The ‘D’ Factor

No, this isn’t a post about breast size.

Psychologists from the University of Copenhagen have identified a core trait in personalities that project the “dark side” of human behavior. These include narcissism, psychopathy, sadism and spitefulness.

They label this core trait the ‘D’ factor, ‘D’ presumably standing for ‘dark.’

Out at Love Returns, in developing a definition of “sin” by contrast against a mature description of the nature of love, I came up with another term. A term that was also promoted by the Catholic theologian Thomas Merton.

How much money was spent discovering the obvious fact that SELFISHNESS is the root of all evil? And why the adoption of obscure terminology?

So that the researchers can “maximize personal utility?”

Caution: Psychology May be Hazardous to Your Mental Health

In his lecture on dream therapy on Monday, HMI director George Kappas opined that we should teach children about sleep when they are in junior high. The need seems obvious, when one stops to consider that we spend far less of our lives procreating than we do sleeping.

The problem, of course, is the same problem we have with religion: if you start kids talking about their dreams, you are going to have kids talking about abuse in the family, and somebody is going to have to confront the damage.

In professional terms, the front line in that trauma ward shouldn’t be teachers, it should be psychologists. But the psychologists confront the same problem that religious leaders do: they don’t have the strength to deal with the scope of the problem. There simply aren’t enough resources in society to treat all those in need.

In part, that’s because the psychologists have used licensing to restrict supply: becoming a practicing family therapist requires six years of schooling and 8000 hours of supervised practice – a total of ten years. But it’s also because psychotic behavior is both contagious and difficult to cure.

War, for example, creates deep and lasting scars on the mind as well as the body. Those scars are passed from warrior to child and take generations to heal. Even in non-combatants: female survivors of the Holocaust feared to bond with their children. Early maternal intimacy is essential to establishing the assumption of trust in human relations. In withholding it, mothers unwittingly raise sociopaths. This was a pattern observed by Judith Hermann in her treatment of Holocaust survivors and their children, but also in survivors of torture.

In the workplace, the metaphor of war creates the psychic damage without leaving physical scars. Lacking the exterior evidence, we tend to ignore the wounds.

The industrial scale of the problem has led psychology to seek industrial solutions – pharmacology. The belief is that healing can begin only when the patient’s behavior is stabilized. But the psychiatrists have created a culture of zombies based upon an erroneous model of the mind. It is obvious to those of us that understand spiritual experience that they are ceding the battlefield to the enemy.

Psychologists believe in a material model of the mind: they look at synapses firing and see logic networks like those in computers. When confronted with exceptional behavior (musical or mathematical savants), they look for explanations in structural differences in the brain: the density of synapses in certain regions, or increased blood flow. The difficulty is that none of their correlations hold up.

I am confident that this is because the seat of cognition is not the brain. The brain is, in fact, simply an interface to a complex intentional field shared with all living creatures (much like a modem is an interface to a network of computers). Our bodies are metaphors through which the elements of that field negotiate new relationships – relationships that often entail conflict.

That negotiation will take place in one context or another. So in medicating us, psychiatrists are simply displacing the problem – they are forcing the spiritual elements to seek another context in which their conflict can be resolved. Which creates another patient on medication, causing another displacement, and another patient, and another displacement…

At one point, psychologists (perhaps foremost among them Jung) sought to characterize and negotiate spiritual conflict. They quickly discovered that the forces at play are too vast for any single individual or subculture to manage. To succeed in disciplining the forces of conflict, we must distribute throughout society the competence to recognize and manage the symptoms of spiritual conflict.

Of course, this is religion. Religion is explicitly spiritual, and the religions that endure hold that there is a higher power that sustains us in the struggle for mental health – which is to say to exhibit behaviors that create mutually satisfying relationships. Those behaviors are known colloquially as “love.”

Psychology buys into the Golden Rule, but for some reason chooses to treat religion as a problem rather than an asset. The dominant rationale is materialism: in a material world, the soul doesn’t exist, and so all religion is a hoax. But the hidden rationale is economic: when you have a hammer for hire, every problem is a nail, and someone with a screwdriver is competition to be eliminated.

The dominant tool in this age is protection of the “public welfare.” This is the justification for onerous training requirements. The mind is a tangled web of influences, and treatment occurs in a constricted and artificial environment. The energies built in the psyche of a patient accumulate for decades (or millennia) before entering therapy. Here potent psychotic alchemies can evolve: bad ideas in the minds of the practitioner (such as the behavioral psychologists who promised the Catholic Church that their pedophiles could be cured) combine with bad ideas in the mind of the patient, and the outcome is uncertain and sometimes counter to the goal of creating mental health.

