So, Drs. Dan Siegel and Jack Kornfield are giving a seminar in November at UCLA called, “Mindfulness, Healing, and the Neurobiology of Love.” Clearly it is exactly the opposite of what they advertise. And then there is the dubious claim that after the workshop the attendee will:
- Identify three ways to heal trauma
- Describe the nature of self
- Demonstrate mindful practice to reduce suffering
- Apply trainings of love, kindness, forgiveness and compassion
So, what is it this mindfulness? I was going to say, more booga booga but I won’t, just yet. But we have to ask the question, “Where is the science in psychology and psychiatry today. What happened to our field? Is it bankrupt and taken over by the mystics? If so, why?
One reason is that too many of these professionals are left brainers, in their heads, intellectuals in the worst sense of the term, and they cannot merge ideas with feelings to see how necessary feelings are. Or in this case to use the intellect to get to feelings is nonsense; as anyone who reads neurology would know. And I have heard Dr. Siegel lecture on it so he should know. But the longest trip in the world for him is the trip from the left to right brain, from the neocortex to the limbic area. And what he knows but doesn’t is that we use the late-developing neocortex to suppress feelings when they are too strong; so to use that structure to get in touch with feelings is an oxymoron.
What they say is that you need to become extremely watchful and aware and that makes you at peace with yourself. Watch your in-breathing and out-breathing so you are more mindful. Cultivate detachment and become an observer of yourself; how you move, how you walk and how you breathe. To be very aware of everything around you. And on and on—if you want to become a Hindu. But is this science? Is this what the professor at UCLA should be teaching? Well, they say, we have the research to back up our claims. “We change vital signs and behavior”, and they may well have it. But let’s consider. There is an imprint of key memories going back to just after conception. There are literally hundreds of studies now of this research. Further, it seems like the imprint is engraved by a process of epigenetics involving methylation and other chemicals. The imprint is carried forward and affects behavior and the later development of disease. And we are driven by the imprints all of our lives; which is not more than saying that we are the result of our history, our very early history. If we do not believe this than we are “free” to concoct any kind of theory. But if we follow science we are constrained by it; that is, we must acknowledge history and memory. How can we ignore history and be liberated? No matter what any guru says there is no way to ignore our past and get access to our feelings and become “conscious.” Conscious of what? The external, the outside? That does nothing to help us access our feelings inside.
What they are teaching is how to suppress and get on in life, and then be more kind and forgiving. I repeat: there is no way to avoid historical imprints and be liberated. How can we avoid ourselves our feelings and we kinder? They offer to be more focused on the minutia and therefore we will be able to heal trauma. They don’t say how. They don’t say what trauma is and how it gets installed in our brains and bodies. It is all amorphous and ethereal, as all booga booga should be. We just fill in the blanks. But one thing we know; you can use the top level to block access to feeling, not access it. vTo gain access the neocortex must cede to lower feeling levels of consciousness; must give way to feelings and let go of the intellect. But when you go to school and use your intellect every day for years it is not easy to let go of it. Intellect becomes the apotheosis, and takes the place of where feelings should be.
These people have abandoned our raison d’etre. People hurt; we need to help them with that hurt and find ways to undo it, not to help them play games with themselves. Yes it’s fun at $300 a weekend, but underneath it all people are looking for answers for their lives. We as professionals owe it to them.
Dr Siegel in his video says that in neurosis there is an imbalance in the two hemispheres and we need to bring them together so he suggests guided imagery, relaxation techniques and to be able to name the feeling accurately; he claims when you do that the whole system calms down. In short, to use the top level to bring the two sides together, when it is exactly the opposite; we descend below and to the right, experience feelings and allow them to join the left hemisphere, and then the whole system will calm down. It is all a mind game, and I must reiterate, no matter what the claim, not matter what the research you cannot ignore your own history and be liberated or learn to relax. It is our central reality. Yes, we can try this maneuver or that day after day and achieve a change in vital signs but I guarantee you that the imprint will live on down deep and do its damage constantly. The problem is that you have to do key gyrations constantly in order to achieve some semblance of normal. But it is only semblance, not organic. And as long as the imprint is there you always regress. How can you not?; as long as reality is there you will be subject to it. But of course all this is based on science. If you ignore it, if you avoid epigenetics and the imprint then you can manufacture any theory you want. Hence the merging with the mystics. And of course, the real problems is that devilish intellect that rules the field and makes the purveyors of feelings a pariah or someone not serious.
Siegel says we need to separate awareness from our feelings so you don’t moan and grown about your sadness; to get a handle on your feelings. Sounds good? Wrong. We don’t need a handle; we need our feelings. He thinks we can use awareness to help bring the two hemispheres together. Awareness is what separates them. Awareness came along millions of years after feelings. Why would we use to it for integration? Feelings are what integrates with intellect. Not vice versa. Primitive animal forms have some kind of awareness but they don’t have conscious/awareness; a sense of themselves and what they feel. In evolution the top level of the brain split off into awareness on the left and feelings on the right. Consciousness requires both. So there is awareness a la Siegel and then there is conscious/awareness. It is the latter that heals.
At the risk of being politically incorrect here we have a scientific congress by Siegel and Kornfield, organized by Solomon and Goldstein. I don’t think it is an accident that it is a Jewish operation. Jewish intellectuality is well known as Jews were in many countries where they had to carry their skills in their head since they were not allowed to carry any riches to other places. They were not allowed into the basic industry of America, iron, steel, coal, automobiles so they remained on the fringes, into the intellect. And they refined the intellect until it turned into its opposite, in this case: mindfulness turns into mindlessness as the intellect soars into never-never land, a combination of booga booga, Buddhism (or is that redundant?), taking pieces of neurology and applying it helter-skelter to psychology. Applying it according to a parti pris, an apriori set of ideas that are not organic to us humans. Neurology in this case is sorted and selected according to the intellect and wiggled into whatever hypothesis is concocted at the moment. It is a superimposed notion on human life rather than rising organically from our internal life; from our feelings. Ultimately, too many theories are simply ideas raised from the depths of the unconscious of the creator and elevated to the level of a principle.