Reductionistic Biological Thinking and the Denial of Experience and Pain in Developmental Theories

Version 42, am 26.10.2004 06:09

this is a just scanned in text, it will be proofread at

you will find the source at

please do not modify the following text, it is just a preview

Reductionistic Biological Thinking and the Denial of Experience and Pain in Developmental Theories

Arno Gruen, Rütistrasse 4, CH-8032 Zürich, Switzerland.

Reprinted from the Journal of Humanistic Psychology Volume 38, No. 2, Spring 1998, pp. 84-102 © 1998 Sage Publications, Inc. Reprinted by Permission of Sage Publications, Inc.


ARNO GRUEN practices psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in Zurich, Switzerland. He has written extensively about the struggle to maintain self and empathy in a civilization out to undo both. Two of his books on this issue have appeared in English: The Betrayal of the Self (Grove, 1988) and The Insanity of Normality: Realism as Sickness (Grove, 1992). He also teaches at the Institut fur Lerntherapie (Institute for Learning Therapy) in Schaffhausen.


The article questions current biological research in the behavioral field for both its reductionistic thinking as well as its disregard of the developmental process. The process of development cannot be understood merely as an unfolding of genetic forces. Research strategies attempting to do so distort the view of the actual relation of such forces to behavioral events. In doing so, they do violence to our views both of humans and of science. The quest for "objectivity" has blinded us to the obvious facts of our experience. This, in turn, has led to a pervasive misconception that controlling an emotion, such as pain, is the same as understanding what that emotion is as well as sharing it empathically. We have come to think we know what is inborn and innate on the basis of a misconceived view of development. Such thinking expresses a generalized denial and devaluation of feelings.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is to acknowledge my indebtedness to the late T. C. Schneirla for his conceptualizations and formulations in the writing of this article.


The concept of development, the pattern of changes occurring in an organism through time, is fundamental to the psychological study of human beings, as well as all life. Yet, because the molecular bases of behavior and of psychological capacities are being revealed with increasing clarity in genetic processes, this has lead to unfounded beliefs that the isolation of biological and genetic structures is identical with explaining development. However, as Needham (1929) and Schneirla (1949) pointed out long ago, the principles holding for the molecular and for the molar levels of organic reality cannot be the same. Despite that, the general thinking in psychiatric and psychological literature increasingly implies that the development of behavior arises directly from genetic structures and is reducible to the same. There is the implication that the buildup of lived experience has only secondary relevance to human development.

For example, brain structures, genes, and neurotransmitters have been seen as directly determining depression and schizophrenia (Cohen & Servan-Schreiber, 1992; Crow & Johnstone, 1987; Egeland et al., 1987; Holden, 1991; Roberts, 1991). Here, two unverbalized and perhaps unconscious operations are taking place: (a) Understanding neural circuity is being equated with understanding the experience of fear and depression, and (b) we equate controlling pain via drugs with understanding it and removing its causes.

The first operation reflects a prevalent logical error, that understanding a neurological mechanisms is the same as understanding the emotion it mediates. The Nobel Laureate George Wald wrote to me, in respect to another field but of the same problematic nature,

Here I have spent my life working on mechanisms of vision, huge progress has been made in this field. Yet I have no idea what it means to see; and if one extrapolated all that is being done experimentally and assumed complete success, all that would bring us no closer. (G. Wald, personal communication, January 1975)

In the case of the second operation, we are dealing with a hidden feature of our culture-—its emphasis on control of events and living things as a way of furthering putative self-worth and sense of adequacy. This motivational factor, denied as an event in the

86 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

subsequent scientific undertaking, equates controlling a process with understanding it.

What helps to cement this state of affairs is the culturally furthered dissociation concerning our more deeply felt experiences. Beginning with Descartes, science has tried hard to eliminate feelings from its field of study. Rosenstock-Hussey (1969) in his epochal study of Western mankind wrote that Descartes, in his booklet on method, seriously and

without any trace of humor, complained that man had impressions before his mind developed to the fall power of logic. For twenty years, so his complaint runs, I was impressed confusedly by objects which I was unable to understand. Instead of having my brain a clear slate at twenty, I found innumerable false ideas engraved upon it. What a pity that man is unable to think clearly from the day of his birth, or that he should have memories that antedate his maturity. . . . This amounts to saying that the human mind should decipher only the impressions made on those parts of the world that are outside himself. Consequently the scientists today, for they all represent the practice of Cartesianism, think they must not be impressed themselves, that it is their duty to keep cool, disinterested, neutral and dispassionate . . . (but) the more a man represses the impressions made upon himself, the more he must depend, in his orientation and conclusions, on vestiges and impressions made by life on others. He is suppressing some of the evidence of the world he is studying when he claims to work with pure mind. (p. 755)

Therefore, it should be no surprise when differences in hypothalamic and genetic structures are seen to account for differences in sexual orientation in men (Hamer, Hu, Magnuson, Hu, & Pattatucci, 1993; Le Vay, 1991). It is not the experimental results that are being questioned here but the kind of thinking that leads to designing experiments that fail to differentiate between behavior and its underlying structures. Dealing with human beings and their nature as if the latter can be understood divorced from individually lived experience may lead to methodologically correct procedures, but they will be without relevance to the experience they claim to investigate, except to distort it.

