Wednesday, 30 January 2013

School Bullying

“Bullying was satisfying.  It gave me more confidence. 
And I kind of felt powerful.”
             - Daniel Harrison, Age 15 (Former Bully)

Last week, I was away in Alabama when I tuned into CNN’s program on bullying. The progam shared ideas from Dr. Phil, and showed a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) titled “Stop Bullying, Speak Up." These are all solid starts to elevating the collective consciousness about bullying, but in my opinion they just aren’t enough.

Going Deeper

Bullying is simply a symptom.  It is a “warning sign” that a school system is sick. Akin to a child with Lyme disease that has chronic headaches, if you solely treat the headaches perhaps you’ll make some progress, but the real issue  – the underlying problem--isn’t the headaches but the Lyme disease. You must treat the underlying cause in order to create a healthy system (body, school, community). 

So much of our current “solutions” are merely treating the symptoms of bullying. New school reporting policies, anti-bullying task forces, screening new students for clinical depression and passing laws are a solid start. My suggestions for going deeper include:  

Measure and Promote Positive Schools (communities / cultures)  

Is this school one of inclusion?  Does it value differences?  Are the teachers attentive to student’s problems?  Is basic emotional and social health taught to educators?  Are we measuring how effective a school is at creating a culture of inclusion, character and meaning?  Is there a place for a depressed or abused child to seek confidential help?  Are we honoring children’s different capabilities, interests and strengths or seeking to make “cookie-cutter” kids?  Is there a no tolerance policy relative to bullies?  Are their clear consequences for inflicting abuse on school peers (emotional, physical, mental)?  Are we teaching kids the proper use of their personal power?  I believe schools need to be measured as to the extent they create "healthy" environments versus the opposite - then we need to reward healthy school systems.   

Mandating Emotional Education 

No longer can we rely upon parents being the sole educators of a child’s emotional life.  The rates of childhood abuse, loss and trauma continue to be high – so it is up to the traditional school systems to not only value teaching the core courses of math and science but also teach emotional health from K-12.  Bullies are primarily created through lack of knowledge and poor environments (role models).

Parent Enrichment Classes

Parents don’t get a manual and often parent the way they were parented (which may have included bullying, addiction, abuse) so requiring one annual meeting of parents so that everyone can be on the same page in terms of what raising an emotionally and socially health child means is essential. 
Ultimately, we need to shift our focus from “anti-bullying” to the real problem. The real problem being that these ill systems have focused upon getting students to pass tests, grades and get decent academic standings versus educating their hearts. And that children aren’t given any tools of emotional and social health so they do the best they can with what they’ve got – the problem being that so many kids just don’t have a lot.

The Cure

Curing the bully crisis in America isn’t simple.  It is commingled with unfit parents, poor role models, mental health problems in children’s homes and environments along with school systems that focus nearly exclusively on grades versus cultivating kindness.  I believe a huge shift needs to occur from stopping bullying to growing healthy kids.  At the crux of the recent bully induced suicides are students who weren’t 100% healthy and felt they had nowhere to go – no other options, no other solutions.  

There is this old Native American saying that the cure is in the wound. I believe this is true. And let’s not let the wound of Taylor Clementi, Phoebe Prince, Seth Walsch, Asher Brown, Billy Lucas and all the other kids who have taken their lives teach us nothing.  It is there choices that call our country, our educational pioneers and everyday parents to stand up and say – enough is enough. There is better way to bring up our kids today.

Monday, 28 January 2013

A Scientific Explanation Of Homosexuality

This question asks for scientific explanations rather than religious or moralistic answers. 

Unfortunately, there is not yet a conclusive study which tell us exactly what causes homosexuality. Many studies show correlations, but there is not an accepted scientific consensus on the cause of homosexuality. 

All credible scientific organizations state that sexual orientation is influenced by biological factors and environmental factors (scientifically speaking, the hormonal environment of the womb is considered an "environmental factor'), and that it cannot be changed, as it is innate and set at birth. 

In studies with twins, researchers have found that far more of them are likely to share the same sexuality than with siblings that do not share the same DNA; however, the number falls short of 100%. These results show that there is a high correlation with a person's genetic makeup and their sexuality. Neurologically speaking, gay men tend to have brains similar in structure and function to that of straight women, and lesbians tend to have brains similar to straight men. Certain neurological responses, like the startle response, also show this correlation. The same is also present in other species (yes, many animals exhibit bisexual or even primarily homosexual behavior.) There have been other trends documented, such as the fact that the more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he will identify as gay, and this is true even when the boy is not raised with his older brothers. Gay men are also more likely to be left-handed. The ratio of the length of the index finger to the ring finger, which is caused by hormones in utero and does not change as one grows older, also shows correlations between gay men and straight women, and lesbians and straight men. Some theories include that the hormonal balance of the womb, which influences sex development (whether or not the child is a boy or girl or intersex), influences a child's predisposition to a certain sexual orientation. 

If a female and a male are twins, sometimes the testosterone from the male affects the female embryo's development. Females thus affected are more likely to develop lesbian tendencies than other females. Considering the 26th pair of chromosomes in humans, due to particular rare genetic factors, some people born with XX chromosomes become males as opposed to females and some people born with XY chromosomes become females as opposed to male. These people are more likely to exhibit homosexual behaviour. 

So "nature" determines one's overall predisposition to a certain orientation, but "nurture" (the environment and experiences of one after birth) may influence other aspects of one's sexual preference, like ideal traits in a partner, fetishes, etc. However, this is a highly complex question, and there is still much more research to be done. Scientific studies on different aspects of this question are being released all the time in journals. 

