Brian Sullivan

"On the road to heaven the highway to hell," Stephen Shanabrook
The motivations may vary, but the psychology that enabled young men at Gallipoli to jump out of the trenches into the Turkish machine gun fire, or teenage British bomber crews to fly knowing they were unlikely to survive five missions, is no different to that which enables a well educated Saudi to hijack a plane and crash it into the World trade centre, or members of a cult committing suicide in the belief that a space ship from outer space is waiting to collect them.

In 2006, a combined study based on information from British and American intelligence agencies, into the backgrounds of suicide bombers, found that without exemption they were motivated by grievances about foreign occupation or control in their own country, or a country to which they felt connected eg the World Trade Centre bombers were almost all Saudis incensed by the permanent American bases created in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf war. This study also found that many suicide bombers have been atheists.

Governments of civilian populations targeted by suicide bombers try to explain the behaviour as somehow different from what they consider to be acceptable “collateral damage” done to an enemy’s civilians by their own armies. If you can dismiss the attacks “as being done by fanatics” it stops people asking the obvious question: “Why do these people (suicide bombers) see us as their enemy?”

This is the question that must be addressed if we are going to effectively deal with terrorism long term, particularly as multicultural policies combined with separate schooling is breeding a dangerous combination of suspicion and exclusion. If young second and third generation migrant youth are encouraged to remain segregated in the “stopped clock” cultures of their parents and grand parents, their anger and frustration at their alienation makes them vulnerable for recruitment into organisations only too willing to mobilise those feelings into a role that provides an unambiguous identity, makes them feel important,and valued by a “higher authority”.

What was particularly interesting about the recent research into terrorism was that even though the attacks may have occurred in foreign countries, the motivation was the perceived injustices of foreign powers operating in their own country. They were not random or meaningless attacks by mad men. (At the moment the biggest perceived grievance appears to centre on the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by Israel, funded by America and supported unconditionally by Australia and Britain).

Psychologically, terrorists are no different to other people. Like other people they feel outrage when they perceive a situation as unjust or unfair, like others they seek certainty, purpose and meaning in their lives. The extremes to which they are prepared to go are no different in degree to that of a soldier or a fundamentalist Christian prepared to kill an abortionist.

We must understand and accept this if we are to ask the right questions to get the right answers to this disturbing problem.
- Psychologist Louise Samways "Dangerous Persuaders".

Brian Sullivan
A 1573 painting by Portuguese artist, historian, and philosopher Francisco de Holanda, a student of Michelangelo's, from Michael Benson's book 'Cosmigraphics'—a visual history of understanding the universe. Click image for more

What we see of the world is only a sliver of what’s “out there.” There is much that is invisible to the eye, even when we augment our sensorial perception with telescopes, microscopes, and other tools of exploration. Like our senses, every instrument has a range. Because much of Nature remains hidden from us, our view of the world is based only on the fraction of reality that we can measure and analyze. Science, as our narrative describing what we see and what we conjecture exists in the natural world, is thus necessarily limited, telling only part of the story… We strive toward knowledge, always more knowledge, but must understand that we are, and will remain, surrounded by mystery… It is the flirting with this mystery, the urge to go beyond the boundaries of the known, that feeds our creative impulse, that makes us want to know more.
Marcelo Gleiser  
Brian Sullivan

What would you do if you suddenly realized that the entire evolution of the human race rested on your shoulders alone? … Suddenly you find yourself overwhelmed by a blazing white light. … Would you be able to avoid the overwhelming implications of a call from the Absolute? … In order to be able to live up to the liberating idealism that many of us have experienced clearly at one time or another we have to be ready to assume a great burden, and that burden is the evolution of the whole. Because to succeed, we must be prepared to do battle with the powerful conditioning, conscious and unconscious, of the whole race. That means we have to come out from behind the shadows and be seen. Like Atlas, we have to be willing to hold up the whole world on our own shoulders. It’s an awesome task. 
- Andrew Cohen said in Freedom Has No History, 
Brian Sullivan

