Sunday, March 28, 2010

hot-house them when they're young and lock them in retirement homes when they get old??

in our time-crunched world, every activity is combined with something else to bow to the holy god of Efficiency. Kids write in schools, but the writing they do is bland and unimaginative--meant to teach them structure. "What i did on my summer vacation." "What i want for Christmas" (apologies to Jean Shepherd!)

Kids are 'hot-housed' to use Sigel's apt terminology. In most schools, imagination is disregarded in favor of the rigors of sentence structure and voice tense. What sense does this make? The world's truly great writers (let alone its great thinkers) rarely obeyed convention. i realize the thinking goes that one must first know the rules in order to break them; but what about the neuroscience evidence--that there is a shockingly small window of time in which kids plastic minds may be used to their full advantage.

**CLICK ON ME!**We waste those precious years absorbing sentence structure and passive voice? Formulaic learning should be the stuff of adolescent years. Sound ridiculous? Consider that by encouraging purely imaginative writing in a young child's most formative time period, you are almost without a doubt instilling a love of words that will translate to a love of reading. Reading a variety of authors will introduce the full craft of writing to a child and in all likelihood do a majority of the structural part of an English teacher's job.

Once that love of writing is instilled, it is easier both to maintain and to cultivate. Life will throw curves at every individual and the ability to articulate oneself and one's thoughts through words, as well as through pure imaginative speculation (day-dreaming) will serve the individual well cognitively (as Snowden & others have shown).

In later years, writing will become a means not only of translating wisdom to future generations, but of preserving family heritage, and also consolidating/ testing/ solidifying memory against the ravages of time.

It is a shame that our culture places so little value on the insights that the elderly have to offer us. Our American Ideals teach that Man is only as valuable as the work he is able to do. The average person seems either not to think they will get old, which is a sneaking suspicion i have (else, why so many smokers?) or perhaps they believe that when they get old, they will simply do it better.

In other cultures, in particular Asian cultures, the family hierarchy is sustained as mothers and fathers are revered and continue living with their children, even grand-children. Of course, this happens less nowadays than it once did--the change is certainly not for the better, as the Western influence spreads out to cover the globe.

Why do we not have time (or make time) to revere our elderly? To dissuade them of the notion that they are second-class citizens? Rather, perhaps, then lay complete blame on those in my generation and surrounding, we can ask this question from the reverse--have American Ideals created, in the mindset of the elderly, something akin to a belief that it is okay that they are treated with such disrespect??

Another question: are there quantifiable differences between the elderly American and the elderly Asian of today? In other cultures, there is no such concept of retirement, is there? And how at odds is this with what we've been told for years of our proud individualism? Perhaps our own cognitive distortions on these two realms--the young worker and the old retiree -- are what prompt us to very nearly ignore the elderly and house them in facilities that distribute industrialized care with the workers, CNAs, doing most of the care who make the least money!

What can be done to reverse this trend?

The elderly must retake a position of value in our society. This will come as a result of some effort on their part and some effort on behalf of younger generations. Just as we should teach the children, the elderly should be writing--beginning before they're elderly! Snowden's work CLEARLY showcases the myriad benefits, and that is what must be talked about more (and more responsibly) by the mainstream press.
*read 'Conceptual Split?' by KR Fisher, et al.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

thoreau probably just sat outside and breathed deeply all day long, doncha' think?

been endeavoring to live a "simpler" life. In that way, i've given up vices such as movies, radaronline, iTunes, the office, etc. It's hard, but it surely has led to an increase in my portion of peace.

It can be taken to an extreme, though, as one might imagine. There are times when i find myself being too quiet, too shut off. For the past three days, i've been sick. Done nothing, really, but sleep and read. Now, today, my first day sort of "back in the land of the living," i'm having trouble getting back to writing. Sensory deprivation, perhaps. Even now, as my toast burns, and i've just crumpled another half-written on sheet of paper (what an amazing SOUND!) i am entranced by the songs of the birds outside my window. Spring is here--yay!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

couples chatter

at a birthday party i went to last week, one of the couples told the story of how they met. (She was a social worker of some kind or another; he, an English teacher who did a lot of writing on the side. At this point, he jokingly elbows her and says "i'm a writer.")