As far as why homosexuality is a healthy trait for a species (and is thus encountered in nearly every animal species on our planet), there are several theories, but to make this point one needs to clarify the difference between a survival behavior and a cultural behavior. 

For instance, in current United States culture one of the larger causes of teen suicide is the hatred and rejection shown to homosexuals. This is a cultural behavior. The current United States culture chooses to show disdain and pass judgment on people who have a sexuality outside the cultural norm. This results in some teenage homosexuals committing suicide. Homosexual behavior in a society that has not condemned or sanctioned sexual behavior is considered normal and entertaining. This is still true in some modern countries and tribes, but the culture that most people will be familiar with is that of the ancient Romans and Greeks. 

The Greeks believed that men who were in love would fight more fiercely for one another and honored their love in poems and theater. The most famous of these pairings was between Patroclus and Achilles in Homer's Illiad. Their culture believed that love was plural and that a man should love his wife and his friends. By their standards, someone who was only interested in women or only interested in men would be strange (though not despised). 

So the scientific explanation may simply be as simple as this: Our bodies have evolved to give us pleasurable feelings when we enact the act of reproduction whether it be to reproduce or not. Therefore, the scientific explanation for homosexual behavior is the same reason for heterosexual behavior or masturbation. . . it feels good. That is not a flippant or intentionally funny answer either. Most human behavior can be reduced to two main goals: avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. 

As with all aspects of human nature, the origin of homosexual behavior must stem from evolution. Evolution leads to instinct, which in turn leads to the experiences of pleasure (to encourage us to do things) and pain (to ensure we do not harm ourselves). Although homosexual behavior has been observed among many species of animal, it is primarily (if not exclusively) found among social animals. So it fair to assume that being a social animal allows for homosexuality to exist as others within social groups as others can continue the species' survival. Within social groups there can be diversity, and this diversity can boost a species' survival. 

Human sexuality differs also from, say, a dog. A male dog would not be aroused by a female bitch unless she is in 'heat'. Humans do not follow this pattern of behavior as straight men may find women attractive even when they are not ovulating at the time. In fact, only three species on Earth have heterosexual sex outside the 'optimum' period for reproduction: chimpanzees, dolphins and humans; these three species are often regarded as the most 'intelligent' species on the planet. This indicates that some time in our evolutionary past a 'break' occurred between sex and reproduction and this proved, from an evolutionary point of view, highly successful. 

So it is possible to see that homosexuality was part of a broader evolutionary past and this led to the richness of diversity of human nature today, of which one of the results was homosexuality.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Neuroscience Of The Criminal Mind

The latest neuroscience research is presenting intriguing evidence that the brains of certain kinds of criminals are different from those of the rest of the population.
While these findings could improve our understanding of criminal behavior, they also raise moral quandaries about whether and how society should use this knowledge to combat crime.

The criminal mind

In one recent study, scientists examined 21 people with antisocial personality disorder – a condition that characterizes many convicted criminals. Those with the disorder "typically have no regard for right and wrong. They may often violate the law and the rights of others," according to the Mayo Clinic.
Brain scans of the antisocial people, compared with a control group of individuals without any mental disorders, showed on average an 18-percent reduction in the volume of the brain's middle frontal gyrus, and a 9 percent reduction in the volume of the orbital frontal gyrus – two sections in the brain's frontal lobe.
Another brain study, published in the September 2009 Archives of General Psychiatry, compared 27 psychopaths — people with severe antisocial personality disorder — to 32 non-psychopaths. In the psychopaths, the researchers observed deformations in another part of the brain called the amygdala, with the psychopaths showing a thinning of the outer layer of that region called the cortex and, on average, an 18-percent volume reduction in this part of brain.
"The amygdala is the seat of emotion. Psychopaths lack emotion. They lack empathy, remorse, guilt," said research team member Adrian Raine, chair of the Department of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., last month.

In addition to brain differences, people who end up being convicted for crimes often show behavioral differences compared with the rest of the population. One long-term study that Raine participated in followed 1,795 children born in two towns from ages 3 to 23. The study measured many aspects of these individuals' growth and development, and found that 137 became criminal offenders.
One test on the participants at age 3 measured their response to fear – called fear conditioning – by associating a stimulus, such as a tone, with a punishment like an electric shock, and then measuring people's involuntary physical responses through the skin upon hearing the tone.
In this case, the researchers found a distinct lack of fear conditioning in the 3-year-olds who would later become criminals. These findings were published in the January 2010 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Neurological base of crime

Overall, these studies and many more like them paint a picture of significant biological differences between people who commit serious crimes and people who do not. While not all people with antisocial personality disorder — or even all psychopaths — end up breaking the law, and not all criminals meet the criteria for these disorders, there is a marked correlation.
"There is a neuroscience basis in part to the cause of crime," Raine said.
What's more, as the study of 3-year-olds and other research have shown, many of these brain differences can be measured early on in life, long before a person might develop into actual psychopathic tendencies or commit a crime.
Criminologist Nathalie Fontaine of Indiana University studies the tendency toward being callous and unemotional (CU) in children between 7 and 12 years old. Children with these traits have been shown to have a higher risk of becoming psychopaths as adults.
"We're not suggesting that some children are psychopaths, but CU traits can be used to identify a subgroup of children who are at risk," Fontaine said.
Yet her research showed that these traits aren't fixed, and can change in children as they grow. So if psychologists identify children with these risk factors early on, it may not be too late.
"We can still help them," Fontaine said. "We can implement intervention to support and help children and their families, and we should."

