The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Early in 2011 I was wandering around my college library, apprehensive about going to class. I already had an interest in the field of psychology and neuroscience, but I didn’t know much about it. I found this book out of curiosity. I had already heard about Dr. Oliver Sacks too, after having watched his biopic Awakenings, but I didn’t know he had written books. The name stood out to me as I was looking through the book titles.

Anyone who has heard or read any of Oliver Sacks books, knows there is much to be admired about the man and his craft. Back when I first began reading this book, I remember having an almost otherworldly sense of neurological disorders. These were people beautifully lost in the world of disease. Though at the time I knew nothing else about these disorders. The almost artistic aspects of each malady is contained in the title of each chapter, “The Lost Mariner,” “The Disembodied Lady,” “The Dog Beneath the Skin.”

Looking back from where I am now, I find new admiration for the book. I no longer approach it as a curious individual fascinated by the mystery. I come as one knowing the mysteries, having learned and dissected the topics in many of my classes. The Lost Mariner to me now is a person suffering anterograde amnesia due Korsakoff’s Syndrome. The Disembodied Lady is a woman suffering from a loss of proprioception. Though I may have gained more technical knowledge about each of these problems, books like this one still keep the awe and mystery awake in me.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in my blogs.


The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

*Bryan Rivera is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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16. Gold

What details would you notice if someone changed them?

Counterfeit money is a problem for many countries despite real money being drowned in security features that are intended to be both irreplaceable and noticeable by anyone; from watermarks, to color-changing ink, even metallic strips, and other special features. Yet many fake bills could have passed unnoticed through our hands, for the simple reason that we are unobservant, we’ve become so accustomed to handling bills that we no longer pay attention to them. It is said that the devil is in the details, and details often pass unscrutinized if they fit the general theme of our assumptions. (Eagleman, 2017).

Inattentional blindness as it’s called, is when you miss something that is in plain view. Psychological Research has demonstrated that not only are you blinded to things that are outside your peripheral field of view, but that not paying attention can cause us to miss the things you are looking directly at (Goldstein, 2014).

The Church of Laodicea thought that they were rich, and had become wealthy, when in reality they had no wealth, and were in poverty (Revelation 3:17). The only way a person can be convinced they are rich, while they are in fact poor, is if they think themselves in possession of authentic money, when it is infact false and counterfeit gold; holding no value, and no worth.

Pay attention to the gold you buy, and where it comes from. For it is written, “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” (Revelation 3:18, KJV). What Gentle and Loving irony, that the poor man, in his poverty, can buy wealth. That we may buy what we can’t afford, to receive more than we’ve invested. Yet that Heavenly gold once bought, makes us far richer than we are.

Be observant, lest you buy counterfeit gold.

~John Bryan

Further Reading: Incognito by David Eagleman

Reference: (Eagleman, 2017) (Goldstein, 2014)

15. Influences

Perceptions have an intriguing way of being altered by our circumstances; and our circumstances have a beguiling way of being altered by our perceptions. Have you ever felt as if your feelings were in harmony with the weather? (Edward, 1993). Metaphors such as “gloomy” are often used to describe the clouds as well as our own emotions. Bright is the day, and bright is my life. It is not uncommon to see wide smiles on your friends faces with the first rays of sunlight after a long week of rain. But why did you feel so sad during gloomy days? Your feelings were more easily hurt, you were more prone to giving up, you felt lonelier and unmotivated. Yet in the morning, as your eyes received the first glimpses of sunlight, you seem to have forgotten all your sorrows. You wept over everything, and now seemingly over nothing. You just experienced—the Priming Effect. (Bargh, 1996).

Everything you behold and encounter, has an effect on your personality, your thoughts, and your emotions. We are not independent and isolated beings, but rather merge within the fibers of a net, like the threads of a tapestry. We walk from day to day, unaware of the thousand things happening in our brains that do not reach consciousness; things perceived but not attended. We seldom consider that things can have an effect without our conscious volition, but they most certainly do. By beholding we become changed. By beholding we behave different.

Thus it is written. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

~John Bryan

Further Reading – Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Reference: (Edwards, 1993) (Bargh, 1996)

14. Remember

Imagine being a prisoners of the present moment. A moment which never progresses and never moves on.  Memory, above all other mental faculties holds the throne and the scepter over our lives. Who we are and who we might become, and especially what we can do, rests on the brains ability to learn and remember.

However, memory has its limits. In the 1950’s psychologist George Miller conducted tests on working memory, and postulated the famous “7 ± 2” theory. This number signifies that on average our working memory can hold about 7 units of information, before it becomes saturated (Miller, 1956).

Now consider the Seventh-Day Sabbath, and how it is coupled with the verb “Remember.” Perhaps if the command consisted of remembering every 37th multiple of every 9th full Moon, we would have some legitimate reason for forgetting. But instead the command states every 7th day. This lies at the central point of what our brains, on average, are designed to handle. In addition, the repetition of the weekly cycle ensures consolidation of the command into long-term memory, since repetition is shown to increase synaptic connections in the Hippocampus (Kendall, 1981).

The Seventh-Day Sabbath is designed to be remembered. So don’t go out of your way to forget. (Exodus 20:8).

~John Bryan

Recommendation – In Search of Memory by Eric Kendall

Reference: (Miller, 1956) (Kendall, 1981).

13. Time

What will I regret at my last hour? If nothing else, perhaps not having lived more slowly. Life feels like an unwanted fall, hastened by the passing of each day, like 9.8m/s². Moments do not last long enough for me to savor them, and remembering them once they’re gone doesn’t bring half the pleasure.

