Sam Harris on How to Meditate

From time to time, I like to pass on any interesting articles on the topic of meditation. As I’ve written many times before, meditation is a very useful adjunct to psychotherapy – and like psychotherapy is a practice that has the potential to improve quality of life. (I would not recommend it as replacement for psychotherapy – that would be just as silly as recommending psychotherapy to someone interested in meditation.)

I would add one caveat for anyone struggling with depression: Meditation may make you feel more intensely what you are already experiencing. If you try meditation and find it distressing, this is not a good time to meditate. You can come back to it when you are less depressed, or feeling better.

I’m not that familiar with Mr. Harris, but he’s written a number of books with intriguing titles and I was immediately struck by his clear, straightforward, pragmatic and informed meditation instructions. He strikes a very nice balance of both committed and skeptical, one many writers on the topic should be envious of.

Here’s the link to his article, How to Meditate. Definitely worth a click.

And here’s a brief excerpt in which he compares learning to meditate with learning to walk a tightrope:

As every meditator soon discovers, such distraction is the normal condition of our minds: Most of us fall from the wire every second, toppling headlong—whether gliding happily in reverie, or plunging into fear, anger, self-hatred and other negative states of mind. Meditation is a technique for breaking this spell, if only for a few moments. The goal is to awaken from our trance of discursive thinking—and from the habit of ceaselessly grasping at the pleasant and recoiling from the unpleasant—so that we can enjoy a mind that is undisturbed by worry, merely open like the sky, and effortlessly aware of the flow of experience in the present.

6 Suprising Myths of In-Patient Addiction Treatment

This is straight from PsychCentral, but based on the work of Daniel Carlat, MD.  Carlat has blogged at his Carlat Psychiatry Blog (Keeping Psychiatry Honest Since 2007) for some time, paying particular attention to the shenanigans of big pharma (recommended).

Why are the myths important? Because desperate families are often willing to invest a substantial amount of time and money, in the hopes of successful treatment.

In any case, here are the 6 myths of addiction treatment, as gathered by PsychCentral. Click on their link above for further information:

1. For the price I’m paying, I’m going to get a lot of individualized attention and one-on-one counseling.

2. The counselors are all well-trained doctoral or master’s level clinicians.

3. There must be research showing that inpatient rehab centers use evidence-based techniques.

4. Inpatient residential rehab centers have been proven by research to work.

5. The reason the treatment length in rehab is 30 days is because research has shown 30 days to be the ideal length of time.

6. Residential rehab is expensive.

 

 

Famous Depressives #5: Carrie Fisher

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photo by JD Hancock (creative commons)

The actress known for her role as Princess Leia is severely manic depressive (now usually called bipolar disorder). Here’s a glimpse of just how manic she could get, from a Psychology Today piece:

Some years ago, the writer and actress suffered what she calls a “psychotic break.” At the time, she was experiencing a deep depression—just getting out of bed to pick up her then eight-year-old daughter Billie was a major feat. She was also improperly medicated. All of which landed her in the hospital. While there she was riveted to CNN, convinced that she was both the serial killer Andrew Cunanan as well as the police who were seeking him. “I was concerned that when he was caught, I would be caught,” she recalls.

Her brother, filmmaker Todd Fisher, feared that he was going to lose her. “The doctors said she might not come back.” Awake for six days and six nights, she recalls hallucinating that a beautiful golden light was coming out of her head. Yet the confusing thing about her mania, says Todd, is her ability to remain articulate, clever and funny. Todd says she launched into Don Rickles-like diatribes, “ripping everyone who came into her room.”

 

Oliver Sacks and his ‘Romantic Science’

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photo by Steve Jurvetson (creative commons)

Illuminating and thoughtful write up, “Oliver Sacks has left the building” at the excellent Mind Hacks website. From the piece:

Sacks wrote what he called ‘romantic science’. Not romantic in the sense of romantic love, but romantic in the sense of the romantic poets, who used narrative to describe the subtleties of human nature, often in contrast to the enlightenment values of quantification and rationalism.

and

His final book, On the Move, was the most honest, as he revealed he was gay, shy, and in his younger years, devastatingly handsome but somewhat troubled. A long way from the typical portrayal of the grey-bearded, kind but eccentric neurologist.

and

The reality is that Sacks’s role in my career was neither surprising nor particularly special. He inspired a generation of neuroscientists to see brain science as a gateway to our common humanity and humanity as central to the scientific study of the brain.

7 Things You Shouldn’t Say to People in Psychotherapy

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photo by David Goehring (creative commons)

Nice piece at PsychCentral about misconceptions around psychotherapy. Here is number 5:

5. “Why not talk to your friends and family instead of a stranger?”

A friendship is a two-way street, where there’s a mutual sharing of struggles, triumphs, and opinions. That can make being an objective listener difficult.

My relationship with Dr. R is a one-sided. I’ve only ever seen her in one setting, and the irony isn’t lost on me that I know nothing about the woman I pour my heart out to each week.

She doesn’t share her own experiences, nor does she use her own struggles as a point of reference. I can freely share without worrying about offending her.

She’s also a doctor who’s spent years mastering the therapeutic process. If I needed physical medical treatment like an examination or surgery, I wouldn’t go to my best friend just because she cares about me. The same reasoning applies to mental health care — the experts know best.