You know, one of the more upsetting things about trying to get people to accept the idea that how parents treat their children has a huge impact on whether that child will grow up happy, well-adjusted and even sane and physically healthy, is that the information and the science is out there in droves - but it's being ignored.
Recently, I came across this presentation by Dr Martin Teicher, who's a leading researcher into the links between parental abuse and the effects it has on the development of the brain.
He's summed up a lot of his findings in this very informative (and relatively easy to read) PDF presentation, which you can see for yourself HERE.
Here's an excerpt on one of his recent studies on the effects of parental verbal abuse (that so many of us like to pretend is 'ok', and not doing the kid any harm) from his website:
This study provides the first evidence that high levels of parental verbal aggression may be a form of abuse or adversity that alters trajectories of brain development. It supports our previous hypothesis that different forms of childhood maltreatment will exert some comparable an array of consistent neurobiological effects (particularly on limbic regions or connection) as they are all stressors. However, different forms of abuse will also have some unique effects based on sensory systems activated that convey the aversive stimulus to specific parts of the brain that process and interpret the information.
And here are Dr Teicher's 11 'take home' messages, about the links between adversity in childhood and mental illnesses:
1. Childhood maltreatment is associated with marked effects on brain morphology, function and circuitry.
2. The nature or magnitude of the effect depends to a substantial degree on type and timing of maltreatment during developmental sensitive periods.
3. Sensitive periods detected to date were often surprisingly brief and associated with vulnerability to one or two specific types of maltreatment.
4. While type and timing is often the most important predictive factor, there are some consequences of maltreatment that depend more on severity and multiplicity of exposure.
5. Childhood maltreatment is associated with structural alterations in key components of threat detection and response circuit.
6. These different components have their own unique sensitive periods so that maltreatment at different ages will target this circuit - but in different ways.
7. Maltreatment-related alterations in threat detection and response are likely adaptive alterations designed to reduce distress and to help individuals reproduce and survive in what appears to be a malevolent world.
8. The impact of maltreatment on trajectories of brain development provides a strong signal that appears in many instances to be much larger than signals associated with psychopathology per se.
9. Childhood maltreatment / early life stress is a huge confound in studies on biology or treatment of psychiatric disorders when not taken into account.
10. Maltreated and non-maltreated individuals with the same primary DSM-5, ICD-10 disorder appear to differ clinically, neurobiologically and genetically.
11. It is crucial to recognize that early traumatic stress is not just as a risk factor for psychopathology. Rather, it is a critical element that subdivides psychiatric disorders in a way that has far reaching implications for research, treatment and prevention. Developmental
The evidence is stacking up daily that mental illnesses are NOT caused by chemical imbalances or genes. The chemical imbalances, where they exist, are caused by different types of abuse that the person experiences at various sensitive times in their childhood, which actually alter the physical way the brain functions.
Stop the abuse, you stop the 'mental illness'.
And once that message starts to get out, then we'll really start to see things move and improve.
OK, you caught me: Really, there are NO short-cuts to emotional and spiritual health. If we've got a physical or mental health issue to deal with, then there is no way around it except to lift the lead and find out WHAT is really underneath it all.
And that's sometimes the hardest work a person can do (which is why so many of us try to avoid it like the plague).
BUT - that said, there is still a way that you can break this huge work up into manageable 5 minute daily chunks, and that's what the following infographic is all about.
Underneath it, you'll also find an EMBED code if you want to replicate it on your own website, plus you can download the PDF version of it HERE, if you want to print it up and stick it somewhere prominent.
EMBED CODE: <iframe width="871" height="879" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="overflow-y:hidden;" src="https://www.easel.ly/index/embedFrame/easel/3856855"></iframe>
I recently got an email from someone who made a very good point, that you could sum up like this: yes, there’s work to be done, and things to be fixed, and effort to be made – but what are you supposed to do when you’ve already been to so many shrinks, and therapists, and ‘experts’ and you really just ran out of energy and can’t do it anymore?
