"Summer follows winter, new moon follows old, day follows night... The universe is not static; every component from an electron to a
galaxy is continually moving and such movement cannot proceed
forever in the same direction. Sooner or later it must complete a
circle, or stop and return in the opposite direction."
- J.L. Cloudsley-Thompson
4. Cycles In You
Nature and all its components fluctuate in cycles. Her greatest
creation, your body, is no exception.
You breathe, and your lungs expand and contract in rhythm. Your
heart and pulse join in the anatomical parade - but their cadence is
different from that of your lungs. Your blood pressure and blood
flow are also cyclical, as are your adrenal secretions, your bile
production, and your body temperature.
Even your brain operates in a rhythmic way (see Figure 4), producing
wavelike electrical impulses that range from one wave every few
seconds to very rapid impulses of thirty or more per second, an
important factor in medical diagnosis of various diseases.
Amazingly the bacteria in your body have a cycle of abundance - just
like the lynx, the salmon, and the partridge.
Cycles in Brain Waves
The four main types of brain waves
Your Daily Rhythms
You live on a tiny wet ball in space, a sphere rotating on its axis
in a twenty-four-hour period relative to the sun.
Exposed as you are
to this daily changing environment of light, temperature, and
humidity, it follows that many of your organs and habits are
adjusted to a twenty-four-hour schedule. However, like the
thermostat in your furnace, the alarm on your clock-radio, and the
control on your food freezer, they don't necessarily function
Your liver, soft, solid, reddish brown, and unglamorous, is one of
the most important organs in your body. It performs at least 500
separate functions for you. Without it you would live only a few
days at most. It has a fascinating twenty-four-hour cycle.
the day, while you are awake, it produces bile, which helps to
emulsify and digest fat. At night, while you are resting, it breaks
down glycogen into the glucose that you will need for energy to be
your dynamic self when you awake.
Your blood pressure follows another metronome. It is at its lowest
at about three in the morning; by three in the afternoon it has
reached its highest reading.
During the night the vital capacity of your lungs decreases, while
adrenaline, your body's activity-boosting hormone, is produced in
its largest quantities between 4 and 6 A.M., just before you awake.
By late evening you are producing little, if any, adrenaline.
You sleep in a twenty-four-hour rhythm, and your body temperature
increases and decreases in a similar cycle.
Your temperature reading
will reach its peak during your waking hours and its lowest point
comes while you are sleeping. As your temperature rises during the
day, your efficiency increases; as it drops, so will your
effectiveness. However, we are complicated and individualistic
machines - not produced on any assembly line. We are different from
each other in countless ways less visible than the pigment of our
skin or the color of our eyes.
Some of us are "morning" people; others are "night" people. If you
are a "morning" type, you will have your highest temperature early
in the day and will do your best work during those hours.
If you are
an "evening" type - if you "hate to get up in the morning" - you will
show a rising body-temperature curve during the day and your
greatest period of productivity is reached at just about the time
when the "morning" types are thinking about calling it a day.
If you are willing to risk creating among your fellow workers the
impression that you are a hypochondriac, you can learn, within a
very few weeks, whether you fall into the "morning" or "evening"
category. Take your temperature, every hour, from the time you arise
until you retire. If your temperature climbs as the day progresses,
you are an "evening" person; if it decreases instead, perhaps you
should plan your heavier work load for the first half of each day
for you are the "morning" type.
Your twenty-four-hour temperature cycle tends to resist radical
Experiments seeking to find the answer to why people
sleep and why the rhythm of sleep is twenty-four hours long have
shown that while the pattern may be forcibly changed for a short
period of time to a twenty-one-hour or even twenty-seven-hour
rhythm, the twenty-four-hour temperature cycle refuses to go along
with any alteration in sleep habits.
The Time-Zone Syndrome
Now that we can fly around our planet in several hours, our
commercial airline pilots are complaining about a new problem -
They maintain, and correctly so, that although
they have crossed several time zones, their body is still
functioning on their home-zone schedule, while at their place of
landing everyone is living on a different schedule.
