Respecting Minds

It is so easy to overlook the astonishing capabilities of the human mind. Like fish who do not notice the water they swim in, our immediate experience of mind is so familiar we simply take it for granted. To successfully navigate the practical concerns of day to day life is a major accomplishment, one for which we as a species have yet to learn to give ourselves enough credit for. What the mind is able to accomplish is downright humbling when examined fully and should lead us to respect its abilities and, perhaps even more importantly, its vulnerabilities.

Consciousness seems to consist of a collection of factors which must be kept in dynamic balance. Mind seems to do this by a series of cybernetic-like adjustments which allows it to stay on track. Psychological development is never a straight line from point A to point B but more like the way a sailboat proceeds, tacking first to the right and then to the left. A moment of excess marks the trespass into extremes and the need to change course if sanity is to maintain its even keel.

Take a moment to consider the contents of your mind. We balance an awareness of our mundane and earthly position with a simultaneous awareness of our cosmic position in our galactic neighborhood and the unspeakable immensities of space. Alongside a thought about the ancient vastness of the night’s starry sky and pondering the meaning of human existence in the grand scheme of things, will come another thought trying to decide if the sandwich you are currently making would benefit more from Djon or yellow mustard. We maintain an awareness of grand themes playing themselves out in the theaters of international relations and the history of ideas spanning centuries and millennia, side by side with an intimate knowledge that our own allotted span on the stage of human affairs will run but a small handful of decades, if we are fortunate. Whatever might be the purpose of the stars and the grand scheme of things, each morning when we awake we are able to dedicate our energies (some people and some days with more enthusiasm than others) towards the indispensable needs of the individual life we are living – consuming our sandwich we are off to work or school or to find a mate, change a diaper, hoe a garden, pay our taxes or blow our noses.

There are also the balancing acts of the heart no less necessary if conscious awareness, just good old everyday conscious awareness, is going to function properly. Heart’s emotions intermingle with rational cognitions just exactly as language based thinking intermingles with images born from memory or imagination. We recognize our own bodies have needs of nourishment which must be balanced each day with the equally legitimate claims of others. We are aware of the suffering and needs of those sentient beings all around us and our hearts go out to them in their distress. One part of us remains aware, always, that right now an innocent is suffering reprehensible cruelties, be it from war, miscarriages of justice, or abuse. One part of us remains aware, always, that at this time there are lover’s vows being exchanged, babies being born and made, artists completing great works of beauty, and moments of sacred grace descending into the mystic’s breast. In the heart we balance our fierce love for our mates, if we are coupled, with a determined hatred to oppose anyone or anything that refuses to grant them the respect they deserve. This is another difficult balancing act our minds are accomplishing ceaselessly on behalf of maintaining our sense and sanity. These opposites are representative. The tension they create constitute the basis by which consciousness is conscious.

This stressful weight of knowledge is ever present to our minds, pressuring them in every moment to avoid what we fear and obtain what we desire. And what opposes all that? We find ways to balance this survival imperative with a more carefree attitude. If our lives are not to be wall to wall nightmares, we need to have times and places in which we allow ourselves to bask in the warm, peace-filled glow of contentment. The emotions and intuitions around gratitude, safety and well-being cannot be strangers to our everyday awareness as well. Yet the will ever beckons, there is the next valley to be crossed and the next mountain to climb on our endless hunt for our rainbows by which we might reconcile our individual existence with the whole of existence. In the interplay of opposites, which is the play of consciousness, even the proper gratitude can be taken too far and leave us kneeling and groveling (or simply drunk) when we should remain standing upright, shoulders back, capable and self-reliant.

Moment by moment our mind must balance the energetic alertness our nervous systems maintain as they are primed to be on the lookout for unexpected dangers, at all times ready to zero in on threats, with the relaxed, kaleidoscopic perception of the general reality of our environment which we understand does not contain these active threats most of the time. Every moment we combine a dismal fear of the future, quite rational for mortals subject to pain, with hope that this same future will bring us satisfaction. We all know some dreams come true and some tragedies strike wholly unexpectedly. We balance knowing these things are simultaneously true as we carry on performing the tasks of the present moment.

In what is perhaps the most profound balance of all, consciousness arises ceaselessly from the exact point at which the past disappears into emptiness and the future springs forth from the same. We balance the fact that the past is gone – that it was once real and now can be found nowhere while implied everywhere – with the fact that the future, as such, does not exist. There is a continuity in this kiss between the contained and the container that forms the essence of our time-riding consciousness. It is so mundane and yet so profound. One way we experience this psychologically is as our hope and fears for the future balanced against our pride and regrets from the past. It is from this crucible that wisdom is said to be born.

We altogether too easily take for granted this complex balancing of mind that allows us to navigate consciously in the cosmos. Taking all this and more for granted, we are often discontent, searching for more; we need a fix, an answer, a final understanding. I think we would be better served if we understood consciousness to be a very hard thing to create well in this universe as it really is, and that the mind as we experience it and the universe as we experience it participate equally in an ongoing act of creation’s manifestation in each unique, fleeting moment. We needn’t fear that each moment includes an irreducible element of novelty and the unknowable; it is ok that every detail doesn’t exist pre-planned in some cosmic mind. It seems instead that mind works in time, hard, calling on all the powers and forces of animate and inanimate existence to aid in its ongoing emergence. It seems that the uncertainty principal we find down among the sub-atomic particles extends right through the exercise of the free will we experience most intimately. Free or determined, particle or wave, mass or momentum, timelessness or time: these are the grand opposites mind plays with as if the paradox of their extremes were of no concern.

Our minds are born curious. To guide them through the difficult process of learning they have developed the ability to contrast that which is experienced as real with that which is experienced as a dream. From this most basic contrast among phenomenon the ego is able to establish what psychology has termed the reality principal. Hemmingway colorfully referred to this as the mind’s “bull shit detector.” It is a direct manifestation of the archetypal Self in so far as incorporates not just the ego but the personal and collective unconscious aspects of consciousness as well. The ego alone is not allowed to decide what is real and what is not, though it often wishes it could. The ego must learn to bow before that which makes the real seem real to it. It must embrace the Kantian categories of time, space and causality trustingly. Which leads us back to the subject of magic and miracles we looked at in last week’s post.