This is such a good point, because so many of us are at that point, especially in this age of information overload, and superficial ‘expertise’, that only helps people to address and resolve part of the problem (and that’s if you’re lucky).
I’ve also experienced this myself: When I was told that healthy eating was going to solve all my health issues, I ate healthily, got some benefits – but didn’t solve the whole problem. When I was told that forgiving the people who’d hurt me was the key to happiness and health, I did that, too, and saw the same pattern: some big initial benefit, but it didn’t resolve the whole problem.
Ditto with stretching and exercising; ditto with doing more relaxing, enjoyable things; ditto with upping my level of mitzvah observance.
Now, don’t get me wrong: all of these things WERE extremely beneficial, and I’m very, very happy that I’ve incorporated them all into my life, to the best of my ability and without getting fanatical about it.
BUT – it’s not the whole picture, it’s not the whole story.
In fact, the only thing that’s really come close to solving things, permanently, and across all three levels of body, mind and soul, is talking to God, or what’s called in the Breslev tradition hitbodedut.
(If you want some more background on what that is, how to do it, and how it can help you in so many different ways, click HERE to download a free copy of ‘The How, What and Why of Talking to God’.)
But even talking to God can occasionally fail to deliver the goods, if it’s only about talking to God, and not also about listening to God. Listening to God is when you stay quiet, get a little more humble, and ask God to show you what you need to work on, fix or change. Listening to God is when you learn to start decoding the messages He’s sending us all the time hidden inside our trials and tribulations, about what changes or improvements He’s trying to spark-off inside us.
In hitbodedut, you do both: talking AND listening.
But the point is to get God involved in your life, at whatever stage you find yourself, and at whatever level of spiritual, mental and physical exhaustion, because it’s precisely when you just can’t do it anymore – any of it – that connecting to God can be so powerful.
Even saying just one word at these times:
Connects us straight to the Source, and sets a process in motion that we may not even be aware of for days, weeks, or months to come. But the message was received Upstairs, and help is already on the way.
So my first bit of advice to my correspondent is this:
If you can’t do anything else, just call out to God, in whatever way you can.
We humans like to think that everything comes down to us, and our abilities and our energy and our endurance. And honestly, these things are all important. But they’re not the source of our strength:
And even when we feel (and really are….) completely exhausted, washed-up and finished, God’s strength, and kindness and help endures. He’s like the electricity supply, and even just plugging back in for a second fires up the soul like you wouldn’t believe.
In the next post, BH, I’m going to bring the ‘shortest’ short-cut version of how to start getting things improved and moving again that I know of. But before I post that up, remember one thing:
Really, there are no shortcuts in spirituality.
In some way, in some form, we have to do the work, we have to change, we have to improve, and no-one else can do that work for us. The process never ends for as long as we’re alive, because our potential for growth is infinite.
But sometimes, as my correspondent so rightly pointed out, even though we know all that stuff, we still can’t muster the energy to do it.
This is the class that I gave at the Whole Health Forum last week, where I started to explain how true holistic health has to include all 3 levels of body, mind and soul, and how God has to be in the picture, if we really want to stay happy and healthy.
It introduces a lot of game-changing key concepts about how human health really works, based on Jewish wisdom, that you just won't find anywhere else.
I hope you enjoy it!
You can download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE, and if you like it, please share it.
Someone said to me the other day: ‘The real battle today, in terms of idol worship, is in healthcare. We’ve got a real fight on our hands to show people that they don’t have to rely on doctors and medicines.’
My friend is an observant Jew, very involved in trying to promote more awareness about the potential harm associated with vaccines, and is part of the more alternative health scene, with a focus on healthy eating.
But here’s the rub: the big ‘healthcare’ idol worship problem we’re up against isn’t only on the conventional side of things; it’s also very much alive and kicking in the alternative healthcare world, too – and in some ways, even more problematic.
Before I continue, here’s the definition of ‘idol worship’ that I’m working with, so we’re all nice and clear what the problem actually is:
Idol worship is any time a person thinks they can cut God out of the picture, and achieve some aim or get some benefit ‘under their own steam’.
