What does the Morphic Resonance theory of Rupert Sheldrake have to say about why people are taking longer to heal from psychotropic drug damage, and what can be done to accelerate healing?
I tapered off of SSRI antidepressants from the end of 2003 to the middle of 2005. I couldn’t go any faster that that because I had severe muscle contractions every time I went down in dose. I thought that, after my last dose, I could look forward to slowly recovering from the grueling taper, and, indeed, I felt better for about a month. Then, I started to have physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms I had *never* had before. It seemed like it must have to do with the medications, but how was that possible?
I Googled and discovered that there were people who had a post-taper syndrome after discontinuing antidepressants. I had all the symptoms. In 2005, the post-taper syndrome was lasting people somewhere from a few months to two years, with 1.5 years being the median. I joined an excellent support forum http://www.paxilprogress.org/forums/ and decided I would steadily heal and be completely back to normal in 1.5 years.
It is now over seven years since my last dose, and I am still very ill. I became progressively worse for the first 1.5 years, then got better, then got worse again, then have slowly – excruciatingly slowly, and still with setbacks – improved since the beginning of 2009.
In the meantime, I have watched as more and more people on the various online support forums take longer and longer to recover. Why is this? We don’t know, because no research is being done on this question, even though the number of people taking this class of medication is skyrocketing all over the world.
There are many possible reasons for the lengthening duration of the recovery process. For example, people have now been on meds in this class for longer (Prozac was introduced in 1987, Paxil in 1992); people are now more likely to have taken more than one psychotropic drug; the overall environmental toxic load has increased; the specific toxic load of these drugs and their breakdown products in the environment has increased.
Is it possible that Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance might shed some light on why people are taking longer to recover from the same toxic exposure? And, if so, can the theory also give us some ideas about how to aid recovery?
The theory of morphic resonance
Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. is a biologist and author of many books, including the most recent “The Science delusion: Freeing the spirit of enquiry” and the 1988 classic “Presence of the past: Morphic resonance and the habits of nature.” His theory of morphic resonance proposes that everything in the world comes into its form due to the influence of a field that has been created by its predecessors. This applies to atoms, cells, organs, plants, animals, human cultures, crystals – anything formed in the world.
“Morphic fields are shaped by morphic resonance from all similar past systems, and thus contain a cumulative collective memory. Morphic resonance depends on similarity and is not attenuated by distance in space and time. Morphic fields are local, within and around the systems they organise, but morphic resonance is non-local” (Sheldrake, 2012, p. 100).
This theory is rooted in the work of early 20th century biologists who came before Sheldrake, but he added the idea that “the structure of these fields is not determined by either transcendent Ideas or timeless mathematical formulae, but rather results from the actual forms of previous similar organisms” (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 108). For example, every growing crystal of copper sulfate resonates with previous crystals of copper sulfate. Every oak sapling is shaped by the collective field created by previous oaks (Sheldrake, 2012, p. 99).
The morphic resonance theory also supplements the gene theory in crucial ways. Genes, alone, cannot predict how an embryo will develop, nor can they predict what form a protein will take (Sheldrake, 2012, pp. 142-5).
One of the fascinating aspects of this theory is that it may explain some mysteries such as why human IQ scores are going up over time, and why, when rats learn a new trick in one lab, rats become able to learn that same trick faster at a lab in another country, even if there has been no contact nor genetic inheritance between the two groups. There is some research evidence to suggest that when one member of a species learns something s/he contributes that learning to the collective memory or morphic field of the species, making it easier for future members of that species to learn the same thing, or even for some members to just know the new information without having to learn it (Sheldrake, 2012, pp. 207-9).
If we look only at this aspect of the theory, it would seem that people should be recovering from SSRIs faster. There may be a subset of the population for whom this is true, but in the three online support forum communities I’m familiar with, this does not seem to be the trend. What else can we borrow from the morphic resonance theory to account for this?
