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Insights at the Edge
Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with leading spiritual teachers and luminaries.
Listen in as they explore their latest challenges and breakthroughs—the leading edge of their work.
The MindBody Code, Part 1
Archetypal Wounds and Their Healing Fields
Mario Martinez is a clinical neuropsychologist and the founder of biocognitive science—a new paradigm that identifies complex discoveries of how our cultural beliefs affect our immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. With Sounds True, he has written a new book called The MindBody Code. In the first half of a two-part interview, Mario spoke with Tami Simon about how our cultural assumptions can affect our health and well-being. They also talked about archetypal wounds of shame, betrayal, and abandonment—as well as their corresponding healing fields of honor, loyalty, and commitment. Finally, Mario and Tami spoke on what means to feel worthy of making meaningful change in one’s life. (61 minutes)
Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Mario Martinez. Mario is a clinical neuropsychologist who lectures worldwide on how cultural beliefs affect health and longevity. He is the founder of biocognitive science—a new paradigm that identifies complex discoveries of how our cultural beliefs affect our immune, nervous, and endocrine systems.
With Sounds True, Mario Martinez has written a new book called The MindBody Code: How to the Change the Beliefs That Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success—where he challenges the reader to embrace a radically new paradigm for health and well-being. [He] reveals the way our cultural beliefs impact our immune system.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Mario and I spoke about moving beyond the pale—how we can express excellence in our lives even if it means being more successful than others in our identified tribe. We talked about three archetypal wounds and what Mario calls "their healing fields." We talked about shame, abandonment, and betrayal—and the respective healing fields of honor, commitment, and loyalty. And finally, we talked about what it means to feel worthy enough to actually make changes in our lives.
Here’s part one of my conversation with Mario Martinez on his new book, The MindBody Code:
I’m delighted to be here today with neuropsychologist Dr. Mario Martinez. Mario, I think of you as an original thinker—and that’s not an easy thing to find. Someone who has a lot of original ideas to contribute. One of the main ideas that I’ve gathered from your work is that we can expand our thinking of mind-body phenomenon to include the culture. We can think of “mind-body-culture.” I’ve seen people now who introduce the word “mindbody” as one word—the mind and the body constantly interacting. But here, you introduce the idea of the mindbody and the culture interacting.
So, let’s begin right there. Can you help us understand this cultural component?
Mario Martinez: Yes. The cultural component was fascinating to me, because when I studied neuropsychology, [I was] studying the American brain. Or the Western brain. Then you think that’s how it works. You don’t think that their culture has any components to contribute to the change. But, then you go to the Eastern cultures, and you look at functional MRIs and resonance-type assessments of the brain, and they function differently.
The reductionist model said, “Well, there’s an Eastern brain and there’s a Western brain.” It’s not that. The brain is so pliable. The brain is culture, in the sense that the brain learns the cultural premises that we live. The immune system does the same thing, too.
So, for me, that was a tremendous awakening—to see that the culture—oh so subtle and so invisible—it’s constantly there. For example, if you shame someone in this culture, you have inflammation—molecules that cause inflammation.
But you can’t shame someone in the East as you do in the West. For example, to be shamed here is personal. We have an individualist kind of culture. “I have been shamed.” If you go east, “. . . My group [or] my family has been shamed.” So, you won’t get inflammation if they shame you. You get inflammation if the person feels that the family’s been shamed.
So, that’s fascinating to see how the immune system can determine the interpretation of an emotion that’s very negative. To me, that was fascinating. That’s how I started looking at the cultures. Not just mind and body—but it’s mind, body, and the culture. Perception is very cultural.
Remember in high school psychology—the illusions [that] they have? For example, two lines. One line has arrows going inward, and the other has arrows going outward. The optical illusion is that the one going outward looks bigger than the other. You can’t make your eyes see it [as] equal.
So, that was a monolithic statement that that’s an optical illusion for everybody. Then they go to certain African tribes that are desert dwellers, [and] they don’t have that illusion because they have horizontality and the cultural processes that they have. So, when you ask them, “What are these lines like?” they say they’re both the same.
So, you see, [we] constantly define what we thought was a monolithic brain.
TS: Help me understand what some of the most important implications are from starting to think in terms of mind-body-culture dynamics.
MM: I think the most important is—because, as you know, I brought anthropology and psychoneuroimmunology together. So, the most important one is to see what the tribe does. We’re still tribal. What we do within the pale anmd what we do beyond the pale.
Let’s say [that] within the pale, your brain learns what is aesthetic, what is transcendental, what [we are] doing here, what the concept of wellness [is], what the concept of ethics [is]. That’s how it works.
But since tribes are collective—they have a collectivist kind of mindset, because way back in the cave days, you had to protect yourself. You literally had to be within the pale.
TS: Now, explain that phrase: “within the pale.”
MM: “Within the pale.” That’s a great word. When people say “beyond the pale,” “the pale” is an Old English word that means “the fence” or “the wall.” To be within that. If you’re within that, you’re protected. You’re part of the group, and you are a contributor to the collectivism.
When you go beyond the pale, you are no longer protected. The key to your question is that when you go beyond the pale and succeed, at first you’re the hero. But when you come back, they cut you back to size. What they’re saying is, “You can’t make it beyond the pale, because then you’ll leave us and we won’t have the collective power.”
So, why is it important? Because when we leave the pale, we go on our own, and we start identifying ourselves, we start thinking, “Well, I’m not so bad in math. I was told I was bad in math, and here I am.” What we do—if we’re not aware—is we’ll say, “Well, it must be just a coincidence,” and you drop it. You begin to kill the potential self-esteem that you could build.
“Beyond the pale” is defying what brought you down within the pale, [as well as] accepting and learning with what I call “the new subcultures.” For example, you were told you were bad with directions and you bought that. Your brain will confirm whatever you tell it. Any time you’re bad with directions, it confirms. Any time you’re good with direction, that’s an exception—by chance.
