Ian Weinberg en Healthcare, Human Resources Professionals, English Developer and facilitator of neuro-coaching program. Neurosurgeon in practice • NeuroSurge - neuromodulation 20/11/2016 · 2 min de lectura · +800

Lighting up the Abyss

Lighting up the Abyss

It’s in your home, it’s in your family, it’s in your city, it’s everywhere. It afflicts and it compromises. It’s discussed in many places, a lot of the time. It is said that it’s reached epidemic proportions. It’s confidently called depression, yet no one knows what it is.

It is said that it manifests in many guises. From unhappiness to obesity, from doom and gloom to insomnia, from exhaustion to undefined need and insatiable hunger. It pervades the home the office and beyond. Yet it defies definition. It is the ‘dark cloud’ that smothers all light. It is confidently described as an emotional affliction and yet much of its manifestations are physical. It is said to be caused by genetic anomalies, by a troubled childhood, by ‘chemical imbalances’ by aberrant flashes seen in the functional MRI, diet and even by the bugs that live in your bowel. And still it remains obscure.

And behold the great men and women of the psychiatry persuasion created a bible which they termed the DSM – the book which lists all mental and emotional maladies. And in the great book they inscribed ‘depression’ in all its possible manifestations and then gave it a code. And in this way it became real. It was a legitimate malady. And when they allegedly identified low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin as being the cause of this affliction, the flood gates opened. Great pharma research into a legitimized illness which had a code gave rise to the medication for which the funders were forced to pay. From this space the afflicted inherited medical legitimacy for their illness. And their employers, family and friends supported them and complied with the needs of their affliction. And the psychiatrists and big pharma prospered as never before.

And yet ... what is depression? The research around serotonin is tenuous at best. The serotonin boosting anti-depressant medications (SSRI’s) in many cases are not that much better than the placebo effect as regards ‘happiness’. On the anxiolytic side however, they appear to have some benefit.

And so for twenty four years I read, observed and researched this melancholia which has accompanied mankind since the beginning of recorded time. And since I was not a psychiatrist but still trained in the neurosciences, and since I was not bound by any institutional tenure and yet had access to all the technology that I needed, I had delicious freedom to say, write and do whatever I pleased. And when I arrived at a place of medical respectability, a consultant neurosurgeon, it was too late for the medical Establishment to excommunicate me – for behold the enemy was within!

My great inspiration, my inspirator, was Viktor Frankl. He nailed it from the outset. Frankl recognized that the symptoms of melancholia reflected a meaninglessness at a specific point along the life path. And if you believed that there was nothing that you could do to improve the situation, to make it more meaningful and gratifying, then you moved into a space which I subsequently defined as hopeless-helpless. And in the study of many life narratives I noted that those with more disadvantaged nurture histories in the form of deprivation, were more prone to hopeless-helplessness. They had less resilience to withstand the drift into the black abyss of extreme hopeless-helplessness. And so I concluded that we all have an existential imperative – we need to maintain purposeful business. Otherwise we slip into the existential crisis of hopeless-helplessness.

The hopeless-helpless mind state is associated with raised levels of inflammatory mediators. These mediators result in inflammatory conditions which underpin neuro-degenerative conditions (Altzheimers disease, Motor Neuron Disease, Parkinson’s), cardiovascular disease, immune suppression and cancer. And yes, they also diminish serotonin but more specifically, dopamine while raising levels of adrenaline which collectively is associated with an increase in the inflammatory indices, thereby perpetuating the vicious circle that will spiral you down the plug hole into hopeless-helplessness.

The final clincher is in the research. When hopeless-helplessness was identified as a single variable apart from the obscure entity of depression, the correlation of cardiovascular illness and outcomes as well as those of cancer, correlated directly with degrees of hopeless-helplessness rather than with that amorphous entity called depression.

And so I conclude that I have no idea what depression is. It is an obscure entity from which many have derived a lucrative profit while others have gained a legitimate malady. It should be emphasized however that I am in no way minimizing the nature or the consequences of the affliction. Rather, in the place of this undefined amorphous entity I would propose that there are degrees of hopeless-helplessness. These are existential crises which may reflect a low deprivation-induced resilience to loss or alternatively, loss of a significant life entity and/or loss of meaning and purpose. The remedy I believe is not mega-doses of serotonin promoting drugs, or changing the diet or having colonic purges!! Rather, I would suggest that we seek meaning and purpose when it wanes (with professional help if necessary). Engage with the world and each other and seek to contribute value to ourselves and to our environments. And finally let us secrete much oxytocin (Nature’s own antidote for inflammation and associated hopeless-helplessness) by striving to be sensitive, non-judgmental and caring. Thence shall we inherit clarity, calmness and trust and an end to hopeless-helplessness. Amen.


