Archive for May, 2006

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Update on Baby Memories

May 23, 2006

Here are two comments from recently-published books that seem to corroborate the legitimacy of infant memories.

In the book, “The Mind of Your Newborn Baby”, Dr. David Chamberlain makes this observation:

“To determine the accuracy of what persons remembered about birth, I worked with pairs of mothers and their children. For research purposes, each of these had to be capable of hypermnesia (especially vivid and complete memories), and the children had to be old enough to speak easily about the details of birth.

His conclusion?

“Research I conducted with ten mother/child pairs indicates that birth (and infant) memories are real and reasonably reliable”.

This information comes from Chapter 8 “Memories that Match”

Another book, “Beyond Trauma” is devoted to helping trauma victims get at the roots of their pain. In Chapter 13, Victor Volkman, a Lutheran hospital chaplain, concludes that many of his patients have had significant and verifiable memories not only of their infancy, but also of their pre-birth experience. He followed up on several of these and verified the information with the parents. He also describes a situation with several of his trauma patients where they experienced the Voice of God speaking to them as a preborn infant, and that the Truths spoken during that time brought healing during their later trauma.

All of this is more than fascinating. Though not that many people will revert to these kind of memories in Theophostic sessions, it is reasonable to assume that some will, and that we can be assured that many of them are accurate.

However, the accuracy of the memory is not the key quality in a Theophostic Prayer session. It is not the accuracy of the memory we are striving for, but the meaning the individual attaches to that memory. Because Theophostic is not looking for villains or reasons for bad behavior (as if we were making excuses), the memory itself is just a container. The individual who goes back into the memory feels the pain of the memory because of the lies, vows and clutter that may be found within. This is true also of pre-birth and infantile memories.

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When Does Memory Start

May 22, 2006

I was just about to preach during the evening service when one of the church’s elders, Don, let me know that a lady was on the telephone and said it was urgent. When I answered the phone, Jody let me know that her mother Marci (another member of the church) was having a nervous breakdown and they needed me to come over. Knowing the two of them I decided to go over there and not preach that night. I left the service with my assistant and went over to the house.

Marci had suffered for years from depression and long-term psychiatric problems. I had attempted in the past few months to introduce her to the concepts of lie-based thinking and the healing she could receive through Theopostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). She had not been willing in the past, but her depression and anxiety were so acute that she was more than willing to try anything.

I will skip details of the Theophostic session and cut to the conclusion. During our exploration of certain memories, she revealed something that startled me. She was seeing her father standing at the door of a hospital room; and she was sitting in a bassinet. That’s right – she was an infant in the hospital just after her birth. As I was digesting this information, she heard her father say, “We can’t keep this one. We’ll have to adopt her out.”

Marci was a twin. That much we knew already. But in this memory, she was experiencing rejection of the ultimate kind from her father. What amazed me is that she was describing incredibly lucid details about this unlikely memory container. First, I didn’t think that anyone could have cognitive storage memories from days after birth. The typical time frame for that kind of autobiographical memory detail is two to three years of age. Second, I found it hard to accept that she would remember the exact things people would say and the implications of what they were saying as a baby.

When I asked her to let go of the lies found in the memory (I also won’t go into detail here) she could not do so. The “clutter” connected to her bitterness and anger prevented her from letting go of the lies.

Weeks later, she contacted her mother (her father had passed away 15 years before) and asked her about the “memory”. Her mother assured her that ‘Daddy’ had loved her dearly and had never said any such thing. She called me up and relayed this information. I actually felt more secure hearing this, since I really couldn’t accept that Marci could remember anything from that young of an age. However, I wouldn’t hold onto that confidence for long.

A week after their first phone call, Marci’s mother called up again, and this time she was crying. After enduring several minutes of blustering and wailing, Marci finally got the story from her mother. When her mother had gone into the hospital to deliver the babies, they were not aware they were having twins. Her father had to be called in from the sawmill where he worked and didn’t arrive until after both babies were born. He first discovered that he had twin daughters the moment he came into his wife’s hospital room. He saw the one baby girl suckling her mother and the other one in a bassinet. His reaction was emotional and misguided: He pointed at Marci and told the mother that he didn’t want that one.

Marci’s mom wanted to know how she had found this out. The story went on to say that a few days later Dad repented of his fear and emotional outburst and accepted both daughters with equal amount of love and acceptance. Yet, for some reason, Marci never believed or felt that love.