The pilots want
longer rest periods following lengthy transmeridian flights to give
their body processes time to adjust to the new environment.
Many companies are now advising their executives not to perform any
important business functions after crossing several time zones until
they have rested for a day or more. Bad decisions, made under
conditions of fatigue and altered body timetables, can be far more
costly than an additional day or two of rest charged to the expense
This point was dramatically made during Premier Kosygin's
visit to the United States in 1967.
Following his flight from Russia
he refused to meet with the press or any members of the American
government until he had rested for a week to allow his body "clocks"
to adjust to the different time zone.
Body "Clocks" - Fact or Illusion?
The scientific and medical debate as to whether all living
organisms, including man, contain biological "clocks" that regulate
body functions is not resolved. One group maintains that these
"clocks" (still not located, if they do exist) are strictly internal
devices uninfluenced from the outside.
Another group of biologists has performed experiments that do more
than hint that nature's timetables, including man's, are affected by
outside forces. Prominent in this area is the research being
performed by Frank A. Brown, Jr., Morrison Professor of the
Biological Sciences at Northwestern University.
One of Professor Brown's early experiments, in 1957, strengthened
the "outside force" hypothesis.
He collected a number of oysters
from the seashore at New Haven, Connecticut, and transported them
nearly a thousand miles to his laboratory in Evans-ton, Illinois.
those who maintained that all living organisms have internal
"clocks" were correct, then the oysters - living in darkness in
covered containers of Atlantic Ocean salt water, under constant
conditions of temperature - should have opened their valves in
Evanston at the same time as they always had at New Haven, in
synchrony with the tides on their old seashore habitat.
They did just that - for a few days. But within two weeks they were
opening and closing their valves at a different time, in synchrony
with the positions of the moon in Evanston!
The positions of the
moon always coincide with the ebb and flow of atmospheric tides
everywhere in the world, but there is no ocean tide in Evanston,
Illinois. Yet the oysters, still covered, were synchronizing their
movements with a nonexistent ocean tide that "something" (certainly
not any internal "clock") was telling them existed in their new
Professor Brown and his associates went further in their brilliant
research. They began to experiment with a biological process common
to every living thing - metabolism. Metabolism, in simplified,
nonscientific terminology, is the measurement of chemical change in
a living organism between the time it has been "fed" and the time it
discharges the food as waste. Your physician might give you a "basal
metabolism test" to discover whether or not your body is making
proper use of the food it receives.
The subjects selected by Professor Brown were small pieces of
potatoes with sprouting eyes.
These young specimens were
hermetically sealed, in constant darkness and under constant
conditions of pressure, with proper recording apparatus to measure
the rate at which the young sprouts consumed oxygen. Brown and his
associates discovered that the potato had a twenty-four-hour cycle
of oxygen consumption, even under these controlled conditions,
which, evidence indicated, was somehow related to a similar
twenty-four-hour cycle in barometric pressure outside its sealed
Most surprising was the potato's ability to predict the
outside barometric pressure two days in advance. The height of its
afternoon peak in metabolic rate appeared to be related to the
barometric pressure of the area two days later!
As Dr. Brown sums it up:
"Every living thing studied in our
laboratory, from carrots to seaweeds, and from crabs to oysters to
rats... has shown this capacity to predict very safely, beyond
chance, the barometric pressure changes usually two days in advance.
It is interesting to contemplate the problem of a meteorologist
sealed, incommunicado, for weeks or months in constant conditions,
and asked to give two-day weather predictions... or for that
matter, even to tell you the weather today."
Just as radio waves penetrate the walls of your home to bring you
the six o'clock news, "something out there" penetrated hermetically
sealed containers and triggered the strange and cyclic actions of
Professor Brown's potatoes.
You and I, of course, are not protected
within sealed containers, nor do we go about our daily lives under
constant conditions of temperature, humidity, and pressure.
all would like to think that we are at least as sensitive as a
Do we then dare conclude that the same unknown forces that
act on the oyster and the potato might also affect us?
whatever force that "triggers" them also "trigger" some sensitive
mechanism within us, causing our moods to fluctuate with all the
characteristics of a barometer?
