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Yes, depression is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It is often hereditary, but like most disease of this type, you can't take preventative measures. I am highly prone to chronic depression as both my mother and my sister have it, but it doesn't mean I'm doomed to the same fate. I force myself to be positive to counteract my tendency towards depression. also, if i ever do develop symptoms, I plan to react as quickly as possible.

now, if you blame it on genes only, and never take steps towards personal betterment, then you can only blame yourself.

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I suspect that depression starts as a feeling that "this situation is bad, and there's nothing I can do about it." If one has thoughts that lead to such a feeling, and one engages in those thoughts continuously, then one will eventually become depressed.

I think the thoughts cause the brain chemical imbalance, and not the other way around. I suspect the brain has the ability to alter its own chemistry in order to do things such as thinking differently under stress. (If something startles you -- even a thought inside your own head -- you may feel a surge of adrenalin. There are other hormones besides adrenalin which serve other purposes but may be triggered by certain thoughts.) Stress is supposed to be a temporary situation. When stress becomes long-lasting, the altered chemistry can do damage. Brain chemistry is not supposed to be different for that long.

Genes may make it easier for some people to produce the altered chemistry, or may make it more effective on some people, or may make it easier for some people to be damaged by it. However, genes only create potentialities.

[Assume for the rest of this that "you" are the depressed person...]

Sometimes depression can become a feedback loop where your own depression prevents you from seeing the solution to your bad situation or even prevents you from realizing, consciously, what is bad about the situation in the first place. Sometimes you can solve the situation and find the feeling persisting for a while afterward.

It is also possible that you think the situation is bad but it really isn't, or that you think it's worse than it really is.

If your brain chemistry is way off, then it may be necessary to use drugs to restore balance. However, only a doctor can make that determination, and in any case the drugs should be temporary.

If your brain chemistry is only slightly off, then take a deep breath and try to think rationally. Do what you can to de-stress.

Since I think depression is ultimately caused by thinking you are helpless and in bad situation, drugs are not a permanent solution. The best solution is to identify the bad situation, look at it objectively, and, if it is really bad, find a way to change it, if that is possible. If it is not really bad, then you have to understand why, and then the depression will go away.

You may need the help of someone else who can see your situation and offer a perspective you may not have thought of. A friend may be able to do this, or a professional.

Sometimes you have to do a lot of work to get out of a bad situation. It helps to know what kind of work is necessary and it helps to know that you are making progress, even if slowly. Doing that work will not end the depression right away, but it will change the situation eventually. Knowing that you are doing something can help you fight feelings of depression.

("Have you noticed that the imbecile always smiles? Man's first frown is the first touch of God on his forehead. The touch of thought..." -- Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead.)

Edited by necrovore
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Is depression a disease? I've spoken to people who claim this, but I find that it may just be another way to avoid why they are.

Dr. Amen is doing some interesting research/treatment in the area of Brain abnormality. Check out the SPECT scan images, and the research provided on the site:

http://www.amenclinics.com/brain-science/s...-of-depression/

Edited by phibetakappa
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No Necrovore, there is a lot of good medical support for the theory that many instances of depression are due to chemical inbalances in the brain, that no amount of correct/positive (or however you want to put it) thinking can cure. Though in most cases positive thinking can certaintly help one manage their emontional state, and of course medication can certaintly help.

For instance, Bipolar Disorder (one of the more serious mental disorders as I understand it) is I beleive a serious chemical inbalance or such, and no matter how positive one is, one is going to have tendencies toward depression to some degree, and most likely one will need medication to assist them to manage their emontional state.

Of course, having said that many people depressed for reasons more along the lines you describe, Necrovore.

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There is no evidence that a chemical imbalance is what causes any "mental illness," and if someone is telling you otherwise I would like to know what your source is. Taking a pill will mask the symptoms to an extent, but won't cure you, and can have some bad side effects.

I think depression is caused by circumstances. There is always a factual or believed reason for the depression, whether it's known to the person or not.

Rob

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Hmm...turns out that you might be right about that Robert...I seem to be thinking of older theories. My bad.

However it would still seem to me that disorders such as Bipolar Disorder (which involve periods of depressive tendecies) would have some cause not entirely determined by ones thinking habits however, what they might be I could not say.

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This is one of those issues where even the professionals disagree -- psychiatrists who prescribe medications say it is due to neural malfunction and psychologists say it is due to improper thinking or due to some trauma of the past that needs intensive therapy to remedy. I would suggest, if you have such a problem with bipolar disorder, clinical depression, schizophrenia, or other such illnesses, that you see several professionals until you get the treatment you need. There are people who think that the medication changes their personality, but often this is because they got used to their pre-medicated self and didn't realize they had a serious neurological disorder.

