius and unconscious, especially insofar as that difference is what causes communication problems between them and within us. Identifying an inherent drive within the conscious to find and/or make coherence works for me. However, at first pass, I am having difficulty integrating your description of the unconscious as "fragmented" and compartmentalized with Dorothea's description of the "global" "cloud" of information. While I will continue to chew on that, I wonder if you have a suggestion for what the the unconscious does value? What is the analog to the drive for coherence in the conscious that accounts for the connections made by the unconscious?

what does the unconscious value?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-04 16:42:39
Link to this Comment: 7113

...mulling over Sharon's good questions about what the unconscious values? what accounts for the connections it makes?...i find myself thinking (in response to the first question) that "value" is a concept of the conscious mind and (in response to the second) that unconscious connections are not rational or logical, but associative, random, contiguous, "neighborly." i and friends once wrote about these different qualities (we called them "metonymic") but i'd love to hear more about this from practitioners, those of you who listen all day to/try to evoke in your patients the landscape of the unconscious: what does it "value"? what accounts for the connections it makes? (and how do you--do you?--go about altering them?)

conscious-unconscious and fragmentation
Name: Dorothea L
Date: 2003-11-05 11:19:26
Link to this Comment: 7121

First of all, I love this discussion and I don't know of any other place where I could have it.
I have started to wonder, based on my training in gestalt psychology and more recent neurological studies, if there is a strict division between conscious and unconscious. My sense is more that we start out with very unintegrated sensory date, which. as they wander through the brain become more and more processed and integrated as they go, and that consciousness increases as integration does. The factors that influence gestalt formation are really factors that have to do with consistency. It is also interesting that Tomkins in his studies of affect saw patterns in intensity of stimulation as triggers for certain affects and the old gestalt psychologists spoke of "Anmutungsqualitaeten" which is nearly impossible to translate but refers to something of a "trial affect" or "emotional halo" a perception can have. I believe that these "mid-stages" in processing are still part of the unconscious but with glimmers of consciousness under certain conditions. What is nice in this perspecgtive, is, that it provides an elegant explanation of dissociation - integration as the main ego function is really work and it can break down under stress. The "falsification" of consciousness, as evidenced by the excuse in following a post-hypnotic suggestion is also a very common phenomenon, in anlytic lingo "rationalization". I suspect that all thinking is that, except that under good enough circumstances we don't need to edit out too much material. Studies of neurologically impaired people show amazing feats of rationalization, coming up with explanations for their impaired functions that deny their handicaps (and avoid the awareness of the loss and the attendant trauma). Even some of Piagets studies on how we learn show how at relatively "old" ages our orientation may still not include certain operations (such as predicting someone else's view or having a solid grip on conersion). I take this to be another example of the same principle - we operate in a less integrated (= differentiated AND consistent) frame of reference.
I think the question of what the unconscious values as somewhat addressed in the link between affect and gestalt mechanisms - we value what triggers our affects, up to an extent. It is interesting that Tomkins in his "script theory" (how affects get chained to drive more long-term behavioral strategies) gives interpersonal relational conditioning a decisive role, essentially replicating the psychoanalytic idea of transference patterns and repetition compulsion

"there's matter in these sighs"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-06 07:55:25
Link to this Comment: 7137

for ANOTHER take on the unconscious...

The Theater Program of Bryn Mawr & Haverford Colleges Presents
a site specific version of Shakespeare's play
directed by Mark Lord designed by Hiroshi Iwasaki
Nov 13,14, 15, 16 and 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 p.m.
in and around Goodhart Hall, Bryn Mawr College

Tickets free to tri-co community. $10 to others.

For reservations, email
or call 610-526-5211

there's matter in these sighs
these profound heaves
you must translate.
Mark Lord
Chair of the Arts Program
Associate Professor of Theater on the Theresa Helburn Fund
Bryn Mawr College  (610) 526-5210

what the unconscious values
Name: Elaine P.
Date: 2003-11-06 20:31:07
Link to this Comment: 7144

Forgive me for not working this out more elegantly and eloquently; it's jazzy at this point. But, the question of 'what the unconscious values' threw me for a loop and I'm still in the loop. It makes me appreciate Freud's topographical and structural theories--both--as ways to approach such a question, and others as well. I'm thinking that 'the unconscious' is already troublesome--as a spatial noun, in regard to any question of values; whereas 'unconscious drives' or 'unconscious ego' or 'unconscious superego' or 'unconscious fantasy' begins to make an answer possible. In the Freudian sense, perhaps, the unconscious values gratification, discharge, emergence, recognition, freedom, but also punishment and the thwarting of the drives. In her recent book, "Imagine There's No Woman," Joan Copjec makes a link between the Freudian death drive and sublimation that I've never seen articulated before. She writes that it is precisely the action of the death drive to derail gratification, or the aims, of the drives and that this derailment constitutes sublimation. This gives to sublimation the distinction of paradoxically gratifying the death drive in service of more life, of creativity and variety. It begins to suggest the way the death drive 'drives' life, instead of thinking of it, as most contemporary theorists do, if they do, as a separate realm of aggression, on a separate developmental track from the life or libidinal drive. I'm, of course, not giving her complex argument its due here, but I'm still struggling with it myself. I had a rudimentary sense of it myself in working out the paradox in 17th century literature, specifically in Donne's poetry and prose. The question Donne grapples with in his casuistical treatise, "Biathanatos", is basically, if there is a demonstrable 'desire of death' in every human, can suicide be considered a sin? furthermore, if there is a 'desire of death', how can Christians think of Christ's crucifixion as redemptive? What he comes to, finally, in my interpretation of his text, is that ordinary suicide or mindless self-sacrifice (mass martyrdoms, for example) are examples of obeying the natural law inherent in each person, gratifying the 'desire of death' that we all have. We can think of the suicide bombers in our day as examples of these kinds of religious martyrs. On the other hand, he poses the paradox of deaths that serve life in some way, not by inciting imitation, but by bearing witness to life values. It's a difficult treatise and a difficult paradox to hold in mind, but I think it bears on this discussion.

Anyone else confused?
Name: David Moye
Date: 2003-11-09 02:20:24
Link to this Comment: 7157

Here I sit surfing the net in Northern California miles away from an abundance of academic riches and I can't stop thinking of Bernstein's Mass. It opens with a rising cacophony of conflicting voices which thankfully is replaced when a singer with a guitar sings "Sing God a Simple Song." I haven't heard any music yet, so I will take a stab at it.

I thought the question was how to reconcile psychoanalysis and the neurosciences. Why bother? We have been led down the path of "mind over matter" for too many years now to the exclusion of "matter over mind." My personal opinion? Mind over matter is a societal delusion. We need it, like some need the martyrdom of death to prove that their life has purpose and meaning. We need it to transcend our physical nature, but there is a cost. Think of all the self help ideas built upon the evolved tradition of "hearing the Word," whether it be the preacher on Sunday morning or the therapist, or, better yet, the analyst, who facilitates the patients internal Word through listening to the patient's endless recital of his dilemmas. Sure they help with some, but for those with real central nervous system disorders, otherwise known as mental illness, they are, at best irrelevant and at worst destructive (Noonday Demons, an Atlas of Depression). The major psychiatric disorders are the result of brains that are broken, biologically broken.

Our preoccupation with the brain/mind dichotomy such as is implied in the question keeps real patents from pursuing the hard biological realities needed to become well. They can either go to their analyst or they can pray the problem away. In either case it is magic. It is mind over matter.

If anyone wants to discuss this with me I will be at Robin's Bookstore on November 17 at 7 PM where I will discuss a book I wrote that points out that among other things, nutrients, not psychoanalysts are restoring broken brains. Now, about that simple music...

mind over matter
Name: Dorothea L
Date: 2003-11-10 10:56:00
Link to this Comment: 7176

As far as I know, the "hard biological realities" are not so hard. I have worked with people with psychoses, but have yet to find a "broken brain". One of the greatest achievements of the neurologist Sigmund Freud, in my opinion, was his recognition, that "sane" and "insane" people don't differ so much in what they think but in the statistical distribution of thoughts. Anyone can have a "crazy" thought, but people with emotional illnesses have a greater chance of getting stuck in "ruts" that they have difficulties getting out of. To me that describes more a not well-exercised brain than a broken one.
I have also heard recently, that there have been findings, that if a person has a hysterical conversion disorder (lets say a paralysis) for a sufficient time their innervation pattern may change to reflect their subjective body image rather than follow the typical patterns most of us have - so in certain cases, mind can shape matter. Does anyone else have more info. on that?

Woe for psychoanalysis
Name: Debbie Plo
Date: 2003-11-12 00:14:19
Link to this Comment: 7221

There no longer exists a way to literally reconcile psychoanalysis and neuroscience. There was a war, with many battles, but it has been over for some time, and neuroscience has won. Severe mental illness has been demonstrated to coincide with brains that (if not literally broken) have with the help of imaging technologies, such as functional MRI and PET, post mortem studies, sensory experiments, and genetic studies, been shown to be misshapen, undersized, have unusual characteristics, or to make neuro physiological connections differently that do the brains of those who are unaffected. Should not those of us whose work is with those affected by mental disorders, and those who otherwise care about mental health issues, not be elated that this scientific understanding has initiated effective treatments, facilitated a lessening of stigma, afforded validation to those who were told they weren't trying hard enough to change, and exonerated generations parents, particularly mothers?

If so, why then do I feel profound sadness that neuroscience has almost completely vanquished psychoanalysis? It is because I value the wisdom, and yes the magic, inherent in psychoanalysis. But with each new neuroscientific revelation the benefits derived from psychoanalysis reaches fewer and fewer individuals. Psychoanalysis has become politically incorrect to policy makers, and third-party payers, and is becoming affordable only to those, irrespective of their philosophical perspective regarding fur, who are able to afford a full lengh mink coats

But even when the times arrives that genes may be modified in ways that preclude serious illnesses from manifesting, brain treatments can correct malformations, and malfunctioning connections can be repaired, the events of peoples' lives will continue to (as they do now) to modify the structurea of brains, and thus effect emotional functioning. It in this life-long process of influencing the brain, and reshaping its functions that psychoanalysis works its magic. For those who practice this healing art, and for those like me who work to shape policy it has become an uphill battle to help people value the fact that brains like all organs must be, as David Moyer points out, fed with the proper nutrients, and they must also strengthened, maintained, and sometimes rehabilitated in the ways that psychoanalysis does so well by influencing the interplay of the conscious and the unconscious.

W(h)ither Psychoanalysis?!
Name: Susan Levi
Date: 2003-11-14 13:08:02
Link to this Comment: 7257

Psychoanalysis is NOT available just to those with full length mink coats!
It is possible to have an analysis at many fee levels. Candidates at our local Institute and at Institutes across the country often treat patients for whatever patients can afford to pay; it may be possible to have four or five sessions per week for a fee that is equivalent to (or less than) the fee for a single psychiatric session. These analysts-in-training are usually established mental health professionals (clinical social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists), often with many years of clinical experience. Their analytic cases are closely supervised by experienced analysts. Graduate analysts, too, are sometimes willing to reduce fees for patients seeking an analysis. If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to contact the Consultation and Referral Service of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia at (610)667-8708 or (610) 667-8702. Your inquiry will be handled in the strictest confidence.

Hamlet Insights
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-15 21:58:55
Link to this Comment: 7266

Mink coats, redux.

There are other (even less expensive) ways to engage this so-important loop between psychoanalysis and neuroscience; one of them is to immerse oneself in theater pieces like those produced by Mark Lord. My head is reeling from his current production of Hamlet In/sites: a rich, tragic, absurd piece which demonstrates more clearly than anything I've seen in a long time (since the last time I saw one of Mark's plays) the nature of the unconscious (as Paul describes it above: "fragmented," "a series of semi-independent modules," each with its "own information and objectives," "not organized in such a way as to give any priority (or even meaning) to being 'coherent.'" In light of our current conversation, two marvelous things happen in this production:

Hamlet is presented as three consciousnesses (performed by three actors) and--in the usual Mark Lord-ish way--the audience is situated/re-situated (11 times in the course of 2 1/2 hours), so that we come to occupy what was (in the scene prior) the stage, the actors what will be (in the scene forthcoming) our seats. The depressive quality that I remember so strongly from more conventional representations of Hamlet disappeared for me entirely in this interchange, as we took Hamlet's place, he ours; as we entered his interior space, he ours (and Ophelia his, and Laertes hers...)

Even more striking in this production is its incorporation of four brilliantly absurd scenes (the father's ghost is represented as a talking car--shades of The Love Bug!; Hamlet lounges, watching Lawrence Olivier play himself on the big screen; the king's scene of "purification" is enacted not at prayer, but on the (bathroom) "throne"; and the final duel is represented as a paper fight). Being presented such laughter-inducing scenes in alteration w/ those of high drama--even melodrama--w/ actors in black or white, framed in the casement windows or on the ramparts of Goodhart, lit from below....has, in this context, clinical implications: Among other things, what it suggests is that various of the semi-independent components of the unconscious may represent the world differently--and not experience these representations as being in conflict. Immersing oneself in a play which highlights this sort of fragmented representation is very good practice for understanding how one's own brain works . . . If what Dorothea calls "not well-exercised brains" can get stuck in "ruts" that they have difficulties getting out of, access to all the incoherence of one's rich unconscious might actually help w/ the unsticking, by offering some surprising alternatives? Perhaps if we get too caught up in being coherent it also inhibits our ability to hear the range of ways in which each of us represents the world to ourselves?

You can still experience this: Nov. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 p.m. in and around Goodhart Hall, Bryn Mawr College.

"war of neuroscience and psychanalysis
Name: Dorothea L
Date: 2003-11-16 20:30:51
Link to this Comment: 7275

It seems dangerous to me to take the fact that people with mental illnesses show visible differences in their brains as a "victory" of "neuroscience" over "psychoanalysis": our bodies, including our brains are much more changeable than we had assumed just some years past. We have learned that we have to vary exercise routines (cross training) because our bodies respond very closely to the sepcific demands of our routine. We also know from normal childhood development about the pruning of neural connections that are not used in a child's particular environment. The observed fairly pervasive atrophy in brains of people with chronic mental illness can therefore be as much a consequence of the illness as a cause, and it is not necessarily irreversible, as studies on people who gradually recovered from brain trauma, show.
What I would really like to see is longitudinal studies of analytic sessions where both the brain activity of the analyst and the client is recorded, to look for patterns of convergences in measures of arousal and location of major activity, based on Pally's idea (It is a chracterisgtc of mammalian brains that they develop in coorinated systems with other brains. Just as neurotransmitters carry the stimulus "message" accross the synapse to activate the adjacent neuron, non-verbal behaviors (and in humans probably words) cross the gap between one brain to activate another brain" p.13 of "The Mind-Brain Relationship") I would expect that over time the client's brain would show more "normal" pattern of activity. Free association could be seen as the ultimate mental cross-training exercise.

patterns of convergence
Name: Andrea Fri
Date: 2003-11-16 22:55:10
Link to this Comment: 7279

Dorothea writes (above), "I would expect that over time the client's brain would show more "normal" pattern of activity." I wonder... perhaps over time the analyst's brain would show more "abnormal" patterns of activity...

a conversation of gestures
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-17 10:33:49
Link to this Comment: 7286

Like Andrea, I like imagining that my free-associating is stirring up all sorts of *new* (=abnormal?) activity in the mind of my analyst....that being willing to change--and the process of changing-- is going on in both brains, is bi-directional, (and UNlike the dogfight I describe elsewhere, is) a "conversation of gestures" that enables each of us to bring to the forefront and accentuate what is productive and life-affirming in ourselves...

Speaking of which: I have just come across an article in the 10/24/03 Chronicle of Higher Education: "Nightmare Scenarios; Some scholars say that science can make psychotherapy more effective, while many clinicians insist that therapy is more art than science." It plays through many of the questions we've been discussing above (w/ lots of mud-slinging, lots of defending-the-guild and blaming-the-other guy, and) w/ a particular emphasis on matters of assessment and "quality control": does science help or impede psychology in evaluating the efficacy of various forms of therapy? A link to the article won't work (unless you subscribe to the Chronicle), but I'm happy to e-mail a copy to anyone who's interested--


Name: Dorothea L
Date: 2003-11-17 11:37:07
Link to this Comment: 7289

Thank you for the correction to my earlier comment.
When I wrote expecting a change in the client's brain activity to more "normal" patterns what I really had in mind was to a more diversified and "richer" activity. Ihe point is well taken that this may not be "normal" in a statistical sense, and even likely, if we consider the old Rorschach results (both unusually advanced and mentally ill people give "unusual" responses to the cards, but the advanced ones can make the tester understand what they see). In this context, a change in the analyst's brain away from "normal" is desirable.

on nurturing genius
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-21 08:38:22
Link to this Comment: 7360

With friends last night, I attended a "salon on medicine and the arts" sponsored by the College of Physicians in Philadelphia: it included a talk by Emanuel Garcia (a psychoanalyst and consulting psychiatrist for the Curtis Institute) on "suffering and creativity in talent and genius." Dr. Garcia used the contrasting cases of Rachmaninoff and Scriabin to explore what enables/dis-ables genius. Talking over the talk afterwards gave me a lot to think about: both "where brightness comes from" (a certain rapid rate of neurons firing, that one is born w/?) and "how it can be nurtured into accomplishment" (a certain richness of environment? Dr. Garcia spoke about "optimal stimulation." Is this where education can play a role? where psychoanalysis can?) Then, this morning, my father sent me a poem which insists that persistence is the key (he attributed it to Calvin Coolidge):

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

So: does accomplishment come from some optimal intersection of brightness (a certain liveliness, a tendency to be easily distracted/intrigued/enlivened/engaged by bright objects) and a rich environment? Can the environment be TOO rich? Is there a certain "exclusion of distraction," a insistence on refusing over-stimulation (I got that idea from Susan Levine) that needs to come into play? If so, is persistence, like "brightness," a given? (So that the best gift would be the intersection of those two axes? Rachmaninoff, for instance, regretted "chasing three hares--conducting, playing and composing"--rather than focusing on one and so "catching" it.) Or can one learn/be trained (through education, through psychoanalysis) to persist? To construct a persistent self?

What does the unconscious value?
Name: Elio Fratt
Date: 2003-11-25 05:40:36
Link to this Comment: 7390

It is hard to reconcile the idea of values with the idea of neurons without the intervention of some mystical entity like consciousness (even if we prefer not to acknowledge its mystical nature, we seem to think we need it to account for the "higher" elements of human experience).
Nevertheless, it is quite clear to me from my own experience as a patient and from my patients' experiences that there are indeed unconscious values. Take Hamlet, for instance. Nowhere in the play does he express the conscious value that cold-blooded murder is always wrong. Yet that value is what puts him into a state of depression, by opposing his reigning conscious and cultural value of revenge. (Of course this is a matter of interpretation but I think there is some excellent evidence that Shakespeare agreed with my interpretation).
Many people get into psychotherapy/psychoanalysis because they are not in touch with their True Self and therefore feel themselves to be missing something vital. They are, because their True Self is unconscious. They are living a False-Self life of false compliance with other people's needs and values (like Hamlet trying to comply with the warrior code of his father when it goes against his deepest grain). When they re-connect with their True Self thru therapy they often discover, among other things, that it is a spiritual experience.
One need only look around at the world we live in to realize that for most people (like our president, like Tony Soprano) true spiritual values are either missing completely or are unconscious.
This phenomenon violates the assumptions of both neuroscience and psychoanalysis, but that doesn't stop it from existing.
So there is more heaven as well as earth in our unconscious than is dreamed of in our value-free theories Horatio.


Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-01 16:10:41
Link to this Comment: 7417

The Winter 2003 edition of the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, which highlights the life of Katharine Hepburn, mentions her biography, Me: "an often poignant book of stories about the life behind her performing personality, which she called 'The Creature,' and her 'real self,' whom she named 'The Private Secretary.'"

This forms, I think, a VERY interesting variant on the true-self/false-self distinction that Elio describes above, when he observes that "their True Self is unconscious. They are living a False-Self life of false compliance with other people's needs and values (like Hamlet trying to comply with the warrior code of his father when it goes against his deepest grain)."

See the turn? In Elio's formulation, the true self is unconscious; in Hepburn's, the real self is the conscious one. For Hamlet (per Elio), social compliance involves the conscious creation of a false self; for an actor playing Hamlet (following Hepburn, perhaps?), if acting out of the unconscious is a performative act of the false self, then deliberative consciousness is what is "true."

I think we need to get rid of "true and false" and go back to neurons. They either fire or they don't. Are on or off. (On stage or off?)

True-Self/False-Self Redux
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-01 16:11:26
Link to this Comment: 7418

The Winter 2003 edition of the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, which highlights the life of Katharine Hepburn, mentions her biography, Me: "an often poignant book of stories about the life behind her performing personality, which she called 'The Creature,' and her 'real self,' whom she named 'The Private Secretary.'"

This forms, I think, a VERY interesting variant on the true-self/false-self distinction that Elio describes above, when he observes that "their True Self is unconscious. They are living a False-Self life of false compliance with other people's needs and values (like Hamlet trying to comply with the warrior code of his father when it goes against his deepest grain)."

See the turn? In Elio's formulation, the true self is unconscious; in Hepburn's, the real self is the conscious one. For Hamlet (per Elio), social compliance involves the conscious creation of a false self; for an actor playing Hamlet (following Hepburn, perhaps?), if acting out of the unconscious is a performative act of the false self, then deliberative consciousness is what is "true."

I think we need to get rid of "true and false" and go back to neurons. They either fire or they don't. Are on or off. (On stage or off?)

the disadvantages of language
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-06 10:31:35
Link to this Comment: 7475

I've just finished Susan Levine's book, Useful Servants: Psychodynamic Approaches to Clinical Practice, which traces--among a wealth of psychoanalytic orientations--one that might be of particular interest to those of us still thinking about "true" and "false" selves. It's the theory of Daniel Stern:

while the advantages of being able to use language are rather obvious, the disadvantages are less so....Since emergent, core and subjective senses of relatedness cannot adequately be translated into...vocabulary, much of this rich experiential material begins to go unheeded. Stern describes the tendency for parents to grant primacy to verbal expressions, and not to pay equal attention to accompanying nonverbal communications. He believes that this encourages childrent to deny to themselves the existence of the (sometimes) contrary other senses of self. One of the consequences of this inevitable division into the accountable and the deniable is that what is deniable to others becomes more and more deniable to oneself....With the advent of language...some behaviors come to have a privileged status with regard to one having to own them...."experiences in the other domains suffer an alienation"...the seriousness often observed in children [between 15 and18 months] results from their sense of losing access to a great part of their experiencing of the world....The domanince of verbal relatedness can facilitate the development of a false self, as some self-experiences are acknowledged and rewarded; what is left out of verbal experience, what is left unsaid or unthought is critical.

This might fill out a little why (as hypothesized above) actors, who act out of the unconscious, may have a different sense than the rest of us about what aspect of self is false, what true.

Anyhow, it's clearly time for me to stop thinking (or @ least talking) so much. Before I do, readers of this forum may also find an interest in an entirely other (economic) description of the psychic life...

bridging ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-12-30 15:33:56
Link to this Comment: 7582

Its encouraging and stimulating to see the range of discussion since October. And while I haven't posted myself in a while, I have been very much learning from/appreciating the various postings. In testimony to which Making the Unconscious Conscious, and Vice Versa:
A Bi-directional Bridge Between Neuroscience/Cognitive Science and Psychotherapy?
Its a working draft of an article, very much of/from our forum and the earlier panel discussion. And very much with the notion that there can INDEED be a mutually beneficial conversation between psychotherapists and neuroscientists .... even suggesting one direction such a conversation might take.

Hope others will find the article at least intriguing. Pleased to hear, here or by email, any comments/suggestions. And thanks to all for the kind of rich discussion withoiut which I wouldn't have had the grist or the daring to try and write it.

this "appetite to be UNlike oneself..."
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-31 08:39:22
Link to this Comment: 7583

My daughter Lily will be taking a course on the "Talking Cure" @ Sarah Lawrence College this spring. In preparation, she's now reading Janet Malcolm's 1980 book, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession. (Understandably!) intrigued, I picked it up (okay, snatched it away) and found there a description of this process which is very different from the one we've been exploring here together over the past two months...

In Malcolm's account, psychoanalysis has a "tragic character" (102), is "unhealthy work" (113): "implicit in even the most avant-garde position is a belief in its ...curious curing suffering with suffering. To do its profound and searing work on the soul, analysis must be an ordeal. ('Cruel though it may sound, we must see to it that the patients' suffering...does not come to an end prematurely,' Freud wrote)" (126).

What seems to me most tragic, in Malcolm's story of psychoanalysis, is its insistence on the deterministic character of infantile experience: "the concept of transference...explains why personal relations are tragic: we cannot know each other. We must grope around for each other through a dense thicket of absent others. We cannot see each other plain. A horrible kind of predestination hovers over each new attachment we form."

If this is what is going on, I can't go on w/ analysis (hey: I can't go on w/ living). Fortunately, I've just found a useful alternative account in Adam Phillips' "Making the Case: Freud's Literary Engagements," which was published in Profession 2003 (a yearly year-end publication of the Modern Langauge Association). (Phillips' several works on psychoanalysis have been for me marvelous guides to the process; I'm especially fond of his On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life ). In this latest piece, Phillips highlights the ways in which analysis brings to light and fears what it reveals: the "unfathomable singularity, the delirium of idiosyncrasy" of both patients and their analysts. Patients' resistance to free assocation expresses their own "anxiety of uniqueness"; analysts' inclinations to "stop the associations," to make of them a "coherent" story, constitute similar "defensive operations." Even Freud's resistence to admitting that his case histories were short stories was a related desire for and fear of the "special case," a reluctance to acknowledge that "psychoanalysis is a science with no examples, w/ nothing that can really be replicated."