Neuroscientists' understanding of the plasticity, or flexibility, of the brain called neurogenesis supports the idea that many of these brain differences are not fixed.
"Brain research is showing us that neurogenesis can occur even into adulthood," said psychologist Patricia Brennan of Emory University in Atlanta. "Biology isn’t destiny. There are many, many places you can intervene along that developmental pathway to change what's happening in these children."
Furthermore, criminal behavior is certainly not a fixed behavior.
Psychologist Dustin Pardini of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that about four out of five kids who are delinquents as children do not continue to offend in adulthood.
Pardini has been researching the potential brain differences between people with a past criminal record who have stopped committing crimes, and those who continue criminal behavior. While both groups showed brain differences compared with non-criminals in the study, Pardini and his colleagues uncovered few brain differences between chronic offenders and so-called remitting offenders.
"Both groups showed similar results," Pardini said. "None of these brain regions distinguish chronic and remitting offenders."

Ethical quandaries

Yet even the idea of intervening to help children at risk of becoming criminals is ethically fraught.
"Do we put children in compulsory treatment when we've uncovered the risk factors?" asked Raine. "Well, who decides that? Will the state mandate compulsory residential treatment?"
What if surgical treatment methods are advanced, and there is an option to operate on children or adults with these brain risk factors? Many experts are extremely hesitant to advocate such an invasive and risky brain intervention — especially in children and in individuals who have not yet committed any crime.
Yet psychologists say such solutions are not the only way to intervene.
"You don’t have to do direct brain surgery to change the way the brain functions," Brennan said. "You can do social interventions to change that."
Fontaine's studies, for example, suggest that kids who display callous and unemotional traits don't respond as well to traditional parenting and punishment methods such as time-outs. Instead of punishing bad behavior, programs that emphasize rewarding good behavior with positive reinforcement seem to work better.
Raine and his colleagues are also testing whether children who take supplemental pills of omega-3 fatty acids — also known as fish oil — can show improvement. Because this nutrient is thought to be used in cell growth, neuroscientists suspect it can help brain cells grow larger, increase the size of axons (the part of neurons that conducts electrical impulses), and regulate brain cell function.
"We are brain scanning children before and after treatment with omega-3," Raine said. "We are studying kids to see if it can reduce aggressive behavior and improve impaired brain areas. It's a biological treatment, but it's a relatively benign treatment that most people would accept."

'Slippery slope to Armageddon'

The field of neurocriminology also raises other philosophical quandaries, such as the question of whether revealing the role of brain abnormalities in crime reduces a person's responsibility for his or her own actions.
"Psychopaths know right and wrong cognitively, but don't have a feeling for what's right and wrong," Raine said. "Did they ask to have an amygdala that wasn't as well functioning as other individuals'? Should we be punishing psychopaths as harshly as we do?"
Because the brain of a psychopath is compromised, Raine said, one could argue that they don't have full responsibility for their actions. That — in effect — it's not their fault.
In fact, that reasoning has been argued in a court of law. Raine recounted a case he consulted on, of a man named Herbert Weinstein who had killed his wife. Brain scans subsequently revealed a large cyst in the frontal cortex of Weinstein's brain, showing that his cognitive abilities were significantly compromised.
The scans were used to strike a plea bargain in which Weinstein's sentence was reduced to only 11 years in prison.
"Imaging was used to reduce his culpability, to reduce his responsibility," Raine said. "Yet is that not a slippery slope to Armageddon where there's no responsibility in society?"

Thursday, 24 January 2013

What Hypnosis Really Does To Your Brain

Most people agree that hypnosis does something to your brain — specifically something that makes people make fools of themselves at hypnotist shows. But how does it actually affect the human brain? Can it make people recall events perfectly? Are post-hypnotic suggestions a bunch of baloney? What is the truth about hypnotism?

A History of Hypnosis

Nearly every culture in the world has a history of hypnotic trances. Some only considered them spiritual or eerie, but most began to make use of them as soon as they were discovered. India and China have ancient records showing hypnotic trances being used to relieve pain during surgery. The practice migrated to Europe, where in 1794 a young boy having an operation for a tumor was put under. The boy was Jacob Grimm, who grew up to write about quite a few hypnotic trances in his and his brother's book of fairy tales.

As ether and anesthesia came in, hypnosis went out. The medical community at large rejected its claims to pain reduction and hypnotic suggestions. Meanwhile, Hollywood embraced it as a plot device, adding on fantastic properties that made it seem still more outlandish to the public. It finally settled in the entertainment industry, where it does have the power to make people do extremely silly things, with extreme sincerity. (Watching some dead-serious kids give Grammy speeches as if they were Ricky Martin convinced me that hypnotism must have power over people.) But the extent of its power has always been debated.

How Hypnosis Affects the Brain

A person in a hypnotic state will appear tuned-out, and one of the marks of true hypnosis is a decrease in involuntary eye movement to the point where deeply hypnotized people will have to be reminded to blink. This gives an observer the impression that the hypnotized aren't paying attention. In fact, they're playing hyper-attention. Compared to a resting brain, many areas come online when a person is put into a hypnotic trance. All the areas that flare to life during hypnosis are also engaged when a person is concentrating on mental imagery — except one. Like many areas of the brain, the precuneus lights up during many different tasks, all of them having to do with a consciousness of self. It also deals with visuospatial aspects of the brain, letting us know where we are in space.

In essence, when we're hypnotized, people are able to concentrate intensely on self-created imagery (or imagery that suggested to them) but do not place their selves as part of that imagery. They've lost the reminder of what they personally do and what normal judgements they make, while increasing their ability to think about a whole range of imaginary situations. This explains the way adults can act out under the influence of hypnosis, or how they might remain calm and collected in situations that would otherwise terrify them. But how far does it go?

