Sharon Rostosky and Ellen Riggle: How Same-Sex Couples Can Actively Manage Stress

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, Susan Herman, Developmental Editor and consultant for APA Books, spoke with Sharon S. Rostosky and Ellen D. B. Riggle, professors at University of Kentucky. APA Books published Rostosky & Riggle’s book Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community in early 2015.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

 

Rostosky headshot

Sharon S. Rostosky, PhD, is a licensed psychologist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  She joined the counseling psychology program at the University of Kentucky in 1999, where she is currently a professor and director of training.  Her research, published in more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented in numerous workshops for professional and general audiences, focuses on minority stress and well-being in individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer and in same-sex couples.

Riggle

Ellen D. B. Riggle, PhD, is a professor in the departments of Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Kentucky.  She is the coeditor of Sexual Identity on the Job and Gays and Lesbians in the Democratic Process.  She has published more than 60 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and books.

 

More information about the work of Dr. Riggle and Dr. Rostosky can be found on their website: www.prismresearch.org 

SH: Happy Together was released a few months shy of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges) that all 50 states in the USA must license and recognize same-sex marriages. What other aspects of the legal landscape have changed since early 2015 regarding same-sex couples?

SR & ER: It’s true that same-sex marriages are legally recognized in all 50 states now. However, there has been an increase in the number of states introducing and passing so-called “religious freedom” laws.  The way that many of these laws are worded effectively gives businesses and institutions the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBT individuals and eliminates any legal recourse by the targets of discrimination.

Some states have also introduced legislation that would allow government officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to or perform marriages for same-sex couples.

Probably the most important aspect of the legal landscape are the things that haven’t changed.  For example, it is still legal in the majority of states to discriminate against LGBT people in jobs, services, and housing.  Marriage equality itself does not protect same-sex couples or LGBT individuals from discrimination.

Marriage equality also has not automatically led to equal parental rights for same-sex couples in all states.  Parental rights are still being questioned in many jurisdictions upon the birth or adoption of a child by same-sex couples.

SH: It’s common to hear about things that put stress on couples, like economic uncertainty, the high cost of child care, or addiction to smartphones and social media. Same-sex and different-sex couples, presumably, deal with all these same issues. What are some distinct concerns touching same-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Our research and that of other scholars shows that public debates surrounding anti-LGBT laws increase minority stress.  The current political environment has many uncertainties for same-sex couples and there is a real fear that the progress of LGBT rights will be halted and that the protections enacted in the past few years may be repealed.  This anxiety puts increased stress on couples that they need to constructively manage.

We wrote Happy Together specifically to help couples develop their strengths to deal with this type of environmental stress.

Because same-sex relationships are still stigmatized, same-sex couples are more likely to experience rejection from members of their family of origin. Imagine not having social support from your family, plus having to make the extra effort to set up appropriate boundaries with one or more especially prejudiced family members.

Same-sex couples may also have to expend more time and energy finding community support than different-sex couples.  For instance, same-sex couples may have to work harder to find an LGBTQ-affirmative religious or spiritual community, or an affirmative health service provider.

Same-sex couples also have to negotiate how “out” each partner will be in their respective workplaces, especially if one or both couple members 

lack basic workplace protections like inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Same-sex couples who are parents worry about how their children and family will be treated by neighbors and school personnel.  These couples tend to spend more time than other parents advocating at their children’s school.

When they’re also subjected to prejudice based on racial identities, immigration status, economic disadvantage, disability, etc., same-sex couples can face significant stress.  What we have learned in our research, however, is that despite these challenges, same-sex couples can and do create enduring and satisfying relationships.

SH: In your clinical work, do you see particular strengths emerging from same-sex couple relationships that you might not see as often with different-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Same-sex couples often attribute their relationship satisfaction and longevity to their ability to create meaning and purpose out of their negative experiences.  For instance, same-sex couples might draw on their experience to understand and empathize with other marginalized groups and engage in social activism. Same-sex couples often create “families of choice” and rely on these families for social support, as well as provide support for others.

