The Biogram Theory
Introduction by PJ Gaenir
Many years ago, I briefly studied with an MD/Psych who had coined a term/theory called Biogram. This means "Living Word", and addresses the relationship of personal ‘experience and emotion’ to the biochemical response and state of the human body. In other words, while most of us agree there is a "mind-body connection", the Biogram spells out exactly what it is, how it works, and how to use that knowledge to heal the body OR the mind (or both simultaneously, rather).
In my experience, Biogram theory ties into a wide array of useful therapies -- from medical visualization to psychological development and healing; even many shamanic and spiritual exercises. It ties into any interest in "self-development," and might even relate to symbolic data in psi functioning or physical symptoms during such practice.
This is a theory and a model, although it IS testable chemically and in clinical psychiatric settings. This writing is my own presentation and compilation of the theory. Dr. Richard Johnson, who coined this term and theory decades ago, has never to my knowledge presented the theory in quite this step-by-step manner (at least to me). Some of this, as a result, is due to my own interpretation, and hence may or may not be accurate. It has been many years since I was freshly-familiar with this subject, and I am a layman, not a psychologist or medical practitioner, so please bear that in mind.
What is BIOGRAM Theory?
Leaving out caveats about ‘theory’ and ‘model’ only, this can be explained like so:
When we experience anything, the body creates a correlating chemical. The chemical is the body's "language" -- or the experience "translated" into the body's reality. This chemical actually allows the body to share the psychology’s experience. So when you are angry or sad or amused, your whole body experiences that in its own way, via biochemical -- your toes as well as your arms and your heart.
Normally, the body ‘processes’ this biochemical in time with the experience. However, some experience generates more biochemical than can be adequately processed in the moment. (Sudden fear or horror is a good example.) The body "stores" the chemical to be dealt with later -- via dreams, in flashbacks, in memory… or in therapy.
Through this ‘storage’ process, things the body cannot handle in present-time reality (too much fear, for example) can be re-experienced and processed at later times, and experienced in "pieces", rather than so overwhelming the physical system that it shuts it down. If the body allowed itself to be too overwhelmed with emotional biochemical, humans wouldn't live long -- they'd die of fear long before the tiger got them!
When emotion is so strong that it literally "immobilizes" the body (or prompts a heart attack perhaps), that is a sign that the body has gotten more biochemical than it has yet had time to deal with -- to process or store. It stores it as quickly as possible, to release the body for fight/flight response to immediate situations.
In the modern world, our diet and especially our culture don't leave us with as many "experiential" options for processing this biochemical as man might have had in earlier centuries. Western culture in particular does not tend to be as ‘expressive’ -- as ‘venting’ and as ‘emotional’ -- as many more ‘native’ cultures. Lack of proper diet, and a tendency to chronic cellular-level dehydration (due to the preponderance of coffee, tea and soda instead of water in our culture), further inhibit the body’s ability to process and vent biochemical at the speed necessary to prevent its needing to be stored for "dealing with later". As if this wasn’t enough, the cultural tendency to long days, inactivity and short-sleeping can aggravate this even further, interfering not only with basic physical health, but with processing via the dream state as well.
"The Living Word" -- written in your body
Any given emotion creates a unique chemical-word for the body. The same emotion creates the same or similar biochemical; you might think of the language as a kind of "biochemical music" -- where there is an almost infinite combination of sequence and proportion, but there are basic ‘families’ of chords and tonal scales.
The biochemicals store themselves in the body, but not randomly--and this is one of the core discoveries of Biogram research. Such chemicals do not store in us from the toes up! -- but according to a "psychological mapping" of the body itself. It appears that this mapping is a basic physiological norm -- it is the same for everybody.
Most pathologists know about "disease profiles". There are often very commonly shared psychological issues in clients with the same type-place disease.
If you have a client who has a medical problem with the gallbladder, Biogram Theory suggests a compiled, analyzed psychological profile of multiple gallbladder-problem patients will indicate what the likely issues are to be addressed in the new patient: that simply knowing the medical problem of a person can tell you where to look for beeded biogram therapy. If you have a client with a psychological problem which matches that profile, Biogram Theory suggests that therapy based on dealing with stored chemical in or around the gallbladder may physically release the cause of the psychological issue -- and, if there is actual medical symptoms, will usually alleviate these as well.
