Squeaky Wheel of Saṃsāra

July 29, 2018

Neurofeedback Club

Brain-mending spaces.

Makerspaces are becoming more and more widespread.

Arduino single board microcontrollers with various compatible modules, single board computers such as Raspberry Pi and rapid prototyping with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers makes building projects in robotics, data acquisition, user interfacing, telecommunication and climate control systems easier then ever before.

More and more people are building more and more projects using rapid prototyping technologies and some of those projects become mass-produced consumer products.

As a part of my job, I read a lot of literature on the subject of trauma psychology. Leading trauma psychology authors like Doctor Bessel Van Der Kolk or Dr Clancy McKenzie recommend the use of Neurofeedback, Biofeedback, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat psychological trauma.

Each of those techniques has a different origin and a specific theory behind it. Some of those computerized feedback-based treatment methods are proprietary and their creators are not too interested in combining them with other treatment methods. (In order to secure their funding and their ego, scientists often do not play too well with others.)

As a Medicaid recipient and a resident of Frederick MD, a rather average poor mental health services recipient, I made some phone calls to find a therapist that practices those methods of treatment in Frederick MD, withing 25 minutes of where I live.

I realized that very few therapists accept Medicaid in my area, the cost of those services is too high for me to pay out of my pocket and realistically I cannot go to such specialist. Since specialists that use Neurofeedback, Biofeedback, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, etc spend about 90 minutes on every session, they can only see five patients per day. This explains why those services are so expensive. It doesn’t catch on because Neurofeedback therapy session, for example, shares the medical billing code with regular therapy, yet the session takes much longer then a regular psychotherapy session.

Meanwhile there are some attempts to develop open-sourced technology for general population to tinker with. There is an open source neurofeedback software. There are open-source Electroencephalograph (EEG) – controlled video games that allow people to train their brains to produce more of one kind of brain wave and less of the other kind.

There is also a growing implementation of peer recovery. People with lived experience of a mental health or addiction problem who had recovered to a considerable degree and attained some resilience are helping other people to recover from a similar problem. Peer recovery proves to be very a effective mental health service, yet there is a tedious process to integrate peers into the healthcare system. The legislation has to be changed to allow Medicaid to cover peer services in order for certified peers to be able to be paid to work in places such as mental hospitals, recovery houses, rehabilitation centers, etc.

What if we combine peers and feedback therapists in a kind of environment that would enable the users and the operators to switch places and to perfect the algorithms of feedback?

What if we create spaces where some of the more geeky of the peers would perfect an open-source technology and help other people recover? What if this becomes a culture of peer-run feedback therapy that would heal people and produce a solid theory on how to do it.

There would be a tremendous reduction in the cost of the session if a more community – based training program would be implemented. People would give back a service that they receive. Keeping everything open-source would help avoid proprietary technology and licensing costs that are associated with it.

It would also offer a very interesting way for people to connect in a peer environment.

An open-source brainwave analysis, feedback and treatment movement would open endless possibilities of computer – brain interface and therapy techniques at the fraction of a cost of any specialized institution or dedicated practitioner.

There are many resilient people with strong computer, mathematical and psychology skills that would gladly help others if we erase the traditional therapist – patient relationship.

This approach would also enable many low-income people (such as myself) who are currently unable to attend such therapy sessions to gain access to the therapy methods that they otherwise cannot afford.

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July 21, 2018

Recovery, Reincarnation, Feedback and Suicide

Lately I think a lot about reincarnation.

I think about it as a belief that exists in many of the world’s religion if not the majority of them. Supposadly even followers of the early Gnostic Christianity held that belief.

To me, reincarnation raises a very powerful and disturbing question: would I want to live through the same traumatic experiences as I had in this life? I am still recovering, my wounds make me vulnerable, I still endure chronic physical pain while I try to find pleasure in little things.

If I die, would I again have to live through all the trauma and suffering that left many permanent imprints on my body?

If I am reborn into my next life with some awareness of this life, would I carry all the pain, strain and fatigue from this life to the next as well?

The belief in this kind of reincarnation displaced my suicidal thoughts since I believe that if I take my own life, I would be reborn and grow up to be in a very similar condition as I was before I took my own life, as traumatized as I was before the moment of suicide, and the same amount of recovery work would still be required.

If death is only a change of state, a kind of phase change that neither heals nor contributes to the amount of trauma that my spirit has acquired. There may be some “technical” delays, associated with this death and rebirth and why do I need to stretch my recovery over too many lifetimes? Why do I need to prolong the agony?

Many recovered and resilient characters that I know through my work of mental health advocacy reply that they would relive their traumatic experiences. My question is: if there is a reincarnation, does our resilience memory get erased? Would we deal with similar traumatic experiences more effectively in our next life or avoid them all together?

There is a new age term — “old soul” that refers to someone who has a memory of resilience that extends to many past lives. To some extent I find confirmations of this concept in my life where some people managed to escape unharmed from some very adverse conditions repeatedly as they grew up and matured. I don’t have an old soul.

