Friday, June 10, 2005

Welcome Back!

Well, technically, I guess I'm welcoming myself back into the blogging business. First, some housekeeping. Blogspot has changed a few things. For example, they now allow comments. I was paying Squawkbox for this, but now I'm going to try the one included with this service. The old posts retain the old squawkbox code, even though I took that out of the html code in the template. I'll keep messing with the settings till it works.

Wow, that was an exciting first paragraph after such a long absence! I'll add one more...what the HELL is going on with this site? I have a hit counter at bottom. It is run by Microsoft, who took over bcentral. I can no longer access the account to get stats and I'd actually like a different one if anyone can suggest one. In any event, I have received FAR MORE HITS when I was NOT PUBLISHING anything than I ever did when I was actively writing. What are you folks trying to tell me?

So what happened to me? I've been caught up in my own affairs, though these affairs have interesting and disturbing political aspects to them as well (more on that anon). I've also felt rather burned out, as if there's really not much hope for changing the course of this train wreck of history we all seem to be riding together. I still feel that way, actually, but if there is hope, or even if there's not, we might as well be together for the ride.

Okley dokley, let's see if you can wrap your mind around all this. As old readers, and you five know who you are, will know, my wife was undergoing mysterious psychological difficulties. She's been hospitalized twice. When we finally figured out what was going on, and by "we" I mean she and I, as her own therapist didn't catch it, it was rather jarring.

The clue was when she admitted that she was hearing voices in her head and that these voices were adament she not disclose their existence to anyone. Some of them laughed at her and said mean things. You might have thought schizophrenia, but these internalized voices are more typical of another diagnosis: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder.

You can read about it if you would like. One of my favorite sites is this one Linkwhich is for significant others of those who have this condition.

And you couldn't pick a more controversial, politically charged condition to have. The basic idea is that childhood trauma causes some people to "dissociate". We all do it to an extent, such as while driving or just "zoning out". For some, the trauma is severe enough that these dissociative states take on their own "identity" and assume different functions separate from the main personality. These others are often called "alters" or "insiders".

Are these others "real"? Are they truly separate personalities? That issue will have to wait for another day, as I don't think you could get two psychologists to agree on exactly what constitutes an individual personality or whether such a thing as a unified self exists at all, much less multiple selves. So we won't ask that question for now. It's fascinating one, however.

Now, you know this is possible. Why? You've all seen sideshow hypnotists. In a hypnotic state, a person does or says some things that he or she can't remember upon waking. Perhaps the person has been given a post-hypnotic suggestion to act on some instructions they don't remember receiving when a signal is given. Think of dissociative states induced by trauma as similar to hypnotic trance, only with other dynamics at work.

Why is all this so darkly political? Several reasons. First is the debate over the idea of "recovered memories", memories of traumatic events that are repressed until recalled much later. Critics (and we'll get at who these critics are in a minute) suggest that this memory recovery is nonsense. Traumatic memories, they suggest, are remembered better than everyday events. "Recovered memories" in their view are planted or created during the therapy process, particularly when hypnosis is applied. These so-called memories are usually false and the people being accused of abuse based on these memories are the real victims.

Naturally, a few salient facts are overlooked in this criticism. One fact is that many of these recovered memories are recovered spontaneously, without the aid of hypnosis or even therapy. Either as part of the healing process or simply a result of a sensory "trigger" that brought forward the buried memory, people recover memories of earlier trauma all the time.

Secondly, while one can argue that hypnosis and dissociation are distinct phenomena, nevertheless one can point to hypnosis as an example of a process that allows memories to be created which can only be accessed under certain conditions.

Thirdly, there are studies that support this recovered memory process as being a real phenomenon. Here's a whole page of such studies.

In fact, the main force behind this "debunking" of recoverd memories is an organization called the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. There are some rather disturbing folks involved in this foundation and I won't get into all of them here but I'll mention just one: Martin Orne. Orne was considered one of the leading authorities on hypnotism and as such was well aware that states of consciousness can be induced that can lead all kinds of information to be "hidden" from the conscious mind. Hey, wouldn't that be handy for government work? Sure would and Orne was involved with CIA research in project "Bluebird" in which the government was looking at creating "Manchurian Candidates" who could carry out missions of which their conscious minds remain ignorant. You can read about him in the book, Bluebird by Colin Ross. Dr. Ross is considered an authority on Dissociative Identity Disorder and used the freedom of information act to gather the information in the book. It's not well written, often more of a list than a narrative, and Ross has some weird need to constantly assert that he's not criticizing the CIA but merely the psychiatric community, but it's a starting point. You can read a summary of his book here.

Much of what Ross found with his FOIA requests had to do with using hypnotism to create these Manchurian Candidates. However, there are indications that the CIA was interested in full fledged multiple personalities and may have resorted to abuse in order to create such personalities in their "subjects."

Now, let me back up. We are almost certain that this is NOT what happened to my wife, but it shows the murky waters into which we wade. In any event, the evidence is clear that the CIA believed in and attempted to exploit this poorly understood aspect of human consciousness. It is curious, then, that Orne and others with similar connections, figure prominently in the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Orne himself certainly knew such states were possible. To be fair, his classified work probably also indicated that people could be made to believe false things had happened. Hell, a sideshow hypnotist can make you remember "riding a chicken". So I don't discount the fact that false memories can be implanted.

But saying that false memories can be implanted is not the same thing as saying all recovered memories are false. This, however, is the logic that is employed by those in the FSMF.

I've oversimplified the debate, I suppose, but check out the links yourself. We have darker waters still to navigate. Waters so dark that I, as cynical as I am, didn't really credit their validity. That is, until Hunter S. Thompson died. And that, dear reader, will be the topic of my next posting.

Thanks for hanging in with me during this hiatus.


Blogger Ty said...

This is just a test. Feel free to post comments if this feature is working correctly!

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

Can't wait to hear your take on Hunter S. Thompson... [ties to child molestation/snuff/porn ring which include elite political figureheads? Suicide or made-to-look-like-a suicide?]

...wrote some great books though...

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Finally. Welcome back Ty,

10:14 PM  

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