Blood And Ego
contains material from 'Blood and Consciousness' (1978) by Amanda Feilding
INTRODUCTION: THE DISTRIBUTION OF BLOOD IN THE BRAIN
About 95% of the brain has never been known to function: that is transmit impulses above a certain level. It has cell metabolism but no brain metabolism. Function is concentrated in the brain stem and in villages in the cortex known as centres. In childhood there is enough blood in the brain for all centres to be able to function when required. However, when the capillary volume decreases at adulthood, fewer centres can function simultaneously. The diminished quantity of blood must now be rationed so that those centres on whose function survival depends have enough. The centres that, through conditioning, have come to dominate the co-ordination of the brain functions are the word communication centres. Since the centres of the speech system are the latest centres to evolve, they are the least economical in their use of energy. In order to be kept permanently supplied with enough blood to function at the conscious level, the talking centre requires the blood to be continuously directed to it. For this, it depends on a mechanism of constriction that squeezes the arteries leading to other areas of the brain, thereby inhibiting blood flow to those parts. Without this squeezing mechanism the talking centre would not be supplied with enough blood to keep control of behaviour. This mechanism of constriction and control is described here as ‘the ego’ – discussed in terms of its physiological roots rather than its psychological manifestations*. No other animal has a similar mechanism, as no other animal has need of it, not having suffered an equivalent loss of brain blood volume. But first some background - a story of human development...........
THE EMERGENCE OF REPRESSION AND THE WORD
The blood in the brain is continuously being redistributed, so that the capillaries in the areas in action are more swollen with blood than those in areas at rest. This is brought about by concentrations of blood being directed to those parts of the cortex that are being stimulated at any given moment – the basic principle of distribution is that blood goes to where the impulse is. The whole thing represents a complex system of ‘irrigation’, controlled by the calibre of the arteries, which in turn are controlled by the autonomic nervous system – specifically by the way it stimulates muscle contractions in the walls of those arteries leading to areas which are not currently in use. As in any other irrigation system, the fluid takes the path of least resistance: instead of forcing its way down a constricted artery, it will flow along an open one. For example, impulses are received in the auditory section of the cortex, blood is** directed to that area, brain metabolism is accelerated, the person becomes conscious of a sound.
Superimposed upon this basic system of distribution is the system introduced by conditioning. The basis of conditioning is sufficient repetition of one stimulus occurring simultaneously with another. Thereafter, those two experiences are associated – the neural pathways connecting the two areas of perception are facilitated and a reciprocal ‘deal’ of mutual stimulation is brokered; stimulation of either area causes extra blood to be directed to both.
One product of conditioning is repression – the safeguard by which all animals protect themselves from automatically following every impulse. The roots of repression are laid in infancy, though in man the power to repress matures and expands with the ability to talk. In potty training the child is first taught to hold back its natural impulses – to overcome itself. This it does by making a connection between parental disapproval and the troublesome impulse which gave rise to that disapproval and then closing off from function the area of the brain where the nerve cells transmitting the impulses are located. Repression from function of a part of the brain is brought about by constricting the arteries leading to that area, impeding the blood flow and thereby depriving the cells of enough blood to function at the conscious level. As we will soon see, with the onset of adulthood and diminished blood volume, this trick of blocking off from function parts of the brain becomes, by necessity, man’s lifeline. For once adult, the need for rationing demands that whole blocks of the brain be permanently starved out of consciousness.
At the same time as the child is learning to hold back, it is being taught to change its behaviour at the recognition of a sound. Through conditioning, a certain sound becomes associated with a specific change in behaviour until the recognition of the sound causes the change in behaviour. The reward is parental approval. Later it learns to make the same sounds itself, eventually gaining control over its actions through the use of certain sound formulae, including, importantly, the use of a "no!" formula to close off a given centre from function. The word communication centres get their power to control the functions of the brain by the simultaneous repetition of the word with the impulse that causes the change in behaviour. The talking centre’s trick is to give the other brain centres their initial stimulation, so that by reflex blood is directed to them. Thus, a word is spoken; recognition of the word causes an impulse to travel to the centre associated by conditioning with the word; the centre is stimulated by the impulse, so that by reflex blood is directed to it, enabling it to function. The word is thus the tool for waking up a brain centre.
