31 May 2010

Dionysius walked in

This is second hand information from an old friend of mine which I consider very reliable, as I was there in the neighborhood while the whole thing was happening. It involves a nervous breakdown, a recovery, and some evidence to support a common psycho therapeutic form.

In December of 1996 the subject appeared in perfect health. His weight was 180 pounds and there did not appear to be a single centimeter of fat on his body. He played tennis (the locus of my acquaintance with him) or worked out in the gym daily. In the middle of December 1996 he had a panic attack in connection with a business presentation. (Pan is the Roman pantheon equivalent of Dionysius.) Over the course of the subsequent three months he lost all physical strength, all endurance, all power to concentrate, and 45 pounds of body weight. He believed himself to be dying.

He went to the doctor. The doctor did a complete physical examination. Nothing wrong with the subject. Doctor asked, "would you like some prozac?" Subject declined the pills but did go see a sequence of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, clergymen, bartenders looking for a cure. About the only thing he had the concentration power to do was read books. So he went to the Tulane University Medical School library, psychiatry shelf and started reading one book after another after another.

Somewhere in that massive stack he came upon an old formula. If you have a stress related ailment, you are doing something your subconscious wants you to stop doing. Make a list of everything you habitually do, try stopping them one at a time, and see if one of the stops brings relief for your symptoms. The other thing that jumped out at him was the predominance of automobile driving related events in the psychiatric case studies.

He stopped driving his car. He got better very quickly. None of the professionals he saw seemed to be very interested in the story.

25 May 2010


It has been two weeks since I last posted on blogger. That has been the length of time it has taken me to figure out just how far I stuck my foot into my mouth on my last post. Where I said, as near as I can tell, "hypnosis = meditation = profound devotion = trance".

It turns out the information to correct this oversimplification was sitting on my library shelf, except it took a long time with many false starts and dead ends to zero in on it. The better presentation of this idea is in Charles Tart, States of Consciousness, pp 144-145 of the 2000 Author's Guild edition:

"use of the concept of discrete State of Consciousness must first be done on an individual basis. . . . The very existence of names like dreaming state or hypnotic state indicates that there appears to be a fair degree of commonality among a fair number of individuals . . . Several discrete Altered States of Consciousness may be hidden within common names like hypnosis or dreaming."

Tart's book is fantastic. He has a case study of this subject William, twenty pages long, and William is the most deeply hypnotized subject that Tart has ever studied. My equation above from my blog post of 11 May is a gross and crude approximation to the facts, which are only partially understood. Hypnosis and meditation are at least two different human states of consciousness.

Also there was a less serious error in my description of the meditating monk brain scans. The hot spot in the cortex is in the right parietal lobe, not the left. I actually found the image I was remembering. It is in this paper:

Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: effects of meditative expertise. Lutz A, et al.



The hot spot is on the left side of their brain image which is looking at the brain slice from the bottom up and so right and left are reversed. Since I was a physics major this is merely a sign error and almost does not even count.

One of the books I spent a lot of time on is Doctor Daniel Amen (a neurologist and psychiatrist) Making a Good Brain Great. There was enough good information in Amen's book to keep me turning the pages but also some misinformation. Enough to get the man a quackwatch listing. Supplements for brain improvement which are not recommended treatments by his specialists review board, for example. Apparently the man is an incredible entrepreneur, irrespective of how great a neurologist he happens to be.

The most interesting thing in this book is he has an exhaustive bibliography of references, even to support his bizarre supplement recommendations. He does not take much stock in that famous paper from a couple years ago "Most published research results are wrong." I am pretty confident that, with sufficient time and energy, you can find many peer review research publications to support both sides of a very long list of physiology and anatomy and medical debates.

11 May 2010

Erickson, Huxley, Bandler, Grinder

Today I read an incredible account of clinical hypnosis in Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. To be more precise, I re-read it as I had read it once before several years ago. For some reason it did not make the impression upon me then that it did today. The account is 57 pages long at the end of part one. It is mostly verbatim presentation of Erickson's report on his day long hypnosis session with Aldous Huxley. Huxley was eminent, eminently brilliant, and eminently hypnotically susceptible. When I read it before, I underlined all the parts that jumped out. Today something jumped out which I did not underline before.

