Friday, February 13, 2015

Cosmic Defense Mechanisms and the IKEA Brain

Yesterday we discussed the bilateral integration of left and right cerebral hemispheres. But there is also the vertical integration of hindbrain, midbrain, and frontal cortex (AKA brainstem, limbic areas, and neocortex). You'd think their integration would be automatic, and the brain certainly tries to converge toward a complex wholeness -- a unity-in-diversity -- but not always successfully.

Siegel asks, "Why would anyone not have such important access to the wisdom of the body, to the regulation and protection of the survival reflexes of the brainstem, and to the evaluative, emotional, and attachment-focussed limbic system processing?"

In other words, why might our sensory and emotional input fail to flow harmoniously into the higher executive functioning of the self? (The question is not fundamentally different from why our pathological governmental executive would ignore input from the legislature and the citizenry.)

Think, for example, of how emotions can be split off, repressed, and projected. Or, how someone may become paranoid, or hypochondriacal, or develop somatic delusions, or veto bills everyone else favors.

For paranoiacs, it is as if they develop a kind of global, reptilian fear of their surroundings. For hypochondriacs, it is as if they develop a similar fear with regard to the normal sensations of the body. A rumbling in the abdomen is magnified into colon cancer, a twinge in the chest to a heart attack, a tension headache to a brain tumor. But enough about me.

Siegel writes that "one reason" for the disconnect "is attachment history." That is, "if the relationships you may have had were not attuned, the signals from your body may never have been seen by others, and, in fact, you may have felt overwhelmed by the unfulfilled needs emanating from the subcortical regions," i.e., the limbic system and hindbrain.

I don't know how much of this is new to my readers, but I have been thinking along these lines for some 30 years, so it's pretty basic to my worldview. What is novel about it is that it takes much of the unnecessary mystagoguery out of psychoanalysis by locating what used to be called the "unconscious" in easily identifiable regions of the brain and in clearly recognizable patterns of attachment, i.e., relationships (remember, it is always mind-brain-relationships, never just one).

As I highlighted in the book, it is not difficult to understand how disturbances in early attachment and bonding might lead to a failure to integrate various parts of the brain. It is similar to economics: there is no need to explain the phenomenon of poverty, since that is the universal condition. Rather, what needs to be explained is the creation of wealth.

Likewise, we come into this world -- meaning the post-uterine condition -- in a state of neurological immaturity, such that our brain is wired together at the same time we are bonding with the primary caregiver(s), usually a mother. So the brain is a little like IKEA furniture, which also comes to us in need of final assembly. Just as your furniture may bear the scars of poor assembly (but enough about me), so too can the brain be haunted by the synaptic shadows of troubled attachment.

Yes, in one sense this seems a bit unfair, but if you really think about it, there is simply no other way to grow a human. And when it works the way it is supposed to, it is such a beautiful thing -- truly an icon of God.

I suppose it's like sexuality that way. There is a logical fallacy -- can't remember exactly how it goes -- to the effect that the improper use of something does not invalidate its proper use (for example, with regard to guns, or booze, or freedom). Anything, no matter how sublime, may be misused, which I believe goes to commandment against taking the name of the Lord in vain.

I'm not sure where the typical person locates "meaning," but it can't be in the left brain. The left brain, being logical, can only generate ultimately circular tautologies and self-imposed models. Again, if you really think about it, meaning comes from someplace else -- from the gut, or the heart, or above the head, or the whole cosmopnuematic sensorium. It's really a whole-body/mind/relationship sensation, is it not?

When I deploy the term "infertile egghead," I am referring to someone who lives -- or subsists, really -- in his own ideas, which is a much more narrow and shallow area compared to our whole body-mind-relational world.

Just as in "climate science," the models can only simulate an infinitely more complex system. Which is why mere intellectuals tend to be such an impoverished class. Nevertheless, they are a proud bunch, which is why they are compelled to try to one-up a Scott Walker, or anyone, really, who lives outside their Ønanistic leftworld constraints. It is primarily an exercise in propping up their own inappropriately high self esteem by projectively shaming someone else.

With a little personal mindsight, these spiritually impoverished cretins could perhaps dig beneath their own superficial mental maps, but then, that would spell the end of the left.

"Promoting vertical integration involves cultivating awareness of the lower input from the body, brainstem, and limbic areas..." (ibid.). I can only emphasize that human beings, because they are free, have many alternatives to this, a whole menu of what are called psychological defense mechanisms: denial, splitting, repression, projection, regression, somatization, fantasy, wishful thinking, acting out, idealization/contempt (two sides of the same defensive coin), etc. Or just say liberal.

