Mary Poppins, Brain Science and Memory Reconsolidation

“Saving Mr. Banks” is currently out in theaters. Mrs. P.L. Travers, the reluctant and over-the-top cantankerous author of Mary Poppins, arrives at Disney Studios. She has come to oversee the production of her beloved Mary Poppins into a movie. From Travers perspective, the studio can do nothing right.

My chance to be a movie reviewer:

A moving human drama – watch “Saving Mr. Banks” to see stored emotional peptides orchestrate the lives of Walt Disney and Mrs. P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins. Constant flashbacks to Traver’s childhood offer the latest neuroscience on the big screen. See the childhood events that create emotional peptides that get stuck and remain forever in the synapses of Mrs. Travers brain. See how the creation of Mrs. Poppins arises from reacting to those childhood stored emotional peptides. See the peptides that made it so hard for her to let Disney Studios turn Mary Poppins into a movie. Had Mrs Travers and Walt Disney understood Memory Reconsolidation, they might have had a peaceful movie making encounter in Hollywood. Perhaps no conflict plot line would have arisen for the making of “Saving Mr. Banks.” Instead, peptides raging, we get a fantastic night at the movies. Enjoy!

Saving Mr. Banks and Memory Reconsolidation - The ICE MethodThe flashback to Mrs Traver’s life start early and continue throughout the movie. Near the beginning, as the conflict begins to take shape, she tells Disney that she cares so much about the characters because “they are family to me.” As the movie unfolds it turns out these characters really do represent her literal family. On the one hand, her father held a bank manager position that he hated. On the other hand he was the constant hero of his daughter, playing with perfect love in the land of her imagined dreams. On some third hand, he died of alcohol and what appeared to be tuberculosis. All this took place in the formative young years of the girl who stored these peptides and would grow up to pen Mary Poppins as a peptide reaction.

As with every other human being on the planet, Mrs. Traver’s experiences stored in her brain as a literal peptide timeline. Brain cells, with all their axons and dendrites protruding, wired together to store her memories of growing up in the Australian Outback with a banker father who loved her, hated his job, and died from drink and TB. Each experience carried an emotion that signaled amino acids to form into a certain arrangement, a certain peptide molecule. This emotional peptide would store in the synapses of the brain cells involved in forming that memory. This emotional peptide served as part of the glue that actually held the memory together. Later, even years later, whenever Mrs. Travers accessed a childhood memory, the peptide give out an accurate recreation of the emotion that created it in the first place. The wounds and the glories of childhood would replay emotionally, each time they were remembered. Her body functions of blood pressure, heart rate, and a thousand other fight/flight/freeze adaptations responded “as if” the memory was happening all over again the present moment. Life gets lived in reaction to these stored peptides. We mostly react unconsciously to these emotional signals that define our sense of safe vs. dangerous. If we have awareness of our emotional history we can, often with great effort, fight for some different action instead of the old patterned unconscious reaction. Still, each action remains a reaction to the original stored memory.

Unless we reconsolidate these stored
emotional peptides, we live our entire lives
in reaction to them.

Saving Mr. Banks and Memory ReconsolidationIn one scene of the movie, there’s a break from Mrs. Traver’s unrelenting criticisms, it happens when Mr. Banks fixes his son’s kite. Mrs. Traver’s breaks down and cries, and then begins to dance. Here for a moment her life’s purpose is realized once again, to heal the childhood wound, to put the broken pieces of father back together.

I used to believe that insights offered answers. If I just understood my motivations I could change my behaviors. As “Saving Mr. Banks,” shows, that assumption does not work. The dance finishes, and Mrs. Travers returns almost instantly to her critical ways.

Why can’t insight cure the problems of our lives? Because insights only offer us a view into the background of our patterns. Insight only offer us a view into our stored peptide timeline, they do not change any of the chemistry of the timeline. With the insight we can start to fight the pattern, to choose a different behavior. But the different behavior will always come as a fight, always as a reaction. A reaction to what? A reaction to the emotional peptides that stored from the experiences of our lives, the banker, dreamer, alchoholic father for Mrs. Travers. No matter how long you use your insight to fight your old patterns, the patterns remain unless the original emotional peptides are changed. Dance in the moment when the wound is relieved, but the wound remains, stored in the emotional peptide timeline. When the relief wears off, Mrs Travers returns again to the patterns of reactivity cemented into her life from her earliest years.

