What Makes It Work

Yet another step back to APA Convention in August 2011. I attended it to learn what makes therapy work, if at all? Psychotherapy didn’t work for me, but it has for others, otherwise it would not be practiced in our modern world. I was lucky to attend a session specifically called “What makes it work?”:

There has always been a question of efficiency of therapy. But for non-psychotic disorders psychotherapy in general is better than medications. Physical exercise is important in building biological resilience. The danger of “medication only” approach was illustrated in the book Anatomy of an Epidemic.

So what makes it work? Alliance in individual therapy, cohesion in group therapy and received empathy (no matter if it is sincere or not). Responsiveness, trust, connection with caring and sophisticated clinically trained person. The care professional is the change mediator, who induces action, the moderator of change.

It was mentioned that one size fits all approach has lethal impact. Instead therapists should adapt and tailor. Collect client’s feedback, set individual goals, collaborate and provide positive regard/support.

It all comes to “the person is more important than the disease”. The need to measure reactance level and treatment adaptation. Unfortunately, today 57% of anxiety, depression and child disorders are treated with medication only, and the progress of that care is not monitored properly. Pharmaceutical companies target physicians directly bypassing psychotherapists. $4.2billion is spent on TV advertisement per year, and $2 billion to physicians. They were wondering shouldn’t there be an ad saying: “Antidepressant is not working? Try psychotherapy!” In other countries, like Norway, you have to fail therapy before you get the meds.

At the end of this session someone from the audience asked if a supportive friend could do as good of a job listening to someone’s problems, empathizing and providing support when needed. One of the presenters responded that there are many effective ways to treat depression and anxiety. Besides psychotherapy, physical exercise is very efficient (and it is the least expensive), volunteering, self-help, mentoring, positive relationships, etc.

The culmination of my quest for truth about psychology was the film “State of mind – Healing trauma”. The film, 52 min, was produced by Djo Tunda Wa Munga and Steven Markovitz, distributed by Icarus films, 32 Court Str, 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY, 11201. I saw it at the APA convention on Sunday, August 7, 2011.

In this film psychotherapist Albert Pesso is invited to the Democratic Republic of Congo where many people suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder from years of horrendous violence. Pesso trains local healthcare workers in a symbolic interaction, short-term, group-based psychotherapy for trauma. The film captures the sessions in a series of fly-on-the-wall scenes using psychotherapy to talk about loss and finding new memories to overlay the traumatic ones.

The effect of the film on me was so profound that I started taking notes as if my own life depended on it. In the movie a person who experiences heavy post traumatic disorder is in the room with a group of health workers led by the American psychotherapist who is old ( in his 70s) but great. Every session had the following scenario: they acknowledged that something bad happened, but those were the circumstances, which are different from now and different from what it could have been.

In one session a young man, who lost his father while he was a boy, was told to pick a man from the audience, who may be his ideal father. Then the “model father”, who was in reality a stranger, hugged the young man and said the following: “If I were in your past, I would have not died when you were a little boy and I would be there to protect you. If I were ideal father, I could have held you like that forever”.

Another healing session was held for a woman who was sexually abused for many years. There were several random people giving her support and assurance of a different reality. “If we were in your past, you could have looked forward to the future. The ideal, we (strangers) would never do that, we would do what is right and just. Replace your old bad memories with good ones, imagine free and able to work”.

This experience creates new intelligence. I was mesmerized with the power of human support. What humans destroyed humans healed.

In summary: replace despair with hope, materialize vibrant vitality in the place of economic and social failure so that people response to each other as a brother, a mother, etc. Instead of craving for power to destroy, they need to understand their need to belong, be fed, loved and cared for. They all need community and meaning in their life. They need a place to nurture, support and protection.

Love you get is love you give and the other way around.

When Cupid Slips Away

Last post ends in Psyche being with Cupid, this one is about times when Cupid slips away. It is a guest post by Scotia Stone, who is an educator and relationship coach.

It seems that no matter which situation you are in- single or partnered- there are certain pleasures and joys, pressures and aggravations. Having a partner is what society tells us we need. Who wouldn’t want that support to help face the harsher realities of modern life? If you’re single, dating is an anxiety-producing chore, and being alone can be lonely. Yet, when you are in a relationship, you often sail stormy waters. It’s hard to balance the competing demands, agendas, and personalities of two individuals. A bad relationship is draining and can cost you your health, serenity and sanity as well.

No matter what your romantic status, the most important partnership is the one you build with yourself.

