The Secret of Success: Relax, Do Nothing… and Just BE

The Secret of Success: Relax, Do Nothing… and Just BE

September 8th, 2016

By Steve Taylor, Ph.D

Guest writer for Wake Up World

Great ideas and discoveries don’t come from thinking or doing, but from being. 

In general, there are three different modes in which we can live our lives: doing, thinking and being. Most of the day we’re busy doing – working in our jobs, doing chores, following our hobbies and enjoying ourselves in our free time. Thinking usually takes place between activities, when there’s nothing to occupy our attention, or during activities which are more repetitive and undemanding, when we don’t need to concentrate too much.

And being? In general, we don’t spend much time being. Being occurs when we’re relatively inactive and relaxing. It’s when our minds aren’t chattering away with thoughts, and when we aren’t concentrating our attention on tasks or activities. In this mode, we usually pay a lot of our attention to our surroundings, and to our own experience. We’re in this mode when we go for a leisurely walk, do sports such as swimming or running, meditate, do yoga or listen to music.

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Chemical Lobotomy: The Mad Mass Prescription of Psychotropic Drugs

Chemical Lobotomy: The Mad Mass Prescription of Psychotropic Drugs

4th August 2016

By Steve Taylor, Ph.D

Guest writer for Wake Up World

One of the most shameful episodes in the history of psychology is the use of frontal lobotomies. Despite very scant evidence of their effectiveness — and in spite of much evidence of serious negative after-effects — lobotomies were standard procedure through the US and Europe for around two decades, until the mid-1950s. In the US, around 40,000 people underwent a procedure that involved cutting away connections between the prefrontal cortex and the frontal lobes of the brain. Initially lobotomies were performed by drilling holes into the skull, until the American physician Walter Freeman discovered that he could reach the frontal lobes through the eye sockets, by hammering a long metal pick into the bone and then into the brain.

The procedure was extremely dangerous — some patients died, others became brain damaged or committed suicide. A “successful” outcome meant that a patient who had previously been mentally unstable was now docile and emotionally numb, less responsive and less self-aware. Even if there appeared to be some improvement in their mental “disorder”, this was often outweighed by cognitive and emotional impairments.

From a modern perspective, the use of frontal lobotomies seems incredibly brutal and primitive. However, we are nowhere near as far removed from such barbarism as we might like to believe…

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The Power of Forgiveness: The Transformational Effect of Letting Go of Resentment

The Power of Forgiveness: The Transformational Effect of Letting Go of Resentment

26th August 2016

By Steve Taylor, PhD

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Recently I met a woman called Sena, whose brother was killed 13 years ago. Tony, her brother, was working as a chef in the British army, when he was shot by one of the soldiers in his own unit. The soldier claimed it was an accident, that the gun had just gone off as he put it over his knees. He was eventually sentenced to two years in prison for manslaughter. The death was made even more tragic by the fact that Tony’s wife was pregnant with their first child.

Sena’s life was thrown into disarray. She had a psychological breakdown, couldn’t work or sleep, and was put on strong psychiatric drugs. She became timid, felt that she couldn’t face the outside world, and didn’t leave her house for months. It was made worse by the media attention which the incident caused. The investigation and trial lasted for more than two years, and as Sena told me. “We lived in a small town where nothing ever happened, so it was big news, and always featured in the local newspaper and on local television.”

Sena’s difficulties continued until six years ago, when she began to go through a process of healing, the main feature of which was forgiving the man who killed her brother. As she describes it:

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How to Suffer Successfully: Post-Traumatic Growth and Nietzschean Resilience

How to Suffer Successfully: Post-Traumatic Growth and Nietzschean Resilience

7th December 2015

By Steve Taylor, PhD

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Turmoil and trauma only seem to be seen as destructive and negative. But in the long term, these negative emotions may be balanced — or even transcended — by powerful positive effects.

Negativity is something you’ve experienced, or at least been aware of in people close to you. For example, you may know a soldier who has returned from combat and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder; a woman who has recovered from an episode of cancer but who can’t sleep at night and feels a constant anxiety that the disease will return; a person who’s been through a painful divorce and feels intense hatred and bitterness for her ex-spouse; or a person who feels depressed after becoming disabled through an accident. Other long-term negative effects may be dissociation, aggression, self-hatred, and even dissociative personality disorder (or multiple personality).

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More Than A Chemical Imbalance – Why Depression Cannot Be Cured By Medication Alone

More Than A Chemical Imbalance – Why Depression Cannot Be Cured By Medication Alone

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

A few months ago a friend asked me for some advice about his father, who was suffering from depression. After finding out that his father spent most of his time indoors, watching television, I told my friend about ecotherapy, which investigates the therapeutic effects of contact with nature. As I informed my friend, there is a great deal of research showing that regular contact with nature — such as a daily walk in the park or countryside — can have a very beneficial effect on well-being. The research suggests that this can be just as effective against depression as medication or other forms of psychotherapy. So I asked my friend to encourage his father to get out of his house and go for a walk in his local park every day — or better still, go for walks in the countryside.

A couple of weeks later, my friend got back into contact to say that he had told his father’s doctor about my advice. The doctor had gotten angry and told my friend, “Your father has an illness! Would you tell a cancer patient to go for a walk in the countryside? Would that help their condition? Depression is an illness that has to be treated medically.”

It seems to me that this attitude to depression — or to any psychological condition — is simplistic, misleading and possibly even dangerous. This is not to say that brain chemistry isn’t involved in depression. But it’s certainly not the only factor.

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Reclaiming Human Freedom – You’re Not an Automaton After All!

Reclaiming Human Freedom – You’re Not an Automaton After All!

