Disclaimer

I started writing  Pennsylvania Echoes  because I wanted to improve my grammar.  I chose meditation, mindfulness and how they apply to my daily life, as the blog’s subject matter.  Writing about Mental Health Management has received the most appreciation.
My world- view will not cure mental disorder. but I cannot separate my world view entirely from management or my great concerns for Mental Health.  So I must present my thoughts, and tips on “Mental Wellness” in my own way and from my own experience–  if I am to be honest.
Any information you find is meaningful is presented as is.  There is no Warranty. Too bad I can’t cure my bad grammar.
Enjoy.
–Chris

Now I am Aware of – Fritz Perls in workshop

 

Today’s Gestalt Therapy, A humanistic approach to psychotherapy, evolved and matured out of the experimental workshops of cofounder’s Fritz Perls and Laura Perls. In session, the gestalt client’s aim is to “Get out of their heads”, or the computer thought process as Perls has stated many times. Its method is to experience the awareness continuum , that is happening right now — body into the sensory field. This method of experiencing awareness includes experiencing the awareness of how one avoids awareness and sensing in his world.

The exercise in the video (posted on youtube by Marin Tataru) demonstrates “becoming acquainted with the on-going process of awareness.” in another words, mostly talk about process in the video, for the purposes of explanation and instruction.
Give it a shot:
 

Now, I am aware of…

 

Cash Value of Meaning and Truth

To better understand William James’s  metaphor of  the Cash Value of Truth, I would like to make a case that “Cash value of Meaning” would be an improved word choice for today.
This is to say that from a subjective stand point, a person decides what is meaningful and how meaningful in any given context ( family social, work social environmental, aesthetically such as Studying a sculpture in a gallery) etc), in a market like process. Each context has own meanings, finally interpreted by the person, himself in his own interests.William James

A simplified example two people in the context of conversation.

Each person brings memory, previous opinion, biology, world view, diction and present mood into the field of conversation. This context of meeting  includes the physical location, and participants, including anything in the background. It maybe limited to what was discussed. If the two converse freely, the talking points and their significance of each discussed topic is decided by the participants in a intersubjective manner. All the topics discussed belong to the conversation and should rely only on that field at the time. How significant each topic was is prioritized with events in that field of conversation.

This may have been a meaningful exchange. The importances of this bracket event: the conversation, is experienced and prioritized by emotive, intellectual and active reaction. the important moments are provocative.

Later, If one the participants, reflects on the conversation earlier (people usually do) to define more meaning, they are now creating a NEW context. Now the context, or field, is with the person and his memory. Probably not as provocative… the entire market place is within the coercion of his own world view and mood of the location and his body/mind. The participants of the market place, of this moment of reflection are entirely himself. All arguments are of himself… body,mind, location.

  • Each meaningful experience is localized event. This fits with James thoughts that life is a series of interwoven experiences.
  • Interpersonal / intersubjective meanings are less coerced when it is discussed or experienced with multiple participants, whether other people, organisms, or environmental agents. just as William James market- like metaphor suggest.
  • The building blocks of are more constant meaningful ideas are defined tested and retested by new day to day experiences.

“Truth’s” for  William James,  are meaningful (in that they provocative or conscious constructed) ideas that are assimilated by one or many by verification in the marketplace of a reality. Truth is always contextual, always referring to experience, social, environmental, spatial, etc.  Truth always refers to an experience or a series of experiences where they are verified intersubjectively by all the participants in the field.  This holds true in science and other Academic contexts where ideas are rigorously tested by  the tester,   subject and controlled fields of testing.

Meaningful Conclusion

Truth Happens to an Idea as James proclaims, after rigorous testing in experiences, or its deemed as not true.
“Meaning of Ideas” is when those ideas and happenings, true or not, have a significance or use,  and  a how significant or useful to the ideas that are  tested in the realm of experiences.

A practical definition of self.. who-i-am (repost)

What I have observed over the last decade, without casting blame on the usual suspects… excessive media sources, peer pressure, technological uses with out concern for ethics… is the possibility of many  individuals feeling fragmented, polarized or ambivalent.  This trend will probably continue for a long time.  Some are looking for just a starting point to the address the question “Who am I?”
“Who I am” is a slowly evolving and rigorously  tested concept for me. This is the development of the “healthy self concept” which I think is central to my  health and wellness management over the years.

The following is a repost from  April of 2011:

“In the widest sense possible, mans Self: is the sum total of all he can call his,
not only  body and psychic powers, but  his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and his friends,his reputations and works, his lands and his horses,  and yacht and bank account. All these things give him the same emotions.