Starting a new relationship can certainly stir your fears and anxieties. It is hard to let go of the programming of the past, and when you are stressed, they often rear their ugly head in thoughts like “Oh, I can’t get hurt again!” or “Oh, this is what happened last time!” The brain loves patterns to order and manage the world around you; it will seek them every time. “Gerry is just like Paul, and he left me, and I didn’t see it, and this happened last time and it sucked, and it’s going to happen now…..” You can drive yourself crazy with this stuff. That happened then. This is now. It’s just your desire for control talking. You want to know what’s going to happen.

In your state of not-knowingness, you must keep an open heart and an open mind. You can’t be ready for love if your heart and mind are closed, and if you’re just awaiting your next disappointment. You will not bring the right man to you unless you have an open heart to receive him. And it will be hard to keep him if you keep operating from the same old fears and anxieties, if you don’t have also have an open mind to accept him as he is.

Let your past hurts go, and while you’re at it, don’t beat yourself up when you’re wrong about a man in the future. We women love to take the blame on ourselves. I should have seen, or I should have known. Maybe, maybe not. But either way, so what? Dust yourself off and do better next time. Learning is a lifelong process. When we are ready for the lesson, the teacher appears. He was your teacher. You got something out of him. Whether you spent ten years together, or just ten days.

Sometimes you are in a place where you couldn’t have avoided a bad man any more than you could avoid any other natural disaster, like a tornado or a flood. He was a false prince. He seemed like the Prince Charming you were waiting for, but he wasn’t the guy. Accepting impermanence also means that you accept that a man may be right for a certain time in your life, but it might just fall apart one day. And not because you were not doing anything wrong. If it does bite the dust, learn how to get over it quicker. It doesn’t have to take forever. Enjoy the things you did get out of it. I have had some very romantic times in my life. Dancing in the streets of Vienna to usher in the new year. Sailing along the New England coast, drinking champagne and watching the sunset over the water. Long motorcycle rides through lush Iowa cornfields. Herding sheep and counting rainbows in the Irish countryside. All of these experiences were ones I wanted to continue. But the relationships didn’t, for various reasons. But I am still very thankful to have had these experiences. They have shaped my life. And without these false princes, these things wouldn’t have happened.

Yeah, I only feel so thankful on good days. On off days, I can grow melancholy for those experiences I’d like to have again. But the good days are getting more frequent, because I refuse to sit around and think love isn’t going to come my way. I believe it will. In the meantime, I’m going to live a great life.

I try to use my experiences as lessons. In learning how to enjoy the present, and not obsess about the future. How do you do that? Don’t overinvest for one. Try to keep your expectations in check. Try to take your time with the physical stuff too. It helps. Because then you keep your clarity a little longer. You can really know who this guy is before the bonding hormones, oxytocin and dopamine, kick in. Making you imbue a man with properties he doesn’t deserve. Like he must be a great guy if I slept with him.

Adopt a mindset of constant quality improvement too. How many writers, artists and actors went through years of rejection before they hit it big? Years of odd jobs and family disapproval, where only their tenacity kept them going? Victor Frankel in his book Man’s Search for Meaning recounts how the only people who survived the concentration camps were those determined to fight to survive, who refused to give in to the cruelty, death and despair they saw around them. Those who lost that will died quickly.

I’ve had no greater example of this than when I was in central Europe last summer. I was struck by the history of Poland in particular. This is a country that didn’t exist for large periods of time. It was always being swallowed up by Germany, Russia or Austria, its more powerful neighbors. At different times, its citizens were forbidden from speaking Polish or calling themselves Poles. After WWII, when millions of Poles had been murdered in concentration camps, the Soviets came in and put the country under 40 years of Communist rule. Off and on, Poles suffered centuries of oppression. But like many other war-torn places, Poland survived, and today they have a growing economy.

These may seem like extreme examples. But they are powerful reminders to me when I’m down about my love life. Humans are resilient. And people have survived far worse despair than I have in my search for love.

In any meaningful pursuit, what choice is there but to persevere?

You can read more on this topic from Scotia Stone’s new book Damned If You Do.

Survival for the Soul

Survival for the Soul in Times of Adversity. The myth came alive at Acropolis in Cambridge on Nov 18. About 15 people came to hear about Psyche, The Greek Goddess of the Soul. “In Greek, psyche means both “soul” and “butterfly.” In Roman mythology, Psyche is also the lover of Cupid. Their story that of the Soul and Love is one of the most well-known myths in Roman mythology”.

Given into temptation, Psyche betrays Cupid by breaking her word. Cupid leaves. Sick at heart Psyche searches far and wide for her lover and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

The moral of the story is that choices have consequences, nothing external will save your soul and you can truly love someone only when you know who you are. We don’t appreciate things that are just given to us. We value them when we learn their value (often when we lose them).

