Saturday, May 28, 2011

meaning and mania

Icarus Myth a Metaphor of Mania?
The Flight of Psychosis & its Fall
Is there meaning in Madness or a Meaning of Mania?
In the civilized world, our common understanding of meaning and mania is overwhelming associated with mental illness and the use of psychotropic drugs to manage such altered states of conscious experience. An understanding fostered by our modern day belief and faith in science with its medical model of disease. A disease perception inline with the medical profession's duty of care towards people who appear to be so obviously sick. With its focus on abnormalities within the organism, the medical profession has performed proven miracles of repair and cure with an enormous range of human ills, except when it comes to the human mind were belief and faith still rule and ultimately confuse the day.

An everyday example of the sheer power of belief and faith can been seen in the placebo effect , now more clearly defined as "affect" by neuroscience research into the hidden neurobiology of our conscious states. This curious placebo affect crops up in every trail for the proven effectiveness of any psychotropic drug, ultimately confusing research results seeking dependable cause and effect outcomes.

From Wikipedia: "Placebos are widely used in medical research and medicine, and the placebo effect is a pervasive phenomenon; in fact, it is part of the response to any active medical intervention. The placebo effect points to the importance of perception and the brain's role in physical health."

Another example of the sheer power of belief occurs in hypnotic suggestion, shown in this video with even more powerful examples in the power of self hypnosis to control pain during serious medical procedures. An article in the Orange County Register explores The power of suggestion: Hypnosis

The article points out how "Hypnosis puts people in a state of hyper-relaxation," said Stephanie Buehler, a licensed clinical psychologist who uses hypnosis at the Center for Optimal Health in Irvine. "(While under hypnosis) a lot of the usual defenses are usually resolved, so that people are receptive to suggestions and more capable of incorporating them."

Buehler says she's used it to help patients manage phobias, such as fear of flying.

"I can put (patients) under hypnosis and desensitize them to the entire process of getting on the plane, the plane taking off, the patients being afraid of the flight, the plane landing and the patients exiting. Under hypnosis, I can teach them to go from something they are afraid of to a safe place. I can teach them that they can have some control and that they can relax."


The placebo affect and the phenomena of hypnotic suggestion beg interesting questions as to what is going on inside the brain to produce these unusual effects/affects. Psychiatry doesn't try to explain how placebo works because its an unusual affect that does not disturb its owner much or anyone else. Yet considering the brain works through electrochemical processes, we might ask if there is a "chemical imbalance" theory to explain placebo.

Even more intriguing is our capacity to use self hypnosis to avoid pain sensations during major surgery, such as I witnessed 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 operation, using only self hypnosis for pain control. 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 as soon as he made the first incision. Yet with the help of her hypnotist trainer she provided her own analgesia through an hour long process, and surprised nurses with the speed of her post op recover.

Does psychiatry have a chemical imbalance theory for any of these amazing abilities?

So how can we affect such amazing altered states of being, and what could my examples possibly have too do with the meaning of mania? Well my quest to find science insights into my own mania, led me into neurobiology and the unconscious power of my autonomic nervous system, and its role in so-called mental illness. Eastern awareness has recognized such unconscious powers for centuries, where a less agressive acceptance of life advocates letting nature in rather than shutting her out and concreting her over.

At Dreamhut Hypnotherapy the link between the unconscious powers of our autonomic nervous system and its ability to affect altered states is explained from a more spiritual view point, which accepts all phenomena and does not seek pathology in behaviors:

"The subconscious has been likened to a super-intelligence, vastly exceeding the powers of the conscious mind. The subconscious, the other 90% of the mind, is responsible for a variety of functions, such as the physiology of the autonomic nervous system, our dynamism or energy, and our habitual patterns. The subconscious is the seat of instinct and intuition, the dreaming mind, and our higher human potentials."

The brain works in a complex process of electrochemical activity intimately connected with feedback signals to and from the nervous system. This two way feedback between body and brain cannot be ignored when seeking an awareness of affective states, normal or disordered. The lopsided search for mental illness in the brain alone is foolish, and stimulated by lazy cause and effect thinking and the accidental discovery of an introduced chemical affect. Only our dependent nature and the hierarchy of a status and rank social structure, keeps us stuck in the false belief that somehow the medical profession is sainted and beyond reproach.

Science has its false prophet's too, when a shining intellect is emotionally blind.

Robert Whitaker's exposure of the lies behind the success of drug therapy, and the way it has increased mental ill health, rather than revolutionize mental health care, paints a depressing picture of our so-called sanity. When asked to explain these shocking outcomes from 50 years of psycho-pharmacology, psychiatry replies by blaming the patients and telling us that introduced drugs simply unmask a latent illness. In the East they call this "saving face."

