There is a New Paradigm for Psychiatry – It is the ‘Play of Consciousness”, not molecular brain diseases.

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Here’s a newsflash – the hope for a molecular-biochemical explanation for psychiatry is a false hope. Most of my field has come to expect and believe that we are on the verge of a new paradigm. This paradigm is based on the illusion that the workings of the brain on the molecular level has anything to do with psychiatric conditions. The proponents believe we are on the verge of proving that psychiatry is a brain disease no different from cancer or diabetes. But all that the research has come up with is – nothing. The reason why researchers have no proof that psychiatry is a molecular medical disease, is because it isn’t so. Psychiatry is not about brain diseases.

We have spent billions of dollars chasing this illusion, and we are planning to waste billions more. The sad paradox is this so-called scientific pursuit has all the markings of a religious belief, not science. A false theory has taken on the certainty of belief, despite the absence of any real evidence. Molecular theories and neurotransmitter theories have been disproven at every step. In real science one exception disproves the hypothesis. But not here. False speculative claims just keep multiplying and are taken as fact. It is believed that it is just a matter of tying up the loose ends. We are on the verge of a brave new world. Salvation is at hand. But the whole deal is built on a house of cards.

However, there is a paradigm that fully illuminates psychiatry. It is not only consonant with biology and neuroscience, but evolution itself. The problem with the fruitless quest of molecular psychiatry is that we are looking in the wrong place. Psychiatric conditions operate on a much higher level of brain function – by which the brain maps the adaptations of responsiveness, deprivation and abuse in the context of our temperament through our memory, creating the ‘Play of Consciousness’.

Don’t get me wrong. I love neuroscience and the study of the brain. I am in awe of Sebastian Seung’s Connectome project (see the NY Times article, ‘Sebastian Seung’s Quest to Map the Human Brain’), and my friend Matthew Faw’s exciting research on the hippocampus and consciousness. (see his video, “Consciousness is Memory”) However, there is also a tremendous amount of poor brain science masquerading as fact. Don’t believe everything you read.

We evolve as a species, and we evolve as individuals in relation to our salient environment. All throughout our development – the embryo, fetus, newborn, baby, toddler, child, and adolescent adapts to its emotional environment. There are only three relevant issues – responsiveness, emotional deprivation, and abuse. Each of us fields our experience through the unique constellation of our temperament. The four elements of temperament are Internalization/Externalization, Introversion/Extroversion, Active/Passive, and Participant/Observer. (See “The Nature-Nurture question – Nature. The role of nature comes from our genetic temperament.”) Each one of us is absolutely unique. I may process by being an Internalizer, Extrovert, Active, and Participant. You may be an Externalizer, Introvert, Passive, and Observer. We are all somewhere on an axis of those dynamics. With each dynamic we can range from 90-10, 60-40, or be balanced. And one temperamental element may be stronger or weaker in its influence. Each of us then fields the unique actualities of responsiveness, deprivation, or abuse in our emotional environment through our temperament. By six weeks old we begin to write a play in consciousness. Initially consciousness is too immature to create representational form. At that point we only have the ‘feeling of our being’. By age three we mature into representational consciousness where we create a three dimensional drama with personas, feeling relationships between them, scenarios, plots, set designs, and landscapes. Once our play consolidates, the rest of our experience is always filtered through the existent play in consciousness, which influences our ongoing experience. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. When we reach adulthood, we consolidate our character. Our characters are as unique as our fingerprints. No two snowflakes are alike, but we are all snowflakes.

Significant deprivation and abuse generates a current of anger and pain in our personality. This creates the whole host of potential psychiatric symptoms. I’ll give a few examples of how this works. But of course, personality is far more complicated than these shorthand examples. Abuse fosters an ‘attacker’ and an ‘attackee’, who relate by sadomasochism in one’s character play. Externalizers will project the ‘attackee’ persona back onto other people. They will be prone to blaming and fighting with others. Internalizers, on the other hand are prone to an internal war where the attacker attacks the attackee inside of him on an ongoing basis. This generates self hate, as opposed to the Externalizer’s “I hate you”. When symptoms develop Internalizers are prone to ‘depression’.

