David Hamilton


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Is psychology, the study of single people without careers, who do not exercise for twenty minutes, or get ten minutes of sunshine a day?

Now, obviously, I am exaggerating, and joking a bit when I pose this question. There are severe neurological disorders, that warrant study, the conditions of which have improved because of research, and medication. I do not mean to demean the entire field of psychology, instead, I would like to engage in a serious debate with people who have done research in the field.

Has our understanding of brain chemistry, and genetics, over ridden our common sense, in treating many psychological conditions? Also, because actual physical study of the brain, is still in infancy, and up until now, the field has been entirely reliant on self report... Has all of our research been biased, by the type of person who submits to and seeks psychiatric treatment?

I pose this question in the way I have, because 10 minutes of sunshine, and 20 minutes of exercise, have both proven time and time again, to be better medicine for almost every psychological disorder on the books, than anything on the market. They don't just beat a placebo for depression and anxiety, they beat everything.

Social workers will tell you however, that the life events of gaining meaningful employment, or volunteering for a noble cause, or "meeting the right person", is better than any drug on the market.

In the case of psychology, have we let the pursuit of pure knowledge, and science... overshadow our common sense and our common goals as human beings? Should psychology really be the study of finding people social relationships that engage them, meaningful work, and convincing them to play a sport a couple days a week in the sunshine? I know, it's a bit of a hippy daisy suggestion, even for me.

  • May 31 2012: "Leading question. your honor"
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    May 10 2012: I know a bit about depression, so my response is centred mainly around that.

    Is depression an internal problem or an external one? Which comes first? Does one give birth to the other?

    It seems odd to me that there are so many people around now who have either a neurochemical deficit, or other brain dysfunction - and who are labelled as being ill. Odd also, because we blame the effect more than the cause - or so it seems to me.

    In earlier or traditional societies, I wonder if schizophrenia for instance, would have been regarded as an advantageous gift to a tribe in the condition's innate ability to hear voices? Could such a person then be revered with, say, shamanic status, rather than labelled as 'ill' as they would be today? Would depression also have had some kind of positive advantage in earlier societies too?

    I keep thinking that depression is greatly misunderstood, and that somehow we are 'looking in the wrong place', if that makes any sense. I'm not exactly sure where the 'right place' might be, but it's conceivable that the illness may lie within society, rather than in the individuals (given that depression is a naturally occurring condition in, as an example, the grieving process, job loss etc).
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      May 11 2012: Schizophrenia is a very different condition than depression.

      Depression to my knowledge is a natural emotion that even can be observed in the animal kingdom.
      To mourn is a depressive state of being that occurs as circumstances to survive are extremely bad. It happens if someone close dies but also if the urge to participate in society is frustrated by external forces that you can't control. Under natural conditions this state of mourning works destructive on body functions, inertia and digest problems and being listless makes one vulnerable and without resistance. Where life isn't livable it gives up on itself.

      Schizophrenia however is a brain dysfunction. More like an electrical overload on a sensitive device that leads to some wrong output. Maybe such people were seen as prophets once. They may have abilities other than usual.
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    Jun 1 2012: What do you do with the recent assertion by one of the TED speakers who claims that ECONOMICS is a subset of psychology?
  • May 17 2012: You're terribly privileged and sound like you have only touched the surface of depression. You also have no secondary complicating mental illnesses to contend with. To say that depression is just a weakness of will is deeply insensitive and insulting to the people who actually suffer. Maybe your depression was just a case of needing exercise and sunshine but then there are people who actually suffer. The world has a way of working out for you, because you're white, male, educated and mentally healthy. For some people the world has a way of drawing out your suffering until you break, have a little appreciation for the gifts that you have.
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      May 31 2012: My father worked in a warehouse full time, and delivered pizza and news papers part time his entire life, just to keep his family fed... 60-90 hour weeks so that I could have privileged luxuries like Mac N Cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You know nothing about me, except the fact that I'm a white male, and you use that to reduce me to an aristocratic cartoon. That's called racism.

      I have a broken neck. A fragment from that broken neck pinches the nerves in my spinal cord, and for the last decade I've had spasms of pain running through my entire body. Despite that, I choose to do physical labor to make a living, because it feels like real work.

      Admittedly, I work 20 hours a week, but that's not because i'm lazy, or injured, it is because since the Iraq war broke out, and my country started indescriminantly murdering people, I have taken a vow of poverty. I refuse to pay tax, because I consider it murder. I have been diagnosed with several disorders because of this, severe depression, manic depression/ bi polar disorder... but I consider it nonsense. Certainly the people willing to contribute their hard earned money to the Christian Muslim holy war, are more crazy than I am.

      My point, is very simple. I will probably never experience happiness the way a "normal person" does... but if I am not exercising, getting sunshine, working on a project I care about, and trying to meet the right girl... I have no right to complain about depression, no matter how chemically imbalanced my brain may be. If you, as an individual, are not doing the basic things required of you in order to create happiness... that's on you.

