Di Caprio’s subconscious just another action film

Chris and I just got back from seeing Inception, the latest Hollywood foray into lucid dreaming. The twist here is in planting an idea by hacking into some else’s mind and manipulating their dream state.

My dream state is pretty tame compared to all the machine guns, car chases and explosions that go on in Hollywood’s sleep. “Chris,” I said, “are your dreams like this?” Apparently they are. Is this a guy thing? Mine are less like Playstation games and more like Alice in Wonderland. I am too female and too old to enjoy car chases and machine guns.

The plot was convoluted. Ellen Page, the spunky tiny teen of Juno fame, played her latest spunky tiny post-teen rather poorly. She was there simply as a prop to restate the complex plot to the confused viewer – “So, tell me again what you are planning to do?”

There were two things that I pulled from the movie that I found interesting. The first is when the dying rich father says to his son – “no, you are wrong I wasn’t disappointed that you weren’t like me, I was disappointed that you tried to be.” That was decently deep for an action film.

The other nugget that perked me up was the repeated comment that if you think people are staring at you (paranoia) you are actually in a dream state. The script claimed that you can get a better handle on knowing which state you are in by carrying with you a talisman. If you check and it’s there, you know you aren’t dreaming. (Can anyone out there in bloggerland validate this idea?)

Since Chris earlier today claimed that people were staring at him for some trivial way he wore his belt, I simply reminisced with him about the comment from the movie and left it at that. I am learning to plant ideas with someone else and slowly let them germinate. In the past, particularly in relation to Chris’s crisis, I was inclined to immediately take up a point, discuss it and use it as a jumping off point for broader lessons in life. Now I prefer to keep my mouth shut and let ideas grow.

Study linking anxiety and religious extremism

Perhaps my recent musings about my friends’ daughter were not so far off. The second paragraph below goes into the usual psychobabble about neural wiring. To which I say, anxious parent, anxious child. (See my portrait in blue on this blog. Incidentally, the “mothering” one doesn’t have to be the mother. In our friends’ case, I would say the father is the mothering one.)

In a research study published by York University in Canada
The researchers found that religious zeal reactions were most pronounced among participants with bold personalities (defined as having high self-esteem and being action-oriented, eager and tenacious) who were already vulnerable to anxiety and felt most hopeless about their daily goals in life.

Findings published last year in the journal Psychological Science by the same authors and collaborators at the University of Toronto found that strong religious beliefs are associated with low activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that becomes active in anxious predicaments.

I have a small comfort zone, therefore I must be normal

If normal is becoming a shrunken pool due to overdiagnosis of mental illness, and alarming clinical psychologists like Til Wykes, I actually find this shock and horror rather amusing (especially coming from a psychologist.) Let me explain.

When you are on the outside looking in, in terms of what “normal” people call schizophrenia, you assume the person is mentally ill, because, really, the behavior can be off the charts weird. So “normal” people run away. They are so horror struck that they assume whatever it they are seeing and hearing can’t possibly be normal and they ask that someone (a psychiatrist) put a stop to this behavior immediately. This almost always involves using medications to solve the problem. However, medications don’t actually fix the problem, they just sedate the person and more often than not, those pesky abnormal thoughts are just waiting around to break through once more.

Just because you or I think we would never react so strangely to a problem, doesn’t mean that doing so is abnormal. Psychosis is a well-trod path. Venture out beyond your comfort zone of normal and you will begin to understand.

I wish to thank Beyond Meds for bringing this wonderful quote to my attention.

Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throughout the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul. — Carl Jung

The upside of overdiagnosing

From Reuters Group plc on the proposed revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

Citing examples of new additions like “mild anxiety depression,” “psychosis risk syndrome,” and “temper dysregulation disorder,” they said many people previously seen as perfectly healthy could in future be told they are ill.

“It’s leaking into normality. It is shrinking the pool of what is normal to a puddle,” said Til Wykes of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London.

Labeling everybody as mentally ill kind of puts schizophrenia into perspective, then, doesn’t it? The ever elusive “normal” is becoming a shrunken pool.

Progress report from Chris

In the cranial-sacral therapy I have been doing for a few weeks, comfort is key, the therapy is intimate, you are placing your body into the therapist’s hands so it’s best to make the most of your time and listen to your feelings. At our last session the therapist stressed the importance of “mind-body dialogue,” keeping our thoughts firmly grounded in our real-world self. Strong feelings and judgments have their effect on the physical body and during the sessions I am encouraged to notice how certain thoughts are received, if they manifest themselves as tension.

Sound therapy continues to be a source of wonder and amazement. I’d never pay as much attention to a teacher at school or my GP, probably because my ST has all these cool gadgets, a lakefront view and a portrait from the adult version of “The Little Mermaid.” At each session after he plays his kaleidoscopic mix tape we share our impressions of what happened. I say this allows me to see clearly into my past, and he says each sound has with it a certain feeling associated with it. The channel of time is opened up.

Dr. Stern, my psychiatrist has all but said “reduce Serdolect at your own rate.” She genuinely supports my coming off this particular medication and is leaving it up to me. I’m down to about six milligrams from eight, and I could be as low as four by now if I paid more attention to the schedule for reduction prescribed online. Despite the lazy days of summer I’m more than willing to go for a jog in the morning or swim in the evening, partly as an effort to keep my weight down which has shot up again even over the past month.

