Speakers: Sensei Kaz Tanahashi & Sensei Beate Genko Stolte
The practice of the Way is circular, non-linear, says Kaz Sensei. It is reflected in the “enso” and also resembles the full moon, both symbols of enlightenment. Each moment of our lives is complete and inclusive of everything, including the imperfections. Sensei Beate asks whether we can we find the determination to sit through the unknown landscapes of our minds during sesshin. She points out that despite his fierce reputation, Bodhidharma had great patience and vast compassion to be able to do what he did in ancient China. Sitting sesshin helps us develop true patience – as opposed to endurance – to continue our practice despite our fears.[Play]
Dogen's Circle of the Way part 2 of 4: Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download [Play]
Saturday, September 19, 2009
HOW TO SEE YOURSELF
AS YOU REALLY ARE
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
translated and edited by
Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week
Laziness comes in many forms, all of which result in procrastination, putting off practice to another time. Sometimes laziness is a matter of being distracted from meditation by morally neutral activities, like sewing or considering how to drive from one place to another; this type of laziness can be especially pernicious because these thoughts and activities are not usually recognized as problems.
At other times, laziness manifests as distraction to thinking about nonvirtuous activities, such as an object of lust or how to pay an enemy back. Another type of laziness is the sense that you are inadequate to the task of meditation, feeling inferior and discouraged: "How could someone like me ever achieve this!" In this case you are failing to recognize the great potential of the human mind and the power of gradual training.
All of these forms of laziness involve being unenthusiastic about meditation. How can they be overcome? Contemplation of the advantages of attaining mental and physical flexibility will generate enthusiasm for meditation and counteract laziness. Once you have developed the meditative joy and bliss of mental and physical flexibility, you will be able to stay in meditation for as long as you want. At that time your mind will be completely trained so you can direct it to any virtuous activity; all dysfunctions of body and mind will have been cleared away.
--from How to See Yourself As You Really Are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.
THE THREE VISIONS
Fundamental Teachings of the
Sakya Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism
by Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub
fore. by H.H. Sakya Trizin
trans. by Lobsang Dagpa and
Dharma Quote of the Week
...one should think, "If physical illness or mental suffering did not occur to me, then I would be distracted only by the busy activities of this life. Having become intoxicated with pride and arrogance, I would never produce sadness for this world and would never be mindful of the acceptance and rejection of virtue and nonvirtue. So this disease or suffering has caused me to be mindful of the objects of refuge and the Dharma. It has evoked within me strong renunciation and sadness (for this world), and many deeds (karma) that would have caused me to experience the hells in future lives are being settled through ripening here (in this life)." If one practices in this manner, one's illness and suffering will be transformed into the path of enlightenment. As it was said in the Bodhicaryavatara,
Moreover, the good qualities of suffering are
that one dispels pride by sadness, generates
compassion for worldlings, produces an aversion
for nonvirtue, and a fondness for virtue.
--from The Three Visions: Fundamental Teachings of the Sakya Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism by Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub, fore. by H.H. Sakya Trizin, trans. by Lobsang Dagpa and Jay Goldberg, published by Snow Lion Publications
Friday, September 18, 2009
American Heart Association Reignites the Fat vs. Carbohydrate Debate
In the September edition of Circulation, the American Heart Association published its first aggressive position stand on the role of sugar in the development of heart disease. Although previous publications encouraged Americans to moderate sugar consumption this is the first time the AHA has taken the position that excess sugar consumption could lead to heart disease.
According to the paper, it is now advised that women consume less than 25 grams or 100 calories of added or processed sugar daily, while intakes for men should remain below 37.5 grams or 150 calories daily. At first glance, this might appear higher than what is desirable for optimal health. However, when you consider that the average American consumes over 90 grams of sugar or 355 calories a day it is definitely a move in the right direction.
Through this position stand, the American Heart Association is primarily targeting the soft drink and beverage industry. The report claims that 1/2 of the 150-300 calorie per day increase in total caloric intake that has occurred since the 1980's is due to calorie-laced beverages.
Although the food and beverage industry refutes these claims, instead arguing that a lack of physical exercise causes obesity, their position has now been considerably weakened. Interestingly, researchers along with the AHA continue to avoid stating a direct link for sugar to heart disease and obesity. Instead, they point to the secondary effects of consuming calorie-laced beverages, which include increased overall calorie intake, greater body mass, and displacement of essential nutrients.
This position paper is sure to re-ignite the 1/2 century-old debate over which food substrate has the greatest influence over the development of cardiovascular disease, fat or sugar. Come along for the ride!
Johnson, R.K., et al (2009) Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 120:1011-1020.
Fat Gain May Cause
If you needed another reason to lose weight, scientists have just uncovered something that might be of interest. Researchers at UCLA recently reported that body fat may be inversely related to brain size.
According to a Healthday interview with lead scientist Paul Thompson, being overweight or obese ages the brain by 8 to 16 years, respectively. Moreover, the areas of the brain most affected by excess body fat are the frontal and temporal lobes. The frontal lobe is responsible for everything from problem solving ability to memory, impulse control and social behaviors whereas the temporal lobe coordinates both visual and auditory information. Increased degeneration of these areas has been suggested to lead to Alzheimer's disease.
To make the above determinations brain images from 94 elderly adults were studied. The individuals were then followed for five years. The brains of obese participants were 8% smaller than those of normal-weight participants, whereas overweight participants had 4% less brain tissue.
Although a cause-and-effect relationship could not be determined from this study, the researchers suggest that it could be a result of poor nutrient delivery to the brain in obese individuals. If this is the case, exercise, which increases nutrient delivery throughout the body, might play an important role in preventing the loss of brain tissue in overweight and obese.
HealthyDay News (2009) As Waistlines Widen, Brains Shrink. Wednesday, August, 26.
