|The Familial Face, In Our Family's Generational & Sub-Conscious, E-Motivation?|
On the surface of coarse, our family situation is easily ascribed to my actions alone, and perhaps typical of other families, ravaged by the tortuous nature of mental illness, and the subconscious need of emotional cut-off.
"The concept of emotional cutoff describes people managing their unresolved emotional issues with parents, siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them. Emotional contact can be reduced by people moving away from their families and rarely going home, or it can be reduced by people staying in physical contact with their families but avoiding sensitive issues. Relationships may look "better" if people cutoff to manage them, but the problems are dormant and not resolved." (From Bowen Family Therapy)
Hence, below the surface, lies the generational nature of our human e-motivation, now roaring back into the limelight of scientific investigation. Please consider;
"In a recent editorial of the journal "Motivation and Emotion," Richard Ryan asserts “After three decades of cognitive approaches, motivational and emotional processes have roared back into the limelight.” (2007, p. 1). A large number of interdisciplinary studies are now converging on the centrality of these implicit right brain motivational and emotional processes that are essential to adaptive functioning.
In this work I differentiate a surface, verbal, conscious, analytic explicit self versus a deeper nonverbal, nonconscious, holistic, emotional, corporeal implicit self. These two lateralized systems contain qualitatively different forms of cognition and therefore unique ways of “knowing,” as well as different memory systems and states of consciousness. Neuroscientists contend, “Because the right and left hemispheres store different forms of knowledge and mediate different forms of cognitive activity, different neuronal architectures probably exist within the association cortices of the hemispheres” (Heilman, Nadeau, & Beversdorf, 2003, p. 374).The ongoing paradigm shift from the explicit cognitive to the implicit affective realm is driven by both new experimental data on emotional processes and updated clinical models for working with affective systems."
Excerpts from “The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy” by Allan N. Schore.
Three decades of a cognitive approach, spanning my experience with bipolar disorder.
As I sit and type these words in Sydney's, Surry Hills public library, a ten minute walk from the Matthew Talbot Hostel for homeless men, where I now reside. I'm challenged by a difficult task, in just how to articulate the complex language of neuroscience, with which I'm now familiar, into an everyday language, my family members might understand. I feel like the family member described in John Weir Perry's explanation of Schizophrenia, a diagnosis I once wore, and struggled to cope with that word's, implicit sense of shame. Please consider;
“Who experiences a "schizophrenic break"? _Michael O’Callaghan.
"Well, there's a lot of controversy about this! There is a constitutional element, which is often interpreted as a "genotype of pathology", but this depends on how you see it. I see it as a genotype of sensitivity! Among adolescent siblings in a family, for example, it’s usually the most sensitive one who's going to catch it."_John Weir Perry. ( read more here )
God! How many times, I’ve cursed the cognitive approach in trying to understand myself and communicate with others. Its shallow sense of self, now being understood as a, more often than we care to admit to, "sensation avoiding defense,” generated by a subconscious, and implicit-self. As the "sensitive" one, in my generational family tree, it is my lot, like so many of my brothers and sisters in the psychiatric survivor community, to try to heal the subconscious nature of generationally transmitted, emotional dysfunction. A thankless task, for which the sensitive one stands condemned, by the emotional-intellectual, double-bind, in the very nature of being human.
Condemned, as much by a painfully over-sensitive-self, as by the pain avoidance reactions of other family members. An avoidance of sensations within the body, which stimulates psychic pain within the mind, and creates the need for the kind of rationalized distance, used by individuals and whole families. It’s a distance from a core sense-of-self, which manifests as a distance from others, with an inability for spontaneous, relaxed emotional relatedness. Sensations within the body are the seat of emotional feelings and if we cannot tolerate our own body sensations, it causes a hesitant relationship with both our sense-of-self, and with others. The over-sensitive member of the family who’s “likely to catch it,” to use Perry’s unfortunate term, which is now being increasingly understood, as a victim of traumatic experience, subconsciously handed down, from one generation, to the next. This is very difficult to grasp "rationally" and is unknowingly denied, in our age of resaon, with its foundational error of, "I think, therefore, I am." Hence my need to spend three years in Thailand, and unlearn my Western educated sense, of understanding my own nature.
Recall from: Family Attachment Affects & Mental Illness. Pt 1
Subconscious, reactions to the transmission of affect?
"I have three lovely handkerchiefs here, choose one." Then Monica left the house and my mother never saw her mother again. My mother was just five years old when this rather brutal act of abandonment took place. Already the focal point of a family projection process, which sought to dump feelings of guilt and shame onto an unwanted “other.” My mother, who no doubt had already begun to form her hard-core defense against the transmission of “affect.” A tendency to distance and isolation which has had its ripple effects through the continuing generations of our family tree. Please consider;
Is traumatic experience a factor, in the generational nature of, emotional coping?
“It is the nature of trauma to elude our knowledge because of both defense and deficit … To protect ourselves from affect, we must, at times, avoid knowledge. We defend against feelings of rage, cynicism, shame, and fear by not knowing them consciously. Trauma also overwhelms and defeats our capacity to organize it.”
Psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and developmental traumatology are all now converging on dissociation, the bottom-line survival defense against overwhelming, unbearable emotional experiences. Longitudinal attachment research demonstrates an association between traumatic childhood events and proneness to dissociation, described as “detachment from an unbearable situation,” “the escape when there is no escape,” and “a last resort defensive strategy” (Schore, 2003b, 2009). Although Kohut never used the term dissociation, in his last book (1984) he characterized an early interaction in which the traumatized child “walls himself off” from traumatizing experiences.”
Excerpts from “The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy” by Allan N. Schore.
“Dissociation, detachment, and a wall” of indescribable distance, certainly resonates within me, when I think about the traumatic experience of birth, shared by my mother and I, and its ongoing generational affects. Indescribable, by way of the (surface, verbal, conscious, analytic explicit-self) described above. An emerging understanding of the human condition, which seems to resonate with that divided sense-of-self we all feel, when we notice the discrepancies between our explicit-self, and a very private, implicit-self, deep within us. Our taken for granted maturity, signified by an ability to make the the appropriate noises and gestures, while simultaneously holding somtimes opposite, private thoughts and feelings.Yet these words, explicit and implicit, are not exactly part of our common vocabulary of self-description and social interaction, leaving me wondering if I’ll ever resolve a family estrangement, now seemingly set in concrete. “Is it really, all my fault,” I’m wondering. Should I let sleeping dogs lie and not question the roots of my own and my mother’s trauma history, for the sake of an emotional equilibrium, maintained by physical distance and psychological denial. Should a child ever question the sanctity of motherhood, or explore the foundations of this most fundamental of relationships? Did traumatic experience affect my mother's ability for emotional empathy? Consider;
“If the mother’s empathic ability has remained infantile, that is, if she tends to respond with panic to the baby’s anxiety, then a deleterious chain will be set into motion. She may chronically wall herself off from the baby, thus depriving him of the beneficial effect of merging with her as she returns from experiencing mild anxiety to calmness. Alternatively, she may continue to respond with panic, in which case two negative consequences may ensue: the mother may lay the groundwork in the child for a lifelong propensity toward the uncurbed spreading of anxiety or other emotions, or by forcing the child to wall himself off from such an overly intense and thus traumatizing [experience, she] may foster in the child an impoverished psychic organization, the psychic organization of a person who will later be unable to be empathic himself.
NOTE: 1, In this chapter we equate “unconscious” with “nonconscious”; that is, implicit functions that occur beneath levels of awareness not because they are repressed but because they are too rapid to reach consciousness.
2. Throughout this chapter, we refer to “mother” interchangeably with “primary caregiver(s).” We are referring to the primary attachment figure, although we recognize that the infant’s primary attachment figure may not be the mother.”
Excerpts from “The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy” by Allan N. Schore.
Two interesting facts spring to mind as I read the above explanation of the generational nature of trauma’s "affect" on our individual ability for empathy. 1. My father and my grandmother were the primary caregivers, in the early childhood I remember. 2. I cannot remember a single occasion in my life when my mother has initiated contact with me, certainly not once in my adult life, including the periods of illness I‘ve suffered. There was a period in my early 20’s when I tried to broach these fundamental questions of family relationships with both my parents, only to meet the “double-bind” response of a subconscious “shame” reaction, rationalized as an assumption that I was blaming them, for my own weaknesses.
In line with new understandings from neuroscience research, it was not me they were really defending themselves against, as it appears at the surface of our conscious sense of self. Our explicit-self. It was their own core, non-conscious self, in an avoidance of negative sensations, such as our internal sense of shame. "Shame-Humiliation" understood within Family Therapy, as the social emotion, of our rank and status, family and society, groups. My parents subconscious reaction was one of anger, as mother nature's antidote for sensations of shame. We can’t feel shame and anger at the same time, it’s litterally a physiological impossibility, yet this non-empathic and defensive response, affects sensations of shame in the other. That was the double-bind trap of this traumatized, and unwanted child, and later experience of an "affective disorder." (Bipolar Disorder Type 1) And the subconscious reality, of this strange an very uncommon phrase, “the transmission of affect.” Please consider;
“Nervous Entrainment, as a Mechanism for the Transmission of Affect/Emotion:
If “contagion” of affect/emotion exists (and the study of crowd/group behavior, says it does), how is it “effected?” If one walks into a room where one “could cut the atmosphere with a knife,” and that “affect” contained within the room is a profoundly social thing, how does it get there? There are indications of social science interest in research on “electrical” or nervous entrainment, “the driving effect one nervous system has on another,” affected by touch, sight, smell and sound.
Nervous entrainment may also depend on bodily movements and gestures, particularly through the unconscious imitation of rhythms. In understanding the aural rhythmic component of the vocal interactions of a parent and child, Richard Restak suggests we attend to “prosody” the melody, pitch, and stress of speech, where auditory cues have priority over visual ones. Rhythm is a tool in the expression of “agency,” just as words are. Rhythm, literally conveys the “tone” of communication, and in this sense it unites both word/symbol and affect/emotion. Rhythm also has a unifying or dys-unifying regulation role, in affective exchanges between two or more people.
