The Care and Maintenance of Your Brain

The Care and Maintenance of Your Brain

Your brain is the command center for every aspect of your life. The brain maintains the whole body in an optimal state relative to the environment in order to maximize the chances of a healthy life physically, mentally, and emotionally; yet in holistic health writings (including mine) it receives the least attention of all human functions. The brain guides and directs all activities of the body, mind (cognition ), perception, and emotional experience. It sorely needs some attention in order to do its job. A heathy brain can aid in the restoration of broken physiological processes, and has a central role in helping you create a more fulfilling existence through how you perceive the environment, the activities of your life,  and through the way you process your emotions.

Step One, in caring for your brain is to feed it what it likes; and avoid feeding it what it does not like. It likes vitamin rich foods found in produce. It is particularly fond of the B vitamins. Since the fuel that it actually runs on is carbohydrates, it needs some complex carbohydrates. I know this sounds like really good news to those of us who love pasta and pastries, but too much of a good thing is never really a good thing. (There is actually no proof that the brain likes jelly fish nor anything found in jelly fish.)

Another fact is that the use of alcohol actually shrinks the brain. So lay off the booze for optimal brain functioning. And, as much as culture, politicians, and big corporations want us all to ignore decades-old research, marijuana use is also associated with decreased brain size. And, yes, “size does matter.” Looks like my ultra-conservative parents were right on these points. (However, I still doubt that I’ll go to hell for dancing.)

Step Two is to Move! (Maybe even dance.) Your brain likes aerobic exercise. So, get your heart pumping and your muscles moving as much as possible. Your brain will increase in size and function.

Step Three is to feed your brain the Information that it needs. The brain processes vast amounts of information. Too vast to be processed consciously; however, the brain does process, register, and store information on an unconscious level. This unconscious information is still directing the brain’s actions, therefore unconscious information is directing the actions of the body and emotions. That is one of many reasons why meditation is growing exponentially in popularity. It reaches the unconscious level of brain programming, so that you can reprogram any misinformation you might have taken in and stored up. Essentially letting your body, mind and emotions know that you have a lot more power than the manipulators in our culture want you to believe, and that there is really nothing to fear. With this information on your subconscious level your mind and body will relax, your blood pressure will stabilize, along with numerous other health and well-being benefits. Repeating to yourself affirmations of your worth, personal power, and well-being is also a powerful tool in programing the brain.

Some other facts that are helpful to know about the brain include the fact that aging in and of itself does not cause brain cells to “die.” You can kill cells from alcohol and other drug use, but not from just aging, eating healthfully, and exercising. Another interesting fact is that the claim, “we only use 10% of our brains” is absolutely false. We use the whole brain. Just make sure you are doing all you can to make it a healthy whole brain.

I am glad to report that the brain can regenerate. I have put mine to the test, to the extreme. The last neurosurgeon to take an up-close look at my actual exposed brain stated categorically that my brain was shot-through with rocks and bones (the tragic result of a very massive landslide in which my brain was trying to stop a boulder the size of a sofa); and that nothing could be done to fish those rock and bone fragments out. My response was to take a few days off from straining my brain (in a coma), then take an IQ test a few weeks later qualifying me for Mensa; then eventually getting a Ph.D. I do believe the brain is able to regenerate. To prove the brain’s regenerating capacity for yourself I highly recommend NOT trying to stop a boulder with your head, as I did. Instead, research has shown that learning new skills and new information helps your brain cells grow and regenerate. Do that.

May you always have the best possible life and the healthiest possible brain!

                         Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.,   11/20/2019

Recommended Reading on the Brain: The Human Brain Book (Carter, R. Et al., 2019, New York, DK Publishing)

Adversity + Joy = Power

Adversity + Joy = Power

As a person managing adversity every day of your life you have more power than you realize, especially if that adversity is a chronic physical or mental condition. If you have a chronic challenge in your life and you choose to just keep going in a positive direction in your life, you have likely been given the gift of joy. This combination of forging through adversity while accepting and maintaining joy in your life results in a power that can change the lives of others around you, can change society, and can change the world.