An example of the irrelevancy of much methodologically per-fectly correct research is supplied by a critical study of such methodology in rat experiments. Kavanau (1967) points the finger at the role the experimenter's denial of his or her personal motivation plays in the very construction of methodology. Experimental conditions, he shows, are more likely to be set up to confirm a

Arno Gruen 87

scientist's preconceived ideas than to reveal information about the living animal studied. For example, animals that are forced into a restricting situation, such as running a maze for the purposes of an experiment, display reactions that are interpreted by the observer as incorrect or correct. From the perspective of the behavior of the animal in question, however, the "incorrect" reactions may represent enriching variations within the experimentally controlled environment. What for the animal is an adaptive reaction to restrictive circumstances is seen by the observer as incorrect behavior, which is supposed to be a source of information about the animal's learning processes or its biological needs. When scientists, in analogy, treat antidepressant drugs as if their presence or absence explains the experience of pain, they are committing a similar error: They are looking at pain from the standpoint of their theoretical paradigms; the actuality of the experience of pain does not interest them. They are equating amnesia for pain with its nonexistence. Then, to assume, for example, that they are in fact dealing with depression does not only constitute a denial of the experience of pain and its developmental history but leads to a complete distortion of the significance of pain in human socialization and growth. This, however, can only be possible when a denial of the meaningfulness of our lived experience already dominates the investigator's own consciousness. In physics, at least since Heisenberg's times, the necessity of including the observer's consciousness as part of the process of observation has become selfevident. This has not become the general approach in the psychological fields, despite appearances to the contrary. Thus, although ostensibly investigating the how of development, research in this area has been based on a priori notions of what the process of development is about: that experience and its organic structural underpinnings are two separable entities, both measurable and determinable. To see experience and structure that way is not only to assume in advance that they operate in self-contained, absolute, and direct ways but also to make impossible an analysis of how development proceeds.


The actual process of development is not one of separation into experience and underlying organic structure but of their interre-

88 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

lation. Z. Y. Kuo (1932a, 1932b, 1932c) showed in a series of studies more than 50 years ago that such separation into distinct conceptual entities of structure and learning had no relevance for describing the process that leads a chicken to break out of its egg and to immediately start pecking. This, he points out, is not determined by "organic," "instinctive," or "learning factors" but through the interaction in time of organs themselves in a process of development (such as that of the heart and the ongoing developing learning capacity of the nervous system) and the buildup of reactions to a changing environment of prenatal, uterine experiences, which in turn shape "structures."

Therefore, research that pits nature versus nurture is not capable of grappling with the how of development. The current effort that focuses on discovering organic causes for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), for example, is rooted in the same error. In our social-cultural setting, the nature of infant sleep is marked by relative long and unbroken sleep periods. Therefore, we consider it characteristic of our species that the sleep of infants should be long and unbroken. Yet, the environment of the newborn human during the past 4 million years of our development has furthered a very different sleep pattern, namely, one characterized by short periods of sleep and frequent awakening {Mc Kenna, 1986, 1990}. Such a pattern provides the basis for strengthened breathing and increased arousal, which in turn very likely is fundamental to the prevention of SIDS (Gruen, 1993a). Most of the current research, however, negates this experiential level totally (Australian National SIDS Council, 1991). What seems crucial is the nature of the developing bond between a mother and her child (Burns & Lipsitt, 1991; Gruen, 1987; Schmidt, 1984; Stork, 1986). Knowelden, Keeling, and Nicholi (1985) at Sheffield University showed that it was not selected factors as such-—for example smoking, lack of breast-feeding, or weight at birth-—that were responsible for SIDS but the interaction of such factors within the total situation of the child. In their analysis of 214 cases, it was not decisive for the prevention of SIDS whether a mother breast-fed but her intention to breast-feed. Yet, current research concentrates on the stomach- sleeping position of infants as a cause of SIDS. Davis, who in his 1985 Lancet article first wrote about the stomach position in Hong Kong, did not think it to be a causative factor per se but only of relevance when the breathing organs were already impaired in their functioning. What his article stressed was the absence of

Arno Gruen 89

SIDS in a social setting where the family stability was greater than in many Western countries, where early marriages and unwanted children practically did not exist, where extended families were supportive of the young mother, and where infants were hardly ever left unattended. What he especially noted was the bodily contact of infants with adults, even during sleep. To this, he attributed the lowered incidence of SIDS.