One of the three pillars of Christianity is Incarnation, the idea that God becomes man all the way down to the brainstem (which in turn branches down and out into the whole body). Perhaps we should take a hint and follow his pneumasomatic example. Around here we call it I-AMbodiment.

36 Comments:

Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of taking the name of the Lord in vain, Obama "invoked his faith in explaining his dishonest position on gay marriage."

So I guess Obama knows what he's talking about when he complains about people twisting their faith to advance some perverse ideology.

2/13/2015 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Wow. Good thing he didn't have an important position, like, you know, a news anchor.

2/13/2015 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

What if Obama couldn't tell a lie? I'm pretty sure he'd disappear, being that he is the Lie Made Flesh.

2/13/2015 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

At the very least, he'd be struck dumb.

2/13/2015 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Rather, what needs to be explained is the creation of wealth.

Kind of like the Problem of Good. Evil is just a parasite.

2/13/2015 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Rhiannon said...

After 35 years on this planet, I feel like I'm just learning about the truth my body is trying to tell me in every moment, You're touching on something I rarely hear talked about. I'd love to hear more about HOW to tune into your body. I find that my emotions are felt in my body in certain places and they come with unique sensations.
I think this is a life saving skill to hone, being ultra sensitive to these messages and deciphering their messages.

2/13/2015 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Some assembly required.

Yes, in one sense this seems a bit unfair, but if you really think about it, there is simply no other way to grow a human. And when it works the way it is supposed to, it is such a beautiful thing -- truly an icon of God.


That's just worth repeating. Amen.

2/13/2015 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thirty-five. Wow. I can remember when my kids were that age.

It's funny that I do, from time to time, forget how much older I am than some of the other Raccoons because everybody else seems so much wiser.

2/13/2015 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Who you calling a wise guy?!

2/13/2015 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I don't know if Raccoons would follow a star, but most of us would follow a Blue Moon truck.

2/13/2015 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Were we talking about heredity earlier? A black German woman finds out she is the granddaughter of Amon Goeth.

Fascinating and heart-rending.

2/13/2015 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

A rumbling in the abdomen is magnified into colon cancer, a twinge in the chest to a heart attack, a tension headache to a brain tumor. Or a fall off a playground ladder into a broken spine or smashed kidneys...

This was timely; I was reminded again today how so much of parenting, when our kids skirt too close to danger, is a balancing act between hypochondria and not being worried enough. Also the old wisecrack about how having children is like having your heart walk around on the outside. Now if you'll excuse me, I think my head may be about to explode. Or maybe that's just my hair turning gray all at once.

2/13/2015 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hypochondria by proxy. I definitely have a touch of that.

2/13/2015 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"I'm not sure where the typical person locates "meaning," but it can't be in the left brain. The left brain, being logical, can only generate ultimately circular tautologies and self-imposed models. Again, if you really think about it, meaning comes from someplace else -- from the gut, or the heart, or above the head, or the whole cosmopnuematic sensorium. It's really a whole-body/mind/relationship sensation, is it not?"

Precisely. That's one of the very best descriptions of where one gets, or can get meaning from.
Meaning, purpose and destiny kind of go hand in head or head in hand, as the case might be.

2/13/2015 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"I'm not sure where the typical person locates "meaning," but it can't be in the left brain."

Or, it's the best place to hide it.

2/14/2015 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ehh... or the best place to hide from it.

2/14/2015 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Also true. But I was thinking of well esoteric writing, or the tarot, or where Jesus was found, or St Paul, and so forth.
"Places" which can't be penetrated with logic and are safe right under logic's shnoz.

2/14/2015 06:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Skully said...

The left brain has a schnoz? That explains how it can be so congested at times.

2/14/2015 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Yes.

Oops, meant to say:

"Places" which can't be penetrated by paradox are safe right under logic's schnoz.

2/14/2015 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Rick said ""Places" which can't be penetrated with logic and are safe right under logic's shnoz."

Ahhh, now I gotcha. Yep.

2/14/2015 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's really a kind of circular movement, whereby the knowledge of the left needs to be assimilated to the being of the right. Right can contain left, but not vice versa. Reality is always more than our concepts. Thank God!

2/14/2015 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Imagine how boring life would be if it were as simple as a model in the head of some secular materialist or tenured hack. No wonder they're so jaded.

2/14/2015 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Conveniently, such an Outlook leaves nothing to pursue but power.

A self fulfilling misosophy.