We can see here that some personalities will attack ‘out’ and others will attack ‘in’. The ongoing sado-masochistic war feeds on serotonin. When the war is chronic, the serotonin supply eventually gets overwhelmed, and symptoms develop. This should be a signal that the chronic internal war needs to be attended to and healed, so that the personality is no longer in a state of perpetual war. If one were to feed more serotonin into the system via drugs, this results in a hardening and numbing of the personality. This feeds and fosters the destructive internal war to continue, to escalate, and become more destructive. More damage will be done. The absence of conflict over a resulting selfishness, can sometimes make a person temporarily feel better. This is not a good thing. And eventually, it will make things worse. (Depression is not a biochemical disorder or disease).

Different personalities will translate the same attacker-attackee currents into other symptoms. For example, With a Passive temperament, one does not identify as possessing or dishing out aggression. Aggression is located in the other person. How does a passive temperament operate in the context of being a recipient of abuse? This individual does not identify as the possessor of aggression, but as the helpless one who is the object of aggression. He cannot protect himself from the steady state of sadistic attacks, which are too powerful and overwhelming anyway. This leaves him in the position of identifying as distressed and exposed, anticipating external attacks, with no possibility of protection. As the recipient of attacks, in this context, he is inclined toward masochism. But more importantly this defines the circumstances that generate anxiety. It derives from sadistic attack directed by the attacker toward the attackee, with insufficient and failed protection. And this position will express itself as anxiety later in life as a teenager and into adulthood. Anxiety is the inevitable expression of sadomasochistic attacks of the ‘play’ via a passive temperamental orientation. (Anxiety is not a biochemical disorder or disease).

On the other hand, if a person is active rather than passive in the context of a sadomasochistic play, he would generate the opposite scenario. He would identify with the active position of ‘dishing it out’, with the potential for sadism. He would be predisposed to become a bully, and make someone else anxious, as the unprotected object of his attack. (Bullying is not a biochemical disorder or disease.)

These are just a few examples as to how temperament and abuse create symptoms. The entire array of psychiatric symptoms is generated by the way temperament fields responsiveness, deprivation and abuse. It’s far more complicated than this brief description. The pain of isolation from deprivation and the sado-masochistic currents from abuse generate the full scope of psychiatric issues. None of them are biochemical disorders or diseases. Life events happen that generate problematic adaptations that create suffering. All of our suffering flows from our damaged plays of consciousness. Since there are built-in fault lines to every problematic play, the way we break down follows along those fault lines. The way a person breaks down reflects the way he is constructed. Suffering is the manifestation of something having gone wrong in the characterological play.

The Play of Consciousness is the paradigm that encompasses all psychiatric conditions. This is the relevant story. Understanding brain mechanisms is exciting, but psychiatry does not operate on this level. When a new play is written in the brain, brain mechanisms follow, but they do not lead. By healing the character, the brain mechanism follow suit. I’ll repeat the list of the various forms of human suffering: People may feel unhappy, lonely, angry, or sad. They may have symptoms: obsessive, compulsive, anxiety, so-called depression, panics, phobias, paranoia, delusions. People have character behaviors that get them into trouble—drinking, drugs, gambling, eating (anorexia, bulimia, overeating, bingeing). sexual perversions, impulsivity, rages, emotional isolation, narcissism, echoism, sadism, masochism, low self-esteem, and psychotic and manic states. They may have crises in their lives—divorce, death, loss, illness, rejections, failures, disappointments, traumas of all kinds, and post-traumas. These all derive from the real paradigm, the ‘play of consciousness’. As Shakespeare said, ‘The plays the thing’… not some imaginary neurotransmitter disease.