One of my spiritual leaders, a man who had served as a war surgeon and had PTSD had told me about a mechanism that keeps us alive:

As a society we encounter a traumatic experience. This experience leads to a formation of a marginalized group of people, some of whom die quickly, some die a slow and painful death while others manage to recover and regain resilience. This third group transcends their experience and provides feedback for the society to turn away from the source of trauma. And towards the new source of trauma, yet to be experienced. And so it goes. This process repeats itself for ever.

The delay of feedback between the marginalized and traumatized groups and policy makers has to be minimized to ensure our survival. It is critical in a very fast moving age where markets fluctuates leaving thousands unemployed and impoverished overnight, where local ethical conflicts serve as battlefields for large political forces, where so many totalitarian countries have nuclear arsenals.

The longer the delay, the harder we are going to be pushed into the traumatic experience before the society makes appropriate corrections to its course. If this feedback takes too long, before long we will become extinct as a specie.

This idea gives me hope. It gives me something to live for. Whiter it would be my children or me, myself in my new reincarnation, I would like to live in the world where my experience resulted in the appropriate policy changes and moral revival and my set of traumatic experiences would not be replicable because it would be accounted for.

This gives me another reason to dedicate my life towards mental health advocacy and towards creating a more trauma-informed society. I want to be reborn into a safer world, I want my children to grow up into this new world and I would like to make it safer for other people with whom I share similar traumatic experience and thus carry a part of their spirit in myself.

July 18, 2018

Regressive Behaviors – Part III – Totem and Taboo by Dr Sigmund Freud

Since I decided to write about totemism, totem animals and animal behaviors, I read a lot of literature on this subject. The most notorious book on this subject is Totem and Taboo by Sigmund Freud. I learned many interesting things from this book. Some are objective and still relevant to psychoanalysis today. Some are more speculative and biased by the early 20th century perceptions on anthropology and understanding foreign cultures by the westerners.

For example, the ambivalence that arises when a person dies is a very true phenomenon. To a varying degree, there is a death wish fulfillment that brings joy and a desire to mourn and pity the person who had died. I will come back to this subject on the War section of this book since there is a connection to be made between economic opportunities, death wish and organized violence.

Although the genius of Sigmund Freud revolves around the mid-range emotions such as sexual motives and desire to dominate, those emotions are a part of our overall composition and attempts to exclude those “dirty” emotions and to preserve spiritual purity would not do us any good in understanding what makes us, humans behave as we do. In fact, this desire to separate our moral and spiritual “payload” and our “dirty” behaviors that are dictated by the needs and desires of our inner beast is where the major problem of a modern people and society lies. The division between body and soul had started from this very division. Doctor Freud came as a savior, to challenge a society that required a significant portion of our inner beast to be oppressed.

Sigmund Freud mostly wrote about totemism as a group phenomenon. The relationship between Totemism and Exogamy that described, frequently referring to the book of the same name by James George Frazer. Totemism, according to Frazer (and Freud) functioned in a similar way that last names of family names function today. Since some last names in many cultures are connected to animals, as in my culture or to a lesser degree in the English-speaking world, it can be said that we still have this group form of totemism surviving in our modern, western, Judaeo-christian society.

Yet, one major component of totemism was missing from Freud’s work: totems may represent the summation of the traits that an individual or a group must develop in order to become more adapted to the environment that they inhabit. Or the traits of the totem animal may summarize some of the behavior traits and hidden motives that are manifested in a person too strongly and prevent them from functioning too effectively in the environment that they live in.

A totem can be a metaphor, a “partial sum” of a human character, almost like a wood-cut block with a Chinese character, yet found in nature, close to home of less technologically advanced people.

Thus a person with too much “bear” or a “lion” or a “tiger” in them may be too intimidating and provoke social situations that are not very desirable to them by the traits of a large predator, thus they have to tune down the volume of their inner totem beast since their beastliness is a socially unrewarding behavior.

It is more likely that this second, parodical use of a totem is more useful for an individual and would be almost impossible to apply to a group of people. Thus Sigmund Freud did not mention this parodical use at all.

A modern shaman that I have met in the woods on one occasion did speak of personal totems in this exact manner.

He even spoke of the benefits of people eating their own totem animal in order to establish a kind of homeopathic cancellation effect. He spoke of the ritual consumption of a beast flesh to allow the spiritual nature of the animal that is being eaten to tell the self-regulation mechanisms of the person who eats it that they have already too much of that nature and that they need to adjust the psyche to have less of those traits.

Thus, we are composed of a number of inner beasts and ritual consumption of flesh of a totem animal may either bring us closer to the nature of that beast or tell us that we have enough of that nature.