Later in the movie, her peptide reactive pattern fully in place, Mrs. Travers stomps into Walt Disney’s office, furious that animated penguins appear in the movie. She throws her contract on Disney’s table and flies home to England, no more movie.

A day later Walt Disney knocks at her door, having flown on the next flight to London. A heart-to-heart conversation ensues. Disney reveals he grew up delivering newspapers before and after school each day, with his father ready to beat him for poor performance. “Hardly a day passes,” he tells Travers, “when I don’t remember that route and my father.” Stored peptides. His reaction – to create Disneyland, “the happiest place on earth.”

Saving Mr. Banks and Memory ReconsolidationAt the end of “Saving Mr. Banks,” at the premier of Mary Poppins in Hollywood, we see Mrs. Traver’s watching from her seat, eventually crying deeper and deeper sobs. Disney, seated behind her says, “It’s all going to be alright.”

Deeply moved, my wife and I drove home talking about the movie, then got home and started searching for more information. Every movie adapts real life to fit the screen. I discovered that in truth, Mrs. Travers actually wasn’t happy with the premier, and insisted that changes be made before the movie was released. According to one snip I read, Walt Disney told her at that poing, “Pam, the ship has sailed.”

“The ship has sailed.” Actually, unless we use The ICE Method or some other process that achieves the same results, the ship never actually sails. Walt Disney kept reacting to his childhood peptides, using his adulthood as a reaction to create “the happiest place on earth.” Mrs. Travers kept reacting to her childhood peptides, perpetually, never-endingly coming back to respond to the emotional torment of those stuck peptides, trying to fix the broken world that she could never fix as a child. No matter that Mary Poppins provided such a powerful story of hope for so many millions. Mrs. Travers woke each day to react again to the peptides stored from decades before.

Walt Disney and the author of Mary Poppins. Extraordinarily famous people. Yet, the same as every other human being, reacting to our stored peptides. This is the nature and the physical structure of our being human. The ICE Method offers a simple way to replace charged emotional peptides from the past with calm and peaceful peptides. If we do that we’ll be reacting to calm peptides, and we’ll experience much greater freedom in our lives.
As long as we have a physical body, we react to peptides. The ICE Method can help us create a life lived in reaction to calm peptides. Uncharged by past emotional storage, we experience freedom to choose without reactivity

The ICE Method does not offer an escape from peptides, instead it offers a conscious engagement with the chemistry and the stored experience of our life. Walt Disney has a line in the movie that Mary Poppins has given him an ulcer. Mrs Travers goes through scene after scene of internal torment in the movie. The ICE Method can relieve the ulcers and the torment. It can relieve these easily.

“Mrs. Travers,” I would say, if she had somehow been willing and I had somehow been there, “what is your emotion about being here at Disney Studios to turn Mary Poppins into a movie.”

A moments pause. “Fear,” she might say, or “Anger,” or perhaps she might observe “Sadness.”

“Do you feel that emotion anywhere in your body when you pay attention?”

Another pause, she might or might not notice a location, maybe stomach, chest, back, neck, headache, or nothing.

“If you pay attention for a moment, does any memory or experience show up in your mind as you observe your emotion about being here at Disney Studio?”

Maybe something shows up. Maybe it doesn’t right now. Things show up when they show up – no digging needed.

“Mrs Travers, would you look at the corner of that window for a moment? Just observe it. When you put your conscious attention on anything you create a chemistry that matches whatever your attention is on. You create a peptide molecule that matches the emotion of observing that single point. And you’ll get a little separation from your emotion about being here at the studio.”

Next, she can observe a second point. Then I’ll invite her to observe the space in between the two points.
“When you observe that space between the two points, it’s an empty space, with nothing in it. When you observe nothing with your conscious mind, you observe that in this instant, there’s nothing in your outside world that needs a reaction from you. And since Body follows Mind, your body gets the signal it can completely go into rest mode, and your flight/flight/freeze stress response turns off for the moment.”

Mrs. Travers, who looks very tight and constrained in the movie, will enjoy this feeling of stress-free relaxation. If we did nothing else, this would improve the relation between her and Mr. Disney. But with the ICE Method, we can go one step further.

“Mrs. Travers, after you’ve enjoyed this feeling for a moment, I’m going to ask you to observe back on that original emotion you told me you felt about being here. When you do that, how do you feel?”

