Daily Archives: May 23, 2009

The Spiritual Aspects of “Holistic” Medicine

The foundation of holism or holistic medicine rests on a triumvirate — body, mind and spirit. Actually, as the mind is an expression of the various regions of the brain — a species of the physical — we are really dealing with body/brain and spirit. The former, of course, has been probed and explored using the tools of medicine and science. No one questions their reality. Spirit, on the other hand, by most definitions is non-material, and thus lies beyond the purview of science; that is, one cannot demonstrate spirit using a gas chromatograph, scanning electron microscope, or any other tool in the armamentarium of science.

But what of the effects of spirit? If it exists, should we not be able to detect its effects on the physical realm? This is a question which now occupies many philosophers, some scientists and physicians, and many laypeople.

One very often cited manifestation of spirit lies in the realm of answered prayer. Numerous studies have been carried out in which patients with a given affliction were divided into two groups: One received prayer (experimental group) and the other (control group) didn’t. The prayers were offered off-site and no one involved in the study knew who was being prayed for and who wasn’t (double-blind).

The bottom line of many of these studies is that prayer appears to have made a significant difference in the relief or cure of the malady or affliction in the experimental group, while those in the control group had no appreciable change in their condition. The rigor of these studies has been found wanting by countless impartial investigators. That is, flaws in study design, methodology and/or execution have basically invalidated the findings of these clinical trials.

What of the healings connected with religious shrines, such as Lourdes? There have been approximately 69 healings connected with Lourdes which have met the Catholic church’s criteria for a bona fide miracle — 69 out of the hundreds of thousands of petitions for healing. This is not statistically significant. In short, the numbers do not support the notion that the rate of recovery/healing at Lourdes is greater than would be expected to occur as a result of normal processes. (One can expect a certain percentage of even incurable illnesses to suddenly and inexplicably go into remission. These recoveries happen to non-believer and believer alike — and hence appear contingent on natural and not supernatural mechanisms.)

I know what many of you are thinking — “Leave it to a skeptical, non-believing blankety-blank scientist to trash our sacred beliefs.” If you are nodding your head in agreement — you are dead wrong. First of all, I am a theist. I also believe that God hears and answers prayer — and even heals people through various means including the ministrations of physicians. Well, wait a minute, isn’t this contradictory or hypocritical, given what I wrote above? No, indeed, for I do not allege that my beliefs are based on hard science nor the manifestations of spirit, or God so physically evident as to permit measurement or quantification. In fact, those who believe that spirit, God, or any aspect of the supernatural can be demonstrated in a controlled study or lab experiment invite upon themselves the unenviable task of proving their claims. (It is always incumbent on those who propose the existence of something which can be physically detected and, thus measured, to do just that.) And I, for one, do not believe that they will ever garner any substantive proof. Why?

Consider this: In virtually every religious tradition God requires that humankind both apprehend His existence and relate to him via faith — a conviction based not on the physical and demonstrable, but on sheer belief. If God were to reveal Himself in the lab or clinical trial setting — say, by answering the prayers for healing in an experimental group at rates which exceed chance — the need for faith would be dispensed with. We could base our confidence, our belief in the spiritual and a First Cause (God) on the hard data provided by the study in question.

This, of course, would make God the author of a serious contradiction and would obligate most major religions to toss out many of their principle doctrines concerning the nature of the deity, the need for faith as a requisite for apprehending the divine, et cetera. It would also raise serious questions as to the reliability of revealed truths about God (oral and written traditions).

Since I do not believe God would ask one thing (faith) and then reveal Himself in a concrete, scientifically demonstrable fashion, I am not surprised or dismayed that laboratory experiments and clinical trials do not turn upon any credible data which stands up to scrutiny. I also realize, however, that there are some who believe that faith isn’t the only requisite to apprehending God or the supernatural and will continue to carry out studies aimed at catching a glimpse of the divine in action.

In my opinion they are wasting both time and money, but should they one day prove to be right — if they do incontrovertibly demonstrate the efficacy of prayerful supplication (to God) in healing a given malady — skeptic and believer alike will be making some rather profound changes to their distinct perspectives. This isn’t beyond the pale of possibility. I think, however, that such definitive proof will in some ways weigh more heavily on the religionist then the agnostic or skeptic.

While the debate rages and the studies plod along, what role then should the spiritual play in healing/medicine? I think most physicians — even diehard atheists — at the very least accommodate a narrow species of “spirituality,” in the sense of encouraging hope and making use of patient expectation to afford relief, if not cure.

In holistic medicine, on the other hand, the spiritual element more often takes on a different character and importance. The holistic medical community plays host to wide range of spiritual beliefs, including American Indian, New Age, Buddhist, Christian. As long as this spirituality is not called “scientific” or “hard science-based,” or makes claims which can be tested using the tools and methods of science, its place in the patient care repertoire of holistic health care practitioners remains a matter of personal prerogative. And doesn’t faith and personal prerogative lie at the core of human spirituality?

In the final analysis, I think we will find that the substantiation of faith begins and ends on one’s knees — and in one’s heart — and not in the laboratory. 

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved

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Preventing or Slowing Liver Damage in Drinkers

silhouette of alcoholic drunk man drinking whiskey bottle feeling depressed falling into addiction problemAlcohol-induced disease is fairly commonplace among individuals who abuse alcohol. Fibrosis and cirrhosis by-and-large head the list. In both cases, abnormal changes take place in liver tissue that compromise this vital organ’s ability to function optimally. For many people who drink, a doctor’s finding of liver pathology (disease) is sufficient to get them to either curtail their drinking or abstain altogether (Whether on a temporary or permanent basis).

