The Resource State — Your Magic Ticket To Happiness
Many people are proud of the state from which they came. But I value the state they (we, all of us) can go to.
It’s called a “Resource State.”
Don’t bother looking on a map – unless it is a map of the cerebral cortex. Yet, it isn’t clearly defined as a location in the brain either.
I know it sounds mysterious, but it is easy to access and the benefits once you get there are astronomical. I think I need to give you some illustrations to make my point.
Once when I was in prison (that always gets attention – but actually I was employed as a prison psychiatrist and not serving time for criminal activities) I treated a young man of 28 who was doing time for armed robbery. His problem was depression with occasional suicidal ideation.
Of course, most shrinks will prescribe some drugs and tell the patient to get counseling. But if I were “most shrinks,” you probably wouldn’t be interested in reading these accounts of mine.
No sirree – I was going to give this young man something that would actually help him. But I had to teach him something new that sounded kind of wild.
First, I told him that everything he had ever done in his past was still in his brain, and he could call on it to feel better. Of course he was skeptical.
A doctor named Wilder Penfield, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Montreal’s McGill University (that’s Quebec, Canada) in the 1920s found out that with some direct neural stimulation, he could evoke long-hidden memories.
That sounds pretty tame, but perhaps you need to know that during brain surgery, the patient is NOT under general anesthesia. The surgeon needs to talk to the person while operating.
If the patients suddenly loses the ability to see, hear, speak or feel some other part of the body, the doctor needs to know – and do something about it.
Believe it or not, Penfield was poking around in a patient’s gray matter when the patient began to speak of vivid sensory memories – sights, sounds, odors, tastes – from long ago experiences. Penfield created detailed maps of the parts of the brain and what limbs and organs they controlled.
But the temporal lobe yielded the vivid memories. This has given rise to a simplified explanation that the brain captures perfectly detailed memories. This isn’t a common phenomenon (very few patients actually re-experience memories while undergoing surgery) and can’t be replicated every time.
Thus – it’s not a scientific fact. Just a phenomenon.
Of course, my simple country-boy jailbird had to be assured that I wasn’t going to drill into his skull and stick knitting needles into his brain. This is how the downtrodden and disenfranchised — who certainly include prisoners — think. TV and horror movies have certainly perpetuated this type of misconception.
Using my own twist on Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) I regressed him to about seven years before. He visualized holding the hand of his girlfriend in a rural Mississippi meadow. I got him to tell me about the associated sensory experiences. The trees were in bloom and he smelled the blossoms. Squirrels were frolicking. She had the scent of some kind of flower. The grass was uncut and soft and feathery, a bit damp on his ankles. A single tear rolled down his left cheek. I told him to smile (I knew that alone would stop the tears and it did). I told him Mississippi was with him now, and he could go back whenever he wanted. It was what the folks in NLP call a “resource state,” and this tool has been adopted for Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
The founders of NLP embedded this valuable technique in workshops and expensive lessons, but over the years it has spread like wildfire through the psycho-therapeutic community. We called this inmate’s sensory state “Mississippi.” He kept thinking I had been there, because this exercise was inducing such realistic feelings, but I have never set foot in that state. I made sure his memories were as sensory-rich as possible, and told him they were his to keep forever. In the future, whenever I said the word “Mississippi” he would smile, feel as if he could handle whatever was going on at the prison, and tell me things were a bit better.
There are some resource states that seem pretty common in this culture. For example, when I ask most women to describe their wedding day, they give me at least a smile, even if they think the marriage went sour later. A smile sometimes comes when they talk about pretty white dresses and trampling rose petals, but I like the times when I get stuff like “He was so handsome and so brilliant and I knew I had to be wonderful because he wanted me.” A secondary measure of self-esteem, perhaps, but enough to make a difference. I watch and I smile, too and sometimes I have been awfully close to tearing up. I guess I am pretty sensitive. I have known plenty of women who cry at weddings. I am absolutely the only one I know who often has to restrain tears when someone is just talking about a wedding. Speaking of the marital state, I have never known a (non-pregnant) woman who has more weird food cravings than me.
Just yesterday I craved Belgian endives, for no ostensible reason. I had eaten them frequently in the early part of medical school, when I lived in Amiens in northern France, not all that far from Belgium.
