Tag Archives: Acceleritis

ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Depression on the Rise

Created May 10, 2024
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

The inability to pay attention is a symptom of EOP (Emergency Oversimplification Procedure). My theory of Acceleritis postulates that the amount of question-producing stimuli experienced by the average person per day has been increasing ever since the start of written language. This produces information overload and the tendency to hasty closure – making up one’s mind too fast. It also causes reduction in considering the ultimate questions because we are too busy keeping up with the pace demanded of us by those around us, including media. The natural awe and wonder at life and the universe every child feels, fades away.

Do you let people complete whole sentences without jumping in to say something?

In EOP, one has little patience, because everything is happening too fast, and a part of oneself that wants to do everything perfectly is perpetually frustrated by this. Which makes us rush others to complete their thoughts.

Many people who have not yet been formally diagnosed as ADD or ADHD also have it.

In a recent New Yorker article, writer Nathan Heller cites a study by medical software company Epic which found an over-all tripling of ADHD diagnoses between 2010 and 2022, skewing even higher among younger people.

Inability to sustain attention doesn’t necessarily get optimally controlled by drugs, which often have side effects that bring down individual effectiveness in other ways. Metacognition would be a more successful medical strategy. Meditation could be more effective than medication in the long run. The optimal combination might include a gradual reduction of the drug and finally its removal.

50–70% of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also have ADHD according to the American Psychiatric Association:

“Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are both associated with internalizing problems like depression and anxiety, and the two often co-occur. A recent study found that ADHD is more strongly linked to depression than autism. ADHD traits are also a stronger predictor of depression symptoms than autistic traits.

Youth with ADHD and autism are at high risk of experiencing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in young people with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) like ADHD and ASD. Depression in NDDs can be more severe, have an earlier age-at-onset, and have a worse prognosis than in the typically developing population.

Some factors that might be driving the relationship between ADHD and mental health problems include: Genes linked to ADHD, Stressful life events, Environmental factors, and Social cognitive factors.”

Gallup in May 2023 reported that in 2017, 18-29-year-olds in the U.S. were about average in terms of being diagnosed with depression, but by 2023 that level had increased +68% in just six years, to over one in three people in that age group. The whole population is experiencing an increase in depression. Metacognition is not just a nice to have anymore. It is a must.
Rising trends: lifetime and current depression rates

Today science is finally looking objectively at the use of psychedelic drugs for their potential benefits in dealing with medical problems of cognition and affect. The Harvard professors who brought this up in the 60s spelled out the necessary setting and mindsets necessary for such experiments to have the most beneficial effects.

Millions of people today are using cannabis, MDMA, psilocybin, etc. mostly for mood elevation, and can be taught to also use them for self-reflection, under medical guidance respecting the setting and mindset best practices established by the former Harvard professors, much-maligned Timothy Leary and much-beloved Richard Alpert (Ram Dass).

Use of drugs is not a necessity for the achievement of self-awareness, even for those with neurodevelopmental disorders. To demonstrate that semantic and semiotic interventions without chemicals can have beneficial effects, you might try reading parts of this free booklet, The Navigator, from The Human Effectiveness Institute to someone you know who is having any kind of hard time.

Another exercise you might suggest to a person suffering from any of these variations of extreme EOP is to try doing this exercise:

    • Get out along in nature.
    • Find a flower (or any interesting object).
    • Contemplate it.
    • Maintain eye contact with that object.
    • Gently focus your attention upon it.
    • Allow it to permeate your mind.
    •  Notice what you notice about it.
    •  Sustain this attention for at least one full minute without checking the time.
    •  If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the object of contemplation.
    • When you’ve had enough of the object, keep your eyes focused on it for a little while longer while using your peripheral vision – without moving your eyeballs – to see how much of the background you can see to the left, to the right, up, and down.

This exercise will also begin to bring attention under your conscious control.

Love to All,

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There Is a Better Way to Run Your Mind

Created April 26, 2024
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

The way you run your life has a lot to do with the way you run your mind.
The way you run both these things determines what kind of results you get.

You have surely noticed that not every idea you have is equally smart. We have all had experiences of being very sure of something then having it turn out to be wrong. We’ve all had experiences of ignoring our own hunches then having regretted that as they have been proven to be right.

It doesn’t have to be a crapshoot, guessing which way to go on something.

There are procedures you can learn which lead to inner clarity,
and therefore a degree of greater certainty about which way to go.

These inner procedures fall into a broad category labelled metacognition. Thinking about thinking, and more specifically observing the way you yourself think.