For others, however, a diagnosis of cirrhosis or other alcohol-induced disease does not put “the fear of God in ’em” with sufficient force for them to overcome the craving to elbow bend. What follows is information concerning a “dose of prevention” that may just spare the heavy drinker some grief down the line (Albeit this is by no means an argument to continue excessive drinking!)

This said, I would urge consistent moderate drinkers to pay attention to what I am about to share as well, as they too have the potential to experience liver damage over time that may not be readily repaired (and which could set the stage for problems later on in life).

A Dose of Prevention

In at least two separate animal studies carried out during the past fifteen years, a natural compound called lecithin protected animals who consumed booze in great quantities. Indeed, the animals were protected from developing many of the pathologic abnormalities common when alcohol is abused. Here are the details of this very compelling body of research:

In a study involving rats, 28 male littermates were pair-fed liquid diets containing 36% of energy either as ethanol (alcohol) or as additional carbohydrates for 21 days. Half of these rodents were given polyenylphosphatidylcholine (A component of lecithin) at 3 grams per liter of their food substrate (Liquid meals). The other group was given safflower oil (3 grams/liter) and choline (A chemical part of lecithin) as a bitatrate salt. The polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC) did not influence diet intake or alcohol consumption, but the booze-induced liver enlargement and accumulation of specific fats (lipids – triglycerides and cholesterol esters) and proteins were about half those in rats not given PPC. In rats that consumed PPC, post-eating rise in serum lipids was lower than was true of their littermates who had no PPC. The researchers, who worked at the Alcohol Research and Treatment Center, Bronx Veteran Affairs Medical Center (New York City), concluded that “These beneficial effects of PPC at the initial stages of alcoholic liver injury may prevent or delay the progression to more advanced forms of alcoholic liver disease” (1).

In a separate 10 year-long study involving baboons, also carried out at the Bronx Veteran Affairs Center (Section of Liver Disease and Nutrition), the suggested benefits of lecithin ingestion were even more encouraging.

In the study, twelve baboons (eight females, four males) were fed a liquid diet rich in alcohol supplemented with polyunsaturated lecithin (50% of total energy) or isocaloric carbohydrate. This group was compared with another group of eighteen baboons who were fed an equivalent diet (with or without alcohol), but without of lecithin. (2) Both groups developed increases in specific lipids (associated with alcohol use), but there were significant differences in the degree of liver injury (fibrosis) seen. For one thing, septal fibrosis (with cirrhosis in two animals) and transformation of their fat cells (lipocytes) into transitional cells developed in seven of the nine baboons fed the regular diet with alcohol. Septal fibrosis did not develop in any of the animals fed lecithin! In fact, they did not progress beyond the stage of perivenular (area around veins) fibrosis and had significantly lesser activation of fat cells to transitional cells. (3) The clincher came when the scientists took three of the lecithin-consuming animals off same but maintained their customary diet and alcohol mix. They very rapidly progressed to cirrhosis, accompanied by an increased transformation of their fat cells to transitional cells!

The fact these researchers found that choline exerted no protective effect in animals ingesting large quantities of alcohol led them to conclude that the polyunsaturated phospholipids might be responsible for the protective effect. This is underscored by the rodent study cited above, in which choline did not protect the animals from alcohol-induced liver damage, whereas PPC (Lecithin component) did. (4)

Baboon livers are remarkably similar to human livers (This is one reason an attempt was made many years back to transplant baboon livers into humans whose livers had failed). Given this, it seems logical that lecithin should provide human drinkers at least some of the benefits seen in the baboons. Accordingly, for those who drink — especially heavily — lecithin may be an invaluable form of health insurance. It is also easy on the pocketbook, being sold “dirt cheap” in health food and grocery stores plus pharmacies across the land.

In addition to lecithin, there are other compounds that if taken by drinkers should help reduce the damage to their livers.

For example, in alcoholics the conversion of the amino acid methionine to S-adensylmethionine (SAM-e) is significantly reduced. In baboon models of alcoholism, the animals experienced alcoholic cirrhosis that was opposed by replenishing SAM-e. Other lines of research indicate that bolstering SAM-e levels in human alcoholics decreases mortality, and offsets oxidative stress resulting from alcohol and alcohol byproduct induction of a liver detoxification enzyme designated cytochrome P4502E1 (CYP2E1).

SAM-e can readily be replenished by taking an oral form that reaches the bloodstream intact.

As the liver is a prime site for manufacture of one of the bodies most powerful antioxidants, glutathione, it logically follows that heavy use of alcohol would impact synthesis of this compound. And indeed, at least one animal study indicates this to be the case.

Fortunately, glutathione can be orally supplemented. However, not just any form of glutathione will work, as most forms are broken down in the gut and thus never reach the bloodstream intact. There are patented forms that resist breakdown until the glutathione has reached tissues throughout the body.

Of course, when it comes to drinking to excess – be it binge drinking or habitual heavy imbibing — curtailing or quitting is ideal. Those caught up in this sort of drinking pattern should seek professional help. But for addicts, alcohol abusers, and just plain ole social drinkers, offsetting some of the injury boozing does to the body (liver especially) is a prudent measure. The judicious use of lecithin, SAM-e and the right form of glutathione should readily help in this regard.