Back Pain Outcomes
With more than 200 million Americans potentially suffering bouts of chronic back pain, simple cost-effective treatment programs are necessary to improve outcomes. Yoga has been studied previously as one such solution, although it has produced mixed outcomes. Most recently, a study published in the journal Spine optimistically reported that Iyengar Yoga improved the symptoms of chronic back pain suffers. Iyengar Yoga is known for its more progressive nature and adaptability to special needs.
Researchers divided ninety participants into yoga and control groups, which were provided typical medical care for their symptoms. The yoga group participated in 6 months of Iyengar yoga classes twice weekly. Information was collected at baseline, following 12 and 24 weeks, in addition to a 6-month follow-up. Researchers incorporated a variety of questionnaires to determine the outcomes.
Following the intervention researchers reported significantly greater improvements among participants in the yoga program compared to controls. For example, there was less disability in the yoga group, the self-reported pain intensity was lower among yoga participants, and mental wellbeing was improved in the yoga group.
Although there were greater improvements among the yoga participants, the use of pain medications was not different between groups after 24 weeks. However, there was a reduction for both groups. Benefits appeared to be sustained at the 6-month follow-up although there was a slight trend toward regression.
A variety of treatments currently exist for chronic back pain sufferers. Iyengar Yoga is a relatively inexpensive activity that, when used consistently may provide cost-effective pain-relief.
Williams, K. et al (2009) Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga Therapy on Chronic Low Back Pain. Spine. 34(19): 2066-2076.
Strong Quads Mean
Less Knee Pain Arthritis
The management of osteoarthritis (OA) represents one of the biggest medical challenges of the 21st century. A condition that mostly affects people over age 45, OA or degenerative joint disease is on of the most frequent causes of disability in American adults. OA primarily affects the load-bearing joints of the body as a consequence of genetics, aging, and abuse or overuse. Some researchers speculate that muscle imbalances, which modify how a joint articulates, may also be responsible.
In a study published this month in Arthritis & Rheumatism, researchers reported that quadriceps or knee extensor strength is linked to the onset of symptomatic OA, but the balance between the hamstring and quadriceps is not predicative of OA.
As part of the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study (MOST), researchers tracked radiographic and symptomatic changes in the knees of 1617 and 2078 participants, respectively. No degenerative changes were present in radiographic imaging at baseline, and all participants were asymptomatic, indicating that none of the participants had OA.
After 30 months, 131 participants had developed incident radiographic OA, 48 men and 93 women. Moreover, 310 knees had developed symptomatic OA, 201 in women and 109 in men.
The researchers found that knee extensor strength was 2.3% greater for women and 6.2% greater for men that did NOT develop radiographic OA. Similarly, those who were asymptomatic after 30 months had ~12% greater knee extensor strength than those who developed symptomatic OA.
Although the quadriceps is not the only muscle group that can affect the articulation of the knee it would appear pertinent that emphasizing strong thighs among men and women over 45 is desirable to maintain pain-free knees.
Walsh, Nancy (2009) Strong Thighs Protect Against Symptoms of OA. Medpage Today. August 27.
A life on the streets or behind bars isn't what we hope for our children. What leads them there? Mental illness? Family breakdown? Economic hardship? Two groundbreaking studies are fundamentally challenging the assumptions we make about our most marginalised, and the state of their mind.
36-year-old who has been cycling in and out of homelessness since he was 21
Associate Professor Eileen Baldry
Associate Dean of Education
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
University New South Wales
St Kilda Crisis Centre
Dr Guy Johnson
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute
Associate Professor Chris Chamberlain
Director of the Centre for Applied Social Research
Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Are the homeless mentally ill?
Guy Johnson and Chris Chamberlain, Presented at the Australian Social Policy Conference, 8-10 July 2009
Linking data for integrated systems analysis: pathways for people with disabilities in the criminal justice system
Eileen Baldry, Leanne Dowse, Melissa Clarence and Phillip Snoyman
Presented at 'More than the sum of its parts' Second National symposium on Data Linkage Research, 20-21st October 2008
Title: On the Outside: Pathways in and out of Homelessness
Author: Guy Johnson, Hellene Gronda and Sally Coutts
Publisher: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2008
ISBN 978 1 74097 1867
Title: Homelessness in Melbourne: Confronting the Challenge
Author: Chris Chamberlain, Guy Johnson ans Jacqui Theobald
Publisher: RMIT Publishing 2006
Title: Mental disorders and incarceration history
Title: Australian Census Analytic Program: Counting the Homeless
Title: The Road Home: Homelessness White Paper
Title: Counting the Homeless, 2006
Author: C Chamberlain and D MacKenzie
Title: Child Developmental Delay and Socio-Economic Disadvantage in Australia: A Longitudinal Study
Author: J.M.Najman, W Bor, J. Morrison, M. Anderson and G. Williamms
Title: Snakes and Ladders: Women's Pathways into and out of homelessness
Author: Sue Casey
Title: Prevalence of severe mental disorders in disaffiliated and homeless people in inner Melbourne
Author: H Herrman, P McGorry, P Bennett, R van Riel and B Singh
Publisher: American Journal of Psychiatry 1989; 146:1179-1184
Title: Justice Health 2001 NSW Inmate Health Survey
Author: Tony Butler and Lucas Milner
Publisher: NSW Department of Corrections
Title: Homeless mentally ill or mentally ill homeless?
Author: CI Cohen and KS Thompson
Publisher: American Journal of Psychiatry 1992; 149:816-823
Title: Down and out in Sydney: Prevalence of mental disorders, disability and health service
Author: Hodder T, Teeson M. and Burich, N
Publisher: Sydney City Mission, Sydney, 1998
Anita Barraud/Natasha Mitchell
Speakers: Sensei Kaz Tanahashi & Roshi Joan Halifax
Kaz Sensei begins this talk by giving some of the historical context of Dogen’s time and how it parallels with current times. Dogen’s contribution to Zen is “the inseparability of practice and enlightenment.” Roshi Joan adds that continuous practice affects everything around us, even though it may not be noticed. Being able not to identify with one’s experience while being considerate and mindful of others is at the heart of the practice. This is, as writer Clark Strand says, “meditating inside the life we have,” of living an authentically intimate life.[Play]
Dogen's Circle of the Way part 1 of 4: Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download [Play]
More revelations about the unenlightened guru behind EnlightenNext. For those of us who have been doubting Cohen's conduct as a teacher for years (not to mention his status as a guru), this is nothing new, but it sounds like a good book anyway - hopefully it will get attention outside of the EnlightenNext community and it's former members.
