File Size: 15495 KB
Print Length: 449 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 7, 2017)
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
According to Dr. Barrett, there are no nerve or physical " fingerprints" defining how each individual feelings looks in the brain; instead the brain takes whatever hormonal and physiological elements are involved in a particular instance of experience (like increased heartrate, body temperature, and respiration), and processes it through concepts it has constructed -- i. e., its own expectations depending on prior experience (memory) and cultural norms.
" There is absolutely no single difference between anger and worry, because body fat single 'Anger' and no single 'Fear, '" says Barrett. There is no particular place in the brain that produces Fear (or an prevention response); the sense of Fear is a figured out response. So might be Anger and Sadness. For a few people, force of habit causes them to be associate many of their everyday experience tones with Anger; for others it is Unhappiness or depression -- nevertheless the sensory inputs (the circumstances in which they find themselves) aren't really important factors in creating the anger or sadness they feel. More importantly, each " disorder" of the brain involved. They have simply learned deeply unhealthy practices of thought and experience, which take place without their awareness. And EXACTLY WHY does the brain go to so much trouble? Because its primary functionality is, ultimately, to anticipate the long run based on current circumstances and past encounters.
So far, so excellent. Through my own experience, I will say that this resonates with me at night. Earlier in my life, I spent significantly too much of my time ruminating on life as meaningless and hopeless; these habits of thought became closely associated in my brain with every manner of physiological state, even those which were otherwise entirely neutral. Because a result, these perfectly neutral states became depressive states to me, entirely because of this of my own habits of thought. Our depression was a construct of my brain. Even though the habits of thought I developed could be viewed as a natural consequence of the circumstances in which I actually grew up, as soon as I noticed that I actually had control over my own thoughts, I was empowered to break the cycle of depression.
If everyone understood that our emotions are NOT natural to our circumstances, but are rather a result of the way you perceive our circumstances, society would be much better off. Nevertheless here Barrett starts to go off the rails. The lady claims not only that all emotions are constructed by the brain, but that there cannot be any aim measure of the quality or " truth" of our emotions, because they are socially constructed. Here is the example she provides to illustrate her point: Say you are walking down the street with a friend, and you see a stranger stamping his feet. You perceive this stranger as being " angry; " your friend sees him as " dejected; " to the man, it was basically an act of " clomping caked mud off his shoes. " Barrett asks, who is correct?
The woman answer is not any one, because with social reality there is no such thing as accuracy. At best, there is only consensus. " You, your friend, and the stamping man each construct a perception by prediction. The stamping man himself might be experience unpleasant arousal, and he may categorize his interceptive sensations... as an example of 'Removing Mud from My Shoe. ' You may construct a belief of anger and your friend a perception of dejection. Each construction is real, so questions of precision are unanswerable in a strictly objective sense. " In other words, we are expected to believe ANY perceptual reaction one individual has to a particular emotional state is merely as accurate as any other person's response.
Now, I will readily agree that each psychological reaction is individual; is built on a socially-defined foundation; and is not inherently an element of the aim circumstances themselves. Nevertheless , there is unquestionably an aim measure by which the various responses can be judged against one another, and Barrett herself makes the point repeatedly: i. e., how well does a given " explanation" predict the long run?
In the case of the stamping man, if I perceive " frustration, " then I will certainly have a neurophysical (or " interoceptive" ) reaction to my very own belief -- I will predict the possibility of interacting with " an angry stranger, " and my body will react accordingly with some degree of flight-or-fight reaction. If my friend perceived " dejection, " then the girl bodily reaction will be correspondingly different.
Now imagine the " rubber stamping man, " having completed his task of getting the mud off his shoe, smiling pleasantly and saying " Possess a day" to me and my friend before proceeding merrily on his way. Can we still insist that there is no objectively accurate answer to the question of who was right about the mans emotional state in this instance?
Barrett has used a problematic attitude in the direction of the construction of emotions: That simply because something is in part socially constructed, it is therefore wholly arbitrary; thus, any building is merely as good as any other. But you that whatever mental and psychological perceptions I habitually construct will have an long lasting impact about how I interact with the world, i. at the., with society and other people; and those connections will have repercussions which reverberate throughout the society to which we all lead.
The danger comes when, out of an extra of egocentricity on my part, I insist upon the accuracy of my idea that the man was angry, and no amount of apparent pleasantness or merriness on his part talks me otherwise. Thus I actually go through the associated with my day thinking that I've encountered an furious guy; and since I actually am apparently in the habit of seeing " anger" at inappropriate times, I'll probably have lots of interactions with " angry" people -- at least with people I perceive as angry, also to who I respond accordingly. In this regard We are told of a humorous aphorism: If the first person you meet today is a jerk, then you met a jerk; if everyone you meet today is a jerk, then YOU are the jerk.