The rhythmic aspects of behavior are critical in establishing a collective sense of purpose and common understanding. In addition, there is a sense of well-being which comes with a rhythmic entrainment with one’s fellows (in dancing for instance) . By contrast, non-rhythmic or dissonant sound also separates. It leads people to stand apart from one another and generates unease.
While the auditory has priority over the visual, the visual has a place in this process of nervous entrainment. Firstly, registering an image is rooted firmly in brain physiology. The registration of an image in the minds eye is part of such nervous entrainment, yet the image has been transmitted as sound waves or valence register physical effects on the ear drum. Words and images are matters of vibration, vibrations at different electrical frequencies, but still vibration. In addition, the social, physical vibrations of images are critical in the process of nervous “electrical” entrainment, even though they lack the rhythm of auditory entrainment.”
Excerpts from “The Transmission of Affect” by Teresa Brennan, PhD. (In brackets mine).
What Teresa Brennan is alluding to, is passive and active “energy states,” and how they are subconsciously stimulated. For example, when I asked my father “what’s wrong?” Because his habitual explosive temper, has been subconsciously triggered by a small insignificant incident, and I’m trying to understand why his response is so outrageously out of proportion to the offence. His response “your breathing aren’t you!” Stimulates an extreme “passive” energy state within me, because of the sense of contempt, not just in the words used, but the “tone” transmitted by facial gesture, staring eyes, and prosody of his voice. Please consider;
“Human beings rely extensively on nonverbal channels of communication in their day-to-day emotional as well as interpersonal exchanges. The verbal channel, language, is a relatively poor medium for expressing the quality, intensity and nuancing of emotion and affect in different social situations … the face is thought to have primacy in signaling affective information. (Mandal & Ambady, 2004, p. 23)
In the developmental attachment context, right brain– to– right brain auditory prosodic communications also act as an essential vehicle of implicit communications within the therapeutic relationship. The right hemisphere is important in the processing of the “music” behind our words. When listening to speech, we rely upon a range of cues on which to base our inference as to the communicative intent of others. To interpret the meaning of speech, how something is said is as important as what is actually said. Prosody conveys different shades of meaning by means of variations in stress and pitch— irrespective of the words and grammatical construction (Mitchell, Elliott, Barry, Crittenden, & Woodruff, 2003). These data support suggestions that the preverbal elements of language— intonation, tone, force, and rhythm— stir up reactions derived from the early mother– child relationships (Greenson, 1978).”
Excerpts from “The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy” by Allan N. Schore.
What I’m trying to convey in this essay, is the subconscious, emotional foundations of what we consciously, and defensively, presume to be a mental illness in others. What is becoming increasingly understood from all the recent neuroscince discoveries, is how the foundations of our sense-of-self, is laid down in, “subconscious & sensory,” emotional interactions, between caregivers and the child, in the first years of our lives. Those crucial early years when our brain-nervous systems are maturing by way of interactions with a social-emotional environment, and all taking place at the subconscious level of an implicit-self. A subconscious, implicit-self, which guides motivation throughout each individual's life-span, and drives the generational nature of family relationships. From this "subconscious" perspective on human behaviors, there is no blame or shame, this is simply the real-life nature of being human. Unconscious functioning, so little understood, and only now, with the aid of technology, beginning to see the light of true reason.
Chaos theory is playing a huge role in understanding just how complex chemical systems within the human organism, stabilize in defense of our survival. In practical terms, this can be seen in the chance and circumstance of my birth. In the real-life circumstance of time and place, bad luck affected such a pain fueled void between my mother & I, that we’ve never managed to resolved it. We've suffered from the generational nature of pain/shame fueled emotional cut-off too. If my mother had had an optimal birth experience, which had allowed her to bond in the “subconscious” sensory nature of emotional attachment, it more than likely would have helped to heal her abandonment by not only her own mother, but an entire family. I would have ended up with a different “implicit-self,” which would not have needed the subconscious process of psychosis, to stimulate a new and more positive sense of self. Psychosis, as a need of re-wiring those early forming neural networks within my brain-nervous systems. Euphoric psychosis, which was a need of mature orientation to the world of reality, as it is. I needed, at a subconscious level, to dissolve the conditioned, "autonomic," nature of my predominately "negative" internal states. Internal states, stimulated by my hearts reflex orienting responses to reality, along with my brain and nervous systems, of course. I needed to grow beyond, an implicit "freeze" reaction to any new challenge, in the social environment. (As explained here)
Just as I am now estranged from my family, my mother was estranged from her family of origin, and entirely dependent on another’s extended family, my father’s. This unbalanced emotional arrangement played its part in the further chaos, chance and circumstance, which resulted in my first episode of bipolar disorder, mania. Essentially, the current estrangement with my family, which is following the same generational pattern as my mother's estrangement from her family, is based on a subconscious need for movement, both physical and emotional, towards or away from. A subconsciously stimulated movement towards support and protection, and away from a subconscious sense of threat. Like the threat my public airing of mental illness within the family, posses to my mother, my brother and my children, its embarrassing. Embarrassment, being a milder expression of shame, yet nonetheless stimulating a need to move away from the threatening scource. Consider Franz Kafka's brilliant critique of the human family, and our need for support and protection:
"We have to try and get rid of it", said Gregor's sister, now speaking only to her father, as her mother was too occupied with coughing to listen, "it'll be the death of both of you, I can see it coming. We can't all work as hard as we have to and then come home to be tortured like this, we can't endure it. I can't endure it any more." And she broke out so heavily in tears that they flowed down the face of her mother, and she wiped them away with mechanical hand movements. "My child", said her father with sympathy and obvious understanding, "what are we to do?" His sister just shrugged her shoulders as a sign of the helplessness that had taken hold of her, displacing her earlier certainly when she had broken into tears.
