|A Chemical Universe Within?|
A Brave New Idea?
Huxley accepts the textual facts for what they in fact seem to be and then illustrates them with a telling chemical metaphor that we might now recognize as an early traumatic model for the mystical, perhaps best expressed in this story in the mystical life and psychological sufferings of Dick Price. Here is how Huxley put it in 1944:
"Nothing in our everyday experience gives us any reason for supposing that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen; and yet when we subject water to certain rather drastic treatments, the nature of its constituent elements becomes manifest. Similarly, nothing in our everyday experience gives us much reason for supposing that the mind of the average sensual man has, as one of its constituents, something resembling, or identical with, the Reality substantial to the manifold world; and yet, when that mind is subjected to drastic treatments, the divine element, of which it is in part at least composed, becomes manifest.”
Huxley's wonderful summation of our everyday experience and the nature of its constituent elements, prompted me to write;
It seems to me that we mislead ourselves with language of self-interpretation, using external object analogies to describe our own makeup, as if we are an elaborately assembled French clock? We seem to think and communicate in a narrative of a parts like description, which reflects our instinctual awareness of duality?
A mind-body split which has become dangerously lopsided in our intellectualized, cultural zeitgeist? Is it time for a brave new world to embrace a new idea? That it really is a chemical Universe and we can learn to feel it within, if we can change our metaphors of self-awareness and stop trying to sanctify the mind? That self-deluded Emperor, with no clothes?
Peter Joseph seeks a Utopian future, based on technology and all those shiny objects of an “out there,” consensus reality, not yet realizing that the real territory and the keys to the kingdom, lie within?
My statements about keys and the kingdom within lead me back in time, in that circular pattern that seems to be the nature of life's experience? As if this moment really is eternal, a subtle sense I fell into, back in October-November 2011. After all the reading about the electro-chemical activity of my brain and nervous systems, my taken for granted acceptance of my everyday vocabulary began to change. The notion of object awareness leading to a language inappropriate for an accurate description, of our inner nature had been in the back of my mind for some years. The notion begins to crystallize within my mind, as I try to write about the experience of mental illness, from the inside out;
|I'm discovering my own nature, in understanding madness?|
OCTOBER 2011, BANGKOK, THAILAND.
and be prepared to give up every
preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." _Thomas Huxley
This bed sitter room with its dressing table mirror reflects much of my life story, in separation, in cut-off by a wall from other people, in a lifelong pattern of escape.
“The unconscious pattern’s not the same though, I’m sitting here with new purpose, I’m here to write,” I tell myself. The dressing table mirror is a symbolic reminder of a fall into altered states of mind, a mirror just like it played a starring role at the beginning of my thirty two year long mental illness journey. As an implicit trigger, it has urged to deeper self-reflection, urged me to really feel embodied memories, and let the past be the past. Remembering, just as I used to do, an image comes to mind now, instantly accompanied by thoughts in an escape from feeling. An unconscious cut-off reaction, affecting a mind-body split of unbalanced self awareness, with far too much of my subjective sense of self, bound up in the process of thinking. This was how I‘d lived my life till age 28 too, a bit like a AI robot, there had been to little spontaneous feeling, too little excited expression, too little emotional flow! It was an unbalanced state of body - mind which had served a protective purpose when I was a child. A trauma conditioning of subjective awareness which classically becomes self defeating in early adulthood, especially if the brain growth spurt intended to seek wider group attachments and a mating partner, are thwarted. A trauma conditioning from birthing experience, which made me a classic manic depressive before I learned to identify, by a blended thought/felt awareness, the energy expressions of body/mind.
