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Neurohacking - Tutorials
Written by NHA   
Friday, 20 July 2012 21:37
Article Index
Neurohacking Tutorial 9 - Emotional Stability & Unconscious Mind
Structure, Function and Behavior
From Automation to Autonomy
What Happens If Things Go Wrong?
The Unconscious Mind
NHA Guide To Methods and Technology
Getting Into The Garden
The Most Important Bits to Remember
Hacks and Exercices
Notes, References and Answers
All Pages

 

 

What Happens If Things Go Wrong?

If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.

Alice in Wonderland

 

As we know by now, when any problem arises, and there is no disease or injury, we find that one or more networks are either underused or being used for the wrong things.

A creature's mind and mood must be in tune with what the body is doing, or there will be motivation without purpose and energy is wasted. If our reality-assessment system develops as intended, with full congruous association, problems don't arise. We are primed with the basics only, all details to be filled in by our culture, and this system is a marvelous way to ensure that an organism is highly adaptable and can fit into any local variation of healthy culture just as well as it can fit into any local variation of healthy environment.

If we are get only examples of useful (healthy) foods from our culture as physical input, and are allowed to choose which particular items we like and dislike from those foods, nothing can go wrong and everything makes sense and we'll be happy to try anything new that we see others eating.

If we are given only examples of useful (meaningful) words from our culture's main language as linguistic input, we will choose which particular words we feel we can best express ourselves with from those words, and nothing can go wrong and everything makes sense, and we'll be happy to learn new words and languages later.

If we are given only examples of useful (healthy) emotions as emotional input, we will choose which particular emotions we feel we can best express ourselves with from those emotions in every given instance, and nothing can go wrong and everything makes sense, and we'll be happy to learn new experiences later. Biology, while dealing adeptly with the here and now, is always making plans for the next stage, so natural learning is easy.

Biology didn't make plans, however, for us being dropped into a dysfunctional society and force-fed a load of nonsense on all fronts by those older and (theoretically) wiser than ourselves.

Instead of healthy food choices, a new system often gets examples of starchy junk filled with addictive toxins. Instead of sensible examples of adults communicating, it gets examples of 'baby-talk' (and quickly realizes that it is being 'set apart' from adults, who do not speak to each other this way) followed by automatic repetition of whatever was heard on TV.

And instead of examples of healthy emotions being adeptly used to augment our interaction and understanding, we get examples of sentiment; a set of dysfunctional uncontrolled reactions emerging from anxiety-driven, pathological neurochemistry, that from experience we observe always seem to lead to harm. And nothing makes sense. And this sort of learning makes us UNeasy.

From every direction a lot of us have junk thrown at us as input from day one. Can we wonder in retrospect that some of us get out of shape, ill, confused, and for many people life just doesn't seem to make sense? And so it goes on, and the more nonsense is thrust at us, the more anxious we become, and the less we can think clearly.

Snapback warning!

Anyone with a tendency to conspiracy theories or blaming society/parents/teachers, please take a moment to remember the fact that none of this is deliberate; it is simply down to inherent vulnerabilities of complex dynamic systems, in this case biology. If our parents or teachers were awful, its because their parents or teachers were awful and so on back ad infinitum, and it's time to stop trying to lay blame and take responsibility from now on for programming our own minds. Whatever happened in the past is in no way a barrier to us, since we can now recognize what is going on and deliberately steer ourselves and our behavior back into health and intelligence.

We can reprogram ourselves by modeling healthy emotions, and just like the little dude who learned only Klingon, but as soon as he heard human, changed over fast, we will turn automatically away from the sentiment option simply because it becomes very obvious very fast that genuine emotion is the most effective way of achieving the beneficial outcomes we desire.

If we pay attention to and model only healthy emotions, even if we only start doing that in middle- or old age, we will soon end up with a healthy emotional system that will (as will a healthy physical system) then keep itself in balance. We don't have to pay lots of attention to sentiments to get rid of them; we have to pay lots of attention to emotion.

 

Emotional Stability - Staying in the Green Zone

Remember the green zone? Here we can apply it to healthy emotion, and see what occurs when we slip outside of the green zone in either direction. This is shown on the table below.

 

We have used some common names for healthy emotions in brackets alongside their core emotion associations. Feel free to copy the table and replace the common names with your own preferred names for the emotions (as listed in your Captain's Log from the table you filled in above.)