They're dating, been together about three years (the writer, a friend of the birthday boy since college days at TU).

The social worker proceeds: they'd fallen in love over a sentence. Each one, separately, years before. And both remembered, nearly a decade later, nothing **CLICK ON ME!**significant save for that sentence. "God himself culminates in the present moment and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages."

Their chance meeting in some out of the way grocery store was occasioned by his car having the good sense to break down in the impossibly small town where she lived--very 'out of the way' compared to the hectic city pace of life he'd been used to.

Entering the grocery store, he begins telling it. He'd started scoping out people he could speak to, regarding making a telephone call, as his cell-phone had no service in the mountains.

She proceeds to knock over a display of cat food in her efforts to get to him; wildly, noisily, clumsy to an absolute fault (she interjects)-- but kind of heart, as anyone could see, and everyone said. Her house was just around the corner. He could call a garage from there.

After all, he is a writer, so they wait for the tow truck, discussing this book they'd both read years before. The truck comes. They make their goodbyes, just, goodbyes. He is attached to another, as is she.

Time wears on, he picks up the pace now, tramping in unpardonable metaphors. She elbows him. "My editor," he shrugs, rolling his eyes. They had occasional phonecalls, whereby she commiserated with the hectic pace of his life and he admired the slow steadiness of hers. She could watch sunrises and deep breathe the mountain air, instead of racing around some concrete jungle where every creative impulse was judged solely in terms of how salable it was.

"i have this friend," Olivia says now,"he's a school teacher, but he makes the most amazing furniture in his garage, after work at night. Rocking chairs, armoirs, you name it-- he's made it for someone at some point as a wedding or anniversary gift. All the time, people ask him why he doesn't aspire to it full-time. And he responds," (here, Dennis whispers along with her) "because i want to wake up every morning, and still do this, and still love it."

she had no "second" act...

i dream in story lines. Sometimes, my dreams are reiterations of past things i've written--though, even now, i wonder if i dreampt it first and wrote it later. In any case, what does that say about my memories, if my dreams are almost "too" chronological?

i've enjoyed writing since i was 8 and read my first nancy drew mystery. But i've been told, at various times in the past, that i have strong openings and endings in my stories- and no substance in the middle! If this translated equitably into neuroscience lingo, one might expect i'd have a bad memory, however, no such **CLICK ON ME!**luck. i remember too many unimportant things and not enough important ones. So, it would seem attentional difficulties are my true curse.

Most people claim to remember snippets of dreams. Some do say their dreams have recognizable beginnings, middles, and endings. Is that really it? Or is it what the psychoanalysts might say? We contextualize things afterward in order to understand them. Forget psychoanalysts. Here's Nobel prize winner Dr. Eric Kandel: "Once i place these memories in the context of the spatial layout of our small apartment, the remaining details emerge in my mind with surprising clarity." He's recalling something that happened in his youth--Kandel found that when he specifically focused on imagining his childhood home, he was suddenly flooded with all sorts of details that he had not otherwise considered, were he to think on a particular night of particular happenings from a more removed context. (It's the same with expressive writing - EW - and traumatic event reconciliation - TER - which i've posted on before: a TE must be considered from an honest place, face-to-face with the reality of a client's most personal context). Not to make light of anything, but perhaps this is a more illustrative example: the Method of Loci would not be nearly as effective if you were watching Jim Smith walk the path, instead of walking it yourself).

Consider this: are you ever naked in your dreams? Are you certain that you did not later, upon waking, add the crowd of classmates backward into your dream? What does that say about memory? There are those among us who are always, even unconsciously, striving to make sense of things. However, It would seem that the PTSD sufferer is unlikely to be someone prone to analytic fits of self-examination prior to the event of onset because the social-learning circuit for "contextualization" failed to fully develop. That, of course, could be where EW comes in.

