Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The 'Cash Value' of Mind-Body Integration: An Example

Followers of my blog will note my fascination with the subject of psycho-epistemology, especially how it relates to mind-body integration (see The Psycho-Epistemology of Acting, Self-Love as a Prime Mover, Mind-Body Integration, The Benevolent People Premise, The Psycho-Epistemology of Sexuality, Are There “Bad” Emotions?). I love thinking about these topics, writing about them, and discussing them with friends. So I was very pleased recently when a new friend expressed an interest in my thoughts on the subject.

Before we got too embroiled in discussion, my friend smartly asked: “What is the ‘cash value’ of these theories?” He wanted to know what applications and implications could be drawn from psycho-epistemology. This is an absolutely brilliant question which can never be asked often enough. If one cannot apply his principles to his life, then his philosophical ramblings are nothing more than armchair rationalisms. With that in mind, I would like to offer an extended example of why the psycho-epistemology of mind-body integration is a very practical field of study.

If one understands the interrelationship between automatized physical, conceptual, and psychological units stored in his subconscious (see Mind-Body Integration and The Psycho-Epistemology of Sexuality Part III), then he is better able to “train” his emotions. If one’s emotional responses are not consonant with his explicit value hierarchy, then he can “retrain” his mind to respond appropriately. Consider an example:

A woman overreacts to minor disagreements with her husband. When he spills milk on the counter, she scowls at him and burns a hole into his head with her eyes. When he protests that she is overreacting, she becomes upset and defends her response by pointing out the value of a clean kitchen. She may not even realize that she was giving him a dirty look. A needless fight over spilled milk explodes.

If one asks the woman how much she values her husband, she would say that she loves him dearly. And she may freely admit that spilling milk on the counter is no big deal. Even when she acknowledges that she is overreacting, she may have difficulty bringing her emotions in line. Emotional responses are automatic, after all, and are not always easy to change. How should she proceed in “retraining” herself?

The first step is to get her priorities straight. She must learn to properly evaluate the relative importance of minor annoyances vs. the value of her relationship with her husband. She must introspect and determine with absolute certainty that she is in fact overreacting. She must introspect in the moment, while she is getting upset about something, and stress to herself her hierarchy of values. Over time, this will allay the intensity of her negative emotional reactions. But there is something else she can do that will help her “retrain”: she can make sure that her mind and body are integrated in her reactions.

One important element of her emotional reaction is the way her body responds. She automatically scowls and narrows her eyes at any minor annoyance. This kind of body language is often strongly associated with very negative evaluations and emotions. If the subconscious treats automatized physical motions, evaluations, and emotions as related units, then by scowling, she is actually communicating to her subconscious – telling it “I am very upset.” Her subconscious responds by stressing negative evaluations and emotions.

Assuming that she has brought her mind in line by clarifying her hierarchy of values, she can bring her body in line by controlling her automatized physical reactions. The next time her husband spills ketchup on the kitchen floor and she starts to get upset, she can monitor her facial movements, remove the scowl from her face, slow her breathing, and otherwise physically act as if she is not upset. Now she is sending a different message to her subconscious. Not only is she training herself to evaluate the situation properly, she is training her subconscious how to respond physically to the situation. Since mind and body are integrated in the way I have described, controlling the physical elements of an emotional reaction facilitates retraining. It can help effect a change much more quickly. As an added benefit, positive body language communicates the proper message to one’s lover as well as oneself.

Paying attention to the physical elements of one’s emotional reactions can be greatly beneficial in many areas of one’s life. It can help one become a better communicator, a better friend, a better lover and, most importantly, a better valuer. If one trains his mind and body to respond to values appropriately -- then he will be happier, more passionate, and more motivated.

Tune in next week, when I will offer another “cash value” example, this time relating to sexuality and romantic love relationships.

--Dan Edge

Friday, November 16, 2007

(In)justice in Saudi Arabia

I came across a truly disgusting article today on Foxnews.com: 19-Year Old Saudi Rape Victim Ordered to Undergo 200 Lashes. Some excerpts:

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"A 19-year-old female victim of gang rape who initially was ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," has been sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail for telling her story to the news media.
...
The court last year sentenced the six heavily-armed men who carried out the attack against the Shiite woman to between one and five years for committing the crime.

But the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media," a court source told the Arab News.

...

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine that forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public."
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So the men who gang-raped this girl might get as little as a year in prison, while the victim is imprisoned, beaten, and humiliated by the Saudi government for "being in the car of an unrelated male." I am beyond disgusted. This kind of thing makes my blood boil. The Saudis deserve the very worst of our ire. What more evidence do we need that they are our enemies, not our allies? They are nothing more than 3rd world barbarians who stole a fortune in oil wealth from American companies back in the 50's.

Saidi Arabia is the spiritual heart of Sunni Islam (the same sect as Osama bin Laden), and as such they are our #2 enemy next to Iran.

Death to Islamic Totalitarianism!

--Dan Edge


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another Year at the OAC

The new school year at the Objectivist Academic Center has begun! I will be a sprightly Sophomore this year.

According the ARI website, the OAC is "a systematic program of instruction in the essentials of Objectivism and in the nature of objective thought and communication." It is basically an Undergraduate program on Objectivism.

The first year consisted of an Introduction to Philosophy course with Onkar Ghate, and two Writing courses taught by Keith Lockitch. I enjoyed my Freshman year very much. Considering that I have already earned a degree in Philosophy, I learned a lot -- particularly in the Writing courses. Lockitch teaches a very structured approach which has improved my writing skills 100%.

In year 2, I will be going over OPAR (again) with Onkar Ghate. According to his syllabus, we will be placing a special focus on epistemology and ethics, which he considers to be the core of the Objectivist philosophy. I've gotten something more out of OPAR each time I've read it, so I'm sure a guided tour from Ghate will be very enlightening.

I highly recommend the OAC to anyone interested in Objectivism.

--Dan Edge