Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hindenburg as Self

Or ‘Bad’ Hydrogen

[ This was written some time ago.]

History and myth: How do they come to be and how can they be investigated and possibly changed? Is not history fixed? Like 2+ 2? My purpose in these few words is not to answer these questions but simply to ask you to think about how all passage of time, when codified, is history. I ask you to consider that our personal history is subject to the same forces as the history of the Hindenburg and that rewriting  history, when we find it to be in error, is essentially the same process.

A persistent, and obviously great investigator, Addison Bain, came to have the doubt that hydrogen caused the Hindenburg disaster. If you remember form your school days the Hindenburg was a dirigible that had made several voyages across the Atlantic as a passenger ship. The Nazis ruled Germany but WWII was not yet underway.

We have all seen the footage where the Hindenburg is gently coming in to moor at its mast when suddenly it bursts into flames. Nearly all died. The investigation implicated hydrogen, a highly flammable gas. I certainly have always thought this to be the case but Addison Bain doubted this. He set out to find the truth. I will share some detail as I wish to build a feeling of investigation and of how the truth, once lost, is hard to find.

There where some 97 eyewitnesses to the tragedy, 95 on one side and only two on the other side of the craft, all on the ground. What the 95 saw correlated and was used to bolster the hydrogen theory while the two other accounts where totally discounted, yet they saw where the fire really stated. Many things where not right.

  1. Hydrogen cannot be seen in the daylight while burning as it burns straight up and has a fine blue hue to it. The accident occured in daylight

  2. Through the use of computers and colorization it became clear that the fire was bright orange and red, not the flame of hydrogen. But, your ask, were not the ship materials burning and do they not produce an orange flame?.

  3. Yes, but now another problem the ship burned in all of 84 seconds! Why!

  4. Even if the hydrogen was the problem why did it ignite?

  5. He first showed, with an elaborate model, that if the hydrogen did burn first it would have been seen at a different place. The spark would have come from electric static from thunderstorms that had just past through. The mooring ropes however should have grounded the ship.

    His theory turned to the covering of the ship. He reasoned that the substance they used to coat the Hindenburg might have been made with a good conductor of electricity. He noted also that the panels where laced to the frame with rope, a poor conductor.

    If the panels where good conductors he reasoned that a high amount of electricity built up on the panels. The charge would discharge where it could. The charge would jump the gap to the next panel and cause a spark. That spark would ignite the cloth. Why? Well it turned out the panels where a good conductor of electricity. The cloth was treated with aluminum and iron for very specific engineering reasons. Both materials are very good conductors of electricity. He reasoned that under such conditions such a spark would cause the fire. 

    Two things then happened to help prove his theory. He first came upon some samples of the Hindenburg. He took a very small piece and exposed it to a small static charge. The material burst into flame. Note this is a piece of material now 60 years old. Finally he found a report in German archives that was generated at the time of the accident that used the very same theory. For insurance reasons and the reputation of the Third Riech this theory was not considered.
    The result of all this was that blimps and dirigibles where not used and hydrogen became ‘bad’. Based on this erroneous idea a lifetime has passed and suffered for it. Society has been deprived of this very efficient mode of transport and hydrogen damned.

    What is my point? How is this possibly related to the human psychic? The point is that we are like the hydrogen when we are small. We can be given the idea, believe the idea, that we are bad and waste a life time in that prison. Our friend was the therapist for hydrogen and has liberated it from its past, at least partially as perceptions die hard. Our image of ourselves also die hard.

    Good history is agonizingly hard. What is the truth? However good history is not impossible and is even more possible now with the application of such science. Our lives are similarly available for scrutiny. It seems that a modicum of truth is known about how we operate so that we may more objectively be able to look back on our own lives and separate the true and the false. 

    We may often find that we have lived with a sense of  poor self worth and shame that are based on a lie, a lie perpetrated by many people in our lives including ourselves. Understanding how hurt is transformed into myth is the key to finding the true explanations of our lives so we can burn, anew, like hydrogen with a clean translucent flame.

    A discussion of these ideas can be found at Affect and Script Theory.

  6. Brian Lynch,M.D.

    Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness
     NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.

    Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self
    by Donald L. Nathanson
    Paperback (March 1994)
    W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090


  7. Monday, January 14, 2013

    The Knight and the Catcher: The Shield and the Glove

    Two images:

    A knight

     A baseball catcher

     The knight and the catcher , images that I have used to explain and explore two general approaches to the world that can be controlling principles for people.

     Both the knight and the catcher wear “armor” for protection. Protection from what? From a hostile world. The knight is protected from slings and arrows and the catcher from a ball that can reach a speed over a hundred miles an hour.

     The image of the knight is several hundred years old. This is important.  The image of the Catcher is somewhat over a hundred years old.

     They serve to shed light on two styles of handling the world, especially the dangerous parts of the world. One seems more useful than the other.

     The medieval knight as we see is regaled in full armor and burdened with a large shield.

     The analogy is with a person that has developed an attitude of “strength” and of the power of not being hurt: “You cannot possibly hurt me because as you see I have all this armor on!”