Book description from Amazon.
American Guru is a multifaceted account of life in the contemporary spiritual community known as EnlightenNext, and the controversial "teaching methods" of its New York-born founder, self-proclaimed "guru" Andrew Cohen. With contributions from several of Cohen's former students, William Yenner recalls the thirteen-year trajectory of his career as a leader and manager in Cohen's community--his early days as an idealistic "seeker," his years of service on EnlightenNext's Board of Directors, his ultimate disillusionment and departure,and his efforts to make sense of his experiences as a once-devoted follower of a "Teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment." With wit and insight, Yenner and his colleagues have produced a riveting cautionary tale on the dangers of authoritarian spirituality, and an insider'scase study on the promises and pitfalls of postmodern discipleship. "William Yenner's courageous exposé, American Guru, is a powerful reminder that all of our tendencies toward idealization of dharma teachers must be carefully examined." -William Morgan, Psy.D., member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy,co-author of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy "William Yenner's true, uncensored-and finally ungagged-moving personal story, in combination with the powerful reflections, recollections and contributions of other former community members, makes American Guru an essential source document for the study and understanding of authoritarian spiritual sects." -Hal Blacker, former editor of EnlightenNext magazine "American Guru is not a mean-spirited book. It is, rather, a refreshingly honest one." -David Christopher Lane, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College www.americanguru.netHere is one of the two reviews (both are very positive):
A marketing whiz kid might try to sell you on Guru as the "Oops, I joined a cult, "tell all" book of 2009." More accurately Guru is an intensely personal, purposeful look into William Yenner's lifelong journey towards enlightenment, and the thirteen years that Cohen and Yenner were bonded by a guru/disciple relationship. Intense and painful at times, this is a story deserving to be told.
By Craig A. Jewell (Southern Vermont) - See all my reviews
Yenner's writing is powerfully purposeful. Guru simultaneously bears witness to difficult but necessary truths, while sensitively and evenhandedly acknowledging the complexity of the EnlightenNext Community. Yenner is five years out from his last contact with Cohen, and time, distance, effort, and strength have clearly increased his perspective on his event. Yet the emotional core of Yenner's experience remains raw and strikingly real. While observation of such honest and formative emotional events is at times difficult, the rawness of Yenner's emotions adds greatly to the reader connection to the text. Guru is unique in this balance. Yenner leads a life of action and great personal and impersonal work, and during the period of a five year gag order, he has personally reflected and spent great time in meditation on this experience. Yet owing to his silence during this period, elements of this story read like memoires written during periods of imprisonment.
To those who have shared the unique experiences of living within Cohen's sphere of influence, I imagine the mere act of reading Guru's will have incredible personal emotional resonance. It is itself a journey.
Yet, also contained within Guru is a message of affirmation to all those seeking enlightenment yet scorned by the inherent struggle within the guru/disciple relationship. Significant scholarly works on the topic of intentional communities outline the potential damage inherent to this power dynamic. Yet equally understood within many communities is the value of subjugating ego, of the pursuit of selflessness as a vehicle for growth. Yenner's reflections and the reflections of other students on personal experiences of this relationship offer a deeply personal approach to understanding this dynamic.
For those readers less familiar with the practice of subjugating self to an enlightened one, to a higher power, or to a higher principal, the relationship of guru/disciple can still resonate in terms of family dynamic. Yenner's story is a non-traditional love story of sorts. Yenner and the other students of Cohen are at times sons, daughters, partners, and scorned lovers. Within these relational archetypes are ways for any reader to connect deeply to Yenner's experiences.
Lastly, Guru is a compelling read. I consumed the text in one sitting. It starts a bit slow, but rewards the reader who continues by really finds its paces in the telling of Yenner's personal story. The remainder of the read is thought provoking consideration of the inherent risks to power imbalances in any relationship.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
All right then, you've been warned to expect some of my trademarked "contrariness," this time. A tendency -- call it a compulsion -- to always turn and point in some unexpected direction, especially if I have been looking one way for too long. It drives everything from my chosen profession to science to politics.
And yes, today I plan to take a break from decrypting the political madness of the far-right and instead point my j'accuse finger to the left.
But first, do not even begin to interpret what I am about to say as "both sides are equally crazy." Anyone who read my previous missives can tell which direction I condemn most harshly, as the core of madness and outright treason in American life. I've spoken at length about the rightwing cult that has taken over the conservative movement, sending poor Barry Goldwater spinning in his grave and betraying America by sending our great nation into debilitating "culture war." It is still monstrous and unbelievable that Rupert Murdoch and his co-conspirators can get away with posing as populists, while pursuing oligarchic takeover of the country. Without any doubt, that is the direction from which civilization and the American Republic face their greatest danger.
Anyone who doubts the tenacity with which I've fought this fight should have a glance at any of the following extended (and, I'm told, influential) missives:
Nevertheless, I have also made clear my utter contempt for those who simply choose one of the major ideological cults and thereafter march in uncritical lockstep. People who pronounce themselves proud individualists, but then turn their suspicion of authority reflexes in only one direction.
Yes, the right is presently far more noxious and dangerous, having allowed their entire movement to be taken over by monsters. But Lefties who forget Stalin and Mao are intellectually as bankrupt as righties who ignore 4,000 years of oppression by kings and lords and preisthoods.
In fact, nearly all ideologues can be categorized together by a set of sharedpersonality traits that run deeper than their differences of surface policy. Far-lefties and far-righties both partake, for example, in a near-universal propensity for dismissing civil society as futile.
