Is there a name for this phenomenon?

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LookingInward
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Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by LookingInward »

Hello,

I've been doing some "soul-searching" this year and I started thinking more about how I behave and think. This exercise has been productive because I found that I was not treating myself the same way I would treat any other person. Basically, I tend to bee too harsh on myself.

The last paragraph is supposed to give some context for what I'm about to ask: is there a name for the realization that you spend every moment of your life chasing well-being and avoiding pain?

I know meditation is very popular nowadays but it just doesn't work for me. I don't "see" anything or even experience any positive side effects. The person who introduced me to meditation is very clear in saying that one should not practice meditation because it is "good" for you (for example, because it reduces anxiety). Rather, you should do it because it gives you valuable insights.

I don't have much to add at this point. Thank you for reading =).

ertyu
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by ertyu »

you absolutely should practice meditation because it's good for you

sky
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by sky »

Epicurean philosophy teaches that one should focus on achieving and maintaining happiness and pleasure.

chenda
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by chenda »

I've had very negative experiences due to meditation. It may not be causal but lots of people have recorded negative impacts. Proceed with caution.

ertyu
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by ertyu »

chenda wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 7:59 am
I've had very negative experiences due to meditation. It may not be causal but lots of people have recorded negative impacts. Proceed with caution.
oh? interesting. usually you hear a lot from the people extolling the benefits and not so much from the people it didn't work for. it's a bit of a derail to the main post, but id be very curious to hear more about your experience

Slevin
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by Slevin »

LookingInward wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 5:14 am

I know meditation is very popular nowadays but it just doesn't work for me. I don't "see" anything or even experience any positive side effects. The person who introduced me to meditation is very clear in saying that one should not practice meditation because it is "good" for you (for example, because it reduces anxiety). Rather, you should do it because it gives you valuable insights.

I don't have much to add at this point. Thank you for reading =).
Meditation is a tool in a tool belt for physical and mental well being, and should be treated like one. For some people, the benefits are pretty spectacular and there are measurable and discernible increases in mental well being. For others, this might not be the case. It sounds like you might be in that group.

The best mental health tools are the ones that work for you and that you can adhere to over the medium to long term. While I do meditate, I get the most value out of shaking for 10-15 minutes every morning (https://youtu.be/Q7dJEECj74Q). So in my opinion don’t feel bad about meditation not working out for you, just consider it something that didn’t deliver for you in a fairly subjective field, and move on to trying out some more tools that will hopefully help you out.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

I've also seen similar warnings about mindfulness practices. Example, not an end all definitive verdict on the issue: https://www.verywellhealth.com/mindfuln ... ay-5186740

I am not an expert but I'm not sure that I would expect meditation to result in reduced self criticism. Maybe by reducing "monkey mind" thoughts if self criticism is where your mind goes when no other thoughts are present? There are likely techniques that address that issue more directly. Therapy might be one approach that could help if you find the right therapist.

slsdly
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by slsdly »

I'm not sure about the name, but I tried to get into meditation, but to no avail. It wasn't a negative experience, I just got very bored.

Yoga was part of my turning point for well being. It works much better for me to clear the mind, as I needed my body occupied. At the time I joined a yoga studio, but with the pandemic, I only do it alone. It isn't *quite* as good because you need to focus on what comes next rather than just playing Simon Says blindly.

Salathor
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by Salathor »

I spent several months practicing mindfulness and lucid dreaming a few years back. Became passably okay at it, in my opinion. However, I feel like it had significant negative effects and I don't do it anymore. I realized that I had a hard time noticing that I was 'real' at certain periods. Like, I'd be driving and have to remind myself "I'm in this car, looking at this traffic. Stay present!" in ways that I did not have to do before and don't have to do as much since. Hard to describe to someone who hasn't experienced it, but I think the best way to describe it would be to say that it impacted my sense of "concreteness".

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by Western Red Cedar »

LookingInward wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 5:14 am
I know meditation is very popular nowadays but it just doesn't work for me. I don't "see" anything or even experience any positive side effects. The person who introduced me to meditation is very clear in saying that one should not practice meditation because it is "good" for you (for example, because it reduces anxiety). Rather, you should do it because it gives you valuable insights..
This seems like an unusual take on the purpose of meditation. Though, I suppose there are a lot of different cultural approaches and philosophy on the practice. I think approaching it because it may provide valuable insights may lead someone to think they are "doing it" wrong, or facilitate additional thoughts during the practice.

