Monday, April 18, 2016

INDIAN PSYCHOLOGY FOR ACHIEVING HUMAN EXCELLENCE

(My paper titled MASLOW’S MOTIVATION THEORY AND INDIAN
PSYCHOLOGY FOR ACHIEVING HUMAN EXCELLENCE for presentation at  
the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology Conference, at Dept. of Psychology,
Jnana Bharati, Bangalore University, May 6-8, 2016)
 
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". And “realizing one’s own potential” is what Goldstein has called “self-actualization” in The Organism (1934): “The organism has definite potentialities, and because it has them it has the need to actualize or realize them. The fulfillment of these needs represents the self-actualization of the organism.” Self-actualization is also referred to as “self-realization”, and Maslow calls it “self-fulfillment”. As such, Human Excellence lies in achieving self-actualization, or ensuring mental health.

In his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow outlined the specific basic needs – namely the physiological needs and the psychosocial needs – that ought to be fulfilled in order to achieve self-actualization. Maslow’s paper tells us that motivation occurs for the fulfillment, or gratification, of the basic needs. When our basic needs remain unfulfilled, or get thwarted, we get stressed. And Maslow tells us that the thwarting of the basic needs produces sickness and psychopathological results. In order to avoid stress and psychopathologies, it is important that we learn the way to gratify the basic needs. However, gratifying the basic needs is difficult because we are generally not aware of these needs. But Maslow tells us that, “What we have called the basic needs are very often largely unconscious although they may, with suitable techniques, and with sophisticated people become conscious.”

Maslow’s motivation theory paper begins by telling us that the “physiological needs are the most prepotent (powerful) of all needs”, and asks us to take into account the concept of homeostasis in order to fulfill the physiological needs. This paper examines the homeostasis process of the body to show the essential nutrients that are needed, and the toxins we need to avoid, for fulfilling our physiological needs.

The 1939 book, Alcoholics Anonymous, had given us a simple psychodynamic need-gratification technique that helps us to become conscious of the basic psychosocial needs and to gratify them. This technique has been helping thousands of members of Alcoholics Anonymous to overcome their addiction problems, and has also been used by other self-help groups to deal with various other psychopathologies. This paper explains this simple need-gratification technique, for gratifying our psychosocial needs.

The need for self-actualization is our need for acquiring and systematizing the knowledge necessary for fulfilling all the basic needs. Sankhya Yoga, also called Vipassana meditation, is the ancient Indian Psychology path for achieving self-realization, and also for acquiring the knowledge needed for self-fulfillment. Aristotle’s classic, De Anima, gives us a naturalistic explanation of this ancient Indian Psychology, and his Nicomachean Ethics shows us how it can be used for developing Human Excellence. This paper examines Aristotle’s treatises and uses the principles of physiology for understanding Indian Psychology, and also outlines the simple method for practicing Sankhya Yoga.

REBP – A Module for Indian Psychology

(Abstract of my 2011 Paper titled REBP – A Module for Indian Psychology, presented at the Positive Psychology and Socio-Cultural Issues Workshop organized by the Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi, on 27th April, 2011)

Developing the ability to handle our emotions, especially negative emotions, and forgive others for offenses or mistakes is one of the prime necessities in order to ‘build thriving in individuals, families, and communities.’ REBP – REB Psychodynamics, REB being the first initials of the author – is a module for holistic education, a way for people to handle their emotions – anger and hatred, fears and anxiety, and cravings – and lead a happy contented life. 

REBP is a module consisting of a simple analysis and a meditation technique. The analysis part of the module helps us to develop an understanding into our emotional behavior, and helps us to quickly get rid of our resentments. The analysis is the therapy part of the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, a worldwide spiritual program that has helped millions of addicts and alcoholic overcome their addiction problems. 

The meditation technique of the REBP module consists of a simple form of Vipassana, a Buddhist meditation technique, also known as Insight meditation, which helps us to relax and calm down. Vipassana is today being taught all over the world, and has shown its efficacy in improving the behavior of even hard core criminals. Various Correctional Institutions such as the Tihar Jail at Delhi and the maximum security Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama, USA, conduct regular Vipassana courses for their inmates. This meditation technique is the essence of Indian Psychology, and has been acclaimed in the Bhagawad Gita as the only way to attain amrita, or immortality. The technique has also been highly praised by the Christians, and is even taught at regular meditation courses in the Islamic nation of Iran. This paper explains the methodology of the REBP module and shows how Indian Psychology can go a long way in uniting people of the various religious faiths.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sankhya Yoga – A New Way to Learn




Learning is the process by which an individual acquires knowledge. An individual acquires information and learns everything by means of his or her five senses. The present education system caters primarily to learning by means of the auditory and visual senses.  But it does not assist students to learn from their tactile senses. This lacuna in the education system often leaves students without the ability to deal with their motivations and emotional responses. 

