Thursday, November 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.34: Mutually Antagonistic Fear Reflexes

ruroda mamlau viruraava jaglau
babhraama tasthau vilalaapa dadhyau
cakaara roShaM vicakaara maalyaM
cakarta vaktraM vicakarSha vastraM

- = - = = - - = - = =
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She howled and wilted, screamed and swooned;

She reeled and stood rooted, she wailed and she brooded.

She gave vent to her anger and laid waste to her garlands;

She tore at her face and pulled at her clothes.

Often people equate fear simplistically with the "fight or flight" response. When one observes fear more deeply and in more detail, however, self-mobilization of energy for vigorous muscular activity, whether of punching fists or scarpering feet, is only one side of the story. The other side is fear paralysis. In neuro-physiological terms, the fear paralysis response and Moro reflex are mutually antagonistic.

Thus, FM Alexander, a man who knew a thing or two about unconscious reaction and how to deal with it, pointedly spoke of "fear reflexes and emotions," in the plural.

More vigorous expressive reactions like howling, screaming, and wailing, along with expression of anger and associated destructive behaviour, are what tend to happen when the Moro reflex is in the ascendancy. The deeper and more primitive fear of the fear paralysis response is expressed in this verse, as I read it, by words like mamlau (wilted), jaglau (swooned / felt faint), tasthau (stood rooted), and dadhyau (brooded).

The root of dadhyau, incidentally is also the root of dhyaana: √dhyai means to brood or to meditate. So the use of √dhyai in this context might be taken as support for the understanding that sitting-dhyana is a unity of something more active (sitting) and something more passive (meditation, contemplation, reflection) in a mutually reinforcing relationship.

But coming back to the original point about the fear reflexes, there is something I would like to say from my own experience, which is that when I was in the early years of primary school I was precocious at reading, spelling and mental arithmetic, and was also one of the fastest runners in my class, second only to the legendary David Fairbotham. So no-one would have suspected me of having so-called "specific learning difficulties" such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). But the truth is that certain children are adept at compensating for the underlying weaknesses in their reflex profiles which are the root cause of so-called "specific learning difficulties"... and I was one of those children.

Compensation, however, always comes at a price. So by my early teenage years I was suffering from what is termed "chronic blushing" -- a phenomenon that can be regarded as a secondary psychological symptom of an aberrant Moro reflex. It was as if the unconscious faults which, by learning to compensate, I had kept under wraps (or "swept under the carpet" to use a phrase favoured by my late Alexander head of training Ray Evans), were forcing their way into my consciousness and saying "It is all very well going to a school (King Edwards School, Birmingham) that is famed for academic excellence, but what about us struggling down here in the depths of your unconscious being? Don't forget about us!"

And so, as I sat on the bus, I went red and went white, boiled and shivered, sweated a profuse hot sweat and stepped off the bus feeling cold and clammy, felt explosively over-stimulated and totally drained, all in the space of five or ten minutes. A drama queen like Sundari was the very last thing I wanted to show myself to be. I wished to be, above all, "hard." So I did my best to keep it all under wraps until my next opportunity to let it out on the rugby pitch, or to self-medicate with large quantities of home-brew beer.

As Marjory Barlow often reminded me, both in her words and in her attitude of loving acceptance "Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work." If one follows that logic through, the point is to dare to stop compensating unconsciously for ones deepest unconscious faults and rather to bring consciousness to bear, both upon the faults and upon the compensation.

This is no bed of roses. But insofar as one genuinely desires to liberate oneself from enslavement to unconscious reaction then, in the words of Frederique the French builder, pas de choix.

EH Johnston:
She wept, she became languid, she howled, she grew exhausted, she paced up and down, she stood still, she wailed, she brooded, she grew angry, she scattered her garlands about, she scratched her face, she rent her garments.

Linda Covill:
She wept, grew exhausted, yelled, fell weary, wandered about, stood still, lamented, brooded; she raged, scattered her garlands, tore at her face and pulled at her clothes.

ruroda = 3rd pers. sg. perfect rud: to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail
mamlau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect mlai: to fade , wither , decay , vanish ; to be languid or exhausted or dejected , have a worn appearance
viruraava = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ ru: to roar aloud , cry , buzz , hum , yell , sing , lament
jaglau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect glai: to feel aversion or dislike , be averse or reluctant or unwilling or disinclined to do anything ; to be languid or weary , feel tired , be exhausted , fade away , faint

babhraama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhram: to wander or roam about ; to move to and fro or unsteadily , flicker , flutter , reel , totter
tasthau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect sthaa: to stand , stand firmly , station one's self
vilalaapa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ lap: to utter moaning sounds , wail , lament , bewail
dadhyau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind , recollect ; (alone) to be thoughtful or meditative

cakaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kR: to do, make
roSha (acc. sg.): m. anger , rage , wrath , passion , fury (roShaM- √kR with prati , " to be angry with ")
vicakaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ kR: to make different , transform , change the shape (or the mind) , cause to alter or change (esp. for the worse) , deprave , pervert , spoil , impair ; destroy, annihilate
maalya: mn. a wreath , garland , chaplet ; a flower

cakarta = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kRt: to cut , cut in pieces , cut off , divide , tear asunder , destroy
vaktra (acc. sg.): mn. " organ of speech " , the mouth , face
vicakarSha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ kRsh: to emaciate , distort , deform
√ kRsh: to become lean or thin , become emaciated or feeble
vastram (acc. sg.): n. cloth , clothes , garment , raiment , dress

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