Is there evidence for a miracle-causing supernatural realm wholly outside the perception of humanity, as the priests claim? Is there evidence that magic works and that holy men have powers far beyond that of us normal mortals? Can the ego find in these tales of magic and miracles some real foundation for its hope to become immortal and forever blessed? This is how the BS detector takes on the subject of religion. Eastern or Western makes no difference since both abound in tales of magic and miracles.

I am going to suggest that this search for evidence for magical power has two results. In the realm of physical manifestations the evidence supports the null hypothesis. No miracles in the walking-on-water and severed-heads-being-restored variety are ever found to exist. It is always trickery, altered states of consciousness, or hearsay one is left with at the end of careful investigations of claims that these types of magical things have come to pass. On the other hand, there are the types of magical power involved with human psychology. There are love potions and death spells, holy incantations and powerful rites and ceremonies galore. The evidence for this kind of magic having a real world affect is rather abundant. Psychology is just beginning to grapple with some of what is involved when one human mind exerts “undue influence” over another. The proliferation of destructive cults in our midst has made this subject of “brainwashing” a very practical one for psychologists to deal with. Though today we call the visible, physical results of curses psychosomatic illnesses, that new label doesn’t cure people suffering from them nor is it able to keep people from occasionally being terrified to death by these same means. The evil eye and pointy sticks of the black magicians of today present themselves in more modern garb but they play on the same mind-body linkages around fear and panic, desire and pain, that they always have.

The arts of persuading the human mind have become common place in the emotional manipulations we see displayed in advertising. Ads are messages designed to change the behavior of those watching, namely to get them to purchase the product being hawked. To do this effectively across a wide percentage of the population the advertisers found that using emotional appeals instead of intellectual arguments delivered the goods. The familiar voiceover extolling the facts about some car, drug or whatnot is often included as no more than a veneer atop the visual short story the ad conveys. Not everyone will respond to these efforts on the part of advertisers to directly influence behavior. The cheerful mind, confident in its position, is less susceptible to the allure of their appeals. This is because those appeals almost always begin from an injection of a negative self-image into the mind of the viewer who is then given relief through the purchase of the product. The target of these mini soap operas are unhappy, lonely, confused, stressed, unpopular, stinky, failures but luckily for them, the old snake-oil pitch runs, we have just the thing to turn your life around!

We say that the successful tunes and jingles the mass media saturates our minds with are “catchy.” Our minds catch them, like a cold or a virus. For example, in 1982 the song Jack & Diane by John Mellencamp was receiving repeated radio play. I still, 35 years later, occasionally get the catchy chorus popping up in my head, “Oh ya, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” Those of my readers close to my age may have just heard the same notes accompanying the jingle I do when this virus takes hold. There is big money to be made in programming the human mind with pessimistic mantras like this.

I think we need to discuss this like a viral epidemic. These act as mind parasites as they so easily loop endlessly in our minds in some vague, semi-conscious fashion. These internal tunes provide a bounce to our step throughout the day but they also are programming the mind with a point of view. The music, the Dionysian element Nietzsche recovered for European philosophy in The Birth of Tragedy, helps us move our bodies with more rhythm, more like dancers. This is why devices allowing us to have earphones on throughout the day have become so popular; they answered a deeply felt need in this time of ours which has so consistently insisted our bodies are little more than DNA built machines. Machines don’t dance. It is the music of these jingles that gets to the heart. The words on the other hand, the words are carrying what are more or less intelligible messages from the daylight realm of Apollo. The mind feeds on thought, finding some nourish and some do not. Those which do not nourish are like the empty calories of a fast food meal; they crowd out the place nourishing thoughts might have been. The jingle mentioned earlier is a good example of a type that I find all too pervasive. It’s Apollonian message is basically adolescent romantic angst, playing on the fear that after 30 years old life is nothing but one unremitting downhill slide. This is a useful message if you want to sell things to younger people. It paints a picture that their youth is the only time of their lives that really counts – so rack up that credit card!

“Oh ya, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” Think a moment what it is you are telling your mind about life and what types of experiences one can expect as one gets older every time that little ditty loops around inside one’s skull. So many lives of quite desperation haunt the cities and towns of our modern world. One is left to wonder how much of it is the result of mind programming tricks like this. What is the jingle but a claim of corporate property rights in your inner landscape? This is what the thinkers of the past used to call the battle over the human soul. There is a reality to the psyche, as Jung was at such pains to point out, call it what you will.

It is only when we think that what our minds are capable of is trivial, so easy as to become unworthy of our continuous respect, that we can fail to properly protect them. It is then that we can become haunted by wanting more out of self-conscious mammalian life than it is prepared to deliver. In doing so we become susceptible to the wiles of the uncouth manipulators of mind. When we want more like this, we open ourselves up to the tragedy pattern which always starts when a person or a group pursues a fantasy that is not aligned with reality. Such projects do not end well, how could they? Better to work hard ourselves to acquaint consciousness with the art of paying attention to that which actually concerns us as self-conscious, caring individuals alive on a threatened earth.

The Threshold

“Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside.
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangstar)

David Bowie, Blackstar

 

This week, in a rather longer post, I would like to touch on a piece of information that might be relevant for some readers at some point and, I hope, interesting to all. It deals with one of the ways the human mind has evolved to deal with trauma. The reason it is a necessary subject to deal with in this set of posts about subjectivity is that it gets to the heart of what it means to be an embodied awareness. It does so by showing us how that awareness behaves under extreme duress.

One of the more interesting things about our understanding of ourselves as human beings is how the so-called occult, or discarded knowledge of our culture often forms a mirror-like impression of what the mainstream knowledge contains. If the mainstream is convex, the occult underground is concave. Among the many tales of ghosts and angels, spirits and demons, magical and psychic powers found in the occult literature, there are traces of actual events people have experienced. Many of the events are encountered in what we call altered states of consciousness, states that range from the slightly unusual to full twilight consciousness in which we seem to be transported bodily to other realms or places.

Some altered states seem to teach us more about our body and mind in the place we actually are. These are what we seek in our contemplations of ecology. Other altered states seem to go the other direction, providing us an escape from the material world, leaving the limitations of the body and earth far behind. Anyone who engages in any spiritual discipline needs to know about these very different currents. If I may indulge in a too simple metaphor for a moment I would suggest this is why Buddhists meditate with their eyes open and seek the middle way. Others teach meditating with the eyes closed and seek cosmic consciousness. There are two currents. This makes things sound black and white which in practice are anything but, yet there is an important distinction here that this simple metaphor captures.