But the regulation doesn’t stop there. Psychiatrists would like priests and ministers to stop counseling parishioners and have fought strenuously to restrict the activities of lay hypnotherapists.

But psychology fails because it operates on an invalid model of the mind; because it relies upon rigorous categorizations of behavior that are stimulated by the treatment system; because it uses arcane language that disintermediates the individual from management of their own mind and the minds of those they love. The public is left only with the role of creating problems, not solving them.

In watching videos of John Kappas speak of the relationship between psychology and hypnotherapy, I have often been struck by the implied hostility of a licensed professional to his own discipline. Kappas believed in individual potential and was motivated by the joy evidenced by those that received healing. He understood that love was the most potent element in the spiritual realm, and so trusted that providing people with tools for healing would be beneficial, even if some mistakes were made that caused individual pain.

Kappas spent his life fighting for the right for people to care for one another.

Can psychology claim the same?

President on the Couch

It was obvious during the second Bush presidency that Jr was working out his father-figure-issues in the Oval Office. He was fortunate to have a mother and wife experienced in managing fragile men, and it wasn’t until retirement that he began to paint pictures of himself in the bath tub.

As we watch ethics and legal issues whittle down Trump’s inner circle, we are seeing a narcissist exposed to the world. Trump lacks the resources of the Bush clan. He’s going to have a psychotic break.

Heaven help us.

Hypnosis Works

When I interviewed at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, I felt like I had come home. After years of having my compassion treated as a threat by abusive managers, it was welcomed as an asset to be celebrated.

The program is a significant investment. Everybody thinks that as a software developer I should be rich, but after a tumultuous divorce, several brief stints of unemployment, and nearly $30,000 spent producing and marketing my message of healing, the $10,000 tuition was nearly a third of my net worth.

So while I enjoyed the first month of classes, I was still nervous about whether this was finally going to give me the avenue that I was seeking.

I am drawn frequently into healing experiences, most often on the floor when I am dancing. Those environments also produce hostility though, most often from men whose sexual aggression is rejected by women that are relieved to find their prayers for kindness answered in my presence.

As I explained it to HMI’s education director, I was seeking a modality that would allow me to bring people into that space of healing in a controlled fashion. He understood, affirming that “hypnosis is a framework on which you can build many kinds of practice.”

I found confirmation this Saturday under surprising circumstances.

I went in to get a hair cut before yoga, and found myself stranded on the bench at Supercuts as stylist after stylist took a break. I was called to the chair by a younger woman, dressed severely, her long, dark mop of hair punctuated by a blue splash over the right eye.

After she had gotten started, she asked what I had done with the beginning of my day. I related that I had been working on hypnotherapy classes. She followed up with “What’s that all about?”

While we were given scripted responses in the first series of classes, they weren’t possible in the context (sitting shrouded in a sheet). So I began to ad-lib, stating that hypnosis enabled the client to access the full capabilities of their mind when trying to modify behaviors.

She broke in “But what if someone doesn’t want to confront the past?”

“Well, they don’t have to; you can choose to move forward. Hypnosis establishes a state of relaxation and clarity that allows you to remember what it is like to feel well and in control. When you go back to life, you can then clearly perceive what is pleasant and unpleasant, no longer obscured by the anxieties and stress of your habitual life.”

She was skeptical, and concluded the conversation with a dismissive comment.

But as she continued her craft, trimming the right side of my head, I had this sudden thought “She’s really open to me right now.” Extending my focus toward her heart, I took it gently and poured love into it.

She didn’t react. But ten minutes later, she pulled out the steamed towel and began to clean the nape of my neck with a gratitude that penetrated deeply into the skin. After thanking her, I walked toward the register and one of her elder peers called out, “Thank you!”

And I realized that just knowledge of the theory of hypnosis had brought me the means I was looking for, even before mastery of the techniques of therapeutic practice.

I’m on the right path.

Resolution of Love

To be loved is to receive power. If you are loved, you should feel stronger every day.

Don’t fall in love.

To fall into love is to surrender to mutual emptiness.

Awaken to love.

Awaken to new perspectives. Awaken to new feelings. Awaken to new possibilities.

Eyes open, clear-headed, self-controlled.

But most importantly:

Awaken to JOY!

Fire From on High

Were the bullets like the angry fists that pummeled your growing body?

Was the scurrying below meaningless, like the gambling that you used to hide your pain?

…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.

[NIV Gen. 2:17]

Is that the only escape from the sorrows of this world? An escape into death?

Was that the truth you wished to communicate before you took your own life?

Oh, dear brother, why were you immune to the Lord’s promises? Did no one tell you?

I will give you a new heart and a new spirit. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

[NIV Ezek. 36:26]

For now you have fallen prey to the illusion of death. The savior reached out to you with a healing embrace, but instead of receiving that gift, you chose to bear arms.

