In particular I wish people would stop thinking their memories are especially accurate if they were especially "vivid".
There are many memory biases including the humor effect, positivity effect and the generation effect.
The humor effect states that humorous items are more easily remembered than non-humorous ones.
Positivity effects states that older adults favor positive over negative information in their memories.
Generation effect states that self-generated information is remembered best.
It is the same for me, but I noticed I was the odd one, almost all around me follow the 'rule': they forget about most of the hardship, remember the good parts, and even assimilate the good parts for the whole experience.
It was especially noticeable a couple of years after school. My student mates and I started studies through a tough school (very intensive, exhausting, an unbelievable amount of work, not a minute of rest, rough teachers and discipline, lots of pressure), and we went through the same thing. But like 5 years after we escaped from there, they spoke of it only as a great experience, which was lots of fun. That sounded incredible to me. They had forgotten about all the bad times, which happened 10 times more often than the good ones. The 'great experience' I could understand a bit (it's normal when you have finally overcome something difficult to feel proud of it, and it also made you stronger, if it didn't break you); but 'lots of fun' it really wasn't. Ever. And I couldn't understand either that all the negative points had vanished in their mind.
I was about to add that I have always been more (now) or less (20 years ago, in those student years) on the depressive side, and that it could be related, but I read that you made the exact same theory in your next sentence! So it seems we are in this same bag:
> If that is a thing, i wonder if it might be due to, or perhaps a cause of, depression.
I came to think that depression make you see the world as it is, and not the version the world which is numbed by the 'drugs' which a normal body/brain produces and which blur the vision as rose-tainted spectacles do (anecdote: I have rose/orange-tainted cycling glasses and that's exactly the feeling some days when I take them on/off!) .
Malcolm Gladwell did a very interesting podcast episode on that: http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/24-free-brian-william...
This is pretty interesting. The idea of not attempt to "command" the body but work with the body and unconscious process is common in a wide variety of martial arts and healing art modalities (Alexander Technique, Qigong, hypnosis, etc).
2) "When your amygdala is active, you can’t have empathy for others"
Unfortunately, this statement seems to suffer from the weakness of popular psychology expositions - a series of fairly pat cause-and-effect statement when the causes of virtually all behavior is more complex and much less certain.
The human brain is fantastically complex thing. Neurologists and psychologists have done many experiments on it. The "replication crisis" is a good indicator how difficult is to go from experiments on a few particulars to a general understanding of how the brain works. I think the criticism of "functional areas" that Luria made in The Working Brain should be read carefully.
The thing about this is: neurological research is great to add if what you're looking for is "what might be", using methods that possibly have scientific and seem effective. But if you operate in terms of "how things absolutely are", then one risks going into the realm of pseudo-science. And there's a lot of supposedly neurologically based new age quackery out there - much of it based things that "the latest findings" whenever said quack happened to get their start.
There is some stuff in post that is somewhat useful, but the conviction of the statements is a bit much. Nothing in the brain is simple, and most of neuroscience is in it's infancy today. Dandy-Walker syndrome is an especially extreme, but illustrative, case of how strange the brain can be on the inside, yet present as normal on the outside.
Doesn't seem like "normal" presentation to me.
"The person was a married father of two children, and worked as a civil servant, leading an at least superficially normal life, despite having enlarged ventricles with a decreased volume of brain tissue. "What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal with something which you think should not be compatible with life", commented Dr. Max Muenke, a pediatric brain-defect specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute. "If something happens very slowly over quite some time, maybe over decades, the different parts of the brain take up functions that would normally be done by the part that is pushed to the side.""
Maybe that is a warning sign for many people aspiring to make money, that even fully loaded you still have to deal with your own brain. Knowing how your own brain works and how to make yourself happy is a very important skill.
That being said: in my personal experience, having an intellectual understanding of something (like emotional triggers being unintegrated memories) provides some brief relief, but rarely helps me make behavioral or emotional changes in the long run.
From your point of view, what is the relation of knowing vs experiencing in making progress towards emotional resilience, and what techniques can you recommend for the experiencing aspect?
Yes, I try to strike a balance with that. To me, knowing about it brings me a lot of safety, so I know what I'm getting into when I'm doing a session, crying, contorting, reliving old memories, etc. Ultimately, I agree with you, we can talk about how to ride a bike with as much detail and scientific evidence as we want, eventually we need to ride one to see what its like.
The most effective methods I've experienced were Somatic Experiencing, a body-based psychotherapy practice I've also trained in as a therapist. There's also an empathy resonance approach by a woman called Sarah Peyton that I find very effective (her book "Your resonant self" is great). Of course I believe in my own methodology of emotional resilience which is sort of a mix of the two above, I'd be glad to offer a free session to you anytime to experience it.