If only a small fraction of those who imbibe heavily take lecithin, SAM-e and glutathione benefit in terms of staving off the many diseases linked to alcohol abuse, the savings in terms of payouts for medical care and lost time from work alone could prove very substantial! This is a blessing to both the individual drinker and society at large.

See also: End stage cirrhosis reversed with nontoxic treatment

Dr. Anthony G. Payne

References

1. Navder KP, Baraona E, Lieber CS. ‘Polyenylphosphatidylcholine attenuates alcohol-induced fatty liver and hyperlipidemia in rats’. J. Nutrition, Sep;127 (9): 1800-6.
2. Liber CS, DeCarli LM, Mak KM, Kim CI, Leo MA. ‘Attenuation of alcohol-induced hepatic fibrosis by polyunsaturated lecithin’. Hepatology 1990 Dec;12 (6):1390-8 3. IBID 4. IBID
3. Liber, CS, ‘New Concepts of the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease lead to novel treatments, Curr Gastroenterol Rep 2004 Feb;6(1):60-5
4. Kessova IG, Ho YS, Thung S, Cederbaum AI, ‘Alochol-induced liver injury in mice lacking Cu, Zn-superoxide dismutase,’ Hepatology. 2003 Nov;38(5):1136-45
Original article upon which this piece is derived © 2003 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

This article © 2010 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or instruction. Readers are advised to consult a licensed health care professional concerning all matters related to their health and well being

 

Want to be multiorgasmic?

Why are some folks naturally multiorgasmic? Female biologic advantages aside, the key player appears to be prolactin. Various studies have shown that prolactin is released at orgasm and plays a role in post-orgasmic sexual “repose”. Conversely, various other studies have shown that people with low or almost nonexistent prolactin levels can have orgasm after orgasm after orgasm ad infinitum. Is there any way in which to safely lower prolactin levels and thus help facilitate becoming multi-orgasmic? Perhaps so (The drug bromocriptine can accomplish this, but has side effects that may argue against its use in many folks). The medicinal herb Chaste Tree Berry (Castes Agnes-Vitex) has been shown to reduce prolactin levels in human users.  

 http://www.iherb.com/Planetary-Herbals-Full-Spectrum-Vitex-Extract-500-mg-120-Tablets/1611?at=0References

References

 Kruger TH, Haake P, Haverkamp J, Kramer M, Exton MS, Saller B, Leygraf N, Hartmann U, Schedlowski M, ‘Effects of acute prolactin manipulation on sexual drive and function in males,’ J Endocrinol. 2003 Dec;179(3):357-65.

Haake P, Exton MS, Haverkamp J, Kramer M, Leygraf N, Hartmann U, Schedlowski M, Krueger TH, ‘Absence of orgasm-induced prolactin secretion in a healthy multi-orgasmic male subject’, Int J Impot Res. 2002 Apr;14(2):133-5.

Wuttke W, Jarry H, Christoffel V, Spengler B, Seidlova-Wuttke D,’ Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)–pharmacology and clinical indications’, Phytomedicine. 2003 May;10(4):348-57.

Fascination with Dying & Death: Death as Participation (Which is Generally Adaptive)

Background: As you likely are aware, there has been a lot of research written up in newspapers and science periodicals and web pages that focuses on the nature of consciousness and the brain mechanisms that give rise to it. I do not want to delve into so weighty a topic as consciousness, but instead just want to draw your attention to mirror neurons and cortical-limbic (higher mental processes-emotions) connections. It is these that facilitate identification with others including experiencing their emotions be it anger, terror, joy, etc. as though we ourselves were experiencing these feelings. This makes explicable, in part, our love affair with certain novels, movies, documentaries, and life experiences. It also provides at least a partial explanation for why we are generally fascinated with injury, death and dying (Don’t tell me you don’t rubberneck at accident scenes or find some aspects of death and dying curiously compelling.  I am not talking out morbid obsessions or pathological “enjoyment”, but rather natural curiosity informed by a sense of identification with the dying or soon-to-die soul).  It is these brain mechanisms which I’d like to posit as one of the main players in human fascination with death and dying; mechanisms which are also, I contend, adaptive in some respects.     

Humbly Submitted for Your Consideration:

The individuality and social belonging and cohesiveness engendered by the neural mechanisms cited above, influenced and shaped by one’s native home life and culture and such, lends us to be everything from loners to “the life of the party” (The boorish extrovert). This self-same set of neural modules – consciousness – also makes us aware of our own mortality and that of others. We find ourselves thus fearful of death – yet drawn to it. Sometimes the greater the fear experienced, the greater the curiosity about the process of dying and death. We want to both understand and by so doing disarm or at least lesson our fear and the resultant anxiety or unease it engenders in us. Or if nothing else desensitize ourselves to it, and by so doing surmount or transcend our fear or distress.

Given this, the historic and ongoing fascination people experience when it comes to death becomes explicable: It arises from a combination of curiosity and participation in the sufferings and death of others. We rehearse our own death, in short.  When this participation – -this empathetic tie – with the dying is one tempered by sympathy and concern, we experience death as pain. When the dying is the object of our revulsion or dislike or even hatred, there may be an element of pleasure associated with his or her passing.  These feelings also engage our sense of competitiveness – of wanting to survive – of being left standing while another or others have not been so fortunate. History shows that this is natural; that is, part of the human condition; a feature of our evolved brain.   

If most or all empathy is lacking and death is inflicted or observed as sexually exciting or pleasurable in another sense, then the normal mechanisms have become pathologic. This is the world of the sociopathic killer – single strike or serial or what-have-you.