In the Western world in particular, there is not much emphasis on the connection between body and mind beyond simple visualization. The idea that one could heal the body through the mind or heal the mind through the body are both, despite the rare new inroad, still considered radical. Biogram Theory and its model are in the realm of "psychoneuroimmunology." The model proposes to be the testable detail of the "mind-body link" most of us know exists, but don’t know much detail about.
Any biochemical generated by our bodies, which is not processed close to real-time, stores under the myelin sheath of the nerves (anywhere in the nervous system -- which is throughout the entire body, of course). It is stored safely right against the nerve, where the body/mind can experience and deal with it later.
First level response: Psychological Venting
The biochemical needs to be dealt with; needs attention from the mind directed to it so it can be released, experienced, and then disposed of. Usually this happens naturally in memory, in dreams, and in extreme cases, even vivid "flashbacks".
When you experience (spontaneously or deliberately) any given emotion, the part(s) of the body associated with that feeling -- with that ‘tone’, in musical terms -- are activated. Consider every nerve ending a tiny ‘self’. When you feel Emotion X, the nerve endings in the area(s) associated with this will activate and "feel" any biochemical which is currently held against them (in storage).
Second level response: Psychological Overreaction
For example, say a person goes through a circumstance which upsets them, but they say nothing. They have stored that biochemical -- they did not express it. The person might express some or all of it in dreams or memories -- or, they might not. Then they go through it again. And again. And again. And one day, somebody puts them in this circumstance -- even mildly, even indirectly, even accidentally -- and the person reacts with extreme emotion (anger, upset, etc.) and "blows up". The response may seem completely out of proportion to the circumstance.
This is because over time, this individual was storing biochemical related to this specific emotion in the appropriate place in their body. One day they accessed it, and the quantity/degree of stored biochemical encountered was too much for them to repress any longer-- and the minute they allow themselves to express (vent/process) the emotion, the entire "bucketful" of biochemical generated by all those experiences combined, is suddenly pouring into the body. So literally, the person is responding not to that one situation, but to the combination of all situations of that type for which they have repressed emotion / stored biochemical.
At a low or moderate level, none of this is harmful. However, we get into situations of people in high-stress, high-message-unit cultures, low-emotional expression, poor diet, dehydration, and limited or dulled sleep/dream cultures, and all of these things combine to create the later "extreme" that in turn generates profound issues -- psychologically and physically.
Third level response: Psychological Avoidance
So what happens if a person does NOT direct their attention to the chemical-aspect of reality still needing to be 'experienced'? What if it just gets suppressed and stored, and every day is a new day of yet more to be stored, and the ‘issue’ never gets fully experienced and vented by the individual? The biochemical stays there.
Biochemical eventually rots.
When the nerve(s) in that area have rotting biochemical stored under their myelin sheaths, they are "raw." They are "sore." As in, sore, angry, raw, vulnerable, touchy, etc. -- the correlations of behavior-words to the nerve’s situation are not coincidence.
To experience and/or store new biochemical, a ‘connection’ is made to that appropriate area of the body. When those nerve endings "sensitize and activate," they instantly encounter the rotting, abrasive chemical against their already-raw surface. The experience for the person is usually instantly negative, and the person reacts much more strongly (usually with anger) to the emotion invoked. This is a literal "pain" at the cellular level -- and many people "shut-down" as fast as they can to avoid that pain.
People try to avoid experiences that "touch on" what they have stored in the body, and the more rotten and extensive the storage of biochemical is, the more they avoid dipping into it. This is because you cannot touch that experience-place without exposing yourself to that upsetting or painful (psychologically and physically) process of FIRST or ALSO dealing with the OLD stuff. The junk that is sitting there stuck to the raw nerve, under its sheath, has to be dealt with before other new biochemical floating in can be.
