Cosmic Defense Mechanisms and the IKEA Brain
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.