Sunday, May 8, 2011

The many wonders of the brain: a book review of sorts

Someone contacted me recently, asking help for a family member who had been suffering extreme depression during the past six months.  She explained that this woman had seen a number of therapists, had been hospitalized after trying to commit suicide, and was presently living with round-the-clock supervision, since she was unable to adequately take care of daily tasks.  The woman who contacted me lives in another state, and she heard my work from another person (a “six degrees of separation” type of thing!).  She said she was willing to try anything, but she was skeptical that Rapid Resolution Therapy would help.  This is common for most people, so I didn’t think much of it.  But what struck me most was how “in the dark” people are about mental health.  I mentioned in a previous newsletter that even the National Institute of Mental Health has said “that there is no cure for anxiety.“

Having recently finished Norman Doidges’s The Brain that Changes Itself, I see that there is no longer any question of the brain’s adaptation to experience, both rewarding and challenging.  Study upon study, as demonstrated in the chapters of the book, show very clearly how the brain rewires and adapts to the experiences the individual encounters.  From retraining the brain to acquire movement after a stroke, to reorganizing the brain so that blind people learn to see and autistic children learn to speak and interact*, the book is, without a doubt, required reading for anyone interested in the mind.  (I particularly liked the part about how imagining lifting weights strengthens the muscles of the arms almost as much as actually lifting the weights!)

RRT works precisely because of its ability to reorganize the mind.  As is repeated over and over again in neuroplasticity lingo, “neurons that fire together, wire together.”  By looking at things in a different way, we automatically draw our minds toward that and, in doing so, automatically rewire our brains.  An alcoholic thinks about the joys of alcohol all the time, so his/her brain is wired in that way.   Reorganizing the mind to no longer focus on alcohol, for instance, we are rewiring the brain.  A corollary to the above statement is that “neurons that fire apart wire apart.”  So when we get the client’s brain to no longer find alcohol appealing, we are changing the map of the brain, changing how the neurons interact with each other.  

The book is readable, interesting and highly entertaining. Whatever opinions I may have of it don’t nearly do justice to the actual studies that are cited or to the conclusions that are drawn.  My only disappointment is that nowhere does the author refer to Jon Connelly or to Rapid Resolution Therapy.  I’ll have to email him about that….

*I worked with a young man with Aspergers, which is thought of as a high-functioning autism.  He was brilliant (on his way to a prestigious law school) but lacked even the most basic of social skills.  I saw him twice.  His mother called two weeks later to thank me for the wonderful change she'd seen in her son.  Whereas he rarely spoke to anyone, he was now flirting with a waitress at a restaurant; whereas he hated talking on the phone with his critical, impatient grandmother, he was recently chatting with her about his life and inquiring about his aunts and uncles and cousins.  His mind and brain were now working in a useful way!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Interesting news from the brain science front

The term neuroplasticity seems to be everywhere these days.  Or at least everywhere I’ve been.  So what is it?  And what’s so new about it?  Neuroplasticity is the notion that the brain is always forming, all throughout life.  The neural networks in the brain change and adapt in response to new information it's receiving.  Whereas previously, people thought that the brain stopped forming after childhood, new studies have shown that this is not the case at all and, in fact, people are always learning new things.  Every time we learn something new, the brain changes in such a way that new pathways are created.  The brain basically rewires itself in this new way when we are doing something productive (aerobic exercise, learning a new language, doing those brain teasers that we used to do as kids).  And just as the brain rewires and grows as we learn new things, it shuts down when we are feeling stuck; when we’re depressed, or sad or worried those neural pathways not ony stop forming, but they actually break down.  In the language of Rapid Resolution Therapy, we could say that brain growth happens automatically when the camera lens is pointed out, when we are curious and interested in what's out there.  In contrast, when the camera  lens is pointed in, when those painful emotions are causing us to be introspective, the brain shuts down and even deteriorates.