Power is defined as the capacity to influence others and/or the course of events. Joy is an inner spark of positive energy that has a life of its own regardless of what is going on in life. It persists even through unhappy circumstances when you are feeling a loss or disappointment. Joy still has a spark inside you and will radiate from your personality after the loss and disappointment have been resolved and you are able to feel happiness again. Happiness is a positive mood when you are celebrating gratitude for all the good things in your life, but celebrating is not possible in the face of loss; yet the inner spark of joy in your being can remain, giving you hope and a sense of peace.

I consider joy to be a “gift” because it is often of a supernatural nature. It is natural not to be joyful in the face of adversity. But people who have found this “pearl of great price” do not let it go even when they are not able to radiate happiness, and must go through that human process of grieving. There is some choice in possessing joy because you must receive the gift; and also you must be grateful for the fact that you are able to continue moving forward in your life despite the adversity. In that sense, you are choosing joy.

What many people are unaware of is the power that they possess when adversity and joy exist simultaneously within them. This coexistence of opposing forces creates an unstoppable force in the world that is not limited by the “laws of nature.” So often people are consumed with managing the adversity and feeling gratitude until they don’t realize just how powerful they are. People with physical or mental challenges get very focussed on their own survival, and miss what a powerful influence they are capable of having on others. They don’t realize that their joy in the face of adversity has created the ability to have significant influence in the lives of people, whether they know the people personally or not. They can prevent the suicide of a stranger at whom they smile on the subway. They can help thousands of people coping with a natural disaster  miles away by sincerely praying for their well-being. The mere presence of a joyful person in the same room can change the life course of anyone around them.

My favorite psychological study was conducted by Dr. Elaine Hatfield at the University of Hawaii. It profoundly illustrates the influence that we humans have on each other whether we are conscious of it or not. She had people who were strangers sit in a room silently facing away from each other for a short period of time. Those who had measured highly angry at the beginning of the silent experiment, measured happier at the end of this short time period of being in the presence of the people who had measured “happy” in the beginning. Unfortunately, the reverse was also true. The previously happy subjects had also been influenced by the angry ones and measured “angrier” after silent exposure to the angry subjects. This just illustrates the influence that we all have on each other without even knowing it. The power that exists within you as a person persisting through adversity coupled with your joy has created a powerful dynamic force beyond even the “natural” influence of human emotion on each other. Your power can actually heal; and unmanaged, it can be destructive

With great power comes great responsibility. It is up to you to manage that power and be very careful how you are using it. That is one reason it is so important for you to realize that you possess this power. It can have very positive or very negative effects on others. Your anger or fear when allowed to grow to rage or outrage can destroy as easily as your joy can heal. You must certainly feel all of the human emotions, but deal with them constructively and swiftly; then get back to the business of having a positive influence of others. For whatever reason you have been given a gift and it is your responsibility to use it wisely. 

You cannot afford to become caught up in the handwringing or rage of a society consumed with their fears of politicians, “bad people,” or anyone who disagrees with their perspective. Ignore those social media posts, resist the temptation to cheer a journalist or leader who points out all the fearful things in the world. Fear/rage is the opposite of what the world needs now. Just stay the course with your knowledge that the Power which sustains you and gives you joy in the face of adversity can heal the world. Be the light and joy that the world does need.

One of the ways you can mange this gift is to realize its Source and seek wisdom daily in how you will use the gift. Stay in close touch with the Source. Listen to the Source through meditation and conscious mindfulness throughout your day. Your gift is powerful and so is your responsibility in using that power.

You need not fear becoming egotistical or delusional with your power. The kind of power that you possess is completely different than what has come to be known as the “power” of a celebrity or politician who thinks that their influence is of their own superiority to others. If you were that narcissistic you would not have the kind of power you have. Your type of power cannot coexist with narcissism. I imagine that if you started a religion, got a poofy hairstyle and went on television to display your “power,” I’m sure you would fall flat; so don’t try it. Your power is a quiet power. Many people will likely want to be around you, and will hopefully appreciate you. You might even start a movement of sorts; but it is doubtful that your power would translate into stardom, or an oversized ego. You are much too aware of the true Source of your gift of joy and power for that to happen.