This could certainly make clear why people come to believe our society is filled with angry people, or depressives, or scarily aggressive cis-normative patriarchal oppressors. Once they develop the habit of smoking of seeing these things in others, they see them habitually.
Another point Barrett makes, the value of which she generally seems to miss, is that although we feel emotions " effortlessly, " and as if they were " built-in, " these are really just concepts that people learn extremely early in our lives. It is because they become an element of the base of " who we are" that we think of them as " built-in. " Cannot the same be said for each and every other aspect of our unique personal identities?
Barrett further makes the claim that stress and emotion are created identically by the body-brain connection. But she actually is less than coherent in the way she describes these processes. States, " You might think that great happens to you.... Nevertheless stress doesn't come from the outside world. You construct it. "
Then she describes things that we associate with stress, like residing in prolonged poverty or being bullied. Typically the problem is that these are things that OCCUR TO ALL OF US. And Barrett even appreciates that these things (which happen TO us) have a profound impact on our body (our " body budget" as Barrett puts it). We use the term " stress" to label the very real impact that these things have on us all. Barrett's description of the way the brain " creates" emotion/stress sounds as though our neurophysical responses are somehow arbitrary, socially constructed; but those bodily responses are NOT arbitrary or socially constructed, only the label we use to categorize them (the phrase " stress" ) is arbitrary.
What she's really saying (though she does not come out and say it, implying to me that she doesn't intentionally realize it) is that our mindset is the key to mental and emotional health -- that is, how we react mentally to the things that happen to us all is the key to how we feel about those things (which is discreetly different from the idea that our brains are " creating" emotions away of whole cloth). The lady repeatedly asserts that poverty and bullying produce negative physical reactions in your body which we perceive as " stress. " So isn't very it obtuse to state that " stress" doesn't really exist, and isn't brought on by things happening to us, but is instead wholly constructed by the brain?
When we view our circumstances as the " problem, " we are denying ourselves the ability to learn the mental habits which are the real means of accomplishing mental and psychological health. If we perceive bullying since the problem, then we will devote our resources to stopping bullying, rather than the more useful approach of assisting kids learn how to deal with bullies. Ditto for poverty.
Yet Barrett pooh-poohs the idea of changing your thoughts in order to change your moods. She doesn't clearly address what she believes is very going on when people successfully " change their brain, " but I suppose she would argue that by altering their own subjective perception of what is going on to them, they are recasting events into more positive (to them) categories; over time, by improving their " body-budgeting" predictions they gradually start to feel better.
She says that there aren't any areas of the brain that are devoted to various functions, there's merely a brain seeking to predict the current and near-future energy needs of a complex organism centered on its past encounters (memories). I will totally get on board with this.
But she doesn't really have an explanation for our subjective encounters of things other than that they are a shared social construct. Where and how does this construction occur? Yes, in the brain, through top-down and bottom-up processes -- but how is this idea any different from what we currently consider about the brain? Is usually the " difference" basically in the way you conceive of what is happening, as either the brain " processing" a distinct state known as Anger or Depression, versus the brain shoehorning a hazy and nebulous neurophysical state into a mental category called, say, Anger? Why in the world would such a method evolve, and how can this socially constructed system cause a brain to misinterpret its body's own needs so drastically?
Even more bizarrely, she insists that any prediction is as " accurate" as any other, regardless of how pernicious the outcomes of a given prediction might be. The lady provides a story about the girl own visit to a doctor where she was experience very fatigued, and a doctor suggested she might be depressed even without being aware of it. The lady countered that there was not a depression, just physical exhaustion caused by various things in her life. In her telling, by playing her doctor's suggestion about possibly being depressed, the lady could have reframed her own inner experience into one of " depression, " making it literally true for herself, even to the level of producing depressive thoughts. Rather than allowing this to happen, she stuck to the girl guns
But isn't this identical to the " change your brain, change your life" argument, which Barrett dismisses out of hand? The entire point about changing your thinking is that it recasts your habits of thought into a more positive mold, assisting to shape your future perspectives into more positive ones. She seems to be all-but-agreeing with the fact that you control how you react to things, while insisting that changing your ideas isn't really changing your feelings.
