Thursday, 23 June 2011

Week 3: IFS, NVC and CBT + 2 rationality sessions

This week was mostly self-therapy week. We have been learning about IFS and NVC. I wasn't overly interested in learning about either of these topics, and didn't pay much attention in the classes. If you want to know more, I've linked to the wikipedia pages above.

We have also been learning CBT. CBT is, insofar as I'm aware, the only talking therapy which actually has an evidence base. The basic principle is that thoughts are part of the chain that causes emotions, and that we are capable of controlling our thoughts, and thereby controlling emotions. CBT is well-tested as a treatment for depression, and it kind of feels like it should work for behaviour modification in non-depressed people - I have absolutely no idea if there's any evidence of this, and am slightly reluctant to check, for fear of destroying any useful placebo effect, although I'm sure my curiosity will get the better of me at some point.

The key tool is the Triple Column Technique, which is a fairly well-established method, which is explained better on websites dedicated to that sort of thing than I could ever do in a blog post. Basic idea, identify your common cognitive distortions, and write out rational responses to them.

There were also two "rationality" themed sessions. One on Wednesday, which was essentially a structured version of Nick Bostrom's "Write Your Hypothetical Apostasy" post from Overcoming Bias. We did a follow-up exercise, in which we tried to write our life-stories from as unflattering a point of view as possible. I did not find this exercise particularly challenging, as I don't have any particular story I tell myself of where my life is going, or how it got here. Apparently the old SingInst Summer Fellows found this exercise much more englightening than we did. I'm tempted to say that that's because they had decided to spend their summers trying to save the world, whereas we have decided to spend our summers generally having a good time with the possibility of becoming more awesome in the process... I'm sure there are other interpretations.

Finally, this afternoon there was an session with Eliezer, in which he tried to convince us that The World is Mad. Lincoln has already written a detailed summary of that exercise over at his blog, so I won't reproduce his work. However, I will emphasise one thing that stood out for me, and just about everyone else, as the biggest convincer that the world is mad: checklists. I have a half-written Less Wrong post on the sheer awesomeness of checklists, which is full of speculation as to why they have not been more widely adopted. Hopefully I will get around to posting it before the end of the summer. Summary: medical checklists could be saving thousands of lives a year, and aren't, and I, and a lot of other people who should know more about this sort of thing, have basically no no idea why. It seems likely that there are a lot of other areas in which checklists could be implemented to great effect (we actually have a few useful ones around the RBC house). More in the LW post, if and when I write it.

We also had a visit on Thursday afternoon from a local fitness trainer from Z-health. That was an interesting experience, but I will write more about it over the weekend, when I plan a post about the amount of exercise that's going on in the house... probably more than you would think.

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