Your Emotional Cycle
All of us have our emotional ups and downs. Some days we are riding
the crest of elation, enthusiasm, and excitement. On those occasions
we feel that there is nothing in the world that we cannot handle.
On other days we are "down in the dumps." The slightest remark will
irritate us, our appetite is terrible, and we balloon the most
insignificant situation completely out of proportion. Our attitude
actually seems to attract trouble during this period.
Some years ago a scientific study of these emotional fluctuations in
male human beings was conducted by Professor Rex Hersey of the
University of Pennsylvania. His conclusion was that although the
emotional cycles of individual men vary with the individual from
sixteen days to sixty-three days, the average length for men is
about five weeks. This is the typical length of time it takes for a
normal man to move from one period of elation down the scale to a
feeling of worry (the most destructive emotion, according to Hersey)
and back up again to the next period of elation.
Professor Hersey and his group devoted an entire year to the
observation of a group of normal workers of various occupations,
ages, personality types, and ethnic backgrounds. Their behavior in
countless areas, such as efficiency, productivity, cooperativeness,
verbal outbursts, ideas, absenteeism, emotion, and reverie, was
studied along with their blood pressure, weight, hours of sleep,
feelings of fatigue, and illnesses.
To simplify and portray the fluctuating moods of his subjects,
Professor Hersey constructed a scale of emotions to which he applied
numerical values. Happiness and elation received the highest value,
plus 6; worry was assigned the lowest value, minus 6.
Each day for thirteen weeks the subjects were briefly interviewed
four times and given a "mood rating" for that day, ranging from plus
6 to minus 6. In most cases Professor Hersey believed that the
subject's own opinion of how he felt combined with the interviewer's
observation resulted in a fairly objective rating. Although such a
method could never fathom or portray all the different emotions of
an individual, it did chart, with sufficient accuracy, the dominant
mood of the day.
The major surprise to Hersey was that although different individuals
had different cycle lengths, they were always fairly constant for
that individual. If one worker had an average mood cycle of five
weeks, it was almost never less than four weeks, almost never more
than six. In spite of domestic squabbles, trouble with the boss,
great pleasures, promotions, job problems, unforeseen good luck, and
accidents, this cycle did not vary by more than one week from the
normal cycle for that person.
What are the symptoms of a high period in your emotional cycle? You
bounce out of bed, hurry to work with enthusiasm, and tackle jobs
that you have been putting off for days or weeks. Problems will
stimulate you and no job is too difficult to tackle. You feel so
great, physically, that when you return home from work you are ready
for some social life. You also make plans for the future and think
about that new automobile or a new house you want to buy. Financial
problems almost disappear from your mind.
You have what my good
friend W. Clement Stone calls "a positive mental attitude."
In your low periods even going to work is an almost impossible task.
Solving problems, or for that matter, any mental or physical effort,
is difficult. You feel tired, depressed, and you worry about matters
that you ignored during your "high" period. You become concerned
about your job, your future, your family, your bank account, and
your own health. You are negative in all your thinking.
Strange as it may seem, your sexual activity is probably greater
during your "low" period. Since you are restless and sleep comes
with difficulty, you will often engage in intercourse to quiet you
and put you to sleep.
How to Forecast Your Emotional Cycle
Obviously it would be of great help to you if you knew your "high"
and "low" periods - and this can be quite easily learned, with a
minimum of time. Begin by preparing a simple chart similar to the
one shown in Figure 5.
This is a simplified version of the graph used by Professor Hersey
but it is sufficient to chart your own emotional cycle. Every
evening take a few moments and review your general mood of the day.
Then place a dot in the box which you believe most aptly defines
your state of mind. Connect the dots with a straight line as time
Soon a pattern will emerge.
This is your natural mood rhythm and in
most cases it will continue.
