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Here you can read the first pages from the first five chapters of The Neurotic’s Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment before you buy it!


Chapter 1

I would like to begin with a few thoughts about thoughts. If you are like most people, you might think there is some way to improve your situation, your life or your self in some way. What I will try to show with this work is that not only does effort into self-improvement not work it usually backfires. And the irony is that the self we are trying
to improve isn’t even there, at least not in the way we think it is. The essence of this work is that the “me” that all of us feel when we look in a mirror or look inward and would like to improve upon doesn’t’ exists the way we were taught it does. Rather, there is only the thought that it
exists. However, this isn’t a put down on thoughts; it’s just that they are not at all what they seem to be. In fact, they play some of the most interesting
tricks going on these days and I will explicitly point this out.
As a first exercise, take a 10 second look around and make a mental note of what you see. I’ll bet that “nothing” is not on your list. We have become such experts at organizing our perceptions into categories and patterns that we can’t see reality in any other way. We are so good at seeing things in the world that we are no longer aware of processes,
actions and verbs. When my son Nick was three he could effortlessly see a Popsicle stick as a rocket ship when just a few years before that he would have looked out and saw nothing, no patterns, just simple reality in action. We couldn’t even look at a random night sky without filling it with things like animals, hunters, belts and spoons. Is it any surprise we wouldn’t have looked inward at some point and had a certain sense that a thing like an ego was there even if it wasn’t? Now we’ve mistaken the process of thought for a genuine thing for so long that showing it as simply an idea will not happen overnight. But I hope to
show this in a way that is felt and known and not simply something that is believed. We’ll start with the “new” consciousness movement
and then on to science as both will show that at best, the self is just an idea of itself.

Chapter 1

I would like to begin with a few thoughts about thoughts. If you are like most people, you might think there is some way to improve your situation, your life or your self in some way. What I will try to show with this work is that not only does effort into self-improvement not work it usually backfires. And the irony is that the self we are trying
to improve isn’t even there, at least not in the way we think it is. The essence of this work is that the “me” that all of us feel when we look in a mirror or look inward and would like to improve upon doesn’t’ exists the way we were taught it does. Rather, there is only the thought that it
exists. However, this isn’t a put down on thoughts; it’s just that they are not at all what they seem to be. In fact, they play some of the most interesting
tricks going on these days and I will explicitly point this out.
As a first exercise, take a 10 second look around and make a mental note of what you see. I’ll bet that “nothing” is not on your list. We have become such experts at organizing our perceptions into categories and patterns that we can’t see reality in any other way. We are so good at seeing things in the world that we are no longer aware of processes,
actions and verbs. When my son Nick was three he could effortlessly see a Popsicle stick as a rocket ship when just a few years before that he would have looked out and saw nothing, no patterns, just simple reality in action. We couldn’t even look at a random night sky without filling it with things like animals, hunters, belts and spoons. Is it any surprise we wouldn’t have looked inward at some point and had a certain sense that a thing like an ego was there even if it wasn’t? Now we’ve mistaken the process of thought for a genuine thing for so long that showing it as simply an idea will not happen overnight. But I hope to
show this in a way that is felt and known and not simply something that is believed. We’ll start with the “new” consciousness movement
and then on to science as both will show that at best, the self is just an idea of itself.

Chapter 2

In the 60s, Dr. Michael Gazzaniga was part of a group that performed some of the most interesting and experimental brain surgeries in history.
Normally, the two sides of the brain are connected by a large set of fibers called the corpus callosum. However, due to a severe brain disease, patients had the two sides of their brain surgically disconnected
leaving each side independent from the other. While each side of the brain is specialized to do certain types of tasks, this is difficult to notice since both sides are usually in continuous communication. For example,
for most people, the left side of the brain controls language but
this goes unnoticed since the two sides are deeply connected. However, after cutting the corpus callosum the two sides of the brain were now disconnected, leaving scientists the ability to test each side in isolation.
In fact, these patients were even called “split brain” patients, which was true in a sense. To understand this research it is also important to know that the
body is cross-wired, that is, all the input and output from the right half of the body crosses over and is processed by the left-brain and vice versa. This cross over is also true for vision such that the left half
of what we see goes to the right side of the brain and the vice versa. Again, with in intact corpus callosum, the brain works as a whole and this is not noticed but becomes obvious in the split-brain patient. And
it was here that one of the most important discoveries in psychology was made about the left side of the brain, a discovery that has yet to be
fully appreciated. Gazzaniga discovered that the left side of the brain created explanations and reasons to help make sense about what was going on. It acted as an interpreter to reality.

