Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Faces ...

I was reading the following today and I had a strange feeling, some sort of excitement. Tonight, I remembered that a lot of times, seeing a sad face makes me smile! (I have seen this in some other people too.) I have always been ashamed of this reaction, until now, but I am beginning to think about the implications of this simple observation for my childhood interactions with my caregivers (including my mom). Does this mean that she (they) used to smile and show a happy face when I was sad? Or, did she become sad when I was happy?
Our temporal lobes contain neurons dedicated to faces that are essential to our ability to relate to others. ... Both [autism and Asperger syndrome] are characterized by profound deficits in the ability to relate to others. ... reseach has demonstrated that individuals with autism process faces in an area of the right temporal lobe normally used to process objects (Schultz et al., 2000) --- p. 187, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

... mirror neurons ... fire both in response to an observation of a highly specific relationship between an actor and some object and when the action is performed by the observer. ...
... facial expressions, gestures, and posture of anoher will activate circuits in the observer similar to those which underlie empathy. Seeing a sad child cry makes us reflexively frown, tilt ou heads, say ``aawwhhhh,'' and feel sad too. ... mirror neurons may bridge the gap between sender and receiver, helping us understand one another and enhance the possibility of empathic attunement (Wolf, Gales, Shane, & Shane, 2000). The internal emotional associations linked to mirror circuitry are activated via ouwardly expressed gestures, posture, tone, ... Thus, our internal emotional state---generated via automatic mirroring process---can become our intuitive ``theory'' of the internal state of the other. ... ---pp. 188-189, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quiet Internal World

Creating a quiet internal world allows for private thought, self-reflection, and traveling through time via episodic memory. Quiet moments can then serve as the grounds for mentalization, creativity, and consolidating the self (Winnicott, 1958).  ...
Winnicott (1962) suggested that the ego and one's sense of self consolidate during the periods of quiescence when children feel safe and calm in the presence of their parents. Good-enough parenting scaffolds the child, allowing him or her to go ``inside'' and rest in imagination and the experience of self (Stern, 1985). ---pp. 145-146, The Neuroscience of Psycholtherapy

French Suites

J.S. Bach's French suites, BWV 812--817, are six suites which Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the clavier (harpsichord or clavichord) between the years of 1722 and 1725. Performed on Piano by Andras Schiff

I really like the third one, it is my favorite as of now :)
Suite No. 3 in B minor, BWV 814
From 25'36'' to 39'12''


Richter: Italian Concerto, French Overture, English Suites 3, 4 & 6 & French Suites 2, 4 & 6

Here is Glen Gould's take on French suites:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6PFS5o-gvE
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_39W8zqT944

For some reason his performance sounds more emotional to me. I mean, I am listening to "Part 2" and at different points I started crying without any particular reason. Just the beauty of the music and performance brought tears to my eyes!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Child's Brain

A few paragraphs from The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy:

Cortical inhibition and descending control are also central to affect regulation. The rapidly changing and overwhelming emotions displayed by every young children reflect this lack of control. As the middle portions of the frontal cortex expand and extend their fibers down into the limbic system and brainstem, children gradually gain increasing capacity to regulate their emotions and find ways to gain soothing, first through others, and eventually by themselves. ...

Although both the left and right cerebral hemispheres are developing at very high rate during the early years of life, the right hemisphere appears to have a relatively higher rate of activity and growth during the earliest years (Chiron et al., 1997). During this time, vital learning in the areas of attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem are organized in neural networks biased toward the right hemisphere. Somewhere around age 3, this pattern of asymmetrical growth shifts to the left hemisphere.

The maturation and sculpting of so much of the cortex after birth allows for highly specific environmental adaptations. The caretaker relationship is the primary means by which physical and cultural environments are translated to infants. It is within the context of these close relationships that networks dedicated to feelings of safety and danger, attachment, and the core sense of self are shaped. The first few years of life appear to be a particularly sensitive period for the formation of these networks. It may be precisely because there is so much neural growth and organization during sensitive periods that early interpersonal experiences may be far more influential than are those occurring later. The fact that they are preconscious and nonverbal makes them difficult to discover and more resistant to change. Because these neural networks are sculpted during early interactions, we emerge into self-awareness preprogrammed by unconsciously organized hidden layers of neural processing. The structure of these neural networks organizes core structures of our experience of self. --- pp. 70-72, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