The speech system becomes superimposed upon the functions of the brain, and through it our species manages to do all the things it does, using words to tell itself what to do, or not to do.....to think ahead. Talking and repression grow up hand in hand, and the power of the word comes from the emotional force associated with it. Words become the strings by which the puppet is manipulated. The association between the word and the pattern of constriction gives the talking centre and its partner the listening centre their position of dominance as chief co-ordinators of the brain functions, allowing them to operate as a sort of control tower.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EGO AND THE NEED FOR REPRESSION
The ego is a conditioned reflex mechanism whereby mutual stimulation of the talking and listening centres forms a never-ending closed circuit that not only keeps these centres supplied with blood, but also, through the use of the word, stimulates the other centres into activity, thereby controlling behaviour. The ego is the mechanism that takes control of the system of rationing. Its existence and its strength as a constricting mechanism is the result of conditioning, as is the meaning given to the words.
The establishment of the ego is the establishment of the chain of word associations, which comes about through the imitation of parents. Around the age of three, the ego is established - talking is continuous. This means that by conditioned reflex, one word now automatically leads to another. That’s to say, the making of a word (initially out loud, but later also silently in thinking) causes blood to be directed to the listening centre, which recognises it. This recognition directs blood back to the talking centre, where the next word - associated with the previous one - is made, and is again recognised. This continues ad infinitum. Only because of this conditioning, whereby one word automatically leads to the next, is the ego maintained.
Thus the speech system, uniquely among the various centres of the brain, has permanent consciousness, except during sleep, and meditative states. Recognition of the word is like the coin in the automat. Each time a word is recognised, a new shot of blood is directed to the talking centre, enabling it to continue functioning and thereby control behaviour through the maintenance of verbal consciousness. The other centres, in contrast, only receive an extra shot of blood when specifically stimulated. Word recognition thus serves a double purpose: it causes blood to be directed to the centre associated with the particular word, and so brings about a change in behaviour; it also causes blood to be directed to the speech centre, which produces another word and so maintains the ego.
At the onset of adulthood, the blood needed to ensure the back-and-forth ‘ping-pong’ of the word communication centres can only be guaranteed if the ego becomes something of a ‘tyrant’: by more permanent constriction of arteries it chronically starves brain centres that might otherwise use up its own centres’ precious blood supply.
Repression can of course be a functional thing – indeed the ability to repress is essential for survival. It is when patterns of repression get fixated that the trouble starts. The invisible urges, repressed in the interests of self-control and social acceptance, seek alternative expression, which in turn affects behaviour. However, with the loss of blood from the brain at adulthood, repression must shift into a higher gear. The threat of reduced brain-blood volume is very real: it is the threat of loss of energy, of increased neurosis and ultimately of insanity. The ego’s response is to tighten the reins of control by taking advantage of the network of constriction already laid down in childhood. Many of the patterns of block repression built up during youth to deal with trauma now become permanently installed. On the adult stage, therefore, repression has an extra role to play – not only dealing with trauma, but also dealing with the chronic lack of blood.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF CHRONIC REPRESSION
The karma of chronic repression is neurotic behaviour. The precision and power of such repression has been well documented as has the widespread misery caused by the attendant neurotic and psychotic behaviour and the extreme difficulty of permanently removing all (or indeed any) of the symptoms.Not only is shortage of blood in the brain very bad for mental health, but also for physical health. Since every part of the body is represented in the brain, by blocking off a part of the brain, the part of the body it represents is also affected. It is the blood in the brain that controls the impulses and the impulses that control the distribution of blood in the body - for an organ to keep healthy it needs both impulses and blood. When a troublesome impulse is repressed from consciousness, the arteries leading to the part of the body where the excitation originates are also constricted. This arterial constriction is reinforced by spasms of those muscles which, when contracted, block the arteries concerned. Thus, the neurotic behaviour patterns of chronic repression are complemented by bodily tensions, which in time become fixated into an armour formed by chronically contracted musculature. An area of the body whose arteries and musculature are permanently constricted suffers from inhibited metabolism and ceases to function properly - ultimately becoming a breeding ground for disorders. So, the loss of full pulsation in the adult brain brings about a tightening of the grip of repressive conditioning, which spreads its network of constriction through not only through the arteries of the brain but also the arteries and musculature of the body. The adult must squeeze his soul white and strangle whole regions of his body so that verbal consciousness may be maintained in spite of the loss of brain blood. The end result, of course, is that he can continue to tell himself what to do. The price is that consciousness is confined within a verbal prison.
That, however, is a small price to pay compared to the alternative...
Psychosis (or ego loss) is the result of the ego mechanism getting deconditioned.... the word is no longer recognised and so no longer, by association, sends a fresh shot of blood to the talking centre. The circuit is broken. The speech system is left high and dry, no longer being kept permanently supplied with blood by the closed circuit mechanism that is the ego.
Without his ego the adult is nobody – unable to control his own behaviour, he is unable to survive except as a patient.