The Power of Hypnosis

One of the most incredible feats people under hypnosis are supposed to perform is the ability to remember details of a past event that a person has consciously forgotten. In movies everyone, under hypnosis, suddenly has a photographic memory (right up until they try to see the killer's face). There is debate, and some hypnotherapists claim that they have helped people retrace their steps through hypnosis and remember locations of, say, lost items or valuable papers.

But a larger study at Ohio State University cast doubt on whether hypnosis can actually enhance your memory to such an extent. When two groups of students, one hypnotized and one only relaxed, were asked about the dates of certain historical events, the groups performed equally well. The only difference was, when they were informed that there were some errors in their answers, the hypnotized group changed fewer answers than the unhypnotized group. Hypnosis got a more infamous reputation when it was used by psychologists to 'recover' lost memories, often of childhood abuse, that never happened.

But hypnosis does have the power to tap into memory in ways that other techniques do not. Most importantly, it has the ability to induce temporary, reversible amnesia. This condition is extremely rare, as many amnesiacs don't recover their memories, and some unlucky ones can't make new memories.

Although not all hypnotized patients can have their memories suppressed, and no one suppresses their memories unless they're told to, the effects can be startling. For one thing, the entire memory can be brought back with a word. This indicates that hypnosis doesn't obliterate memories, it just temporarily shuts off the retrieval system. One woman was told she couldn't remember the word 'six,' and so answered 'seven' to mathematical questions. A man forgot his own name. Any memory could be suppressed.

But the memory didn't go away. A group of students were hypnotized and told to forget a short film they had just watched. While unable to answer questions about the film, they had no problem remembering if the film was, for example, shot on a handheld camera. It was only the content that was suppressed. This ability to remember and react to the context of a thing without remembering the thing itself is the post-hypnotic suggestion. It's a suggested habit that makes sense in context (like reaching for a cell phone when hearing a ringtone) but not at that moment (if you deliberately left your cell phone at home). It just doesn't occur to the person to think of what they're reacting to before they react.

Another amazing hypnotic ability is, supposedly, suppression of pain. While it makes sense that people might feel less self-conscious, what with the part of their brain that feels self-consciousness offline, and that their perception might be altered by the part of the brain that governs perception, but pain is different. One of the primary functions of pain is to force someone out of the reverie they're in and make them pay attention to reality. Pain is the outside world breaking in.

But scientists studying perception think our experience is shaped far more by what we expect the stimulus to be than the stimulus itself. There are ten times as many nerve fibers carrying information down as carrying it up. Most people will have experienced feeling a shape in their pockets and being disoriented until they remember that it's a waded up receipt, at which point the sensations seem familiar.

More to the point, most people will remember an itching or sting that, when they see a more serious injury than they expected, will blossom into pain. A hypnotized person undergoing surgery, for example, may be able to convince themselves that they're experiencing the discomfort of a bug bite instead of a scalpel. That, along with a state of enforced relaxation, can make all the difference.

But the shadiest aspect of hypnotism — what it can make an entranced person do — is still shrouded in mystery. Most hypnotists take pains to stress that no one is enslaved when they're in a hypnotized state, and that they can't be made to do something they don't want to do. Of course, that is the line they'd take. Scientists are, understandably, reluctant to give people the suggestion to murder someone under hypnosis, and test the results. Perhaps the best test of this isn't science, but history. Although there have always been legends of people under the direction of an evil puppet-master committing unspeakable acts against their will, there have been no actual cases. So don't worry about going to those hypnotist shows. Just . . . don't sit in the front.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Video: Psychic Spies

Sunday, 20 January 2013

What Is Shamanic Healing

The word shaman comes from the language of a tribe in Siberia, according to Mircea Eliade, a scholar of religion, a shaman is a man or woman who "journeys" in an altered state of consciousness. Thus, shamanism is the application of what the shaman does.

In his book The Spirit of Shamanism, Roger N. Walsh, M.D., PhD. defines Shamanism as follows: "Shamanism can be defined as a family of traditions whose Practitioners focus on voluntarily entering altered states of consciousness in which they experience themselves or their spirit[s], traveling to other realms at will, and interacting with other entities in order to serve their community." There are many important phrases or key terms included in this definition. The first of which is "traditions." Traditions according to the dictionary are beliefs that are handed down [to the next generation] because of their effectiveness.In the shamanic context, these beliefs are being applied to spiritual healing, which may have an impact on the emotional/mental and physical aspects [bodies] of the individual as well. The shamanic traditions are not surprisingly different from culture to culture setting. This leads to the speculation that these traditions have an original source.

The shamanic journey is the most common practice of the traditions.The journey is usually induced by rhythmic drumming or other percussion sound, a rattle for example. The uses of the shamanic journey are many: such as diagnosing or treating illness, for acquisition of power through the interaction with spirits, i.e., power animals, spiritual teachers and angels. It is vital that the shaman maintain a relationship with their spiritual helpers as to receive instruction and information to help the patient.

The next key word in the definition is "voluntarily." The shaman must have mastered the experience of contacting spiritual entities to receive information that will be helpful to their patient and themselves, whatever the situation may be. A major skill that is acquired in the training process is spirit vision. This skill involves the development of a capability to organize, understand and communicate with the visionary data one is presented with while in an altered state of consciousness.