Instead she clearly argues it's far really the other way around, that the way you feel influences the way you think. Yet with the doctor story she appreciates that she could just as easily have adopted a way of considering the girl feelings which would have produced worse feelings. There seems to be a fundamental conundrum in her argument which is never resolved (but constantly recurring) and therefore annoying to read.
In summary: I actually think Barrett is right that almost all of our pondering about the brain is too rigid and " essentialist" (i. e., that very specific areas of the brain are associated with " recognizing" very specific instances of emotion), and that we instead essentially create the concepts of feelings which we then apply to the situations in which we find ourselves; but the fact is that isn't as far taken off what many people think as she seems to believe. And each and every time the lady uses an example to bolster her point, it invariably undermines her promises -- which suggests to me that she doesn't really understand the real ramifications of her theory. We would hazard the guess that she's determined to believe her theory is an earth-shattering paradigm shift in our understanding of the brain (possibly one for which she deserves a Nobel Prize), and thus the lady is constantly trying to present her findings as if which is case, whilst in reality she actually is mainly tweaking our established understanding.
I'm reminded of the Daoist story of a man riding in a kayak which is hit by another canoe, spilling him or her into the water. In first he is angry and outraged at the person in the other kayak for deliberately ramming into him -- until he sees that the other canoe is unoccupied.
We are always responding to things emotionally, as though the outcome of everything that happens to us is the deliberate, intentional impact of conscious agents. Nevertheless really, everything that happens is merely stuff happening. Even more importantly, even the deliberate and intentional things done by others which cause us pain are just more examples of things happening.
In both instances, whether or not the outcome is caused by an intentional agent, our emotional reactions to those things arise from the same place: The egocentric mind. Only if we can set aside our personal egoic impulses can we learn how to recognize all the things that occur to us as just " stuff taking place, " and respond appropriately.
This is where Barrett goes so wrong in her description of how emotions are made; while she recognizes, accurately enough, that emotions are just mind-stuff, she makes the mistake of assuming that everyone is equally entitled to have his or the girl mind-stuff recognized and recognized by everyone else -- in other words, that any emotional reaction is as accurate as any other.
But realizing that ZERO emotional reaction is " accurate" isn't the same thing as saying that every reaction is as correct as every other. In my opinion further that Barrett is correct in speculating that the primary purpose of the brain is to act as a prognosticating machine, predicting the future as accurately as possible -- and in this regard, accuracy is real and measurable.
However, Barrett misses the mark by suggesting that the labels we apply to whatever internal state we find ourselves in (our " body-budget" ) is far more or less entirely a few cultural conditioning. (If which were the case, how could we glean any meaning from the Daoist history? )
Provided that we demand on accepting our psychological reactions as " facts, " then we are like the man who is knocked into the water but who insists on holding on to his anger and outrage, which he expresses in the direction of the empty canoe; the chilly wet river; the complete dumb, monstrously unfair galaxy. My answer: Let it go., A few tricks before I start the review proper - I actually take writing a negative review very seriously and understand full well that online actions have outcomes. Also i understand that the author is a lot more completed, successful, intelligent, well-read and many other positive things, individual that I will ever be. Nevertheless , even brilliant people can be misdirected. I know personally people have PhDs in the most rigorous scientific fields from the world's best universities who are nonetheless misguided, I believe, on various issues. I especially see this on what I'll characterize since the characteristics vs. nurture issue of the human mind.
I actually read this book back again in March of 2017, and refrained from writing this review because generally I'm uncomfortable with writing them. Nevertheless , about an hour before writing this, I listened science article writer Robert Wright's podcast of the author discussing the girl book and was so bothered by it that I felt compelled to write the review most likely reading now.
Dr. Barrett discusses this book, and I personally found the discussion disingenuous at best, and intellectually dodgy at worst. Doctor. Barrett, to me, sounded more like an legal professional than she did a scientist. She nitpicked the meaning of Mr. Wright's choice of words, and if you nitpick enough, you can find a flaw in anything, then concentrate on it ad nauseam. She absolutely dominated the discourse with what I actually perceived to become a veritable ton of verbiage, while avoiding a truly honest argument on the issues with Mr. Wright, as he clearly disagreed with the girl.