Through a determined self-education effort, I have learned to be better aware of a body/brain energy expression, which gives rise to an ongoing subjective (mind) experience of being me. I know people don’t normally equate thoughts with body/brain energy expression, yet in our inner environment, where we convert the energy taken in from the external environment, the energy process of turning matter into meta, is exactly what our thoughts are. We just normally take them for granted as simply our thoughts, unless abnormal experience forces a deeper exploration of the hidden processes of how we do, well you or me. You could say that I’ve learned about the combination of physiology and psychology that gives rise to being the proud owner of that often wonderful followed by dreadful, gift and curse that is a bipolar nurtured nature. Through education and experiential learning I’ve been medication and depression free for the past five years. Since 2007 I’ve been on a passionate knowledge quest to understand what makes me tick, beneath observable behaviors, which most people naturally take for granted. I needed to find more detailed explanations if I was ever to change, a by then, twenty seven year pattern of classic manic depression. By that time in my life self preservation was making it essential that I learn as much as I could about what goes on inside my brain and body, or give up. Training to become a therapist since 2003, had shifted my previous acceptance of a brain disease illness, towards the possibility of a developmental disorder. After twenty five years of trusting a diseased brain cause to my altered states of mind, I’d become open to the possibility of a thwarted emotional development, perhaps caused by a traumatic birth experience.
Daily I’ve found myself writing a narration that just doesn’t capture the internal sensations of mania, delusion or depression. It feels like I think with a set of learned words that describe the flow of my experience far too objectively, there are to many, this thing or that thing descriptors? There’s an inexplicable mismatch to the fluid nature of a multiplicity of “all at once” sensation, inside me. Where are the commonly shared words to articulate this subjective sense of being me, within the millisecond passing of any particular moment. We all know its there too? A millisecond fast, instinctual awareness beneath our conscious sense of “I.” Beneath our infamous cognition, lies an evolutionary nature which is largely denied in the cognitive translation of a lived moment. So how do I write about my changing self perception now, about a shift in what was an all too cognitive sense of myself, defined by the objective language of the modern intellect? A shift to an unspeakable sense of awareness, which is more mindless than mindful. A new awareness of the felt sensations which lie beneath these left-brained, auto-biographical cognitions of my life story. That cognitive sense of self best summed up in Uncle Rene’s famous error “I think therefore I am?“ Was there ever a more enticing phrase to secure the intellectual in his ivory tower? Immune to the immediacy of flesh, blood and feelings? A mind split off from the body and stuck in a cul-de-sac in our increasingly cognitive sense of being human? How else would any adult think it reasonable to give powerful anti-psychotic medications to a two year old child? Yet this is happening everyday now. Sometimes I wonder if modern intelligence, isn’t going cognitively crazy?
the expositor of nature, instead of making nature the expositor of language."
_Alexander Brian Johnson.
Of coarse I’m deflecting from the felt sense of being me now, a little bit of intellectual masturbation happening to maintain my body’s homeostasis, it likes to keep me up here in my head, well away from disturbing inner sensations. They’re very clever, these little unconscious tricks, these millisecond physiological reactions, like the instantaneous flight to thinking, when I reach for a solid feeling of painful body memories? We all assume the conscious mind is clever, yet an unconscious guidance system to our lives is not only smarter, its lightning fast. How will I articulate a new understanding and internal awareness, gleaned from reading the academic jargon of nueroscience? A new mindful-mindless approach to inner sensations which allows me to feel my nervous systems stimulation of manic energy? Five years ago I could only dream about having such conscious control over the symptoms of my bipolar disordered conditioning. Fingers have paused on the laptop keyboard, as I wonder if I’m experiencing integration here? Perhaps a further re-authoring of a life narrative, away from a shame fueled self-image, and story I told myself about myself? Hmm! Am I thinking about brain plasticity now, neurons that fire together, wire together, as I learn and continue to practice altering my unconsciously conditioned, nervous system responses? A nervous system intricately and unconsciously involved in the sense of “I“ we label, subjectivity, our subjective sense of being alive?