A Grid for Recording Your Emotions
After a few months you will
know, with amazing accuracy, when your next "high" is due and when
you should prepare for your next "low."
As I mentioned earlier, this
cycle will normally not vary by more than one week either way. With
this knowledge, this ability to at least partially "see into your
future," you will be able to adjust your behavior to suit your mood.
When you are going through your high period of elation, you will
think twice before making rash promises, impossible commitments, or
misguided installment purchases. You will also be able to live
through your low periods of sadness and depression because you will
know that these too will pass, within a few days.
knowledge of cycles, as you can see, will help you to change what
can be changed and prepare for what cannot.
The Love Cycle
The female of our species also has an emotional cycle of
approximately five weeks, but hers is complicated by two other
With one, the menstrual cycle, she is quite familiar, for
she has lived with it since the onset of her puberty and, except for
periods of pregnancy, she is confronted with this cycle
approximately every twenty-eight days. During this period, each
month, especially if pain accompanies menstruation, the female is
liable to varying moods of emotion.
But women have another cycle, little known to most, and first
recorded in the 1930's by Dr. Marie Stopes - a fourteen-day cycle of
amorousness. Dr. Stopes called her cycle "The Law of Periodicity of
Recurrence of Desire in Women" (one wonders what it would be called
After considerable research Dr. Stopes disclosed that normal
women have a decided increase in their sexual desire just before
menstruation begins and again eight or nine days after the cessation
of the menstrual flow - a cycle of fourteen days. She also pointed out
that the second increase in ardor, following the cessation of
menstruation by eight or nine days, is exactly in agreement with the
old Jewish plan of having twelve clear days after the beginning of
menstruation before the next union should take place.
Obviously, then, if you are a woman and begin to keep your emotional
chart as outlined here, there will be irregularities in its original
appearance not found in the cycle of a male. Nevertheless, you will
discover that in spite of these interruptions, both physical and
psychological, you, too, have an emotional cycle that is
approximately five weeks in length.
Why do our moods fluctuate in cycles?
Professor Hersey thought that
climate might be the cause but realized that there was no
relationship between the cycles and climate conditions unless each
person responded differently to changes in the weather, for each
individual had his own cycle, which did not move up and down in the
same wave as those of others.
"Since there is no other single influence,
besides climate, of which we have knowledge, that affects us all so
equally without reference to individual conditions, one can only
conclude that the basic cause of this very interesting human
phenomenon is yet to be found..."
Your Cycle of Creativity
Perhaps you can recall at least one instance when your memory or
your ability to express yourself intelligently failed you in an
interview or examination and possibly prevented you from obtaining a
promotion, a big sale, or a job you wanted. You insist that if you
had a second opportunity, you wouldn't fail - and you are very
possibly correct. You may have failed on that particular day because
you were in your low period of creativity.
Great writers, artists, musicians, and even scientists have long
felt that their best work was performed in spurts, followed by long
gaps of nonproductiveness. Unless they were "in the mood," they were
completely impotent, artistically speaking.
Dr. J. H. Douglas Webster, whose chief contributions to the
knowledge of rhythmic fluctuations are in the field of medicine,
applied his brilliant analytical mind to exploring the possibility
of cycles in creativity. His comprehensive research involved not
only the assembling of data from the biographies and collected works
of musicians and poets, but also a thorough review of earlier papers
on the subject. The most prominent cycle he discovered in creativity
averaged 7.6 months in length.
Where there were daily records available through diaries and letters
it was discovered that Christina Rossetti, Anne Bronte, Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe, August Platen, Heinrich Schutz, and Franz
Schubert had peaks of creativity approximately every 7.6 months.
Where there were monthly records available the same 7.6-month high
in creativity was found in Rupert Brooke, John Keats, Percy Bysshe
Shelley, Thomas Gray, Victor Hugo, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Nikolai
Andreevich Rimski-Korsakov, Petr Ilich Tchaikovsky, and Jean
Sibelius. A similar cycle was discovered in the productiveness of
Walter Scott, Katherine Mansfield, Gustave Flaubert, Henrik Ibsen,
Richard Wagner, Charles Darwin, Claude Bernard, and Michael Faraday.
