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* This article was published in MEGABRAIN REPORT, Vol. *
* I, Number 3 (Spring, 1992), pages 6-8. It is copy- *
* righted material, and all rights are reserved, but *
* permission is hereby given by the author for elec- *
* tronic reproduction and distribution of this material *
* provided that no additions or changes are made *
* to the file and this notice is retained. Please *
* contact the author at the address given below for *
* permission to reprint, or for further information *
* on the material contained herein. *
William J. Beckwith
Synthesis Research Institute of Texas
6210 Paisley Street
Houston, Texas 77096-3727
>Copyright 1991 by W.J. Beckwith<
Alcohol and chemical dependency treatment in the U.S. at
present follows assumptions growing out of the Twelve Step Model of
AA. This model, as put forth by John Bradshaw, Anne Wilson Schaef,
Charles Whitfield and others, assumes the importance of early child-
hood experiences on the later development of what has come to be
called "codependency." In this model, there is no cure for codepen-
dency, only perpetual "recovery."
Recent research and clinical studies, however, have provided
data that suggest a more inclusive model of addiction than that of
codependency theory. Dr. Eugene Peniston, in his work with Dr. Paul
Kulkosky at the VA Medical Center in Fort Lyon, Colorado, has
demonstrated convincingly that alpha-theta brainwave training has a
statistically-significant effect on recovery and sustained prevention
of relapse in alcoholics.<1> Specifically, a thirteen-month follow-
up study showed that their biofeedback protocol has only a 10% failure
rate as compared to relapse rates of 60% or more in conventional
detoxification and counseling programs. Further follow-up 36 months
later shows this percentage to be stable. Peniston's work demonstrates
that a substantial improvement in the treatment of major addictions is
not only possible, but available.
There remains a question as to how alpha-theta brainwave
training achieves these results. Peniston's published work has
concentrated on methodology and the statistical significance of his
follow-up studies rather than proposing a mechanism for how the
Peniston-Kulkosky effect works. Others have attempted to explain
the effect as well as make use of it.
Two very different models have been proposed by Dr. Lester
Fehmi and Dr. Carl Sonder to explain this phenomenon. Fehmi's model
is based on his Open Focus training program, which assumes that
addicts have narrowly focussed attention and compulsively dwell
on real and imagined problems. He uses brainwave training and
guided imagery to break the "closed focus" habit that excludes
access to other thoughts and feelings.<2> This model emphasizes
controlled alpha production as a substitute for the alpha increase
that occurs after ingestion of alcohol.
Sonder,<3> in contrast, has based his work on the Hobson-
McCarley analytical model of memory encoded by theta waves originating
in the "primitive" limbic structures of the brain. Neurological
studies have shown that signals originating in the brainstem acti-
vate theta rhythms in the hippocampus which proceed through the cortex
to the neocortex during periods of REM sleep. Hobson's original theory
reported in 1977 assumed that dreaming resulted from attempts by the
neocortex to "make sense" out of relatively random memory fragments
passed through almost accidentally while the work of memory encoding
proceeded in the limbic system. This is inconsistent with the latest
research on dreaming, especially studies of lucid dreaming. Hobson
has recently revised his theory to acknowledge the psychological
significance of dreams and reduced the role of the brainstem to that
of a "switch" controlling the onset of new dream episodes.<4>
A third option is available. Another theory of memory
encoding was outlined by Stanford neurosurgeon Dr. Karl Pribram
in his book <><5> based on holography.
It drew on the work of English physicist David Bohm who proposed
that the physical universe is a gigantic hologram, connected in
undivided wholeness by an "implicate order." The holographic model
of memory storage fits the reality of a quantum universe.
Dr. John Cowan<6> has proposed that the membranes of the
axons connecting the neurons of the thalamus to the cerebral cortex
are a potential source of coherent energy. Since these axons form
parallel columns perpendicular to the cortical surface, synchronous
excitation of these neurons could result in the formation of standing
waves of various frequencies, similar to a tunable laser or maser.
Experimental confirmation of this theory exists. Emission of coherent
microwave radiation (i.e., maser emission) from the surface of stimu-
lated axons in blue crab neurons was established by Allan Frey in 1968
and confirmed in later studies.<7>
This is paralleled by the work of Dr. Glen Rein, a neuro-
chemist conducting research on scalar fields at Stanford University.
His theory of "crystalline transduction" proposes that electromag-
netic fields can be converted into scalar fields in the liquid
crystals of neuronal cell membranes. Scalar fields present
fascinating possibilities. Dr. Eldon Byrd, in the first issue of
Megabrain Report<8> described scalar fields in the following way:
I look at scalars strictly as information. . . Could
it be that we live in a sea of information? Not in
the form of electromagnetic energy, not acoustic
energy, but a whole other form of energy which we
currently have no instruments to measure. It's a
sea of information. It's just there. It doesn't
take any time for it to propagate from one point
in time and space to another because it has nothing
to do with time and space. Scalars are just infor-
mation, and they are not bound by the same laws that
govern matter or energy.