 

TOO MUCH

wrong input = sentiment

JUST RIGHT

correct input =

healthy emotion

NOT ENOUGH

no input = sentiment

compulsion, hedonism

comfort

(satisfaction, pleasure, happiness)

anhedonia

phobic fear

disgust

(repulsion)

apathy

obsession, greed, craving, envy,

desire

(excitement, eagerness)

boredom

panic

 

alarm

(concern)

no sense of danger, temerity

possessiveness, jealousy, adherence

empathy

(friendliness, amity)

isolation, alienation, loneliness

anger, rage

antipathy

(defensiveness, offense)

timidity, fear

hysteria

levity

(playfulness, mirth)

cheerlessness

pomposity, megalomania

gravity

(resolve, propriety)

irreverence, carelessness

arrogance, hubris, mania

certainty

(confidence, pride)

shyness, guilt, shame

paranoia

uncertainty

(doubt, suspicion

gullibility, self-delusion

dysmorphia

unity

(love, joy)

indifference

hatred

separation

(sorrow, grief)

depression

 

All of the sentiments (in the two outside columns) use the same neurotransmitters as emotions.

In the left hand column the chemistry is spiked with a cocktail of anxiety steroids, notably Cortisol (also the case in ADHD, mania, schizophrenia and OCD). Aggression, dictatorial behavior and mania present. Front loaders, particularly with weak N3, are at more risk than rearloaders of slipping out of the green zone in this direction.

In the right hand column, original chronic anxiety has led to downgrading of both transmitters and their receptors (or these may never have developed), and neurotransmitters cannot evoke their intended response. Connections have either failed to form or have literally burned out, and blood cortisol (plus various other transmitters) may be low even though anxiety is present (often the case in PTSD, unipolar depression and dementia-related conditions). Lack of response, apathy and social problems present. Rearloaders, particularly with weak N6, are more at risk than frontloaders of slipping in this direction.

 

Q: Which is it worse to be stuck in; wronguse or nonuse? And which is worse -frontloading or rearloading?


 

A: Many students at first consider wrong input to be less harmful than no input at all -with wronguse, the argument goes, at least networks have been built and all we have to do is install the 'new software'. Nonuse is pretty deadly, because brain cells are literally dying off.

What is missed in such considerations is (a) development can proceed at any age and (b) wronguse eventually leads to burnout of brain cells -leaving us in exactly the same situation on the road to senility.

Likewise, students who are frontloaders sometimes consider themselves as 'better than' rearloaders because they believe they have built more bits of brain (this is not necessarily true) whilst rearloaders consider themselves more fortunate because at least they have developed in the right order without skipping networks and can proceed without having to 'go backwards' and fill stuff in (also not necessarily true).

There is no 'best' way to be stuck! Like an engine with six cylinders, if any one is missing the whole will not perform as intended. The only way to develop and keep a good brain is to give it what it needs -start using it in the right way and keep using it in the right way.

If a particular network is underdeveloped, we will obviously have a shortage of the neurochemicals it produces, and if a network is overused or developed in the wrong order, we will have an excess of those chemicals, or the wrong chemicals, unbalancing our neurochemistry and harmfully affecting both our overall health and our everyday behavior.

 

Some students misunderstand emotional stability and see it as 'behaving like Mr.Spock' or some sort of monk, and suppressing emotions. 'Emotional stability' doesn't mean we are always calm and serene and never get excited or feel extremes of emotion -far from it! Nor does it mean that we should suppress emotion. Emotional stability means we continue to experience and express healthy emotions relevant to our ongoing circumstances and do not become 'unstable' by slipping into sentiment.

We learn this in the same way the unconscious learns everything -simply by practice. Our brains have learned to make sentimental reactions happen, by copying examples of others doing it, in the home, in public, on TV, in school and work, and many of us must now take control and make a concerted effort to get hold of examples of healthy emotion to start training ourselves anew, with new thoughts and new, more successful behaviors.

Both emotion and sentiment strongly affect our behavior and our attitudes. Emotion is designed to do this; for example our justified pride at a worthy achievement increases attitudes of friendliness and confidence and improves our behavior. Unjustified pride (hubris) however goes hand in hand with arrogance (unjustified confidence) and increases attitudes of racism and sexism. [76]

Our neurochemistry constantly affects both our brain wiring and whether we are likely to feel emotion or sentiment. This is why controlling anxiety is so important for achieving emotional stability.

You will recall that cortisol is an important transmitter for avoiding danger by initiating 'protection mode' behaviors such as the fight / flight response.

During 'protection mode' (which occurs in danger, injury or grief), stressors like cortisol and substance P are high, but from biology's POV it's worth risking slight damage to health in order to stay alive, and after we have escaped the bad sitiation any remaining cortisol is broken down during the resulting cascade, because the natural course of events for biology is that relaxation always follows stress. We achieve this by releasing serotonin and endorphins, and re-routing blood supply back to the frontal lobes (which is co-opted during an emergency in favor of muscles and bones), bringing the onset of relief, repairing any damage done, upgrading our immunity and returning our neurochemistry to a comfortable balance. As you know, this is the relaxation response.

In healthy circumstances this is all fine; because it's worth risking cortisol's toxic side effects temporarily in real emergencies. And the point is, intelligent organisms don't often have to. They learn enough to predict in advance where and when trouble is likely to occur and consequently avoid such situations, and they're confident enough to trust intelligence to manage things whenever they do have to confront them.