I was very young (20) and filled with optimism, blinding seemingly to the point of irrationality, but I proved myself in spades with a very distinguished medical career at the University of Amiens (France) now Jules Verne University. Of course, this is perhaps not the purest example of a resource state. Belgian endives, which are a variant of the self-same plant that produces chicory, are nutritionally amazingly rich, and may have benefited me in physiological ways, both then and now. I will admit they do make me feel a bit of blinding optimism. My grandmother of blessed memory loved to drink chicory, as did my father of blessed memory, so there may be all levels of factors in play. Perhaps a clearer example of a resource state from my early hyper-energetic and blindingly optimistic years of medical school is the way I go totally nuts when anybody locally offers to take me to a restaurant known as the 94th Aero Squadron which is supposed to be and indeed it a replication of a northern French farm house. During medical school, I lived in an apartment above a small café where I worked part time as a server. The kindly cafe matron, Mme. Mareschal, gave me my meals and paid me a meager income for my work – but enough for a poor student to get by.
When she closed for the week before Christmas time she sent me to stay with a friend a short drive north in the country. This was the farm with a house a bit smaller, perhaps, but clearly resembling San Diego’s 94 Aero Squadron restaurant. It is clearly a memorial to both World Wars as well as a world-class restaurant, this 94th Aero Squadron. Big band music of the early 20th century plays softly in the overhead music, and in the rest rooms, you can hear recordings of Winston Churchill and FDR. Vintage airplanes are parked in the front yard – as well as sand-bag bunkers where you can duck in should an enemy open fire with a machine gun.
Yes, the history is a little confused (which War was which?). But this confused history means little to me, as does the food, an amusing attempt to combine classical French cookery with some of the Mexican influences requisite in the southern California region. It is the architecture of the stone house and the details and the furnishings that bring back my resource state. When I see the buttresses, and the shiny copper cook pots hanging on the white stucco walls, the cast-iron skillets, the wooden eaves, I am once again in Picardie northern province, once again the first year medical student who was sometimes employed as a chicken flicker. As in America, the beginning medical student has demonstrated no skills more relevant to the practice of medicine than the ability to memorize logically unconnected material. (The early medical student experience is frequently compared to memorizing the phone book.)
But I was then a — ta-da! – professional chicken flicker, pulling feathers out of dead and flaccid fowl with my bare hands and flaming them, so their skins were finished. I was a “deplumeuse” (“defeatherer,” female) in a room with a few much older and more experienced women, who gossiped about their families, and smiled or laughed when I said I would be a surgeon, and learn a LOT of medicine, and I knew I was right, and they could not know, but I was. Except for the dead chickens, the blood and feathers and the lack of explosions, it was much like the new TV series “Bomb Girls” about the ladies who worked on the assembly line at a munitions factory in WWII. The gossip, the rivalries, the drama – as much chicken flickers as bomb girls! Of course, I became part of their culture and heard their stories; nothing particularly impressed me, but I was initiated into a female gossip circle, the way most women are in laundromats and beauty salons, a way my mother found useless and had always resisted and was convinced was limiting –something she had to protect me from. Most of all I was all full of the “piss and vinegar” – to borrow a vulgarism of that era — of knowing that I could succeed where these women never even had a chance, and I would be good and right and ethical and carry that (maybe female???) standard forward into my personal and professional life. This is what a resource state is like:
All of these feelings rush into me the moment I even think of this restaurant, because I get a flood of memories from age 20. Now, about 40 years later, those feelings are so strong that I do not much care what they serve, or what I eat. And though I have been lucky enough to be in good company when I go, it matters less there than in other places. This can only be a resource state. You know what yours are. Find them. Visit them. I always thought that one really good analogy for life was the guy who drove a cart, holding a carrot on a stick a few inches in front of the snout of a horse, forcing the horse to move forward. The horse’s resource state is chomping down on that luscious carrot. It is called the “euphoric memory.” Finding resource states is a way of being your own horse and driver and carrot. Make yourself happy by picking your carrots. You know what makes you feel happy and powerful and successful and a winner all the way. Find these things, and use them.