One staple of the occult literature is the out of body experience, or OOBE. This is said to be a separation of the soul or mindstream from the body it is currently occupying. The soul is then free to wander the so-called astral planes. Much of the literature describes visits to other planets or realms populated with a menagerie of alien beings. Magicians and mystics of every stripe have added their stories to this semi-underground cultural inheritance. It is quite a mixed bag. Some of these people are little more than paid shrills. Others, however, are simply confused. And a few, we can assume, know the score.

One of the things that quickly becomes obvious as one stays with ecological studies (remaining mindful of ecology) is that there are any number of loud, self proclaimed experts who are absolutely clueless. This is a very, very important lesson to take to heart. These are all those people who are misrepresenting the facts, as we best understand them, concerning global warming, ocean dead zones and acidification, the sixth extinction, the poisoning of land and water in fracking operations and so on, right through the rest of the list of horrors we who do study ecology know so well. Some of these people are little more than paid shrills. Others, however, are simply confused. None, evidently, really know the score.

The same lesson should be applied to sources that speak to the human condition as well. Our inheritance includes any number of works by people equally clueless about what they are really discussing, just as clueless as the ecologically ignorant of our day are. The OOBE books are, I suggest, propaganda for the Descartes Error we have been exploring: that the mind is more real than the body, which is presented as little more than an optional appendage. Some of this occult tradition, including OOBE material, is the production of liars and con men flat out, nothing more. It is hard for some people to imaging using spirituality this way, just to make a buck and get laid, but history shows there is no shortage of such people. I’ve always thought this might be a really bad way to go about messing around with people if there ever turns out to be a real god or a real day of reckoning in any form. Anyway, this group is not the most dominate. Among the authors of reported OOBEs the majority are true believers. They have experienced something unusual and have done the best they can, given the contextual intellectual tools they have, to integrate that unusual experience with the rest of what they know.

There is no question that it is possible for the human mind to experience itself disembodied. There are reports by the bushel full of people seemingly leaving their body and looking back on it still lying on the bed, or the operating room table, or the floor of their torture cell. Something like this can happen. The data is there. The question is, what does it mean? Are these actual experiences of crossing the threshold of death? Epistemologically, are these experiences of the mind dying or of dying itself?

There is another set of literature in our cultural inheritance that also deals with OOBEs. This is not the occult traditions but the psychiatric ones. Here is a typical case report:
“During the raped I found myself looking down on the act from on high, from a point in the corner of the ceiling. I was looking down on my body but it wasn’t me, it was like a doll, a puppet …”

The point to see here is what has happened to the victim’s subjectivity. The body of the victim has been used as an object. When the victim reports seeing their body from a third person perspective, they too have taken the view of the perpetrator. They too are now seeing themselves as nothing more than an object to be used. There is a body over there, just a body, not my body. I – all my inner feelings and memories, cognitions and images – am up here floating; as insubstantial and invulnerably untouchable as a ghost.

The abuser has forced themselves into the mindstreams of their victims and displaced them. How? In a mistaken attempt to feel some power over what is happening to them, a part of the victim takes on the role of the perpetrator. If your only choices are between being the abuser or the victim, the urge to survive insists we take on the power the abuser seems to have. This is perhaps most familiar in the Stockholm Syndrome in which victims of kidnapping come to identify with their kidnappers, explaining to all who will listen that they really are not such bad people after all. Patty Hearst was the poster child for my generation of this frightening feature of the abused mind’s potential.

What power is that which the perpetrator wields that causes such pervasive disruptions to a person’s identity? The power to blind oneself to the value of another sentient being’s subjectivity. That is it. That is the great magical power – but it only enchants those who use it. It does not change the reality of the victim’s subjectivity. It is kind of like the two year old making the world disappear by covering their own eyes. The perpetrator pretends not to see the relationship with their victim as one consisting of I and Thou, but this is to deny what is obvious to the senses. The perpetrator knows that what they see in their victim’s eyes is equivalent to their own subjectivity. In a confused attempt to make the “I” real, to assert their own abused subjective value, they try to make the “Thou” unreal by pretending it is an object and not a fully sentient being. Then the rules governing a relationship between I and It take over, instead of the rules that are to govern relationships between I and Thou. In the narcissistic delusion the mind believes that by doing so it will become master of the world, no longer vulnerable to the shame and humiliation only another Thou can deliver.

This, then, becomes the ideal adult. It is the one we in the over-developed world have come to worship: the asshole, the action hero quick to kill a few hundred in every picture show, the gangster warlord who is a tough son of a bitch and seems to have the whole world just eating out of his or her hand. We are trying to decide right now which is the coolest – the soldier who drops cluster bombs and wipes out a few bad guys along with truck loads of children and brags about patriotism, or the CEO who lays off ten thousand hardworking household providers, then eats a feast that would have cost his workers a month’s salary and sleeps well that night. You know the types; they are on every channel, every day with the same old tiered script: “Look how awesome I can be because I do not care what you feel at all, I can torture you and eat a sandwich, doesn’t phase me a bit!” In our pain we come to believe hard-heartedness is humanity’s peak achievement.

Torture was supposed to be condemned, not worshipped.

The perpetrator has tortured their victim using sex, violence and emotional-cognitive manipulations. As the victim tries to process what has happened to them, particularly as children with no means of escaping the environments in which such tortures take place, a type of amnesia is created. Imagine, if you will, what it is like to wake up each morning in a home where you never know if you will be beaten again today, or worse. Additionally, if this is a child’s mind we are trying to empathize with, we need to add the fact that they have yet to know if they will ever be able to live a life outside the influence of their abusers. Children have yet to prove to themselves they can make it on their own. They know, in fact, that they cannot yet. They are not stupid.

The psychological solution that aids their survival is disassociation. One part of the self comes to know things about the truth of one’s own story that other parts of the self do not normally have access to. Sadly, a house divided against itself cannot long stand. The shunned part, like a thief in the night, will break into the daylight consciousness whenever the strength of repression grows weak. When that happens the human being will respond in less than skillful ways. The part that identified with the abuser will come clothed in anger at the vulnerability of the victim part that was sensitive enough to suffer so. Therapy consists of making some kind of peace between these warring parts. Healing comes when the person recognizes that the introjected abuser that is within them is not the same as the external person who caused the actual abuse. That, in fact, it is sharing the same body with all the rest of the parts of the mind’s psychological makeup.