In almost all instances where sentiment is experienced, the stress/relaxation chemical cascade is incomplete or absent and the relaxation response fails to happen. When the unconscious knows that something is wrong, cortisol continues to be produced and builds up in the bloodstream (thus becoming an increasing problem with age.)

With the stress response constantly turned on creating an overdose of cortisol we are predisposed to sentiment, and with the blood flow to frontal nets permanently reduced, networks die back and our capacity for the higher functions of intelligence (including rationality and conscious control of rear systems) is compromised. We begin using rear networks for automatic making of decisions and determining output –something our executive networks should really be doing.

When we're not anxious we all know that in real life we like doing some things society, parents, religions or teachers tells us are bad, and dislike doing some things they tell us are 'good'. Our perception is not warped and we know a stupid rule or idea when we meet one. We can maintain our own integrity, remain true to ourselves, and navigate around the others' stupidity.

When we feel anxious, insecure and uneasy, though, we become vulnerable to coercion. We see someone who seems less anxious and more confident than ourselves, usually a teacher or a parent, sometimes the school bully, and we automatically unconsciously model them. But our perception is warped, and what we see as strength is in fact arrogance and pomposity.

We'll soon find this role model spends a lot of time telling other people what to do. They certainly seem to know what's what. If they don't like something, it gets automatically associated with 'bad' in our unconscious, which is not at all congruous with reality. Remember two world wars? Need we say more?

The result of this path is the circular state of chronic anxiety most people think of as 'normal'. It is 'generalised anxiety disorder' (GAD).

As long as our physiology continues to add excess cortisol to the neurotransmitters being released we will have no free will. We will continue to experience automatic reactions and behavior instead of autonomic responses, and sentiments instead of emotions. Excess cortisol destroys some other transmitters for healthy emotion too, which exacerbates the problem. With every sentiment on the menu we get a free side-salad of (short term) inability to use rational conscious thought, long term memory loss, learning difficulties, physical health problems, and frontal lobe degradation. [77]

 

In viewing the table above, you will notice that many sentiments are also linked with symptoms of psychological disturbances such as obsessive compulsive disorder, manic depression (bipolar affective disorder), ADHD and paranoia. In the 'green zone' model (which is based on current research), such disorders can be looked on as ‘extremes’ of sentiment, all with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) as their root cause.

Persons with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) exhibit increased metabolic rates in several brain regions including the occipital and temporal lobes, cerebellum and thalamus, compared with healthy controls. Increased metabolic activity in the basal ganglia has also been reported. Hyperactive neurotransmitter circuits between the cortex, thalamus, Amygdala and hypothalamus are implicated. [78]

Neurotransmitter imbalance can cause onset of anxiety even without an external cause. Underactivity or loss of of serotonergic (serotonin-producing) neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus, and/or loss of GABA-producing neurones that are widely distributed in the brain may result in a lack of the inhibitory effect which the relaxation response would normally initiate.

Overactivity of noradrenergic neurons may also produce excessive excitation (burnout) in the brain areas implicated in GAD, and helps explain the lowering of acetylcholine in dementia & related diseases. [78]

Sentiments can also become like habits we are addicted to. They are a learned set of reactions accompanied with feelings induced by the resulting behaviors (tensed muscles, tight throat, shallow breathing, hypertension, digestive shutdown), a lot of which trigger the chemicals that invoke pain, cell death and inflammation. Yet crying and being comforted by others reduces stress hormones, and the temporary relief that comes after it may prove irresistable to the insecure. For some, it may be the only way to get anything like a relaxation response.

When doused in anxiety hormones, the Amy and the Hippo (specifically the parahippocampal gyrus(PHG))[79] respond (quite reasonably) to incoming percepts with chemical cascades and associated graphic concepts of things going wrong. This causes immediate (again, quite reasonable) suspicion that something IS going wrong and whatever it is, it seems dangerous.

Increased activation in the right Amygdala causes stronger 'danger' weighting on everything perceived, and corresponds to an inability to detect trustworthy behavior, and a basic distrustfulness. The PHG in healthy life acts like a 'BS detector' and the more uncertain we become, the more active it gets. [79]

The unconscious mind is correct; something IS going wrong, and it IS dangerous. Half the brain is being consistently deprived of oxygen.

There is an argument that anxiety could be viewed as the mind simply making an automatic sane response to perceiving insane circumstances; but the problem with this argument lies in the word 'automatic'. With a fully mature system, we shouldn't be limited to automatic responses; we should have the automonous control we are intended to have of these systems and if we did, we'd see that the 'sane response to insane circumstances' is in fact adaptation; both of ourselves and the circumstances. Without frontal lobe tools, we cannot adapt to interact with people and situations competently because we can't think straight.