Ultimately there're lots of methods, like meditation, yoga, therapy modalities that try to accomplish what we're intellectually talking about when we say emotional resilience or inner healing. In my experience this is only effective whenever the practitioner has studied and experienced this on their own body and nervous system to offer it to you effectively. And that's hard to know when it's the very thing you're looking for and you only know it intellectually. A bit of a catch 22. And it's not really a requirement when you go to therapy school for example. So it can be a mixed bag. Trial and error, which can be painful when you open yourself up to these aspects inside yourself is your friend too I believe (I tried talk therapy, various meditation practices and a few others and settled on what was both most effective in my personal experience and had the most scientific backing, like the methods I described above).
Finally, I think we're all equipped as humans to offer co-regulation and empathic presence to each other to heal from whatever difficult or stressful experience we've had. Most of us just have unlearned it very young or there's not enough emphasis in our environment to practice that with each other.
Hope some of that is helpful, let me know if you have any more questions!
So whenever we are afraid or anxious and we feel that thing in our bellies, is it the brain sending messages to the belly or the belly reacting and sending messages to the brain?
If we're in a grounded, reflected and self-connected place (i.e. if we have empathy or warm accompaniment from ourselves or someone else), we can interrupt this cycle. The signal "the gut is tight" from the gut can be discerned "ah, interesting, I wonder if it needs to be tight or if I should change the topic or watch a different movie or leave this room", etc.,
Here's an example: You see a tiger in the forest. Your eyes send that signal through their nerves to the brainstem, which makes your stomach tight and activates your legs to run away. The tight stomach and running legs then send their signals of movement and clenching back up through to limbic system ("I'm scared!") and the neocortex (your conscious brain, "I'm running away from the tiger!") to tell it to run. Because all of this happens so fast, our experience is this: We saw the tiger and therefore we're scared and are running away. That's not really what's happening under the hood, we're scared BECAUSE we're running and have a tight gut, the tiger was just a trigger for the brainstem/gut/legs. Makes sense?
Emotional states aren't reified in the brain; they're reified in our physiology. When you're happy, or sad, or scared, or whatever else, that's not a fact about your brain; your brain is just perceiving a fact about your body. (A fact that it worked together with the body to create, but still.)
Think of the brain as the CPU and the body (muscular contraction levels, etc.) as RAM. The brain-as-CPU has registers (informational state held directly in the brain), but your emotions are not held directly in such registers. Emotional states are, instead, patterns of information in the body-as-RAM, that the brain-as-CPU (statelessly) perceives [loads from, polls] in an ongoing way. If the body-as-RAM is polled and shows a certain recognizable pattern of activations, then that is interpreted by the brain as a certain emotional state.
Both the brain-as-CPU and various body parts (devices on the bus) can write to the body-as-RAM. The brain-as-CPU will then notice that the "emotional state" that it reads from the body-as-RAM has changed, and may do something about it (reinforce the change, counteract it, etc.)
What you experience as the qualia of emotion, is the brain's perception of the body-as-RAM, the same one it uses to decide whether to "do something about it."
Wanted to say thanks, nice article, and you are very brave to open up that way ;)
Thanks a ton.
ps: it's on reddit a few times (I found it so useful I pushed it to a very large one)
Edit: Specifically, vagus nerve as cause of emotion, amygdyla+empathy, synapses vs skills, everything about "feigning death", everything about "triggers"...
I have been reading Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach and this is one of the themes that keeps repeating in that book and in general in meditation. To understand one's mind and the root cause of an emotion one need to focus the attention on how one's body feels and what it's trying to say. While meditation is now widely accepted as beneficial, I have generally been less accepting or even dismissive of the surrounding teachings and method. I think it's time to revisit my views and be more open to it.
But that really should not close one off to reputable sources like Tara Brach (highly recommend people start with her guided sessions which are available free on her site) who have a well of experience honed over the years.
One time in India, some family members took me to an astrologer. I was extremely skeptical but this person was famous in town and well known regionally as well. And when I voiced my concerns that the whole field was all hocus pocus, one of my relatives said that may well be true for many individual practitioners in the field, but if you think about it as a person communicating to you using their own finely tuned heuristic for outcomes, it’s a different story. Maybe the more reputable sources in these fields should be thought of in that way, where you shouldn’t expect perfect accuracy but you should use their thoughts and knowledge as a rough guide to a kind of knowledge we have very few tools to directly explore rather than pure truths.
You want to understand yourself, spirituality or even the universe? Study the laws of nature, the 112 names of Shiva, the 72 names of God, 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, the 4 worlds and 125 degrees of Kabbalah etc. etc. etc.
Heck, study the alphabet and how to write and pronounce it. Ladders abound. Just pick one that seems like a challenge, and then pick a fun method of studying it. I like to mix calligraphy and pronunciation practice in.
No offense but your claim is absurd. Other than placebo effect, there are no accepted benefits of "meditation" (whatever that means) within the scientific community.
