The May 2010 issue of Scientific American posted a flashback of a scientific “breakthrough” from 50 years ago, May 1960. In it, Dr. Seymour Levine is quoted as saying:
We expected that the shocked rats would be affected by their experience, and we looked for signs of emotional disorder when they reached adulthood. To our surprise it was the second control group—the rats we had not handled at all—that behaved in a peculiar manner. The behavior of the shocked rats could not be distinguished from that of the control group which had experienced the same handling but no electric shock. Thus the results of our first experiment caused us to reframe our question. Our investigation at the Columbus Psychiatric Institute and Hospital of Ohio State University has since been concerned not so much with the effects of stressful experience—which after all is the more usual experience of infants—as with the effects of the absence of such experience in infancy.
He seems to be describing an experiment where they purposefully stressed infant rats, fully expecting that the ones who were stressed would develop abnormally. Instead, they found that the third group, the control group that was ignored and “not handled at all,” was the group that showed peculiarities. In a very scientific conclusion, he posits that henceforth they should look for “Not so much the effects of stressful experience -which after all is the more usual experience of infants – as with the effects of the absence of such experience in infancy.”
The unmentioned conclusion which is obvious, to me, is that the commonality between the two groups of rats who developed normally was the attention and touch they received from the experimenters. One group of rats was shocked – they were then removed, likely gently and with care as most humans would probably feel guilty for shocking an innocent creature. Another group of rats was not shocked but was also handled as part of the experiment, again, likely with compassion and care. These two groups that were handled and shown attention became healthy, normal adults. The second control group, the rats who were put into a cage and ignored, was the group that developed abnormally. Perhaps the abnormality was a consequence of being caged, unnaturally, with no attention to offset this unfortunate scenario.
It is obvious that the power of love and attention was the difference in this experiment, yet his conclusion is that further research should keep in mind that stressful experience is a part of infant development and research should focus on the lack of stress. His assumption, I believe, is that the handling was just another form of stress for the infants.
It reminds me of a talk I recently attended at Duke University. Claudine André, the founder of the world’s first bonobo refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, came to speak about her work. Her connection to bonobos began when the wars became so intense that the zoos were mostly abandoned by people, and animals were left there uncared for and starving. She began to take care of the animals as best as she could, with more orphaned animals coming in all the time.
One day, she said, she received a young baby that she thought was a chimpanzee. One of the remaining zookeepers told her it was not, it was a bonobo. He told her, “Don’t waste your time with that one. They always die if they come as babies without a mother.” He said that they had never succeeded in saving an infant bonobo. She looked at it and knew that it could be saved – or at least that it was worth trying. So she took that infant and carried it around with her all day, every day. She cared for it in the way any mother would care for her child. At some point, the baby transferred its love to Claudine André, and that, of course, was all that was needed to happen. The orphaned bonobo survived, and as more came in, she took the same care of them, and they also survived. Eventually she opened Lolo ya Bonobo, a refuge for bonobos in Congo.
As she worked with the bonobos, she learned that they live with their mothers and continue nursing for four years – with a deep and abiding bond of love. It is no wonder that the orphans had always died in the zoos. No one had given a baby bonobo four years of love before.
Anything thrives with love. It is a simple fact. Flowers, babies, food, plants, cars, fish, dogs, cats – all of life. I would predict that inorganic life also responds. This thriving under an outpouring of love is the most basic secret of Reiki and energy healing. Reiki is simply universal love – emptying oneself to be a channel for this universal love. It is a reminder that we are all connected, that our individuality is but a mental construction.
When those scientists handled those rats, that universal connection was present, and healing energy likely came through their hands and their eyes letting the rats overcome the negative stimulus of the electric shock. We do not need to shock rats to discover the healing power of love. It is all around us, all the time. I wish we would remember – and spend our energies healing rather than harming.
Schlenoff, Daniel. “Early Experience.” Scientific American May, 2010: 12. Print.