This should allay any doubts as to the benefits of our practising anxiety control! At this intermediate stage in NH most of us will have already experienced greater clarity as a result of such practices, and we may also have begun to notice from experience just how befuddled the mind can become when anxiety arises.

Instead of having to wait until anxiety has already taken over and caused problems, or discovering two days later (when the hormones have worn off) that we behaved in a stupid way, we can now notice how it feels when anxiety is trying to take us over and take steps to prevent it happening.

Although this is great, many students get frustrated during this phase, as for a while we still can't stop the anxious reactions even though we are noticing them, but this is a good sign of control-related networks growing and making connections. Also, this awareness of anxiety's onset gives you the opportunity to practice exercises & hacks etc to reduce anxiety while it's happening in real time, instead of getting caught up in the hormonal rush and behaving like a dumbass.

Once we understand how anxiety creeps up on our minds like the effects of a mind-numbing drug, we begin to learn tricks such as: if we get or see information that invokes sentiment, we don't respond until we feel totally calm and our brain has had time to restore frontal blood supply and reassess the situation. When calm, we may go and look up the sentiment in our 'green zone' table above and see what emotion it was replacing, and get some healthy emotion practice. Knowledge of what is going on gives us more power -to move towards interaction and autonomy of behavior instead of falling into anxiety and reacting automatically with sentiment.


 

Common Obstacles to Emotional Stability: The Vorlons and The Shadows

With practice, once we recognize subjectively how anxiety feels when it is happening to us, we start to be able to take control and remain calm in the midst of others' chaos, and at some point we have the experience of being able to continue thinking clearly when all around are not.

This experience really takes some students by surprise. It has been described variously as feeling like: "sobriety in a room full of drunk people"; "being a sighted person in a room full of blind people", "a free human being in a society full of zombie slaves", "stepping out of The Matrix", "suddenly having a superpower", and, "it's like there was a bag on my head, and I'd been trying to get it off for some time, and one day it just fell off and I could see that everyone else was still wearing one, but they don't know it's there... And they are frantically guessing what to do about all this unknown murky scary stuff called life that they think they can see through the cloth of the bag, and that's the whole of their reality."

 

The Vorlons

When you find yourself at this stage, beware! Some students immediately feel like a parent, and sentiment creeps in as patronizing sympathy (feeling 'sorry for' these unfortunate others), and/or pompous arrogance (trying to make them change, or push them to do things, 'for their own good'.)

This is a coercion trap. If you find yourself thinking righteously, "I only want to help them free their minds!" be aware that anxiety has got you and you are being arrogant and pompous. You have slipped out of the green zone, you're not thinking straight, and you're deluding yourself into believing that other people can be helped by your intentional interference, (or 'teaching' as its often called.)

For a good example, this was the attitude of the 'Vorlons' in Babylon 5, who believed they were here to 'parent' the younger species 'for their own good'.

What this means is coercion and it's exactly what interrupts others' development and gets in their way. This urge to control others "to help them" is based on anxiety and this must be understood before you go further.

Don't fall for this anxiety-based distraction! Remember, you are responsible for yourself and ONLY yourself, and whenever you are focusing on others and their business you are not only being rude, you are neglecting yourself and your own business, which is your own intelligence development! Rest assured that if intelligent people need your input they will ask for it; that's one of the things intelligence does best; it seeks out exactly what it needs for itself.

So if overcome by any sentiments of superiority, we must protect ourselves by firmly employing the core conditions in interactions with others (we'll give some examples in the next tutorial), and get on conscientiously with our own development.

By setting this example with our behavior, we are providing the best (and in fact the ONLY) input that can help other people, as no coercion is taking place and their intelligence can proceed without obstacles. Instead of trying to take over with (whatever good) intentions, we are trusting the intent of every intelligence to automatically recognize and model whatever it personally needs from our example, as it must. That's why focusing on our own development is the only way to help others. Living examples inspire respect, motivation and modeling in others. Coercion turns them off and motivates protective defensiveness.

That is not to say that our goal is 'to become something that others respect and want to emulate'; our goal is to set ourselves free from thinking about others and what they think of us, and keep moving towards greater intelligence ourselves, never allowing others' anxious intentions scare us into doing anything else.

All natural learning is automatic; there is no such thing as a teacher, except in the sense that whatever we model from all life, all persons, and all experience is our 'teacher'. We have no knowledge of what intelligence needs in others, because its needs will be completely different from those of our own, even from those of our own twin.

Our culture should have taught us round about age seven that its harmful (and consequently offensive) to interfere with other people's lives. Instead our society taught us that people interfering with and controlling others is what life's all about. But in real life, because of the way intelligence works, nobody can ever help anybody become more intelligent by intention, because any kind of coercion automatically turns off motivation and sends a 'warning, dictator alert' straight to the Amy. At that point, intelligence feels repelled (because unconsciously we know it's harmful) and if we're anxious we'll get annoyed, resentful, afraid or embarrassed.

