How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman

In her book Listening for the Light and in her extensive writings on the importance of music therapy for the ear and brain, Laurna Tallman has not only focused her considerable insights on the healing of dyslexic syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolarity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and substance abuse, but also on the socio-economic context where many find themselves unable to access the therapies that may truly help them. What little I had absorbed about the Tomatis therapy (the starting point of her work), even after undergoing the therapy myself and devoting a chapter of my own book to it, was unclear and confusing. I had no idea why Tomatis therapy might be key in treating my son’s schizophrenia. Laurna’s book changed that. The Tallman Paradigm is a theoretical, neurological framework for behavior that builds on and extends the work of Alfred A. Tomatis, with an important contribution from Vilayanur S. Ramachandran.

Simply put, the Tallman Paradigm maintains that altering the right ear with music has a global effect on brain function by making the left-brain dominate in cerebral integrative processes. The stapedius muscle in the right middle ear controls the amount of sound energy that reaches the left brain. If that muscle is weak or damaged, the left-brain cannot maintain its dominance over the right-brain. In people with a very weak ear muscle, the hemispheres trade “dominance” every two minutes. That condition of non-dominance, she asserts, characterizes schizophrenia, autism, and the state of normal sleep. The illnesses can be healed by using high frequency music, which Tomatis appreciated for its power, and headphones modified by blocking the left earpiece to force right-ear listening. A very important added bonus for anyone wanting to do the Tallman therapy is that anyone can do the therapy. You don’t need to travel to an expensive Tomatis center to benefit. People of any income level, no matter where they live, can heal themselves cheaply. The only equipment needed is ordinary headphones, a few CDs of Mozart violin concertos or other classical violin music, and a CD player such as a walkman or a computer. Laurna‘s website is another instance of Internet distance learning that people can apply in their own homes. She has several publications for people wanting to dig deeper into her discoveries.

Interview with Laurna Tallman, author of Listening for the Light

RF: I devote one of the chapters of my book, The Scenic Route, to the Tomatis Method therapy, which my son first underwent for a total of 60 hours in 2009. In 2009, the therapy produced interesting small changes in Chris. Not being particularly enlightened as to why he should continue the therapy once he had completed the 60 hours, I thought once was enough. What I took away from my meetings with the director of the program was that Chris would just “blossom” in some undefined way over time. When I finished my book in the late summer of 2017, Chris and I had some free time to revisit some of the therapies that (a) were covered by our insurance and (b) had a somewhat documented body of knowledge behind them, which is the case for Tomatis therapy. Both of us did the therapy this time, for 40 hours each. I felt energetically rejuvenated, but came away none-the-wiser about what this therapy can do for people or why Chris and I should stick with it.

Laurna, I suspect that my impressions of Tomatis therapy are shared by others. Tomatis therapy is expensive. Tomatis clinics usually are restricted to large population centers and the treatment is not covered by a lot of insurance plans. Can you expand on any other of its drawbacks when it comes to schizophrenia and the other conditions and why you advocate using Focused Listening?

LT: Yes, I can. But, first, I want to express my appreciation for the genius of Tomatis that led to important discoveries and my gratitude for the kindness of practitioners who use that method to reach out to people in need. Four members of our family experienced some version of the Tomatis Method and each made astonishing recoveries from dyslexic syndrome or from chronic fatigue syndrome. Those healings were not permanent, however, which set me on my own road to discovery. I would learn that treatments affecting the ear cannot be guaranteed to be permanent because the ear is easily harmed, for example, by loud noise, by infections, and by other means. Continue reading “How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman”

Another SSRI story?

Here are some highlights from the latest New York Times article on the ruckus on the Jet Blue aircraft.

Two years ago, the F.A.A. relaxed its longstanding ban on psychiatric medications for pilots, saying that new drugs for depression had fewer side effects than older drugs. The agency now grants waivers allowing pilots to fly while taking Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro, and their generic equivalents.

The F.A.A.’s administrator at the time, J. Randolph Babbitt, said the agency was relaxing its ban because it was concerned that some pilots with depression were not being treated, or were being secretive about it. “We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associate with depression,” Mr. Babbitt said then.

