On Depression

The dominate biomedical narrative of depression is based on biased and selective use of research outcomes that cause more harm than good, undermine the right to health and must be abandoned. There is a growing evidence base that there are deeper causes of depression, so while there is some role for medications, we need to stop using them to address issues which are closely related to social problems. We need to move from focusing on chemical imbalances to focusing on power imbalances.

-United Nations, World Health Day, 2017


To end loneliness, you need other people plus something else. You also need to feel you are sharing something with the other person or the group that is meaningful to both of you. You have to be in it together and it can be anything that you both think has meaning and value . . . A one way relationship can’t cure loneliness. Only two way or more relationships can do that. Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people. It’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else.

- John Cacioppo, scientist of loneliness

Hayes on values

From achievement and adventure to wisdom and wonder, not to mention kindness, innovation and professionalism, values are those things you deem important in life. Expressions of what you care about, they profoundly inform what you pursue day to day, year to year. In so doing, they fundamentally shape the trajectory of your whole life. Values are an inexhaustible source of motivation - inexhaustible because they are qualities intrinsic to being and doing. They are visible only through their enactments. They’re adverbs, or adjectives, or verbs: “I did something lovingly.” Because they are chosen qualities of actions, they can never fully be achieved, only embraced and shown. Nevertheless, they give life direction, help us persist through difficulties. They nudge us, invite us, and draw us forward. They provide constant soft encouragement.

-Steven C. Hayes, PH.D

Carl Rogers on Experience

"Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person's ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research — neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience."

- Carl Rogers

The horse and the rider

"The first stream, or the "primary process mind," is the perceptual or experiencing mind. It consists of perceptions, drives, and goals and can be thought of as our "primate mind." It is the part that looks out and sees the world, has motives and urges (ranging from food to sex), and is energized by our emotions to respond to events. The primary process mind works by taking perceptions about the current state of the world and referencing them against drives for what we do or do not want, and our emotions are activated to respond accordingly. For example, when we are waiting for someone we have not seen for a long time, we longingly look out the window and feel a jolt of joy when we see that person's car pulling into the driveway. 

The second  stream of consciousness , the secondary, deliberate mind – the "person mind" - is the part of us that talks, deliberates reflects, and rationalizes to others about why we do what we do. It comments , reacts, or responds not just to what is, but also to what one thinks ought to be. Shaped by culture and experience, the person mind has ideas about what is justifiable and what is not. 

Sigmund Freud likened these two streams of consciousness to a horse and a rider. The secondary person mind, represented by the rider, is trying to guide the primate mind, represented by the horse, toward long-term goals. However, as suggested by this metaphor, the two minds are very different. The primate mind feels things based on what it perceives relative to its goals in the immediate situation. If it perceives the situation as being one in which the individual is isolated, it will feel lonely. If it perceives the situation as one in which its goals are being intruded upon by others, it will feel angry. If it sees that it has failed or is inferior to others, it will feel shame. In short, the primate mind is reactive to the situation in which it finds itself. 

The secondary person mind is more complicated, and it can project much longer into the future. It thinks not only about what is but also about what ought to be. Just as a rider can have opinions about the horse she is riding, the secondary person mind will also have opinions about the primary primate mind if it is or is not feeling what it should. If the person mind makes critical and controlling judgements, the stage is set for a vicious intrapsychic cycle of negative thoughts. "


-Gregg Henriques, PH.D. for Psychology Today


David Brooks on character

    "Soloveitchik said there are two sides, which he called Adam I and Adam II. Adam I wants to build, create, produce and discover things. Adam II is the internal Adam. Adam II wants to embody certain moral qualities, to have a serene inner character, not only to do good, but to be good, to live in obedience to some transcendent truth, to have an inner coherence of soul. So, Adam I wants to conquer the world, become famous and rich. Adam II wants to obey a calling and serve the world. Adam I asks how things work. Adam II asks why things exist and what, ultimately, we are here for. Adam I wants to venture forth. Adam II wants to return home to the comfort of a family meal. Adam I's motto is success. Adam II experiences life as a moral drama and his motto is charity, love and redemption. Now, Soloveitchik argued that each of us lives at the confrontation between these two Adams, these two sides of our nature. And I'd add that the confrontation is different. Some days we want to be externally successful. Some days we want to be internally good. And they're both right. You've got to have a balance. The question is whether your life is in balance between these two things."

- David Brooks




Shame and the illusion of free will

"Shame does serve a psychological function. I mean, you wouldn't want to be a primate without a capacity for shame. That doesn't work well. We call those people psychopaths. But, the question is how much shame is it useful and pragmatic to feel in your life. If shame is an issue for you, realizing that you didn't make yourself and that you're not deeply responsible, on some level, for who you were yesterday, all you can do is go forward into the mystery of who you may yet become. You can't see the limits of who you might yet become. You really don't know how much you can change in the future. That frees you from continually punishing yourself for who you were yesterday."

-Sam Harris

Illusion of continuity

"The cells in your body are turning over quite often, so your red blood cells only last 120 days. Your hair gets turned over every few years, your skin cells only last 2 or 3 weeks, the colon and the stomach, it's only 4 or 5 days before all of those cells get replaced. Now, neurons, the cells in your brain, those don't die and get replaced, but the atoms that make them up are constantly turning over. So when you look at your friends and loved ones, atomically, they've completely turned over from when you last saw them, let's say 5 years ago. Memories can drift around a little bit . . . When you have a very salient emotional event, those memories are unerasable. But, these flash bulb memories are no more reliable than other types of daily memories (because each time we think about them we corrupt them). Even trauma memories eventually fade . . .  the rate of your heartbeat, the architecture of your brain, even your DNA changes over the course of a lifetime. We have all these things that make us feel as though we have a consistent identity through our life and, in fact, you are not staying the same. You are changing all the time. We have this illusion of continuity."

- David Eagleman, Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist 


David Foster Wallace on worshipping

"There is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship . . . If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you . . . Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful, it's that they are unconscious. They are default settings."

David Foster Wallace