I studied psychology in the 1950’s.  It was one of my majors for my BA degree. Today I was reminded on two discrete occasions about concepts I had studied six decades ago, which had not been part of my consciousness for many years.

Two Different Reminders

The first idea was mentioned in conversation by my croquet colleague who brought up the topic of lobotomy as a cure for depression.  Later, I received in my email an article from Big Think Edge on self-actualization.

My Gut Reaction

I was aware of my gut reaction when I became cognisant of these two diverse topics.   I remembered that lobotomy had become grossly discredited, while self-actualization evoked feelings of positivity.  I needed to follow up to verify my unconscious reaction to being reminded of these two concepts.

Lobotomy

It is for good reason that the brain operation known as lobotomy would evoke a feeling of disgust.   This intrusive brain surgery, performed under local anaesthetic, involved making two incisions into the skull, just behind the eyes, so that nerves of the frontal lobes could be severed.

The aim of this procedure was to relieve symptoms of distress displayed by mental illness.  It became thoroughly discredited only after many thousands of operations in both the UK and America during the 1940’s and the 1950’s.

How Effective was this Operation?

There was no cure in those days for people who were consigned to a mental asylum.  Once a patient entered the ward of such an institution, it became a virtual life sentence.  Following this procedure, it was found that 1/3 patients improved, 1/3 became worse, and 1/3 remained the same.   No research was ever conducted, and there was no follow up to this radical and irreversible surgical procedure.

Looking back, it is incredible that the medical profession sanctioned this irreversible operation.  The neurosurgeon would cut into a healthy brain to perform this procedure which today is considered an aberration.

What will our Grandchildren think about Today’s Medicine?

It makes one stop to ask, “I wonder if we are today performing medical procedure which may be considered horrific by our grandchildren!” Maybe we are.  It could be that chemotherapy will, in the future, be regarded as unnecessarily invasive. While this cancer treatment targets the fast growing cells of the tumour, it also destructs some healthy cells such as the hair follicles.   Maybe in 50 years’ time, this cure may be judged in the same way as we judge lobotomy today!

Self-Actualisation

How well I remember being introduced to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which culminated in the need for self-actualization.  I was excited when I first heard of this concept, and this feeling was re-evoked today.

As this diagram illustrates, it is postulated that man needs to satisfy his basic needs for food, water, and sleep at the most basic level.  When these life maintaining needs have been adequately gratified, then the next levels for safety, health and employment require sustenance. Subsequently, we have to cater to our social needs for friends and family. Having this level dealt with successfully, we proceed to achieve friendships and acquire the respect of our peer group.  Finally, we have this ultimate need for self-actualization; to achieve contentment and a feeling of fulfilment.

Latest Research on Self-Actualisation

When I received today’s email from Big Think, I was amazed to discover a report of new research performed in the past few years updating and reinforcing the merit of Maslow’s top postulated human need.

Now the psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, from Columbia University, has published a study that updates Maslow’s work.  Modern statistical methods have identified ten specific characteristics that are shared by self-actualized people.

Kaufman utilized surveys of over 500 subjects and identified ten characteristics that each make a distinct contribution towards self-actualization.  They are:

  • Continued Freshness of Appreciation
  • Acceptance
  • Authenticity
  • Equanimity
  • Purpose
  • Efficient Perception of Reality
  • Humanitarianism
  • Peak Experiences
  • Good Moral Intuition
  • Creative Spirit

What is particularly interesting about these qualities is that they tie in so well with the newest research into today’s favoured field of Humanistic Psychology.  In addition, these are the qualities cherished by those of us who practice Mindfulness! Those who search for Happiness!

In Kaufmann’s words

“A good way to start is by first identifying where you stand on those characteristics and assessing your weakest links. Capitalize on your highest characteristics but also don’t forget to intentionally be mindful about what might be blocking your self-actualization. Identify your patterns and make a concerted effort to change. ”

You can take his Test

To take the test of self-actualization yourself, go to Barry Scott Kaufman’s website.

Valuing Self-Actualisation

It is very satisfying to have the opportunity to review the manner in which the concept of self-actualization has re-emerged so many decades later.  Unlike lobotomy this concept has stood the test of time.

Enriching my Understanding

In fact, it has given me an insight into my understanding of myself.  Those of you who have been reading my blogs for the past few months may recall my ponderings regarding my competitiveness. I have often wondered why it is that at my advanced stage of life, I still need to enter competitions to demonstrate my prowess at the game of croquet.  Now I have some insight.  Of course, it is all about self-actualization!

