Peeking Through the Keyhole at Life

I was talking to a friend the other day about the amazing studies on human consciousness which show that only 400 bits of information/second reach our conscious mind out of a staggering 2 million bits of information hitting our senses every second! Much of the rest we process unconsciously. That means we are aware of 0.02% of reality every single moment of our lives! It also means we could potentially have access to the rest of 99,8%, if only we learnt how.    I found it brain bending to grasp the real implications of this. It is as if we were peeking through a keyhole at reality and we are not even aware of it. Moreover, most people live their lives convinced that their perception of reality IS reality. And they strive to convince everyone around them of the same thing. The fact that the limitations of our conscious mind allow us to perceive a small portion of what actually lies in front of us is just the beginning. To this we add a host of limiting beliefs that plague our consciousness and make that keyhole even smaller than it actually is. Many of them come from education, others we simply adopted unconsciously along the way, as a response to life’s challenges. Here are just a few of the most common limiting beliefs I have heard of or have or had myself: – I am not good enough – This is how things MUST be – Life is unfair and there’s nothing you can do about it – Every good thing in life comes with suffering and hardship – you can never separate them – I simply am not as lucky as other people – It’s too late to change anything And, my favourite one: I don’t have time! The list could go on and on. We all have limiting beliefs and most of us are seldom aware of them consciously. They distort our view of reality and what is truly possible, making our...

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The Saviour Syndrome

Apparently my life is full of “themes” that seem to haunt me until I’ve understood the message or learned the lesson. Lately, the theme is the “saviour syndrome“. This is a name I invented for it, inspired by one of my favorite models in psychology, the “drama triangle“.  What do I mean when I say I’m “haunted” by a theme? It’s as if life really wants me to get that idea and keeps sending me people and situations that confront me with that particular topic, forcing me to wrap my mind (and heart) around it in as many ways as I need in order to really get the message. Lately, the topic of “saving” others has kept popping up in my life quite a lot. The “saviour syndrome” as I call it, is not about that altruistic impulse of saving someone’s life when they’re in danger, nor is it about helping others in general. When being helpful turns into a “syndrome”, it’s clear that you’ve started falling into a potentially harmful habit. In a world most of us consider full of selfishness and self-centeredness it’s amazing how many people fall under the other extreme – that of obsessing about helping all those close to them, making themselves responsible for everything and everybody and blaming themselves for everybody else’s misfortune or failure. I know a lot of people who have taken it upon themselves to help their children, spouse, friends, to guide them (even against those people’s will), to always do “what’s best” for them – even at the expense of their own happiness and, sometimes, even at the expense of the happiness of the very own people they are so hard trying to help. If you are still not sure of what I’m talking about, just think of yourself and all those close to you. You might just discover that you have at least one person around you who is manifesting symptoms of the “saviour syndrome”. Such symptoms may include: Excessive involvement in other...

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Who Am I?

This past week I facilitated a workshop for a group of managers, and tried to change what I usually do in the beginning, when people introduce themselves – I asked them some challenging questions, aimed at making them think and making the “introductions” part more interesting for everyone. There was one question in particular that turned out to be a real challenge – although I hadn’t intended it to. The question was: “Who are you?”.  I had written this question on the introductory slide without really thinking about its deep meaning, and I was surprised at people’s reaction to it. Many identified themselves with their daily roles – manager, father, wife, friend, economist. Others mentioned personal qualities that defined them: goodness, honesty, openness, curiosity. Some said, openly, that they didn’t really know who they were, that they were still searching and discovering themselves every day. Listening to them got me thinking about myself and this question. Who am I? I realized I have been striving to answer this question all my life. There have been times when I thought I was getting close to finding the answer, and there were times when I felt like a visitor in my own life – as if I didn’t belong there, as if my home were somewhere else, but I had no clue where. In time, I became friends with this never-ending dilemma – Who am I? In doing so, I discovered something very important. I realized what I am NOT and that is something I would like to share with you. YOU are NOT your roles in life! I learned that I am so much more than my roles. I am not only a daughter, a sister, a friend, a trainer, a coach, a woman… All these are roles I take on every day – roles that I cherish, that are part of me, that make me feel alive and connected. They are part of my identity. But not a single one of them is ME –...