So, if you’re sitting with a doctor or psychiatrist who’s telling you how the latest little designer pill is going to cure all your woes without any further input, effort, or prayer from you – and you believe them – that’s idol worship.
Or, if you’re sitting with some meditation guru, who’s telling you how saying ‘om’ and emptying your mind completely of all thought is going to cure all your woes (again, without any further input, effort or prayer from you) – and you believe them – that’s idol worship.
As you’re probably working out for yourselves, idol worship is currently happening all over the place, from your dentist, to your reflexologist, to your macrobiotic diet expert, to your OBGYN, to your acupuncturist and your pediatrician.
The world is full of health ‘experts’, alternative and mainstream, physical and mental, Jewish and otherwise, who are trying to tell you that they can cure you, heal you, make you better, while God is completely out of the picture.
But while conventional medicine is only messing things up at the level of the body, or the Nefesh, which is the lowest and most coarse of the five levels of our soul, many alternative practices work on the principles of energy medicine, which tap right into the higher levels of the soul, namely the Ruach and Neshama.
To put this a little more clearly, Western medicine can (and often does…) kill your body. Alternative medicine can (and often does…) kill your soul.
There are three ‘cardinal sins’ where a Jew is meant to die, instead of transgressing: murder, idol worship, and sexual immorality.
If ‘murder’ is what Western Medicine specializes this (and please read THIS if you think I’m being overly dramatic, here) – then the other two are definitely the professional reserve of the alternative health world.
When God is out of the picture, for example, then you start getting all sorts of just plain evil messages about health and happiness being directly connected to your reproductive organs. Louise Hay, founder of the alternative health empire Hay House, regularly advises people to pleasure themselves as a ‘release’.
Spiritually, wasting seed is probably the worst thing you can do, in terms of destroying the world and fuelling the forces of evil (if you don’t know why, THESE ARTICLES set the problem out, very clearly).
But when God is out of the picture – hey, what do you care?
Even yoga, that kosher pig of a discipline, is very focused on reproductive energy. There’s all this talk about harnessing something called ‘kundalini’ energy, which is described as being a very powerful, ‘snake-like’ energy, that’s coiled at the bottom of the spine.
Yoga journals are replete with stories of regular yoga fans who got zapped by a massive dose of ‘snake-energy’ and never recovered their mental or physical health, as a result.
This stuff is dangerous, because it’s working at a much higher level of the soul, but still disconnected from God.
NOTHING IS NEUTRAL IN THE WORLD.
Either something and someone is attached to God, and coming from a good place, or they’re disconnected from God, and coming from a bad place.
I will write more on this separately, as I experienced something recently (well, quite a few things actually) that really brought this point home to me in a very clear way.
If you asked me what’s better: go Western, and risk killing the body, or go Eastern, and risk killing the soul – at this stage, I really don’t know what I’d suggest.
But one thing I can tell you for sure, even at this stage of trying to figure it all out: If you don’t put God in your own personal picture, your chances of staying happy, healthy and holy are pretty much zilch.
And if that doesn’t scare you into doing at least a little bit of connecting to God, at least a little bit of the time, then I don’t know what will.
Thanks for the question!
Existential depression happens when we get disconnected from our spiritual side, and our true purpose in life, and from God (sorry, I said the 'G' word...)
When life is framed in term of material achievement, then it can be precisely when we achieve that materialistic pinnacle of success that we suddenly realize that it's not all it's cracked up to be, and it didn't really solve our problems.
That's why so many of the materially 'successful' people in life commit suicide, go mad, or retreat into substance abuse (sometimes covertly, other times in a very obvious way.)
They won the lottery - and it still didn't take away that gnawing feeling that life is empty and meaningless.
So what does?
The following things:
By contrast, when we make an effort to decode the hints that God is sending us via all the different facets of our interactions and experiences, absolutely everything in life becomes meaningful, because we know it's a tailor-made message from God, about something we need to work on, change or fix.