2/14/2015 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There is an ironic irony at work here, because leftists want to turn left brain science into a kind of magical right brain enterprise. Jonah Goldberg:

'The way the science-lovers talk about science, you’d think science was a kind of magic that requires total faith and conviction. If you don’t believe with all of your heart in “science,” it will stop working. It’s like the scientific enterprise is akin to Santa’s sleigh in the movie Elf.

'In Elf, Santa’s sleigh no longer relies on flying reindeer. Instead it converts “Christmas cheer” into jet power. That’s how some of these people talk about believing in science. If we don’t project our positive emotions towards it, it won’t take off.... What happens if I suddenly stop saying in a hopeful whisper “I believe in you, science!” or if I take a deist bent and hold out the possibility that there’s something more than the material world out there? Will my plane suddenly plummet? Will gremlins slowly emerge from behind the seat in front of me, like Miley Cyrus climbing over a toilet-stall door?

'.... Democrats are more likely to believe in paranormal activity. They’re also more likely to believe in reincarnation and astrology. I have personally known liberals who think crystals have healing powers who nonetheless believe that the internal combustion engine doesn’t actually rely on magical horse power.'

2/14/2015 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is good:

'When I hear people talk about science as if it’s something to “believe in,” particularly people who reject all sorts of science-y things (vaccines, nuclear power, etc. as discussed above), I immediately think of one of my favorite lines from Eric Voegelin:

“When God is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods; when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place.”

2/14/2015 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And this:

'In other words, the “Don’t you believe in evolution!?!” people don’t really believe in science qua science, what they’re really after is dethroning God in favor of their own gods of the material world.... “Criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticisms,” quoth Karl Marx, who then proceeded to create his own secular religion.'

2/14/2015 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Finally,

'if we are nothing but a few bucks worth of chemicals connected by water and electricity, than there’s really nothing holding us back from elevating “science” to divine status and in turn anointing those who claim to be its champions as our priests.'

2/14/2015 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Thou shalt have no gods before the Planetarium Gift Shop Manager.

2/14/2015 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If one literally "believes in science," there would be absolutely no basis for caring about what any primate believes about anything.

2/14/2015 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

So it's self-refuting.

2/14/2015 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh. Along those lines, apparently Shirley McClain thinks that people who suffer horrible atrocities in life - specifically Jews in the Holocaust - were convicted by bad karma from previous lives. I would not be surprised if she starts each day by clapping her hands and intoning, "I DO believe in science, I DO believe in science..."

2/14/2015 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Then of course there's he belief that with the right application of Science, the human body can be made into whatever we think we want.

2/14/2015 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Serious you guys, Hitler was just following orders!

2/14/2015 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

I just started reading the book which this article reviews, Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education:

"The immediate, direct apprehension of reality that inspires wonder and awe is called by St. Thomas Aquinas poetica scientia, “poetic knowledge.” It is the first of the four kinds of knowledge that St. Thomas distinguishes. It is this neglected, even distrusted way of knowing that is the subject of an important book recently published by the State University of New York Press.

The author, Dr. James Taylor, explains that poetic knowledge is not merely a knowledge of poetry, “but rather a poetic experience of reality.”:

"Poetic experience indicates an encounter with reality that is nonanalytical, something that is perceived as beautiful, awful (awe-full), spontaneous, mysterious… Poetic knowledge is a spontaneous act of the external and internal senses with the intellect, integrated and whole, rather than an act associated with the powers of analytic reasoning… It is, we might say, knowledge from the inside out, radically different from a knowledge about things. In other words, it is the opposite of scientific knowledge."
"

The author went through the Great Bookish 'Integrated Humanities Program' that the University of Kansas had in the 1970's-80's. Stratford Caldecott ref'd the book in 'Beauty for Truth's Sake', and I finally got around to getting it.

So far, so good.

2/14/2015 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes. I hadn't even heard that term before, poetica scientia, but the whole idea sounds like what I've been saying. As usual, I am always the last to know that I'm not ahead of but behind the pack. Never underestimate the Raccoon elders who have been this way before.

Obviously, we must start with the pure astonishment (astoneagement) of unadulterated (or pure childerated) right-brain (or whole-person) being. Call it (?!). This is precisely what motivates us to ask questions and pursue scientific answers.

But those answers must be re-assimilated to being, or they are just indigestible and meaningless abstractions. So it's again that circular movement of R-L-R. Or (k) --> (n).

To elevate any form of (k) to the ultimate is to promote tyranny. On a previous post a commenter mentioned that to be conservative is to reject ideology. Same idea.

2/15/2015 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Corking article from Leon Wieseltier:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/books/review/among-the-disrupted.html?_r=1

"The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers."

2/16/2015 07:30:00 AM  

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