Over 2500 years ago, Indian sages had developed the Sankhya Yoga technique – called Vipassana by the Buddhists – for learning from the tactile senses. The technique helps a person to remain emotionally balanced, develop life skills, and even to achieve self-actualization. In the fourth century BC, Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher, had written his psychology treatise, De Anima (On the Soul), in which we find a biological explanation of the Sankhya Yoga technique.

This paper uses the current research work on human physiology, especially on the body’s cognitive impulses, their dynamics and their pathology, to understand the physiology of human learning. It also examines Aristotle’s De Anima and Nicomachean Ethics to understand how the Sankhya Yoga technique can make us more ethical. And, the paper shows the simple way by which students can begin practicing Sankhya Yoga.

(Abstract of my Paper for the International Conference of Science of Human learning organized by Education Technology and Management Academy at India International Center, New Delhi, Feb 4-6, 2016) 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Maslow’s Motivation Theory and Sankhya Yoga for Addiction and Stress Management



Abstract

Knowledge is power. Untreated stress hinders the process of learning and knowledge acquisition, causing loss of productivity in the workplace and psychopathologies such as addictions and anxiety in individuals. However, we can now gratify and fulfill the Needs given in Maslow’s motivation theory in order to manage/treat stress and addictions.

In The Organism (1934), Goldstein says “The organism has definite potentialities, and because it has them it has the need to actualize or realize them. The fulfillment of these needs represents the self-actualization of the organism.” And in his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow pinpoints the specific basic needs – the Physiological Needs, the Safety Needs, which also include the Love and Belonging Needs and the Esteem Needs, and the Need for Self-actualization – that need to be fulfilled in order to achieve self-actualization.

When any of our basic needs remains unfulfilled, or gets thwarted or threatened, we get stressed and upset, and usually begin responding impulsively with anger or fear – the body’s autonomic fight-or-flight stress response. Based on this understanding of our basic needs, the book Alcoholics Anonymous had given a brief psychodynamic therapy for gratifying the Safety Needs that members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have used since 1939 to recover from their addiction maladies. This paper explains the Alcoholics Anonymous technique for gratifying our Safety Needs, and uses the physiologic principle of homeostasis to show the essential nutrients, especially amino acids and vitamins, needed to fulfill our Physiological Needs.

Maslow’s Need for Self-actualization is the need for acquiring the complete knowledge needed to fulfill all our needs. Sankhya Yoga is India’s ancient Upanishad path for acquiring the knowledge of everything – the knowledge of the Universe (Brahma). And this paper uses physiology and molecular biology to explain the Sankhya Yoga path.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nutrition for Mental Health of Students




(Excerpt from my research paper titled Bhagavad Gita and Nutrition for Mental Health of Students presented at the World Suicide Prevention Day's UGC Sponsored National Conference on "Educational Reforms and its Impact on Suicidal Ideation of Students organized by Smt. Binzani Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Nagpur, on Sept. 10-11, 2014)



The human body is a society of cells, composed of some hundred trillion cells. And today we know that, “All living cells that we know of on this planet are DNA software driven biological machines comprised of hundreds to thousands of protein robots coded for by the DNA software. The protein robots carry out precise biochemical functions developed by billions of years of evolutionary software changes.”[i]
 
An individual gets his life because of the cells living in his body. And the primary tasks of the cells are performed by their protein robots. If the nutrient molecules required to form these proteins are not available in the calls, the proteins cannot be formed, and the cells sicken or die. And if the cells sicken or die, the individual also sickens or dies. 

Proteins are all chains of amino acids linked together, and so can be formed only from the 20 amino acids found in nature, nine of which are the essential amino acids. So in order to prevent diseases and disorders – including mental disorders – it is important to ensure the formation of the proteins by including adequate amounts of at least the nine essential amino acids in our diet every day; a balanced diet must ensure the correct balance of the essential amino acids.

As most people are ignorant about the amino acids, educational institutions can begin conducting classes to educate students, especially those in Home Science Colleges, about the importance of amino acids – their exact daily requirements, their deficiency symptoms, and the foods in which the amino acids are found. 

The Amino Revolution by Robert Erdmann can serve as a good primer on amino acids. Gopalan’s Nutritive value of Indian foods, published by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, gives us the amino acid contents of all Indian foods, but it is no longer in print. Educational institutions ought to make this book available to their students.

Nutrition for Mental Health

The ability to think clearly is vital for students. Clarity of perception and thoughts depends on us having normal or healthy states of consciousness like the wakeful and drowsy states. And when we cannot think clearly, our behavior also tends to become dysfunctional. So it is very important to ensure that our brain maintains the normal states of consciousness if we are to avoid behavioral problems and mental disorders – that is, psychiatric illnesses.

