By E. Van Winkle

Retired, Millhauser Laboratories of the Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, ©1998

The author, a neurophysiologist, presents an innovative theory of the origins of mental and physical illness which underlie "detoxification crises."

This is a lay version of an article in a medical journal. The abstract of the original article can be found at the bottom of this page. For a short summary of the self-help measures see and

In correspondence with me she wrote: "As a result of discovering the biology of emotions I was able to speed up my recovery and reach a post-primal state. Since the posting of this article some people have used the self-help measures in addition to therapy or other self-help techniques and have become post-primal in a short time."

Interesting segments deal with depression, violent behavior, psychosomatic disease, psychotherapy, self-help measures. addictions, and sleep disorders.

The author's note, following the article, contains interesting personal background information and were important factors in the subsequent development of the toxic mind theory. -- John A. Speyrer, editor, The Primal Psychotherapy Page

"If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

-- The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas


All children are born with an instinctive fight or flight reaction, which is Nature's gift for survival. We use this reaction throughout life to get our needs met and to avoid danger. Anger is instinctively expressed as a part of this reaction. The cry of a newborn child is an expression of anger. When parents mistreat or neglect their children emotionally, the usually force them to suppress their justifiable anger. When the anger that accompanies the fight or flight reaction is continually suppressed, the neurons of the brain become clogged up, and a toxicosis develops that is the source of future symptoms of emotional and physical disease. Even a physical injury heals faster if one is allowed to express anger. The sweet lullaby "Hush Li'l Baby Now Don't You Cry serves the parent, not the child. Even if we have no memories of being abused or emotionally neglected, most of us have been taught to suppress anger.


When toxicosis consisting of excess neurotransmitters and other neurochemicals develops in the brain, the neurons cannot release enough neurotransmitter molecules to excite the rest of the nervous system, and symptoms of depression occur. Depression is also caused by the clogging of receptors with endogenous neurochemicals and with substances from the environment such as unmetabolized food substances, drugs, and other toxins.


When cells in the body become toxic they usually die and are replaced by new cells. But neurons generally do not replace themselves, so when they become toxic a portion of the neuron breaks open and releases the toxins during what might be called a detoxification crisis. During such a crisis excess neurotransmitter molecules and other neurochemicals flood the synapses.

These toxins include excessive amounts of the neurotransmitter noradenaline, also adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, endorphins and other substances. The excess neurotransmitter overexcites the nervous system causing excitatory symptoms that can range from mild anxiety to mania and to extreme acts of violence. Neurotic fear and rage are withdrawal symptoms. Because of the interconnections in the brain symptoms can also be those of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, neurological disorders, and psychosomatic disease.

All of these symptoms are healing events and it is best if they are not suppressed. But intense fear, which is caused by the release of excess adrenaline, and other excitatory symptoms are signals that anger is trying to emerge, and this anger needs to be redirected toward early abusers during these detoxification crises, that is, the excitatory symptoms, in order to increae the healing effect of these detoxification crises. After a detoxification crisis, some of the neurochemicals clog up receptors and symptoms of depression may return. Recovery is a process of this periodic release of toxic accumulations of these neurochemicals, and when the process is finished there will be no more anxiety or depression.

Many of the terms commonly used to describe mental illness are accurate in a physiological sense. A nervous breakdown is just that, the breaking of neurons to release toxins. Madness is about getting mad. A detoxification crisis can be an exaggerated fight or flight reaction with anger released as rage. Edgar Allen Poe in "The Tell-Tale Heart" wrote that insanity is nothing more than an overactive nervous system. He intuitively understood that his character was driven mad by the loud beating of his own heart, an activity associated with fear and anger and accelerated by the release of abnormal amounts of neurotransmitter.

Because of the spatial characteristic of nerve transmission and the clogging of certain pathways, that is pathways where memories of early abusers are stored, during these detoxification crises nerve impulses may be diverted through the wrong neurons so to speak. This can cause all kinds of mental problems, including compulsive and disturbed thinking, delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, and unintended behavior, especially anger directed inward as suicidal thought or directed toward the wrong person in an aggressive assault. This is why is important to redirect anger during a detoxification crisis, that is during an excitatory symptom. It is these vicarious detoxification crises through the wrong neurons that cause pain and suffering.

As an example a man might have a conflict with his wife that triggers in him unconscious memories of childhood incidents with his mother. During the current conflict nerve impulses will travel through neurons that store characteristics of both his wife and mother. This man may have been justifiably angry with his mother but had to suppress his anger. Therefore, during a detoxification crisis the may direct anger through the wrong neurons toward his wife.

