Broadcast 10/27/2016 at 05:29:26
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Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., PhD. is a physician and a Native American healer/ Lakota shaman. He is associate professor at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine and executive director of the Coyote Institute for Studies of Change and Transformation. he's the author of Many books on story, a repeat guest on this radio show and, back when I ran the Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story, he was a regular participant.
Barbara Mainguy is a psychotherapist and education director for the Coyote Institute for Change and Transformation.
We're discussing Neuroscience of Self transformation Through Story
Very Rough Interview Notes.
Rob: while I'm very interested in story-- after all, I founded and for six years organized a conference exploring story multidisciplinarily-- I call this radio show Bototm-up radio, so I'm interested in how you can tie together story, metaphor and the neuroscience and social psychology of story with bottom-up ideas. And, to me, bottom-up is a metaphor system-- a collection of metaphors through which we filter our lives, our behaviors, which evolved as humans evolved over the five million years since we branched off from the evolutional tree from primates. The metaphors are about connection, cooperation, sharing, community,
Rob: Which of your stories went in to deciding to write this book-- the ones inspiring you to write it, the ones contributing to the goals of the book? And what were the goals you had in mind for this book?
Always interested in stories from a Native American perspective, and when I learned about narrative studies I became more interested.
THere's a story that we work with people and we help them to escape the dominant paradigm and he hang out with people who work outside the dominant paradigm
Ron Coleman and
We're really interested in how people change so they are not locked up in psychiatric hospitals and drugs? What changed in their stories. How were they able to do the world differently?
I think the story is that we're always trying to escape the dominant culture.
Rob: What's the dominant culture
The dominant psychiatric culture-- the diagnostic manual.
NY Times article by a psychiatrist about intervening with low doses of psychiatric medications and bringing in family-- and they did a lot better. The editorial said that 20 years everybody would have said Duh, yes, everyone would have agreed. But over the last 30 years to dominant culture has become the biological and the pscyho-social has fallen by the wayside.
Rob: interesting-- I recently interviewed Bonnie Burstow, who opposes Biological psychiatry, and added a transcript of an interview transcript for RObert Whitaker, who is also very critical of biological psychiatry
Barbara: you can't fix or help a human fix themselves that way. A Gaia model is more helpful.
core things like compassion, listening caring, working with someone's metaphor-- their understanding of the world turns out to be the basis for what is helpful and healing.
We really have to rethink this thing called psychiatry. It is leading us to dark"
Lewis: I come back to some really key native American ideas and one is People who get sick do so in the service of the community-- they are the canaries-- the duty is to look at all of our relations to see what is out of balance.
The biopsychiatry model ignores interconnectedness, as though ecology never happens.
THis is what people who do narrative research have studied.
People ignore stories that they don't agree w ith.
It's not that you have schizoaffective disorder" it's the way your stories interact with the world. So how we as a group connect w ith y ou to help you move into a more functional zone.
Rob: so you help people rebalance their stories and then send them out to their community to work with their newly balanced stories.
Barbara: You can't change your story yourself. It needs to be a group effort. People need to go back into the community with the new story with some ballast from the people who are supporting them.
There can be opposition-- people who don't want them to be a new person.
Rob: You say you can't change your story yourself. Why
Lewis. We don't have the capacity for reflection and insight. We need feedback. We need other people to give us the signs-- the raise their eyebrows, to look puzzled to turn their back on us. Without feedback from other human beings we don't function well. Without the feedback from other people it's really hard to change that story. People who are labeled as psychotic tend to have their feedback turned offline. They need extra help from their community.
Barbara: You can receive messages about your behavior that are not from a good place"and you need reliable feedback support that helps--
Rob: Lewis, is there a Native American or Lakota aspect of this
The idea that people are not defective they just have defective stories.
The idea of the Nagi the swarm of stories that surround you. If you who you are is not working then you need more stories. The way you change someone is to put better stories into their nagi. I've seen elders do and say just that.
I was with elder in Saskatchewan who was in prison. He told the elder that he was feeling nervous because all the doctors told him he as ADD, bi-polar, etc.
The elder said, there's nothing wrong with you. You just grew up with bad stories. Stay with me.
Rob: this has had consequences-- with the powers that be
Lewis: My day job is working with dementia delirium
My other job is playing with people to help them recover.
Rob: and you use a sandbox therapy to some extent;
We have a sand box. And we use small figures.