Being rational about one's problems ought to be the standard; though sometimes (and maybe often), someone with a neurological malfunction may not even be aware that the neurotransmitter malfunction is the root of the problem and might not even seek medical treatment of either psychotropic drugs or intensive psychological therapy.

It is a professional debate as to whether the cause is improper subconscious premises (psychology) or malfunctioning neurotransmitters. But the right medication can make a world of difference. I think there is a tendency to have the attitude that one's mind is not dependent on a properly functioning brain, but if your brain is not functioning properly, then neither will your thinking.

But I will add that medication will not make one rational -- it simply makes it possible for one to be rational. In other words, even with a properly functioning brain, one has to choose to be rational,since it is not automatic;and the same is true for someone on psychotropic medications -- they still have to choose to be rational once they can function better mentally.

As to the side effects, keep in contact with your doctors so those can be monitored and change dosages or medications as necessary. But most of all, don't be in denial that you have a problem and that the medication can be very helpful.

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Well I would like to point out (think I might have already) that I believe most people do bring depression upon themselves through crappy thinking. Most, perhaps the overwhelming majority, just not all.

How one treats one's mind can definitely be involved, but also how one treats one's body. There is no mind / body dichotomy in Objectivism, so even things like nutrition can effect the functioning of one's mind, because it effects the functioning of the brain. But I think you are almost saying that psychological problems or neurological problems are the results of improper thinking, whereas it is very clear that even those who think well and do not abuse their minds can have psychological or neurological problems. Basically, the brain is an organ, and it is possible to sprain one's brain just as one can sprain one's muscles. This can come about due to overwhelming psychological stress that one doesn't know how to deal with, though the exact relationship is unknown at this time.

Typically, it is a combination of factors that leads to particular stresses on the functioning of the brain -- especially if one has a genetic factor that can lead to brain malfunction. For these kinds of cases, proper thinking or volition is not the answer, just as one could not will oneself not to have a heart attack if one has a malfunctioning heart valve or clogged arteries. Of course, once more becomes known about the functioning of the brain, then steps can be taken to insure a healthy brain, just as one prone to other physical malfunctions can avoid doing certain things. But it is clear that rational thinking in and of itself will not prevent psychological disorders, and it certainly won't prevent neurological disorders.

It is very possible to be fully rational and still have clashes in the subconscious, because we do not have direct volitional control of our subconscious and cannot always tell ahead of time that we have programed our subconscious to have a clash sometime in the future under certain conditions that leads to the subconscious subroutines clashing with one another. Sometimes these subconscious subroutine clashes are so entangled that it can lead to actual neurological malfunctions; requiring medication, at least until the subroutines get thought through more clearly under professional guidance.

In other words, having a psychological problem or having a neurological problem -- in and of itself -- is not a sign of having been irrational. To put it another way, one is not immoral for having a psychological or a neurological problem; not unless one did something deliberately to mess up one's mind intentionally. For example, it is well known in the literature that taking certain mind altering drugs can lead to schizophrenia -- these actually can change the wet-ware leading to having neurological problems. But having schizophrenia is not a sign that one must have been using drugs; and it is not a sign that one must have been abusing one's mind.

Unfortunately, these can be very complicated issues, which is why one ought to seek professional advise if one is having mental problems.

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I'm curious, Mr. Miovas, how often do you go in, or suggest that people go in, for a psychiatric checkup to make sure that their brains are in chemical balance? Also, what tests, for chemical imbalances, do you recommend and get for yourself?

From your own view, it doesn't seem that it would be sensible to only go in (for a checkup on one's brain's chemical balance) if one thinks one is having some chemical imbalance problem. How would one know, or reasonable suspect, that one's brain is chemically imbalanced? That's a determination to be made, objectively, by a special science; it is not something that an individual can make on his own (as he doesn't have the scientific means to make such a determination).

Having a mental problem, like being unhappy (say perhaps because one's long-loved spouse has died, or one has lost a fortune in the current economic crisis), does not warrant an assumption of a chemical imbalance, no more than does flawed thinking, which surely has a correlation in brain activity just as do "mental illnesses," (no mind-body dichotomy) warrant an assumption that there's a brain malfunction that causes flawed thinking. (Is it your view, that although a chemically balanced brain doesn't cause rational thinking, a chemically imbalanced brain does cause irrational thinking?)