William James psychologist, later pragmatist  (principles of psychology).
In James definition any  physical and psychic interaction one can claim   is  part ones  self.

I would narrow my definition of  “self”  to:
a constructed organization or  gestalt of   mind/ body, that may include an integration of:

  • Interests – likes, dislikes, concerns
  • Values – principles,  ideas  held as important and meaningful
  • Beliefs – that which I hold true
  • Sex,   Gender, and orientation
  • Strengths and limitations (real and perceived)
  • Memories
  • basic needs , capacities and drives.
  • Biology:- from hormones to Nervous system to Dna

…that is  both  stable and vital in influencing the processes  of how I live and
is permeable and subject to slow change of growth and withdraw, as I live.

Why bother to define an object-like “Self”?…
I have  heard fellow newcomers to mental health management, describe themselves as if their personalities were pulled by strong  up mood to down mood; Feeling they were different one day to the next, or feeling fragmented….
Wondering if they can find an answer to the important  question: “Who Am I?”
My answer would be “I  start by stating   a few of values, interests, strengths, needs”
these traits tend to be more stable for many people than mood or situation.

Defining ” my- self”  is a pragmatic  solution, because  it gives me a stable answer to question “who am I?”  in understanding my expressions and interactions .
Loosely,   “Self” is  a core or center of being, a way to describe to say “Who I am” with   an important sense of control in sometimes fast paced changing world. My self is Me.

Zen “True Self” and Being

In Zen,   the “every day Self” or “True self’“, is defined as happening in present moment. It is  “Who one is” in the present moment. In Zen the self is also doing. For example  If  I am riding a bike, My  True Self is “I am riding”.
Although , I  believe a persons  “Being” is best described  as:  “doing” in the present moment or experience”,  It is impractical not to differentiate self  from  doing or Being, at times,  as situations and actions change to rapidly, day to day… moment to moment.
It is important to be able to distinguish  self from other (organism from environment) in “Being” as it is to realize the connection. Being is always changing. Action and experience are always changing. “Me” or my self,  always changing also  but it is more the far more stable components of Being than former.

As I  continue explore, defined and refine  myself  I gain with

  • ability to choose “what is me” and “what is not me”
  • greater capacity of reason, emotion  and relativeness
  • greater  autonomy in decisions I make
  • repeated testing in reality of  core components of me
  • greater confidence in “what is me”, “who I am”

What I describe as “me” or my self directly influences  my real time processes of such thinking, feeling, acting  and is affected (and ultimately tested) by these processes.
My self … or “What is me” is  just one integral part  of ” I am being“, but a relatively stable descriptions in comparison to flux and range interactions and expression.

In practical terms, “What is me” or “myself” differs from “what is mine” in that the self has more  importance in “how I am being” and therefore is more meaningful in Being or living.

In conclusion  the self or  “What is me”  is different than “What I possess“. Understanding how  “What I s me”  influences  “How I am being” in the present centered moment,  may give a better sense of wholeness and stability in Being and an answer to “Who I am”.

Sopwhith Snoopy and the Red Baron Christmas Carol

My favorite Christmas song, from as long as I can remember , has been The Royal Guardsman’s   Christmas version of “Snoopy and the Red Baron“.  I’ve posted this before here… but “let’s do it again”.

 

 
Snoopy fought his phantom foe: World War I flying Ace, “the Red Baron”, on his imaginary Sopwith Camel biplane.
They are still at it, over all the technology changes in our world.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Agnostic Conditions Reprised

Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process: the process namely of its verifying itself, its veri-fication.

When  I read what William James published in “The Meaning of Truth”  I believed he was refering to the truth of ideas proposed by a single person or group of persons, a single consciousness or a collective of consciousness within their existence(s).   One  constantly tests  his/her stream of ideas within present environmental experiences and social experiences, and then with his/her memory of experiences… to judge a notion true or  not.
Navigating this uncertain world is certainly easier  by  taking an Agnostic position in regards to knowledge, and a willing to do the work of verifying ideas:  in participation and in experience.  But that’s just my opinion.  So  to start with an Agnostic attitude, what is “Agnosticism?”

Revised posted

Agnostic Conditions ” was originally posted on May 3, 2009

Agnostic – definition: not knowing or unknowing
What, then is the definition of Agnosticism?. If the definition of the root agnostic is “not knowing, or unknowing”, it is doubtful that one can define any full intellectual system of Agnosticism.–Much in the same manner one cannot with other “-isms” such as existentialism or postmodernism.
I was thinking about Jean-François Lyotard’s phrase: ” Postmodern Condition” , which is  a loose  bundle  of observations and criticisms about Modernism. (specifically: these postmodern conditions are conditions that expose Modern ideas of “progress, “Meta-Narratives”, “cause-effect”,”objectivity” of Modernity as fallacious. ).