The self is normally grounded through a set of nerve pathways connected to the major energy processing centers and senses of our physiology. When the therapist asks their client where they feel their pain they will typically point to one of the chakras. We can think of these nerve pathways as cords tying the mind to the gauges and instruments it uses to maintain homeostasis and orient itself within its environment. In the OOBE those cords are cut. To protect the ego from shattering in madness, the self is taken to a safe place concocted by the imagination. Another part of the person comes to take the place of the absent self and takes on the burden of the trauma. This part is then so disowned, repressed and denied that they come to feel like they are in another body entirely.

This becomes the source of the disassociative pain that accompanies most people who were abused as children throughout their lives. The part forced to play the role of the self remains a source of confusion as it continues its semi-conscious existence. It seems to get stuck in time and remains always on the lookout for the next attack. Abusive events in the external world of the adult can continue to trigger this part, which then takes over and deals with things as best it can. It has its say, speaks its truth to power, as it were, in binge drinking, violence, cutting or whatever and can then settle down again for awhile. When these things happen we say we were ‘not ourselves’ or ‘I don’t know what got into me.”

All people deal with this phenomenon to one degree or another. Consciousness itself seems to depend on opposites which creates a continuum of disassociation. Psychological maturity consists of re-associating these disparate parts so that we come to recognize, for example, that our early caregivers had elements of both good and evil in their hearts. Psychological maturity in general consists of the ability to tolerate complexity instead of insisting on the black and white thinking of childhood which would separate everyone into the overly simplistic categories of sinners and saints, angels and devils: Us and Them.

The painful dissociative confusion will remain a driving factor in the victim’s life to whatever degree the traumatized part remains un-integrated with the rest of a person’s life story. The direction is not further out into space on the wings of the ghost, out there with Major Tom that Bowie warned us about. We are not seeking the great Gnostic revelation of what the universe is all about. We are seeking to know that part of the universe given to us to know intimately. The direction is down and in. The work is to get to the place where the monster dwells and to unmask it by seeing the truth of our own past. Then we are succored by our own individual pain and our own individual joy. It puts an end to provisional living. We recognize we are living in a sacred world.

This is where this whole thing about working with dissociative persons gets rather fascinating. It is reported by councilors who work with the severely abused that often when they are dealing with a part like this, that part does not believe they are in the same body as the client. These clients suffer under the false idea that each part has its own body. The acting out associated with emotional pain often bears this mark. Those who cut themselves or who have eating disorders, to site two common examples, can be modeled as consisting of dynamic psychological parts that are using the body to make themselves heard or to satisfy their unmet needs – as if that body belonged to someone else. They use the body as if it were an object, instead of who and what they are. They treat themselves the way their abusers taught them to treat themselves.

This is where Descartes Error leads. Or, perhaps, this is where Descartes Error comes from.

The body, mind and imagination are all working together in this OOBE move to protect the survival of the victim. There is something within this body, mind and imagination complex that understands just what has happened in the psyche. It remains unconfused about what is real. The same physical continuity remains throughout all altered states of consciousness. The body does not lie, it knows the score.

There is a whole collection of psychological techniques designed to bring this truth to the alienated part, to orient the part again to the person. It is a milestone in treatment when someone is able to realize all the parts share the same body. Typically this insight requires a confrontational approach. One technique, for example, uses two chairs side by side. The councilor asks, say, the angry part to stay in the current chair while the client moves to the one next to it. Once the client is in that second chair the councilor , making eye contact, asks puzzled, ‘Hi angry part, why did you not stay in that chair?”

This might sound just too strange and of no use to us trying to get by in a time of ecological ignorance. What does it mean for a traumatized individual to recognize that all their psychological parts share the same body? Of course they do.

Yet, here we are – building weapons of mass destruction and mass deception as if we could poison one part of the earth’s skin with radiation and not poison ourselves in the process, or poison the public marketplace of ideas and not become fools ourselves. It is not a good thing that the war hawks are talking again about winning nuclear wars. It is not a good thing when we insist we can treat other human beings without concern for their individual differences, lumping the ones we do not like into object categories based on religion, race or politics and then treating them all like dirt: the ultimate It. We even treat dirt like dirt when we saturate our soils with chemicals and force it to produce the yield we desire. This too is not a good thing. All this is not much different than those occult treatises describing all manner of colorfully imaginative alternate realities the soul visits once it is freed from the shackles of the gross body. Somehow, long after the oil is gone and food harvests have become unreliable, we won’t mind because we will still be able to go shopping: our reward for keeping the faith and prioritizing economic growth above all else. We are acting as if we really believed this.

In our cultural confusion we honestly act as though a new, purified earth awaits us on the other side of our social and ecological collapse. To those who would abuse us so, to those who would hurt the earth this way, we should raise our voice and say the word that undoes the bewitchments: No. Not on my watch, not as long as I draw breath. The only tool I have in my arsenal is rational discussion. It might seem pale next to slo-mo close-ups of monsters and gore, but it has a power all its own. We cannot stop the abuse handed down the long generations. We are not personally responsible for the weapons of the mind or the weapons of the nucleus. We are asked to live our story, to contribute our thread to the tapestry of life this precious earth uses to cloak her nakedness from the cold of space. We should live them well, mindfully.

We do not need to remain in the liar’s double bind: “I am both responsible and helpless.” We can learn to train in both / and after we have graduated from the school of either / or. We do not need to remain Or Men, those who would cut everything Right In Two. It is not the case that our only choice is a bad one between becoming victims or perpetrators ourselves. We can choose to be compassionate adults, wise in the ways of the world. We can face our monsters and recognize when our gods are scarecrows of our own invention. We can learn to nurture the child within and protect the child without, the hope of our species. We can wake up. That is, we can learn to recognize when we are dreaming, dealing with psychological projections and emotion laden-images even when our eyes are open, and when we are not dreaming, when we are dealing with real things in our real molecular world.