 Of course, participating (neutrally, so-to-speak) in the dying process and death of a relative or historic personage can be adaptive and is so, I would argue. In short, it reduces death anxiety and by so doing frees us to better focus on living and thriving as we do so. Or if our circumstances are onerous, it can liberate us to carry on the good fight; to wage the good fight to hang on and survive to see a better day.

This little excursion into the “Shadowlands” is not comprehensive. I like to leave room for my readers to think and ‘cuss & discuss’ within themselves and others.

Here are some posted writings of mine that may inform your own cogitations on dying and death:

http://www.healingcare4u.org/inflicted-violent-death.html

http://www.healingcare4u.org/quick-bytes.htm#anchor3

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.  Private communication use permitted.

Frankl & Custer: We are all headed to the Little Big Horn

Dr AG Payne - May 2017One of the most beloved verses in the Hebrew Scriptures comes from the 23rd Psalms:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For you are with me

In Japan, where I lived and taught for many years, a general sense of “gloom & doom” pessimism pervaded the lives of many folks. This was especially evident among my university students. Japan’s protracted economic woes had apparently sapped the vision and vitality out of many of these otherwise industrious, tenacious souls. A great many kids spoke of there being “no real future” for them. Needless to say, depression and despair reared its ugly head fairly often.

Now reactive depression is a wholly expected and understandable response to intractable adversity or woe. We all have a tendency to get sorely vexed when our lives are turned upside down and held there by trials and tribulations. In such a situation, one tries to console and counsel the suffering as best one can. (A touch of satire and self-deprecating humor sometimes doesn’t hurt either). And this I ably extended to my angst-ridden student charges with varying degrees of success. But more was needed.

The “more”, I reasoned, had to lie in something that would get these kids to change their outlook or perspective on certain aspects of life. To do this I looked to a tried-and-true source for generating insight and encouraging change: history. Specifically, I had my students tackle and examine two notable chapters: Famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s account of his years of struggle in various Nazi concentration camps (as recounted in his timeless classic, “Man’s Search For Meaning”), and the saga of Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

Dr. Frankl and his imprisoned compatriots suffered cruelly at the hands of sadistic SS guards, all the while struggling with scarcity and living conditions so calculatingly appalling as to beggar the imagination. Mindful that he could not change his circumstances and that his Nazi tormenters could snuff out his life at any minute, Frankl nonetheless felt empowered by a single fact: They could take everything from him but his power to choose how he would react to their brutal actions! And it was this realization that essentially helped buoy up Dr. Frankl during his agonizing walk through the “valley of the shadow of death”!

Frankl emerged from Hitler’s reign of terror intact and went on to establish an influential school of psychotherapy called logotherapy (http://logotherapy.univie.ac.at/). He died in 1997 at the ripe old age of 92, having survived the Third Reich by 52 years.

Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument,
While Dr. Viktor Frankl was the victim of totalitarian oppression and a state-sanctioned policy of malignant racism and genocide, Brevet Major Gen. George Armstrong Custer stood on the other side of the divide, so to speak. Custer played a somewhat pivotal role in the United State’s 19th century pursuit of lebensraum (“living space”) and its calculated program of conquering and containing indigenous peoples (American Indians). It was not Custer’s successes in the so-called Indian War that helped advance the narrow social and political agenda of his time, but rather his death along with that of over 200 of his soldiers at the Little Big Horn (June 26, 1876). The “massacre” of then Lt. Col. Custer and his troops elicited a massive military response that ultimately led to the total subjugation of American Indians during the early years of the 20th century.

After my students had fully acquainted themselves with the lives and feats of Dr. Frankl and Lt. Col. Custer, I had them conduct an open comparative analysis of the two (men) for the purpose of extracting principles they felt to be especially insightful and personally meaningful.

Of course, these bright, eager young people came up with an illustrious roster of “goodies”. Among them: The power of choice; how evil seduces people by playing up to their basic desires and egos; the futility of life spent focused on narrow, self-serving and self-aggrandizing goals; the nobility of service to others informed by prior suffering; etc.
After we had reviewed their litany of ideas and comments, I asked them to sum up what we had learned from the lives of Frankl and Custer. The general consensus was that we must all have the power to make choices that will steer us through life; choices that may decide whether we end our days with a tally sheet that favors having achieved something worthwhile,…..or its opposite.

I had only one thing to add to what their conclusion, which was this:

“Each of us is headed into the valley…to our own “last stand”. Whether you get there as a young person or during middle-age or as a very old man or woman,….we all have to the enter the valley and depart this world. No one escapes this fate. But as you correctly surmised, it isn’t that final battle alone that determines the meaning and value of the life you have lived, but what you do in the days, weeks, and years leading up to it. And yes, the impact of your life and the ripples it sets in motion are determined by the choices and subsequent actions you take while enroute to the valley.

“Now I have but one final point to make – an admonition, really – which is this:

“If Dr. Frankl could exercise choice in his dire circumstances and by so doing not only survive the fiendish horror that was Nazi Germany, but set in motion ideas that have transformed countless lives ever since,….then certainly you can lay hold of the promise that lies in the abundant choices and options you have in life.”

Of those students who have stayed in contact with me in the intervening years, most appear to have made prudent choices that have helped them forge personally meaningful, productive and fulfilling lives.

How goes your journey to the valley?

© 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved. Photo of Dr. Payne made & added in 2017.

Terrorist beheadings and other forms of inflicted, violent death: Are victims aware of what is happening around them after their heart and lungs have stopped working?