But the F.A.A. said in an e-mail on Wednesday that since April 2010, less than one-half of 1 percent (0.016 percent or 20 out of 120,000 pilots who have a first-class medical certificate) have taken advantage of the F.A.A.’s policy. Pilots on commercial airliners are required to have a first-class certificate.

A 2006 study by the F.A.A. of post-mortem toxicological evaluations of 4,143 pilots killed in accidents from 1993 to 2003 found that 223 were using mood-altering drugs like antidepressants, according to The Associated Press. Only 14 of the pilots who tested positive for the drugs reported a psychological condition on their medical forms, and only one reported using a mood-altering drug. None of the pilots determined to have used neurological medications had reported that on their medical forms, the AP reported.

The brain’s self healing process

I’ve been feeling exceptionally good since my brief seven minute exposure on Sunday to Lucia, the Lucid Light Stimulator. Slept well — two nights ago I slept for ten hours straight and woke up feeling relaxed and buoyant. I walk to work and marvel at the colors of the leaves, the grass, the passing cars. Focusing on the colors distracts me from cramming my mind with the usual mundane nagging thoughts.

The brochure describes the hynogogic light experience this way:

Extreme circumstances – i.e. during a near-death experience, competitive sport, or deep meditation – are able to set physical and mental regeneration processes in motion. This can lead to a realignment of the entire organism.

In this context, multi-disciplinary research in the 1980s was able to prove a significant increase of quality of life and spontaneous healings.

The cause for these changes taking place was described as a confrontation with a very bright light.

The Viennese neurologist and founder of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, Viktor E. Frankl, (1905- 1997), described the mental dimension of a human being as a dimension in which disease is not experienced.

The hypnagogic light experience taps into this source of well-being in the light.

I felt how the warmth of the light enveloped my body and filled my inner self with every breath I took. It seemed like boundaries between my body and soul dissolved.” (Client describing his experience with the hynogogic light treatment)

Lucia No. 03 presents the access to a high performance neurostimulator, which facilitates the EEG wave pattern that usually only shows up after years of practicing meditation,. After only one treatment one will experience an intense and incredible effect.

The hypnogogic light experience is effective without having to engage in prolonged practice:

  • a quick and sustainable deep relaxation
  • an out-of.body experience
  • a spiritual or inter-dimensional experience
  • experience of time and space having no importance
  • allowing self to slow down
  • increase of mental abilities
  • increase of awareness

The hypnogogic light experience is effective in clinical therapy for

  • fear and depression
  • traumatic and mental symptoms
  • pain
  • addictions (intervention and therapy)
  • life crisis
  • burn-out syndrome
  • sleep disorders
  • sexual disorders including lack of libido

My love affair with Lucia, the Lucid Light Stimulator

On Sunday my husband Ian and I attended a hands-on demontration of Lucia, The Lucid Light Stimulator created by Dirk Proekl and Engelbert Winkler.

Dirk Proeckl is a neurologist as well as psychologist working in his own medical practice in Wörgl. Tirol, Austria. His special interests focus on the interaction between psyche and nervous system. He has studied multimodal psychosomatic rehabilitation of migraine; the distribution of neurotransmitters within the central nervous system; the readyness potential in he electroencephalogram and dipol source analysis of color-evoked potentials and of epileptic potentials in the electroencephalogram. In recent years he has worked in collaboration with Engelbert Winkler on the topic of optimizing their methods to achieve the state of Hypnagogic Light Experience, including the implications for understanding synesthesia.

Engelbert Winkler is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and legal consultant for children’s and youth´s issues with his own practice in Wörgl, Tirol, Austria. In 1994 he founded a family counseling institute named Kooperative Familienberatung. He studied philosophy, pediatrics and psychology in Innsbruck. He is also certified through further study in existential analysis, hypnotherapy and other disciplines. He is particularly interested in the neuronal basis and effects of Near Death Experience as well as the development of new uses of the Hypnagogic Light Experience. In recent years he has been collaborating with Dirk Proeckl on the topic of optimizing their methods to achieve the state of Hypnagogic Light Experience and expanding their knowledge of resulting neurophysiological and psychological processes (including the implications for understanding of synesthesia).