So, all of a sudden, you leave the pale and you begin to see that you are good with directions [on your own]. Well, you need a subculture that begins to support that and says, "Tami, yes, you are good with directions." That subculture is what we try to work [with] when people come out.
This is why a placebo doesn’t work without support. If you have a placebo effect—which is the beginning of healing—and it’s not supported by a cultural editor—someone powerful in the new subculture—it dies. But if it’s supported, it continues the healing process.
TS: Now, let’s talk about this idea of moving beyond the pale, because I can think of so many examples where people have done that. They’ve been extraordinary in a certain kind of way. And before you know it, everybody’s trying to tear them down.
TS: It seems like now there’s a disincentive to be extraordinary. So, how does somebody get beyond that in their life?
MM: We’re still tribes. We’re still tribal. And we’re still going to do the collectivism. One of the things to do is to be aware that you are controlled by that collectivism.
What you need to find out is: how are you going to be punished when you go beyond the pale? [These are] the three archetypal wounds that I talk about in biocognition. Are you going to be abandoned emotionally? Are you going to be betrayed? Or are you going to be shamed?
The reason you have to know that is so you know how to heal it. When you’re beyond the pale and you go back to visit, and they tell you—I’ve worked with some very well-known country music artists. They go beyond the pale and they’re heroes. But when they come back—"Oh, so you don’t have any time for me?" Shaming.
So, what do they do? They ask themselves, "I’m either going to stay with my success on my own, or I’m going to go back and pay the price." The only way they take you back is as a failure. They’ll accept you as if—but you never go back as a success because it’s incompatible with the collectivism of the tribe.
There are techniques and things that I talk about in the book about how to actually create the subcultures of wellness to heal the wound. And when you go back, then you go back to visit—but you go back to visit without getting toxified.
TS: So, it sounds like what you’re emphasizing is this subculture of wellness. And I say that because I think lots of people can relate to this idea of going beyond the pale in some part of their life. I can think of an example—like everybody in my family, "Only achieved this level of success. And here I am, noticing that I am becoming much more successful than people in my family . . ."
This isn’t actually my case, but I’m thinking of someone I have—
MM: No, but it’s very—
TS: And, "Is it OK for me to be so much more successful or so much happier—happier in love, et cetera—than all of the people—the tribe—from whom I came?"
So, are you saying that the key to working that out is this new—you’re calling it a "subculture" of wellness. Meaning, "Now I have a new tribe that celebrates—"
MM: That’s all basically it, yes. You get out of the manipulative pseudo-humbleness that you’re taught in the collective tribe. "I love your hair!" "Oh, this? I didn’t do anything with it today." It’s an apology for your greatness and for your gift.
So, it never helps self-esteem. And it’s not real, because you know you’re good. The little girl says, "Mommy, why am I so beautiful?" "No, darling, don’t say that. You never say that you’re beautiful." You’re learning to keep your greatness within certain controls, but it’s a manipulative kind of thing. It’s not real. The real humble person—if I say, "Tami, I love your eyes," [you say], "Thank you, thank you. It’s a beautiful gift that I have." It’s honest.
And that’s what the immune system responds to. Not the pseudo-humbleness.
But they key here is that—let’s say you leave the tribe. But what you have learned is what I call "the intimate language of love"—from your parents, from your culture editors, teachers, and so forth. That intimate language of love has a built-in booby trap so that when you leave the pale, you’re going to be punished. One of the booby traps would be abandonment, let’s say.
MM: OK. So, you leave the tribe and then you’re abandoned on that side. On your side, what happens is that—since it’s built in—you feel that you have abandoned. Not only does the tribe feel abandoned, but you feel you’ve abandoned the tribe.
Then there’s that guilt that comes in. "Well, yes. I’m doing really well and my family didn’t do real well." In that case, what you have to do is you have to work through the abandonment that you feel for the people that didn’t make it—like you did, for example.
In Uruguay, it’s very funny because they have a lot of issues with that. They say, "We can forgive anything except success." That’s cultural. That’s a tribe.
So, there are a lot of things in the book that actually give you ways to come out and accept your greatness, and then work through so that joy can be sustainable. Joy can be dangerous as self-esteem is low.
TS: You used an interesting phrase. You said "the culture editors." What do you mean by that?
MM: The culture editors are the people that shape you. These are the people that the culture endows power in a context. A doctor in a hospital; a clergy [member] in a temple or church; a father [or] mother at home; teacher in school. They have a lot of power for nocebo and placebo. They can do harm or they can do good.
Those culture editors actually shape you. They tell you who you are. Not who you think you are—of course, you have personal experiences that tell you, "I’m good," here or there. But they basically shape you into who you are for your own good. "For your own good" is dangerous thing, because they beat you up and it’s "for your own good."
So, you have all of that. Then you leave and you think, "Oh, I’m on my own now. I’m fine." This is why some people get upset when somebody says, "You’re beginning to act and look like your parents." Because you [don’t feel] that. There’s a side of you that wants to be beyond the pale and there’s a side that knows that if you go beyond the pale, you’re going to have to pay a price. Totally subconscious. You don’t know. So, there’s a struggle.
This is why many people—as you said—when they make it, they sabotage themselves and they go back to known misery rather than unknown joy.
TS: OK. So, I still want to focus on this idea of moving beyond the pale and having love at the same time—how both of these things are going to happen. Can you help me with that?
MM: Sure. Let’s use an example. [In] your intimate language of love, you learned shame.
MM: They don’t teach it to you directly. It’s by what you watch. Let’s say your parents shame you, and since you have to love them—because they’re more powerful than you and you need them—then the language of love is tainted with shame. So, you speak shame fluently with them.