What Sheldrake has said about repairing physical damage, particularly neurological damage
We know that the human body in general and the nervous system in particular have a substantial ability to heal and regenerate themselves. SSRI antidepressants cause pervasive, subtle, neuro-endocrinological damage, but, due to neuroplasticity, people do heal once the offending toxin is removed. New neurons, receptors, and synapses are made, and neurochemical levels are adjusted. People who go through SSRI exposure and recovery find they first lose and then regain physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. Some of this return to original condition might be accounted for by morphic resonance.
According to Sheldrake, individuals self-resonate to their own past patterns of form and function. “All organisms are dynamic structures that are continuously recreating themselves under the influence of their own past states” (Sheldrake,1988, pp. 132-3). This is essential to an individual’s continuity and memory, and goes some way toward explaining how we perpetuate both illness and identity, despite the fact that almost every cell in our body is continuously replaced.
Living beings at all stages of development, from embryonic to adult, have a great capacity to re-direct their development toward the original target, despite environmental interference. “The main reason that developmental biologists proposed the idea of morphogenetic fields in the first place was because organisms can retain their wholeness and recover their form even if parts of them are damaged or removed. The field in some sense contains the form or pattern of the entire morphic unit, and it attracts the developing or regenerating system towards it” (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 317).
This capacity to regain one’s sense of self and many functions can be seen in many cases of neurological damage. “After damage to parts of the brain, these [morphic] fields may be capable of organizing the nerve cells in other regions to carry out the same functions as before. The ability of learned habits to survive substantial brain damage may be due to the self-organizing properties of the fields – properties which are expressed in the realm of morphogenesis in regeneration and embryonic regulation” (Sheldrake, 1988, p.168).
These aspects of the morphic resonance theory account for the fact that people do heal from SSRI-induced neuro-endocrinological damage, but do not, at first blush, seem to account for why recovery from the same toxin might be taking people longer. Let us now bring to bear other aspects of the morphic resonance theory to generate several hypotheses for this puzzling phenomenon.
I. The need to wait a generation or more
Perhaps the simplest hypothesis is that we have to wait for a generation or two to pass before we see the benefits of inherited learning. Prozac was introduced in 1987, and the other drugs in this class came after that, and the really large numbers of people taking the drugs didn’t start until the mid-90’s, so we are still only in the first generation.
II. There’s something different about neurological damage
The second set of hypotheses is grouped around the main idea that there is something different about neurological damage / recovery, or something different about this particular form of neuro damage / recovery.
The nervous system is far more complex in design than any other part of the body. And it can learn and change far more than any other part of the body. Neurological healing is still the least understood healing process.
The brain is very dynamic, responsive,and changeable (Sheldrake, 1988, pp.166-7). It may be that this responsiveness to changing conditions depends on what appears to be an element of randomness, with ongoing fluctuations in electrical potential across the cortex (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 120, wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_oscillation). Is the nervous system more stochastic than other biological systems?
Interestingly, Sheldrake proposes that morphic fields are similarly probabilistic and not deterministic. They do not absolutely control the development of forms. They are a composite of previous similar forms, and they provide a guiding template for new forms, but there is still individual variation (Sheldrake, 1988, pp. 119-20).
Furthermore, the particular form of neurological injury we are looking at, caused by SSRIs, seems to entail dysautonomia or dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. (I wonder if most neurological injury and many chronic illnesses have an element of dysautonomia.) Dysautonomia makes the nervous system even more sensitive, reactive, and possible stochastic.
Therefore, the nature of the nervous system, morphic fields, and dysautonomia may conspire to make it harder for recovering individuals to self-resonate to the morphic field of their nervous system as it was before they were exposed to the medications.
Sheldrake notes the intriguing relationship between brain damage and morphic fields when he points to the mysterious way that injured people can often regain lost abilities despite permanent damage to certain parts of the brain. Essentially, a new part of the brain becomes able to tune into the old morphic field. This would be an example of self-resonance via regeneration (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 218). Of course, this re-acquisition of lost abilities does not always happen, and we don’t yet know why it sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t. In the case of SSRI-induced neurological damage, full recovery is very likely, although dysautonomia may make it take a long time. The question is why self-resonance seems to be taking even longer to achieve than before.