In our many interviews with same-sex couples over the years, we have witnessed how they cope by using humor and expressing appreciation for their similarities and differences.

We’ve also found that same-sex couples are more likely than different-sex couples to equally share responsibility for maintaining their relationship, by actively talking through and negotiating differences. We think this is because, without strict gender roles, same-sex couples feel more free to write their own relationship scripts.

SH: In addition to seeking out LGBTQ-affirming community resources and helping professionals, what can same-sex couples do to lower their stress levels and build themselves up? happy together

SR & ER: For people who like to read, we of course recommend our books. We have translated 15 years of basic research into two accessible books. Our first one, A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-being, is a resource for recognizing and using LGBTQ identity strengths. The second book, Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community, focuses on helping same-sex couples deal with minority stress. Both books are full of conversation starters and exercises.

One exercise in A Positive View of LGBTQ presents a “starter list” of self-care activities for readers to consider and build upon.

One activity in Happy Together guides couples to reflect on times when they anticipate rejection at work and then discuss how that fear affects their couple relationship. We give examples about how to take anxious thoughts and construct more helpful messages that can help them cope.

When we talk to same-sex couples who have been together 25, 35, 45 years, they tell us that one ‘secret to their success’ as a couple was building on their shared values and engaging in experiences that kept them learning and growing together. Shared values may involve recreational activities, spiritual/religious/educational pursuits, and commitments to making the world a more compassionate and supportive place through artistic expression, volunteerism, or community organizing.

Making a commitment to social change and social action is another powerful way to counter stress. We’ve met couples who engage in social activism on behalf of other oppressed minorities, women, people with AIDS, homeless youth, animals, the environment, food security—and that type of engagement is part of what makes their relationship flourish.

A good piece of advice for same-sex couples (and for anyone) doing social justice activism is to balance it with self-care and couple-care.  Couples must keep their relationship healthy and strong because, as Dr. Glenda Russell reminds us, we must take the long view or a “movement perspective” when it comes to bringing about social change.

 

 

 

 

Paul J. Silvia: On Writing

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, Linda McCarter, Senior Acquisitions Editor at APA Books, spoke with Paul Silvia, Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He is the author of many journal articles and books, including Write It Up: Practical Strategies for Writing and Publishing Journal Articles (2015); Public Speaking for Psychologists: A Lighthearted Guide to Research Presentations, Job Talks, and Other Opportunities to Embarrass Yourself (2010, with David B. Feldman); and the bestseller How to Write A Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2007).  In November, we published his most recent book, What Psychology Majors Could (and Should) Be Doing, Second Edition: A Guide to Research Experience, Professional Skills, and Your Options After College, with Peter F. DeLaney and Stuart Marcovitch.   

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

 

paul silvia

Paul J. Silvia, PhD, is a social-personality psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He has served as the director of the department’s honors program, and he teaches undergraduate courses on creativity, personality, academic writing, and professional skills.  

LM: You’ve been writing about writing for a long time. Has your own writing process changed over time? If so, how?

PS: My “process” is basically obdurate stubbornness: write according to a schedule, typically a bit every weekday morning. If we write a little every week, things will work out. People spend so much less time writing than they think they do.

The scheduled times, though, have changed. Having kids shifted my writing to much earlier in the morning than before, but I still write every weekday. I probably spend less time writing than I did in 2007 (around 10-12 hours a week instead of 20), but I use my time better and choose my writing commitments more carefully.

LM: What writers, academic or otherwise, have influenced you?

PS: My own sense of style owes much to William Zinsser and Sheridan Baker. Baker’s book The Practical Stylist had an enormous effect on my writing. My writing seems warmed-over if you read his book.

Anyone looking to write a book ought to read Scott Norton’s Developmental Editing, which mixes practical advice and quirky hilarity in a way I admire.

