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The Neurotics Guide To Avoiding Enlightenment by Chris Niebauer, Ph.D. – Book Review

Deep thoughts about yourself and self-improvement…

Even a quick look at the self-help shelf in any bookstore will quickly reveal that the industry is booming and that most of us seem to have a secret desire to ‘be a better person’. We are looking for that magic formula that will enlighten us, hopefully the sooner the better. But is enlightenment, as we understand it, really possible? What would it be like if we had a better life? Will it be very different from our current life? Even more, what if we found that this ‘self’ that we are so focused on improving turns out to be non-existent, a myth, an incredible creation of our brain? Can modern neuroscience shed light on this topic, and if so, do you need to be an expert to understand it? If you are confused, be prepared to have many of your ideas challenged by Chris Niebauer’s book of ideas. The Neurotic’s Guide to Self-Enlightenment: How the Left Brain Plays Endless Games of Self-Promotion.

Many self-help books are written from a New Age/Eastern Mysticism perspective, and Niebauer’s book somehow falls into this category. Niebauer is strongly influenced by both mid-twentieth century author Alan Watts and contemporary author Eckhart Tolle. Watts wrote about a variety of Eastern Religions, including Zen, Hinduism and Taoism, and Tolle is heavily influenced by Buddhism. Describing the book as simply of this kind would be very misleading. Also, to introduce The Neurotic Leader just as a self-help book, it would be equally misleading. Of course there are mindfulness and meditation techniques that the reader can find that help them achieve a new state of mind, and that give them a new approach to life, but this is very much a theory/philosophy book about challenging us. standard thoughts about ourselves and our lives. Niebauer is actually “a university professor specializing in cognitive neuropsychology” (Introduction) and the book has a heavy neuroscience content. In essence, Niebauer attempts to give Eastern Mysticism a neuroscientific framework, taking it out of the world of pure thought and giving it a solid background in science.

As the reader has guessed by now this is not really a beginner’s book. Some understanding of both Eastern Mysticism and psychology would be useful. Niebauer’s ideas are unorthodox and quite challenging, and require some thought. For example, the first chapter may be a struggle to understand, but Niebauer’s ideas become easier if you stay with the book and read. In the end you may not agree with everything Niebauer says, but you will certainly have to rethink a lot of what you believe about yourself and the world.

Despite the emphasis on theory, the book does not use technical terms and does not provide lengthy and in-depth scientific discussions. There are notable examples from the real life of Niebauer and his family. These examples help make the text more personal and accessible to average readers.

As the subtitle indicates, much of this book is left-brain related. This is the hemisphere that dominates, that is, the most prominent in our thinking. He looks for patterns and sees the world according to categories. It divides the world into nouns, that is, fixed ‘things’. All of this is fine except that most of the world is a process, which means that things change, often in dramatic flux indeed. So we see ourselves as a permanent ‘image’. We tell stories from our history that define ‘who we are’, when in reality we are a changing being. This idea is very much in line with narrative psychology (Dan P. McAdams. The Stories We Live: Personal Myths and Self-Making:__ New York: The Guilford Press, c1993). For another example, we tend to see enlightenment as ‘something’ that can be achieved, a permanent state in which our old self ends and a new self emerges. That is, we see enlightenment as the end of something stable and the beginning of something else. As Niebauer points out, our left brain will never stop working, even if we become aware of our right brain, processing, broader consciousness, so enlightenment is a constant process of change, to see the world. in a new way.

Much of the book focuses on the discovery that, in the absence of hard data, the left brain confuses, that is, inventing perfectly reasonable, yet inaccurate, explanations for why the world looks the way it does. That is, when we have little information, we see ‘patterns’ that do not exist, at least not in the way we believe them to be. This discovery comes from split brain patients. These are people who, usually because they suffer from severe epilepsy, have had their corpus callosum cut off. The corpus callosum allows the left and right hemispheres to communicate. It doesn’t take much to recall an incident where we ‘rushed out’. Then we are sure of our thoughts, but later we doubt it because we see information in a different way or because we find that we really don’t have any evidence. The end result of these observations is of course that we should be much less of ourselves. This is an idea that Alan W. Watts suggests in his book The Wisdom of Insecurity (New York: Vintage Books, c1951).

Niebauer proposes two main solutions to our problems in life. The first is to be aware of life, to observe ourselves and what happens to us from a distance. This allows us to actually observe, rather than jumping to conclusions. It also allows us to avoid the emotional drama of our lives. We watch “I’m sorry”, but with the act of wide observation we are one step away from our dysfunction. This is of course what is known as mindfulness in Buddhism. Niebauer’s second solution is to approach it with a playful attitude. We hold ourselves. It’s less serious and we don’t know for sure that our left brain wants to reassure us that we exist. Once again we are away from the drama of life.

Of course the above three paragraphs only cover the topics discussed in Niebauer’s book, which range from as specific and specific as possible to anxiety, to so broad and esoteric that a part of the self survives after death. . While the book is not long, there is a lot in it, and the reader may choose to read just one chapter a day to listen to the author.

One point of criticism is that all of Niebauer’s evidence comes from brain-damaged patients with optical illusions. These are not situations where ‘normal’ aspects of life are involved. This makes us wonder how often these situations occur in ‘ordinary’ life. Not that we doubt what Niebauers is saying, but we wonder how often situations arise. For example, how often do we reach conclusions? Niebauer wants us to do this more often, but it is. A little proof on this point would be useful. But even if we disagree on frequency, Niebauer’s book is still an eye-opener for sure.

The Neurotic’s Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment is definitely a book that will challenge many readers and give them a lot to think about. We all tend to think reasonably well that we ‘know ourselves’ and understand the world, but Chris Niebauer certainly makes us wonder how much we really do. Niebauer doubts that we can ever completely escape ourselves and become as ‘enlightened’ as we want, but he thinks we can be more aware. If you are interested in Eastern Philosophy you will definitely find this book different from most of the subjects you have. If you are interested in learning more about how the brain works you will also be interested in this volume. I am happy to rate this book as four stars out of five.

Source

McAdams, Dan P. The Stories We Live: Personal Myths and Self-Making:__ New York, New York: The Guilford Press, c1993.

Niebauer, Chris. The Neurotic’s Guide to Self-Enlightenment: How the Left Brain Plays Endless Games of Self-Promotion:__ Denver, Colorado: Outskiris Press, c2014.

Watts, Alan W. The Wisdom of Insecurity:__ New York, New York: Vintage Books, c1951.

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