Poets and von der Hardt (1994) attribute the current reduction of incidence of SIDS not to a change in sleeping position but to the increased attention many parents now give their children because of the publicity concerning the stomach position. They point out that in the past, publicity about the theme of SIDS has also resulted in reduction of up to 50% in the incidence of SIDS. This again suggests the importance of the mother/father-and-child interaction. Stork's (1994) recent report of his therapy with a 6-month-old near-miss SIDS boy and his parents further supports this. This little boy had had 13 near-miss events of cessation of breathing and bradycardia by 6 months of age. Beginning with the first psychotherapy session, Stork brought into the open attitudes and fantasies on the part of the parents that had been denied (mainly aggressive and rejecting attitudes). With that first session, the boy's breathing patterns began to strengthen, and the monitor he had been attached to was disconnected after the 32nd session. The English Sheffield study (Carpenter et al., 1983) suggested a similar developmental setting. Here, with more than 750 mothers, the expected SIDS rate was reduced by 33% simply through the reduction of the mother's personal isolation. Social workers or nurses visited and spoke with these mothers only once every 2 weeks about their daily lives during the first 20 weeks of their children's lives. When the cause of SIDS is reduced to smoking or sleeping position, we are simply cutting out the larger context of what goes on developmentally between children and parents.

The concept of development emphasizes progressive changes in the organization of an individual. When we accept that this organization must be seen as functional adaptation throughout the individual's life history, much of present research will become invalid. For example, the term maturation is used to denote a causal agency representing the role of genetic contribution in behavioral development. As a result, in the traditional nature-nurture dichotomy, nurture is taken to be equivalent to learning, accompanied by the equally (unsound) assumption that "there must be

90 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

some specific turning point in development at which this agency enters the picture" (Schneirla, 1957).

An interesting recent example of such an approach is represented by the research on socioeconomic status and genetic predisposition in psychiatric disorders (Dohrenwend et al., 1992). Here, experience (nurture) is defined as "adversity and stress," and genetic predisposition (nature) as "downward mobility of the genetically predisposed." The how of their supposed interaction is nowhere specified. Furthermore, the researchers assume that one can actually deal with stress and assimilation as abstract unities with concrete measurable representation. Thus, within their inner logic, Dohrenwend et al. (1992) come to the conclusion that higher rates of depression in women, versus higher rates of antisocial behavior in men, reflect the genetics of gender. That these reactions may be socially determined ways of responding to the same stress sources is not even considered. That would have invalidated their research. In contrast, Robins et al. (1984), in their epidemiological survey concerning differences between women and men in psychiatric outcomes, never advance a genetic interpretation for the gender differences. Gilligan (1982) and especially Nienstedt and Westermann (1990) make the point that depression is closely connected to the development of a capacity to have relationships with people. What looks like gender/gene is in effect a function of living, not of a direct causal connection to biological structures.

In dealing with behavioral entities (the reaction to stress) as givens without considering the necessity of their development and in developing a discourse about genetic predisposition without considering the actual relations of such predispositions to the behavioral level, the researchers found statistical correlations. But, whether these results have relevance to the phenomena under consideration is not self-evident. The presentation of data often leads automatically to the assumption that the data presented must reflect processes out there in the world rather than the motivational structures of those carrying out the research. In a study of what data may really mean, Schmidt (1992) points out that significance tests may actually obscure underlying processes. He writes,

What is required are major changes in the way the general research process is seen. As a result, views of what is of scientific value, of what the current reward structure in research is, and even the nature of scientific discovery may then change, (p. 1176)


"A science of behavioral development needs to devise its own theories and validate its own principles, rather than accept them fully formed from other fields in biology," writes Schneirla (1957, p. 78). The probability exists that in all types of organisms, in ways depending on the characteristics of each respective phylectic level, behavior has different degrees of indirectness in its relation to structure. Therefore, in focusing on progressive changes in the organization of an individual considered as a functional adaptive system throughout its life history, a valid perspective as to what the methodology of research and theory should be will automatically follow.

The traditional heredity-environment dilemma does not reflect such an approach. Evidence indicates that in all animals, intrinsic and extrinsic factors are closely related throughout ontogeny. Development is neither a natively determined unfolding of structures and integrations nor a result of the molding effects of extrinsic factors. Geneticists such as Snyder (1950) and Waddington (1940) hold that without a participating environmental context at all stages, there could be no development in any animal. The question, therefore, must be how development occurs under prevailing conditions, not what heredity specifically contributes or what environment specifically contributes. Dobszhansky (1950) has emphasized how undesirable it is to confuse the fact that genetic factors contribute indirectly to stabilizing organismic functions, with the impression that heredity directly determines development. Thus, Harnly (1941) found in experiments with the fruit fly Drosophila, that the same gene may influence the development of different wing size and structure according to what temperature prevailed during development. This means that the cause of development or "that which makes development happen," as Gottlieb (1992) so eloquently and succinctly puts it,

is the relationship of the two components (gene and environment), not the components themselves. Genes in themselves cannot cause development any more than stimulation in itself can cause development. ... Experience is thus a relational term.... (Experience) can be necessary to sustain already achieved states of affairs. ... It can temporally regulate when a feature appears during development. . . . And it can be necessary to bring about a state of affairs that would not appear unless the experience occurred, (p. 163)