As we do with our own dreams, we must aid others in the contextualization of much more horrific TEs, using, predominantly, varied forms of EW. As memories unfold and are faced head-on, a truly remarkable process of healing can begin to take place.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

in high-school, they called him "todd from hell"

recently, i caught up with a friend of my brother's from high-school-- todd jacks. he was an interesting guy: part hippie/part intellect--struggle to see which side of him would win out. what had he been doing with himself?

"nothing...bought a church."

now i had always gotten a kick out of this church that i passed on my way to school. the sign out front didn't have one of those pithy little sayings on it (the center of sin is "i" ; welcome to ch_rch- all that's missing is u.) this one just said "for sale" which i found absolutely hilarious.

todd...hippie atheist dh lawrence-spouting todd was the guy that bought a church. uh, to live in, as it turned out...

"my grandparents left me some money--i hate how all the houses around here look the same."

rich, hippie, atheist, dh lawrence spouting todd tells me he has every intention of opening his doors to the townfolk for potluck. first tuesday of every month.

ps: lolz

Thursday, March 18, 2010

platitudes as emotional shorthand

i have wondered, since visiting an elderly acquaintance recently, why it is that many older people so often speak in platitudes. walter was a gem... my heart is so light! ... god is good.

from an academic standpoint, i'm interested in the neuroscience work of longcamp, klein & boals, and even david snowdon, whose nun study traced the cognitive declines of a group of convent sisters in the midwest.

snowdon and others have found relationships between intelligence and the eventual onset of dementia or alzheimer's. more specifically, correlations have been found between ew and overall brain function. what's interesting about this work is, of course, the cerebral stuff. writing is hard! but longcamp specifically pointed toward the motor components of the writing process as being of paramount importance.

ah, speaking of platitudes!

why, then, would a dementia-addled brain resort to quick, almost automatic keystrokes (if you will) of speech? is it so simple an answer that more in-depth processing is no longer available?

no... what i'm trying to grasp at here is not involved in overall cognitive processing. i'm concerned with verbal and written ability.

but these quick verbal keystrokes are interesting. as the mind regresses, it resorts to that with which it is most familiar. in other words, memories, phraseology, even...words!... that it has longest known and thus grown most familiar with. here, we come to the all too common occurence whereby senior citizens, widowed by their respective partners, rediscover a high-school sweetheart.

what is love?

is it as unique and passionate as we make it? or does the mind simply prefer the comfort of an 'old shoe' in later years?

what are we, the conduits of it?

under the auspices of love do we stockpile all our past favorable impressions--whereby nowadays, it is recalled that high-school was 'all about walter.'

shorthand verbal keystrokes, the tritisms uttered by many in advanced years implies much about the relationship between language and emotion. we know that snowdon explored this in the nun study, in terms of positive versus negative emotion, but what of platitudes--which seem like 'shorthand' for genuine experience?
does dementia cut down on our emotive pathways? is there an emtotion that one may experience which is not totally reliant on the interconnectedness of language and memory? in other words, many may spend their time matching up current happenings against patterns of past happenings, and using that to decide whether or not they are happy. is there an emotion you can experience which may not be put into words? guh guh guh...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

why does expressive writing aid traumatic event reconciliation, but it has no effect on memories of positive events?

if a traumatic event (te) harms our darwinian sense of self, and thusly our sense of self-referentiality, then--as evidence from ew studies shows us--the aspect of "chronology" (reinfusing the te into our existing self-concept in different and healthier ways) appears to reconcile it. ew effectively places the te, which cannot harm us any longer, into a more tolerable self-referential perspective.

inherent to this idea is the notion that most or even all individuals suffer from the illusion, supposed to end in late adolescence, of immortality. just ask yourself why seeminly intelligent modern adults would smoke or entertain other likewise vices. clearly there are gradations, but it seems to be a disease that afflicts all of humankind.

when taking into consideration the above, who is the client most helped by ew as art therapy? certainly an introvert... what else?