Some teachers instruct on the ability to be in two worlds simultaneously.The worlds are revealed to the shaman when journeying into the altered state of consciousness. Carlos Castaneda termed these states "nonordinary reality." In his book The Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner writes "...altered state of consciousness and learned perspective that characterize shamanic work... involves not only a 'trance' or a transcendent state of awareness, but a learned awareness of shamanic methods and assumptions while in an altered state." The experience in the shaman's universe is the existence of three worlds: upper, middle and lower, which are joined in relationship by spiritual energy more than by physical properties. Dr. Walsh describes, "...central axis takes three main forms, all of them common to diverse cultures and myths... the first is the common. the 'cosmic mountain' at the center of the earth.The second is the 'world pillar' that many hold up the sky. The third is the highly symbolic 'world tree' symbol of life, fertility and sacred regeneration...." For the shaman, the multilayered worlds traveled through the altered state of consciousness are a direct experience. The last key word pertaining to this definition is "Serve." Connie Newton, my teacher of the Integrated Awareness Technique is constantly reminding us that as healers we must serve.To learn the knowledge is not enough. We must use our healing capabilities for the good of others and ourselves. 

Shamans are committed to the art of healing to the people of the community. The practice of these healing traditions is often referred to as energy medicine. The goal of energy medicine is to provide a healing to the recipient. The format of a healing is the ceremony where the shaman applies his or her healing protocols which have passed down from the practitioner's teacher, from generation to generation therefore establishing the traditions. The knowledge is ancient but it is always growing or evolving. Thus, the shamans of today practice energy medicine traditions that have evolved in their effectiveness and practicality.

Shamanism is an ongoing expanding body of energy medicine rooted in tradition. The shaman applies the energy medicine protocols for the healing of the people he or she serves.

Friday, 18 January 2013

8 Steps to Self Motivation

  • 1. Start simple. Keep motivators around your work area – things that give you that initial spark to get going.
  • 2. Keep good company. Make more regular encounters with positive and motivated people. This could be as simple as IM chats with peers or a quick discussion with a friend who likes sharing ideas.
  • 3. Keep learning. Read and try to take in everything you can. The more you learn, the more confident you become in starting projects.
  • 4. Stay Positive. See the good in bad. When encountering obstacles, you want to be in the habit of finding what works to get over them.
  • 5. Stop thinking. Just do. If you find motivation for a particular project lacking, try getting started on something else. Something trivial even, then you’ll develop the momentum to begin the more important stuff.
  • 6. Know yourself. Keep notes on when your motivation sucks and when you feel like a superstar. There will be a pattern that, once you are aware of, you can work around and develop.
  • 7. Track your progress. Keep a tally or a progress bar for ongoing projects. When you see something growing you will always want to nurture it.
  • 8. Help others. Share your ideas and help friends get motivated. Seeing others do well will motivate you to do the same. Write about your success and get feedback from readers.

  • What I would hope happens here is you will gradually develop certain skills that become motivational habits. Once you get to the stage where you are regularly helping others keep motivated – be it with a blog or talking with peers – you’ll find the cycle continuing where each facet of staying motivated is refined and developed.
    My 1 Step
    If you could only take one step? Just do it!
    Once you get started on something, you’ll almost always just get into it and keep going. There will be times when you have to do things you really don’t want to: that’s where the other steps and tips from other writers come in handy.
    However, the most important thing, that I think is worth repeating, is to just get started. Get that momentum going and then when you need to, take Ian’s Step 7 and Take A Break. No one wants to work all the time!
    By Craig Childs

    Wednesday, 16 January 2013

    Video: Brainwaves of Meditation

    Monday, 14 January 2013

    Hypnosis And Sleep

    There is little doubt that there is a close correlation between being under hypnosis and being asleep. Anyone who has been under hypnosis will know just how close it feels to being in the early stages of sleep. This is why hypnotherapy is so useful in helping people get a good night of quality sleep.
    The majority of us will suffer from sleep problems during at least one stage in our lives. Both the problems and the cause of the problems can vary greatly. If you go through a particularly stressful period you might only be able to sleep three or four hours a night, or it could be you sleep ten hours but wake up feeling like you’ve not slept at all. Just the seemingly simple act of drifting off to sleep can be a big problem.
    Regulating Sleep
    Once you reach adulthood you need to get around seven to eight hours of sleep a night in most cases. Any less and you will feel tired, find it hard to concentrate, struggle to make decisions and heighten the risk of suffering from depression. More than seven to eight hours of sleep a night can also cause problems, leaving you lethargic throughout the day.
    There are two main types of sleep, Non-REM and REM.
    Non-REM: The brain is quiet and peaceful. The body repairs itself and hormones are released into the bloodstream, preparing itself for the day ahead. There are four stages to Non-REM sleep.
    1. Pre-sleep - The muscles relax, body temperature drops and the heart beat slows.
    2. Light-sleep - Still easily awoken without feelings of confusion.
    3. Slow wave sleep - Blood pressure begins to fall.
    4. Deep slow wave sleep - Very hard to wake up, will awaken confused and groggy.
    REM: Makes up for a fifth of sleep time. During the REM stage of sleep the brain becomes very active, body very relaxed and the eyes move around quickly. This is the sleep stage in which dreams become more vivid and easier to remember.
    Over the course of a night you will move between Non-REM and REM sleep around five times a night.
    How Hypnosis Helps Where Pills Fail
    While some people choose to aid their sleeping with pills I think this is a bad choice. Sleeping pills do little to cure the problem, only mask it. People often report feeling groggy all day after taking sleeping pills, and they can be highly addictive.
    This is not a problem with hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a natural alternative that results in deeper, undisturbed sleep with no side effects.
    The way sleep hypnosis works is simple, the hypnotherapist first helps the patient relax. This allows the conscious mind to become quiet, and is the perfect state for the beginning stages of sleep. While the conscious mind is relaxed the hypnotist will then begin making suggestions to the unconscious mind to accept positive commands such as, “your eyes feel heavy”, “your mind and body are totally relaxed”. Once this is achieved sleep will follow.
    So if you feel the sleep you are getting is not adequate then you really should try hypnotherapy to get the sleep your body and mind requires. 

