What is soul sickness? Let’s start by defining soul-health and work backwards. According to soul-guru — and Oprah’s good friend — Gary Zukov, the soul is a nurturer, soother, and provider of life energy. And when one connects with this source, well-being and a direction in life will flow like a leaf falling into a stream. So it follows that a deficiency of this nutritious source results in struggle and counter-intuitive behaviors. That lack of connectedness is soul-sickness. For millions, maybe billions of people it manifests as depression or anxiety, eating disorders, overt or passive aggression, addiction, etc. These are all awful ways to feel and exist in the world, yet there is an even darker side to soul sickness: school shooters, mothers who drive their kids off of cliffs, seemingly happy successful people killing themselves, serial rapist, and child abusers.
The soul sickness in my own family was of this latter strain. Therefore as a mother, my search for a cure was urgently motivated. as a mother, my search for a cure to stop the death-march was personal and urgent. “Laurie’s Cure” isn’t a Kumbaya feel-good affair (at least not at first). It’s a method with tangible steps based on science that anyone who is absolutely serious, deadly serious, can implement.
The underlaying premise for my cure is supported by research on the mother-child bond, which physiologically formats people’s brains, identity, and emotional capacity. Skin-to-skin contact, nursing, cradling, and responding to crying releases neurochemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin in both mother and infant — a joyful connection. It’s also a time when the mother’s mirroring neurons in the frontal cortex transmit non-verbal messages directly her child’s frontal cortex: ” You and your needs are of the utmost importance!” These brain functions are L-O-V-E. They create a core identity of lovability, efficacy, and power. Children with this start in life are able to weather stormy events and even tragedy, their leaf landed in the strongest current.
So why don’t all mothers follow these steps? There are lists of soul-sick reasons (postpartum depression, exhaustion, stress, etc.) why the mother-child bond doesn’t occur, but thankfully the brain can change since it is a plastic and resilient organ. Brain imaging has shown brain circuits being re-wired through exposure therapy.
“Patients are actually suffering more in the beginning [of exposure therapy], but eventually the brain adapts and you see treatment effects.” (from The Neurobiology of Resilience, Active Molecular Mechanisms Counterbalance Vulnerability to Stress-Related Depression and Anxiety Disorders)
Unfortunately the part where people “suffer more in the beginning…” is a major stumbling block. Exposure to the FULL PAIN of being unloved, neglected, abused, of one’s basic primal needs for safety going unmet is terrifying; it’s not surprising that feelings are numbed, repressed, or repackaged. Nonetheless, if you can access a very strong, very reliable, very loyal, supporter who’s sole allegiance is to the sufferer, people can unpack, face, and feel through the dreaded pain. They can improve their soul-health.
Check out my next blog post to learn more about the ally that helped me implement “Laurie’s Cure” for Soul Sickness.