I prefer to think of it as a simple breathing (or walking) exercise that grounds me in the present moment. Most people spend a lot of time focusing on the past or the future. Meditation is an exercise that can change some of those mental patterns and habits. It is also an opportunity to step back from the chaos and demands of daily life, and appreciate stillness. This change in perception and thought patterns may certainly lead to valuable insights, but I wouldn't encourage someone to start meditating for this reason. I'd just encourage it as an opportunity for self-care.

In regards to other techniques to address self-criticism, Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Cognitive Behavior Therapy offer some helpful tools. For the more philosophically inclined, stoicism might be helpful.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

The issue with meditation is that you're training yourself to observe the process of consciousness itself, essentially. This can exacerbate underlying features of cognition, for better or worse. My experience with it taught me the following:

Your consciousness/sense of self isn't "real." What I mean by this is that if you get good enough at meditation, you slowly start to realize that how you're perceiving yourself/the world is just a trick of your brain. You will also realize this if you ever do drugs. How you experience things like the normal passage of time, your thoughts, etc aren't these concrete things in the same way physical reality is. Your brain is basically tossing a bunch of random stuff together and you experience it as real, but it's actually just your psychology.

An example: you can't actually see your eyes move. Try it. Go look in a mirror and see if you can catch your eyes moving in the reflection. You will realize you can't. That's because eye movement would create a blurry image in you vision, similar to how moving a camera makes the image blurry. In order to make your vision seamless, your brain just cuts out this movement (called a saccade in the formal literature.) So you're not even perceiving the direct vision from your eyes. Your brain is just throwing together how you think you see like a drunk C programmer and calling it a day.

(note that if you look at yourself in a web cam, like in zoom or your phone's selfie cam, you can actually catch your eyes moving due to the delay. Try it out at home)

Another example is the fact your brain basically decides what you're going to do before you're even consciously aware of it. When you think about this, it makes perfect sense. Neurons have to fire before you are aware of the result. But what this means in principle is that your brain is basically just experiencing things and letting your consciousness know as an afterthought. When you experience ego death, your brain is just forgoing that consciousness but nothing has really changed. You were always just perception.

It's one thing to even hear this, but when you get good at meditation, you start to actually experience it, and it can be extremely destabilizing to your sense of self or reality. The great religions that teach meditation manage to make these experiences positive because they ground them in religious teachings. So rather than realizing your consciousness is just some homunculus in the attic that the rest of your brain occasionally sends postcards up to to let it know what it decided to do, you "become one with the universe." As you might imagine, one of these is much more fulfilling than the other, even though they're both fundamentally the same brain experience influenced by surrounding beliefs.

So spending too much time meditating/lucid dreaming/etc without that religious context can just exacerbate obsessive thinking, dissociation, internal preoccupation, etc if you are already prone to doing those things.

My back of the envelope conjecture is that meditation might be more useful if you have a heavy Se personality because it's directing attention inward under circumstances where that attention is rarely directed inward. This can be very useful in that case. But if you are Ni-dominant, you might be better off picking an Se activity like sports for your therapeutic exercise instead.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

“Salathor” wrote: I realized that I had a hard time noticing that I was 'real' at certain periods. Like, I'd be driving and have to remind myself "I'm in this car, looking at this traffic. Stay present!"
This is me everyday. I listened to some meditation recordings meant for the sort of person who might be a road-rager, and I was like “Huh, it never even occurred to me to think about the intention of other drivers.”

Also why I rarely drink or toke. Se is my most regressed function, so the idea that maybe I ought to do something more like sports (which I hate) to improve my alertness in the real world makes sense.

chenda
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by chenda »

ertyu wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 9:08 am
oh? interesting. usually you hear a lot from the people extolling the benefits and not so much from the people it didn't work for. it's a bit of a derail to the main post, but id be very curious to hear more about your experience
My first problem was that I found the whole process difficult and annoying. Focusing on a mantra, or anything else, was like trying to keep sitting on an uncomfortable chair. I liked my mind wondering and did not want to return it to the mantra. But worse, I found after a few weeks that I suffered from depersonalisation, feeling like I was detached from both body and mind. I was watching myself do things, not actually doing things. Then I would have mental breakdowns. I don't think these were actually caused by the meditation itself (I have a long history of mental illness) but the detachment from myself made them worse. I self-harmed, but it did not feel like I was self-harming, but watching myself self-harm. I was not experiencing pain, I was watching someone experience pain. It was like watching myself on film. I began to think of myself in the third person. 'Chenda is doing this, then she is going to do this...' Its not a nice experience. Believing that the self is an illusion is very dangerous and unsettling.