“In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen,
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the center of it all, in the center of it all,
Your Eyes…”
David Bowie, Blackstar

Free From Lies

“Trauma stories can reveal not only the criminal actions committed, but also the justifications given for those actions. Trying to understand the motivations of the perpetrators can be risky, because such efforts can seem like a rationalization or even an acceptance of the aggressor’s brutality. But the attempt at understanding is essential to the healing process because the bodies and minds of the traumatized people are imprinted by the belief system of their victimizers. Long after the perpetrators have vanished, their ideologies continue to prey on the minds of the survivors.”
Richard F. Mollica, Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths of Hope and Recovery in a Violent World
(italics added)

 

It can be painfully confusing to see major changes occurring in one’s society without having an explanatory framework. When the tides of history churn up the waters of everyday life, even the least informed are caught up in the momentum of the moment. There just seems to be something in the air, as we say. We avoid painful confusion whenever possible so it is not surprising to see a plethora of explanations accompany any serious disruptions to business as usual.

Everyone is trying to figure out just what the hell is going on these days. That is certainly what mindful ecology is trying to do. The disruption is affecting all of us, not just journalists and diplomats, CEOs and politicians of every stripe. For example, here is an edgy take by science fiction author Charles Stross that takes the ecological crisis seriously. The sci-fi elements in his post are colorful but the central points he makes remain all too conceivable, to my way of thinking.

Some explanations at times such as this are more helpful than others because they hone closer to the real causes and effects involved. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans the airwaves were filled with talk about climate change, for example, but there was also no lack of preachers assuring their listeners that this hurricane was a sign from god that this city of Jazz decadence was being punished for its sinful ways. Now that hurricanes Sandy, Andrew, and Matthew have all joined in the destruction of cities, that later explanation has proved itself less than helpful. Specifically, while demonizing populations, which encourages scapegoat violence, the theological explanation has proven itself incapable of inspiring the necessary changes in lifestyles and policies that are needed to avoid even worse disasters in the future.

Chaos scares us. The mind confronted with changes that threaten to spin out of control busies itself constructing an explanatory framework. The framework becomes a psychological bulwark against fears that might otherwise incapacitate us. We see the same process in abused children who work hard to find some means of placing their abuse within the context of the rest of their lives. All of us adults do the same thing, though hopefully without the desperation of identity protection involved in child abuse. As we deal with the fears and cruelty of our day to day encounter with each other and with terrifying news events, we are organizing these events with the help of whatever background beliefs we subscribe to. The mind is a meaning maker, this is how it does what it does.

Those core beliefs direct our attention to some things, for they have become meaningful and important to us. The core beliefs also direct us to ignore, or dismiss as unimportant, those things that do not seem relevant to us.

This semi-conscious network of beliefs informs our experience by supplying us with what is true, for us, about how the world works and our place in it. This is not just an intellectual exercise, something many a teacher, preacher and rhetorician have failed to fully appreciate. These deep seated beliefs are imprinted in the body as much as in the mind. They are formed from the sum of our experiences, including those experiences we have participated in vicariously through empathy. The subjectivity of consciousness, as we encounter it moment by moment, rides the crest of the whole of our lives’ experiences. Those experiences – as we have know them – have been captured within the imprints our nervous system has carved into our body-mind. This is what the nervous system is doing as it ceaselessly processes information. It is this whole, this sum of everything the body has ever known and its reflection in the mind, that has shaped and formed the being we are today.

Children raised in fundamentalist households who break free of their early mind conditioning have managed to alter or replace beliefs at this deeper level. Children raised in physically and sexually abusive households who break free of their early body conditioning have managed to alter or replace beliefs at this deeper level as well. Though healing in the first case may involve more intellectual work and the second case more physical work, we have learned that both are best healed with a combination of cognitive therapy and body work. This is yet more evidence that the Cartesian split is a faulty hypothesis.

The implications are not ones our society is ready to accept. It means that the man who punches you in the face is also messing with your belief structure. And, the man who force-feeds you cognitive double binds is also messing with your physiology. It is something you might want to consider the next time you turn on the TV.

This is very similar to the point Alice Miller has been making for years about how dictators and mass murders are formed by physical abuse in their childhoods. As she writes in Free From Lies: Discovering Your True Needs, “Blows inflicted on adults count as grievous bodily harm or torture; those inflicted on children go by the name of upbringing.” She asserts that adults who have not processed the scars left by their childhood abuse become enamored with violence. They are driven to pursue a revenge fantasy against their parents or other abusers. By her reading of history Hitler, Mao, and Stalin murdered tens of millions of individuals due to this dark need first implanted during their own nightmare childhoods. From the prevalence of violent “entertainment” in our modern times it is evident that the abuse of the young remains widespread.

What a foolish idea that abuses can be heaped on our young without end and no consequences would ever befall the perpetrators. In the twisted logic of intergenerational abuse, that is simply not the case. Wars, torture, genocide and finally nuclear weapons are the result for all to see of the secret deeds we thought were hidden from the world. Interdependence rules the universe we encounter objectively, is it so crazy to suggest it also rules our subjectivity? How can I be happy in my Porsche when I know most of my genetic brothers and sisters are deprived because I have taken more than my share? What else do you think it means that the United States has about five percent of the global population and uses about twenty-five percent of the fossil fuel resources available planet wide?

Some live like this
and some live like this
Why?

It hurts to wake up every day and face this injustice. It hurts us all. It would hurt less if we were realistically working on policies and cultural changes aimed at rebalancing the income disparities haunting our world. Many, many people do this work every day, but instead of following that path it looks like we are going to follow glitz and glamour right over the cliff into the worst possible future outcomes imaginable. Shouldn’t need come before luxury?

Forgive me, this is too simple. I am sad and angry. My heart is broken; I see us drifting into inquisitions and holy wars. I am frightened uranium and hydrogen weapons will be used to assault living populations and damage ecosystems to the point they are made inhospitable to life for tens of thousands of years. What will it take to move from childish dependency on authority figures to full adult citizenship? First they came for the Hispanics, but I did not speak out, because I was not Hispanic…

Is there a realistic chance at an alternative future than the one we are cooking up? I suggest there might be if we are able to begin introducing into the public discussion the full weight of what the science of ecology is teaching us about how we must live together on a planet of limited resources.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you have is a political framework, everything looks to be an issue of power, status and wealth. When all you have is a religious framework, everything looks to be an issue of sin and salvation. When all you have is a sociological framework, everything looks to be a question of institutions. When all you have is a psychological framework, everything looks to be an issue of mental health and sanity. When all you have is a scientific framework, everything looks to be a question of ignorance and knowledge. None of these inheritances, it should be pointed out, have proven themselves capable of providing a properly proportionate response to the ecological crisis.