     The idea is that the catcher is in control. The catcher is “receiving” the ball. He is not fighting with it. The situation is controlled.  The catcher admits that even though the situation is controlled, that injury can still occur and so is protected.

     These approaches seem to me to be very similar to the way people manage their lives, especially their emotional lives.

     The knights of the world are highly defended against the world feeling very much in control and feel that “nothing can hurt them.”  In psychology this has taken on the form of telling people that if they get hurt that it is their fault. “You can only be hurt if you let people hurt you.”  People then tend to build a wall around themselves and paint a sign on the outside saying “you can’t hurt me.”  What I find interesting about this form of survival is that “if you can’t hurt me” then why do I need the wall? Why do I need the armor? 

     We see this in the schoolyard when children say “it didn’t hurt?”  I always wonder why one would bother say “it didn’t hurt” if it indeed it did not hurt. As Shakespeare said “he doestprotest too much.”

     For the knight and our friend in the school yard and ourselves, if we see ourselves playing out  this style, we and they  spend a great deal of   time in very hard work building walls and wearing armor  as at some point they had no  control and felt quite hopeless about having much control over their lives. They learned that they must be prepared for the worst!  As an adult this is by no means obvious to them. Why?  It is not obvious because they began building the wall many, many years previously. The world was cut off many years ago. It was “the world hurt me,” “I must protect myself,”  “I will protect myself,”  “If I protect myself then I cannot be hurt anymore.” “There that is done!”  “Now I can live!”

     Much therapy has been built around this idea, much bad therapy. It teaches us to reinforce our amour, polish it, and oil it. We go to therapy and say that this or that relationship “hurt” us. We say we are confused. We come to learn that, practically speaking, “we deserve” our hurt because after all we “enabled” the other to hurt us.  What does this tell us? It tells us that we should not have “needed” anyone. We are at fault for having needed to be loved. We are at fault for having been sympathetic and helping to the other.

     So we learn that we need to constantly be careful and be very afraid of “giving’ too much of “helping” too much. We build an amour. Although we still want connection, although we still want love we have learned that, well, we get to love by NOT helping, by NOT giving.  We learn to protect ourselves from others pain. We learn to say and act as “I once hurt but now I do not. “I can do it so can you.” If you stop needing people, really needing people and if you stop wanting to help people, really help them then you will be happy like I am.

     Now of course these people will deny any of this.  

     The knight must do much to keep himself prepared.  His armor must be clean and shinny.  Swords must be kept clean and sharp. He must also practice, practice, practice.  If fact he has time for little else, he wants love and affection but he must deny it for a higher cause and what is that? It is the defense of the nation, the defense in this analogy, of the self!  Above all else I, we cannot be hurt.  The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance! 

     In contrast there is the catcher.  The catcher is much more in control. The catcher does not mind that the ball is coming towards him because he accepts two things: One is that he has been prepared to catch it and control it and he has accepted that he can and sometimes will get hurt, sometimes despite his protection he will get hurt.

     I emphasize that the catcher does not mind the risk as they have freely entered the game. They enter into a relationship with the pitcher. The pitcher is on the SAME team.  This teammate can hurt the catcher!  The catcher accepts all of this risk because if all goes well it will be a satisfying relationship, the pitcher and the catcher work together to strike out the batter. The catcher tells the pitcher what pitch to throw. The pitcher does not have to throw the pitch that the catcher wants but he will only throw when the catcher knows what pitch is to be thrown.  They are a team. But the catcher can still get hurt.

    So why is being a catcher better than being a knight? It is better because protecting the self as a catcher is simply seen as a necessity. Taking care to protect oneself   in the proper way frees the catcher to do many things. The catcher in many ways often controls the game. He mostly decides what the pitcher will do. He can influence the umpire. He is responsible for many “outs.” 

     In our daily lives there are many knights and many catchers. Unfortunately it seems to me that many of the knights in shining armor are the people we often see as the most successful and happy.  To be sure many of these people do tremendous amount of good but they also often do a tremendous amount of harm to themselves and others in private. The knights are often the brightest of the bright, the leaders. They tell us to be strong to fight, to die; they give us something to believe in. If you follow me you may become a knight or a lest help me in my endeavor. 

       The lesser defended of us when faced with incoming stimuli that might hurt us might run away, we might ‘freeze’ and then blame ourselves for getting hit, we might run away by changing the subject or mediating our pain with drugs or alcohol or we might attack back in a sloppy dangerous way where we will get hurt even more.  The knight however is deceptive as if you go looking for “them” you do not find “them” you find pure defense. “I will not run away, I will not blame myself for my predicament as don’t you see I spend all my waking hours preparing for the worst.  If I avoid you it is only because I am smarter then you are. I will move away only so that I may prepare better to attack you later and defeat you.”  Finally “I may or may not attack.” “You must understand, in fact, that I usually prefer not to attack but sometimes you force me to.   So the politician, the social reformer, the priest, the shinning doctor, the industrial leader, who are they? Are they well defended shining knights in armor only or is there a person there?