A hologram results from the destructive and constructive
interference of two superimposed coherent electromagnetic energy
wave patterns. As a field of interference, a hologram is indepen-
dent of direction and velocity. It is pure information. A hologram
is also independent of space and time: illuminate a small portion
of the hologram, and spherically distributed information of the
whole is available in the part. A hologram is a scalar field.<9>
The production of synchronized, coherent electromagnetic
energy by the human brain at a given frequency leads to a "laser-
like" condition increasing the amplitude and strength of the brain-
waves. It also generates a scalar field containing the total
"information" of that individual. Additive increase of alpha and
theta brainwave amplitudes does appear clinically as brainwave
training sessions progress, requiring constantly higher EEG
thresholds to be set in order to provide an optimal amount of client
Several researchers working with the Peniston protocol have
noted that as clients learn to increase their alpha amplitude and
produce theta waves without losing consciousness, a critical point
is reached when theta amplitude begins to exceed alpha amplitude.
Cross-lateral brainwave synchronization also increases, creating a
more coherent system. At this point, there are profound alterations
in client mood and behavior. This is consistent with the research of
Peniston and Kulkosky, and was an important factor suggesting that
the holographic model be applied to the data.<10>
The critical point referred to above is commonly accompanied
by spontaneous surfacing of previously inaccessible memories, often
from early childhood. Other clinical indications are the seemingly
miraculous resolution of complex psychological problems---often not
directly related to the presenting condition of substance abuse.
There is a sudden re-ordering of the entire personality in ways that
cannot readily be explained by other models. More information is
available to the individual. Two clincial examples illustrate this
The first client was referred for brainwave training by a
psychiatrist who had prescribed a regimen including Prozac and
Activan.<11> At the beginning of the program, pre-testing with
standard psychometric instruments indicated a probable schizophrenic
disorder, or an anxiety disorder in a paranoid personality. Hypo-
chondrical features were also disclosed. Presenting symptoms
included severe anxiety attacks, depression, sleeplessness, low
energy levels, and cognitive impairment.
Academic performance had returned to normal, depression and anxiety
symptoms had vanished, chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms were in
remission and there was a marked positive change in interactions
with family and friends. Perhaps most telling, the attending
psychiatrist discontinued all medication.
The second client came into therapy with a family history
of alcoholism stretching at least three generations. Pre-testing
revealed a possible schizophrenic disorder, a severe clinical
depression syndrome, an obsessive-compulsive disorder and a border-
line personality disorder.<12> Previous cognitive therapies and
AA attendance had not resolved the presenting emotional problems or
eliminated the craving for alcohol.
In the first week of treatment, after autogenics instruction
and temperature biofeedback training, persistent migraine headaches
ceased. In the third week of brainwave training, the long-standing
depression lifted and did not return. Craving for alcohol vanished
as well, as did the previous anxiety attacks. Imagery arose
spontaneously during later EEG sessions concerning childhood sexual
abuse, and was recognized by the client as a major source of current
dysfunctional behavior. An untargeted side-effect of the program was
the apparent moderation of an eating disorder; the craving for binges
on junk food diminished and eating habits normalized. There was a
significant shift toward "normal" ranges in clinical post tests.
"Traditional" psychotherapy cannot explain these kinds of
sudden cures. Even the concept of brief psychotherapy does not
apply, since outcomes were achieved that were not anticipated nor
sought. The "Inner Child" was not only healed, but healed by a
protocol involving only relaxation training, positive imagery and
entry into an alpha-theta state at least four times a week. Three
other facts are notable.
First, the dominant waking brain wave frequency of children
under the age of six is in the four to eight hertz range associated
with theta in adults.<13> The pattern of these waves, however,
more closely resembles that of adult alpha waves. These lower
frequency theta waves in adults are usually associated with reverie,
dreaming, fugue states and hypnagogic imagery. They usually occur
only in the transition from wakefulness to sleep.<14> As Dr.
Thomas Budzynski and others have shown in recent years, however,
theta brainwave production in adults is a vital component of learning
and memory encoding.
Clinical results at several centers has indicated that EEG
brainwave training can provide reliable access to the alpha-theta
consciousness state of early childhood, with results extending beyond
the treatment of substance abuse. Clients with other addictive
behaviors, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders and
chronic pain all experienced measurable shifts toward "normality" as
shown in pre- and post-test standard psychometric evaluations.
This suggests a physical basis for the "inner child" metaphor
of codependency. The surfacing of memories from early childhood during
theta training also fits Charles Tart's observations of "state-
dependent memory," i.e., that information learned while in an altered
state of consciousness is more difficult to access when in another
state of consciousness. The natural shift in dominant brainwave
frequencies during maturation could result in dysfunctional childhood
learnings being preserved in the unconscious.<15>
Second, the greatest shifts in client mood and behavior
occur when brainwave frequencies occur near the interface of adult
alpha and theta rhythms. Specifically, this means brainwave activity
in the seven to eight hertz range. Insufficient data is currently
available due to equipment limitations, but I suspect that the crucial
"window frequency" will turn out to be 7.8 hertz. This is the so-
called "Schumann frequency": the natural resonant frequency of the
earth's electromagnetic field.