When she called me over to throw this news at me, I was floored. This didn’t fit into the framework of child psychological development they had taught me in college. How could a baby know such intimate detail and respond to it with decisions that would affect the rest of her life? I couldn’t answer such questions then, and I’m not sure I have definitive answers now. Just to wrap up the over-story, once Marci was convinced her memory was true, she let go of her bitterness and renounced the lies found in the memory. She then accepted the truths that God showed her. God freed her from so many of her emotional problems and as far as I know, maintained good mental health until she just recently passed away.

But I constantly return to the question birthed in that experience: How can someone remember things that happened to them as a baby (or in some cases, in vitro)? There may be many theories, but there really can only be one answer. The process of memory is not completely a physiological function.

Research psychologists and Pediatric Neurologists have studied the brains of children and seen extremely consistent patterns of memory development. I won’t go into the details on their findings, but allow me to summarize through a paper by Dr. Karl Lehman, psychiatrist and Theophostic practitioner.

In 2004, Dr. Lehman published a paper titled, Basic Memory Phenomena, Explicit and Implicit Memory. The core idea of the paper explores the concept of memory and how that plays out in young children. One of his most startling statements comes in the first paragraph:

we believe that the mind is a psychological phenomena that uses the biological brain as a servant, but that is ultimately above, outside of, and more primary than the neurophysiological phenomena in the biological brain.

Here, he distinguishes between the concepts of the “mind” and the “brain”. He does not see them as the same thing.

Later, he uses this concept to explain the basis for Marci’s situation:


Early pregnancy (pre-brain) memories: If the core engram is carried in the biological brain, then a person would not be able to have any memories before the brain forms in development. However, some people seem to have memories from early pregnancy – sometimes so early that the biological brain would not even have begun to form.

Dr. Lehman goes on to give substantial documentation of research that has been done in this field of study and to supply amazing anecdotal evidence of pre-brain memories among many research scientists, including the famous Dr. Oliver Sacks (one of my favorite authors). Many people remember Dr. Sacks from his book “Awakenings” which is a fictionalized account of his experiments with giving L-Dopa to people with non-responsive right-brain disorders. I highly commend you to read Dr. Lehman’s paper at his website: www.kclehman.com. You have to register to have access to the paper, but registration is free.

So back to my original question: Where does memory start? Perhaps the more intuitive question is, ‘what is memory’? I am not sure I can answer that in less than an entire book, but allow me to summarize the work of many other more qualified people who have written on this subject. Memory is an amalgam of experiences we have stored in order to give meaning, purpose and direction for our lives. Memories are stored in our spirits (see 1 Cor. 2 where we are told “No one knows the details of a man’s life except the man’s spirit with him), our soul (what Dr. Lehman calls “mind”) and our physiology. Memory is stored in much more than just memory containers in our brain as well. We remember smells, body movements, sounds, visual cues, muscle memories, certain pains and pleasures. All of these are stored in parts of the brain not normally associated with autobiographical data.

Therefore, in Theophostic sessions, people may experience smells, sounds, tastes, body postures, pains, pleasures and other sensations that do not necessarily correlate with the memory container they are trying to focus on. In addition, they may have intuitive insights that come from the parts of memory that are stored in our spirits or our souls. My current studies are focusing on how the three “parts” of our total being work together in our memories and how the lies that we grab hold of are stored.

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I Can’t Tolerate This Tolerance

May 12, 2006

No one has hurt the English Language, and therefore our culture, more than Humpty Dumpty. No, I am not speaking of his fall off the ledge (though I wonder if his larger contribution counts as that also) but rather his famous saying in “Through the Looking Glass”. He has this little conversation with Alice:

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

This points out the perilous possibilities inherent in language used by humans: We want to be masters of words, shaping them to mean only what we want them to mean. The peril lies in communicating with others. If our words were meant for, and aimed at, ourselves only, then we would do no real harm in maintaining our personal ignorance. But when we communicate with others, the meaning of words must maintain some level of constancy or no one will know what another is trying to say.

I can’t tolerate this any longer. And the Humpty Dumpty metamorphosis that drives my “intolerance” of this practice is — Tolerance.

Tolerance has come to mean whatever anyone wants it to mean. Primarily, it is a passive-aggressive (or sometimes very active-aggressive) mechanism for deflecting criticism from one’s chosen opinions or actions. For instance, if I choose to dress up in women’s clothing and parade in the street wearing this, and I am ridiculed for my actions, I can hoist the banner of “tolerance” up the flagpole and expect that all ridicule will cease. “You must be tolerant of my choice” I proclaim to all. But can the word “tolerant” tolerate such a use?