At best one might have, and know one has (not be "in denial"), some mental or emotional problem of some kind -- perhaps one is distraught with the current trends in our government -- but even then, how can one know, without scientific analysis and determination, whether or not one's problem (one's distress) is the result of a chemical imbalance of the brain (causing one's distress, for instance), or a proper response to existential factors. Even if such a problem seems like a normal, perhaps even healthy, response to existential facts, one can't simply rule out that there's a chemical imbalance. Not without expert, scientific, determination.

You state that a person that has a brain-disordered-caused "mental illness" may well not know, or may be in "denial," that he has a "mental illness" in the first place. Surely, such a person would not be motivated to seek the aid of mental experts (psychiatrists?) as he would see no reason to do so.

Further, you state that a person can be perfectly rational yet have a "mental illness," and therefore I assume have a chemical imbalance of their brain -- at least, without scientific determination, they can't rule that out. Such a person may be aware (not be "in denial") that he has a "mental illness," but he cannot be self-evidently aware that he has a "mental illness" due to a chemical imbalance of his brain. (Brain chemistry is not something one is self-evidently aware of even if one is self-evidently aware of one's "mental illness.")

Point is, rational or not, whether or not a person knows (or denies) he has a "mental illness," without scientific, objective, determination, a person cannot know whether or not he has a chemical imbalance of his brain (year to year, not to mention day to day) without a scientific determination.

If "mental illnesses" are just like other illnesses, one can get them at any time, or one may be "predisposed" to getting them, and so, it seems that you would yourself, and would suggest that others too should, make a point of some routine screening (yearly, monthly?) to ensure that you and they have not gotten or developed a "mental illness."

Again, how often do you yourself go in for such checkups? What tests do you have done? What specialist do you go to for such testing?

Edited by Trebor
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Point is, rational or not, whether or not a person knows (or denies) he has a "mental illness," without scientific, objective, determination, a person cannot know whether or not he has a chemical imbalance of his brain (year to year, not to mention day to day) without a scientific determination.

Actually, I never claimed that all mental malfunctions are due to chemical imbalances in the brain. A person with a normal healthy brain has to choose to be rational, and no amount of chemical manipulation can force him to be rational. I'm against the idea of brain function determinism -- that we have the ideas that we have and the rationality that we have due to chemical reactions in the brain. What I'm saying is that if one does have a neurological problem, then attempting to be rational will be very difficult if not impossible, because if the wet-ware is not functioning properly, then reasoning properly will probably not happen (no mind body dichotomy).

In other words, one cannot say that someone is irrational because they have a chemical imbalance, since rationality is a chosen state of mind for someone with a healthy brain. If you have a healthy brain and refuse to be rational, then that is a moral problem -- i.e. one is choosing to be irrational or not choosing to be rational. Rationality is not automatic no matter how well one's brain works.

For someone with a neurological problem, fixing that problem with modern medication or processes will not make him rational, it just makes it possible for him to be rational. By analogy, it's like asking a person with a broken leg to walk normally, something that he cannot do because of the physical ailment. However, fixing the broken leg will not make him an expert dancer. Likewise, fixing a neurological problem in and of itself will not make that person rational. Rationality must be achieved by choice, but having an improperly functioning brain can make that very difficult if not impossible. It would be like asking someone to see properly if they develop a problem in the visual cortex, something that couldn't occur unless they fixed the visual cortex.

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From your own view, it doesn't seem that it would be sensible to only go in (for a checkup on one's brain's chemical balance) if one thinks one is having some chemical imbalance problem. How would one know, or reasonable suspect, that one's brain is chemically imbalanced? That's a determination to be made, objectively, by a special science; it is not something that an individual can make on his own (as he doesn't have the scientific means to make such a determination).

Not being a mental health professional, I'm not sure how to answer this. If one has had specific losses -- death of a loved one, the loss of a fortune, natural disaster, etc. -- then being down and out would be a natural reaction to such losses. However, if you find that you cannot get back up on your feet and pursue values after the fact of those loses, then seeing a specialist is probably warranted. If nothing else, one needs to mentally work through those loses and what it meant to you to have those values that you lost. A professional psychologist can help you do that. And a professional psychiatrist can help you find the right medications to help relieve the mental stresses while you are working your way through the crises.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a stigma attached to seeing such specialists, or in the case of a lot of men if not most, they don't want to open up to a specialist to resolve inner conflicts -- which can lead to further problems down the road. There is also a tendency to blame one's psychological state on outside influences --i.e. it's a bad economy, the country is turning socialist, no one understand me, etc. So, if you are doing that, then seeing a specialist might be warranted.