92 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

To speak of development is to speak of experience. And, to speak of experience is never to deny underlying biological levels. An indispensable feature of every development is the circular relationship of self-stimulation to an organism's growth. The individual interacts with itself throughout development. At each stage, new ways are opened for further S-R relationships depending on the scope of intrinsic and extrinsic conditions prevalent (Schneirla, 1956). For example, Birch (1957) found that female rats, provided from early youth with wide collars that prevented stimulative access to the posterior body and genital zones at parturition lost their young through neglect or cannibalism. Thus the self-stimulative experiences that normally fill the everyday behavior during youth seem essential for efficient delivery and care of the young.

Experience contributes in subtle ways. Many physical and be- havioral rhythms considered endogenous and innate may result from an interaction of intrinsic and essential extrinsic factors. For a relatively simple example of such an interaction, we may take Harker's (1953) finding with insects, that the normal day-night activity rhythm of the adult mayfly does not appear unless the egg has been subjected to at least one 24-hour light-dark cycle. We see here how the organic effect of a specific physical condition acting for a limited time only, at a very early stage, becomes deeply ingrained to influence complex behavioral variations in the adult stage.

We must, therefore, keep in mind that from early biochemical effects to later experiences promoting learning, the characteristic properties of the species-standard environment must never be taken for granted or minimized. They must always be admitted to the field of possible indispensable factors in normal development. That is why the concept of original nature is of doubtful validity. It has found its main support in an a priori thinking, namely, that the isolation method actually separates innate behavior from the acquired. In this view, if an animal is separated at birth and raised apart from the species mates, the responses that then appear are considered innate or inborn (Schneider, 1950; Seitz, 1950; Zippelius & Goethe, 1951). This argument assumes that the responses have appeared without benefit of experience in the environment considered natural and normal. This assumption places too much weight on the experimenter's knowledge of what the typical developmental setting and its effects on ontogeny are. "Actually, isolation tests unaccompanied by an appropriate ana-

Arno Gruen 93

lytical methodology show only what behavior can or cannot develop in either of two situations—-usual and unusual--through causes not demonstrated" (Schneirla, 1957). The contexts of the two situations may only be different in the observer's mind. They may well be equivalent in important but unidentified respects. For example, the individual may through its own organic and behavioral properties introduce a sequence of stimulative effects normal to the species (Schneirla, 1956).

Kuo's (1978) later work on what he called behavioral neophenotype bears directly on this. By altering "typical" developmental circumstances, he produced male dogs that had no reproductive interests in female dogs in heat. Gottlieb (1992) writes that Kuo tampered with reproductive behavior to make the point that

the usual or normal behavioral predilection for male dogs to copulate with females in heat (and thereby perpetuate the species) is a result of their having been exposed to usual or normal developmental conditions, not to instincts dictated by their genetic endowment, (p. 175)

But, notes Gottlieb, "Kuo's argument that the establishment of behavioral neophenotypes by altering developmental circumstances should be one of the major aims of experimental animal psychology has not caught on" (p. 175). Elsewhere in his book, Gottlieb makes the telling point that

when certain scientists refer to behavior or any other aspect of organismic structure or function as being "genetically determined" they are not mindful of the fact that genes synthesize protein and not fully developed features of the organism. And, experiments on the early development of the nervous system have demonstrated that the amount of protein synthesis is regulated by neural activity itself, once again demonstrating the bidirectionality and coaction of influences during individual development. (Gottlieb, 1992, p. 165; Born & Rubel, 1988)

What is again and again denied is that experience, and in particular experiential relationships, has meaning for the individual and his or her development. In the field of human hypertensive research, so-called spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) strains are employed as animal models of human hypertension. Cierpal and McCarty bk ?(1987) showed that far from this being simply a matter of genetics, the hypertensive rat pups were made hypertensive by coacting with their mothers after birth. When such pups

94 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

were suckled and reared by normal mothers after birth, they did not develop hypertension. On the other hand, normal rats (that is non-SHR) do not develop hypertension when suckled and reared by SHR mothers (Myers, Brunelli, Squire, Shindeldecker, & Hofer, 1989). Gottlieb (1992) writes,

This is a good example of the relational aspect of the definition of experience and developmental causality.... The cause of the hypertension in the SHR (spontaneously hypertensive) rat strain is not in the SHR rat pups or in the SHR mothers but in the nursing relationship between the SHR rat pups and their mothers, (p. 170)