There may be justifiable anger toward his wife, but if the feelings are intense they probably have to do also with repressed anger that was never directed toward his mother. In frame 1 of the illustration below the child is represented as a neuron in the brain with a long axon. The end of the axon is clogged up with neurotransmitter molecules (repressed anger). Mama is represented as a post-synaptic neuron. In frame 2 the child's axon ending remains clogged up and the child, now an adult, still cannot get mad at Mama. During a vicarious detoxification crisis an axon branches toward a post-synaptic neuron that represents his wife.

The stored up neurotransmitter molecules are released (misdirected anger) and bombard his wife. The anger toward his wife may be justifiable and need expression, but much of it may be repressed anger that needs to be redirected toward his mother. In frame 3, after therapy or self-help measures during which he releases anger toward his mother, the neurons are cleared and neural pathways restored to functioning. There is no more anger stored up and relationships may be restored to harmony. The child might be a girl who cannot get angry at her father and later misdirects her anger toward her husband or another man. Or the anger may be turned inward as guilt, even to the point of suicidal thought. This is an anatomical oversimplification because many neurons are involved, but it gives the idea and is a useful concept for persons in recovery who need to redirect justifiable anger in order to heal from emotional disorders.

The toxicosis is like a flood of neurochemicals in the brain that represent repressed anger. The periodic detoxification crises are like an opening of flood gates. The important contribution of the toxic mind theory and the concept of the wrong neuron is that by REDIRECTING most of the anger at the onset of a detoxification crisis, that is an excitatory symptom, one can clear out those neurons that are most clogged up. This greatly speeds recovery because it is like opening many more of the flood gates.

The toxicosis that represents repressed anger is in the noradrenergic and sympathetic nervous systems. A detoxification crisis is a massive sympathetic discharge. Toxicosis also occurs in the parasympathetic system when feelings of grief, like crying are suppressed. Feelings of grief often follow the release of anger and it is important that these emotions also be released.


The toxic mind theory provides the scientific proof of the effectiveness of nearly all types of experiential therapies that encourage the release and redirecting of repressed emotions. While some therapies are more effective than others, it is important to remember that recovery depends largely on unconscious physiological mechanisms, and if one does not recover fully in a particular therapy it does not mean that therapy was ineffective. Regressive therapy is actually a misnomer because there is no regression in time in the brain. It is the re-directing of emotions that allows neural pathways common to current and previous experience to detoxify.

In primal therapy, the primal scream is an example of the release of anger, and because it occurs during a re-enacting of a childhood trauma, the anger is likely to be redirected toward early abusers. However, re-enacting the experience in detail without redirecting the anger can cause so-called wrong neurons to be activated and lead to unnecessary pain.

A primal is a detoxification crisis, and the most successful primal is not vicarious, but one during which nerve impulses are able to travel through neurons that store memories of early abusers--neurons that have atrophied and been clogged up for years. Sometimes therapists encourage clients to re-enact childhood traumas in psychodrama and get angry at their abusers by banging on a hard pillow with a padded paddle called a bataka.

This kind of therapy is provided in the program for adult children from dysfunctional families at the Caron Family Services: It is also provided for juvenile and adult offenders by the Bethesda Family Services:

Dr. Aletha J. Solter, author of Tears and Tantrums, has long understood the principles of detoxing emotions and has incorporated these principles in her techniques for helping young children heal by crying and raging. Other therapists encourage deep breathing, use touch and massage, even manipulation of bones in the brain, to trigger detoxification crises. Therapists provide stimulation to initiate detoxification crises, and are most effective when they assist the person in recognizing the need to redirect anger. It is sometimes difficult to recognize that fear and other symptoms are signals that anger is trying to emerge, and it takes great courage to go though the fear and get to the anger.


Since there is no time regression in the brain, it is possible to speed up recovery by redirecting anger at the first sign of a detoxification crisis, which is often a feeling of neurotic fear. This is the major contribution of the toxic mind theory. It is not necessary to re-experience all the childhood traumas in detail and the pain associated with them. It is the vicarious detoxification crises--wrong neurons--that are painful to ourselves or others.

What is necessary is to clear those neural pathways where memories of abusers are stored. If the man in the example recognizes that the intensity of his anger is out of proportion to the incident with his wife, he might redirect some of his anger toward his mother by screaming at her while thinking about her or picturing her, and by banging with his fists on a bed. His wife would be spared the brunt of his anger that was never intended for her in the first place, and the detoxification process will be accelerated.

Most of us want to think our parents loved us unconditionally. No parent is perfect or needs to be perfect. It is not the mistreatment or neglect that injured us so much as the fact that we were not allowed to complain about it. Most of our parents were forced as children to suppress their own anger. As children we loved our parents but were afraid that if we got angry at them we would lose them. There is no harm done to them if we express our anger in therapy or in self-help measures.

