The greatest challenge is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Limits of Neuroplasticity

Aristotle is the perfect happiness guru

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How Aristotle is the perfect happiness guru

Happiness is not a state as far as Aristotle is concerned, it’s an activity, says Professor Edith Hall, and you just have to decide to become happier
You’ve got the Headspace app, know your downward dog from your black dog, and once read something by Freud, so what can a guy who lived 23 centuries ago tell you about the pursuit of happiness today? “Aristotle did it first and better. So why not go to the source, the original brain that figured all of this out?” says Professor Edith Hall. “I think there is a comfort in ideas that people have held for thousands of years.”
Her book, Aristotle’s Way, promises to teach you “how ancient wisdom can change your life”, in particular how to achieve a lifelong state of what the ancients referred to as eudaimonia and we come closest to with “contentment”. According to Aristotle, Hall writes: “The ultimate goal of human life is, simply, happiness, which means finding a purpose in order to realise your potential and working on your behaviour to become the best version of yourself.” It’s an ancient version of that poster “Work Hard & Be Nice to People”, but in a less cool font.
Aristotle approves of food, drink and sex (all in moderation – he’s big on moderation); he believes leisure is more important than work; that we all have innate talents and that we don’t peak until we’re 49. What’s not to like? But by far his most significant claim is that happiness is achievable by almost everyone – you just have to “decide to become happier”. Simple, huh! “Happiness is not a state as far as Aristotle is concerned, it’s an activity,” Hall explains. “You have to do it. It means every encounter and every day of your life and every decision you take, trying to do it in a measured and deliberated way until it becomes habitual.”
Like anything, happiness just takes a bit of planning, Hall argues. “Plato, his teacher, said that the unconsidered life is not worth living. Aristotle would say the unplanned life is slightly less likely to be happy. It’s planning. Just planning.”
With all the injunctions to become the Best Possible You, Hall clearly has an eye on the self-help market as well as both feet firmly in the classical world; you almost expect to find a photo of a toga-clad Aristotle smiling beatifically over a slice of avocado toast. “Virtue ethics” doesn’t sound much fun, and Hall gamely breathes new life into his doctrines (which she admits can be heavy-going) for 21st-century readers, flitting over the centuries and across cultural borders, taking in everyone from Philip of Macedon to Pharrell Williams of “Happy” with breezy aplomb. A beguiling cross between Mary Beard and Mary Poppins, Hall is enjoying herself outside the ivory towers: “I love the idea that I’m now in agony aunt territory with Aristotle.”
The daughter of an Anglican priest, Hall lost her faith when she was 13 and spent the rest of her teens in a “moral wilderness”. When the rest of us were experimenting with cigarettes and blue mascara, Hall dabbled in astrology, Buddhism and transcendental meditation in an attempt to answer her fundamental question – why be good? “If you don’t believe in an interventionist God or an afterlife, there is no logical reason whatsoever to be virtuous. Why would you not just pursue your own self-interest?” Then, as an undergraduate at Oxford, she discovered Aristotle: “I decided this was such an unbelievably commonsensical way of trying to organise your life. I was blown away. It was a total epiphany. So I just started doing it, as it were.”