Beyond the books about writing, I owe a lot to two psychology professors I worked with as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California: Denis Mitchell and Shelley Duval. Denis Mitchell was the first person to explain to me that writing is the crux of all scholarship. He used to say “Write the book!” meaning that the people who are known for an idea are the ones who wrote review articles and books about it, not necessarily the ones who had the best ideas and did the best studies. It’s hard to unpack all that I learned from Shelley. He invited me to co-author a book with him even though I was still in grad school.

In hindsight, I can see how lucky I was to get such good mentorship as an undergrad, so undergraduate professional development is one of my passions.

LM: What are you reading currently? 

PS: In 2016 I combined two self-betterment goals: (1) waste less time reading online and spend more time with actual books, and (2) read the books I own before buying new ones. I’m going to roll this goal over in 2017 because I’ve been tearing through my shelves.

I tend to impulsively grab non-fiction books that seem interesting, so the topics are eccentric.

I just finished reading The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art, by Anjan Chatterjee. It’s an elegant and provocative book. Before that, I read Felix Martin’s Money: An Unauthorized Biography, a quirky history of the development of money over the centuries, and Alexis McCrossen’s Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life, a fascinating look at the concepts of time and modernity in American history.

Next up is probably Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M. Kennedy. (I’m trying to read the entire Oxford History of the United States).

LM: In November, we released the second edition of What Psychology Majors Could (and Should) Be Doing: An Informal Guide to Research Experience and Professional Skills, which you wrote with Peter Delaney and Stuart Marcovich. What do you think has changed since the first edition came out in 2009?  What should psychology majors be doing differently today, and what does the new book do differently?

PS: The post-college landscape is so different for psychology majors now. We wrote the first edition at the tail end of the boom years, when psychology majors easily found jobs right after college. Because of the bright economy, students handled career uncertainty more easily.

These days, the competition for graduate school spots and jobs is much more intense. I think students are thinking about their post-college life with a colder, more pragmatic eye. They want to know that something will be lined up after graduation.

The new edition resembles an all-new book. It is 50% longer and 40% less zany (let’s just say that not all jokes age well). We have much more to say about the world of work, writing CVs and personal statements, and about the nuts and bolts of preparing for jobs and for grad school.

write it upLM: What prompted you to write Write It Up, and how does it differ from How to Write A Lot?

PS: How to Write A Lot focused on motivational problems in writing, and I think most of its audience is outside of psychology. Write It Up is a “street level” look at writing empirical articles for fields that follow the APA Style Intro-Method-Results-Discussion format.

Like anything else, article writing is easier when you have some tricks, tips, and strategies. I try to distill what I learned the hard way and what others graciously taught me. It starts with picking projects worth writing up and choosing journals, shifts to writing the sections of the article, and ends with dealing with journals.

how to write a lotOddly, a theme of Write It Up is that we should probably write less. I think people should “write for impact” instead of for “mere publication.” People will accomplish more if they focus on their best ideas and craft their papers to be as compelling as possible.

I had wanted to write a book about how to write good journal articles for a long time. But most of these strategies are tacit, and I couldn’t work out my ideas on paper. It took me much, much longer to plan and write Write It Up than most of my other books.

For what it’s worth, I’m proudest of the writing in Write It Up. It was hard to pull off.

 

LM: On your research page, I noticed that one of your interests is interest. What first got you interested in interest? And how do you study interest?

PS: A person who studies interest and curiosity ought to have an answer to that, but I don’t. I suspect that I got into this field because my curiosity is easily tickled, and I take on new hobbies more often than is prudent for a grown man.

Most of my research on interest is done in the context of aesthetics and the arts. It’s a small but valiant area with some incredible researchers. It’s easier to study interest in a context like art than in other areas, like academic ideas, essays, or people.

LM: On a personal note, I know you like to buy and restore old watches. Are you working on any now? What is it about restoring watches that you find appealing?

PS: I do catch-and-release watchmaking as a hobby: find them, fix them, and let them back into the stream for someone else to use and enjoy.