It seems it may. At least, the more dictionaries become collectors of words instead of instructors of word use, we may have no choice. Dictionaries used to be places where you could seque from arguments and find the authoritative answer to a question over word meaning. If Funk and Wagnalls said it was so, it was so. If Merriam-Webster pontificated, the rest of us bowed down. But now, instead of giving the definitive meaning of words, dictionaries have bowed to public pressure and include all of the meanings that could possibly be applied to a word. In other words, dictionaries are listening to all the Humpty Dumptys out there because they need to sell their wares.

An older dictionary (and therefore more reliable in my mind) has defined “tolerate” this way:

put up with something or somebody unpleasant; “I cannot bear his constant criticism”; “The new secretary had to endure a lot of unprofessional remarks”; “he learned to tolerate the heat”; “She stuck out two years in a miserable marriage” [syn: digest, endure, stick out, stomach, bear, stand, support, brook, abide, suffer, put up]

A much newer dictionary adds this to the above meaning:

  1. To allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit.
  2. To recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others).
  3. To put up with; endure

Notice that the meaning above has now been relegated to number three on the list. This is not just an idle mistake by a lexicographer (look it up!) but a deliberate decision to line up with current usage more than accepted usage.

Look at the older definition for a second. In essence, to tolerate means to allow something you don’t agree with to exist without trying to destroy it or treat it with contempt. If I tolerate something, the inherent idea is that I definitely don’t agree with it and really don’t want it to take up too much of my life and space. But the second definition says that tolerance means I must allow something without opposing. That makes no sense whatsoever. There are some perfectly good words already in the English language for that definition: endorse, approve, bless or certify.

I would hope no one would endorse, approve, bless or certify my choice of a bra, panties and party dress, no matter how well the garment matches my eyes. I see no point in people pelting me with rotten vegetables for my choice, but neither should they honor me and tell everyone what a courageous and noble person I am for parading around so noticably.

Our society can be great if we recognize that people will make choices we don’t agree with, and that we will not persecute them for those choices. But if asked, I will certainly tell them why I don’t agree with their choice, what consequences I see ahead for their choice, and why I don’t want to honor their choice.

Today that would be called “intolerant”. I want an older dictionary.

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How Do We Decide if a Law is Moral or Neutral?

May 9, 2006

One commentator I enjoy (though only occasionally endorse) is Andrew Sullivan, an enigma of political sorts. It is rare for someone who champions Gay Rights to also be so conservative.

But recently, he has made a series of observations that have made me stop, think, and respond (two of which I don’t do that often…I’ll leave it to readers of this blog to decide which two). He has coined the phrase “Christianism”, defining it loosely as the movement to get everyone to agree with American Conservative Christian values and structures. For the time being, I’ll ignore his motivation for attacking this segment of culture and just respond to one plank in his soapbox.

In a recent blog republished by Time Magazine, he says,

In a free society, I’m quite happy to live among people who are intolerant of me, who decide not to associate with me, and generally disapprove of me, for whatever reason they decide. My point is that such intolerance not be enforced by the civil law; and that the civil law be restricted to reflect non-sectarian moral arguments that can be assessed and debated by Christian and non-Christian, Jew or Muslim, Mormon or atheist alike. If we can achieve a broad moral consensus, good. If we cannot, especially over divisive religious disagreements, then neutrality is the better option. And neutrality exists. A law that allows legal abortion or gay marriage as well as adoption and straight marriage is neutral with respect to its citizens’ choices. It is not biased in favor of any one of them. If you have a moral objection, persuade and proselytize, don’t legislate.

It is the sentence “if we can achieve a broad moral consensus, good” that I want to question Andrew about. He seems to open the door to the possibility that people may actually come to some level of agreement on moral issues. By doing this, he underscores the difficulty of this topic. How do we decide which societal issues are moral and which ones are neutral? And if we do decide that something is a moral issue, how will we define what a “broad moral consensus” is, or should be?

For instance, if 51% of the people in America felt that it would be appropriate for women to wear head coverings in public, should we enact that law? Andrew would probably say (from perusing his many writings on the subject) that this is a sectarian concept and should never be legislated. But Andrew, what if 90% of the people in the country believe in having ubiquitous head coverings? Do they then move beyond sectarian belief and magically become neutral? Saudi Arabians believe 92% in favor of Shari’a principles such as this. Does that mean they have the right to enact them over the objections of the other 8%?

My question really is, at what point do we consider a minority’s point of view when enacting laws? In our country, we do not allow children to be sexually exploited by adults. Very few people disagree with the concept of making it illegal for any adult to have sex with any child. But saying “very few people” is not the same as saying “no one”. As Dateline NBC has recently shown, there are many more pedophiles wanting sex with children than we ever thought existed in this country. By telling them they can’t do this, are we disagreeing with them on religious grounds? Sex with minors is practiced in many cultures and religions, most notably some elements of the Northern Plains tribes of Native Americans. Are we being religiously intolerant by passing legislation that disagrees with their practices?