Mourning is the built in natural biological process to deal with healing and recovery for all pains, loss, trauma, as well as death, in the human lexicon. The way to deal with suffering, in all its forms, is good psychotherapy. Therapy is a responsive relationship that fosters mourning the pain of past traumas, to write a new ‘play of consciousness’ which promotes authenticity and the capacity to love.

This new paradigm is a unified field theory of human consciousness, which includes psychiatry, neuroscience, dreams, myths, religion, and art—all elements of the same thing. It derives from and is consonant with our child rearing and culture. The “play” encompasses the ineffable human mysteries—birth, death, and the disparity between our ordinary sense of self and our intimation of a deeper authenticity. It includes as well the dark side of our nature. And finally, it holds the key to the nature of beliefs in general. Human consciousness and human nature are one and the same. The creation of our inner play by the brain is the consummation of our Darwinian human evolution.

13 replies
  1. Robert Berezin
    Robert Berezin says:

    I lost previous comments on this article due to migrating over to a newly designed blog site. But they are not recoverable. Sorry about that.

    Reply
  2. KatiS
    KatiS says:

    So true! I have written in finnish a book: “Inner Theater – Self-awaress through creative writing.” I think it is possible to be in flow or meditative state where you in this metaposition can start to play with your inner states.

    Reply
  3. Anthony
    Anthony says:

    Hi, Why don’t you just go back to the real meaning of Psyche? Aristotle use the word psuche to refer to the soul. The astral body, as it was known in the West, was simply declared nonexistent by the 8th Ecumenical council (see D.P. Walker’s paper from 1959 ‘The astral body in renaissance medicine’). This created an artificial split, initially between the rational soul and the body, and later with the enlightenment when soul was banned completely, between the mind-which-must-be-in-the-brain and the body. Aristotle might have known a thing or two…

    Reply
  4. Conrad
    Conrad says:

    ‘But all that the research has come up with is – nothing.’

    False. You are projecting. Progress might be exasperating slow but its real and gaining momentum. New paradigms not so much.

    Reply
  5. MSP
    MSP says:

    The good Dr. Berenzin might take a look at Mahayana Buddhism, which has been working on these issues for millennia and has a rather developed methodology for dealing with them (in fact, one could say this of all mystical traditions, designed as antidotes to trauma).
    I’ve been at it for twenty years now, and in my worthless opinion, Zen is more effective than Tibetan Mahayana, as its no-frills approach and use of the Tao as a cognitive component makes it a very powerful mood tool. Moreover, the Zennies are non-thetic, non-religious, and non-discriminatory against women (the Tibetans claim a woman could never become a Buddha, whereas the founder of Zen’s wife was enlightened right along with him). Study enough and it’s clear Zennies aren’t even Buddhists if you really compare the systems, in that the Buddha preached thorough understanding of “dependent-arising” or, to translate, “inevitableness,” was Nirvana, and the Zennies claim there is no such thing whatsoever, that all conceptual/dualistic (good/bad, cause/effect) thinking is a one-way ticket to entanglement in a web of mental error, and that only by fully embracing “causelessness” – which we might take as “reasonlessness,” “signlessness,” or “valuelessness” – may we arrive at “final enlightenment,” which doesn’t exist either, except, perhaps, as original nature, or the Void, which we never were separated from in the first place except in our imaginations.
    I’d say the terminology is the greatest barrier to any reader of Mahayana. Tibetan literature may certainly be read, I just find it utterly nonsensical from a standpoint of liberation in day-to-day activities, though Tibetan meditative practices certainly seem to me to generate some interesting states of consciousness.
    In the end, Zen is focus solely on heart and non-attachment (to fleeting external substitutes, the cause of dissatisfaction). Deluded action only leads back to heart, on any scale. This is all there is to Zen. Compare Zen (5th-6th century AD) to Stoic philosophers like Epictetus (1st-2nd century AD), and it is clear similar systems have been popping up independent of each other since time immemorial. Best…