I will leave you with a powerful philosophy from Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood (Harper Collins, 1948).

“The kingdom of Heaven is happiness because those who have found it and abide in it have become aware of the beauty of the infinite Spirit. Those who live in that kingdom know that everything must me met and challenged with a shout. Challenge everything with the Spirit of joy. This may seem a hard saying for it seems to leave out pity. No, the lifting quality if confidence, of faith in ultimate victory, heals, sustains and comforts those in darkness and sorrow. If you can keep your inspiration confidently,  many of the discouraging human attributes will be purified. The secret is — and this is what you are here for — to find the pearl of great price, to keep from losing it, from letting it grow dull and to remember that it has the power to release from those characteristics which have held you a prisoner to your own limitations. This is being on the side of the angels.”

             Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.,                 October 6, 2019

A Difficult Patient

A Difficult Patient

Anyone over the age of 60 can remember when your doctor was someone who took the time to carefully listen to you, make a diagnosis with minimal tests, and was someone you trusted to make the best decisions for how to treat your condition. Well, perhaps you are one of the fortunate few who still has physicians like that; however I and many of my family friends and patients are having very different experiences in the past 20 years. We have found that we have to double check whatever our doctor diagnoses, and whatever they recommend for testing, and treatment of the condition. We are having to stay well informed on medical conditions as well as their testing and treatments. Then be very assertive in telling doctors what we know and what we will and will not agree to do.

I discussed this with my cardiologist who recently retired. He said that medicine changed with the advent of managed care, insurance companies that do not want to pay, a rash of frivolous malpractice lawsuits, and arcane standards of medical record-keeping. He said that all of that left little time for  spending time listening to patients, carefully making diagnoses, and considering which overwhelming number of new medications pushed by pharmaceutical reps were actually the best. He retired early because he refused to give in to the new way of practicing medicine. His medical group was pressuring him to spend a maximum of 10 minutes with each patient, prescribe more expensive tests, and push more drugs. He retired instead.

Don’t trust a diagnosis if your intuition is telling you it might not be correct. One recent example of that is a woman who recently told me how her physician gave her some very invasive, expensive tests and diagnosed her as being allergic to an overwhelming number of foods. She not only endured these tests, but had to go on such a restricted diet she decided to just take her chances on eating the healthy diet she had been eating before the tests. Nothing happened to her, so she sought a second opinion. The new doctor reviewed the tests she had done earlier and informed her that the tests she had were not even for any food allergies, but instead were for allergies that were common to most adults. She had mild seasonal allergies, but no allergies to any foods.

Many years ago I was diagnosed as being in irreversible brain death; but went on to get a Ph.D. anyway. Many years later I was given 5 minutes to live in the emergency room; but 6 weeks later went back to a very demanding job in a famous institution, and received promotions year after year.

Medical testing is another area in which to do your homework. Being type 1 diabetic it is almost impossible for me to fast from eating with any safety; so I refused a colonoscopy. I then found out that there was an alternative that was completely non-invasive and involved no fasting. My doctors at first refused to give me that test. It became a game of who blinked first. (My Dutch last name should have given them a clue of who they were dealing with.) Eventually they gave in, and after that test came back negative they finally admitted that it was actually more accurate than a colonoscopy. Yet, doctors are still pushing expensive invasive colonoscopies as the only route to take.

I was told by a reputable cardiologist that I needed a preventative procedure. I knew that fluorescein was used in that procedure and I am allergic to it, so I told him. He said that he would use something else. He used fluorescein anyway, and I developed kidney damage from it, so needed to go on dialysis years later.