     Ah but this is not fair. Yes there is a person but they are lost.  In my experience in dealing with people all of this starts because, and this is extremely important,  these persons wanted connection probably more than anyone else. And they were denied it.  The more they wanted it and the more they were denied it the more they hurt. The more they hurt the more they did not want to hurt again. The more they hurt, the more likely there was no one around to help them with this hurt.

     A boy is dressed in his best waiting for his estranged father to come and pick him up at age 3 and the father does not show.

     A girl spends all day painting a picture for her mother just knowing that when her mother comes home she will love the picture pick her up and kiss her and hug here. The mother comes home and is so tired she says “later honey” and goes to bed.

    A boy has been so happy that his father has stopped drinking but one morning   gets up and comes down stairs and the nano second he sees his father the scene becomes dreadful. His father is passed out at the kitchen table with an empty fifth of 7 Crown beside him.

     No matter what I do my older sister seems to get all the attention.  I get all “A’s” and get first in the art contest but for me it is always “you can do better” where my sister does poorly and gets kisses and hugs and I think it is because she is cuter.

     So it seems that this is where it all begins. This is in my experience. These people are in danger of becoming two people and as I haves seen I think that we all are basically at least two people as we all have experienced some early disappointments. We have all experienced shaming experiences.  Few people are really “integrated.” So we are all in the same boat.  We all want connection and love. That is the loving humanist person in all of us. We manifest that person when we feel safe and in loving company. We can be a completely another person when we feel that we might be hurt again. This often happens, unfortunately, also when we are in loving company. Why does it happen? It is because the feeling of love and excitement and caring reminds of the time(s) when we where little and wanted love and affection and did not get it. Now in the present these “good,” even “magnificent” feelings, can make us very fearful that we will be disappointed again, hurt again and so we end the good times ourselves.

     Often with many of us the two people are not in touch with each other.  It is, I think, simple to understand why the two people are not in touch with each other. It is because we are told that “adults” are complete reasonable people that can solve problems. Most people do not believe that their childhood has much to do with who they are. I believe this to be actually a lie. I believe, to paraphrase a teacher, that unfortunately adult life “is about continuing to ignore what we all knew anyway but we are continually told to continue to ignore it.” That is we are continually told to ignore our feelings, to get on with it.

    Is there hope for the knight?  Sometimes I think there is little hope for them because they often are too intelligent for their own good. All their reason goes into activities that justify more and more their way of being.  They forget what real enjoyment and sharing is and substitute excitement and  “adventure.”  They claim to defend the weak and poor but actually seem to despise them, as the way to care for them is to tell them to “shape up,” “work hard,” “don’t ask me for help. Don’t you se I am defending you and have no time to help you!”

     The integrated person, so much as they exist, goes out into the world with their catcher’s mitt and the minimum of armor. This amour is practical. It needs not be shined or extensive, or expensive (someone said be wary of enterprises requiring new clothes). The integrated person knows that whatever comes at them can be at least in their power to try and control. This is because the catcher is focused. They are living now. Fear is, at most, at low ebb. In fact, of course, for the real catcher there is no fear at all. There is in fact enjoyment along with excitement and interest.

     So I try and teach people to put on their catcher’s mitt. To keep it limbered up, to hold it where it is supposed to be, right over the diaphragm. To absorb the “hit,” catch it and then what? Then you have it. You take the ball out and can examine it, caress it, learn about it and even become interested in it and it is no longer any kind of threat at all.

    Brian Lynch

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    The Murals of the Mezquitán Cemetery, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

    This is not my usual essay.

    I take the liberty to announce the publication of my new book

    The Murals of the Mezquitán Cemetery,  Guadalajara, Jalisco,  Mexico. 
    Short video of interior of book. 
                                                        ON AMAZON
    This is not totally gratuitous and out of place. I offer here the short essay from the book and in I say.

    “Large figures anchor each panel and broad undulating strokes, many of them blue, serveto unite. We see that “things of life” are prevalent: flowers, lovers, music, the market andthe playground. Yet a close look at the faces of the participants tells us that we mightbe in a strange place. A place that is reminding us that “we” are only here a short whileto participate in these activities before passing to what is on the other side of the wall.”

    That is the faces fairly universally lack affect in a sea of life and color reminding us that just on the other side is a cemetery.

    From the book:

    It is my pleasure to introduce you to the mural of the Mezquitán Panteón of Guadalajara Mexico. The Cemetery was founded in 1896 after the closure of the Belen cemetery.

    The painting is inspired, in part, by a folk tale about a race to the cemetery by two families for the privilege of having a family member buried there and claiming the prize of the first burial plot free of charge. The race was between a rich and a poor family. The poor family having only the sweat of their brow lost as the rich family had access to a carriage. The social commentary cannot be lost on us. But this is only the starting point as the mural was truly a community project involving financial support from the government, numerous student painters and many suggestions from the community concerning thematic input, from furtive loves to a car accident.