Dysautonomia existed long before SSRIs. Is there something about SSRI-induced dysautonomia that’s different? Is there something about SSRI-induced dysautonomia that is changing over time? For one thing, contrary to the old generalizations about brain damage recovery, with this syndrome, functioning does not come back rapidly in the first six months and then cease improving after a couple of years. On the contrary, the regaining of functioning may not even start for a couple of years, and then appears to go on indefinitely after that.
Other questions in this group would be: Are people healing from non-neurological diseases faster over time? Are people healing from other forms of neurological disorder faster over time?
III. There’s something different about these toxins
The third set of hypotheses groups around the main idea that there is something different about this particular class of toxin.
The SSRIs – Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, etc. – and the SNRIs – Effexor, Cymbalta, etc. – are new human-made molecules. Now that they exist, there is a morphic field for each of them, and perhaps an over-arching morphic field for these closely-related, similarly-acting molecules.
According to Sheldrake: “The appearance of a new kind of field involves a creative jump or synthesis. A new morphic attractor [the form that is the goal of that field] comes into being, and with it a new pattern of relationships and connections. Consider a new molecule, for example, or a new kind of instinct or a new theory” (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 321).
Is there something about the morphic fields of these new molecules – perhaps especially those of Effexor and Paxil which are notoriously hard to withdraw from – that is more indomitable? Does such putative dominance have to do with them being artificial forms that did not arise slowly on this planet? Is it something about their chemical structure?
Anecdotally, many people in recovery from SSRIs seem to have the experience of trying some kind of therapy to help with the neuro-endocrinological symptoms, and often it will work well initially, but only briefly, and then it stops having any impact. It *feels* as though the field of the medications overwhelms any other therapy’s field.
Are some morphic fields more compelling than others? Something Sheldrake wrote about top down v. bottom up creation of new fields may pertain here. I’m not sure if I’m understanding correctly, but I think he is saying that some new fields emerge in the more Darwinian evolutionary way of “ever more complex forms at higher levels of organization” (bottom up), while others emerge more rapidly, often in response to human activity, when a higher-order morphic field produces “within itself a new lower-level field” (top down). Sheldrake believes that these two processes are interactive (Sheldrake, 1988, pp. 180, 321-2).
There may be something more compelling about a human-created substance and morphic field, or about these potent chemical compounds / morphic fields in particular, but, again, these theories don’t account for why recovery from these agents appears to be taking more time than it did when the medications and their morphic fields were first created a few years ago.
IV. There’s something about the size of the morphic field of people on SSRIs
The fourth set of hypotheses is grouped around the main idea that the vast size of the population currently taking this class of medication is causing an effect on ex-users.
a. The morphic field of people on the drugs has more and more members.
The number of people taking these medications is increasing. This is one thing that has definitely changed since the medications were introduced. There is a morphic field being created by people who are *on* these drugs. This morphic field may be getting stronger. It may be influencing the people who have been on the medications, are now off them, but still might self-resonate to their own past state of being on the meds.
Are people in recovery resonating too much to their recent past state under the influence of the drug, and not enough to their more distant past state-of-being prior to exposure to the drug? Interestingly, many people in recovery report the experience of two selves fighting for supremacy within them. I, myself, had never felt this before in 40 years of life, but have felt is many times during recovery from the antidepressants. It feels like there is a self that is normal and familiar struggling with a self that is riddled with alien withdrawal symptoms.
The colossal number of humans taking these drugs could be generating a morphic field of the human-brain-while-on-these-drugs. Or, you could say that the morphic field of the human species has been altered because so many members are taking these drugs.
Sheldrake has written that abnormality can begin to dominate a morphic field. “If fruit flies develop abnormally under abnormal conditions, then the more the abnormality occurs, the more likely it will be to happen again under the same conditions, through cumulative morphic resonance” (Sheldrake, 2012, p. 180). Now, he is talking here about intergenerational morphogenetic fields, but it raises the possibility of something similar happening over time within a generation.