So, you go out and who do you look for? Somebody to shame, or somebody to shame you.
What do you do? Each of the wounds has a healing field. So, what do you do? Knowing that you have that wound—and let’s say that your partner has the wound of abandonment. You create a subculture with your partnership where you’re going to be living a cautiousness of commitment—which is for abandonment—and honor, which is for shame. And as you do that, not only do you create what I call "the pristine love," but your health improves because you’re no longer living within the pro-inflammatory kinds of things that happen with shame and the cortisol that you feel when you’re in abandonment.
TS: OK—so, let’s break this down for people. You mention [these] "three archetypal wounds." Abandonment, shame, and betrayal. You’ve been starting to refer to them, and that each one has—we could say—an antidote or healing field. You’ve been starting to speak about that. Abandonment has the healing field of commitment. Shame [has] the healing field of honor. Betrayal [has] the healing field of loyalty.
OK, so this is a lot for people to take in, but let’s see if we can break it down. First of all, how did you come up with these three archetypal wounds and these three healing fields? How did you develop this model?
MM: That’s a great question, because it’s really important to clarify. As I was looking at different cultures, I was looking at how people were wounded. I couldn’t find anything beyond those three anywhere I went. For example, guilt comes from shame. Anger comes from betrayal. You subsume everything under those three in every culture that I studied. African, Asian—actually doing fieldwork in those places.
So, I felt those were archetypal. And I call them "archetypal" because they happen everywhere. The culture will decide how they’re going to shame you, but shame is the cultural archetype that’s used to keep you within the pale.
TS: OK. And then the idea that each of these wounds has what you call a "healing field"—what do you mean by a healing field?
MM: A healing field is one that actually resolves the wound at an intellectual, cognitive, and also psychoimmunological level. I also found that every culture has honor. They have commitment, and they have loyalties that are really important that for a society [and] culture to have. If you have those three things, you don’t need to learn anything from biocognition—but it’s very difficult because we’re taught that language of love that’s entangled with the wounds.
So, as I was looking at that, I challenged myself: "I got to find the fourth one." I never did. I found the healing [by] talking to shamans, talking to doctors, talking to people who do healing—whether it’s Western science or Eastern mythology, or whatever. They had intuitively [found] ways of working through the shame with honorable kinds of things. And if you didn’t learn honor, you never got out of your shame. It can’t be dealt with intellectually.
TS: Help me understand an example. You’re talking about someone who experienced a lot of shame, and I presume all three of these might be present in our life to different degrees for many of us.
MM: Yes, yes.
TS: Many of us carry all three archetypal wounds.
MM: Yes. One is more salient, but you’re right. I carry all three. And one is more salient than the others.
But I’ll give you a clinical example. It’s real clear. This man was very wealthy. He came from a small town, and his father was the town alcoholic. His father died because he bet someone that he could eat glass while he was drunk.
strong>MM: So, he was not only the alcoholic, but he was also the son of the man who ate glass. Tremendous shaming.
So, he starts doing really well. He loved to play the Cuban drums. So, what does he get? He gets inflammatory arthritis [in the] left hand and right hand. It wasn’t his foot. It wasn’t his eyes. It was to kill the joy, so he couldn’t play the drums that he loved. Then he started having financial problems.
[He came] to see me. We started working on it. What we did is a technique [where] we went back to the times when he felt the shame and remembered hearing on the radio, "This gentleman thought he could eat glass." Where do you embody that? Where do you feel that? The moment that he felt that, the pain intensified around the left hand mainly. The inflammation was there.
So, we did the embodiment. First, you have to embody the wound. What is it that you feel and how is it manifested in the body? The immune system is very bio-symbolic. It responds to wounds as it does to pathogens.
So, we did that. Then the healing field was, "OK, let’s go back now." And this is under relaxation—not hypnosis, under relaxation."Let’s go back to the first time that you felt honorable." Since he lived in a lot of shame, it’s hard to identify something honorable. So, it’s not easy.
We worked on it, and he got to a point where he found that when he was nine, he was a big guy and he protected a little boy from being bullied. He felt very proud of himself. "OK, where do you feel that?" What happens is that—since honor is a much more evolved emotion—you feel it radiating all over your body. The shaming and the other wounds are very primitive, and you feel it more localized. So, he felt the shame in his hands and in his chest. He felt the honoring as an up-and-down feeling.
The moment that he was able to do that, the pain stopped. He went home, he called me three hours later, and he said, "The inflammation is gone." It never came back.
Now, that’s not something that happens all the time. These are exceptions. But then I started researching [honor] as an anti-inflammatory [and] working with women who have rheumatoid arthritis. I say "women" because it’s mostly women with rheumatoid arthritis. Clinically, [I have] been able to show significant improvement. Now, in Uruguay, we’re going to be testing the immunological components of the anti-inflammatory value of honor.
TS: So, if I want to bring more of this healing field of honor in my life, I can think back to times when I acted honorably and feel that experience? See myself in that light? Are there other things? Can I start acting in more honorable ways? That sounds like a good idea!
MM: Yes. Exactly—that’s the next step. Because the brain is evidence based, you can’t tell it, "I’m honorable." The brain’s going to say—if it could speak, you know, anthropomorphically—"Show me the evidence."
So, what do you do? You go back to the evidence that you have and you embody it. Then you begin to look for new evidence of honor in your life. All of a sudden, the healing starts. "I’m honorable here; I’m honorable there." And you embody it. Every time you’re honorable, you embody it. You have the fingerprint of what it feels like to be honorable.
But what will happen is that when you are in the shame, your body will let you know immediately. And we know we’re in the archetypal wounds when we overreact to something. Somebody says, "You’re late." "Well, what do you mean I’m late?" You’re putting the history of the wound. At that moment, you stop and you do the technique. It cleans it up.