I wonder that if instead of an “Agnosticism”, there was  a set of Agnostic Conditions, that were a reaction to theories of knowledge.
So I came up with a few agnostic conditions of my own:

Knowledge

  • Our total knowledge of all details is limited.
  • Nothing is absolutely known. What is “known” is based upon acceptable supporting evidence and verification.
  • Knowledge is limited to the collective experience, communication means and data storage of a group or person.
  • Knowledge is inseparable from consciousness. (which includes, previous and current meanings, bias, and introjection, etc)

Reality

  • A definition of Objective Reality: “what is real is measurable” as defined by classical physics; accepted as universal.
  • A definition of Subjective Reality: what is experienced, and accept as real by a single consciousness. such as the cognation of an organism’s interactions.
  • A definition of Intersubjective Reality. the collected objects, events, structures, descriptions, meanings, principles, etc that are shared as “real” between  subjective consciousness* conscious beings (organisms)
  • A definition of Absolute Reality: the way things truly happen, whether comprehensible or not.

Meaning.

  • meaningful… description of information, that is:
    • that is formed out of background of discord
    • that is relative: relative  to a topic, study, paradigm, “game” , time-space location, happening, or world- view.
    • that is defined  in language, symbols or gesture, for clarification or communication
    • that is prioritized in importance – intellectually and emotionally.
    • that is  prioritized   compared to other meanings in the  context… social, personal, environmental contexts
  • meaninglessness:  information that is not meaningful and therefore  remains, or is relegated to the background.

Uncertainty

Uncertainty. Image from Wikipedia.org

  • I  decide that “X” is true, false, or probable. I could be wrong.
  • I do not have to decide if “X” is true, false, or probable  with out the considering the  agnostic conditions   ( of Knowledge, Reality, Meaning).
  • Uncertainty is inherent in the nature of things,  actions and decisions.

I think that agnostic conditions are an important considerations when studying epistemology and knowledge theories, and when making decisions and actions. They are a criticism and completion of such. For me, this is a definition for agnosticism: a set of conditions.

As for the repetitive question is “Does God exist”?
Well, one ,must define what he means when he ask about  “God” or gods, because there have been many definitions over time ,cultures contexts and subjective view points. How important is to know if God or gods exists or not?  Is it as meaningful  a question as to ask  “is there intelligent  life on other planets?, or knowing what goes on in other people lives in other countries?     It might be.  It might not be.

I don’t know.

* edited for clarity and grammar  11-17-2014

tomato meditation

Still hot, right off the vine on a warm summer after noon — nothing beats cherry tomatoes. Some are just superficially sour…,
The best of them sour first..
then molasses sweet
then sour again..

This cool August day’s sun would not bake these little fruit morsels today to anymore than 70 degrees in my small tomato garden of the backyard. None the less, at room temperature, (I was sitting outside) they were a tasty reward for my zazen meditation..
It all started today when I was reading a book on subjects related to gardening, I was having a little bit of trouble concentrating, So I thought to myself, “Self… its a beautiful day out, lets go out back and get a little focus back.” The back patio, which faces my tomato, pepper and leak garden is as good as spot as any.

The things you notice, and notice that you weren’t noticing.

During meditation I became mindful that my grass was the lawn was tall enough to mow. This is typical for me, thoughts of having to do work, or some task always surface when I meditate — roughly ten minutes in..
I chuckled to myself about the cicadas that I had not noticed before. “How many days have they been chirping in the afternoon, grasshopper, and you had only now noticed!”

cherry-tomato.jpg

Cherry Tomatoes!

So after sometime, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, twenty minutes, who knows… I decided I was finished meditating .
Time to reward myself. Ahh!!! I have ripe cherry tomatoes on the vine!
Most who meditate regularly, may report that, after a period of letting go of thoughts, one become closer to his senses and that included taste…
I can still taste the tomatoes as of this writing.

The following is a haiku I wrote about tomatoes.:

reddened and ripened,
oblong, fireball bulbousing;
flashes her nature.

I wrote it for Alan Watts after enjoying one of his lectures on tape some time ago…
you can find more poetic musings here..
.
All work and no tomatoes make jack a dull boy.

People are Different: Medication and Mental Disorder

People function and react differently given the same chemical cocktail. One medication can be a wonder drug for consumers of Mental disorder, restoring their ability to function adequately for a long duration of time. Another patient may not respond at all to the same prescribed psychiatric medication. And the next consumer could have serious negative or dangerous effects from the same medical therapy.
People are different.