    Saturday, 12 January 2013

    3 Simple Tips To Break Bad Habits For Good

    By: Michael Lee

    Changing bad habits is the first step to self-improvement. However, it can also be one of the most challenging things to do. 

    Habits, especially bad ones, are hard to break. We’ve become too used to doing things a certain way that to break away from the norm seems too much of an effort. However, there are cases when changing bad habits can literally save your life. 

    Read on to find out how you can break bad habits effectively. 

    Tip # 1: Learn from Others. 
    For others, breaking bad habits is a lot more crucial. Biting your fingernails probably doesn’t have such an enormous impact on your life, but smoking and doing drugs certainly have. 

    If you’ve grown used to smoking your lungs out and can’t seem to stop, why don’t you take a good look at people who did not quit early enough or those who just overdid it a little too much. They’re either dead or struggling with some sort of cancer. 

    Don’t look away from the gritty details. Hopefully, what they went through will send a jolt strong enough to get you to stop. 

    Tip # 2: Do It One Step at a Time. 

    Changing bad habits may not be as easy as it seems, and can sometimes backfire when you force it too quickly. So take things slowly - one step at a time.

    If smoking is your bad habit, you don’t have to quit suddenly. In fact, doctors will advise you to do it slowly. Nicotine withdrawal is very difficult to go through. Start by decreasing the number of sticks you smoke. Find out your limit and then slowly work your way from your usual sticks a day to zero. This principle also applies to other bad habits that you may have. 

    Tip # 3: Find a Friend. 
    Changing bad habits is easier when you have the support of a friend because of the sense of commitment involved. If said friend is also aiming to change their bad habits, then this process will be a lot easier and will go a lot faster for both of you. 

    Why do you think there are a lot of support groups around? The more people who have your back, the better your chances are of getting rid of your bad habit for good. 

    Breaking bad habits is very important. Sometimes, it’s a matter of life and death. But even though you only have to deal with nail biting or feet swaying, changing bad habits is still recommended. Once you take one down, it’ll be easier to get rid of all the others. In a way, it also shows that you can do anything you put your mind into.

    Thursday, 10 January 2013

    Impressive Hypnotherapy Statistics?

    By Adam Eason
    In another hypnosis related blog that I follow, I noticed the author mention some amazing statistics about the efficacy of hypnotherapy according to a study conducted by Dr Alfred Barrios.
    So I went and investigated this study before mentioning it myself. I searched through many scholarly archives and could not find the actual original citing of the article…
    As I googled and explored, I noticed that many, many hypnotherapists were using these amazing statistics and figures on their websites, quoting Barrios to display the effectiveness of hypnotherapy.  Yet it was tough to find the original source and copy of the study.
    The study was (and still is) a review of psychotherapy literature by Dr Barrios, which was published in 1970 and originally featured in the The Psychotherapy Journal of the American Psychiatric Association which showed some impressive findings indeed.
    After surveying over 2000 journal articles, Dr. Alfred Barrios came up with the following recovery rates:
    Type of therapy                        Recovery rates                          Number of sessions
    Hypnotherapy                                    93%                                                       6
    Behavior therapy                               72%                                                     22
    Psychoanalysis                                 38%                                                    600
    It is important to remember that these are average numbers and should not really be interpreted to suggest that any condition can be helped in 6 hypnotherapy sessions. Indeed, some would be overcome in a great deal less time and likewise, some may require more.
    To summarise; in this review article, Dr Barrios pointed out that the average success rate for hypnotherapy was 93% after an average of 6 sessions. This was compared to a 38% success rate after an average of 600 sessions for psychoanalysis and 72% after 22 sessions for behavior therapy.
    If you’d like to diligently review the article word for word and see how it was conducted you can read it in full at Dr Barrios’s own website where he has the article featured for all to read entitled Hypnotherapy: A Reappraisal.
    Some of the hardened evidence based hypnotherapists may not think it bears up to modern scrutiny, but it makes for interesting reading bearing in mind it is 40 years old now and much has changed in that time alone.
    It does amaze me though how many websites mention the figures without quoting the study or giving it any robust examination… Some even do not quote anything other than the sensational figures… Hmmm… Maybe I should stop thinking so critically and go and amend my hypnotherapy consultation page with the addition of these figures…. Is a 1970 review still pertinent today?

    Tuesday, 8 January 2013

    Why Do People Confess To Crimes They Did Not Commit?