Pharmaceuticals are another huge problem. The pharmaceutical industry, which sponsored opiate addiction and fatal overdose through lying about the affects of their drugs like OxyContin (and convinced doctors to also lie) are spinning out a dizzying array of drugs to treat everything imaginable (even things you didn’t know were a problem, like occasional sadness). Since they lied about fatal side effects of opiates even after a tragic number of young people started dying, don’t you think they would not hesitate to lie about the effects and side-effects of other drugs? Yet, your doctor is likely getting most of their medical education these days from slick, sharply dressed salespeople who bribe them with gifts and even Maui vacations (disguised as medical conferences). By the way, there is significant research showing that sugar pills are just as effective at treating depression as SSRI’s. Save a little money and buy Tic Tacs if you are feeling down. Better yet, buy chocolate-coated coffee beans. Those do have a significant effect on mood.

I have spoken to numerous people whose doctors lied to them about the side effects of medications, and these people have ended up with terrible disabilities. I have had two recent incidences of doctors telling me that a drug they were prescribing was completely safe for me. I ended up doing my own research and found that these drugs can cause kidney damage (I am on dialysis); so I refused to take them. In in one case I had to change specialists because the doctor was so angry with me for not taking the drug. By the way, the drugs in both cases were not even to treat any symptom I was having, but it had been shown in “some studies” to “possibly prevent” problems down the line. Well, I guess it would have prevented further problems from developing down-the-line, because I would have been dead from the kidney disease that it had worsened.

Be assertive with your doctor. They do not necessarily have your best interest at heart and may not be paying close attention to you. Do your homework. Read the information provided in writing by the pharmacy with your prescriptions, or go online. Do not rely on whatever any medical or pharmaceutical professional tells you. Get a second or third opinion for any diagnosis you are given. I have been saved from very high-risk, completely unnecessary surgeries this way. Assign a medical power of attorney who agrees with you and who is assertive, in case you are unable to make your own medical decisions.

I respect many of my medical specialists; and there are many medical professionals who are ethical. They are necessary in our lives; but increasingly we are going to be responsible for our own safety when it comes to the diagnosis, testing and treatment of our medical conditions.

I inform my specialists early on that I am going to be assertive with them, and that I take it as a compliment to be called a difficult patient. Be a “difficult patient.”

                 Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.,     09/19/2019

Expectations and Happiness

Expectations and Happiness

 Expectations, Adaptation and the Link to Happiness

                                   Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.

Our expectations in life color every experience we have in life. Our expectations can be a double-edged sword; sometimes leading us to pursue achievements in life that we would not have otherwise pursued, but other times leading us to profound disappointment in life. Some people are good at adapting to the disappointments and adjusting their expectations without becoming cynical, but others develop a cynical or depressed outlook.

Our success in relationships, work, and all aspects of life is significantly effected by our expectations and our ability to manage disappointment when some aspect of life does not fulfill our expectations.

For example, romantic couples are often disappointed when their relationship is no longer “exciting” and the rush of hormones of a new relationship start to subside. You may stop being hypnotized by the other person’s charming qualities, and they no longer get a pass for having any human defects. The relationship becomes at least a little more routine, seeing each other is no linger quite the thrill it used to be, and sex eventually becomes somewhat routine. The relationship might even seem disappointing, so it seems that a terrible mistake was made by ever thinking that this person could be “The One.” After all, “I expected that they would have some flaws, but certainly not these flaws.” In relationships that succeed both partners are able to gradually accept that their loved one has a particular shortcoming they had always hoped they wouldn’t have to deal with, and they focus on qualities they appreciate. While at the same time, they maintain reasonable boundaries such as, “I will never allow myself to be abused; or to live with an addict.” You can’t be faulted for having boundaries in any relationship. Expect disappointments in relationships; but not abuse.

Addictions of all kinds are often driven by unrealistic expectations. Some people are always chasing a higher high in life, not realizing that life can’t always feel great.

We all have certain expectations in life. Most of us likely have fairly realistic expectations. One of those realistic expectations that keeps us sane is the expectation that not everything we expect or want in life happens; or at least not in the timeframe we might expect. In other words, most people are able to adapt to disappointment, and keep moving forward in some productive way. Some will try harder at what they were pursuing, or will try another pathway to the goal that was blocked; others will set new goals. Some might just wait patiently for the right timing for pursuing their goal again. A small percentage of people give up and are bitter or depressed when their expectations are not met.