Rob: And that's a form of therapy that's been around for a long time.
Lewis: what's great about sand and small figures, is it lets people do art. We also work with puppets-- They're a nice shortcut for getting to stories within us.
I think we all have an awareness of these characters that live within us. I have Sparky, who comes out when the going gets tough. When there's 100 miles to go and nobody's ready to finish the drive, Sparky steps up and says I can do it. You
indian language or inner wolf that hunts for the best game in the metaphorical sense.
We all have these character that we call upon who have their own stories and perform functions for us. The more that we are aware of them the more we can utilize them to our advantage. Part of the awareness is to give them a name.
Rob: Now you're not talking about multiple personalities
Lewis. No, but multiple personalities are just and extreme version-- that we all have multiple personalities within us that they're all connected.
Imagine the character you play on the first date. That's a really glossy, highly specialized character that probably has no other function in our life. There are also characters for job interviews". This is what we mean by remapping your mind. You mind form a coalition of characters.
I have an inner coyote that I'm learning to manage. His reaction to the s ystem is to fart and swing his tail at them. I have coalition that helps to manage coyote.
Rob: You switch from story to characters who have stories
We think that each story has a teller-- so we try to find who tells these stories. If we can get to the source of the story it's easier to manage. if we can attribute that story to the wicked stepfather, it's easier to manage, or maybe there's a character who can take him out for coffee, while we look for a story that says you're actually a pretty good person. We might ask "Who's been complimentary to you?" and create new stories. IT's often the case that those who have told destructive stories that we live with have died. By understanding and getting to know their stories, it's possible to put those stories to rest. We have people look for evidence that contradicts the old stories.
There's an exercise we like to do-- the seven virtues-- take the seven virtues and tell a story where you demonstrated the seven virtues-- tell a story when you were courageous, compassionate, etc.
African praise poem. We think it's more acceptable to put ourselves down and make fun of ourselves. It might be more healthy to sing a positive song.
Barbara and work a group in Woodstock, Sage ARts, where older people are brought together with musicians and poets to sing the song of their community".
Rob: Can we talk about the connection between Metaphors and story and the brain.
When you talk about bottom up, to understand somebody about what they are about, or other time you
In using metaphor, some people don't use language that easily to describe their language or situations.
Metaphor is the language of stories. And people tend to speak with metaphors that are useful to them. Sports, fishing metaphors.
The way we use it is we invite people to tell us story and by working witht imagery we get to understand what they are using for their own lives.
When you can speak in a metaphor instead of trying to describe it you can play with it.
one of our favorite
The luggage carousel at the athens airport is called a metaphor
a metaphor helps us carry our stuff from one place to another.
When you work with metaphor you use language that feels at a distance, that offers a little m ore freedom to take place.
Lewis: Metaphor is a thing that carries stuff from one place to another and that's what stories do.
That's what stories do.
Barbar: It turns out that when you write a story about something you get over things more quickly. People who write stories after a traumatic event, in a away that makes meaning, then I get over the event. The people who did story writing accessed health services far, far less and got back to classes faster.
Because stories are the natural way for the human brain-- the default brain is where we make up stories.
Putting suffering into a story form gives d instance . It can be tremendously powerful. We would never say that something is "just a story." If you work with your imaginations, with the metaphors, the representations, there's a tremendous ability to work with the material of your own life and to begin to change it. .
I had a woman who had a problem with procrastination. I suggested that she pick a puppet to represent her procrastination and she picked a polar bear that made her realize that the procrastination made her feel warm and comfortable. Just with that she was able to work it through and got a job.
Metaphors really represent some deep way of speaking that we can't access.
Rob: the Book Metaphors We Live by says that metaphors are not only what we communicate with but are what we use to see the world through and live the world through.
Metaphors are a deep language that you can't dismiss.
Rob: We don't function without the metaphors and the stories that are our operating systems.
Lewis: Our brains are designed to handle up to 500 people and hunter gatherers never were in groups of more than 150. It's easier to be bottom up with less people.
When you get to huge environments that people start imposing rules on us.
Here in Maine, in a town of 30,000 if someone cuts me off, they are more likely to cut me off in traffic because I wouldn't know them. But in a town of 300 I would be likely to know them.
Bernie sanders has the idea that we have to get back to small groups making decisions and bottom-up government instead of top-down government. Bernie had the idea that health care could be allocated at the local level. The more you can bring government down to small units.
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