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What Makes us Human? The Story of a Curious Researcher and His Quest for Answers in Weirdest Places

May 23, 11 What Makes us Human? The Story of a Curious Researcher and His Quest for Answers in Weirdest Places

Posted by in Books, Neuroscience, Videos

Vilayanur Subramanian “Rama” Ramachandran is a remarkable man. A neuroscientist and professor at the University of California, San Diego, Ramachandran is also a very curious man. He is curious about what truly makes us human. He devoted his career to answering questions such as: What is consciousness? Where did language come from? What is introspection? Why do we all have a unitary perception of beauty? and the list could go on. In order to find answers to all these questions, Ramachandran turned to illness. And not to any illness. He studied some of the weirdest neurological syndromes in the world – people with Capgras syndrome (who believe their mother is some look-alike robot) or with Cotard syndrome (who believe they are dead); he studied people with “phantom limbs” (having pain in their non-existent amputated limbs) as well as people who had out of body experiences. He looked for answers in the depths of illness and wrote several books about his amazing journey. The latest one, definitely worth reading, is The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes US Human. The book is filled with countless fascinating case studies and Rama’s conclusions are, more often than not, surprising and counter-intuitive. If you don’t have time to read it all, you can at least read a great review of this book here. Ramachandran shows, once more, that our brain is like a treasure chest filled with the most amazing secrets. It’s hard to believe that one can ever grow tired exploring its mysteries. Here is his great speech at TED, where he gives us a glimpse into his fascinating research. I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I...

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Brainman – The Story of An Incredible Mind

May 02, 11 Brainman – The Story of An Incredible Mind

Posted by in Neuroscience, Videos

Brain Pickings is one of the most fascinating websites I’ve stumbled upon in a long time – it’s a collection of articles on all sorts of interesting, unusual, mind stimulating subjects. In the words of of Maria Popova, it’s editor, the site is “about curating interestingness — picking culture’s collective brain for tidbits of stuff that inspires, revolutionizes, or simply makes us think. It’s about innovation and authenticity and all those other things that have become fluff phrases but don’t have to be.” I found her description to be spot on – here you’ll find everything from articles on Arabic Street Art , to a funny, insightful three minute cartoon on Kant’s life and work, to the coolest BBC short films on Earth’s secrets to, and here’s where I’d like to stop for a bit, stories of amazing people – people like Daniel Tammet. Daniel is a so called “autistic savant”, a person with an unusual propensity for numbers – which, to him, are like intimate friends – unlike people, with whom he finds it more difficult to relate. What makes Daniel exceptional however is not his unbelievable ability to make huge calculations in his head, nor his prodigious memory, nor his almost surreal ability to learn foreign languages (he learned Icelandic in one week!!!!), not even his synesthesia, that makes him experience sounds as colors and numbers as distinct shapes in his head. What makes him truly exceptional is his ability to analyze and speak about his inner world – something that turns him into a treasure for science. Daniel’s autism is not as debilitating as that of other people with similar extraordinary capacities (but, sadly, with equally debilitating disabilities), such as Kim Peek, the autistic savant who inspired the famous movie “Rain Man”, featuring Dustin Hoffman. Peek was perhaps the most famous case of this kind in the world – he died at 58, after a life of disability (he couldn’t button his shirt, nor operate a light switch) and brilliancy (he...

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Can the Brain Explain Your Mind? by Colin McGinn | The New York Review of Books

Mar 04, 11 Can the Brain Explain Your Mind? by Colin McGinn | The New York Review of Books

Posted by in Books, Neuroscience

Can the Brain Explain Your Mind? by Colin McGinn | The New York Review of Books. Colin McGinn makes an excellent review of V.S. Ramachandran’s book – The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human. Here is an excerpt of his review in The New York Review of Books. I hope it will convince you that neurology is truly fascinating and worthwhile for us, non-scientists too, since it opens a gate into the amazing workings of our own minds. “Is studying the brain a good way to understand the mind? Does psychology stand to brain anatomy as physiology stands to body anatomy? In the case of the body, physiological functions—walking, breathing, digesting, reproducing, and so on—are closely mapped onto discrete bodily organs, and it would be misguided to study such functions independently of the bodily anatomy that implements them. If you want to understand what walking is, you should take a look at the legs, since walking is what legs do. Is it likewise true that if you want to understand thinking you should look at the parts of the brain responsible for thinking? Is thinking what the brain does in the way that walking is what the body does? V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, thinks the answer is definitely yes. He is a brain psychologist: he scrutinizes the underlying anatomy of the brain to understand the manifest process of the mind. He approvingly quotes Freud’s remark “Anatomy is destiny”—only he means brain anatomy, not the anatomy of the rest of the...

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