    Despite these diverse inputs the work holds together in many ways; size , color and themes. Large figures anchor each panel and broad undulating strokes, many of them blue, serve to unite. We see that “things of life” are prevalent: flowers, lovers, music, the market and the playground. Yet a close look at the faces of the participants tells us that we might be in a strange place. A place that is reminding us that “we” are only here a short while. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the mural of the Mezquitán Panteón of Guadalajara Mexico. The Cemetery was founded in 1896 after the closure of the Belen cemetery. The painting is inspired, in part, by a folk tale about a race to the cemetery by two families for the privilege of having a family member buried there and claiming the prize of the first burial plot free of charge. The race was between a rich and a poor family. The poor family having only the sweat of their brow lost as the rich family had access to a carriage. The social commentary cannot be lost on us. But this is only the starting point as the mural was truly a community project involving financial support from the government, numerous student painters and many suggestions from the community concerning thematic input, from furtive loves to a car accident.

    Despite these diverse inputs the work holds together in many ways; size , color and themes. Large figures anchor each panel and broad undulating strokes, many of them blue, serve to unite. We see that “things of life” are prevalent: flowers, lovers, music, the market and the playground. Yet a close look at the faces of the participants tells us that we might be in a strange place. A place that is reminding us that “we” are only here a short while to participate in these activities before passing to what is on the other side of the wall.

    The project was conceived by four students all inhabitants of the area and from the University Center for Art, Architecture and Design (CUAAD), Marita Terríquez Guadalupe Oliva Martha, Edith Garcia de la Torre, José Ricardo Solis Rosales and Oscar Fabian Zumaya Covarrubias. Zumaya was the overall sketch artist and Sergio Murillo was the supervising coordinator of the project. All manual labor was donated. It was a reaction to the excessive graffi ti in the neighborhood.

    Brian Lynch

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    You Just Might Get What You Need

    "You Just Might Get What You Need"

    ….“It is interest… which is primary.[Interest] supports both what is necessary for life and what is possible…”

    Nothing has become so clear to me recently than that we are so often left alone not because we are not loved or worse yet because we are hated. No it is because so many of those that love us have been so deeply hurt before they even got to us.

    It is only with a development of a sense of empathy and the ability to understand that people can leave us for a number of reasons that we can advance to think in terms of other than my own needs and hurt if we are left.

    New thoughts? Hardly. Hamlet certainly doubted and contemplated and got in peoples heads. Much of the modern novel, if it is about anything, is  about such angst as what motivated this or that person to do this or that. And so it is ever the more mysterious to me that we still play out our dramas with such flare as if we have learned barely anything about the human psyche.  And so it is with each of us; we haven’t until we have. Each generation learns at its parent’s knees and that is where all the drama starts.

    What general progress there is saved up in tiny bits of cultural memory that are passed on like diamonds from generation to generation that  sometimes seemingly skip a few generations. Thus we progress so slowly in our quest for self knowledge and quest for interpersonal connection. And yes in general the ability to empathize and talk of empathy is rather new on the world stage.

    So yes for some time now many of us might understand that the beloved might withdraw from the beloved while still in a state of loving the very person they are withdrawing from but how best to understand this? How best to understand that idea of hurting the one you love?

    It seems the best most clarifying concept to come along is to express it in terms of interest. Interest was never been appreciated as a fully appreciated emotion until Silvan Tomkins indentified it as such and still has not been accepted as such. 

    Tomkins says interest makes things possible….“It is interest… which is primary.[Interest] supports both what is necessary for life and what is possible…”  

    Interest makes attachments possible.  Once you come to appreciate the whole emotional system that Tomkins discovered you come to see that interest is its crowing jewel. Without interest we are a world wind of punishing feeling without a control module or a lever with which to rise ourselves to joy once in a while. It is the emotional governor of the system.

    Interest is that which is necessary for bonding with our primary caregivers. “Affection”: affective resonance, interest-interest leads to joy-joy. Some folk call it attunement.  The breakage of this bond causes a shame response. This is inevitable and it takes skill to repair; the cycle of interest-interest- interest- joy and shame or interest –shame –interest or any combination thereof. If done appropriately we teach the child that it is possible to be in a good time and anticipate that a bad time will happen indeed a bad time is inevitable but that the good time will return.

    The problem is, and this is all too common, all too common is when children are abandoned and have no idea when the good scene will return. I am four years old and have a grand old time with daddy and then am then left in the car for hours on end. This happens over and over. Cycles of emotions take over. Briefly shame, then fear, terror, distress, all are felt together and I cry and I cry myself to sleep not knowing when he will return. My older sister “babysits” me while mom is at work by locking me in a room all day. I cry and scratch at the door all day. My mother never knows what goes on.

    My parents get picked up on drug charges and social services don’t find me in the apartment for a month.

    The emotional abandonment of constant doses of prescription drugs and alcohol that blunt any meaningful interaction.

    Of course the phenomena of abandonment are not new to psychology either. Its ravages are well known and have permeated well into the popular media. It is, again, its relation to interest that we are after.