The body’s attempt to work around these responses
But what happens is, most people are not capable of completely avoiding the experiences parallel to what they are still storing -- since as an irony of sorts, the subconscious tries to BRING ABOUT similar situations -- experiences -- so that you MUST deal with that stored chemical and vent it. It is the psychology’s parallel to physical venting -- if it cannot be brought out (or sufficiently) in dreams, it will be brought into what some yogis call ‘the dream that is life’. So you then have the subconscious bringing what seems like self-sabotage and "repeated patterns" to the reality/life of the individual, and the individual is getting more traumatized and/or shutting down about it entirely.
Fourth level response: Psychological Re-interpretation
If the storage continues, eventually the chemical becomes essentially a "wall of defense" around that nerve(s). When an experience happens that touches on such an area, to avoid repeated great pain, the conscious mind will eventually redirect the interpretation of the experience into something slightly different, so as to protect and avoid that nerve center where the chemical is stored.
We see this in a person whose "issue" about something has gotten to the point where they no longer seem rational about it, and tend to interpret things according to a highly subjective reality. They "twist" incoming information (while all people might do this to some degree, in this case, it will be quite pronounced.) They are protecting themselves. By 'shunting it off' by their subjective interpretation, they can actually experience a slightly different chemical, which stores in a different place if it must, and does not invoke the activation of the now-distressed nerve(s).
Fifth level response: Psychological Denial
If this continues, this "wall" eventually blocks the "light" from the nerve. The brain, which is also the nerves as a larger system, causes the entire inner body to be "cleansed" so that toxins are flushed from the system. But it can no longer "see" through that nerve in question (where the accumulated, aging storage is taking place), because between the nerve and its sheath is this wall of chemical crud. The brain then cannot sense that area at all -- let alone to note at the cellular level that it needs cleansing.
The brain can no longer connect with that area of the body. The outer-body or psychological parallel to this is "denial." The person can no longer deal with it at all. They are psychologically as "oblivious" to this major problem as their body is now physically oblivious because it has been ‘blinded/cloaked’.
The physical body and the psychology are not just 'related'. They are quite literally the same thing in different form -- such as water and ice, for example. Affecting one affects the other directly, not indirectly.
Sixth level response: Physical Results
As time goes on, toxins of various kinds begin to store near where the chemical stored, because the original chemical build-up has "cloaked the sensors" and nothing is getting cleansed in that tiny part of the body. The ‘slight shunting off’ response psychologically may gradually create more and more of these ‘gunky rotting’ nerve endings in the same general area. The rotting biochemical, combined with various toxins in the area, can eventually become cancerous.
Because most people don't drink enough fluids, even many toxins acknowledged and sent into the waste disposal system of the body cannot be properly flushed out. Proper venting of emotional-chemical is also necessary for the pathways to stay healthy, and an inability to openly experience/process/release the emotional aspects of life can have negative effects. The most common waste disposal transit system for biochemical toxins are the lymphatic glands. In many cases, biochemicals and toxins recognized as toxic and "flushed" become entrenched in the sluggish lymphatic glands, which then clog up and collect more toxins, that toxic ball of muck growing and growing. These can also become cancerous. The most common cancers are in the lymphatic areas of the body.
Now back to an earlier aspect brought up: it appears that most everybody stores this biochemical in the same places. In other words, that the body is a "map" of the mind -- or rather, IS the psychology as viewed/experienced from a different perspective. Some might call it the 'physical manifestation' of the subconscious. In any case, they are so parallel and interlinked that it is difficult to separate them in these discussions.
The implications of this same-place-storage are vast. It suggests that it is not coincidence that many diseases have "personality profiles" associated with them. It suggests that if for example Person A had a small cancerous spot on his liver, that person B who has the same thing in the same place quite possibly has the very same psychological issue that person A has.
This suggests that the body can be affected and healed through psychology -- and in fact, that the fields of psychology and medicine should not be separated as they often are in the West. It also suggests -- and this is more radical for many -- that the psychology can be affected and healed through the body.
It also suggests that if enough people work together on this "psychocartography" mapping -- this mapping of the psychology to the body (or vice-versa) -- that eventually, we may have a map that allows healers to directly address the real "cause" of symptoms.