Contempt for the masses is the common steam that rises from every pore, as they preen over things that they "know" that "the majority is too blind to see."
(Am I unaware of the irony of my having typed the previous three paragraphs? Since a majority of my fellow citizens do seem to swallow the abysmal notion of "left-vs'right" - doesn't that make me a masses-contemptuous snob? Har! Hey, I am human too. The difference is that I know this pitfall and have schooled myself to be wary of it. And yes, that is snobbery, too.)
So, as promised, I am going to offer a little balance, this time. To remind us that the left can be as crazy as the right (even while being less dangerous, during THIS decade) go have a look at a horrific piece of preening nonsense that keeps being sent to me by liberals, who think that it is the best thing since spray-on cheese. It's called Sheeple of Amerika.
Feh! Gawd, this thing is a calumny, on so many levels that I am tempted to call it deliberate psychological warfare against the Enlightenment. Perhaps one of Murdoch's put-up provocations, crafted precisely in order to undermine liberal credibility.
Look, no one can teach me a thing about rambunctious contrarianism and suspicion of authority.
But think. What is the most pervasive and relentless "propaganda" campaign in the history of the world?
When asked this question, people name all sorts of messages that they perceive as responsible for turning the masses into contemptible sheep. Lefties point to pervasive "buy this" consumerism. Rightists screech over the other side's incessant demands for conformist political correctness. What's never mentioned is the propaganda that actually worked... on them! If you asked these guys for a week, a year, and even if their lives depended on it, they would never guess.
Surprise, surprise. We are self-flatterers and so we never attribute OUR favorite traits to propaganda that filled our very pores, from a young age. But there's a pair of messages that inarguably and statistically outnumber both "buy this" and Tolerance Fetishism, combined.
We all grew up suckling Suspicion of Authority (SOA) combined with "I'm a F4$#$@king individual and everybody else are lemmings!"
You see these twin themes conveyed in nearly every film, most of which also portray civilization itself (and its institutions) as utterly hopeless. Usually evil. With some central/awful authority being bravely opposed by one -- or a few -- stalwart individualist heroes who don't need no institutions to stand between them and justice!
Think about it. List the themes in nearly every Hollywood product. Name any messages that occur more often than this pair. But people never notice the propaganda that made THEM the way they are. Now add in the most alluring theme of all. Yes, our old pal contempt for the masses. Go ahead and TEST YOURSELF.
So, will Brin ever get to the point? How does all of this apply to "Sheeple"?
Let's be frank. THE message of this 'film' is not urging folks to wake up, or fomenting rebellion; it is contempt. Feeding the producers' sanctimonious sense that they are privileged and smarter and more insightful than their sheeplike neighbors, like gods above mere animals. Self-flattery is the cheapest drug around. Any addict can get all he wants, and these guys have it hard. http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.htm
But it gets worse. For, you see, it's been shown that the surest way to get the masses under control is NOT to inculcate worshipful passivity, but rather to spread a dull, simmering state of generalized resentment, aimed in all directions and at each other.
What? You've never studied Machiavelli? Really? What do you think "culture war" is all about? The whole "populist" theme driving Red America to hate the cities and anyone with a graduate degree?
The formula is simple. Inundate the prols with distractions that scatter their SOA in every direction. And if some of those directions are "up" toward some corporations and meeting groups of the rich? So what? So long as you shotgun a vast number of targets, you'll keep it scattered. Impotent. (Notice though, the Sheeple guys never mention Rupert Murdoch or the petroprinces who have been doing the most meddling of all. Gee I wonder why.)
And so, the ultimate irony. This is exactly the sort of thing that the masters would want produced!
Do I seriously believe that "Sheeple" was generated at the AEI or Heritage or some other Murdochian pimphouse? Naw. Funny thing is, they probably got it for free, or maybe with the gentlest prodding. This shit is self-stirring.
Note that this film -- after purportedly demanding that people "wake up!" -- doesn't suggest any of the things that might ACTUALLY cause sheep to look up... such as actual, pragmatic links to learned and detailed analyses of world power, for example. Or self-organizing tools. Nor does it recommend the kind of "proxy power" organizations that can empower any individual to join with large numbers of others, in common cause to deal, effectively, with specific, targeted issues.
They can't offer such suggestions! Because that would be to admit that the sheep can and do self-organize, effectively, and we must never admit that! So, instead, "Sheeple" jumbles a huge goulash. Mixing genuinely worrisome trends, like rising income gaps, with vapid idiocies like 9/11 "loose change" conspiracies and UFO cults. That's right, keep the paranoia spread evenly, guys. It's what you're subsidized to do.
Oh, maybe a third of the slides do point to genuine problems that deserve attention, problem-solving appraisal, or even criminal prosecution. So? A two-second flicker and each issue joins the jumble of true, false, misleading and just plain stupid.
Is the greedy patenting of seed strains and eliminating self-fertility, so that farmers cannot re-seed their fields, evil? Sure! Is Genetic Modification of food crops automatically a crime against people and nature? Bullshit! That's pure luddite sanctimonious unscientific claptrap and the surest sign of dullard minds, while every single bite of food they eat was genetically modified by previous generations of farmers and breeders. Have these guys helped us to intelligently parse the good parts of a techno future from the bad? Hah!
If you actually and really want to pragmatically fight evil, promote justice, save the world and advance the Enlightenment, there's a proved method. One that bypasses all this contempt-for-the-masses malarkey and goes straight to problem solving -- combining the tiny influence of individuals into the momentum of millions. Drop by the PROXY POWER site.
It will tell you how to do exactly that.
Oog, these guys got me exercised. And sure, I expect to be derided as a tool of corporate interests, just for criticizing their lobotomized (or else corporate sponsored) uselessness. But note that I never claimed that they weren't pointing to some genuine enemies of humanity and the world. As I said, about a third of the slides were completely or partially right-on!