It would make sense that totems that are very closely related to the survival of a person or a group of people in a specific environment would be some large, thriving mammals that people can relate to and to learn how to thrive in the same environment, in a symbolic way. It is a lot easier for people to relate to the gestalt of a mammal then to that of any other beast, especially cold-blooded.

In this book I will be writing more about the modern use of the concept of a totem animal that is more common in the holistic community since it is more consistent with the flow of the message of this book.

July 9, 2018

ACES: Very Open-Ended Question

I have a tendency to use ACES as a buzzword as it helps me find like-minded people.

If Oprah is talking about ACES on 60 minutes and if it is mentioned on NPR broadcasts, why shouldn’t I use it? There is a steady increase in the popularity of “Adverse Childhood Experiences Study”  over Internet, according to the Google analysis tool that can trace how frequently words are used over time.
As a propagandist, I have to use this term.
Yet when it comes to the actual details, I don’t have enough information to give a nice sermon about ACES and what it proves to us. For some of us it is big news that psychological trauma in childhood can screw up someone’s life, while other people always knew it. There is an opportunity to create a new narrative around ACES for the former group of people to speak about it.
ACES will lead to a big social awakening, yet the narrative that surrounds ACES is still young and weak.
In some way it supports something that Karl Marx wrote about 150 years ago: that economic growth can happen either at the expense of nature or at the expense of the workers’ health.
A century and a half ago people were less concerned with nature, maybe some freaks like John Muir or Henry David Thoreau were.
As Trump administration is trying to squeeze the last bit of surplus out of the few standing workers and all the natural resources that are still left in national parks [only speaking of U.S.A.], I am preparing to speak that smart growth is the only way for the human specie not to self-eliminate.
Yet too often smart growth is only a cover for the same gentrification processes that have been going on for decades: increase rent, drive out poor people, apply a fresh layer of paint over the ruins of human tragedy and open some coffee shops for the upper middle class clients, with solar panels on the roof.
There is no accountability for the people that were driven out because they are no longer there to speak and vote for themselves. They are someone else’s problem now.
So the real smart growth can only occur if noone is driven out or brought in – this implies the healing of the population rather then forcing more traumatized people out to be replaced by the ones who could afford the cost of not exposing themselves to as much trauma.
Thus ACES can be a very important metric – maybe one day it could be used to let people heal where they are and to bring some accountability for the systemic trauma that is being done.
Average ACES score for the ZIP code area?
Yet what can I say about it? If I were to deliver a public speech about it, what do I say about it other then the concise paragraphs that accompany the bulky research data tables that are more medical in nature?
For some of us, the relationship between childhood trauma and illness in adulthood is very obvious, for others, this subject is a taboo, either because they benefit from systemic trauma or because they are not ready to admit that they are very traumatized and that their actions are defined by unresolved trauma.
Tobacco consumption causes cancer. Childhood trauma leads to illnesses and premature death if it remains unresolved.
Cigarettes and alcohol are taxed with a luxury tax, yet who drinks and smokes the most?
So how do I speak about it in a way that convinces people to apply the message of the study to their everyday lives, to make the dry ACES descriptions into something that has a human face, a human soul and results in policy changes, creastes social expectations for the authorities, that would act similarly to scientifically proven morality code?
Otherwise: ACES – so what? A very limited amount of people would be able to defend, lets say, their children against the systemic trauma that the school system inflicts on them by referring to ACES, a politician that is ready to sacrifice many lives of poor people to please the bourgeoisie that backs him or her cannot be shamed by ACES either.
What about using it abroad to measure the devastating impact of the American military machine?
How do I build the bridge between ACES and real life? In some way this is why I joined the Unitarian Universalist congregation. I am still clueless about how to deliver a message.
Some supplementary research may come in handy. There is Dr McKenzie and Bessel Van Der Kolk, Dr Gabor Maté. And yet what do I do with it?
I see some books that are written on the subject. Is there anyone that may server as the ACES bible?
I feel a little bit powerless as an exorcist that is not holding a holly cross and a gospel of ACES in his hands.
Perhaps it would take someone to start a Church of ACES and Latter Day Trauma Psychologists or an ACES political party.
It would require a new culture to spread and refine the message.
As I am trying to join the mental health advisory board for Frederick County, I can see that someone will ask me of what I know about ACES and I don’t want to reply with silence.
I am thinking of a more official answer to what it is.

June 18, 2018

Things that I learned today:

Filed under: Recovery from traumatic response series — Captain Yossarian @ 02:27

We lift the veil more easily for others than for ourselves. Thus we cannot see God directly but through other people.

I am a tragic character. Do you want more tragic characters in your church?

Since I was learning how to hide pain for the first twenty three years of my life, every attempt at being authentic would be accompanied by guilt that I am pretending.

Every time I cry I would believe that I am malingering.

The magic had exhausted itself, yet the pain is still there.

Only my wishful thinking keeps me alive.

My brain had a double membrane and it ripped and my mind spilled into my heart.