It is also important to direct anger toward all who caused us to suppress our emotions. This might include relatives, teachers, clergy, psychiatrists, corrections officers, bosses, friends, and partners in intimate relationships. Remember, common characteristics of these people are stored in the same neural pathways. It's good to get mad at God too. It's not really God who we are mad at but a false idea of God as a punitive parent, and it will help the detoxification. Those of us with toxic minds unconsciously choose as friends, bosses, and intimate partners people who remind us of our parents so that we can release our justifiable anger. This is what co-dependency is.

The thought that a partner will provide the love we never received as children is a delusion of the toxic mind--wrong neurons. Early man considered falling in love a sign of insanity. Romantic love grew in popularity along with civilization and the tendency to suppress emotions. This kind of love is like a drug, sought to ease our pain. It will ease pain temporarily, but underneath the toxic mind is an intelligence that sets up a physiological craving for the very thing that will trigger more symptoms and in the process allow us to heal.

This is why we tend to get into abusive relationships with people who remind us of our parents. In these relationships our anger is triggered, and if we undersand that it is repressed anger from childhood, it is an opporutity to redirect the anger and heal. It is important to do this as if in therapy so as not to direct anger at others. Also, when a rejection by society, a friend, boss, or partner causes intense pain it is because a detoxification crisis is triggered, and this provides an opportunity to clear neural pathways by redirecting anger toward all those who rejected us in the past.

Rejection is painful and arouses anger, but if the anger is intense it means there is repressed anger that has to do with rejection in early childhood, and this is an opportunity to release and redirect anger at those who rejected us when we were very young. It can be scary going through the fear and getting to the anger, but the detoxification crises are not likely to be dangerous as long as the emotions are redirected. I once avoided a possible seizure by redirecting emotions at the first sign of seizure activity. The real danger is in a vicarious detoxification crisis, when the anger might travel through the wrong neurons causing psychosis, be turned inward and result in suicide, or directed toward an innocent person as an aggressive assault, even murder.

Perhaps the man in the diagram will beat himself up and feel guilty rather than get angry at his wife. This would be sending his anger inward toward himself--also wrong neurons. If he keeps in mind the fact that his mother made him feel ashamed of himself, again he might bang his fists on the bed--have the temper tantrum he should have been allowed to have as a child. Stage fright is an example of neurotic fear and may have developed from some early experience. For example, in a kindergarten musical event I was told to pretend to sing by a teacher who was afraid my voice would spoil the event.

Recently, when I was asked to sing by myself as cantor in a chant group, I felt some stage fright and low self-esteem, but after banging on the bed and expressing my anger at that teacher, my stage fright lessened. Obviously, one such expression of anger in the right direction will not be a cure-all for any specific symptom, but over time the consistent recognition of excitatory symptoms as related to childhood traumas will provide an opportunity to redirect emotions. Writing letters to our parents but not sending them can be another outlet for anger. It is useful to have witnesses when we are experiencing symptoms. Often when I was angry at someone I needed a friend to tell me the intensity of my anger was out of proportion to the incident, and then I was able to redirect the anger and appropriately express anger in the current situation as well. When I see someone yelling at a bus driver for some minor offense, I think to myself, "wrong neurons."

This description of the development of symptoms is necessarily oversimplified since nerve transmission involves highly intricate patterns of impulses. An emotional detoxification crisis is the sum of many crises in separate neurons, and depressive and excitatory symptoms can occur at the same time. Furthermore, detoxification crises occur in the brain and the periphery at the same time. It may not always be possible to recognize the beginning of a detoxification crisis, but it helps to know that the body is working toward healing all the time, and if we do not suppress the symptoms and try to redirect anger when it emerges, the pains of withdrawal will diminish. Depending on the intensity of an emotional release of anger during a detoxification crisis, there may be a "high" after the crisis.

Anger is a powerful antidepressant and works much faster than antidepressant drugs. Until the detoxification process is finished the "high" may be followed by depression. Not much can be done about the depression--but know that it will end. The mind is brilliant in its capacity to heal and will seek stimulation to induce another detoxification crisis that will relieve the depression.

To sum up, recovery is a periodic detoxification process that is physiological, but recognizing vicarious detoxification crises, that is, excitatory symptoms, as signs that repressed emotions are trying to surface can be useful in speeding recovery. Vicarious detoxification crises in the brain may begin with feelings of anxiety, neurotic fear, low self-esteem, guilt, paranoia, compulsive thoughts and behavior, hateful and revengeful thoughts, or misdirected anger. Or they may be expressed as cravings for food, alcohol, activity, or people. These are signals that the mind is trying to detoxify.