But they aren't helpful. Not at any level. As elistists, on a sanctimony drug-high, they are proof that the left contains crazies, too.* They are part of the problem. The REAL problem -- the insanity of culture war.
We won't defeat the Rush Limbaughs by acting just like them. We'll defeat them by being the grownups.
* Reiterating the central point, yet again. The liberal and conservative movements ARE fundamentally different, today. Both contain some good ideas, deepdown. Both contain some crazies. The crucial distinction is that one of these movements keeps its lunatics marginalized. Its leaders perpetually try -- hit or miss -- to re-awaken the American genius for honorable negotiation and pragmatic problem-solving.
The other side may have some genuine ideas, lying dormant under the snows. But all its potential good has been rendered useless, by giving itself over, body and soul, to its psychopathic wing.
Do not hate American Conservatism. Pity it. Pray for the fever to break and for our fellow citizens to rise out of delirium, to rejoin us at the dinner table conversation about human destiny. And defeat them with reason, until they do.
Internal Family Systems Therapy for Trauma Work
Ever since Sigmund Freud introduced his basic model of the human mind, consisting of the id, ego, and superego, psychology has recognized that the human psyche has various parts. As our understanding of the mind has increased since, the identification of parts has also become more sophisticated. According to Carl Jung, we all have complexes, fragmental selves that can “subsist relatively independently of one another and can take one another’s place at any time, which means that each fragment possesses a high degree of autonomy” (1969, p. 96-97). Roberto Assaglioli, a contemporary and friend of Jung’s, introduced the more specific concept of the subpersonality (1965, p. 74-77) to explain Jung’s complexes, a concept he continued to develop until his death in 1974. Even William James, the father of American psychology, spoke of his various selves, “The material me; The social me; and The spiritual me” (James, 1985, p. 44).
More recently, Hal and Sidra Stone expanded the Jungian complexes into more a complete theory of subpersonalities called Voice Dialogue (1989). Likewise, John G. Watkins and Helen H. Watkins have introduced the idea of ego states within the neo-Freudian tradition (1997). As far as therapy is concerned, this model is very similar to subpersonalities but, according to its proponents, ego states offers a better “theoretical understanding of the personality structure” than either the Voice Dialogue model of the Stones or the Psychosynthesis model of Assagioli (Emmerson, 2003, p. 22). There are many other models that identify and use the idea of parts or subpersonalities, including Gestalt Therapy, Alvin Mahrer’s “potentials,” neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and the idea of self-schemas in cognitive-behavioral therapies (Rowan, 1990, p. 88-115). While many contemporary models use some form of subpersonality work, there has been very little evidence-based research into the effectiveness of these models.
One of the more recent theories to emerge on the scene is the Internal Family Systems Therapy of Richard Schwartz (1995). Schwartz began his career as a family therapist using the traditional systems model with his clients. Yet he found that after working with the family and appearing to resolve the issues, his eating disordered and/or self-harming clients did not get better:
We carefully reorganized the clients' families just the way the treatment manual prescribed, yet their binge-and-purge episodes continued unabated, powered by some invisible, inexplicable force.
Bewildered and frustrated, I broke an unspoken family therapy taboo and began to ask my clients what was happening inside them before, during and after their binges. Their answers rocked my theoretical world. They talked about different "parts" of their personalities as though those parts were autonomous beings. (Schwartz, 2001, ¶ 13-14)
Schwartz defines a part as “a discrete and autonomous mental system that has an idiosyncratic range of emotion, style of expression, set of abilities, desires, and views of the world” (Schwartz, 1995, p. 34). These parts are not completely dissociated as they might be in dissociative identity disorder (DID) but, rather, they are semi-permanent in nature, yet not always present. Each part fulfills a specific role, which is often reflected in how they are named (perfectionist, vulnerable child, pusher, caretaker, and so on).
One of the tough lessons he had to learn in dealing with these parts who wanted to harm his clients is that those parts cannot be dominated into submission. In working with a client named Lorene, who was a cutter, he spent two and a half hours persuading the cutter not to harm her and thought he has succeeded.
At Lorene's usual appointment time the following week, I opened the door to my waiting room to greet her. What I saw stunned me into silence. Running from the top of Lorene's forehead down to her right eyebrow was a fresh, deep gash. "What . . . ?" I gasped. Lorene shrugged noncommittally and moved quickly past me into the office. . . . "Why did you do this to Lorene?" I demanded of the cutter.
Lorene narrowed her eyes and looked at me with the purest contempt. "I told you she was mine !" (Schwartz, 2001, ¶ 8-9)
After this experience, Schwartz was forced to reexamine his basic approach to working with these extreme parts.
The Basic IFS Model
As he began to learn from his clients how the different parts of their psyches functioned, Schwartz realized that they relate much the same way a literal family operates. There are parts who are managers (1995, p. 48), whose job is to keep people safe in the world, to get things done, or to keep painful feelings out of awareness. There are also exiled parts (1995, p. 47), most often those who hold the painful feelings the managers do want to allow into awareness. These exiles are very often quite young and are created as a result of traumas, both big T traumas and small t traumas. Some exiles are little more than feelings (fear or sadness are common exiles in men), but other exiles are fully developed subpersonalities (most common in abuse survivors).
But there is one more part that shows up when the managers fail to do their jobs in keeping exiles out of awareness, or the exiles get activated in spite of the best efforts of the managers, and Schwartz calls them firefighters (1995, p. 50), because like real world firefighters, they only show up to put out the fire when an exile threatens to break through into awareness. “They do whatever they believe necessary to help the person dissociate from or douse dreaded, exiled feelings, with little regard for the consequences of their methods” (1995, p. 50). Many of their methods are numbing behaviors, such as cutting, binge eating, drug and alcohol abuse, or sex addiction. When a firefighter gets activated, it takes control of the person so thoroughly that when the person describes the feeling it is as though they are not present (1995, pg. 51), or in more clinical terms, have completely dissociated.