I have fears you will only yawn and switch off if I start to spout the jargon describing my brains electro-chemical stimulation of my nervous systems? Should I even try to describe how a twin sympathetic and parasympathetic system helps organize my inner world? How do I write about a new awareness of my nervous systems role in my experience of mental illness, when so few will want to read about unconscious physiological reactions underpinning complex emotions and mad states of mind? Surely mental illness is a brain disease process, isn’t it? In a western world convinced that perceptual experience is all about what happens inside the brain, how do I interest a reader in the body's role in mental illness? What about masturbation and the hyper-sexuality of mania though? Orgasm! Now there’s a word intimately connected with the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the not so romantic sounding, sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of it. Yet that’s how we get our rocks off, all those wonderful sensations we experience while having sex, are electro-chemically stimulated by the nervous system. I guess I don’t really have to point the obvious fact that end result of all that erotic stimulation, is a very liquid affair. What else would it be in the reality of this chemical universe, misperceived by the survival instinct of our “objective” logic? Just a little bit of bipolar type 1 spirituality, thrown into the narrative here, and of coarse people like me are just plain crazy, we have a mental illness, don‘t we?
I’m feeling a need to write plainly here with easily understood logic, although when I try to identify and describe the inner experience of madness, our commonsense language fails me miserably. Perhaps I should only describe scenes from manic hyper-sexuality with its amazing control over once premature ejaculation, and ex lovers sparkling eyes while suggesting “you seem to be a bit manic, darling.” Stories of serendipity during high flying mania, coincidences that were not delusions or the illusions of self referential ideation. I could easily fill a book with titillating tales of salacious happenings from beyond the everyday norms of should and should not behaviors? Yet how have life’s normal expectations been for you? Has it been all you grew up to hope and expect it should and should not be? Is there any element of dissonance to your real life experience, a deeper sense of something you can’t quite put your finger on? Something we’re not supposed to speak about, something beneath the surface of our social rituals and acceptable behaviors?
These past four days I’ve been reading the accounts of some quality writers describing their experience of mental illness, despairing of my poor writing skill and sorely frustrated in my earnest desire for deep and honest articulation. Perhaps I should share a few examples;
|“People ask, How did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well. I can't answer the real question. All I can tell them is, It's easy. And it is easy to slip into a parallel universe. There are so many of them: worlds of the insane, the criminal, the crippled, the dying, perhaps of the dead as well. These worlds exist alongside this world and resemble it, but are not in it. - But most people pass over incrementally, making a series of perforations in the membrane between here and there until an opening exists. And who can resist an opening? Girl, Interrupted In the parallel universe the laws of physics are suspended.” (Keyson, 1993). Girl, Interrupted|
|“I lay back onto the pillow, exhausted. But the physical pain didn’t bother me anymore. It was dwarfed by a monstrous wave approaching, the tsunami that I’d been trying to avoid ever since I’d arrived in Santa Fe. I shut my eyes tight, I bit my lip; but I was overwhelmed by the realization that for the first time in my life, I was utterly and completely alone. When I'm manic, all I remember is the moment. When I'm depressed, all I remember is the pain. But the disease thrives on shame, and shame thrives on silence, and I've been silent long enough.” (Cheney, 2008). Manic: A Memoir|
|“I had concluded that I was suffering from a serious depressive illness, and was floundering hopelessly in my efforts to deal with it. Of the many dreadful manifestations of the disease a sense of of self-hatred, a failure of self-esteem, is one of the most universal symptoms. That fall, as the disorder gradually took full possession of my system, I began to conceive that my mind itself was like one of those outmoded small-town telephone exchanges, being gradually inundated by flood-waters: one by one, the normal circuits began to drown, causing some of the instinct and intellect to slowly disconnect.” (Styron, 1990).|
Darkness Visible : A Memoir of Madness
So please, dear God, help me! I so want to write a view of madness as its stimulated within, rather than what it looks like from an objective perception. You see, mad behaviors are really the second part of a two part equation, to use a mathematics analogy, with the first part remaining unobserved in unconscious internal processes. Sitting here I’m perplexed by just how to write about my changed self perception, using the well worn words of objective description we normally take for granted? You know that multitude of grammar dedicated overwhelmingly towards depicting scenes in the external world, not the hidden landscape of our internal, and overwhelmingly chemical world.
