Are you ready to give up on self improvement?
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.
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.
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.Despite technical language, THE NEUROTIC'S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ENLIGHTENMENT presents a creative method for self-improvement as well as a deeper understanding of our phobias.
The Neurotic's Guide is a complex but not complicated dive into neuroscience and neuropsychology. Dr. Niebauer's insights into the human brain are definitely worth reading, as his views and studies reveal things about us that could very well change the way we think and live on a day-to-day basis. Dr. Neibauer covers a lot of topics that are difficult to tackle and make understandable by the average Joe, but he does so and keeps the book entertaining enough and interesting enough to keep a reader turning pages. I certainly learned a lot about myself in my goal to improve the way I think, act and live.
Here are a few samples from my book.
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.
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 an 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.
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.