It's not that those losses or those events did not happen, but rather how one deals with them psychologically that warrants going to a specialist. However, as I've said, I'm not one of those specialists, so I can only give general guidance.

I don't think there is a specific test to see if you have a chemical imbalance, though there might be, but I am not saying any of this to bring specific mental health doubts to anyone. If you suspect you might have a problem, then see a specialist.

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Actually, I never claimed that all mental malfunctions are due to chemical imbalances in the brain. A person with a normal healthy brain has to choose to be rational, and no amount of chemical manipulation can force him to be rational. I'm against the idea of brain function determinism -- that we have the ideas that we have and the rationality that we have due to chemical reactions in the brain. What I'm saying is that if one does have a neurological problem, then attempting to be rational will be very difficult if not impossible, because if the wet-ware is not functioning properly, then reasoning properly will probably not happen (no mind body dichotomy).

I did not mean to imply or state that you had claimed that all mental malfunctions or mental illnesses are due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought that it was your view that at least some mental malfunctions, or mental illnesses, are in fact due to chemical imbalances in the brain -- as well as other brain dysfunctions, and that others are due to problems in the subconscious (automatized, false conclusions), as well as that even other are perhaps due to some automatized pre-conceptual or non-conceptual reactive processes (kitten knocks over the candle which then sets the house on fire, leading to the death of one's parents...resulting in a fear or hostility towards kittens). Regardless, it's a very common and popular view that some, if not all, mental illnesses are due to chemical imbalances in the brains. (Others here, relating to this topic, have stated that chemical imbalances do cause some depression, a mental illness.)

To say that at least some mental illnesses are caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry implies certain knowledge of the cause (chemical imbalance in the brain) of some mental illnesses (those specifically caused by such chemical imbalances in the brain). If the cause is known, and if it is possible to rebalance the brain's chemistry, then surely it's objectively possible to verify not only the imbalance, but also the rebalancing of the brain's chemistry, by testing the brain's chemical balance. If there are no such tests, then obviously one can't have one's brain chemistry tested, but then on what basis is it claimed that there are chemical imbalances of the brain and that such imbalances cause certain mental illnesses? If there are such tests (which seems objectively required in order to assert that chemical imbalances of the brain exist and do cause some mental illnesses), then certainly it's possible to actually get an objective test of one's brain chemistry to ensure that it is balanced.

You say that you do not think that there are, although there might be, specific tests to see if one has a chemical imbalance. Again, if there are not, then on what objective basis is it claimed that there are chemical imbalances of the brain which cause certain mental illnesses, let alone that the brain's chemistry can be rebalanced by virtue of certain medications or chemicals?

One common symptom, it is claimed, for mental illnesses is that the individual lacks insight into his illness, that he does not think that he has an illness or problem. This is not simply denial, which I take to be a form of evasion, but a lack of awareness of one's own mental illness.

People don't just go to see a doctor when they know that there's some problem, but instead go routinely in order to identify any conditions which they may have yet not be aware of (lack insight?). It's a form of preventive medicine, done for the purpose of discovering early signs or stages of diseases. (Like a yearly physical, or breast exams -- looking for early indications of breast cancer, etc.)

I would think, with all the emphasis on the importance of mental health, that routine mental examinations as well as neurological examinations would just as reasonably be justified as are routine physical exams. Generally, however, the recommendations are similar to yours, that if you are having some mental or psychological problem, you should, perhaps, seek professional help. If anything, given the importance of our rational faculty, given that lack of insight is indicitive of some, perhaps the most serious, mental illnesses, I would think that mental health and therefore that routine mental-neurological examinations would be considered equally if not more important than routine physical examinations. (Afterall, valuing and caring for one's physical health assumes one's mental health, does it not?)

Do you think that routine mental-neurological (including a focus on brain chemistry balance) is rationally prudent and called for? (Especially given that a lack of insight is symptomatic of at least some serious mental illnesses, isn't it reasonably justified to assume that each of us may very well have a mental illness now, yet not be aware of it, that early detection is important?)

For clarity sake, when you say that a person can be perfectly rational (you once mentioned a friend or acquaintance who was perfectly rational yet had an abandonment mental illness) yet have a mental illness, the implication is that at least some mental illness have no negative impact upon the individual's ability to be rational. However, you do also state that if one does have a neurological problem, then attempting to be rational will be very difficult. (I assume that certain subconscious problems, subconsciously caused mental illnesses, too, in your view, will also have a negative impact on the individual's ability to be rational.) Those views seem inconsistent. Are mental illnesses (due to subconscious problems or brain malfunctions, including chemical imbalances of the brain, etc.) unrelated to rationality? What's the difference between saying that some mental illnesses make it difficult for the individual to be rational and saying that some mental illnesses cause irrationality?