The question that needs to be asked is why in the so-called field of mental pathology, which deals with misdevelopment, research again and again mirrors thinking that denies the process of development. This denial in turn leads to a reductionistic scheme of thinking, which obviates the role of the person's lived experience as a factor in his or her suffering, reflected in the research on depression, schizophrenia, and homosexuality. Searle (1992) has pointed out recently that in contemporary thinking, the historical tradition of science itself blinds us to the obvious facts of our experience. In doing so, it is "giving us a methodology and a vocabulary, that makes obviously false hypotheses seem acceptable" (p. 16). He suggests, like Rosenstock-Hussey (1969), that Cartesian dualism, the division of the properties of the world into mental and physical, has so frightened scientists that they must deny anything reminding them of experience. Experience, being mental, became relegated to the area of the subjective and, therefore, not real. Objective reality became the basic metaphysical presupposition. It is this assumption, he writes, that led inevitably to the view that the only scientific way to study the mind, and anything related to it, is as a set of objective phenomena. But, as I pointed out previously, this means the elimination of any inner conditions, in themselves functions of social and interpersonal experience.

Searle (1992) develops a most important sequence: Once the assumption is adopted that anything objective must be equally accessible to any observer, the questions formed for research are automatically shifted away from the subjectivity of mental states,

Arno Gruen 95

that is our perceptions of our experiences, toward the objectivity of external behavior. It is this that shifts the view of the observer, so that instead of asking, for example, "What is it like to be in a certain conscious state?" we ask the third-person question, "Under what conditions would we from outside attribute beliefs, desires, and so on to some other system?" (p. 16). This observation provides the key to our question because it focuses our view on the process, which, especially since Descartes, has determined our scientific endeavors: The third-person character of epistemology has blinded us to the fact that the actual ontology of mental states is a first-person ontology. And so, we act as if the mental is not related to the inner experience of people. We try to reduce it to those levels of science from whence the great discoveries have come, the physical sciences. "We dream of some great 'breakthrough' in the study of the mind" (p. 17) and are unable to deal with the phenom- ena of our experience, which is a first-person phenomenon, not an attribute. Attributes lead to confusion, such as identifying the absence of pain—-because we can make it disappear through medication—-with knowing something about the pain itself. Behaving as if not experiencing pain is then taken to be equivalent to actually dealing with its causes. "The way that the third-person point of view is applied in practice, makes it difficult for us to see the difference between something really having a mind such as a human being and something behaving as if it had a mind, such as a computer" (p. 16).


Searle dates the confusions attending mental experience to Descartes' dualism. But, this dualism did not simply frighten scientists away from mental experience because it was considered nonobjective. Descartes's thinking reflected the necessity of grasping and controlling outer reality. His cogito ergo sum mirrored the belief dominant in his times, as well as in our own, that power is the antidote to human vulnerability (Gruen, 1992,1993b). That is why Descartes found feelings and emotions irrelevant (Cassirer, 1939; Rosenstock-Hussey, 1969; Siirala 1970). He denied the relevance of childhood as lived experience in the formation of human nature. To him, the ideal person was an empty subject to be

96 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

gradually filled with objectivity. "Man must therefore learn to sever his relation to childhood and to forget it" (Siirala, 1970, p. 116).

It is this denial of childhood with its pain and suffering that is still the situation today. That is also why its study is not equally accessible to all observers. Not being able to see or experience pain and suffering makes them inaccessible to observation by someone cut off from his or her feelings even while claiming to study pain. One can study pain as an observable phenomenon "out there," yet when cut off from it as an inner experience, one will not see what it is that needs to be studied empathically. In the area of mental illness, this has manifested itself in research whose aim is primarily not understanding but control of the attributes of "disease." For example, the manual for establishing the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, makes no reference to pain. It is as if the painful and desperate efforts of the schizophrenic to claim a share in life play no role in the development of his or her illness. Yet, such people suffer because they refuse to come to terms with (adjust to) the daily hyprocrisies of our interpersonal world. We, the "normals," on the other hand, live as if these contradictions do not exist, deny them, and thus seem to live without pain. The schizophrenic tries to live integrated with his and her truth and, therefore, ends up splitting off the world we defend as real (Gruen, 1993b). It is embarrassing, said the German philosopher Simmel (Siirala, 1970), how little the pain of humankind is reflected in its view of human nature. It is permissible to fault the researchers who decided enlarged brain ventricles were responsible for schizophrenia (Tirnauer, 1990) for having overlooked the effects of psycho-pharmacological treatment. But, the more fundamental error of their research approach was to reduce, a priori, human experience, thus doing violence to our sense of what it is to be a human being. They act and think as if human beings live devoid of expectations, longings, and hopes.