Could the morphic field of people on the drugs be entraining ex-users to itself?
b. The Maharishi Effect
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a spiritual leader who developed and popularized a mantra-based form of meditation called Transcendental Meditation. He originally predicted that if 1% of a population practiced this meditation method, it would have a measurable, positive impact on the whole population. Later, he developed an augmented training program, and it was predicted that only the square root of 1 % of a population would need to practice this method in order to show a benefit to the whole population. There have been numerous studies around the world that suggest that even such a small percentage of a local population, practicing the meditation method, has had a statistically significant effect on quality-of-life measures such as crime rate and car accidents (Wiki).
What percentage of the population is now taking antidepressants?
In Oct 2011, the C.D.C. reported that from 1998 to 2008, U.S. antidepressant prescriptions rose 400 %, and more than 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 were taking an antidepressant (healthland.time.com). That is not a typo – yes, 400 %.
In 2010, there were 3.5 million antidepressant prescriptions written in Wales, where antidepressant use had risen 71 % over the previous eight years. In 2010, there were 4.3 million prescriptions in Scotland, an increase of 43 % over the previous eight years. And, in 2009, there were 39.1 million prescriptions in England, an increase of 61% over the previous eight years (the population of England was 52.5 million then) (mentalhealthy.co.uk). In 2011, 46.7 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in England, a 9.1 % increase over 2010 (ic.nhs.uk).
Worldwide sales of antidepressants reached $20.3 billion in 2008 (bloomberg.com). In 2007, the Eli Lilly website stated that Prozac had been prescribed for more than 54 million people in 90 countries" (thedailybeast.com, fasebj.org). The world population in 2007 was about 6,625,000 (prb.org).
You can see that the numbers are big and increasing rapidly. It’s easier to get numbers of prescriptions than numbers of actual people taking the drugs, but in 2008, the U.S. government found that roughly 10% of Americans over age 12 were taking an antidepressant (healthland.time.com), and in September 2011, the government of Scotland estimated that 11.3% of Scots over age 15 were taking an antidepressant (bbc.co.uk).
According to the Maharishi Effect theory, you only need the square root of 1% of a population to be meditating in a certain way to have an influence on the whole population. What happens to the whole population when 10% are taking the same type of powerful medication? Does that 10% have an even stronger influence on people who have previously ingested the same medication, even though they are now off it?
c. The Rensselaer study
A 2011 study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute used computational models to discover the tipping point at which a minority belief is adopted by the majority of a population. Despite experimenting with several different social network models, they repeatedly found that the magic number was approximately 10%. Once 10% of a population holds an unshakable belief, that belief will spread rapidly through the rest of the population (phys.org, thanks to nhne-pulse.org for the find).
While the Maharishi Effect suggests that the square root of 1% can have some sort of influence on a population, the Rensselaer study suggests that 10% can have a very direct, almost imprinting effect on a population (personal communication, Chris Bache, 12 Aug 11).
It’s also worth noting that, not only are 10 % of Americans consuming antidepressants, but more than 10 % of Americans are convinced of the safety and efficacy of antidepressants, and of the validity of the serotonin model of depression despite compelling evidence to the contrary. (Sheldrake, 2012, pp. 271-2; wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatomy_of_an_Epidemic). So, there may be morphic resonance not only from the direct biochemical and epigenetic effects of the drugs, but from the beliefs about them.
People in recovery from this class of drugs are often hypersensitive to reinstatement of any of these meds, even at extremely low doses. Re-exposure to the drugs causes an exacerbation of the neuro-endocrinological damage symptoms, including dyautonomic chaos. Might these people be similarly hypersensitive to the morphic field of an enormous number of people on this class of drugs? For some reason, it is phenomenally hard for us to restabilize and become as robust and resilient as many of us were before we took the meds. And, for some reason, it is getting harder, not easier.
d. The placebo effect is increasing
Before we sink too far into the slough of despond over this situation, let us look at another trend which might counterbalance the above-mentioned pathogenic morphic fields. The placebo effect appears to be getting stronger over time.