    What interest gives us is something we never had before and that is a quasi physical way to connect people. What is that? Yes.  The genius of Tomkins is that he fully seated emotion in the physical body by tying emotion to facial expression and that was only the beginning. He said the each innate facial expression really was only an expression of a “feeling” that was taking place all over the body. That is there is a separate emotional nervous system.

    Follow me. Interest simply gives a name to what we already know. And we don’t really have to have to say “quasi” physical phenomena as it has direct physical effects. We do have touch and that is a physical connection. To touch someone lovingly is to touch them in an interested way. Now we also know that talk therapy changes the anatomy of the brain in similar ways as medication. This is not magic. The therapist did not touch the patient or was not suppose to yet the patient changes physically. Interest?  Interest gives a name to this force does it not? Of course verbal torture too changes the brain. Physical?

    Yet, again when such a strong force (interest) has been establish and I say it does not take much to establish it because as infants that is what we need. Not what we want that is a cognitive statement which we will not be able to make for a very long time. What we need is interest retuned for the natural interest that we will continually pour out.

    If interest is broken the consequence will be shame and confusion but we will not know what to make of it on a cognitive or “thinking” level for a very long time. We will however start to “do our own thing” about it the best we can. We will begin to figure out how to oddly soothe or compensate for the lack of reciprocated interest we are emanating out and not getting and it will be compensated for to the electron volt.

    How do we do that? Sucking our thumb more?  Eating more? Throwing tantrums? Beating on baby brother? It does not get better as we grow up unless it gets better with all involved. (Please go to or better come back to  “Still face experiment )

    We are indeed “hard wired” with that need for interest. And although never having experienced a “drug high” and thus never having “chased” one I believe we   all are chasing the high of a primal “interest” rush when we “attached” to our primary care giver (s) if we where  so lucky to have been given interest and gotten it back for some sustained time and almost everyone was given it at least enough to get that high but unfortunately for a huge percentage of people it indeed was not sustained.

    And this brings us back to our theme of being in the present or I guess the point is being in the present but not being in the presence of the beloved because they have withdrawn and maybe nowhere to be found but indications are that they are “faithful.” What sense is to be made of this? 

    The variations are endless and of course they can be under your own roof married to you for years and still not be “there-for-you.”

    So it is that it seems that while we can indeed have many interests we really cannot focus very well but on one at a time very clearly.

    It seems somewhat a perversity of nature to do this and anti survivalist but there you go not all is aimed nicely at preserving the species.

    That is we are saying that when this interest- interest joy- joy bond is broken and shame ensues and trauma is created.  And then traumatic memories are stored we are in real trouble.

    We might think evolution might in general provide for us to push on and say “bullocks” and “to hell with them,” “good reddens” to those that once loved me but abandoned me. This does not seem to be the case what we do is then is have a need to maintain INTEREST in the trauma as if to go back and replay it and an repair it which of course is  impossible. 

    And it does seem that nothing will dissuade us from this jihad and I use this word in an appropriate analogous way because it has a very much a "holy" flavor to it and a war like flavor to it. Nothing is important except the achieving of the goal of recapturing that "high" we once had no matter the accumulated contravening evidence to the contrary that it will never happen. "We" see it as an internal, individual, spiritual struggle toward self-improvement, moral cleansing and even an intellectual effort..
    This interest in fixing the past, of course causes, a great deal o problems as time passes on and we live in the present. We grow up, we supposedly leave the nuclear family, Of course many times we don't . We live in the same town we live next door, we stop by every day. We use our parents for child care, we borrow money form them. Some of this is necessary some of it, on inspection, is very questionable
    For sure what happens is that the problem is never solved or almost never solved and what does this cause? It causes more pain and confusion.

    This “beating of one’s head against proverbial walls” has traditionally lead to much confusion for everyone. That is how to codify and classify people’s behavior; often much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of many people, professionals included. Much behavior not rising to the level of “official diagnoses” simply bad behavior ,  the old term “neurosis” , “personality problems” and worse and “odd behavior.”  Or millions of people that float through life being tolerated as that is “just the way they are.”   A woman that has a loving husband but for years you have known her to have spent less than half her time with him always running off to one of three or four cities to vacation or spend time with relatives. Speaking with her you find as a child she feels a deep sense of “nothingness.” Others drink, dedicate themselves to relatives but complain, start and stop school. Mary but there is always tension about the “the relatives.”

    Now comes a rather simple way to see all this behavior form a “bird’s eye view” and that is to codify it  first in terms of “interest” and conflict of interests and then in terms of what happens as a consequence of various conflicts of interest. It turns out that it seems that unless we are focused and consciously working on a problem the world will throw us down one of four paths based on, in part going back to those very early cues we picked up on when we first started not getting feedback from our significant caregiver in those interest- interest exchanges (still face experiment). We will start to withdraw: remember at first we cannot think and remember things so our first responses are not cognitive. So as older beings we now have other options and we not only can withdraw we now can start to do things such as blame ourselves   for what is going on. Such as saying it is “my fault.” “I am bad”, “I am being punished.” Or I can “decide”’ to do something to ameliorate the pain with stimuli, entertainment, music and or drugs, or sex. I can that is “avoid” the problem. And finally I can distract myself and others by accusing someone else or attack others. Of course before we could think we could also show our displeasure by hitting back.
    We can codify all this with the “Compass of Shame.” 

