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Oscar Janiger

death of the material host, leaves and finds somewhere else to reside. I’ve never had a problem with the notion that material substance could give rise to immaterial energy. It’s not odd to conceive of the fact that you can build a machine out of material substances and that out of it comes electrical energy, or that you can press a button and out of these batteries comes a beam of light from your flashlight. So the light doesn’t seem to me any more miraculous in relationship to the batteries than does the thought process coming out of the material aspect of the brain.

DJB: Or the same goes for magnetic fields. They’re defined as non-material regions of influence on the material world.

OSCAR: Yes. You could make a machine where the electricity could turn itself back and regulate it’s own existence to some extent. When I worked with Barbara Brown in her bio-feedback laboratory in Sepulveda V.A, I was able to see my brainwaves in the form of patterns on a screen. I got the notion that as I’m watching my brainwaves, I’m changing them at the same time. They’re constantly being influenced by my watching them, so I’m never really seeing the objective evidence of my own brain. You could argue that if someone else was watching my brainwaves they might get a different notion, but I’m watching them, I’m taking that information in and in turn sending out something else which is subtly influenced by what I just took in. This has been called the auto-cerebroscope; a device where you see something happening that projects what your brain is registering, but in witnessing it, you change its content. Do you ever see things as they really are? This philosophical dilemma is never more clearly outlined than when under these conditions.

DJB: What are some of the main problems that you see with the state of psychiatry today and how do you think we can improve it for the future?

OSCAR: Boy, you’ve really got a tiger by the tail there! I think that the material emphasis of psychiatry and neuropathology of the last century, where everything was reduced to the simplistic notion of the mind as a switchboard, and all illnesses were the result of patho- logical processes in the brain itself, didn’t set well. It did not provide a dynamic framework for understanding human behavior. So when the emphasis changed, and Freud and others came on the scene for modern dynamic psychology, I suspect the pendulum swung equally too far in the opposite direction. The heyday of psychoanalysis and depth psychology then ushered in a kind of behavioral construct that seemed to be dependent only upon the dynamic thought process, and left very little to any kind of physical explanation. So I think we were trapped in constant psychological formulations of all our behavior. This was mirrored very well in my own studies. I was interested in finding out the way that the chemistry of the brain and the state of the body influences our thoughts and the way we feel. The trouble was I coudn’t find a suitable research prospect. I couldn’t get a definitive case where I could show that the state of the body influenced thinking and feeling in a specific way. That was supplied serendipitously by a lady who came in and told me that a week prior to her period she experiences profound depression. Suddenly a light went on and I said, “That’s what I’m looking for!” I realized that an optimal experimental subject for human behavior was a woman because of her menstrual period. She is a wonderful biological metronome that you can count on because of this reliable episodic lunar event. So using that concept, I began to plan a series of behavioral events employing this strategy. I found that some women regularly, about a week before their period, have terrible changes in their general demeanor: their behavior, feelings and thinking. I made a study of three or four good clinical subjects, who went into serious states of mental change around that time. In studying them I was struck by the fact that all of them seemed compelled to give me psychological explanations of their behavior. For example, a woman would say, “Well, I had a fight with my husband yesterday, that’s what made me depressed.” And I said, “Yes, that’s interesting because you had a fight with him last week and it didn’t make you depressed. And every month you have a fight with your husband exactly at the same time and you get depressed.” She agreed, it seemed very odd. So then I went to the psychoanalytical texts. They explained this phenomena by saying, well a woman is afraid that in a week or so she’s going to bleed. This suggests to her that she is being castrated and her penis was removed, so why shouldn’t she be depressed? (laughter) Another analytical interpretation is that this fear is a ubiquitous reminder of her feminine identity and that she was therfore inferior. That’s a good one.

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