Tag Archives: physiology

Full Moon

“In the absence of the sun, I’ll take a full moon.”

It’s funny how attuned a person can get to the cycles of the moon. I’d never really paid all that much attention to what phase the moon was in – I never had much cause to. It took buying land and actually moving our horses onto that property coupled with the short days of winter to change that. I miss those nights (or early mornings) where the moon hasn’t risen yet (or has just gone down) or where the moon is new, thus plunging the landscape into complete darkness. Those are the nights where I actually need the flashlight to see deliver the hay and grain out to the horses.

But when the moon is full, it’s almost as good as full sunlight. The human eye is able to make amazingly good use of exceedingly low light, and I love being able to walk around outside with just the moonlight to illuminate the way. There’s something about it that sparks the imagination. I can just see the plains of Middle Earth, men (and hobbits and dwarves and elves) traveling hard and fast to reach their destination before evil can catch them. I can see a special forces unit making a nighttime assault on a secret compound, their equipment amplifying the moonlight.

Of course, the moon hadn’t come up yet tonight when I went out to feed. Moonrise is still a little ways off, but at least it will be up for the morning feed. Things are always a little more spooky out there without the moonlight, especially when our local pack of coyotes is making a racket about a mile away. But it’s still a night for imagination, for creativity, and it’s always a lot of fun.

Intermittent Explosions

Study says millions have ‘rage’ disorder

There comes a point when even _I_ think psychology and science end up just looking plain, down-right ridiculous. If you explode in a rage at seemingly random intervals, don’t look to your own attitude for a fix. Look to your physiology. Or at least that’s what a recent scientific study is saying. According to this study, an imbalance in the neurotransmitters in your brain can cause periodic explosive bouts of rage and anger, exhibited in such instances as road rage and spousal abuse.

Here’s what really grinds me – every single time we notice a particular trend in our culture, a phenomenon that hits the national radar, scientists want to find a cause for this behavior. They set up studies, they record observations, and they issue reports. And time and again we hear the same thing – it’s not your fault that you’re fat or angry or depressed, etc. It’s an imbalance in the chemicals in your brain throwing off your psychosocial equilibrium.

This is all well and good, I suppose – there _are_ legitimate cases of chemical imbalances that cause antisocial behavior. But what these studies fail to mention is that just because an imbalance has been observed does not necessarily mean a cause-effect relationship. Typically, the relationship is merely correlational – when antisocial behavior occurs, there is an imbalance in neurological chemicals, but it is exceptionally difficult to determine which caused which. Did the imbalance cause the behavior? Or did the behavior cause the imbalance? The human brain is so complex that we still don’t really know how it works. Here’s a bit of trivia for you – we dispense many different kinds of drugs for various psychological disorders, yet we still don’t really know _how_ they work. We just know that they do.

Here’s something else for you to chew on – many antisocial behaviors can be corrected through the use of counseling, through mentoring and coaching an individual and urging them toward a general chance in attitude. Change the heart and mind of a man and you change his behavior. (There’s a reason why Christianity applied correctly has the power to drastically alter a person for the better.)

I suppose I’m simply tired of scientists – men and women who are educated and knowledgeable – trying to constantly justify poor human behavior by finding some genetic or physiological cause. I believe in accountability and personal responsibility, and I also believe that, by and large, the primary reason why we have seen an increase in anger, rage, and a whole host of other negative behaviors is because we no longer hold people accountable. There is no longer any desire to urge one another a higher standard of living because to do so would be ‘intolerant’ and unacceptable. It would be rude and inconsiderate to expect anyone to live their lives other than the way they want to, even if that way is self-destructive and even dangerous (or simply rude) to others.

We live in a time of ridiculous behaviors and even more ridiculous philosophies, a time when all people are simply children and juveniles because no one actually has to grow up, be mature, or take responsibility. Anything goes, and apparently most of us are alright with that because we don’t say anything to change the status quo.

Simply ridiculous.

Sensory Memory

One of the coolest things I learned during my psychology master’s program was that your memories are probably stored not just in your brain but throughout your entire nervous system. It was funny to me to consider the idea that I was retrieving a high school memory from my big toe. The science behind this theory is that often we react to a _potential_ danger before we can ever actually process the fact that we might get hurt. For instance, when you touch a burner on your kitchen range, sometimes you will react sharply by withdrawing your hand quickly as though you had been burned, even though the burner itself is cold. That is due to a memory stored in that part of your body of a time in the past when you _had_ been burned, and your reflexes reacted before your brain had the chance the determine that there was no actual danger present.

