Chapter Three: Small Miracles
By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger
It’s a small miracle that any of us manage to hold on to or develop any type of sanity. Rereading the third chapter this weekend it struck me how many things can go wrong with the initial imprinting of the First Circuit. Birth itself seems to be a traumatic experience by nature; after months of dark, warm oblivion to be suddenly squeezed out into cold, bright existence. While, by all means, the birthing process is miraculous, it doesn’t seem particularly pleasant for any of the parties involved. And while I would put my trust firmly in modern medicine, I can understand why some try to reduce possible distress on the child’s part by giving birth underwater.
The myriad of things that can hurt us as infants, from our hand being pulled away from our privates to not being held enough, to being mistakenly (or purposefully) struck....just a minefield of incidents that could fuck up the foundation of our psyche. I always imagined that I had a negative initial imprint because I certainly do see the universe as a hostile and unforgiving place.
Looking back on my adolescence and twenties, it is pretty obvious that I was going through some sort of extended crisis based around the first circuit. I went through hypochondriac fits: one year I ended up in the doctor’s office on a monthly basis, worrying that I was dying. This was partly driven by my cigarette smoking habit- something strongly associated with searching for first circuit comforts. While smoking was a calming and gratifying experience, I was also raised to believe that “if you smoke, YOU WILL DIE A HORRIBLE PAINFUL DEATH AND YOU DESERVE IT.” So between my addiction, my guilt and myself we had a smashing time. The hypochondria was also a symptom of my deep dissatisfaction with the way my life had been and was going. It was only after moving far away from my parents, for a myriad of reasons beyond smoking, that I was able to come to terms with my childhood and finally stop flagellating myself, or at least not quite as much, for my nicotine abuse. Eventually I returned home with a firmer understanding of my past.
Then it was time to experience the present and future along with some real fun panic attacks. These occurred occasionally over the course of a couple years while I was stewing in my discontent and coming to terms with life. Through these attacks I learned how well other mental activities cease when the bio-survival circuit senses danger. Working with a therapist helped me find the ways to symbolically “solve” the source of my panic attacks. (Which mostly seems to consist of repeating “You’re just having a panic attack” and doing my best to ignore it until it goes away.) I’ve also found externalizing my anxiety/depression and treating it like an annoying, needy old dog seems to work.
While I practiced pranayama and basic hatha yoga during this time, it seems in many ways that what was needed was time. Time for growth and most importantly for acceptance. The bio-survival circuit seems to be tailored to induce panic and ungainly dispositions, for me it took “simply” giving up the struggle against it or its eternal desires to form a working relationship with this earliest part of myself.
While the higher circuits are fascinating, I find that most human behaviors can be explained through the first and second circuits, we’ll explore the latter in the upcoming weeks as we dive into Chapter Four and primate politics.