Authored by Sydney Reed
In the previous blog post, Leslie Fox highlighted interesting points from Dr. Raison’s talk. He warned us that he might be entertaining, an adaptation useful in a career of teaching undergraduates. In deed, he had us laughing frequently. It made me think about the notions of the origins of laughter. Some think that laughter evolved as a signal mechanism to tell the group that they were out of danger and could relax and connect socially, thus building community.
Dr.. Raison’s talk definitely set the mood for the conference: challenging intellectual ideas shared in a group that trusted each other enough to bring forward their best personal thinking. Dr. Raison commented on the willingness of the group to share personal stories with colleagues. This willingness to define oneself although it required some degree of vulnerability is grounded in the knowledge of the universality of the emotional process in all living creatures. I also think it is based on the experience in Bowen training of having been privileged to hear and learn from the family of origin presentations of one’s colleagues.
Dr. Raison’s lecture has prompted me to go back and reread Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel by Candace Pert, PhD. Pert was the first person I heard describe psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) The systemic connection between the nervous system, the immune system and the hormone system meant that we had to become less “brain centric” in the way we understand individuals. That instruction was 20 to 25 years ago and I still find I don’t give the brain/body system the significance that it demands. Listening to Dr. Raison and many of the presentations of the Midwest Symposium reinforced and documented the reality of brain/body system and how it influences the internal processes we all experience, be it depression, cancer or addictions. The Systems Thinker’s next blog will be about Dr. Michael Kerr’s presentation on cancer.
Around the same time I was introduced to psychoneuroimmunology, Dr. Murray Bowen’s concept of the family as the emotional unit claimed my attention, reinforcing how I experienced my family. I remember hearing that the headache in one person can become (influence) the stomachache of another. This pattern over a period of time could result in the heavy use of alcohol by someone else in the family. This was and is still revolutionary thinking. Victoria Harrison‘s experiment of hooking up three people in the family, at the same time, to instruments that measure physical responses to stress, moves in the direction of data to support that notion. (We will have a blog about Victoria’s work at a later date.)
Dr.. Bowen felt that his theory would only be valid to the extent that it was congruent with the natural sciences. This meeting was another move in that direction. Dr. Raison invited us to think about how he could include the concept of differentiation in his research. This is a wonderful challenge for further thoughtful consideration on the part of Bowen people interested in research. How can we identify the individuals willing and able to begin a conversation with Dr. Raison that might lead to a productive collaboration?