"If he could just understand us", said his father almost as a question; his sister shook her hand vigorously through her tears as a sign that of that there was no question.
"If he could just understand us", repeated Gregor's father, closing his eyes in acceptance of his sister's certainty that that was quite impossible, "then perhaps we could come to some kind of arrangement with him. But as it is ..."
"It's got to go", shouted his sister, "that's the only way, Father. You've got to get rid of the idea that that's Gregor. We've only harmed ourselves by believing it for so long. How can that be Gregor? If it were Gregor he would have seen long ago that it's not possible for human beings to live with an animal like that and he would have gone of his own free will. We wouldn't have a brother any more, then, but we could carry on with our lives and remember him with respect. As it is this animal is persecuting us, it's driven out our tenants, it obviously wants to take over the whole flat and force us to sleep on the streets. Father, look, just look", she suddenly screamed, "he's starting again!" In her alarm, which was totally beyond Gregor's comprehension, his sister even abandoned his mother as she pushed herself vigorously out of her chair as if more willing to sacrifice her own mother than stay anywhere near Gregor. She rushed over to behind her father, who had become excited merely because she was and stood up half raising his hands in front of Gregor's sister as if to protect her.
He did not turn his head until he had reached the doorway. He did not turn it all the way round as he felt his neck becoming stiff, but it was nonetheless enough to see that nothing behind him had changed, only his sister had stood up. With his last glance he saw that his mother had now fallen completely asleep.
He was hardly inside his room before the door was hurriedly shut, bolted and locked. The sudden noise behind Gregor so startled him that his little legs collapsed under him. It was his sister who had been in so much of a rush. She had been standing there waiting and sprung forward lightly, Gregor had not heard her coming at all, and as she turned the key in the lock she said loudly to her parents "At last!".
"What now, then?", Gregor asked himself as he looked round in the darkness. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer move at all. This was no surprise to him, it seemed rather that being able to actually move around on those spindly little legs until then was unnatural. He also felt relatively comfortable. It is true that his entire body was aching, but the pain seemed to be slowly getting weaker and weaker and would finally disappear altogether. He could already hardly feel the decayed apple in his back or the inflamed area around it, which was entirely covered in white dust. He thought back of his family with emotion and love. If it was possible, he felt that he must go away even more strongly than his sister. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful rumination until he heard the clock tower strike three in the morning. He watched as it slowly began to get light everywhere outside the window too. Then, without his willing it, his head sank down completely, and his last breath flowed weakly from his nostrils." An excerpt from Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka Translated by David Wyllie.
No longer a source of support and protection within the family goup, Gregor is shuned, even by his sister, who had benifited most from his, father-like suport. In Murray Bowen's seminal ideas on family therapy, this paternalistic nature of the nuclear family group, becomes the structuring force of mainstream society. Hence, we often describe government and other institutions as "paternalistic and condesending."
The Motor Act, Is The Cradle of The Mind? Sir Charles Sherrington.
Hence our implicit, subconscious-self, is based on the survival need of physical movement.
Just as my mother's family physically "moved" away from a source of family embarrassment. A family secret my mother had kept to herself for so many decades, until we sat down to review our "family tree," in 2006. Perhaps she was hoping that those sharing moments together would help to heal the void created between us, in our mutual experience of birth trauma? I'm certain she’d never spoken with my father about our family secret. Such emotional intimacy was not the "style," on that side of my family tree. Perhaps she'd recalled the mother-child relationship which briefly blossomed between us, in Wallingford, England, when I was the responsible, caring son, on a day when she almost died. Or perhaps my deceased father’s lost presence allowed a more sensitive and open emotional “style,” indicative of our shared genetic heritage, from the maternal side of my family tree?