Even an insect develops expectations, the nonfulfillment of which may lead to catastrophic results. Von Hoist and Mittelstaedt (1950) showed in their article on expectational deprivation how the buildup of experiences leading to expectations can ultimately lead to paralysis and death of the fly eristalis when expectations are not met. How then can it for the schizophrenic, whose life is filled with the pain of unfulfilled expectations of a childhood defective in love?

Arno Gruen 97

For a male patient who began to hallucinate voices telling him to kill himself (Gruen, 1991), hospitalization led to a regimen of psychopharmacology, which, although removing the voices, made him into a pliable automaton. On release from the psychiatric facility, he expressed that he "did not want to be a vegetable." Accordingly, as his drug dosage was reduced, his accusatory feelings and anxieties returned, but with them the possibility of working them through. It soon became clear through the therapeutic work that the voices mirrored the punitive voice of his mother, who could not stand his attempts to be a person in his own right. As the patient, with the support of his therapist, began to live through the terror of not serving his mother's unconscious need to keep him down, his hope for being loved,"despite being himself" (as he put it), gained strength. Accordingly, his voices began to disappear.

Benedetti's (1983) schizophrenic patient was searing with pain because no one understood her sensitivity. She voiced it as follows:

I screamed,

And no one understood

What I had seen

Horror shook me

And I cursed the day

On which I had come upon the world.

They called it sickness

And gave it an ugly name

Madness! (pp. 150-151)

Cox (1982), an English researcher in forensic psychiatry, provides a further aspect of what happens when pain is denied. Writing about a schizophrenic murderer, he shows how the inability to experience his own pain made the killer inflict death on others. For him, not being able to experience his own pain meant that he was also cut off from the experience of aliveness. Therefore, to get hold of aliveness, to possess it, in the mistaken notion of our culture that holds possession to be the key to life, this patient had to kill. Cox quotes him, " 'I took a life because I needed one.' "

This vignette reflects on what the denial of the experience of pain is about. This denial of pain is directly implicated in the violence of our times. It is also directly implicated in the psychiatric sequelae of many Vietnam veterans. What has only in recent times been officially acknowledged as delayed post-traumatic stress dis-

98 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

order (PTSD) has been applied as a diagnostic term to the conditions of Vietnam veterans who began to appear at psychiatric hospitals in the 1970s. They were initially regarded as anxiety disorders if their symptoms were not gross or, if their symptoms were more serious, as psychotic and, often, as paranoid schizophrenic (Eng, 1988a, 1988b). Eng (1988b), in his therapeutic work with such veterans, has shown that underneath this symptomatology exists the impossibility of coming to terms with a pain denied by the politics of a war ostensibly devoted to a just cause. The admission of the pain of killing as a factor in the development of this syndrome would penetrate the political fog. Eng (1988b) quotes one of these patients as follows: "'When I came here (to the psychiatric hospital for electroshock) I wanted more than anything to forget what I had experienced. Now I realize, that it was part of my life, and I do not want to forget it. ... You have to know what death is in order to live'" (p. 4).

When the lived experiences of women and men are denied as factors in development and in the understanding of mental illness by reducing them to biological or genetic structures, the resulting research itself becomes destructive, even as carried out in the name of science. Schachtel (1959) wrote many years ago that such science does not encounter the objects of its study in their fullness. Its perceptions, in cutting off those aspects of its objects that it cannot use, become themselves acts of aggressive violence (p. 171). Schachtel's warning has fulfilled itself when a lead editorial of Science (Koshland, 1993) can state,

When the brain malfunctions, some nonscientists tend to ascribe the cause to bad parenting, a poor environment, or evil spirits, whereas a scientist tends to ascribe it to a malfunction in the chemistry of the brain. To the lay person the brain may be so lofty in purpose .. . {that} the idea that it cannot be mended by loving care {is} unacceptable. Neuroscientists, however, know that a brain affected by a mutated gene may be so unfixable with loving care as a watch with a broken mainspring. . . . The distinction between a normal state and a pathological state is one between benign chemistry and malign chemistry, (p. 171)

When under the cover of the trappings of science and knowledge our emotional experiences can be reduced to the functioning of a watch, a malign chemistry, or mutated genes, dehumanization becomes officially licensed but without awareness of the contemptuousness for love here involved. That is the measure of the

Arno Gruen 99

dissociated, nonideological violence of a science divorced from humanity's emotional roots. The ability to ask questions from the standpoint of the sufferer, the first-person ontology, is not only a way to counteract the violence but also to reduce it by confronting it with its roots — the denial of experience and of the suffering that shaped it in the first place.


Ed. notes: 1)Two astrics '' before & after book/journal tite often print as quotation marks " instead of italics. 2)Question mark ? following author's name is asking for bio. entry. e.g. McKenna (Click on ?)

Australian National SIDS Council. (1991). NHMRC statement about SIDS. Research Network News, pp. 2, 7.