A longer cycle, seven years in length, was first noted by Pythagoras
and later discussed by Cicero and Seneca. Sigmund Freud believed
that his best periods of productivity came every seven years.
How many truly creative people would be relieved if they
realized - and learned to live with - the fact that their barren periods
do not indicate that they are losing their touch but are instead
only the inevitable "lows" of a cycle that will eventually take them
into another "high" period of creativity? Here, indeed, is a subject
fertile for further research and exploration.
Your Electrical Cycle
Remember those trees in New Haven that produced electrical voltages
in regular cycles?
All matter is fundamentally electric in nature. The paper on which
these words are printed, the chair on which you are resting
comfortably, the bed on which you will sleep - all are composed of
negatively charged electrons circling constantly around positively
charged protons. Now don't let this scientific terminology frighten
I merely want to remind you that our Connecticut trees
with their electric voltage are composed of matter - and so are you.
Along the nerve fibers of your body direct electric current flows
to transmit signals from your senses to the brain. Touch a hot
stove with your hand and the sense of touch in your fingers will
immediately flash a message via electric current back to your
brain. Another message, almost simultaneously, will flash back
from your brain down the nerves of your arm telling the muscles
of your arm to remove the hand, quickly, from the hot stove.
flow of this electric current, similar to that in the tree, can be measured, and over 30,000 such measurements were made by Dr.
Leonard Ravitz on almost 500 students at Yale University, Duke
University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Ravitz discovered that although we are subject to many different
and periodic electric tides that sweep through our bodies daily,
these tides, for the most part, occur in cycles. He noted a cycle of
twenty-four hours and others of bimonthly, quarterly, and semiannual
Need I remind you of the semiannual, or six-month, cycle
also found in the voltage output of our trees?
One of the enigmas of cycle study is that individual human
beings, plants, and animals have cycle lengths that are different
from others in their group.
Why is my emotional cycle five weeks
i long while yours is six weeks? Why does your "high" come at a
; time when I am at my "low"? Why am I a "morning" person
while you do your best work in the evening?
Are there inherent differences in plants, animals, and human beings
that determine their individual responsiveness to outside forces?
Consider the pigments of an artist's palette. The red paint he
applies to his canvas is exposed to the blue in the sunlight just as
much as the blue paint, but it "elects" to respond only to the red
rays of the spectrum. His blue paint is exposed to the red rays as
much as the red pigment but it ignores the red rays and reflects
only the blue. Could plants, animals, and human beings be similarly
The possibility of inherent differences in all of us was suggested
by the work of Louis S. Goldstein, a pediatrician of Yonkers, New
York, who has spent considerable time on the subject of
The first shock that we experience is the shock of being born.
Sometime after birth, and later on after intrusions into our flesh
such as operations and vaccinations, many of us experience what is
known as a secondary shock or aftershock. If there are such things
as "aftershock," wouldn't you expect them to happen at random and
not on schedule?
Dr. Goldstein's work shows that these aftershocks
manifest themselves only on certain particular days. In the 214
births which he studied, although twenty-six infants had secondary
shock at eight-day intervals and thirty-five infants had secondary
shock at ten-day intervals, not one single infant had aftershock at
Although ten other infants had aftershock at
twelve-day intervals and twenty-five at fourteen-day intervals, not
one infant had aftershock at eleven-day or thirteen-day intervals.
It would be extraordinarily difficult to obtain such results by a
random distribution of 214 cases.
Moreover, the critical days in many instances seem to have a simple
arithmetical relationship. Many secondary shocks occur eight days
after birth; others twenty-four days after birth.
Some shocks occur
seven days after birth, or fourteen days, or twenty-one days.
possible that someday we will be classified according to the number
of days it takes each of us, individually, to echo an initial shock?
Is there a hint in Dr. Goldstein's work that may someday provide the
key to understanding the differences between you and me, between
your cycles and mine?
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