If being "down and out" following loses of great value is a natural reaction to such loses, does that mean that being mentally ill is a natural reaction to such loses? Being "down and out" is a form of depression (perhaps not "clinical depression"; perhaps more like a "mental cold"), and it seems consistent to say that it is a form, though not as severe say as "clinical depression," of mental illness. But that seems to pit a natural reaction (to loss) against mental health.

You say that "There is also a tendency to blame one's psychological state on outside influences -- i.e., it's a bad economy, the country is turning socialist, no one understands me, etc." I'm curious, is it your view that one's happiness (mental health?) is unrelated to outside influences?

From my understanding, Miss Rand held that freedom is a requirement for man's life and well-being, including his happiness. Yet it seems that the prevalent view is that if one is mentally healthy, one will be happy regardless of whether one lives in a free country or a collectivist-totalitarian state. Is it your view that such factors as "it's a bad economy, the country is turning socialist" have no, or should have no, impact upon one's happiness and well-being, one's mental health?

If people can and should be happy regardless of the existential context, then why does it matter whether we live in a free country or a totalitarian one? Perhaps if "we" discover the right medications, people can and will be happy (mentally healthy) no matter the social-political context.

Or, perhaps if people grasped that happiness requires freedom, that unhappiness is the appropriate reaction (just as grief is the appropriate reaction to loss), even the healthy reaction (not a mental illness), to the destruction of freedom, they'd have a sense of righteous indignation for those who would enslave them, and see the great necessity of fighting to keep or gain or restore their freedom.

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I don't have time right now to answer all of Trebor's questions, but I think a basic approach he has is incorrect. The subconscious is neither rational or irrational -- it is only the explicitly conscious mind that can be considered rational or irrational. With Objectivism, if you are thinking against the evidence or against the facts of reality, then you are being irrational; if you think with the facts foremost in your mind and are logical with regard to them, then you are being rational. The subconscious is basically your automatized processes -- i.e. you can walk without thinking about it, you can speak in your native tongue without thinking about it, and you can type without thinking about how to hit every single key. These things have been automatized, and as such are neither rational or irrational.

Now, what can be assessed as being irrational is if you deliberately and with intent programmed your subconscious to be anti-life and anti-reality; and there may be some people who do this (maybe the nihilists or the extreme Kantians), but in general, no one sits down and says, "How can I best screw myself over by automatizing something that is blatantly anti-life?" For the most part, people learn to automatize things as they are growing up, and at least before Objectivism, they don't even think explicitly if something is for their life or against their life.

If you learn how to do a specific task, like say driving a car, you learned to do certain things a certain way, and then once you drive enough you don't have to explicitly think, "OK, I need to hit the brake peddle because I am coming up to a stop sign." No, you just automatized hitting the breaks under certain circumstances. And while it is true that you programmed yourself to do that, most people don't think of it that way. They think of it as practice makes perfect -- like learning how to dance.

Sometimes, a person may automatize something that is not really in their long-term interest, but they don't realize that. All they know explicitly is that they need to do certain things in order to move on from a tragedy; and they may not realize that by automatizing those functions -- such as moving on -- that they will have huge problems down the line when that automatized function gets activated. In fact, part of their problem is that they might develop defense mechanisms as a means of not going there in their minds past a certain point. In general, this is not a problem and they can go on with their lives in a perfectly rational manner -- until the trigger for that automatized function is called up and clashes with some other automatized function -- crashing the program, and not making it possible for them to deal with the current situation that requires following two (or more) automatized functions that clash.

But, because the automatized functions are not open to direct conscious re-programming, this is not evidence of an irrationality -- past or present. Something has been automatized that leads to a crash and burn situation, but it is not as if one can get down in there and read the source code to one's automatized functions and see ahead of time that such a clash will come up under so and so situations. Usually, one doesn't realize this can happen until it does, because we don't know through conscious intent what our subconscious is going to do under all circumstances. In other words, you can't run your subconscious programming through a check list or a computer compiler to see if there are any clashes and fix it ahead of time. We just don't have those capabilities right now, since psychology is still in a primitive state as a science.

If you find yourself doing things that are not in your best long-term interest, then you probably have some of those automatized programs running, and once that is conscious, you can take control of gradually doing things more according to life as the standard. But exactly how to do that is the problematic part. Usually, if he is any good, a psychologist can point out that your mind is always doing something when a certain topic comes up -- like you always move on to another topic, or you always say nothing is wrong, or get irritable or get filled with anxiety under certain situations that he might bring up.