But if we're not anxious we'll turn away and say "We'll learn best by ourselves, thankyou very much, now get the hell out of our galaxy".

In teenage years, this repulsion is called 'rebelling'. In terms of intelligence it is simply integrity; making a stand about what we know is and is not beneficial to our development, and practising input control accordingly.

To grow intelligence (in both ourselves and others) we have to stop trying to make things happen, play with lots of good input, and allow intelligence to work in the way it knows best (ie, it automatically selects and copies other intelligent behavior wherever and whenever it sees it). Intelligence is SELF-improving. Constant improvement by ourselves is what self-improving means.

 

Q: If we're not supposed to intentionally teach people, what are these tutorials for?

A: A good mnemonic for what they're for is 'FINE' (Facts, Ideas, News, Experiences).

We embrace the original spirit of the internet; tutorials and all other articles here are tools for open sharing of data (Facts), experiments & projects that might prove worthwhile (Ideas), the latest scientific discovery & research (NH News) and the methods, tools and tech we have found useful and that may be useful to others (Experiences). All of these provide useful information, which we believe all have right to access and which any intelligence may use as it pleases.

These tutorials are not here for those who want to be taught, they are here for those who want to teach themselves. We expect you to need to do things 'your way' and seek the input you personally need for improving your own lives and minds.

A good mnemonic for avoiding wasting our time in seeking input is: 'BLOC' (Beliefs, Lies, Opinions, Complaints). None of these are useful, most are harmful. As George Carlin said, "It's all bullshit and its bad for you, folks".


 

The Shadows

Another common problem at the stage when we discover anxiety-free experiences is the 'no pain no gain' argument. It too is anxiety-driven, comes from forgetting some stuff we have learned already and it goes like this: If you alter your input and make all efforts to avoid anxiety, and never challenge yourself, isn't that just like running away from reality and living in a dream world where nothing nasty ever happens? Shouldn't we be getting practice at dealing with the nasties of life that we shall at some point certainly have to face, rather than shielding ourselves?

An analogy often used is, we have to get used to encountering germs as a child and build up our immune system, or we'll be badly infected in later life -isn't anxiety just like that? We need exposure to nasty things in order to grow?

If you find yourself thinking such things, you are using the argument of "The Shadows" in Bablylon 5, and you have forgotten the vital difference between stress and anxiety as well as this golden rule: Always do things in the right order.

Now you remember! Stress/relaxation is essential for learning, whereas chronic stress (anxiety) prevents all learning. We can't experience stress/relaxation naturally until after we get rid of anxiety.

Anxiety results from long-term fight/flight response with the system in 'protection mode' with no relaxation response. No learning or growth can take place whilst we're in protection mode.

Stress is healthy, anxiety is pathological. Deliberately throwing stressors at a person already in chronic stress is just exacerbating the problem; it's like deliberately exposing someone to new diseases to 'improve their immune system' whilst they're already fighting a chronic infection with poorly-developed immunity.

From time to time, we will forget all this, and need to remind ourselves that we cannot do anything until we have got the tools with which to do it. Trying to do so is like trying to run before you have grown legs.

We cannot chew food until we have grown teeth, we cannot resist infections until our immune system is mature enough to do so (which is why we are still protected by breast milk). We cannot walk until our muscles have grown and developed, we cannot perceive real life in any rational way or make memories until we have built the brain networks and senses to do so, and we cannot adapt to stressors until we have learned the relaxation response and real-time control of body systems.

This classic misunderstanding is a major feature of JC Pearce's and Jean Liedloff's works [80]; it is the same mistake that has been made by parents, educators and well meaning child carers of the last several generations, resulting in the mental health mess that we see today.

This is the question they ask:

"If the infant never gets any knocks, hurts or disappointments from us, how will s/he learn about how to cope with such things in real life?"

Firstly this is assuming that 'real life' really IS full of bad problems and knocks and bummers, and the point is, if you're intelligent it isn't. Once you have built the tools to deal with stress, shit happens only rarely, because a strong intelligence is a good predictor, flexible, adaptable, interactive, and an adept director of its own circumstances.

Anxiety can only arise if we do not yet have the tools to adapt to deal with stressors. And we can't develop those tools while stressors are constantly incoming and anxiety is still present (because the brain can't grow AT ALL in anxiety-based chemistry and 'protection mode'). We can't even maintain frontal lobe blood supply when anxiety is present.

 

To recap, the right order is:

1. Reduce anxiety (relaxation response). Remove harmful input & prevent new incoming harmful input (input control). This changes our brain chemistry so that our brain is in growth & development mode again, and reestablishes blood supply to frontal lobes. This is basic level NH.