Usually long-term stored biochemical manifests first as personal issues, then as social issues, then finally as physical issues. They are actually physical issues all along, it's simply that it is on a molecular, then cellular, level: it takes a fairly extreme amount of "problem" before it becomes apparent to the conscious, and even more before it finally gets to the point of forming a measurable physical symptom or disease.
Dr. Richard Johnson's many decades of clinical work and experimenting indicated that issues were pretty much always as physical as they were psychological.
He aimed directly for the physical body in his visualizations, which are one part of Biogram Therapy. He found that people able to ‘allow their imagination’ to create symbols for them would often describe shapes correlating to the internal anatomical parts of the body. In practice, he would design a visualization using a shape (or allegorical concept) that matched the actual internal body system. When this was done, the body appeared to respond quite literally to the visualization.
It was as if you were "speaking the body's language." Or, at least, finally using elements that the body itself could recognize in the communications. Johnson found that one of his visualizations, of three test tubes filled with chemical, would find subjects describing similar things depending on their state of mind. Those with one issue (say depression) for example might describe the liquid in a certain tube as being very cloudy and dark, or the liquid in another tube as being far too low, and so on.
A visualization where those tubes were emptied, cleaned, filled about 3/4 full with fresh clear liquid (or colored as the subject thought appropriate), tended to have a quite impressive effect on the subject's state of mind -- quite a bit more substantial and physical effect than even the most positive visualizations using other types of imagery.
In cases where things like near-imminent suicide was at risk, a 10 minute visualization that literally helped cause a biochemical change in the subject could be an important tool for saving a life.
In another visualization, Johnson walks subjects through a fantasy of gently removing their heads from the body without harm, removing the skull from inside, removing the "sponge-like" inside of the skull, removing the brain, and then in reverse order, in a sink flowing with "the water of life," cleansing carefully each of these items in detail. In particular, the spongy-part of the inner skull bone is visualized like a sort of soft-thick-screen, with millions of tiny "holes" that need to be flushed so they are clear. When all the pieces are clean and fresh, one imagines putting them back together again, and then putting it back on the body.
I once did this visualization with a videotape of a previous lecture he had given, and about 10 minutes later, I was hit with a "euphoria" unlike anything I had ever felt. I knew when it arrived that it was related to the visualization, although at the time of the exercise, I considered it nothing more than a mental process.
Biofeedback and Self-Therapy
To me the most interesting part of Johnson's theories -- other than the fact that the primary components of his claims are easily testable, and the model/theory can be brought "into" almost any kind of medical or psychological work -- is the ability of an individual to work on their own to explore this.
As one example, using a simple biofeedback monitor, one can "scan the body" for any stored biochemical -- or even for stored biochemical related to specific issues. Through simple, conscious instructions to oneself, one can direct the body to release this biochemical and place it in the waste disposal system of the body. One can ask the body to provide a dream to explain -- and release -- what is stored in a given part of the body which responds in the biofeedback scans.
In this way, one can specifically work on clearing out psychophysical problem issues -- even if you don’t know what those might be! Me and others I was studying this topic with many years ago were astonished to find that when we would choose an issue, and scan the body with instructions to the body to make the biofeedback monitor respond if we reached a part of the body where chemical related to that issue was be stored, we would often independently come up with the same place in the body for the same issue.
Does this mean anybody with a problem in the same general area has the identical issue? No, the storage of chemical may vary from cell to cell -- a vast amount of different issues may be stored even in one fairly small area; it might take a very advanced technology to be specific enough for such diagnosis -- although "in general" it seems to be a workable theory for therapy, even without that.
There do seem to be certain "generalities" that hold true. The correlations, interestingly enough, mirror the "sayings" that humans have worldwide; and the body is such a "literal allegory" that if our life were a "dream," the body would be a perfect symbology to represent us in our ‘living dream’.
Examples of Symbolism
Some generalities may not be fully accurate, but here are a few we discussed way back then. These were best used in allegorical fashion and with dream work.