Once you know about these, then you can decide to re-program those areas of your subconscious, but exactly how to do that hasn't been fully figured out, but a professional can show you that you are doing that and you can try to catch yourself before you do it again.

And this is only for psychological problems, not neurological problems. Neurological problems require medication; psychological problems requires a lot of introspection and probably going to see a good psychologist, though these may be hard to find.

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Once you know about these [subconscious subroutines or automatizations], then you can decide to re-program those areas of your subconscious, but exactly how to do that hasn't been fully figured out, but a professional can show you that you are doing that and you can try to catch yourself before you do it again.

In "The Psychology of Psychologizing" Miss Rand indicated that all distortions of cognition come from emotions. I'm not sure this is always the case, although such clashes are usually associated with a high level of anxiety. And it sometimes becomes necessary to act against a subconscious automatization even against anxiety, which is very difficult to do, and might have to be done under the supervision of a specialist.

In other words, one must act on reason instead of acting on emotions, or act against subconscious automizations, in order reprogram the subconscious. You can't do it just by thinking about it, you have to actually develop a better habit, if that is the right way to express it.

As an example, only because I have already talked about it, part of my recovery after being harassed during the summer of 2005 and developing problems was to intentionally get out of my apartment acting against high anxiety, since I didn't know if those guys were still out there or not, though I did have some indications that they were still out there. I had developed the habit of avoiding them, instead of calling the police on them, and that habit was damned hard to break. As a measure of my success, I recently went all the way from Dallas to Austin on my own, which I would not have been able to do had I not gotten out of the house little by little, breaking the habit of staying in to avoid confrontations.

I think a similar process is involved in overcoming psychological ills, at least those people I know did similar things to overcome their problems, once they were known, but I haven't studied the field to see if that is a valid general principle in all cases or not. That's why I recommend a specialist. Once you have identified what the clash is, then one must take explicitly conscious steps to override it by acting against it, slowly but surely.

It's not quite the same as breaking a bad habit, since bad habits are not necessarily consciousness threatening. For example, when I type, I got into the habit of looking at the key board. Looking at the key board while typing -- and I am very fast at it -- is not going to get me into trouble, unless I try to do a job that requires typing by looking at something that needs to be transcribed into a computer. I did try to do data entry for a while, but that habit got in the way, and since the pay wasn't high enough, I decided not to try to break that habit. Most of my typing goes from my head to my key board, and so I have little or no need to re-learn how to type so that I am not looking at the keys.

In a similar way, subconscious programming clashes may or may not effect your day to day living, but if it does and prevents you from pursuing certain values you deem high enough, then learning to re-program you subconscious will be worth while. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a handbook on how to do this. Objectivism says follow your mind and not your emotions, and in certain situations you have to go through the effort to re-learn things to a more efficient method. The closest psychological school of thought along these lines is cognitive therapy, which teaches you to think about things in a different way and encourages you to overcome the negative emotions by acting against them little by little. I don't think even they have gotten it quite right, but it's the best we have right now.

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Unfortunately, there seems to be a stigma attached to seeing such specialists

Yes, and more. There's controversy. There's debate. There's people shouting "Don't go to shrinks, they're wrong and they'll hurt you beyond your worst nightmares" with images of people tortured in psychiatric hospitals throughout history. There's the real fear of losing control over one's life, because psychiatrists have to legally restrain the person if they suspect the person to be an active danger to oneself or others.

I have found that speaking of my life problems doesn't help me anyway. It can cheer me up for the day but then it's back to evil psycho thinking. It's the evil phycho thinking that I need help with. Also, I don't want to quit on my dreams and make new goals. I don't want to be realistic in that way, nobody can persuade me of that.

Edited by Jill
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I have found that speaking of my life problems doesn't help me anyway. It can cheer me up for the day but then it's back to evil psycho thinking. It's the evil phycho thinking that I need help with. Also, I don't want to quit on my dreams and make new goals. I don't want to be realistic in that way, nobody can persuade me of that.

Yes, there are horror stories out there of people being restrained against their will. I think these days they can't do that by law, though if you claim you are going to harm others due to "psycho" reasons, then the police might get involved if you don't continue treatment at a mental health clinic. But you definitely ought to introspect and find out why you are having this "evil psycho thinking." Did someone do you an injustice or do you want to get back at mankind in general? I would suggest, however, that having unrealistic and unrealizable dreams or goals can lead to a great deal of frustration -- do you think people are holding you back from those unrealistic goals and therefore you are angry at them in general?