In an excellent 2009 article for wired.com, journalist Steve Silberman reported on Big Pharma’s scramble to cope with the recent, mystifying increase in placebo effect, particularly in relation to psychotropic medication, and how this is undermining their ability to turn a profit. Wrote Silberman, “Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time” (Silberman, wired.com, 2009).
Silberman reviewed a couple of factors that may be contributing to the global rise of the placebo effect: 1) since 1997, Americans have been bombarded by direct-to-consumer medication advertising, which has practically brainwashed us to believe in meds; and 2) in new drug trials conducted in developing or low infrastructure countries, participants are responding as much to the lavish care they get in the drug trial as they are to the med itself (Silberman, wired.com, 2009).
However, no one thinks we fully understand this new phenomenon yet. In fact, as of Spring 2009, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. has begun a massive data-gathering effort called the Placebo Response Drug Trials Survey, reviewing decades of trial studies. It is funded by "Merck, Lilly, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Johnson & Johnson, and other major firms....In typically secretive industry fashion, the existence of the project itself is being kept under wraps. FNIH staffers are willing to talk about it only anonymously, concerned about offending the companies paying for it" (Silberman, wired.com, 2009).
What if the worldwide, but especially American, increase in placebo response is due to a change in a morphic field? We know the placebo response is due, at least some of the time, to expectations. If you expect a treatment to work -- and the expectation might be conscious or unconscious -- it is more likely to work. Having said that, we don’t actually know how the mechanism of expectation works. For all we know, the expectation of healing may be what links you to the correct morphic field for your healing.
And, it’s not at all clear that expectation is the only mechanism driving the placebo response, nor accounting for the recent rise in the placebo response. What if the placebo response is increasing because the placebo morphic field is increasing in potency? And might the increasing potency of an hypothesized placebo morphic field be partly a response to the threat posed by the increasingly potent new pathogenic fields such as the human-body-on-antidepressants?
According to Sheldrake, morphic fields are always changing, they are inherently creative, and, as with evolution in general, they are adaptive and purposeful. As such, they could be said to be ultimately biased toward viability, vigor, and élan vital! Earlier, we touched on the possible role of morphic fields in repairing physical damage in general and neurological damage in particular. What we’re emphasizing now is how creative and innovative morphic fields may be.
There are many examples of this, in both biological and non-biological systems. Sheldrake gives the example of how a newt embryo that has been damaged can still create the needed organs from alternative cells (Sheldrake, 1988, pp. 317-8). And he gives a couple of astonishing examples of how new human-made chemical compounds have spontaneously changed over the decades. They may change the point at which they liquify, or they may start crystalizing in a new form that has very different properties. And this happens in a way that humans can’t predict or control (Sheldrake, 2012, pp.101-3). (Could such a spontaneous change have occurred to any of the antidepressant molecules?)
Sheldrake proposes that these examples demonstrate that fields are historical and evolutionary – always changing. And the way they’re changing is creative and adaptive: “Morphic fields appear to have an inherent creativity, which is recognizable precisely because the new pathways of development or behaviour often seem so adaptive and purposeful” (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 319). Often, as in the case of the newt embryo, it’s clear that the creativity is directed at repair: “In all processes of regulation and regeneration, the developmental process adjusts in such a way that a more or less normal structure of activity is regained by a more or less new route. In other words, there is an element of novelty or creativity in the developmental process” (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 317).
So, maybe the placebo field is increasing in strength as a creative route to regenerating human health, in response to the many new threats to our health. Remember that “....habits acquired by some animals can facilitate the acquisition of the same habits by other, similar animals, even in the absence of any known means of connection or communication” (Sheldrake, 1988, p. 181). The placebo effect may have been around forever, but humans may be learning to use it even more to their advantage.
Harnessing and enhancing the morphic field of the placebo effect
Just as mass marketing probably has contributed to the placebo response in the US, so might other mass movements contribute further. There is mounting evidence that groups of humans can combine their consciousness to create a field effect. The Maharishi Effect and the Rensselaer study were mentioned earlier. In “The intention experiment: using your thoughts to change your life and the world,” researcher and science writer Lynne McTaggart has collated fascinating information about many different existing projects that suggest the power of group intention (McTaggart, 2007). She has also conducted several international group intention experiments on her own website with very promising results (theintentionexperiment.com).