There is a long list -- some very specific, which none of the above exactly are -- that is quite interesting. Bear in mind it was a very long time ago I studied this; I imagine there is a much more complete ‘dictionary’ for Biogram work by now.
The symbolism also translates fairly literally based on the function of that part of the body: for example, knees might relate to one’s flexibility; ankles and feet to the way one feels about ‘the path they are walking’; arms to one’s ability to ‘defend oneself’. "Common phrases" you’ve heard associated with the body based on psychology ("stiff-necked" for example) turn out to be a quite ‘literal symbology’, if that makes sense.
Differing physiological results
Although the storage and hopefully venting of biochemical goes on everywhere in the body, the specifics of the body area may alter "how" these symptoms are manifested. For example, the model given explained a potentially cancerous situation, which in certain parts of the body, may be the most common response to an extreme or long-term storage. However, biochemical stored in a different portion of the body might result, for example, in a chronic but very low-level flooding of biochemicals that are neurotransmitters -- which might result in chemical depression, instead of psychological overreaction, etc.
The psychology may also bring the ‘symbol’ of the problem and/or its solution into the regular physical life, just as it does in dreams. For example, a construction worker and a secretary with the same issue which might for example be stored somewhere around the left wrist, may both manifest "problems" in the left wrist, but differently. The secretary may develop chronic pain in the wrist, while the construction worker might simply fall off a platform and break his wrist. (Personality and belief systems may affect the ‘model’ that an individual uses for such a thing -- whether it is something extreme vs. mild, chronic vs. sudden and passing, etc.)
In therapy within this model, using dream therapy, biofeedback and hypnosis (which combine as the primary blocks of biogram therapy), clients often realize that ‘accidents’ are no more accidental than disease. In Western medicine, both accidents and disease are (for the most part) seen as disassociated, surprising things that ‘fall out of the sky onto’ a person, perhaps affected by genetics and personal habits. In the Biogram model, everything that goes on with your body or mind has meaning, in some fashion.
Meditating with Biological Symbolism
Another way of using the Biogram model for meditation is through your own visualizations. I have found that when I envision myself in the 'control center' of my mind (a nice white lab-looking room, where I sit at a desk and a "virtual" but physical representation of any part of my body floats in front of me like a hologram), I can ask for parts of my inner body which may need attention or healing, or parts of my body which may relate to a certain issue in my life, such as where chemical would store for subject XYZ. I allow my imagination to provide the shapes and detailed appearance of whatever I have asked for. I find that although it is imagination, if I simply "accept" it, if I "allow it" instead of "create it" deliberately, I can sense that it is an appropriate match to whatever is really going on inside me. This is a form of "conscious dreaming" similar to many shamanic (and archetypal) "meditations".
Many times I have encountered the most bizarre yet detailed shapes. In one example, what was shaped rather like... a lego toy block with tubular hairs instead of just little round spots... was encrusted with a dark sticky muck that in some areas had completely glued the tubular things to the edge of the ... shape, whatever it was. I envisioned a custom nozzle that puts out a 'water of life' that cleanses anything, refreshes and hydrates anything if needed, and can be turned on with great pressure and focus to help clean. I sit at the desk in my virtual 'control center,' with a large strangely-shaped blob of some kind in front of me, and clean it and repair it. Sometimes, this can take a long time; as if the 'internal feedback' has its own time. It's not unusual for me to spend an hour mentally "cleaning up" something I have found.
On one occasion, it occurred to me that the areas of one's body most needing attention and cleansing are those areas that the body and mind are "in denial" of -- those areas already so stuffed with stored old biochemical that the blockage has made us "blind to them." So I told my body/mind that I wanted it specifically to hand me whatever most needed cleaning that I might be 'in denial' about.
I got three separate "things" to clean. When I looked at the first one, my entire body felt actual, physical FEAR. I knew that I had really stumbled onto something serious. After the fear partly passed, I was able to register what my imagination saw, which was a horrible mess. Attempting to cleanse it, my mind tried desperately to wander, to avoid the process. It took me two entire days of constantly reminding myself to get back to it, to complete the meditation in pieces, because my mind so avoided dealing with it. Although part of me had invalidated the ‘reality’ of these meditations, this one made me realize that clearly, I was dealing with some real psychological responses.