In working with the internal family of parts, the therapist must work with managers and firefighters to get their permission for the exiles to surface. Not doing this part of the work, sometimes known as bypassing, can create the kind of damage Schwartz described above. The essential thing to understand is that each manager and firefighter believes it is doing what is best for the system, to protect the individual from getting reinjured. As an example, a perfectionist manager may have arisen when the child was repeatedly yelled at for making mistakes, creating a polarized exile that holds shame and humiliation. The role of the perfectionist manager in the adult is to prevent the person from ever feeling shamed and humiliated by always doing everything right, or never risking something at which he or she may not be good. When the therapist tries to get directly to that shame without working with the manager, a firefighter will often be activated to keep those feelings suppressed.
When the managers and firefighters have been recognized and assured that their roles are respected and that their needs will be met, then the exiles can be worked with and unburdened. The unburdening process (Schwartz, 1995, pg. 108-110) is where IFS therapy achieves its positive outcomes. All of the exiles carry the “burden” of painful emotions and memories, and when the Self—the compassionate, curious, courage state of mind (Schwartz, 1995, pg. 37)—can make contact with the exile and bring it safely into the present (this is done through a kind of active imagination), then the burden can be disposed of in whatever way the exile feels is most suitable (often by burning or burying). When the burden is removed from the exile, the unburdened exile can then adopt a healthier role in the psyche, most often as a vulnerable and open child-like part of the self.
Origins of Parts in the Psyche
In each of the various psychological models that recognize parts or subpersonalities there are various ways in which those parts come into being. In some models they are innate (Freud and Jung), in some they arise as a normal part of psychological functioning (gestalt, ego states), and in some they arise as a result of trauma. This last type is where the IFS model falls, although IFS also maintains that multiplicity is inherent in the psyche.
When a young child is confronted with trauma of any kind—emotional, physical, or sexual—the nascent Self attempts to find a way to regain the love and approval of the parents. If the same type of trauma occurs repeatedly, such as physical abuse, harsh criticism, or something worse, the response will become ingrained in the child. Any similar experience will trigger the same response, even into adulthood. At this point, a subpersonality or part has formed. It is a very adaptive behavior. The psyche is simply trying to protect the fragile and vulnerable inner child, which is split off from the Self, or exiled, to use Schwartz’s term. In the most extreme situations, there will be the splitting that results in DID, but it is relatively rare that a memory or feeling is completely dissociated and unavailable. Dissociation is a spectrum, and DID is one extreme, but most splitting is not that severe.
Different traumas can evoke different adaptive responses, and not all traumas must be as serious as abuse. Little, repeated traumas can also result in splitting of the personality and the creation of managers to deal with the various situations. The Watkins make the same distinction with ego states: “one ego state may have taken over the overt, executive position when dealing with the parents, another on the playground, another during athletic contests, etc.” (Watkins & Watkins, 1997, p. 29). As stated, these are adaptive responses for a child, and the managers may be successful in preventing any more damage to the Self. Yet these same behaviors that were adaptive as a child are dysfunctional as an adult. If there is sufficient trauma that the exiles regularly seek expression, and the managers fail to keep them exiled, then firefighters will become more prominent, bringing with them their dissociation responses, whether that be cutting, starving, drinking, drugs, sex, or something else. Getting the client into some contact with Self energy is always the first priority.
Self-Leadership in IFS
In the middle of all these parts, as alluded to above, is the Self, variously referred to as the authentic self, core self, or even in some groups as Buddhanature. The presence of the Self can be identified by eight specific qualities, the eight Cs: “calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness” (Schwartz, 2008, ¶ 5). Schwartz offers a more precise definition:
[E]veryone has at the core, at the seat of consciousness, a Self that is different from the parts. It is the place from which a person observes, experiences, and interacts with the parts and with other people. It contains the compassion, perspective, confidence, and vision required to lead both internal and external life harmoniously and sensitively. (Schwartz, 1995, p. 40)
As much as IFS therapy seeks to work with the client’s parts, to unburden them, even more so this model seeks to teach the client how to become a Self-led human being. Because most of us have had experiences growing up where one or more of the C qualities have been rejected, shamed, or otherwise learned not to trust our Selves, regaining self-leadership is always the end-goal of IFS work.
It’s important to note that Self-leadership is even more important for the therapist working with trauma victims (child abuse, rape, incest, violence). Survivors of trauma—whether they engage in anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, chemical dependency, or something else—tend to be adept at sensing the authenticity of the therapist. Unlike many contemporary models, IFS encourages the therapist to assure the client that she or he is, indeed, cared for and liked (Schwartz, 1995, p. 102). Even when trust is established in one session, the client may return the next week and a different manager will be in charge of the situation in another effort to keep the exiles out of the consulting room. The therapist needs to be prepared for constant testing and retesting of the trusting relationship (Goulding & Schwartz, 1995, p. 249). This process is crucial to getting the managers to trust the therapist, and this is why Self-leadership is so crucial for the therapist as well—from that place of curiosity and compassion, one can truly care about the client and be authentic in doing so.
When engaging the client in therapy, however, the therapist seeks to locate and empower the client’s Self as soon as possible. The following passage explains why this is so crucial: “The IFS therapist tries to differentiate the client’s Self as quickly as possible, because the Self ultimately acts as therapist to the internal family by mediating between polarized antagonists and by restructuring relationships among all the parts” (Goulding & Schwartz, 1995, p. 162). One of the things Schwartz talks about when he lectures on the IFS model is that the client does most of the work after the initial session or two. It is Schwartz’s firm belief, after more than 25 years of developing and using this model, that the client’s Self will always know what is best for the client, so getting it into a position of leadership is crucial (Goulding & Schwartz, 1995, p. 166).