Read his award winning book "Anatomy of an Epidemic" and be shocked by its disclosures. After providing solid evidence for his case that drug intervention has made mental illness worse, Whitaker asks a pointed question about the responsibility for the illusion that drugs improve mental health. This is a question that the anti-psychiatry movement adores as they scream "Big Pharma" its all their fault, greed and capitalist corruption are solely responsible, "that lot don't have a human nature."

The lies fostered on the public about psychiatry's dark secrets is described by some in the activist movement, in terms of the forces of evil and one of the crimes of the century. Yet beneath the mask of consciousness where does human nature stand in relation to this popular conception of an "us v's them" reality. Only when we concede to animal instincts as the true stimulus of our intelligence do we catch sight of a villain within us, a devil in disguise lying in wait for us all. Consider the lyrics of the rock band Supertramp's "Crime of the Century" Songwriters: Hodgson, Roger;Davies, Rick

Now they're planning the crime of the century
Well what will it be?
Read all about their schemes and adventuring
It's well worth a fee
So roll up and see
How they rape the universe
How they've gone from bad to worse
Who are these men of lust, greed, and glory?
Rip off the masks and let's see.
But that's not right - oh no, what's the story?
There's you and there's me
That can't be right

Well! Can that possibly be true? Underneath our conscious mask, we are all the same with no such thing as good and evil. Rubbish! I hear you say, "we see acts of good and evil everyday - of coarse there is an us v's them divide - its called morality." yet when we see such immoral acts as those exposed by Robert Whitaker, which are committed by supposedly moral people, we must ask the question, "do we really know our own minds and the reality of human nature?"

Enter a White Knight with a truly insightful answer!

People who have read this blog before will have seen Stephan Porges coming in here and are wondering just how a scientific theory of "neuroception" and "The Polyvagal Theory" can possibly explain the meaning of mania? Surely we can't explain spirit, meaning and psychosis with a scientific theory? Isn't science the very antithesis of spirituality and meaning in this life, a soul-less beast lost in its own reductionist theories? Well! I believe that Stephen Porges has come up with the most inclusive theory since Darwin set sail for the Galapagos Islands and lifted the veil on evolution.

Not only has he explained the mechanism's of our common humanity, by exposing the reality of Freud's unconscious "id." His Polyvagal theory of a triune nervous system can explain the nature of the spiritual experience and the meaning of mania, once a few other actors join him on the stage.

Polyvagal Theory: Three Neural Circuits That Regulate Reactivity.
Where do humans’ intricate neuro-behavioral systems for social and defensive behaviors come from? As we have suggested earlier, mammals including humans must distinguish friend from foe, evaluate the safety of the environment, and communicate with their social unit.
The Polyvagal Theory links the evolution of the neural regulation of the heart to affective experience, emotional expression, facial gestures, vocal communication, and social behavior that is responsive to the behavior of others. The theory points out that the neural control of the heart is neuroanatomically linked to the neural control of the muscles of the face and head.

The Polyvagal Theory describes three stages in the development of a mammal’s autonomic nervous system. Each of the three major adaptive behavioral strategies is supported by a distinct neural circuit involving the autonomic nervous system:

1. Immobilization
• Feigning death, behavioral shutdown.
• The most primitive component, shared with most vertebrates.
• Dependent on the oldest branch of the vagus nerve.

2. Mobilization
• Fight–flight behaviors.
• Dependent on the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system, a system associated with increasing metabolic activity and increasing cardiac output (e.g., faster heart rate, greater ability of the heart to contract).

3. Social communication or social engagement
• Facial expression, vocalization, listening.
• Dependent on the myelinated vagus. The myelinated vagus fosters calm behavioral states by inhibiting the influence of the sympathetic nervous system on the heart.

Rationality vs Reactivity?

Is our precious human rationality, our objective sense of reality a pretense? Is it a posture that is blind to its its own stimulation by a brain/nervous system, brain/body connection? How much of our precious objectivity is a denial of reality, rather than insightful perception. There is emerging evidence that the motor cortex within the brain and mirror neurons in particular really guide our actions, with conscious awareness a "what was that" after thought or hindsight. In waking consciousness are we really only half awake?

"We are exquisitely social creatures. Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions 
and emotions of others. Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual 
reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling - not by thinking" _Giacomo Rizzolatti

"The motor act is the cradle of the mind - The capacity to anticipate and predict movement, 
is the basis of what consciousness is all about" __Charles Sherington

The Brains Motor Cortex & Unconscious Premovement: The brains activity began about 500 milliseconds 
before the person was aware of deciding to act. The conscious decision came far too late to be the cause 
of the action. It was as though consciousness was a mere afterthought - a way of 'explaining to ourselves' 
an action not evoked by consciousness. _Peter Levine "In an Unspoken Voice"

Altered states of Consciousness and the Autonomic Nervous System?