When people live with the reality that this world is just a temporary corridor, and that the real successes and achievements are the internal ones - like overcoming things like our anger, jealousy, ingratitude and hatred (OK, I have many more things to work on, on my own list, but hey, I have to keep some of my dignity...) - THEN the existential depression finally disappears, even if the 'externals' are not so good, or even downright bad.
Check out my book 'The Happy Workshop: An 8 week journey to real, lasting happiness' - click HERE to buy it on Amazon.
This week, I’m taking my tent and heading over to Even Sappir, in the Jerusalem suburbs, to participate in Israel’s first ever English speaking Wholistic Health Forum.
The Forum is running the whole week, and I’m planning to be there for most of it, as it sounds like an amazing opportunity to meet other Jewish holistic health professionals, learn about more of the up-and-coming techniques and approaches out there, and even (whisper it) enjoy myself, a little.
Hey, as soon as I don’t have to cook or hang washing, I’m already in a pretty good mood…
If you’re based in Israel and you’d like to come too, you can buy tickets online or on the door, by clicking HERE.
If you’d like to see the full program of speakers and events, take a look at the impressive line-up HERE.
And the last thing to tell you is that I’m speaking at the Forum myself, on Tuesday, May 17th, at 2.30 pm in the Marquee, on the topic of ‘Why the Jews Were Right About Holistic Health’.
So if you’re around, come say hello!
One of the most mind-boggling things about piecing all the information together about how body, mind and soul are really interconnected is how much science has been out there – for decades already – proving these connections beyond the shadow of a doubt.
A few months’ back, I wrote about the study done more than half a century ago, showing a direct correlation between serious illnesses and problematic relationships with parents.
Bernie Siegel’s book, particularly Love, Medicine and Miracles are also chock-full of scientific studies pointing up the connections between difficult, abusive childhood experiences and physical illness.
Then there’s Bessel Van Der Kolk’s excellent book, The Body Keeps the Score, which explores the issue from a different angle, namely how healing the body’s trauma is the key to healing their mental health and emotional issues, too. And again, his book is packed with literally hundreds of studies all showing that when people experience chronic trauma as children, normally as a result of abusive behavior by their main caregivers, it literally drives them insane, and causes them no-end of mental and physical health issues.
My latest ‘find’, if you can call it that, is something called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, that took place around 20 years’ ago.
At that time, between 1995 and 1997, researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US assessed the health of some 17,000 patients who underwent a complete check-up.
The researchers were trying to find out how experiencing the following things as a child:
They also explored whether ‘chaotic home environments’ – like having a parent with chronic depression or some other serious mental illness, drug abusing parents or divorced or bereaved parents, for example – could also impact the adult child’s physical health.
The people being assessed were solid ‘middle America’ types, not homeless folk, or people who lived in inner city projects. And the results were still stunning:
Two thirds of the people studied had experienced at least one category of ‘childhood adversity’ before turning 18; and one in six of the respondents had an ACE score of 4 or higher.
So, was there a connection between childhood adversity and the degree of illness experienced by the adult? When the study’s results were published in 1998, the correlation was so powerful that the researchers admitted to being ‘stunned’ by their findings.
In a nutshell, the higher the ACE score a person had, the more chronic and serious illness they were experiencing as an adult.
That study was published 18 years’ ago, already. In the two decades since, we’ve witnessed conventional medicine march proudly further down the path of ‘biology’ being the only answer to health, and drugs and surgery being the only solution to our physical illnesses.
Yet, study after study has been done showing that our EXPERIENCES as children have a much greater impact on our mental and physical health than our genes or biology.
One big reason why physical and mental illnesses appear to be genetic is because the same, dysfunctional, ill-making parenting behaviors are passed on to each new generation in turn, like some sort of twisted, sacred tradition. Whatever was done to you, you do to your children in turn – until you get the courage, insight and clarity to stop. And to think. And to try to change the pattern.