However in the new age, gluten-free communities...
1) only describe observational correlations, not causation (such studies are useful for guiding further research, but are a poor basis for recommending lifestyle changes)
2) describe an intervention leading to a statistically significant change, but one whose practical significance is negligible, unsubstantiated, or an unclear mixture of benefits and drawbacks
3) quality too poor to draw any firm conclusion at all (too small, no control group, neglect of known likely confounders, blatant p-hacking, etc.)
I worry about this every time I read a "practical" article about the brain. Can anyone tell if the main points in this article is generally accepted in the scientific community?
>Feeling heart-broken? Feeling angry and frustrated? Feeling sunken and collapsed? Feeling energized and happy? All of these feelings will have had their origin as sensations from vagus nerve.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of everything to do with neurology. There is simply no way to write a point by point rebuttal of how much is wrong in this article.
The real shame is that reading about the different systems that do give rise to these feelings is actually really interesting.
That's the only one that I don't believe models our physiology in a useful way. The rest match up with some of the stuff I've read/watched.
Watch some videos by Robert Sapolsky on YouTube. He's a neurostuff prof at Stanford. Good presentations.
There's "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9H9qTdserM
Also an actual academic lecture on the Limbic System which contextualizes & clarifies some of the other assertions in the OP blog post. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAOnSbDSaOw
There are more but hopefully YouTube's algorithm helps you out there. The Stanford lecture series is very interesting though Sapolsky doesn't deliver all the lectures.
edit: The only plausible, good faith explanation of the amygdala-empathy claim I can think of is that there are facial recognition studies designed to activate the amygdala https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4979579/ that showed some correlation between anxiety levels and ACC-amygdala connectivity. The ACC, or anterior cingulate cortex, is held to be responsible for empathy. So it may be an interpretation of that knowledge the author is talking about. I know that facial recognition tests are used for evaluation of empathy, sexual attraction and so on. This is probably the kernel of accuracy in the claim.
Or there may be other science on the topic that reaches a conclusion closer to what the author said.
The linked study is extremely interesting read.
Leo provides no source for it, and most importantly it sounds like an overly simple model ("your amygdala takes over, and you can't feel any empathy until it's no longer active"), and overly simple models tend to be very wrong when we're trying to describe such complex mechanisms as that of our brains.
Taking research papers and drawing conclusions and interpretations without formal training, in an authoritative manner, can lead to a lot of inaccurate beliefs about the world that people might carry to their grave because they think they're backed by science.
>When a synapse strengthens, its neighbors weaken
Again, author draws nonsense conclusions based on this about skill learning. A synapse is not a skill.
The two forms of evidence that stood out to me: (1) the effect of an overactive amygdala and (2) the negative effect of stress on the neocortex.
 Alcoholism isn’t mentioned in the post, that’s my own interpretation of the potential damage it can go. I’m going to do an online search for it to see whether that comparison has any merit.
I thought emotions can from the limbic system?
I'd have to check the source, but I'm pretty damn skeptical on all interoceptive information flowing through the vagus nerve. I'm pretty sure my adviser has told me that's Just Plain Wrong.
The reason I'm asking is because sending electrons up a wire isn't the only way to signal with electricity. When the output that was high-impedance suddenly opens up, allowing you to send electricity through, that actually can be a signal to you, that something on the other end has changed.
So the state of the up-stream neuron depends very little on the down-stream neuron: if the down-stream neuron is in it's refractory period and can't process the chemical signal, the up-stream neuron can still fire all day, and the chemicals it releases will essentially fall on deaf ears.
That is a somewhat simplified view, and there is such a thing as retrograde signaling (chemical messaging from the post-synaptic neuron to the pre-synaptic neuron), but it's believed these signals have less to do with the primary flow of information in the brain, and probably relate to slower processes like modifying the strength of the chemical signal in the affected synapse.
This is an excellent example of those aspects of our existence that are deterministic. No matter your willpower, you may be bound by biology to act a certain way. Part of being a good person is to recognize these deterministic effects and plan your life accordingly.
For example, if you get "hangry" often, keep a food item on hand at all times so that you can address your hunger before you say something mean to your partner et al.
The type of "reshaping" you're referring to would go beyond willpower in a single moment. Probably something like cognitive behavioral therapy?
I'm curious is this is a mechanism behind social anxiety. In some social situations I very clearly lose the ability to think - all thats left is an empty mind and my body going through the motions. Its completely different than my regular way of living (from my perspective, maybe not from other people's perspective) but definitely makes it more difficult to connect with others and build friendships.
Do being late for something and driving in traffic activate the amygdala? I think I can feel that combination drain my empathy. I'm trying to actively avoid those two things. Anecdotally, it sure seems to have a similar effect on quite a few others too.
That's from their Main Story.
I'm trying to tell myself that I can think effectively as long as I'm in focus.