The Mosaic Mind: Working with Trauma Survivors
Working with adult survivors of child abuse (of all kinds) poses many challenges to therapists, not least of which is building the therapeutic alliance with the client. Creating an alliance with the various managers can take time, and from one session to the next, one never knows which manger will be in charge. It takes time for the parts to learn to trust the Self, often because they have not trusted the Self for a very long time, especially in cases of serious abuse (Goulding & Schwartz, 1995, p. 165). However, there is also the issue of the Self learning how to lead, and how to work with resistant parts or those that fight the differentiation of the Self and the various parts, especially the exiles (a fear of exiles revealing their secrets). Some managers may even attempt to blend with the Self (in fact, this is quite common) to prevent a loss of power over the exiles (Goulding & Schwartz, 1995, p. 167). A big part of this differentiation process will be reliant on the conviction in the therapist that the client truly has a Self that can be a kind and compassionate leader in the internal family.
Another difficulty in working with trauma survivors is polarization of parts, which typically is represented by two parts taking extreme positions. For example, a bulimic will have a part that binges on food as a way to dissociate from feelings, and the other polarized part might be a perfectionist that fears getting fat and forces the client to purge or over-exercise. The two parts will be in a constant battle for control over the system. Getting either one of them to step back and break the polarization is a challenge.
The unseen polarization frustrates the therapist, who patiently works with one part only to find that the opponent has been activated. The central truism of polarization theory is that one part cannot change in isolation if the change is to endure. (Goulding & Schwartz, 1995, p. 172)
It’s important to remember when dealing with extreme parts that they have taken those positions in an effort to protect the system, and they would rather occupy healthier, more adaptive behaviors. The key to working with extreme parts is compassion and curiosity, two of the C words that define the Self.
The most challenging parts for many therapists are the firefighters, especially if they use self-harm or starvation as their method of dissociation. One way to deal with them is to ask them to explain their conduct—why do they do what they do to the client? According to Goulding & Schwartz (1995, p. 182-187), the firefighters have a few specific reasons for their behavior: “trying to absorb trauma, using self-injury as protection, trying to imitate the abuser, trying to distract, trying to stop memories, or trying to protect other people.” They are not only protecting the system from the pain of awareness, they are also carrying the pain so that the exiles don’t have to do so. Importantly, trying to stop the firefighters from performing what they feel is their duty will fail unless they know that the exiles are safe and taken care of, and they trust that their pain will also be unburdened at some point soon. Going too fast into the exiles (as many young therapists tend to do) will generally trigger the firefighters into action. Likewise, forcing them to stop their behavior when the exiles are not yet safe, as Schwartz discovered in the passage above (with Lorene), will also trigger them into action.
In the demonstration DVDs that Schwartz often uses when he presents the IFS model, he seems little more than a guide allowing the client to dictate the course of the work. Obviously, his expertise with the model makes it look easier than it is for novices. In these demonstrations, Schwartz forms a strong alliance with his clients, allowing him to sometimes accompany his clients when they go inside (active visualization) to work with parts (Schwartz, 2003). By being Self-led himself, his clients can sense the safety of having a large amount of Self-energy in the consulting room, which allows some of the more recalcitrant parts to step back and allow the client’s Self to come forward.
The Internal Family Systems Therapy model represents what seems to be a breakthrough in the treatment of severe trauma. The model does not use DSM classifications, and therefore does not stigmatize clients with labels that may worsen their conditions. Once the basic concepts are understood, the model is fairly easy to work with, although most therapists wanting to use the model are encouraged to do at least one of the IFS year-long trainings.
One of the limitations in the model, as is true in many trauma treatments other than cognitive behavioral therapy, is the lack of empirical evidence of success. The growth and popularity of the model thus far rests on word of mouth and anecdotal evidence. However, the model is beginning to be subjected to research at several universities, including Colorado State University (Colorado State University, 2008, ¶ 4). More research will be needed to determine the validity and reliability of this model, but in the consulting room, most therapists only care about what works, not about studies.
A new study focuses on the way the brain represents knowledge and facts about the world - what psychologists and linguists call semantics. Faye Corbett and colleagues compared the deficits shown by eight patients with semantic dementia - a form of neurodegenerative brain disease that affects the front region of the temporal lobes - and seven stroke patients with semantic aphasia. The stroke patients had damage either to the left, frontal part of their brains, or to the junction where the temporal and parietal cortices meet.
Superficially, the two groups of patients have remarkably similar impairments. They struggle to find the correct words to refer to things, and their factual knowledge and comprehension of words also seems affected. However, with the help of an extensive battery of tests, Corbett's team have shown that there are striking differences in the way the two patient groups are affected - a finding that helps further our understanding of the way the brain supports language and knowledge.
The patients with semantic dementia performed consistently across tests. So, if they struggled with a word on one test, such as matching a picture to the word "hammer", then they would also struggle when they were asked to mime the use of a hammer, or if they were asked to match a picture of a hammer to another object with a similar function. Moreover, the rarer a word, the more likely these patients were to have a problem. Altogether their performance suggests that they are progressively losing their core knowledge about objects.
By contrast, the performance of the patients with semantic aphasia was inconsistent. They'd perform well on a simple task, such as pointing to a picture of a hammer when prompted with the word, but they'd struggle as soon as a task was made more complicated - for example, involving pairing objects by their function, or by action. Moreover, the rarity of a word didn't predict whether these patients would have a problem.
This difference between the groups was particularly striking when it came to miming object use. The patients with semantic dementia could either do this for an object or they couldn't. By contrast, the aphasic patients would get some of the mime correct, but would then perform an inappropriate action, as if they were suddenly using a different type of object.
The researchers think the overall picture shown by the two groups of patients reveals that the semantic system of the brain is comprised of at least two components - a core representation of knowledge, and an overall control system that navigates through the corridors of the mind finding and comparing meanings. Core knowledge is subserved by the frontal area of the temproral lobes, which is the region afflicted by the disease process in semantic dementia, whilst the cognitive control component is subserved by the prefrontal cortex and the temporo-parietal junction, which are the areas, which when damaged, lead to semantic aphasia.
"We propose that semantic dementia patients have damage to core amodal semantic representations, whereas patients with semantic aphasia have a more general executive impairment that leads to difficulty controlling activation within the semantic system in a flexible, task appropriate fashion," the researchers said.