    These activities are what we all get involved in. They are what those that love us but are not there for us indeed lead us to start participating in and start questioning at times, our own sanity.  To “withdraw” form the world, to have a tendency to “blame oneself” or to “blame others” or to seek solace in some excess one does not necessarily have to have been through major trauma. The present will do just fine.  The human organism can get overwhelmed and it is not as if we can find that perfect community despite what we may think. Someone, bless them, recently on a “social media” site claimed that we should renew our efforts to just sever all our unhealthy relationships and turn only to those healthy ones in our lives. I simply said and where would they be? And he said all around you? Hmm.

    It is like my view of the mantra in the drug movement “avoid person’s places and things;” meaning, of course, those triggers that would “trigger” you to use your drug of choice. The trouble is, it seems to me, there are “people, places and things” wherever you go. In the end it is an internal peace one has to achieve.

    But this has all really taken us very far afield from our opening: “Nothing has become so clear to me recently than that we are so often left alone not because we are not loved or worse yet because we are hated. No it is because so many of those that love us have been so deeply hurt before they even got to us.”

    I am really after what is in-between those two sentences: The shame- the distance- the longing.

    But as I say the “Compass of Shame” takes us far afield we need to go back to competing interest. That is what it is all about. People are simply not there for us not because they are not interested in us but because they are more interested in something else.

    And that is that. And that my friend is often very likely not going to change. We often have to make peace with that. They often have to make peace with that. The point of this piece is that that there  is that intense primary interest in repairing ruptured primary relationships and until that happens there is no room for anyone else as a primary interest.

    Quickly it needs to be said that things are not hopeless, if they where the art and practice of therapy would long have been out of business. That said it is no secret that the process has never been short nor easy despite attempts at making it “brief.”

    People do make progress, however, time and time again we see examples where this idea of “interest” illuminates.

    Then time and time again  very intelligent people will understand clearly and profoundly these very mechanisms, the role of shame in their life as well as interest and have many other insights and yet make what seems to be no progress.

    Tomkins realized this and even said in his rather drawl prose that often “insight” therapy was doomed to failure or might make little difference. He was talking about a bit of a different mechanism but not so much. We are both talking about how affective – feeling - mechanisms precede consciousness. Our affects, feelings, are trigger long before we are aware of them and in that I am talking about exactly what he was talking about.

    My interest is triggered long before I am aware of it.

    I know of some neuro imaging support for this.  A study was done on people who seemed to be grieving over lost relatives an excessive amount of time.

    The images indicated the brain registers as if the person was still alive.

     Results from the study:

    The authors looked for activity in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain most commonly associated with reward and one that has also been shown to play a role in social attachment, such as sibling and maternal affiliation. They also examined activity in the pain network of the brain, including the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the insula, which has been implicated in both physical and social pain. They found that while both groups had activation in the pain network of the brain after viewing a picture of their loved one, only individuals with complicated grief showed significant nucleus accumbens activations.

    I think this is very apt for our purpose; these early intense experiences turn on the brain at a very import time. It is not a simple thing to just turn it off. In fact why would it ever be turned off? In fact the problem is the brain in fact is still turned on although the relation is no longer there. And so the person is thrown into a constant state of shame (what the first diagram is to suggest.)

    Life does go on and people grow up and develop “interests” but as long as that beacon is glowing it actually shines brighter, brighter than anything else. It trumps or can trump all other interest. It in fact becomes what many have called not a beacon but a black hole as now shame obscures the light. It is the shame dynamic   that now prevails (again the first diagram).

    As we said therapy can work as reason plus affect(feeling)  together come to permit interest to form a new attachment. It is not a new thought that therapy is, after all, a form of model parenting.

     Another way healing can take place, and does, is in raising the next generation. Interest is transferred to a new generation. It will all depend on many factors. In toto we are nowhere near knowing the factors but internally it is a weighted average of punishing to positive affect over time. Will the child, now parent, with their partner or without respond to the outpouring of interest of their offspring with their response of, on average, healthy interest? Unlike what they received?

    One tragic variation on this is women who dramatically stabilize their emotional lives once they give birth and everyone thinks that they are now set for life only to find that when the child begins to separate from them at two to three years of age that the mother “relapses” into previous behaviors. She may repeat this cycle various times through several pregnancies.

    Of several messages one is that such a suggestion of a deep neurological  explanation of our foibles must give us pause and above all maybe free us all from pointing the finger at each other and blaming and shaming each other  for our acts. It becomes clear that we are driven crazy and into irrational, sometime lifelong activities, due to the brain simply wanting what it is meant to want: connection. It is feeling -doing – thinking,  in that order. We are driving to reconnect to our primary interest and we do that through behaviors that we and others do not and have not understand. Maybe we are beginning to.