What interests me--and makes me hopeful--in all of this is what (Phillips says) so fascinated Freud: that our "love of likenesses, the craving for identification" was "always a repressed acknowledgement of difference." That this "appetite to be unlike the self one takes oneself to be" is "so specific, so picky," is to me a delight--because then Freud's theory of transference, his "invention of a treatment organized around our need to reinvent figures from the past" ceases to follow Malcolm's tragic script and becomes instead the sort of joyful opening Paul gestures toward (far) above when he describes a "search for coherence which may oppose/inhibit other kinds of gratification," and more recently as "daring enough to listen and be affected," both by others' stories and by those told by (one part of to another part of) the self.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-03-14 15:15:34
Link to this Comment: 8735

Things seem to have slowed down a bit here in the forum. Conversational ebb and flow, here as elsewhere.

Thinking though is continuing, so a few things that derive fairly directly from the things earlier said here:

Thoughts on/deriving from any/all of the above more than welcome here.

Neuroanatomy: Can it Help Cure? Can it Help Care?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-03-17 03:31:55
Link to this Comment: 8846

Okay, I'll bite. I read your paper, Joe, and found what I read interesting. I was particularly intrigued by the response you offered to the confusion Anneliese expressed in this forum months ago: can the unconscious comfortably hold two (or more) 'conflicting' notions at once, or are such differences at the unconscious level always distressing? Paul responded @ the time by suggesting that the most appropriate, riskiest and challenging adjudication, in the latter case, might be trying to alter one or more of the conflicting components of the unconscious...but you offer another possibility:

giving the patient the "alternative of seeing both positions, the reasons for shifting from one to the other, and the associated affects as elements of an anachronistic, pathogenic residue. He will then have the option of striving to deal with the situation from the perspective of mature reason and judgment."

So...I'm still wondering: How does one alter (clean up?) that residue? How does replacing the old Freudian structural model of the brain (id, ego, superego) with your new bipartite schema (ego and dynamic unconscious) enable analysts to help patients out of the "freeze frame" in which they find themselves (um: and which they may be invested in maintaining? and why might THAT be?) You say that identifying transference as a misperception gives the first model little explanatory power; but where, in the second formulation, lies the power to change those "indelible" and "inaccurate" perceptions of the unconscious?

And while I'm asking: I didn't understand your observation that "psychoanalysis may be a lengthy process" because the connections from the cortex to the amygdala (consciousness to the unconscious?) are "far weaker" than the connections from the amygdala to the cortex (the unconscious to consciousness?) These are DIFFERENT connections? A little more neuroanatomy, please...

and/or responses from other analysts about which model of the brain they use, and how useful they find it in their work with "the stickiness of the id."

Name: Joe Slap
Date: 2004-03-24 12:31:28
Link to this Comment: 8982

Dear Anne,
First, it is according to existing theory that transference is understood as displacement and projection and this has little explanatory value. According to the schema model transference is a misperception by the amygdala based system.

In children, teens, and younger adults the mind is more plastic, i.e. susceptible to change. Insight will often be able to dispose of the pathogenic residues and they will be able to play the violin again (as in the movies). More typical is a diminution of the disruptive power of the pathogenic residues, a shift in the balance of power to the rational ego from the pathogenic residues. The residues remain and may be stimulated by further traumata; thus they may indeed cause further episodes of mental disturbance.

The issue of the connections between the cortex and the amygdala is cited from LeDoux. He is not a mere popularizer of science. He holds a named chair in neuroscience at NYU, has published hundreds of articles in scientific journals and is the real deal. His book, "The Emotional Brain", is perhaps the most important book I have read in the past half-century. It is easily accessible to the intelligent layman both intellectually and at Borders/Barnes & Noble.

Analysts speak of the structural model (id,ego, and superego) in seminars and other official settings while in the privacy of their offices they think in terms of a bi-partite model analagous to the schema model. In the paper I cite Sandler as making this observation. Years ago I co-chaired a discussion group at the American Psychoanalytic Association with Syd Pulver; a Dr. Langerman presented clinical material. Only one of the twenty-odd participants organized this material in terms of the structural model. Under these circumstances we cannot discuss theory and make progress on the basis of our clinical experience. As it is we are frozen at the theory that existed at the time of Freud's death over sixty-five years ago.

Thank you for your interest.


From the Inside: Another Vote for Bedfellows
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-05-06 22:24:34
Link to this Comment: 9806

It's been a while since anyone's spoken in this forum....

I thought I might take the opportunity to comment here on a powerful talk Kay Redfield Jamison gave @ Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church on April 26, 2004; it included, among other things, a straightforward claim that psychoanalysis and neuroscience are-and-must-be bedfellows. Jamison spoke about her own experience of being bi-polar, a "very genetic illness" that is "biological in origin, psychiatric in experience," and quite treatable with a combition of medication and psychotherapy.

When asked whether it was possible to "have one episode only," she said that belonged to the "nice try school of questions": bipolarity is highly recurrent unless treated, and the odds are overwhelming that the initial episode will re-occur. Bipolarity is a notoriously diverse illness, and will--she predicted--eventually be identified as a collection of many illnesses. Until then, those who have the disease must take steps to protect themselves: when not floridly manic, for instance, to draw up legal papers to plan for your care when you are, and to insist that friends follow those instructions "against your will," if need be. (She mentioned, bemusedly, the connection between being a patient and being patient.)

For me, the most compelling part of Jamison's talk was her description of the support she received from her department chairs. "The first, @ UCLA said, 'I understand you are having trouble with your moods. Keep taking your medication. Then: Learn from it. Teach from it. Write from it.' He never said not to keep competing." Later, when she was at Johns Hopkins, she spoke to her chair about her concern that her new book would cause trouble for the school, make it legally liable for malpractice. He responded, "If Hopkins can't protect you and your patients, can't do that for you, it has no business being in business."

I was reminded by both of these comments how important it is (particularly for physicians, who are notoriously reluctant to make their own illnesses public) to be open about mental illness. I was also reminded of the value of diversity more generally, and about how very important is institutional support for diverse ways of being in the world (something we've been discussing @ length in the past year's Conversations About Making Sense of Diversity at Bryn Mawr, and which the final scene of A Beautiful Mind also clearly demonstrates: that Princeton valued John Nash's contributions enough to help him judge what was real, what not, and so function within the framework of that support....

Jamison was also very vivid in her description of the great pleasure--euphoria even--of mania, which in its early phases is literally addictive--so it's hard to get treatment, to convince people "who feel so good that they feel bad." (Bipolarity also has a markedly elevated rate in creative people.) Jamison's upcoming book, Exuberance ("not as far from despair as we'd like") draws on such experiences.

Jamison also described the profound questioning of self that comes with the mood swings of bi-polarity: moods are so essential to our sense of self, and what comes w/ the medication which levels them out is "a horrible sense of loss for who I was and where I had been:" which me is me? what is the reality of any feeling? how much of our feelings "take their color from underground"? Also: how "contagious" moods are--are intended to be, for us as social animals.

If this account is of interest to you, you might also be interested in the Mental Health site on Serendip, which has a particularly helpful section called "From the Inside," written by people experiencing and addressing mental health issues in their own lives and in the lives of their family and friends. Anyone still reading may find the sub-section on Bipolarity of particular interest.

mental suggestion
Name: adrian
Date: 2004-11-19 10:18:28
Link to this Comment: 11673

For a while I am
trying to find more info on the subject of telepathic
hypnosis, I mean the scientific experiments of course.
Reading an article by Charles Tart,
I found out about telepathic trials done at the end of
the last century by Pierre Janet and other people.
In a series of experiments which Janet reported some
months after his early work, Leone, his highly trained
telepathic subject, was not only repeatedly hypnotized
at a distance in the presence of several lay and
medical witnesses, but was also made to carry out
post- hypnotic commands mentally given. Of 21 trials
done over a period of days, and distances of at least
500 meters, no less than 16 were judged a compete
success. The times for the trials were randomly
chosen. All trials in which Leone was not found in
deep trance when the investigators entered her
house, or when the trance did not follow the mental
suggestion within a quarter of an hour, were counted
as failures. During this entire period,
Leone fell into only two trances which were considered
spontaneous and outside the experimental program.
Another time when she had been incompletely awakened
from a previous cataleptic state and had done nothing
but doze in the intervening two hours, the post
hypnotic commands which were successfully carried out
were simple acts, such as going into another room and
lighting the lamp in broad daylight. In other words,
they were not the sort of things that would happen
spontaneously. Evaluating these results, Janet wrote,
"Are we to imagine that on 16 occasions there was a
rather exact coincidence?
Such a supposition is a little unreasonable. Was there
at any time involuntary suggestion on our part? All I
can say, and I say this with utmost sincerity, is that
we took every possible precaution to avoid this."
The celebrated Leone was subsequently studied by
Charles Richet, professor of physiology at the faculty

of medicine of the University of Paris, and later a
Nobel Prize winner.
He successfully duplicated the results of Janet and
Gilbert. We have a very powerful phenomena here.
Besides those of Janet, four other papers
on telepathic hypnosis were read before the Society of
Physiological Psychology in the winter of 1885 and the
spring of 1886.
One could imagine that the writers of these reports
might have felt
something of the wild surmise of Cortez catching his
first breathtaking
view of the Pacific. They might have sensed that no
other studies they
were likely to pursue could possibly match in
importance the experiments
they had barely embarked upon. Would have starved, if
need be, to
continue such investigations that might have held the
key to profound
enigmas in biology, medicine, anthropology, sociology,
philosophy and other
riddle-wrapped subjects. But nothing like this
developed. Janet suddenly
found that the quirks of his hysterical patients at
the Salpetriere
presented a much more rewarding field of study, and
Richet returned to his
physiology and other types of psychic phenomena. Of
the others, history
does not tell.
Janet himself wrote, in 1925, by which time most
standard texts on
hypnotism no longer bothered to mention the telepathic
aspects at all,
"Such a decadence, so rapid a disappearance after such
high enthusiasm and such extensive developments is
certainly surprising." He confessed that he could no
longer quite understand how he came to get the results
he had reported in 1886. And although he did not
flatly disavow what he had reported in good faith at
the time, it's clear that inwardly he had the
greatest difficulty believing that such things had
happened. It was like a dim and distant dream, or a
childhood memory which was no longer

I would like to know your opinion on this subject, please.


greetings - 31 march 2005
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-03-30 17:25:36
Link to this Comment: 14168

Welcome. This is a place for public informal conversation related to, among other things, Looking to the Brain for Psychotherapeutic Insights and to Psychotherapy for Insights into the Brain: Notes for a New Story, a presentation and discussion at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia on 31 March 2005. The hope is that greater open discussion of matters at the neuroscience/psychotherapy interface can/will generate useful ideas productive in both realms as well as in creating greater interaction between them in the future. And the idea is that we can all benefit from a greater use of thoughts-in-progress. So leave yours, for whatever use they might be to others. And see what other people are thinking, for whatever use it might be to you. And stop by again, anytime, with further ideas/thoughts. If you click on "Keep Me Posted" and leave your email address, you'll get an email on any evening when a new posting has appeared here.

This forum actually originated in the fall of 2003, in association with a panel discussion titled "Pschoanalysis and Neuroscience: Enemies, Acquaintances, Bedfellows. If you're interested in seeing postings in the forum prior to this one, click here to see the entire set of forum postings (with this section at the end).

8 April 2005
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-04-07 15:20:45
Link to this Comment: 14373

Welcome. This is a place for public informal conversation related to, among other things, The Relevance of the Brain for Psychotherapy (and Vice Versa), With Particular Reference to Human Development, a presentation and discussion at the 2005 Conference on "Issues and Challenges in Child and Adolescent Mental Health" held at the Bryn Mawr College School of Social Work and Social Research. The hope is that greater open discussion of matters at the neuroscience/psychotherapy/social work interface can/will generate useful ideas productive in each realm as well as in creating greater interaction among them in the future. And the idea is that we can all benefit from a greater use of thoughts-in-progress. So leave yours, for whatever use they might be to others. And see what other people are thinking, for whatever use it might be to you. And stop by again, anytime, with further ideas/thoughts. If you click on "Keep Me Posted" and leave your email address, you'll get an email on any evening when a new posting has appeared here.

This forum actually originated in the fall of 2003, in association with a panel discussion titled "Pschoanalysis and Neuroscience: Enemies, Acquaintances, Bedfellows. If you're interested in seeing postings in the forum prior to this one, click here to see the entire set of forum postings (with this section at the end).

psychoanalysis and neuroscience
Name: paul goldb
Date: 2005-04-11 20:25:53
Link to this Comment: 14472

Greetings. My name is Paul Goldberg. I'm an internist from Lawrenceville NJ and also a graduate of the Philadelphia psychotherapy training program. I was delighted to attend the March 31 meeting- 'psychoanalysis and neuroscience' and found the presentation and discussion very exciting. As one struggling to understand the connection between psychoanalysis and neuroscience, the evening brought up some questions which I would like to pose to Dr Grobstein. I hope my recollection of your comments is fairly accurate.
I. When you say the mind and self are "material entities" I presume this is a response to the 'error' of Cartesian dualism that is, the idea that the mind is in fact not a physical or material substance but something else again. Does your saying that mind is a material entity include the concept of mind as a process or a propery of the brain? I understand this to be the way some think of the nature of the mind. We spoke about the mind mostly from the perspective of third person observers. Does your theory of the connection between neuroscience and psychnoanalysis attempt to resolve or at least address the problems which arise when considering the relation between third person obvservation of and first person access to the mind?
II. In considering the nature of the psychodynamic unconscious, you raised the question of the necessity of a distinction between neurobiological and psychodynamic unconscious. I believe you implied the possibility of inclusion in the psychodynamic unconscious of neurobiological content which had never been conscious as opposed to content which was at one point conscious but had been repressed and subsquently, ordinarily inacessible to consciousness (perhaps the 'standard view' of psychoanalysis). If one assumes that it is possible (for instance as part of the psychotherapy process)to develop in some way an awareness of usually inacessible contents of the psychodynamic unconscious then this implies one can become aware of these derivaties of neurobiological content. Perhaps these contents might include such things as derivatives of instinctual drives. I presume these drives are part of subcortical functioning. Are you saying here that one can in some fashion become aware of one's own subcortical functioning? This may be only stating the obvious but it's a remarkable and wonderful idea to me.
III. Regarding the bipartite brain: You seemed to imply that if one has a neocortex then one is necessaily conscious. While it seems that consciousness gives an evolutionary advantage, very sophisticated adaptive behaviors could be/are present without consciousness necessarily being present. Could one tell stories (I presume you mean story telling here to be a brain/mind rather than an exclusively verbal activity) without conscious awareness- perhaps I mean here without reflexive awareness of self. Couldn't there be story telling without an 'agent'. What about your example of a drunk? You said evidence implies he or she is not conscious when they are rip-roaring drunk. Wouldn't you agree any verbal story telling which might go on when a person is in this state reflects some form of concomitant mental story telling? If so, then we have story telling without an agent- story telling without a story teller. I would say that in your discussion of the 'bipartite brain' you haven't proven (at least as far as I've taken your discussion here)the necessity of consciousness.
I hope my questions are useful in generating discussion but at any rate if Dr Grobstien could respond it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

continuing the conversation(s)
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-04-13 19:05:22
Link to this Comment: 14557

Pleased to have Paul Goldberg join in; more than happy to see what new places my responses to his questions might take us all.

Re I ... Yes, do think "Cartesian dualism" was an "error" (see Writing Descartes), ie that presuming a mind/matter dichotomy is proving less useful, in a number of different ways, than presuming that mind is actually organized matter. Spatially and temporally organized matter, so yes, is process. And with full appreciation of the third person/first person issue. The "story" (internal experience) is necessarily and inevitably "private"; the best an observer can do is to make inferences (create a story) about it from combinations of third person observations and personal skill (eg self-awareness, empathy, counter transference, etc). Since this is actually the best we can do about ANYTHING, whether it actually has itself a first person experience or not (cf Science As Story Telling and Story Revising), I regard the need to infer first person from third person observations as an interesting challenge but not at all a reason to question the usefulness of thinking in this direction.

Re 2 ... Glad you like the idea. Yes, indeed, I am saying that "one can in some fashion become aware of one's own subcortical functioning". Probably in lots of fashions, in fact. Perhaps even more interestingly, I'm inclined to argue that having become aware of them one is, if one chooses, frequently in a position to be able to alter them ("I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am"). Obviously, this idea is a not unfamiliar one as it pertains to the "psychodynamic unconscious", though the question of how it actually changes has to my knowledge remained something of a contentious area. In the bipartite brain story, it is not that the psychodynamic unconscious contains elements of the neurobiological unconscious (eg "instinctual drives") but rather that the psychodynamic unconscious is a (relatively small) part of the neurobiological unconscious. From which it follows that the basic mechanisms of change of the psychodynamic unconscious are pretty much the same as those of the larger neurobiological unconscious. "Stories" themselves can produce some changes there but the system is primarily responsive to changes resulting from active experiences.

Re 3 ... Yes, "very sophisticated adaptive behaviors" demonstrably can (and do) occur without consciousness/neocortex. And the issue of "verbal story telling" and its relation to consciousness/neocortex is a very interesting one, well deserving of further exploration. Its not only people who are quite drunk but also sleepwalkers, some observations on hypnotic phenomena, and things like "speaking in tongues" that imply that some language capability (both comprenhension and production) is within the capabilities of the unconscious. Consciousness as "story teller" refers not to this but rather to the production of a personal story, ie of internal experience, a coherent representation of one's own existence), which it seems may occur without language and may be absent despite production of language.

I'm not inclined to try and prove "the necessity of consciousness" in any evolutionary sense. Lots of animals do perfectly well without it, and we ourselves do many things better without it (its not the existence of neocortex but whether it "off" or "on" that creates consciousness and for many situations we function better with it "off"). Like with other evolutionary products, the issue of neocortex/consciousness is not evolutionary "advantage" but rather "difference" and what the difference is. There wasn't much about this in my talk but I've been working on some relevant thoughts in other realms. Basically, neocortex/consciousness gives organisms who have it the capacity to create distinctively organized (coherent) alternate representations of themselves and their experiences, which in turn facilitates exploration.

Hope these thoughts contribute to the conversation. Thanks to Paul Goldberg for the questions that prompted them.

dipping my foot
Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2005-05-11 22:40:43
Link to this Comment: 15126

Hi, my name is Ken Fogel, I am a psychologist in Chicago, and I stumbled upon this site in my travels to find material relating neuro-stuff to therapy-stuff (I would be more specific, but you can fill in the "stuff" with whatever you see fit).

Before I say anything further, I must admit that I only skimmed through the past few years of postings to get a flavor of the discussion (hence the title of this post), so please forgive me for repeating something or "stealing someone's material" I wish I had more time to "jump into the pool" with you guys.

My mind has been broadening exponentially over the past few weeks, and it was pretty broad before (more like a jack-of-all-degrees), since I blend therapy, physiology, language/metaphor, imagery, spirituality, and psychodynamics in my work with clients.

I am currently completing a course in dreams that examines the topic in wide lens fashion, and it inevitably calls into question the whole idea of consciousness and its associated thorns. I HIGHLY recommend the book "The Dreaming Universe" by Fred Alan Wolf. the unofficial text of this course, as he blends the above lines of thinking with some additional flavors: quantum physics, anthropology, and "mystical" experiences. His writing style is somewhat circuitous, but then again, so is the subject...

I also recommend checking out a website I discovered today called NeuroQuantology: THIS is the future!

A few additional tidbits: I really appreciated Dorothea's inclusion of Gestalt psychology into the mix, since this is virtually always neglected; check out Von Bertalanffy's "The Primacy of the Abstract" for some additional philosophical spice; and, it's been a while for me but, Brentano's concept of intentionality, and the paradox of connecting the concrete with the abstract (can it be done?)

I apologize again for the apparent unceremonious blundering into the fold, but I was very excited by the material and felt the need to blurt before I forgot

Ken Fogel

continuing ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-05-18 17:35:51
Link to this Comment: 15217

Glad to have Ken drop by. There is no "blundering into the fold" here, so no apologies needed. Is in everybody's interests to have interested/interesting people join in.

Along which lines, I had an interesting conversation the other day with two Philadelphia area psychoanalysts I've been sharing thoughts with every month or so and who played no small role in some of the thinking outlined in The Relevance of the Brain for Psychotherapy and Looking to the Brain for Psychotherapeutic Insights and to Psychotherapy for Insights into the Brain. Among the interesting ideas that arose is the notion that "conflict" has several different explanations in the bipartite brain model. One involves "conflicts" between elements of the unconscious; another involves "conflicts" between one or another element of the unconscious and the "story teller". The very subtle issue that arose from this has to do with whether ALL conflict necessary involves the story teller. My guess (for further thinking) is that it does, that psychodynamic conflict cannot exist without a "story teller" module. And that there may be some intriguing parallels worth exploring further between coherence as a psychodynamic concept and coherence as a neurophysiological one.

That issue carried over for me to several other conversations, including one on "emergence" as a general phenomenon. Here the idea arose that the story teller exists to adjudicate conflict between unconscious modules but also creates further conflict (ie "ambiguity/uncertainty"). And that in turn connected to several other conversations about the relative stability of the unconscious and how it can be "renovated", as well as about the relative stability of academic/social/family structures and how they can be renovated. In all cases, it is worth thinking about the degree to which mechanisms of coordination among modules of the unconscious may tend to stabilize those modules, ie constrain them to further development along a relatively narrow set of paths or canals (with high walls). What the story teller may provide (with or without outside assistance) is the capability to substantially lower those walls, so that a greater breadth of exploratory possibilities are made accessible. Also, I think, worth further exploration, in a number of different contexts.

Date: 2005-10-25 07:09:01
Link to this Comment: 16627

Hello, I'm student studying surf science, I have to write a psychology essay about jeff hakman (a 70's surfer who was a heroin addict), I have to "describe and evaluate theories of motivation and personality, and apply theories of motivation and personality. Sadly I have no clue how to do this, I wonder if any one familiar with psycho analysis could have a quick look through the article (link below) and tell if jeff hakman was like a neurotic extrovert stuck in his oral phase because of so and so, from that on I could build up an essay but I have no clue how to start.

Here is a link to a good article about him

please email me on
Thanks for your help,

Fake smells
Name: Larry
Date: 2005-10-27 20:01:05
Link to this Comment: 16672

This is going to sound crazy and i know it sounds crazy. From time to time there is this smell that I smell. The thing is I am totally aware that this smell only exist in my head. I'm not sure where it comes from but it isnt a pleasnt smell. I tell people about it and they look at me as if i'm crazy. I talked to a friend of mine who also said that this has happened to him on numerous occasions. The only drung I have ever done in my life is marijuana. So it's not like Ive fried my brain or anything and i'm also a Mech. Engineering student so i'm not an idiot and imagining it. Any ides about the topic would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to reply to this forum but please email me with any info. My name is Larry and my email addy is Thanks

Re: Fake Smells
Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2005-10-28 17:32:42
Link to this Comment: 16681

Well, I can think of several explanations off the top of my head, all of which have to do with cerebral "mishaps." One of the main ones is a simple partial seizure, brief and focused in a small area. I don't know much about the subject, but I know that people who have temporal lobe seizures sometimes smell burned rubber. Anyone else, please correct me if I am wrong.

Psychotherapy and neuroscience
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-09 17:06:01
Link to this Comment: 17576

Welcome to visitors from The Psychoanalyst and the Neurobiologist. Your thoughts are warmly welcomed here, as contributions to helping everyone think in new ways about the potentially valuable overlaps between different traditions.

This forum originated in association with a panel discussion called "Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience: Enemies, Acquaintances, Bedfellows? held at Bryn Mawr College in 2003. To see previous comments (with this and following ones at the end), click here. As it says as the beginning of the forum:

Like other forum areas on Serendip, this is a place for public informal conversation. Read what other people have to say, and leave your own thoughts and reactions for others. The idea is that thoughts in progress are important: everyone can learn from what other people are thinking and have their own thoughts changed by reading the thoughts of others. So relax, enjoy, and let's see what sense we can make of the relation between psychoanalysis and neuroscience, and what contributions we can make to others thinking about this and related matters. You can easily contribute to this forum by going to the end and clicking on the "Post A Comment" button. You can also easily keep up with the conversation by registering using this forum's Keep Me Posted feature which will send you an email on any day when a new posting has appeared here. And if you would like to make available longer materials in a different format, email me and will work out an arrangement for doing so. For previous participants in this forum, consider this an announcement of some interesting new materials for and participants in our conversation. Looking forward to seeing what new understandings and stories we generate together.

when you come to a fork, take it
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-09 18:34:21
Link to this Comment: 17578

Hi, Elio, hi, Paul--

There was an interview in the New York Times last week (1/7/06) with Albert Hoffmann, the chemist who synthesized (and himself experimented w/) LSD: "He said any natural scientist who was not a mystic was not a real natural scientist. 'Outside is pure energy and colorless substance,' he said. 'All of the rest happens through the mechanism of our senses. Our eyes see just a small fraction of the light in the world. It is a trick to make a colored world, which does not exist outside of human beings.'"

