Altered State of
There are different eastern approaches and different forms to achieve control over the mind—usually through Altered State of Consciousness. “Yoga, hypnosis, meditation, autogenic training, Zen…are usually included in the category of ‘altered states of consciousness.’ From a western perspective, what is really happening in the mind during meditation and what is the goal of meditation are that during an altered state of consciousness an individual could have certain ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ experiences. The objectives of these practices were based on spiritual pursuits; on the other hand, in the west its popularity is due to the expectation that they are good for relaxing, reducing stress, anxiety, neurosis and other problems of the fast-moving, competitive, stressful society (Ikemi et al., 1978).” “During the practice…there is generally a shift from ergo tropism to trophotropism.” These terms denote the mechanisms and the functional status of the nervous system that favor the organism’s capacity to expend energy, as distinguished from the trophotropic mechanisms promoting rest and reconstitution of energy stores. In general, they are the relative balances between the sympathetic and parasympathetic subdivisions of the autonomic nervous system. (Online Medical Dictionary 2004) “During the autogenic state induced by autogenic training, different parts of the brain may be actively engaged in the release of impulses and old memories. This state may combine effortless relaxation with spontaneous imagery and emotion. Teachers tell their students not to get alarmed by any thought that comes to mind, but to notice it as they would any passing thought and then attend once again to the mantra.” This phenomenon resembles Freud’s notion of Catharsis during free association: when there is a release of ideas, thoughts, or delusions and any repressed material from the depth of the mind, accompanied by an emotional response and relief. This suggests that autogenic meditative state may facilitate a self-analytical process. However, even meditation can result in unexpected experiences; and yet to quote Jung again, it is not the method but what lives within the individual. Yoga, for example, involves fewer risks because it is a more progressive form of exercise meditation, and by that it moves gradually along a step by step practice, and generally done within a community and within safe environments.
Positive Aspects of ASC:
- Yoga was devised for healthy and well motivated disciples;
- Western system of autogenic training and related methods were devised as a medical type of therapy, for use primarily with psycho-neurotics.
- Man has innate regulatory mechanisms which, if given the chance, restore the brain and body processes to optimal homeostatic conditions.
- The ‘body [and brain] knows best’, and given rest, it can recover from sickness.
- In the West, Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) are helpful for relaxing, reducing stress and anxiety, as well as neurosis and other aspects of fast-moving, competitive societies.
- Self-induced modification of corticodiencephalic interrelations.
- Higher-order personality integration: increase in empathy and creativity.
- During practice catharses can occur.
- Facilitate the self-analytical process, aims at totalistic discharge and verbalization from body and mind.
- Yoga promotes psychotherapy’s final goal: the realizations of one’s true ‘self’.
- Facilitate the healing of psychosomatic disorders which are induced by the interaction of somatic and psychic factors.
- State of neutralization is stabilized by the insight into previous anti-homeostatic reaction patterns and distorted conditionings (stopping the cycle).
- Yoga can awaken the truth of human nature without extreme side effects to include: suicide, destructive and aggressive behaviors and psychosis-like symptoms.
- Yoga is integrated in the individual’s everyday life and can have a profound philosophical base.
- The origin of Yoga was based on spiritual pursuits and this is still an important aim of such practices today.
- Findings to support this concept are…summarized in the annual Aldine volumes Biofeedback and Self-Regulation (Ikemi et al., 1978).
Negative Aspects of ASC: Satori vs. Makio
- Satori, an old Japanese term, means the integration of the emerging subconscious psychological material into the personality structure. Sudden release of this material can be intolerable causing ‘Makyo,’ or over-evaluation and attachment to small ‘Satori,’ or subconscious material into personality structure.
- Forced confrontation with disturbing anti-homeostatic unconscious material warded off by psychological defenses, without psychological preparation.
- Makyo-like state may even result in suicide even in healthy individuals.
- In yoga, Makio occurs less often due to the gradual training methods of yoga that minimize the abrupt release of unconscious material.
- Meditation and Yoga involve the temporary inhibition of conscious ideation as a way to experience ‘pure consciousness.’
- This results in the release of unconscious material, to be observed and not identified with.
- Lack of ability to discriminate between consciousness (as perceiver) and conscious ideas (the perceived), as explained within the topic of Witness (Ikemi et al., 1978).
ü Process of autogenic discharge of disturbing neuronal material should closely follow the patient’s own brain programming.
ü Maintaining indifference is one way of dealing with Makio: be able to observe and consider the experience unreal, but simply as products of the ego-self.
ü Concentrating and stay with the breathing.
ü The presence of a supporting person at the place of practice is very beneficial.
ü Group practice of yoga tends to decrease the probability of negative effects.
ü Yoga seems most applicable to psychosomatic and psychoneurotic cases (Ikemi et al., 1978).