We are living longer, mainly because of the current development of science , in the area of medicine, but we are not necessarily enjoying a consistently better quality of life. The main reason for this is that we rather try to resolve our problems in an approach that identify our deficiencies and remove them than exploring choices and possibilities in order to re-orientate people towards flexibility and growth, seeing the person as whole, not as parts and as often regarded as in both cause-and-effect model and separation of body and mind.
Our dysfunctions and dissatisfactions are adaptive responses that helps us to survive and evolve as a species, and our ability to maintain body and mind balance lie within the way we live, attitudes we hold, meaning we attribute to our situations and relationships we have with others.
Our knowledge that we have in our resource store, gathered since our birth, was provided by parents, significant others, media and made available to us by science, could only resolve our problems proximally only, and ignores largely the path way that can address our problems with infinite options for a specific individual in the spheres of entire psychological, social and spiritual landscape, to reaching the ultimate solution.
Scientists, philosophers and religious leaders have been striving to explore and understand so called ultimate solution or the truth, whichever term you may apply, for years and such attempts have imparted us a massive amount of knowledge and information that we have collected ‘ by mean of the process of our sensory organs and subject to the interpretation of our neurology. This information and knowledge is not more than our sensation, the process of sensing our environment through touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell and perception, way we interpret these sensations and therefore make sense of everything around us.
Sensation and Perception
Although intimately related, sensation and perception play two complimentary but different roles in how we interpret our world.
Sensation is the process by which our senses gather information and pass it to the brain. As you know a large amount of information is being sensed at any one time such as surrounding temperature, brightness of the lights, somebody talking, , or the smell of perfume. With all this large amount of information coming into our senses, we never recognize the majority of our world. We can’t notice radio waves, x-rays, or the microscopic parasites crawling on our body. We don't sense all the odours around us or taste every individual spice in our gourmet dinner. We only sense those things we are able to, since we don't have the sense of smell like a bloodhound or the sense of sight like a hawk; our thresholds are different from these animals and often even from each other.
The absolute threshold is the point where something becomes noticeable to our senses Anything less than this goes unnoticed.
The difference threshold is the amount of change needed for us to recognize that a change has occurred. This change is referred to as the Just Noticeable Difference.
Signal Detection Theory
Have you ever been in a crowded room with lots of people talking? Situations like that can make it difficult to focus on any particular stimulus, like the conversation we are having with a friend. So in this circumstance, we attempt detect what we want to focus on and ignore or minimize everything else.
Stimuli which has become redundant or remains unchanged for an extended period of time remains out of our attention normally. We notice certain smells or sounds right away and then after a while they fade into the background. The process of becoming less sensitive to unchanging stimulus is referred to as sensory adaptation.
As mentioned in the introduction, perception refers to interpretation of what we take in through our senses. The way we perceive our environment is what makes us different from other animals and different from each other.
Perception as Grouping
This means that ‘ whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. This allows us to interpret the information completely without unneeded repetition. For example, when you see one dot, you perceive it as such, but when you see five dots together, you group them together by saying a "row of dots." Without this tendency to group our perceptions, that same row would be seen as "dot, dot, dot, dot, dot," taking both longer to process and reducing our perceptive ability.
In the same way, when you add on different sensory information such as a specific colour, shape, smell and taste , you may interpret it as an apple, based on your past knowledge.
Perception as grouping is three type and they can be described as similarity, continuiety,proximity and closure.
Maintaining Perceptual Constancy: Brain can recognize object without re-evaluating with varying distance, shape, and brightness.
When you walk toward a building, you would have to re-evaluate the size of the building with each step, because we all know as we get closer, everything gets bigger. The building which once stood only several inches is now somehow more than 50 feet tall, however, this doesn't happen, due to our ability to maintain constancy in our perceptions
Everybody has seen a plate shaped in the form of a circle, but when we see that same plate from an angle, however, it looks more like an ellipse.
Brightness constancy refers to our ability to recognize that colour remains the same regardless of how it looks under different levels of light.
Our sensations and perceptions are all not the real world but just an representation of it. However, this functions for us , as though gifted by nature, as an essential part of our life for our life.
Meaning built upon perceptions
What the senses experience is limited and filtered at three levels such as at the sensory organs, neurology and then our values & beliefs and culture.
This means that an individual form a map about the world which is not real but just a representation of it. Which an individual thinks right for him but it is not only not right but also it is different to other’s.
Understanding this process will guide you to gain an insight into the two path ways of absolute freedom that is beyond knowledge and time, and process differential that within conventional truth that has a form/being, self and operate within knowledge and time.
Event is that something happens in the person’s neurology, a perturbation.