Benedetti, G. (1983). Possibilities and limits of individual psychotherapy of schizophrenic patients. In H. Stierlin, L. C. Wynne, & M. Wirsching (Eds.), Psychosocial intervention in schizophrenia (pp. 149-160). Berlin: Springer.

Birch, H. (1957). Ontogenetic sources for order in the maternal behavior of the rat. In T. C. Schneirla (Ed.), The concept of development in comparative psychology. University of Minnesota.

Born, D. E., & Rubel, E. W. (1988). Afferent influences on brain stem auditory nuclei of the chicken: Presynaptic action potentials regulate protein synthesis in nucleus magnocellularis neurons. Journal of Neuroscience, 8, 901-919.

Burns, B., & Lipsitt, L. P. (1991). Behavioral factors in crib death. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 12 ,159-184.

Carpenter, R. G., Gardner, A., Jepson, M., Taylor, E. N., Salvin, A., Sutherland, R., Emery, J. L., Pursall, E., & Roe, J. (1983). Prevention of unexpected infant death (Sheffield Intervention Programme). Lancet, 8327 , 723-727.

Cassirer, E. (1939). Descartes. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer.

Cierpal, M. A., & McCarty, R. (1987). Hypertension in SHR rats: Contribution of maternal environment. American Journal of Physiology, 253, 980-984.

Cohen, J. D., & Servan-Schreiber, D.(1992). A difference in hypothalamic structures between heterosexual and homosexual men. Psychological Review, 99 , 45-68.

Cox, M. (1982). I took a life because I needed one: Psychotherapeutic possibilities with the schizophrenic offender-patient. In P. E. Sifneos (Ed.), Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (pp. 96-105). Basel: Karger.

Crow, T. J., & Johnstone, E. C. (1987). Schizophrenia: Nature of the disease process and its biological correlates. In F. Blum (Ed.), Handbook of physiology: The nervous system (pp. 843-865). Baltimore: American Physiological Society.

Davis, D. P. (1985, December). Cot death in Hong Kong. Lancet, p. 1346.

Dobszhansky, T. (1950). Heredity, environment, and evolution. Science, 3,161.

100 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

Dohrenwend, B. E, Levav, I., Shrout, P. E., Schwartz, S., Naveh, G., Link, B. G, Skodol, A. E., & Stueve, A. (1992). Socioeconomic status and psychiatric disorders: The causation-selection issue, Science, 255,946-952.

Egeland, J. A., Gerhard, D. S., Pauls, D. L., Susses, J. N., Kidd, K K., Allen, C. R., Hostetter, A. M., & Housman, D. E. (1987). Bipolar affective disorders linked to DNA markers on chromosome. Nature, 325, 783-788.

Eng, E. (1988a). Creative patient/patient therapist. In E. M. Stern,(Ed.), Psychotherapy and the creative patient (pp. 57-60). New York: Haworth.

Eng, E. (1988b, September). Love that is not all pain is not all love. Paper presented at the Ninth International Symposium of the Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia, Torino, Italy.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Gottlieb, G. (1992). Individual development and evolution: The genesis of novel behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gruen, A. (1987). The relationship of sudden infant death and parental unconscious conflict. Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology, 2 (1), 50-56.

Gruen, A. (1991, August). Obstructing factors in the treatment of schizophrenia: Descartes and the reduction of human experience. Paper presented at the Tenth International Symposium of the Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia, Stockholm, Sweden.

Gruen, A. (1992). The insanity of normality, realism as sickness: Toward understanding human destructiveness. New York: Grove.

Gruen, A. (1993a). Der fruhe Abschied, Eine Deutung des Plotzlichen Kindstodes. Munich, Germany: D.T.V

Gruen, A. (1993b). The integration vs. splitting of the wholeness of experience. In G. Benedetti & P. M. Furlan (Eds.), Psychoterapy of schizophrenia (pp. 145-152). Bern, Switzerland: Hogrefe & Huber.

Hamer, D. H., Hu, S., Magnuson, V L., Hu, N., & Pattatucci, A.M.L. (1993). Alinkage between DNA markers on the Xchromosome and male sexual orientation, Science, 261, 321-327.

Marker, J. E. (1953). The diurnal rhythm of activity of mayfly nymphs, Journal of Experimental Biology, 30, 525-533.

Harnly, M. H. (1941). Flight capacity in relation to phenotypic and genotypic variations in the wings of Drosopkila melanogaster, Journal of Experimental Zoology, 88, 263-27A.

Holden, C. (1991). Depression: The news isn't depressing. Science, 254, 1450-1452.

Kavanau, J. L. (1967). Behavior of captive white-footed mice. Science, 155, 1623-1639.

Knowelden, J., Keeling, J., & Nicholi, J. P. (1985). Post neonatal mortality. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office.

Koshland, D. E. (1993). Frontiers in neuroscience, Science, 262, 635.

