Saturday, 24 May 2014
HEALING / HARMING
With special reference to
Sir Terry Pratchett
A sequence of events that, literally, were mind altering, has prompted me to write this short article.
Apart from any alteration to my own mind, the episodes have provided clues that may have relevance in the study of mental ageing, breast cancer, and, possibly, to the onset of MS and Alzheimer’s disease.
By choice, and for a number of years, I have lived a solitary life in a very quiet and tranquil place, which is free from urban and other forms of pollution.
I am not a hermit, for I have many friends either in person or by phone and email, but, for large parts of my days, I live deep in my ‘mind’. Possibly lost in abstract, reflective or ruminative thought, which might then give way to writing, or which might contribute to my ongoing study of that fascinating topic – ‘me’.
Not in an obsessive, Narcissistic manner, but following my absorbing interest in the interplay between the mammal ‘me’, and the Johnny-come-lately intellectual ‘me’.
Here I am with all of my mammal evolution, still complete in its entirety and fully functioning – the result of aeons of logical development, and providing me with the tools of self-preservation, procreation and enhancement of the species, all of which should be in exquisite balance. And here I am with my split-function human intellectual brain which, with its divisions, can succeed in screwing up and overriding the harmony that should exist - and do it to the detriment of my physical and mental health.
In the most simplistic way, for long periods of time, I live largely in my ‘right brain’, the centre of imagination and ruminative thought. Even when engaged in such mundane activities as washing the dishes, I may be teasing away at the arguments and forms of words that subsequently I will go on to present in writing such as this. So deep can I be in analytical thought that suddenly I realise that my breathing is very shallow, and that my body is physically tense and ‘polarised’ in one particular way.
But, far from being a transient phenomenon, it may be my state of being for significant lengths of time, with the ‘polarisation’ becoming semi-permanent, and, which can be particularly noticeable in my breathing, which may have become not much more than a ‘whisper’. (See final note).
Within my mind, I am visualising and verbalising. But to my inner mammal, I am hearing sounds and seeing things and the mammal ‘me’ is actively seeking whatever it is that is causing this degree of attention in my right brain – and it is looking for it to my left hand side. And it is preparing me physically to respond actively to whatever it is that might come from that direction.
My left foot and my right hand ‘close’ as if holding on, while my left buttock becomes taut, with the centre of tension at the ischium. Likewise, the left testicle structure is tensed, and the left lower abdomen is retracted. Meanwhile the senses of hearing, vision and touch in the right side of my head, become marginally less acute.
The right leg and right lower quarter stiffen, producing muscular tension in the thigh and ankle region, and in the lower abdomen, while the left upper quarter and arm also stiffen. The whole, thus, creates strong muscular tension in the biceps, across my left breast and up my left neck, both internally and externally.
The musculature associated with my left eye and ear becomes permanently stressed, as the eye and ear strain to listen to and look at what, they are led to believe, may be a threat arriving from the left.
My bladder and anal sphincters tighten, together with a simultaneous ‘locking’ of my throat and neck at the level of my thyroid gland - with an unbalanced feeling of restriction, strongest on its left side.
The right eye and ear become ‘detuned’ - still retaining their proper function, but allowing greater concentration on the looking and listening to the left.
There is much more detail to which I shall return in an article that I have been trying to write for some time. An article that will also describe the various strategies and exercises that I have devised to try to counteract the deterioration that must inevitably result if it all goes unchecked (remembering that I am 88, and yet still want to maintain my mental and physical faculties for as long as possible.)
Help, when it came, arrived completely unexpectedly and, one might say, bizarrely, in the shape of a three CD boxed set – a gift from a very good friend.
No, not music and the Mozart effect and all that, but in the form of a lecture or discourse that occupied all of the CDs. And it was not the actual content of the lecture either. With his title “The Biology of Belief”, Dr. Bruce H. Lipton began, and talked, and talked - continuously in a voice barely above a monotone, although somehow managing to imbue it with enthusiasm.
