Centerpointe Research Institute

One obstacle to mastering the Nine Principles is the fact that intellectually understanding them is not enough; you must integrate them at a very deep and experiential level. This requires expanded conscious awareness. It requires that you become conscious of the ordinarily unconscious internal mental/emotional processes that create your life. Without this awareness, you are nothing more than an automatic response mechanism, responding automatically to people and situations with unconscious responses learned while growing up.

Previously, I discussed the first of the Nine Principles, that of Letting Whatever Happen Be Okay. This principle is crucially important because when you are not attached to people, situations, and things being other than they are, your happiness and inner peace are independent of the circumstances around you. This allows your experience of life to come from inside, rather than being under the control of outside events. When you let whatever happens be okay, you can consciously choose to be happy and peaceful, even when the world is not the way you want it to be.

The second principle is the Principle of Threshold. It is a close relative of the first principle, in the sense that it describes a major reason why people have trouble letting whatever happens be okay. It is also a much more fundamental way of looking at mental and emotional health, and the real cause of dysfunctional feelings and behaviors.

The prevailing view in the mental health community is that childhood trauma leaves you with unresolved emotional "stuff" buried in the unconscious mind. This unresolved material, according to most mental health professionals, is the cause of your dysfunction, and needs to be brought to the surface and be "healed."

After working with over 100,000 people over the last two decades, I no longer believe this description is accurate-or helpful. Here's another way to look at the question of emotional trauma and the resulting dysfunctional feelings and behaviors:

Each of us has a threshold for what we can handle coming at us from our environment. If that threshold is exceeded, we begin to feel stressed. Eventually, we can even become overwhelmed. When we begin to feel stressed, we attempt to cope in various ways we learned while growing up-most of which, unfortunately, do not work.

My view is that all neurotic, addictive, obsessive/compulsive, and dysfunctional feelings and behaviors-those things that send us to therapists, personal development seminars, self-help books, and all the many other ways we seek help-are all attempts to cope with being in an environment that gives us more input than we can handle.

Those with a threshold that is too low for their environment are chronically stressed, and, as a result, frequently exhibit and experience dysfunctional feelings and behaviors. Such feelings and behaviors include everything from anxiety, fear, annoyance, confusion, withdrawal, depression, anger, poor decision making skills, and violence; to alcohol and drug use, sexual acting out, eating disorders and the like; and even more severe mental health problems, such as personality disorders and psychosis. Because of their low threshold, such people have a difficult time handling their environment, and their life.

What, then, creates a low threshold? Why can some people deal with almost anything, while others overreact to the smallest things? Here's the answer: when people are physically or emotionally traumatized while growing up, their threshold does not mature in a normal way. Because of this, what goes on around them (and often inside of them) bothers such people in a way that would not bother someone with a "normal" threshold.

A recent article in Psychology Today, "Stress…It's Worse Than You Think" discusses the stress sensitivity of a person who has been traumatized: "…we can become sensitized, or acutely sensitive to stress. Once that happens, even the merest intimation of stress can trigger a cascade of chemical reactions in brain and body that assault us from within."

Psychologist Michael Meaney, Ph.D., of McGill University has said that "sensitization leads the brain to re-circuit itself in response to stress. We know that what we are encountering may be a normal, everyday episode of stress, but the brain is signaling the body to respond inappropriately."

Some scientists believe that everyone has a built-in gauge that controls our reaction to stress, a kind of biological thermostat (what I am calling your threshold) that, when working properly, keeps the body from launching an all-out response literally over spilled milk. According to psychologist Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D., founder and director of the Stress Institute at Roosevelt University in Chicago, sensitization lowers this thermostat set-point.

"Years of research," says Seymore Levine, Ph.D., of the University of Delaware, "has told us that people do become sensitized to stress and that this sensitization actually alters physical patterns in the brain. That means that once sensitized, the body just does not respond to stress the same way in the future. We may produce too many excitatory chemicals or too few calming ones; either way we are responding inappropriately."