Spiritual Mind Treatment (simply called “treatment”) is a form of affirmative prayer used by Dr. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science and author of The Science of Mind as well as many other metaphysical works. Holmes taught that there is a scientific reasoning underlying all prayer, and that through this process of reasoning we are treating our own mind about the subject of our prayer.
Prayer, whatever form is used, does nothing to God. It actually brings the one praying to a “realization” of God, a realization that all is well and that he/she is not alone in dealing with the situation. This realization in itself does the “healing.”
Treatment consists of five steps. It can be done individually or as a group. In the beginning, you may find it easier and more comfortable to simply read the steps as written, generic as they may be.
When you begin your own deepening process as the result of treatment, you will find value in wording each step yourself so it more closely suits your situation. Therefore, at the beginning of each step is an explanation of its purpose.
The power of prayer has been known to humanity since the beginning of time. Each of us has found our own ways to experience and express our connection to that “something” which is greater than our daily events and challenges. Spiritual Mind Treatment is one of those many ways. You are certain to find it effective and uplifting.
Step 1 - Recognition
In the beginning, God, Begin by recognizing that “God is all there is,” including the issue of the prayer. Name as many attributes of God that you can think of to begin “treating your mind” that there is a power greater than you are and greater than the issue at hand. Remember: You are not making God these things; you are reminding yourself that this is what God is. You might say:
God is. Whatever I may call It - Spirit, Infinite Intelligence, Divine Love, Total Peace - It is always the same: It is timeless, changeless, everywhere present and completely powerful to heal and renew me and this situation in my life. It is courage and pure joy. It is profound peace and uplifting laughter. It is total wisdom and the spontaneity to enjoy life.
Step 2 - Unification
It is easy to recognize that God is all these things. And it is often more difficult to see your unity with God and know that you are those same attributes. You are “made in the image and likeness of God.” How can you be anything but the magnificence, power, love, etc. that you have just declared God is?
God and I are One, I know that I am infinite intelligence, deep peace, unconditional love, courage, harmony and joy. I am what God is. God is expressing through me right now in every way. I have all answers within with God as my source. Every cell of my body is God, every situation is God, every thing in my life now is God.
Step 3 - Realization
The first two steps are often compared to meditation. When you have experienced a richness and a deepening as a result of the first two steps, the third step is a declaration of the Truth you have realized. It is always worded in the first person and in the present tense. You are not asking for anything. You are declaring and affirming that it is the Truth and is already done.
Remember, you are treating your own mind about this. The entire Kingdom has already been given to you. If you don't believe it, God can’t do anything more for you. If you are doing this treatment for someone else you substitute their name where yours is indicated.
I now speak my word for myself.
The Truth of God is the Truth of my life. I easily and effortlessly know my greater good, know it is my Divine right and the truth of my being to experience the highest and best good for myself. I am always in the right place and the right time. The Wisdom of God within me guides my every move. I experience unconditional love flowing through me at all times. I feel the perfection of God in every cell of my body. I am total harmony and joy in every area of my life. I see God in every situation in my life.
Step 4 - Thanksgiving
Here you express your gratitude for the successful completion of your declaration of Truth and for your willingness to see it, believe it and surrender to its enfoldment.
I give thanks for the realization of this treatment and the perfect working of the spiritual law which responds to my thoughts and words. I am confident and joyous that my good is already unfolding through me as me.
Step 5 - Release
It’s time to release it to Spirit. You’ve done your work; now know the Law will do it’s work - through you.
In this feeling of gratitude, I release this treatment to the Law. I know it was done before I even asked. I release any doubts or fears and simply allow it to be my good-right now. I have declared it to be so.
And So It Is!
Brian Sullivan
“And where there is a scientific vacuum, drug companies are happy to insert a marketing message and call it science. As a result, psychiatry has become a proving ground for outrageous manipulations of science in the service of profit.”
- Dr. Daniel Carlat

“Depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance, and Zoloft works to correct this imbalance.”
Herein lies the serotonin myth.
As one of only two countries in the world that permits direct to consumer advertising, you have undoubtedly been subjected to promotion of the “cause of depression.” A cause that is not your fault, but rather; a matter of too few little bubbles passing between the hubs in your brain! Don’t add that to your list of worries, though, because there is a convenient solution awaiting you at your doctor’s office…
What if I told you that, in 6 decades of research, the serotonin (or norepinephrine, or dopamine) theory of depression and anxiety has not achieved scientific credibility?
You’d want some supporting arguments for this shocking claim.
So, here you go:
The Science of Psychiatry is Myth
Rather than some embarrassingly reductionist, one-deficiency-one-illness-one-pill model of mental illness, contemporary exploration of human behavior has demonstrated that we may know less than we ever thought we did.  And that what we do know about root causes of mental illness seems to have more to do with the concept of evolutionary mismatch than with genes and chemical deficiencies.
In fact, a meta-analysis of over 14,000 patients and Dr. Insel, head of the NIMH, had this to say:
“Despite high expectations, neither genomics nor imaging has yet impacted the diagnosis or treatment of the 45 million Americans with serious or moderate mental illness each year.”
To understand what imbalance is, we must know what balance looks like, and neuroscience, to date, has not characterized the optimal brain state, nor how to even assess for it.
A New England Journal of Medicine review on Major Depression, stated:
” … numerous studies of norepinephrine and serotonin metabolites in plasma, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid as well as postmortem studies of the brains of patients with depression, have yet to identify the purported deficiency reliably.”
The data has poked holes in the theory and even the field of psychiatry itself is putting down its sword. One of my favorite essays by Lacasse and Leo has compiled sentiments from influential thinkers in the field – mind you, these are conventional clinicians and researchers in mainstream practice – who have broken rank, casting doubt on the entirety of what psychiatry has to offer around antidepressants:
Humble Origins of a Powerful Meme
In the 1950s, reserpine, initially introduced to the US market as an anti-seizure medication, was noted to deplete brain serotonin stores in subjects, with resultant lethargy and sedation. These observations colluded with the clinical note that an anti-tuberculosis medication, iproniazid, invoked mood changes after five months of treatment in 70% of a 17 patient cohort. Finally, Dr. Joseph Schildkraut threw fairy dust on these mumbles and grumbles in 1965 with his hypothetical manifesto entitled “The Catecholamine Hypothesis of Affective Disorders” stating:
“At best, drug-induced affective disturbances can only be considered models of the natural disorders, while it remains to be demonstrated that the behavioral changes produced by these drugs have any relation to naturally occurring biochemical abnormalities which might be associated with the illness.”
Contextualized by the ripeness of a field struggling to establish biomedical legitimacy (beyond the therapeutic lobotomy!), psychiatry was ready for a rebranding, and the pharmaceutical industry was all too happy to partner in the effort.
Of course, the risk inherent in “working backwards” in this way (noting effects and presuming mechanisms) is that we tell ourselves that we have learned something about the body, when in fact, all we have learned is that patented synthesized chemicals have effects on our behavior. This is referred to as the drug-based model by Dr. Joanna Moncrieff. In this model, we acknowledge that antidepressants have effects, but that these effects in no way are curative or reparative.
The most applicable analogy is that of the woman with social phobia who finds that drinking two cocktails eases her symptoms. One could imagine how, in a 6 week randomized trial, this “treatment” could be found efficacious and recommended for daily use and even prevention of symptoms. How her withdrawal symptoms after 10 years of daily compliance could lead those around her to believe that she “needed” the alcohol to correct an imbalance. This analogy is all too close to the truth.
Running With Broken Legs
Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Carlat has said:
“And where there is a scientific vacuum, drug companies are happy to insert a marketing message and call it science. As a result, psychiatry has become a proving ground for outrageous manipulations of science in the service of profit.”
So, what happens when we let drug companies tell doctors what science is? We have an industry and a profession working together to maintain a house of cards theory in the face of contradictory evidence.
We have a global situation in which increases in prescribing are resulting in increases in severity of illness (including numbers and length of episodes) relative to those who have never been treated with medication.
To truly appreciate the breadth of evidence that states antidepressants are ineffective and unsafe, we have to get behind the walls that the pharmaceutical companies erect. We have to unearth unpublished data, data that they were hoping to keep in the dusty catacombs.