An understanding that the symptom is the beginning of a detoxification crisis and that anger is trying to emerge can allow one to consciously redirect the anger toward past abusers and clear neurons that may have been clogged up since childhood. Usually angry feelings are released first, followed by feelings of grief. This cycling will continue and diminish in intensity until the detoxification process is complete. Past therapies that advocated the release of anger have been somewhat ineffective because the anger was not redirected. The Bible, Old and New Testament, is full of encouring words about doing this work. See especially Matthew 10:34-36, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Perhaps the flood of Jonah's time was when God put a flood in the mind of mankind.


These self-help measures are not the only way, but added to therapy and other measures they greatly speed recovery. There are a number of excellent books with effective self-help measures: Cure by Crying, by Thomas A. Stone, Reclaiming Your Life, by Jean Jensen, Making Sense of Suffering, by J. Konrad Stettbacher, Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard, and For Your Own Good, by Alice Miller. People who have finished the detoxification process and become post-flood will identify with the comments made by post-primal (recovered) people as described by Arthur Janov in his book, The Anatomy of Mental Illness.

Cure is not a good word because there may always be some toxicosis, but post-flood people generally enjoy good mental and physical health. Here are some comments from Janov's post-primal people and from my own experience: "I feel alive, yet calm and content. My life is simpler. I do less, go less, want less, talk less, everything is less. I can stop thinking about something, no more compulsive thinking or behavior. I trust my feelings now rather than others' feelings.

No one pushes me around. I am more patient and tolerant and don't blow up. I am never depressed or moody. I can sustain a relationship. I can see into people, their needs and pain. I am less rigid. I am alone a lot, but not lonely. I don't get sucked into other peoples troubles. My face has changed. I stand a walk like a child. I don't take on impossible projects. I finish what I start, yet don't have to compulsively finish everything instantly. I can concentrate. I can accept but don't need compliments. I sing better, play chess better. I eat only natural foods."

Here are some other changes. Blood pressure, temperature, and pulse normalize. No more palpitations. Fasting glucose and cholesterol levels are lower. Hypothyroidism disappears. No more colds or other acute disorders. Digestion is good. Relief from constipation, headaches, allergies, backaches, colitis, peptic ulcer, dizziness, alcoholism and all other addictions, menstrual cramps. skin disorders, stomach pains, nausea, and teeth grinding. I have not found relief from osteoarthritis. I fall asleep easily and sleep restfully, but no more heavy drug like sleep. No nightmares. My weight never changes. My posture is relaxed. Breathing easier and more deeply. Decreased sex frequency, more pleasure.

I am friendly and enjoy people, yet protect my privacy. I find I am open and intimate with most everyone I meet, able to give and receive love. I laugh easily and cry easily. The tears are no longer about myself, but usually out of compassion for others. I work when I feel like it and play in between. My fight or flight reaction is restored. When I am abused or threatened I know whether to fight or flee. If my anger is aroused I am able to express it in non-violent ways. Once expressed I feel love for the person who offended me. My anger is not intense and is primarily about the current situation. No more resentments.

I can flash back to very early experience with out painful feelings. I did not consciously forgive my parents, but now that the anger is gone, I can truly love my parents and all others who may have abused me. The flood of neurotransmitters that represented repressed anger and grief is gone. When a flood is gone the basin is bound to be a bit muddy, and there may always be some old emotions mixed in with new ones, but I believe the God Within me has been restored and has brought me to a place of sustainable peace and joy.


Neuroscientists from Russia have shown that wild animals selected for tame behavior have more noradrenaline and similar metabolites clogging up the neurons in their brains than other wild animals. As far as we know, wild animals do not suffer from symptoms of psychiatric disease, certainly not to the extent humans do, but animals kept in zoos may develop toxic minds and occasionally exhibit outbursts of violent behavior.

Not long ago at a zoo in the New York City area, a visitor broke into a cage and was viciously attacked by a bear for no apparent reason. Some domesticated animals seem to be healthier than humans, perhaps because they are less able to suppress the fight or flight reaction than humans. Most cats are examples of good mental health. If abused they respond instantly with anger, and within moments are purring again.


A careful study of what are described as distinct emotional disorders will illustrate the unity of disease. When toxins accumulate in regions of the brain that control specific activities, the symptoms observed will be related to those activities, giving rise to supposedly distinct disorders that are in reality the same detoxification process. While some of the symptoms may be due to the destruction of neurons, many neurons are just clogged up and can be repaired.

Toxicosis is the cause of nearly all nervous and mental disorders, including schizophrenia, manic-depression, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Tourette's syndrome. Also included are anxiety, panic disorders, depression, mania, autism, pervasive developmental disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, addictions, aggression, and criminal behavior. Alzheimer's patients may have suffered from abusive learning techniques as children. Persons with Alzheimer's disease usually have symptoms of other psychiatric disorders. A lady of perfect demeanor who develops Alzheimer's disease might suddenly began kicking and biting others, because toxins are being released from the hypothalamus.