These are the kinds of issues that a competent cognitive therapist can help you to untangle, before they become so festered inside that you actually act on them and ruin your whole life.

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I don't have time right now to answer all of Trebor's questions, but I think a basic approach he has is incorrect. The subconscious is neither rational or irrational -- it is only the explicitly conscious mind that can be considered rational or irrational. With Objectivism, if you are thinking against the evidence or against the facts of reality, then you are being irrational; if you think with the facts foremost in your mind and are logical with regard to them, then you are being rational. The subconscious is basically your automatized processes -- i.e. you can walk without thinking about it, you can speak in your native tongue without thinking about it, and you can type without thinking about how to hit every single key. These things have been automatized, and as such are neither rational or irrational.

Mr. Miovas, thank you for your responses. I'm not sure what basic approach of mine you think to be incorrect (and I would appreciate clarification if you're willing), but given that you've discussed the subconscious, I assume that you think I'm incorrect in my view of the subconscious.

I'm in basic agreement with what you've said concerning the subconscious and the problems that can present themselves due to subconsciously held ideas that are in conflict with other ideas one holds -- thinks to be true -- consciously or subconsciously.

(You didn't really address what I said with respect to the idea that at least some mental illnesses are held to be due to chemical imbalances in the brain, so, again, that's why I assume that you think I am in error in my view of the subconscious.)

However, I do not think it's correct to say that it's only the conscious mind (ideas) that can be considered rational or irrational. To me, that's like saying that ideas held subconsciously cannot be true or false, right or wrong, rational or irrational.

True, ideas held subconsciously may not be readily available to one's consciousness, and are certainly not under direct, volitional, conscious control, and therefore cannot be assessed as rational or irrational (One may very well not be conscious of the ideas one has previously accepted, especially when very young.) until and unless they are brought to conscious awareness, but that doesn't mean that such ideas are now somehow beyond assessment or judgement with respect to rationality or irrationality. They can't be assessed or judged as rational or irrational until and unless they are brought to consciousness, but they are still there, still operational, subconsciously, rational or irrational, even if we are not aware of them.

The automatic functions of the subconscious, emotional reactions for example, are not properly considered rational or irrational, but that's because emotions (as well as other subconscious functions) are automatic, non-volitional, functions of the subconscious. But the content of the subconscious is not the same as the automatic functions of the subconscious.

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The automatic functions of the subconscious, emotional reactions for example, are not properly considered rational or irrational, but that's because emotions (as well as other subconscious functions) are automatic, non-volitional, functions of the subconscious. But the content of the subconscious is not the same as the automatic functions of the subconscious.

I think part of the point I am trying to make is that the subconscious automatically integrates material available to it due to personal experience. For example, in Atlas Shrugged Hank Rearden had a string of non-satisfactory sexual romances, and since that is all that he experienced it became automatized in his subconscious that this is all he can expect from his relationships with women. He didn't actually sit down one day and conclude consciously that sexual relationships were dissatisfying, it was more based upon his personal experience rather than an abstract consideration in consciously held ideas. If it was held as an explicit conscious conclusion, he could have checked those premises and decided that he needs to find better women for himself.

Similarly, one can have personal experiences that become an automatized reaction to living in the world, such as a sense of life, and be like Dominique, who had a malevolent universe premise not held fully consciously.

So, I guess part of the issue is: Are subconsciously held premises the same thing as an explicitly held idea? Are they something one can name explicitly with the conscious mind, and therefore be evaluated the same way as a consciously held idea as being with reality or against reality (rational or irrational)? Ultimately, the answer might be yes, in the sense that once one makes them fully conscious one can take a conscious look at them and see if they conform to reality or not. However, so long as they are just subconsciously held, that cannot be done, because they are subconscious. And it would be the job of a competent psychotherapist to help you make those subconsciously held ideas or conclusions fully conscious. But until they are made explicit to the conscious mind, they cannot be so evaluated as being with reality or against it.

And then there is the issue of personal experience. Was Hank Rearden irrational for coming to his conclusion about women? Was Dominique irrational for having a malevolent universe premise? I would say no, because they had certain experiences that became ingrained in their subconscious. And that is one reason why man needs an explicit philosophy that he can check against the facts of reality.