that being said, what "curriculum" should ew as art therapy resemble? "i" focused personal narratives (as opposed to fictionalized accounts, such as third-person omniscient viewer; even though that technique seems like it could supply a powerful baseline) that may shift perspectives among participants actually involved in the te, directly related to the client in question.

one such instance could be straight forward essay-style account, another could be a reiteration of dialogue only, another could be an event retelling that uses no dialogue whatsoever (focusing instead on the client's nervous system responses--voluntary or otherwise; as well as recitations of observable actions of others involved in the te--what facial expressions/gestures did the mugger use, for instance? what clothes do i clearly remember him wearing?)

ew has not yet gained the foothold it deserves in the art therapy community. certainly a reason is that it's a much less subjective undertaking than painting or, say, sculpting. one may construe, on behalf of the client, a fear of being judged, as there is 'nowhere to hide.' this effect should be mediated by the watchful sensitivities of the clinician, perhaps in no small measure by administering the "creative/fictionalized ew" baseline tests that were touched on above.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

'who is' the real idiot?

after finishing dostoevsky's the idiot awhile back, i've since been thinking about it, and i'm drawn to make parallels between that story and the much more famous (at least in the u.s.) atlas shrugged, by ayn rand. dostoevsky's prince myshkin loses faith in humankind and is destroyed by it. rand's john galt loses faith and he rejoices in it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

a "time-deprived" person

in keeping with my recent posts on expressive writing (ew)--as it relates to traumatic event reconciliation (ter) and also art therapy on the whole--i want to propose a thought experiment.

what would a person raised without an awareness of time look like? act like? in this instance, then, self-referential chronology would be a huge problem and my guess is that, on the whole, memory of any significant kind would be an issue.

clearer definitions are perhaps warranted... what do we construe an awareness of time as? in considering the above, i gravitated to the topic of feral children. can they describe accurate memories? or do they lack language skills to place the self in a chronological context, and to a further degree relate a stream of constant happenings to oneself in the sense that it may be integrated into long term memory (ltm)?

to that end, then, might there exist such a person with language functioning and without a conception of time? what anthropological/sociological data do we have? this is an intriguing read...

what does this offer us with regard to ew as art therapy?

there must be a clear emphasis on the part of the clinician, as it relates to the client's personal experience of time--their memory framework and flow. the ew must lay out a clear, concise, chronological timeline, with an emphasis on what the client experiences minute by minute--as well as event pre-cursors and long-term ramifications. perhaps, again, a good baseline would be to alter the event's timeline and ask the client to respond to those changes in isolation, outside of their given context. just a few ideas...

see also: dan everett's homepage.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

adventures in time displacement

have you ever said "time flies?" we all have. at the very least, you've thought it, in the not too distant past.

where do the hours go? how do we properly choose which investments of time to make? all too often, it's things like computer games--anyone addicted to online solitaire? or gossip websites...or sports scores... or alcohol. with so many distractions, nay addictions, it's no surprise that 24 hours in a day turns out to be nowhere near enough!

famed psychologist mihaly csikszentmihalyi noted, in his landmark work flow that psychic entropy (general fatigue, weariness in terms of thought and personality) is the inevitable result of having made poor choices with regard to how time is spent (or misspent). csikszentmihalyi went so far as to say that the inordinate number of hours spent watching television, by the average person, was a direct result of how little that person chose to engage his or her consciousness. basically, we watch tv because it fills the silence--and the silence scares us! csikszentmihalyi's implication here is that most people feel this way. most have no satisfying inner life--and when faced with the choice of being alone with their thoughts or watching a seinfeld episode for the second or third time, most will opt for tv. even just as background noise.

i've presented this opinion to people before, and more often than not, i get the same response: i don't watch that much tv. but ask the tv on in the morning while you're getting ready for work? is it on while you eat dinner or pay bills at night? what does it drown out, in terms of meaningful conversations with loved ones?