Here’s what Lucia does:

Lucia Nr. 3 is a neurostimulation lamp which allows the person who is exposed with closed eyes to the lamp to enter immediately into a profound trance which otherwise can be achieved solely after many years of meditation practice, through psychedelic drugs, or through stimulus deprivation, etc.

The computer-operated interplay of its light sources activates a large variety of experiences (the vision of intensive worlds of color and shapes, the impression of existing without a body/immaterialness, etc.) and allows for an individual light experience which is every time anew highly impressive.

Lucia Nr. 3 induces a transcendental experience which otherwise occurs only under extreme conditions like high performance sports, through consumption of entheogen substances or at the onset of death. The neurostimulation lamp opens completely new perspectives for therapy and self-awareness.

Here’s my experience:

I spent a total of seven wonderful minutes with Lucia. For the first two minutes, I closed my eyes and the light was beamed at me in alternating frequencies. Dirk P asked me how I feeling after two minutes, and did I want to go full tilt for the next five, or tone done the frequencies a bit? Despite being a bit uncomfortable at one point during the two minutes, I reasoned with myself and decided not to hold back from experiencing the many frequencies of the next five minutes. The full kaleidoscope of unusual colors and molecular shapes merged and separated in a colorful, harmonic ballet. I let myself “go” and enjoyed the feeling of what space travel must be like, exploring new worlds, eager for the views. I felt incredibly relaxed after my brief session.

The picture could just as easily have been disturbing. Ian reported that he was quite uncomfortable with his Lucid Light experience at one point, and felt that he didn’t want to go to a dark place. Yet, Ian, too, would gladly sign up again for this experience.  Engelbert said that the dark is equally valid to the light and both are part of us. We tend to run away from what is uncomfortable but it is better to understand what makes us uncomfortable so that we can challenge ourselves to overcome it. Lucia is helpful for anxiety, depression, addictions and most mental health issues. The light stimulator can be enjoyed on its own for the experience but also clears the way for people to be open to more conventional therapy that may not otherwise have worked for them. Engelbert cited the cases of two young boys who were suicidal and were not willing to talk with therapists.  Lucia “opened” up or unblocked their resistance and they were then able to make progress through more conventional therapeutic means.

My notes from the lecture

• Ancient Greek mystery cults used flickering lights and candles to change consciousness

• Light is consciousness

• Can enter into the same state of consciousness by looking at bright light or the sun

• The lamp is like taking a fast elevator to a deeper state of consciousness

·  Goal of this short term therapy is to get out and experience life; when one encounters stressors, focus on a light source (the sun, a flame) and reactivate the emotional feelings that one experienced with Lucia

·  Difference between Lucid Light Stimulator and taking LSD is that you cannot stop the experience with LSD – you have to let the effects of the drug wear off, but you can stop the experience any time with Lucia

• Health is a state of consciousness and not just the absence of disease (the sun always shines despite the presence of clouds – you can be “ill” and still healthy and vice versa)

• Physics – the process of observing is the process of creating

• It is how you perceive the so-called problem that makes all the difference

• Victor E. Frankl – the level of behavior/level of attitude – the most important need is for self-distance*

*Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Viktor E. Frankl

*When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor E. Frankl

What’s the rush here?

F.D.A. is Studying the Risk of Electroshock Devices

Extract below from the New York Times

“It’s a treatment for the most severe form of depression,” Dr. Kellner said. “It can really be life-saving.” … The treatment costs $1,000 to $2,500 a session, and typically involves three sessions a week for two to four weeks, Dr. Kellner said. The fee includes the services of a psychiatrist and anesthesiologist. The equipment itself costs about $15,000 and may last years.

Hmm. When doctors like Dr. Kellner say electroshock treats the most severe form of depression, this raises questions with me and it should raise questions with others. When I think of someone suffering from “the most severe form of depression” it brings to mind someone who has a long history of depression who is perhaps suicidal. This person has exhausted all other forms of treatment and has discussed the pros and cons of electroshock at length with their doctor.