But alas, these subconscious patterns of motivation are not easily dislodged, until brought to our conscious awareness. The very purpose, of my efforts here, unless read with a quick defensive judgement, as a subconsciously stimulated need of projecting blame? Am I really just blaming and shaming my family here, in a need to avoid responsibility for my current circumstances? This is certainly my family’s perspective, on these complex explanations of subconscious motivations. And what do I really mean, in this notion of a subconscious need for physical movement, and its strange recurring patterns, within everyone's family tree? Please consider;
“My mother seemed to be self-absorbed and unwilling to participate, which did not make for a harmonious balance in the household. They seem to have been locked in a struggle between my mother’s insular fear of life, and my father’s desire to participate. In the end my mother won that struggle, with a series of geographical moves that slowly isolated my father from family and friends. And towards the end of his life with her, my father found himself in a house on the Gold Coast, Australia, looking after my mother, just like my great grandfather James had done so many decades before.“ An excerpt from my differentation of self essay
Modern Family Therapy, is built on the study of emotional patterns of behavior over generations of family heritage. Emotional patterns of relationships which can be strikingly similar over generations, regardless of seemingly different circumstances. This is the basis of the world's most successful therapy approach, to first episode psychosis. Finland's Open Dialogue approach, interviews a whole family with impresive results: "in the 5-year treatment outcomes. In the ODAP group, 82% did not have any residual psychotic symptoms, 86% had returned to their studies or a full-time job" (Seikkula et al, 2004). If only this had been available in Sydney, in 1980:
"We set off for a private hospital in the Sydney suburb of Baulkham Hills, my best friend, my wife and me. I was still infused with a spiritual sense of purpose of coarse, still excited by its enabled sense of connection, still needing to trust, to love and be loved. Trust was the principle reason my best friend had taken time off work to support me, as I trusted his advice and his willingness to invest himself in my welfare. Indeed this crisis had brought us really close again, spending hours together, like before we were both married, before the subsequent rift caused by the shame of mental illness. I remember how he’d made sure to inform the psychiatrist of my fears about ETC, as forcefully as he could before I entered the interview room. Yet, “You have schizophrenia and need immediate hospitalization,” the good doctor said, before I found myself being escorted to a locked ward, all within thirty minutes.
I vaguely remember sitting on the edge of a bed as the first injection was administered, so heavily sedated I apparently slept for those first three days. I can’t recall to much about the next two weeks though, only what I was told about early concerns for my continued elative mood and the possibility of ECT. Only one significant memory springs easily to mind, of a day I decided to take a walk beyond the hospital grounds. I remember the incredible tingling of my skin out in the late summer sunshine, it felt like severe sun burn and was the first time I remember being really bewildered by the impact of medication side effects. I confused this strange sensation with my earlier mystic experiences at first, then remember being a bit alarmed by its compounding effect on my strange uncoordinated movements and the persistent and grinding physical fatigue. And I was beginning to hate being locked up, sadly sneaking out for a simple breath of fresh air had only brought me confusion and a first hint of fear.
I remember being spoken to rather harshly and arrogantly by a particularly bossy psych nurse on my return and perhaps the atmosphere of the locked ward began to break through my spellbinding mystical feelings." An excerpt from Born to Psychosis.
Which right now, makes me wonder about my mothers experience with a certain nursing sister, during her attempt to birth me? Like a scene from the movie Sliding Doors, mine and my family's life experience, could have been so different.
My need to understand my Psychoses
So, is my current emotional cut-off from my family, about my shaming public airing of family secrets? Or is there more to this typical pattern of family relationships? Please consider an excerpt from an essay I'm currently working on:
"The success of open-dialogue’s, relationship oriented therapy, and the denial of its success by mainstream opinion, (like other successful, non-medication approaches) seems to bring a non-obvious, emotional projection process into view. Take the current controversy over the release of DSM-5, amid fears of an increasing medicalization of natural emotional experiences, for example. “Essential funds are used in the ongoing futile search for genetic markers instead of addressing the societal issues we know lead to mental health problems.” (Dillon, 2013) Making Murray Bowen’s decades earlier statement seem rather prophetic; “Society is creating more “patients” of people with dysfunctions whose dysfunctions are a product of the projection process. Alcoholism is a good example. At the very time alcoholism was being understood as the product of family relationships, the concept of “alcoholism as a disease” finally came into general acceptance.” (Bowen, 1985) The DSM-5 controversy also includes alarming reports, that use of antipsychotic medications, are implicated in a range of shocking side-effects, including homicidal violence, suicide and a 25 year reduction in life expectancy. Yet despite these alarming reports, Robert Whitaker, author of “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” suggests a societal delusion has been created, as to the success of psychotropic medications, with The Triumph of Bad Science and dubious practice involved. “And voila, you have a process for creating a societal delusion.” (Whitaker, 2012) Although in a recent interview, he had thoughts of “unconscious” processes? In my opinion, there is an unconscious NEED for such a delusion, involving affect/emotion and the dubious quality of our "objectifying" rationality, when trying to understand ourselves, and the nature of motivation:
“Vulnerable groups fit the best criteria for long term, anxiety relieving projection. Vulnerable to become the pitiful objects of the benevolent, over sympathetic segment of society that improves its functioning at the expense of the pitiful. Just as the least adequate child in a family can become more impaired when he becomes an object of pity and over sympathetic help from the family, so can the lowest segment of society be chronically impaired by the very attention designed to help. No matter how good the principle behind such programs, it is essentially impossible to implement them without the built-in complications of the projection process.” _Murray Bowen.
It took me decades to begin to sense the nature of my internal motivation. Sense the paradox of my internal defense against pain and sensations of fear; a flight to the refuge of my mind. To understand how we’re all raised to suppress sensations, in order to secure our mature sense of objective rationality. To understand why I felt lost in a sea of unconscious emotional reactivity, my social reflexes not quiet in-tune with normal social adaptation. Decades and the invention of the internet to begin to really understand, how traumatic experience had frozen my innate ability for spontaneous social communication. I had to leave my own culture to escape the built-in complications of a projection process, in which I felt trapped. So trapped that I’d found myself acting out a well meaning, projection of paternalistic care and concern, towards my therapy clients. So I went in search of my own “built-in” processes, in search of personal transformation. In my opinion, we are so immersed in the “autonomic” nature of our socially evolved humanity, asking people to be aware of unconscious affect and e-motive reactivity, is like asking a fish about water. “What’s water?”"