now i've already touched on the fact that the internet can be a huge time waster (does the world really need a perez hilton?) but i've started to approach my time spent online in a more orderly fashion. before, i would suck on the computer (as a technophobe friend termed it) for at least a little while every day. now, i pretty much just go on every other day, and spend less time because i am more focused (these blog posts are written longhand because i believe in the work of longcamp, klein & boals, and others in the neuroscience field who are just beginning to posit that the motor act of writing AS WELL AS the cerebral act of composing are beneficial to cognitive longevity-- to cite a work well known in popular media, see dr. david snowden's classic nun study.)

psychic energy expended in a haphazard manner weakens your overall ability to focus; disjointed attention spans weakens overall physical energy levels which inevitably increases stress as 'what should get done' mounts in comparison to 'what does get done.' what does increased stress equal, if not poorer overall health?

the average person's media usage makes actors, singers, and advertisers rich. it makes cable companies rich. all it does in the bargain is leave you profoundly worse for wear.

in flow, csikszentmihalyi discusses the ideal of the autotelic personality. their usage of time would be, in a vaccuum, to engage in an activity that equalled either mental or physical exertion, as opposed to something passive, like aimless daydreaming or tv viewing. in fact, in one anecdote, csik relates the tale of a ship's captain at sea, on a long voyage. he finally sees another ship in the distance, after days of total solitude. the two ships set course to meet. when they arrive beside one another, our captain telling this story describes a terrible odor that he quickly sees and identifies as hardened egg on the ship's deck, cooking in the sun.

the captain of the second boat relates that, being by himself, he took the eggs from his refrigator and tossed them out onto the deck. letting them harden in the sun gave him something to do in terms of cleaning.

i think this raises an interesting question, as there are those who would say: no music, no movies, no tv, no internet--how boring. let me ask you this... what are your goals? how would people describe you? how would your friends describe you to someone who didn't know you? sadly, it may be that what we choose to call someone's personality is really no more than just a laundry list of things they've chosen to allow themselves to be distracted by.

if we unplug from media usage-- turning off the tv, the radio, forgoing movies and music and needlessly stressful news reports--our mindset changes. what we think and feel and talk about undergoes a shift that, with time, equals a myriad of positive results. sleep at night is more satisfying and dreams are more fulfilling. media usage, to me, equals that old ubiquitous saying 'time flies.'

all you are responsible for in this life are your reactions to other people, as well as your actions in direct regards to obtaining the outcome you want in your life. looking back, your regrets will be how you treated people--not how you were treated. it doesn't matter what they do--only what you do.

must reads: radical simplicity by jim merkel , walden by thoreau , flow by mihalyi csikszentmihalyi , and radical simplicity by dan price.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

maybe the best insult ever written into literature...

"i hate you, gavril ardalionovitch, simply because--this will perhaps seem marvellous to you--simply because you are the type, the incarnation, the acme of the most insolent and self-satisfied, the most vulgar and loathsome commonplaceness. yours is the commonplaceness of pomposity, of self-satisfaction and olympian serenity. you are the most ordinary of the ordinary!"

dostoevsky's the idiot pp 465-466

vegan notes...

i just made my first loaf of homemade, no yeast/ no soy/ no sugar bread-- and it turned out great!

oven 400F-- 4 cups 100% whole wheat flour, 1/2 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tbsp baking soda, 1.5 cups filtered water, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp 100% steel cut oats, 2 handfuls raisins, 2 tbsp ALL-NATURAL pear butter spread.

glaze: water & cinnamon

next time, i plan to add banana and cinnamon to the initial recipe.

great website!-- i just tinkered with the recipe a little...


speaking of cinnamon... i've started recently to add it to my green tea for EVEN MORE antioxidants. NOW decaffeinated organic green tea is perfection. of course, use lemon when chilled, save the cinnamon for hot...


single best item EVER: Dr. Bronner's 100% peppermint castile soap. use it as a soap, a shampoo ( need a separate conditioner then, of course ) and a detergent!


your number one healthy lifestyle move to engage in on a daily basis? stopping, at random intervals, to take 10 deep breaths. so sayeth dr. oz.

number 2 is STOP complaining! i've made myself a promise to do this because all complaining accomplishes is spreading the contagion which is a negative attitude and a poor spirit. it's hard, but that's why i like this website...