A funny story about me….

Lithium is a commonly prescribed drug for Bipolar Disorder. It is a relatively cheap, successful and safe mood stabilizer. It’s a naturally found substance – Lithium compounds are  salts. Most consumers who take the drug therapy successfully usually only deal with the side effects of weight gain, mild tremors and dry mouth. Lithium can take up to three months to build up in a consumers system to show full effect.
Unfortunately, for me: I am highly sensitive to the stuff. After a period of build, actually a smaller dosage than normally prescribed for someone of my weight, I began to REALLY feel the effects… the side effects. my eyes came close to swelling shut, throat constantly dry and thick to the wear I had trouble swallowing.
Scream.jpgI remember sitting at a fast food restaurant trying to ingest a meal of soda and fries… the tremors!  my hands and arms shook so violently that I had trouble getting fries in my mouth until I gave up, eyes squinted, and a lethargy that made me look like a  shaky zombie. (definitely not like those cool superfast zombies I see on TV. Now that would have been cool!)
This was still better than being “Manic” (An elevated level of mood and energy that made impossible for me to sit still, or do things like read,watch tv, drive, or even walk for a long period of time.) However, I was not one of the fortunate  who use this drug successfully…. I would not be able to work or enjoy leisure with lithium
The funny part was the drug to almost as long to get out of my system as it took to build up. Those were the early days of my mental wellness management. I joke about how bad I looked out in public at times, and how I was cursed to wait to I pissed the salt out of my system.   Well,I guess you had to be there..

A serious story that is important to know…

I know of a person who says she suffered from major depression for over twenty years.  She was prescribed many medications and therapies over the years, including electroconvulsive therapy  — the latter is often reserved when no other therapies seem to work.   Nothing worked. (She had a physical handicap as well, which further complicated her health woes leading to many stays in the hospital). After twenty years, Someone finally prescribed her a different class of medication than she we would normally be prescribed for severe depression…  Her “Wonder Drug”.. in her words.
It was a mood stabilizer called lithium. She would be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II  soon after.  She told me repeatedly that “Lithium saved her life”. After a few months Her depression cleared, she got back part of her life again. I have not heard from her for along time, but she said was generally  happy when we  last spoke.
Her success , of course, is important, but…

here is another important observation in mental health:

Many people seek treatment for severe depression and are prescribed anti-depressants… only to experience their depression get significantly worse, including suicidal thoughts.
As it seems,  something is  physically different in the manifestation that would correctly be diagnosed as Depression and in the manifestation that would be correctly diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder II. Unipolar (major) depression and bipolar disorder in depression  be appear outwardly  as the same.
But in fact, a therapy of prescribed antidepressants, WITHOUT a mood stabilizer or a like drug can make Bipolar Depression far more severe.
A commonly observed side effect of someone who should receive treatment for Bipolar Disorder, but is only taking Antidepressants is increased mood cycling with with deeper peaks and/or valleys.

A  little more about this subject: “Bipolar Disorder: A Mistaken Diagnosis“.

As it turns out: even Clinical Depression and Bipolar Depression can be physically different, just like results  of  treatment with that commonly prescribed salt.
A treatment that works for one person , may not for the next.  

Perhaps we  just can’t treat all people to the same, after all.

Forgive my pun-word game… its just a segue for my next post on how  my experience with Mental Disorder   matured my philosophical approaches and attitude.

Post-Post

mood-charting-example

mood-charting-example

If one is suffering from depression, inhibiting levels of  anxiousness, or extreme shifts in mood or emotion, enough to seek out professional medical treatment…
Mood Charting can be very advantageous. There is no way to predict completely the outcome of treatment and diagnosis.  But one can improve his chances of avoiding misdiagnosis by tracking his/her own  shifts and patterns in mood, energy level, focus and behaviours.    Getting the correct diagnosis early could certainly improve a consumer’s  chance of getting to a functional, productive  and happier day-to-day life.

Here is one suggested  reason  for   common misdiagnosis of  Bipolar Disorder Depression  for Major Depression:
a patient simply doesn’t recognize the brief  period of  hypomania that they experience. Up moods, with extra energy and alertness  can feel good.  A person doesn’t  normally think or know something is wrong when he/she  feels good.   He/she   fails  to describe or report these hypomanic periods to his doctor.
Tracking moods, focus, anxiety, sleep patterns over a long period of time can help doctors detect the right diagnosis.

Examples of mood charts can be downloaded on the CHARTS  tab above.

 

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