There are reasons why most of us do not learn metacognition naturally. One is that we take for granted things we have become accustomed to. By the time we are seven years old, the age at which Piaget postulates we enter the concrete operational stage, we have gotten so used to the automatic ways we have operated up until then, that it doesn’t occur to us that we have any choice in the matter of the way we think and feel and act. We are already firmly established in habit patterns which have been reinforced over and over again.

In the future, it will, I suspect and hope, become a well-known fact that children should be encouraged to reflect upon the ways they use their mind, starting from day one. In such a world, it might not take seven years to get to the concrete operational level, nor twelve years to get to the formal operational level, nor nearly a lifetime to become a mensch.

Acceleritis (the accelerating number of question-producing stimuli experienced by the average person in the average day) is, in my estimation, a major cause of what neuroscience calls the default network. This is a way of using our minds which the entire species now tends to over-use, due to a sense of how complex everything is, and a giving up on the possibility of figuring it all out. A half-century ago I noticed this behavior pattern and called it Emergency Oversimplification Procedure (EOP). In this behavior pattern, most of our decisions are automatic and reflect habit without reconsideration. Daniel Kahneman famously gave this behavior pattern the name System 1. Neuroscience has not validated the existence of System 1 nor System 2, and also sees this more as a continuum than a dichotomy. In fact, EOP causes dichotomania, the inability to see anything other than black-and-white polarities.

Starting to become more in control of your own mental process begins with simple observation. Watching what your mind does. Withholding judgment as to whether it is good or bad, just watching and noting the way it proceeds from step to step, or leaps across associational patterns from thinking about one subject to another one that the mind has been reminded of by a happenstance linkage between the two domains.

Common Types of Inner Experiences

The Narrator: You will notice a tendency at times to tell yourself the story of what is going on at the moment. Talking to yourself but not out loud, except perhaps at times when you assume no one can hear what you are saying. Some of us talk to ourselves out loud even when others are around. The best way to look at this is as unused creativity looking for an outlet. If you have time perhaps when you find yourself narrating your life, you might sit down and start writing without thinking twice about it, just automatically writing whatever comes into your mind.

Another less positive way of looking at The Narrator is that it is wasting time, and that it is evidence of the ego, the part of you that feels inadequate and spends energy to cover that up and protect you against all the superior people around you.

The Negativity Merchant: This is a sense of negativity that some part of you is trying to sell the rest of you. It sucks you in without your being aware of exactly what is going on, all you can discern is that you are down. It all happens too fast, slips past your guard if you have one, and you are in the grip of fear, or anger, or despair before you know it.

It appears that at least nine out of ten people have virtually zero resistance capability to this inner mood merchant.

One who is practiced in metacognition is able to detect the merchant and neuter its automatic emotional reactions.

This is an especially useful talent to have when someone is trying to push your buttons on purpose in order to manipulate and control you. The person attempting that may not even be aware they are doing it, if they too are in EOP, which is the most common state of humanity today.

Holding the emotional reaction at bay is accomplished by asking yourself questions which you might realize are questions you could have started asking yourself a long time ago. Questions like “That hurt my feelings because I care so much about other people’s estimate of me. Why do I care so much about that?” It might help at first to pretend that there is a Dutch Uncle or psychoanalyst or beloved parent asking you that question.

Pettiness is an aspect of the ego’s concerns which you can use to rein in the ego. You are a noble being, above such things.

Old Tapes: Things you’ve heard yourself say before, many times, over a period of decades. Old rhetoric. You may love some of these stories, things that made a big impression on you in your youth. They are so old they pre-date the internet, and so the word “tapes” is apropos. If the Narrator or the Negativity Merchant is trying to sell you something, they might invoke these old sayings. Some of the Old Tapes could contain valuable gold, nevertheless, as a body of work they constitute a Bias Catalog that could be holding back your own growth. It’s up to your metacognition to separate the wheat from the chaff in a new, unbiased way as if you are being reborn and can decide what to keep and what to dump.

Inspiration: Ideas just start flowing in your mind. The obvious wisdom of the words in your head makes it seem as if someone else is saying them to you. Good idea to write these down, and to make sure that you write enough about the revelations so that you later recapture the entire meaning, which can otherwise slip away.

Seeing Goodness: This can occur at any time. Suddenly you see some aspect of a person or a thing which you realize is admirable, even touching, and you feel uplifted by the moment. It can be a realization of a good side to what is otherwise not so good. It might relate to how you feel about your own life at that point in time, which is one of the best feelings we can have.

It all starts and ends in the mind.

As dark as the present days have been, we might perceive that we are living through the time in which barbarism is on its own very slow way out. Naturally, anything on its way out is going to fight like the devil to not be expunged. With our amazing media technologies and well-developed techniques of deception, well-meaning masses of people can easily be led astray. It all starts and ends in the mind, and our naivete about metacognition is the most dangerous thing in the world today, and the thing that is most easily fixed.