A recent patient belongs to a friend of mine. It’s a big Elgin pocket watch from 1890 (a 15J “G.M. Wheeler” Grade 75, for the fans out there). It was the watch his grandfather used while working in a sawmill, and the case has some scary nicks in it. After that, I have a big pile of Illinois pocket watches waiting in intensive care. I blog about the watches I work on in what might be the world’s least necessary blog: AdjustingVintageWatches.com.

The inner workings of watches are so complex and elegant that it is amazing that people made them so long ago. Watches have dozens of absurdly tiny parts, some measured in the hundredths of millimeters. Placing a .08 mm staff into a .085 mm hole requires a patience and inner calm that doesn’t come naturally to me.

LM: Are you writing anything now?  

PS: The academic life has grant-writing seasons and book-writing seasons. I think the long, bitter winter of grant-writing is nearly over, and the book ideas are coming out of their houses and starting to shovel the sidewalks.

I write down all my ideas for books and articles, and I have around 30 book ideas. Around 18 of them are inane and 2 are good, but I don’t know which 2 yet.

 

 

Jason Ong: On Mindfulness for Insomnia

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this author interview, David Becker, a Development Editor at APA Books, talked with Jason Ong, PhD, about his recent book, Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

 

Jason Ong, PhD, Neurology/Sleep Disorders

Jason Ong, PhD, Neurology/Sleep Disorders

Jason C. Ong, PhD, is an associate professor in the department of neurology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Ong developed mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI) as an innovative group intervention for treating chronic insomnia. MBTI unites the principles and practices of mindfulness therapy with the behavioral strategies of cognitive–behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). He writes about the theoretical foundations of MBTI and its implementation in his recent publication with APA Books, Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia. He also recently released a video, Mindfulness for Insomnia, in which he demonstrates how to conduct an MBTI session. Dr. Ong’s work has been published in various academic journals, including JAMA Internal Medicine, SLEEP, Behavior Research and Therapy, and the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Chronic insomnia is a notoriously difficult disorder to treat. Even when treatments provide some relief, it only seems to be temporary in many cases. Why is insomnia so resistant to treatment?

Chronic insomnia is often perpetuated by cognitive and behavioral changes that develop in response to persistent sleep disturbances. For example, people who experience several nights of poor sleep may try to go to bed earlier or stay in bed longer in the morning as a means of coping with the sleep disturbance. This also sets the stage for worrying about sleep and modifying behaviors based on contingencies (e.g., going to bed earlier in anticipation of needing to “function well” the next day). As a result, more effort is put into making sleep happen, which disrupts the brain’s natural regulation of sleep.

What is mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI)? How is it similar to or different from other mindfulness-based therapies?

MBTI is a new treatment for insomnia that uses the practice of mindfulness meditation to help people with insomnia. It is primarily aimed at decreasing the effort to sleep through the principles of mindfulness and allowing the brain to regulate sleep without “getting in the way.” MBTI is similar to other MBTs such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in its use of mindfulness principles and meditation practices. Unlike other MBTs, MBTI includes specific behavioral recommendations that are designed to promote sleep regulation. Therefore, it might be seen as a version of MBSR that is tailored for people with insomnia.

What are some of the most common challenges that instructors and clients encounter in MBTI, and how are they addressed?

For clients, it can be difficult to practice the principles of non-striving and non-attachment to wanting more sleep. Insufficient sleep does have consequences, such as low mood and energy, so it is very challenging to be patient while practicing mindfulness and allow the brain to regulate sleep. Most people are used to being problem solvers and putting forth more effort to accomplish something, but this is one situation where trying harder does not help. For example, doing internet searches for different ways to sleep (e.g., drinking chamomile tea, reading a boring book) and then trying each of these techniques until something works tends to promote anxiety about sleep rather than relaxation.

For instructors, it can be difficult to listen mindfully to the client who is suffering or to refrain from trying to fix things for the client. MBTI instructors are most effective in teaching mindfulness skills when they

embody the principles of mindfulness, so the theme of non-attachment to outcomes can be a challenge for both instructors and clients.