A proper education will provide students with a bit of knowledge about each of these subjects, all in the context of history and literature so they appreciate the relative nature of current knowledge by understanding a little bit about what changes and what stays the same in the human saga. Education feeds subjectivity. This education is also necessary if we are to avoid bringing a knife to a gun fight, as it were. What we are facing today is complicated. Students, and we are all students, need to be given access to a full set of cognitive tools to use in their ongoing work of making sense of the world and their place in it. Reason and imagination working well together mirror the mind and body working harmoniously. Metaphor and symbol then serve the human being. The only other option is to lose ourselves, lose our souls, in maelstroms of madness; bewitched and enchanted by our own symbolic productions.

Concern about ecology has taught me to be wary of all the belief systems that exalt an unknowable state they claim awaits us after death, at the expense of allowing reason to rule their believer’s day to day lives. Too many true believers in bomb vests and tanks have clouded our vision with their noisy insistence that their cause is god’s. I am moved by my fellow humans who are so effected by the pain and suffering they encounter that they insist we must not live this way. I agree with them this far, I share their concern and their compassion. Where I cannot go is the next step, where they paint the whole universe black and seek a Gnostic deliverance from it. With the red gleam of angry fanaticism in their eyes, they claim to be certain about things no man can be certain about; be it the future of mankind on earth or its future in “heaven and hell.” They can kill or torture without qualm to bring about the final kingdom of peace; be it religious or secular.

These true believers torture and abuse other people in a psychological reaction formation because they must repress the awareness of their own body’s vulnerability at any cost. The helplessness and humiliation of the hurt child within is just too much for their ego to bear, it would shatter at the revelation. Living in the mental dogma castles they have inherited, or built, leaves them without a sensory feedback mechanism by which they might write some reality checks. This might seem to be ideal for a society that worships unemotional objectivity as much as ours, but in fact they have cut themselves off from the mind-body processes by which love and compassion, understanding and true friendships are recognized as real. These are the powers that can see an ego through its major transformations of death and rebirth. When they are lacking, as they are for children who did not have an empathetic witness during their years of suffering, the terrors and fears involved can seem infinite.

We laughingly acknowledge psychopaths among us rise to become CEOs and politicians. This may prove to be distinctly unfunny.

Somewhere on the spectrum between individual relationships with bullies and assholes on one side, and societal relationships with mass murdering dictators and corporation’s economic hit men on the other, lies the future we are creating for ourselves. It does not have to be this way. We could, like parents once abused as children who work to heal that abuse, find that the ability to express what is real about our pain in adult conversation heals us of our symptoms. We could, as a society, become mindful of ecology. It lacks the flash of magical thinking, yet offers the comfort of the real. We could begin to discuss the full implications of what it entails instead of being satisfied with a few headlines and sound bites. That adult conversation would include the full weight of the emotional, spiritual and political aspects of our human predicament.

Make no mistake. What we intuitively fear might be happening, is happening. There is a real world out beyond our ubiquitous 2D screens. The nightmares of history have once again turned their attention to the fortunes of the over-developed world. Though there are echoes of “Never Again” reverberating among us, they ring without resonance so far. After all, in a cold and uncaring universe, what do a few genocides and species extinctions matter, right?

I think it is time we recognize the consequences of the ideologies that paint the universe black. Democracy has an element of the utopian. It inspires reform movements and the hope that education will improve the lives of human beings and the societies in which they live. Seeing just how far we are from a just society can drive people into the arms of utopian dreams that are much less in keeping with the nature of man and his social relations. Then the temptation to try to remake the world in the image of an ideological utopia can become irresistible. A revolution led to the founding of the United States. A revolution also led to the terrors of Pol Pot, Mao, and Stalin…

We  have been unclear about who the real enemies of our species are. We have been scapegoating people, projecting the demonic Other onto the other tribe. This has blinded us to the mind-body traps to which we are prone. The things that can drive us to madness under a civilized veneer are the double binds created by traumatic abuse. The good news is that these are knots that can be undone; undone with the sword of intellect guided by the heart. Individuals learn the skill all the time. Whether it takes the human species ten years, or ten hundred thousand to finally recognize this clearly and use it to our advantage, the truth remains.

May you have good contemplations.

Self Evident

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”
United States Declaration of Independence

 

What does it mean for a truth to be self evident? Perhaps the better question is actually what does it mean that a truth can be self evident?  It is simple really; “we have no choice but to believe what we understand” Matthew Stewart explains in Nature’s God. Put this way it hardly seems such an obnoxious idea, almost a truism. But this is not the case. This is another concept from the radical philosophy held by our Deist founding fathers. It has to do with the nature of the mind.

Rene Descartes proposed an absolute skepticism as the foundation of modern western philosophy. He asked what if a demon had created this entire universe to deceive us. In that case we could trust nothing reported by the senses. How would we ever know what was real and what was a delusion? He (in)famously concluded the only certainty available to a human being is the conceptual mind; “I think, therefore I am.”

Notice the assumption here about the nature of the self or what we would call today a theory of the mind. The philosophical question he is struggling to answer is what is real about our experience. He brings to the investigation the Christian assumptions of an individual soul which is somehow situated above the manifest universe; it can judge whether the whole of our embodied experience it is true or otherwise. Though it may not be obvious, in his thought experiment he sits in judgment over the whole of existence by assuming that human consciousness is the only really alive personhood in an otherwise dead material universe. Remember Descartes also bequeathed our belief that animals are no more than clever machines.

Daniel Dennett was among the first to provide a thoroughly modern critique of a theory of mind he aptly described as a Cartesian Theater. Though the title does not well represent the actual contents, Dennett’s Consciousness Explained is a very important read for those interested in consciousness as it is being thought about in academic settings under the influence of the neurosciences of our times. The Cartesian Theater is a descriptive term for this theory of mind commonly attributed to Descartes. In Descartes’ view the mind is somewhat like a multi-screen movies theater where an inner eye scans pictures, mental images. In this view ideas are no more than immaterial things (!) and we are free to choose among them as we will. This simple, sort of default understanding of our minds, turns out to involve the whole western way of viewing belief, truth and free will.