    Brian Lynch, M.D. (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
    Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.

    Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nat

    On  Amazon by Brian Lynch Paper Back and Kindle:
    "Knowing Your Emotions"
    "Doing- Thinking- Feeling - In The World"

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    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Something I have been wanting to say.

    “Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
    They have to take you in.”
    Death of a Hired Man, Robert Frost

    [This piece will be confusing to some. I hope only at first. It refers most to the AA movement. I often find it surprising how many people still are not familiar with the movement and have not even heard of the “12steps.”  I had not reread the original version of the “Steps” for some time. I had occasion to do so. I was surprised at how much I did not like them. I originally rewrote them some 13 years ago and they became the basis for my book “Knowing Your Emotions.” 

    Of course the format has been used for many purposes from fixing your computer to losing weight. Here I address what I see as deeply flawed presumptions concerning the needs of not only drinker’s but addicts.

    Many might be puzzled about this attack if they think the “movement” has great success. The fact is this is in great question. There is a lot of evidence that it is not a success overall and I would argue that the success it has is certainly not because of humiliating members in the  way mentioned here but by the interest shown in the fellowship.

    Finally as will be seen this is not an attack on “God” or religion. As the movement itself acknowledges it has opened the concept up, long ago, of “higher power” to personal interpretation but here I greatly challenge that. So I am really leaving religion aside. ]

    It is suggested that we “Accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can and find, somewhere the wisdom to know the difference.” That is a paraphrase.

    It orients only as life and death do hang in the details, in millimeters and answers are often in short supply.  We have general outlines but are often short on specifics.

    At least we are in a conversation and we can always say we are trying and doing better than we were no matter how miserable that is.

    I claim it is certainly not all that good as we are no where near having the knowledge of these matters in hand as we think we might-  that is where these lines fall.

    What I call for here is a call for a radical involvement of community if real change is going to take place in individuals.

    It is more than obvious that when people have had their troubles that it has been taken for granted that it is their doing. In fact they have, throughout history been marked as “bad” and “evil.” The family is cursed with its “bad seed” and, of course, we are all “sinners.” It is up to each of us as individuals to atone for our deeds through prayer, penance and other forms of sacrifice. The idea that we might not be “responsible” for our actions is quite new and the fact that we might be able to be helped to change the way we act and do things is very, very new.

    So for example the “12 Step” movement of Alcoholic Anonymous asks us to admit we are powerless over alcohol and that we are “defective.” And it asks us to go into the community and “make amends” to those we have harmed.

    To be sure most of what “The Steps” and their sprit is about was wonderful and needed at the time. It got people thinking and looking in the direction of community and connection. But the more and more I think about them the more and more I see them as the merest of beginnings as they :

    -         put the entire burden on the individual
    -         they recognize nothing of the community of which the person is a part  and that communities role in the persons dilemma

    These two statements will upset many people. They will roll their eyes and simply insist that everyone is “responsible” for their own drug use. Yet this simply is not true. Humans are social and political animals. We are not made to live alone.

    A favorite reference of mine  is Micheal Gladwells “Outliers” his best seller that starts with the chapter “Rosetto” about a town in Pennsylvania where people  are very healthy despite very poor health habits. They had low CVD, Cancer and no alcoholism. The only thing you could point to is a tremendously strong community life; for example 20 social services organizations for a town of 2,500.

    Drug takers and drinkers do not pop up ready made they are traumatized one way or another and this trauma is repeated over and over again AND the means to medicate it is in a milieu that allows for self-medication is extant.

    Most plainly speaking people are hurt by other people. No matter who you are you take care of that hurt in some way. If you have been very well cared for  most of your life, valued and have learned a sense of self then through most hard times you will probably do well with no more than maybe a temper now and then. But I would say even few of us are that lucky.

    What has been fascinating to me, over the last few years, is how clearly it seems to be to me how we all have our “poison” when it comes to self medicating. We are as a society becoming more open, honest and accepting of the fact that one poison is equal to another but are not there yet. What am I saying? I am saying that food can easily be as bad as heroin depending on how much you eat. In fact it can be worse. Gambling is bad but do we recognize how many ways we gamble? Do we really recognize that the stock market in a major way is nothing more than gambling? Why is it and why is it not? I would say it is not because there is a long term track record of the Dow  Jones average. It is not a flip of the coin over years; however, it is very near a flip of a coin on any given day. This is the problem, what day are you going to need your money? If you  want to cash out in 18 months to retire and in 16 months there is a “Black Friday” your out of luck. But still, of course there are hundreds of ways to become “addicted” on a daily basis to trading.

    In short people do all kinds of things to medicate themselves. Now where is, again, this pain coming form? Again from others and this is the problem with part of treatment or at least “the movement” and that is it does not recognize or give voice to the harm done to the individuals. Here there is no denying that there may have been done and maybe the majority of the time there is harm done by the user but the problem is where it all begins and where does it all end?