We need an anxiety-free zone for a certain period of time in order to trigger the gene transcription that reboots mental development. We can't develop the frontal lobes effectively if their blood supply is constantly compromised. That development is what provides us with the tools for adaptation to stress and control of circumstances, such as interaction and conscious input control.

 

2. Practice using stress-adaptation tools as the networks grow. This means we learn how to adapt ourselves to circumstances and how to respond to stressors with calm determination and focus. We also learn how to adapt our environment to suit ourselves (via input control, interaction, strategy & planning) so that fewer problems arise. This gives intelligence powerful tools to use. This is intermediate level NH.

To practice using these tools, all we need is everyday real life, which has quite enough foxy puzzles and stressors in it without requiring deliberate imposition of more by 'well-intentioned' others.

 

3. We can now go ahead with further development and augmentation. With optimal brain chemistry and now healthy responses, anxiety will NEVER arise. Stressors are now opportunities for improvement; they are no longer problems, they are interesting challenges. We now aim to stretch ourselves for learning purposes. Stress was never the enemy; in a healthy mind stress is on your side.

With anxiety present, we cannot have free will. Once we are able to maintain frontal lobe blood flow under stress, then we are in control and can pretty much deal with anything thrown at us and adapt with muscular-mindedness, addressing the issues competently with the tools of interaction so that problems do not arise. [81]

The logic of doing things in the right order, of building the foundations BEFORE the house, planting the seeds BEFORE expecting the plants to grow, may seem obvious, but it's surprising how often anxiety will make us forget it.

 

Why It's so Difficult to Tell If we're Feeling Sentiment

"Damage report?"

"I don't know! ... the damage report machine is broken!"

(Lister & Cat, Red Dwarf)

 

This quote describes exactly the problem we face when trying to tell sentiment from emotion. Until anxiety has reduced sufficiently, the system that should be detecting and diagnosing problems (our frontal lobes) aren't fully wired up and are running on low power. They can't wire up until brain chemistry returns to 'growth mode' and enough congruous associations have been made for us to have a basic picture of how reality works, and it can't get sufficient power while that power is being routed to muscles and bones instead of brain. That's what happens in protection mode.

Anxiety is always a double whammy to intelligence -perception is warped, and the frontal lobes’ clarity of judgment -the very thing that could have rationally questioned it- is shut down. You have probably already realized that when things go wrong and shut down frontal lobes, we become less able to tell whether or not things have gone wrong.

The very thing with which we can detect dysfunction; our intelligence, becomes itself dysfunctional, like a starship that keeps sounding 'red alert!' and calling us to battle stations because of dysfunction. Not knowing this is going on, the unconscious tends to blame anything external that comes to hand or things it personally is afraid of, for the 'danger'.

This is classic source attribution error. The real danger lies within, in the fact that our mind can't cope with stressors because it doesn't yet have the tools to do so and we are out of control and running on automatic. Sentiments wire in as automatic unconscious habits when the frontal lobes are shut down, using all the processing space intended for these tools. Because of brain plasticity, after a time these anxious reactions will have become habitual, along with the habits of bad input that induced them in the first place. [82]

Distraction is another problem. Emotion focuses our attention on what we are supposed to be doing. [83] Sentiment distracts our attention from what we're supposed to be doing. Both sentiment and emotions are attention-getters, because the unconscious is well aware that emotion is intended to communicate important (weighted) information.

Axons from the Amygdala converge on an attention hub in the brain called the thalamic reticular nucleus, directing attention where it needs to go. This pathway from the Amygdala to the reticular nucleus appear to be unusually strong, and anxiety disorders are often marked by hypervigilance to potential threats — real or, more often, perceived — in the outside world. In contrast, people with burnout and severe depression can often have trouble paying attention to anything outside of their own mind. [83]

We can also expect resistance to accepting that we're feeling sentiments, due to anxiety. Excess Cortisol has already been shown to affect our behavior and memory through the impact on blood supply to the brain and neurochemical imbalance. Effectively it rewires the brain to 'knock out' rationality and creativity, making us change-fearing robotic creatures of habit who make rote decisions and act automatically, instead of adapting and changing our behavior autonomously to improve outcomes.

Judgment is seriously affected too. Two areas of the brain involved in decision-making (the prelimbic cortex and the dorsomedial striatum) fall quickly into nonuse under the influence of anxiety, and then atrophy. This makes it harder and harder to make good decisions about what's really going on as time goes by.

This is why we start work on emotional stability by first consolidating our understanding of healthy emotion and practising it. Doing so gives us a 'base of knowledge' and a safe place to work outwards from, reduces anxiety, and improves our confidence and self esteem.

With those advantages we can progress to long-term regular hacks such as co counseling, interactional analysis or cognitive behavioral therapy, IF we feel they are necessary. For some people (usually those with well-developed and balanced rear nets), just recognizing and naming what they are meant to be feeling triggers immediate developmental change and no further hacking is necessary (if a program works really well and never crashes, why recode it?)