How shall I describe my growing felt awareness of unconscious stimulation beneath the constant thinking of my conscious mind, it’s a conundrum that seems to mirror the essential experience of mental illness. How do I convey the concept of a “neuroception” beneath my conscious perceptions, and how it stimulates a subjective awareness of millisecond fast physiological reactions? Like my new awareness of the muscular tensions within my body which correspond with the tone of my thinking, my moods. Like many a good psychiatrist challenged with interpreting the experience of psychosis, I feel inadequately equipped by a learned vocabulary of objective description, miss-matched in relation to an inner life of an overwhelmingly chemical nature. All that I simply took for granted in analogies of a mechanistic self description, don't fit any more. I can't say "I see those cogs turning inside your head," in a clockwork analogy of the brain's 100 million cell chemical reactions any more.
Let me give you another’s example of what I’m trying to say here;
“The importance of language for the formation of one’s self through organizing one’s experience into a coherent core narrative is emphasized, especially as it relates to the micro-sensory experience of the body for which vocabulary is often inadequate. The importance of movement, oscillations, pulsations, and sensations being included in a full experience of a psycho-somatic self is argued. The still open issue of finding adequate cortical representation of the felt sense of these neuroceptive movements is raised.” and, “When I began reading neuroscience, I fell in love with the vocabulary. Words such as neural oscillation, pulsation, or sinusoidal waves, like music, evoked in me a sensory resonance born of a mysteriously intangible recognition. Perplexed, I surmised that this terminology activated contact with a dimension of implicit experience where words bridge the passage of the body through the mind and the mind through the body.” (LaPierre, 2007).
In our everyday lives, which one of us is aware of such fuzzy internal substance, as neural oscillation, pulsation or sinusoidal waves within our organic body/brain? No wonder the good psychiatrist has feelings of inadequacy when confronted with what looks like an incomprehensible madness. How can we hope to understand these organic processes inside, when the language of our logic is so externally oriented by our perception of objects? The brain is not an elaborate clock of intricately bound and moving parts though, its organic functioning is of a seamless chemical kind, nothing like the object oriented language we have learned to use, in understanding ourselves. How can we organize our experience into a coherent core narrative of self understanding, when our language is so overwhelmingly based on an external awareness? Common language is still decades away from incorporating the new internal awareness granted by the technology revolution of the 1990’s. Neuroscience’s new found knowledge of the body/brain as a complete integrated system, dependent on positive and negative feedback signals from both without and within. Human development theory is finding increasingly common ground with systems theories seeking to understand the complexities of the wider cosmos. We are, it seems on the crest of a new awareness that will blow away our objective illusions of a simplified cause and effect reality, in the coming decades.
Indeed, we are getting a practical example of it with the instant interconnectivity of the internet, with its millisecond ping of feedback connections between people's computer screens? Most of us don't understand and certainly don't see the hidden pathways of this amazing technology, yet its a much better analogy for the body/brain than our traditional parts like perception of a clockwork operation? My knee bone may be connected to my thigh bone, There are implications for understanding mental health that are as mind blowing as is the actual experience of mental illness and psychotic states.
Sitting here in this bed sitter room the isolation of a writer’s experience feels like an old familiar pattern sensed within. An internal pattern I’m struggling to articulate due to the mismatch of my learned and taken for granted thoughts. I’m almost sixty now and a long way in time and geography from the safe isolation of my childhood bedroom, yet I’m challenged by vague fears that the hidden patterns of unconscious motivation remain unchanged. "Just what am I sensing here, beneath these automatic thoughts of a learned perception?" I ask myself. I allow an unfocused attention to sift through recent experience in all I've seen, heard and experienced, hoping for hidden pathways of association, to ping a new idea. "Am I sensing the body/brain's unconscious pattern matching here?" I feel a flush of relief, thinking I've identified a vague feeling of regression, its fearful toning of thought, dissolving.
