As the democratization of healthcare marches forward, more and more people are finding natural, common sense ways to effectively help themselves with stress management, restful sleep, better focus, more steady energy, and so forth. A growing number of these people are feeling better and are even healing and finding themselves no longer sick. They are looking to functional nutrition and fasting, acupuncture, meditation, neurofeedback, biofeedback, and much more. People are discovering a range of options for their healthcare. The days of one-size-fits-all medicine are numbered.
Scientists have known for a long time now that disease is contextual—meaning it’s related to economics, but also our surrounding relationships—including family, friends, and community. Many aren’t sure why, but the data is compelling. In 1978, researcher Stewart Wolf was puzzled by a small Pennsylvania town called Roseto. The death rate by myocardial infarction was only half that of surrounding towns. In fact, only one person had died in 16 years of myocardial infarction under the age of 55. Relatives of people in the town who had moved away approached the national averages. Wolf did extensive research into several categories of variables that might influence this phenomenon. He was able to conclude that a “natural cohesiveness” existed in Roseto, where families were close and supportive, as was the whole community, and that this sense of belonging is what made such a difference in heart function.*
In cancer research, it has been long been understood that the loss of a significant relationship precedes a cancer diagnosis, from a few months to 8 years. Lawrence LeShan, a leader in the field, describes the person vulnerable to cancer as someone who is faced with unsolvable life situations, accompanied by despair over the feeling that they are helpless and hopeless.**
Social psychological research demonstrates repeatedly that social and economic factors impact health. One study was conducted with volunteers who were to be exposed (directly to the nostrils) to a cold virus. Only half actually developed a cold! Scientists concluded that whether the subjects felt they were part of a community, a family was a prime factor. This kind of study has been replicated over and over. ***
There’s something fundamentally personal and individual about our physical, mental, and emotional problems—and something fundamentally social and familial. Those of us with chronic illnesses, especially, are realizing this truth, and changing our approach to our health to include deepening our understanding of the balance of our relationships.
It has long been a criticism of western medicine, that it doesn’t understand the interrelatedness of organ systems, of cellular systems, etc. Put another way, western medicine still does not understand nor put much effort or money into researching the guiding principles that govern our physiology. The biological sciences are stuck in a cause and effect kind of thinking, whereas the physical sciences have moved on to a systems understanding—where hypothesized guiding principles are explored and researched. Medicine must evolve to develop a solid understanding of the governing principles of health—of organ systems, of cellular systems, of bacterial systems, and of the brain as a system—and then how all these systems interact with each other!
I think from the research described above, a prime governing principle of our physiology is going to be found in the balance of our emotional relationship systems—of how regulated, focused, and calm one individual’s Central Nervous System (CNS) is in interacting with another person’s CNS—and how the two bounce off of each other in automatic feedback loops.
This is why I think NeurOptimal® neurofeedback in particular (the only system we use) is so powerful. It seems to get right to the heart of a guiding principle of how our physiology seems to work—and that is in the interrelatedness of one CNS to another. In other words, it gets right to the heart of the sociality of our problems—and the sociality of our solutions. Without telling the CNS what to do, NeurOptimal® is able to mathematically speak to it, converse with it…in ways that help it move toward where it already wants to go, which is toward more order, and less hyper/hypo responsiveness to others. And what we know, is that the more orderly the CNS, the more resilient and flexible the individual’s and the family’s relationships.
Taking Your Health Into Your Own Hands
I think if I had been reading this post a couple of years ago, when I was diligently working on my wellness goals—every hour of the day it seemed—with supplements, and eating right, and keeping stress low, and working on my relationships, and on and on…I would have said that I was absolutely taking my health into my own hands, and I would’ve dared anyone to disagree with me! But as I look back, on some level, it was all out of hand. Out of control. I was grasping and willing to do anything. The more I grasped, the more my health eluded me. I was missing the big picture, the guiding principle of health that has something to do with the balance of it all—especially the balance of my nuclear, original, and extended family relationships.
As I look back, I realize I was so obsessed with what might work, I was ignoring what I now see as the most important part—the how of wellness—or the bigger picture, the guiding principles. A couple of months before I rented my first neurofeedback system, I was at a leadership conference, and I made a decision to stop being so desperate. I guess it was the first time I truly started to get a hold of myself.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking, to some extent, for NeurOptimal® to be yet another fix for my problems. Another “pill” I could pop that would take care of me somehow and bring me back to my former happy, energetic self. I was less desperate, for sure though, and more focused on a bigger picture and being more thoughtful about things. Now that I understand what NeurOptimal® does more clearly, even if another “pill” is what I wanted, NeurOptimal® wasn’t going to deliver it because NeurOptimal’s® fundamental approach is about the bigger picture—the bigger picture in the brain. Unlike all other forms of neurofeedback, NeurOptimal® doesn’t try to increase or decrease this or that frequency in the brain. It was designed to work on total brain function—it works with the system, the Central Nervous System, and just helps it do what it is already designed to do.
Human problems are social, cultural, economic…and familial. An optimized brain is going to be a less reactive brain—less reactive to your kids, your spouse, and your long lost brother Larry. The ripple effect on overall functioning is profound. There are so many routes to a calmer CNS: books, therapy, acupuncture, nature, exercise, food, meditation…I could go on and on. But in my experience—as someone who has done all of the above and then some—the stress and busy-ness of life was just too much, and neurofeedback was required. It’s the tool you want to consider seriously—unless of course a monastery is an option.
*Wolf, Stewart. 1976. “Protective Social Forces that Counterbalance Stress.” Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association 72:57-59
**LeShan, Lawrence. 1966. “An Emotional Life History Pattern Associated with Neoplastic Disease.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 125:780-793.