Reading, just now, your parallel reflections/strikingly different takes on your experiences of the "oceanic feeling" put me in mind of Hoffmann's insistance that the mystical IS the natural. Apparently, Elio tells a story of connection w/ what is without ("an opening to something else"), while Paul describes a tale of unity with what is within ("fundamentally rooted in the brain"). The language Elio uses to give his account of the "oceanic" is "mystical," while Paul's is "material"...but Hoffmann's story, above (along with a similar series of postings, last fall, in the science and spirit forum, which ended with the suggestion that there is no real distinction between spirituality and animality) makes me think that what we are hearing here are simply differences in angles of perception (reflected in different language use), rather than accounts of fundamentally different experiences....

You've both raised some other questions for me. Paul, I want to know how story "helps to make sense of transference as an important construct"--and how you see Freud's denial of ever having had an "oceanic feeling" as a possible index to his inability to resolve conflict. Elio, I want to know more about how expressing emotion might be "a way of avoiding feeling as opposed to being fully conscious" (I'm @ work now preparing a course about the role of emotion in the experience of reading, so understanding what you are saying could be very helpful to me...)

In preparation for this course, I've been re-reading the transcendentalists, the 19th century philosophers (influenced both by democratic ideals and Buddhism), who draw so heavily on Kant's arguments about "native spontaneity" and "intuitions of the mind." Emerson (the great spokesman for transcendentalism) advocated reliance on direct experience--and the independence of mind to discover it. He believed in the "beyond that was within," in the divinity of each individual. What I'm not seeing, though, is an acknowledgement of inevitable (and highly cultivate-able) revisability...

The first message in Quaker Meeting yesterday morning was, "We are all broken. We are all whole. And you have to have it both ways." The last one was, "When you come to the fork in the road, take it." I heard these as paired reminders of the inevitability of doubt and conflict in our lives, and of their potential productivity: we CAN make a whole out of what is only partial (i.e.: experience the oceanic feeling). But only temporarily. Soon we have to move on, to chose one path or 'nother....

Thanks, guys, for getting this conversation going again.

response to Anne Dalke
Name: Elio Fratt
Date: 2006-01-10 13:50:13
Link to this Comment: 17583

Hi Anne, thanks for joining us.
About the mysticism of the oceanic feeling, I don't think of it as connecting with something outside. I think of it as connecting with something that is both inside and outside in such a way that the distinction between the two evaporates, at least momentarily. But of course the inside something is experiential -- an awareness -- rather than neurological.

About how expressing feelings can actually be a way of avoiding feelings: I'm talking about a cathartic expression of feeling, which to the listener can often feel like the feelings are being dumped rather than communicated. From the perspective of the person doing the expressing, a cathartic "getting the feelings out" is often expressive of an inner urgency, actually a need to get rid of a feeling that is disturbing because it is too uncomfortable to sit with the feeling and allow oneself to feel it fully.
Feelings that are expressed in this way tend to provoke counter-reactions in other people and thus become a form of interpersonal action rather than a form of communicating.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-11 12:08:17
Link to this Comment: 17593

Elio's latest in "The Psychoanalyst and the Neurobiologist". Including further thoughts about "oceanic feelings" and a link to a relevant excerpt from his book.

Mystical experiences in therapy
Name: Judie McCo
Date: 2006-01-13 18:51:42
Link to this Comment: 17614

So, since Paul invited us to join this discussion- I'm going to throw in my own 2 cents. It is interesting to me that the word mystical keeps being thrown around. I find myself saying it to students in classes often. "Good social work can be mystical- your accurate and empathetic assessment can turn into the client feeling understood and cared for and in a safe holding environment in some mystical way without you spelling it all out to the client"- (yes, I really did say that incredibly run on, grammatically -attackable sentence in class- a student I had at that time transcribed every word!!). In social work, we also talk about parallel process a lot. It's the idea that whatever is going on between a SWr and client starts to play out in the supervisory relationship; or alternatively, the things going on in the client's life start to play out dynamically in the SWr's life. This differs from transference where the client's dynamics (eg. distrusting male authority figures due to troubles with Oedipal issues)emerge within the relationship between client and therapist, but is more "in-the-life"- it can even be as simplistic as having a client who is drinking too much in certain patterns and all of the sudden realizing that ("mystically") you (the therapist)are engaging in similar behaviors.

I don't believe this is purely neural- or "brainal" as my 13 year old described something today)(sorry, Paul). I'm not sure I really have a good theory about what it IS- but I do believe that it somehow is a form of deep communication that occurs without words, or consciousness often.

When Paul brings IVY back into the mix, I don't equate that with the oceanic feeling that I view a little more like Elio (excuse the informality- hope it's ok) describes. I guess, to me, oceanic is the feeling of oneness and connectedness with the universe while also feeling such a tiny part of it. Ivy, on the other hand, is very specific to a specific individual or group at a specific time. There have been times in GIF that I've felt something move- beyond understanding; beyond even empathic understanding- a sympatico; better than being on the "same page". I believe at one point in one of our meetings, it was compared to good sex. In any case, it seems to me that this form of connectedness is only experienced in the presence of a deep caring & safety with a sense that the person with whom one is experiencing ivy can almost read one's mind or intuit the experience of one's life. Of course in psychodynamic circles, we pathologize that feeling and call it merger. (This is the place where I'd link back to the conversation on the Merger article and Lesbianism that we read for GIF Summer 2004- but I don't have that HTML thing down yet). But I think it can exist without being pathological and I think it may explain some of the "spiritual" nature Elio is referring to. I believe it has a lot to do with doing good therapy- creating conditions where it occurs and truly engaging in- and being affected by- the clients' ways of being in the world. Anyway, for 2 cents- you got $2. :)

the mystical/the ignorant?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-14 22:18:47
Link to this Comment: 17620

The reference you wanted, Judie, was to

Julie Mencher, "Intimacy in Lesbian Relationship: A Critical Reexamination of Fusion" (in Women's Growth in Diversity: More Writings from the Stone Center. Ed. J.V. Gordon. New York, Guilford, 1997. 311-330) You'll find responses to our discussion of the essay @ Women's Ways of Loving and following....

where the observations are, I think, interestingly a propos of the current discussion. The essay challenges conventional notions of fusion as pathological (and along with it the conventional advice of analysts, who tell patients to maintain individual boundaries by creating "elements of secrecy and mystery," in order to protect themselves from "uncontrolled intimacy,"or "sustained fusion"). Shades of Judie's celebration of the mystical, above.

And time, I think, for a little exercise in etymology:
Science comes from "scire"--to KNOW.
Religion comes from "religio-" to BIND, to be obliged.
Mysticism comes from "muo"--to close the eyes or lips.

If the "oceanic" can only be earned by ignorance--
Myself? I pick the knowing any time.

on the "oceanic feeling"
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-15 09:54:58
Link to this Comment: 17622

Delighted to have a clinical social worker in the conversation. Judie is on the faculty of the Rutgers School of Social Work (and Vice-President of the National Association of Perinatal Social Workers). While completing a doctoral degree here at Bryn Mawr, Judie was also one of the organizers of the Graduate Idea Forum ("GIF" in Judie's post), a discussion group involving faculty and grad students that has been meeting for several years. The particular conversation Judie was referring to (I think) was one based on Carol Gilligan's The Birth of Pleasure in February/March 2004 (see "Story of a Story" and following postings the the GIF on line forum).

Judie's skepticism about "brainal" is, I suspect, not unrelated to Elio's "the inside something is experiential ... rather than neurological" and, if so, it establishes that some preference for a dualist approach to psychotherapeutic matters is not the exclusive province of either psychoanalysts or social workers. So be it. I'm content to see where we go with the things we're commonly interested in, and let the chips fall where they may on the broader questions.

Along those lines, I'm intrigued to find a neurobiologist (myself), a psychoanalyst, and a clinical social worker all commonly interested in trying to clarify the nature of the "oceanic experience", with a shared sense that that is relevant to psychotherapy (and the brain). And finding some common language ... "connecting with something that is both inside and outside in such a way that the distinction between the two evaporates" ... "the feeling of oneness and connectedness with the universe". What particularly strikes me is "a form of deep communication that occurs without words, or consciousness often".

My sense is that the professional traditions are such that it is easier (more common?) for clinical social workers to regard such a state as important/desirable ("can exist without being pathological") and, particularly, to conceive of such a state as existing as a component of a therapeutic relationship. Is that so? And if so, is the present conversation a potential line of development in bridging between the two communities? Given the increased acceptance of "counter-transference" as a significant feature of the analytic relationship?

For me, of course, the problem is to come up with a way to think about the "oceanic feeling" out of my experiences with the brain, one that has implications that might be useful in a therapeutic context whether one accepts the "brainal" starting point or not. And it was in that spirit that I offered the "absence of any experience of conflict ... no signals of mismatch" interpretation of the "oceanic feeling" with the notion that "absence of conflict can exist on the interpersonal level ... but ... also ... in terms of interactions between the self and the non-human world [and] simply within oneself ..." What intrigues me about this is not only giving the "oceanic feeling" some concreteness that would allow further exploration of it but also the idea that there may be some significant commonalities in the intra-psychic, inter-psychic, and human/universe realms, and hence that concerns and practices in each may be useful for the others.

I think I can come up with a way to account for the presence or absence of "mismatch" in neural terms ( "without words, or consciousness" is relevant), but that's not the point here. The question instead is whether, for people doing clinical work in various contexts and deriving from various different traditions, the notions of thinking of "oceanic feeling" in terms of the absence of conflict and as relevant in multiple realms are resonant/useful? And, if so, what additional directions of exploration of this idea seem productive? Is it the business of therapy to help people reach the "oceanic feeling"? Permanently? Temporarily? If not, what role does the "oceanic feeling" play in the clinical context? In what way, if any, is it relevant?

mystical/oceanic/no conflict
Name: Elio
Date: 2006-01-15 10:18:21
Link to this Comment: 17623

Hi Judie, nice to cyber-meet you. I agree with what I think is the gist of your message: that when you do the kind of work that involves connecting with people and you are open to the experience, you end up experiencing something that can only be described as mystical (because other words have consistently failed to describe it adequately so the word mystical had to be created to describe it). Anne, I don't know what you are referring to with your comments about ignorance but I'm curious. I don't equate mystical/oceanic with ignorance, just with an alternate way of knowing or kind of knowledge. Although the experience has indeed been described as "the cloud of unknowing." Paul, I think absence of conflict is a HIGHLY useful way of thinking about this experience. To all, I've been working on modifying my usual book-talk -- which centers on the importance of paying attention to disturbing emotions -- for an audience of Catholic priests working with addictions. Here's what I just wrote. I haven't edited it yet so any comments would be appreciated. It seems quite relevant to the current discussion. Is that synchronicity or is it me subtly imposing my agenda on everyone in sight? QUOTE: In fact, I believe that healing the soul through a process of inward attention is the proper goal of all human beings, and that both psychoanalysis and religion have something important to contribute. The contribution of religion is to call attention to the “higher power” at work within us and between us in the healing process. The contribution of psychoanalysis is to call attention to the role of emotions, particularly disturbing emotions. In practice it’s often difficult to separate the two. In my experience, the healing process seems to involve a higher power working through disturbing emotions. Although most of what I have to say about this comes from the non-religious experience and perspective of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, I see it as very much related to the religious theme of sin and grace as Paul Tillich talks about it in his sermon, “You are accepted.” Tillich describes sin as a state of separation or alienation from ourselves, from each other and from the Ground of Being; and grace as the experience of acceptance --- “the reunion of life with life, the reconciliation of the self with itself...the acceptance of that which is rejected.” At first blush, it would seem that our disturbing emotions embody a condition of painful alienation, a state of not being at peace with ourselves, with each other or with God. But at the same time they embody our yearning and striving for acceptance, like an unhappy inner child crying to get our attention. In that sense they become the path of healing grace. Because the inner process that we must go through in order to accept our disturbing emotions does reconnect us with ourselves, with other people, and with God. It’s a powerful experience, but a simple one. All you have to do is pay attention to what’s going on inside you, allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel without needing to do anything about it, just be with it. In my book I call this “listening to the soul.” Marshall Rosenberg, in his work on nonviolent communication calls it “being fully present to what is alive within us.” Rosenberg talks about the energy of our disturbing emotions as an inner divinity, and even though I work with emotions in a very different context from his, I understand completely what he means when he says that."

Name: L Kerman
Date: 2006-01-15 12:40:14
Link to this Comment: 17624

It seems to me this discussion is revolving around the question of how we account for feelings. As I read this, people here are agreeing that it is possible to feel deeply in oneself: feelings of peace, of clarity, of “oneness” with the (usually physical) world, of a kind of existential happiness at being. So too, there is agreement that it is possible to feel deeply connected to another person or persons, with or without words or consciousness. The disagreement seems to be about how to account for these feelings: do they come fully from within ourselves (complex products of our brains), or is there a component that is “beyond” us, which can only be explained as mystical or spiritual or whatever. And, why do we feel them at times? Is it the presence of God or the absence of conflict, either within our own minds and psyches or in relation to the other people we are connecting to?

I may be missing something -- and I am not a clinician of any sort, so I don’t need to formalize what I or others feel – but I don’t see why, when discussing strong and powerful (even disturbing) feelings, we need to call on a special language to describe them at all, a language of mysticism or spirituality rather than simply of personal agency. What if the intensity of human emotion were simply an expression of the extraordinary ability of the human mind (brain) to experience -- different things at different times and with different people? Does adding an external agency, a god or mystical connection of some sort, really make it any more understandable – or miraculous?

moved from within and without
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-15 16:05:12
Link to this Comment: 17626

Sorry if my last comment was a little obscure; I wasn't @ all equating the mystical w/ the ignorant, just toying with the possibility that--seen etymologically--the mystical and the scientific arise from different impulses (closing the eyes vs. opening them? intiation into mystery vs. intiation into exploration?). Which brings us to what a literary critic, someone esp. interested in words and how they work (or fail to work) for us, might add to this shared interest of a neurobiologist , a psychoanalyst, and a clinical social worker in trying to clarify the nature of the "oceanic experience."

In your most recent addition to your dialogue with Paul, you say first that "subjective experiences (private first-person observations) are both experientially and definitionally completely different from neurological systems (public third-person observations)," but then you go on to say that you find compelling the hypothesis "that the oceanic feeling would correlate with a state of the nervous system in which the neurological-correlate indicators of...conflict...were...absent." So...

I'm confused: first you seem to say that psychic and physical experiences are "completely different," then that they are possibly "correlating."

I'm wondering if there isn't another way to get @ the pervasive sense of dualism which underlies both those options (though I'd also be interested to hear a little more from both you and Judie about why it seems important to preserve a sense of two distinct realms). What I've just picked up from Susanne Langer (who has written so extensively about the relation of the physical and the psychical) is the possibility of understanding these as equivalent statements about the same natural facts, using different "logical languages." And the difference is instructive:

"...all of these controversies spring from the desire to establish a clear and adequate concept of mind and of its relation to matter...Physicalism and its opposite, the assumption of an immaterial 'psychic factor' in living structures...are [motivated by] the belief that if we knew exactly what we are dealing with we could apply scientific methods to this material and thus find the basic laws which govern it....

If one conceives the phenomenon of being felt as a phase of vital processes, in which the living tissue.. feels its activity....the question is not one of how a physical process can be transformed into something non-physical....the most important between what is felt as impact and what is felt as autogenic action...the changed concept of feeling...suggests a corresponding conceptual change with regard to the terms 'subjective' and 'objective' 'subjective' I mean whatever is felt as action, and by 'objective' whatever is felt as impact." (Mind: An Essay in Human Feeling, p. 6, p. 17)

How might that distinction contribute to the conversation? When I am moved--to the feeling that is oceanic, or to the feeling of being on the edge of a chasm--is my felt sense that of being moved from outside ("felt as impact") or from within ("felt as action")? And if therapy is in large part about helping us feel a sense of agency--the freedom to move ourselves, rather than be buffeted about,


the "oceanic feeling" might actually not be what's being sought in a clinical context?

introductions, and extensions
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-15 19:21:29
Link to this Comment: 17633

Occurred to me that not everyone knows here necessarily knows everyone, that that's good rather than bad, and that that will become even more so if (as hoped) this conversation succeeds in bringing together a still greater variety of different relevant people/perspectives, so I'm glad Anne characterized herself, added "literary critic" to the list of perspectives we have to work with. Pleased to have Lucy around as well, adding still an another perspective. Lucy has a Ph.D in history and has extensive experience with community development issues (cf Introducing myself), so she brings us an engagement with issues not only of individual change but of economic, political, and cultural change as well.

Its probably useful for everyone (including those yet to come) to have as a starting point some sense of where different people are coming from, and its certainly exciting/promising that we have the diversity along those lines that we have already (and would be nice to have even more of). At the same time, no one, of course, is expected to "represent", to say nothing of defend, any particular perspective. We are all here, I presume, not out of any interest in being and representing particular things we already are but rather in sharing stories as a way towards "seeing what has not yet been seen".

Along those lines, let me introduce two additional people who already are, in important ways, a part of this conversation, and who will, I hope become more so in the future: Joe Slap and Si Share. Joe and Si, like Elio, are psychiatrists/analysts associated with the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, and I, as with Elio, have been meeting with them monthly (more or less) to explore common interests at the psychoanalysis/brain interface. Though that conversation has been going on less long than the one with Elio, it has its own distinctive flavor (see Joe's On the incompatability of the psychoanalytic structural model with human neuroanatomy) and has contributed markedly to my own thinking in this realm (see acknowledgements at the beginning of a talk I gave at the Psychoanalytic Center a year ago).

I've encouraged Joe and Si to join in the conversation here themselves, and hope they will in the near future. In the meanwhile, I will, with their permission, contribute here things that come out our meetings and seem relevant. From our last (today) was a sense that the "oceanic feeling" is indeed a meaningful aspect of psychoanalytic process, in at least some cases though not all, but should not necessarily be regarded as a "univeral experience". The term is most often associated with additional terms likes "regression" and "fusion" and is not necessarily regarded as negative. Its relation to psychoanalytic practice is a question of great interest to young people being trained in psychoanalysis who, at the same time, are, in a postmodernist age, challenging psychoanalysis to be something more than a "summation of anecdotal data". I was also reminded of some of the relevant aspects of the text around Freud's use of the "oceanic feeling" term ("... not easy to deal with feelings scientifically .... will fall back on ideational content" (emphasis mine), that I think may prove to be worth talking a bit more about in light of the directions of some of the discussion here. There is also apparently extensive discussion of the "oceanic feeling" in Erich Fromm. Finally, there was some valuable discussion (to me at least) about the relation of this conversation to two other ones, pointing toward some possible topics for future consideration here (Freud's On Narcissism in relation to the I-function, and clinical experiences with war trauma in relation to story telling).

I assume everyone here so far shares my hope that additional people/perspectives will be good for us all. And will themselves do what they can to bring more people/perspectives into our conversation. Along those lines, Elio's thought, which I share, is relevant. I trust we all want to avoid as much as possible imposing our own agendas, no matter how subtlely, on "everyone in sight", if for no other reason than it might discourage new people from joining the conversation. Could we agree then that comments in this forum should be as much as possible intended for a general audience, rather than targeted to particular people? And that extended back and forth exchanges on particular topics between particular people are best done elsewhere? I'd be more than happy to post such more focused conversations as additional materials (like the exchange between me and Elio) that can be linked to from here.

Lastly, I trust everyone agrees that we welcome new contributions (like this one) that might not be in the immediate flow of current conversation but could prove to expand our discussion at some time in the future. To put it differently, one needn't feel that all postings have to respond to all (or any) previous postings nor that one has failed to have an impact if one's posting is not immediately responded to (I'm happy, for example, to have this one just sit here as something that new people could be referred to to encourage their participation).

further thoughts
Name: Elio
Date: 2006-01-16 20:14:50
Link to this Comment: 17638

I think this responds to both Lucy and Anne but mostly it simply clarifies what I think and feel: The question to me is not why some people need to invoke the idea of something beyond the physical or palpable. The question to me is why some people need to insist that this is an odd or unusual thing to do. Dualism is inherent in human experience. "Mystical" or "oceanic" or "higher power" are terms that describe experiences people have spontaneously, they are not imposed on experience to make it conform to a dualistic philosophy. They refer to something inherent in experience that naturally lends itself to a dualistic philosophy.
Certainly the distinction between inner subjective experience and outer visible or tangible events is an irreducible dualism at least epistemologically. So in that sense dualism is a much more natural way of thinking than any form of monism.
It seems to me an artificial byproduct of current cultural conditions that people are expected to justify using terms like mystical, or spirit, or soul, as if what they refer to is not an obvious fact of everyday experience.
About Suzanne Langer: Anne, the paragraph you quoted gives me a headache as does pretty much everything of Langer's I have ever tried to read. My sense is that she is decidated to reducing the irreducible, materializing the immaterial, and I have very little patience for that. Probably not fair to her but there it is.
Having said that, I do think that mind/spirit and body/brain are very much connected and there are clearly brain events that correlate with mental activity (though there is no scientific justification for saying that there is any causality at work in either direction), and presumeably a mental activity of type A will always be associated with neurological activity of type A~. So there are situations like the one Paul is describing where neurological data could presumably help validate or clarify or challenge our tentative psychological understanding of the oceanic feeling (or any other experience). The neurological data could never be decisive in proving or disproving a formulation based on introspective observations. But it could be suggestive in interesting ways.
Judie, in your professional capacity do you know about the MISS foundation that deals with educating health care professionals about still birth? The founder asked me to speak at their annual conference this June. What they deal with sounds like something you might have a lot of experience in.

ideas have legs
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-20 22:27:08
Link to this Comment: 17710

Could we agree that comments in this forum should be as much as possible intended for a general audience, rather than targeted to particular people?

Well, it seems to me that perhaps a primary difference among us--characterized (so far) as neurobiologist , psychoanalyst, clinical social worker, literary critic and community developer--is that some of us play primarily with ideas (untethered to, and largely unconcerned with, the people who express them); some of us play with people (with little concern for the ideas they carry); while for others of us (and I place myself here) ideas have legs--our primary interest is in ideas as they come to us through the agency of particular bodies: brains in material forms with a certain shape, smell, taste, texture, sound--one with a chip on her shoulder, another with a testiness in his voice, a third full of anxiety about how she will be received. How much I am willing to take in a story--whether I am skeptical of it/place my trust in it--has everything to do w/ where-and-who it comes from. So...

the suggestion that we agree to speak, here, "for a general audience" doesn't work for me. I don't know how to speak--nor am I particularly interested in speaking--except to a person who has spoken to me, who will listen to me in return.

That said, I also respond very strongly (and positively) to the characterization of ourselves as being here, not out of a need to represent who we are/where we have been/what we know for sure, but rather out of an interest in "seeing what has not yet been seen". And it is in that vein that I tell this story.

Once in my life I experienced the oceanic feeling. My father-in-law was dying; my husband was preoccupied with his family; I felt abandoned in the job of caring for our four small children. One very cold evening in January, 1991, I took the kids sledding on the hill in front of our farmhouse. It was a miserable outing--bitterly cold, starting to get dark; they were unhappy, I couldn't seem to make the event pleasurable for any of us--and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I felt a sense of peace, of oneness with the universe. I looked up, and about me, @ the large sky, the big hill, the gathering darkness, and felt as though I had been picked up in the loving arms of God (important to note here that God for me is NOT a person who has me in his eyeball; but at that moment, I felt very much cared for and attended to). The moment passed, but I doubt I'll ever forget it: there was no sense of distance, no sense of distinction between me and the world around me, no more trouble about staving off death, or keeping alive. All was ease, and I was at peace.

So--in the terms we've been discussing here: what happened? What's the most "interesting" or "useful" story--and @ what level?--that I can tell about what I experienced that evening? From what I remember (and can find from a brief online search), while holding open the possibility of experiencing "the mystical sense of fully awakened, life loving unity with nature," Fromm dismisses the oceanic feeling as "regression to...infantile pre-conscious unity with the mother." Of course it's entirely possible that, overwhelmed as I was feeling @ the moment, I generated the caring parent I needed; it seems to me as possible that, overwhelmed as I was @ the moment, I simply handed it over, gave up trying to manage and control what I clearly could not...

and so felt a sense of release (that is: once I stopped fighting with the universe, I ceased to experience its resistance). Now, almost 15 years later, I am in analysis, trying to learn how to manage my emotions: to feel them, recognize them, acknowledge them, watch 'em, try to figure out what triggers 'em, learn to not be driven by them, while letting them serve as clear indices of what needs attending to/changing in my life.

In that project, insofar as I am learning to be less narcissistic, less compelled to read every event as a reaction to my own behavior, I would say that I am after "the oceanic." And yet, insofar as I am learning to "swim" on my own in that ocean, to be an agent rather than simply being carried along by how I feel, I am getting some perspective on the transcient construction that is the oceanic feeling. From today's perspective, I understand that long-ago sense of unity as a gift--grace--triggered by need, but also meeting that need, fully, in that moment.

(Marilynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping describes this very well: need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it....whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again....)

So....? What do the rest of you (or anyone else out there!?) think/feel/know/suspect?

Some disjointed remarks
Name: Judie McCo
Date: 2006-01-21 12:23:16
Link to this Comment: 17716

First, Elio, you are entirely correct that I know the work of MISS, as I do CLIMB, RTS, Unite, A Heartbreaking Choice and many other support group doing wonderful work with people after perinatal loss. Indeed, they presented at our NAPSW (Nat'l Assn. of Perinatal Social Work) conference within the last 2-3 years. It's interesting that this comes up within the context of our discussion here though, since it adds another layer to this spiritual/mystical/difficult-to-explain-biologically experience we've been talking about.