ISISThe many beheadings carried out by insurgents in Iraq during the past year or so not unexpectedly generated expressions of revulsion and denunciation far and wide. It is difficult for all but the most callous souls not to feel pangs of anguish for those who have been dealt this grisly fate. No doubt many of you have at one time or another found yourself trying to imagine the thoughts and feelings of the victims prior to and during decapitation. And then thinking, “Were they aware of anything following this despicable act?”

This concern has a lot to do with our human capacity to emphasize and sympathize with others, but there is an element of “enlightened self-interest” in our curiosity and even fascination with dying and death. When we ask “What did that poor soul experience?”, we are in some way seeking in the death of others some idea of what we might sense or think or visualize as we go through our own final, irreversible “systems failure”.

Modern science has amassed a great deal of evidence that the dying brain can and often does generate a wide range of images and such, not unexpectedly reflective of individual beliefs, expectation, and history. But what of the period immediately following cessation of heart and lungs? For example, does the brain of a just severed head continue to function?

Consider this account tendered by a French physician named Beaurieux who attended the state-sanctioned guillotining of a criminal named Languille during the early morning hours of June 28th, 1905 (France abolished the death penalty in 1981):

Read the rest of this entry

Acquisition, Preservation against loss, and Perpetuation: The Basic Drives Underlying Biology & Evolution As Expressed in Human Psychology & Culture

Are there certain primal (core), universal traits or drives which act as a kind of behavioral template for our species? Which give rise to and are expressed in terms of our basic individual and collective behavior? A biological version of the Holy Grail of Physics – Grand Unification? (In a word, a small number of natural drives or instincts which undergird and give rise to much of human behavior?)

In concert with Darwin, William James, E. O. Wilson, and innumerable others, I would respond with a resounding “yes”. And like them, I believe that the origins of the “psychobiological template” were forged in the crucible of evolution.

In June of 1998, the notion of fundamental or primal drives was big news. Researchers at Ohio State University conducted an extensive study and concluded that there are 15 desires which underlie most human behavior. “Nearly everything important a human being wants can be reduced to one or more of these 15 core desires, most of which have a genetic basis,” said Steven Reiss, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University. “These desires are what guide our actions. In a sense, we are studying the meaning of life.”

This body of research was published in the June 1998 issue of the Journal of Psychological Assessment.

These are the 15 basic or fundamental human desires and values revealed by the Reiss et al study:

Curiosity – desire to learn

Food – desire to eat

Honor – (morality) desire to behave in accordance with code of conduct

Rejection – fear of social rejection     

Sex – desire for sexual behavior and fantasies

Physical exercise – desire for physical activity

Order – desired amount of organization in daily life    .

Independence – desire to make own decisions

Vengeance – desire to retaliate when offended

Social Contact – desire to be in the company of others

Family – desire to spend time with own family

Social Prestige – desire for prestige and positive attention

Aversive Sensations – aversion to pain and anxiety

Citizenship – desire for public service and social justice

Power – desire to influence people

round glossy button effectI, on the other hand, would argue that there are 3 basic or core drives which include and subsume Reiss’s fifteen. Briefly:

Life at its most fundamental level involves acquisition of resources to insure survival, prevention of loss or compromise of resources vital to life, and the perpetuation of the genome (Reproduction). Those traits and behaviors which help an individual satisfy these life-sustaining and preserving “essentials” are selected for; that is, they get the job done – are adaptive – and thus lend those who possess them to leave behind viable offspring (This is known as differential reproduction in biological parlance).

Acquisition, prevention of loss (defense), and perpetuation lie at the heart of biology and its explosive success on this planet. As such one would expect to see them conserved throughout the course of biological evolution with discernible expression in the individual and collective behavior of “higher” animals. This does indeed appear to be the case.

 

Acquisition

The acquisition of adequate food, water, shelter and warmth to sustain life is obviously a high priority. If not met, we die off. It is that simple. How we secure these necessities is the stuff of which everything from clans to tribal cultures to first world nation-states and economies are built on. In the long run it behooves a collection of social creatures (people) to cooperatively nail down the basics of life. If each person is left to their own devices – or selfishness or cheating is considered a virtue – human survival on the whole is adversely affected. In this sort of society a few survive and thrive at the expense of the less capable, but theirs is an existence which is given to conflict and xenophobia, if not downright paranoia. One-upmanship can be carried to the point of mutual extermination.

Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow rather brilliantly and succinctly captured this in his various works on human conduct and psychology. The first order of acquisition is the physiological basics. Once these are met, we are individually and collectively more at liberty to explore other wants, desires and needs (Internet keyword phrase: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

The man or woman who goes out to work in order to provide for self and family is satisfying the biologic imperative to acquire that which will help guarantee survival. It is universally recognized and in our culture elevated to the level of being a virtue (Protestant Work Ethic).

In most cases, mature humans concurrently seek to satisfy the physiological basics and reproduce. Both are expressions of resource acquisition. Procreation is fundamental to the preservation of the species. It also furnishes the parents with both an investment and a resource; that is, an investment in the sense that the necessities of life, love, nurturing, etc., are directed at producing healthy, viable progeny who will not only carry the family germ line into the future, but provide the parents with “dividends” (resources) in terms of psychological, (possibly) material support, comfort, grandchildren, etc.