Considering my own experience with psychotropic medications and the alarming reports of deaths attributed to medication side effects, including deaths of young children. Should I be overly concerned about upsetting my family members, by speaking the truth about my lived experience? People might believe that I've hurt my mother, by exposing her to public scrutiny, although I doubt that anyone she knows outside our family, has read my writing. Also, nobody alive knows my mother like I do, we share the same blood from her side of the family. I know how tough she is, and why she trusted me, above all others, with her family secret, that may have brought our family closer together, if we could have discussed it, openly. Yet, thats the paradox of our subconscious, emotional reactivity, and its rationalized sense of reason. Beneath the layers of conscious, protective, rationalizations, we actually function, within a sea of emotional reactivity. Cover-up rationalizations like this one;
" ‘Do I trust the word of a university educated psychiatrist, over the word of a man with a thirty year history of mental illness? - What do you think?’
‘I think you just avoided the sense of yourself, like I used too do.’ He looked perplexed of coarse, refusing any sense of what I was referring to. A former lover had remarked how James was a brilliant conversationalist, could speak well on such a wide range of subjects, except himself. “Just like you!” She’d added. Her comment mingled with a memory of my therapy supervisor and his remark about the double edged sword of conceptualizations. A millisecond collage of images and sound bites, so seamlessly fussed they are impossible to capture with a plodding description of a this thing or that, explanation. “How can I speak about my inner life objectively, without distancing my head from the immediate flow of sensation?”
‘You side stepped how you feel about all this by throwing the question back at me,’ I offered in explanation, as James switched his attention to writing a text message on his cell phone. My rational, reasonable "I think therefore I am," Descartian young man." An excerpt from Born to Psychosis
So, have I shamed my family, my mother, in my six year journey to understand the nature of my so called mental illness? Well, I remember a conversation with my mother in 2007, when I tried to cross the void between us. The subconscious void of abandonment and rejection, which runs like a river through generations of, my family attachment tree.
'Whats your favorite song mom?' I'd asked, fairly sure she'd nominate a Shirley Bassy number, and sure enough:
So today, as our emotional cut-off continues its generational path, will we ever bridge the void between us, and can she forgive me for my apparent transgression of, generations of family rules. “Don’t talk about emotional things, you might upset someone” Would she still react like she did in 1980;
"In a perfect world, a family therapist would been present to guide us through the pain that stimulates cut-off reactions, and erects unbreachable walls between family members. “I’ll see you in Hell before I forgive you for this,” she said as I followed her out to the car, while pleading for conversation and a stay of execution. Alas, painful reactions will always overcome a mountain of rationalizations and I was still decades away from the insights that could articulate my need for guidance in that first experience of euphoric disinhibition." An excerpt from Born to Psychosis
Will we ever sit together again, and can I really explain why I had to go to Thialand, and learn a Buddhist perspective on the reality of Heaven and Hell. Please consider;
A big. burly samurai comes to a Zen master and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.”
The Zen master looks him in the face and says, “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you? A worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?”
Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword and raises it to cut off the master’s head.
The Zen master says, “That’s hell.”
Instantly, the samurai understands that he has just created his own hell – black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment. He sees that he was so deep in hell that he was ready to kill someone. Tears fill his eyes as he puts his palms together to bow in gratitude for this insight.
The Zen master says, “That’s heaven.”
Which is why I wrote, above "asking people to be aware of unconscious affect and e-motive reactivity, is like asking a fish about water. “What’s water?”
In 2007, when I'd asked during a telephone conversation, what my mom's favorite song was, I'd previously sent her a CD with a special song on it, knowing how much she would love it, and I wonder if we will ever listen to it together? Or will the generational nature of a subconscious family pattern continue? Have we said our final goodbye, already? Will we miss the possibilty to heal the void, as my father and I did? As I tell others nowadays, "its surprising what life brings you, when you stop defending yourself against it." Those, sometimes, awful, internal sensations, which can make us "shun" each other.
In Murray Bowen's siminal approach to family and society, he describes a notion of "sinning," perhaps reflecting the Christian culture in which he was immersed:
"The force that drives the family projection process is intense. It is an automatic emotional force that functions to keep the patient sick. The full power of the force is most clearly seen in “action language” in families with severely impaired patients, when family anxiety is high. The family will overextend itself to do anything for the patient as long as treatment is for the patient.
The process can be aptly described by the following analogy. The family approaches the psychiatrist with a problem in one family member that, from a systems point of view, is the product of years of “sinning” throughout the family. The group is adamant in its demands that the product of the “sinning” be removed without doing anything to disturb the family patterns.
The same projection process operates in psychiatry. There have been reports about family therapy in the literature for almost twenty years. One of the best family research studies in the past decade was designed to keep mental patients out of hospitals. It was carefully designed and controlled, and it demonstrated that about eighty percent of patients already approved for admission to a public hospital could be kept at home and treated with a fraction of the professional personnel and time and expense required for the control group, and that the end result after a five year follow-up was much superior to the conventionally treated group. The scientific reports about it appeared periodically until the final book report five years ago.