Let me preface this by saying that, after reading Lucy's comment, I was struck by the assumption that spirituality, or even a sense of God, implies a third party/ entity. That somehow does not fit with my understanding which I guess tends mor toward Anne's (above). That said, I also differentiate between a sense of God/ spirit, which I view more as some sense of a force that unites living beings in some way with one another. The mystical experience is somehow something different in my understanding- or maybe that's precisely the issue- the mystical, for me, is something I can find no credible way to explain, and yet it seems entirely "real." So going back to the perinatal theme above- many women who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth have the experience of feeling heavy arms and feeling as if the baby is laying in their arms; they often also experience a sense that they are hearing their baby cry (the language is specific there- they identify it generally as THEIR baby, not just any baby). Certainly I've heard people who are very concretely and materially-based say that this phenomenon happens because the woman's body is biologically primed to have these experiences and just because the baby is dead, the mother's body still goes through it. This seems a push to me. I prefer to call it mystical- something we can't understand but that is real (and "not crazy"- the women's biggest fear). I believe they are experiencing some mystical connection to the "baby" they have created and loved in their heart and soul- and I do not view this as lacking material (the fetus), but view that material as almost superfluous in that the REAL connection is in the force of the relationship that is developing.

feelings as facts
Name: Elio
Date: 2006-01-22 08:36:18
Link to this Comment: 17729

A brief response to Anne's and Judie's recent posts. The question raised here is, how much credence do we give to our feelings as pointing to something real (granted that we agree our feelings always do point to something). Judie, who works closely with women who've experienced perinatal loss believes that their experience of connectedness to the dead baby points to a real connection that she calls mystical (because the basis for it can't really be found on the material plane?). While it's easy to imagine someone being dismissive of this idea I'm inclined to accept it. In all my years of practice (the years since I started systematically paying attention to my feelings) I don't think I've ever had a clear and distinct feeling about something (regarding myself, my family or my patients)-- where I could say this is what I'm feeling and it's quite clear to me that the feeling characterizes my evaluation/attitude toward this or that specific person/issue -- and later discovered that the feeling was misguided or based on a misperception. I've had feeling-based hunches that were wrong but that contained a kernel of truth, but those were not clear and distinct feelings.

On that basis, I'm inclined to take feelings about something as evidence that it exists. It is just as convincing to me as visual evidence, usually more convincing (I'm more likely to think that my eyes deceived me than that my feelings deceived me) and since it often happens in domains where there is no visual evidence, it's often all I have to go on.

Following this reasoning, I'm inclined to think that the fact that so many people (the majority of people who have ever lived I suspect) have had experiences of the oceanic or mystical feeling such as the one Anne described, and since they describe it in very similar ways, means there is something real that they are experiencing, ie, the ocean of connectedness that their oceanic feeling points to is really there.

I suspect Paul might point to the utility of depending on visual evidence for our principle guide through the labyrinth of existence -- it has obviously worked for us in that civilization and visual-evidence-based science have made considerable progress over the centuries -- but we are still as a species just as nasty, brutish and short as we have ever been, and we're a whole lot more efficient at that as well. So on balance, I think we might have been better off if we didn't see so well and had to depend more on our feelings.

Name: L Kerman
Date: 2006-01-22 17:34:54
Link to this Comment: 17733

I still think the issue isn't whether most people *feel* a sense of connectedness at times -- an "ocean of connectedness" -- but rather, what language they use to describe it (and, perhaps, why). People make sense of their experiences -- and themselves -- in different ways (not, I suspect, because the kinds of simplistic disciplinary "tags" that have been used above to label people, but for deeper, more personal reasons). Some people use the language of mysticism or God to explain that kind of feeling, while others find it can be explained in more "material" terms, as a product of their brains and their bodies. In both cases, I suspect the "feeling" is equally real.

Name: LK
Date: 2006-01-24 17:04:54
Link to this Comment: 17774

By the way, I agree that feelings “point to something real” – but I doubt that it is always clear or straightforward what that something is. I think to say that feelings are “real” is to acknowledge that they are truly felt. They are indeed important guideposts, and people rightly struggle to find language to explain them. Trusting one’s feelings is an important place to start.

But to say that because one “feels” something, “it” -- the something -- itself is “real” – that sounds like a big step. Maybe it is because I just spent a week with a delusional Alzheimer’s patient, but I have seen enough of the rejection-of-connectedness by the depressed and anxious, and the illusions of the narcissists to be cautious about taking feelings at face value all the time. The world is full of people with prejudices, fears, fantasies, dreams, and all sorts of strong self-serving “feelings” and pronouncements. Time and history have shown us that some of these strongly held feelings change or get reconsidered. Indeed, there are some forms of talking therapy that help people overcome what are considered “unproductive” feelings. So yes, they are "real" and yet they can change -- and that is real too.

To return to those “oceans of connectedeness”: I am sure that people – myself included – have genuinely felt connectedness, and that there is “something real” in what they have experienced. I don’t think that tells us that anything beyond the feeling is “really there.”

Alzheimer' a way into the oceanic??
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-24 21:16:33
Link to this Comment: 17777

I'm inclined to take feelings about something as evidence that it exists.

I can see that declaring "feelings are facts" works very well as a sharp, memorable way of saying "pay attention to your emotions, take them seriously, don't gloss over 'em, use them as signals for/clues to what is going on."

But I wouldn't call them "facts." "Deeply" felt perceptions of what's happening "inside" don't necessarily accord with what's happening "outside," nor can we ever be sure about the correlation.... The philosopher Peter Singer's pretty sharp on the idea that "we can't take our feelings as moral data, immune from rational criticism....Goring said, 'I think with my blood.' See where it led him" (from J.M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals).

Insisting that our feelings "real" gets us into trouble going "out": there is no assurance that the feelings/intuitions/etc that one attempted to represent in the picture are the same ones that are triggered in the responder. And, as Buddhism teaches, too much investment in the "realness" of what we feel--a valorization of our feelings--can also get us into lotsa trouble going "in." Wiser, perhaps, to think of our thoughts as " restless waves on the them from a distance.

So...we see this differently. And it doesn't seem to me particularly productive to go on sparing about whether emotions are "real" or not. How 'bout we try moving forward (or maybe it's sideways) into those areas where our different perspectives, rubbing up against one another, might get us something new? Along those lines...

the mention, above of an Alzheimer's patient, made me think of another way into our thinking-and-talking together about the "oceanic experience." A couple of years ago, I was keeping weekly company with a dear friend who was senile (I've written about that experience in Language Play and On Losing Categories (the World?).

What I seem not to have written about--& I'm surprised, to see that I haven't--is the repeated phenomonon of Dorothy's describing something to me that was not literally--but certainly was emotionally--"true" for her. I might arrive one afternoon, for instance, to have her say, "Did you hear that my dear daughter died?"--only to realize that her daughter had been to visit over the weekend, and then returned home to Ohio. She was not of course literally dead, but for Dorothy, the emotional experience was of her daughter's dying. And so it became very interesting for me, to be instructed in how to "read," symbolically, what Dorothy had to tell me: not as a representation of what (actually/ "really"/ "factually")"was," but as a representation of how things felt to her (actually/ "really"/ "factually").

I'm circling back around, now, to the earlier, larger question generated by our different ways of talking about the "oceanic experience"--and whether it might, for instance, usefully be described as "absence of any experience of conflict ... no signals of mismatch." And I'm wondering if, in the context of this forum, Alzheimer's mightn't be understood as an experience of living in the (psychoanalytic? neurobiological?) unconscious: of being in a space where one is no longer placing judgments, or exacting the sorts of evalutions and comparisons that most conscious minds engage in all of the time. Lacking that "judge," that "evaluator," that "comparatist," that "regulator," might we be said (might our parents suffering from Alzheimer's be said) to be immersed in the oceanic??

Being a stickler
Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-01-24 21:56:28
Link to this Comment: 17778

I'm intrigued by the nature of the present string of comments, as they tie in a lot of clinical work beyond the ivory tower (although I guess "ivory" has been phased out and "iVory" has been introduced).

One thing that strikes me, however, and that I believe is adding to some of the confusion, is the use of the word "feeling." The reason for my title of my post is that "emotion" and "feeling" mean two different things to the neurobiologist, while they are invariably used interchangeably by the therapist. However, if you consider that emotion is the biological substrate, while feeling is the subjective interpretation of the phenomenon in question (notice how I have left out the "...of what" part), the inclusion of a cognitive component to emotion as "feeling" adds some complexity to the idea of the "oceanic FEELING" as well as the case of the Alzheimer's patient. Same goes for the narcissistic client, the neurotic, the child, and the delusional.

We assume that emotions are universal, but feelings are idiosyncratic. Emotions are responses to the environment (inner or outer) and are as "real" as neurotransmitters and action potentials. Feelings, almost by definition have an abstract component that we are hard-pressed to locate in the material world. I think this adds a crucial component to this discussion, because we have to ask if there is an "oceanic emotion"?

Name: LK
Date: 2006-01-25 17:20:39
Link to this Comment: 17789

The distinction between “emotion” and “feeling” is an interesting one, and I’d be curious to see it expanded on. As for Alzheimer’s (sorry if this is just a tangent): I’m not familiar enough with recent research on Alzheimer’s to know if people think of it as the expression of “pure” unconscious. Based on my own experience with the agitation and obsessiveness of delusional thinking, I don’t think you can call it “oceanic” or “absent of any experience of conflict” – indeed, it often seems like the opposite. The "mismatch" can be terrible. I associate “oceanic” with a feeling that is peaceful and complete, and while I have seen a kind of serenity in dementia (since conflict and depression seem to be forgotten at times), I don’t think of it as complete. Perhaps people with more knowledge of and experience with the disease can be helpful here.

dementia and the unconscious
Name: Mitchell S
Date: 2006-01-28 01:50:38
Link to this Comment: 17828

Hi everyone. I have been a silent follower of this forum since its inception. I am a geriatric psychologist who uses neuro-psychoanalytically informed techniques in my work with the demented. I am at work in a publication on this topic which will reference all thatI am stating in the body of this posting.

Briefly speaking, it is meaningless to speak of dementia as a single disease. Alzheimer's dementia is one of many forms of dementia. I look more at where in the brain is the lesion likely to be present and intervene accordingly to address of mediate this loss.

As Paul Grobstein's link to Slap's article describes -- I urge you all to read it -- there are at least two forms of memory, declarative memory in the hippocampus, and emotional memory in the amygdala. Most forms of dememtia cause damage to the hippocampus first. This is due to a number of reasons. One theory suggests that chronic corticoid secretion in response to stress ablates the hippocampus. As a result, factual -- conscious memory -- is highly vulnerable to extinction.

On the other hand, emotional memory appears to reside in the amygdala and its connection to the right prefrontal lobe of the neocortex. As a result, one can have an emotional memory even in the absence of factual recall.

The paper I am working on concerns a fascinating phenomenon; many people with dementia forget that a loved one has just died, yet show all the clinical signs of greiving that anyone else would experience when suffering a similar loss. Moreover, these can work on the psychodynamic issues much the same as people without dementia. Though the griefwork, these individuals learn to cope better and recover form the loss. Their mood improves, and their recall of the nature of the loss becomes more conscious.

I hypothesize that these people have relatively greater damage to their hippocampus while their amygdala is relatively preserved. In addition, I believe that study of people with dementia can help us understand what parts of the brain are involved in a successful psychotherapeutic outcome, even in more intact persons.

I believe that our earliest emotional responses, developed prior to the dominance of the left hemisphere, and of the hippocampus, play a large role in the experience of the oceanic feeling as well. There is much evidence to support all of these hypotheses. I will present some of these findings in this forum. Meanwhile, I figured this might be a good place to enter this discussion. I hope we can use this forum to share ideas regarding the convergence of findings in neurosience and psychoanalysis.

Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-01-29 00:22:20
Link to this Comment: 17836

The work that Mitchell Slutzky is referencing is exactly what I needed to hear: psychotherapy or psychoanalysis with a neuropsychological underpinning. I am very excited to hear more about this work in the future!

Is there a difference in approach or balance of verbal/nonverbal processing in therapy depending on which hemisphere has sustained more damage?

emotion and feeling
Name: Elio
Date: 2006-01-29 13:54:53
Link to this Comment: 17840

Jung made the distinction very clearly between emotion and feeling on the basis that emotion has bodily manifestations and feeling is a "rational function" that has no more representation in the body than a thought does. He said feelings tell us what a thing means to us, what it is worth to us. Feelings are really the basis for most if not all of the things we do that we call "evaluation." Even when it seems to be a purely cognitive process, feelings are probably behind it in a subtle way.

Freudians make a similar distinction except instead of calling it "feeling" we call it "signal emotion." Comes from Freud's realization that anxiety didn't come only from the id (bodyily expression) but also from the ego to serve an adaptive function(signal anxiety).

The neuroscientist Damasion insists on the importance of the distinction between emotion and feeling and his distinction is exactly the same as Jung's (feeling has no bodily expression) but he has a neurological model according to which the feeling begins in the cortex the same way as an emotion does (with an appraisal process) but then instead of triggering a physiological response in the body it can take a short circuit in the brain stem and come back to the cortex as a feeling without the physiological arousal (with its attendant stress).

A View From the Brain
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-29 18:00:03
Link to this Comment: 17845

Very interesting connection/movement, from dualism and the "oceanic feeling" in a variety of forms to conflict to Alzheimer's and dementia generally. And from that to the amygdala/hippocampus, two forms of memory, and "psychotherapy or psychoanalysis with a neuropsychological underpinning". Lots to think about/comment on. Let me sort of back through it.

Joe's paper is indeed worth reading, and I'm pleased to have Mitchell around and look forward to hearing more about his project. At the same time, I want to sound a note of caution about what one ought to be looking for in "psychotherapy ... with a neuropsychological underpinning", and, more generally, what a useful "convergence of findings in neuroscience and psychoanalysis" ought to look like.

"the significance of different stories for better understanding a single thing lies as much in the differences between the stories as it does in their similarities/isomorphisms, in the potential for differing and not obviously isomorphic stories to productively modify one another, yielding a new story in the process" My concern here is that neuroscience, like psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, has developed a methodology and vocabulary that reflects the specific problems it has been wrestling with, and that may or may quite fit the needs either of other specific inquiries or of broader explorations. This is particularly true for neuroanatomical terminology, the use of which (by both neuroscientists and others) can create a misleading sense of isomorphisms between behavioral phenomena and known brain phenomena (to say nothing of causing some people to feel they can't participate in the interdisciplinary conversation without a familiarity with neuroanatomical terminology). Among neuroscientists, it is generally recognized that attributing a particular behavioral function to a particular brain region (eg the hippocampus as the location of "declarative memory" or the amygdala and the location of "emotional memory") may provide a useful stimulus for asking further questions about that brain region and others but is never to be taken literally. A long history of research and controversy about "localization" has persuaded virtually all neuroscientists that brain regions have distinctive properties but that these rarely or never correspond to categories of behavioral phenomena that have evolved from other kinds of investigation. Phenomena of the latter sort have consistently proven to depend on complex interactions among large numbers of distinctive brain regions.

To put it differently, what I think is significant about Joe's work and Mitchell's is not the connection they make to particular brain regions but rather their common recognition in each of their somewhat different clinical contexts of the importance of the fact that there exist two empirically dissociable kinds of brain processes. Since we normally tend to think that people behaving in particular ways will be able to provide an explanation of their behavior, it IS important that someone with dementia may "show all the clinical signs of grieving" without being able to provide any historical explanation of why they are doing so. And that a traumatized patient may exhibit behaviors that they also are unable to make sense of in historical terms. And that there are general features of brain organization that make sense of both of these situations.

Here too, however, we need again to be a little careful about terminology. Do the two kinds of brain processing actually correspond to a "declarative"/"emotional" memory distinction? Or perhaps to a "verbal/nonverbal" one? These are contentious issues within both neuroscience and cognitive science (see Making the Unconscious Conscious and Vice Versa). The problem of distinguishing "emotion" and "feelings" (as evidenced earlier in the forum) is a part of the uncertainty but there are other equally knotty problems as well. A similar subdivision occurs in lots of situations where "memory" is not an issue. Moreover, there is increasing reason to doubt that "memory", as it is usually understood, is an appropriate term for talking about the nervous system at all. At the very least, there is ample evidence to make it highly unlikely that experiences are "recorded" at any single location in the nervous system, and there is increasing reason to suspect that most reported "memories" are actually creations of the present rather than reports of the past (cf History and Memory: What Does the Mind/Brain/Nervous System Have to Do With It?.

Let me hasten to add that I am not at all trying to bury the conversation in the details of neuroscience. What I am though trying to do is to make an argument that we need to look beneath the surface of the discipline of neuroscience (and of psychoanalysis/psychotherapy) to find meaningful isomorphisms and differences. And to try and characterize these in ways that are as simple, straightforward, and stripped of disciplinary jargon as we can manage, so that generative non-isomorphisms are laid bare. With that in mind, let me suggest that the figure to the right below may be helpful in thinking/talking about the two kinds of brain processing, as well as some of the other issues that have arise in the forum so far.

The nervous system is represented here by a series of concentric circles of increasing lightness as one moves inward, surrounded by a darker "outside". The darker surroundings represent everything outside the nervous system (including the rest of the body and everything surrounding it). What's important to recognize is that the only way the nervous system can interact with the surroundings is across the dark grey/light grey border, which in turn corresponds to a neuroanatomically well-defined set of entities: sensory neurons and motoneurons. The inner yellow circle ("story") represents those activities occurring in the nervous system that correspond to "consciousness", minimally defined as anything that we have internal experience of (our own bodies, our states of being, as well as other people, trees, rocks, etc), as distinct from those activities that while quite significant in behavior do not generate an internal experience. The latter, the "unconscious", is represented by the surrounding light grey region ("tacit"). Here too the important point is the relation between the two. What we are experience, are "aware of" is only those things that cross the light grey/yellow border. The neuroanatomical/neurophysiological distinction that corresponds to this border is somewhat less certain than that for the border between the nervous system and the outside, but there is increasing reason to believe that the yellow region corresponds more or less to neocortex and so the linking paths are those running into and out of that structure (see The Bipartite Brain). Of particular importance in the present context (as well as in connection with the historical psychoanalytic argument about the relative positioning of unconscious and conscious activities) is that, details of the location of the border aside, signals reaching consciousness always and necessarily pass first through the unconscious. The innermost, white circle ("I") represents those brain processes that constitute our ability to tell others our own experiences and understandings. The neuroanatomy/neurophysiology here is yet to be developed but it is absolutely clear that our ability to convey experiences to others can be compromised by nervous system damage that spares the experiences themselves.

This sort of minimal scheme might help, I think, to begin representing the kinds of insights that Joe and Mitchell are offering without getting bogged down in neuroscientific (and other disciplinary) detail that may or may not actually be important/relevant in the long run. Trauma may produce changes in the grey region (and hence in observable behavior) without information about the events getting to either or both of the other two regions, and hence without any "awareness" or expression of awareness by the person. Similarly, damage to one or the other or both of the more central regions (or of paths coming into them) may result in the behavior associated with dementia: behaviors reflecting particular events without any expression of awareness of those events.

Perhaps, with a little more work, the minimal scheme might even give us a common way to talk about the "feeling/emotions" differences/relations? About the observations that give rise to notions like "id" and "ego"? And maybe even about "conflict" and the "oceanic feeling"? What more would need to be added to the minimal scheme and why?

picking up on "the minimal scheme"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-02 18:37:35
Link to this Comment: 17942

Okay, since *everybody's* trying to get @ these ideas through their own particular languages:

I'm going to try another: *my way* is the generation of a binary that never holds, that, Hegel-like, in the very act of clarifying, always undoes itself--and (when useful) generates something further in the process. What I am now seeing (momentarily, temporarily, but hopefully helpful to this exploration?) is these

Boxes Into Which We Can Subdivide The Brain
the unconscious
(change in body state)
(awareness of the change)
(when it "works")
oceanic feeling
(when it "doesn't work")
(when it "doesn't work")
agitation (of dementia)?
cognitive awareness/alignment?
(when it "works")

Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-02-03 22:00:51
Link to this Comment: 17955

After reading Paul's paper on the story of science, I feel much safer about expressing myself, and I like Anne's attempts at splitting the brain into pairs of "opposites." I agree about the issue of simplification, but I also believe that dichotomies can be further dichotomized if further complexity is needed. However, we all crave simplicity and parsimony, and we all fundamentally experience things as "me"' or "not me," or at least that's what we learn in the Western world.

I wanted to add a few of my own pairs, feeding off the list that Anne started, hoping to further highlight the contrasts and illuminate additional possibilities.

How about: stable-unstable; novel-routine; divergent-convergent; top-down--bottom-up
I have been especially intrigued by the idea that the brain is divided by function in terms of seeking & processing novel stimuli versus maintaining stability & homeostasis. I would love to hear what others have to say about this.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-08 17:30:16
Link to this Comment: 18023

Pleased to be a contributor to feeling "much safer about expressing myself". And intriged by peoples' willingness to work in two's, given a history of three's in this realm (Freud's id/ego/superego, MacLean's "triune" brain). And so think we can get some additional interesting things out of the "dynamic interaction between the two". Along which lines, let me suggest that the "oceanic feeling" (perhaps among others) has that character, rather than being a property of the unconscious alone, that it is the conscious experience associated with their being no conflict between the unconscious and the conscious.

I suspect that some other suggested pairings may not in fact map onto the unconscious/conscious one but instead represent dynamic interactions that occur within each on their own (as well as, potentially, in the dynamic between them). I too am particularly interested in a stability/novelty dynamic (Freud's eros/thanatos distinction in some form?) but suspect such a dynamic is present both within the unconscious and the conscious (and is in fact a characteristic of all living systems at a variety of scales).

For anyone interested, I've added a Related Resources page for this conversation. Happy to have suggestions of things on line that might usefully be added to it.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-18 15:08:22
Link to this Comment: 18191

One set of thoughts from Elio and my last lunch conversation has been added. A second on the way.

About Paul's update
Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-02-18 22:13:20
Link to this Comment: 18197

One of these days, I hope to master the art of HTML...
My mind was swimming upon reading Paul's reply to Elio (and I don't think it was swimming in the oceanic feeling). But I find it all very exciting, both theoretically and practically. I truly believe in many of the points that Paul mentioned about conflict and anxiety, mainly that they are "signals" or information, rather than ills to be treated. I also agree that conflict is natural and necessary, and that perfection is not about erasing conflicts.

If we look at life as being a response to the environment in order to maintain some form of homeostasis, and the environment as continually changing, then life's response would be a "perturbation" and a motive to adapt to return to a set point. For example, a tree gradually leaning over to place itself more in the sun.

Perhaps we as humans are the only beings to SEEK OUT conflict and tension, rather than simply adapt to it. Not only that, but we all vary on this dimension, so that some people prefer to respond and maintain their set points, while other people become "bored" and go stimulus-seeking. Furthermore, these types of people differ in terms of their neurological functioning, specifically the proportion of activity in right versus left hemisphere. These arguments and proposals are based on the work of Elkhonon Goldberg, author of "The Executive Brain" and "The Wisdom Paradox."

It also seems to me that most of the religions of the world aim not to resolve inner conflict and tension, but to accept and live with it. My personal belief is that the oceanic feeling comes with accepting this at a very fundamental level, going with the flow without ignoring or denying the conflict, but also not becoming too caught up in it.

Nowhere is this more apparent to me than in my work with therapy clients. Time and again the overt and covert requests for advice and guidance present themselves, to ease them out of tension and conflict. For the more existential-based themes, clients virtually never actually want direction, but validation for the struggle itself.

Name: Debb Harri
Date: 2006-02-18 23:36:21
Link to this Comment: 18199

This comment I found to be particularly valuable in this discussion, and was my motivation for responding:

"look beneath the surface of the discipline of neuroscience (and of psychoanalysis/psychotherapy) to find meaningful isomorphisms and differences. And to try and characterize these in ways that are as simple, straightforward, and stripped of disciplinary jargon as we can manage, so that generative non-isomorphisms are laid bare"

What has overwhelmed my experience of this discussion, is how very disconnected is is from the actual experience of thinking, feeling, expressing, and so forth. What I find lacking in most scholarly discussion is respect for individual experience. Too often scientific method intended to help us understand what it means to be human becomes a dehumanizing playground of language.

I am curious to know not what each person in the discussion thinks, but how their opinion affects our understanding of what we are. I would personally like to see much less scholarship, and much more responsibility for one's opinions in this discussion. What impact will your opinions and theories have on our vision of ourselves for the future. If humanity were to be directed by these theories and opinions what can we project for our futures?

Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-02-19 17:58:26
Link to this Comment: 18208

I wanted to address Debb Harrington's comments about the disconnect of scholarly language from actual, individual experience, the danger of dehumanization, and responsibility for one's opinions. I, for one, am very prone to be caught up in theoretical mind games in the "playground of language," as well as language itself (check out my blog at Pun Krock to see what I mean.) Unfortunately, the topics that are under discussion are often easy to become hifalutin (sp?), because psychoanalysis deals with very abstract concepts (albeit embodied), while neuroscience typically deals with very small concepts, most easily manipulated by analogies, imagery, and diagrams. I consider myself fortunate to be able to continue working with clients, which forces me to come down to earth, to become concrete and "macro," all the while focusing on an individual sitting in front of me. I find that, somehow, the abstract and convoluted theorizing, and playing around in space, gradually filters down and coalesces into understanding of the human condition. This allows me to listen to very painful and traumatic stories, and believe that I am making a difference in a suffering person's life. It also allows me to teach ideas, to find multiple ways of explaining an otherwise indescribable phenomenon, to communicate my own understanding of someone's suffering. In a way, it is like mental gymnastics, stretching my mind around gelatinous and growing concepts. I also gain pleasure from hearing about or reading someone's take on something mysterious. I also greatly appreciate when someone waves their hand in front of my face, turned upward in intellectualized reverie, to remind me that there are people in the room with me.

response to Ken
Name: debb Harri
Date: 2006-02-19 22:52:35
Link to this Comment: 18213

In response to Ken:

I appreciate your humility, and considerate reply to my comments. I am grateful for your human compassion and love of language used well and with humility and respect.