    Reply
  6. Jim
    Jim says:

    I find disagreement on this subject. Essentially you are saying in the case of any and all mood disorders that there are no physical differences in the brain. In fact, you present a whole host of conditions and disorders in this way. If so, the brain is the most miraculously consistently functioning organ of any in the body, bar none. There are clear cases of physical malfunction of the brain that lead to significant impact on mood. One only need to consider a person with Alzheimer’s disease. If I’m reading you correctly, you state that no physical differences in brain chemistry can affect mood, thus no physical additive (or reduction) that affects these brain chemicals is possible. However, changes in these brain chemicals are clearly shown to affect brain functioning and mood. Such as those studies supporting Omega 3s, which have clearly shown to reduce symptoms of depression even when controlling for other factors. In fact, the Japanese have one of the lowest percentages of bipolar in the Western world, despite their incredibly demanding and stressful culture. The reason why is postulated to be the fact they also consume more fish as a society than any other, thus boosting their Omega 3 intake over all other cultures too. This is a physical change made within the brain that affects its functioning and thus moods. A chemical from outside the body that has a clear effect. My daughter has a much higher percent chance of becoming bipolar herself, about 25%, than the population at large (about 3%). This controls for environment, regardless if the bipolar parent is present and thus providing circumstances which might predict bipolar based simply on your model. Genetics are based on the physical, not (purely) on psychology.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] not medical diseases, I will give a example as to how the original plays get written. [See – “There is a new Paradigm for Psychiatry – It is the Play of Consciousness”, not molecular brain d….”] At a certain point during breast feeing, it is natural for the baby to bite the breast. This […]

  2. […] not medical diseases, I will give a example as to how the original plays get written. [See – “There is a new Paradigm for Psychiatry – It is the Play of Consciousness”, not molecular brain d….”] At a certain point during breast feeing, it is natural for the baby to bite the breast. This […]

  3. […] We can see how and why it breaks down into psychiatric symptoms. And how recovery takes place through the psychotherapy of character. The processes of recovery turn out to be the very same forces that created our problematic plays in the first place. None of this takes place at the molecular level. I devote a blog to this – “There is a New Paradigm for Psychiatry – It is the ‘Play of Consciousness’, not molecular b… […]

  4. […] I devote a blog to this – “There is a New Paradigm for Psychiatry – It is the ‘Play of Consciousness’, not molecular brai…” […]

  5. […] I love and value the work of psychiatry. Nothing is more gratifying than helping people heal from painful symptoms, and to fulfill their ability to love and recover their authenticity. I am proposing a new and different paradigm for psychiatry. It shows the biological adaptation of our personality and how it is formed. It shows how our temperament digests responsiveness, deprivation, and abuse, creating and elaborating, the ‘Play of Consciousness’ in the brain. We can see how and why it breaks down into psychiatric symptoms. And how recovery takes place through the psychotherapy of character. The processes of recovery turn out to be the very same forces that created our problematic plays in the first place. None of this takes place at the molecular level. I devote a blog to this – “There is a New Paradigm for Psychiatry – It is the ‘Play of Consciousness’, not molecular brai….” […]

  6. […] I love and value the work of psychiatry. Nothing is more gratifying than helping people heal from painful symptoms, and to fulfill their ability to love and recover their authenticity. I am proposing a new and different paradigm for psychiatry. It shows the biological adaptation of our personality and how it is formed. It shows how our temperament digests responsiveness, deprivation, and abuse, creating and elaborating, the ‘Play of Consciousness’ in the brain. We can see how and why it breaks down into psychiatric symptoms. And how recovery takes place through the psychotherapy of character. The processes of recovery turn out to be the very same forces that created our problematic plays in the first place. None of this takes place at the molecular level. I devote a blog to this – “There is a New Paradigm for Psychiatry – It is the ‘Play of Consciousness’, not molecular brai….” […]

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