Acceleritis Theory Validated

Created March 14, 2024
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

The amount of information being processed daily by the average human being has been accelerating ever since the invention/discovery of written language.

In my 1976 book Mind Magic I postulated that the amount of information being processed daily by the average human being has been accelerating ever since the invention/discovery of written language.

And I theorized that this was the cause of a mental/emotional state I called Emergency Oversimplification Procedure (EOP). This is a state of consciousness in which questions are set aside, experiences are not assimilated, personal effectiveness is reduced, creativity is blocked, the awe and wonder of life is invisible, one subscribes to black vs. white thinking imposed by others, one has prerecorded responses used all the time, new learning and growth are stultified. One is coping but not mastering life. One is a conditioned robot.

In 2011, in this article, I started using the term “Acceleritis” to describe the condition of information overload acceleration over time.

Recently my wife Lalita gave me a birthday present of a new book called Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari. In this book, the author documents social scientists’ work, essentially proving that my theory is correct. Both the author and the scientists whose work he cites add greatly to the picture, and I highly recommend reading this book for that reason, and because it also is a great read.

We can regain the use of our individuality, solve our problems by focused attention, be happier, and give back more to others. We can accelerate our growth by slowing down and choosing what to do next based on real value.

Hari concludes that external forces have caused our inability to concentrate, rather than being caused by a lack of willpower on our part. He divides the book into chapters to review these external causes one by one. And he starts with the digital devices which are so obviously part of the problem. One citation is a 2016 study which found that we touch our phones an average of 2,617 times every 24 hours.

Interestingly, he also cites studies which use data from digital platforms to prove that acceleration is going on. For example, a 2019 paper in Nature Communications, “Accelerating Dynamics of Collective Attention”, studied the major digital platforms and found that over time, topics spiking in public interest last shorter and shorter times before wearing out. For example, trending hashtags in Twitter (now X) remained in the top 50 for 17.5 hours on average, but by 2016 that had dropped to 11.9 hours. Similar accelerations were found in Google and Reddit but not in Wikipedia. The appearance and disappearance of new phrases were analyzed across millions of books in Google Books published since 1880 and the pattern looked a lot like Twitter’s (now X).

(In a recent meeting I was asked if they should be worried because their ad recall scores appear to be dropping over a period of years. I explained that day-after TV ad recall scores averaged 26% when I first got into the business and were now 4%, so they shouldn’t take it personally.

I also mentioned that attention to ads and everything else has shortened dramatically during my tenure, and in our biggest media type today, digital, it is 1-2 seconds.

Since that meeting I’ve seen results of a neuro study where eye tracking showed that, out of hundreds of viewable social media ads, 90% of them got 1 second of attention or less – and this was in a laboratory forced viewing environment.)

Hari also interviewed Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the famous psychologist who coined the term Flow state, and had been an advisor to The Human Effectiveness Institute, and the author makes the connection between the state of distraction blocking Flow state, and advises slowing down, getting more sleep, staying off devices in much the way you’re used to reading in my posts here.

The amount of research covered in this book is impressive, and the writing is excellent. Where my own work is additive to this superb body of work lies in two main areas. (These may be addressed later in Hari’s book which I am not quite halfway through. I’ll let you know.)

One is the art and science of introspection. It’s important to spend as much time in Flow state and this is accomplished by first learning how to bring on the Observer state. Mind Magic and Powerful Mind are my two books on that subject. Powerful Mind was serialized in this blog last year and the book version will be out this year.

The other is our culture’s lack of an inspiring sense of mission for the vast majority of people. This is what causes the desire for distraction and the willingness to be led like sheep down any path that gives us a pleasant diversion from lives devoid of purpose and meaning. This is the source of the awful notion of killing time.

My recommendations as to how to develop an inspiring sense of mission are also included in the latter two books, and in my science-spirituality-synthesis nonfiction books A Theory of Everything Including Consciousness and “God” and You Are The Universe: Imagine That. The essence of my message: it is quite possible that we ourselves are part of a consciousness of such power that it earns the word “God”, and that if we watch for clues, we find we are being guided by events toward sharing our gifts with the world.

Because my view of reality is so different, I felt it would be necessary to also write fiction books which illustrate what I mean by getting into various characters’ heads. Hence Agents of Cosmic Intelligence, my series of four (so far) sci-fi/alternate history novels. In fact, Episode 1, The Great Being, was just published and became available on this site and Amazon yesterday.

We can regain the use of our individuality, solve our problems by focused attention, be happier, and give back more to others. We can accelerate our growth by slowing down and choosing what to do next based on real value.

If you have questions, please feel free to have a conversation with my Soopra AI.


