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Podcast    H4'ed 4/4/10

Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD Story and Native American Healing

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Broadcast 4/4/2010 at 3:30 PM EDT (23 Listens, 38 Downloads, 1780 Itunes)
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Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD, MPhil, is Director of the Psychopharmacology Program at Argosy University Hawai'i, where he is also Associate Professor of Psychology. He is an adjunct professor of anthropology at Johnson State College in Vermont and is Education Director for the Coyote Institute for Studies of Change and Transformation, also in Vermont, USA. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, Narrative Medicine, and the soon to be released (July 2009), Narrative Psychiatry: healing mind and brain in a social world. Lewis is a graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine, the Psychological Studies Institute in Palo Alto, and Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. He is American board certified in family medicine and in psychiatry.

New book coming out: Healing the mind through the power of story-- the promise of Narrative Psychiatry-- out by June.

Week at Kripalu April 29- May 7 Coyote healing weekend
5 day Cherokee body work intensive

narrative and story tie his work together

Brian Boyd on the origin of fiction.  How telling stories provide survival value.

It turns out that neuroscience is catching up with indigenous people-- that the default mode of the brain is telling stories.

Neuroscientist at U. Montreal, tells how story of Little Red Riding hood has tremendously more information than a 20 digit number-- and which is easier to remember?

If we can ground narrative into the brain, by seeing how the brain is completely created for story, then we have the basis for narrative psychiatry. Story is a better way for explaining diagnosis than DSM.

When the story of their life encompasses all their symptoms and matches up to their pet scan, one doesn't need to have all those diagnoses. It's enough to have their stories and see how they match up with their brain scan.

Example-- young man could qualify for Autism, OCD diagnosis,

Decided to collect smelly garbage-- mother is a "recycling nut" and he's angry with her. His story becomes he's a collector of the worst smelling garbage and wants to put it all over their house and evolves into an obsessive collector of the worst smelling garbage. On PET scan his anterior cyngulate gyrus lights up and shows frontal lobe dysfunciton. If we change his story his brain will function better, If we teach him to "story up" his life better.Â

Look at people with autism or schizophrenia, they are poor at telling stories of their experience and part of brain that is involved in telling stories is low functioning for them...

Finnish Psychosis project-- seen that if you teach autistics or schizophrenics to tell better stories, they function better. I think it's neuroplasticity.

Teaching people to story up their experience is a good way to help people with autism or schizophrenia

Story part of brain-- medial prefrontal cortex, dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex that generates associations.
Orbital prefrontal cortex eliminates associations that don't fit.
Final version of story includes rich emotion and content.

Autistics include so much extraneous detail that no-one wants to hear their stories. Loosening of association, circumstantiality...

Top down and bottom up in story... narrative that's not too dense and not too sparse-- just right. This is where the social aspect of brain comes into play. We have to have a theory of mind to tell a good story. We have to anticipate how other people will react to our story. The more audience appeal for your story, the more survival value for you.

All cultures have a basic structure which have to do with belief, desire and intent. People learn to interpret behavior in terms of those structure.

Brain is socially constructed; brains are social organs. Social relationships change brain structure. Dramatic life changing experience changes the structure of our brains. Our brains are constantly mediated by our social relationships.

Shift from google to facebook dominance, from information age to bottom up connection age. . We crave social connection.
The people we are close to we are no longer geographically near. The people I care most about might not be in the same city-- but I want to stay connected with them. i want to continue to allow them to shape my brain and for me to shape their brain. Brains are like neurons in a larger social brain and our facebook relations are the synaptic connections that are part of this larger social brain. We need to be speaking community.

Imaging studies done on perceptions. If you look at the neuroimaging of how people perceive. Nesbitt doctored up underwater movies, making one fish bigger, faster more colorful. Asians used Right temporal occipital cortex. Americans used left temporal occipital cortex. Asians remembered the background. The americans remembered the Fish.

Right hemisphere is more holistic, sees background and relationships first, and potentially not even notice the big fish. It doesn't add anything to the connectedness to everything.

In the US, we're all about the big fish-- left visual processing focuses on biggest, fastest, most colorful-- the foreground.

Indigenous cultures are much more right hemisphere focusing-- on background and inter-relationships.

Indigenous people have different brain structure-- the world that they grow up in encourages a different way of perceiving-- a right hemisphere background approach...

We know that reading dramatically changed the brain. There's no gene for reading. If we look at cultures that are entirely existing in an oral tradition they have a very different brain than what we see in a written tradition. Oral tradition has tremendous capacity for detailed memories.
Polynesians can remember long chants that allow them to navigate vast stretches of ocean.

