Wednesday, September 7, 2022

What is the experience of experience called?

At the core of IIT is a single measure called “Φ” (the Greek letter phi, pronounced fy). The easiest way to think about Φ is that it measures how much a system is “more than the sum” of its parts, in terms of information. How can a system be more than the sum of its parts? A flock of birds provides a loose analogy: the flock seems to be more than the sum of the birds that make it up—it seems to have a “life of its own.”


In IIT, Φ measures the amount of information a system generates “as a whole,” over and above the amount of information generated by its parts independently. This underpins the main claim of the theory, which is that a system is conscious to the extent that its whole generates more information than its parts.

Seth, Anil. Being You (p. 64). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Our usual way of thinking is cause and effect. In Western Civilization we tend to view and understand our experience of the world in a linear and reductive way. Seth’s idea of consciousness is a systems view, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and it is this “greater than” that contributes to consciousness.

This idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts is a primary concept in family therapy where the dynamics of the family system, the roles and rules that govern its functioning, is the frame of reference and focus of perception and apprehension. 

From this perspective one might ask “What kind of a family is this?” and “To what extent are they aware of how the system they participate in functions?” In other words, to what extent are members of the family conscious of its existence as a family unit and not just a collection of individuals?

A working definition of consciousness might be “the experience of experience.” The experience of experience is what Seth is naming “Phi.” Phi, claims Seth, is the measure of consciousness.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Being You, the book by Anil Seth

This month there will be a series of articles about Anil Seth's book, Being You: A New Science Of Consciousness.

Consciousness is usually thought of as a uniquely human phenomenon not shared with other living species. And yet, if one is asked what consciousness is, few could give a coherent response.

My definition at this point is "your experience of your experience." I have called it the "witness". A friend calls it the "observer."

The witness or the observer seems to be more highly developed in some people than in others. Ken Wilber, the Integral philosopher, and others teach the there are levels to consciousness.

Follow along this month as we explore the concept of consciousness.

This book is about the neuroscience of consciousness: the attempt to understand how the inner universe of subjective experience relates to, and can be explained in terms of, biological and physical processes unfolding in brains and bodies.

Seth, Anil. Being You (p. 5). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Which do we value more in our society: the body or the soul?

The body is the container for the soul, the life force, the consciousness. The word for it without the soul is "corpse." However, the body is more than just a container, it is a generator. As Seth points out the body is more than just a mechanical computer, it is a chemical machine. "I use the word “wetware” to underline that brains are not computers made of meat. They are chemical machines as much as they are electrical networks." Seth, Anil. Being You (p. 6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

It is interesting how in our society we are much more aware of and focused on the body than the soul. Our capitalistic system is constantly marketing products for the body and much fewer for the soul. Do you think it is accurate to say that in our contemporary society we value the body more than the soul?

Who are the therapist writers?

The stories in this collection, not unlike those by Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawan­de, Perri Klass, Danielle Ofri, and a growing number of physician-writers, are teaching tales that offer hope and humane reassurance: in the midst of a struggling health-care system, there are some who understand medicine as ministry.

As I read the above sentence in the book review for Tornado Of Life by Jay Baruch by Marilyn McEntyre, I got thinking about all the books I have read by therapist writers about psychotherapy. There are many. The most memorable for me are "The 50 - Minute Hour" by Robert Lindner and Love's Executioner by Irvin Yalom.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

What professional group provides the most mental health services?

Social workers provide the majority of mental and behavioral health services in the country.

In New York State there are 61,685 licensed social workers compared to 15,309 licensed psychologists, 9,292 licensed mental health counselors and 1,403 licensed marriage and family therapists.⁠

For more click here.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Quiz question of the day - What is the primary motivation for a psychiatric social worker?

 What is the primary motivation for a psychiatric social worker?

  1. The money

  2. The prestige

  3. Intrinsic satisfaction and a faith in the development of humanity

  4. Fixing other people

The correct answer is C. Intrinsic satisfaction and a faith in the development of humanity.

The labors of Hercules - 54 years as a Psychiatric Social Worker

I am reminded of the phrase "The labors of Hercules."

I was thinking yesterday, "After almost 54 years in the field, what do you have to show for what you have produced in your field?"

The answer is "nothing." What we do is not tangible, not concrete, there is nothing to show for all our work.

Some of us have written articles, books, maybe created institutes or organizations, etc. but most therapists labor with nothing to show for all their work.

However there is an intrinsic satisfaction and a faith in the development of humanity which keeps us going. There is the saving of souls when we have facilitated the maturing of higher levels of consciousness that has enhanced the quality of their lives and the people they are in relationship with. So how can our labor be said to produce nothing?

What we generate though is ephemeral. It is unseen. It's of the type of experience we attempt to describe by saying, "Well I can't put it into words. You would have had to have been there to know what I am talking about."

"Aren't you David Markham?"

"Yes, I am."

"You probably don't remember me. I am 43 now and I saw you when I was eleven and you saved my life. Your office was on Ridge Rd, right?"

"Yes, that's right, about 30 years ago."

"I always wanted to tell what a difference the counseling made to me."

We talked a bit more. What a gift.

So this labor day, I celebrate such experiences. We never know, do we Frank, what our work is producing? We are creating and intentionally producing experiences, not things, and so there is nothing to show but sometimes there are memories and the experience of a higher quality life which contributes to a greater sense of well being which some call happiness.

What have we done with our lives? We have helped people experience happiness.

Now that is labor well worth engaging in even if we have nothing to show for it.