 Vander’s Human Physiology textbook says, “The components of the RAS (reticular activating system) that release norepinephrine, serotonin and acetylcholine are most involved in controlling the various states of consciousness.”[ii] When the nutrients needed to form these three neurotransmitters get depleted in the brain, the RAS cannot form and release these neurotransmitters, and we can develop altered states of consciousness. And Vander’s says, “These altered states are also characteristic of psychiatric illnesses.”[iii] So it is important that everyone knows the nutrients needed to form norepinephrine, serotonin and acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine (ACh) is synthesized from choline… Some ACh receptors respond not only to acetylcholine but to the drug nicotine, and have therefore come to be known as nicotinic receptorsone cholinergic system that employs nicotinic receptors plays a major role in attention, learning, and memory.
Dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) all contain a catechol ring and an amine group; thus they are called catecholamines. The catecholamines are formed from the amino acid tyrosine… These neurotransmitters play essential roles in states of consciousness, mood, motivation, directed attention, movement, blood-pressure regulation, and hormone release.
“Serotonin is an important biogenic amine. It is produced from tryptophan, an essential amino acid… In addition to their contributions to motor activity and sleep, serotonergic pathways also function in the regulation of food intake, reproductive behavior, and emotional states such as mood and anxiety. Serotonin reuptake blockers are thought to aid in the treatment of depression.”[iv]

The essential nutrients choline, tyrosine and tryptophan are extremely important not only for ensuring healthy states of consciousness, but also for other vital needs of students. When choline gets depleted, acetylcholine cannot be formed in the body and the student’s attention, learning and memory suffer. And tryptophan deficiency can cause symptoms of raging emotions, anxiety and depression, – which is the primary cause of people attempting suicide – and also insomnia and overeating or obesity. 

Tyrosine’s deficiency symptoms are more disturbing, primarily because the catecholamines that it forms play an essential role in movement – our bodily activities, including behavior. And also because adrenaline, which is formed from tyrosine, gets secreted in the blood-stream during stress – for the activation of the body’s fight-or-flight stress response – and can quickly cause the depletion of tyrosine during chronic stress.

A person whose body is deficient in tyrosine can develop symptoms of blood pressure problems, attention deficits, loss of motivation, or pep, and disturbing moods. All these symptoms can be very agonizing and so, students often seek relief from their agony by experimenting with alcohol or psychoactive substances, often getting addicted to them. A few students seek relief from psychiatrists who often end up prescribing psychoactive substances as medication. 

But Vander’s says, “Virtually all psychoactive substances exert their actions either directly or indirectly by altering neurotransmitter-receptor interactions in the biogenic amine—particularly dopamine—pathways.”[vi] And once the drugs make the alterations in a person’s brain, the person is unable to lead a normal life without the use of drugs, leading to drug-dependence – addiction. 

I had been one of the toppers when I entered IIT Bombay in 1968. However, after taking the psychiatric drug dextroamphetamine for just a week or so during one of the IIT exams, I had got severely addicted to the drug, and remained a drug-addict until 1990. Today the same drug, dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine/Aderall), is being prescribed by doctors to children suffering from attention deficit (ADD/ADHD). 

To overcome the anxiety caused by stress, students often consume alcohol. But alcohol is a form of sugar/carbohydrate that requires niacin for its metabolism. And so in drinkers, niacin often gets depleted, causing tryptophan to get converted to niacin and get depleted. Thus consuming alcohol can also lead to depression. So, it is good idea to take Niacin – vitamin B3 – when drinking.
 
Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), started suffering from severe depression in 1944 for over a decade. Bill finally found freedom from depression by taking large doses of niacin. And in 1968, Bill W wrote a paper giving the result of the clinical studies on niacin, showing that niacin is highly effective in treating Alcoholism, Schizophrenia, Heart Diseases and other problems. Orthomolecular Psychiatry professionals recommend taking niacin for the prevention of depression.

Indiscriminate prescribing of psychoactive medication by medical professionals must also be addressed. Medical professionals began prescribing opioid analgesics – painkillers – ever since Bayer started marketing Heroin in 1898 and psychiatrists, psychoactive substances since the 1950s. But the drugs they have been prescribing are so addictive that today America is facing a prescription-drug overdoses epidemic: “Since 2003, more overdose deaths have involved opioid analgesics than heroin and cocaine combined.”
 
“We can no longer pretend that we are not aware. Regardless of what the disease is called, its root cause is still deficiency and toxicity. The typical convention methods of cut (surgery), burn (radiation), and poison (medication) have little effect as they do not address these issues.” – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, The Family and the Nation (2008)


[i] What is Life? A 21st Century Perspective, Lecture by J Craig Venter: http://www.edge.org/conversation/what-is-life
[ii] Vander’s Human Physiology: Mechanism of Body Function, Eleventh Edition, McGraw-Hill 2008, page 236
[iii] Ibid., page 242
[iv] Ibid., page 167-168
[vi] Ibid., page 244