Parkinson's patients frequently have mask-like faces, which may have been caused by continually suppressing emotions through facial expression. Patients often have multiple diagnoses or are rediagnosed many times throughout life.

No disease possesses its own special symptoms, but in their nosological systems scientists classify and arrange symptoms as if they belonged to distinct syndromes. They begin to regard subjective taxonomic orders as objective realities of nature and, for example, classify symptoms in one part of the body as a certain disease separate from symptoms arising in another part of the body. Inflammation of the brain and inflammation of the stomach are the same disease. In his book Human Life Herbert Shelton wrote, "The brain can't vomit and the stomach can't become insane." The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which undergoes constant revision, lists hundreds of mental disorders, each characterized by a group of symptoms. If the boundaries are unclear, a second or third diagnosis is superimposed upon the first. Mental illness is not a myth. What is a myth is that they are discrete incurable disorders.


Addictions to exogenous stimulants, chemical and psychological, commonly occur with emotional disorders. The fact that stimulants can trigger detoxification crises provides the physiological basis for "craving." It is paradoxical that the very thing that can accelerate the detoxification process is itself toxic. This explains homeopathy and the beneficial effects of psychological stimulation in therapy. It also explains why recovering alcoholics sometimes encourage active alcoholics to continue drinking until the detoxification crises are sufficiently painful for them to seek help.

Addicts crave stimulation to initiate a crisis, which gives them a "high" because of the increased synaptic noradrenaline, and crave sedation to terminate crises and relieve excitatory symptoms. That these are factors in "craving" is supported by the observation of therapists that addicted persons in the kind of therapy that encourages the release and redirecting of repressed emotions gradually lose their craving for stimulants and sedatives.


Hypersomnia and insomnia are conditions commonly suffered by psychiatric patients. Toxicosis accounts for dream paralysis and narcolepsy. Depressed persons often experience a prolonged and heavy drug-like sleep caused by toxicosis at postsynaptic receptor sites, and periodic detoxification crises account for insomnia and nightmares.

Two compatible theories of sleep exist. The first states that sleep is a passive process occurring when the neurons become fatigued, noradrenaline activity is diminished, and there is decreased excitability of the reticular activating system accompanied by a reduction in peripheral sympathetic activity. This type of sleep is characterized by slow delta waves and is normal and restful.

According to the second theory, which developed along with the interest in catecholamines, sleep results from inhibitory signals that are transmitted into the reticular activating system. The basis for this inhibition lies in the biochemical milieu of brain stem neurons, a milieu that might consist of dopamine, serotonin, GABA, peptides, and other substances. Lesions in the midline area of the brain stem where serotonin is often found cause insomnia.

But after a period of insomnia brought on by chemical inhibition of serotonin, normal sleep patterns return despite the fact that brain serotonin levels remain below normal. Serotonin is associated with hypersomnia. Drugs that increase serotonin levels have an antidepressant effect probably because they inhibit the reuptake of noradrenaline and a sedative effect because serotonin is bound to noradrenaline receptor sites.

In normal sleep the nervous system rests, and as a result of anabolism, metabolites and various structures are restored. During the overlying and often extended drug-like sleep, generally toward morning when elimination is most active, the neurons appear to accelerate the detoxification process. Paradoxical sleep, when emotional dreaming occurs, is thought to result from abnormal channeling of signals--wrong neurons--even though brain activity is not significantly depressed.

Episodes of paradoxical sleep, also called REM sleep, are superimposed on slow-wave sleep in periods from 5 to 21 minutes every 90 minutes, the slow delta waves shifting to beta waves that are characteristic of the waking state. Paradoxical sleep is accompanied by irregular heart rate and other signs of increased sympathetic activity. Episodes of paradoxical sleep reflect detoxification crises during which noradrenaline and sympathetic activity accelerate.

Dreaming probably goes on throughout sleep but is particularly emotional during paradoxical sleep. When the nervous system eliminates enough of the sleep-producing substances to allow noradrenaline to excite the reticular activating system, the drug-like sleep will end. If toxicosis is extensive, crises may recur frequently, and increased levels of noradrenaline will excessively excite the reticular activating system, contributing to insomnia.

Here again there is an analogy with the Internet. The first type of sleep might be compared to the Internet when many computers are turned off and the activity is low. The drug like sleep might resemble the Internet when many computers have been overloaded with information, errors have occurred, and systems are down. This requires an unclogging--a detoxification--before the pathways are again cleared.


Dreams are also patterns and can be combined with patterns of past experience. In everyday experiences, specific characteristics are laid down in neurons along with the same characteristics that were in the patterns of childhood experience. This means that in the dream, current and early experiences can become mixed together, but appear as one scenario.