Third, the observed brainwave amplitude fluctuations and
reversals result in precisely the condition that can produce a
"Prigoginian reordering" of the "chaos" of an "abnormal" client
personality into a "higher order," or what we would term a
"healthier" personality pattern.<16> A possible mechanism for
this reordering is the interaction of the individual scalar fields
of the client with the electromagnetic and scalar fields of the
earth's Schumann frequency through cyclotron resonance coupling.
This coupling interaction could result in a holographic transfer
of information from the larger scalar field, or other scalars in
resonance with it, to the client.<17> It could also explain the
rapid shifts in client mood and behavior mentioned above. (This
type of resonant field transfer phenomenon also provides a psycho-
physical model for Carl Jung's metaphor of the "collective
In utilizing the Peniston treatment protocol, there is a
profound alteration in the state of consciousness of the client.
We are training adults to produce a brainwave pattern that they have
"outgrown." We are facilitating access to the consciousness state
of early childhood, where rapid learning was easy---and possibly
increasing access to the unitive consciousness state described by
mystics of all religions. Alpha-theta brainwave training is not the
only way to accomplish this shift in consciousness, but it is certainly
one of the most reliable and demonstrable.
If there is indeed a psychophysical reality to this "Inner
Child" whose traumas and obsolete behaviors are said to produce
dysfunctional behavior in up to 90% of all people, then better
methods need to be used to "heal" it than those current in the
field of psychology. We have the clinical evidence. We have the
technology. Perhaps it is time for a "New Psychology" based on
transpersonal reality and the models of the "New Physics".
<1> Described in , Volume 1, Number 1, pp. 27-28.
For complete information on the study, see Peniston, Eugene
G. and Paul J. Kulkosky. "Alpha-Theta Brainwave Training
and Beta-Endorphin Levels in Alcoholics," Alcoholism:
Clinical and Experimental Research. 1989, Vol. 13, No. 2,
<2> Fehmi, director of the Princeton Biofeedback Research Institute,
is associated with Dr. John Cowan in a commercial venture
utilizing the Peniston-Kulkosky effect with Fehmi's Brainwave
Biofeedback Synchronizer for alcohol and drug abuse treatment.
Dr. Cowan trained with Dr. Peniston in the methodology, and
was also a research collaborator with Dr. Joe Kamiya at
U.C.S.F. in his early work with biofeedback.
<3> Sonder, who has worked with Dr. Jay Segal of Temple University
and Tom Kenyon of ABR in testing Acoustic Brain Research
tapes in clinical use, was formerly associated with Adam
Crane in another commercial venture using the Peniston
protocol for treatment of alcoholic and chemical abuse
<4> Sonder, in his clinical work, has continued to focus on the
neurophysiology of the limbic system.
<5> Karl Pribram, . (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
<6> Jonathan D. Cowan, Ph.D., "Mind as the Projection and Reception
of Electroholomorphic Fields by the Brain: A Proposed
Mechanism," , February, 1990.
<7> See A. Fraser and A.H. Frey, "Electromagnetic Emission at
Micron Wavelengths from Active Nerves." , Vol. 8, 1968, pp. 731-34. Also, A. Frey,
"Evolution and Results of Biological Research with
Low-Intensity Nonionizing Radiation." In A.A. Marino (Ed.),
. (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1988,
pp. 785-837. I am indebted to John Cowan for making me
aware of this research.
<8> Michael Hutchison, "High Voltage: The Bioelectric Interviews,"
, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 29.
<9> For an excellent discussion of quantum physics, holograms,
and the holographic brain, see Fred Alan Wolf's book
(New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1984.), pp. 154-65.
<10> In fact, Fehmi's model and methodology is also consistent
with the holographic paradigm. Open Focus is based on
his long familiarity with Zen meditation methods and a
worldview similar to that of quantum physics.
<11> This client was also taking the antibiotic Bactrim for
symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
<12> A "borderline" personality as a clinical diagnosis does
not simply indicate someone who is on the border between
"normal" and "abnormal." Borderline personalities are
extremely resistant to conventional therapies, and generally
fall into the category of the "perpetual patient."
<13> Adult alpha waves are, by common consensus, in the eight to
thirteen hertz range.
<14> An excellent discussion of brainwaves, biofeedback and the
development of higher states of consciousness can be found
in Cade, C. Maxwell and Nona Coxhead,
(Great Britain: Wildwood House Limited, 1979, republished by
Element Books, Ltd. in 1987).
<15> In Jungian terms, this "bundle or outdated learnings" would be
a complex dissociated from the ego. Individuation, or growth
toward wholeness, would require that information in the inner
child complex be recovered and reintegrated into adult
<16> Ilya Prigogine, author with Isabelle Stengers of <>, (New York: Bantam,
1984), won the Nobel prize for his theoretical work with
what he termed "dissipative structures" that transform
chaotic conditions into order in ways that seemingly violate
the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Although originally
devised in terms of chemical reactions, the theory has been
suggested as one explanation of altered states of human
consciousness and seems particularly applicable here.
<17> The holographic model is also compatible with Rupert Sheldrake's
"morphogenetic field" theory.
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MEGABRAIN REPORT, A QUARTERLY
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