Biofeedback and Clearing Unwanted Behaviours

Galvanic Skin Response biofeedback has its basis in early medical research. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, investigators became aware that skin resistance varied all over the body. Although this was originally dismissed as artifact, eventually it was established that galvanic skin response varied systematically with the state of physiological arousal and even with mental processing. These changes were identified with sweat gland activity. Later the famous psychologist Carl Jung established GSR as an objective way to track physiological arousal, and laid the basis for the further development of the field.

In the general case, the stress response is accompanied by increased sweat gland activity. Hence, cold and clammy hands. Biofeedback training may be undertaken to train your body toward relaxation, as well as back to a more normal response pattern (warm and dry hands). Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) biofeedback is also known by other terms, including Electrodermal Response (EDR) or Skin Conductance Response (SCR) or Skin Conductance Level (SCL). GSR is measured by passing a miniscule current between two sensors mounted on the skin. The dominant current path will be via the layer of moisture on the skin, allowing its resistance (or, equivalently, conductance) to be measured and displayed. Two measures are of interest: 1) the steady-state skin conductance, and 2) the response to a sudden challenge, such as a hand clap. Both are useful indicators.

Initially, it is a matter of finding out where a person "carries his stress," and then addressing that variable. Additionally, these measures are often used to give clues to states of arousal and distress in psychotherapy.

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The Galvanic Skin Response

The simple psycho-galvanometer was one of the earliest tools of psychological research. A psycho-galvanometer measures the resistance of the skin to the passage of a very small electric current. It has been known for decades that the magnitude of this electrical resistance is affected, not only by the subject's general mood, but also by immediate emotional reactions. Although these facts have been known for over a hundred years and the first paper to be presented on the subject of the psycho-galvanometer was written by Tarchanoff in 1890, it has only been within the last 25 years that the underlying causes of this change in skin resistance have been discovered.

One of the first references to the use of GSR instruments in psychoanalysis is in the book by Carl Gustav Jung, entitled "Studies in Word Analysis", published in 1906. Here the Swiss psychologist describes a technique of connecting the subject, via hand-electrodes, to an instrument measuring changes in the resistance of the skin. Words on a list were read out to the subject one by one. If a word on this list was emotionally charged, there was a change in body resistance causing a deflection of the needle of the galvanometer. Any words which evoked a larger than usual response on the meter were assumed to be indicators of possible areas of conflict in the patient, and these areas were then explored in more detail with the subject in session. Jung used observed deflections on the meter as a monitoring device to aid his own judgement in determining which particular lines of enquiry were most likely to be fruitful with each subject.

Biofeedback is the technique of self-regulation of awareness states by the subject. The level of cortical arousal is central to a person's level of awareness, so a machine that can measure this factor is of the first importance in biofeedback. Many papers have been presented on this subject over the last 25 years, and the most important findings of this research are:

1. A low level of cortical arousal is desirable for relaxation, hypnosis, and the subjective experience of psychic states and unconscious manifestations.
2. A high level of cortical arousal gives increased powers of reflection, focused concentration, increased reading speed, and increased capacity for long-term recall
3. Cortical arousal has a simple relationship to skin conductivity. Arousal of the cortex increases the conductivity of the skin and conversely, a drop in arousal causes a drop in skin conductivity. With a sensitive meter the level of arousal can be brought under conscious control. With a few hours' practice the level of arousal can be consciously controlled over wide limits.


Reversal Theory

It has long been known in biofeedback research, that meditation and relaxation procedures cause a rise in skin resistance. It has therefore been assumed that high and low skin resistance correlate directly with relaxation and stress respectively, and that a high resistance indicates a pleasant relaxed state of mind, whereas low resistance indicates tension. However, the reverse is true in a psychotherapy session. When repressed material is coming to the surface (e.g. material associated with guilt or pain), the skin resistance rises and the client experiences feelings of tension; thus in a therapy session, high skin resistance indicates tension, and not relaxation as in meditation. Then, when the repressed material reaches the surface and the negative emotion discharges, there is usually a sudden large drop in skin resistance and the client experiences relief. This demonstrates a correlation between low skin resistance and relaxation of tension, which is in contradiction to the pattern of research findings in meditation.

. Advanced layers of the cortex in humans are linked to the forefinger and thumb, thereby producing significant GSR upon stimulus.

The autonomic nervous system has two divisions—the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system gets you up, gets you ready and gets you going, and regulates the flight/fight response. It gets you on the freeway, keeps you thinking about going to the doctor’s office, or what kind of presentation you are going to make. The parasympathetic nervous system calms and relaxes you (when you lie down, take your break, go to sleep etc.), and manages body functions like digestion. The two work in tandem with each other in a reciprocal relationship. It was Canon and Selye, researchers in the body response to stress, who increased general awareness of the role of stress in physical diseases and mental disorders. Many of these manifested in disregulations of autonomic response.
Low skin resistance, as measured by the galvanic skin response test, is generally thought to be a reliable indicator of stress because it is caused in large part by anxiety-induced perspiration.