Planning and moderation aren’t the first qualities we associate with students, and Hall admits it was tricky at first. “It’s terribly grown-up to take complete responsibility.” And here Aristotle is characteristically forgiving, arguing that humans aren’t capable of consistent rational forethought until they are at least 25 (something now backed up by research, Hall points out). And it took her until her mid-30s to realise that if she wanted to fulfil her hopes of becoming a mother, she needed to stop dating “handsome lizards and moral invertebrates”. She now has two daughters, one of whom also loves history and who accompanied her on a tour of Greece in the footsteps of her hero.
So what does doing it actually mean? Being nice is “not just a matter of enlightened self-interest”, Hall says. “There is an intrinsic wellspring of good feeling about yourself that does actually supply a feeling of contentment.” The examples she gives are making sure she always smiled at her children “however tired, however annoyed” she was, or taking a purse to the police station or lost property, “when the temptation might be to put it in your pocket… It may hurt a bit, but you just have to start making yourself do it.”
If, like me, you come over all anxious at the idea of not handing in a purse, or apologise five times when someone else bumps into you, then you may be what Aristotle calls “an intuitive virtue ethicist”. Who knew? “Good for you!” says Hall, in a way that doesn’t sound so good. You can be “too nice” to be a true Aristotelian: not enough anger, for example, is a problem, especially for women. “It means you have no self-respect, will get walked all over and won’t look after your own. It’s not OK. You can’t be a fully moral person, actually.” Oh dear!
One of the joys of Aristotle’s philosophy is that it works whatever your age, Hall believes. But she is evangelical – she describes herself as a “secular missionary” – on the need to offer moral guidance to young people, on those crucial everyday things you don’t get taught at school. “Taking a decision, clear communication, how to use your leisure, how to choose a partner and friends, and when it is absolutely fine to get rid of friends.”
If it all sounds like doing what your mother always told you – smile, do your homework, everything in moderation, whatever! – there’s the rub: while we may have been well loved, Hall thinks we have not always been “well parented”; we are failing our young by inadequately training them in basic decision-making skills. And so her book includes practical advice such as how to write a decent job application and when to dump your partner.
What are her top three tips for getting in touch with your inner Aristotle?
Number one: “Be honest – know your vices.” Hall provides a handy version of Aristotle’s inventory of character qualities, a sort of personality quiz. She identifies her own worse fault as vindictiveness. “I like to get back at people if they’ve hurt me or my loved ones. I enjoy it,” she smiles dangerously. Now, as an enlightened Aristotelian she only goes “out for revenge when it is appropriate”.
Number two: “Review all your relationships”, which should all be based “on full-blown reciprocal trust”, according to Aristotle. He has a system for dealing with friends and relatives who don’t come up to scratch – you simply demote them according to his categories “primary”, “pleasure” and “utility” (“I occasionally meet them for lunch,” Hall says of a couple of her relegated rellies). The latter might sound like something you have to assemble from Ikea, but it amicably encompasses most of our friendships.
From your spouse to society at large, all relationships are contracts, apparently. What if your partner cheats on you? “I would always give them one more chance,” says Hall. On adultery, Aristotle “talks rather too often about the problem of fancying your neighbour’s wife”, she says. But his belief that if you abuse marital trust “you are actually rotting the foundations of society” has certainly helped her to be “a good girl”.
Number three? “Think about your death. Look to the end,” Hall says emphatically. “Because it makes you get on with things. It’s about thinking of your life like a biographer while you are doing it, that your life is an art.”
While the idea we can simply choose to be happy is seductive, it is rather in the “chin/socks-up, it’s-all-in-your-head” school of psychology. We can hardly blame Aristotle for being a little old-fashioned (he was also dodgy on women and slaves, which Hall excuses by arguing that he was always open to changing his mind).
But taking responsibility for your own happiness will be of little comfort to the clinically depressed or recently bereaved. Hall agrees it can be difficult, but not impossible for people to find gratification after terrible tragedy, and ultimately, she says cheerfully, life is pretty bleak: “We are all in a waiting room. It’s just whether we decide to spend it trying to have a wonderful time with each other.”
Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall is published by Bodley Head at £20. To order a copy for £17, go to
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Transactional Analysis Explained

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Transactional Analysis

noun: transactional analysis
  1. a system of popular psychology based on the idea that one's behavior and social relationships reflect an interchange between parental (critical and nurturing), adult (rational), and childlike (intuitive and dependent) aspects of personality established early in life.

Transactional Analysis (or TA as it is often called) is a model of people and relationships that was developed during the 1960s by Dr. Eric Berne. 

It is based on two notions, first that we have three parts or 'ego-states' to our 'personality, and secondly that these converse with one another in 'transactions' (hence the name). 

TA is a very common model used in therapy and there is a great deal written about it.

Parent, Adult and Child

We each have internal models of parents, children and also adults, and we play these roles with one another in our relationships. We even do it with ourselves, in our internal conversations.


There are two forms of Parent we can play. 

The Nurturing Parent is caring and concerned and often may appear as a mother-figure (though men can play it too). They seek to keep the Child contented, offering a safe haven and unconditional love to calm the Child's troubles.

The Controlling (or Critical) Parent, on the other hand, tries to make the Child do as the parent wants them to do, perhaps transferring values or beliefs or helping the Child to understand and live in society. They may also have negative intent, using the Child as a whipping-boy or worse.


the Adult in us is the 'grown up' rational person who talks reasonably and assertively, neither trying to control nor reacting aggressively towards others. The Adult is comfortable with themself and is, for many of us, our 'ideal self'.


There are three types of Child we can play.

The Natural Child is largely un-self-aware and is characterized by the non-speech noises they make (yahoo, whee, etc.). They like playing and are open and vulnerable.

The cutely-named Little Professor is the curious and exploring Child who is always trying out new stuff (often much to their Controlling Parent's annoyance). Together with the Natural Child they make up the Free Child.

The Adaptive Child reacts to the world around them, either changing themselves to fit in or rebelling against the forces they feel.

Communications (transactions)

When two people communicate, each exchange is a transaction. Many of our problems come from transactions which are unsuccessful.


Parents naturally speak to Children, as this is their role as a parent. They can talk with other Parents and Adults, although the subject still may be about the children.

The Nurturing Parent naturally talks to the Natural Child and the Controlling Parent to the Adaptive Child.

In fact these parts of our personality are evoked by the opposite.

Thus if I act as an Adaptive Child, I will most likely evoke the Controlling Parent in the other person.