Chapter 3

The perception of an ego is the outcome of an evolutionary process of competition and genetic survival and exist because its works. Ego interpretations are as much a part of nature as anything else and as such are not good or bad. Take a look at the two pictures above and ask yourself what you see in each? Did you find a pattern? Imagine two ancestors of humanity in a struggle for survival; one with a bias
to see patterns and another without this talent. Michael Shermer has suggested that a bias to find patterns has a survival value for the following reason. If one of our ancestors heard a noise in a nearby bush, one could respond in three ways. The rustle is as it is (that is, no
interpretation), the rustle is just the wind or the rustle is something that might eat me. If it is just the wind there would be no difference between these three in terms of survival, but when the rustle is something that is going to eat you, the last of the three is the way to go, even if at other times you will make lots of mistakes. In this sense, it paid to be paranoid and now we all have inherited pattern
perceivers biased towards the negative and paranoia. All things being equal, the tendency to oversee patterns (Shermer calls this patternicity rather than Apophenia), improved survival and Shermer believes this is still with us today in the forms of various ‘strange” beliefs such
as the paranormal, UFO cults and conspiracy theories. In the end, it was better to believe and believe in a way that is paranoid and suspect because in evolution, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Chapter 4

How do patterns exist? It is the job of the interpretive mind to make us certain that interpretations are not thought of as interpretations but as
reality. Its job is to make sure we assume categories are part of the world and not just part of the mind. The philosopher Thomas Metzinger puts it nicely when he said that when the brain represents the world there is a transparency to the representations. That is, we don’t see our ideas as ideas but rather as how the world really is. Interpretations have to seem real; the threat has to be thought of as real not as just a possibility or we wouldn’t act on it. The reason the world is so serious right now is that the interpreter had to be absolute and firm in the thought that this pattern is reality or the brain wouldn’t buy into it. To believe
that patterns exist on their own is the ego illusion, which, we could say works but even the idea of something working as opposed to not working is also just another interpretation. Psychology has a history of breathing more and more life into interpretations, which is like trying to give life to a reflection in water, a representation rather than a real thing. Psychology has pressed the
issue and now debates if such things as sexual addictions, multiple personalities and “things” like narcissism are real or not? Are depression and happiness real things or interpretations? Can a child really “have” ADHD? Can someone really do a good job or screw things up or are these like songs sung in the interpretive mind? Can someone really be a jerk? A saint? Is there such a thing as a genius or an idiot? Is being
annoyed, angry or happy really a part of reality? Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the world that seems so real is only in the eye of the pattern perceiver; so if you have set out to become enlightened, ask
what would happen if you unplugged your pattern perceiver?

Chapter 5

Why is there stillness when the pattern perceiver is off and such unrest when it is on? Why is it that when we are identified with the interpreter there is more often a sense of unease rather than happiness? What else would happen when you pair up the need for self-improvement along with the law of opposition? This paranoid belief engine generated a sense of unrest and an ever increasing need for more which improved survival at a point in history when surviving was tied to basic material resources. Perceiving a pattern of unease paid off in terms of survival.
Of course, when was the last time you had a threat to your survival? While there are numerous perceived threats to the ego (and that is a different story) anyone who can enjoy the luxuries of worry and anxiety
likely has their basic needs met. So, just as self-improvement has
outlived its usefulness, one wonders of what use the continuous “need for more” can serve. Sometimes the law of opposition can take a while to complete a cycle. After over 100 years of focusing on depression and anxiety, psychology has turned its attention to the other end of the continuum;
happiness or what has been called positive psychology. Tim Kasser has reminded us that it is not being rich that brings unhappiness but rather it is having materialistic values that predicts unhappiness. Unless you
are extremely poor, money itself doesn’t play a role in happiness; it is your attitude towards things that predicts happiness. How much do you think having the perfect car or house will bring you happiness? How much money do you need to be happy? Do you think having money and being rich are real or an interpretation? Money is the most obvious example of the map/territory error. Having a value system that things will make you happy actually results in unhappiness and this is simply due to the nature of the perceived need for more and the transparent interpreter that believes all that glitters is real and not just a perception.
It is also related to how quickly we get used to things and then need even bigger things that get us on a race we cannot win. John D. Rockefeller was once asked how much money he needed to be happy
and in a perfectly insightful response he said “Just a little bit more.” Of course, it is the same interpretive machine that is behind both the selfimproving
needs of the ego and the material needs of always wanting more because it is always trying to be what it is not. More money and a
better self are both never ending games of the left-brain because of the law of opposition. This need for more will always result in less and it is
only in a genuine embracing of less that one can ever truly find more. The perception of happiness is linked to valuing aspects of the world

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Reviews

The most inspiring testimonials from readers

Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment is a helpful guide that gives readers facts about our brain and Neuroscience. The book talks extensively about the facts surrounding the left side of our brain and gives readers a sort of spiritual enlightenment after reading. The author's link to spirituality is evident - the teachings of Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle back his viewpoints and these thoughts make the book profound and powerful. The author's fresh take on how the human brain works is indeed very informative and interesting.

D Donovan, Senior eBook Reviewer, MBR

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment asks one basic question: do self-improvement efforts really work? From this query one might think that the rest of the book would be about such efforts and their pros and cons; but this is actually a science discussion and uses the latest brain research to discern the physical and psychological results of self-improvement efforts. The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment succeeds in its goal of providing a reasoned assessment of reality, illusion, ego and self; probing the process behind the psyche's development and perceptions and offering readers much food for thought and illumination.

Ed Bennett for IndieReader

The central premise to this book is that no matter how hard we try to improve ourselves we will not be able to do so, despite what the self-improvement books tell us. Essentially, one needs to stop trying to improve, relax and try to live in the moment without the left-brain trying to make sense out of our surroundings.

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About the Author

Chris Niebauer

Chris Niebauer received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuropsychology from the University of Toledo where he specialized in left-right brain differences. He has conducted research on consciousness, handedness, beliefs and the sense of self and is currently an associate professor of cognitive psychology at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. When he is not teaching, Chris likes to play guitar, spend time with his family, and work on new books.