Isolation feels a bit perverse now too, after such a concerted effort to learn about the hidden stimulation of my nervous system. Yet here I am denying myself the practice of a mindful approach and involvement with others, and the steady re-conditioning of my crazy making nervous system. Sod it though! I need to write and I choose to remain self absorbed, with this self stimulated support and the attention distracting company of the TV. Besides, I really need to face this freaking wall mirror, with its implicit triggering of past experience, its symbolic representation of my first manic episode thirty one years ago. I take a moment to look around the room and its bed sitter objects, bed, dressing table, wardrobe, chairs and talking TV. “My arm, hand, fingers resting on laptop keys - my body, brain and a curious mind sensation with its surface perception, failing to grasp its own invention?"
Do you get this notion of an implicit self, a deeper dimension to our experience that the mind passes over somehow, a state of mind taken completely for granted until triggered by an unexpected memory? Do you get long forgotten memories, spontaneously rising to conscious awareness when visiting some place you haven’t been for God knows how many years? What about that sense of you that is kind of beside you all the time, that unobservable part of you that talks to you, “I talk” the psych’s call it. Is that just your mind talking, or something deeper that we might call the implicit self?
Do you get a sense during social interactions, that there is a whole lot going on beneath the surface that we somehow agree not to speak about, preferring mind reading assumptions about other people’s feeling’s and what they might be thinking? Do you drift into daydreams while acting as though your consciously present, that thing we tend to do during a boring classroom lesson? Is daydreaming a dissolving of our objective perception and does daydreaming come from a deeper state of being? If so, what are the hidden mechanisms of our body/brain that enable these simultaneously differing states? Could it be that dreams are a differing state of being because dream was the proto-type of our waking consciousness? In a chapter titled, “Sleep, Arousal, and Mythmaking in the Brain,” Jaak Panksepp, a leading researcher in the neurobiology of emotions, tells us;
“We are forced to contemplate the strange possibility that the basic dream generators are more ancient in brain evolution than are the generators of our waking consciousness.” (Panksepp, 1998).
Consider changed states evoked by the placebo effect for instance, or stage induced hypnosis and what goes on during the oft reported phenomenon of an out of body experience? People report watching their unconscious body being operated on during medical procedures, and it’s a well known experience of people who survive torture. What about an ability to use self hypnosis as an anesthetic? During hypnotherapy training in Sydney Australia I sat in stunned silence watching video footage of a 65 year lady with a history of bad reactions to anesthesia, lie calm and relaxed through a major medical procedure. She used self hypnosis for pain relief while a surgeon cut a big hole in her stomach. It had taken over a year to find a surgeon willing to perform this operation, and he was certain he would have an emergency on his hands not long after he made the first incision. Yet with the help of her hypnosis trainer she provided her own analgesia through an hour long operation.
I remember wondering how could she possibly do that, did she affect some kind of chemical imbalance inside her brain, tricking all those pain receptors? I mean if the body/brain is capable of such unbelievable states of being, then its more than capable of stimulating all sorts of abnormal behaviors. Learning a felt identification and management of my own unconscious stress reactions, has been the key to my mental health recovery.
Anyway, in this particular moment of my life the television is keeping me company. BBC World News with its daily repeated stories are paying tribute to Steve Jobs today, the man from Apple has died. I sight the famous icon and in less than a minute a collage of memory floods through my mind. “How the bleep does that happen?” Memories of reading Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” and how Gregor Samsa turns into a giant dung beetle, or imagines he does? Of Wilhelm Reich’s notions of character armor and its analysis, how muscular tensions and rigid posture reveal our personality traits. Of the hardened shell of Gregor’s dung beetle back and his father killing him by forcefully lodging an apple there in, and fast flowing thoughts about the electro-chemical stimulation of metaphor and its non-verbal meaning.