Most laws, if not overtly moral considerations, are at least derived from moral principles. It would be difficult to find a law that at some point did not derive its credibility from an absolute moral standard held by some religious group. Does that mean we should have anarchic principles, believing in nothing as a country and espousing anything? Show me a society where that has worked.

Either we have laws which contain no moral principles or we debate every law as to its moral rightness; you cannot have both.

As to the principles behind “tolerance” I will address that subject later this week.

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Think of the Weddings You Don’t Go to

May 3, 2006

On our High School graduating class Fifth reunion, well over half the class was already married. Two guys in the class had three kids. (We know what causes that now…I wonder if those two did). The really weird thing is that none of us were surprised at how many in the class were settled down and had a spouse.

The other day, a much younger friend of mine was talking with me and the subject of marriage came up (he is already married). He had been speaking to a former high school classmate and they realized something: My friend is the only one in his circle of friends in that graduating class that has gotten married. His graduation happened over 8 years ago.

This trend has become a watershed event culturally. People are marrying later or not at all. Read this study done in Canada: Less marriages, less divorces and less children. Let’s assume for a second that Canada and the US share this cultural statistic. How do we explain it?

The two of us thought long and hard on it and came up with several reasonable hypotheses coupled with some obvious answers.

First, obviously the incredible increase in divorces among the parents of today’s “twenty-somethings” has scared them off from getting married too quickly. I have no doubt that this is true, but it only the most obvious factor. I believe there are other factors, most of which are more subtle. None of these factors in and of themselves will cause a major societal shift away from marriage, but taken together I intuitively believe they are causing this change.

1. The Upgrade Factor. Today’s young adults grew up on the concept that today’s video game or computer program or technology is going to be improved upon rapidly. It has made most of them wary of buying into something new, untested or expensive. The idea is “wait until the next version comes out which will be cheaper, have less bugs and be more fun.” It sounds ludicrous to think that this would affect one’s choice of a mate, but think about it. If you get married, you are stuck with the same model for the rest of your life. There ought not to be a Spouse 2.0. If you grow up with the concept that there probably will be something better out there for you, you will be hesitant to commit all you are to the first marriageable person who will say yes (or who will ask).

2. Improved Birth Control: This may be complicated, so follow the path with me. As birth control methods have become more advanced, more available and more anonymous, this has lead to sex becoming more recreational than procreational. Lest you think this was always the case, you don’t understand the human condition. Much of our current fascination with sex has become divorced from “making babies” and this has left many people wondering what they would even get married for. It has also coupled with reason #1 to leave people wondering if committing to having sex with one partner is going to exclude most of the recreational benefits from sex that could be had with a greater range of experience. Getting married means that you have to commit to one brand of sex for the rest of your life. What if that person is not very talented sexually? That means you will be “left behind” all your friends who are getting it with more variety.

3. Emphasis on Careers: In the latest protest marches against the Federal Government’s immigration laws, one group of people were almost absent: High School Seniors. When asked why, they cited one primary reason. They didn’t want to jeopardize their futures for a one-day march in the middle of state board exams (in California). This underscores one other reason marriages are being put on hold. They truly do get in the way of a college education and the ability to throw yourself into a new job with verve and energy. We all watched our parents get married young and wish they had gone on to college first.

4. Online Communities: One impetus for getting married is the opportunity to share your whole being with another person. To investigate the depth of another person’s soul, so that you feel like there is an organic oneness between you. I remember visiting an elderly couple every couple of weeks when I was newly married. As I talked with them, they had hundreds of inside jokes, knowing looks, crazy stories they both shared etc. They would finish each other’s sentences and refer to things with two words and knew exactly what the other meant. I longed for that. In talking with today’s adults who have grown up online, I realize that hours spent with online communities have provided some of this joyful joining. In that sense, the pressure is off to seek out someone to share your whole being with, since the relative anonymity of the Internet provides that we can bare our souls. This does not replace a spouse, but it surely takes the pressure off of looking too early.

Are there other contributing factors? Undoubtedly.

UPDATE: I just found this article in USA Today from last year. One notable comment from the end of the article states:

The USA has the lowest percentage among Western nations of children who grow up with both biological parents, 63%, the report says.

“The United States has the weakest families in the Western world because we have the highest divorce rate and the highest rate of solo parenting,” Popenoe says.

So maybe the most obvious factor is the one that is most telling: We are marrying less as a society because the institution of marriage has been sullied so much by the Baby Boomers. It wouldn’t surprise me. If this is true, then the next generation after this one should see a rise in marriage rates.

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