      Exercise, sunlight, meaningful labor, and healthy sexual relationships are proven fundaments of human happiness, and you ignore them at your own detriment. When I have the fundamentals down, the neck, and the absurd, evil, and corrupt tyranny I live under bother me a lot less. If you don't have the fundamentals down, fix those first
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        Jun 5 2012: I am alwys astounded at what |my' TEDdies are enduring! I am sorry fot all you are going through David and grateful that you chose to be vulnerable and share your situation with us! Now we all have to learn to do it as a pure form of sharing for greater vulnerability rather than as a defensive weapon.
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    May 10 2012: What psychological disorders do you talk about that can be treated with some sun and exercise?
    Maybe it's a good thing to visit a hospital to meet some people with severe disorders and talk to their families.
    If you could think of anything to help them besides medication they all would be very grateful to you.
  • May 9 2012: You would probably really like Positive Psychology. Its premise is that most of the field of psych has assumed that people are miserable and need fixing. Positive Psychologists don't like this very much. There's a talk on pos psych on TED if you search..
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    May 8 2012: Considering the vast amount of psychological studies that have been done on undergraduate students, you are correct. The only part of your intro that is missing is men. So pretty much the study of psychology is the study of MALE single people without careers... etc.

    You get your subjects where you can:)

    I really wish psychological disorders could be treated simply by helping people find purpose. Sadly that is not the case.
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      May 10 2012: Interesting... That just makes me curious... Do you believe that if we were to study women more effectively, we would find that sunshine, exercise, a career, and healthy sexual relationship, would not be enough?

      I would add one other rarely discussed aspect of psychology... Righteous indignation... The sense that the community you're a part of, your government, church etc. is doing something you think is wrong, and you're contributing to it. In the case of the government this can be especially psychologically damaging, because, you're paying for it, contributing directly, and the only other choice is poverty.

      If however, you exercise 20 minutes a day, spend 10 minutes in the sunshine, have a healthy sexual relationship, and a career... You're not righteously indignant about something your community has forced on you... And you're a man... I would suggest, you are happy, and psychology has never studied you.

      That seems like a very odd type of person to not pay attention to : p. As for women, I tend to think the list would be virtually identical, but... I mean... That's usually where men make their mistakes... That's why we've predominantly studied men, and consider our findings relatively inclusive. It's certainly not good science.
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        May 11 2012: "And you're a man... I would suggest, you are happy, and psychology has never studied you."

        How much psychology have you studied? Happy white guys in college were the subjects of choice in the last century. Many many hallmark studies including the classic Stanford Prison Study, the famous Milgram study, and so on and so on where conducted on happy white guys in college. Even Kolbergs theory of moral development was initially developed by studying boys. The only thing studied more by psychologists are rats.

        Women were considered a variable to be controlled.

        Shall I continue into the righteous indignation part? No really I am not a rabid feminist or anything. I am just pointing out a truth. And according to your statement about righteous indignation, the only people who have a chance at being happy are men. You might want to rethink that.
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          May 11 2012: I don't think you read what I wrote very carfully... I'm saying that if you are a man, and all of those conditions are satisfied, then you are happy... because I've never met a man who wouldn't be happy if all those conditions were satisfied. I'm then questioning whether or not, you, as a woman, would be happy if all those conditions were satisfied. I don't know if women would be satisfied given those conditions, because I am not one...

          "Happy white guys in college", is actually the quote I take issue with... What percentage of white guys in college do you think are happy? I'd say 5% at best. Most are single... None have careers... and if the study was done in the last 50 years, at least 25% of them were obese with a Vitamin D deficiency.

          I think this is the problem we have in psychology... "Well, they're white, and male... They must be happy". Have you ever met a happy young white guy? Most of them are alcoholics... Just because we're the richest, and society is least descriminatory against us... doesn't mean we're happy.

          What percentage of undergraduates, have ever satisfied the 4 conditions I describe? My point is that happiness is rare... And it doesn't have time to participate in psychological studies. If you go by self report though... Of course white guys say they're happy... It would be rude to still be miserable while everyone else has it worse.

          I don't think we've ever studied happy white guys... Happy people would have ended the prison experiment before Zimbardo did, imho. Would the profile of a happy woman look the same in your mind though? My natural assumption is "of course", but as I said before, that has gotten my male colleagues in trouble before.

          One problem however, is that, basically the 4 things I'm describing, coupled with a lack of righteous indignation... are... As good as it gets. Those are the things you can do to release endorphins and be happy... If you want more, don't know what to tell ya...
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    Josh S

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    May 5 2012: I love this topic and it got me thinking that you have a great point. I am not a psychologist but am planning on entering the field of neurology in college.
    I think your right, basic things like exercise and hanging out with friends and volunteering can be great ways of improving one's symptoms.
    Like you said, there a certain situations in which medicine is needed, but again like you said, many things dont require it and shouldn't require it.
    I'd like to talk about depression, because it is something that i at least know a little bit about. There are so many medications one can take for it, but in my opinion other natural ways are the best. Be it community, religion, or charity, there are much better substitutes then taking medication. We do seem to be getting more and more drug-dependent as a society, and its a shame, we should just learn to get outside with some friends and relax, and learn to enjoy the little things in life
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      May 10 2012: I'm surprised this didn't generate a bit more interest... I assumed at least one person in the field would come forward and defend the cannon... Seems like quite a few people agree.

      I've dealt with depression and anxiety a bit myself... but, as I look back on my life... It's not chemical imbalance... It's being single, young, and without direction. When I'm single, and I don't like my job, and I'm not exercising... I get depressed. When I kick my own ass, work out a bit, look for a new job, and get myself out on the market... I'm not depressed anymore. The world has a way of working out the way it's supposed to.