As the minute continues to enfold I get flashes of last years six week long psychosis, its trance like daydream state fueled by soaring emotions that were stoked daily by lashings of loud evocative music. Memories of self referential messages from the cosmos delivered via a TV, perhaps unconsciously seeking a joyfully hedonic tone for an adaptation of unconscious attachment? You see in manic states I have absolutely no problems approaching myself or others, I just didn’t understand the hidden nature of these trance like illusions. I didn’t understand the thermodynamic nature of body-brain and mind, didn’t know I was trying to thaw the frozen terror at the heart of my unconscious expectations. Getting past my fearfully hesitant approach to other people allows the third branch of my autonomic nervous system to be triggered into action by proximity, by touch, by looks and body language. Its part of our hardwired need of others, our vital dependency on each other.
Further memories flash by, those crazy thoughts about metaphors and prophecy, of reading the Christian Bible as literal history when perhaps it’s about metaphor and a projected future, “God and the hidden mechanisms of nervous system attachment, apple and the tree of knowledge, consciousness and the word, the evolution of the mind and the age we’re now living in, not an ending but a brand new beginning, books about realization and a paradigm shift in an awareness of the self. - Noah’s Ark from the perspective of mammalian evolution and the hidden electro-chemical activity of the brain, perhaps the ark is a metaphor for the brains frontal cortex?”
Really crazy stuff, huh? Perhaps I should be too ashamed to write this down? Perhaps I should go back into my fearfully hardened shell? Bipolar disorder is a medical disease within that part of me we label the brain after all, not a manifestation of my hidden nature? Yet when we consider the electro-chemical activity that gives rise to mind within our body/brain, every single thought is a metaphysical transformation of matter into meta by metabolic processes. From this internal view of electro-chemical processes, what are metaphors, myths and legends articulating from within us? Is our myth making, meaning making mind, trying to articulate its own unconscious processes? Are our universal myths and legends really about the evolving journey of the mind, of human consciousness? Where exactly does a true perception and perspective stand in light of our brand new knowledge?
So I’m sitting here in front of a large timber framed mirror, just like I did in 1980 when a profound shift in body sensation seemed to herald my first manic episode. (See Chp 9) This room is about twice the size of that bedroom in Sydney Australia though, and I’m sat on my office style chair instead of the end of a double bed, playing with a laptop instead of a guitar. Similar to three decades ago I’m looking towards the mirror at my own reflection, although this time I’m deliberately looking for signs of muscular tension. I want to see if I can evoke the same shift in body sensation as I felt back in 1980, if I can consciously shift my nervous systems orientation mechanisms. I need a break from my constantly thinking mind too, from my habitual self support during a lifetime of relative isolation.
Have you had similar feelings of relative isolation, felt alone in a crowded room? A strange sense of being stuck, a hesitant reluctance to move forward, to connect with other people while simultaneously telling yourself that you should? Looking into the mirror as sincerely as I remember doing when I prayed to God back in 1980, a thought springs to mind now. “Was it the first time I’d experienced being truly present, fully grounded and embedded in the moment?” I’m reminded of Eckhardt Tolle’s descriptions of newly felt presence.
“I got up and walked around the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all.” (Tolle, 1990).
I feel my body soften with an involuntary intake of deeper breath. Moving into feeling for tension while looking at my face, I feel around my eyes and will a strained tightness there to release. I bring a felt awareness to my jaw, checking for ubiquitous tensions there while simultaneously, my tongue lets go its usual pressured thrust against the back of my teeth. My lips part and I feel that flowing down sensation as I did in 1980, my thoughts slowing at the same time. I drop this felt attention further down to my chest feeling for any sense of tension around my heart, and noticing a sudden release in tummy knots, along with another spontaneously inhaled and much deeper breath.