                                                               Copyright reserved - Ian Weinberg 2016


Gerald Hecht Nov 21, 2016 · #7

#5 @Ian Weinberg you won't be getting a DSM Dx...people seem reluctant to see a road to Pathology elimination ...and doesn't end there...in some ways its the "starting line" 🕶

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Gerald Hecht Nov 21, 2016 · #6

#5 @Ian Weinberg I get exactly what you are saying; (I've always been a Spinoza, Fechner type pantheist)...it seems to me; that in Western Civilization..the problem started with the "classic philosophers" who placed more value on empirical/dialectical/scientific methods for "mastering/conquering nature" than on being a part of nature...the greater the separation with its concomitant damage to both nature and our psychological tendencies to place more value on "high end"/upscale brands of plastic

than authentic appreciative existence in nature...the more the truth of what we've done shows up ...in psychopathologies, neurodegenerative downward spirals, and, flipping the coin ...can be seen in neurochemical/neuroendocrine anomolies...and even (particularly in areas like the hippocampus) blatant neurotoxicity...with plasticity failing to show up..it doesn't have to be so...but I know what you mean about working alone...it goes against orthodoxy...people see me looking and acting "younger" than my peers; and respond as if that is a disorder; "grow up"!...etc., I don't know if I articulated what I'm trying to say...but I think we have similar understanding...it's difficult to find words for unorthodox approaches (for me anyway)...because I've nobody to talk about them with in "the academy"; who takes me seriously ..

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Ian Weinberg Nov 21, 2016 · #5

#4 Thanks for the insights @Gerald Hecht I've walked this path of investigating the human psyche in all its ramifications for the better part of 24 years. From the neurosciences to the murky world of quantum physics, from the religious doctrines to eastern mysticism, I've read, researched, diced and spliced it all and always played Devil's Advocate to the unfurling entity. I realized at some point that this preoccupation was in fact my own existential imperative. But it's wierd - I've walked this path alone. Conspicuous has been the absence of any meaningful engagement, dialogue or debate with my own profession, with allied professions and with other potentially interested parties. I could never really get my head around that one. Is everyone too deeply buried in their comfort zones, the status quo? Is it too inconvenient to engage with a controversial concept? Are they threatened? Well, whatever. I'm having fun exploring the terrain. I enjoy the dialogues and debates with myself. Just fascinating how my subjective reality is diverging from the popular one. I await my DSM diagnosis!!

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Gerald Hecht Nov 21, 2016 · #4

#3 @Ian Weinberg we can wait until Monday...the key is Aristotle's making arte (in one specific area in which it has always been expressed --rhetorical traditions, such as written Old Testament + oral Talmudic "supplements"...for example) ; he reduces all expressions of religious (faith based mythos traditions) to the art of rhetoric --"sterilizing it" by having turned it into nothing more than a topic that can be subject to empirical "dissection"...the "magic Dust" is removed...and Western Civ proceeds from there...it's kind of amazing that it's taken this long for a collective pandemic of seemingly intractable depression to be increasingly "the normal human condition"...

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Ian Weinberg Nov 20, 2016 · #3

#2 You're ahead of me there @Gerald Hecht Gotta to tuck in now to a smattering of Aristotle to engage with you. And I thought I could chill in the tail end of the weekend ...

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Gerald Hecht Nov 20, 2016 · #2

@Ian Weinberg I think it's the inevitable, continually accelerating reaction to the continually accelerating results of the elevation (which Aristotle finally "krazy-glued") of the True (dialectic) over the Good (Arte)

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Deb Helfrich Nov 20, 2016 · #1

This is a powerful piece of writing, @Ian Weinberg. Depression is a big beast of really epic proportions and all those factors of bad nutrition, skewed gut bugs, poor serotonin uptake seem likely to me to be the measurable effects of losing meaning or purpose or simply joie de vivre. When we hit that phase of learned helplessness and/or succumb to hopelessness, we are in for a really tough stretch of life.

I think getting back to basics and thinking through the nurture environment of our childhood is a very powerful way to kick-start the understanding because I have had a first hand view this year of how terribly wrong things will go if our nervous systems are ratcheted into needing adrenaline as a response to the smallest of life's potholes. We were built for this incredible surge of adrenaline to occur infrequently in real dire emergencies, and for us to physically process the fear and initiate a biological "reboot" to deal with the ravage to our body of shutting down many crucial processes in order to focus on nothing but the ability to literally run away from what was scaring us. We have social conditioned out that reboot stage.

Then as we are locked in this adrenaline cycle, we cannot access our parasympathetic operating mode, and higher level thoughts about meaning and purpose become a physical impossibility. At this point, depression is a very likely outcome.

One which almost cries out for a bit of external coaching to reorient the person back towards their own sense of meaning/purpose which will produce the oxytocin of connection and begin the process of re-leveling the nervous system.

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