Polygrapher A found X to be guilty, B found Y to be guilty, and C found Z to be guilty. Research has shown that lie detector tests are quite unreliable--they're open to a lot of subjective interpretation. If a polygrapher has a preconceived notion of who's guilty, he can interpret the data to confirm to his preconceived belief, spelling real trouble for suspected individuals.11 Could confirming strategies actually affect the type of sentences handed down in court? One study investigated the sentences that would be given if jurors considered the harshest, versus most lenient, verdict first.12 In most criminal cases, a jury is told to first decide if the defendant is guilty of the greatest offense that he or she is charged with. If reasonable doubt exists on that charge, they then proceed down the list to progressively lesser charges. For example, a jury often considers whether a defendant is guilty of first-degree murder, and if they can't agree on that verdict, they evaluate second-degree murder. This approach may bias the verdict delivered. People often cling to the first hypothesis considered, and then search for confirming evidence to support that hypothesis. If juries consider the harshest (most lenient) verdict first, they may focus on data supporting that charge, and render a harsher (more lenient) verdict. Two experiments investigated this issue. In the first, participants, acting as jurors, decided whether a defendant was guilty of first- or second-degree murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, or was not guilty. The case materials were adapted from an actual murder trial, where there were no eyewitnesses and most of the evidence was circumstantial. Half of the participants were asked to consider the harshest verdict first (murder in the first degree) and then proceed to progressively more lenient verdicts, while the other half started with the most lenient verdict (not guilty). Amazingly, 87.5 percent of the jurors chose not guilty if they started with a lenient verdict, while only 25 percent chose not guilty when starting with a harsh verdict! A second experiment examined more jurors and added some new twists (e.g., whether the jurors were rushed or not rushed to enter a verdict). The verdicts were scored on a scale, with one indicating not guilty and five indicating guilty of first-degree murder. When jurors were not rushed, the average verdict in the harsh to lenient condition was 3.26, while it was only 2.20 in the lenient to harsh condition. That could mean the difference between being found guilty of voluntary manslaughter versus involuntary manslaughter, convictions that carry very different sentences. Thus, defendants can receive harsher verdicts when a harsher crime is considered first, and more lenient verdicts when a lenient outcome is first evaluated. These results suggest that it may be better for a judge just to provide definitions of the charges, and not dictate the order in which they should be considered.

In fact, one could argue that since we have a presumption of innocence that considering the most lenient verdict first would be more in line with our judicial philosophy. Vipassana meditation is an exercise in mindfulness, that is, in egoless awareness. It is a procedure in which the ego will be eradicated by the penetrating gaze of mindfulness. The practitioner begins this process with the ego in full command of mind and body. Then, as mindfulness watches the ego function, it penetrates to the roots of the mechanics of ego and extinguishes ego piece by piece. There is a full-blown Catch-22 in all this, however. Mindfulness is egoless awareness. If we start with ego in full control, how do we put enough mindfulness there at the beginning to get the job started? There is always some mindfulness present in any moment. The real problem is to gather enough of it to be effective. To do this we can use a clever tactic. We can weaken those aspects of ego that do the most harm so that mindfulness will have less resistance to overcome. Greed and hatred are the prime manifestations of the ego process. To the extent that grasping and rejecting are present in the mind, mindfulness will have a very rough time. The results of this are easy to see. If you sit down to meditate while you are in the grip of some strong obsessive attachment, you will find that you will get nowhere. If you are all hung up in your latest scheme to make more money, you probably will spend most of your meditation period doing nothing but thinking about it. If you are in a black fury over some recent insult, that will occupy your mind just as fully. There is only so much time in one day, and your meditation minutes are precious. It is best not to waste them.

The Theravada tradition has developed a useful tool that will allow you to remove these barriers from your mind at least temporarily, so that you can get on with the job of removing their roots permanently. You can use one idea to cancel another. You can balance a negative emotion by instilling a positive one. Giving is the opposite of greed. Benevolence is the opposite of hatred. Understand clearly now: this is not an attempt to liberate yourself by autohypnosis. You cannot condition enlightenment. Nibbana is an unconditioned state. A liberated person will indeed be generous and benevolent, but not because she has been conditioned to be so. She will be so purely as a manifestation of her own basic nature, which is no longer inhibited by ego. So this is not conditioning. This is rather psychological medicine. If you take this medicine according to directions, it will bring temporary relief from the symptoms of the malady from which you are currently suffering. Then you can get to work in earnest on the illness itself. You start out by banishing thoughts of self-hatred and self-condemnation. You allow good feelings and good wishes first to flow to yourself, which is relatively easy. Then you do the same for those people closest to you. Gradually, you work outward from your own circle of intimates until you can direct a flow of those same emotions to your enemies and to all living beings everywhere. Correctly done, this can be a powerful and transformative exercise in itself. As we have explored in the previous pages, the presence of an addiction significantly contributes to depression .

Even as we look squarely at this disturbing dilemma, let's not lose sight of an inspiring fact: each year, countless people address their addictive behaviors and make substantial progress in overcoming them. And you can too! Begin your journey toward healing with these steps: Get real. You've lived in secrecy and behind a screen of lies for so long that you may feel there's no way back. How can you come clean now after so much time? Rest assured that, even now, people who care about you would rather hear the truth, however painful, than go on struggling with a vague suspicion that something is not right. Getting secrets out of the closet and into the light is remarkably liberating for everyone involved. Freed of that burden, you'll have more energy and motivation to complete the work you've started and beat addiction and depression for good. Get help. It's no accident that every community in America has a wide range of thriving recovery programs available for every addiction you can name. They exist and persist because people exactly like you have discovered an undeniable fact: they can't succeed alone. Help can also come in the form of professional counseling, trusted friends and family, and involvement in faith communities. Get active. Wanting to recover is not enough. Healing is something you do, not passively receive. Make a list of steps you can take right now to be free. Guard against populating your plan with only low-hanging fruit. Include items that scare you, that you think are impossible--and do them anyway. Get out. If shopping is your compulsion, get out of the mall.

If it's drinking, get out of the bar. In other words, the thing that has you trapped exists in a particular environment, associated with a known group of people, at certain times of day, and under predictable circumstances. Make a list of what those are, and then remove yourself from them. Get accountable. Your brain is a smooth talker, especially when in search of a dopamine fix. Its justifications seem reasonable and harmless enough when confined to your private, inner dialogue. But speak them out loud to someone who has agreed to help you make good choices, and those arguments become much easier to see for what they are. With that in mind, it's no wonder that people are so quick to go after people they don't know, making snap judgments, getting angry over small slights and generating enmity with people they might never see again (or worse, people they will see every day). There are stressed out, angry at people who will always be generally unhappy in the world. But, it doesn't have to be like that. A few simple adjustments to your mind set can make it far easier to be nice to the random strangers you run into each day. They could be a complete jerk, but what if they were? Do you really think someone so callous they just run into people without a thought would be affected by your rudeness? Probably not. More than likely, they would feed off of it and become even more upset. And now, you're just feeding a cycle that will further anger you and cause rudeness to the next stranger you meet, possibly someone who could use your empathy. So, the next time you meet a perfect stranger or run into someone at random in a less than ideal situation, consider what they might be going through. Simple empathy and a friendly mind set can make a HUGE difference in your social fortunes. Humans are problem solvers. We can see a problem, analyze it and develop solutions to that problems using our experience, sometimes instantly.