Fantasies are likely to be similar to dreams, and the more toxic the mind, the more distorted the dream or fantasy. Imagination is memory of actual experience--only the characters and scenery have changed. The brain cannot create new experience, but designs new mosaics made up of bits of old experience. Because memories are often distorted, a "false memory" syndrome has evolved.

But there is no such thing as a false memory, only a distorted version. The distorted patterns of memories are also the basis for the belief in previous lives.

The reticular activating system has a periodic excitability cycle occurring once every 90 minutes, increasing and decreasing in activity throughout the 24-hour day. This excitability cycle reflects periodic detoxification crises that occur as emotional dreaming at night and perhaps some other excitatory behavior during the day.

Persons engaged in a fantasy world might be said to be "day-dreaming," and these periods of creating fantasies are influenced by the same physiological events that account for paradoxical sleep. Fantasies, like dreams, provide a release for emotions and are frequently stages for the re-enactment of childhood traumas.


Since the hypothalamus controls the fight or flight reaction, pituitary and thyroid activity, and also the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, toxicosis from both endogenous and exogenous sources can result in malfunctioning of peripheral organs and contribute to psychosomatic disease. The periodic shift in underexcitation and overexcitation in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems contributes to a variety of psychosomatic disorders. Fluctuations in parasympathetic activity affect the heart, digestion, and elimination.

Because the entire sympathetic system is usually excited at the same time, periodic changes in its activity affect most of the visceral organs. Increased release of catecholamines in persons prone to outbursts of anger has been linked to coronary heart disease. Decreased hypothalamic activity or increased tissue metabolism as a result of overexcitation of the sympathetic system may cause the thyroid to become hypoactive. In recovery, hypothyroidism usually disappears, and body temperature, blood pressure, and pulse rate tend to normalize as the activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems stabilizes.

One of the most harmful effects of toxicosis in the brain is the inability of the body to carry out the daily process of detoxification and elimination. Since the sympathetic nervous system increases cellular metabolism, it accelerates the release of toxins throughout the body. Because of toxicosis in the brain, this system is periodically over and under-excited. This means that detoxification events, which might be expressed as a cold or other acute diseases, will be periodic and intense. When sympathetic nervous system activity is suppressed, toxins will accumulate throughout the body. Tumors can occur anywhere in the body where toxins are being walled-off, but enervation in the central and autonomic nervous systems is likely to contribute to cancer.

Women with metastatic breast cancer were shown to live longer when they entered therapy for the release of repressed emotions, and the patients who died more rapidly were less able to communicate dysphoric feelings, particularly anger. In recovery, detoxification events in the peripheral organs are mild.

Post-primal therapy patients enjoy a number of improvements in physical health that can be measured in laboratory tests, for example, normalization of thyroid hormone, cholesterol, and glucose. Increased breast size in post-primal therapy patients who were previously underdeveloped results from a clearing of the neurons in the hypothalamus that control pituitary and thyroid hormones.

This allows for normal activity of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which regulates the supply of fatty acids to adipose tissue and the breast. Improved nutrition is better able to improve health, because the central nervous system that controls the metabolism of nutrients and daily detoxification is now able to function normally.


Acts of violence are committed by persons under the influence of drugs and by drug-free persons diagnosed as mentally ill. Violent crimes are often committed by persons who have been quiet and depressed. The courts are filled with defendants whose actions are the subject of much debate over whether the accused was mentally ill at the time of the crime. What the courts do not understand, assuming the accused person actually committed the crime, is that violent behavior is a physiological response to toxicosis.

Murder may be the result of a vicarious detoxification crisis and as much a symptom of disease as the sneeze is a symptom of the common cold. This does not provide physiological evidence for innocence, but hopefully will affect the kind of rehabilitation offered to violent offenders. Until the toxins are removed, violent persons will be compelled to continue some form of aggressive behavior toward themselves or others. Unless the vital powers of the body have been diminished to the point of exhaustion and ultimate death, the neurons will continue to repair themselves. The cure for violence or any other disease is in eliminating the toxins.

Whether we have conscious control over behavior initiated by unconscious activity in the brain may depend on the degree of enervation and the extent of the toxicosis. If the detoxification crisis is sufficiently strong, conscious thought may not be able to override it. Furthermore, when we do express emotions, we may not be able to control how they are expressed. This is the reason many cannot explain why they committed violent crimes.

The anger is justifiable, but the detoxification crisis is usually vicarious, and there is often no remorse. Guilt, which is anger turned inward, may be felt, but true remorse is possible only in recovery, and even then it is not likely to be for past sins. The New Testament word for sin, hamartia, comes from the sport of archery and literally means "missing the mark" --wrong neuron. This condition of health or sickness in the neurons may provide the physiological basis for the exercise of free will.