    Japan has a conviction rate of more than 99%. But in recent months there has been a public outcry over a number of wrongful arrests where innocent people confessed to crimes.
    It started with a threat posted on the city of Yokohama's website in late June: "I'll attack a primary school and kill all the children before the summer."
    In the months that followed, there were a number of similar threats posted on the internet - some threatening famous people, including the Emperor's grandchildren.
    After a police investigation, four people were arrested. Two, including a 19-year-old student, confessed while in custody.
    But on 9 October, the real perpetrator sent an email to a lawyer - Yoji Ochiai - and local media, explaining how he or she made those threats by taking control of innocent internet users' computers with a virus.
    His or her purpose, as stated in the email to Ochiai, was "to expose the police and prosecutors' abomination".
    And in a way, it did. It raised the question - why did the innocent people confess to a crime that they didn't commit? What kind of pressure were they put under?
    "I was surprised to have received the email but I wasn't surprised that the innocent people confessed," says Ochiai.
    There have been a number of wrongful convictions in the past, he says.
    "But unlike other cases, the fact that these cyber threat incidents happened to ordinary people who were just using the internet raised the fear that it could have happened to anyone," he adds.
    When Ochiai posted the email on his Twitter account and blog, he received hundreds of responses from the public - most of which were more critical towards the police than the real perpetrator.
    Shoji Sakurai spent 29 years in jail for a robbery-murder that he didn't commit. It took him another 15 years to win a not-guilty verdict at his retrial last year.
    "I was a bit naughty when I was young and the Japanese police go after people with criminal records, so my friend Sugiyama and I became prime suspects for the murder."
    When arrested, aged just 20, he was treated like a guilty criminal, he says.
    "They interrogated me day and night, telling me to confess. After five days, I had no mental strength left so I gave up and confessed."
    "It may be difficult for people to understand, but being denounced repeatedly - it is harder than you think," he adds.
    Sakurai says his interrogators weren't aggressive but there have been cases in which the police or prosecutors are alleged to have treated their suspects badly.
    Hiroshi Ichikawa was a prosecutor for nearly 13 years - until he lost his job for threatening to kill a suspect during an interrogation.
    "I am not trying to make an excuse for my behaviour by saying that others did the same, but I don't think I was some kind of a monster in making a death threat to a suspect," he says.
    "I have overheard other prosecutors yelling at suspects and one of my bosses boasted how he kicked the shin of a suspect underneath the desk."
    Another thing he regrets - aside from making the death threat - is writing up a confession statement which did not correspond with the truth.
    "After I grilled the suspect for eight hours, I got him to sign this statement even though he didn't say a single word of it," he says.
    "My boss was pressuring me to get his confession so I thought I couldn't go home without it."
    For Ichikawa, it didn't matter if it was true or false as long as he had the confession.
    The fact that he lost his job for threatening to kill a suspect suggests that regulations governing interrogations are working.
    But while the Japanese police and prosecutors are not widely accused of resorting to more aggressive forms of interrogation such as torture, no-one outside the small interview room really knows what happens inside because suspects' interviews take place behind closed doors - without an attorney.
    So why does the Japanese justice system prize confessions so much?
    "It is the king of evidence. If you can get someone to confess to a crime, the court is going to find them guilty," says Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Tokyo.
    Japan has a conviction rate of over 99%, most of which are secured on the back of a confession.
    "It is also seen as a chance given to a suspect to unburden his guilt and repent for his crimes."
    If a suspect repents during the interrogation process, Professor Kingston says, prosecutors offer a lighter sentence.
    Yoshiki Kobayashi, who worked as a detective for the National Police Agency for 25 years, thinks the emphasis on confessions is also due to limited investigative powers that they have.
    "The police in other countries can have plea bargaining, undercover operations and wire-tapping, so they rely on these techniques. In Japan, we are not allowed these powers so all we can do is to rely on confessions."
    Their limited power is due to historical reasons. Before World War II, says Kobayashi, the police abused their powers so people demanded that they give them all up after the war.
    "In the US or other countries, they regard investigation as a game but in our culture we also want to find out the truth - exactly what happened through confessions," he says.
    But what makes Japanese suspects eager to confess - even to a crime that they didn't commit?
    Lawyer Yoji Ochiai thinks it has something to do with the Japanese psyche.
    "People traditionally thought that they shouldn't stand up against authorities so criminals confessed quite easily," he says.
    "But in the 21st Century, more people - guilty or not - are exercising their rights and wouldn't simply obey and confess."
    "The authorities still try to extract confessions using the same methods and that's why they end up pressuring suspects to confess which may have resulted in untruthful confessions," he added.
    Japanese society's emphasis on shame and consideration towards their family also plays a role.
    Sakurai says he was told that his mother suggested he confessed - he doubts this but cannot ask her as she had passed away before he was freed.
    The father of the 19-year-old student who confessed to June's cyber threat said in a statement to the media that consideration to the family was what motivated his son to "misrepresent the fact and confess".
    Even if those who have been wrongly convicted managed to prove their innocence, receiving an official apology has been nearly impossible.
    Sakurai did receive 12,500 yen ($148) a day for the duration of his detention. He is now suing the state and is seeking more compensation.
    "The money doesn't bother me and it's not even an apology that I want, but I want to change the system which allows the police, prosecutors and judges to put away innocent people and get away with it."
    Some changes to the system are already happening - since July, some parts of suspects' interviews have been recorded, but critics are demanding full recording of all interviews.
    For many decades, Japan's criminal justice system has had a near squeaky-clean image. As well as a conviction rate of over 99%, only 1.4% of people reported falling victim to assault according to the latest annual figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a figure lower than the OECD average of 4%.
    The Justice Ministry says most of the confessions are truthful and they play an important part in convicting criminals. When you ask people on the street they say they still trust the police, with an average score of seven out of 10.
    But the statement released by the father of the student wrongfully arrested over cyber threats is damning of the system to say the least.
    "The police are supposed to protect the public. It is impermissible that they arrested and laid a false charge against an innocent citizen, just a young boy, due to their negligent investigations," he wrote.
    "It is too much to bear when I think about what went through his mind [when he confessed] - how he was longing for evidence of his innocence but he had to give up."
    "The saddest thing is I as a parent even doubted his innocence."
    Meanwhile the perpetrator of the cyber threats has still not been caught.

    Sunday, 6 January 2013

    7 Rules of Life

    1. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present. 

    2.  What others think of you is none of your business.

    3.  Time heals almost everything, give it time. 

    4.  Don't compare your life to others and don't judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about. 

    5. Stop thinking too much, it's alright not to know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it. 

    6.  No one is in charge of your happiness, except you. 

    7.  Smile. You don't own all the problems in the world.

    Friday, 4 January 2013

    Spiritual...But NOT Religious?