It’s so deceptively simple—or deceivingly simple, in a sense—that you don’t think that anything’s going on. You think, "Oh, I’m not doing anything." And then, all of a sudden, you say, "Ah, I’m feeling better," or, "I’m not beating myself up anymore."
Another good thing is that the brain is very intelligent. If you catch yourself doing something and you punish yourself, it’s not going to remind you again. But if you say, "I caught myself being shameful. Ah! I’m going to celebrate that. I’m going to celebrate that I caught myself." What the brain does is [that] it helps you catch yourself more.
MM: I notice, Mario, as you take me through some of these examples, I go into a slight dreamy state listening to you. I start dreaming about my own life and the lives of people I know. [Therefore,] I want you to go through a couple more examples to help really illustrate the point. I think you’ve now taken us through an example of shame. But let’s backtrack to an example of abandonment in someone’s life and how commitment is the healing field for abandonment.
MM: OK. First, I think to give the audience a better understanding, they each have a temperature and they have a physiological, psychoneurological [component]. Shame feels hot because it causes inflammation and inflammation is hot. So, when you’re ashamed, you feel hot. You notice it. Your throat gets red and you feel—that’s a physiological response to a word.
Abandonment feels cold. You feel more of the cortisol and the constriction of blood. That’s why you get cold.
Betrayal is hot. You have quite a bit of cortisol in an aggressive way. You feel angry. When you’re betrayed, you feel angry. You don’t feel ashamed and you don’t feel cold. You get angry and hot. In Spanish, they say, "Me calienté—I got hot," which is another way of saying, "I got angry." So, it’s there. You have to know that. You know how you feel.
Later, you can get angry at all three, because you’re an adult. You can get angry when they shame you and you get angry when they—but initially, that’s how it works.
But, let’s take abandonment. You’re at a meeting or you’re coming into a meeting. You’re late. The person who’s running the meeting says, "I can always count on you being late." All of a sudden, you feel this anger. Initially, it was cold, but now it’s anger. You’re overwhelmed. So, what do you do?
You realize that you’re bringing the history of abandonment. You stop. You breathe. You don’t try to get rid of the tension. You breathe and you say to yourself, "OK, now what is the antidote to [abandonment]? What is the commitment that I can make right now?" I can make a commitment that I’m going to be on time. I can make a commitment that I can talk to this person and let them know that I have boundaries—that they can’t treat me this way. I can make a commitment that I’m going to do whatever I need to do that correct me being late—never blaming, always owning.
That alone gets you out of the abandonment and gets you into commitment consciousness, which is the healing. But the key is to find that, if you’re overreacting, 99 percent of the time, you’re using one of the wounds.
TS: So, when you talk about commitment consciousness, it’s not so much commitment as in a marital commitment or something like that—
TS: —it’s commitment—
MM: To you.
TS: Uh huh.
MM: Commitment to you. Honor to you. Why? Because it’s your bioinformational field that’s wounded. So, the bioinformational field has to be committed to you [and] has to be honorable to you. It has to be loyal. But the side effect is that if you’re honorable with yourself, what’s going to happen is you’re going to be attracting people that are honorable.
TS: Now, it’s interesting—this use of the phrase "bioinformational field." So, my bioinformational field may lack commitment in it?
TS: And that’s something that someone else can sense? Tell me more about that. How [does] my bioinformational field—?
MM: The way to look at it is like—some other [sources] have called it a "morphic field." I call it "bioinformational" because it’s not an energy. It’s information with biology. That information with biology is you. It has horizons. You have beliefs there that, let’s say, tall people are intelligent. Asians are good with math or bad with math, or whatever. That’s your field. When those horizons get shaken, you either let new information in or you reject it.
So, that bioinformational field may be lacking commitment consciousness. What you do is speak abandonment. You attract abandonment. You have the physiology of abandonment, which is not healthy.
As the bioinformational field begins to change, not only am I going to act committed because there’s an abandonment wound here, I’m going to create evidence of me being committed. And most important, I’m going to look at what I call the "emotional vampires" that are not permitting me to be committed—that are abandoning me or allowing me to abandon them.
So, you see [that] biocognition is really bioinformation in the sense that we have co-authors in what we do. We have a tribe that taught us [to be] how we are. If you don’t look at it as a systems approach, change won’t occur. That’s why change is so difficult.
TS: OK, so let’s take an example of someone who has a history of being abandoned in relationships. "All my partners leave me for somebody else." Something like that. That’s their story. It’s happened half a dozen times. What could that person do in terms of bringing in this healing field to change that bioinformational blueprint, if you will?
MM: That’s a good way to put it. Yes. A blueprint.
Well, first, it’s to realize that they are co-authors in the abandonment. You’re not being abandoned—not to blame—but you’re a co-author in the abandonment. Knowing that you’re a co-author in the abandonment, you can empower yourself. Say, "OK, if I’m a co-author, then I can change that. How did I contribute to that abandonment? What were the early signs that I didn’t pay attention to?" You’ll always find them. You say, "Ah, I know this wasn’t working, but I thought that love could conquer." Because you may be ready to change, but your co-author—your partner—may not be ready to change.
So, that’s the first thing you do. The second thing you do is you ask yourself, "How am I abandoning me in the process?" You begin to work on yourself. Let’s say that the relationship is over. Great opportunity for you to learn commitment to self.
As you do, the bioinformational field changes. The sense of who you are changes and you begin to attract—that’s why alcoholics attract alcoholics and people who have been sexually abused attract people who have been sexually abused. Because there’s an intimate language of love. When you change that, you’ll see people coming two miles away. "This is an abandonment person here. No. I’m not going to get into that."
