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Buddhism, the Yogic Self, and Neurofeedback
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Futurehealth WinterBrain 2 hour presentation by Al Collins.

Neurofeedback, like all biofeedback, is a technology of self regulation. The word "self" in this definition is crucial in understanding what neurofeedback is. The kind of self that is understood to be doing the regulating (or being regulated) differs from one theory of neurofeedback to another.

I will propose a taxonomy of neurofeedback theories based on how they understand the self and its role in the process. Because the deepest and most accurate analysis of the self has been done in the Indian and Chinese psychologies of bondage and self realization, I will use these ideas as a basic grid or framework for understanding the self's place in neurofeedback.

Western psychological theories of the self will also be briefly reviewed, including Bandura's self efficacy theory, Rogers' and Gendlin's anti-self theories, Jung's distinction between ego and self, and Kohut's biploar self theory.

Finally, I will apply Western and Eastern self ideas to the controversy over whether the brain, and therefore neurofeedback, is "linear" or "chaotic."

There are at least three types of self in neurofeedback theories:
1. Self as ego (gaining self efficacy or self control);

2. Self as witness (learning to act while not claiming the "fruits" of action);

3. Self as no-self (reorganization outside self awareness)

In yogic and Buddhist terms, these correspond to the Sanskrit words ahamkara, Purusa, and Buddha. We will discuss these concepts and apply them. At this point I believe that most neurofeedback based on QEEG, decreasing theta/beta ratios, and frontal lobe mastery falls into the self as ego category. Val Brown's and Len Ochs' theories, and perhaps ROSHI, seem to fall into the self as no-self group. Jeff Carmen's HEG, possibly ROSHI, and Anna Wise's Mind Mirror seem to belong in the self as witness category. I will discuss the role of the frontal lobes (especially left prefrontal) as the locus of the self (ego, possibly witness) and contrast this with the "global synchrony" no-self ideas that are not interested in localization and in fact implicitly subordinate the self to a wider organization. It is the no-self perspective that most naturally aligns itself with chaos theory and nonlinearity of the nervous system and neurotherapy.

Goals: To clarify what "self regulation" means in neurofeedback (and biofeedback generally) and to make explicit the implications that different understandings of "self" have for theories and practice of neurofeedback.


Author: Al Collins

Al Collins has Ph.D.s in two fields, Indian studies and clinical psychology. His professional and scholarly work involves integrating these areas. A neurofeedback practitioner for eight years, he has published widely in Indian psychology, Jungian psychology, psychoanalysis, mens' psychology, and the psychology of film.

Other Products by Al Collins

1) Mindfulness and Neurofeedback: Integral Treatment of ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression
2) Tales of the "Fatherson": The Son's Rejection and Renewal of the Father in American Narrative
3) Quantum Yoga & Neurophysiology of Freedom
4) The Alpha Self: Where am I in the Field of the Brain
5) The Big Bang: Enlightment and the Brain.

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