The emotion, when she does this, will almost certainly feel different from what she first identified. It may feel less sharp, or if she felt anger before, now she may start to feel fear, or sadness. She may possibly feel completely calm, but with so many synapses devoted to this issue, calm would surprise me at this point.

“Okay, check that feeling you noticed in your body. Does that feel the same or different now?”

“And finally, check that memory that came into your mind, is it still exactly the same in your mind, or is something else showing up?”

This is the process of Memory Reconsolidation, using The ICE Method. Almost unbelievably simple, just using this process for whatever arose for Mrs. Travers would permanently transform her emotional reactivity to her childhood – and it would have transformed her relationship with Mr. Walt Disney.

“How many sessions would it take for Mrs. Travers to become calm about her past so she could make the movie without reactivity? That’s a good question.

When you start using The ICE Method, you begin just as I described. When you reconsolidate that first identified emotion/sensation/experience, you bring calm peptides to replace whatever agitated peptides you had just activated. The short answer to how long you do ICE is: “Until you feel Calm.” Repeat the exact same process for whatever comes up. As you repeat the process, you create a circle of calm, a place that had no calm in it before now feels calm when you recall it. Continue the process and grow the circle of calm.

The longer answer to how many sessions it would take to work with Mrs Travers has to account for how long she’s lived in total reactivity to these stored peptides. Mrs. Travers has traumatic memories that shaped her childhood. Then she has later memories built upon those earliest memories. Her experience with Walt Disney created even more new memories in reaction to her early traumas.

These long established patterns that most of us live from created our reaction patterns for our life. If a time comes that we realize these reactions limit our life, then The ICE Method provides a simple but enormously powerful tool for bringing calm, peace, and freedom to our lives. Two keys here – realizing that the old patterns limit your life, and knowing that a simple solution exists if you choose to engage it.

I don’t want to trivialize this. I remember when I started becoming aware of how peptides store reactivity in my life. I instinctively wanted to return to my familiar patterns rather than enter the unknown. As I started to realize this identify, calm exchange process for becoming free from reactity – I experienced a week of profound uncertainty and fear. I had done enough of this process to realize that if I pursued it further, my life would probably change forever. The old patterns were giving way, but nothing new had arrived at that point. Continuing the process took some courage. Even though the idea of calm, peace, and freedom attracted me, I felt scared to leave the peptide patterns that had stored so strongly in the synapses of my memories.

I know people who experience The ICE Method and don’t come back to it. From my own experience this makes perfect sense – our earliest patterns established what felt safe and dangerous for us. Old familiar patterns, even if they don’t satisfy us, are at least familiar. For Mrs. Travers, her safe place kept her attention always focused on making things right in her broken family. At some subconscious level, it felt terrifying for her to even consider not continuing to do this task. But the terror only comes from reacting to a stored peptide from decades ago. That peptide can cause no immediate physical threat. Release the peptide with ICE and replace it with calm, then you will be free to choose. You can freely choose to continue mending the world if you wish, or you can freely choose another path. You no longer live with the old peptide constraints from the past.

For myself, after that fearful week I chose to keep using Memory Reconsolidation. I kept ICE’ing whatever came up, including that feeling of terror about my life changing forever. “How long will this process take?” It takes as long as it takes. At some point the balance tips and you start living life from a new default. Instead of constant reactivity, you realize that more of your life feels predictably calm. When you notice reactivity, you also notice that it feels different from normal now. You check to see if a tiger could attack you. If there’s no immediate physical threat, you ICE whatever reactivity just showed up. As these reactive peptides replace with calm, your circle of calm grows a little bit more.

At some point, you even find yourself starting to welcome the feeling of reactivity. You know that as long as you face no immediate physical threat, you can turn your fight/flight/freeze stress response off. You can use ICE and bring permanent calm peptides to another part of your life. Again, your circle of calm grows.

Mr. Walt Disney and Mrs P.L Travers are us, all of us. In this human form, as long as we draw breath, we live in reaction to the peptide instructions that inform the function of body and mind. If you’ve reached a point where you want more calm peptides instructing your life, and less reactive peptides tossing your life around, you can engage this journey starting right now. The ICE Method offers a simple and effective tool for realizing peace and freedom. Had Disney and Travers known and used some method of Memory Reconsolidation, “Saving Mr. Banks” would have been a very different movie.

Saving Mr. Banks and Memory Reconsolidation