Self Reclamation

The centerpiece of my vacation was attending the Soul Play Fall Fest. Soul Play is a conscious living, dance and spiritual awakening experience held in the Sierras between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

I have been re-reading Louis Cozolino’s The Neuroscience of Human Relationships. Early in the book, he explains brain laterality. The right side of the brain integrates our individual experience to identify threats and opportunities. It is emotional, intuitive, non-verbal and non-linear in its reactions. The left side of the brain abstracts experience to seek patterns and commonality.

With this re-iteration, I was shocked by the realization that I have spent most of my life in the left side of my brain – to the extent, in fact, that I have difficulty thinking of myself as an individual.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been seeking to reclaim the right side of my mind. The most immediate side-effect has been a hardening of my boundaries against women (many of them sympathetic to my plight) that have been seeking to manage that part of my mind.

My first hope was that Soul Play would stretch and shake up my personality, facilitating the reclamation of the individuality rooted in the right side of my brain. As that progressed, I hoped also to find a safe container in which to begin restructuring my experience of women.

I was conscious of the risks. Among the gypsies of the conscious living movement, sexual experience often tends to what Christian moralists would consider “licentious.” Within the movement itself, sex is viewed as a joyous celebration of the sublime gifts of our materiality. Spiritually it is seen both as a reward for virtue and a method for its propagation. That sounds pleasant, but I have yet to find a community for whom it is that simple. People – no matter how enlightened – will compete for love.

So I wasn’t certain what to expect. That expectation was fulfilled, for the outcome was, well, unexpected.

Naturally, my engagement with women began on the dance floor, and progressed rapidly into healing. On the first night, I found myself sitting on the floor, a woman laid out over the inside of my right thigh as I probed for the source of pain in her hip. This continued into the first full day of sessions, dominated by contact improv and movement lessons.

But I want to focus on the breakthrough experiences, and the first of those occurred on Saturday morning. Parmatma Cris is a Brazilian yogini and tantrika (female practitioner of Tibetan tantra). Her offering, Movement Alchemy, was physically the most challenging of the courses I took. The exercises emphasized circular movement of the feet, hips, shoulders and arms that had to be carefully coordinated to conserve balance. This was described by Parmatma as generaion of “spirals” with our bodies.

After the frustrating warm-up exercises, she had us sit on the floor and led us through breathing exercises. The first was simple: inhaling while arcing the chest up and back, and exhaling into a deep forward curve. This advanced with circular motion of the sacrum, shoulders and arms.

The breakthrough came at the end. Abandoning the complex spirals, we were asked to swing our heads around in a circle, allowing our abdomen to follow its motion, inhaling on the upward stroke and exhaling as we fell forward.

This may sound uncomfortable, and indeed I paused after a couple of minutes, feeling dizzy and nauseated. Parmatma interrupted her instructions to order “If you feel dizzy or like throwing up, keep on going. It’s only your habit patterns trying to preserve their control. Most people don’t throw up, but if you do, that’s fine.”

So I went back to it, picking up the pace at her suggestion, and finally felt a shift in the right side of my brain, as though fluid was moving into it.

In that part of my personality, I saw a cluster of woman that had taken possession of my core personality two thousand years ago, in an act of violence that I have been hiding from others for most of my life. Confronting the methods and effects of that spiritual rape, I began sobbing and weeping uncontrollably, until one of the other students bent toward me to offer support.

“No. I’ll be fine.”

Parmatma paused for us to cool down, then pulled over mattresses so that we could all lie together with our heads pointed toward the warmth of the fireplace. I tried to relax, but the memories leaked back in, and I began sobbing. Her right index finger touched the middle of my forehead, cool and soothing, and then the rest of her hand draped itself over the right side of my head.

Namaste, sweet tantrika, sweet dakini. Blessings be upon you in your journey of peace and compassion.

Sensual Connection

A comment inspired by Sherry’s post out at Community Soulwork.


Sensual – that’s a much wider space to play in than “sexual.”

My first clue regarding the mechanisms of sensual connection came in a full-contact-improv class. The instructor passed around pictures of fascia – that fibers that tie our body tissues together. It is most readily identified by moving the skin over your muscles until the fascia reaches (rather suddenly) its limits.

When I dance, I feel that I am dragging spirit around. My fascia grows warm – it tingles. My partners told me that I was a great dancer, but being untrained I thought that they were just flirting. It was only much later that I realized that the spirit I was dragging around was wound in them as well. That was the cause of their wonder.

As I have explored this connection to the energies of life, I have discovered that when interrupted by another’s sexual advance, it flees. Sex is often brutal – a forcing of energies into certain tissues, rather than a collaboration that releases far-flung, pent-up desires for communion.