    I deal a great deal with the concepts of shame and humiliation. What starts the whole process in the first place is shame and humiliation.

    By shame here I “only” mean a feeling of unattained desire. This can be a wished for returned greeting form a friend or a profound sense of humiliation from a dressing down at work (the desire in retrospect of wanting to be appreciated). Again I “want” something and do not get it. Or I have lost a previous state of joy.

    What we feel about these ideas is that these ideas about shame and humiliation are so underappreciated that they almost go universally unnoticed/missed in our assessments.  To be sure they, if considered, challenge everyone.

    They ask us to consider the world from the drug user’s point of view.

    From that point of view it can be said that many might claim feelings of massive shame and humiliation throughout their lives.

    And so pausing a beat I ask us to consider that   we are profoundly emotional beings and that unless we understand our emotions we are very often powerless over our own actions and are powerless over the world.

    Yes, that is the extent of our “higher power.”  We have the traditional formulations embodied in the “12steps” but I do say that given their succinctness and emphasis on the individual it may be time to move on.  I believe we end up “over explaining” them.  I say the “higher power” can be and often is a tautology. What I call the “hot potato” answer. What is that? The analogy is to anger management. We tell people that have problems with their anger that they need to go to anger management class and manage their anger. Well this is like having someone already holding a hot potato and telling them to ok continue to hold the hot potato. Ok buddy your doing pretty good let’s see what else you can do with the sucker! Wherever you turn you end up looking at yourself.

    What has become clear to many is that anger is really not the issue at all. Anger is, that is a consequence of a deeper hurt and confusion, if you will, shame, what has happened is that the person has “wanted” something for probably a long time and has not gotten it. Often the “want” or desire has been quite reasonable. You may doubt this. First think about yourself. But I will give you an example. I use to work in nursing homes a lot. Well, residents would want passes to go outside. So they would want and want, right? And often would not get the pass. I believe often unjustly, but justly or not, they would build up enormous hurt confusions/ shame and finally they would get angry. They would be blamed for their anger. Something they would get violent. At the time I was doing group therapy. I suppose I was expected to scold them. Of course I didn’t. Many times what I saw was that their dose of Depakote would go up; a potent sedative.

    We need to understand that is that it is a system that involves a community or at least a dyad more than one person. We need to interact. We need to complete the “I want.”

    So I believe the “higher power” business, for the most part, is a neat sleight of hand for all of us to avoid this thought, the need to engage one another again throwing it back in face of individual. What I hear sub-rosa is that “you are weak”, “it certainly is your fault”, “you are to blame” and above all it sends a message loud and clear of abandonment. “Be very clear about this buddy you are very alone at least around here.” You need to stand on your own two feet and take responsibility.

    So we tell people that need connection to look to a “higher power.” Don’t ask me for help!

    All this said I am not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. The movement has come to accept a broad interpretation for the “higher power” and so I am saying nothing new and would of course be wrong to speak for anyone who says they benefit from using the concept. The hope is that we transition from being victim to a more self conscious healing adult.

    I must too not act blind and dumb in terms of the aspects of the movement that entail the meetings, sometimes daily meetings if a person so  chooses and  the fellowship that entails   the tradition of a sponsor that is available 24/7. If that is not a “dyad?” What is? But there is structure and there is philosophy. So often the philosophy dominates

    Note I did not say fully healthy and fully conscious adult as this is not possible.  Psychology at least is telling us that we are at the mercy of our affective or emotional system and always will be. Our emotions guide us. They tell us what is important. So our early experiences so inform us and they inform subconsciously and automatically for well or ill and if for ill it will take a lot of work to correct those “habits.”  And we will never completely get ahead of the task, sorry to say. Right there is enough of a “higher power” for me. What is that? The cold hard fact that I just gave the realization and acceptance that I am as-we-all-are works-in-progress and it takes our full attention to stay as much on course as possible and it takes at least a community of two. That never am I saying is cannot be or could not be a “sponsor.”

    Above all we are not, again, “defective” or morally bad. No more than anyone else.

    To be sure on this strange road, once on it I may have done many unsavory things. No question about it. The radical science or rather the true science is about not having much or any free will form where we started as children wanting to be loved. Yes people not wanting to grow up  to be drunks or addicts to people being damaged and then in disassociated states that then do unsavory things.

    How am I not to feel, deep inside, but more shame and humiliation if it is suggested that I am to look to myself, only to myself, for the answer? That it is essentially my job and my job alone? That I am defective?  That is what the words say, “My defects.”

    I turn inward then to understand the “higher power” and by that “all” I mean- and that is a lot- it is I mean that I am not in control simply through my “ego” or my reason. If I am going to have any hope of getting through life with any modicum of joy I better learn something about synchronizing reason and emotion. This will only come through some study and self exploration but also through some community.

    Brian Lynch

    Shame and Humiliation (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)

    Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.

    Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nat

    On  Amazon by Brian Lynch Paper Back and Kindle:
    "Knowing Your Emotions"
    "Doing- Thinking- Feeling - In The World"

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