Why you can’t fix it with generalities

Psychological, cognitive, emotional, or communicative problems cannot be fundamentally corrected by using general analyses or generalized procedures. You can teach someone to think and see differently, even to behave differently, by such procedures, but you cannot bring about deep change by using them. The reason this is so is change through generalizations does little more than substitute one external semiosis for another. The person seeking change will not experience deep change because all they are essentially doing is importing a different explanation of their “condition” into their life.

This happens with Buddhists who remain attached to surface meanings of the Dharma as well as to people seeking mainstream help for emotional problems. Any change will feel good for a while in most cases, but after some time stasis and a recurrence of the original problem, or something similar to it, will occur. You cannot become enlightened by importing someone else’s ideas. You cannot achieve deep transformation by replacing one inculcated semiosis with another. You cannot find your authentic “self” by using the static ideas of others.

The way around this problem is to use a technique that is at its core entirely dynamic. Buddhist mindfulness, which stresses attentiveness in and to the moment, is a dynamic technique. The problem with this technique in the modern world is it is not well-suited to the cacophony of signs and symbols that surround us almost all the time. Mindfulness too often entails being mindful of a cultural semiosis that is itself a tautology, a trap that does not contain within itself an obvious exit.

Mindfulness coupled with FIML practice overcomes this problem because the interactive dynamism of FIML gives partners a tool that strengthens mindfulness while at the same time affording them the opportunity to observe in the moment how their habitual semiosis operates, and why it operates that way. FIML gives partners the means to create a rational leverage-point that they can both share and use to grapple with neurotic issues that have always eluded generalized treatments.

FIML does not tell partners how to be or what to think. It describes nothing more than a technique that gives partners access to their deep “operating systems.” If you hack your “operating system” with FIML practice, you will find that you are able to eliminate neuroses (kleshas in Buddhist terms) and replace them with a semiosis (subculture) of your and your partner’s own choosing. To do FIML, partners must have a deep ethical, emotional, and intellectual commitment to each other, but it is important to recognize that these are not static or generalized ideas. They are dynamic principles upon which the transformational behaviors of FIML are built.

Do antidepressants do more harm than good?

Link to study (Primum non nocere: an evolutionary analysis of whether antidepressants do more harm than good).

I have seen a good deal of criticism leveled at this paper, but its reasoning seems sound to me and worth considering.

From the paper: “Ultimately, we come down on the side that the benefits of antidepressants are generally outweighed by their costs, though there may be specific populations where their use is warranted.” (Emphasis mine)

Most of the criticisms I have read of this paper are based on anecdotes (they worked for me) or attacking the journal that published the paper or that they didn’t do any studies of their own. Note that the authors’ argument is not based on a particular experiment but rather on the “…principle of evolutionary medicine that the disruption of evolved adaptations will degrade biological functioning.” Note also that their conclusions are qualified: “Because serotonin regulates many adaptive processes, antidepressants could have many adverse health effects.” And: “We conclude that altered informed consent practices and greater caution in the prescription of antidepressants are warranted.”

I tend to agree with this conclusion and though I have seen anti-depressants do much good, it is almost certainly true that they are over prescribed and very unlikely that they do no harm at all. Thus, the conclusion “…that altered informed consent practices and greater caution in the prescription of antidepressants are warranted” seems well-justified, even if some of the reasoning leading to that conclusion may prove to be wrong.

For Buddhists, there are many other practices to try before resorting to anti-depressants. For FIML practitioners, we would hope that in many cases partners will realize that depression is a symptom of living in a crazy world.

The Truth of Rebirth

And Why it Matters for Buddhist Practice

by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“…For the moment, however, we can focus on one of dependent co-arising’s most obvious features: its lack of outside context. It avoids any reference to the presence or absence of a self or a world around the processes it describes.

“Instead, it forms the context for understanding “selves” and “worlds.” In other words, it shows how ideas of such metaphysical contexts are created and clung to, and what happens as a result. In particular, it shows in detail how the acts of creating and clinging to metaphysical assumptions about the existence or non-existence of the self or the world actually lead to birth and suffering. This means that dependent co-arising, instead of existing in a metaphysical context, provides the phenomenological context for showing why metaphysical contexts are best put aside.”