Neuropsychology to assist progress

Dan Latner, modified 9 Months ago at 1/6/22 1:25 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 1/6/22 1:05 PM

Neuropsychology to assist progress

Posts: 42 Join Date: 3/17/21 Recent Posts
Hi!

Last year, I read a book called "Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healings of ADD" by Gabor Mate, then shortly after experienced an A&P event. I'd like to try reverse engineer what I unintentionally stumbled into.

Here's my starting point, from wherever I'm at now which isn't Arhant so I know I'm missing some stuff, or perhaps am over-cluttered.

Existence exists, nervous systems exist, consciousness and behaviour exist, and then we use language to describe what's going on. Spirituality and Psychology are two ways that humans approach human experience, and they ideally should jive with each other since they are talking about the same systems. Neuroscience has provided us with a new way to talk about the biological mechanisms that correlate to certain aspects of consciousness. It's just today's science and we'll have better tools and understandings in the future, but at a certain level, we can now discuss mechanism vs metaphor in a way that was impossible a few decades ago and forever before that.

Learning about neuropsychology helped me intellectually sniff no-self and emotionally feel suffering - 2 of the 3 characteristics. Then I got some level of felt sensation of no-self, but I hear y'all saying there's even no-er self possibilities, so "I" will keep "my" eyes open for that.

Maybe it was something like "Neuro-behavioural Noting". I think meditating was always hard for me because I was dissociated and extremely "neurodivergent" and didn't know it, but learning psychology let me use logic and intellect to get in touch with the same "me" through a different avenue.

I did two things:

1. Learn about how nervous systems work in general
2. Use diagnoses to learn some specifics of my nervous system, and get a felt sense of "me".

Both contributed to "no-self", but "suffering" was mostly a result of feeling into diagnostic criteria.

Perhaps this worked so well for me because I'm such a caricature of ADD. Mate's book so thoroughly described so many subjective experiences and behavioural patterns that I couldn't help but unravel "my personality" into a wriggling mass of symptoms with no center that thought it was steering. Luckily, I was getting this through Gabor Mate, so I shot past diagnostic limitations to a view where most "mental disorders" are healable symptoms of dysregulated nervous systems that ended up as they are as a result of innumerable causes and conditions. 

Some pointers and thoughts

Nervous systems in general

Explore neuropsychology, polyvagal theory, interpersonal neurobiology, and modern trauma theory.
Some people I like in these fields are Gabor Mate, Bessel Van Der Kolk, Peter Levine, Steven Porges, Douglas Tataryn, and Daniel Siegal. There are many more of course, those are just a few I dig. 
It seems to me that these guys are describing a similar nervous system as the Buddha, while the mental health paradigm affiliated with the DSM is describing something else. 

There seems to be something special about deconstructing the self into isolated chunk of experience, and psychology and science give us many ways to do that.

We can learn about attachment styles, vagal states, reptile/mammal/human brain, different brain centers, neurotransmitters, brain waves, automic/parasympathetic nervous system, the neurobiology associated with each of the sense doors and different areas of mental consciousness etc... As we define and articulate these bandwidths - and learn what they FEEL like - we see not self not self not self not self not self not self not self.

"Me" started to seem like a neuro-orchestra that "I" have to conduct.

Your Nervous System

I approach the DSM and psychiatric diagnoses as a starting point. The map is not the territory. Find diagnostic criteria that apply to how you feel yourself, then start reading more about the "disorder". I guarantee that the cutting-edge thinkers in the field will tell you "Mainstream psychiatry doesn't know shit about schizophrenia/ADHD/bipolar etc... They wrote it about us without us, and we scientists who have it have a much deeper insight to what this consciousness/behaviour actually is, and what tools work and don't". Basically, you gotta regulate your nervous system.

I don't feel stigma or fear of exploring psychiatric diagnoses, because psychiatry is rather silly at a fairly consensus-reality level. These diagnoses simply don't exist in the same way that mumps or lupus exist.  Like other fingers pointing at the moon, it's people saying words about something we can't speak too clearly about.

With that being said, exploring my own diagnosis by getting psychoeducated about ADD, comparing my life with symptoms I was reading about, doing different reality checks, trying different meds and tools, diving into the trauma that came up, learning about addiction (ADD's bff), doing an honest inventory of how fucked I am... that was psychologically and emotionally challenging, so...suffering? good, right? 

What really helped was looking at patterns like time blindness, emotional dysregulation, spatial awareness, sequencing difficulties etc... and seeing "Oh Dang! ME actually is just habit patterns."

I think the key was combining my experience on a conceptual, lingustic, social level with other people's descriptions of experiences and typical diagnostic criteria AND combining that with understanind my brain mechanisms as best I could. It felt like a felt sense of my neurobiology. Typical ADDer, I'm probably a bit dissociated and alexithymic (hard to put words to feelings) but the neuro stuff I GOT and could sort of sense my nervous system responding to things and "me" "making choices" a moment later. Learn about the sequence -that's what's happening in the baseline. 

Other stuff

Useful words I didn't "get" before - Dissociation, embodiment, validation.

I think it's fun to compare spiritual and folk sayings with neurobiology. For example, compare  "Sangha is the WHOLE path", "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar", "you are a combination of the five people you hang around with", with how we now think emotions/vibes work on an interpersonal level. 

And my favourite, compare "He could only teach people without too much dust in their eyes", "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink", and "you can only meet someone as deeply as you've met yourself" with how language works when you talk levels of inner development that your listener hasn't seen what you've seen, and with what we know how about trauma and fear can responses shut down Broca's Area (a key language center). Fun!

Other neat comparisons, if you squint: Karma and Generational Trauma, Sankharas and Embodied Trauma,  and Faith, Placebo, and the Reticular Activating System. 

The A&P and subsequent shifts have all seemed so neuroscientific to me, and this has given me tremendous faith in the practice. Faith is easy now - it's dumbo's feather, it's leveraging the placebo effect and trusting other people's sugjectivity. I'm not looking for something otherworldly or not here... I'm adjusting the kaleidescope of my nervous system to experience what's going on in a clearer way.

It's probably oversimplistic, but I approach spirituality as old-timey, subjectively developed neuroregulation.

Once upon a time, some very clever monkeys on a planet started wondering, "What sorts of tricks can these nervous systems do? What happens if I cross my eyes? What happens if I drink alcohol?  What happens if I have sex? What happens if I sit in the dark for 800 hours and focus on my breath? Hmmm... whoa that was weird, huh? errrm..no self? Who had that experience!? This feels different, this feels good.... uummm awakened? enlightened? I dunno! Hard to say! Heres how I think I did it though, see for yourself..."

Kinda? Maybe? Something like that? lol

May this be useful to those who find it useful, and may all of y'all who don't just totally ignore it because not everything works for everyone. 
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Smiling Stone, modified 9 Months ago at 1/6/22 2:48 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 1/6/22 2:48 PM

RE: Neuropsychology to assist progress

Posts: 275 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hey Dan, I dig your style!
I'm not noticeably neurodivergent myself (well...) but I find your avenue of inquiry fascinating. The relationship between spiritual attainments and psychiatric disorders is still not well understood, and your approach (as a both attained and disordered not-self) seems really promising to me - I would say " the most promising"... to this conglomerate of reactions expanding into infinity!
Keep us informed, I wish you the best with your ongoing inquiry
with metta
smiling stone

PS : I felt like posting right away, but I'll have to read this again...