• "to the open minded"
  • "normal should not be your ultimate goal"

The psychological "Chicken or the Egg" question

By Thomas Griner

There is a long history of the popular acceptance of the idea that a mind-body couple exists insofar as the mind is capable of psychosomatic-ally disturbing normal body function. This has shaped the psychological approaches to concentrate solely on emotional environmental and experiencial factors. The thought being that if the emotional disturbances are resolved, this will automatically resolve any physiological disturb- ances which may have psychosomatically followed.

A newer mind-body couple concept has been slowly developing a following among some psychologists. This allows that physiological disturbances can also somatopsychlcally disturb emotional function. Most of those who accept this concept still tend to believe that much of the physiological disturbances are the result of psychosomatic beginnings. Since they believe that there is a psychosomatic-somatopsychic two way street, they feel that therapy can be accelerated by treating the body as well the mind.

Historically, the word somatopsychic was coined more than a decade before the word psychosomatic. This resulted from repeated observations of patients who became cranky and irritable during the onset of an infection and depressed and listless during the infection. Their emotional recovery came with their physical recovery. The majority of people agree that susceptibility to succumbing to an infectious agent is increased by physical abuses such as fatigue from overworking or muscle chilling.

The type of physical disturbances that are commonly involved in creating somatopsychic disturbances are not so overt as an infection. Indeed, the major problem, which has complicated development of physical approaches appropriate for the body, has been a lack of knowledge of the exact nature of the physical disturbances. The accumulation of recent interrelated observations of detailed body functions, which have been methodically collected by physiologists now points to one very common type of physical disturbance. This disturbance, like the infection, is basically the result of physical stress and not emotional stress, yet it can irritate the nerves to somatophychically produce emotional disturbances.

An emotionally happy and optimistic person is said to have "good karma". A person who is emotionally depressed or angry and pessimistic is said to have "bad karma", A person with "bad karma" is socially said to be a disturbing element. Physiologically speaking, anything which makes the body tissue happy could be called "good physical karma" while anything which acts as a disturbing element could be called "bad physical karma". The most abundent "bad physical karma" found in the body tissue fluids is lactic acid. This lactic acid has no connection with that which is ingested with yogurt and other milk products. Intestinal lactic acid is "good physical karma" to the flora and fauna which symbiotically grow there.

Diet has no effect on the body's production of lactic acid because the lactic and is a natural "ash" left- over after the tissues have burned the blood sugar (glucose) to obtain metabolic energy. Starches, fats and proteins can all be converted to blood sugar as needed. The muscles are the main producers of lactic acid because a working muscle forces itself into anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism and lactic acid is only produced by anaerobic metabolism. A contracting (working) muscle compresses the blood vessels running through it and thus reduce the blood flow to the rate needed to supply enough oxygen to maintain aerobic (with oxygen) metabolism. Once formed, the lactic acid must reach the liver because the muscles do not contain the needed enzymes which can eliminate lactic acid whereas the liver does.

If a muscle is held in tension for a prolonged time period, it will act not only to produce large amounts of lactic acid but the resulting reduced blood flow will also prevent the lactic acid from reaching the liver and cause it to become concentrated. Concentrated lactic acid acts as a disturbing element by irritating nerves, triggering muscle cramps, activating thrombosis (blood clots, including hemorrhoids), eliciting burning pain, and disturbing muscle tone control. Emotions can contribute somewhat to this problem thru tensing of muscles particularly in the jaw, diaphragm and shoulder muscles. A much greater amount is produced, however, by pure physical stresses to which the muscles are subjected. A physical trauma causes muscles

The nerve irritation produced by the lactic add causes increased emotional irritability. This causes a portion of an individual's ability to cope to be expended on enduring the internal irritation so that less "cope" is left to deal with external emotional irritation. This causes emotional reactions to reach the point of tensing of muscles more often than would be the case if the internal irritation were less. Conversely, when people become emotionally "drained", they can no longer cope with internal irritations and usually assume that their physical reaction is psychosomatic rather than the unmasking of a pre-existing condition. This "robin round" of physical tension causing emotional tension causing physical tension is what has lead to the confusion as to which comes first.

Another type of mind-body couple exists that is more complicated in its action. Sometimes a past event with both physically and emotionally traumatic so that the two became neurologically intertwined. The dis- covery three years ago of body produced "morphine" (called endorphins) has shown that the old saying "time heals all wounds" is inaccurate and should say "time numbs all wounds". As the conscious pain of the physical hurt is numbed, so is the conscious pain of the emotional hurt. The emotional memory then works insidiously to disturb emotional function.

It is nearly impossible to bring such a "buried" emotional memory back to the conscious mind by purely psychological techniques. Yet this must be done if the conflicts the memory creates are to be resolved. Certain physical techniques can readily resensitize the physical hurt thus remove its activity as a block to conscious awareness. The stored emotion then surfaces usually with tearful recall of the circumstances which created it.