But not every parent does a great job of child rearing and not every child comes out right. Acquisition is the drive, but its expression can be thwarted, perverted or nullified. Adaptive traits such as ambition, competitiveness, willingness to negotiate and compromise for mutual benefit, the quest for power over circumstances, etc., can become maladaptive if pushed to extremes, seriously thwarted or otherwise corrupted. The ambition/competitiveness which encourages a father and/or mother to secure employment and work hard can become unbridled and give way to negative manifestations of this: Workaholism, coworker envy, greed, etc. The flip side of emotional satisfaction and sexual gratification (Acquisition) can be obsession, sexual addiction, narcissism, and neurosis. If these defects do not destroy the family structure or sacrifice the ability of progeny to cope with the world and lead successful lives, the family unit limps on. If the degree of dysfunction is seriously pathological, the family unit disintegrates and the effects ripple through the ensuing generations. If transgenerational maladaptive behaviors are not altered and more healthy patterns established, the dysfunctional line may go extinct through various adverse means: Suicide, homicide, infertility, socioeconomic marginalization to the point of starvation, compromise of hygiene and health with resultant onset of acute and/or chronic disease, et cetera.

Maladaptive traits can, in a social context, bring about conditions and responses (both within and outside the family) which essentially select the dysfunctional family member or unit out of existence. Of course, a society can enact programs which blunt this selection or winnowing process. When looked at as an investment which may return dividends to a given society down the line, this species of altruism is probably a wise form of cultural, if not species ” insurance”.

As indicated (above), acquisition is derived from and informed by biology. We can see this very readily in human mating patterns: Men and women exhibit courtship/mating preferences and post-marital patterns which reflect differential parental investment in offspring. Women, who invest more biological and personal resources into bringing children (gestation) into the world, would tend to seek out a mate who will produce genetically healthy children and help sustain them (Bring home at least part of the bacon). And since it is often women who invest the most in terms of time and energy in rearing progeny, they would naturally be inclined to select a mate who will be both emotionally faithful and actively involved in the support and protection of the family unit. Men, on the other hand, who invest little in the reproductive process (“sperm donors” is an apt term) and are apparently hormonally driven to maximize reproductive opportunities, would be more inclined to get progeny into the world and on their way through life, and then seek out other mating opportunities. This is exactly what cross cultural statistics indicates. Most divorces occur during or following the fourth year of marriage, just after the first child or two has been born and reached a sufficient age to suggest that “smooth sailing” is ahead, i.e., the child(ren) are healthy and viable, and will most likely remain so. Of course, this isn’t fair from most religious and ethical perspectives. Indeed, our society has enacted legislation to penalize men who abandon their family and eschew material (and possibly some degree of emotional) support for the children they have sired. But it (divorce) is a fact which appears to reflect a pronounced biological tendency in males.

Societies have various solutions to keeping men committed to the marriage and family. In over 85% of human cultures, polygamy is the order of the day. This is obviously one way in which a man can “have his cake and eat it to”, i.e., stay true to his first mate and offspring – while maximizing his reproductive opportunities. (Of course, polygamous unions have their built in limits – namely, resources. If the resources necessary to sustain the family are seriously compromised, the intrafamily dynamic can be strained and even rupture). In some of the societies which have outlawed polygamy, women tolerate their men having mistresses and “one night stands”. This is not to say either approach is ethical in the classic Judeo-Christian sense, but it does bear testimony to what both men and women will do to accommodate biological propensities. Again, this “battle of the sexes” (or battle for sex) reflects the basic acquisition drive (mates, progeny, security, protection, etc.) informed by biology.

Once women and men fully comprehend the desire to acquire through a biological/Darwinian lens, certain behavioral traits and tendencies become not only explicable, but potentially amenable to intervention and modification.

On a larger scale, acquisition finds expression in the activities of nation-states. Many of history’s most successful conquerors were expressly bent on expanding the economic and other resources available to the nation or confederation of nations they led. Other members of this fraternity apparently had in mind their own glorification, if not deification. However, the people who followed these megalomaniacs on wars of conquest did (and still do so) so for reasons more often practical or “down to Earth” then not: The major player being patriotism/nationalism, which boils down to protecting existing resources from real or perceived enemies and/or acquiring more resources (In the past, war and voyages of exploration/conquest and commercial gain brought a welcomed human resource to many nations: Namely, slaves). The justification for bloody conquest can be as straightforward as the desire for booty – xenophobic clashes born of differences in culture, language, etc. – or as esoteric as assumed racial or ethnic superiority packaged as a mandate to conquer and even exterminate the untermenschen [The race(s) and/or ethnic group(s) deemed inferior]. The manifestations are many and varied, but the underlying drive is biological (Acquisition).

Consider the embrace of virulent racism and dictatorship by technologically advanced, seemingly “civilized” cultures in the early to middle part of this century:

The rise of fascism in Europe and the Far East in the 1920s and 1930s was the stepchild of economic depression and resultant privation (Loss and compromise of resources). Whether men such as Adolf Hitler truly cared for the people they led is both doubtful and irrelevant; that he possessed the insight to artfully exploit the human desire to protect resources and acquire new ones (to flourish) is born out by the slogans and propaganda he and his cronies employed to garner popular support for the Nazi Party (NSDAP). One example: Fur freiheit und brot! (Translated: For freedom and bread). The fact the Nazis passed out free bread to hungry, unemployed Germans – thus linking Nazism with the acquisition and distribution of resources – was not lost on the common people. The interplay of post-WWI political unrest, loss of resources and national pride, scapegoating fueled by long-standing xenophobia and prejudice, and a national tendency towards fervent militarism set the stage for the ascent of the Nazis. The almost idolatrous homage paid the Fuhrer (Hitler) by a nation-state grateful to have its glory (Resources) restored and expanded becomes perfectly explicable when viewed as a manifestation of human evolved nature. The Nazis, of course, took adaptive traits to unhealthy, maladaptive extremes. This flip side of acquisition – blatant evil – was proximally successfully, but ultimately catastrophic [And thus Nazi Germany decisively armed the history-based observation/axiom that oppressive dictatorships,  especially those predicated on elitism and calculated violence, actually exploits (in the name of liberation) and then stifles the basic human drive to acquire, retain and protect resources. What begins as a successful shortcut to gain for the masses and its leaders succumbs to the maladaptive extremes it was both born of and generates. e.g., sadism, conflict, and perversion].

