Philip Seymour Hoffman died on February 2, 2014. He died from an overdose of painkillers; e.g. heroin. He had been in plenty of rehab yet it didn’t seem to solve his problem. It wasn’t the drugs that did him in; it was the pain. He was simply the carrier. Since he was the carrier, killing the pain meant ultimately killing himself.
And what was he carrying? Here lies the rub. Because he was carrying around a load of pain from his earliest months; something invisible, not obvious and very well hidden inside. Yet this is the epoch to be treated as well as later pains, and it is precisely the epoch avoided in all rehabs and therapies. Why? Because it is not obvious and cannot be easily ferreted out. These pains from birth and gestation lay down a basic strata of pain upon which it becomes compounded throughout our lives, a due lack of love and harm continues. We can see the lack of love, the neglect and avoidance, which can be treated; but the greatest force of the pain is neglected. It is here during the beginnings of our neuronal development and adversity that our nervous system becomes rerouted and deep agony is embedded. It changes the whole system and installs serious pain, which can last a lifetime. So when he reverses and goes back to drugs it cannot be a surprise. The pain remains and is engraved. He carries it around all of the time, whether he is aware of it or not. And it drives him to seek relief no matter his efforts at rehab.
It is not he who has failed therapy. It is the therapy and rehab that has failed him, all the while going through the motions of getting well, yet never touching the basic cause of his pain. I am writing about first-line, brainstem imprints, which we have seen and studied for over forty years. When we see patients reliving lack of oxygen, the inability to exit the womb and dozens of our pains we know what is being laid down. These are far too powerful to be left in the hands of do-gooders with the best of intentions. It is science that we need; including the recent work of Moshe Szyf who notes that these early pains leave a trace, a marker that carries them forth inside of us. And what we hope to do through reliving is attack the trace at the source, relive the pain of it and reverse the imprint through demethylation. Take away the trace with its load of agony and its memory. In short, remove key aspects of the trace that spell constant, ineluctable hurt. Take the pain away, not the pain of later life, which needs to be dealt with, but the lower strata that produces the exacerbation of the agony.
What does it mean that he did rehab? I have visited rehab centers where they really care about the addict, provide the best food possible, swimming pools, a whole new environment. And it lasts as long as the stay. Yes, it can last longer as the exhortation and new ideology implanted can carry him along for a time. But the demon imprint never, never leaves. It is not more concerted effort he needs; it is science.
I have treated actors and I have found that the greater they are the more pain they carry. They can be anything to feel loved. “I will be anything or anyone you want so long as you love me, “ said one actress in therapy. And why are they so great? The emotions are breaking through at all times as they suffer damaged defenses. They cannot control their pain/emotions, which makes them great and in pain, a pain close to the top at all times. If they get away from it, they are lesser actors, an unavoidable law. So whether it is Brando or Hoffman, it is the same dynamic; I will be someone else so effectively that I will be praised for the performance. And why are the defenses so weak? Because they were damaged so early in life as to be defective for a lifetime. The defense system can only hold on for so long and then the biochemicals of repression such as serotonin give way. And what do we prescribe for those in pain? Serotonin, exactly what was depleted in the fight against monstrous early imprints. It is the weakening that makes defenses ineffective. And when there is later compounded pain on higher brain levels, the defenses suffer again. And the result? Addiction. The constant battle to put down the pain from early on, and the added neglect, lack of touch and love in childhood. You may get “love” from an audience but it is not the same as being hugged and loved very early on. But actors are willing to settle.
So let us remember; when we kill pain we are literally killing ourselves.