June 10, 2018

Regressive Behaviors – Part II – Reptilian ego

A reptilian behavior modality is defined by the fact that reptilians are cold blooded. They need to maintain optimal body temperature in order to maintain an effective metabolism. To increase their body temperature, land reptiles need to spend some time in the sun. To decrease their body temperature they head for the shade. If they are too cold, their metabolism is low, they would not be active. If they are too hot, they can overheat and die since some proteins are hamstrung by high temperatures.

It was all nice when reptilians were mostly amphibious since water has a very high specific heat and the temperature of the bodies of water does not change very rapidly. Yet when reptilians decided to explore terra firma, when they evolved into large animals like komodo dragons, they had to become very territorial or remain very small like a common lizard, that sheds its tail for your cat to play with. Size gave komodo dragons an advantage over small lizards – they were the to predator and no longer had to hide in the rocks and stay frozen to save bodily resources. Yet they had to compete for a decent piece of real estate that would enable an animal to spend time in the shade when it is too cold and to rest in the open sunny area when it is too hot. This limited their social behaviors.

Because reptiles are cold-blooded, they usually lay there eggs and leave. They cannot sit on their eggs to hatch them like birds so they would lay them in sand that gets warmed by the sun or compost and leave. Reptiles don’t have maternity and young reptiles do not know their mother. komodo dragons hunt and eat their young ones like they hunt and eat any other smaller prey. Reptilians lack maternity and all the attachments that it produces. Empathy, sacrifice for the collective and compassion don’t seem to be the virtues of a reptilian character. They are not warm and fuzzy.

Possessive and controlling nature in people can probably be traced to trauma that occurred when the body or the brain had underwent a reptilian stage in their recapitulation. (It is possible that our bodies and our brains go through a reptilian – themed stages at different times. This is a subject that I will revisit. Use good analogy from optics.)

A reptilian conspiracy is one of the modern folktales that tells us that all bosses, ruthlessly exploit their subordinates, create unhealthy corporate cultures, rule the global economy and accumulate surplus labor, at the expense of human health and the environment, are all reptilians that only pretend to be human. This is why the alien lizard people are ruling us.

Every legend like this must have some deep archetypal roots to resonate with our psyche. The root of the reptilian conspiracy theory is that reptiles do not have empathy, compassion and maternity and they have their egos that tell them to defend their territories. (Mammals mainly when mating.)

Thus an ideal, ruthless capitalist that exploits workers and nature, cuts trees, mines resources, builds an empire to fulfill their ego, exhibits sociopathic inclinations, has no compassion for the people that he or she exploits, may be associated with a big reptile such as a crocodile, a komodo dragon or a dinosaur.

It is very likely that the majority of the world’s oligarchs are people that were traumatized at their reptilian stage of recapitulation. Intentional traumatization of children at that stage of development to enhance their predatory komodo dragon traits is also possible (although unlikely) – via a conditioning similar to what is described in the “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. More likely they self-select to fulfill those roles.

Different people possess different amounts of reptilian nature yet it is in the genes of every mammal to loathe a reptile that is of equal or bigger size.

There were times when mammals coexisted with reptiles and often became their prey. Unlike mammalian predators that we can relate to, reptilians are uncompromising. I honestly don’t know if a mouse would prefer to be eaten by a weasel instead of a corn snake.

Yet there are some anecdotal cases when compassion overpowers the predatory instinct and a mammalian predator retreats. I read that in virgin forests where food is readily available for the wolves, wolves exhibit more moral behavior when they select their prey.

One of the most famous legends about wild carnivorous animal empathy towards people is the legend of Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome after they were raised by a female wolf. It is possible that carnivorous mammals do that. There is maternal instinct and some compassion in those beasts. There are many stories of wild beasts that chose not to eat their prey, specifically defenseless human when they had every reason to do so. Probably reptiles do not make such exceptions and this is why mammals avoid them. They leave no hope for their prey to guide them into behavior modalities, other then those that are not aimed at direct and immediate self-interest.

In contrast to reptiles, we generally associate mammals with something warm and fuzzy.

  • Dragon archetype in global folklore. Saxon/Scandinavian, Slavic and East Asian dragon.

  • Paul MacLean surgical separation of mammalian from the reptilian portion of the brain

  • Reptilian vs mammalian is reoccurring theme in trauma psychology literature.

  • Socially unrewarding reptilian behaviors that are rewarded by predatory capitalism in regressive and evolved behaviors section (yet to write)

  • Story about mother cat – add to Romulus and Remus

June 6, 2018

Regressive Behaviors – Part I – Totemism: We Are The Beast

Introduce word “recapitulation”.

We associate totemism with “primitive” societies. Generally, people have their own totems or a set of animal natures that describe their character. For a long time I paid very little attention to this phenomenon. I generally accepted the Jungian idea that an animal archetype for a group of people may be a symbol of a collective spirit of that group. Carl G. Jung explained how mascots are collective archetypes, that resemble the ideal behaviors of totalizers for the group behavior. Yet he did not explain why Chief Standing Bear was named Chief Standing Bear.