Most of us though find we need a technique such as co counseling or interactional analysis to help reprogram parts of N3, and we'll explain those methods in tutorial 10.

With these and other techniques that we'll explore in this and the next tutorials, we can efficiently develop a conscious strategy for self control and ensure emotional and physical behavior that is appropriate to our situation, circumstances and context; interactions that lead to successful outcomes instead of away from them.

This is the beginning of the process of unconscious and conscious integration and congruity. All that means is that the conscious mind and the unconscious mind will become ever more like close friends playing together instead of antagonists on a field of battle.

There are exercises for practising healthy emotions in the 'hacks & exercises' section of this tutorial.

 

 


Bulletproof Bunnies

 

It takes a certain critical mass of network-building practice AND environmental input to furnish us with effective experiential tools for dealing with and adapting to stressors, and without these tools, stressful situations without relaxation will lead to chronic anxiety. The whole point of achieving emotional stability is, once these networks are mature and we have these tools, the same experiences will NOT cause anxiety!

The real secret is, they won't BE the same experiences, because a very important variable in our experience will have changed -and it's ourselves.

We'd like to introduce you to Bob and Alice, who will feature in our next tutorial too. In our examples, Bob and Alice and their friends are our 'actors' who demonstrate behaviors. (Note: Alice is not always the sensible one!)

Imagine Alice and Bob go out for a meal together, and eat the exact same average meal. On the way out, some drunks on the street shout "F****** Weirdos!" Bob gets sick next day and Alice doesn't.

Bob is not a neurohacker. He's not going to think "Aha! Alice didn't get sick because her immunity's better than mine, since I'm anxious all the time," or, "Maybe I can't eat so much junk food as Alice because I'm anxious all the time and my digestion's compromised," or, "Well I did lay awake all night worrying if those drunks were shouting at us and why they might think we were weirdos." Bob is going to blame the restaurant for bad hygiene and write off Alice's escape as 'lucky'.

This may be what happened in reality, or it may not be. It's an unjustified guess, but Bob firmly believes that bacteria took action against him and his body reacted; that the drunks took action against him and he reacted. He has a world view in which action/reaction is 'normal', and 'bullets' like this hit Bob all the time.

In Alice's world, there are no bullets. Her system has the tools that enable her to adapt to cope with stressors (and this is true for emotional stressors and mental stressors just as much as physical stressors.) Alice can eat junk food in moderation with no problem. She lives in the here and now and remembers never to eat junk when unwell or depressed. She's in tune with her biology and if she feels the slightest bit out of balance she takes immediate steps to work with her body. Alice doesn't pay any attention to stupid drunks yelling things in public, because that's just what stupid drunks do every night all over the world and she also knows that whenever we pay attention to stupid we will become more stupid. Alice has better things to do with her mind and controls her own attention, never allowing stupidity to distract it.

The incident bounces off her mind like a bullet deflected from a force field; there is no association except the dismissive one for it to link on to, the Amy registers "Irrelevant; ignore", although Alice might take a glance at the drunks' appearance in order to recognize and avoid them in future, as she does with all stupid things.

This is why we don't have to show you how to dodge bullets (for 'bullets' read 'problems') -when you are ready, you won't have to. They won't BE bullets anymore, and you'll wonder how you ever perceived them as bullets in the first place. You'll see 'problems' for what they really are -changes in circumstances that you can apprehend in midflow, interact with as you please for learning purposes, or simply ignore as you move past.

A properly developed intelligence has the muscular-mindedness to interact with real life. We can employ the relaxation response at will, control our own neurochemistry and maintain frontal lobe blood flow despite stressful situations, decide of our own free will what to pay attention and what not to, and even raise our physical immunity. We are building the tools for these abilities whenever we practise anxiety reduction and input control.

This is what autonomy and free will are all about. Without anxiety we have the freedom and the power to interact in a dynamic way with reality; protected by the abilities that we have ourselves set up -the ability to control our bodies and minds in order to remain competent, intelligent, and rational.

With these abilities, many incidents no longer have the power to be stressors, and those that do can no longer build up to cause anxiety; they just become opportunities to push ourselves in order to learn even more adaptive skills. A free (autonomous) intelligence is self-improving. Even when something truly awful happens, such as the death of a loved one, emotional stability will enable us to grieve healthily and recover undamaged, able to access comforting memories.

But the most important part to remember is this: We cannot learn to do any of this in the first place if we are never given a safe, hassle-free space in which to develop the mental tools needed for the job.

If you've been practising regularly, are thinking more clearly and are aware of being less anxious, emotional stability is the final tool you'll need to begin real time interaction, and we'll be introducing exercises to practice real time interaction in the next tutorial.