A few people respond to disappointment by going beyond severe depression, to suicide. There are many reasons why people take their own lives, and we still don’t completely understand the suicidal mind. A major disappointment can lead to a feeling of being forever trapped in a hopeless situation in life. This is a very common impression that suicidal people report. Many times a situation is indeed traumatic and would be difficult for most anyone to endure. It would take a long period of time, support, and other resources for any person to come to terms with certain traumas or losses which cause a few people to give up all hope. Most people are eventually able to adapt to the overwhelming trauma or loss, and go on to lead productive fulfilling lives.

There is a subcategory of suicidal ideation that stems from people having unrealistically high expectations of themselves and of life. They buy into the myth that “you really can have it all.” Some people get through adulthood with these plaguing expectations, never really admitting to anyone just how high their expectations are nor how disappointed they are in themselves and their life. They define themselves by their disappointments and perceived failures to achieve perfection. They have learned that others really would not understand their high expectations, and would indeed judge them or even shame them for having such high expectations. But one day in secret and often without warning, they decide that they have lost the stamina to continue reaching for the highest stars. They realize that all of their successes and accolades over the years have not ever been “enough” to satisfy their expectations of themselves or of life. Facing this disappointment every day when they look in the mirror is just too much for them. They don’t say a word, because “no one would understand.” Therefore, many high-achieving people take their own lives in despair and utter disappointment, even at what some might say is the height of their success. There have been many celebrity deaths in recent decades which might fit this scenario. 

The only lesson for those of us who have a very high-achiever in our lives is to never ever judge them for their high expectations; but to gradually give them messages that you value them for just “being,” not for “doing” nor for whatever they have achieved. “I just love your company, and would love you even if you had never achieved all the status.” “What I love is your humor, your smile, your open attitude about your anger and sadness, your willingness to just be human and have flaws.” And, if you are the one who has overly high expectations of yourself, chill out!

I began letting go of my overly high expectations of myself when I was in my late 30’s after I received my first book contract with a major publisher. I was so very proud, and thought, “Oh, my parents are finally going to be extremely proud of me!” I excitedly called them and told them the great news. There was silence at first, then they almost simultaneously said, “Well, did you get a contract for your next book?” I was stunned at first, then I threw back my head and laughed. It was literally funny to me. I had insight into why I was so hard on myself all my life, never feeling good enough. Please don’t get me wrong. My parents were wonderful, dynamic, loving people and I am actually very grateful for the high standards that they instilled in me, and for the genuine love they showed me all my life. They saw tremendous potential in me and believed that setting the bar higher was the way to bring that out. But, I have to admit the message that “You are good enough just the way you are,” was not explicitly communicated to me by them until many years later.

Adjusting your expectations of life can be a balancing act. You want expectations to be realistic but not too low. The measure of a realistic expectation is different for each individual; but know that an expectation of life or yourself which leaves you always feeling that you are not good enough indicates that your expectations are too high. By finding appreciation for yourself and your life in your current state is never wrong. Appreciation of ourselves and of life generally leads us forward and higher in life anyway; so placing some manufactured expectation on yourself is not really necessary to motivate you. What truly motivates people to fulfill their own potential is being able to appreciate oneself in the present. Then, you are able to see your potential, and move toward it with compassion for yourself when you don’t always reach the mark.

Appreciate where you are in life. Savor each moment of your life, appreciate yourself for who and what you are in the present, pay attention to the potential you begin to naturally see in yourself and in your life; and pursue your potential gently.

Christopher Kni[pers, Ph.D.                             August 17, 2019

The Healing Between

The Healing Between

 This is a 1600 word article submitted to The Bellevue Literary Review. A bit long for a “blog” post; but definitely about one of the most important means of “Healing,” on all levels.

                                        Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.

