Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You are what you think

‘tis in ourselves that we are thus
or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which
our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant
nettles, or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up
thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs, or
distract it with many, either to have it sterile
with idleness, or manured with industry, why, the
power and corrigible authority of this lies in ourwills.

(Shakespeare, Othello, Act 1, Scene 3)

Mind is the wielder of muscles. The force of a hammer blow depends on the energy applied; the power expressed by a man’s bodily instrument depends on his aggressive will and courage. The body is literally manufactured and sustained by the mind. Through pressure of instincts from past lives, strengths or weaknesses percolate gradually into human consciousness. They express as habits, which in turn manifest as a desirable or an undesirable body. Outward frailty has a mental origin; in a vicious cycle, the habit-bound body thwarts the mind. If the master allows himself to be commanded by a servant, the latter becomes autocratic; the mind is similarly enslaved by submitting to bodily dictation.

Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, 1946.

So reading about the brain and how thoughts and experience can change its physical configuration (neuroplasticity), I wonder why stop with the brain? If the brain can change, why not the rest of the body?

I have not forgotten a long article I read in The New York Times more than ten years ago (now finally available through the miracle of online archiving), which describes how a person diagnosed with multiple personality disorder may have actual physical characteristics that come and go, depending on which personality is dominant:


For more than a century clinicians have occasionally reported isolated cases of dramatic biological changes in people with multiple personalities as they switched from one to another. These include the abrupt appearance and disappearance of rashes, welts, scars and other tissue wounds; switches in handwriting and handedness; epilepsy, allergies and color blindness that strike only when a given personality is in control of the body.


Today, using refined research techniques, scientists are bringing greater rigor to the study of multiple personalities and focusing on a search for the mechanisms that produce the varying physiological differences in each personality.


One of the problems for psychiatrists trying to treat patients with multiple personalities is that, depending which personality is in control, a patient can have drastically different reactions to a given psychiatric medication. For instance, it is almost always the case that one or several of the personalities of a given patient will be that of a child. And the differences in responses to drugs among the sub-personalities often parallel those ordinarily found when the same drug at the same dose is given to a child, rather than an adult.


[Also] …observation of vision differences…made by those treating multiple-personality cases. ''Many patients have told me they have a drawer full of eyeglasses at home, and they never are quite sure which to bring when they go out''….


Now what I need is to develop a personality that doesn't have spring allergies.

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