In the beginning Psyche experienced superficial love. She didn’t really know who Cupid was or what she was capable of. She was afraid of Cupid being the monster, who would not be worthy of her love. But this attitude is based on seeing forms not souls of beings.

Psyche was lost and looked for ways to get external help. There was no easy way to get Cupid back. Venus gave her difficult tasks to complete. And Psyche had to be internally ready for transformation. Every task had a special step for the soul:

  1. Sorting the seeds. Seeds are the possibilities of life. We sort through virtues and vices, true and false, essential needs and non-essential wants. We use the power of mind to do it: What are our true needs?
  2. Getting the Golden Fleece. Psyche had to discover her virtues. Before she didn’t realize she had them. In difficult times we all feel worthless and that we have no talents, skills or virtues but that is not true. Every soul has some virtues, it just needs to cultivate them to reveal its true identity.
  3. Getting water from a cleft. Water symbolizes change and that everything works in cycles (or has no beginning, no end). You have to change from within, in order to walk the path, you have to become the path. With our own initiative we can do anything, if we make our mind about it – quit drinking , lose weight, control anger, be the way we want to be. Eagle is the consciousness and our vision.
  4. Capturing a bit of Proserpina’s (the queen of the Underworld) beauty in a box. Underworld means the path itself and the dark night of the soul. We are on our own. We all make mistakes. We get lonely and experience suffering, but our intuitive mind will help us get through suffering, which is a test for our soul.

Psyche goes beyond survival to discovering the essential. She transmutes the difficulties of life into the fruits of the soul. Psyche finds her own meaning and appreciation for things in her life. She appreciates because she suffered and she loves what she appreciates. Finally she experiences true love as she is reunited with Cupid. They don’t have to hide anything, they love each other for what they really are.

Garret Avery finished the presentation with the following:

To survive is not to live,

To exist is not to be

To see is not to know,

To desire is not to love

To sleep is not to dream,

To die is not to lose one’s soul

Quantified Self Boston

I already wrote about Quantified Self Community that was started in the Bay area by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly several years ago. QS Boston chapter appeared on Meetup two years ago under the leadership of Michael Nagle. This past year I attended two QS events in Boston:

Aug 3, at Sprout: #6 Data of Our Lives — novel solutions to chronic problems.

The event featured speakers who are working on novel approaches to chronic health problems. They gave short presentations followed up by a panel.

1.Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners Healthcare (http://www.connected-health.org)

2.Rick Lee, CEO of Healthrageous, using biometric data to create personalized care (http://www.healthrageous.com/)

3.Jackie Thong, CEO of Ubiqi Health, using mobile tools for migraine management (http://ubiqihealth.com)

Dec 6, at WorkBar: #8 Measurements, Big and Small

This event was hosted by UbiqiHealth at their coworking facility WorkBar in Boston. This meetup focused on different ways of making measurements and analyzing data. It was a mix of a few personal stories about collecting biometrics, as well as a few bigger picture approaches.

1.Max Little (http://www.maxlittle….) from the MIT Media Lab presented some of his work in researching Parkinson’s disease. One of his interests is coming up with new mathematical tools for doing studies that reflect the individual variation in different cases of Parkinson’s. He’s looked at the tools of weather forecasting (!) as a way to find statistical measures that capture more information about variation.

2.Jake Hoppe (http://www.eidosearch…) demoed his work at EidoSearch. EidoSearch is a tool which lets users identify visual patterns in data, and search the dataset for that same pattern. EidoSearch is being used, naturally, in the financial sector, but they’re now reaching out and looking for health data sets to apply their algorithms to.

3.And Gil Blander of InsideTracker (http://www.insidetrac…) talked about his company’s blood analysis system. InsideTracker lets its users do a basic blood panel and get nutritional recommendations based on that analysis.

I was especially impressed by Healthrageous and InsideTracker, as they help create healthy ways of life in more fun and interactrive way. Another observation I made is that people are interested in learning more about themselves and about how to be healthy without struggle but with social support. I spoke with “quantifiers” from the audience and many of them collect their personal data without even knowing what for, but are very inclined to monitor their activities, behavior patterns and share results… That is something new and very inspiring. People want to improve not only their lives but the lives of others… Simply by sharing. Revolutionary. Truly New Age.

Social Good 2.0

On Friday, Dec 2, at 8:30AM the room of Space with a Soul was full. About 200 people consumed all coffee before the presentations started. All were interested in what is happening in the local social good start-up scene. I was told about this event by a friend, the event’s description said:

“The past few years have seen a surge of activity around technology and the nonprofit world. Boston is a hotbed of innovative ideas that might really be interesting to cause-related organizations – but it seems like new ones emerge daily. Who has time to keep track – let alone hear what they might be able to offer you?