Reviews of the work in professional journals described the work as “interesting and worthy of further study,” etc. One could say that innovations in thinking and procedure require time for acceptance. There is evidence that this force in psychiatry is part of the same force in all families, and also in society. Society probably spends more time and energy in futile attempts to remove the products of “sinning” than in trying to stop the “sinning.” " Excerpts from "Family Therapy in Clinical Practice," by Murray Bowen.
In my opinion, Bowen's "sinning," is our subconscious need to "shun" any sense of "otherness," like the experience of so-called mental illness, which no longer lends support to group function, on a family and societal level of implicit needs.
Why did I wait three months to finish this post?
Like other periods, during this six year quest to discover the nature of my psychoses, and renew the respect of my children. Its been a period of more reading to establish the resources I need to argue my case, both socially and scientifically, knowing full well how my claim of self-regulation, without any medications, will be dismissed. "You never had Bipolar anyway," is the most common response from people in online support groups, where posts are overwhelmingly concerned with medications, and tolerating side-effects. Strangely, even within the online groups who mainstream society considers as anti-psychiatry, and anti-science, my experience is dismissed. Even though a favorite exppression in these groups is, "the best way out is through." Its been a dismaying experience for me, as I discovered just how much people need simplistic explanations for their expereince. I've struggled to understand the nature of our common denial of internal motivation, and our too often, blind adherence to common beliefs. The "group think," or "hive mind" as many people call it. Yet I have learned to wait on my own unfolding experience, without trying to force progess by way of rationalizations.
I've learned to push myself by trying to articulate my experience on websites like Mad in America, and found an experiential process of crystalizing my thinking, with the help of inter-personal interactions. Interactions and a re-reading of appropriate material like comments on a thread like this one:
"I’m trying to show people the subconscious processes which stimulate our sense of reason. When I use the term scan, I’m referring to the subconscious processes, Shcore describes, as happening so fast, they fail to cross the threshold of consciousness. Please consider that we may have become so stuck in Descartes error, that we literally can’t see what is right in front of our eyes.
WE CANNOT PERCEIVE WHAT WE CANNOT CONCEIVE:
We can only perceive, or literally see, what we can conceive of. We must have neuronal firing in our brains, whether it be in the imaginable state or actual perceptual state, for us to register an object as a reality.
Example: When Magellan’s fleet sailed around the tip of South America he stopped at a placed called Tierra del Fuego. Coming ashore he met some local natives who had come out to see the strange visitors. The ship’s historian documented that when Magellan came ashore the natives asked him how he had arrived. Magellan pointed out to his fully rigged sailing ships at anchor off the coast. None of the natives could see the ships. Because they had never seen ships before they had no reference point for them in their brains, and could literally not see them with their eyes. Therefore, it is to our advantage to expose our brains to varied stimulus so that the proper neuronal connections are forged. In this way we expand and enrich our ability to experience more of our environment in a meaningful way.
Finally words from my brother in arms, my kindred spirit;
"It seems obvious that when faced with the choice of allowing a realization that Jung either was singularly psychologically blind to the identity of his own benefactor Dionysus, or a realization that Jung deceptively hid the identity of the phallic maneater Dionysus– that Jung’s followers were in so much cognitive dissonance, were in such a bind that they unconsciously chose the third alternative. They went into a collective trance. Like the throng in the Emperor’s New Clothes fairy tale, they couldn’t see the reality before their very eyes.
Orwell famously affirmed this psychological axiom –’To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.’
That’s why Perry’s patrician jaw dropped and I saw him for the first time at a loss for words when I spoke my Jungian blasphemy about the big secret hidden in plain sight. When the defense of denial collapses on a secret that big it is a dramatic thing to witness. Perry became almost giddy–he kept repeating–”Of course Michael, yes, you are right, you are right–I never saw it, none of us did–oh, you must publish this, must publish this!” And so I am right now." _Michael Cornwall PhD.
Who in 2012, was moved to write that David Bates has an understanding of madness beyond compare. A comment which gave me great encouragement, considering Michael's four decade's of front-line expereince, in healing emotional/mental distess, without medications.
Reading Michael's brilliant essay again (see here) had allowed a further crystalization of my learning expereince in Thailand, with its Buddhist traditions, words and images began to gell together, (psychological-blindness, cognitive-dissonance, denial, and mental-suffering) began to resonate together, in a clearer sense of our common misperceptions, of our own reality. Please consider;
“Our Consensus Reality & Cognitive Dissonance?
This is the uncomfortable feeling that develops when people are confronted by “things that shouldn’t ought to be, but are.” If the dissonance is sufficiently strong, and is not reduced in some way, the uncomfortable feeling will grow, and that feeling can develop into anger, fear and even hostility. To avoid cognitive dissonance people will often react to any evidence which disconfirms their beliefs by actually strengthening their original beliefs and create rationalizations for the disconfirming evidence. The drive to avoid cognitive dissonance is especially strong when the belief has led to public commitment.
