Monthly Archives: November 2011

muladhara & metaphors 2: schizoids

Mental Health Fact of the Day:

“According to the WHO, one in four of us will develop at least one mental illness of behavioral disorder in our lifetime. Depression alone affects an estimated 121 million  people worldwide.”

And this is probably a huge underestimate, considering that people don’t ever like to truly report anything regarding mental health because mental health problems = weak as hell. Also, this is probably coming from developed countries, where we are materially much more stable but still facing huge rates of unhappiness.

It sucks to have so much depression running around. Because let’s face it – these people in well-off countries should be doing what they love, enjoying life, even helping other people in need…but we’re too depressed to even face reality. And that’s okay to be depressed – our human bodies have evolved to predispose us to never ending fear and worry. But we’ve evolved so much as a species we can’t let our brilliant yet primitive nervous systems hold us back in life anymore. Mental health treatment, whether its through a therapist, a counselor, friends, yoga, meditation, whatever you want, is the key to helping our species evolve even more.

An hour long vid on mindfulness meditation by Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of MBSR (aka the thing I’m doing my research on):

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Had dinner with my professor from one of my favorite classes (Medicine and the Body in East Asia and Europe) the other day: Professor Kuriyama. Keynote rockstar, acupuncturist in disguise, and speaker of 5 languages, Kuriyama is someone you don’t want to mess with. But he’s adorable. I can’t help it.

Anyways, had a faculty dinner with him yesterday (unfortunately there was 4 of us, so I couldn’t ramble on about Eastern medicine) but he mentioned 2 interesting experiments:

1) Planarians

Not planetariums. But yes, these dudes (aka flatworms):

Apparently an experiment done by Robert Thompson and James V. McConnell showed that when they conditioned a flatworm to respond to a bright flash of light (the planaria would jump like it had been shocked whenever it saw the light), by cutting the flatworm in half and allowing the halves to regenerate into two new flatworms, both flatworms responded in the same way to the light. This worked for 2 chunks, 4 chunks, 8 chunks… Even more fun: when a chunk of a cut flatworm was fed to another flatworm (friendly cannibals, I dare say), the flatworm that ate the chunk responded in the same way. Chemical memory? And what implications does this have for theory of mind and transferral of mind? What about the claims of organ recipients to suddenly develop hobbies/likes that their organs’ previous owner had?

Granted they haven’t been able to completely replicate the experiment (mainly because people can’t really figure out how they trained flatworms…nor do enough people care), but still fascinating.

2) The Memory Experiment

Two groups of people were asked to memorize the face of a “convict”. One group was allowed to write notes, the other had to purely use visual memorization. The next day, the groups were brought in and asked to individually identify the convict in a line of convicts.

The result? The people who didn’t write anything down performed far superiorly in the task.

But when they tried to replicate the test dozens of times, the gap between the two groups got smaller and smaller. And no one knows why.

My prediction would be that more and more people found out about the experiment so they went in knowing what was going down…but my gut feeling is that they probably controlled for that (or I would hope that they would).

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Therapy session number 5 went down last week. So we’ve already determined that I have a schizoid defense mechanism. That doesn’t mean I’m schizophrenic, but it means that my way of “defending myself” whenever I feel uncomfortable is to disappear into my own head and fantasies. Too true. Being an only child & swimmer made it about 100 times worse. Other defense mechanisms termed by Alexander Lowen (the student of a student of Frued) include: the oral/lover/pleaser, the endurer/masochist, the hysteric/emotional, the rigid/perfectionist, and the  challenger/defender.

So in the chakra world, it means I’m energetically very open in my top two chakras (located between my eyebrows – third eye, as well as the top of my head), but very deficient in my root chakra – muladhara. Which is why this theme of muladhara metaphors is going to be huge this month. I literally don’t understand what it’s like to be in my own body, which is ironic since I used to be a competitive athlete.

I’ll include facts at the end of this blog about schizoid personality defense mechanism and the issues associated with the first chakra.

Several things we did during the session (besides me rambling on about life):

In order to access the best source of visualization for me, we tried many different things like trying to describe what it was like to be in my own body, etc. I told her how it was so hard for me to read and be in my own body at the same time because the paper with the words looked so beautiful and alive but I couldn’t comprehend the words. She told me I looked very energetically disconnected.