The democratic approach to generating opportunities for resource acquisition and distribution exemplified by the American sociopolitical and economic system would appear, despite all its pitfalls and failings, to offer the most benign and yet productive framework for expressing the basic human drive to acquire. That is, adaptive traits are actually accommodated if not nurtured by the law of the land, i.e., freedom is granted to the citizenry to pursue material gain, a mate of one’s choice, sire progeny, etc., while the law concomitantly penalizes those who attempt to usurp or monopolize resources, blatantly steal them or employ them in such a way as to bring greater harm than good. This is not to say there are not inequities, injustices, and the marginalization of many citizens. However, the sociopolitical means exist to redress these, up to and including completely voting in a new form of government. It is conceivable that one day Americans may elect to marry political democracy to economic democracy, so as to more equitably distribute resources and thus insure that the existing poverty-stricken, marginalized underclass does not grow or become a permanent sociopolitical feature. Many European nations have been and are experimenting with various permutations of social democracy or democratic socialism to achieve this very end. Whether Americans will find wisdom in this trend and thus adapt some form of it as national policy remains to be seen. At any rate, the American political experiment would appear to both free and restrict the drive to acquire in such a way as to favor the common good.

Protection from Loss

What we acquire (develop or inherit), e.g., good health, resources (tangible and intangible), progeny, esteem, etc., we naturally seek to protect from loss or compromise. This is a basic, fundamental human activity, akin to if not derived from the survival instinct. What we as individuals and as social collectives (even nation-states) carve out we seek to insure against loss; to preserve, if not expand.

At the family unit level, men and women employ posturing, strength, the law or what-have-you to protect their mate, children, possessions, and possibly kin from inflicted loss or compromise (Whether on the part of others or nature). The rifle over the fireplace mantle and the insurance policy in the family strongbox are both tools for protecting the family against grievous loss. If one’s progeny, in particular, succumb to violent acts inflicted by others, the genetic imperative to produce and leave behind viable progeny is compromised (In essence one’s representation in the gene pool – the continuity of the family germ line – is threatened).

In certain tribal communities this propensity to protect may take the form of ruling counsels and military chieftains. Field commanders essentially lead villagers to fend off attacks aimed at compromising the village’s integrity (Both its existence & established resource base). In larger collectives such as the nation-states, we have professional armies and navies whose sole task is to defend the populace against aggression from other nations bent on conquest (Acquisition of resources).

The adaptive role of protection is so self-evident, most peoples have written it into their religious and national codes of law. For example: If a man or woman kills an intruder who is perceived to threaten life or limb, that person is held blameless.

Of course, the basic drive to protect can be pushed to or assume maladaptive extremes. People can and do twist “protecting what’s mine” into a pretext for smothering possessiveness, greed, envy and even the pathological control of others. Fear of loss or a desire to limit the possibility of it occurring – say, a mate taking a lover or running off (Read: Resource compromise or loss) – can turn a protective stance into a “fortress mentality”. Authoritarian-prone leaders of nations sometimes fall prey to a similar mindset – played out on a grander scale. The end result of both is predictably bleak.

Perpetuation

To seek to perpetuate one’s germline line and resources (material gains/immaterial contributions & legacy) into the future is a natural partner and outgrowth of both acquisition and protection. One acquires resources, a mate, and has children, all the while engaged in trying to protect this accumulated treasure-trove in order to perpetuate biological (and personal) presence in the world of today and far beyond. In most other animals, the drive to acquire and protect biological and material resources is instinctive and perpetuation the reward for success. In humans, perpetuation is all this and more: It is distinguished by being simultaneously a natural drive and a conscious objective. This is, I contend, an outgrowth of our unique cognizance of our own mortality (Something no other extant animal species shares).

Consider: While religious faith comforts and reassures believers concerning a transcendent postmortem reality (Afterlife)* – which is adaptive in terms of reducing anxiety surrounding death, dissolution of self, etc. – it seldom totally liberates individuals from the deep-seated notion that the only certain immortality is found in progeny (and/or kin – especially for those sterile or not given to reproduce for whatever reason) and in acquiring those resources which nurture the familial line and thus better insure it’s continuity. This unconscious element no doubt finds expression in conscious planning with regard to perpetuation of self in various guises: Offspring (being primary); ideas and memories passed down through kin, friends, and others; businesses or other enterprises which bear one’s name as both legacy and “physical presence” in the world that lies beyond our demise; et cetera. No doubt the modern cryogenic preservation of the dead in hopes of future reanimation reflects this very human drive to both perpetuate and be perpetual.