Slowly, logically, persuasively, non-stop through three CDs, he led through basic cell structure, proteins, cell membranes, DNA. Building, building an argument that reached its climax in the whole person and the influence of the mind and beliefs upon its ultimate function.
But no! - it was none of that. My experiences began within two minutes of my commencing to listen. Listen I did, intently, because I was now in new territory and my friend had been so enthusiastic in making the gift. And as I listened, I became aware that all of the locked in tensions, stiffness and semi paralyses were releasing and revitalising. But it was not the result of what I heard. No - here I was completely immersed in language, logic and coherent argument – I was entirely within the recesses of my left brain, and my inner mammal responded as it had evolved to do – to the ‘threat’ that might this time come from the now opposite direction. And a new ‘polarisation’ began to establish.
And it did not happen just that once. No: each time I listen, and within thirty seconds, the same changes occur. I have become so bored with the arguments and discussion that I don’t listen in logical sequence – I simply switch in at random, focus entirely on his voice – and receive my therapy. My left buttock and testicle (and all my genitalia) suddenly feel normal and in harmony: my left foot and right hand grip no longer and the sphincters begin to relax. My right foot is restored to a feeling of normality, and hitherto unnoticed stresses across my left breast gently unwind.
I have ‘worked’ the sequence many, many times since the initial surprise event, and have observed many subtleties in where and how release and relaxation occur – far too many to describe in this short note. To me, and in the general context in which I am writing, most significant is what follows the release of the sphincters.
The left shoulder loses its semi-permanent hunch, returning to the normal level for a right handed person, i.e. slightly higher than the right (See note at # ). This return to ‘normality’ facilitates the liberation of the whole cervical spine and associated muscles, while the throat with all of its internal components becomes more free, resulting in an unquantifiable ‘release’ around the thyroid, and apparent increase in blood flow to and from the brain.
Tensions that hitherto were unobserved, having become part of my normal structure, now release in my left face, around the left eye and all over my scalp. The feeling of mental well-being is remarkable.
Sometime ago, I read a note in which Sigmund Freud described a patient who, he believed, was in the early stages of MS. In particular, I remember his comments following her statement that “My left eyebrow is numb, and I have trouble moving my right foot…” and his opinion that she was on a downward path from which there was no return.
I recall it from time to time when my own left eyebrow and right foot behave as I have described. Fortunately, I know the cause, and provide relief, but my suggestion that what I observe and then correct may relate to MS, is strengthened when one now learns that within the development of the illness, one or both jugular veins becomes constricted – which relates to what I observe in myself.
Further, as it is sometimes asserted that there is a close link between MS and Alzheimer’s disease, what I detect in relation to blood flow and mental well-being may equally have relevance.
Much is being written and otherwise communicated about the development in Terry Pratchett of a condition that appears to be a form of Alzheimer’s disease. With only knowledge that is in the public domain, I nevertheless see my analysis applying to him also. Applying to a much higher degree, for his whole life appears to be devoted to his writing; writing that involves far more concentration and imagination than mine.
(See note on final page below referring to changes in his health)
Furthermore, he writes with four computer screens occupying his total visual focus for many hours. The ‘mammal within’ does not habitually stare in forward focus. Such a state is normally the result of confrontation, possibly against a foe. Confrontation that normally is resolved fairly quickly.
The ‘mammal within’ requires wide-ranging peripheral vision and frequent eye movement. I am fortunate in that where I live I have wide horizons as soon as I step outside, and the movement of birds, cattle and horses, trees and clouds, and I can sense the benefit that I derive as my eyes are constantly moving and changing focus.
I well remember a recent winter and the time when it was just changing into spring. It had gone on for so long – grey, wet, cold, with very little incentive to go outside, and with the vision confined to TV and computer screens and print. Then one day I took off for my nearby shore, on a day of almost unbelievable clarity and light – and the liberation was astonishing. My eyes ranged back and forth along the absolutely pin-sharp horizon ‘luxuriating’ in their liberation: while the feeling within my whole self amounted almost to a rebirth. It was unforgettable.