The galvanic skin response, or skin conductivity, is a change in the electrical properties of the skin. The magnitude of the electrical resistance in the skin is affected not only by one's general mood, but also by immediate emotional reactions.

Emotions have a large impact on our physiology. Often we are unaware of how emotions aroused during everyday events can affect our health.

Spontaneous GSR is defined as spontaneous fluctuations in skin resistance and the frequency of spontaneous GSR defines the lability of an individual to stress. For example, the frequency rises with anger, fear, and increased epinephrine and norepinephrine blood levels. Those individuals with lower frequencies of spontaneous GSR exhibit more effective behavior in a number of stressful situations, are less impulsive on motor tasks, and have quicker perceptions. Rapid GSR habituation and low levels of spontaneous GSR are reported in the literature to be correlated with physiological and behavioral characteristics associated with good mental health.


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By enabling people to view their own signals, they can see for themselves the effect that their emotions have on their bodies. This makes them active rather than passive receptors of this knowledge, which can also make them active about expressing and learning about their own emotions

How blockages comes about is demonstrated in the following example. Imagine the effect on a child when its mother presents one message verbally but quite another with her facial expression and body language. 'I am only spanking you because I love you, dear' says the words, but 'I hate you and will destroy you' say the face and body blows. Each hemisphere is exposed to the same sensory input, but because of their respective specialisations they each emphasise one of the messages. The left will only attend to the verbal cues, because it cannot extract information from the facial gestalt and kinaesthetic sensations efficiently. The right will attend to the non-verbal cues because it has become specialised to do this and cannot understand the words.


Using GSR to clear unwanted Behaviors

. All the misery man experiences is contained in the reactive mind. Clearing yourself is erasing his reactive mind

There is a definite road out from reactivity, from aberration, from identifying everything with everything else. It leads to increased abilities, increased general performance and other exceptional gains that can be precisely measured and experienced.

As most early research in skin resistance phenomena was done in Germany, the war curtailed further development in these areas, apart from some work in America on lie-detectors. So it was not until the late 1940's that some applications of an independent American researcher, Volney Mathieson, working with the polygraph lie-detector as used in courts of law, kindled a renewed interest in the earlier German work of Jung and others.

Now advances could be made in the technology of psychotherapy using the earlier discoveries that all fears, feelings and resentments. In fact, all thought and emotion were electrical in nature. When a person was reminded of certain past events, or when a change of mood was induced in him/her, the needle in the detector would jump erratically; the degree of jump was in proportion to the strength of the unconscious reaction. In skilled hands the meter could be used to locate a particular content, the nature of that content, the location of that content in space and time, and the amount of force contained within it.

This work led to the development of the modem type of CB-MeterÑa type that has survived, with very little modification, until the present day. Specifically, this was a meter designed to simply and clearly register the mental and emotional response of a person to a word, question or situation, rather than as a lie-detector. The CB-Meter is several times as sensitive as the lie-detector and is able to indicate the intensity of response.

Volney Mathieson presented these ideas to Ron Hubbard, the inventor of Dianetics, in 1952. A version of the meter known as the E-Meter (Electro-psychoMeter) was later put into widespread use in Scientology and Dianetics, in conjunction with procedures which are essentially and recognizably Jungian.

In many modern types of Clearing the practitioner would use JungÕs method of presenting a list of words in conjunction with the meter. He would ask the subject under analysis to take hold of the meter electrodes, then he would read this list of words to him. Without fail, some of these words would trigger a response on the meter, sometimes violently. When this happened, the therapist would know that these words were associated with violent and negative fear or resentment, that had its origin in various unconscious thought complexes in the subject's mind. Usually the subject was quite unaware that he was reacting on the meter in this way.

The therapist would record all words that produced erratic meter readings, then have the person talk about them. As the subject discussed his associations with a "charged" word, the meter would gradually become less erratic and settle down to a normal reading.

Once the locked-up energy has been discharged, the meter no longer responds to the word or concept under discussion. The complex or block had discharged, rather like discharging a car battery.

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The average person lives too much in a state of sensory illusion, of indoctrination, to be clear about anything except at rare, lucid intervals. Trance states are much more prevalent than is generally realised; there is rarely an 'objective' state of consciousness. Most of us are in a semi-waking, semi-sleeping trance induced by our cultural and genetic heritage and our personal belief system. To become fully awakened we must be wholly aware of all the influences which bear upon our daily state of consciousness.