In the past week, I’ve had emails from a range of people suffering from serious illnesses. Most of them are keen to tell me that their childhoods were ‘great’, their parents are the most amazing people, and their terrible health issues are nothing to do with their ‘perfect’ family relationships.
But the science begs to differ. The science suggests that terrible, chronic illnesses, serious mental health problems and auto-immune conditions don’t just pop-up out of nowhere. Underneath the problem, you will always find some sort of terrible, traumatic experiences.
They could be horrible ‘one offs’ like being in a bad accident or experiencing a war on your doorstop. But more likely in our circles, it’s the more pernicious after-effects of having to live with people who don’t treat you like a human being, who treat you cruelly, and who continually put what’s best for them ahead of what’s best for you, regardless of how big a toll that takes.
It’s precisely when we can’t acknowledge or connect to our own pain that we get so terribly ill.
But who wants to look at this? Who wants to admit what’s really going on in our homes and families? It takes a brave person indeed to take the double-leap of breaking with the poisonous ‘norms’ of the past, and also to recognize that at least some of the time, they are also acting in that poisonous, abusive, ‘normal’ way with their own children.
The stakes are so high, aren’t they? Acknowledge the truth, and you’ll probably put yourself at odds with most of your family and friends (and feel very alone and lonely). Don’t acknowledge the truth, and you and your kids run a very high risk of being the next ones to come down with the serious illness, auto-immune condition, or emotional health problem.
I’ll come back to this subject more in subsequent posts, as there’s so much to say about it.
But for now, you can click on THIS LINK to take the ACE test on-line, and find your own ACE score.
Illness is not random, statistical or thanks to bad biology. Serious illness is a message from God that something – usually a whole bunch of big ‘somethings’ – need to change. That’s a hugely uncomfortable idea for most people, which is probably why this particular truth – and all the scientific studies out there backing it up – will continue to get buried and ignored, until more of us find the courage to stop pretending ‘everything’s OK’, and to admit what our bodies have been screaming at us for decades:
OUR FAMILY DYNAMICS ARE SERIOUSLY BROKEN, AND THEY NEED TO BE FIXED.
Bet you thought I forgot I was podcasting this stuff, didn't ya?
Truth is, it's been pretty busy the last few weeks, and it kind of fell of the radar. But now, it's fallen back on the radar, so here for your delight and delectation is Workshop 3: How to overcome the emotional knee-jerk reaction, when it comes to making our decisions.
Remember, if you want the free PDF that goes with this, then visit the Resources page and send me your email in the form there, and you'll get that (and any other goodies I'm in the process of putting together...) in the next day or so.
If you want to buy the paid version of the course, with all the worksheets and exercises, then please visit the Store page.
Lastly, if you're enjoying this stuff, please feel free to share it around. The more, the merrier.
Thank God, the print version of the journal is now available to buy on Amazon, HERE.
Here's the official blurb:
49 Days is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their mindfulness, inner dimension and relationships. Over the course of seven weeks, readers are encouraged to focus on one area of inner work at a time, ranging from love and relationships, all the way through to self-improvement, truth and the spiritual dimension.
This uplifting book's vibrant water-color images and innovative design really brings each day's work to life. Each day, Rivka Levy gives you a different exercise to do, to encourage self-development and reflection through writing, list-making, meditation and much more.
Based on the deep wisdom of the Jewish Kabbalah, each week's work builds on the next, with plenty of room for writing and reflecting. By the end of 49 days, readers will have much more insight into who they really are, what they really want to do in the world, and how to overcome any obstacles that could be holding them back from living their lives to the full.
As well as being a powerful tool for self-development, this beautifully-designed, full-color book will also make a perfect gift for that special someone.
It's selling for $12.99, so it really won't break the bank - and it could really help you to start getting underneath a whole bunch of the things that are holding you back in life, and to make the Omer really count, this year.
So, what are you waiting for?
Click HERE to buy the journal, and enjoy!
(And click HERE if you want to see the 49 Days slideshare, to whet your whistle.)