Healing of the body and the mind can come in diverse, and sometimes mysterious ways. It is often a factor that you would not expect that brings a healing process to life. I experienced this as a young Clinical Psychology intern who had just learned all of the quantifiable methods of helping to bring about healing in a wounded patient. But there was a process of healing that I had not learned in my very rigorous training. I learned it when a man entered my office presenting the most challenging case I had heard since my internship in a high security prison. 

He was a handsome 40 year old man who had been a successful executive in one of Southern California’s most respected and important corporations. He had the upper-middle-class ideal of life: A job he loved; a beautiful intelligent wife; a healthy happy 2-year-old daughter; and a custom home on the west side of Los Angeles. Yet he slowly walked into my office looking somewhat disheveled, slightly stooped over, and his eyes looking at the floor as he introduced himself. He was hardly the man that the person who referred him had described to me.

Sean confirmed the facts of his background to me and then began unemotionally relating the reason for his current state of crippling depression, overwhelming sense of loss, unemployment, and being on the brink of bankruptcy. He spoke softly in a monotone, like someone who was barely conscious.

Seven months earlier, Sean, his wife and 2 year-old daughter were returning from their favorite restaurant where Sean and his wife each had a single glass of wine with dinner. He felt perfectly good when he got behind the wheel of their Mercedes and headed home on the 405 freeway. Suddenly, the next thing he knew a car swerved into the passenger side of his car where his wife was sitting with their 2-year-old daughter strapped into the child safety seat directly behind. Sean was unharmed but he heard absolutely no sound coming from his profusely bleeding wife and his badly mangled little girl.

Sean spent the next 2  months in complete shock and was unable to leave his house. People from his church brought him food, sat with him, gave him advice on how to move on with his life, urged him to get out of the house; but Sean could not move from his emotional dungeon. After 2 months of self-imposed incarceration in his own home, he occasionally accepted invitations to meals at friends’ houses; but these outings only exacerbated his depression.

Though very understanding and supportive, his company had no choice but to replace him after six months of absence from his highly responsible position in the company. Sean was not suicidal, but he was unable to function in any meaningful way due to the ongoing state of severe depression which had not only left him emotionally unable to function, but he was now physically unable to sustain activity of any kind before experiencing complete exhaustion. Sean spent his days closed in his house with the drapes drawn, leaving only every couple of days to get food.

Eventually, his home foreclosed, and he moved to low-income housing in a high-crime neighborhood of Los Angeles. He barely noticed the change. His surroundings actually were a better match for his feelings about himself and his life. Appropriate punishment for the death of his wife and daughter.

Sean had been blaming himself all along for their deaths, even though the police officers had immediately determined that the accident was 100% the fault of the other driver whose blood alcohol level was beyond the legal limit. “I’m sure that I could have done something to prevent the accident if only I had been more alert! If only I had not had that one glass of wine!” 

I desperately wanted to hug him and assure him that he was not responsible for the accident or the deaths of his beloved wife and daughter. I wanted to convince him that he would be able to get beyond this tragedy and live a life that would honor the memory of his wife and child. But, I too felt frozen. Frozen in despair, a devastating inconsolable sense of loss, overwhelming guilt and shame. After almost an hour of listening intently to his gut-wrenching story my mind struggled for just the right words to give him an educated healing response. I desperately wanted to be objective, but it was too late. The analytical function of my brain was drowned out by my emotions. My mind was blank, but my emotions were raw and overflowing. I had become completely caught up in my patient’s experience. Not just empathizing with him or feeling sympathy for him; but experiencing the experience of loss and trauma with him simultaneously.

Tears streamed down my face; and while chocking back sobs, I said, “I am so sorry. There is nothing I can say.” For the first time Sean looked me in the eyes. With some strength and feeling in his voice, he said, “That’s okay. I’ll see you in 2 weeks.” With that, he left my office and drove away.

I felt embarrassed, and deeply disappointed in myself. Here I was supposed to be the objective professional providing comfort and actual solutions for an emotionally broken grieving man, but instead I had broken down emotionally myself. I was sure he had said he would be back in two weeks instead of the more typical one week, because he did not plan on coming back at all. I kept his time-slot open in the unlikely event that he would return.

