Alex Lickerman MD – The Path to true happiness via Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science

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Alex Lickerman is a physician, former assistant professor of medicine, former director of primary care, and former assistant vice president for Student Health and Counseling Services at the University of Chicago. He currently leads a direct primary care private practice in Chicago called ImagineMD.

Alex’s first book, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, published in 2012, has received numerous favorable reviews from many sources, including Publishers Weekly and his follow up THE TEN WORLDS: The New Psychology of Happiness written alongside his friend Ash El Difrawi has received critical acclaim from the literary psychology movement in how it blends the latest scientific research with ancient Buddhist philosophy.

Alex has extensive speaking experience, having given talks at medical conferences throughout his career including a talk to an audience of over 3,000 at a Pri-Med Conference put on jointly by the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Alex has been quoted in Crain’s Chicago Business, The Chicago Tribune, Men’s Health, The New York Times, and TIME, and has had articles appear in Psychology Today, Crain’s Chicago Business, USA Today, Slate, The Huffington Post, Counselor Magazine, and Medicine on the Midway. He’s also been a guest on NPR’s On Point. He’s also written a television pilot called Sessions that was optioned by DreamWorks Television, as well as several movie screenplays, including an adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Alex and I discussed the following in our conversation:

  • How Alex was inspired to write his recent book over 20 years ago after getting involved in a secular form of Buddhism.
  • The philosophical idea he discovered around the 10 worlds and how we cycle through these life states.
  • How Alex’s best friend Ash became very interested in the Buddist philosophy and their joining together to write a book around happiness which is also linked to modern psychology.
  • The way in which they were looking to hypothesize the Buddhist model, and create the notion that what creates these different worlds are our beliefs.
  • How people are frustrated by having more things than ever before, but at the same time as being more unhappy than they have ever been.
  • Hedonic treadmill effect, in acquiring new things and the short lived pleasure.
  • Experience stretching can make you very unhappy but only temporarily
  • How belief systems work and are formed.
  • A belief is an emotional feeling about a statement that is true, we are born with beliefs about happiness but are also formed during life.
  • How we form these core beliefs or core delusions as Alex calls it.
  • The part dopamine plays in the reward mechanism of our brains and how it is the wanting chemical.
  • In people who are drug addicted the spike of dopamine in their brains is far out of proportion to people who are not drug addicts. The effect of dopamine in Parkinson’s patients and addiction.
  • There is a difference between pleasure and happiness, but without the feeling of pleasure you cannot feel happiness.
  • We are wired to experience joy when experience something good, but joy, pleasure and happiness fires different parts of the brain.
  • How you can influence the way in which emotional beliefs work, and the difficult part of making the emotional shift in awareness needed.
  • Everyone has potential and awareness to reform their beliefs which are often unconscious.
  • The idea of attachment and why certain types of attachment are healthier than others.
  • 10 worlds (in order of joy, low to high) are Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Tranquillity, Rapture, Learning, Realisation, Compassion, Enlightenment.
  • How we all cycle through the above worlds, and what beliefs throw you into certain worlds.
  • The realisation you can come to about the worlds you spend a lot of time in and awareness.
  • The process of interrupting yourself when caught in a world you don’t want to be into.
  • How the attainment of happiness in the first 9 worlds are dependent on attachment but in the 10th world (enlightenment) happiness is based on perceiving something rather than having something.
  • The loss of the sense of self during enlightenment state, and how you feel your best self when you lose your sense of self.
  • The key is to practice losing your sense of self.

How you can get in touch with Alex:

The 10 Worlds Book


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