Now, what’s so new about this?  I don’t know.  I’ve always told my clients who said that their problems were due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, or to something having to do with the neurotransmitters in the brain, that every experience we go through changes the make-up of the brain.  I never had any scientific proof to back this up, but it just made sense to me.  It made sense that if someone is traumatized from having served in Vietnam, then their brain structure was different than others who didn't share that experience.  It also, then, made sense that if someone were at the wedding of a good friend,  or witnessed a child being born, that that too would change the structure of their brain.  Now, listening to Norman Doidge, Daniel Siegal, Bill O’Hanlan and others talk about this, it’s all coming  together in a clear, scientific format that’s both informative and easy to understand.  The implications for applying the results of  neuroplasticity research in practice are tremendous and exciting.  To learn ways to actually grow the brain way into adulthood and beyond is very interesting indeed.

For more information on neuroplasticity, I encourage you to visit or any of the links above.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who wants a cookie?

It's always impressed me that this work I do is so incredibly rewarding and energizing.  Instantly.  It's instantly rewarding and energizing.  I saw a man today for an hour.  He had been robbed at gunpoint at the store where he worked.  It happened a week ago, but it was still bothering him.  So he told me what happened, then he told me again, then he told me backwards, then he told me in jumbled up sentences while I sprinkled some humor into it (something about the cookies the robbers took from the cookie rack), and by the time we were done he was laughing.  "I'm not scared anymore," he said.  "It's done.  It's over.  And I don't have a headache anymore.  My headache was constant since the incident, but I don't have one anymore.  Wow, this is different than what I expected."  His mind was now clear.  He had been suffering with fears and anxieties and headaches for a week, and after about 30 or 40 minutes, he was clear. 

We spent the next 20 minutes wondering whether the cookies were chocolate chip ,oatmeal or peanut butter.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hypnosis and De-hypnosis

What is hypnosis?
This is one of the more interesting questions I get from people.  Before I learned about it I, like most people, saw hypnosis as something that was kind of silly, something that made susceptible people act like a chicken or swing from a chandelier.  It wasn’t until I really learned about it that I came to respect and value hypnosis.
Hypnosis is about responsiveness.  Yawning when someone else yawns or crying at the sad part of a movie are both examples of profound hypnosis.  People are often conscious of the fact that they’re yawning or conscious of the fact that they’re crying, but they don’t do anything to cause the yawn or the tears.  They are simply responding to what is going on. 
Hypnosis, then, is the automatic response to an environmental occurrence. 
A woman I once saw, “Robin,” was convinced that she was ugly, and unworthy of others’ attention.  On the outside, she was beautiful.  She was 5’7” tall, about a size 4, with beautiful, long, naturally blond hair.  She held an MBA and was the CEO of a prominent company.  Men flocked to her.  The problem was clearly not in finding people.  The problem was in the way she viewed herself.   She saw herself as so undesirable, that whenever anyone tried to get close to her, she assumed they were only feeling sorry for her. 
As a little girl, she had been happy, go-lucky.  She had lots of friends and enjoyed going to school and to dance classes.   Then when she was 9 years old, she was raped by her next door neighbor.  He had lured her to the backyard, asking for her help in finding his lost puppy.  She was more than happy to help, as she had met the puppy the day before and knew how adorable it was.   When the neighbor was done, he zipped up his pants and told her that what just happened was a secret between the two of them.  He instructed her not to tell anyone.  He moved shortly after that, and she never saw him again.
She spent the next 20 years wondering why he did that.  She said he wasn’t mean or physically forceful.  His words were just very persuasive, as he told her how beautiful she was and how lucky he was to find such a wonderful girl.  If he loved her, then why did he leave?  Did she say or do something wrong?  She also felt dirty and ashamed.  She knew that what he did was wrong, but she assumed she must have done something to cause him to do that to her.  She was very confused.  She eventually told her college roommate about what happened, and she got counseling for it.  The counselor told her what the neighbor did was wrong, that it was a crime.   Then she felt bad, that she should have known better and she should have stopped him.   At the least, she should have told her parents or reported it to the police.   Now she was wondering if there was something wrong with her that she didn’t report it.  Either way, she was feeling guilty and dirty.  She avoided men after that, because she was convinced of her “badness.” 
In this scenario, it can be seen that hypnosis happens at the point of traumatic impact.  Robin’s mind was clear before the incident, but something happened that whacked it out of alignment.  It became foggy and distorted as a result of this whack.  Although the incident was no longer happening, and although many years had gone by, the emotions from the traumatic event stayed with her.  The ghost from this event was being dragged into her everyday relationships and sense of self.
That’s what hypnosis is.  It is an automatic response to something that’s going on.  When the event is disturbing, and the response is similarly troubling, the work that is required aims to disappear the troubling thoughts and feelings and to restore clarity. 
There’s stuff that goes on in life, and then there’s how the mind responds to that stuff.  We usually can’t do anything about the stuff, especially when it’s stuff that has happened in the past or stuff that other people are doing, but we can do something about how the mind responds to the stuff.  I reorganize how the mind responds to the stuff so it’s responding in the way that’s desired.  Another way of saying this is to change the way the person looks at things, and the things he/she looks at change. 
How do I do this?  The part of the mind that gets all distorted and causes people to feel bad is the deeper part of the mind.  It’s the part of the mind where we feel and think automatically.  People don’t choose to feel depressed or ashamed or guilty; it just happens automatically.  Deeper part of the mind responds really well to symbols, so I talk to people using metaphors and picture words, in ways that make sense, so that they “get it.”  The method is Rapid Resolution Therapy, and it works better than any other type of therapy I’ve seen.   The results are quick, efficient and life-changing.  Practitioners using Rapid Resolution Therapy have eliminated drug and alcohol cravings, emotional disturbances from traumatic events, lowered levels of chronic pain, eliminated feelings of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.  Clients I worked with years ago still tell me how wonderful they feel.  I feel truly honored to be one of those practitioners, and I welcome questions from anyone who may be similarly interested.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stop the Nonsense