Huxley had his own introspective meditative technique which he called Deep Reflection. The thing that jumped out is in the middle of the 57 pages Huxley makes an offhand comment that hypnosis is not like Deep Reflection. I find this odd and suspect it may even be wrong. It is inconsistent with my own view which may be a course approximation but I have arrived at this view after years of investigation.

As near as I can tell:

hypnosis = meditation = profound devotion = trance

I have studied the various methods of Zen Buddhism, Ericksonian hypnosis, Gestalt trance, Gurdjieff self-remembering, Jung active imagination, the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola, Golden Dawn ceremonial magic, and others I have forgotten. I have been hypnotized watching Shakira shake her ass on a big screen video. To me the physical sensations associated with these various methods are all the same, which is the basis on which I make the above equation.

Huxley says no. He is dead now and there is probably no way to exhume much detail about his thought procedure here from the archives, but I do have an idea what might be going on. I think the difference was simply depth of trance. When he was in a room by himself he could attain a deeper trance state than he could with Erickson there in the room with him; this is hard to argue because the trance states described by Erickson are profoundly deep. I think there is a limit to how far you can go with a present hypnotist you do not utterly trust. I have known some very skilled hypnotists, but I have never allowed them to put me into anywhere near as deep a trance as I will go in my own living room by myself.

There was a positron emission tomography scan study done a few years ago on some experienced Tibetan Buddhist monk meditators and they found a hot spot in their left parietal lobe correlating with deep trance. It appears to me that the current scientific facts are that the best physical explanation of the trance state is it is a hot spot in the mind which is activated. And the same hot spot is activated by different methods and different trance depths or different method's results are simply an indication of the level of activation.

In addition to the Erickson Huxley material every thing in this book is first rate. I have an acquaintance who is a psychiatrist and neurologist. I asked him about hypnosis one time. He replied to me "I do not know anything about hypnosis." Sad, that. I really want to go to the Erickson Institute in Phoenix and take their one-week course one of these years.

08 May 2010

The thing that hovers over every secret is betrayal

The moaning and kvetching on some of the trader blogs after the 1000 point Dow drop glitch last week is very confusing. Apparently some people with stop loss sell orders took a huge bath. One guy wrote about a colleague who had a portfolio on Monday worth 250 000 who lost 400 000 dollars in one afternoon. Aye aye aye aye aye. There is value at risk us mortal humans deal with and then there is playing with fire the hubris filled allow themselves to go bonkers with.

There was a Themis Trading blog outraged at the High Frequency Trading firms. The powers that be and conspiratorial interpretations never cease to amaze me. Things look to me to be very rough before the regulators catch up with these guys who are betting as big as they can with other people's (yours and mine) money. I have a scheme to take down these hot shots which I have divulged to three people on earth. I have a letter in the mail to one of them right now and am eagerly anticipating her reply. The recipe is in Laura Nader's book The Life of the Law.

Another book I have gotten much out of lately is Amihai Mazar's Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10 000 -- 586 B.C.E. He reports some astonishing findings if you are innocent of the subject of Archaeology which I clearly was because I was astonished. There is no historical record of King Solomon. But the land midway between Mesopotamia and Egypt was continuously occupied by satellite civilizations which were every bit as sophisticated as the great civilizations during good times. They did not live in huts. They lived in walled cities and the wealthier families had nice houses and consumer goods which would satisfy many of us moderns. They have found in the diggings (at places like Jericho) olives, grapes, garlic, onions, chickpeas, art and weaponry which were the equivalent of anything in Egypt or Mesopotamia. It appears perfectly plausible that there was once a wealthy King named Solomon who built a magnificent temple such as presented in scripture and legend and myth.

The most important finding is the writing. They had an alphabet which is contemporaneous to the other first known alphabet of the Phoenicians. If there was a real Solomon he did not write Hebrew. There was a proto-Hebrew proto-Aramaic script and Mazar has a photo of a relic which they interpret as the Priestly Benediction which found its way ultimately into Numbers 6:24-25. The last time I looked into this stuff I understood the conventional wisdom to be Ezra's scribes had compiled the Torah entirely from oral tradition when they got back from the Babylon exile.