Wolf, at Tufts-- computer is producing a new brain

Wouldn't it be great if we could use them all-- web brains, reading brains, story brains, totally immersed in nature brains-- and toggle between them as needed?

Healing is a reorganization of state-- transformation of an emergent social network. So I've been working with healing with community, which is an indigenous idea-- bringing people together. That's what ceremony does-- allows relationships among people to transform and between people and spiritual beings and natural objects-- forests and rivers. Holistic perception makes it easier to hear words of mountains and rocks-- you have more permission to still your mind, so you can hear spirits and objects.... Mainstream spirituality is more linear emphasis. I heard a lecture from the bishop of Arizona, saying that miracles and sightings of the Virgin Mary were things of the past, that they didn't happen anymore. But there was a lot of spirit communication taking place in biblical times. From a native american point of you it made me feel he had a dead religion because what kind of spirituality is there where you can't talk to spirits and spirits can't talk to you.

In Lakota-- creator ( that which moves) is said to live at the other end of the milky way. The creator sets things in motion but isn't sitting on a throne controlling everything. There are a lot of spirits and it's up to us. We have a lot of free will. We can anger the spirits and they work against us or propitiate the spirits and they'll work with us.

In Lakota cosmology, the chief local spirit is the sun. None of us are here without the sun. The Lakota understood that the sun was essential to give us life. Then other spirits-- the moon, the earth, water-- all of the sacred beings can be seen. It seems like a really logical spirituality.
If you want to have help from the sun, you need to put on a good show, tell a good story-- which is what the sun dances are about.

Integral mental health conference-- 700 attendees agreed Mental health is not working in the US.
New approach-- human relationships-- the healing power of relationships instead of pills.

Relational mind and community as the unit of study for mental health. If someone is suffering then we have to restructure from the bottom up, restructuring the environment.

I love neurofeedback-- it's about people learning how to change their brains and get their brains to work in better ways.
I follow the James Lynch approach in that it allows people how the stories they tell themselves affect their heart rate, blood pressure, etc.

The stories that we tell ourselves are changing our physiology every time we tell them. If you can see that in real time, you can begin to draft better stories.

Vermont story: How rabbit got to look like he does.
story starts in the day when animals had to take on the roles of people, back in the day when annimals were still being sorted out. Loose cap, like a trickster-- Cherokee have rabbit, lakota have coyote. He loves rabbit because rabbit has such good heart and rabbit's job is to help people lost in the forest. In those days, rabbits legs were equal length... and this is a story about how got to look like he does today.

Now that you've enjoyed this free podcast, consider investing in these low cost digital recordings of lectures and workshops on CDs and DVDs

Stories and Transformation   SKU# AG-P-030   Futurehealth Plenary Talk Lewis Mehl-Medrona No guidelines, algorithms, or principles exist for sudden, dramatic transformations in the lives of individuals, communities, or cultures. We may be able to predict when transformation is about to occur, but its directions are outside of our grasp. In this presentation, we will consider stories as a source of wisdom for how to transform. Aboriginal culture is replete with stories of spiritual and other transformations, the repetition of which, installs in the listener an intuitive sense for how to proceed and the belief that sudden transformation, even against all odds, is possible. (Specifications: MP3, 20 mins) $7

States of Brain Mind; States of Healing; Speaking the Language of Shamans   SKU# AE-W2-037   Futurehealth Workshop by Lewis Mehl Madrona (Specifications: MP3, 2 hours) $25

Shaman's Mind, Shaman's Work, Shaman's Dialogue   SKU# AG-W2-023   Futurehealth Workshop Lewis Mehl-Medrona In this workshop, we will explore the shamans (indigenous or aboriginal healers) take on mind, consciousness, health, and illness. We will compare this aboriginal way of gaining knowledge with European-derived cultures? insistence upon external expertise that is codified in categories and algorithms of practice. Many Western mindsets would view this story about mind as preposterous, invalid, or even psychotic, yet shamans quietly go about their work in communities where there reputation and livelihood is based upon sufficient success as to be noticed. We will close by discussing what we can learn from shamanic practice to enrich our own practices. (Specifications: MP3, 2 hours) $25

, More by Dr. Mehl-Madrona:


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Aboriginal Models for Integration of Brain, Mind, Spirit, and Body

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PET Scans and Spirits

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Cultural Effects on Perception of Body Sensation

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The Social Construction of Bipolar Disorder - is it "real" or is it a story?

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One theme has run through my work for the past 40 plus years-- a desire to play a role in waking people up, raising their consciousness and empowering them. I was the organizer founder of the Winter Brain, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology and StoryCon Meetings and president of Futurehealth, Inc., with interests in (more...)

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