What inspired you to develop MBTI?

On a personal level, I have always had an interest in Eastern philosophy. As a student, one of my favorite hobbies was reading books on Buddhism, especially those by the Dalai Lama. As I moved into my professional career, I really enjoyed working with insomnia patients. I was trained in cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) but found that sometimes the traditional CBT approaches were not sufficient. Some people reacted negatively to getting out of bed or spending less time in bed, and it seemed like a power struggle to get these patients to comply with CBT. By bringing my personal interests into my clinical work, I found that mindfulness and self-compassion could provide a different approach to help people work out of the problem of chronic insomnia. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who supported this idea, and off we went!

In your book, you clarify that MBTI is series of group exercises that should be administered by a licensed instructor. It’s not simply a matter of meditating oneself to sleep. Even so, is there a simple mindfulness exercise and/or a key piece of advice that you can offer readers who suffer from insomnia—something that they can use in their everyday life?

The trainspotting exercise can serve as a good starting point for understanding mindfulness and working with racing thoughts associated with insomnia. The exercise entails imagining oneself standing on a train platform and observing thoughts going by as if they were trains passing through a busy station. Inevitably, the mind will wander and we will “step into a train” by engaging in a thought or analyzing it. Here, we practice self-compassion by acknowledging that we have stepped into a train and without judgment, we step off the train and return to platform to continue trainspotting.

By practicing how to just watch thoughts rather than engage with them or analyze their contents, we learn how to work with a busy mind in a different way. Instead of trying to clear the mind to make sleep happen (which is not likely to work) we can be a trainspotter of the mind, which reduces the struggle to control thoughts and allows sleep to emerge.

Clara Hill on Consensual Qualitative Research

Clara E. Hill PhD is a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland in College Park and one of the nation’s premier research psychologists. A former president of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, Dr. Hill is a recipient of the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy‘s Distinguished Psychologist Award.  She has authored or edited eleven books on psychotherapy and psychotherapy research, including the seminal textbook Helping Skills: Facilitating Exploration, Insight, and Action, now in its fourth edition .

In the video interview below, Dr. Hill discusses her book Consensual Qualitative Research: A Practical Resource for Investigating Social Science Phenomena, published by APA Books in 2012.  Consensual Qualitative Research, or CQR, is an inductive research method characterized by open-ended interview questions, small samples, a reliance on words over numbers, an emphasis on context, the integration of multiple viewpoints, and coming to a consensus within the research team. Hill discusses her motivations for writing Consensual Qualitative Research, and briefly describes the key attributes and comparative strengths of an approach that can generate rich descriptions of inner experiences, attitudes, and convictions.

A transcript of this video is available here.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

Imants Barušs and Julia Mossbridge: On the Transcendent Mind

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. In this interview, Ron Teeter, Technical Editing and Design Supervisor at APA Books, spoke with Imants Barušs, BSc, MSc, PhD, and Julia Mossbridge, PhD.  Their book, Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness was recently released by APA Books.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association. 

baruss-headshot

Imants Barušs is a professor of psychology at King’s University College at Western University where he has been teaching undergraduate courses about consciousness for 29 years. His research has been focused on the fundamental nature of consciousness, with academic papers having been published not only in consciousness journals but also psychology, philosophy, physics, mathematics, anthropology, and other science journals. He is the author of five previous books including Authentic Knowing and Alterations of Consciousness.

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Julia Mossbridge is an experimental psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a Visiting Scholar in Psychology at Northwestern University. She pursues an understanding of time, especially in terms of the relationships between conscious and non-conscious processing of events. In 2014, she received the Charles Honorton Integrative Contributions award for her work in bringing the phenomenon of presentiment to the mainstream. She is the author of Unfolding: The Science of Your Soul’s Work and the upcoming mystical/philosophical adventure The Garden: An Inside Experiment.

