Transcending Dementia


What if instead of focusing on the physical processes,

we take the phenomenon of ego dissolution

as the starting point for trying to understand dementia?


In the context of the public debate on dementia, the phrase is occasionally used that we will all "become demented" if we just get old enough. From my perspective, however, dementia is not a question of age, but a question of consciousness, and so I invite you to expand our previous biomedical disease model of dementia as an incurable neurodegenerative brain disease with findings from consciousness research, including the previous neuroscientific findings, but looking at them from a different, involutionary perspective.

The challenge I see in the phenomenon of dementia is possibly not an inevitable and irreversible fate: the older we get, the more often we can fall into prolonged states of confusion and disorientation, the cause of which, in my understanding, is not primarily of a physical nature, but rather an increasing disorientation in our own being, a confusion about the meaning of our own lives, challenging or traumatic life experiences that have not been integrated, and an increasing disorientation in our own being. traumatic life experiences, and possibly also in increasing, new or in the reactivation of earlier, but repressed unusual or paranormal experiences of consciousness, which involve a temporary or permanent dissolution of the previous ideas of self and world. From this perspective, the physical symptoms described as signs of dementia are the consequence, not the cause, of the phenomenon we call dementia.

 

In this context, I have come to view advanced dementia - also based on my own experiences of consciousness and my professional witnessing of many "dementia life stories" - as an increasing embodiment of unconscious dissolution of the self - and thus as a development that can possibly still be turned around to an always individual point of development. Neuroscientific findings about the nature of the precuneus (which for me represents the "embodiment" of the bindu), findings about similarities in changes in the default mode network of the brain, both in dementia and also in very advanced spiritual state experiences such as nondual meditation (cf. e.g. Josipovic's research), findings about paradoxical lucidity in people with very advanced dementia, together with my own witnessing of so many state experiences of people with dementia, have set in motion a transdisciplinary cognitive process that leads me to different conclusions about possible causes of dementia than medical-psychiatric-pharmacological research.

It is a slow and gradual development from personal identity into initially temporary, later longer-term or even permanent pre-personal states of consciousness, into states where there is no longer a clear awareness of a consistent personal identity, and the previous life only seems to appear again and again in individual flashes and short film sequences, without being able to be connected to a meaningful story in the longer term. The personal identity - expressed in the spirit, the mind and its neurological correlates - increasingly dissolves, while the physical existence, depending on the structural framework conditions, can still be preserved for a long time.

The medical-psychiatric understanding of this process is that, for reasons as yet unexplained, there are changes, or more precisely: degeneration processes in the brain that cannot be stopped, cannot be reversed, cannot be cured - at least, and this is not an insignificant part of the story - until the right medication is found.

In over 25 years of professional activity in the field of dementia, I have come to know many of these hypotheses, examined some of them more intensively for a while and adopted them for myself, and finally rejected almost all of them again, including a number of my own hypotheses. However, I always kept in mind that there is also an aspect of self-control in dementia and that it is not an unchangeable fate - at least up to a certain point along the way.

I am aware that my perspective seems to be diametrically opposed to almost all expert opinions, which assume a fateful, medically still unexplained process to which a person is helplessly exposed, and view dementia as a disease that must be treated pharmacologically and can ultimately only be accompanied palliatively. I already dealt with this view many years ago in my master's thesis on an "integral dementia concept", and my expanded understanding at that time has also deepened and broadened, not least as a result of my experience of nothingness.

The dissolution of the self, according to my hypothesis, is a normal part of the human experience of existence, which is experienced by all people at least in the last moment of life, at the moment of death.

I am not putting forward a "counter-thesis" here, but merely offering a different perspective, and in this, dementia transcendence means two things: firstly, transcending the current understanding of dementia as an incurable physical-mental process of decline while at the same time including the previous state of knowledge, and secondly, transcending the term dementia itself. I continue to use it because the current consensus is to describe certain processes as dementia, and this is where I start. At the same time, the process that has been referred to as dementia up to now is, for me, more precisely described as disorientation or confusion - in a way, this sounds more raw and unvarnished and, in my opinion, also helps us to focus on the actual process and begin to examine it individually and collectively.


What kind of state of consciousness is "confusion" or "disorientation",

when does confusion or disorientation begin in a person's life

and what exactly happens?


I believe that this kind of phenomenological, introspective research, in combination with certain techniques and methods, can create an awareness of one's own changing consciousness. This self-determined self-exploration, accompanied if necessary, starts at several points:

 

  • the experience of confusion or disorientation
  • the experience of ego dissolution
  • the question of what (still) wants to be expressed and embodied in this life, in this individual human experience of existence, especially against the background of my understanding of transpersonal gerontology, which sees the transpersonal dimension and the conscious dissolution of the ego as a task and challenge of ageing.

I cannot yet say whether this can guide, halt or even reverse the process of increasing disorientation, and it will always depend on the individual case. However, I do see the change of perspective described here and the associated self-empowerment alone as an opportunity to transcend the previous understanding of dementia - without judging or denying the challenging aspects of the reality of the lives of very many people who live with this diagnosis and experience the corresponding changes in their lives.

 

I assume that a real turnaround requires a lot more than the shift in perspective and the introspective research mentioned above, and here I build on the work I had already begun with my outline for an integral concept of dementia: Even though I see the power of consciousness of consciousness in itself as a primary force in any healing process, I also see that we as humans are bound up in collective and individual assumptions, practices and fields that can complicate if not hinder healing purely through introspection and consciousness work. I therefore see an integral recovery practice as essential not only in the context of dementia, in which therapeutic work, especially trauma therapy, medical support with a salutogenetic orientation, conscious nutrition, support for the physical transition process through targeted nutrient supplementation, exercise, spending time in nature, constellation work, integration into communities, etc. may also be indicated.

In my accompaniment on the path to (re-)orientation in one's own being, I therefore also expect and support the person I accompany to develop a life practice for themselves that enables holistic healing.

 

My perspective on dementia is just that: a perspective, not a new "truth", and it may not be suitable for everyone as a reference point for their own reflection. However, I invite those who are interested in exploring their own lives, states of confusion and disorientation in their own lives or in the lives of people they accompany (be careful, this is not possible without exploring the confusion in one's own being!) to join me on this collective research journey.