Whether we can control an exaggerated fight or flight reaction is the subject of moral appraisal and the frequent debate of ethical and religious thinkers. In every court of law it demands reflection by judge and jury as they consider the oftentimes violent behavior of the accused. It may be that free will is best exercised in a decision to embrace measures for recovery.

Because stimulants trigger detoxification crises, abused children are attracted to violent TV programs. All of us have toxic neurons to some extent and crave stimulation. Many of us could not turn off the TV during the Gulf War. Some sociologists speak of man as having a need for enemies. This is an unconscious craving that will result in the release of repressed anger. In its extreme, this is what motivates cult leaders, terrorists, dictators, and all those who follow along in their paths of destruction.

That there might be conspiracies behind acts of violence is because other individuals with toxic minds have the unconscious need to tag along and release their own pent-up anger. This explains why an eleven-year old boy needed to go along with his thirteen-year old friend on a murderous spree in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

As soon as the lives of those who have committed violent acts are investigated, we see the truth in headlines, "In the End, the Oklahoma Bombing May Be the Work of 2, Not a Major Conspiracy," and "New Defendant in Trade Center Blast Is Described as Shy and Apolitical". The weapons amassed by David Koresh, Timothy McVeigh, and Shoko Asahara were for the purpose of releasing anger stored up as toxic neurochemicals in the nervous systems of those individuals and probably had little to do with the purposes for which they were ultimately used. Adults who were abused as children are likely to fill the arsenals of the world with nuclear bombs.


The toxic mind theory, by providing an understanding of the physiological effects of toxicosis on behavior, will have a positive influence on the way people deal with emotions in everyday life, on the development of therapeutic methods, and on measures taken by society to eliminate violence. When a theory is found that can help prevent and relieve suffering by explaining the causes of disease, a decision to embrace such a theory is ultimately a decision to support life itself.

An understanding of this theory can provide the basis for therapy and self-help measures that will alleviate a wide variety of disorders. Hopefully this discovery will provide knowledge useful to everyone--children, parents, therapists, physicians, educators, religious leaders, the courts, prisoners, and those in charge of rehabilitation of prisoners.

Proper nutrition is essential to prevent deficiencies and toxicosis. Exogenous toxins are particularly likely to accumulate in the hypothalamus and in some cases may be the primary cause of symptoms. Dietary changes have been observed to alleviate symptoms of nervous and mental disease. It has been shown that when the nutrition of prisoners is improved, the likelihood of violent behavior is diminished. Nutrients in excess of bodily needs and nutrients that have been altered chemically by processing and overcooking contribute to toxicosis.

Diets high in raw foods provide nutrients the neurons can utilize and facilitate the release of toxins, both endogenous and exogenous. But no diet can bring optimal health without a detoxification of the central nervous system. Those who are willing to detoxify their nervous systems of toxins from the environment and the endogenous toxins that have accumulated as a result of repressed emotions are the most likely to attain complete recovery.

When symptoms become intense, drugs and/or confinement may be necessary. It is important to follow doctor's orders in taking all prescribed drugs and especially to discontinue them only with medical supervision. When the detoxication process is finished drugs will no longer be needed. People who are not doing the work of detoxifying through therapy and self-help measures may need drugs for extended periods as ordered by their doctors. If addictions develop, Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs are available for the detoxification of alcohol, other drugs, and food. Unfortunately members of these groups transfer their addictions to other members. This is commonly called co-dependency.

Most members do not recognize the importance of releasing negative emotions. One of these groups, Adult Children of Alcoholics, which might be better named Adult Children with Repressed Emotions, encourages the release of anger and is a place where a redirecting of emotions often begins. When the detoxification process is completed, these programs are no longer needed. Thousands of recovery stories are witnessed in these programs and in experiential therapy that encourages the release and redirecting of emotions. There are many paths to recovery. Some people begin to detoxify in 12-step programs, others begin in therapy, and still others begin through self-help measures or by making dietary changes.

Mental health depends on the ability of an individual to respond to stress with a healthy fight or flight reaction. In recovery, the fight or flight reaction is no longer exaggerated, anger can be expressed in non-violent ways, and symptoms of nervous and mental disease disappear.

Post-primal therapy patients have been observed to recover from a variety of physical as well as mental disorders. Cleared neural pathways throughout the brain enhance memory, intelligence, and creativity. Neurotic fear, anxiety, and depression do not return. Noradrenaline levels at synapses fluctuate only slightly, and euphoria, best defined as "freedom from anxiety and distress," is permanent.

Recovery is undeniable to anyone who experiences it and is a place of quiet mind that can only be described as paradise. This is because the detoxification process is like a periodic opening of flood gates. When the flood is gone, recovery is virtually complete. As written in Revelation, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away."