Allison told me to describe her energy field and then mine. Of course, I always feel ridiculous half the time I do this, but that’s because I’m embarassed about almost anything I do (related to my lack of belief of my right to be here – the fundamental concept of the root chakra). So I described her energy field being red-orange, very whole, fairly dense, spherical, and it was low on the ground. Mine was light blue, wispy, and shot straight up into the ceiling, and was extremely narrow.

Then we did a visualization meditation. She asked me to feel my skin. I told her I could really feel the sensation on my forearms. She then asked me to transfer the feeling around, feeling every inch of my skin. Later, she told me to simply feel my entire being in one piece. To really feel how my mind is contained not just in my head, but my whole body. To connect with the piece of protein wrapping around my presence.

The biggest difference for me was when she asked me to patch up the top of my head – my crown chakra. I imagined a purple patch covering my left head (for some reason that was the tingling side). It was hard – there was so much resistance coming from the blue-white light. But finally, it happened, and it was so weird. I felt real. And I was terrified of being real. I felt like a solid object and I was so uncomfortable.

SIDE NOTE: Remember my adventures with Kundalini yoga? I told Allison about my experience where I felt like if I even slightly let go, I would’ve lost myself into the infinity (of my mind) forever. My personality defense type perfectly explains why – All my energy is concentrated above me that I have nothing to root me to the ground. The vibrations could have potentially made me psychotic, which is a scary thought (but cool, because something like sound vibrations can have such an impact on our nervous system. ALSO, I have a theory on schizophrenia. More on that in another post). Allison thought it best I avoid Kundalini for a while – I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve been doing a lot of grounding exercises along with this meditation. It’s weird – I feel lower and closer to the ground. My senses at moments are more acute, and my vision has suddenly expanded to 180 degrees. But it’s hard for me to maintain it because it really does overwhelm my nervous system and I feel almost like I’m high all the time. So I have to slowly, very patiently teach my nervous system to come back down again. What a convenience – one of the key words of the first chakra is patience. Other key muladhara words are: trust, self-worth, safety, hope, and faith.

FUN FACTS ON THE ROOT CHAKRA PART ONE [overlap with western psychology, taken from Eastern Body, Western Mind]:

Nervous System: Coccygeal plexus/Coccygeal spinal ganglion – NOTE: this doesn’t mean the chakra system IS the nervous system. The reason why subtle energies are located in these nerve ganglion clusters is because of the subtle energies’ manifestation. Ancients had such highly tuned senses (“It’s all about what senses you cultivate.” – a la feral children(Chakra systems are also involved in the endocrine system as well.)

Identity: Physical

Age: Womb to 12 months

Frued: Oral

Reich/Lowen: Schizoid (Creative) Defense Mechanism

“Lowen named this strucutre Schizoid because of its characteristic split between mind and body that results from first chakra alienation. People with this structure are highly creative and intelligent, with upper chakras that are overdeveloped. Their issues center around the right to exist.”

Piaget: Sensory – Motor (stage 1&2)

Erikson: Trust vs. Mistrust

Maslow: Physiological

Wilber: Pleromatic, uroboric

Kohlberg: Punishment/obedience

Psycho-synthesis: Lower collective unconcious

Daily Nutritional Facts

Sweeteeth – “The A’Chocolypse”

I think this bar already wins based off the name and the fact that they have a brontosaurus on the wrapping. A collaboration of 70% dark chocolate, candied ginger, and popping sugar presents itself in this beautiful brunette paper design. Granted, I actually didn’t realize there was popping sugar and was a little surprised/annoyed by it, but as a confection it was pretty well done. The ginger wasn’t too overwhelming and was rooted well in the depth of the chocolate (compared to another brand’s chocolate bar that I’ll talk about later).

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muladhara metaphors uno

I think it’s time I start writing shorter blog posts and spread out my thoughts. Otherwise I’ll be overwhelmed by the information I collect and feel pressured to cram it into one blog post (aka a 5 page word document).

Updates? I’ve been seeing a Mind-Body therapist. Her name is Allison Shaw, and she works in Arlington. She is baller.

I found her in a free copy of Natural Awakenings that was lying around the Karma Yoga Studio (which I unfortunately had to cancel my monthly membership for, since I strained my knee…well hello swimming). School had gotten to a point where I should’ve been enjoying everything that I was doing, but I was so consumed by insomnia that going to sleep became a stressful event for me. I also realized that yeah, I’m happy now, but I feel super blocked. I’m freaking out. My body is out of wack. I feel so uncomfortable complaining about anything pre-college. What’s going on?