We also play many games between these positions, and there are rituals from greetings to whole conversations (such as the weather) where we take different positions for different events.

These are often 'pre-recorded' as scripts we just play out. They give us a sense of control and identity and reassure us that all is still well in the world.

Other games can be negative and destructive and we play them more out of sense of habit and addiction than constructive pleasure.


Complementary transactions occur when both people are at the same level (Parent talking to Parent, etc.). Here, both are often thinking in the same way and communication is easier. Problems usually occur in Crossed transactions, where each is talking to a different level.

The parent is either nurturing or controlling, and often speaks to the child, who is either adaptive or ‘natural’ in their response. When both people talk as a Parent to the other’s Child, their wires get crossed and conflict results.

The ideal line of communication is the mature and rational Adult-Adult relationship.

So what?

Being a Controlling Parent invites the other person into a Child state where they may conform with your demands. There is also a risk that they will be an Adaptive 'naughty child' and rebel. They may also take opposing Parent or Adult states.

Be a Nurturing Parent or talking at the same level as the other person acts to create trust.

Watch out for crossed wires. This is where conflict arises. When it happens, first go to the state that the other person is in to talk at the same level.

For rational conversation, move yourself and the other person to the Adult level.


Eric Berne, (1964), Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Balantine Books

Thomas Harris (1996), I'm OK-You're OK, Avon books
Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward (1971),  

Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments, Da Capo Press Inc

See also

Games, Berne's Six Hungers 

 How we change what others think, feel, believe and do


External links

Welcome to, the largest site in the world on all aspects of how we change what others think, believe, feel and do. There are already around 7000 pages here, all free and with much more to come!

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Here's the main site RSS and the RSS for just the blog. Any problems, please contact us.

Do you have something to say about changing minds? Send in an article and get it published in our guest articles pages.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The five habits that can add more than a decade to your life

 A woman jogs in the countryside with her dog. Photograph: Alamy 

The five habits that can add more than a decade to your life

 The five healthy habits were defined as:

1-not smoking;
2-having a body mass index between 18.5 and 25;
3-taking at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day,
4-having no more than one 150ml glass of wine a day for women, or two for men; and
5-having a diet rich in items such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low in red meat, saturated fats and sugar.

The five habits that can add more than a decade to your life

Major study calculates effect on lifespan of habits including healthy eating and not smoking

People who stick to five healthy habits in adulthood can add more than a decade to their lives, according to a major study into the impact behaviour has on lifespan.

Researchers at Harvard University used lifestyle questionnaires and medical records from 123,000 volunteers to understand how much longer people lived if they followed a healthy diet, controlled their weight, took regular exercise, drank in moderation and did not smoke.

When the scientists calculated average life expectancy, they noticed a dramatic effect from the healthy habits. Compared with people who adopted none of them, men and women who adhered to all five saw their life expectancy at 50 rise from 26 to 38 years and 29 to 43 years respectively, or an extra 12 years for men and 14 for women.

“When we embarked on this study, I thought, of course, that people who adopted these habits would live longer. But the surprising thing was how huge the effect was,” said Meir Stampfer, a co-author on the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

The researchers performed the analysis in the hope of understanding why the US, which spends more on healthcare as a proportion of GDP than any other nation, ranks 31st in the world for life expectancy at birth. According to the World Health Organization, life expectancy at birth in 2015 was 76.9 and 81.6 years old for US men and women respectively. The equivalent figures for Britain are very similar at 79.4 and 83 years old.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, suggests poor lifestyle is a major factor that cuts American lives short. Only 8% of the general population followed all five healthy habits. The research focused on the US population, but Stampfer said the findings applied to the UK and much of the western world.

The five healthy habits were defined as not smoking; having a body mass index between 18.5 and 25; taking at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, having no more than one 150ml glass of wine a day for women, or two for men; and having a diet rich in items such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low in red meat, saturated fats and sugar.

Men and women who had such healthy lives were 82% less likely to die of heart disease and 65% less likely to die of cancer compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles, over the roughly 30 years of the study.

Given that the habits of a healthy lifestyle are well known, the mystery is why we are so bad at adopting them, said Stampfer. Part of the problem is that many people struggle to give up smoking, and the continuous peddling of unhealthy food, as well as poor urban planning, which can make it hard for people to exercise, also feed in, he said.

“I do think people need to step up and take some personal responsibility, but as a society we need to make it easier for people to do that,” he said.

“People can get stuck in a rut and think it’s too late to change their ways, but what we find is that when people do change their ways, we see remarkable benefits.”

Major study calculates effect on lifespan of habits including healthy eating and not smoking

Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population

Yanping Li, An Pan, Dong D. Wang, Xiaoran Liu, Klodian Dhana, Oscar H. Franco, Stephen Kaptoge, Emanuele Di Angelantonio, Meir Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu


Background—Americans have a shorter life expectancy compared with residents of almost all other high-income countries. We aim to estimate the impact of lifestyle factors on premature mortality and life expectancy in the US population.