At first, we’re weak in the sense that we don’t have it worked out very well. It’s like not telling your age. I believe that you should never tell your age because you’re put into that portal and they start treating you that way—[at least] until you’re strong enough, like centenarians. They’re strong enough. They made it. They can tell their age, and usually what they do is they lie. If they’re 102, they tell you that they’re 120. But that’s OK.
But while you’re working through and you’re not strong enough—or you’re still building that concept—don’t tell your age. Let’s say middle age is a portal. It’s a portal of age. You were 44 a day before. At 45, you’re in the portal of middle age. You begin to—without knowing it—dress like middle age, act like middle age, and get sick like the middle age, supported by the cultural editors of medicine. "Well, what do you want? You’re middle-aged." "I want to go back to college." "No—you [should] be thinking about retirement."
You see, they mold you into that portal because it’s good for the collectivism and has a socioeconomic value, too because it’s powerful. You begin to sell to the middle-aged. So, you have to be real careful with that.
Then, once you learn that, then you say, "OK, now I have tools. One of my tools is that I’m going to start working on me—on my commitment. I’m going to be looking at the people that don’t allow me to be committed. And I’m going to look for evidence of commitment in myself and co-authoring with other people." Your world begins to change. Those are the tools for the change.
TS: Now, let’s talk about this third archetypal wound and the healing field. I just really want to cover this, because I think it’s quite an interesting part of your work. It’s betrayal, with the healing field of loyalty. So, how would I know if I had the archetypal wound of betrayal?
MM: Well, betrayal is the most difficult—it’s workable, but it’s most difficult. I’ll tell you why: because, when someone betrays you, not only have they tricked you, you have to question your sense of humanity. How good is humanity? How good is the world? There’s a deceptive sense [of], "Am I ever going to trust anybody? Are people worthy of being trusted?" It really is a shock. It’s strong.
But, knowing that loyalty is the healing field, then you have something to hold onto. So, let’s say that you’ve been betrayed for whatever. At work, [with] a partner, whatever. First, you have to realize that you were co-author in the betrayal in the sense that you already brought in the possibility of being betrayed—in some cases. Not all cases. You could be betrayed and not have the wound of betrayal. But you always look for it to see if it’s there.
Then, what is the loyalty that you have to create? The loyalty that I create for myself is that I am going to be loyal to my beliefs [and] I’m going to be loyal to my intuition.
The question that people come up with is, "So, what’s the difference between commitment and loyalty?" The difference is: commitment is a commitment to a situation, to a person, to a belief. The loyalty is a commitment to something much greater than that—something that is much higher at the bioinformational level. It’s a commitment to something greater than yourself—much higher than honor, much higher than commitment. I am loyal to this belief at any price.
[One way to look at it is that] it’s a commitment to a devotion. The other one is a commitment to a condition. So, one has a higher, more exalted emotion.
TS: If I can ask you a personal question for a moment, Mario, which of these three has been the predominant one in your personal experience?
MM: Well, I’ll say it without melodrama because some authors tell you, "Oh look, poor me." This is wonderful.
At 12, my father left. At that age, what you ask yourself [is], "What did I do wrong?" Abandonment. Came back, left again. OK—so abandonment was mine. So, I was always looking for someone to abandon me. In school and all that. Before knowing biocognition, I suffered a lot. I didn’t know how to do deal with it. I just thought there was something wrong with me—"I’m Hispanic. I’m not blonde." You look for attributions that have nothing to do with it.
So, when I realized that there were ways to work this out—especially after working with other cultures—"OK, commitment." And I noticed that I would not commit to anything. I would do things and just at the end of finishing, I would drop it. Then, my mother would reinforce it: "You’re just like your dad. You don’t finish anything."
So, I had to go through that process and I had to learn to find commitment evidence. I went back and I found a lot of commitment. I had committed to many things. Once you do that, it begins to shake up the wound. It begins to allow you to develop relationships with people who are also into that consciousness of commitment. You can count on them.
The most beautiful thing for me is that I can count on somebody. Why? Because I came from that wound.
Am I still wounded? No. So, the key is that you can heal yourself with help and with co-authors of wellness.
TS: Now, Mario, the subtitle of your new book, The MindBody Code, is How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success. Later, we’re going to talk about how to change the beliefs that limit your longevity. And we’re talking a little bit about health right now. But for the moment, I want to focus on the beliefs that might limit my success [or] the listeners’ success in the world.
You talk about something you call "abundance phobia." Can you tell us what you mean by that?
MM: We have what I call "ceilings of abundance." If you want to test it, what you do is—money is a real concrete thing. You can use love, but I think money is concrete. You can say, "OK, I’m making X amount of money a year. I’m going to multiply that times 50 and see what I can do with that," under deep relaxation. You always get relaxed, because the intellect won’t let you go there to protect you.
So, you go there and you say, "I’m making so much, and now with 50 times more, what could I do?" You start thinking, "I’m going to help this person. I’m going to go around the world." After you do all that, check your body. You’re going to see tension in your body, because you created turbulence at the horizons. So, that’s the first thing to work on.
The second is that since that’s where the self-esteem is tied around, I’m OK with this. I’m OK with this kind of love. I’m OK with this kind of health. I’m OK with this kind of wealth. When your horizons are shaken, it causes tension. It’s like fight or flight. What we do is, in order to relieve that tension, we go back to the known misery or the known ceilings that we have.
So, it’s important to know those turbulences, because if you don’t, you ask yourself, "Why am I feeling so tense if wonderful things are happening to me?" Any time anything [good] happens to me or [I get] some great news, I stop and I do the technique to allow my worthiness to accept it. So, I don’t get sick and I don’t sabotage it.
TS: OK, so with this idea of this "ceiling" of abundance—let’s say somebody imagines themselves 50 times more wealthy and they realize that they’re very uncomfortable because they have an idea that it’s not fair. "It’s just not fair." It’s not fair for all the people who don’t have money and for me to have so much. What do they do with that belief, then? They believe this. They believe it’s not fair. So, how do they change that belief.