Two weeks later just before 8:00 P.M., in walked a truly handsome, well-dressed and groomed 40 year-old man with a strong gate looking me in the eye and confidently saying, “Thank you for what you did for me 2 weeks ago. My life changed immediately after our session. I went hime, cried uncontrollably for the first time since the accident, slept through the night for the first time in 7 months, got up, called a recruiter, and was hired for a great executive position the next week. I’m still sad, but I let go of the guilt, and I am capable of thinking more clearly now. I have more energy every day.”

“Sean, what was it about our last session that made such a difference for you?” I was truly puzzled.

“For the first time since the accident someone actually listened and felt what I was feeling. Not giving me advice, or telling me that everything was going to be alright. That it was not my fault. That God had a plan. That my wife and daughter were in a better place. You did none of that. You did not tell me how I should be thinking or feeling. You felt what I had been unable to feel for 7 months. Your genuine emotion and tears freed me from my paralysis. I’m a new man, thanks to you.”

I was as dumbfounded at hearing this as I was at experiencing his devastation 2 weeks earlier. I was in awe of what had happened to him, as well as what had happened to me in that whole experience.

It took weeks of reflection on that experience to begin to understand the dynamics of how that became such an unexpected healing event. With the help of a colleague, Dr. William Heard author of The Healing Between (Jossey Bass, 1993), I learned what had happened: A broken man came to me sharing his deepest experience while being completely open, authentic, and vulnerable; and I responded with my full and complete focus on him while also being fully present cognitively and emotionally. I was also being open, authentic, and vulnerable in my receiving of his communication. Healing occurred between his open sharing and my open listening.

I never again actually cried openly during a therapy session, but I did always allow myself to have a truly authentic response to people who were being truly authentic with me. I allow myself to express my true emotion both verbally and nonverbally in response to what i am hearing and perceiving from a patient. My practice of psychotherapy changed and has been much more fulfilling, effective, and often amazing.

Transpersonal Psychology studies this phenomenon taking into account processes that are experienced in psychotherapy which go beyond the five senses, and include the dynamic forces that take place when humans make an emotional and cognitive connection with each other simultaneously. This type of deep connection allows people to enter into each other’s experiences on a deep emotional as well as cognitive level rather than simply understand each other’s experiences on a cognitive level. Many people believe that there is actually a connection on a spiritual level in these deep human interactions. Other scientists believe that it is a neurological phenomenon in which a yet-unidentified set of neurons in the brain signal neural receptors in the other person’s brain as two people interact with each other and feel a deep connection with each other.

In whatever way you want to conceptualize it, I learned that there is a healing phenomenon that takes place when a person goes beyond an initial cognitive understanding of another person and listens deeply with feeling, rather than with a mere intellectual understanding. A healing takes place between the intellectual and the emotional, and perhaps the spiritual as well, which might not be quantified but is nevertheless real. It is listening with your entire being that can set in motion a healing process in both the giver and receiver of communication. When one person openly authentically shares their true self, and another person receives their sharing openly and authentically, then healing occurs between them.

May you have healing relationships.                 Christopher Knippers         July 13, 2019

The Cave

The Cave

This is actually a fairly prosaic personal journal entry; but I’m posting it for all the world to see, just in case anyone can relate to it or gain a little insight into their own lives:

The Cave

            A Glimpse Into the Psyche of Dr. Cecil Christopher Knippers II

                                        (Enter at your own risk)

I recently heard that oft-repeated analogy of how our lives can can seem like we are a caterpillar crawling on the ground dreaming of being a butterfly, then finding itself suddenly in the dark, isolated, and unable to move; but then one day gloriously finding itself flying through the air on beautiful wings. It always triggers some insight into my own life whenever I hear it in a minister’s or motivational speaker’s talk. But, this time it did not seem to fit, although I kind of wanted it to. I am actually happy and feel secure (although most people would probably find many reasons in my life to talk me out of feeling happy and secure). Faith hope and gratitude are very strong in my life.