Can a field effect created by human consciousness affect a morphic field? And how does the placebo response create a morphic field anyway? The hypothesized morphic field of the placebo response is, itself, a field that is intimately related to human consciousness. More precisely, it could be called the-morphic-field-of-the human-brain-while-on-placebo. So, as long as we’re being highly speculative anyway, there is no obstacle in our theory to humans modifying this field, especially by intentional effort, especially in groups.
In 1962, the FDA began requiring that new drugs be compared to placebo. This helped determine drug safety and efficacy, but had the side effect of casting placebo as the enemy. “The fact that even dummy capsules can kick-start the body's recovery engine became a problem for drug developers to overcome, rather than a phenomenon that could guide doctors toward a better understanding of the healing process and how to drive it most effectively" Silberman, wired.com, 2009).
What a missed opportunity! How can we make the placebo response *more* robust and reliable? The obvious course of action is to study more how placebo works, what enhances it, what interferes with it, and more about the history of it. We will hope to get some publicly available information from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health’s Placebo Response Drug Trials Survey.
Another intriguing avenue would be a McTaggart- / Maharishi-style group intention experiment focused directly on increasing the efficacy of all placebo phenomena and/or expectations of healing. To some extent, this process is probably in effect already – there are many different groups of people who pray ongoingly for the safety, health, and happiness of all beings. And their efforts may be why we humans haven’t, for instance, blown ourselves up completely yet. But, it would be fun to focus specifically on boosting placebo phenomena, and then watch drug trials go even further awry. Instead of a headline about a 400 % increase in antidepressant prescriptions, let us envision a headline about a 400 % increase in placebo response!
Harnessing group intention in other ways
As long as we’re daydreaming about group intention experiments, there are a few other trials it would be great to see:
1) an experiment focusing group intention on healing all humans in recovery from antidepressants;
2) an experiment focusing group intention on healing all members of the three major English-language online antidepressant withdrawal support groups – paxilprogress.org, survivingantidepressants.org, and antidepressantwithdrawal.info. This would make it easier to measure outcome.
3) an experiment focusing group intention on the highest good for all humans currently taking antidepressants. After a suitable waiting period, we could see what happens to the statistics for prescriptions, adverse incident reports, suicides, etc. The nice thing about this experimental focus is that, according to some of our speculations above, benefiting the user group might benefit the ex-user group as well.
It is thought-provoking to consider what the Maharishi Effect and Renssalaer research has to say about how many people might be needed to have a measurable impact on any of these groups. The current population of the U.S. is about 312,000,000. One percent of that is 3,120,000 people. The square root of 1 % is 1766 people. The current population of the world is about 7 billion. One percent of that is 70,000,000. The square root of 1 % is 8,367 people. This would be hard to organize, but conceivable with the new Internet-driven research methods being used by people like McTaggart and Sheldrake.
Anecdotally, I have read umpteen stories of people in dire health straits whose families organize huge prayer chains with amazing results. For a long time, I have wished we could get large groups of people to pray for people suffering terribly in recovery from antidepressants. Over the years, I have seen a few people make a stab at this, but barely. This course of action has great potential.
Toward the tipping point on the battlefield of fields
Human biology and consciousness in relation to SSRI antidepressants are evolving. There are several trends. One trend is the skyrocketing increase of people taking antidepressants and / or “spellbound” by the belief in their safety and efficacy. This includes true believers who aren’t even taking a medication. (The term “spellbound” was coined by the whistleblowing psychiatrist Peter Breggin, M.D. to describe the obliviousness of people on psychotropic medications to how impaired the drugs are making them (Breggin, 2008; breggin.com.).)