Another thing that most people are probably aware of is that the senses can often store the most potent memories of all. Say you smell perfume and you are struck with a poignant memory of a former love and are brought to the brink of tears at the vividness of the thoughts and feelings associated with that memory, even though it’s been years since you last saw that individual. Or you hear an old song for the first time in forever and you remember an event you hadn’t thought about in a long, long time. Or you touch a rough board and you can remember as though it was yesterday that time as a child that you worked in the shop with your dad building a birdhouse.

The senses are amazing things, and it’s still amazing to me just what kinds of memories are stored with them and what can be accessed with just the right stimulus. Our bodies are an intricate and vastly complex work, and I think I never cease to be fascinated the things they can do.

Tied the Leader: This is your Brain on HALO

Tied the Leader: This is your Brain on HALO

Ah, now _here’s_ one that’s near and dear to my heart — the psychology of dealing with conflict, particularly as applied to Halo gameplay. “Wheels”:http://www.bungie.net/Stats/PlayerStats.aspx?player=DTS%20wheels, of the “TTL Gunslingers”:http://www.bungie.net/Fanclub/ttlgunslingers/GroupHome.aspx, discusses the difference between Beta and Theta waves as they relate to conflict and confrontation. Essentially, Beta waves are high-end, actively alert brainwaves, the ones we use throughout the day as we process everything that goes on around us. Theta waves are the ones that we use when we are relaxed and in a state of meditation, that place where mental imagery happens. The Theta zone is also, ironically, that place that allows us to focus and perform better, almost without even thinking about it. Wheels’s advice? Relax when faced with conflict. You’ll handle it a whole lot better.

It makes sense, particularly when I think about all the times when I have been in high-stress situations. The ones that I handled badly were the ones where I was stressed out and working too hard to make sense of everything coming at me. Of course, I missed things and made mistakes and then left the situation feeling bad because I knew I only made a bigger mess out of things. Conversely, the situations where I was on top of my game, fielding problems with ease and just going to town were those where I was relaxed and content, just kind of going with the flow, aware of the situation but not worrying about it. Those were the times when my performance was stellar, where I walked away feeling really good about what happened, and where I felt like everything was handled well and resolved completely.

As Wheels pointed out, though, it is difficult to get to the Theta zone consistently. It takes training and discipline, but often, the more you are forced to handle stressful situations, the more adept you become at handling them. Taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that you need to relax often helps. A step back to clear your head, to collect yourself, is a good start to moving out of Beta and toward Theta. And when you hit the Theta zone, you really are in _The Zone_.

bq. The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps cool.
~Chinese fortune


I love psychology. It is, after all, my chosen field. And I must say that getting my master’s degree from a secular institution has been interesting, to say the least. I always have to include a personal mental disclaimer to every lecture. For example, in my Social Cognitions class last night, we discussed briefly a classic psychological “chicken-or-the-egg” phenomenon — which affects which first? Physiology or affect (moods/emotions/etc.)? (See? Chicken. Egg.) Does physiology initiate an action and thus mood is interpreted from the aroused physiological state? Or does affect/cognition initiate the arousal and thus the physiological reaction.

Enter disclaimer — “Note to self: present company has little to no notion of the spirit/soul, and few theories even mention the topic, let alone discuss it. Be sure to account for that in your own personal practice.

That’s a continued problem I run into (and probably will for the rest of my professional life) – most of these theories are so frustratingly unilateral and unimodal. The theories attempt to fit all the facets and nuances of human behavior into a nice, tight little package of cause-and-effect (impossible!). And while some theories are better than others, none is perfect (or necessarily even great) at doing the job. So, I sift, sift, sift through the theories and take out the useful stuff (using a biblical, as well as a practical, foundation)and, with a VERY critical eye, blend it with what the Bible says about the human condition and the human relationship to one another and to God. Very tedious, yet at the same time, really quite fun. Especially when application can be made — and one can watch it work!

So, I sift the theories, but mentally add the element that nearly every theory neglects — the spiritual side of humanity. If you can’t identify ALL the pieces of Man, then you can’t properly address all the NEEDS of Man.