I wish I’d paid more attention to my brother’s advice to find a job or a course to pass the summer because I don’t have anything to look forward to from one week to the next. Like many other hopefuls to the job market I’m throwing in my lot with a local technical school for computer training in the fall. It will be tough; I’ll have to work with younger people in a non-native language for me, learning something I’m not absolutely crazy about, but it will hopefully lead to better things. Thankfully there’s someone working with me who better grasps the language and the school’s policies. One of my goals is to find someone who wants to learn English to do things together and share language skills.

Chris Forbes

My sweet Lord

The week-end was a whirlwind of consecutive but separate dinners out with two sets of friends who we haven’t seen for a while. The first couple also have three sons like us and their youngest is now officially depressed, seeing a psychiatrist and having problems with his course work at university. In his younger years he was given therapy for some kind of learning related disabilities (dysgraphia being one.) This pattern of ending up with a new diagnosis beyond learning disabilities around the age of eighteen seems to be not uncommon.

This young man has been seen as “having problems,” something not quite right most of his life. I wonder how this image feeds into his sense of well-being and prevents him from being who he is.

Our next set of visiting friends brought their two teenagers with them to the dinner. They are both very bright and engaging. The sixteen year old daughter casually mentioned she was seeing a psychiatrist, so of course, we got talking. Since she seemed so engaged I was trying to figure out the nature of her needing to see a psychiatrist. She was very au courant with her problems, with the jargon, with the limitations of her treatment. She suffers from anxiety. Well, how exactly does this play out, I asked?

What her brother and her agreed on was that there are hours on end when she completely freaks out and makes everyone’s life miserable. Still, I was puzzled because she seemed so aware and self-confident. Then it got interesting. She is a very, very religious Christian. Just talking about her passion for Christ was whipping her more and more into a sort of religious ecstasy and about then I decided to switch topics to diffuse a possible melt-down.

Her parents are very religous, especially her father. Her father is the anxious sort, but, like most of us, age has given him some coping skills. His daughter doesn’t have that filter. A reasonable guess is that her anxiety is related to being afraid to venture out beyond parental control. I don’t believe in Deepak Chopra she said, because he teaches that it’s all about happiness. (I think that’s a misinterpretation of Chopra.) I don’t believe we should live in the now. I want to be with Christ. And, you could tell, she really wanted to be one with Christ. Intense religiosity, in my opinion, is an internal destabilizing force.

From my more pan-Buddhist perspective, I would say a little yoga would temper her fixations.

Waxing philosophical

I made a quick trip to our local drop-in medical clinic this morning before work. My right eardrum was vibrating and I figured it was ear wax. I didn’t want to leave it as long as the last time when I was in real pain and had to get my ear flushed out with water. The doctor had a young medical student with him so spent a long time mapping out the problem for his benefit. According to the doctor, the wax was superficial and dragging a hose in wasn’t necessary.

For the student’s benefit, the old doctor drew some diagrams of the ear with “corridors” leading to the eustachian tube and to the nasal passages. The drawings reminded me of a plumber showing me the cause of the leak or where the wedding ring is lodged. According to the doctor, my nose is a perfect pyramid shape and the narrow bridge can lead to these sorts of problems. “Just take some nose spray and ear drops and have a good day.” This is a my long winded way of saying this is what doctors are good at, the mechanics of your body. The doctor is a technician, like your plumber, like your car mechanic.

You can’t map out the mind like this and say with any confidence where the blockages are.


My day job is seriously getting in the way of my real passions. (Three more years!) The Internet has done some amazing things. Not only am I slowly getting up to speed on Twitter, but I also now regularly run my English through a German translator and vice versa. I can get the gist of what Germans are writing to me. Google Translate, for German at least, keeps getting better and better. You just move the verb from the end of the sentence and jam it somewhere back in the middle until it all makes sense.

A friend recommends TED Ideas worth spreading and raved about Ethan Zuckerman “listening to global voices.” I haven’t watched it yet, but thought you might want to get a jump start.

Sure, the web connects the globe, but most of us end up hearing mainly from people just like ourselves. Blogger and technologist Ethan Zuckerman wants to help share the stories of the whole wide world. He talks about clever strategies to open up your Twitter world and read the news in languages you don’t even know.

Our mission: Spreading ideas.

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress, and you’re an important part of it. Have an idea? We want to hear from you.

Lame misuse of antipyschotics

There is a sad storyin the New York Times today of an abused, neglected boy. What caught me eye was this:

About age 12, Mr. Harris-Moore was determined to have several psychiatric conditions, including depression, attention deficit disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, according to a later psychiatric report. He was prescribed antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs.

So he was prescribed antipsychotics, but psychotic wasn’t one of his labels. This practice is so widespread it’s hard believe in what it is exactly that antipsychotics do. If the drugs are supposed to be needed, what is an antipsychotic supposed to do for someone who doesn’t have psychosis? What does an antipsychotic do for people who do have psychosis?

NAMI’s ties with the pharmaceutical industry

Today’s post is simply a placeholder so I can refer to it in future posts if challenged to “prove” that NAMI cannot be an unbiased source of information about the medications your relative is taking.

Check out the NAMI Corporate Contributions page for the first quarter of 2010. Seeing all those pharmaceutical companies on the list doesn’t look like there is much incentive for NAMI to find other sources of funding.

The NAMI webpage states: The list reflects contributions only to the national organization. NAMI state organizations and affiliates are separate entities and where appropriate are established independently as non-profit 501c3 organizations.