A person then becomes aware of that some difference occurring. This is the object. We call it object since it has characteristics ( sub modalities) such as sub elements like colour, black and white, hazy, with or without borders, sharp or blur in relating to colour, and other sub-modalities for other awareness, sound, taste etc. This is the state of perception of nama and creating Rupa rupa, as explained in Buddhism.
Event and object levels are silent and there are no meanings attached to it. These are the prelinguistic levels.
Description follows person’s experience and this is the first time a person attach words and at this level words only partially represent the experience.
Then based on the person’s description, comes inference 1, an evaluation what it does mean.
And following that inference 1, and so on, potentially to infinity, putting oneself in to avalanche of problems and pain.
As a person learn and experience things as ‘self’ in this way gradually develop patterns of thinking and behaviours based on his values and beliefs within a frame of attachment and aversion. These patterns or schemas are embedded in sub consciousness and operates even without person’s awareness,
Attachment and aversion both enclose a person in a cycle, a self-feeding cycle, a vicious cycle because it is never-ending. While a person is placed in a prison cell, he become unable to see the outside of it in order to see the realities, that are formless and no meaning attached by ‘self’.
In attachment, we set goals and try to achieve them. Once we have achieved them, it become no more desired state and set another goal as desired. This is never ending and cause stress. And at the same time we struggle to stay on the desired state avoiding any trend to move down the ladder, and this too cause stress.
In aversion, we rebel against what we don’t like. We lose our body and mind balance and become stressed. In this state of mind, we tend to always pick up events as negative and enter never ending vicious cycle again.
Whatever you choose, attachment or aversion, we end up getting in to self-feeding vicious cycle.
Mind Body Connection
Most experts in the field of psychology and biology agree that the mind and the body are connected in more complex ways than we can even comprehend. Research constantly shows us that the way we think affects the way we behave, the way we feel, and the way our body’s respond. The opposite is also true, physical illness, physical exhilaration, exercising, insomnia all affect the way we feel and behave, but also the way we think about ourselves and the world.
Between neurons, through Synapse, Information is carried by biochemical substances called neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters play an important role role in our mental health.
Acetylcholine – involved in voluntary movement, learning, memory, and sleep; Too much acetylcholine is associated with depression, and too little in the hippocampus has been associated with dementia.
Dopamine – correlated with movement, attention, and learning; Too much dopamine has been associated with schizophrenia, and too little is associated with some forms of depression as well as the muscular rigidity and tremors found in Parkinson’s disease.
Norepinephrine – associated with eating, alertness; Too little norepinephrine has been associated with depression, while an excess has been associated with schizophrenia.
Epinephrine – involved in energy, and glucose metabolism; Too little epinephrine has been associated with depression.
Serotonin – plays a role in mood, sleep, appetite, and impulsive and aggressive behaviour; Too little serotonin is associated with depression and some anxiety disorders, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some antidepressant medications increase the availability of serotonin at the receptor sites.
Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid) – inhibits excitation and anxiety; Too little GABA is associated with anxiety and anxiety disorders. Some antianxiety medication increases GABA at the receptor sites.
Endorphins – involved in pain relief and feelings of pleasure and contentedness;
The Brain and Nervous System
The Central Nervous System consists of the brain and the spinal cord. The Cerebral Cortex, which is involved in a variety of higher cognitive, emotional, sensory, and motor functions is more developed in humans than any other animal.
Hypothalamus – controls the autonomic nervous system, and therefore maintains the body’s homeostasis, which we will discuss later (controls body temperature, metabolism, and appetite. Translates extreme emotions into physical responses.
Limbic System – emotional expression, particularly the emotional component of behavior, memory, and motivation.
Amygdala – attaches emotional significance to information and mediates both defensive and aggressive behaviour.
Hippocampus – involved more in memory, and the transfer of information from short-term to long-term memory
Autonomic Nervous System, regulates primarily involuntary activity such as heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and digestion. Although these activities are considered involuntary, they can be altered either through specific events or through changing our perceptions about a specific experience.
The Sympathetic Nervous System controls what has been called the "Fight or Flight" phenomenon because of its control over the necessary bodily changes needed when we are faced with a situation where we may need to defend ourselves or escape.
What follows up here, is that our values, beliefs, culture, our attitude, personality, our relationship with others and the way we use our all gained knowledge has an greater impact upon our ability to make a balance between our mind and body. Finding a way to self- regulate , in a whole person approach, to live in varying contexts, we need to integrate our psychological, physiological, social and spiritual/religious spheres, in a manner which can consistently change with ever changing environments.
Dr Gamini Senanayake
Psychologist, NLP & CBT Practitioner, United Kingdom.
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