Another researcher, Jean King, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, believes that when certain stresses occur during developmental periods, it may be more damaging than stress suffered at other times: "The psychological events that are most deleterious probably occur during infancy and childhood-an unstable home environment, living with an alcoholic parent, or any other number of extended crises…What we now believe is that a stress of [great] magnitude occurring when you are young may permanently rewire the brain's circuitry, throwing the system askew and leaving it less able to handle normal, everyday stress."

This, of course, is where all the various coping behaviors and feelings begin to manifest, causing all the various life-problems that lead people to therapy and other personal growth and personal development solutions. (I disagree, by the way, based on personal and clinical experience, with Dr. King's contention that this re-wiring of the brain is "permanent." It is very clear to me that meditation with Holosync, for instance, can raise your threshold.)

Traditional approaches to dealing with stress and emotional dysfunction have always seemed to me to be symptom-oriented, including the prevailing view I mentioned above in which unhealed "stuff down there" must be brought to the surface and healed-or the even more flawed view that we need to develop drugs that will supposedly "retune" the neurochemical system in the brain.

After nearly two decades of success in treating the "low threshold" problem, I have evolved a more basic and more effective solution: raise the threshold at which dysfunctional feelings and behaviors are triggered. When this is done, these feelings and behaviors simply fall away because they are never-or, at least, rarely-triggered.

As those who have been in the Centerpointe program for any length of time, and who have spoken to me on the telephone, attended a Centerpointe retreat, or read my writings know, I firmly believe that meditation, and particularly meditation with Holosync sound technology, brings about a process of change and evolution in the brain that very dramatically raises this threshold, until it reaches-and eventually exceeds-the "normal" level. As this happens, dysfunctional feelings and behaviors, even those that have resisted other treatment, fall away and disappear.

The process through which this happens-in fact, through which all change happens-is elegantly described by scientist Ilya Prigogine in his Nobel Prize-winning work on complex systems. I will discuss this work in more detail in the next section. For now, I just want you to know that when people meditate, especially with Centerpointe's Holosync technology, electrical brain wave patterns slow, simultaneously increasing electrical fluctuations in the brain. The brain cannot handle these increased fluctuations. As a result, the brain, and your internal map of reality, experiences a stimulus that pushes it beyond its current threshold. In response, the brain goes into temporary chaos, and then spontaneously reorganizes itself at a higher level, one that can handle the increased input. In this way, your threshold for stress is raised.

Any effective spiritual practice or psychological process creates change in this same way: it gives the system that makes up who you are stimuli that cause the "old you" to temporarily go into chaos, followed by reorganization at a higher, more functional level.

This is, by the way, why the most chaotic events of your life have also been the most growthful. It's also why people who use Holosync, or other powerful spiritual and psychological practices, experience such dramatic positive changes, why dysfunctional feelings and behaviors fade as people progress in their spiritual practice, and why beings such as the Dalai Lama remain calm and centered regardless of what goes on around them. For those who have done the work necessary to raise their personal threshold, little or nothing can push them over it.

Dysfunctional feelings and behaviors are nothing more than coping methods gone awry, and once coping is no longer needed-because the threshold is so high that the system can no longer be stressed-the coping strategies are no longer needed. This is why raising one's threshold is so important to those who want to become happy, peaceful, and conscious: it attacks the problem at the root, and bypasses the treatment of symptoms.

How can you use this principle? First of all, by continuing to do your daily spiritual practice, whatever it is. Next, by learning to recognize when you are in this process of overwhelm/chaos/reorganization, and by realizing that such times, though uncomfortable, are the prelude to powerful positive change, and should not to be resisted. Finally, by realizing that as you do the work necessary to increase your personal threshold, any suffering in your life will fall away and disappear.

It really is possible to live a life free of suffering, and raising your threshold is one sure way to get you there.

Other principles will expand on this point.



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