I find it is very challenging work to keep in mind that all of our professions are best seen as human compassion and artistry, communicated in very inadequate terms by the play of language, science, and reason.

Thank you for your considerate comment.

out of the fishbowl. into the ocean.
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-22 17:11:20
Link to this Comment: 18287

I am curious to know not what each person in the discussion thinks, but ...their...understanding of what we are....

much less scholarship, and much more responsibility for one's opinions.

Jumping out of that fishbowl chock-filled with others' thoughts, moving

from evolution to revolution. As/if we learn to hold more lightly to our "opinions and theories," to clutch less tightly to our beliefs and convictions...

then things will be easier (more "oceanic"?) all 'round.

Name: debb
Date: 2006-02-23 23:44:13
Link to this Comment: 18319

To the Neuroscience Forum from Debb:
I would like to introduce myself at this point. I have a background in art, spirituality, ethics, literature, and philosophy. I am a psychiatric nurse by profession, in the process of masters training in nursing and psychology. I have served on our county’s Behavioral Health Board, and have led a support group for mood disorders for 3 years. I have a son with bipolar I, and have myself a confusing stream of diagnostic changes over my lifetime for the exact same symptoms and test results, including Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Depression, Bipolar, Schizoaffectve, PTSD. I have done this, in a very open way, with fairly insignificant consequences. I share this personal information, because above all this “neuro-scientific playing field” that I have become, had to discover a very simple principle in order to live as a human being and work as a professional ethically. All of the elaborate play of language, science, technology, art, psychology, and so forth have dedicated themselves to the impossible task of explaining what can only be known through the experience of being that which we are. Discovery of accurate descriptions is an honorable effort much of the time, but often we lose ourselves in the florid language, and forget to feel if it sits well within our humanness.

We know from history that science can injure, be unethical, and impact the outcome of real lives. This happens whenever science values its “objectivity” over any human being. Too often our various disciplines become the “golden idols” instead of the tools of humanity. We have a great deal that we can do to benefit humanity with these tools if we can avoid kneeling before the almighty yardstick. What we already are, exactly as we are, this is the goal that we seek to discover. This is what we must never forget. Science has the capacity to be a gift to humanity, if we stop trying to make humanity fit into the language and theory of it’s exploration.

"Golden Idols"
Date: 2006-02-24 15:05:58
Link to this Comment: 18328

"Golden Idols"
Date: 2006-02-24 15:14:30
Link to this Comment: 18329

Thanks to Debb for her comments especially with regard to the fact that too often our disciplines become "golden idols". I agree whole heartedly and observing that across disciplines and religions is disquieting. Recently I read a book by the Dalhi Lama entitled The Universe in a Single Atom. The enitre focus of the book is about the cooperation of science and spirituality - with special focus on the need for science to maintain an ethical perspective with all that science is capable of in today's world. It's an interesting read for those so inclined.

Name: LK
Date: 2006-02-24 22:11:42
Link to this Comment: 18333

Far from being a “golden idol,” the diagnosis and treatment of emotional issues seems to me at times simply a matter of projection on the part of the therapist/analyst. It reminds me of my experience, perhaps like Debb’s, of seeking help for one of my children and having to sort through four different diagnoses from four different psychologists/psychiatrists (over four years) – each diagnosis clearly reflecting the theoretical orientation and prejudices of the different professionals. It was as if they couldn’t see my child as herself, but only the reflection of their own theories, and whatever she presented, they inevitably saw it as a perfect expression of their view of the psychological world.

Perhaps that is why I’m intrigued by the distinction Paul makes between therapy as “relieving symptoms” and therapy as a “skill-building” exercise, a kind of educational process. It nicely introduces an aspect that has been missing from this discussion between psychoanalysis (or, more broadly, psychotherapy) and neuroscience: the patient. Relieving symptoms makes it sound like the therapist is performing a straightforward operation like a doctor, working effectively from the outside. Skill building leaves the process where it properly belongs: with the patient.

The patient is, after all, the ultimate “falsifier” of all these brain theories, as least in so far as there are clinical implications. In the end, it is the patient who decides whether and how to respond to the therapeutic intervention. Like the old joke -- how many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to want to change. That’s why the idea of therapy as skill building seems useful to me: in a good therapeutic situation, the patient is offered certain skills, tailored (in varying degrees, depending on how good the therapist is) to his or her personal history and situation, and then learns and chooses how to use them. “Choice” may not be quite the right word here, since it makes the process sound overly conscious and under one’s control, which it often isn’t. But no therapist, however skillful and insightful, can make someone change. And the most important work of therapy happens outside the session, when the patient is confronted with yet another repetitive situation, and realizes she has the ability to act -- differently.

intersecting conversations
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-25 13:26:24
Link to this Comment: 18338

Delighted to have agreement to do away with "golden idols", scientific (see Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising) and otherwise. And to be moving (together?) towards a more "transactional" posture in which "skill building" is the principle objective.

Dana Becker's recent The Myth of Empowerment: Women and the Therapeutic Culture in America recently triggered some relevant discussion in a different venue. Might the transactional posture be equally significant in legal, educational, and parental contexts? What gets in the way of adopting it more generally in psychotherapy? in other realms? How do individual change and social change relate to one another? Hoping some of those involved in the discussion with Dana may bring some more of that conversation to this one.

from debb
Date: 2006-02-25 22:07:09
Link to this Comment: 18343

perfect self--or transaction?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-26 08:59:11
Link to this Comment: 18345

they couldn’t see my child as herself, but only the reflection of their own theories...whatever she presented, they inevitably saw it as a perfect expression of their view of the psychological world.

I'd go a step further, and hazard that the "transactional approach" being explored this week in a range of related venues--here, in the Graduate Idea Forum and in the Working Group on Emergence--doesn't (in my understanding) valorize the "child as herself." Rather than saying that "the child is," and that the therapist misinterprets her according to his schema, I think this approach instead offers an understanding of the patient and the therapist as being in a process of transition and exploration, in which both are being changed. Otherwise?

There's no transaction. (And no self?)

"a mind is a terrible thing to measure"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-26 11:19:37
Link to this Comment: 18346

Adam Phillips, to my mind one of the most astute psychoanalysts writing today, has an op-ed piece in the NYTimes this morning (2/26/06) which addresses "LK"'s concern about analysts whose diagnoses are more reflective of their own orientations than they are responsive to the symptoms their patients present:

the things we value most, just like the things we most fear, tend to be those we have least control over....Trying to predict the unpredictable, like trying to will what cannot be willed, drives people crazy....It is not news that most symptoms of so-called mental illness are efforts to control the environment.....

every psychotheraphy...session is unpredictable. Indeed, if it is not, it is a form of bullying, it is indoctrination....No amount of training and research, of statistics-gathering and empathy, can offset that unique uncertainy of the encounter. As a treatment, psychotherapy is a risk....Psychotherapists are people whose experience tells them that certain risks are often worth taking, but more than this they cannot rightly say.

Name: LK
Date: 2006-02-26 12:33:04
Link to this Comment: 18347

I am really thinking of these issues from the perspective of the patient (or client, or analysand), not the therapist or analyst. I have good experience, both for myself and, thankfully, for my daughter (finally), that therapy can be effective. I also know that therapists take risks and interact/change along with their patients, and that they are most effective when they are most open-ended. What goes on in a session -- and the way the lessons are internalized afterwards -- is indeed unpredictable. The risk is greater, though, for the patient, and my concern was really what goes on before you settle into the therapeutic relationship. Unlike walking into a (any) doctor's office with a broken arm or cancer, a depressed person in search of psychological help is very much at the mercy of the particular orientation of the doctor -- more so than with (other) physical ailments. It would be interesting if one could actually test it out, and have one person with the same set of unhappinesses and inhibitions treated in parallel worlds by a family therapist, a cognitive therapist, an analyst, and a non-talking medication-only psychiatrist. The person would undoubtedly change in each encounter: would they end up in the same place? with the same potentials?

measuring mind terror
Name: therapos
Date: 2006-02-26 18:10:16
Link to this Comment: 18353

"The world is the extension of the mind" ( Freud S. ); no one share the same world, that is why math and measures were thought to be needed since the very beggining and the reason why math is a common language: to calm down a mind that was felt by the pre-sochratic as a constant evolutive chaos.
Although anything that may be done, such measuring is an atempt to hold positions in order to protect one from the anxiety of ilimited possibilities.
Gauss knew that and established the curve of something called normality.
Each point of such curve is although part of the whole and human may change their positions due to what is called the Real.
This way, Imaginary and Simbolic are the vast and infinit domains wherein each one of us travel during our transient passage into our Planet, a duration called Life.
The position of a psicoanalist is therefore the admission of such possibilities, the proper place wherein and by which transference will be possible and through each the Real ocupies the function of the sparking that may focus some light into the desires of each one frightened by such terror that mind is brought into due to the constant need of control and measuring to be certified by the Other through the representants and representations and the hiatum that always menaces, the u(o)nknown opossiton between Eros and Tanathos that keep all humans wanting to...know

Skill building
Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-02-26 22:06:53
Link to this Comment: 18358

I would like to respond to L K's comments about psychotherapy, and hopefully I won't sound too defensive. By the way, I LOVE the fishbowl picture!!! It speaks volumes in a single shot (and I hope you don't mind if I refer to it in a future therapy session...)

Speaking of therapy, I agree wholeheartedly about the nature of change, including most of the work occurring in between sessions, the therapist's role, and the client's responsibility. My doctoral dissertation was titled How The Patient Teaches The Student Therapist. (by the way, has anyone out there had to struggle with the whole "client" vs "patient" thing?)

I feel the need, however, to clarify my own perspective. Several of my clients have commented that therapy has been very helpful to them, but part of them feels "stupid" or "foolish" that they couldn't "figure out their problems" on their own. It's not all about "skills," or being able to "do" something (sorry about all the quotation marks), but about being understood at a very key moment in your life. Sometimes, people make it harder on themselves when they try too hard on their own.

I also would like to add that, while not as obvious or common as with therapists, physicians indeed have their own motives for treating patients "their" way. Notwithstanding the financial incentives from pharmaceutical companies, I have heard many stories of alternative diagnoses from multiple trips to the doctor, ending with multiple treatments and multiple emotional states of confusion, helplessness, and anger. Furthermore, many physicians (obviously not all, nor hopefully many) place "people skills" below other facets of practice. If you want to see a therapeutic orientation "turf war" in medicine, try putting an allopath, osteopath, and homeopath in the same examining room with a patient presenting with fibromyalgia.

Before, I ramble on and forget this point: Most therapists should have experience on the couch, so they know what it is like to be the patient/client. I usually have my suspicions about therapists who have NOT had their own therapy.

If I may offer a recommendation: Paul Wachtel's Therapeutic Communication, a great book that crosses boundaries of theoretical orientation, and that has been very influential in my own work (I have read it 3 times already). Although "knowing what to say when" is the subtitle of the book, I am also influenced by Wachtel's overall approach, which places ambivalence and anxiety at the center of difficulties in changing.

experiencing therapy
Name: debb Harri
Date: 2006-02-27 21:09:26
Link to this Comment: 18379

Ken Thank You for that comment. I couldn't have said it better. I can't count how many times in a week I see on an in patient unit and thereafter in an outpatient group, how frequently people feel inferior, condescended to, or even re-traumatized by the patient or client role. I have often seen that partnership with the client is the least likely to bring this reaction.

never knowing
Name: debb Harri
Date: 2006-03-06 19:03:26
Link to this Comment: 18462

From debb:
If we remember that the existance of all science is founded in the uncertainty of not knowing,
perhaps we need a non-theoretical/non-scientific approach that can explore uncertainty without positive or negative judgments or theoretical dogmas in this experience.

Impossible to imagine isn't it? Isn't this a lot like the experience of life?

I know that what I seem to learn from multiple diagnoses, is that science knows less that I, when they "think" they know. The healthiest thing I ever did was realizing there are no answers, there are only the explanations one chooses to accept for one's life and history. I prefer to create my own. I know even in that experience that there is no "safe" place. Our existence is as fluid as water, as brittle as glass. What I had to learn, was to accept the nature of this existence and be willing to be in this without a map, guarantee, or definitive theory.

It is filled with every feeling, all frighteningly and beautifully new.

an interjection
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-07 16:46:44
Link to this Comment: 18468

I had an interesting conversation last Sunday with Joe Slap and Si Share, both of whom were interested in Mitchell's cases of people with dementia who "forget that a loved one has just died, yet show all the clinical signs of grieving". Both Joe and Si alluded to related cases in their own clinical experience, and that in turn raised a number of general issues that seem to me relevant here.

The major line of discussion turned on the question of whether one should take "forget" literally or not. Was the "memory" actually gone or was it still there but not, for some reason, reportable? Perhaps the simpler interpretation (as per Mitchell and related postings here) is that past events can produce independent changes in different places in the brain and so one readily understand that brain damage might eliminate "factual" memory while sparing "emotional" memory. There are, though, reasons to suspect something less simple may be going on. One is that the "memory loss" may have a transient character to it, ie that something is still present but not reliably recoverable as a memory. Consistent with this, in at least some cases, is clinical "intuition": its not "sweating" (or other physiological signs) that therapists respond to but rather evidence of something deeper that they make an empathic connection to; I can "feel" the memory there.

These alternatives, it seems to me, are not purely "theoretical" but have quite real significance for clinical practice, particularly since the presentation of behaviors that can't be accounted for isn't restricted to dementias but rather is a common feature of most psychotherapeutic encounters. On one view, the "memory loss" is quite immediately the clinical problem and reversing it is a significant aim of psychotherapy. On the other view, the memory itself is gone, so there is no possibility of regaining it and wherever the the clinical problem is somewhere else and requires some other kind of treatment.

Lacking adequate clinical background myself, I'm not going to take sides on this one. I do though think it provides a useful sort of "Rorschach test" by which one can get a sense of how people (onself included) approach brain/mind problems. Is it all a matter of relatively simply organized (if idiosyncratically named) brain structures? Is some of it that way (dementia, and other cases where there is known brain damage) and some of it qualitatively different (ie "psychological", in cases where there is no known brain damage?). Is there a way of thinking about both dementia and more typical psychotherapeutic material as related to the brain but involving subtler kinds of interactions that might account for the possible transiency of "memory loss" as well as clinical intuition (and possible additional things as well)?

Along these lines, it may be relevant that many neurobiologists are coming to the conclusion that "memory" is probably best thought of not as a discretely stored record or tape that is replayed, but rather as a creative elaboration on scattered and individually relatively meaningless traces produced in the nervous system by past events (cf Memory). From this perspective, the issue is not the presence or absence of brain regions that store various kinds of memories but rather the ability (perhaps varying with the circumstances) to assemble scattered traces into collectives adequate to support various behaviors ("emtional memory") and (still more difficultly?) into coherent stories ("factual memory"?). If one imagines that the latter can be affected as well by the extent to which possible stories are pleasing or displeasing, one might have a useful element of a bridge between "brain" and "psychology".

The other issue that the discussion seemed directly relevant for was one of the questions Elio and I were last talking about: "how and why psychoanalysis could be an effective therapy under some circumstances and not others". For present purposes, let me state the issue more generally. How does one make decisions about what situations warrant what kind of therapy? Clearly there are situations in which one believes that one or another kind of "talk therapy" might be effective and others where one does not. If, as I'm inclined to believe, all therapies (surgical, pharmacological, talk in its various forms), are forms of brain manipulation, how does a clinician decide that talk therapy (or a particular version of talk therapy) is appropriate in a given case? I assume (perhaps prematurely) that we'd all agree that one wouldn't expect much of talk therapy in a comatose patient but might in the case of someone with no known brain damage who is depressed. Where's the border? On which side is someone with dementia? with schizophrenia? with ADHD? And why? Maybe trying to locate that border would help us better understand what good psychotherapy is (or should be) all about, and how it relates to the brain.

Once more with feeling
Name: Elio
Date: 2006-03-08 06:14:36
Link to this Comment: 18473

Hi, sorry I've been MIA from the forum for a while. I've been busy writing for a couple of presentations and haven't had much time.

A couple of comments about recent posts. Despite the fact that feelings (as distinct from emotions) are unreliable, when it comes to knowing about our own inner lives and the inner lives of others, they are ultimately all we got. The problem that Deb Harrington points to about getting lost in theory is that, when we are in our heads (and cut off from our feelings) we are in an important sense not accountable for what we are doing and there is no check on where our thinking will take us, nothing to ground us in reality.

Our feelings ground us in reality. Our feelings are in fact the only information we have on the basis of which to make a distinction between reality and unreality.

On a more practical note, it's a lot easier to understand and appreciate what somebody is saying about theory (or diagnosis, to bring in another recent topic) if the person tells us what he or she is feeling that makes this or that theory or diagnosis or topic of discussion seem particularly important/relevant.

To be consistent with what I'm saying, I should describe the feeling that motivates me to write this. It is a feeling, when I read the forum in one big chunk the way I have just done, of being a bit overwhelmed by ideas coming at me from all directions without any grounding. The things that feel real to me are Deb's plea for us to stay centered in our humanity and Lucy's concern for how is her daughter going to get seen for who she is through the Babel of diagnostic thought (divorced from feeling) systems to which various shrinks are attached.

Indeed how to we even know that there is a daughter "as she really is?" We only know it because we can feel it.

Having said that, I must say that I also like Paul's circle diagram because I know where to put feelings in there and I can understand the connection between feelings and emotions, feelings and perceptions, and at the same time feelings and spirituality and values, etc. Feelings are right there in the center, in the I.

Feelings, story telling, and the I-function
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-08 13:54:36
Link to this Comment: 18475

Yep, feelings are (in this particular story) "right there is the center, in the I". Glad you like the figure, hope others do. And to further emphasize the "feeling" part of the story, here's another version of the figure that I made a couple of months ago for a discussion on "transcendence".

The "story telling" part of the brain has been (even more) exaggerated, so I can show something of what is going on inside it. The idea is that the I-function might have an aspiration for transcendence and out of that might contribute to a story (the first floor of the structure in the story teller). Trying to achieve transcendence via that route (the green path extending to the left through the first floor), the I-function is blocked at the boundary between story and the unconscious, and so adds more floors to the structure and explores more paths, all with the same outcome. Eventually the I-function comes to realize that the closest its ever going to get to transcendence is more or less where it starts (ohhhhh! ahhhhh ... ), with its own inputs ("feelings").

None of this is to say that "feelings" are the last word on anything ("''I' is no more an 'authority'to be unquestionably relied on than any of the previously conceived authorities", but feelings are the most primal available "raw state of the self", as close to transcendent as it seems possible to get, and well worth paying attention to.

characteristics of the child prodigy
Name: Lauren
Date: 2006-03-14 00:02:56
Link to this Comment: 18510

I am interested in the characteristics and behaviors of the child prodigy.I know of a prodigy (now an adult) who may display manic behavior. Are there research studies to affirm this opinion?

on taking ourselves lightly
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-03-14 21:55:49
Link to this Comment: 18528

Whoa, guys--wait a minute. I'm a little uneasy about this notion that "feelings are right there in the center, in the I" line of thinking/feeling, this identification of what is foundational and essential, this seeming valorization of the "most primal available raw state of the self" ....

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night feeling that your brain was like a rock? Immobile, unchangeable, unable to sleep? Alternatively: have you ever had that sensation Buddhists call "soft mind," when you felt completely open to whatever the universe had to deal?

In which state were you more fully "self," more entirely "real"?

I've always felt things deeply, a characteristic that made me something of a wierdo in the farming community in which I grew up, where folks--however they were feeling--got up and milked the cows every morning; where how one felt was, frankly, irrelevant to the work that had to be done each day. I've spent a good portion of my recent life learning to take seriously what had been so dismissed when I was a kid. And I'd say that all of the most important decisions I've made (both the best and the worst decisions I've made) came from my gut. But I'd still stop far short of saying that feelings are "all we got," the "only check" on our thinking, our only "ground" in "reality," our "only basis" for distinguishing "between reality and unreality."

Puzzling about how best to articulate a differently inflected notion of the reality of "self"--as a complex interplay between feeling and thinking, emotion and reflection--I recalled a great show I saw, last week, @ the de Young gallery in Golden Gate Park. It featured 13 Magical Secrets about Thinking Creatively--which I think might well describe not only the art of etching (the nominal topic of the show), but also our topic here: this art of shaping a self. Key (by my lights) is #11, re: not overestimating the importance of self (to which I'm afraid the over-valuing of "feeling" directly leads...)

  1. Cultivate Sensuality: Discover details of the physicality of materials.
  2. Use a Lot of Time: Take enough time for what you are doing and be aware that you've embarked on a lifelong pursuit.
  3. Get into the Flow: Encourage a mental state called "flow" that has a connection to creativity.
  4. Have an Idea: Think about what you are doing.
  5. Don't Know What You Want: Cultivate an open, inquiring mind.
  6. Know What You Don't Want: Understand what others have done and how not to repeat it.
  7. Stick Your Neck Out: Go against prevailing attitudes if you feel like it.
  8. Use Every Tool: Use new tools as needed without throwing out the old ones.
  9. Use Every Source: Use sources of images and ideas as if they were tools.
  10. Become Skillful: Know when you need to develop skill yourself and when you can use the skill of others.
  11. Take Yourself Lightly: Have a sense of humor and don't see yourself at the center of the universe.
  12. Go into the Ether: Let yourself slip into another world from time to time.
  13. Own it: Know that you are doing the work you should be doing.

Suggestion for a well-formatted forum
Date: 2006-07-31 20:55:57
Link to this Comment: 20102

I had been searching for a Neuroscience forum and this is the only one that I came across.

I really hope this could be organized in a much more readable format with categories and thread features such as those present in many other online forums e.g.

Expanding the conversation ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-08-18 14:34:40
Link to this Comment: 20175

Welcome to visitors from Exploring Mental Health and Models of Mental Health. Your thoughts are warmly welcomed here, as contributions to helping everyone think in new ways about the potentially valuable overlaps between different traditions. And regular visitors are of course invited to have a look at the new materials.

This forum originated in association with a panel discussion called "Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience: Enemies, Acquaintances, Bedfellows? held at Bryn Mawr College in 2003, and has expanded several times since. To see previous comments (with this and following ones at the end), click here. As it says as the beginning of the forum:

Like other forum areas on Serendip, this is a place for public informal conversation. Read what other people have to say, and leave your own thoughts and reactions for others. The idea is that thoughts in progress are important: everyone can learn from what other people are thinking and have their own thoughts changed by reading the thoughts of others. So relax, enjoy, and let's see what sense we can make of the relation between psychoanalysis and neuroscience, and what contributions we can make to others thinking about this and related matters.

You can easily contribute to this forum by going to the end and clicking on the "Post A Comment" button. You can also easily keep up with the conversation by registering using this forum's Keep Me Posted feature which will send you an email on any day when a new posting has appeared here. And if you would like to make available longer materials in a different format, email me and will work out an arrangement for doing so.

Psychoanalysis, Freud, literature...
Name: Ana Drobot
Date: 2006-08-19 05:03:30
Link to this Comment: 20177

I've been interested in Psychoanalysis and Freud since the end of my first year of University. Lately I've seen and read some critiques of Freud and Psychoanalysis in general, I no longer know what to believe... I guess those who actually practice know it better, but... are they really to be trusted? I wonder what is going to happen with Psychoanalysis in the future. What is going to happen to the professionals, how many of them will be left without a job... Is it all based on nothing but belief, autosuggestion, naivete? Can Freudian psychoanalysis actually do something for people? If so, the high costs of the analysis can't be afforded by the average man. Isn't it a luxury for the rich and bored? I really don't know any more... But I still enjoy reading Freud now and then. Psychoanalytic Theory is still part of the modern literary theory cannon. It gives one insight into literary characters...

Psychoanalysis, Freud, Literature...
Name: Elio Fratt
Date: 2006-08-19 10:41:55
Link to this Comment: 20179

In response to Ana, most of the critiques of Freud one reads nowadays are from people who favor a reductionistic view that equates mind and brain and views phenomenological exploration of the inner life of human beings as inherently unscientific. Of course science can be defined in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of studying human experience as it is actually experienced (as opposed to the way the brain looks on a PET scan while experience is happening). But as Freud wrote in 1926 that approach leaves out all the most important and most interesting questions in life.
I address the issues you raise at great length in my book, "Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain," which you can check out on my website at

psychoanalysis and mental health: a broader persec
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-08-20 13:02:08
Link to this Comment: 20185

There certainly are "critiques of Freud" from "people who favor a reductionistic view" and regard "phenomonological exploration of the inner life ... as inherently unscientific". But not all critics fall into those categories by any means (cf, from some quick googling The Use and Abuse of Freud, The Freud Controversy, The Myth of Empowerment).

Conversely, there are many scientists, myself included, who both value Freud and who are perfectly happy to include the "phenomenological exploration of the inner life" as an important part of any reasonable inquiry into human experience and its problems, scientific, therapeutic, or otherwise. See the recent Models of Mental Health (which wasn't yet on line when Ana wrote and Elio responded).