This Image of the mind as a Cartesian Theater is very important for buttressing up the whole concept of a revealed religion, which requires that people can choose to believe in it or not. By this view of the mind there is no inherent attributes of the ideas themselves that could assure us we are not being fooled by the demon of Descartes famous doubt; the demon he postulated was capable of producing a world of illusion by fooling all our senses. What Descartes saw was that there is no way to leave our private movie theater and check on things; we can never, ever know if what we know is true. There is an absolute skepticism here which, as Stewart points out, seems to demand an unqualified leap of faith.

Daniel Dennett demolishes the picture-theory of mind nine ways to Sunday. It turns out we may not know how consciousness works in cutting edge neuroscience but we are quite sure it does not work like this. One of his more colorful critiques is also as easy to understand as it is profound. He asks about this eye in the middle of the theater which he names a homunculus to capture the image of the little controller in our head this picture-theory of the mind needs.

MIBWhat is telling the homunculus what to believe? It must have an even smaller homunculus, complete with its own movie theater, in its own head. Of course this second, smaller homunculus will need an even smaller third one in its head and so on, right down the hall of mirrors in an infinite regress. Dennett points out there can be no such self sitting in the center of the head calling the shots. Neuroscience supports this conclusion; although an executive center of the brain has been tentatively identified, its characteristics are not quite what we might suppose. As far as we can tell there is no central location in the brain. What we see instead is that every thought involves numerous areas of the brain simultaneously; recall our discussion of the grandmother neuron. What this leads us to do is reconsider the ontological status of those things we are aware of due to the brain’s processing.

“We have no choice but to believe what we understand.” Stewart provides us with a vivid metaphor for the difference in views here. We tend to think of our minds, he says, as a jar full of marbles which are all the ideas we have. Consciousness is the jar, the container holding this endless parade. The radical philosophy simply asserts there is no jar. The ideas themselves, the interplay of patterns in the neuron soup, that is all there is. But this interplay is not random.

Brains evolved to adapt to their environment.

This is another truism hard to really grasp the full implications of because we are sure we already get it. Consider this – the environment of every human being who has ever lived has never contained a god or demon walking around as real as you or I. Nor will you ever shake hands with an ideology. We find these in the conceptual mind, nowhere else. This doesn’t deny the possibility of visionary experiences, other classes of beings and all that. It simply puts such things squarely where the evidence from the daily life of people for eons insists it belongs.

Here in the world beyond the conceptual labels we manufacture, everything which makes an impression upon our body carries with it an inherent, shall we say, reflexivity; it states its own form of being. It is its own evidence.

That which makes what is real, seem real to us – that is what we should learn to bow down to. If we did we would immediately awaken to a world full of ignorant abuse at every turn, for the ecological reality of our situation has grown dark. We lost sight of the fact that what we need is not much more than simply food, clothing, and shelter if we have joyful companionship and a way to contribute to the well being of our self and others. We have become so enamored with our conceptual gymnastics that as a species we are at risk of losing the ability to provide this simple food, simple clothing and simple shelter for ourselves.

This is a molecular world, everywhere the truth of it is self evident. The industrialized culture has not been dealing with it very skillfully. The conceptual abstractions through which we conduct our economics and politics have placed us at risk of not recognizing what is self evident; namely that what cannot be sustained, will not be sustained.

Instead of the absolute Descartes skepticism we could adopt a great certainty in the self evident truths we discover in the moment by moment reality of this life.

The Anatomy of Violence

“It don’t take anyone too smart to look at three generations of outlaws and see there is a link of some kind, there is a pattern… I don’t think there can be any doubt in anyone’s mind that he [Jeffrey Landrigan] was fulfilling his destiny… I believe that when he was conceived, what I was, he became…  The last time I saw him he was a baby in a bed, and underneath his mattress I had two .38 pistols and Demerol; that’s what he was sleeping on.”
Darrel Hill while on death row discussing his son Jeffrey Landrigan who was also on death row, and his father who had been shot dead by police. From 60 Minutes: Murder Gene: Man on Death Row Bases Appeal on the Belief That His Criminal Tendencies Are Inherited (2001)

 

It’s time to take stock of where we have been and why we are dwelling on these dark subjects at all. I have no blindingly new insight into violence to share. I am just a student hoping that by sharing my thoughts and reactions your own path might be enriched. This contemplative lifestyle swims so hard against the mainstream in Walmart-land I think we need to offer one another as much support as we can muster.

It is important not to lose sight of the power these contemplative paths include. Meditation is not a ticket to more health, wealth and status but to something much more raw and immediate. Our commitment to befriending our mind is effective when it is total and when it is total there is nothing about the mind we fear to face. Even monsters.

The subject of why school shootings have become a common feature of American life is being investigated so that the compassion we bring to the subject might be informed. Compassion is strengthened when our understanding of an aspect of suffering grows within us. Our reactions naturally become more caring and compassionate the more we understand, for in the end all sentient beings are just Iike us – waking to find themselves in an existence not of their choosing and destined to die.

Compassion seeks to relive suffering so it encourages us to look clear eyed at the darker aspects of life that are the sources of suffering. Idiot compassion does no one any good. We are looking for precision in our knowledge so we might be as effective as possible when handling this all important subject of dark children. Perhaps one day you will be called on to comfort someone grieving their loss from such a tragedy, or perhaps you will be drawn into conversations with others about these things. Maybe the nuances we are exploring will aid in those moments.

Though these are ways we become directly involved with the tragic events of school shootings it is not the only way people participate in the ripples such violent acts create throughout our societies. How you think and feel when considering the subject will also influence the environment around you. How you think about this dark subject will contribute to the attitudes you bring towards numerous aspects of modern life, influencing things, shall we say, semi-consciously? The power of awareness is such that we cannot help but contribute to how the society we are in experiences such things.

In an earlier post mention was made of the role of the molecule oxytocin in the formation of the mother and child bond and how some people react to such knowledge very negatively. That there are chemical triggers involved in this form of love reduces us to no more than automatons in their view, puppets of the evolutionary selection pressures that formed us right down to our most intimate subjectivity. I don’t think this view is necessarily wrong so much as it is incomplete, basically a really strange way to look at things. If love were not to have any embodiment in our biochemical makeup, if it were completely transcendent, an ethereal Platonic thought involving no neurotransmitters – that would somehow make that love more real? “As if because love is as real as chemicals it is somehow less real in fact.”