"If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you."

-- The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.


I am a retired neurophysiologist and was engaged in research in biological psychiatry at The Rockefeller University and New York University School of Medicine. Since the time of Hippocrates it has been understood that symptoms of most diseases, other than degenerative disorders where irreversible organic damage has been sustained, represent the body's efforts to eliminate toxins. In 1962 we discovered a toxic metabolite of dopamine in the urine of schizophrenic patients and published many papers based on this finding. However, we failed to correlate this with the damaging effects on the nervous system of suppressing emotions.

Evidence for the toxic mind theory is found in over fifty years of research studies and in knowledge of established physiological mechanisms, which reflect empirical knowledge gained from years of observation and experimentation.

Portions of this article are taken from The Toxic Mind: The Biology of Mental Illness and Violence, which was published in the journal Medical Hypotheses 2000 55(4); 356-358. I am not a therapist and cannot offer advice as a professional. I hope however that an understanding of the biology will be useful to therapists and to persons in recovery. While the biological concepts have the authority of publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the self-help measures are of the nature of advice given in self-help programs. I cannot assume responsibility for any interpretation and use the reader may make of the biological concepts or dietary approaches. If you use these concepts in your therapy, you do so at your own risk. This article in no way suggests discontinuing the use of prescribed drugs as ordered by physicians.

I was not an abused child by society's standards, but I was left by my mother in my crib at birth to 'cry it out' and listened to my father rage, never at me, but at my mother, brother, and sister. I learned to suppress my justifiable anger very early. I was an autistic child and in my twenties was diagnosed as schizophrenic and locked on the violent ward of a mental hospital where I spent four years--much of the time in the 'mattress' room, where I raged against the tight sheets of a straight jacket. One of the shock treatments didn't quite make me unconsious, and I felt pain and panic as the electricity surged through my body. It was like being electrocuted, yet still alive.

Over the next thirty years I was confined in more than twenty hospitals, rediagnosed a number of times, and was given every drug known to psychiatry. At age 60 I was rediagnosed with major depressive disorder, then manic-depressive, and had the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease. In my years of hospitalization, only one nurse had a sense of what I needed. She came into a room where I was tied to a bed in restraint, untied me, and gave me a tray of plastic dishes. "Throw these at the wall, dear" she said. If I had known to mentally picture my parents on that wall, I might have begun to heal. I wanted to be locked up in those hospitals. I never knew why, but it was an acting out of a fantasy. It was a re-enactment of having been imprisoned in my crib and an opportunity to have my justifable anger. But it wasn't until I understood the need to redirect my anger years later that I recovered. It wouldn't suprise me if many persons in prisons are also there to re-enact having been imprisoned in cribs as babies.

After brief experiential therapy, and with the help of the self-help measures I describe in the article, I recovered in a short time. I am enjoying all the benefits of good mental and physical health as validated by diagnostic and laboratory tests. Since the posting of this article many have used the self-help measures, and those who used them consistently became post-flood in a few months. Click on Depression-Cause-Cure e-group to join a list where others are sharing about the self-help measures.

If any readers can be of help in getting this article to prisoners and corrections officials in prisons, I would be most grateful. Violent offenders are victims of childhood abuse or emotional neglect and deserve the kind of help that will bring them peace and hopefully freedom. There are experiential therapists in some prisons and if not, perhaps the self-help measures will be useful.


In press Medical Hypotheses, copyright 1998

Abstract -- The continual suppression of emotions during fight or flight reactions results in atrophy and endogenous toxicosis in noradrenergic neurons. Diminished synaptic levels of norepinephrine are associated with depression. During periodic detoxification crises excess norepinephrine and other metabolites flood synapses. The norepinephrine overexcites postsynaptic neurons and causes symptoms ranging from mild anxiety to violent behavior. Some of the other metabolites, which may include dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid, peptides, amino acids, and various metabolic waste products, are bound by noradrenergic receptors and alter neurotransmission. When they prevent norepinephrine from exciting postsynaptic neurons, depression returns. A mechanism is proposed for the binding of norepinephrine and for the effects of the other metabolites, many of which have been thought to be neurotransmitters. The diverse receptor proteins presumed to be specific for false neurotransmitters may instead encode specific memories. The shift in depressive and excitatory behavior is characteristic of nearly all nervous and mental disorders, including addictions, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and psychosomatic disorders. When toxins accumulate in regions of the brain that control specific activities, the symptoms observed will be related to those activities, giving rise to supposedly distinct disorders that represent the same detoxification process. Recovery can be facilitated by therapy and self-help measures that involve the releasing and redirecting of repressed emotions.
-- E.V.W.

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