Models of Mental Health, which reflects in part writings of and conversations with Elio, argues that all restricted perspectives (the "medical" and the psychoanalytic included) have both strengths and limitations and that the cause of improving mental health care is best served not by trying to advance particular perspectives by dismissing others out of hand but rather by trying to make use of relevant insights from the broadest possible array of perspectives to synthesize a "wider perspective having more general applicability".

Freud and the "inner life" are certainly important parts of such a synthesis. So too are "reductionism" and "science" (which need not be defined in "in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of studying human experience as it is actually experienced"; see Revisiting Science in Culture and To Promote Scientific Creativity in Practice).

Ana's concerns about the continuing viability of "Psychoanalysis and Freud" are not at all unique to her. They are being expressed with increasing frequency in a wide variety of venues, including most recently within the psychoanalytic community itself. And I very much share them. Whatever the problems with the legacy of Freud and psychoanalysis, some related to external forces and others having to do with the dynamics of the community itself, there continue to be rich and useful insights in those historically quite significant perspectives, and anyone interested in mental health care ought to want to preserve them. The most promising route to doing so, it seems to me, is not attack other perspectives in order to defend those particular ones but rather to seek productive and mutually influential bridges between the psychoanalytic tradition and other potentially complementary perspectives (cf A Bi-Directional Bridge Between Neuroscience/Cognitive Science and Psychotherapy?).

the individual/culture interplay
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-08-27 10:52:45
Link to this Comment: 20223

Temple Grandin wrote in her Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism "The more I learn, the more I realize more and more that how I think and feel is different" Maybe that's the point vis a vis mental health generally, and what is needed is a commitment to helping people not only accept but value their differences? Which in turn requires new and broader approaches both to individual therapy and to cultural activism?

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-08-30 13:01:27
Link to this Comment: 20230

The fruits of some interesting conversation over the last several days about Models of Mental Health with colleagues in social work as well as with Elio ...

For at least some people "mental health" is itself a problematic term, one that seems to much to imply agreement on a desired norm that some deviant individuals who need help returning to and too little to recognize that norms are a product of cultures that also need to be considered and potentially altered. I think "Models" itself is actually pretty clear on the importance of the latter but do think there is grounds for perhaps looking for a different term. On the other hand, there are lots of good people who work under the "mental health" umbrella, and an argument can be made that it is a useful one with adequate redefinition of the term itself ... perhaps along the lines of equating "mental health" with maximal expression of "the potential inherent in each individual to be continually shaping and reshaping their own lives"? That would refuse the fixed cultural norm perspective and provide a basis for including cultural change within the realm of what is needed to improve "mental health."

And some people remain skeptical about whether the "biological/neurobiological/cultural model" can in fact support an adequate concern for "internal experiences" and for "individual agency". My sense continues to be that indeed it can but I recognize that by and large other peoples' experiences with both biology and neuroscience are different from mine. In any case, the issue in my mind isn't that particular model but rather the objective of achieving a usefully wider perspective on "mental health", one that certainly would pay serious attention to things not adequately treated in the "medical model".

The upshot is to further convince me that a usefully wider perspective on mental health needs to include biology and neurobiology together with more serious attention to

So, how do we go about achieving a wider recognition and acceptance of such a perspective in practice? And what further things should be added to it?

the limits of mental health models
Name: Corey
Date: 2006-08-30 17:32:18
Link to this Comment: 20231

thanks to paul for sharing thoughts and for outlining some of our/my concerns from friday's graduate idea forum. i guess for now i'd like to add context which is not the same as culture, but is certainly connected to it in different ways. poverty or inequality to me wouldn't necessarily be included in culture, for example, except maybe the way our culture produces (has to produce?) inequality but inequality (for example) is certainly something that i would not want to ignore in discussing mental health (although it often is ignored in discussing mental health). i also fear (and i noted this) that focusing too much on mental health as the starting point just reinforces the individual focus that our society espouses (largely to the exclusion of anything outside of the individual) that creates so many blind, misguided, and cruel policies and practices (as well as maybe the distribution of mental health, among other "goods"). somehow "culture" doesn't encompass all of this for me

Of interest to those interested in mental "health"
Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-08-30 23:30:35
Link to this Comment: 20235

It's good to hear people adding to the forum again. I myself have been sidetracked by errant trains of thought for too long...

I wanted to include a link to Daniel Siegel's website and recent work, for those in the forum unfamiliar with his work. Dr. Siegel is heavily involved and invested in the integration of neurological and psychological models, the latest incarnation of which is Interpersonal Neurobiology.

One of the important tenets to this point of view is a definitive statement about the concept of mental health, too seldom considered in our fields.

Not only are his ideas juicy, but Dr. Siegel is a highly engaging speaker; I would recommending catching one of his seminars or presentations.

visual evoked potentials
Name: veera kart
Date: 2006-09-02 06:35:13
Link to this Comment: 20245


another voice
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-07 14:37:07
Link to this Comment: 20301

An email August 25 2006 from Patricia Kinser, RN, MSN, WHNP, currently an instructor at The Bon Secours School of Nursing, excerpted with her permission ...

I think that the ideals of the Biological/Neurobiological/Cultural Model
mirror the ideals of nursing. Nurses see patients holistically, such that
their physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cultural needs are all
important and are incorporated into their care. Certainly, to engage an
individual's emotional side requires a fair amount of physical stability on
their part (hence, Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" theory). So, for example,
we may deal with the physical trauma of a gun-shot wound before the
emotional trauma... but we also consider the influence of SES & culture on
the patient's experience of a gun-shot wound.

Mental Health Working Group
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-23 14:50:32
Link to this Comment: 20511

I'm very much looking forward to hearing what other people have to say at the first meeting of this group, convening to "to explore the possibilities of achieving a broader, more integrated, and more effective approach to issues of mental health." A few initial thoughts of my own about what we might be about and how we might work towards that ...

Like some others, I'm a little concerned that the term "mental health" carries with it a presumption there is a desired "norm" condition that then defines in individuals "symptoms" or "problems" that need to be "treated" in order to bring individuals closer to the norm. Rather than abandoning the term "mental health", and hence leaving the field to those who comfortably use it, I'd prefer to try and redefine the term, both for ourselves and others.

My suggestion is that we regard "mental health" not as a fixed achievable state but rather as a direction of movement, a process rather than an outcome. In particular, I suggest that the key feature of "mental health" is the continual enhancement of the ability of individuals to shape their own futures, to be casual and creative agents in their own lives, and to make distinctive and useful contributions to the lives of others.

My sense is that we all know perfectly well that there are a variety of different ways to promote mental health, defined in these terms, and know additionally that at different times in different circumstances different ways of doing so are needed. Neither socio-political change nor individual change will suffice; both are necessary. Similarly, various forms of talk therapy as well as pharmacotherapy and other medical procedures have important contributions to make.

My thought is not that we already know how to achieve "mental health" (or ever will) but rather that we already know a variety of ways to contribute to the process. What is missing, it seems to me, is an explicit and common commitment to supporting that process, using whatever tools seem best fitted to any given case, and a mechanism to optimally match available tools to particular cases. Rather than arguing about which is the "best" tool, with its tendency to denigrate particular tools in all cases, we ought to be looking for as many tools as possible and thinking about how to make them most accessible and useful by everyone.

What this requires is a group of people with different tools each of whom are committed to learning about the tools of others, and to shaping a new mental health community that develops a theoretical and practical structure to match tools to needs. My hope is that our group can contribute to the development of such a community.

Opinions Gathering
Name: Sim
Date: 2006-09-25 11:05:13
Link to this Comment: 20523

Hi to all the professionals,

My name is sim. I'm a OCD patient under long term medications.

I'm an ultra sensitive person with negative view of life. Sometimes i just could not control my anger or negative emotions even though i know that matters that cause it may not be what they seems to be.

Recently i came across a sentence from a friend, he's a strong willed person whose life motto is "mind over body" hardcore military style.
The sentence he posted really bugged me.
The sentence is " Unlike neurotic, health behaviour is unpredictable".
It makes me feel inferior and worthless.
Any opinions will be greatly appreciated. A zillion thanks in advance!

Best wishes to all!

Name: Roomana M.
Date: 2006-10-22 18:23:17
Link to this Comment: 20720

I am rather surprised to see that we are still talking about the "Medical Model" as if it is a predominant way of thinking and approaching mental illnesses. This was talk of the 60s. The utility of using this particular Model per se as the sole approach had been questioned even in Cardioolgy and to my knowledge in today's world all medical disciplines practice multidimensional treatment approaches. I dont know any psychiatrist who will prescribe medication only and advise a patient against psychotherapy or other alternative approaches. I hope we can focus on our appraoches to patient care how we practice today.

About The Medical Model
Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-10-23 21:39:11
Link to this Comment: 20729

I would like to make a few comments regarding Dr. Sheikh's statements about the Medical Model. I hope I do not sound too contrary, but I think the Model is alive and kicking, and unfortunately kicking from a very powerful and influential leg, i.e. Big Pharma.

The approach may in fact be questioned in various hospitals, journals, conferences, etc. but my professional impression is that the "practice of multidimensional treatment approaches" has been lip service until the past 5 years or so.

It's not that psychiatrists, who by the way are often the most egregious of proponents, "prescribe medication only and advise a patient against psychotherapy or other alternative approaches," but that the attitude is patronizing permission for other modalities to speak at case conferences or grand rounds, remaining fully resistant to other explanations or suggestions in the end.

I saw this most recently last week, at a seminar of clinical psychology graduate students that I lead, where one of the students assessed a child and determined pretty conclusively that he did NOT manifest Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Unfortunately, this student is training at a site where the Medical Model predominates and the "multidisciplinary approach" that the student had hoped to experience is all for show. The "multidisciplinary team" deemed ADHD the "official" diagnosis, and medication was the main treatment recommendation. This student was demoralized, disgusted, and disappointed, to say the least. Not to mention voiceless and powerless.

Lest you conclude that I am generalizing from a single or isolated instance, I have worked with MANY students who have experienced similar attitudes at training sites, especially hospitals and community mental health centers.

Also, lest you conclude that I am anti-biology or anti-neuroscience, quite the contrary. At my school, I teach Biological Basis of Behavior and Introduction to Clinical Psychopharmacology. I strongly believe in this stuff, and I also feel that this adds legitimacy to my misgivings and "biases."

I did mention that the tide has been slowly turning over the past several years, as evident in this website. New articles and papers abound with findings about the measurable effects of meditation, yoga, mindfulness, hypnosis, massage, acupuncture, and so on. It is NOW getting to the point where the medical profession can't avoid alternative methods, but this has not been a willing movement. I believe some of the reasons for the resistance involve physicians' desire (need?) for patient cure, as well as a need for control and the role of expert. This is my personal opinion, however.

In any case, we're talking about a minority against a tsunami. Until Pharma figures out a way to medicate such things as alienation, existential dread, identity confusion, crises of meaning, ennui, and other more subtle "conditions," these will not be considered "legitimate" areas of medical pursuit. Depression will continue to be labeled a "chemical imbalance," anxiety misunderstood solely as its biophysical manifestations, and schizophrenia solely as a neurostructural, neurodevelopmental, genetic disease.

If Dr. Sheikh works in a setting where the multidisciplinary approach is sincere and effective, all the power to that place. From my experience, at least in the Midwest U.S., that is the exception.

continuing discussion ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-11-01 10:30:06
Link to this Comment: 20831

The issue posed by Fogel and Sheik was the starting point for the last meeting of the Exploring Mental Health working group . We were short on practitioners so couldn't get much of a direct handle on how much the "medical model" continues to influence day to day practice. Hopefully some practitioners can give us a better sense of this in future meetings.

The issue did though trigger an interesting conversation about what is at the core of the "medical model" (see meeting notes). The group came to the conclusion that what is critical isn't primarily the failure to appreciate a social context. Even the "biopsychosocial model" tends to focus on discrete "health" and "illness" and on "fixing" problems, as opposed to regarding people as continually evolving and the primary task being "enhancement of the ability of individuals to shape their own futures, to be causal and creative agents in their own lives.".

This contrast raised anew the earlier issue of whether models of mental health are necessarily "culturally specific." Along these lines, a relevant posting recently appeared in another Serendip forum, quoting the Indian poet Rabindrath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Maybe there is in fact a way to conceive mental health that at least to some degree transcends not only the idiosyncracies of professional models in the United States but cultural differences generally? Perhaps relevant along these lines is a new National Academy Press publication, The Culture of our Discontent: Beyond the Medical Model of Mental Health by Meredith Small, an anthropologist. Perhaps also relevant is Medicine and Culture: Varieties of Treatment in the US, England, West Germany, and France by Lynn Payer (1988), Of Two Minds: An Anthropologist Looks at American Psychiatry by T.M. Luhrmann (2000), and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Ane Fadiman (1998).

Date: 2006-11-04 02:33:20
Link to this Comment: 20861

Link to this Comment: 20729

"Also, lest you conclude that I am anti-biology or anti-neuroscience, quite the contrary."

"It's not that psychiatrists, who by the way are often the most egregious of proponents, "prescribe medication only and advise a patient against psychotherapy or other alternative approaches," but that the attitude is patronizing permission for other modalities to speak at case conferences or grand rounds, remaining fully resistant to other explanations or suggestions in the end."

"I believe some of the reasons for the resistance involve physicians' desire (need?) for patient cure, as well as a need for control and the role of expert. This is my personal opinion, however."

'I believe some of the reasons for the resistance involve physicians' desire (need?) for patient cure,'

This comment really struck me. As a patient I need to believe in a cure. Seems an endless chase in my mind to find one. Also for a cure to be valid I need an expert to believe in the process... Perhaps at one point you accept that your particular condition is in-cureable. All you/one can do is too accept that you will make the most of being functional. This depends on if you will take responsibility for the decisions you make.

"In any case, we're talking about a minority against a tsunami. Until Pharma figures out a way to medicate such things as alienation, existential dread, identity confusion, crises of meaning, ennui, and other more subtle "conditions," these will not be considered "legitimate" areas of medical pursuit. Depression will continue to be labeled a "chemical imbalance," anxiety misunderstood solely as its biophysical manifestations, and schizophrenia solely as a neurostructural, neurodevelopmental, genetic disease."

I read an interesting article today about so-called Pharma-influence. Less than 5% of grad's were being taught about such things. The main point that was put forward was that, many obscure perfectly wonderful medications were being evalauted by patient's inferior to name brand medications they saw advertised on TV.

As a patient who had limited options, I found old proven medications to improve my condition. Which was a schizophrenia diagnosis in my early 20's. In my early 30's I stumbled across a very powerful anti-anxiety medication. since I had been hopitalized before, I (voluntarily)went to see a phychiatrist and discuss taking more. I did have a paradoxical reaction upon discontinuation. And speaking of "multidisciplinary approach" this is how I got through that 14 day period of discontinuation. But I did this on my own. There were no guarantees, I had to decide for myself if I was better off leaving it alone, or making it through such a period. In the end I did much better. It was worth the effort. I was fortunite enough to be able to afford blood work over the discontinuation period. The results were scary. I had an abnormal cbc. Simular to what it would be if I had ALS. Exact opposite of anemia. High white cell count (lymph?) and a high red blood cell count. Nevertheless mental clearity coinsided with this after 14 days of discontinuation. I was only on the medication for a maximun of 45 days. Following that first time no more than only six days. But still needed 14 days to withdraw.

I had a hard time dealing with muscle atrophy untill I started on a tricyclic anti-depressant. Which I am responding to very well. This controls residual mania very well. I only took the anti-anxiety medication 3 times in 2 years.

Things look real good and stable for me in the future.

"I did mention that the tide has been slowly turning over the past several years, as evident in this website."

I think that if I had a brain tumor, I would prefer a neurobiologist over an oncologist.

I find the use of antibodies to treat Alzheimer's as a remarkable insight.

Date: 2006-11-04 22:38:34
Link to this Comment: 20865

I meant to say neurologist, instead of neurobiologist. Dont get me wrong, if I had lung cancer an oncologist would be my first choice. But when dealing with the brain, I face a conumdrum. I deal with schizophrenia in a symbiotic way. For example, to eradicate my thought disorder I must eradicate myself. The result hurts both, this is unacceptable. At some point a compromise must be reached. This is a very difficult conclusion. The most meaningful explanation I have for it is, give and take... If the human immune system is capable of targeting a plague in the brian, by simply painting a target, as is experimentally being done, as a preventive measure to treat alzhiemer's. Then why can't I work together with me to make my quality of life better.

Regarding ()
Date: 2006-11-05 22:47:29
Link to this Comment: 20878

I wanted to reply to ()'s comments. First, I appreciate the effort with which you approached my statements; clearly, you read it very carefully. Second, I must admit I was somewhat confused, because I wasn’t sure if you were agreeing with me or arguing against me; I guess a little of both. Third, I think it takes great courage for someone to talk about suffering from such a debilitating and socially-ostracized disorder as schizophrenia.

() talks about the need to believe in a cure, and the need of an expert to believe in the process. These are very powerful aspects of any for of treatment, and represent some reasons for the difficulty that psychotherapists experience in their work. I think the “cure” issue is highly charged, and one that separates many psychiatrists from the rest of the mental health professionals in the world. Of course, psychiatrists shouldn’t be faulted for orienting their efforts towards “curing” mental “illness.” They are, after all, M.D.’s who specialize only after basic medical training.

When you are talking about mental health, however, you are not referring to some disease process to be partialled out and treated, like a tumor or blood clot or infection. We are talking about the whole person. That is why schizophrenia is especially difficult. There are clearly neurological problems to be tackled, but more importantly is the issue of helping this person live in a world with a majority of non-schizophrenic people.

I agree wholeheartedly with ()’s comment: “to eradicate my thought disorder I must eradicate myself. The result hurts both, this is unacceptable. At some point a compromise must be reached. This is a very difficult conclusion.” The “compromise” involves much more than “take drugs or not,” or “take these drugs instead of those.”

One of the key issues is the fact that the “disease” involves the very thing that a patient with schizophrenia uses to make sense of the disease. In “treating” schizophrenic patients, you are in effect asking if they want to change part of their identity. And the patient is making this decision by using the faculty that must be changed somehow. There is tremendous risk, loss, sacrifice, and fear here! And this does not mean that you then add meds for “depression” or “anxiety.”

Now, I do not experience or have ever experienced what it means to be schizophrenic. I do not presume to understand what this feels like. 99% of the population has to say the same thing.

I recommend Schizophrenia Bulletin, especially the first person accounts.

Name: Ken Fogel
Date: 2006-11-05 22:49:56
Link to this Comment: 20879

I forgot to put my name to my comment.

Continued Discussion
Name: Discussion
Date: 2006-11-08 01:59:13
Link to this Comment: 20904

Hi Ken,

Im sure you can understand, thats why I posted anonymous.

Link to this Comment: 20878

"I wanted to reply to ()'s comments. First, I appreciate the effort with which you approached my statements; clearly, you read it very carefully. Second, I must admit I was somewhat confused, because I wasn’t sure if you were agreeing with me or arguing against me;"

My dad has this same in-decision...

"That is why schizophrenia is especially difficult. There are clearly neurological problems to be tackled, but more importantly is the issue of helping this person live in a world with a majority of non-schizophrenic people."

It, is,,, really tough. Im fortunate, I have a job, a wife, and a safe work environment. I dont like it when my peers are uncomfortable around me. But in order to be in such a position I must function at a high level. To even have peers.

"Now, I do not experience or have ever experienced what it means to be schizophrenic. I do not presume to understand what this feels like. 99% of the population has to say the same thing."

I have, and to be honest i like it here...(on this forum, there are some smart people here, like you)

"This is a very difficult conclusion.” The “compromise” involves much more than “take drugs or not,” or “take these drugs instead of those.”

You don't belive in the so-called chemical inbalence, Ken.

I do... I know exactly how it feels to be out of whack... By contrast, I know how it feels to be well center'd.

This is the big problem, I can have with my father at times.

But no matter what, he's always been there for me...

Its hard for me to imagion that at times.

On the other hand, I can see your point-

I have come out of it, without any drugs. But conditons have to be so perfectly ideal for this to happen its just not realistic-

take stress for example, some react better to it than others, how do you explain this?

Dont get me wrong Ken,

I dont even tell my Dad when I take the medications.

I want him to belive that the positive changes I make in my life are real.

But I do infact understand what im going thru, and thank God my wife does too. Its really just about growing up...

The anti-depressent I brought up is non-narcodic(sp?).

I just want to genuinly correct my imbalence, not to get high, or to delude myself.

If you believe even for a micro-second, that physiatrists or any one else who is an MD, would just throw in the towel (so to speak) you are wrong.

Those who are genuinly commited to getting better(patients) will get help.

most just dont get this far.


Name: wez
Date: 2006-11-09 03:00:23
Link to this Comment: 20945

Hi I have been doing some research on laughing because in the past year i have noticed that I haven't been laughing as much. It is very uncomfortable to have a humorus conversation with someone and not be able to laugh with the other person. But the very few times i do laugh i feel very relieved and relaxed, it takes such load off. Being a Jr. in high shcool its difficult to communicate and conect with people with out lightening up and laughing. I just wish i could find a way to luagh more, yet i don't want to fake it.

Name: discussion
Date: 2006-11-09 20:42:09
Link to this Comment: 20953


I am surpised by your post, but I guess its all good. interesting that under 18 you'd be interested in this type of thing.

I have been obsessing about my posts here for a couple of days. I would like to point out the first time I was hospitalized I snared at my doctor, and stated Im not taking this shit(stuff) once im outta here. I was only there for 7days. I absolutly hated the idea of being medicated. But I was in my early 20's. My doctor replied to me, you wont make it a year without this "stuff". I made it 7 years. one of my doctors told me to just forget the whole experience, and go on with your life(without medication). I wasnt doing bad. I agree with Ken's evication, what's the difference between any medication its all the same. For the most-part he could be right. But if it wasnt for the anti-anxiety medications I would still be delusional. My condition deteriated over the years. but others helped me bear the weight of it all. They did much to make me more receptive to treatment. I wouldnt even be married if I had not come very far. The medication did indeed help. Sometimes sedation can help, but you cant go thru your whole life that way, I got lucky and found something that directly can help my im-balence, in a preventative maintence kind of way.. It took alot to get to that point

.. but untill you are hopitalized for bizarre behavior, wez, just take this all with a grain of salt. Best to all.

Hello I must be going.

Name: wez
Date: 2006-11-10 02:40:38
Link to this Comment: 20955

how can i get help? is there some type of psychologyist that specializes in social skills, laughing etc... im sure it can be worked out hopefully without medication.I think alot, contantly thinking about everything- i say, thats around me, why am i here, all that stuff you know. That movie "what the bleep do we know" tripped me out, it was all about cuontom physics. But who knows, maby i have social anxiety disorder (dipression/anxiety) or some off the wall thing that may need medication. If any of you know of anyone i can talk to or email, whatever, let me know please. I want to conquer this. thanks!

Name: discussion
Date: 2006-11-11 20:23:36
Link to this Comment: 20961

Hi Wez,

Look, Ive come an aweful long way by making my own decisions, and sticking by them for better or worse.

Name: wez (
Date: 11/10/2006 02:40
Link to this Comment: 20955

how can i get help? is there some type of psychologyist that specializes in social skills, laughing etc... im sure it can be worked out hopefully without medication.I think alot, contantly thinking about everything- i say, thats around me, why am i here, all that stuff you know. That movie "what the bleep do we know" tripped me out, it was all about cuontom physics. But who knows, maby i have social anxiety disorder (dipression/anxiety) or some off the wall thing that may need medication. If any of you know of anyone i can talk to or email, whatever, let me know please. I want to conquer this. thanks!)

"how can i get help?"I want to conquer this."

Name: wez (
Date: 11/09/2006 03:00
Link to this Comment: 20945

Hi I have been doing some research on laughing because in the past year i have noticed that I haven't been laughing as much. It is very uncomfortable to have a humorus conversation with someone and not be able to laugh with the other person. But the very few times i do laugh i feel very relieved and relaxed, it takes such load off. Being a Jr. in high shcool its difficult to communicate and conect with people with out lightening up and laughing. I just wish i could find a way to luagh more, yet i don't want to fake it.

"yet i don't want to fake it."

I probably should have just abandon this post as I planed.


Try to think of serendip as a place for answers, not questions. This always helps me. Im not positive that what you describe is even a problem. if you dont find something funny as someone else does, dosent mean theres something wrong with you.

"I just wish i could find a way to luagh more,"

You dont need medication to help you do this. Also you want to be exceedingly careful, that you dont classify yourself in a catagory that you are not in.

"I think alot, contantly thinking about everything- i say, thats around me, why am i here, all that stuff you know."

" That movie "what the bleep do we know" tripped me out, it was all about cuontom physics."

Never saw that one(movie). And thats quantium physicis.

"But who knows, maby i have social anxiety disorder (dipression/anxiety) or some off the wall thing that may need medication."

Most likely not.

If you are interested in science, persue that. If you have the opportunity to go to collage, by all means go for it. You may find familiarity in friend's who have the same interests. Perhaps that's what you like about this place.

If you think alot, consider you may have an advatage in a science/engineering disipline and by persuing that, you may encounter like minds.

trying again :)

the ObservING
Name: meL
Date: 2006-11-17 05:16:46
Link to this Comment: 21014


The ObservING ( no misery-self implied )

can't be denied.

Pay attention to beauty if the ObservING process
scares the sht out of You.

Abandon all knowledge...You WILL know what to do...