MM: It’s very real, and you embody it. Where do you feel it? Embodiment is a key component of biocognition, because we learn things mind-body-culture and you try to fix them [with just] mind. You’re leaving out two components. So, we have the mind-body-culture.
So, "I’m making so much money now, and I’m feeling so guilty because there are poor people in Bangladesh. It’s not fair." OK. Embodied. Who taught me that kind of deprivation? Whoever taught you deprivation, you’re going to have to betray, abandon, or shame if you want to go on.
TS: Let’s say it’s quite burdened with the fact that I learned that from the Church or my religious institution of some kind. Or, I learned that from my family. So, those are the last people that I want to betray.
MM: Yes, exactly. So, you see, you have a real existential and transcendental conflict there. If I make it, I’m going to have to betray the people that love me or the people within the pale. It’s a major, major thing.
There’s a process that I teach: that what you do is you indentify—and it’s kind of intuitive to say, "Who am I going to betray if I do well?" Or, "Who am I going to abandon if I do well?" But you do.
So, you bring that person in to your field—under deep relaxation—and you say, "I’m abandoning you," or betrayal, whatever it is. Let’s say, "I’m betraying you, because now I’m going to be doing better than you, Dad. You never made it and I did." Then, what you do—since you created that space, then you go back and you become your dad. And your dad says, "No, you’re not betraying me. You’re being loyal to yourself. I’ll let you go." Since it’s your space and you experience your dad and you experience you, the bioinformational field begins to re-contextualize that.
Then you need evidence. All right—"What can I do with all this money?" Or, "What can I do with all this wealth?" or whatever. I can be a model for poor people to understand that they can make it too. I can help other people. I can do a lot of things.
But one of the things that governments do—and this is not political, it’s all governments—is that they manipulate the poor to stay poor to get votes. They say, "The poor are noble and the rich are evil." So, who wants to come out of their [nobility] and become evil? So, what they’re saying is, "You got to stay poor because you’re noble when you’re poor. But if you come out, no longer." I think that when you’re wealthy, you can be just as noble as you were when you were poor.
Socioeconomics has nothing to do with character. You could be evil poor or evil wealthy. In order to expand the abundance ceilings, what you do is you make a commitment that that money is going to have some value—to you, to your family, and to other people. The philanthropist archetype comes out and that kills the deprivation guilt.
TS: I notice that, for me, there’s a question running through our conversation that I just want to make really explicit—which is, from your understanding of mind-body-culture biocognition, how do people change? How do people actually change? And I say this because, many times, people say, "I tried all these different things. I know what I’m supposed to do, but I don’t do it. I read this book on XYZ and I’m still not changing." It seems to me that you’re getting into some of the root system, if you will, of what could be the impediments to real change.
So, OK Mario—how do people make the changes that they want to make in their life?
MM: That’s a great question. If you’re not ready to answer questions practically with your theory, your theory’s weak. So, that’s a great question.
The most important thing is when people say, "I tried this. I tried that," they either tried it intellectually or they tried it emotionally. They went to a workshop and they cried and they did all these wonderful things. That’s emotional. Or they intellectualized and they understood— not enough. It’s necessary, but not sufficient.
So, what do you have to do? You have to, number one, identify that if you make a change, you’re going to have to wound somebody. And if you make a change, you’re going to have to give yourself evidence that you’re worthy of the change. When we don’t change—it doesn’t matter what it is—I will argue that you don’t feel worthy of the change.
So, you have to work on the worthiness before you try to make the change. In the book, I talk about how to prepare yourself for change, because you just can’t change. It doesn’t work that way. You have to prepare the terrain so that then you can do the change with sustainability.
TS: Let’s talk some about that—being "worthy" of the change. Because I think you’ve done a good job describing who I’m going to have to be willing to disappoint or who I’m going to have to ask to have a different view internally of my success.
But now the second part—I have to be worthy. So, help me with that.
MM: OK. The worthy, again: practical. The way that I break down self-valuation or self-esteem is into three parts—and we have to work on that to create our worthiness.
"Worthiness" means that I can allow an abundance of love, health, and wealth without sabotaging it or getting sick. That’s how I define it.
OK, so what do you do? There are three operational parts of self-esteem. One is the valuation self-esteem. How valued do I feel when good things are happening to me? How much value do I give myself? The second—and I’ll give you ways to get into each of them. But the second is the competence self-esteem. How competent am I at what I do? The third—which nobody looks at—is the affiliation self-esteem. What quality of relationships do I have? They look at it indirectly, but not in an operational way.
As you know, in biocognition, I take things that are very complex and I make them very simple. Very simple to work on that.
How do you bring up the meter on valuation and how do you bring it down? You bring it up when you make self-caring commitments and you keep them. When you break them, it goes down. It could be, "I’m going for a walk today." Your friend calls [and says], "Let’s go to a movie." "OK." You break it [and] it goes down. "No, I’m sorry, but I have a . . ." You can say anything you want.
But the cultures don’t support that. See, the cultures support the value of the collective. You’re not worthy. And they support illness, because you say, "No, I’m going to spend time by myself. I’m going to meditate." "Ah, you can meditate some other time." But if you say you have a migraine, OK. So, illness becomes a passport to set limits.
So then, what do you do? You work with valuation self-esteem and you begin to look for evidence. Always evidence-based.
The second, competence is a lot easier because: are you good at what you do or not? If you expand your learning—[and] the brain always needs to expand its learning—competence self-esteem goes up. Workshops, doing things that challenge your intellect, improving your relationship, improving what you eat—anything like that brings it up.