27th October 2015

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

One of the main themes of modern intellectual approaches has been to take away autonomy and freedom from human beings. From sociology to philosophy, from psychology to neuroscience, a common theme has been to try to show that our ‘free will’ is either limited or non-existent, and that we have much less control over our own lives as we like to believe.

In psychology, this was one of the central beliefs of behaviourism. You might feel as if you are a free human being, making your own decisions and choices, but in reality everything you do, or think or feel, is the result of environmental influences. Your behaviour is just the ‘output’ or response to the ‘input’ or stimuli which you have absorbed. Freudian psychology also emphasized a lack of free will. It suggested that the conscious self is just one small facet of the whole psyche – the tip of the iceberg – and that its activity is determined by the unconscious mind, including instinctive and biological drives.

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Harmony of Being: Returning to Our True Nature

Harmony of Being: Returning to Our True Nature

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

From time to time, we all have experiences when restlessness and discontent fade away, and we’re filled with a sense of ease, well-being and harmony. We become free of pressure to keep busy and the need for stimulation, and rest at ease within ourselves and within the present moment.

I call these experiences ‘harmony of being.’ They usually occur when we’re quiet and relaxed and there’s stillness around us – for example, when we’re walking through the countryside, working quietly with our hands, listening to or playing music, or after meditation, yoga or sex. The chattering of our minds fades away and we feel a natural flow of connection between ourselves and our surroundings or other people.

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Back to Sanity: Beyond the Limits of Materialistic Science

Back to Sanity: Beyond the Limits of Materialistic Science

24th June 2015

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Many people believe that the powers of science are unlimited. Science is a process of uncovering the mechanisms by which nature works, and eventually, after enough experimentation and investigation, every mystery will be understood. The darkness of ignorance will have been completely illuminated by the light of reason, and we will possess the truth about life and the universe.

Some observers even believe that we’re quite close to reaching this point now. If scientific progress continues at the same rate as the last few decades, so this argument goes, it can only be a matter of a few more decades (or even less) before all the mysteries in the universe are solved. After all, haven’t most of the biggest mysteries already been solved? As long ago as 1971 the biologist Bentley Glass wrote, ‘We are like the explorers of a great continent, who have penetrated to its margins in most points of the compass and have mapped the major mountain chains and rivers. There are still innumerable details to fill in, but the endless horizons no longer exist.’

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The Launderette Guru

The Launderette Guru

11th June 2015

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest writer for Wake Up World

One day over 20 years ago now, I was living in a shared flat in Manchester, UK, and my flatmate came home in a state of excitement: ‘You’ve got to meet the guy who runs the local launderette – he’s a really spiritual guy, like a guru!’ Intrigued, I took my next load of washing there, and as soon as I walked through the door I realised this wasn’t an ordinary launderette. It was painted bright, attractive colours, and there were inspirational quotes pinned to the wall. And I quickly realised that the tall, white-haired man who was busy emptying one of the machines wasn’t an ordinary launderette manager.

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Touching The Earth Again

Touching The Earth Again

3rd June 2015

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest writer for Wake Up World

What can we learn from American Indians’ attitude to nature?

I’ve just been reading a fantastic book called Touch The Earth – originally published in 1971 – which is a collection of statements and writings by American Indians, from the 17th century onwards. One of the most striking things about the book is the great gulf that seems to lie between the native- and European-Americans. The two peoples seem to have different ways of relating to the world, which aren’t just the result of different cultures and traditions, but of fundamental psychological differences.

This manifests itself most strongly in the two peoples’ attitude to nature…

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The Puzzle of Consciousness

The Puzzle of Consciousness

3rd May 2015

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest writer for Wake Up World

Over the past 20 years, the field of consciousness studies has become increasingly popular, partly because some scientists believe that consciousness is one of the last remaining mysteries. According to this narrative, we have now reached the point where we largely understand problems like evolution, the nature of life and the origins of the universe, so now it’s time for us to turn our attention inside and solve the problem of consciousness.

Consciousness is difficult to define, partly because it’s us. But most definitions of consciousness include two elements: our subjective experience (that is our thoughts, feelings, perceptions and sensations – or qualia as they are sometimes collectively called), and our awareness of the world around us and the phenomena and processes which take place in it. When scientists began to investigate consciousness, most were confident that it wouldn’t be too long before the mystery would be solved. They believed that brain-scanning technologies would enable us to see how billions of the brain’s neurons work together to produce our subjective experience. However, despite more than two decades of intensive research and theorising, very title (if any) progress has been made. Originally neuroscientists thought that consciousness would be located in a specific area of the brain, then tentatively suggested that in some way it seems to emanate from the brain as a whole. However, no one has any idea how this might occur.

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Transcendent Sexuality — How Sex Can Generate Higher States of Consciousness

Transcendent Sexuality — How Sex Can Generate Higher States of Consciousness

By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Guest writer for Wake Up World

Because of its allegedly pornographic content, D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover wasn’t published until 33 years after his death, in 1963. But far from being pornographic, the book is about the spiritual power of sex, how it can free us from our usual sense of separateness and bring us a heightened awareness and sense of connection to the world. Lawrence spoke of “the strange, soothing flood of peace, the sense that all is well, which goes with true sex.” And in the novel he describes how Lady Chatterley’s vision of the world is completely transformed when she’s walking home after making love to her gamekeeper:

“The trees seemed to be bulging and surging, at anchor on a tide, and the heave of the slope of the park was alive… The universe ceased to be the vast clock-work of circling planets and pivotal suns which she had known. The stars opened like eyes, with a consciousness in them, and the sky was filled with a soft, yearning stress of consolation. It was not mere atmosphere. It had its own feeling, its own anima. Everything had its own anima.”

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