THAT takes out the non-existant misery-self.


Asking a question
Name: Med
Date: 2006-11-25 19:25:19
Link to this Comment: 21174

Can anyone out there explain to me how physical, social and emotinal needs may be linked

The psychoanalyst on line
Date: 2006-12-05 04:36:27
Link to this Comment: 21261

Do You have questions but there are no answers? Depression?Melancholy?Loneliness? Welcome to It is the answer to your questions

You must have Macromedia flashplayer

Name: Ana
Date: 2007-01-13 06:49:22
Link to this Comment: 21387

That writers are mad has been a commonplace since antiquity. But how
do writers represent madness, and what do these representations
suggest about the nature of madness, or what we might now call mental


Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein's Nephew
Laurence Sterne, Tristam Shandy
Nikolai Gogol, Diary of a Madman
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Antonia White, Beyond the Glass
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Ken Kesey, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
Saul Bellow, Herzog
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
Anne Sexton, The Awful Rowing toward God
D.M. Thomas, The White Hotel

Sorry for the interuption...
Name: Dere Iyome
Date: 2007-01-14 08:42:22
Link to this Comment: 21392

I really need help. I'm going crazy.I'm a female from Nigeria.I'm 18yrs old. A teenager. Will be entering the university this month end by God's grace. I'm in love with a father of 3kids and a husband. I'm so deeply in love with him. Anytime i see him with his wife, i get hurt that sometimes i just find an excuse to leave the place. Right now, am having a feeling that this might end in a very disastrous way if i ever think of breaking up. I'm s much into this relationship. He's my first real love.He loves me so much too but GOD!! he's married.PLease help me. I cry all the time thinking about it. Yeah...he's so nice and loving. He's understanding too but we are secret lovers. Nobody knows about us except US. Am so scared something might happen and i'll get so deeply hurt. I can NEVER leave him. What should i do???

Answer 2 question
Date: 2007-01-17 15:05:48
Link to this Comment: 21397

Was sitting here thinking about the difference between cognative and emotional.


Asks the question

Can anyone out there explain to me how physical, social and emotinal needs may be linked




Getting it less wrong.

Sorry just had to compare that.

Physical and Social may be linked easily, for example in the cognitive sence. Who is the Alpha subject?

But, Emotinal this could only be linked thru passion. Such as artist. Since being cognitive is essentially a science. Yet, artistry is not a science.

Its easy to link physical and social, since taller people tend to have an advantage in society. But emotinal is a wildcard, that is structured thru passion/concentration not genetic wealth... People who are cool-handed with there emotions may be shorter people who are alphas in society. But there may be tall non-alphas that cannot control there emotion. I guess the true question is, how does genetically passed information, relate to physical, social and emotinal needs?

Such as, why are some artists considered gifted, and others not. There both considered artists, just as athletes can be considered superior to each other. Yet with athletes its more of a science thru competition and who wins. And with artists beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With science there can be no opinion. Such as beauty and emotion.

Date: 2007-01-17 21:03:53
Link to this Comment: 21399

Sex, Relationships, Love, seem to integrate all three.

Name: "Ana Freud
Date: 2007-01-29 04:58:13
Link to this Comment: 21417

I attempt to defend psychoanalysis against some accusations which have often been brought to it.
I am convinced of its validity as a science of the human psyche, of its truth regarding the explanation of human nature, of its utility in understanding the causes of human behaviour and gaining insight into ourselves. Especially Sigmund Freud is still not outdated - and shall never be - due to the universality of the workings of the human psyche.
Psychoanalysis regards man as an individual. There are no such things as solutions to be applied to all men as a template in order to cure any patient. Psychoanalytic therapy aims at the maturisation of the individual, the unblocking of psychical development, the consolidation and autonomization of the ego. Independence of thought, initiative - these are features that portray psychical maturity.
In order to engage in a successful analysis, there has to be a collaboration between analyst and analysand. No psychoanalyst conducts the analysis without the analysand's consent. The analysand is tested for the ability to develop the therapeutic alliance - the ability to accept the effort, pain and internal conflict.
Psychoanalysis does not simply attempt to change a patient's lifestyle. The effect would not last for too long, or the patient may become dependent on the psychoanalyst. It deals with the causes of the patient's behaviour and makes the patient aware of them and able for self-observation.
Does psychoanalysis denigrate human nature, by revealing the dark side of man (those wishes that can be judged as monstruous by moral conscience)? Psychoanalysis does reveal man's shadow, but it does not deny his dimension of light. Psychoanalysis does not celebrate the obscure forces in the human psyche, it does not recommend that these should be lived. Making unconscious wishes become conscious creates the premises for the sublimation of the corresponding energy for using this energy for highly valued social and cultural purposes.
Unacceptance of psychoanalysis comes - in my opinion - from lack of understanding of it, or from unacceptance of the truth it says about ourselves. Psychoanalysis does not judge or condemn people by labelling them. It is only people who are under this impression because they find it hard to accept who they are or because they have not yet come to truly know themselves.

if you need this...
Name: concerned
Date: 2007-01-29 20:46:47
Link to this Comment: 21418

if you have mental/emotional symptoms, a recent mental disgnosis, or are having problems getting medications to work, then these websites may be of further assistance to you:

hope this helps you.

Name: :)
Date: 2007-01-31 21:40:09
Link to this Comment: 21422

If comment #21418 was deleted it wouldnt bother me as a reader. I thought comment #21417 was intriging. But comment #7121 intrigues me the most.

Name: "Ana Freud
Date: 2007-02-03 02:42:43
Link to this Comment: 21425

Today, Sigmund Freud’s actuality is a truth. In spite of all critiques and revisions, he remains of actuality exactly in the same form psychoanalysis had in the previous epoques. Freud regretfully expressed the fact that his students did not continue his researches and that the public has wrongly understood many of his statements.
About the new developments in psychoanalysis – actually, there aren’t any. Nowadays we witness the apparition of a great number of therapies influenced by or borrowing elements from psychoanalysis. If these therapies don’t pretend to be the “progress” of psychoanalysis, then fine; borrowing remains a problem, however, namely whether these borrowings can work outside the specific psychoanalytic frame.
What is considered to be the result of the “considerable progress” of clinical and theoretical practice nowadays in psychoanalysis is nothing but a sure way of failure of analysis. To restrain the importance of the interpretation of dreams – the royal path to the unconscious – and Fairbairn’s claim that there’s no such thing as id… If practiced in this way, no wonder the revolt against psychoanalysis – that it doesn’t work… How could it work properly when it is sliced according to the “modern” analyst’s mood!?
Let us take the example of Alfred Adler’s “development” of Freudian psychoanalysis. In his therapeutic approach, Adler never bothers to turn unconscious representations into conscious ones, giving up free associations and dream interpretations. "He knows neuroses have all just one purpose: to falsely raise the ill person in the eyes of those around." Adler thinks that any analysis is a struggle between doctor and patient, the latter "refusing to describe his/her symptoms and their origin for fear that would place him/her in an inferior position to their doctor's."
Has man’s inner structure “evolved” over the years, such that one does no longer have unconscious wishes expressed via dreams, or to have no unconscious desires at all? Has the conception regarding women changed – considerably, leaving no stereotyped traces – in today’s world? Is man still not haunted by phobias, absurd fears, with no apparent reason?
To what extent has the inner structure of the human mind changed over the years since Freud’s time? Could we say that there was a “progress” similar to that of a computer? If not, then how come psychoanalysis – the science of the human psyche – could change since its creation by Freud?
It is often the case that time brings progress to various sciences, and technologies. But in the case of psychoanalysis, it reached its peak with Freud and it will endure in the same form for other 150 years to say the least.

Neuropsychoanalysis and benefits of the usage of r
Name: Mitchell S
Date: 2007-02-05 13:24:59
Link to this Comment: 21432

In response to “Anna Freud’s” critique of modern psychoanalysis, I want to distinguish between new models that reject the importance of unconscious factors from those that continue to hold these forces central to the change process. I share the author’s concern that, as a whole, psychoanalysis is losing effectiveness when it denies unconscious motivations.

One of the most striking omissions from current psychoanalysis, including problems with relational treatment models, is the omission of the use of reconstructions in interpreting what could have potentially occurred during preverbal phases of development, or which have been "forgotten" after a severe trauma. To support this assertion, I refer to the development of the brain from birth through age 5 as having a developmental sequence that his just now becoming fairly well understood. In addition, I will describe the effects of trauma on the memory centers of the brain. Finally, I will demonstrate the value of reconstruction, especially when memories are not encoded or retrievable from the hippocampus. For this I will draw upon my own clinical experience in treating patients with dementia using a neuro-psychoanalytic approach.

At birth, an infant has a fully functioning amygdala and hypothalamus, with most processing going upwards from the amygdala to the right frontal lobe. The amygdala stores information in fragmentary forms that have emotional valence indicating whether a perception is of something safe, dangerous, appetizing, etc. This knowledge, more emotional than cognitive, continues to play an active role throughout human development. Next online, beginning at approximately 3 months, is the hippocampus, a structure necessary for more factual-based knowledge. Even so, it relies extensively upon feedback from the amygdala which provides the emotional significance to the fact. It should be noted that the hippocampus does not rely upon verbal processing until much later, around the age of 12 months, although precursors of this can be found much earlier in that infants can respond to their names at somewhat earlier ages. Until about five years of age, the right hemisphere remains the dominant hemisphere for most processes. It is only after that time that the left hemisphere -- particularly the left temporal lobe -- matures sufficiently to allow for finer discriminations of language. From this point forward, he left hemisphere becomes the seat of our conscious thought while the right frontal lobe seems to play an active role in whether thoughts and feelings are acknowledged or repressed.

One more feature of brain processing needs to be elaborated at this point. When undergoing a severe trauma, a person may respond by activating the fight-flight response, corresponding to an increase in cortisol, a naturally occurring steroid that allows for a sustained release of energy. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to cortisol has deleterious effects on the hippocampus, destroying its overall functioning. This effect does not become noticeable until senescence. Another normally occurring substance, beta-endorphin, is released when the person is so overwhelmed that he/she could neither fight nor flee. Beta-endorphin dulls physical pain while erasing memory of the event from the hippocampus. Nevertheless, the emotional, fragmentary memory remains stored in the amygdala.

In individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, flashbacks occur when some fragmentary memories are triggered. Cortisol becomes hyper-secreted in a moderate traumatic recollection. Beta-endorphin becomes hyper-secreted in more severe traumas, leading to dissociative states and even to dissociative identity disorder, a condition in which the recall of the trauma is split off into fragmentary selves who are often completely unaware of the existence of each other.

From the above discussion, it is clear that there seems to be some correlation between Freud's psychosexual stages, and the sequence of brain maturation. I want to add that these dates are very general, and have not been referenced for this entry. Nevertheless, I refer you to the works of Allan N. Schore, a developmental psychoanalyst who has had an extensive impact on the analytic community by demonstrating the relationship between normal brain development and emotional development, as well as ways in which the brain develops poorly in response to trauma and non-optimal attachment relationships. Dr. Schore is currently researching the effects of affect regulation actual brain structures and function. His work clarifies many of the brain connections summarized here. He is a true pioneer in the field of neuro-psychoanalysis. My work in dementia has been greatly influenced by his theories. In contrast to Schore, however,my own work focuses more on the limbic structures than it does on the right frontal lobe. What I'm presenting here is my own theory, in turn influenced by Schore, Joseph LeDoux, Antonio Damasio, and Rhawn Joseph, among many others.

Since much of what can go wrong in human development takes place prior to verbal encoding, and since trauma often leads to an erasure of memory, or prevents the conscious memory formation from occurring in the first place, it often becomes necessary to rely upon the fragmentary memories stored within the amygdala in order to reconstruct the traumatic events.

I myself rely very strongly on reconstruction, perhaps more than most others in the field need to, because I specialize in the treatment of people with dementia. In my clinical experience, there are many people with dementia who have a relatively intact the amygdala with a relatively damaged hippocampus. Their frontal and outer-temporal lobes tend to be relatively well preserved, so they can talk about their experience and use reason to improve their understanding of their feelings. Performing the role of an auxiliary hippocampus, I help my patients take fragmentary emotional responses and recollections, assemble them into a whole, and repeat this over time, so that it gets into long-term memory despite the poorly functioning hippocampus. Usually, these individuals have had severe traumas in their lives, which led to hypervigilance and an over-active danger alarm. I teach my patience to contain the intensity of the emotional response while retaining the reconstructed memory, which is in turn paired to a more adaptive emotional response.

From the above description of my technique, summarized and over-simplified, it may be difficult to see how my work connects to psychoanalysis. That may be because I'm leaving out the content of the traumas, which typically have psychodynamic significance. In fact, I find that the perception of what happened matters more than the veridical truth. (Of course, this opens up the issue of screen memories, a subject for a whole book on psychoanalysis and the nature of memory itself.) It is through exploration of these unconscious conflicts that the fragmentary recall emerges. It is through the reconstructions that trauma can begin to be recalled in a safer light. While the dementia is not reversed, excess disability is diminished. These patients become less depressed or anxious, and have improved cognitive functioning. What was unacceptable becomes more acceptable. Using Freud’s tripartite terminology, where formerly these memories were contained in the id, they are now able to be transformed through the ego.

In this brief summary, I am omitting many other brain structures, as well as over-simplifying and over-generalizing the roles and interconnectedness of those that I have addressed directly. I just wanted to give readers of this forum a viewpoint from one who practices psychotherapy employing an integration of neuroscience and psychoanalysis. I hope you see that there may be benefits to such integration, not just in expanding technique, but in validating and building upon some of Freud’s brilliant observations. His model is gaining greater support as more is known about the function of the brain. In this way, neuro-psychoanalysis represents the best way forward, infusing the most comprehensive system of the mind with empirical neuroscientific support. This enables the widening scope of psychoanalysis to treat a greater number of disorders while simultaneously enabling the therapist to make greater conscious choices as to what therapeutic intervention would be most useful for which patient. While this posting focused on the neuropsychology of reconstruction, it obviously has much broader implications in this emerging field of neuro-psychoanalysis.

Mitchell R. Slutzky, Ph.D.
Geriatric Psychologist
New York, NY

Name: (:))
Date: 2007-02-26 14:31:48
Link to this Comment: 21497

From a subjective point of view as a person having experienced a great deal of trauma, I found that it took 3 years of therapy before even being able to recognize the possibility that the dangers I perceived may be misinterpretations. I had to realize that my reactions and responses to current somewhat benign events were being filtered through the trauma and that in spite of all the logic in the world, the fear isn't mediated by reason. It has been my current psychotherapist who utilizes primarily relational therapy, that I have begun to feel fear eased through trust, feedback from others, and the hardest of all was deciding that indeed I am vulnerable, and often I may not know where to trust and where to doubt, but I am coming to find that with time I can gradually release fear as people demonstrate trustworthiness at some human level of decency.

That doesn't prevent the physical stress response to triggers, but it has allowed me to know to check and recheck before I make a public ass of myself.

Name: 8
Date: 2007-02-26 16:36:51
Link to this Comment: 21498

"In addition to the classic symptoms of mania, patients will retrospectively report feeling that every decision they made was unquestionably the correct one. The euphoria they experience can quickly turn to agitation and aggression when attempts to provide structure are attempted." from Editor's Message; Exploring the Complex Moods of Bipolar Disorder,June 2004 JAOA; David A. Baron, DO, MSEd

As my bipolar symptoms progressed, I have noticed becoming progressively more easily irritated by things since I was in my teens. Mostly that has occurred when I felt stuck in an over-stimulating environment. I start feeling a sense of desperation to get out of there, and become more reactive. I haven't really become aggressive, but overly defensive. The more rigid the structure and expectations around me the more trapped I feel in the intense frustration of noise, racing thoughts, seemingly petty interferences, and difficulties concentrating. I get defensive because I think it all feels like an intrusive onslaught, completely oblivious to my internal pain. To cope with this state I withdraw to a quiet place. If I can't do this, I do feel sort of like a cornered animal, and have a difficult time being aware of those around me and their perspective. It takes all I've got to just focus on keeping myself together. In those situations I am not much good to anyone else. I do know my limits there, but often life pushes me beyond them.

It is kind of like someone telling you to be considerate of others and pick up your garbage when you are in the middle of a hurricane. It seems insensitive, ridiculous, and pointless. Of course realizing that this is not a typical internal experience for most people, I try to not take it out on them, but I do have to get out of that situation because it is really miserable.

A seven years research in Humans behaviors
Name: Harb
Date: 2007-03-03 11:04:49
Link to this Comment: 21535

Years ago, our journey with finding the truths about human behavior started. I have always believed that all humans and their behaviors could be explained by a unified theory. In my observation and research of the real and known stories about humans and their behaviors, I have noted that most of behaviors do not match the known theories. Humans have been challenging the researchers to reach a theory that can explain the reasons and motivations behind their behaviors.
In 2004, my efforts in finding a foundation that I could build my theory on reached its end. “All humans who have lived in the past or recent days, with their differences in age, color, and cultures, like to feel good and dislike to feel bad.” In other words, humans have two drives, one they try to maximize—positive emotions, and the other they try to minimize—negative emotions. With such a hypothesis, my theory has reached its foundation.
Humans feel good—positive emotions—when fulfilling their needs and/ or preventing their harms, and bad—negative emotions—when failing to do so. Needs and harms can be divided into two groups, bodily and non-bodily.
The bodily group is similar in all humans, and the body known homeostasis controls the way its emotions work. Humans feel good when fulfilling or preventing their craved needs or harms, and bad when failing. Such needs and harms and their related emotions are hardwired in humans’ brain; in other words, humans will have negative emotions in their system if they fail to fulfill or prevent the existing bodily need or harm, and they have no control over the body-brain-emotions-mechanism.
The non-bodily group—the psychological group—is not the same in all humans, and the mechanism in which it works is controlled by the ability of humans to wire their brain in what should constitute a psychological need or harm. Once such a group is developed, the brain will produce the emotions that guide humans in fulfilling and preventing the needs and harms. The positive and negative emotion-brain-mechanism works in a similar way like the bodily needs and harms emotion-brain-mechanism. Moreover, I believe that humans have the ability to reevaluate this part—the psychological—by rewiring their brain-emotions-mechanism.
The controversial issue of “soul” came into my consideration due to my effort in finding the part that controls and wires the brain’s psychological emotional part. By reviewing different historical and recent sources, I found that the word “soul” is used widely when mentioning humans and their free-well, which means the ability to choose and control one’s own behaviors. Therefore, I chose the word “soul” as an appropriate name for the part that controls one’s fulfillment and prevention of the needs and harms; and in doing so, the soul is guided by the produced emotions. In other words, the human souls are rewarded by positive emotions in their bodies when fulfilling the bodily needs and preventing the bodily harms—hard wired—and punished by negative emotions when failing; and in the same mechanism, the psychological part works, but with one very important different element, that is, the soul is the one that defines such a part.
Humans, using their senses, choose among the different alternatives the ones that will have positive emotions, more than the negative emotions; in other words, they will be guided to choose the alternatives that will have more benefits than the paid costs. Hence, benefits are fulfilled needs or prevented harms-bodily or psychological—and costs are paid harms—bodily or psychological.
Any individual will set or choose his ultimate goal that he needs to achieve in life (e.g., education, profession, wealth) as the one that will grant (he thinks) his control over his brain’s emotional triggers, which means, in real life behaviors, the goal that will grant the fulfillment of his physical and psychological needs, and prevention of his physical and psychological harms.
The process of communicating between the brain and the outside world is done through the known input devices—the human senses. Thus, the bodily and non-bodily needs and harms are recognized and wired in the brain memory in the form of visions, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. In other words, when the body needs a specific element, such as protein, it will communicate such a need to the brain’s limbic stem system (Hamer, 2004 in citing the work of Edelmen, 1992), which will relate this element to specific memorized foods that the human has experienced before, such as a hamburger. The resulting craving signal will be the craving for hamburger, in the form of taste, smell, vision, and textures that a human locates using his senses. Today, the human will have different choices about where he can obtain the needed protein (e.g., hamburger, steak), and his choice will depend on the way he evaluates each product brand. However, the final emotion—positive or negative—will depend on the taste and smell of the food, which has to match the body’s homeostasis.
I believe that the taste and smell senses are hardwired in the brain, and humans use them to fulfill the body’s homeostasis; and therefore, the resulting emotions will depend on the success in fulfilling the needed element. This hypothesis is based on the known facts. For example, if a given human likes—positive emotions--the taste and smell of a particular kind of steak, and if such a person, once he consumes 2 pounds of this steak, becomes full in a way that he can no longer stand the smell and taste of it—negative emotions—then the taste and smell resulting emotions are hardwired based on the body homeostasis.
Moreover, I have noted that the vision and sound inputs are not as hard wired as the smell and taste. Therefore, I propose that humans using their vision and sound input devices are able to wire the brain emotional results, and thus, the psychological part is developed based on such ability.
Brands are the objects or stimuli that humans have been learning about since birth, using their senses, which are related to their needs and harms—bodily and psychological. Some of these brands for a given human being are his family members, friends, other people, food, drinks, animals, and objects. Brands that fulfill bodily or psychological needs, and prevent bodily or psychological harms are liked. Brands that evoke bodily or psychological harms, and prevent the fulfillment of bodily or psychological needs are disliked. In other words, a brand, when sensed by humans will evoke emotions—positive or negative—based on the way that brand was evaluated.
Once a given brand is evaluated, human brains will produce emotions when such a brand is sensed or recalled from the memory. Humans will like the brands that evoke positive emotions and dislike the ones that evoke negative emotions. Humans will deal with the liked brands, and will abandon the disliked ones, unless they are needed to fulfill an essential need or prevent an essential harm—bodily or psychological; if such a disliked brand is needed, humans will treat it as a cost that needs to be paid to obtain the essential benefit.
We believe that any attempt to understand and generalize a theory regarding the non-bodily part, as Maslow (1943) attempted to accomplish, would fail due to the differences in such a psychic from one human to another and from time to time within the same human. As we know, for example, each culture, society, and religion has its sets of needs and harms that most of the time are perceived, adopted, and valued differently within one group. And therefore, humans will adapt to such values differently, and, as a result of such differences, they will be guided differently by their brain-emotions. But indeed they all will feel good when fulfilling the needs and preventing harms that they have adapted to. In other words, the billions of humans who are living today are different in their personalities—psychological part; but all are the same in their body homeostasis, and in the way they will feel when fulfilling and preventing their needs and harms—positive or negative emotions. Moreover, they all try to embrace the positive emotions and avoid or try to minimize the negative ones.
Ones can assume that due to the important role of emotions in the motivational process, humans are irrational when making decisions. I believe that humans can be irrational or rational when guided by their emotions. Moreover, I believe that emotions—positive or negative—are produced under one’s control, as the scientific data have proven, and the intensity of such emotions is controlled by humans’ ability to tune its intensity. Thus, humans are intelligent if they choose to control their emotions.

Why Do Humans Develop Emotions?
Name: Harb
Date: 2007-03-03 11:42:49
Link to this Comment: 21536

A clear and sound understanding of humans’ behaviors is what researchers, in many different fields, are trying to accomplish in order to solve the many challenging problems that being raised due to such behaviors. A clear understanding of humans’ behaviors can improve our knowledge in many fields that are influenced by it. Some of these fields are, human psychology, conflict resolution, human resource, societal science, crimes, humans and family relationships, public policies, public diplomacy, economic, marketing, and many other fields. A clear and sound approach to such fields will help the decision makers to make the right and most effective decisions that can solve their daily problems.
My journey in searching for truths about human behaviors started years ago. During my search, I have always believed that all humans and their behaviors could be explained by a unified and simple theory. Thus, my main goal was to write a theory statement that can be used to explain all human behaviors from past and present in a meaningful way, by which any given human behavior can be understood.
My main research is a qualitative research that used the scientific method as its methodology. The scientific method is known as “the method that searches after knowledge ”. In my research, I attempted to confirm the developed hypotheses by analyzing the valid and reliable existing scientific secondary data that are confirmed by human neuroscience studies. The scientific data, I strongly believe, are the most valid and reliable data that can be used to approve or disapprove any theories or hypotheses.

The assumption that I always embraced during my research is: The good emotions and the negative emotions that humans, with different cultures and beliefs, feel when going through their lifecycle are the same in its nature and effect. In other words, human sadness or happiness is caused by similar force that is felt within his or her body. Many researchers, especially in the field of human neuroscience, suggest that such assumption is true.
Another assumption that I hold in my research is: humans’ emotions play a main roll in producing any given behavior throughout their lifecycle. For example, it is known that baby cries when experiencing negative hunger or thirst feelings, humans engage in relationships with each other when experiencing love or liking feelings, and humans purchase different products that they like and abandon the disliked ones.
In this paper, I will go over my research parts that answered the following major questions: What are the forces that drive humans’ behaviors? What are the reasons behind the production of such forces within the humans’ body?
The following steps will be followed in this paper in order to answer the main research questions:
A scientific explanation of human emotions
In this part, I will go over a simple scientific explanation that I quoted from a book that was written by a scientist in the field of human neuroscience.
The negative emotions
In this part, I will go over my attempt to group the humans’ negative emotions, which are not wanted by humans, into one group.
The positive emotions
In this part, I will go over my attempt to group the humans’ positive emotions, which are wanted by humans, into one group.

The two humans’ behavioral drives
In this part, I will go over my attempt to explain the distinct and unique humans’ behavioral drives that guides humans in their lifecycle learning and decisions making process.
The causes of the humans’ behavioral drives
In this part, I will go over my attempt to group the causes of producing the two humans’ behavioral drives into two groups: human’s bodily related causes—humans’ homeostasis concept, and non-bodily related causes—the psychological causes.