Mind Discipline

Created March 1, 2024
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Intellectual knowing is not the same as embodying
that knowledge in one’s actions.

Today there is fortunately an outpouring of articles and books on the subjects which a half century ago were rarely discussed outside of the kinds of books which were carried only by so-called metaphysical bookstores back then.

People with vast curiosity tend to study a wide spectrum of subjects. That describes me starting around age 4 when I fell in love with reading and writing. That also describes many people I know who have read many of the same esoteric books that I have, and some who have learned many things from the same writers. And many people whose reading has been far more inclusive than mine.

In conversations, I have noted that some of my great friends can quote wisdom but often are unaware that their actions do not conform to the bits of wisdom which they quote.

In some cases, this can be analyzed as intellectual versus emotional learning. The rational mind can be aware of important principles of how to live the good life, and yet on an emotional level, they are leaning away from those principles even as they espouse them.

Take a simple example: “There is no use crying over spilt milk.” Like all aphorisms, we tend to underestimate the amount of wisdom this aphorism contains. This is because familiarity breeds contempt. I know at least one person who can teach this to others but always lets disappointing news disturb her.

I know a man who has studied vast amounts of wisdom literature and understands all of it fully, yet his attitudes override the levels of tolerance which all wisdom literature teaches.

I know another man who is a walking encyclopedia of the history of applied psychology who does not pick up on his audience’s reactions.

Clearly there is a gap in the mind between knowing something and believing it to be true and valuable, yet not being able to “carry it off” in reality.

This gap is where discipline needs to be applied.

The reason that self-discipline is needed is that our day-to-day, moment-to-moment life is practiced with a mix of automatic and “manually overridden” (conscious, on-purpose, granularly formed) responses to external events.

Because we are used to that mix and never think much about it, we tend to overlook automatic responses which slip through despite the fact that they disagree with principles we espouse. Besides, “who has the time?” The Acceleritis culture is driving us all at top speed by giving us too many stimuli at practically all times. In moments when all media are turned off, we are not really escaping because that’s when the backed-up cognitive load dumps into our consciousness with unanswered questions and unassimilated half-learning, stuff we noticed but didn’t have time to think about why we noticed it, what it was saying to us that stuck so much in our minds.

My old friend Daniel Goleman has written many books about emotional intelligence, a phrase he coined long ago to describe the quality of a consciousness to integrate intellectual learning with emotional signals from inside and outside, and to perfect one’s actions taken, illuminated by this higher order of inner integrity.

Today I wish to emphasize another aspect of gaining emotional intelligence: self-discipline. Mental and emotional, intuitive and perceptual self-discipline.

The logical way to approach this topic is to start with the desired end state. First one ought to discern the ultimate goal of one’s own life, what you are here to do. The way the game is set up—this is not easy—and many people give up and let their game piece be pushed around by external forces. This is the first important place to apply mental and emotional, intuitive and perceptual self-discipline. You have to make the time to select the dream vision you wish to make come true over the course of your life. What your gift to the world shall be, your body of work you will leave behind to benefit posterity.

A guess is better than not having a targeted end state.

Discipline then has to be applied that respects yourself, you have set a goal, now you have to make it come true, you have to believe in it, you can’t be wishy-washy about it, that is a denial of self-respect.

You can’t allow yourself to waste time. To waste time is to waste your life. Time is a precious limited quantity. You must make best use of each second. Otherwise, you are admitting to yourself that you are not really laser-focused on your mission, you are programming yourself for failure to achieve your mission, you obviously do not take yourself seriously.

That’s why you can’t allow yourself to cry over split milk. Because not only is it a waste of time, it negatively programs you and the others around you. You are causing negative effects, and harming yourself and your mission, by giving in to the automatic reaction of the amygdala. This takes enormous self-discipline which can be gained by practice, and by never taking your eye off your mission.

At the same time, you can’t rush past noticing the cascade effects inside yourself, you must pay the time and attention to see your own automatic reactions that slipped through and screwed something up, so you can figure out what clues to look for next time, so you stop that particular automatic reaction from slipping through again.

One exercise is clearing the mind of all emotions. Any psychologist will tell you that emotions are the physical body manifestations that are connected with the inner feelings you have – so as you discipline away all the emotional clutter you have just been experiencing, it will happen in your body as well as in your mind – it will change your breathing, your heart rate, skin moisture, pupil aperture, and many other things. But you start with an inner act of will to cancel all inner events and return to a state of complete neutrality and emptiness. Starting over. Rebooting. I find that for me this is most effective when I walk into our meditation room, get down on the floor, breathe deeply, empty whatever is in me, and start my life over with a blank slate.

I hope you will refocus on your own mission and try this rebooting exercise whenever needed, and let me know how it goes.

Love to all,