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That sudden, awful, impulse you just had might mean something after all

07/28/2009

Let’s admit it: we’ve all had some really bad impulses. 

Shouting at a lecturer, running in traffic, stealing an inadvisable kiss … who hasn’t had a sudden, mad, urge to do the unthinkable? 

It’s a basic fact of human life, and once again evolutionary psychology is claiming to have explained it.  Turns out, it’s a survival mechanism.  Who would have guessed?

In a recent paper published in Science, Harvard researches say these urges are “ironic processes of control” that help us tame our anti-social impulses. 

“These monitoring processes keep us watchful for errors of thought, speech, and action and enable us to avoid the worst thing in most situations,” the authors write.

In a post on the New York Times’ “Mind” blog, author Benedict Carey expanded on the idea that these self-destructive impulses evolved as a way of helping us manage our anti-social tendencies.

Perverse impulses seem to arise when people focus intensely on avoiding specific errors or taboos. The theory is straightforward: to avoid blurting out that a colleague is a raging hypocrite, the brain must first imagine just that; the very presence of that catastrophic insult, in turn, increases the odds that the brain will spit it out.

“We know that what’s accessible in our minds can exert an influence on judgment and behavior simply because it’s there, it’s floating on the surface of consciousness,” said Jamie Arndt, a psychologist at the University of Missouri.

So there you go, question answered, problem solved, right? 

Maybe – unless you actually want to actually understand what’s going on in your mind, with your thoughts, and your impulses.  Then this theory has absolutely nothing to tell you.

In fact, says Saybrook faculty member Kirk Schneider, it’s a classic example of what Rollo May, in his book Psychology and the Human Dilemma, called "turning mountains into mole hills."

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University

Don Moss new President-Elect for the APA's Society on Hypnosis

07/28/2009

Don Moss, Saybrook’s Mind-Body Medicine program director, has been elected President of Division 30 of the American Psychological Association for the term of 2010 – 2011. 

Division 30 is the Society of Psychological Hypnosis.

The election is one more example of Saybrook’s long leadership in the American Psychological Association’s divisions as well as in the field of mind-body medicine and  hypnosis. 

The current President of Division 30 is Saybrook faculty member Eric Willmarth, whose term expires in 2010.  Willmarth also received the American Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis’ Presidential Recognition Award this year. 

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University

From spiritual questions to daunting medical challenges: alumni scholarship support student research

07/28/2009

Saybrook PhD student Erica Hamilton wants to create a multi-dimensional model for addressing a painful women’s medical condition.  PhD student Les Ernst wants to interview spiritual directors across the U.S. to study how they teach people to discern an authentic spiritual experience.

Both of them will be able to complete these ambitious dissertations, thanks to support from the Saybrook Alumni Association.

This month the Alumni Association named Ernst and Hamilton its 2009 scholarship winners.

The $8,000 scholarships, begun last year, are awarded annually to two PhD students, in any Saybrook program, who have completed their coursework and are looking for funding to help complete their dissertation. 

Saybrook Alumni Director George Aiken says there were nearly 20 essay and candidacy level doctoral students who applied, and that all of them were highly qualified.

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Alumni Messenger

Book-Signing at Book Passage and Radio Shows_Michael Mayer

07/21/2009
Book signing and Presentation at Book Passage by Dr. Michael Mayer Energy Psychology: Self Healing Practices for Bodymind Health (North Atlantic/Random House, 2009) Sunday 4 PM August 2, 2009 51 Tamal Vista Blvd Corte Madera, 94925 Free What's the book about: Energy Psychology presents an integral approach to healing that combines Western bodymind psychological methods with a system of...

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Alumni Messenger

Alumni to Assist Admissions on New-Student Tele-A-Thon

07/14/2009
In cooperation with Admissions, Saybrook Alumni will make calls over the last weekend in July to 50 to 70 new or prospective students, answering questions and sharing their positive experiences at Saybrook. Alumni who would like to join this effort, please contact George Aiken at gaiken@saybrook.edu.

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Alumni Messenger

Alumni Scholarships Awarded to Saybrook Students Erica Hamilton and Les Ernst

07/14/2009
Two 2009 Alumni Scholarships of $8,000 Each Have Been Awarded to Essay or Candidate Level Students Erica Hamilton and Les Ernst From Erica Hamilton: Women with chronic pelvic pain (CPP) are often caught on a "medical merry-go-round" of diagnosis, referral, and treatments that may or may not be effective. My dissertation study will be the development of a grounded theory on coping among women...

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Alumni Messenger

Executive Faculty Member, Amedeo Giorgi, Awarded Honorary Doctorate in Medicine

07/14/2009
Executive Faculty Member and Saybrook Lineage Holder, Amedeo Giorgi, Awarded Honorary Doctorate in Medicine by the University of Orebro in Sweden, and Publishes New Book Dr. Giorgi was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for his work in developing the Phenomenological Method, which is used by nurses in their research. Also, his new book, The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology: A...

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Alumni Messenger

An Audio Recording of From Zen to Mother Teresa: Community Service as Spiritual Practice Is Now Available

07/14/2009
An audio recording of the June 2009 Alumni Homecoming talk From Zen to Mother Teresa: Community Service as Spiritual Practice , with Alumni Father Brian Kolodiejchuk and Zen Roshi Joseph Bobrow, Moderated by Alumnus George Aiken is now available on the Alumni Homepage of the Saybrook Website

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University

Survey says: Ritalin doesn't work

06/02/2009

If the scientific establishment didn’t have ADHD, this is the sort of thing they would be paying attention to:  a long-term study recently completed by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) showed that there are few-to-no long term benefits for treating children with ADHD with Ritalin.

According to the NIMH report: 

The eight-year follow-up revealed no differences in symptoms or functioning among the youths assigned to the different treatment groups as children. This result suggests that the type or intensity of a one-year treatment for ADHD in childhood does not predict future functioning.

Additionally: 

 

A majority (61.5 percent) of the children who were medicated at the end of the 14-month trial had stopped taking medication by the eight-year follow-up, suggesting that medication treatment may lose appeal with families over time.  The reasons for this decline are under investigation, but they nevertheless signal the need for alternative treatments.

And, perhaps most importantly:

Children who were no longer taking medication at the eight-year follow-up were generally functioning as well as children who were still medicated.

These are the kind of results that humanistic psychologists have been predicting for some time, and humanistic psychology can be excused an exasperated sigh when it reads that the NIMH now thinks that the actual symptoms of individual children might be the most important factor they present with, as noted below:

The researchers also speculate that a child’s initial clinical presentation, including ADHD symptom severity, behavior problems, social skills and family resources, may predict how they will function as teens more so than the type of treatment they received.

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University

The wonderful, weird, worrying future of employment

06/02/2009

For a generation of new college graduates, the future is not what they expected. 

It had seemed so easy:  get a BA, go get a job at an investment bank or a big company, make lots of money and the rest would take care of itself.

But “the rest” didn’t take care of itself – and as industry after industry has been roiled by social and technological change, there is an increasing drumbeat that “there has to be a better way” to handle work.  “The future of work” is big news in the media, even a Time Magazine cover story last week.

Meanwhile, the easy future is no longer an option.  According to a terrifying report from ABC News, only 20% of new BA’s are finding a full-time job right after college.  As these students try to piece together a healthy economic life with the tools they have, they are the unwilling vanguard into the new economy.

But what will the future of work look like?  What trends will be most important, what skills will be valued, and what will a “day at the office” look like?

Kathia Laszlo, a Saybrook faculty member in Organizational Systems, says that much of the current chaos in the economy comes from the fact that “We have created an artificial separation between work, learning and life.”

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