Let's for example the point that Mr. Wright brought up about schadenfreude, which Dr. Barrett discusses in her book. Wright implied this is an instinctive emotion, Dr . Barrett promises this is a widely constructed emotion, as are all emotions. Schadenfreude is a German word denoting the pleasure that someone feels at the misfortune of others. Can a three year old experience this, Mr. Wright asked. Doctor. Barrett made a relatively snarky remark to Mister. Wright saying that maybe YOU feel schadenfreude a lot, but almost all of us all don't. Then proceeded to discuss that the about three yr old would not feel this because they haven't been taught, or figured out the concept of it. Ultimately, this is as most questions in mindset, an academic question because we can't prove anything at all about subjective experience. However, can any of us honestly say that we've never seen a three year old who have no idea what shadenfreude is, experience it anyway? Haven't YOU experienced it at some point, even though you many have never heard the word?
Here is another thing I failed to like in the publication - Dr. Barrett fooling referred to " brain blobs", as she pokes fun at the notion that the brain has particular locations for various functions. If I understand the girl point correctly, this will immediately contradict eminent scientists Doctor. Robert Sapolsky's view of the brain, which is greatly divided by functionality, and has much trial and error evidence to back upwards his claims in his publication " Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst", that i personally find a significantly superior book to this one. Here's a declaration from " Behave" which directly contradicts the fundamental premise of Dr . Barrett's book - " by the time you complete this guide, you'll see that it actually makes no sense to distinguish between aspects of a behavior that are " Biological" and the ones that would be described as, say, " psychological" or " ethnic. " Utterly intertwined. I do believe Dr. Sopolsky would acknowledge that you could replace the word " behvaior" with " emotion" and still agree with him or her.
The author had the temerity for taking a veiled swipe at fellow psychologist, Daniel Kahneman. Not directly, thoughts you, but it was an unmistakable negative statement towards him. Dr . Kahneman is the only psychiatrist to win a Nobel Prize; he won it with his contribution to economics on the mindset of decision making in uncertain circumstances. In his masterwork of psychology " Thinking Fast and Slow" he summarizes his many years of research on human being psychology by postulating that we have two different thinking systems, one fast and intuitive, the other slow and deliberate. Doctor. Barrett completely denied the existence of this distinction, in language I found similar to poking fun at " brain blobs. " I admire a article writer who has grand goals, however, taking a chance at perhaps the most accomplished living psychologist, and missing the mark entirely, further solidified my failure to set up much positive feelings of this book.
Ultimately, Dr. Barrett is trying to convince the reader that you have no universal emotions, as say psychologist Dr. John Ekman and others would have us believe, and that they are all dependent on learning and culture. Now this view may auger well with our current intellectual zeitgeist, which is averse to the notion of being human, and believes that most human ills can be mended by being knowledgeable in the right ideas. While I believe this in part, I do not believe this entirely. Why can't it be that you have emotions engraved on our DNA and our experience from birth to death treats our characteristics?
Wright and Barrett also discussed indigenous cultures, who are very often discussed in psychological texts because they don't have some of the effect of modern western ethnicities, and live in a way that humans are more evolved to live in. Dr. Barrett says that for example, the! Kung simply do not feel fear in the way that you or I would because of their culture. So, if a! Kung noticed within stepping on distance of themselves a coiled, ready to strike deadly snake, they wouldn't feel what any other human being would feel? I highly doubt that.
Dr. Barrett resides in academia's ivory tower - me, I'm a mud-spattered grunt in the trenches of seeking to heal people's unpleasant emotions. I was dreaming about cutting edge insights from the Ivory Tower to help us emotional hygienists on the planet below. I found woefully little, unfortunately. I actually see many people ruled, tormented and sometimes wrecked by their painful, negative emotions. If I described this book to your clients - " well, those emotions are just constructs that you figured out and you create, so just change them! ", I think I'd be out of a job. Our emotions are just not that simple. Not even close.
Perhaps I misunderstood the book. I was hoping that the podcast would convince me of Doctor. Barrett's way of pondering. It didn't. It actually secured my own existing beliefs, partly because I discovered her so overbearingly loquacious, without really saying a lot of anything with substance. Mainly a large disappointing word salad.
On a more positive note, I truly liked the girl discussion about the principle of emotion differentiation and emotional granularity, and found them extremely helpful to my job as a mental health therapist. I actually now have lists of words for emotions that I have clients read to help them better identify feelings that cause them trouble, or emotions of things that they find pleasurable. It's recently been very helpful, so I'm thankful for that.
In closing, I'm a grizzled old veteran of the internet, and anticipate this review may provoke some reader's ire. I won't respond to anything argumentative, snarky, or hostile. I actually might not exactly respond at all, it depends on my mood. If there is something I'm misunderstanding, I truly would like some enlightening. In short, I simply don't believe the premise of the book, that emotions are cultural constructs. These people are a product or service of both our natures and our experience. Thank you for reading.
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