Given this human tendency rooted in biology, it should come as no surprise that “To die to self’ is no easier to achieve in our day than when first articulated by Rabbi Yehoshua (“Jesus of Nazareth”) nearly two thousand years ago. Yes, we do have many examples of people who die for strangers. St. Maximilian Kolbe took the place of a married man condemned to be starved to death at Auschwitz death camp during World War II. Newspapers routinely contain accounts of people of all ages sacrificing their own lives to spare others certain death. Are these acts consonant with our nature or do they transcend them? Perhaps both. Kolbe laid down his human life in order to acquire what he counted a greater reward: A place in God’s realm. He compromised the drive to “preserve” in order to “acquire” something of far greater value. Many who sacrifice themselves no doubt have internalized (and act out of) similar religious beliefs and convictions. While on the other hand, the sacrificial and heroic acts of at least some are born on the heels of a deep seated desire to gain more tangible rewards, such as recognition, honor, and material compensation. Some folks probably blend the two. At any rate, self-sacrifice would appear to both harmonize with and transcend the basic or primal drives.

As perpetuation is an adaptive trait, it follows that it has a dark side. We need look no further than individuals who build business empires and continue seeking to acquire more, even when this actually uproots and destroys other business and their employees. The reasons given include “it is challenging”, “the quest for more is an end in itself*, “it benefits the economy and thus society at large” etc. Are these the underlying motivations or mere rationalizations offered for a much deeper desire? That is, are we not witnessing the conscious desire to perpetuate oneself turned full throttle? Is the flip side of perpetuation an insatiable appetite for a species of influence and malignant self-aggrandizement which “immortalizes”? Do we see in history’s supreme narcissist, Adolf Hitler, the quest to perpetuate pushed to a lethally pathological level?

The 15 basic Desires/Values of Dr. Reiss et al as Expressions of the 3 Primal Drives Businesswoman showing three fingers, on white

Acquisition

Curiosity

Food

Honor

Independence

Preservation

Physical Exercise

Order

Vengeance

Social Prestige

Aversive Sensations

Perpetuation

Citizenship

Power

NOTE: Actually there is a great deal of overlap possible here. Power over others, for example, can help one acquire, preserve against loss, and perpetuate one’s legacy. The main point is: All 15 are expressions of the three fundamental or core drives.

Concluding Polemic & Summation

Our brains were shaped over many millions of years in an environmental context few humans experience today (Gatherer-hunter). Our neurological wiring, so to speak, gives rise to the complex faculties we call “mind”. Given the survival advantages conferred on life by acquisition, prevention against loss (defense), and perpetuation – it follows that primate behavior should to some reflect a brain “wired” with these core or primal (adaptive) drives. And indeed, various primatological, ethnological, and anthropological field studies tend to validate this prediction. Our evolutionary siblings, the Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), form communities whose members engage in the sort of social interaction, competition, aggression, peacemaking, food gathering activities, hunting, play, and so forth which would be expected to have arisen (at least in part) from the underlying primal principles or drives outlined in this essay. The same can be said of the Bonobo (Pan paniscus) chimpanzee “culture”, which is characterized by an incredible degree of egalitarianism (though favoring matriarchy), sexual activity that is somewhat casual, and the defusing of aggression via sexual overtures and play. The nature and scope of acquisition, protection from loss, and perpetuation may be more subdued than is true of Pan troglodytes, but it is expressed nonetheless. That the primal drives are varied in terms of expression within and between primate communities (as well as human cultures) no doubt reflects biologic and environmental influences. Consider: Anger is a universal emotion in primates – an adaptive feature of our brains – which varies considerably in terms of expression. Biology and context both influence the degree of anger elicited and its discharge.

Human cultures vary too in terms of the influence and expression of the primal drives. In the Kung! San tribal culture (Kalahari), the community is essentially peaceful, there is a division of labor, e.g., men hunt, women gather plant foods, and disagreements are basically resolved via discussion. Families share possessions to a great degree with ownership per se being a “non-issue”. However, it should be noted that the Kung! have few material resources and live in a setting where natural resources are available, but do not readily facilitate the accumulation of “wealth” (They are also highly mobile – moving in order to more readily harvest seasonal plants and animals. As such, the Kung! peoples must literally pack up and carry their world about from one geographic locale to another. This discourages accumulating material goods not essential to survival). Historically, as various cultures situated in resource rich areas began to cultivate and exploit same, e.g., plant crops, create novel labor-saving implements, exploit minerals and gems to fashion tools, jewelry, etc., and thereby benefit in terms of material enrichment (intra- and extra-community trade), population growth, etc., conflicts were more likely to ensue. Thieves sought to steal food and goods. Armies sought to capture regions rich in material and human resources. Defensive strategies and technologies had to be created to protect people and assets. In short, acquisition, protection against loss, and perpetuation found more overt expression in step with resource growth (Material and human). This is true both of individuals, families, communities, and nation-states.

So there you have it. Acquisition (resource), protection from loss (defense), and perpetuation – the primal drives. A two edged sword, being both blessing and curse to us all. It is what lends most of us to work, build, have families, buy fire alarm systems and insurance policies, serve in civic organizations and the armed forces, etc., and in so doing create a valuable and enduring legacy. And for some that which builds gives way to the opposite – workaholism which robs children of one or both parents, material greed, envy, strife, power plays, manipulation, conflict and a whole host of other evils.

In a world awash in sophisticated weaponry, ancient hostilities, xenophobia and intolerance, we must not only recognize the primal drives and their expression, but identify (and employ) the best means to resist veering too far into the dark side of our evolved nature.

*Matters such as an afterlife rest on faith – which lies outside the purview of science.

Original copyright 1998, revised version copyright 2002 and 2018 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

 

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