A now famous 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by Turner et al sought to expose the extent of this data manipulation. They demonstrated that, from 1987 to 2004, 12 antidepressants were approved based on 74 studies. Thirty-eight were positive, and 37 of thesewere published.  Thirty-six were negative (showing no benefit), and 3 of these were published as such while 11 were published with a positive spin (always read the data not the author’s conclusion!), and 22 were unpublished.
In 1998 tour de force, Dr. Irving Kirsch, an expert on the placebo effect, published a meta-analysis of 3,000 patients who were treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy, placebo, or no treatment and found that only 27% of the therapeutic response was attributable to the drug’s action.
This was followed up by a 2008 review, which invoked the Freedom of Information Act to obtain access to unpublished studies, finding that, when these were included, antidepressants outperformed placebo in only 20 of 46 trials (less than half!), and that the overall difference between drugs and placebos was 1.7 points on the 52 point Hamilton Scale.  This small increment is clinically insignificant, and likely accounted for by medication side effects strategically employed (sedation or activation).
When active placebos were used, the Cochrane database found that differences between drugs and placebos disappeared, given credence to the assertion that inert placebos inflate perceived drug effects.
The finding of tremendous placebo effect in the treatment groups was also echoed in two different meta-analyses by Khan et al who found a 10% difference between placebo and antidepressant efficacy, and comparable suicide rates. The most recent trial examining the role of “expectancy” or belief in antidepressant effect, found that patients lost their perceived benefit if they believed that they might be getting a sugar pill even if they were continued on their formerly effective treatment dose of Prozac.
The largest, non-industry funded study, costing the public $35 million dollars, followed 4000 patients treated with Celexa (not blinded, so they knew what they were getting), and found that half of them improved at 8 weeks. Those that didn’t were switched to Wellbutrin, Effexor, or Zoloft OR “augmented” with Buspar or Wellbutrin.
Guess what? It didn’t matter what was done, because they remitted at the same unimpressive rate of 18-30% regardless with only 3% of patients in remission at 12 months.
How could it be that medications like Wellbutrin, which purportedly primarily disrupt dopamine signaling, and medications like Stablon which theoretically enhances the reuptake of serotonin, both work to resolve this underlying imbalance? Why would thyroid, benzodiazepines, beta blockers, and opiates also “work”? And what does depression have in common with panic disorder, phobias, OCD, eating disorders, and social anxiety that all of these diagnoses would warrant the same exact chemical fix?
Alternative options
As a holistic clinician, one of my bigger pet peeves is the use of amino acids and other nutraceuticals with  “serotonin-boosting” claims. These integrative practitioners have taken a page from the allopathic playbook and are seeking to copy-cat what they perceive antidepressants to be doing.
The foundational “data” for the modern serotonin theory of mood utilizes tryptophan depletion methods which involve feeding volunteers amino acid mixtures without tryptophan and are rife with complicated interpretations.
Simply put, there has never been a study that demonstrates that this intervention causes mood changes in any patients who have not been treated with antidepressants.
In an important paper entitled Mechanism of acute tryptophan depletion: Is it only serotonin?, van Donkelaar et al caution clinicians and researchers about the interpretation of tryptophan research. They clarify that there are many potential effects of this methodology, stating:
In general, several findings support the fact that depression may not be caused solely by an abnormality of 5-HT function, but more likely by a dysfunction of other systems or brain regions modulated by 5-HT or interacting with its dietary precursor. Similarly, the ATD method does not seem to challenge the 5-HT system per se, but rather triggers 5HT-mediated adverse events.
So if we cannot confirm the role of serotonin in mood and we have good reason to believe that antidepressant effect is largely based on belief, then why are we trying to “boost serotonin”?
Causing imbalances
All you have to do is spend a few minutes on or to appreciate that we have created a monster. Millions of men, women, and children the world over are suffering, without clinical guidance (because this is NOT a part of medical training) to discontinue psychiatric meds. I have been humbled, as a clinician who seeks to help these patients, by what these medications are capable of. Psychotropic withdrawal can make alcohol and heroin detox look like a breeze.
An important analysis by the former director of the NIMH makes claims that antidepressants “create perturbations in neurotransmitter functions” causing the body to compensate through a series of adaptations which occur after “chronic administration” leading to brains that function, after a few weeks, in a way that is “qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the normal state.”
Changes in beta-adrenergic receptor density, serotonin autoreceptor sensitivity, and serotonin turnover all struggle to compensate for the assault of the medication.