Your new book is titled Transcendent Mind. What does that mean?

IB: By “transcendent mind” we mean that mind cannot be fully explained in physical terms.

JM: We examine data pertaining to the idea that there is a nonlocal mental aspect to us – an extended and shared mind. Another name for this mind is “transcendent” because, to the extent it exists, it seems to transcend our waking experience as well as our physical boundaries.

How do you see this book as fitting in with the field of consciousness studies today?

IB: Consciousness studies has become its own discipline with contributions from psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, philosophy, medical science, physics, anthropology, religious studies, and other disciplines. This book is timely because we are reflecting the growing recognition in the field of consciousness studies that consciousness is an ontologically primary aspect of reality.

JM: When writing this book, we kept in mind that consciousness studies curricula are cross-disciplinary. Consciousness studies asks, “How can we use physics, biology, sociology, psychology – all the academic tools at our disposal – to answer this one question: How does consciousness work?” The question is difficult enough and complex enough that to even begin to address it requires bringing together multiple disciplines.

Throughout Transcendent Mind, you emphasize that there is a credible case to be made for a paradigm shift in how we study the mind. Can you offer an example or two here? What would you like to see the field move toward?

IB: The paradigmatic cases are those in which a person who has had a near-death experience subsequently makes veridical reports of events that occurred during a time when there was insufficient brain activity of the sort that is usually thought to be required for perception and cognition to occur. There are no adequate conventional explanations of such reports. I would like to see the field of consciousness studies move toward an exploration of alternative theories, along with experiments and field studies to test those theories.

JM: The evidence from carefully controlled telepathy, precognition, and clairvoyance studies indicate that there is some aspect of the mind that is nonlocal. An example will not do this research justice, as frankly for most of us in our everyday consciousness we do not experience these events, and when we think we do, we can easily dismiss them because they arose in situations that were not well controlled. Other explanations can always be found outside the rigor of a controlled experiment, and in many cases, these other explanations are correct. What I would like to see the field move toward is a willingness to examine these results, which have been replicated in some cases more than most other psychology and physiology results, with the seriousness they deserve. In order to get there, we must first acknowledge and remove a great deal of persistent and unscientific knee-jerk bias against these results.

You open your first chapter, “Beyond Materialism,” with the quotation “The idea that consciousness may be fundamental and matter secondary is gaining ground.” How so?

IB: Science, in brief, is the activity of continuously generating empirical data and of discarding theories with poor goodness-of-fit and replacing

them with theories with better goodness-of-fit. With that quotation we are suggesting that there is growing recognition by scientists that the theory that matter is primary and consciousness is secondary is being replaced by the theory that consciousness is primary and matter is secondary.

JM: The idea that matter is fundamental and creates consciousness does not seem to work, so people interested in understanding consciousness are turning to other ideas. In the past decade or so we have seen formalized hints from clinical psychologists, experimental psychologists, and neuroscientists that the idea that consciousness is fundamental is perhaps not beyond the pale. For instance, we refer in the book to a set of papers from clinical psychologists that explore seriously the idea that telepathy may occur in the therapeutic setting. Experimental psychologists have been quietly examining access to extended (non-local) mental abilities such as precognition and clairvoyance. Neuroscientists are now discussing a pantheistic view – that everything has consciousness in it – which is difficult to separate from the idea that consciousness is fundamental.

I’m quoting from your Introduction: “The purpose of this book is to explore what consciousness looks like when we do not automatically assume that consciousness must arise from the workings of matter.” Why do you think that the pursuit of so fundamental a question inspires such resistance among scientists, especially when vast majorities of people profess religious beliefs that paint a similar picture?

IB: That is an empirical question for which psychologists, who study human behavior, have answers. We give some of those answers in Chapter 1 “Beyond Materialism.” In brief, the relevant parameters are a list of the usual suspects, highlighted perhaps by critical thinking being drowned out by compliance with normative behavior.