Yes – unforgettable. And unforgettable was the ‘purging’ of my lungs with ocean air. Air straight from the
Atlantic – pure and unpolluted – and ‘alive’. Air that seemed to
sweep around my brain – scouring away any remaining dross.
As I try to bring this article to a logical conclusion, many other examples jostle for attention, all worthy of inclusion, but the article would become too long, so I’ll confine myself to just two. The first has been described and analysed many time in my writing about voice hearing.
I have heard voices and experienced many other allied phenomena for more than thirty years, fortunately without having become ill, and I describe and analyse my experiences in my book* and Blog. I assert – with absolute certainty – that the phenomena are created by spiritual intrusion into my mind and body.
I have experienced ‘intrusions’ of different natures and purpose, from the absolute benign to the absolute malign. The former, in fact, do not intrude, and have contributed much to my understanding of the spiritual state of being.
The malign have but one purpose, and that is to attach, subvert and ultimately take over a person’s mind and functions. In my book, I describe a number of different ‘ploys’ that are used as they attempt to do this. Some are directly confrontational and aim at domination. Others are simple yet subtle. The constant chattering, nattering, “…do it this way”, “why don’t you…” may be in one’s mind continuously from one’s first thoughts on waking, until sleep takes over again. One finds oneself ‘hearing’ without specifically ‘listening’ although the effect can easily be the same. The ‘intruders’ use the faculties of the ‘right brain’, and the resulting consequences of the constant voice in the mind are identical to those that follow one’s own inner right brain thought processes and mental imaging, and which I have described above.
I live alone and am not undermined because I understand what is happening. Many voice hearers live lives of isolation, do not understand, and consequently may become very ill.
The second example that I have chosen from all those that ‘jostle for attention’ relates to what may be dire physical consequences that follow from the permanent cross-body polarisation. I have drawn attention to the permanent stresses that may exist in the muscles across my left breast. For a number of years I gave assistance at a cancer care centre where the so-called Bristol Therapy was promoted. There I found a general consensus that the site of a woman’s first breast cancer was likely to be on the left in a proportion of four to one. Breast cancer was the most frequent form that one encountered, and I can recollect just one person there whose first episode had been in the right breast.
My late sister-in-law succumbed to cancer of the right breast, and she told me that her surgeon had said that she was in the only 20% of women who initially developed the illness on the right side. She was very ‘verbal’, and possibly a strong ‘left brain’ candidate.
Essentially, I am simply making the proposition that the stresses of which I write may be inhibiting natural circulation of blood and lymph and may be creating a fertile ‘soil’ in which the tumours can develop. Incidentally, among my friends and acquaintances who have developed mastitis following giving birth, in every one it was the left breast that became inflamed.
POSTSCRIPT – SIR TERRY PRATCHETT.
Since I wrote the above, Sir Terry has dropped out of the headlines, to the extent that I had to look in the Internet to find out whether or not he is still alive. I was delighted to discover that he is, and is still writing.
This is what Wikipedia reports –
Because of his condition, Pratchett currently writes either by dictating to his assistant, Rob Wilkins, or by using speech recognition software.
In September 2012 Pratchett stated in an interview "
“I have to tell you that I thought I’d be a lot worse than this by now, and so did my specialist."
In the interview it was stated that the cognitive part of his mind was "untouched", and his symptoms relating to the condition were physical (which is normal for PCA) and that putting a book together was actually better and easier now that it was done by dictation.
In my own interpretation, the ‘thinking, planning, imagining’ have been brought together with speech, involving both sides of the brain, bringing new life to the inert and under-used ‘left brain’ functions of speech, language and logic, and hence to the whole person.
Also – and this is so fundamentally important –
as he speaks, he breathes.
Yes, no longer the shallow ‘whisper breathing’ of concentration about which I wrote earlier, but ‘speech breathing’ bringing with it, life and possibly rejuvenation to the oxygen starved brain.
(Revised May 2014)
# Described in detail in Chapters 13 & 14 of my book, and illustrated with photographs of nude models.
* ”LISTENING TO THE SILENCES in a world of hearing voices.”
Free on www.royvincent.org and in paperback.