I realized that the analogy which more accurately applies to me is that of being in a cave.

My hillside cave is safe, comfortable, and I have a wonderful companion with me. My cave has a beautiful expansive view of the valley below. I can see lush forests, harsh craggy rocky deserts, tribes of people who seem happy, tribes of people who seem fearful and angry (I can sometimes hear their loud shouts; I think they are mad at their leader). Then, there are some lonely ones wandering around by themselves just outside of the tribes. Some others appear to be actually suffering. I do write messages to the people in the valley below, and toss them down through the air hoping that they will reach whomever needs that message. At times I think I should try to scale down the hill and meet with these people, or at least explore that amazing valley; but I always end up being content with sitting on the narrow ledge in front of my cave admiring the view, or occasionally climbing the narrow pathway that leads to just above my my cave. Then I go back into the safety of my cave, being grateful for what I have.

I know this could be judged as being somehow a bad thing. I have been told repeatedly throughout my life by a variety of hundreds of people that I am gifted, a healer, an inspiration, etc. (almost no one has acknowledged the flaws of which I am keenly aware). So, I occasionally think, “Maybe you should put yourself out there more, and do some good in the world.”

I confidently believe that I am doing exactly what I need to be doing at this point in my life; and that if/when it is the right time, someone or something is going to show up to give me the opportunity to do something outside of this comfort zone, as has happened many times in my life. I will either choose to take that opportunity or not. In the mean time I will continue being hopeful, grateful, and having faith that my regular meditations and  prayers for guidance are being answered.


I know that some of my relatives who read this will pray for me; some of my friends will avoid me; others might try to organize a rescue mission to come get me. Whatever you do, please don’t send the men in white coats with a syringe of Thorazine.

Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.,    June 27, 2019

Survivor or Thriver

Survivor or Thriver

Paige Winter, the phenomenally upbeat 17-year-old girl who recently survived losing a leg and 2 fingers in a brutal shark attack was interviewed by journalist Robin Roberts. She portrayed the most positive outlook on life that have ever heard coming from any 17-year-old girl; even those who are in the most positive of circumstances in life. Despite not being in the most positive circumstances, this young girl (I should say “woman”) is hopelessly happy. She is radiantly looking forward to all the things she can do with her life (which even includes shark conservation). Talk about resilience! This young woman takes resilience and coping with significant loss to a whole new level! Since I have grown accustomed to being around the types of people who have good health, comfortable wealth, and a beautiful home who get seriously stressed out because their spouse insisted on the trip to Maui instead of Bora Bora, I was truly amazed by Paige Winter.

After the journalist’s interview there was some discussion on the news program of this young woman’s attitude after surviving a shark attack, and losing a leg and 2 fingers. I believe it was Robin Roberts who said that Paige is not really a survivor, but is instead a “Thriver.” Of course, everyone (I’m sure including Paige) agreed.

That turn of the term that we so often use to describe ourselves as “survivors” of severe chronic illness really grabbed me. It suddenly gave me a whole new perspective on myself and of life in general. 

I have always felt that the term “survivor” was just wrong for me, despite the fact that I did survive many life-threatening conditions even after medical professionals were no longer even trying to save my life. Survivor sounded weak to me. Like I was saying, “Well, at least I’m still hanging on to life somehow.” Which paints a picture of a person who is beat down and bedraggled but managing to still schlep through life.

The term “Thriver” when applied to myself felt really right. Like Thriver really fits who I perceive myself to be, and how I see life. It felt very empowering. I do indeed see myself thriving in life, and know that there are no limits on what is possible for me; even though I am certainly not one of those people who puts any pressure on myself to always be “more.” (More on that some other time.) I see myself as thriving in my current state of being and achievement. From now on I am referring to myself as a Thriver (at least to myself).

I urge any of you who are surviving a chronic illness, or any other significant challenge in your life, to try thinking of yourself as a Thriver. See how your perspective on yourself and your life changes.

                                                         Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.         June 20, 2019