Creating Our Own Reality, Realizing Our Own Expectations

There is no objective reality! In order for the brain not to be overwhelmed by the constant deluge of sensory input, some sort of filtering system must enable us to pay attention to what our bodymind deems the most important pieces of information and to ignore the others. As discussed, our emotions (or the psychoactive drugs that take over their receptors) decide what is worth paying attention to. Aldous Huxley was on to this in The Doors of Perception when he referred to the brain as a reducing valve. He was also on the right track when he assumed that what got through to command headquarters was just a tiny trickle of what could be absorbed at any given moment.

Since our sensing of the outer world is filtered along peptide receptor-rich sensory way stations, each with a different emotional tone, how can we objectively define what's real and what's not real? If what we perceive as real is filtered along a gradient of past emotions and learning, then the answer is we cannot. Fortunately, however, receptors are not stagnant, and can change in both sensitivity and in the arrangement they have with other proteins in the cell membrane. This means that even when we are stuck emotionally, fixated on a version of reality that does not serve us well, there is always a biochemical potential for change and growth.

Most of our bodymind attentional shifts are subconscious. While neuropeptides are actually directing our attention by their activities, we are not consciously involved in deciding what gets processed, remembered, and learned. But we do have the possibility of bringing some of these decisions into consciousness, particularly with the help of various types of intentional training that have been developed with precisely this goal in mind - to increase our consciousness. . .

Norman Cousins once told me that he had gotten over a broken elbow, which he had suffered while playing tennis, and got back on the court in record time simply by focusing for twenty minutes each day on increasing the blood flow through the injured joint, after his physician explained that poor blood supply to the elbow was why injuries to this joint healed slowly.

But I don't want to leave you with the impression that I am advocating that the unconscious must always be brought to consciousness in all successful therapies. In fact, the unconscious mind of the body seems all-knowing and all-powerful and in some therapies can be harnessed for healing or change without the conscious mind ever figuring out what happened. Hypnosis, yogic breathing, and many of the manipulative and energy-based therapies (ranging from bioenergetics and other psychotherapies centered on body work to chiropractic, massage, and therapeutic touch) are all examples of techniques that can be used to effect change at a level beneath consciousness. (Based on the drama and rapidity of some therapeutic transformations, I believe that repressed emotions are stored in the body - the unconscious mind - via the release of neuropeptide ligands, and that memories are held in their receptors.) Sometimes transformations occur through the emotional cartharsis common to the many bodymind therapies that focus on freeing up emotions that have gotten lodged in the psychosomatic network, but not always.

For example, the famed psychiatrist and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson addressed the subconscious minds of several young women who, although having been subjected to all kinds of hormone injections, remained completely flat-chested. He suggested to them while they were in a deep trance that their breasts would become warm and tingly and would start to grow. Although none of them could remember anything that happened in his office, all grew breasts within two months, presumably because Erickson's suggestions caused the blood supply to their breasts to increase.

Emotions are constantly regulating what we experience as reality. The decision about what sensory information travels to your brain and what gets filtered out depends on what signals the receptors are receiving from the peptides. There is a plethora of elegant neurophysiological data suggesting that the nervous system is not capable of taking in everything, but can only scan the outer world for material that it is prepared to find by virtue of its wiring hookups, its own internal patterns, and its past experience. The superior colliculus in the midbrain, another nodal point of neuropeptide receptors, controls the muscles that direct the eyeball, and affects which images are permitted to fall on the retina and hence to be seen. For example, when the tall European ships first approached the early Native Americans, it was such an impossible vision in their reality that their highly filtered perceptions couldn't register what was happening, and they literally failed to see the ships. Similarly, the cuckolded husband may fail to see what everyone else sees, because his emotional belief in his wife's faithfulness is so strong that his eyeballs are directed to look away from the incriminating behavior obvious to everyone else.

As investigations continue, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the role of peptides is not limited to eliciting simple and singular actions from individual cell and organ systems into a single web that reacts to both internal and external environmental changes with complex, subtly orchestrated responses. Peptides are the sheet music containing the notes, phrases, and rhythms that allow the orchestra - your body - to play as an integrated entity. And the music that results is the tone or feeling that you experience subjectively as your emotions.

March 1981: During one of my many nightly visits to my father at the VA hospital during the course of his treatment for lung cancer, he looked up from his bed and asked sardonically, Well, how's the cure coming? Embarrassed and saddened, I couldn't meet his gaze. I had visited the lab earlier that day and found that his cancer, which had mutated and returned to his body since remission a year ago, was proving resistant in vitro to all known chemotherapeutic agents. My own attempts to understand his disease and find a cure were looking equally as hopeless.

It's going well, I lied, trying to give him the hope I myself did not have, hope that seemed to me to be his last shot at somehow effecting a miracle cure of this deadly disease. The results from the lab will show something is going to work, I'm sure of it. And then changing the subject, I said, Look at what Vanessa made at school for you! He seemed to brighten up as I brought out a rainbow mobile that my five-year-old daughter had sent along to decorate Grandpa's room.

He was dozing off as I hung this symbol of hope above his bed, and, with a heavy heart, I whispered a soft apology: I'm sorry, Dad, science still doesn't have the answer.

I knew that even after decades of intense research, there essentially had been no treatment advances beyond the highly toxic drugs developed before 1965. What I didn't know was how fiercely the cancer establishment would resist the efforts of an outsider - me - to come up with new ideas for treatment. This would be my first personal exposure to the intransigence of old-paradigm thinking, and an experience so profoundly disillusioning that it made it almost easy for me to slip the traces of my own intellectual harness. I was about to enter a very long, dark tunnel of despair, and then, to my joy and astonishment, make my way toward a light that would illuminate a whole new world of thought.

The above was taken from Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind Body Medicine by Candace Pert, PhD.

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