JM: For decades neuroscientists were taught that our subjective experience is an illusion (discounting the obvious fact that illusions are subjective experiences themselves). To me, the impressively strong dismissal of the only thing that we can actually be sure of – that we have subjective experience – suggests that scientists, and probably others, have to be scared of something. What is that? Well, I think many people have an intuition about how consciousness really works, but it is more unconscious in some people than others. The intuition is that at some basic level we are all connected – there is no clear boundary between some aspects of ourselves. This lack of boundaries suggests a lack of control, which can induce fear in all of us. At the risk of seeming too Freudian, one might imagine that the more unconscious this intuition is, the less likely someone will recognize it as an accurate intuition and the more likely it will only manifest fearful behavior as its telltale signature.

There appears to be a growing recognition in psychology of the importance of spirituality in clients’ worldviews, and certainly APA has published significantly in this area. Do you see the concept of transcendent mind as having reverberations here?

IB: My background is in mathematics and experimental psychology, and Julia’s background is in neuroscience and experimental psychology, so we simply allowed the arguments for transcendent mind to naturally grow out of the science itself without the use of the s-word. The overlap between what we have written and “spirituality” of various sorts can be developed by those who are interested in doing so. In fact, I myself have previously written two books along those lines: Authentic Knowing: The Convergence of Science and Spiritual Aspiration (Purdue University Press, 1996) and Science as a Spiritual Practice (Imprint Academic, 2007).

JM: The “s-word” Imants is referring to is “spirituality” – we use the “science” word a lot, and it is science we are trained to do. But yes, people interested in spirituality tend to be interested in exploring the idea of a transcendent or non-physical mind. As to books about the science of spirituality, I too have written one: Unfolding: The Perpetual Science of Your Soul’s Work (New World Library, 2002).

In one chapter you review near-death experiences, a subject that is often given much attention in the popular media. You state that “the evidence could be read as indicating that, in some exceptional cases, the more the brain is compromised, the greater the clarity of mental activity when it comes to perceiving information that seems normally to be hidden from the realm of our ordinary experiences.” This is one of a number of directions in which you discuss and present evidence for the separation of mind from brain. How close do you think we are – in the scientific community and society – to taking this seriously?

IB: We give some of the survey data to answer that question in the book. In general, I would summarize those data by saying that the idea that the mind could be separate from the brain is taken seriously by a much greater proportion of the scientific community than we are led to believe, because scientists who take that idea seriously stay silent so as to avoid reprisals. One of the purposes of our book is to encourage other scientists who have similar ideas to speak up. In “society,” outside the scientific community and away from formal institutions of various sorts, the notion of a mind separate from the brain is, arguably, the normative view.

JM: However, this societal or non-academic view is rarely made explicit or rigorously tested, even in thought experiments. It is more the folk view that “mind” and “body” are separate, which doesn’t inform us about their relationship. That’s one of the difficulties here; the data support both clear instances in which changes in the brain’s status influence the mind – in both directions! In some cases you have a demonstrable, seemingly causal relationship between brain and mind – and in other cases you have a demonstrable, seemingly causal relationship between mind and brain. So the integration of these data, rather than falling on one side of a philosophical debate or another, is what we are attempting to facilitate.

You’ve probably answered this question, or a variation of it, many times, but have either or both of you had a particular experience, or experiences, that led you to take on the subjects in Transcendent Mind?

IB: I became intellectually interested in the subject matter of Transcendent Mind as a child and have continued to study it ever since. Personal experiences came much later, first, in the form of precognitive dreams, and, years later, as remote viewing and influencing. I have described those experiences in a separate book titled The Impossible Happens (Iff Books, 2013).

JM: For me it was the reverse. As a child I had multiple precognitive dreams that were about mundane occurrences, but were remarkably specific. I kept a dream journal to make sure I wasn’t just confabulating my memories. These experiences continuously reminded me that we do not understand time very well. As an adult I had a near-death experience and a healing experience that were both so remarkable that I had to think about alternatives to materialism.