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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Psycho-neuro-intracrinology: The embodiment of myth, intentionality, and the spiritual sense of well-being in women at midlife
by Gordon, Susan, Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2007, 153; 3285857
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation introduces the construct psycho-neuro-intracrinology to explain the author's model of a biochemically based, nonreductive, holistic approach to personality as a total gestalt, at multiple levels of complexity: genetic, physiological, behavioral, cognitive, psychodynamic, and existential-transpersonal. Is there a transcendent dimension of personality that is rooted in biochemistry? How might this dimension manifest in a woman? When do unconscious, autopoietic, or emergent biochemical functions enter the subjective world of intentional meaning and become interpreted at the symbolic or mythic level of conscious experience? When do signs become symbols? When does autopoiesis become cognitive and translated into myth?

According to the psychoneurointracrine hypothesis, a woman experiences a psychobiological transition from autopoiesis to myth at prescient biochemical moments of the menstrual cycle: (1) during surges of follicular stimulating hormone and lutenizing hormone, 72 hours prior to ovulation; (2) at the mid-luteal peak; and (3) during the late luteal phase, 48 hours prior to bleeding. At these moments, signs infused with subjective meaning can become symbols of embodied intentionality.

From a neurointracrine perspective, it is argued that autopoietic mechanisms governing the hypothalamic-pituitary ovarian (HPO) and adrenal (HPA) axes regulate the reproductive cycle and integrate the homeostatic response to stress. From an existential-transpersonal perspective, it is argued that these biochemical moments can serve as a conduit for the emergence of submarginal or mystical-religious states of consciousness, which are adaptive in fulfilling a woman's highest, growth-oriented need for spiritual self-actualization, during the process of individuation at midlife. Second, they represent a neurophenomenological interface between the mind and the brain through their integration of subliminal, visceral, proprioceptive states related to the sense of well-being.

This dissertation makes a contribution to psychology's understanding of the embodied dimension of a woman's personality. The author uses a theoretical, hermeneutic, and pedagogical method synthesizing and integrating a history of ideas in existential-phenomenology, cognitive neuroscience, and medical physiology. A psychological commentary examines the implications of this model for an archetypal depth psychology of the feminine, the mind-body problem, the developmental model across the lifespan, and the description of what psychology studies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Taylor, Eugene, Krippner, Stanley
School: Saybrook University
Department: Humanistic & Transpersonal Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 68/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Developmental psychology, Personality
Keywords: Intentionality, Menopause, Midlife, Myth, Psychoneurointracrinology, Spiritual well-being, Women
Publication Number: 3285857
ISBN: 978-0-549-26137-7
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