I'm still surprised at the depth of relaxation affected by this felt awareness to how my autonomic nervous system unconsciously organizes my body. Still mildly shocked at how disconnected my usual thought fueled sense of self has always been, and how I can‘t think this kind of unspeakable awareness. A now familiar warming sensation heats the soles of my feet, with similar warm tingling sensations in my hands and my finger tips, like pins and needles. No wonder I was so impressed by this shift into body state awareness back in 1980, I only wish I had not been so completely ignorant as to the nature of its electro-chemical stimulation. This reminds me of Peter Levine's description of sensations of warmth in the limbs of PTSD sufferers, as he teaches them how to release the trapped survival energies of traumatic experience.
“People often report various qualities of vibration and tingling, as well as changes in tempreture-generally from cold (or hot) to cool and warm,” (Levine, 2010).
"Am I re-balancing my autonomic nervous system here or releasing trauma, or both?" I think. I can't do this kind of felt awareness without wondering if my traumatic birth experience conditioned a life of dissociation? A three day labor and forceps delivery followed by a week of separation in a mechanical crib, may have conditioned a foundational freeze response burned into the primitive neural networks of the brain stem by sustained distress experience. Its always been there, the hesitant approach to others, the camera shy frozen smile with its associated stiff muscular posture. Right now as I lean forward to type these words I can feel the habitual muscular constriction, that has always organized my focused intention to do anything.
Let me share another example of my decade long reading;
“In the state of generalized complete contraction of the musculature, one is impervious to suggestion. In violent rage or anger, one is completely refractory to any suggestion from without or within oneself. In the state of hypnosis, one also loses entirely the ability to command oneself, but is at the highest state of involuntary suggestion.” (Feldenkrais, 1985).
Perhaps Moshe Fedenkrais was thinking of states induced by hypnotic suggestion when he speaks of losing the ability to command oneself, states of mind equally described as trance states? Looking back on my manic episodes I remember well, the dreamy trance like quality of psychotic experience.
“Before this state of suggestibility is obtained, complete relaxation of the musculature must be achieved. Moreover the relaxation must be extended so far as to relax the capillaries and the small blood vessels. The muscular relaxation coincides with the sensation of heaviness in the limbs and in the body, and the dilation of the blood vessels coincides with the sensation of warmth. In such complete relaxation, the person is in the most suggestible state. It is not necessary to lose consciousness to reach this state of complete suggestibility. In the state of complete muscular and vascular relaxation, without any loss of consciousness, one is open to suggestion both from without and within oneself.” (Feldenkrais, 1985).
In 1980, did I come out of a defensive and habitual state of muscular contraction conditioned by traumatic experience, entering a highly suggestible body/brain state? Perhaps I can expand this notion to show that mental illness experience is as much about body dis-ease and unconscious nervous system reactions as any biological disease causing a chemical imbalance within the brain? Perhaps I can show in the coming chapters how our mind’s constant parts like perception, misperceives the whole psychotic experience when we view the brain as if its an elaborate clock? Perhaps I can articulate how a decade of reading has helped redefine my understanding and awareness of my whole self, away from the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, parts like view I used to hold.
Dam! This is such a limited format, this page of written words, I could tell you more in ten minutes than I can write here in hours? So much is missing from these pages, like the millisecond communication of eye to eye looks and unspoken body language. How do I give you a quality description of my whole body/brain/mind experience in this or any particular moment? I guess I could describe my physical features, five foot ten, brown hair not yet balding, brown eyes not peering through spectacles yet, a big L shaped scar on my left thigh, visible just below the hem of my green shorts. My medium length slender fingers taping at the keys on this laptop?