There are three common strategies for reducing cognitive dissonance. One way is to adopt what others believe. Parents often see this change when their children begin school. Children rapidly conform to “group-think,” and after a few years, they need this particular pair of shoes, and that particular haircut or they will simply die. The need to conform to social pressure can be as psychically painful as physical pain.
A second way of dealing with cognitive dissonance is to “apply pressure” to people who hold different ideas. This explains why mavericks are so routinely shunned by conventional wisdom. To function without the annoying psychic pain of cognitive dissonance, groups will use almost any means to achieve a consensus reality.
A third way of reducing cognitive dissonance is to make the person who holds a different opinion significantly different from oneself. This is normally done by applying disparaging labels. The heretic is disavowed as stupid, malicious, foolish, sloppy, insane, or evil and their opinion simply does not matter.
When we are publicly committed to a belief, it is disturbing even to consider that any evidence contradicting our position may be true, because a fear of public ridicule adds to the psychic pain of cognitive dissonance. Commitment stirs the fires of cognitive dissonance and makes it progressively more difficult to even casually entertain alternative views.
“Without deep and active involvement in controversy, and/or a degree of philosophical self-consciousness about the social process of science, people may not notice how far scientific practice can stray from the text book model of science.” _Harry Collins.”
Which led me onto this:
"Please consider how we come to each moment of our actions and how;
“we can only be aware of what we currently know and our immediate surroundings, life is not a thought, it’s an experience.
Hence: The fantasies of your thought are not real. They are generated by your attachment, and therefore by your desire, your hate, your anger, your fear.
The fantasies of your thought, are generated by yourself” _Buddha.
We suffer because we mistake the fantasies of our mind for reality.
It is fundamental, therefore, that we learn to distinguish between reality and the fantasies of our mind.
There are two worlds:
1. The world of the mind.
2. The world of reality.
The world of reality is real, the world of the mind isn’t real.
Of the objects which present themselves to our consciuosness, in fact, some belong to the reality that surrounds us, while others belong to our mind – that is, to our memory. (the body/brain and its nervous stimulation).
We tend to falsly believe that “both” kinds of mental objects are real, yet this is a false assumption based on our past, not the present reality, by which we are surrounded and unknowingly immersed in.
Only the mental objects which belong to the surrounding environment are real, not those which belong to our memory ( the body/brain nervous energy of the past)” (read more of this Buddhist interpretation of our confused mind's here)
Please consider how we get stuck in moment we can’t get out of, because we “judge” with an expectation from what we’ve been taught? Hence we suffer from psychological-blindness as Michael puts it, in his brilliant essay."
Lastly, do I believe that this post will alter my relationship with my family? No, not really, in emotional terms my life now has no "valence" for my family, in psychological terms, no "relevence," as I alluded to throughout this post, and inserted Kafka's genius, to illistrate. My blog writing has, since 2011, been about a process of deepening my own understanding, and an effort to help, in my small way, those hundereds of thousands, around the world, who suffer from so-called mental-illness, and our human need to shun any sense of otherness. The world has changed, since my initial false diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1980, and the age of internet, now allows people to give up their dependence on others, and find their own improved recovery, through self-education, in my opinion.
Please consider an excerpt from the book which was the most helpful on my journey;
“Deepening awareness is a challenge. It isn’t a challenge because my parents didn’t love me enough. It’s a challenge because it’s a challenge. I don’t need to take it personally. I’ve spent years excavating my past, sorting and cataloguing the wreckage. But who I really am, the essential truth of my being, can’t be grasped by the mind, no matter how acute my insights. I’ve confused introspection with awareness, but they’re not the same. Becoming the worlds leading expert on myself has nothing to do with being fully present.” Excerpt from: “In an Unspoken Voice.” by Peter Levine, PhD.
How much longer will we continue to shame and shun, any sense of otherness, we don't understand? Shame can be a killer, not just a stimulation of stigma, it can lead to an impulse for escape, particularily for the tortured creative's like Ian Curtis, who's genius came to mind, as I walked away from my family, in October 2010:
“No wonder isolation has been used as punishment and torture down through the ages,” I thought. Or perhaps I really am insane, no meaningful reality sensed during these hyper-sensitive periods of psychosis, simply the disease of a nasty, and very unsacred illness? I kept walking, fighting the collapse feeling of dying inside. “Your confusion my illusion, was like a mask of self hate, confronts and then dies,” came to mind as I gazed at people passing by. Ian Curtis and Joy Division’s song “atmosphere,” so holy appropriate to each further footstep. “How the hell does this happen,” I pondered, yet it was an eerie serendipitous feature of so many moments like this in my life. “Don’t walk away,” whispered through my mind, along with the haunting melody of a truly fabulous song. “People like you find it easy, aching to see, walking on air, haunted by the rivers, through the streets, every corner, abandoned to soon, set down with due care.” “Don’t walk away,” echoed in reverberation, as I dragged myself further on." An excerpt from Born to Psychosis
How long before we stop sinning and blindly judging each other, lost in a sea of subconscious, emtional reactivity?
How long before we begin to educate ourselves about these unconscious waters, which move us all?
What does this uncommon term AFFECT, really mean, and is, its subconscious regulation, as Allan Schore and others suggest, the root cause of so-called mental illness?
Read part one of this post here