There is also some real data which anybody can use. I purchased the book for 20.00 in 1992. It is still in print, although it is 45.00. The price has gone up 2.25X in 18 years. So if you calculate your own inflation consumer price index there is a data point for you! Also I suppose there is a message about my own impulse purchasing habit or procrastination level, because I bought the book, carried it home, and moved it four times before I got around to reading it.

The upper middle class standard dwelling is all over the place in the diggings. The professionals refer to it as "the four room house" and it is about the same square feet as the apartment I am living in right now. I am confused when I ponder the question of whether I would have enjoyed this book nearly so much if I had read it in 1992 when I bought it. A human can undergo a lot of change in 18 years.

Remember how many people voted for Ross Perot? I was thinking about doing so as late as July or whenever it was the press coverage really started getting kooky. I ended up voting for Clinton. I decided I hated Bush the moment he got on television and explained the new world order was going to undo Saddam Hussein's invasion and restore "freedom in Kuwait". Who would ever think we would live to look on that as the good old days?

01 May 2010

keep your hands off of my stash

I am undergoing a phase transition. My income has temporarily dropped to zero and I am wrestling with the possibilities of this being permanent. It is daunting to look at my savings and expenditures and the statistical endpoint on the life expectancy tables. For the first time in my life I am constructing a budget using grocery store receipts and calculating out to the nearest .01 of a dollar. I never paid much attention to this before because I was born with no money at all and never had any money to speak of until I graduated from college and then suddenly I had more money than I knew what to do with. I just made a gross approximation to spend about half my take home pay, stash the rest, and if I had to worry about it some day then I would do so.

Some day is here now. I read the Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin Your Money or Your Life and it has a small amount of good information. There was one part which I found absolutely maddening. They say there are deep psychological issues for many of us saturating the acquiring and spending of money. That is certainly true for me. They go on to say there is a vast literature and proven techniques we may use to resolve these. I have found this completely false. I have a library of psychological books which includes just about everything beginning with Sigmund Freud and ending with Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis. Also it includes a host of non-mainstream which samples a great deal: Erickson hypnosis and Guerdjieff and Transactional Analysis and Gestalt and a small New Harbinger publishing collection. There is very little explicitly about money.

When I googled for money and therapy the number one hit was Bourne's Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. I own this book and I cannot find the word money in it. I have the New Harbinger Couple Skills book and in spite of the folk wisdom that most marriage arguments refer to money, there is almost nothing about money in this book. The most detail which I have seen to date is in Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death, which is a beautiful and fascinating book, except for two things:

1.) Norman O. Brown was a literature teacher, not a clinical psychologist.

2.) His presentation on money is from the narrow perspective of Freud anal stage as a total explanatory mechanism. I have no faith in this.

It seems to me there is a huge hole here. I feel like I am walking on a high wire and there is no net, although Dominguez and Robin tell us otherwise. I have a friend who is a physician and when he was in medical school he told me several times about patients that had five or six major medical problems and it was mysterious how they clung to life and on the rounds there was one comment repeatedly heard: "what a fascinating case!" I think that might be the way to look at my money psycho issues.

I met a woman in 1991 or so who was a devotee of Saint Jude, the patron saint of hope. When her husband was drafted to fight the Germans in Europe in 1943 she went to the Church of Saint Jude in New Orleans on Rampart Street, bought a candle, and prayed in front of the saint's statue. She prayed that she would return daily, and that if her husband returned from the war she would be so thankful that she would return daily to express her gratitude to God every day for the remainder of her life. He did return from Europe and she did return to the Church of Saint Jude daily up through to the day I met her in 1991. And beyond. I lost track of her and her life expectancy has probably been used up by now but I have never forgotten her or the story she told me. It is almost incomprehensible that a person's faith could move them so far as to make a daily trek for a prayer for forty-eight years.

I never met the man. I wonder what he thought about that. The closest thing I have ever seen was in a work of fiction. In Mario Puzo's The Godfather, he writes that Vito Corleone's wife went to mass daily and prayed for the salvation of the godfather. That always seemed a little bit sick to me, but the woman going to the Church of Saint Jude fills me with awe.


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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.