Should I use other words of a parts like perception to convey some sense of observation, some vague feeling of being here? Should I describe more of this bed sitter room and my behavior as I move around it, how I put a key in the door when returning from my daily walk? Yet can such descriptive language paint a true picture of the wholeness of our human experience, my multifaceted sensory experience in this or any given moment? I mean I’ve had the devil’s own job finding the true nature of myself during those precious moments of my life thus far. I’ve struggled to fully inhabit my body, to marry my mind to its reactive energies, its desires and temptation to embrace all that can be felt and sensed in fullest of moment. Somehow I’ve held life at bay with an unconscious muscular constriction?
“How can you not inhabit your own body?” I assume you may be thinking? How indeed? By the devils own device I’ve come to suspect. Its the ultimate human dilemma, as the unconscious mechanism’s of our mind’s dissociation from the very roots of our own nature. Dissociation seems to trick me into analgesic flights of thought so insidiously, I’m likely to write with pale rationalization here. Analgesic in the way my thinking instantly rushes beyond any felt sense of my body, forcing to much sensation awareness to the top of my head. Its as if there is an unconscious desire to escape into the painless synaptic connections of my brain, beyond the reach of my body with its pain receptive nerve endings. Its like I’m constantly attempting a mini version of the body denial achieved in self-hypnotized anesthesia.
Consider the words of the wonderful Peter Levine again;
“Highly traumatized and chronically neglected or abused individuals are dominated by the immobilization/shutdown system. On the other hand, acutely traumatized people (often by a single recent event and without a history of repeated trauma, neglect or abuse) are generally dominated by the sympathetic fight/flight system.
They tend to suffer from flashbacks and racing hearts, while the chronically traumatized individuals generally show no change or even a decrease in heart rate. These sufferers tend to be plagued with dissociative symptoms, including frequent spacyness, unreality, depersonalization, and various somatic and health complaints,” (Levine, 2010).
Without a conscious sense of how I do this trick of thinking above a balancing sense of feeling, I instantly pass right over my body sensations in this moment and write in automatic assumptions, typing the words I‘ve learned for a mechanical description? Its what my mind seems to do, to constantly quantify the experience of a lived moment with simple object metaphors, with separate this or that, thoughts. If I attempt to describe the sensual wholeness of all I see, hear, touch, smell and taste in a this very sensate moment, I’m forced to separate the experience into object like labels, as if I’m doctoring my own condition.
Funny! Perhaps my mind is my very own spin doctor, spinning its tangled web and trapping me in there? A painful and potent memory comes to mind now, "Your all mind and no heart!" I shouted at him before storming out the door of our pokey two bedroom apartment, back in 2007. "Dam! If only life was dress rehearsal and I'd get to live that time again, and make it right?"
In trying to articulate the true nature of a psychotic experience here, I’m struggling to let go of taken for granted words of an objective separation. I'm beginning to understand that my body retains the true awareness of all the qualities of my experience, while my mind continues to quantify and categorize in its learned metaphors of dissociation from the flesh and blood of true experience. I’m looking into the mirror quietly now, trying to feel my true nature within these curiously differing states, my body, my mind, somehow there‘s a distance here, a disconnect - by degrees of dissociation.
Keyson, S, 1993, “Girl Interrupted,” Vintage Books, USA.
Cheney, T, 2008, “Manic,” Harper Collins, USA.
Styron, W, 1990, “Darkness Visible a memoir of Madness,” Vintage Books, USA.
LaPierre, A, 2007, “The Language of Neuroception & the Bodily Self,” Hakomi Forum – Issue 18.
Panksepp, J, 1998, “Affective Neuroscience - THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN AND ANIMAL EMOTIONS,” Oxford University Press, USA.
Kafka, F, 1996, “The Metamorphosis - Translated by Stanley Corngold,” Bantam Books, USA.
Reich, W, 1980, "Character Analysis," Farrar, Straus and Giroux, USA.
Tolle, E, 1990, “THE POWER OF NOW a guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,” New World Library, USA.
Levine, P, 2010, “In an Unspoken Voice,” North Atlantic Books, USA.
Feldenkrais, M, 1985, “The Potent Self,” North Atlantic Books USA.