 

When I heard that Anwar Mal was to give a lecture on, “The Gut – its Contents and Malcontents,” I knew I was in for a treat!

Whist the gut is primarily known for its role in digesting our food, I have some knowledge about recent research demonstrating the multiple function of the organs stretching from the mouth, to the oesophagus, including the stomach, the small intestine, the large intestine and the rectum.     I know the gut had been called The Second Brain, and that most of the neurotransmitter called serotonin is manufactured in the gut.   So, here is my opportunity to extend my knowledge of the gut-brain connection..

Professor Mall

Professor Mall has been involved in researching the functionality of mucous at the University of Cape Town and elsewhere.   He has developed the understanding of how mucus was the ability to protect the internal tracts of the gut from the potent hydrochloric acid which breaks down our food in the stomach.

Mind/Body

Today I learned it may well be the organ which best encompasses the unifying relationship between both mind and body.   When I was at school some 70 years ago, the gut was solely an organ to be associated with food.   However research which has been undertaken during the past few decades makes us believe parts of the gut have an important role to play in our emotional and mental health.

The Language of the Gut

People have always spoken about having gut feeling.   Now we are starting to understand how the contents of your gut, which contains quantities of microbes and bacteria has a direct impact on our emotional wellbeing.   It is now said that to understand the workings of your gut is as important as your knowledge of what food to ingest.

Gut – Brain Link

Soon I discovered there was an entire branch of medical research investigating the links between the gut and the brain.   It is a rapidly growing field of study.   It has been said that research on the gut may ultimately be more promising than work on stem-cell research.

The gut accounts for two thirds of our immune system, extracts energy from our food and produces more than twenty unique hormones.

Research of Guilea Enders

One young woman who has made a contribution to the new understanding of the role of this medley of organs, is Guilea Enders who has written a brilliant book, simply  called The Gut

At the age of 17 she developed a mysterious skin condition which created sores all over her body.   Treatment recommended by her doctors was ineffective so she decided to do her own experiments. She knew that her delivery by Caesarean Section meant that her mother’s probiotic bacteria did not transfer optimally into her gut as a new born.  So, at the age of 17 Guilea was motivated to read up on the current gastroenterological research.   This led her to explore whether extra probiotics and mineral supplements to support her digestion may influence her skin condition.   Her self experiments were successful and she has now made it her life’s work to share her knowledge with the medical world.

The Kiss

To follow up on the concept of a mother transferring natural immunity to her new born child by exchange of body fluids as it exits the birth canal, I learned from Professor Mal of another exchange of fluids that can boost our immunity – none other than the intimate act of the kiss!

Role of Probiotics

I have been hearing for some time the danger of being prescribed antibiotics too frequently.   I also knew that it was advisable to take a probiotic at the same time as the antibiotic to overcome the unwanted side effects.   However the reason for these measures has now become clear to me.

Unfortunately antibiotics do not discriminate between the healthy bacteria in your gut and the unhealthy bacteria, resulting in healthy bacteria being depleted when one takes a course of antibiotics.  This problem can be rectified by ingesting the probiotics to regain the optimal levels. Ultimately it is a delicate balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria which determines one’s state of health.

Gershon and The Second Brain

Michael Gershon is a neurobiologist, so one would imagine that he studies the brain.   However he has discovered the enteric nervous system which is present in the gut leading to him writing a book called The Second Brain.  Neurogastroenterology has become a highly specialised field which enhances the ongoing understanding of the mind and the body’s interactions.

It is now known that the ugly gut is more intellectual than the heart.   In fact it could be said to have the capacity for feeling.   What is more it has the capacity to mediate reflexes in the complete absence of input from the brain or the spinal cord.   Would you believe that there are more than a hundred million nerve cells in the human small intestine?   This number is almost equal to the quantity of nerve cells in the spinal cord.

Saliva and David Wong

David Wong of UCCLA has been working on the role of saliva as a diagnostic tool for the early detection of cancer.    “We were able to show that salivary diagnostics is just as reliable in lung cancer detection as traditional methods are,” said Dr. Wong. “However, our method is non-invasive, nets quicker results (minutes versus days).”    Dr. Wong never thought he’d be analysing spit when he pursued a dental degree, but now he can’t picture doing anything else.

What the Gut may tell us about Consciousness

As a layman it requires a certain amount of imagination to believe in the multiple role of the gut.   It  is an organ which acts as a digester of food, a second brain,  a potential for rich non-invasive research, as well as a vital source of knowledge of the interaction of the mind and the brain.   Because of these varied capacities it is hypothesised that this knowledge may give us some insight into the ultimate meaning of consciousness!