When it comes to chemical imbalances or neurological malfunctions, these do not come about or operate from subconsciously held premises. The brain is not working correctly and so certain processes are not functioning correctly. In some cases, there is a delicate balance of brain functioning that is off and that could lead one to become overly reactive to stimuli. If one is aware of this, he might be able to realize he is being overly reactive and calm himself down consciously, but this is something he would have to do all of the time; whereas with the proper medication, the over reactiveness can be controlled chemically, thus making it possible for him to have more normal reactions to stimuli, and thus be in a better position to be fully rational.

With all of that said, I am not fully convinced that it is always subconsciously held premises that are at the root of psychology or psychological problems. It would depend on how the automatized processes are stored -- as ideas or as automatized reactions due to personal experience. But certainly, the more conscious one is about the operations of one's own mind via introspection, the more one will be able to keep one's conscious mind and one's subconscious mind in tuned with reality. In other words, introspection is very important.

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I reject the model of depression as an organic disease state originating from a "chemical imbalance" in the brain. It is nothing more than a flimsy conjecture propogated as fact by the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatric establishment.

I also think the conventional drug treatments for depression are dangerous and should be avoided by all but the most extremely depressed individuals. Just short of actually attempting suicide, about the most dangerous thing you can do is to go through life with an artificially elevated mood produced by psychiatric drugs. The drugs simply anesthatize your emotions, sheilding you from the psychological consequences of your actions and thereby preserving the ideological problems which caused you to mismange your life and become depressed in the first place.

I took SSRI drugs from the ages of 15 to 22 and consider it the single biggest regret of my life. Of course, it's impossible to know how things would have happend differently if I hadn't taken the drugs, but I now believe they were extremely damaging for precisely the reason I previously believed that they were helpful- because they made me feel better under circumstances which rightfully should have caused me to feel depressed. The course that my life took as a result eventually ended calamitously several years ago. I've been off the drugs for three years now and I have far more clarity than I ever had while I was medicated.

Based on my experiences, I consider it unsafe to talk to most so-called mental health professionals. They see everything in terms of mental illness. They have a label and a pill for everything and whatever bullshit psychiatric label they diagnose you with will stick with you for the rest of your life. Just stay away from them. They have nothing of value to offer.

Edited by cliveandrews
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I'm very criticial of psychiatry too, but to be fair it's not traditionally recommended to have drugs without the therapy, is it?

The point of enhancing mood artificially is to feel well enough to be able to sort things out rationally. Then you should have someone with a good philosophy of life to spot your thinking mistakes. Ultimately it's up to your introspection, but it might not help you to do it on your own because your subconscious (automated knowledge) is against you when you are depressed.

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I'm very critical of psychiatry too, but to be fair it's not traditionally recommended to have drugs without the therapy, is it?

I think a better way of putting that is that psycho-tropic drugs are not a substitute for rational thinking. Sometime one needs a boost to help brain functioning, but that by itself will not make you rational. So, yes, it is recommended to have psychotherapy along with having a better philosophy. The main thing is to be rational, and the psycho-tropic drugs can help calm one's mind if one is having a chemical imbalance going on. But one needs to also pay attention to what effect those medications are having on oneself. I've known people to try them and then decided it wasn't for them, and they seem to be OK with regard to being in tuned with reality, so check with a competent doctor and psychotherapist.

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I had personal bad experience with prescribed drugs.

My parents wrestled me to the ground in an attempt to get me to swallow them when I was young, they only succeeded when the promised me money.

Damned thing's practically turned me into a zombie.

I have found that speaking of my life problems doesn't help me anyway. It can cheer me up for the day but then it's back to evil psycho thinking. It's the evil phycho thinking that I need help with. Also, I don't want to quit on my dreams and make new goals. I don't want to be realistic in that way, nobody can persuade me of that.

One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.

Aristotle

We are what we repeatedly do.

Aristotle

That's currently pretty much my position, one is more bound by habit then by any imbalance of our bodily humours. ;)

I have just started writing in a little book little things witch I want to become habits to me.

And as far as subconsciousness goes, I think it dislikes inconsistencies as much as we ought to dislike them.

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I'm very criticial of psychiatry too, but to be fair it's not traditionally recommended to have drugs without the therapy, is it?

The point of enhancing mood artificially is to feel well enough to be able to sort things out rationally. Then you should have someone with a good philosophy of life to spot your thinking mistakes. Ultimately it's up to your introspection, but it might not help you to do it on your own because your subconscious (automated knowledge) is against you when you are depressed.

Most "therapists" are the blind leading the blind. There are about as many rational people in mental health as there are in social welfare.

I've often wondered whether it is cause or effect: that is, does the study of mental health attract lunatics or produce them?

Edited by cliveandrews
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