Interactions: A True Story

A quote from ``The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain,'' by Louis Cozolino
Being human means communicating with others. ... Through our interactions we have the power to impact one another at every level. One of my most powerful experiences of the truth of this fact ... [took place] at the home of a friend. I had volunteered to watch his two young children for a few hours ... I had known Jessica and Sam, 4 and 6 years old, all their lives. ... The minute their father left they shifted from low to medium to high gear and I found myself in the midst of a frenzy of excitement.
Toys began flying out of closets and storage containers; games were begun and tossed aside; videos were started, stopped, and replaced ... I kept trying to refocus Sam and Jessica's activity, to no avail. ...
... My suggestion that we sit and talk for a while passed unnoticed. After a few seconds, Sam looked at his sister and yelled, ``Show Lou how you burp your dolly!'' Both let out a scream and Jessica soon returned with an adorable squishy doll. ... Jessica threw the doll on the floor face first and drove her fists into its back. As Jessica and Sam took turns crushing the doll into the carpet, I watched in horror, completely identifying with the doll. ....
I quickly reminded myself that I was feeling sorry for a ball of cotton and that I should turn my attention  back to the children. ... I struggled to make sense of what was happening and asked myself if there might be some symbolic message in the way they were treating this doll. Jessica and Sam had experienced a great deal of stress in their brief lives ... The frantic activity that I was witnessing may have reflected the accumulated anxiety from all they had gone through, mixed with normal child exuberance. ...
... Perhaps Sam and Jessica were showing me that when they needed to be comforted, they were met with more pain, or, at the very least, insufficient understanding and warmth. ... Was their behavior a form of communication?
... I felt my anxiety growing when finally, they turned to me and cried in unison: ``Your turn!'' I hesitated. The chant of ``Burp the baby, burp the baby'' began to rise. I looked at both of them and said, ``I know another way to burp a baby. Here is how my mom burped me.'' A cheer went up. ...
I gently picked up the doll and brought it to my left shoulder. Rubbing its back in a circular motion using my right hand, looking down at it with tenderness, I quietly said, ``This will make you feel better, little one.'' A silence fell on the hallway. I looked up to find Jessica and Sam transfixed, as if hypnotized. Their eyes followed the low circles of my hands, heads tilted like puppies. Their bodies relaxed, their hands limp at their sides, calm for the first time.
After following the movement of my hand for about 30 seconds, Jessica looked up at me and softly asked, ``Can I have a turn?'' ... then carefully, almost respectfully, she took the doll from me and placed it on the floor with its back against the wall. She stepped over to me, climbed over my crossed legs and put her head on my shoulder where the doll's head had been. She turned to me and almost inaudibly said, ``I'm ready now.'' As I rubbed Jessica's back, I felt her growing more and more limp as she melted into my shoulder and chest. ... When I looked over to [Sam], I could see that he was in the same posture and state of mind he had been in watching me burp the doll. He eventually looked up at me and asked, ``Can I have a turn?'' Before I could answer, Jessica lifted her head slightly and told him, ``In a minute.''
After a while, she gave up her spot on my shoulder and Sam had his turn being ``burped.'' --- pp.48-50, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Clips (Traditional Iranian Music)

Shajarian and Zolfonoon - BAYAT TORK

Shajarian - Lotfi - Mousavi - Mahour

Shajarian - Kasaei (Mousavi?) - Nava/AbooAtta

I have not smoked for more than three weeks now. I have not worked on my research for me than two months now. I finished the book I was reading yesterday (`Affect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of the Self,'' by Peter Fonagy, Gyorgy Gergely, Elliot L Jurist, Mary Target, 2002), all 400+ pages, lol. I am working on living in my emotions and not running away from them. I am starting to realize that emotions are very lucid, and also that thoughts are merely thoughts, emotions are merely emotions.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Children Playing

When adults think about children playing, they often think of it using their own, rather than the child's, perspective on psychic reality. ... The small child playing can think about thoughts as thoughts because these are clearly and deliberately stripped of their connection to the real world of people and even things. It is also easy to overlook the fact that the child may only be able to reflect on thoughts and feelings about real-life events during play if an adult is there to provide a necessary frame and insulate him from the compelling character of external reality. Winnicott recognized the vital mediating role children need from adults in order to play. He pointed out that our attitude toward play ``must include recognition that playing is always liable to become frightening. Games and their organization must be looked at as part of an attempt to forestall the frightening aspect of playing. The precariousness of play belongs to the fact that it is always on the theoretical line between the subjective and that which is objectively perceived.'' (1971, pp. 58-59) The very young child's understanding of minds may be developmentally advanced in play because of the segregation of this from external reality, and the avoidance of the sense of encroachment of reality on thought, which the child could otherwise experience. ---p. 263, [ARMDS:FGJT2002]

Saturday, October 06, 2012

False Self

Very intriguing ideas that feels very true and close to me:

... According to Winnicott (1960a), impingements from the environment may arise out of caregiver's difficulty in understanding the infant's thoughts or feelings, substituting her gestures instead of representing his [baby's] own intentional state to the baby, invalidating the gestures, and obstructing his [baby's] illusion of omnipotence. When this continues despite persistence by the infant, Winnicott suggests that a number of reactions can arise: the self may be overwhelmed, it may become anxious anticipating further impingement, it may come to experience itself only when it acts in opposition to impingements, and, finally, it can acquiesce and hide its own gestures, undermining its own ability. In this latter case, Winnicott assumed, the self ends up mimicking its care taking environment, resigned to deficiency, setting aside creative gestures, and perhaps even forgetting they ever existed. Winnicott suggested that the infant compliantly relates to the caregiver's gestures as if they were his own, and this compliant stance lie at the root of the false-self-structure. It follows from Winnicott's view of the hallmarks of the true self that the false self is revealed by a lack of spontaneity or originality. ... such individuals [with false-self-structure] later seek out external impingements to create the experience of compliant relating and, with it, a sense of realness about their own existence. Winnicott also identified the kind of self that appears to be real but is built on identification with early objects and thus lacks something uniquely its own.
Winnicott described how the false self may sometimes set itself up as real and generally convery this impression to others, but it does so mechanically, lacking genuine links between internal states and actions. A self whose own constitutional state has not been recognized is an empty self. ... Emotional experience will be meaningless, and the individual may look for powerful others to merge with or extraneously caused (drug-induced) physical experiences of arousal to fill the vacuum with borrowed strength or ideals. Only when the person is challenged by the need to act spontaneously as a whole person, particularly in intense relationships, will the limitations become evident.
The false self is thought to serve to hide, and thus protect, the true self. The true self is the constitutional state that was largely unrepresented by parental mirroring. Thus it may emerge only in the course of extreme states of emotional arousal, when the internalized but non referential expression can no longer serve to mask emotional upheaval---for example, in the course of physical or psychological illness. Symptom formation may express the true self because historically this was how the emerging self found it could exist without being overwhelmed by the environment, having creative gestures replaced or ignored. ...
... the child who fails to develop a representation of an intentional self is likely to incorporate in his image of himself the representation of the other, sometimes mental, sometimes physical. The picture of the self will then be ``false'': distorted, as the child experience of himself is overtly influenced by his early perceptions of what others think and feel, and strangely out of touch with what he himself or others are currently experiencing. This may be why many neglected or maltreated children show apparent failures of object permanence, leading to primitive separation anxiety or feelings of merger with the object.In reality, they continue existentially to depend on the physical presence of the other, both for self-sustaining auxiliary reflective function---continuing to seek and find their intentionality in the mind of the other---and, more subtly, as a vehicle for the externalization of parts of the self-representation that are experienced as alien and incongruent with the self. ...
This state of affairs places a massive burden on those with severe personality disorder. In order for the self to be coherent, the alien and unassimilable parts require externalization: that is, they need to be seen as part of the other where they can be hated, denigrated, and often destroyed. The physical other who performs this function must remain present for this complex process to operate. ...
The alien self is present in all of us, because transient neglect is part of ordinary caregiving: it is pernicious when later experiences of trauma in the family or the peer group force the child to dissociate from pain by using the alien self to identify with the aggressor. Hence the vacuous self comes to be colonized by the image of the aggressor, and the child comes to experience himself as evil and monstrous. ... A further twist to this sequence can be added when later brutalization within an attachment relationship generates intense shame. Coupled with a history of neglect in infancy and a consequent weakness in the capacity for metallization, this become a potent trigger for violence because of the intensity of the humiliation experienced when trauma cannot be attenuated via mentalization. Unmentalized shame is then experienced as the destruction of the self---we have called it ``ego-estructive shame.'' ... ---pp. 195-198, [ARMDS:FGJT2002]
Related Links:
True self and false self --- Wiki
According to this source, in the Winnicott theory of true/false self, ``Where the motherer is not responsive to the baby's spontaneity, where instead 'a mother's expectations are too insistent, they can eventually result in compliant behaviour and an impaired autonomy', as the baby has 'to manage a prematurely important object....The False Self enacts a kind of dissociated regard or recognition of the object; the object is taken seriously, is shown concern, but not by a person'.''

I am curious if there is an alternative mechanism for the construction of the false self: when an infant is too smart, in the sense of receiving and interpreting the mother's signals, for his own good!

Here is an interesting criticism of the "true self" concept, by Foucalt, based on the fact that "self" is more of a construction than a given: ``Foucault, a philosopher, took issue with the concept of a “true self” on the grounds that the self was a construct, not (as in the Romantic paradigm) an essential to be uncovered: anti-essentialism. Foucault snarled that "In the Californian cult of the self, one is supposed to discover one's true self, to separate it from what might obscure or alienate it"[55] - whereas for him what was in question was a process of subjectification, an aesthetics of self-formation.
Foucault maintained that because "the self is not given to us....there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art".[56] ''

Sense of Self and Borderline Personality Disorder --- Psychology Today 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Resolving Indecision

Indecision has been a major source of problems throughout my life, and hence, an interesting subject for me:
Another early form of instrumental self-regulation of affective behavior is indicated by the emergence of social referencing by the end of the first year .... At this time infants who find themselves in an ambiguous situation and cannot decide among several behavioral alternatives---such as whether or not to crawl across a visual cliff to their mothers---tend to examine their parent's facial emotion display and use the emotional information expressed to modulate their own behavior. The exact mechanism underlying social referencing is as yet unclear. ... It seems also possible that the infant, who is by now well-trained in emotion-regulative mirroring interactions, is actively seeking out a clarifying affect-mirroring cue from the parent that will strengthen and bring one of his current conflicting emotion states  to dominance, thereby resolving his indecision. ---p.158, [ARMDS:FGJT2002]

Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the t...