Methods—Using data from the Nurses' Health Study (1980-2014; n=78 865) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2014, n=44 354), we defined 5 low-risk lifestyle factors as never smoking, body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2, ≥30 min/d of moderate to vigorous physical activity, moderate alcohol intake, and a high diet quality score (upper 40%), and estimated hazard ratios for the association of total lifestyle score (0-5 scale) with mortality. We used data from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys; 2013-2014) to estimate the distribution of the lifestyle score and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER database to derive the agespecific death rates of Americans. We applied the life table method to estimate life expectancy by levels of the lifestyle score.

Results—During up to 34 years of follow-up, we documented 42 167 deaths. The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for mortality in adults with 5 compared with zero low-risk factors were 0.26 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.22-0.31) for all-cause mortality, 0.35 (95% CI, 0.27-0.45) for cancer mortality, and 0.18 (95% CI, 0.12-0.26) for cardiovascular disease mortality. The population-attributable risk of nonadherence to 5 low-risk factors was 60.7% (95% CI, 53.6-66.7) for all-cause mortality, 51.7% (95% CI, 37.1-62.9) for cancer mortality, and 71.7% (95% CI, 58.1-81.0) for cardiovascular disease mortality. We estimated that the life expectancy at age 50 years was 29.0 years (95% CI, 28.3-29.8) for women and 25.5 years (95% CI, 24.7-26.2) for men who adopted zero low-risk lifestyle factors. In contrast, for those who adopted all 5 low-risk factors, we projected a life expectancy at age 50 years of 43.1 years (95% CI, 41.3-44.9) for women and 37.6 years (95% CI, 35.8-39.4) for men. The projected life expectancy at age 50 years was on average 14.0 years (95% CI, 11.8-16.2) longer among female Americans with 5 lowrisk factors compared with those with zero low-risk factors; for men, the difference was 12.2 years (95% CI, 10.1-14.2).

ConclusionsAdopting a healthy lifestyle could substantially reduce premature mortality and prolong life expectancy in US adults.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Thoughts Become Things

 Affirmations Motivate: Thoughts Can Become Things

“A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh.

Thoughts are powerful. Thoughts lead to actions. Actions over time become habits. And habits lead to long-lasting results.

Ultimately, our thoughts create our destiny.

Repetition is the mother of all skill.

Powerful Affirmations Because Thoughts Can Become Things


Allen Frances



Chair, DSM-IV

Task Force. Former Chair, Duke Dept of Psychiatry
Joined February 2013

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Wise Words

Wisdom is the leader: next follows moderation; and from the union of these two with courage springs justice. – Plato

Wise Words

Sorry fI mawga dawg, mawga dawg tun round bite yuh. Jamaican Proverb, Jamaican sayings, Patois.

Monday, April 23, 2018

'Same old used to be' in our happy home.


'Same old used to be' in our happy home.

Beat It On Down The Line


Beat It On Down The Line

Lyrics: Jesse Fuller
Music: Jesse Fuller
Grateful Dead - Beat on down the line 1972

[Verse 1]
Well this job I've got is just a little too hard
Running out of money, lord, I need more pay
Gonna wake up in the morning lord, gonna pack my bags
I'm gonna beat it on down the line

[Chorus 1]
I'm going down the line, going down the line
Going down the line, going down the line
Going down the line, going down the line
Beat it on down the line

[Verse 2]
Yes I'll be waiting at the station lord, when that train pulls on by
I'm going back where I belong
I'm going back to that same old used-to-be
Down in joe brown's coal mine

[Chorus 2]
Coal mine, coal mine, coal mine, coal mine [x3]
Down in joe brown's coal mine

[Verse 3]
Yeah, I'm going back to that shack way across that railroad track
Uh huh, that's where I think I belong
And that's where I'm gonna make my happy home

Happy home, happy home, happy home, happy home [x3]
That's where I'm gonna make my happy home


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Based on Gabor Mate’s work,204,203,200_.jpg  

Based on Gabor Mate’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically reenvisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach. 

Dr. Mate presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs throughout (and perhaps underpins) our society; not a medical "condition" distinct from the lives it affects, rather the result of a complex interplay among personal history, emotional, and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction. Simplifying a wide array of brain and addiction research findings from around the globe, the book avoids glib self-help remedies, instead promoting a thorough and compassionate self-understanding as the first key to healing and wellness.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts argues persuasively against contemporary health, social, and criminal justice policies toward addiction and those impacted by it. The mix of personal stories—including the author’s candid discussion of his own "high-status" addictive tendencies—and science with positive solutions makes the book equally useful for lay readers and professionals.