What brings it down? Stagnation. Doctors or psychologists or pediatricians or whatever [say], "Oh no, I don’t go to workshops. I don’t need any of that." They stay where they are [and] competence self-esteem goes down.
You can see, for example, where a CEO of a multibillion-dollar company [who is] extremely competent gets home and gets beat up by their partner emotionally. They have competence self-esteem, but they don’t have valuation self-esteem.
And the third—which is so important—is, "Who are the quality people that I bring in to share my abundance?" Every time I ask a centenarian throughout the cultures, "What is your concept of wealth?" [they say,] "The quality of the friendships that I have." All of them. They could have a lot of money or not a lot.
So, the affiliation self-esteem I learned when I was doing fieldwork in anthropology. What matters is that—and here’s where the subcultures of wellness come into it. If you don’t have affiliation self-esteem—quality people to support your wellness and all that—then you may have competence and valuation, but you’re alone in a cave. Health requires all three of them.
That’s how you build your worthiness. That in of itself is a task before you try doing anything with abundance. It’s a step before. It’s creating the terrain.
TS: Part of what I’m curious about is: let’s say somebody wants to do something relatively simple in terms of making a behavior change in their life. Let’s say somebody wants to lose weight. They have all the intellectual knowledge in the world, [but] it’s not that simple. Exercise more, eat less calories. However you come up with that. But they’re not doing it.
And underneath, they sense, "You know, yes. It’s probably some kind of worthiness [issue.] Some way that I’m punishing myself. Something like that. How would Mario help me with this relatively simple task that I’m trying to do?"
MM: Well, I’ll tell you what I do with obese [people] and eating disorders. The first thing is that—if you define success by weight gain or weight loss—failure. It’s nothing to do with weight.
What happens is that we try to change behavior rather than the operating consciousness that controls that behavior. So, if you have an operating consciousness—or the goggles that you use to look at the world—that says, "I am not worthy of good things," or, "I am going to self-sabotage," then you’ll stop eating, but you’ll start drinking. You’ll stop drinking, but you’ll start smoking or you go to porno. You do distractions. Addictions, compulsions, [and] obsessions are distractions from some fear that we have. It could be an existential fear of death, or the fear of succeeding. Whatever it is, it’s always a fear.
So, what happens? We learn a great language of distracting ourselves. What do therapists do? Speak the distracting language. "How much weight have you lost? Did you do one line of cocaine, or did you do two?" That’s what they want. That’s why it doesn’t work. It’s distracting.
When I work with people who are obese, I don’t care what you ate. I mean, you know—you teach them about the good food. But don’t tell me whether you gained or lost. That’s indirect. That has nothing to do with it. What are you avoiding and how can I teach you to not avoid these things? That’s what we concentrate on.
Then I’m going to teach you how to love food. The first thing they say [is], "I love food too much!" You need food. You don’t abuse what you love. You abuse what you need. Actually, they learn to love food. But they also learn to pick up the false signals of hunger. People who are overweight—who have a problem with [weight]—by the way, you can be overweight and live longer than the people who are underweight.
But if you’re overweight and you want to lose weight, then you begin to identify the cues that are mistakenly interpreted. You’re bored, you think you’re hungry. You’re tired, you think you’re hungry. You’re anxious, you think you’re hungry. So, we give them ways of identifying the signal and responding with the correct tool. Then whatever is left, you love it. You go eat and you love.
If you abuse it, you’re not loving it. "OK, I’m not loving it. I abused it. Next time, I’m going to love it. But I’m going to realize that I was listening to a cue of anxiety rather than a cue of hunger."
You’re teaching your physiology. Your mind-body-culture—you’re teaching it that these are the cues that [you’re] going to respond to. Not to any cue.
TS: That’s very helpful, Mario. I want to draw a quote from the book that I think is appropriate at this point in our conversation and have you talk about it. Which is, beyond just something like trying to lose weight, you write in the book about addictions. You mention that you’ve worked with thousands of people to help them recover from addictions. Here’s what you write:
"Addictions are socio-cultural self-distractions that serve to avoid worthiness and are not diseases at all." So, help me understand that. "Socio-cultural self-distractions."
MM: OK, and then I’ll talk about why they’re not illnesses. We need to be empowered. Rats, humans. If we’re out of power, we’re disempowered. We’re helpless, and we’re in a state of turbulence. We want to regain our power.
The only way that we can’t regain our power is with our mortality. We’re the only animal that knows that we’re mortal. That’s the ultimate, transcendental loss of power.
TS: Other animals don’t know that they’re—?
TS: They watch other animals die.
MM: They watch them die and you notice that they go to them because they don’t understand death. Sometimes, they even bury them. But they don’t have the cognition to understand that this is a transcendental process that ends.
So, what I have found is that with many, many patients [and] people that I’ve worked with with phobias is that the ultimate fear is the fear of death. It could be anxiety about other things—public speaking, whatever—but the fear of death is the one that you can’t work through. There is a way to work it through, but you don’t think that you can.
What happens is that you go into what I call "the fear triad" with addictions. What is the fear triad? When I first started doing therapy, I would intellectually tell people, "Look, smoking’s going to kill you. You’re going to have emphysema." "Well, yes, I know doc." Or they’re smoking from their tracheotomy when they’re dying.
Fear doesn’t work. Intellect doesn’t work—because it has nothing to do with rational thinking. So, the fear triad is—let’s use death. The fear of death. There are others, but the fear of death—
TS: I think that works.
MM: So, that works. What’s the fear triad? First, you take the addiction and you use it as a distraction. Any time that I have any thoughts—not even conscious—of death or my mortality or my end, I’m going to distract myself. What will I use? Let’s say cigarettes—or let’s say alcohol. I’m distracting myself with alcohol.
Second: defiance. Since I am mortal, I’m going to make myself mortal. Let’s see how much my liver can handle. Subconsciously. Then it begins to make sense that people are really killing themselves although they don’t want to kill themselves. So, they’re defying their mortality.