Corbett F, Jefferies E, Ehsan S, & Lambon Ralph MA (2009). Different impairments of semantic cognition in semantic dementia and semantic aphasia: evidence from the non-verbal domain. Brain : a journal of neurology, 132 (Pt 9), 2593-608 PMID: 19506072
Read the whole article.
written by Duff McDuffee on September 16th, 2009
Personal development superstar blogger Steve Pavlina just tweeted that he is now promoting Eben Pagan’s DVD set, “Man Transformation.” (Link goes to Pavlina’s sales page for a 20-DVD course costing $436.50.) Pavlina seems to have become interested in dating advice right around the time he announced that he and his wife decided to have an open marriage and explore polyamory.
In his sales letter, Pavlina attempts to distinguish Pagan’s pick-up advice from that of “pick-up artists,” but the truth is that Pagan put himself on the pick-up artist guru map with his interview series “Interviews with Dating Gurus” that interviewed all the other pick-up artists which Pagan speaks very highly of, including our confused friend “Tyler Durden.” Pavlina writes…
Man Transformation has a very empowering attitude throughout. This program is about men teaching men how to be more successful with women, not by tricking or deceiving women but by learning how to become more authentic from the inside out. [emphasis mine]
There’s my favorite word again! Of course to be authentic, you have to do it in the right, socially-prescribed, guru-approved way. You must be authentic like a “real man” is authentic, as in Pagan’s bonus DVD “The Real Man’s Guide to Money and Success.” Clearly you are not a “real” man unless you value—and have—lots of money and worldly success. To not be rich and powerful is to be emasculated, to be a woman.
Also a bonus is the original Double Your Dating eBook, where Pagan writes that powerful women are “secretly wanting a man that is in control of himself, his reality, and them” (pg 13 of the 2003 edition). It’s hard not to read “empowering” as clearly “power-over” in this context.
Pick-up artist Eben Pagan made his internet millions explicitly teaching men that women secretly want a man who is in control of them, and teaches tactics to secretly control women through sophisticated psychological manipulation. Why is this not regularly questioned by conscious people in our personal development community when we claim to investigate “limiting beliefs” and clarify our values on a regular basis? Do we all value patriarchy so highly that we’ve never examined the limitations of these beliefs and values?
Indeed, I think that there are many unquestioned gurus, many limiting beliefs that we do not seek to examine, and many values embedded within personal development teachings that we do not make explicit. In particular, we fail to examine those gurus, beliefs, and values that are held by those in positions of power: those of the wealthy, famous, and powerful. For what many of us are actually seeking through personal development is not maturity, nor wisdom, not true liberation nor even thinking for ourselves, but dominance over others, celebrity, and personal wealth—at any cost. Our personal development quests are far too often just quests to glorify our own egos, to bind ourselves further in the name of freedom, to worship our selves in our religion of one.
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Within our personal development community, Eben Pagan is always revered. Almost no one questions, “hey, do you think that his clearly anti-feminist view and the dating techniques that follow from it perpetuate violence, oppression, and objectification of women? And how might this view of women be related to Pagan’s extremely expensive and aggressive marketing systems that he uses to sell this ‘dating advice’? Does he believe customers secretly want to be controlled and dominated too, thus justifying overpricing and over-hyping one’s products to maximize his own selfish gain (because after all, that’s what customers really want)?” Perhaps this would be excusable if it were still 1950. But more and more, world-traveling college graduates are becoming personal development bloggers and selling internet marketing courses, yet nobody in our circles knows of sociology or feminism?
Eben Pagan has successfully created a (very slick) image for himself as a role model for how to be a man, and as a proponent of “conscious capitalism” (as Tony Robbins said in an interview with Pagan). A generation of men and women who are desperately seeking ways to navigate the ever-more-complex worlds of gender, relationship, and career are taking his advice on everything from dating, to how to structure their workdays for maximum productivity, and even how tall of a desk to purchase. (By the way, I used to co-host a podcast called Conscious Business. Mr. Pagan would not have made even the longest of potential guest lists.)
Pagan’s claim to fame is that his information product businesses—mostly patriarchal dating advice—make $20 million a year. With his 80 remote employees, this actually isn’t much money—it’s a medium-sized business. The self-image he projects is equivalent to that of Bill Gates, but even in the best possible light, Pagan is a small-time CEO of a medium-sized marketing company.
Eben Pagan and Tony Robbins are in the same Axis of Marketing Evil, hence their “friendship” (Robbins, like many charismatic famous people, uses the word “friend” as a namedropping device to associate himself with other famous people—who knows if they actually have any relationship beyond a single phone call). They both regularly use deception and confusion in the name of trust and authenticity in order to sell overpriced products. Pagan writes and speaks under the pseudonym “David DeAngelo,” chosen because the information product marketers believe alliteration sells more ebooks. Pagan has been teaching others this path to “success” with $3000+ marketing courses. Since Pagan sells such high priced courses exclusively through his own confusing websites, they get far less review and critique. You can’t find any of his books or DVDs on Amazon (except a handful of used copies), making it difficult for consumers to judge whether the products are worthwhile, and removing all public criticism. Also, charging a lot for a product with manipulative marketing creates cognitive dissonance, reducing critique and creating cultish ingroups and vicious but uninformed outsiders.
Perhaps Pagan would say that we don’t question such gurus because we are castrated men who bow obediently to our masters? If only we had more expensive courses on how to be a “real man,” then we would have the balls (or ovaries) to question authority and think for ourselves! P.S.: Click here to sign up for my Think For Yourself DVD Course!
Since Pagan’s courses are so expensive and not available through regular distribution channels, not critic can say for sure whether his products continue to explicitly promote patriarchal values. But I can say that Pagan still has his original ebook “Double Your Dating” on the market, so he certainly has not recanted any of his old values publicly, unlike some other reformed pick-up artist gurus.