The surge of violence in the Middle East has brought to my attention the behavior of frustrated and angry citizens.  I know I already blogged a little about Egypt, but I find the whole thing fascinating, watching history unfold before my very eyes.  Kind of like when the Berlin Wall came down, or when the Soviet Union ended.  Lots of stuff is going on now, but my focus at the moment is on the anger and violence, and how it’s being played out. I see anger and violence in a way that is clear to me and to many of my colleagues in rapid resolution therapy, but perhaps not so clear to others.  What causes anger?  And what causes violence?  The two are related, and I would like to offer a way of understanding them: that violence is an aggressive force, stemming from anger,   used to elicit a response.  That’s my official definition, for now.  And the response that violence is looking for is always the same, to make sense of whatever is going on.

The mind is always trying to make sense of the world.  In the years that I’ve been doing RRT, I’ve learned that you can’t make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.  You just can’t.  And when the mind can’t make sense of what’s going on, the automatic responses are always anger and frustration.  I’ve seen it over and over again.  Anger and frustration is in response to trying to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.  Now this is the tricky part:  when people accept that their environment doesn’t make sense, and when they (or what they value) do not feel threatened by those around them, they are fine.

But when an illogical, nonsensical environment is no longer tolerable, violence comes in.  In making my previous definition even more exact, I am going to define violence as a forceful attempt to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.  

When we look at violence like this, it may make be more clear.  Whether or not we agree with violence doesn’t matter.  But when we can understand it as a person’s, or a group’s, attempt to make sense of something, it may shed light on better ways to communicate with others.  Or, as rapid resolution therapy would put it, to connect with others.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Contact Information

My office is located at:

Wildewood Professional Park
3657 Cortez Road W., Suite 130
Bradenton, FL  34210


Monday, February 7, 2011

Symbols that Unify

Someone asked me if Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT) is “all I do.”  This person had known me years ago, when I was working at a community mental health clinic, when I was trying to help my clients by listening and offering advice.   That was before I even knew about RRT, let alone incorporated it so completely into my life.  I explained that RRT is a technique, yes, but it’s also a way of understanding people’s thoughts, actions and behaviors.  It’s a way of understanding that makes sense, that’s clear.
The mind is always trying to make sense of the world, always trying to understand it in a clear and logical way.  Everything that we do is an attempt to make sense of the world, to create clarity from chaos.