Chef Standing Bear could possess some character traits of the bear or he had to develop some bear traits in his life in order to be a more effective leader, and the name was given to him to serve him as a reminder of that. This depends on the tradition of Totemism that was present in the society that Chef Standing Bear was born in.

Since psychology is not an exact science and because people tend to name things following some analogy of their own, that only they may understand, my theories may not be always accurate. The context of my environment is rather disconnected from Nature.

Generally I will only speak about Totemism where every person has a lower reptilian totem, a mammalian totem and a bird totem. (The reptilian totem is an option.) All those natures represent partial sums of the intricate human persona. A human character is a lot more complex then any of those animal natures, thus every person has many animal natures that may symbolize them very well. At times, people had to adopt a behavior modality of a specific animal in order to better their survival rates in the environment where this animal thrives.

Today’s science had shown to us that we are going through the stages of evolution in the womb. At some age we grow gill arches and human embryos look more like a tadpoles than little people. Then we become more and more like mammals and eventually take the shape of a human baby.

All the theories of extraterrestrial origin of men are blown apart by the notion that we encompass all the previous stages of evolution that we passed through in order to become human. We have a lived experience of being fish, reptilians, mammals, predators, prey—our inner beast somehow survived through all those stages.

This direct biological lineage excludes birds, an orthogonal offshoot from the reptilians into a more compassionate, warm-blooded branch of evolution. Thus, bird natures tend to describe our higher spiritual purpose – the flight of our spirit. In some ways birds are more superior then mammals, they have more evolved breathing organs and more effective metabolism. As mammals, they have maternity and they care for their young. Birds from the crow family have rather complex societies, they exhibit empathy for their peers. Birds can look down at our world from the heavens.

As fetuses, infants, toddlers, our brains make a similar kind of evolutionary journey from a very primitive control organ of the vital bodily systems, to a reptilian brain that had no consideration for warm-bloodlessness, empathy and maternity to a primitive mammalian brain, to a more developed mammalian brain, finally to a human brain that hopefully possesses the moral character that we would like our fellow tribesmen and tribeswomen to have.

We live in an imperfect world and our more “primitive” neighbors and ancestors were tied very close to their natural environment. Traumatic experiences haunt the developing organism in the mother’s womb since the day of conception, through birth – that itself is a traumatic event, all the way to maturity.

As we develop, we move through this concentrated evolutionary journey, where every specific age corresponds to a very distinct behavior modality. Up to the age of three years, this correlation is very precise and can be traced back with a precision of one week, according to specialists like Dr Clancy McKenzie. We also go through different behavior modalities as the understanding of our world changes and we become more and more independent from the world that our mother resembles to us in the beginning.

Trauma pins us in an instant when it takes place. A stress response, that is produced by a pregnant mother, supported an embryo, fetus, infant, toddler or a child in general changes the chemical environment in the nervous system, causing it to reserve a dedicated neural network for the same kind of traumatic response to take place in the future. In some way this quality of our neurons system allowed us to survive up to this point, for our genes to take this long and dangerous evolutionary journey. Yet it also creates a set of traumatic responses that are “etched” or “burned” into our nervous system that take us back to the time and to the place when the trauma “snapshot” has taken place. Stress takes us to our gestalt of the time when trauma occured.

Background stressors that generally increase our levels of adrenaline and “shorten our fuse”, making our fear response more readily available also contribute to how much a traumatic experience “burns” itself into our nerves. This mechanism is very well described in “Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk.

We are “pinned” at the stage of evolution that we pass in our development by the trauma that takes place at that time. This trauma does not have to be dramatic. It can be a short fear response that is experienced by our pregnant mother. And this is what gives us our animal natures. Our genes contain all of them already. We are one with the animal world. Trauma leaves an imprint on our nature and when conditions are similar, we are triggered on a very subtle level and our animal nature that is associated with the time of trauma precipitates. Our inner beast awakens. For many people, becoming aware of their inner animal natures is part of their recovery process since one of the common requirements for recovery is to revisit trauma and to call it by its name. Since people don’t know how to talk when they go through stages of evolution, animal natures are a great metaphor for the gestalt of the developmental stages that we were restrained in.

Our genes contain all the modalities of all the beasts that we evolved from. We know how to hunt, run away from the predator, freeze in one position to avoid danger, fight, attack, defend, communicate with our body language, hiss, growl, bite, scratch. Some of those things sound a little to primitive for us in our level of evolution and our modality of existence, yet we understand the body language of two cats that are about to fight or a dog that feels guilty for whatever reason. We have all those inner beast natures in us and we are one with the animal kingdom.