Remember the examples above about placebo effect and the power of hypnosis? We know that these curious powers are intimately connected with the autonomic nervous system, and as the link to Dreamhut Hypnotherapy shows, it is also intimately involved in our wider spiritual awareness, our deep connection within the universe itself. This article started with an acknowledgement that mania is commonly understood as a mental illness, such as we see in bipolar affective disorder, and it aims to show that there is a meaning of mania, a purpose to what is commonly feared as illness and madness.

The medical profession sees mania as illness while humanists see it as a spiritual awakening to our deep immersion in the very fabric of the cosmos. Some see the brains complex electrochemical activity as a miniature reflection of a wider cosmic reality. "Just like the heavenly nebula, ideas form amongst storms of neural activity and burgeoning synaptic connections - occasionally a new conception is born in a moment some call, an epiphany"

A decade of research has led me to many epiphany moments. Inspired by personal hero's like Joseph Campbell and Murry Bowen, I have read and re-read books and articles allowing my organic computer to do its experience affected work, with new information becoming integrated within my brain/body systems. Maybe the epiphany moments have something to do with my second brain in the gut, with instinctual energies stimulating a growth in neural connections?

Our 2nd 100 Million Neuron Brain?
Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being. The emerging and surprising view of how the enteric nervous system in our bellies goes far beyond just processing the food we eat By Adam Hadhazy Scientific American

"Technically known as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system"

"The second brain informs our state of mind in other more obscure ways, as well. "A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut," Mayer says. Butterflies in the stomach—signaling in the gut as part of our physiological stress response, Gershon says—is but one example. Although gastrointestinal (GI) turmoil can sour one's moods, everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above. For example, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve—a useful treatment for depression—may mimic these signals, Gershon says."

In mammalian evolutionary terms it makes perfect sense that the gut has such an influence on mood, when innate anger-rage was required for the 'fight' means of defending life and acquiring food by the ability to kill. Also innate fear-terror stimulates 'flight' and 'freeze' in instinctual survival responses, evolved long before our left brained rationalizations of these essential survival energies. Our instinctual survival energies are intimately involved in trauma induced mania as the autonomic nervous system plays its unconscious part in processing traumatic experience. Stephen Porges concept of "neuroception" and his uncovering of a third branch of our autonomic nervous system, gives solid evidence for a trauma conditioned stimulus to mania and the symptoms of mental illness.

The same survival energies that are mediated through the autonomic nervous system are intimately involved in or spiritual connection to the wider universe. A bare skinned human animal is a very sensitive creature, with a capacity to sense too much for simple comfort and ease. Our objective perception is in part a suppression of all we might feel if we allowed a full processing of sensory capacity. Meditation works by allowing a containment of instinctual energies within a postural calm, allowing for a cool observation beyond blind instinctual action.

Traumatized Children & Future Mania?
Porges concept of neuroception shows us how dependent we are on each other to sooth our instinctive responses, with an unconscious neuroception of safety. this is the unconscious reality of disturbing isolation when survival energies are stimulated below conscious awareness regardless of what we think. His groundbreaking research shows an unconscious neuroception of safety is critical for survival and social engagement, he points out that a faulty neuroception might lie at the root of several psychiatric disorders.

Even the great spiritual teacher Gotama Buddha found his breakthrough epiphany with his back guarded by a famous tree, perhaps helped by an unconscious perception of safety. I do believe that Stephen Porges epiphany of neuroception is an inclusive concept that once grasped explains so much about our unconscious behaviors, our us vs them reactions as well as the genesis of trauma conditioned mental anguish. With the help of other actors I hope to show just how much meaning there is in mania and how it is also part of a developmental need beyond its medical description as a pathology.

The immense spirit of a man named Joseph Campbell gave us the universal story of the hero's journey and his classic "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" inspired George Lucas to formulate the characters and story in the movie Star Wars. Campbell read his way through the great depression emerging as a world authority on mythology and Murry Bowen's extensive reading gave birth to many of the concepts that underpin Family Therapy.

Following my hero's example I have read my way to my own epiphany insights and healed my mental anguish, effectively curing my so-called mental illness by gaining the insights to change my beliefs. As I described in the opening paragraphs belief has a powerful affect as many of a spiritual faith can attest. I'm very happy and comfortable inside my own skin these days having learned how to manage my own nature, although a lazy emotionally blind intellectual might say "your just in remission" or maybe I'm stuck in placebo affect?

I know this is a long article and its not finished yet, sorry if you are annoyed by that, but if you think you can find insights into complex issues like mania and mental illness in a short article, well, you could be delusional. A second article will bring other actors to the stage, to show the developmental and spiritual meaning of mania. Perhaps you might follow the example of others and read your way to similar epiphany moments, it most definitely is an experiential process as our amazing organic computer programs new data.