Kuo, Z. Y. (1932a). Ontogeny of embryonic behavior in Aves. I. The chronology and general nature of the behavior of the chick embryo. Journal of Experimental Zoology, 61, 395-430.

Arno Gruen 101

Kuo, 2. Y (1932b). The influence of embryonic movements upon the behavior after hatching. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 14, 109-122.

Kuo, Z. Y. (1932c). The structure and environmental factors in embryonic behavior. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 13, 245-272.

Kuo, Z. Y. (1978). The dynamics of behavior development: An epigenetic view. (Enlarged ed.) New York: Plenum.

Le Vay, S. (1991). A difference in hypothalamic structures between heterosexual and homosexual men, Science, 253,1034-1037.

Mc Kenna, J. J. (1986). An anthropological perspective on the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): The role of parental breathing cues and speech breathing adaptations. Medical Anthropology, 10 (Special Issue).

Mc Kenna, J. J. (1990). Evolution and sudden infant death syndrome. Human Nature, 1, 145-330.

Myers, M. M., Brunelli, S. A., Squire, J. M., Shindeldecker, E. D., & Hofer, M. A. (1989). Maternal behavior of SHR rats and its relationship to offspring blood pressures. Developmental Psychobiology, 22, 29.

Needham, J. (1929). The sceptical biologist. London: Chatto & Windus.

Nienstedt, M., & Westermann, A. (1990). Pflegekinder. Psychologische Beitrage zur Sozialisation von Kindern in Ersatzfamilien (3rd ed.). Munster, Germany: Votum.

Poets, C. F, & von der Hardt, H. (1994). Aufklarungskampagnen zum PldtzlidienSiiuglingstod. der Kinderarzt, 25, 1155-1157.

Roberts, G. W. (1991). Schizophrenia: A neuropathological perspective. British Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 8-17.

Robins, L. N., Helzer, J. E., Weissman, M. M., Orvaschel, H., Gruenberg, E., Burke, J. D., Regier, D. A. (1984). Lifetime prevalence of specific psychiatric disorders in three sites. Arch General Psychiatry, 41, 949-958.

Rosenstock-Hussey,E. (1969). Out of revolution: Autobiography of Western man. Norwich, CT: Argo.

Schachtel, E. G. (1959). Metamorphosis: On the development of affect, perception, attention and memory. New York: Basic Books.

Schmidt, C. (1984). Soziale und psychologische Belastungen bei plotzlichen Kindstod, Sozialpadiatrut, 6, 527530.

Schmidt, F. L. (1992). What do data really mean? Research findings, meta analysis, and cumulative knowledge in psychology. American Psychology 47, 1173-1182.

Schneider, K. M. (1950). Aus der Jugendentwicklung einer kiinstlich aufgezogenen Schimpansin, III, Vom Verhalten. Z.Tierpsychol, 7, 485-558.

Schneirla, T. C. (1949). Levels in the psychological capacities of animals. In R. W. Sellars, V. J. McGill, & M. Farber (Eds.), Philosophy for the future. New York: Macmillan.

Schneirla, T. C. (1956). Interrelationships of the "innate" and the "acquired" in instinctive behavior. In Collogue Int. sur I'Instinct Animale. Paris: Fond. Singer-Poignac.

Schneirla, T. C. (1957) The concept of development in comparative psychology. In D. B. Harris (Ed.), Concept of development (pp. 78-108). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

102 Reductionistic Biological Thinking

Searle, J. R. (1992). The rediscovery ofthe mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

Seitz, A. (1950). Untersuchungen über Verhaltensweisen bei Caniden. Z. Tlerpsychol, 7, 1-46.

Siirala, A. (1970). Divine humanness. Philadelphia: Fortress.

Snyder, L. H. (1950). Principles of heredity. Boston: Heath.

Stork, J. (1986). Tödliche Verstrickungen von Mutter und Kind? In J. Stork. (Ed.), Zur Psychologie und Psychopathologie des Säuglings. Stuttgart, Germany: Fromman-Holzboog.

Stork, J. (1994, January). Zwischen Leben und Tod. Aus der Behandlung eines Säuglings—ein Beitrag zum plötzlichen Kindstod. Kinderanalyse, 60-94

Tirnauer, L. (1990). Letters. APA Monitor, 21, 2.

Von Holst, A., & Mittelstaedt, H. (1950). Das Reafferenz Prinzip. Naturwissenschaften, 37, 464-476.

Waddington, C. H. (1940). Organizers and genes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zippelius, H. M., & Goethe, F. (1951). Ethologische Beobachtungen an Haselmusen. Z. Tlerpsychol, 8, 348-367.

Texte Psychologie

Neue Seiten im Kontext

Dienstag, 23. Mrz 2004

englische Übersetzung der Seite "Arno Gruen"

Mittwoch, 11. Juli 2001

Neues Buch eingebaut. 20.5.2006 Buchvorstellung in Heidelberg