The question that remains open is that of a connection between biodiversity in a geographical region and diversity of human spirit in that region. There is more biodiversity in the tropics, except for the deserts, there is less biodiversity in the tundra. It is clear that Eskimos have less animal natures to choose from for the metaphorical description of a human character then people of the Amazon basin. Maybe this is why we get the name Standing Bear. Another question is that of transplanted, migrant people and their totemic connections – do they come from the old country, do they change?

Mother Nature is sometimes very generous, sometimes very economical, but it is never wasteful. To be efficient and resourceful, computer science had to develop a concept of subprograms and object-oriented programming. It is more likely then not that similar ways to reuse code exist in genetics. It just makes no sense for a snake to know how to express its distress by hissing using a different set of genes then what your house cat would use to know how to express their frustration in this way. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that when a snake and a cat hiss, they express their frustration using a very similar mechanism and experience a very similar thing at that moment. A hunting instinct for a snake and for a cat probably has the same origin, while it may be slightly more evolved for the body and the environment of the cat. When an unfixed cat is horny or it slowly approaches a bird to make a big leap, we can relate to those experiences since we have the genetic subprograms that allow us to have the same experiences. And this is why we are here – both the human and the cat species.

Mother Nature tests the genetic code and keeps reusing a code that was proven by millions of years of successful survival. Even if it is not used, is stored there in the genes for that day when a slightly modified organism moves into a slightly different environment and all of the sudden it needs those behavioral modalities again.

A mammal walked back into the sea more and more, spent more and more time in the water, eventually became a whale or a dolphin and now it needs some of those mechanisms that it carried from the fish and reptilian days, while it still remains a very empathetic, caring and warm-blooded mammal that rears its young and has a very deep social connection, deep enough to even embrace humans.

Thus there is simply no way around this re-usability of the code. A dolphin would probably lose their ability to root like a pig or graze like an antelope, a very distant cousin of the Cetacea clad, yet they still have to care for their young and be mammals in all the other sense.

Many of our, human behaviors are dictated by the inner beasts that were our distant ancestors and that survived to carry on the gene because of the trait that they had. In stressful situations, all of the sudden, our “highly evolved” rationality is compromised by an arousal of an animal response. Some of those responses are noticeable, some are not very socially rewarding and some can even get us into prison or a mental institution. There are cases where mental disorders are accompanied by animal-like behaviors.

Generally, collectivist modality of existence is a more evolved, higher order behavior that increases the chance of survival in a specie as a whole, not just in an individual. The complex and changing environment of our planet tends to reward social behavior. On this subject, I recommend reading “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution” by Peter Kropotkin.

June 3, 2018

My disapproval for commercial healers, gurus, shamans, etc.

My disapproval for commercial healers.

It doesn’t take a very spiritual person to notice that in America the people who need the most healing are also the most poor. America has very weak collectivist traditions. There are no “people of the land” with established traditions of sharing. Most poor people own no property and are for ever indebted to those who own the land beneeth their feet and a roof over their head. There is a very strong dependence on money and commodity at every level of the society and very few poor people in America can grow their own food.

Wealthier people move out of the city to a better public school district, away from the slum, the ghetto. The more traumatized people are left in an environments that are more dangerous: more ridden with fear, with police with prosecution and crime, with more broken glass and fewer working street lights. This perpetuates the fires of hell, creating large traumatized urban populations and economic areas where drug trade is the only paying industry.

As rich are getting richer and poor is getting poorer, poor is also getting more traumatized. Thus the people that need the most help at this given hour of this day are more likely to live in a very poor area.

My disapproval for commercial healers, gurus and other holistic practitioners comes from an understanding of interconnections of our world. Commercial healers tend to speak about this interconnections themselves: unity, “we are all one”, “we are one with the universe”, “the vibe that you put out to the world is the vibe that it returns to you”, etc.

However most of those healers that I met are limiting their healing work to the paying customers. Healing sessions are provided for a fixed price, with no attempts to make sliding scale fee policy for clients of varying income. A surprisingly small amount of commercial gurus make take trips to the poor district of the city and provide free services to those who need them the most.

There are many gurus that attend the specially designated spiritual events then there are gurus who try to embrace the whole scale of how traumatized America really is. If they believe in what they preach so much, why wouldn’t they be like early Christian saints?

A spiritual preacher of unity who still prefers the safety of the upper middle class paying customer on the spirit quest has attained only so much spirituality and belief in him/herself.

A healing retreat that excludes all the people that really need help would be a very unwelcoming experience for one poor person that may have mistakenly infiltrated. They may ruin the vibe of the many upper class customers with their real soreness of being a common person in this country.

This designation reminds me of the evangelical parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

For this reason, the healers in question appear to be more like actors. There are many talented actors that found no place for themselves in Hollywood, who specialize in storytelling, theater, sales and other similar trades. Some talented actors become healers. They sell spiritual experiences – a customized placebo for your money.

Lets admit it: we all like our placebos customized. The old opium for the masses approach of large organized religions just doesn’t cut it in the age of diversity. Thus there is a market for customized spiritual opium and there are people who will bring you that what you want, for your money.