Music helps. The reverb of a single key, solitary and subduing; the sound of strings like voices arising and descending. Sounds can turn ordinary moments into milestones for me; they calm my hurried life to its proper pace. The pace at which infants and babes which breathing the first rays of light seem to live.

But music doesn’t last. Too much of it dulls my senses, and I long for silence. Reading during the silence also slows my restless mind. The pleasure of a sentence well written; a word which captures a thought and holds it for a moment. Those are the pauses that I long for. But I find reading to be tiresome. I cannot get lost in it as some people can. The excitement with which I first open a book, is not the same with which I put it down.

Then there is traveling. Which doesn’t seem to slow down time for me, but it does allow an escape from it. Standing before monuments which once seemed impossible for me to see with my own eyes, makes me forget that my clock is still ticking. Gazing at that mountain range in the distance, or that river running without care; seeing snow fall slowly for the first time, makes seconds fall at a similar pace. But traveling too quickly comes to an end; and life speeds up again.

And I’m left with the same question. How does one slow life down, Redeeming the Time? (Ephesians 5:16.)

~John Bryan

♦ 9.8m/s² refers to the accelerations of gravity, doubling in speed at the passing of each second.

12. Hands

A relationship between two people has a distinct signature. It is the sound of two instruments echoing the same song—harmonizing like the octaves on a piano. Defensiveness, Indifference, Criticism, and above all Contempt: these four notes unlike any other create dissonance within a melody, (Gladwell, 2007).

Contempt is the feeling that you are beneath consideration; below someone’s standard. It is expressed through tone of voice, body language, spoken words, even movement of the eyes. It is also the greatest predictor that a relationship will fail (Gottman, 1998). Research conducted on couple interactions found that contempt, even at its earliest and most minimal stages, had a high correlation with divorce and broken relationships.

Love must be without hypocrisy. (Romans, 12:9).

~John Bryan

Further Study: What Makes Love Last by John Gottman

Reference: (Gladwell, 2007) (Gottman, 1998)

11. Eyes

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The eye reveals our designed dependency on others. They, above all other faculties, declare us a social species. No other species of primate has a noticeable sclera allowing for the detection of a glance. And the ones that do, seem to be oblivious to it, following the movements of the head rather than the eyes. Even infants before developing language follow the direction of a person’s eye (Senju, 2008). Chimpanzees and other animals cannot, instead they only follow head movement.

“If I am advertising the direction of my eyes, I must be in a social environment full of others who are not inclined to take advantage of this to my detriment—by beating me to food or escaping danger before me. Instead, I must be in a cooperative environment where others following the direction of my eyes somehow benefit me” (Tomasello, 2007).

Our eyes do not naturally hide or deceive, as many species of animal find it necessary to do, for the sake of competition and surprise. If we note that the Heavenly command is to love other’s as ourselves, then it makes sense that our eyes are not antagonistic to this end. Instead they show we are fundamentally dependent on one another. Love works no ill towards others. Love is the fulfilling of the Law, and our eyes are witnesses to it. (Romans 13:10).

~John Bryan

Recommendation: The Brain by David Eagleman

10. Turtles

Every story must begin somewhere. And this one begins on the seaside. Nature loves to hold on to mysteries, as if to disclose them meant she’ll lose a part of herself. For a long time, it was a mystery how turtle hatchlings found the sea. Perhaps the gentle sound of waves was calling out to them, saying “come, this is the way home.” But there is a stronger explanation. Not the call of the sea, but light from the moon glistening upon the horizon (Rivas, Tomillo, Uribeondo, & Marco, 2015). These turtles follow the moonlight as it reflects over the ocean. They keep their eyes on its glow, as they make their way towards the freedom that the ocean brings. CONTINUE READING…

Reference- (Rivas, et al., 2015)

9. Heartbreak

 

Heartbreak—had I been born anything but human, perhaps I would not have felt it. But we don’t get to choose what we’re born, any more than we get to choose who loves us. And when those we wish would love us don’t—love hurts. Yet, it is not love itself which hurts, but the lack thereof.

We know we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves; I am led to believe that this is of greater importance than love for God. Because to love Him whom you have not seen, while you passively neglect those whom you have, is an unprofitable contradiction (1 John 4:20). Your love of religion, your faith, your hope, all collapse before you when you show indifference. All your eloquence and scriptures become dead noise, profiting you nothing. How can your God be with you when you are not where He is? I have seen Him with the lonely and rejected. With those who eat by themselves. With those who are forced to walk alone. With those whom you did not associate with.

Our brains respond to heartbreak, the way it responds to physiological pain (Kraft, 2011). Too many cry alone for us as followers of God to do nothing about. We are fundamentally dependent upon one another for our cognitive, emotional, and physiological development (Harlow, 1958). Our words and actions, our neglect or compassions, all mutually influence the well-being of others, which in turn influence our own.

As Christians we should enjoy taking the love of God to those who are destitute of it, knowing that in so doing we bring them life. We are social beings, and loneliness can affect everything from heart disease to blood pressure, to how long you live (Resnick, 2017). I propose that the loving embrace of a friend, is nothing short of life itself. And the sweet embrace of God’s love, nothing short of life eternal.

We are a broken people, and they will know us by our love. (John 13:35).

~John Bryan

Book Recommendation: I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

Reference: (Harlow, 1958) (Kraft, 2011) (Resnick, 2017)

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