Here’s a more likely scenario for administering electroshock, based on what happened to us. A young man (e.g. Chris) is admitted to hospital for first episode psychosis. He does not have a history of depression. He is put on respirdal or some other antipychotic along with a tranquillizer. He, at some point within a short time of being admitted, falls into a psychic slump and begins to ask existential questions. Maybe he is told, like Chris was, that he can resume his classes while checking in at night to the hospital. He quickly figures out he can’t cope with classes, leading to feeling, well, depressed. Perhaps his family is an ocean away (as we were) and suddenly, life begins to really look black. He refuses to eat. The doctors call the parents and say that they will administer electroshock if things don’t improve. Being clueless about electroshock, they readily agree. Nobody informs the parents that electroshock is still considered controversial.

All of this happened within a month of Chris entering the hospital with no history of depression. One month! Not a lifetime of struggling to cope with the worst of depression. Situational depression I would call Chris’s case. As it happened, somebody spoke to him and he perked up enough to avoid electroshock. What was also avoided was the insurance bill, which, according to this article, would have run anywhere between $6,000 and $20,000. For what? For something that human concern could have cleared up for free?

“Nobody was on my side”

I sometimes bring up the idea that it is important to be on your relative’s side when a diagnosis has been handed down. I read the CNN article Growing up bipolar and glommed onto the following quote:

Jennifer, the middle child, was always the most sensitive of Konjoian’s three children, her mother said. She never had any episodes at school; they usually happened when she felt overwhelmed by her family: for instance, when her siblings picked on her.

“I felt like nobody was on my side. That’s kind of how I always felt,”

This child was given a label of bipolar (after initially taking an antidepressant, as is so often the case) and yet, here it is, in black and white, that her behavior was a problem at home, not at school. Her family was driving her crazy. She felt that they weren’t on her side. I can identify with this. As a child I was continually angry and lashing out, at home, never at school. It was my family that was driving me crazy and I didn’t learn coping skills  until I finally tired of myself and made a vow to stop. Naturally I felt nobody was on my side at the time.

Being on the person’s side, seeing life from someone else’s point of view, is huge in healing. Most parents are too busy settling disputes amongst siblings to really focus on the child’s point of view.

When we landed in the mental health system, after a while I began to wonder who was really on Chris’s side. It took me a while, but I finally realized that Chris’s perceptions were real, not something that should be dismissed as lunatic ravings. Okay, psychosis is an unusual way to express yourself, but for some people, it is the only way until they master a way of not retreating into psychosis. The doctors claimed they were on Chris’s side, but then they referred to him as a patient, they spoke of his delusions, they gave him drugs to sedate him. They encouraged a view of a limited future.

Parents can easily fall into the same trap and will take the side of the doctor, which is a negative and mechanical view of the individual. Ian and I cajoled Chris into taking his meds because the doctors said it was essential. We looked at Chris as if he was the crazy one. We were not on his side. We confused empathy with pity.

After a while I “got it.”  I decided Chris was right about whatever it was that was bothering him. He had justifiable cause. Chris’s way of expressing himself as a child was not like Jennifer’s. His way was quiet and non-confrontational. Everybody has their own way of dealing with anger or fear.

Why are we so eager to believe somebody else and not our relative when it comes to mental health issues?

Depression by e-mail and debilitating body odors

Science lite From the Boston Globe.

Screening college students for depression with an e-mailed questionnaire may be a promising way to track levels of mental health on campus. But connecting students with help looks more challenging, according to new research that also found depression rates higher among college students than in the general population. Irene Shyu and a team from Massachusetts General Hospital distributed a depression questionnaire at four unidentified colleges in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and California, using e-mail lists provided by student groups. A total of 631 students agreed to take the survey for a chance to win a $200 gift card.

There’s a sucker born every minute. The survey found that the rate of major depression in those surveyed was higher than the rate in the general public (about four percentage points higher.)

She’s at it again

For some people, worrying about bad breath or body odor can be so extreme they become housebound or suicidal, a Brown University researcher reported this week. Even though others can’t detect any smell, the preoccupation persisted among the 20 people whose cases Dr. Katharine A. Phillips described at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in New Orleans.