As American foreign policy destroys many local economies in the countries of Latin America, and rain forest is converted into McDonald’s meat patties and palm oil, a steady flow of Americans travel to find the real shaman of the Amazon jungle.

It made sense for the psychonauts of the 1960s to do that, before NAFTA, before CIA had overthrown socialist dictators in many South American countries and replaced them with fascist dictators, before drug cartels. In the days before people of the ingenious Amazonian tribes were forced to abandon their traditional lifestyles, take chainsaws and trucks and destroy their natural habitat to feed the economy of a greater industrial nation, back then it all made sense.

Yet today’s flow of naive American upper middle class tourists in Hawaiian shirts that are looking for an authentic ayahuasca experience are just another kind of customer to serve. Even if a traditional shaman of a traditional tribe would walk out of the jungle to them, the best spiritual lesson they may offer to their guests is how exactly they need to heal their culture so it would not threaten the native culture of that shaman. And it depends on the wholeness and wisdom of this specific shaman to deliver that message properly. There are commercial actors that specialize in selling their talents to the ayahuasca honkie along with the experience. In the end, all this ayahuasca soul searching boils down to “buy the ticket, take the ride”.

Despite the growing popularity of the word “shaman”, the fundamental understanding of what it means to be a shaman in the new-age spirituality-minded consumer group is rather limited. A shaman is a term that was borrowed from one of the Siberian’s native languages and it is a social role that is present globally, while methods of initiation into this role greatly vary. In some shamanic traditions shamans are more like priests in the major religions. In some traditions they emerge more spontaneously out of the groups of people, yet they become spiritual leaders that share the fate with the whole tribe. There is a sense of duty that ties a shaman to a tribe and a tribe to a shaman. No commodified shamanic experience can compare to a life-long devotion of a natural spiritual leader to their group of people.

A title of a shaman does not necessarily guarantee that they are wise, and humane to your standards. It is a phenomenon that co-occurs with tribal mentality. Shaman may also be the leader. Titles of the leaders that ruled angry militarized nations during the first half of the twentieth century, terms such as “Duce”, “Chief of the Proletariat” orFuhrer”, all point towards a projection of a tribal chief role over an authoritarian nation-state. Maybe it was a call to some deeply burred archetypal sentiment for a tribal society that is ruled by an unshakable authority of a chief.

A figure that emerges out of the society as a totalizer of the spirit that it carries, a chief priest of a pervasive ideology. In some regard, dictators and leaders of nations are shamans. Thus President Trump may be exactly the man that you are looking for.

According to one of my spiritual teachers, Hitler and Stalin fit the definition of “shaman” in a broad sense. (I will elaborate on his very intense ideas in my future writing.)

Traditional shamanism is a phenomenon that predates the concept of moral universe. In some way it may be attributed to post-traumatic growth of an individual, a concept that modern psychology is only beginning to understand. Yet this post-traumatic growth is very subjective and contains no moralistic guidelines, since it constitutes a neurological process that can be accompanied by a philosophical reevaluation.

There is no guarantee that this post-traumatic growth would not terminate before the shaman attains the highest spiritual realm. It may end at mid-range emotions such as covert hostility and anger. The philosophical and spiritual reevaluation is still defined by the narrative of the social context in which the shaman emerges. The character of a shaman is also defined by history of trauma that they lived through, and this is also a product of their environment. For example, it would be very hard to attain the state of nirvana if the circumstances are such that you have to carry a gun and kill in order not to be killed.

For this reason, alone it would be more appropriate for anyone to look for a shaman in their own social context then in some remote region of the globe. Since traditional shamans generally share the fate of their tribe, there is a connection between them and the group of people that is entrusted to them by the Higher Power and that relationship is far beyond what a paid service can provide – it is a relationship of mutual survival or mutual death.

We live in a highly divided society where income levels and trauma levels are very closely related. There are people who can afford to go to spiritual retreats and there are people who cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads. As American middle class is declining, America becomes more of a caste system while conditions of safety cost more and more money.

Commodified spirituality will lead to a divided society where the Brahmans engage in spirituality events while lower castes of people are somewhat excluded from spiritual practices and teachings, while they remain overwhelmed by trauma. As some gurus brought Indian philosophy into America, they may also support the development of a caste system in America by catering only to a paying customer. While India may be a source of spiritual inspiration for some, it probably should not serve as a model for equity and justice. I would rather learn justice and equity from Scandinavian and Northern Baltic countries than from Asiatic societies.

For this reason, my spiritual leaders are those who spend their lives trying to heal the divide, they are people who actively practice equity, not only preach unity and paddle spirituality to those who can pay them and those who can pay themselves out of trauma into safety.

Considering that we live in a closed system and that our survival as a specie depends on the emotional state of every single participating human being, it is foolish to believe that one can attain enlightenment while ignoring the growing inequality in America and in the rest of the world.