The third is a choice. "If I’m going to go, I’m going to go with cirrhosis." Totally subconscious.
So, it begins to make sense why it doesn’t work when you try to bring fear into the situation or you try to bring reason into the situation. When I work with drug addicts, they know more pharmacology than I do. They know what to do, what not to do. What they don’t know is the avoidance that they’re doing.
As you teach them to deal with the avoidance and the fear triad, then you realize that they also have to deal with their co-authors. The co-authors may not be ready. The co-authors may be [in] a codependent relationship. I’ve worked with people who, as they start getting better, their partners start giving them hell because then they’re going to have to face, "Now I’m not drinking and now I’m going to have to have a reasonable conversation during dinner with you. And you beat me up every time I try to talk to you. Oops! I’m going to have to go back and drink."
So, you also have to face that your co-authors may not be ready to change. You may not be able to be with that person if you want to give up your addiction or whatever it is.
There are a lot of practical tools in the book about that. And as you know, one of the chapters is only about the science behind all the work. The psychoimmunological work [and] the cultural neuroscience—to give you a sense that there’s good news from science. But not the bad science that teaches you that if you live long enough, you’ll die of cancer. That’s not true. It doesn’t work that way.
TS: Now, it seems like the key here in changing from an addictive pattern or some kind of obsessive-compulsive relationship to food is this awareness of what we’re distracting ourselves from.
TS: That’s not necessarily something that’s just presto-magico—for people to tell themselves the truth about whatever’s happening to them. How can you help people develop that awareness?
MM: Well, as you said, it’s not an intellectual thing. If you say—they all tell me—"I’m not distracting myself from anything! I’m fine!" But when you teach them the technique of going into their bodies and identifying when they want to do the drug and what happens to that body—the body could be going through withdrawals or whatever—there are ways that they can learn to identify, "I’m anxious right now. And I’m anxious because when I get home, I’m going to have to talk to my partner."
They begin to identify the operational behavior of what they’re avoiding. "All right. So, if I don’t do the drug now,"( and I teach them a relaxation technique to get rid of the sharp edge that they feel with needing the drug), "how am I going to address this and what wound am I coming in with?" You see how biocognition begins to come together then with that.
"I’m afraid to confront because I was damaged and wounded with abandonment. So, my partner is going to abandon me emotionally or physically when I confront." But as you work the healing fields, you build up your self-esteem and your worthiness, and you can confront that.
So, it’s a complex process—but with practical tools. It’s not an overnight thing. And there are some people—I have had patients who would rather die than change. They didn’t want to go to the third level of change, which is, "I have to confront my environment." They would literally rather die than set limits.
And that’s OK. If that’s what they want to do, you respect it and you go on.
TS: You said an interesting quote in this conversation: "Illness becomes a passport to set limits." That was so worthy of note, I wrote it down here during our conversation today. People will get ill as a way to set limits—versus speaking up for themselves and saying, "I want time alone," or, "I can’t give you what you want. Sorry." Or whatever it might be.
MM: There’s a strong component to that. And I want to be very scientific about it, [but] at the same time not get into the reductionism. There’s no question that we have genetic predispositions. DNA cannot be changed. The expression of the genes can changed epigenetically and it can be changed with many things.
So, if you have a propensity for a particular illness, you could either create a bioinformational field that triggers that genetic expression or not.
What happens, then, with our cultures? Two things with an illness. One of the components of illness—this is not the cause of illness. It’s one of the contributing factors. It either allows you to get out of something that you don’t want to do—that is, something that you don’t want to do because it’s something that you don’t like—or it lets you get out of something that’s good, but you don’t feel worthy of. It has those two functional components.
I would argue that unless you work those two through and identify what it is, you could be cured but not healed. Medicine does not go that deep. Medicine is wonderful, but it doesn’t take you to that level. It doesn’t take you to that level that—OK, for example: let’s say that you had a very abusive relationship and nobody paid attention in your family. Now, you triggered the propensity for cancer and you have cancer. Now, you have professionals paying attention to you. Now, your partner can’t do that to you because you’re sick. Your family’s paying attention to you. Do you think that you want to heal and go back to what you had before? No.
So, in order to change—in order to really have a healing that’s sustainable—you have to change where you came from. Otherwise, the body will say, "No. You’re going to go back to pain. Stay with the cancer." You know—in a sense.
But there’s no question that there’s genetic and environmental [factors.] But I would say that the strongest in all of this is the one that I’m talking about. Why? Because you don’t see the pathology of aging with centenarians that you see—and by the way, I only work with centenarians that are healthy. I want to know healthy longevity. I don’t want to know unhealthy longevity. That’s not going to teach me anything. Healthy longevity is going to teach me something. Any time I talk to a healthy centenarian, I have nothing to teach them. I can’t teach them anything. They’re teaching me.
TS: And that brings us to the end of the first part of our program. In the second part of our conversation, Mario, I want to pick up with this idea of healthy centenarians and what we can learn from them.
It’s great talking to you. Honestly, I keep going into this semi-dream state. You talk about this in your work—this semi-dream state. What is it? What’s happening to me over here?
MM: What’s happening is that, as I talk to you, things are exploding in your bioinformational field. You’re getting excited about the things that could happen. But also, I think that what it does is that it’s given you concrete tools and pathways to look at things—not just worthy kinds of things. It’s not poetics. It’s information that you can apply.
TS: My bioinformational field is definitely being affected!
MM: [Laughs.] Good! Mine too. And when I talk about it, I get the same thing too. I’m learning from myself constantly, so it’s a great thing.
TS: This concludes part one of our conversation with Mario Martinez, the author of a new book, The MindBody Code: How to Change the Beliefs That Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success. SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for part two.