There are two main causes for the ego getting deconditioned and no longer acting as the mechanism that directs blood to the talking centres : firstly, the loss of meaning of the word, and secondly, prolonged absence of any reward with the stimulus, i.e. the blood carries no glucose to the brain cells.
To recap : the recognition of the word by the listening centre is the stimulus for a new shot of blood to be directed to the talking centre. The reward of the ego is blood bearing energy being directed to the centres of the speech system, and thereby enabling it to control behaviour through the use of the word. It is the effect of the reflex in the ego that brings the reward. The effect is the constriction of the arteries to the rest of the brain; the reward is the food arriving at the parts where it is wanted. If the blood that should bear the reward to the brain cell i.e. the oxygen and glucose, has no glucose, then over time, the conditioned reflex gets deconditioned.....the link between the talking centre and listening centre is broken. Once the ego is deconditioned the talking centre must wait its turn like all the other centres in the scramble for blood ... some times it gets it .... and most times it does not. The talking centre, which is the size of a pea and developed from the crying centre, is at a great disadvantage as it is placed particularly high up in the cortex and furthermore because of its lateness in development it is very extravagant in the use of glucose.
It is difficult to recondition an ego that has been deconditioned as it is such a complex network of interrelated associations, and when it was originally installed, the person was a child, with the youthful level of brain blood volume.
After the adult fall in blood, it is much more difficult to recondition this subtle and important mechanism.... The shadow of the chasm of insanity continues to be a threat. The ego is strengthened by having more blood: there is less need for the permanent constriction of arteries to the rest of the brain in order to keep it supplied with the blood it needs to maintain control of behaviour.
THE DOUBLE LOSS OF BRAIN-BLOOD VOLUME
Thus the final piece of our puzzle was ironically in a sense the very first to be put in place. Namely that around four to five million years ago, survival forced our ancestors to adopt a new position: the upright one. It meant that the push from heart to brain now involved driving against the force of gravity; the price paid was loss of blood from the brain. In addition, the sealing of the skull at the end of growth closed the door on the full pulse-wave, resulting in further blood loss. It was this double loss of capillary content which represented the real threat to consciousness and sanity, one which could only be overcome by depriving most of the brain of the energy needed to function, so that the co-ordinating or control centres had enough. Thus the price of survival for the adult was chronic constriction/repression, which developed in the face of the double loss not as a disease but as an unfortunate necessity. In turn, the price paid for such high-geared repression was physical and mental stress, psychosomatic illness, neurosis, or psychosis in both the personal and social spheres. However, even for those of us not suffering from any recognised health problems, chronic repression still represents a burden. For all of us, adulthood demands adaptation to the ‘down’ level: patterns of constriction, which previously had been temporary, become fixed, as the areas under permanent repression expand to meet the needs of survival.
EFFECTS OF TREPANATION
Trepanation, by a single act, restores the brain-blood volume to the level of childhood, the level at which the ego was originally installed. Allegedly, this can benefit everyone, but most importantly the psychotic, whose de-conditioned ego can regain its original strength supported by a childhood-level cushion of blood. The word communication centres are re-floated in blood, and there is therefore less strain on the ego/constriction mechanism, which no longer needs to be permanently deployed in order to maintain self-control. Both the degree and extent of repression can therefore be reduced. The lifting of this burden is felt subjectively as increased energy. The ego, now with more free time, can be used for the purposes of concentration, i.e. the channelling of blood into the parts of the brain required to be in action. This, is a benefit to everyone, however well adapted they may be to their stasis of repression.
Trepanation is not, however, a cure-all. Being trepanned does not mean that the neurotic will automatically lose all his or her symptoms, nor does it mean that the psychotic will immediately come back to full self-control. It means that their brain blood volume is restored to a level where the need for repression is lessened and where reconditioning can be deeper and therefore, bring more lasting reward. Other treatments are still needed, however in conjunction with trepanation they stand a far better chance of success. To have more blood on the brain is a healthier foundation. Of course there are other ways of displacing the brain water, but trepanation is the only permanent way.
In general terms, lightening the ego’s load removes a considerable weight from the shoulders of the psyche. The fact that a wider spectrum of centres are supplied with blood means that the inner world can be freed from the stresses of permanent ego tyranny: there is now enough blood for more brain centres to function independently of the ego. The effects, though seemingly dull, are far-reaching..... a subtle overall improvement is experienced.
Consciousness is all that we are aware of: all the sights, sounds, thoughts, feelings, smells that we experience. To expand consciousness means to be aware of more. The degree of consciousness is determined by the number of brain cells getting enough energy, enough oxidised glucose, to function at the conscious level. As the basis of brain metabolism, blood is the physiological root of consciousness: more blood in the capillaries, more function in the brain cells, more consciousness.