Another trend is the more slowly growing awareness of the harmfulness of the antidepressants. This includes people who are on the meds or trying to get off them, who have become aware that there is a serious downside to the meds. It also includes people who are paying attention to the how drugs affect people they know, or paying attention to the news reports of things like medication-propelled violence and pharmaceuticals in the water supply.
The Internet is an historically unprecedented aid to raising consciousness, to collaboration among people, and to the creation and modification of fields. This can cut both ways, and there are, unfortunately, ways that the Internet serves to reinforce people being enamoured of their medications. It can also promote a nocebo effect when people who have been made sick by their antidepressant come together and unintentionally create an expectation of continuing to be sick. However, mostly, on the Internet, I have observed the breathtaking human resolve to heal and to help others heal.
We might say that there is a struggle going on right now between opposing fields. It’s a struggle in the classic mold – a clash of the Titans; a Zoroastrian battle between good and evil; a Darwinian competition for survival of the fittest. People may be taking longer to recover from the neuro-endocrinological damage of SSRIs because, right now, the morphic field of the human-brain-while-on-these-meds is growing stronger. But, the countervailing forces are gathering strength. We must continue until we get to the tipping point where what is currently esoteric knowledge about the dangers of antidepressants becomes “rapidly and dramatically more common” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipping_point_(sociology)).
Religion professor Chris Bache, Ph.D. has studied human group fields. He is the author of several books including “The living classroom: Teaching and collective consciousness,” and has been influenced by Sheldrake and Alfred North Whitehead, among others. He believes there can be a battlefield of fields, and has suggestions about how to win fields and influence them.
According to Bache, group fields accumulate power over time. You can treat the field like a being -- relate to it, analyze it, nourish it. The individual helps the group develop -- any work you do on your own consciousness spreads through the field automatically. His advice about how to dilute or weaken undesirable fields is: Don't feed them by resisting them. Instead, create something that makes it impossible for the undesirable thing to exist (IONS workshop, San Francisco, July 2011).
It might be important to acknowledge the battlefield of fields between antidepressant harm v. healing, but to also look beyond it to the bigger picture of what is being created by the tension between the two. We now know that evolution is as much about cooperation as it is about competition, and both contribute to creativity. It may turn out that this era of pandemic neuropathology becomes the springboard to an evolutionary leap. Previously, this blog has looked at the tantalizing links between neurological damage and psi openings.
Whether we look at neuro-endocrine harm from antidepressants as an ill or as a descent experience with a silver lining, healing and the relief of suffering must still be our goals. Among our strategies, we could be learning how to maximize the placebo effect and use group intention to strengthen the preferred fields.
Coda (To help kickstart your own placebo effect)
I think most of us can never get too much reassurance, so I just wanted to remind anyone going through recovery from psychotropic medication or other brain injury that, in the last decade, the positive news about the brain just keeps on coming. We used to think you formed no new neurons after young adulthood. Wrong. We used to think no new healing occurred 1-2 years post brain injury. Wrong. We used to think if you had two short alleles of a certain gene for depression, you were doomed to depression. Wrong.
On the contrary, it turns out that the brain is amazingly flexible and responsive to doing anything good for it. And all the things that we already knew were good for us turn out to be even MORE good for us than we realized – for example, there is an spate of new research showing how exercise rewires the brain. We are continually presented with the opportunity to rewire ourselves to be who we really want to be. And, ironically, it can be the unwanted experience of neurological injury that makes you really grasp how much power you have, even now, to influence your own neurological system.
Thanks to Barbara Croner, MFT, for her conceptual contributions to this essay. And thanks to Luc for the antidepressant usage statistics. And thanks to Stan for always promoting this blog!
Bache, C.M. (2008). The living classroom: Teaching and collective consciousness. Albany: SUNY.
Breggin, P. (2008). Medication madness: The role of psychiatric drugs in cases of violence, suicide, and murder. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
McTaggart, L. (2007). The intention experiment: using your thoughts to change your life and the world. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Sheldrake, R. (1988 / 1995). The presence of the past: morphic resonance and the habits of nature. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International.
Sheldrake, R. (2012). The science delusion: Freeing the spirit of enquiry. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.