    Research has suggested "spiritual" people may suffer worse mental health issues than conventionally religious, agnostic or atheist people. But what exactly do people mean when they describe themselves as "spiritual, but not religious"?
    Spirituality is a common term these days, used by Prince Charles, and by the Archbishop of York as a way of stepping beyond religious divides.
    But many now call themselves "spiritual" but not religious. About a fifth of people in the UK fit into this category, according to Prof Michael King from University College London.
    In the US, a Newsweek survey in 2005 put the figure at a quarter. A survey in October by the Pew Research Center suggested a lower figure with a fifth of people religiously unaffiliated and 37% of those regarding themselves as spiritual but not religious.
    King's research suggested that in the UK the "spiritual" group are more likely to have mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.
    There will be people who will dispute the research, but it's certainly clear that the "spiritual, but not religious" represents a major strand of belief across the West.
    It's a broad church, so to speak. The spiritually aligned range from pagans to devotees of healing crystals, among many other sub-groups.
    But for millions of others it is nothing so esoteric. Instead, it's simply a "feeling" that there must be something else.
    The rise of this type of spirituality has been driven by a sense that religion is out of keeping with modern values, says Mark Vernon author of How To Be an Agnostic. "People associate religious institutions with constraining doctrines, and bad things that are done in the world. That may be outright fundamentalism, the oppression of women or some kind of conflict with liberal values."
    Science has replaced God for many today, Vernon suggests.
    But while science may be able to explain the world, it doesn't evoke how many people feel about their place in the universe.
    Awe and wonder is how spiritual people often describe their relationship with the world. There's a sense that life is more than pounds and pence, of work, childcare and the rest of the daily grind.
    Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote, says the phrase "spiritual but not religious" has become a bit of a joke. But the concept is worth defending. "Spirituality I take to refer to things that are not expressible in words. There's an aspect of human experience that is non-conceptual."
    It's about more than belief, Burkeman says. Just as for Christians and other religions, it is the practice of worship that is as important as the belief, he argues.
    Gaetan Louis de Canonville practices mindfulness meditation in Richmond, south London. "We're not worshipping a God or paying homage to something in the sky. It's about learning to accept things like impermanence and living in the moment. If you get a glimpse of how happy you can be by embracing the moment, all the chattering of your thoughts stops."
    Mike Stygal, is a secondary school teacher who practises paganism in his private life. He believes in a divine force in nature. "I believe everything is connected, I feel very in touch with nature and the changing seasons. Awe is a very good word for how I feel. It's a sense of deep respect for nature. I can communicate with the deity."
    Bridget McKenzie, a cultural learning consultant, does daily walking meditations. "It's about making time to contemplate the awesomeness of life on earth, the extraordinary luck this planet has in sustaining life."
    She is not a pagan but for the summer solstice organises a Garlic Man Parade in south east London to reconnect with ancient traditions. "We all sense changes in the light as the seasons change. It's important to mark the occasion."
    Colin Beckley, director of the Meditation Trust, says the only true spiritual experience is silence. "Transcendence is often triggered by nature like being on a mountainside. But by learning to meditate you can bring that mountain experience to your flat in London."
    Deb Hoy a practising reiki master says that by laying hands on someone according to reiki tradition a profound change can take place. "I lie in my bed and by placing my hands on different parts of the body can rebalance the energy flow of my body."
    It's a physical healing practice that promotes calmness and a sense of connection with the world, she says.
    Giles Terera, an actor, is not religious but is moved by everyday experiences. "When I'm abroad I love going to a church and sitting there. As much as I disagree with some of the things the Catholic Church has done, there's something very beautiful about the architecture and all the effort that that has been gone to. It's probably the same for all sacred spaces."
    But for some, spirituality is a byword for irrational beliefs and a sense that anything goes.
    The comedian David Mitchell mocked the tendency, writing a column imagining a spiritual summer camp. "From reflexology to astrology, from ghosts to homeopathy, from wheat intolerance to 'having a bad feeling about this', we'll be celebrating all the wild and wonderful sets of conclusions to which people the world over are jumping to fill the gap left by the retreat of organised religion."
    Alan Miller, director of the thinkers' forum NY Salon, wrote that "'spiritual but not religious' offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind".
    Another group of people likely to be dismissive towards the "spiritual but not religious" mindset might come from organised religion.
    "People have wanted to see how they fit into the big picture, which is really fantastic," says Brian Draper, associate member of faculty at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. But there's a smorgasbord-like array of beliefs and many are built on "pseudo-science", he argues.
    "I don't just choose spirituality as a lifestyle choice to enhance what's there, there's an element of self sacrifice to Christianity. The danger is you use spirituality as a pick and mix from consumer culture."
    Humanists are deadlocked over the issue of the "spiritual" category. Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, accepts that for many people it's a shorthand for saying "there must be more to life than this". But he finds its vagueness unhelpful.
    "It can be used for everything from the full Catholic mass to whale songs, crystals, angels and fairies." As a humanist he prefers to avoid spirituality.
    Humanism is about the belief "that human beings find value in the here and now rather than in something above and beyond". "People have social instincts and as a humanist it's about reinforcing those instincts," he explains.
    The search for meaning can be exhausting. Philosopher Julian Baggini writes in The Shrink & the Sage that there is a yearning for something more. "My short reply is that you can yearn for higher as much as you like, but what you're yearning for ain't there. But the desire won't go away."
    That doesn't make it a bad thing, Vernon says. But it may lead to awkward questions. And that may explain why the research finds that spiritual people have more mental health problems.
    "You're going on an interior mental journey. It's risky to go and try and see things from a bigger perspective. The promise is tremendous but the journey can be very painful."
    By Tom De Castella