I imagined a laser cutting through the hard, somewhat festered crust surrounding this very strange shape that was tubulur in some areas, bulbuous in others, and seemed almost "hairy" in certain others. I imagined the water of life pressure-washing it off the body area and then cleaning the area and lubricating it, treating it as you might treat a slightly chemically-burned area. I imagined the "light of love" I saw in a sci-fi movie once, as being my own tool that I could use to change the "mucky-sticky" parts to something solid and dry that my laser could "crack open."
It is important if you do these meditations that before you're finished, you make a point to instruct that what you release (or clean) will be put into the waste disposal system of the body. Remember that these are generally toxins (even if they were not to begin with). You may find yourself unreasonably angry or afraid (or ill) if this is not directed, if the body releases these chemicals directly to the bloodstream without directing them to be flushed. I imagine the water of life breaking down all the solids and muck into what is eventually a thin liquid, and then I imagine my heart-energy making the liquid chemically inert. Then I direct it into the waste disposal systems of the body. Drinking a good deal of water, and using some form of cleansing as well (herbs, raw apple vinegar, or other forms of cleansing) can help prevent achey-flu-ish side effects as well.
Tying this into 'everything else'
Medical: It goes without saying that positive visualization never hurt anybody -- and doing it well sometimes has stunning effects. Biogram Therapy is more than just visualization; it is a unique combination of hypnosis, visualization, dream therapy, counseling, and biofeedback (in fact, biofeedback is the strongest aspect). Quite a few stunning results have been obtained for seemingly impossible cases with the use of Biogram Therapy. Primarily, it requires that the patient be willing to undertake an honest exploration of themselves as part of taking control of their healing process…. By this I mean, this therapy is not a cure you ‘buy’ -- it is a process you can choose to undertake to effect your own cures. The length of time this might take, the percentage of success, and more are highly variable because this is a process strongly dependent on the motive of the individual.
When you consider the mind and body not just as ‘related’ but as inexorably connected at every point, the concept of the body having the intelligence to heal itself, and the mind having the ability to direct this healing, doesn’t seem so amazing… it seems natural.
Psychiatric: It is possible that a variety of psychiatric ills which have some physical correlate to cause can be resolved in the same fashion as any other physiological problem might be with Biogram Therapy. Someday, the days of "medicating into inertness" will be replaced by therapy that challenges the individual to work through themselves toward a personal understanding and freedom. The realm of mind vs. body problems should not be separated; as the Biogram model makes clear, they are integrated at the cellular level.
Psychological/Emotional: An immense amount of personal development, and release of personal issues, can be achieved in Biogram Therapy -- even by individuals working alone with an inexpensive biofeedback machine and visualization. It is at the root a therapy meant to be empowering, not to engender dependence. A Biogram Therapist is invaluable, but even without one, even with a book, a tape, or simply applying the model concepts in this article to prayers and meditations and practices, results can be found. The ironic part of self-therapy is that in the emotional realm, the persons most needing it are generally blind to this, and the areas one needs help in are usually those one is most in denial about. Sometimes, asking persons close to you, who would not harm you and would support your self-inquiry (if you have such persons available), can point out to you issues that you might choose to focus healing effort toward.
Personal Development: the model of Biogram can be nicely combined with a number of other models for a very powerful effect. "Archetype meditations" -- such as Edwin Steinbrecher’s "Inner Guide Meditation" book describes -- can be combined with Biogram. Rather than asking for the kind of archetypes he examples in the book, you can ask for archetypes -- conscious and powerful symbols -- which represent certain issues, or certain parts of your body, the same things that you would deal with in Biogram Therapy. Self-hypnosis can use visualization based on Biogram principles to very good effect. Even using the principles of "talking to your body" in art, for example, can be a useful therapy. Something as ‘fundamental’ as the Biogram model does not need to stand alone or compete with anything else: it is an integral part of anything you would like to make it.
You can send email to PJ Gaenir about this article.