“Patients suffer tremendously as a result of this false belief and they appear to be very impaired,’’ she said.

I think I see where Dr. Phillips is heading. I’ve cut and pasted her previous infomercial from the New York Times on the subject of debilitating underbites.

The good news is that there are treatments that can help. The scientific research that’s been done indicates that serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications (for example, escitalopram, fluoxetine or fluvoxamine) and cognitive behavioral therapy are helpful for a majority of people with B.D.D. More research is needed on these treatments and on other types of therapy, but this is good news for people who suffer from this distressing, impairing and sometimes disabling disorder.

Oh I wish I were picketing down at the American Psychiatric Association Convention in New Orleans. That would be time well spent.

Like diabetics need insulin

I must confess that reading Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic is getting me down. He has nailed the human carnage that usually begins with the psychiatrist saying to the patient, “you have an incurable disease and you are going to need meds for the rest of your life just like a diabetic needs insulin.” We have all heard this Orwellian phrase and it is absolutely untrue but that is what we have all been told. So begins the slippery slope that we have all been on. And when I say “we” I include people like me in this because I am collateral damage. I suffer too from being told my son is incurable and needs the drugs.

Someone on another blog, a psychiatrist no less, accused Robert Whitaker of sensationalizing the negativity, especially when it comes to the drugs. I don’t see it and the fact that a psychiatrist doesn’t see this is troubling, especially if he’s taken the time to read the book. Whitaker’s book is factual, he interviews psychiatrists, researchers and patients alike, and what they report is what I know to be true. People used to have mental illnesses and got over them or suffered from them episodically. Whitaker links the rise of the number of people collecting disability for mental illnesses to the long term use of drugs – they are being treated as if they have an immediate, life-threatening, chronic illness.

Teenagers, a group in which depression was almost unheard of a few decades ago, are particularly vulnerable. Antidepressants can kick start a lifetime merry-go-round of drug use. The number of young people in the book who went in for depression, were treated with an antidepressant, went manic and told they were bipolar is not surprising. I have learned enough on my own to know this happens. We are not anecdotal evidence. We are real and numerous.

Who ever heard of bipolar disorder a few years ago? I hadn’t until about fifteen years ago when a friend went fairly loopy. Now, bipolar disorder is the flavor du jour – seems like everybody has it and may include those who would prefer not to say they might be schizophrenic. You are never not bipolar these days, probably due to the drugs that you need to take like a diabetic must take insulin. I had heard of manic-depression, but only knew of one person over the course of my life who was diagnosed with it. Every so often she would flip out and have to be hospitalized and take her lithium. Otherwise she carried on as the life of the party – and died at a fairly ripe old age.

Nobody today is going to die at a ripe old age if they permit their doctor to turn their personal coping skills into a biological disease. Judging from the swollen ranks of those collecting long term disability they won’t even be working.

Culture and situation specific symptoms

Having said in a recent post that Africans are not overexposed to the diseased brain model of mental illness, I picked up my nightly reading, Morality for Beautiful Girls, by Scottish writer and medical doctor Alexander McCall Smith. The “mental illness is a disease like any other” viewpoint has invaded the fictional world of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana lady detective. When J.L.B. Matekoni, her garage mechanic fiancé and owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, becomes listless and secretive, she turns to Dr. Moffatt for advice. “Depression is a disease like any other,” he counsels from the perspective of Western medecine. Dr. Moffatt says he should go on medication. The fact that the forty-five year old Mr. Matekoni has just become engaged and adopted two orphans seems not to be considered as a possible reason for his depression.

Culture and context do make a difference in how your symptoms are expressed. I remember an African colleague at work got stuck in a low-rise elevator for about ten minutes. Have you ever seen someone who was catatonic? My colleague was when they took her out of the elevator. She was rigid, her eyes wide open and staring like she had just seen seen the spirit of a dead ancestor. She was whisked away to the hospital in an ambulance. It is observed that catatonic schizophrenia is more prevalent in African countries than elsewhere. Having seen what happened to my colleague with elevator trauma, I don’t need any convincing that a relatively rare form of schizophrenia in western countries is more common in Africa.