For this reason I have strong doubts about many New-Age spiritual leaders, that they really practice what they preach. Maybe all that is left for them to do is to follow the Evangelical advice, to give everything to the poor and to follow God.

If at one point I am to call myself a healer, I would work to heal the trauma gap between rich and poor that complements the growing economic gap between rich and poor in America since I believe that this is the kind of healing that America needs the most.

April 29, 2018

Trauma Psychology Awareness Month

Traditionally, we think of politics in terms of “left” and “right”. Parliaments of many countries are arranged in such way that more socialist-minded politicians occupy the seats to the left side, while more conservative politicians sit to the right side of the meeting hall.

In the twentieth century, both, the right wing and the left wing had their opportunity to show their worth to an extreme that technology and society structure could not permit in the past. Both courses can be devastating to the community and to the psyche of an individual citizen.

When it comes to the measurement of the human well-being that both the left and the right agree upon, it is usually limited to money, wages, wealth, cost of living, and sometimes it is extended a little further by the more enlightened leftists, and presented as the sense of stability. Socialism reduces anxiety in people because they are no longer afraid to lose their jobs, healthcare, quality of life.

The counter-argument by the conservatives would be that if people have everything provided for them, why would they be productive and strive for anything in life. A third argument may enter the story through some of the more enlightened participants: “If people are in fear of becoming unable to satisfy their basic human needs, how can there be more of those who would take risks and strive for success? Fear of unsatisfying basic human needs only leads to compulsive consumerism?”

There are many arguments that the left and the right uses. Yet the question really is: what do we really need to do to take care of ourselves? The governments in almost all cases subject enormous amounts of their subjects to enormously psychologically overwhelming conditions. People, as participants of the system are often endangered by the policies and commands that this system outputs. Does it matter if it is the Soviet Chief or the American president that is sending you to the war in Afghanistan?

When people come back, their life is divided on “before” and “after”. For many children who are victims of their parent’s job insecurity and fear of tomorrow, there is very little “before” and a very faint image of “after”. Neither of the two parties and very few politicians and executives plan their actions to reduce the psychological trauma impact of their decisions. And this has to change in order for our society to quantitatively leap into a better life quality.

Because the reduction of psychological trauma is not a primary objective of any governmental institution or major organization, the amount of traumatized people is increasing. The opioid crisis is a very accurate illustration of this degradation. In some way, our mechanical society that is not concerned with the fragility of human psyche and physical health accumulates people that were damaged by the activity of our society and cannot be recovered, while their recovery is only considered a secondary goal to all the great projects that our politicians have in mind.

The answer to the question is not as simple as making poor people rich or regressing the American society back to the economical golden age of the 1950. The answer lies in looking at the people who cannot be productive any longer as at the people who carry a traumatic imprint from the actions of our society.

Our society is still in the mode of suppressing the psychological symptoms of traumatic experiences through psychotropic medications and incarceration. Public education encourages repression of the psychological trauma from an early age. We are still a society that hides and buries the victims of the previous mistakes and marches on happily to make new ones. Thus, at the speeds at which we operate, we are mass-producing traumatized people.

However if every new policy was looked as a measure to reduce trauma in the people and every action of the government was seen as something that can lead to more trauma in an attempt to formally address the problem, we would live in a different world that would become healthier and healthier day by day.

Wealthy conservatives need to understand that their actions in business may contribute to our collective psychological trauma. And no money would enable them to shield themselves and their children from it. There is always a way it will find its way into their lives. Trauma also has a very strong, yet poorly represented connection with economic efficiency. Thus it is a very nearsighted approach to ignore stress and trauma as a social an economic factor.

The socialists are more concerned with equity and material equality, while they forget about the underlying trauma. The history of trauma predetermines people to be more poor, to be less capable of taking opportunities and making wise consumer choices.

In either case, it is the awareness of the traumatic nature of mental health problems, addiction problems and overall reduction of productivity that would distinguish a “good” politician from the “bad” politician.

Thus, if trauma psychology became the topic of the day, most politicians would themselves align with this rather old new idea and consider it in their work.

The socialist vs. capitalist narrative would no longer be needed as the people would be less traumatized, less afraid and would create a better world for themselves.

So go out and make trauma psychology the topic of the day!

Lets claim our Trauma Psychology Awareness Month and get the word out.

April 25, 2018

Trauma Psychology reading list of On Our Own of Frederick

Collaborative Healing: A “Shorter” Therapy Approach for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Book by Jill B. Cody and Mark Hirschfeld

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Book by Bessel van der Kolk

Babies Need Mothers

Book by Clancy D. McKenzie

Healing the Shame that Binds You

Book by John Bradshaw

Codependent No More

Book by Melody Beattie

Loyalty to Your Soul

By H. Ronald Hulnick

open to suggestion of a good book that summarizes all the theories of:

Stanislav Grof

Garbor Maté

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