I had always toyed with the thought of seeing a psychologist. What really did it for me was three things:

1) I read an amazing book called Eastern Body, Western Mind. A brilliant synthesis of all the bomb Western psychologists (Frued, Piaget, Reich, Lowen, Erikson, Maslow, Wilber, Kohlberg) and Eastern Chakra philosophy. Did you know that the seven chakra locations correspond to the seven major clusters of nerve ganglion cells from your spinal cord? They knew this way way long ago, without the need of cutting us open and inspecting the tiny neuronal stuff. I love this.

2) My vision had been tripping. One moment things were crystal clear – almost too clear – and then the next moment everything was blurry. My acupuncturist told me this was due to an excess of liver qi (since I don’t do 24 hrs of aerobic exercise a week), which can stagnate and then in turn can affect my vision (because of the connection between the liver and the occipital lobe of the brain). There was one particular night where I felt so depersonalized, sleep-deprived, stressed (from nothing), and disorientated that I broke down, sobbed on the phone to my Dad for an hour and couldn’t make it to class. When my Dad briefly mentioned the word “swimming”, I literally felt my chest tense up so intensely that I couldn’t breathe or make a sound. It was some disgusting combination of anger, sadness, pain, and well, a little extra dab of anger. And I couldn’t talk about it really to anyone, because I felt annoying. I knew I had to see someone.

3) Based off of my knowledge on yoga philosophy and Eastern medicine, I knew going to a psychologist wasn’t right for me. I needed body work as well. The body is a metaphor for the mind.

Therefore, when I saw her as the only person listed under “Mind Body Therapy” in Natural Awakenings, I called her up right away.

Why Mind-Body therapy over regular psychiatry?

Here’s the deal. We communicate in metaphors. James Geary notes in his book “I is an Other” (more on this in future posts), that almost every sentence we use is dripping with metaphors. Don’t believe me?

Here is an article taken from today’s NY Times:

As New Graduates Return to Nest, Economy Also Feels the Pain

Young people who can afford to move out have decided to wait until getting on more solid footing, and their prudence is depriving the economy of a lot of potential activity.

I could do this all day.

Anyways, my point is that we use metaphors way more than we realize. And metaphor therapy, art therapy, music therapy are all starting to make it big in the therapy world.

Why?

Because our emotions come from the primitive structures of our nervous system, and though those structures may be brilliant, but damn are they also retarded.

They can’t distinguish between situations you experience when you’re six months old and now. Nor can it understand English. No, I’m serious. Don’t even try Chinese on that thing.

So yes, psychotherapy is great for your prefrontal cortex/neocortex, the last part of your brain that gets developed. When does that happen? Oh right, way past when the rest of your emotional patterns are laid down.

I mean, pretend that you’re four years old. You are not going to justify the fact that your mom was strict on you because “Oh hey, she experienced neglect when she was young so her way of showing love is to smother me and be strict”. No. All your simple emotionally-based nervous system is going to know is fear. 

And then that fear carries on throughout your life, shaping all your experiences, your sensations in your body, your perception of the world. Your neurons in your own brain start pruning so that the connections become even stronger (a la water making grooves on a rock – thank you MCB 80).

But can you change that?

I believe yes.

So the reason I’m seeing a Mind-Body therapist is because the way your Mind and Body communicate to each other is through metaphor. You undo patterns in your nervous system through imagery and bodily expression. Words only do so much, they only go so far back.

Daily Nutritional Facts:

Two noteworthy mentions –

Ramen Noodle Dark Chocolate – okay the “dark” bit is questionable. 53% doesn’t quite cut it, and it probably is more cocoa butter than cocoa powder. Nonetheless – derishoussss ramen noodles tickle your palette while it plays in the ballpit with Mrs. Dark, but not as epic as the tortilla lime flavored one. Still an interesting and satisfying combination. Komforte Chockolates loves to impress. Plus, seriously a fan on the small size of the bar. Other companies need to get on that, it really isn’t that difficult.

I am also obssessed with Lemon Chobani Greek Yoghurt. I know I’ve raved about lemon yoghurt before in SF, but this stuff is so real. Their other flavors have gross jams collected at the bottom, but this has lemon peels scattered gently throughout the creamy mixture. #hiheaventhatImayormaynoteatdaily

 


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