 

 Golden Rule 3: You will Become More Like Whatever You are Surrounded By

In tutorial 8 we observed N1-N3's sub-directive: In developing networks 1- 3 we are mastering the art of adapting ourselves to better fit in with the needs of our context (environment & circumstances). That includes building the tools to deal with stressors effectively, and this golden rule applies directly to that process.

Every cell in the brain tries to adapt to everything in its environment; everything it perceives it is surrounded by. “Whatever you are surrounded by”, for the brain, means “input”. This is true in an internal, biochemical sense (cells are surrounded by chemical and electrical signals) and an external, physical environmental way (that we pick up with our senses), as well as in an abstract mental way (our own thoughts, behaviors, words, imaginings and memories -these too are part of our 'input').

A most important point we must therefore remember about anxiety is that until we are practising input control, its origin is very often NOT ourselves. The chemistry of anxiety is infectious, it is airborne and transferable by touch, it can be invoked by sound, color and smell, tone of voice, choice of words, place- or person-association, it triggers involuntary modeling via facial expression. It can usurp quorum sensing systems and spread mass panic, [84] so that is why your input control NH toolkit is your best friend.

One of the main ways anxiety spreads, as we discussed above, is through pheromones and scents; airborne chemicals that send a sample of “where we are at” through the air all around us. The smell of the sweat people produce when anxious is not only registered by your brain, but changes your behavior too. It activates a 'red alert' signal in a part of network 3, and cortisol rises (this change can be measured in your saliva). [85]

Obviously this input stops as soon as we are out of range, but basically, hanging around anxious people makes us feel anxious in exactly the same way that hanging around people who are attractive to us makes us feel attracted (this, too, starts up your nose).

Unconscious signals induce mimicry as much as or even more than conscious ones. Your own body will start to synchronize with the bodies of those you spend most of your time with. That includes your heart rate, breathing, and sleep cycle, for females menstruation and for males testosterone production, your hormones and your brain chemistry, and from there on in everything else about you that relies on brain chemistry to function. You literally will become dumber, if you hang out a lot with dumb people.

The same is true of watching dumb behavior, either on TV or in real life. If it is something you are laughing at, your brain can put it into perspective, but if you are not laughing (no signals from the facial muscles) the brain thinks it's serious input, meant to be copied and adapted to.

To summarize, a growing body of research suggests that subliminal sensory information, whether from scents, vision or hearing, affects perception. In fact, subliminal data have more effect on perception than those that we are conscious of. If we are conscious of a sound, visual stimulus or odor we tend to consciously attribute it to a cause and process it separately from other input. Conversely, subliminal input gets ‘lumped in’ with and attributed to any coincident input. Anxiety spreads in a predictable way, similar to a contagious disease.

Psychologists call this phenomenon emotional contagion, a three-step process through which one person's feelings transfer to another person. The first stage involves nonconscious mimicry, during which individuals subtly copy one another's nonverbal cues, including posture, facial expressions and movements. In effect, seeing my frown makes you more likely to frown. People may then experience a feedback stage--because you frowned, you now feel sad. During the final contagion stage, individuals share their experiences until their emotions and behaviors become synchronized. Thus, when you encounter a co-worker on a bad day, you may unknowingly pick up your colleague's nonverbal behaviors and begin to morph into an unhappy state. Mimicry is not all bad, however; a person can also adopt a friend or colleague's good mood, which can help enhance their bond. [109]

Families or groups we spend a lot of time with when growing up can have extra sinister effects.

Epigenetic changes trip genes on or off in our parents and the resulting changes can certainly be inherited. This is amazing, but there's a rather more amazing secondary mechanism called 'familial' inheritance, in which gene expression is not genetically inherited but adopted (copied) from those around us, so the habits of parents, peers and teachers can cause epigenetic changes in us too.

This is universal; the habits of those you are surrounded by, whether genetically related to you or not, can affect your genes. So this is a golden rule for a good reason -You really DO become more like whatever you are surrounded by in a scarily literal way, because it's a part of natural intelligence development to figure out what we are surrounded by and then adapt to 'fit in' with our surroundings, just as we later adapt our surroundings to better suit ourselves.

With enough regular exposure, your biology will adapt your genetic code to express itself more like others' (and this even includes other animals). Fortunately, it works the other way round, so as long as you practise input control, you'll just be a good healthy influence on everyone you meet.

This golden rule is obvious on the cognitive level, because it's how we interact and learn; we are natural 'modelers'. In order to learn a procedure we 'become more like the teacher', and we copy their behavior and train of thought (forging the same pathways in our own minds).

But the rule is also true on an unconscious level, and it's a part of how bonding happens in healthy relationships, and also how empathy functions. We pick up whatever it is that others are communicating unconsciously as well as hearing what they say and seeing what they do, and our own systems are designed to copy that.

We can however turn this biological tendency to our own advantage in both input and output control. There are hacks for this towards the end of this tutorial.

 

 



Last Updated on Monday, 29 May 2017 14:04