We need to look carefully at this Cartesian inheritance towards our biochemical makeup if we are ever going to make heads or tails out of the ecstasies and degradations of the human being. This fear of a pervasive nihilism hiding in our bright sided consumer society is one we will pick up by and by. The puppets and the cosmic horror are not only for Halloween for those of us carrying on traditions that include numerous adepts meditating in cremation grounds. But that is for another time, the point now is best stated bluntly: love is not the only emotion carrying chemical signatures, violent aggression does as well.

Fear of overly simplistic interpretations of a gene for criminality being used by society’s law courts cautions us to be careful with discussions of the biological basis of crime. An ugly history of racism and eugenics equally urge caution when discussing the physiological markers that indicate a predisposition for committing violent crimes. That there are such markers is accepted by most researchers involved with The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime as the title of Adrian Raine’s book on the subject so aptly states. Still, the science the book covers is controversial.

Just mentioning the subject seems to harken back to a more superstitious age when bumps on the skull were considered sure indicators of criminal proclivities. Needless to say the findings of modern biochemistry and fMRI brain scans studies are considerably better founded on evidence than phrenology. The very existence of somatic markers also calls into question to what extent people can be justly held accountable for their actions. The concepts of choice and freewill on which our justice systems are philosophically composed become much more nuanced if we admit various diseases and malfunctions of the brain are at times involved with violent criminal acts.

All of which leaves us unsure as a society just how we might need to integrate the findings of neuroscience into the criminal justice system, not to mention social services, education, and many of the other institutions dealing with at risk children and offending adults.

Evolutionary development – Evo Devo – studies how the expressions of genes are orchestrated by environmental queues. It has found that some genes are surprisingly conserved across many different species and that the variation between species at the level of genes themselves is much less than we had initially anticipated. What does vary enormously is the way in which genes are expressed: which ones come into play when. This regulation of gene expression in turn is regulated by, at least in part, the environment in which development is occurring. Recall that, particularly among mammals, brain development continues for years after the child is born. Throughout this time the environment remains capable of influencing these genetic expressions. For this reason it should come as no surprise to learn that one of the strongest shared characteristics of psychopaths is that they come from childhoods spent institutionalized or from broken and abusive homes. Lacking a stable, loving, parent-like relationship causes human brain development to go haywire just as it does among the primates Harlow studied.

Adrian Raine makes the point, “From the genetic makeup of the brain it is only a brief step to the chemistry of violence.” Genes code for the brain’s neurotransmitters, the chemical currency of our cognition, emotions and behaviors. Low levels of Serotonin, for example, have the effect of weakening the role of the frontal cortex, an area of the brain important in regulating aggression. The limbic system and the amygdala in particular are where the fear and aggression circuits are sourced. In contrast the frontal cortex areas are related to cognitive thought. Though the triune brain theory is overly simple it does provide a workable first approximation to the dynamics here being described.

Scans-of-a-normal-brain-l-009On the left is the normal brain. Note the red area towards the top which indicates the activity of the prefrontal cortex. The brain on the right is from convicted murderer Antonio Bustamante. A jury presented with these brain scans chose not to seek the death penalty in this case.

Adrian asks, “Why should poor prefrontal functioning predispose one to violence?” He provides five reasons.

  • Emotional level – without strong prefrontal cortex signals there is a loss of control over the more primitive parts of the brain.
  • Behavioral level – damage to the prefrontal cortex results in “risk-taking, irresponsibility and rule-breaking”, behavioral changes conductive to violence.
  • Personality level – damage to the prefrontal cortex results in “impulsivity, loss of self-control, and an inability to modify and inhibit behavior appropriately.”
  • Social level – damage results in “immaturity, lack of tact, and poor social judgement” all of which leads to “poorer ability to formulate nonaggressive solutions to fractious social encounters.”
  • Cognitive level – damage results in a “loss of intellectual flexibility and poorer problem solving skills” which can “later result in school failure” and a criminal way of life.

This illustrates that the complex casual pathway from gene expression of neurotransmitter production influencing prefrontal cortex functioning has numerous avenues by which an individual might become predisposed towards acts of violence. Even this quick sketch of the variables involved should be sufficient to put paid to any idea that we will ever find a simple ’cause of violence.’ For every risk factor research has identified there are numerous counterfactuals, numerous individuals with lower Serotonin levels, to stay with our current example, which never have the rest of the causes and conditions come together that are necessary for an act of violence to occur.

That said, should we assume fMRI scans showing lowered prefrontal cortex activity is a technological net in which we might catch all these killers? No, as it turns out, even at this level of detail the story is more complex. In violence research a distinction is made between proactive and reactive aggression, what we might recognize as the difference between cold-blooded and hot-blooded crimes. The reactive aggression comes from individuals with the weakened prefrontal cortex functioning we have been examining. In reacting to provocations these people can lose their cool and their bubbling limbic system boils over. “When presented with aggressive stimuli their brains over respond at an emotional level and under respond at a cognitive control level” as Adrian puts it when discussing spouse-abusers.

The proactive killers in contrast use violence as a strategy to get what they want in life. They carefully plan their actions, a difference we recognize legally as premeditated murder as opposed to manslaughter. Occasionally these people are so meticulous they avoid capture for long periods of time, as some of our most notorious serial killers have. These individuals do not show lower levels of prefrontal cortex activity when scanned.

Interestingly, tentative research indicates that the level of stimulation in the limbic system of both proactive and reactive aggression prone individuals’ show elevated activity compared to the brain scans of ‘normal’ individuals who are acting as the experimental controls. It is as if the bubbling caldron of fear and fight circuits are amped up in people with aggression problems. Such problems may be more pervasive than they seem even in our violence saturated culture. We should remind ourselves that aggression can also be turned inward and that we will never know how many “accidents” include some element of the suicidal.

The next time you have the chance to have a meaningful conversation with another human being take a moment to notice the depth of mind behind the eyes. Appreciate the complexity of the mystery that makes that moment possible. Not one person remains unscathed by these inner battles, and while perhaps only a few suffer the biological imbalances that make such states habitual, we all share the same deep-time roots of our genetic inheritances.

Compassion is easier as understanding grows.

I mentioned that one of the main developmental factors predictive of psychopathology was a childhood institutionalized or spent in broken and abusive homes. We will take up the surprising and unexpected second factor next week.