So how does it do that?  How does the mind create order and sense from what appears to be illogical and irrational?  By discarding the nonsense and revealing the wisdom.  By minimizing what doesn't make sense and illuminating what does make sense.  And how is that communicated to others?  Largely by symbols.  Here's an example:

Khaled Said.  How many Americans know his name?  Or his face?  Khaled Said was an ordinary Egyptian businessman who, tired of the corruption in Egyptian law enforcement, videotaped some policemen using drugs.  He posted his video on the internet.  A little while later while sitting in a cafĂ©, he was approached by the police, hauled off and beaten to death.  His name and the picture of his bloody face at the morgue became symbols of what sparked the recent revolution in Egypt—with a little help from Facebook, of course.  He represents, as the Egyptians have said, all of them.  He was just a regular guy who was tired of the corruption which was so common in his society.  The way he was looking at it,  exposing the corruption in such an open way would help to get rid of it, to clean it up.

And he was right.  This present revolution in Egypt is an attempt to create clarity from chaos.

The deeper part of the mind responds so well to symbols.  Meanings are attached to those symbols, so strongly that the meanings themselves don’t even have to be articulated anymore.  The swish mark for Nike, the golden arches for McDonald’s, the cross for Christianity—those are all symbols that need no linguistic explanation.

And for Egyptians, as well as for much of the world, the picture of Khaled Said’s face says it all.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Complex Trauma and human trafficking

I spoke last week at the Florida Association of Women Lawyers’ day-long seminar on human trafficking.  I had prepared thoroughly for the talk, and I was honored to present on this all-too-common crime.  Women and children, primarily, are trafficked every day into the United States from all over, for both labor and for sex.  Actually, statistics indicate that 70% of trafficked women and children are forced into the sex trade—in prostitution, brothels, sex slavery.  People are trafficked into every town, every city, every state, every country, mostly from developing countries into developed countries, but not always.  One 12 year old girl from right here in Sarasota, FL was taken to Mexico and forced into drugs and prostitution, until she was rescued three years later.

A question I heard over and over again at the seminar was, “how come I didn’t know about this?”  The reason is because human trafficking is an underground business.  The victims are hidden in plain sight, so to speak.  They are told not to reveal their identity, not to speak of their living conditions or any other information that might give away their status as victims or the status of their perpetrators.  All identifying information is taken from them, and the perpetrators tell them that either they or their families will be greatly harmed if they ever disclose their conditions.

Human trafficking is truly horrifying.

What was also really interesting, I found, was how every facet of the trafficked individual’s being is affected as a result of human trafficking.  The new diagnosis of Complex Trauma, which is supposed to come out in the DSM-V (whenever that will be), refers to the affects of interpersonal traumas, multiple traumas over a prolonged period of time.  It refers to people in concentration camps, living in a war zone, in forced prostitution, human trafficking and ethnic cleansing, among other heinous conditions.  The individual suffers emotionally, behaviorally, physiologically and perceptually, so it may be seen how it is a wrap-around condition.

Luckily, not all victims of human trafficking are scarred for life.  Many do in fact go on to lead productive, even stellar, lives.  Somaly Mam is one of them.  She is a Cambodian woman who was sold into prostitution when she was 12 years old by a supposed “grandfather.”  She was kept in deplorable conditions, beaten and raped daily, tortured and punished constantly.  When she finally did escape, she decided to work to save others who were taken by kidnappers and human traffickers.   She founded the Somaly Mam Foundation (, which has homes/shelters all over the world for women who have escaped such torturous experiences.

For those women who do not fare as well, however, there is Rapid Resolution Therapy to create clarity and understanding.  People like Somaly Mam can talk about their experiences as information about their past, without the emotional attachment.  That is the end result of RRT, and by disappearing those disturbing emotions, they end up with clarity and strength.