Andrews, et al., calls this “oppositional tolerance,” and demonstrate through a careful meta-analysis of 46 studies demonstrating that patient’s risk of relapse is directly proportionate to how “perturbing” the medication is, and is always higher than placebo (44.6% vs 24.7%). They challenge the notion that findings of decreased relapse on continued medication represent anything other than drug-induced response to discontinuation of a substance to which the body has developed tolerance. They go a step further to add:
“For instance, in naturalistic studies, unmedicated patients have much shorter episodes, and better long-term prospects, than medicated patients. Several of these studies have found that the average duration of an untreated episode of major depression is 12–13 weeks.”
Harvard researchers also concluded that at least fifty percent of drug-withdrawn patients relapsed within 14 months. In fact:
“Long-term antidepressant use may be depressogenic . . . it is possible that antidepressant agents modify the hardwiring of neuronal synapses (which) not only render antidepressants ineffective but also induce a resident, refractory depressive state.”
So, when your doctor says, “You see, look how sick you are, you shouldn’t have stopped that medication,” you should know that the data suggests that your symptoms are withdrawal, not relapse.
Longitudinal studies demonstrate poor functional outcomes for those treated with 60% of patients still meeting diagnostic criteria at one year (despite transient improvement within the first 3 months). When baseline severity is controlled for, two prospective studies support a worse outcome in those prescribed medication:
One in which the never-medicated group experienced a 62% improvement by six months, whereas the drug-treated patients experienced only a 33% reduction in symptoms, and another WHO study of depressed patients in 15 cities which found that, at the end of one year, those who weren’t exposed to psychotropic medications enjoyed much better “general health”; that their depressive symptoms were much milder”; and that they were less likely to still be “mentally ill.” 
I’m not done yet. In a retrospective 10-year study in the Netherlands, 76% of those with unmedicated depression recovered without relapse relative to 50% of those treated.
Unlike the mess of contradictory studies around short-term effects, there are no comparable studies that show a better outcome in those prescribed antidepressants long term.
First Do No Harm
So, we have a half-baked theory in a vacuum of science that that pharmaceutical industry raced to fill. We have the illusion of short-term efficacy and assumptions about long-term safety. But are these medications actually killing people?
The answer is yes.
Unequivocally, antidepressants cause suicidal and homicidal behavior. The Russian Roulette of patients vulnerable to these “side effects” is only beginning to be elucidated and may have something to do with genetic variants around metabolism of these chemicals.  Dr. David Healy hasworked tirelessly to expose the data that implicates antidepressants in suicidality and violence, maintaining a database for reporting, writing, and lecturing about cases of medication-induced death that could make your soul wince.
What about our most vulnerable?
I have countless patients in my practice who report new onset of suicidal ideation within weeks of starting an antidepressant. In a population where there are only 2 randomized trials, I have grave concerns about postpartum women who are treated with antidepressants before more benign andeffective interventions such as dietary modification and thyroid treatment. Hold your heart as you read through these reports of women who took their own and their childrens’ lives while treated with medications.
Then there is the use of these medications in children as young as 2 years old. How did we ever get the idea that this was a safe and effective treatment for this demographic? Look no further than data like Study 329, which cost Glaxo Smith Klein 3 billion dollars for their efforts to promote antidepressants to children. These efforts required ghost-written and manipulated data that suppressed a signal of suicidality, falsely represented Paxil as outperforming placebo, and contributes to an irrepressible mountain of harm done to our children by the field of psychiatry.
RIP Monoamine Theory
As Moncrieff and Cohen so succinctly state:
“Our analysis indicates that there are no specific antidepressant drugs, that most of the short-term effects of antidepressants are shared by many other drugs, and that long-term drug treatment with antidepressants or any other drugs has not been shown to lead to long-term elevation of mood. We suggest that the term “antidepressant” should be abandoned.”
So, where do we turn?
The field of psychoneuroimmunology dominates the research as an iconic example of how medicine must surpass its own simplistic boundaries if we are going to begin to chip away at the some 50% of Americans who will struggle with mood symptoms, 11% of whom will be medicated for it.
There are times in our evolution as a cultural species when we need to unlearn what we think we know. We have to move out of the comfort of certainty and into the freeing light of uncertainty. It is from this space of acknowledged unknowing that we can truly grow. From my vantage point, this growth will encompass a sense of wonder – both a curiosity about what symptoms of mental illness may be telling us about our physiology and spirit, as well as a sense of humbled awe at all that we do not yet have the tools to appreciate. For this reason, honoring our co-evolution with the natural world, and sending the body a signal of safety through movement, diet, meditation, and environmental detoxification represents our most primal and most powerful tool for healing.