In his famous book, The God Gene, Hamer (2005) explained the mechanism of humans’ emotions, which I understand it as follows:
the human’s brain consists of about 100 billion different cells, which are named neurons. Neurons come in many shapes and sizes, but all have the same structures as follow:
(1) Cell body that carries most of the production and maintenance operations within the neuron; (2) Dendrite (input and radar devices) is the neuron antennae that receives information from the other cells; (3) Axon (output device) carries information from its cell to the outside cells using branches (synapse).
Neurons communicate with each other using chemicals called monoamines, which represent emotions—negative or positive—that are felt by humans when produced. Monoamines are produced within the neurons from amino acids found some humans’ foods. The monoamines consist of two groups, one causes positive emotions and the other causes negative feelings. Once the monoamines are produced, they have to be wrapped into vesicles before being sent out to the neurons terminus. The release of the monoamines will happen when one of two connected neurons sends a signal that opens the gate of the other neuron for release. Once the release happens, the released monoamines have to be carried on receptors that have a certain shape and fit. The types of receptors are what control the types of emotions that humans will have. For example, serotonin (a type of monoamine) receptors do not respond to the dopamine (another type of monoamine) release, and vice versa. The size of the monoamine’s vesicle has to match with the size of the receptor’s storage part in order to be carried.
For each monoamine there are different kinds of receptors that have the same storage shape but with different internal structures, which will affect the type of signal and its interaction with the other cells, as scientists believe.
Scientists are still discovering more chemicals, which govern the body and brain communications process. These discoveries, indeed, are breakthroughs in understanding the long profound mystery of humans’ feelings.

Humans become stressed when experiencing negative emotions—unwanted feelings. For examples, they have fear feelings when experiencing dangerous situations; sad feelings when experiencing the death of loved ones; angry feelings when discovering that someone misled them; and stressed feelings when failing to achieve a certain goal. It can be noted that each experienced situation, which leads to negative emotions, is different from one another, and therefore, humans name the associated negative emotions differently (e.g., anger, sadness, stress, anxiety); but all are unwanted and un-welcomed situations that humans try not to experience due to its negative feelings.
Thus, it would be appropriate to say that all humans on earth (living in the present, past, and future), male or female, child or adult, would try to resist experiencing such unwanted feelings and try not to experience it again. In other words, humans will try to minimize such negative emotions by minimizing the interactions with the stimuli that caused the productions.
The following is a quotation from a study that was published in the Society For Neuroscience (2005):
When we experience a stressful situation, our stress system activates a slew of biological mechanisms that boost our strength and energy, among other functions, to help us cope. Accumulating research, however, indicates that perpetual or intense stress sometimes may harm the brain and its function. Such findings are leading to a better understanding of how environmental factors can influence the brain.

The article also indicates that the research reveals relationships between the level of stress that a human experience from a traumatic event and some psychological disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, when humans face a high level of stress, their stress system can be over-activated, which can affect the function and the production of the negative brain monoamines, leading to harm in many ways.
Positive emotion is the state of feeling that all humans like to experience in their life. Such a humans’ striving is known as self-gratification in the psychology field.
As in negative feelings, positive feelings are caused by many situations. For example, humans experience love feelings when being in relationship with other partners, happy feelings when achieving goals, joy feelings when eating a delicious meal in a fancy restaurant, and humorous feelings when watching a T.V. comedy.
It can be noted that each experienced situation, which leads to positive emotion, is different from one to another, and therefore, humans name the associated emotions differently (e.g., happiness, joy, love, relaxation); but all are wanted and welcomed feelings that humans are trying to experience more often. Thus, it would be appropriate to say that all humans (living in present, past, and future), males or females, children or adults will attempt to maximize their interaction with the stimuli that caused the welcomed emotions more often.
Recent discoveries have showed, by scanning the human brain, that human’s brain has a reward system that produces monoamines that make the human experience good feelings. Moreover, the reward system is activated every time a human experiences homeostasis stimuli of eating when hungry and/or drinking when thirsty, for example. Moreover, it showed that the same reward system is activated when different people are practicing their religious prayer, abusing drugs, smoking cigarettes, seeing the person whom are in love with, and even when their stock price rise (Jason, 2002; Bhattacharya, 2006; & Hotz, 2005). And because the monoamines that are being produced by the reward system are welcomed and needed, humans are guided to repeat these situations more often.
Based on the previous discovered facts, and many other data, I believe that any stimulus that causes a human to produce negative emotions is harmful to him, and he will always try to avoid it. And any stimulus that causes a human to produce positive emotions is beneficial to him, and he will always welcome the repeating of such stimulus (Figure –1-).

The Humans’ Behavioral Drives
Negative Emotions Drive Positive Emotions Drive

Humans escape Human seeks
Leads to unhealthy state Leads to a healthy state of
of feelings if over activated feelings

(Figure –1-)

Thus, “All humans who have lived in the past or recent days, with their differences in age, sex, and cultures, strive to experience good feelings and escape from experiencing the bad feelings.” In other words, humans have two drives, one they try to maximize—positive emotions, and the other they try to minimize—negative emotions.
It is important to clarify that I ‘m assuming that every time a human feels good or bad is because of his or her brain positive and negative emotions that are being produced. In other words, humans’ feelings are caused by their brain-emotions.
In 2004, I attempted to group the different stimuli that cause humans to feel good or bad—positive and negative emotions— into two groups, one causes positive emotions and the other causes negative emotions. Then, I discovered that humans develop positive emotions when fulfilling their needs and/ or preventing their harms, and negative emotions when failing to do so. Then, I divided the needs into body and non-body related needs, and the harms into body and non-body related harms.
The body part
The bodily’ needs and harms group is similar in all humans, and the body known homeostasis controls the productions of its related emotions.
The body needs are governed by the brain’s ability to realize when the need is deficient. Maslow (1943) confirmed the homeostasis concept (Young, 1936), in which I believe is what governs the body’s needs. Moreover, it is known scientifically that the negative emotions will be produced when the body is in need of food or any other elements, and the positive emotions will be produced if the fulfillment occurs.
Humans’ bodily harms are the lack of fulfilling one or all of the body’s basic needs—air, water, food, shelter, health—and the introduction of any objects or events that might affect and physically harm the body, including nonhuman creatures (animals), other people (criminals), small life forms (viruses), and natural disasters (e.g., earthquake, storms, fire). When such events occur, humans’ brain will produce negative emotions. Thus, due to such negative emotions, humans will attempt to behave in a way to prevent and stop the occurring harm in order to feel better—stop the production of the negative-brain-emotions.
Humans develop positive emotions when fulfilling their craved needs or preventing harms, and negative emotions when failing. Such needs and harms and their related emotions are hardwired in humans’ brain; in other words, all humans will have negative emotions in their system if they fail to fulfill the occurring bodily need or prevent the occurring bodily harm and positive emotions if they succeed.
The non-bodily part (The psychological part)
People describe their own psychological needs and harms in different ways; each way depends on their beliefs in what it should be, based on their culture, religion, and personal moral beliefs. It was noted that such groups of needs and harms are different from one culture to another, one person to another, and from time period to time period within the same person’s life cycle.
The psychic part’s needs and harms are the ones when being fulfilled (for needs) or prevented (for harms) will have no effect on the body part; in other words, when such needs are fulfilled and harms are prevented, they will not affect the body’s homeostasis. Examples of such sets of needs and harms are religion and its teachings, family values, political beliefs, economic beliefs, and many other beliefs that describe benefits and harms that are not related to the body well being, but related to a non-body well being.
Humans will be rewarded when such needs are fulfilled and harms prevented or punished when failing—positive or negative emotions—the same way as the bodily needs and harms brain’s emotions mechanism works.
The recent scientific data have suggested that people are rewarded by positive emotions or punished by negative emotions when experiencing other stimuli that are different from bodily stimuli; some of the studies show how people are developing emotions, positive or negative, from activities such as seeing a brand’s picture or buying and selling in the stock market (Society For Neuroscience, 2005; Hamer, 2004; American Academy Of Neurology, 2005; Bhattacharya, 2006; Hotz, 2005; Jason, 2002; Limbic Nutrition, 2003; Sanfey, Rilling, Aronson, Nystrom & Cohen, 2003).
Because of the facts that the non-bodily group—the psychological group—is not the same in all humans, one person to another, or from time period to time period within the same person’s life cycle, I believe that the emotions’ mechanism in which the psychic part works is wired by the humans’ ability to program their brain in what should constitute a psychological need or harm . Once such a group is developed, the brain will produce the emotions that guide humans in fulfilling and preventing the programmed needs and harms.
Moreover, I believe that humans have the ability to reevaluate and change this part—the psychological—by reprogramming their brain-emotions-mechanism.
The psychological part of any human is a product of the information that has been collected using his senses, processed and valued using his brain, and stored along with its attached emotions in his brain’s memory-archive using his brain; thus, the behaviors of any human being (his or her personality) are the product and reflections of such stored pre-valued information. As known by the many researchers, such values and beliefs are taught to humans by their caregivers when young and other sources when grown (e.g., TV, schools, friends, books) throughout their lifecycle.

The Body’s Emotions Mechanism Vs The Non-Body Emotions Mechanism

The related emotions to the body part The related emotions to the non-body

Hard wired Programmed by humans

The same in all humans Different in all humans

Cannot be changed by humans Can be changed by humans

Brain recognizes by smell and taste Brain recognizes by sound and vision

The complete picture
I describe any given human, based on the previous findings as follows:
The human is a combination of a) his bodily part with its needs and harms that are the same in all humans on earth, and b) psychological part with its needs and harms that are not the same from one culture to another, from one person to another within one culture, and from time to time within the same human during his lifecycle. The emotional well-being—positive emotions or preventing negative emotions—of all humans will depend on their success in fulfilling the two parts’ needs, and preventing the two parts’ harms (Figure –4-)




Many studies (Hotz R., 2005; Iacono Tim, 2006; Jason, Z., 2002; Limbic Nutrition, 2003; National Association For Research & Therapy Of Homosexuality, 2004; Sanfey AG, Rilling JK, Aronson JA, Nystrom LE & Cohen JD, 2003; Shwartz, M., 2001. University Of Colorado, 2004; VanScoy, H, 2004) in some way suggest humans’ abilities in programming their psychological part; some studies showed, through scanning the human brain, how people are developing emotions, positive or negative, from activities such as seeing a brand’s picture or buying and selling in the stock market. Such data strongly supports the idea of humans struggling to experience pleasure and avoid stress, and how humans are guided by emotions that are the product of its own learning and valuing process. People in the studies are producing emotions when seeing a picture of Coke Cola, George W. Bush, an actor, or even a style of fashion clothes, and the reason behind such emotions is obviously reflects and supports the notion of humans’ abilities to program and code their brain to like or dislike the different stimuli. None of the participants were born to like Coke or dislike president George W. Bush, but humans like and dislike based on their learning and valuing process.
End statements
I believe that any attempt, to understand and generalize a theory regarding the non-bodily part, as Maslow (1943) attempted to accomplish, would fail due to the differences in such a part from one human to another and from time to time within the same human. As we know, for example, each culture, society, and religion has its sets of needs and harms that most of the time is perceived, adopted, and valued differently within one group; and therefore, they will adopt to such values differently, and, as a result of such differences, they will be guided differently by their brain-emotions. But, indeed they all will feel good when fulfilling and preventing the sets of needs and harms that they adopted to. In other words, the billions of humans whom are living in our recent days are different in their personalities—psychological part; but all are the same in their body homeostasis, and in the way they will feel when fulfilling and preventing their needs and harms—good or bad emotions. Moreover, they all embrace the good emotions and avoid or try to minimize the negative ones.
Ones can assume that due to the important role of emotions in the motivation process, humans are irrational when making decisions. I believe that humans can be irrational or rational when guided by their emotions; moreover, I believe that emotions—positive or negative—are produced under ones control, as the scientific data have suggested, and the intense of such emotions is controlled by humans ability to tune its intensity, using their control over their brain. The following excerpt suggests humans control over their feelings (Society For Neuroscience (2005). Brain Briefings: Stress And The Brain. Retrieved April 24, 2005):

All messages between the brain and the nerve cells in the human being are passed to connected neurons in the form of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Some of such neurotransmitters are negatively-charged or positively-charged. The brain keeps tight control of this message delivery system and when it should be passed or not .

Thus, humans can choose to control their emotions. It has been known in the psychology field of study that humans can control their anger; and that is why people who commit some violent behaviors are admitted, by court order, to anger management classes.
Finally, I urge the society of the professional researchers to further study and reevaluate the research hypotheses in order to broaden a much-needed understanding of humans’ behaviors, especially, in our new world where humans from all over the world are not only more closer to each others, but also more dependent on each others.


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Name: :)
Date: 2007-03-14 19:02:11
Link to this Comment: 21567

I aswell have made alot of progess, on my own.

I must say the leap in results has been made possible by my doctor. I came to him in somewhat of a state of panic. Basically I stated to him my internal system of guidence was driving me to find him, for whatever reasons. He could help, and we both agreed that was his purpose. He mentioned to me that I could end up in the hospital, again. I asked if he would be there if things came to that. He reasured me, that would be the case. I had only ended up there once, like seven years before. but the relationship contiued without the need for a captive intervention. I assumed all responsibility for my treatment. The situation was totally up to me. I made the most of it. My life changed, I began to get more out of it. Certianly not an easy process. Unfortunitly my situation is so complex that I can not define the terms. But I feel ive been thru the worst of it. So I believe in happy endings. No matter what we think from time too time, there is always a theme to us. Patriotism whatever, sometime its hard to realize someone may be there to help. Perhaps its when you finally reach the summit of that scary mountainside your climbing, in your mind. That you see that you can excel being who you are. Yet you needed the evolution of tools to get you there. Things that others have trusted would help you, should you end-up in that situation.

TGA episode
Name: Jim Heath
Date: 2007-03-29 22:36:10
Link to this Comment: 21615

Jim Heath
12 Spirit Drive
Capalaba 4157

Ph: 617 3245 1600
Friday, 30 March 2007

Recently I witnessed my wife’s behaviour during a Transient Global Amnesia or TGA episode. This is a well documented condition as per:
Miranda Whites artical here.

The behaviour of the patient could be best described as severe and instant Alzheimer’s. There is no memory of something that has happened 5 seconds ago. The patient repeats the same questions over and over again of events that have just been explained to them, such as where am I, what happened ect.

Witnessing an episode it appears that the part of the brain affected is the same part of the brain that gets affected in Alzheimer’s.

With TGA the onset is commonly bought on by stress, vigorous exercise or sex. The common thread is energetic activity by the patient. It appears the brain is temporarily deprived of blood supply that rectifies itself in a short while, usually 3 to 4 hours.

By the time the patient has been taken to a hospital the cause of the problem is not evident in tests performed. If there is a depravation of blood to a part of the brain it seems to me that there are three ways it can occur.
1. Rupture of vein.
2. Blockage of vein.
3. Collapse of vein.
Obviously the first two could be observed, but the third can be self rectifying with no tell tale after affects. Once the patient relaxes the vein will dilate and perform as usual. This makes seeking the cause extremely difficult as there is no defect in the brain for the doctor to find.

What I am trying to describe is a tube, “vein” collapsing by way of a vacuum being drawn on it, this is the same as a coolant pipe in a car collapsing when the supportive spring is removed from inside the pipe. Rev the engine and the pipe will collapse, let the engine idle and the pipe opens up again. Sorry for this analogy but it’s the best way I can describe it.

The purpose of this letter is not so much as to find a cure for TGA, but may, if I am correct, be solution to the Alzheimer’s condition. If the part of the brain affected by TGA is the same as Alzheimer’s the cause of Alzheimer’s may be a gradual closing off over several years of the same vein affecting TGA.

I don’t know how much attention is paid to TGA by way of research as it is not a life threatening condition, but if this condition explains Alzheimer’s the consequences are huge.

I don’t mean to be a provocative layman but if I did not write this letter and I am correct, I would never forgive myself.

Jim Heath

poetic dementa
Name: :)
Date: 2007-04-02 01:36:18
Link to this Comment: 21618

I find myself in the middle of a group of individuals that all speak within different languages... I cannot understand such diatribe, yet within contexts, there is fam-il-air-ity of the message to be conveyed, its importance, its ergentcy. As if the frusturation with the whole event, lacks substance.

precognition, is sometimes a srambled event. As if we know the road taken should be... blank blank blank.

Yet life is fluid.

I would like too, at this time, re-consider or de-evolve a conclusion. Such as anticipate a result and conquer its percived process. It is possible to calculate the root of the cause. Depending how long such anticipation has been expected, how could anything else resolve itself.

For example, if you are a carrot how can you be a pencil, both are sharp, but one is nothing more that a pencil. Last I checked you cant write with a carrot, unless some extenuating circumstance allowed it. Such as sand. But a pencil does as a pencil does.

Change thats the the key. I think therefore I am thinking, I am a pencil, therefore I do what pencils do. I capture ideas, therefore ideas capture me.


About your article on E
Name: Butmunch
Date: 2007-04-03 04:55:32
Link to this Comment: 21621

I didnt really know where to post this and at the moment I dont have that much more time, but this comment if about the article about ecstasy that you have on your site.

I cannot believe the bias that is in the article about ecstasy. Ecstasy is a date rape drug?!?!?! You seem to be confused, ecstasy is most definitely not a date rape drug, but GHB and Ketamine for example are.

"Scientist in London have signifigant evidence that may imply that ECSTASYor MDMA, is neurotoxic, poisoning the brain's channel by its effect on the chemical serotonin. The initial feelings of happiness and euphoria associated with using the drug are mainly due to boost in serotonin, but within hours the chemical is depleted, leading to feelings of depression and lethargy."

You present no links to any studies so that viewers could have access to them. It's as if you just made them up. You NEED to add links to the sources where you got the information from or else you have no bussiness in presenting this hogwash to people who might actually want to learn something.

"The more we learn about this drug, the more problems occur. The strands of evidence suggest that MDMA or commonly known as ECSTASY may be neurotoxic for humans. It is not known how long-term these problems are; however, it has been revealed that patients who suffer concentration and severe depression, at least one year after they had stopped taking this drug. There is serious concern that the reduction of the level of serotonin might be a permanent reduction in some people, the effect is mild, but in others there are quite marked difficulties. Studies done mostly in rats, have shown that MDMA can cause prolonged neural damage to the brain's channels and the question is now whether regular use of the drug has the same effect."

Ecstasy is not neurotoxic and here I supply some links to some articles and studies that actually carry some weight. I hope you take your time to examine them before making articles like this.

There are a lot of studies about ecstasy that were simply made up like this one for example.

"Heavy users of ecstasy may be risking brain damage long after the drug has worn off. It has been determined that a single dose of MDMA, only slightly higher than the size of doses taken by humans significantly damaged brain cells called neurons that produce serotonin."

Again you have made a baseless assertion. Find some good freakin sources.

Yes ecstasy does have an effect on your brain, it impairs your short term memory for a while but the memory loss is recovered in most cases after a period of being of the drug.

I am not here to advocate its use, I simply want for you to write things that are actually TRUE, you know its when something holds water.

Your article if filled with scare tactics which is hardly surprising given that you probably have no real knowledge about the drug and are simply repeating what the government showed down your throat.

Ecstasy can fuck you up, but so can a lot of other things. If youre going to make a scare article make it about alcohol, now there is a drug that causes serious issues, Brain damage, aggresion, physical dependance, liver cyrosis, loss of control of your blade and I could go on and on.

Thank you for reading this.

Bye Jerry

within space...
Name: :)
Date: 2007-04-03 21:33:26
Link to this Comment: 21625

Hi Jerry,

I preffer to remain as unknown as possible. I am someone who was probaly having a manic episode (bipolar) on my last post. Although I have been beating myself up as a result of my reply(if you want to call it that) for about 2days, to Jims reply.( comment# 21615).

But I am somewhat surprised by your posting.

First off one cannot compare an illicit drug with an legal one such as alcohol. But you could always contact admin if you are so displeased with the link you specified -

But before you do so consider this,

-This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.-

I know it doesnt say that on the page you listed but its most likely a small oversite.

Also consider this,


Topic: Complex Systems

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Year: - Current Postings - 1999/2001 - 1998/1999 - 1997

Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: Evolving
Date: Fri Oct 29 11:50:09 EDT 1999
To all visitors:

Serendip was born in 1994, and developed forums in 1996. The forums have been and continue to be a place where everyone is invited to make comments, ask questions, and carry on conversations about anything and everything that comes to mind when exploring Serendip. As such, they have been and continue to be an essential part of Serendip's development. At the same time, any developing organism needs periodically to refresh itself. The past remains but is put in boxes to clear the mind for the next part of the future. So have we done, as of today, with Serendip's forums. All past material is still available, by clicking on highlighted years above to access forum archives. And we have, as of today, a blank slate for the next phase of Serendip's development. If you have been here in the past, you're already a part of what Serendip has become so far. Please leave your thoughts as part of the next phase of Serendip's life. And if you're new, please join in as well.

Name: betty
Subject: Care-,,
Date: Sat Aug 4 01:21:55 EDT 2001
I have identified the source of our obligation and have said that we are obligated to accept, and even to call forth, the feeling "I must." But what exactly must I do? Can my obligation be set forth in a list or hierarchy of principles? So far, it seems that I am obligated to maintain an attitude and, thus to meet the other as one-caring and, at the same time, to increase my own virtue as one-caring. If I am advocating an ethic of virtue, do not all the usual dangers lie in wait? (C) writinlifer


Thank you for the reply
Name: Jerry
Date: 2007-04-04 05:26:37
Link to this Comment: 21627

I would just like to comment on this line "First off one cannot compare an illicit drug with an legal one such as alcohol"

Yes one can compare the two. Just because something it is legal does not exempt it from criticism. Alcohol is extremely dangerous and can cause serious health problems, I should know since my father is a recovering alcoholic.

Based on my research, based on everything I've read from different sources I have come to a personal conclusion. Either people legalise all drugs or we make all drugs illegal. The hipocrisy that is in effect now is incredible.

The only reason why I say this is because where I live I can go out and buy anything from LSD, ecstasy, speed,cocaine, shrooms or even heroin and I could probably do it in about half an hour, and I am only 18 years old!!!

The war on drugs does NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING except instill fear and creates a black market. If drugs were legal and purchasable in a pharmacy, the substances themselves would be what they are suppose to be not like now when a close personal friend almost had a heart attack because of a bad batch of speed.

People will NOT stop using drugs no matter what we say, so in my opinion it is our job to collectively educate people when and how much people can take, educate them on ALL the dangers and educate them on the REAL dangers and give advice on how not to take these things. In my life the only person who ever taught us anything about drugs was simply demonising them to no end, it did not make me want to never take drugs quite the opposite having to sit there listen to that woman who was obviously full of shit was painfulle enough to want to go get a drink.

A lot of people will never go to a hospital if they have a problem after taking drugs simply because they are afraid of the consequences and that is not right. People should not be afraid to get help but they are, mainly because of the demonisation they have been hearing since early childhood.

Because after seeing what drugs did to my friend I am convinced if he had been told how these substances worked and how to use them properly in school this would not have happened.

I guess your just gonna say I'm a friggin junkie who just wants to get high the easiest way possible but I can guarantie you I'm not. Yes I have tried cannabis and ectasy before but I hardly take the stuff on a regular basis nor do I have a desire to.

Well I guess the only thing I didnt like about the article is that, it like so many others demonises the drugs instead of giving rational supported facts that one can look at and examine from an objective point of view.

Kids need to be taught how to take drugs because that is the only way to prevent unnecesary deaths.

Thx for reading my view

P.S. Sorry for any spelling mistakes, english is not my first language

Date: 2007-04-04 17:24:10
Link to this Comment: 21649

Just wanted to finish my post with this last documentary from abc.

Your Welcome
Name: :)
Date: 2007-04-07 00:22:12
Link to this Comment: 21655

Look, Jerry.

I can understand your pain. I have never done hard drugs, but both of my older brothers did and are. Yes, I have been known to get drunk from time to time. But i never once crossed the line to something like crack. Trust me it will infact fry your brain. i dont want to go into details, since ones life was destroyed by cocaine since adolesence, the other started at age 21. Trust me you dont want to know the details. I understand your frustration, if one drug can be a dream killer, why are any allowed to exist, in such an advanced society as ours.

Im bipolar, I need medication to correct a chemical imbalence that resonates for my specific centre.

I agree with your thinking that we should be able to cure something with a one time dosage, or conversly something could be so dangerious that it could screw one up (permanetly) with a one time dosage(the first time). Believe me, when i tell you, thats happened to people trying x. Personally its simple for me, I learned from my siblings experiences, coke, x , whatever I dont need to compound my problems. It should be simple for people to understand.

Speaking with my Dad this week(who is, and raised us all to be drug free) I had to check myself. Because I can never understand that type of pain. To see your children turn out that way. My oldest brother was murdered when he was 21, my second oldest brother decided to follow my oldest brothers footsteps at 21(he was 3 years younger) and is a total mess right now.

We agreed that I had a whole different set of problems than my older brother, but my Dad pointed out to me, that just as i worked hard solving my own problems, my brother was the only one who could help himself.

It would be nice if the world could be so constructed, as to safegaurd against all possible problems, true responsibility rests within the individual.

Im not going to follow any video links, Jerry.

Forum Archived
Name: Webmaster
Date: 2007-04-26 12:25:05
Link to this Comment: 21707

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