Prior to the above, I had once done a course on Transcendental Meditation (I was young and naïve) They say its different from any other type of meditation, but I am very sceptical of this. I never entirely understood what you're supposed to do, but I think that rather than repeating the mantra in your head over and over again, you are suppose to think of it in a kind of conceptual way. So its not like you keep saying 'Om, Om, Om etc' but you just think 'about' Om. I am not sure my mind really makes that distinction. There is a also a lot of cult like aspects to the whole TM movement, where they subsequently try and sell you other stuff like crystal healing, yogic flying and other woo, despite marketing themselves as a sort of secular, scientific backed movement. Most of the studies they cite extolling the benefits of TM are basically shams, and certainly not done to peer reviewed standard. As cults go they are pretty benign, but its one of the many in a long standing traditions of dodgy-guru with a taste for Mercedes and young women selling a dumb-down version of Hinduism to gullible westerners under a pseudo-scientific veneer. And charging a hefty fee for the privilege.

Obviously the issues regarding the TM movement have nothing really to do with meditation per se, but I think its concerning that meditation is almost universally promoted as something benign and positive, when the potential risks are often ignored. Frankly, hitting a punch bag or regular exercise or anything which engages the mind is probably just as effective and much less risky for most people.

luxagraf
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by luxagraf »

I never found mindfulness meditation to do a damn thing for me. Well, it bored me. Not sure if that counts.

But I have been practicing discursive meditation for about ten years now and find that very useful. Especially as a way to clarify my thinking. It's what christians used to call contemplation I believe, though as I understand it, it used to be pretty widely taught. Anyway, it's basically just training yourself to think. There's no "not thinking" or whatever mindfulness is aiming for. Instead you just a theme, or a question, or whatever interests you and follow your own trains of thought related to it.

ertyu
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by ertyu »

luxagraf wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 6:51 pm
it's basically just training yourself to think. There's no "not thinking" or whatever mindfulness is aiming for. Instead you just a theme, or a question, or whatever interests you and follow your own trains of thought related to it.
what advice and instructions would you offer to someone wanting to try it out?

chenda
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by chenda »


ertyu
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by ertyu »

thanks :)

M
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by M »

Just another word of caution about the non-dual meditation practices since I used to be *very* into these things.

There are levels to these things, as mentioned. At a certain stage you do go through a lot of bliss and peaceful inner joy. It can give you a generally amazing experience of everyday life. If you continue the process the mental shifts increase and your perception of things like space and time may disappear. Eventually you are left with no perception of anything at all except a distinct feeling of eternity, basic awareness, and the feeling of yourself. The Void. If you release the void then you are confronted with some sort of infinite energy source that obliterates 'you' and you experience dying. My understanding is this is a permanent shift that can't be undone.

If you proceed then you are permanently aware of this 'Self' / infinite energy source in everyday life.

I reached this point and stopped / did not permanently abandon 'myself' perception. It was terrifying from the perspective of 'myself' which was my point of experience at that time as it truly felt like I was dying.

I have read accounts of people who made this shift struggling to re activate various parts of their thinking mind afterward, such as general thoughts, having no desires or urges even the desire to eat is gone, having to basically think of the body as a pet you need to take care of to keep alive, various other perceptual distortions.

Meditation can be *extremely* beneficial on some level but it's not a joke. After a certain point you have to either accept that life has a spiritual component which is the real meaning of life, or you have to accept that you are *fucking up* your brain for the purpose of a neuroscience experiment....

suomalainen
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by suomalainen »

LookingInward wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 5:14 am
is there a name for the realization that you spend every moment of your life chasing well-being and avoiding pain?
The name of the act of realization is self-awareness. The name of what you realized is known by various names depending on your priors and the intensity of the experience, but pleasure principle and hedonism are obvious places to start.
Last edited by suomalainen on Wed Oct 26, 2022 8:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Post by Hristo Botev »

LookingInward wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 5:14 am
is there a name for the realization that you spend every moment of your life chasing well-being and avoiding pain?
Hedonism? Depends on what you mean by "well-being" and "pain," of course, but that's the name that came to my mind. Egotism would be another one, to the extent there is an undue and excessive focus on oneself. As my wife's favorite coffee mug says: "Your Life Is Not About You." If you're not Catholic or otherwise religious, I'm sure the Stoics and likely other practical philosophy types have some helpful things to say about detachment.

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