Join us for a morning breakfast highlighting the latest additions to the cause-related technology startup scene in Boston:


Accounting Management Solutions, BiddingForGood, Cauzoom, CharityAlly, ConstantContact,
Mass Innovation Nights, NorthEast Sponsorship Network


8:30-8:45 Coffee and breakfast

8:45 Opening remarks, comments from hosts and sponsors

9:00-10:00 Rocket Introductions from Boston Startups (8 minutes each)


AltruHelp. The world’s largest online altruistic social experiment.

BoardProspects. The link between boards, prospects, and possibilities.

Cauzoom. Making it fun and easy to raise money for worthy projects.

CharityAlly. Give today. Change tomorrow.

Invup. Community involvement made fun and simple.

10:00-10:30 Facilitated networking by the Northeast Sponsorship Network”

In short: Altruhelp is a Universal Online Platform For Social Impact, was presented by Mathew Paisner.

Mark Rogers from BoardProspects told us how to fill the need for board members for non-profits.

Michael Sattler from Cauzoom, who also started the Social Good 2.0 group, gave his vision of how to help people and organizations, “because we are all in this together”.

Jonah Lupton and Nicholas Walton told about their organization CharityAlly that we can participate: “give today, change tomorrow”. And finally, instead of Invup, DailyFeats was presented by Vinay Gidwaney as “Do feats for your health and happiness”.

It was great to hear about new and old ideas of social good ventures, and hear about their progress, but even more so to witness how much interest this event generated and how much support it received from all kinds of people: from non-profits, social media, environmental organizations and technologists. It felt that every person in the audience has a story to tell and those stories are as important as the ones that were presented that day. Which ones of those 200 stories will be known 20 years from now and making a big impact on our lives? We are so lucky to get a sneak peek at what may be part of our future.

Free Speech

The same day I finished my Philosophy works course I came home and turned TV on. It just happened that the movie “What a way to go: Light at the end of Empire” was on Free Speech channel. After only few seconds I was totally engrossed into what they were showing which is rather direct and true. They were talking about shopping mall culture – shallowness and hopelessness and deep dissatisfaction, and not because people don’t really have that much money this year to go shopping or because of “Occupy Wall street”, but because we all feel that something is really wrong.

“We live in institutionalized society and we know our cell numbers”. We are on the train that is going at accelerated speed but we don’t know where it is going. We are getting from here to there, but now we want to stop the train. Because the train is heading for disaster.

I immediately thought of a book called The Yellow Arrow by Victor Pelevein. “Set during the advent of perestroika, a surreal, satirical novella by a critically acclaimed young Russian writer traces the fate of the passengers on The Yellow Arrow, a long-distance Russian train headed for a ruined bridge, a train without an end or a beginning–and it makes no stops. Andrei, the mystic passenger, less and less lulled by the never-ending sound of the wheels, has begun to look for a way to get off. But life in the carriages goes on as always”.

“If we don’t change our direction we’re likely to end up where we’re headed” Chinese Proverb.

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly” Woody Allen.

“Darwin’s dice have rolled badly for Earth . . . The human species is, in a word, an environmental abnormality. Perhaps a law of evolution is that intelligence usually extinguishes itself” E O Wilson

The movie tells that if we want to live, we need to get off that train.

“I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth” Morpheus.

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time” Andre Gide.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” Anais Nin.

That old dominant culture does not make its citizens happy, so isn’t it time for something new?

“We are much more than we ever were allowed to be”.

Power with nature and the world, not power over… Finally there is an opportunity to come back to ourselves. Check out the book by Jerry Mander “In the absence of the Sacred”. And no matter who actually wrote or edited this letter, he was a genius:


“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.”

Philosophy Works (Class Ten)

Last Saturday was my last class at Philosophy Works. I felt sad that it was time to say good byes to the group and our instructor. We shared so much with each other, learned together and hopefully became a little wiser. I distributed the Problem and Suffering Table to all in class, as my views were shaped by our discussions and Mita gave me great feedback on the original version of the slide. We all received a book as a present from the school, it is a small orange pocket book called Philosophy works, new light on life. It consists of practices and principles all consolidated in 10 steps: Why Be wise? Remaining true to yourself. Levels of awareness. Tapping your resources. The light of reason. The power of beauty. Know thyself. Watching the powers at work . Renewal through reflection. Inner reality.

Last topic we discussed was unity, which is found when we look for a whole common denominator to nature and humanity.

And Love materializes Unity. Please, read these beautiful passages below.

Sonnet 116 by W. Shakespeare:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

From Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians:

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;

but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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