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Old 23-08-2007, 02:08 PM   #1
Barrett Dorko
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Default We're looking for a movement

“We’re looking for a movement”

Soma Simple as an Emergent Phenomenon

“With only a few minds exploring a given problem the cells remain disconnected, meandering across the screen as isolated units, leaving no trace of their progress – like an essay published in a journal but sits unread. But plug more minds into the system and give their work an identifiable trail and before long the system arrives at a phase transition: isolated hunches and private obsessions coalesce into a new way of looking at the world, shared by thousands of individuals.”

From Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software by Steven Johnson

Early in my workshop, after I’ve explained that those who suffer from mechanical deformation are our patients I say, “We’re looking for a movement,” and then I pause. I repeat this, and then I pause again.

To me, this is an important moment. It’s important because this movement is what the rest of the day will be about. In fact, most of therapy for pain relief revolves around this movement and what we hope it will produce. Movement is the fundamental issue for most therapists, and many spend their careers looking for it without ever finding it. “If we strip therapy down to this,” I say, “we can agree that movement is not only the thing that brings us together, it is also the thing that divides us.”

Now aside from what I mean by all of that (and I’m not certain I can explain it entirely), I’ve begun to realize that what I’m doing is stripping away many layers of therapeutic practice that depend upon all sorts of things aside from human motion. These things aren’t unimportant, but, to me, they are all secondary to the movement that corrects. Without that, well, effective therapy is hard to come by.

In the book by Johnson referenced above the author begins by speaking of how altering our way of looking at systems can illuminate aspects of their functioning that would never be discovered otherwise. Johnson is especially interested in what he calls the “bottom up” perspective. What that is and implies about instinctive movement will be the subject of a future post, but right now I’d like to invite those interested to take a look at the book, or, better yet, listen to the podcast from Radio Lab on Emergence found here.

I’m not certain where this thread is headed, but that’s probably best.
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Old 26-08-2007, 02:04 PM   #2
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Early in Johnson’s book, and in the recommended podcast as well, E.O. Wilson’s work with ants is spoken of extensively. As it happens, the first slide I show to my classes contains a quote from this amazing scientist.

Many years ago Wilson approached his subject in an entirely new way and the end result of that investigation transformed our understanding of biology. His intricate and minute dissection of the ant’s internal organs revealed a method of communication, the pheromone, which led to an even greater appreciation of instinctive behavior.

By approaching things in this way – from the deepest layers and then toward the more superficial – Wilson discovered that an ant society was a manifestation of a “bottom up” logic. What drove the hive’s behavior wasn’t the command of a leader, but rather a vast accumulation of behaviors driven by the survival instinct. Taken individually each of these makes no obvious sense but when combined and then placed in the mix with a sufficient number of common species, the hive is essentially unstoppable.

Hang on. Manual therapy and Soma Simple are in here somewhere.

Let’s start with this: Six years ago I wrote this here, “For reasons that I’m hoping we can discuss openly here, physical therapy procedures for painful problems have rarely contained a reasoning that “traveled in the opposite direction” as is so clearly explained by Wilson. Instead, they commonly employ a “from the outside in” method of thinking that ignores the full reality of painful sensation. Instead of considering the subtle brain chemistries that might contribute to something like central sensitization, they look at the muscular activity evident to palpation and make all kinds of assumptions about its meaning without actually considering the many contributions of the nervous system and its vast chemistry. Therapy without such careful and well informed thought is little more than personal training, and poorly done personal training at that. I think that this is how we’ve arrived where you see us today; clinics where people in pain have their exercises counted for them by somebody other than a PT, and no real time is ever spent in unique and personal caring for individual problems. Protocols developed for generic problems (there is hardly such a thing) for all “typical” patients (no such thing) drive the system.

A movement in our thinking toward Consilience would change this drastically, and that’s what this discussion is truly about. (more about the concept of consilience here)

A question: If an intelligent, alien life form were to carefully observe the human animal as Wilson suggests, much in the same way we have studied ants, would they be surprised to see patients in pain given strengthening exercises and little else for their problems?"

Note: Those who are attempting to follow this thread without registering are going to struggle with your lack of access to archived material and links aside from that.
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:56 PM   #3
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I’ve left this thread empty for a while. Not because I’ve nothing more to say, but because I couldn’t figure out how to say it in a sequence that would display the connection between emergent phenomena, therapeutic practice and Soma Simple.

Ironically, this is precisely the sort of problem that the nature of emergence will solve on its own. Consider this from the Wikipedia entry for Emergence: In philosophy, systems theory and the sciences, emergence refers to the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Like intelligence in the field of AI, or agents in distributed artificial intelligence, emergence is central to the physics of complex systems and yet very controversial.

Small things assemble, none of which is especially impressive alone. Given some time and sufficient numbers they began to behave as a whole, sentient, intelligent entity and thus affect others that come near enough in some way.

Steven Johnson demonstrates how ants, the computer game Sim City and embryos are all wonderful examples of this and how each are best understood from the inside out as E. O. Wilson demonstrated. This is a "hierarchical reductionism." It is the notion that complex systems can be described with a hierarchy of organizations, each of which can only be described in terms of objects one level down in the hierarchy. (Thank you Wikipedia!)

What does this sort of thinking imply about the respect many have for the concept of “holism”? What is it about the nature of Soma Simple’s growth that brings emergence to mind?

More soon.
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Old 04-09-2007, 04:59 AM   #4
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Conway's Game of Life may be helpful in developing some understanding.
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Old 07-09-2007, 01:59 PM   #5
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Default Will Wright's Vision

Again, a long silence to think. Jon’s link, as always, is right on point.

Steven Johnson seems to have a fascination for the legendary computer programmer and game designer Will Wright. I say this because he previously wrote of Wright’s work in the book Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter reviewed by me here.

Wright’s work speaks for itself, but its major diversion from virtually all other forms of computer gaming is the emergent nature of the worlds they create. You don’t win or lose when playing; you just grow in various ways. In fact, “play” isn’t an adequate term for what you do. You participate. And it is the unique nature of individual participation that determines to a large extent what eventually emerges.

See where I’m going with this?

How are human movement, therapy practice and Soma Simple connected to all of this?
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Old 07-09-2007, 03:41 PM   #6
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Having read lately about oscillators in the brain, their self-organization, spontaneous arising, complete automaticity at an individual level, yet strangely, when combined, their exquisite sensitivity to each other and capacity to notice and respond to their environment, then restore themselves... how all of this operates within each of us like a giant creative biological clockwork....
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How are human movement, therapy practice and Soma Simple connected to all of this?
... I'd say that they allow (intra- and inter-personal) capacities to develop and self-reinforce - as long as dumbing down is not always provided as the main dish. (It's easy for that to happen in PT.. most seem to dive for recipe rather than mental rigor, equating "better" with "more efficient" to "strengthening the profession", seem to not have gotten bored yet. Not realizing that they dampen the oscillators when they do that.)
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Old 08-09-2007, 01:00 AM   #7
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Perhaps a review of the beginnings of SS is useful.
It was created by Bernard to fill a gap left by the demise of NOI in 2004; the site started with only three PTs, as many sites do.
From the start, it was designed to be different from other sites, with broad-ranging topics and a strong focus on neuroscience.

Participation was low as posters tested the water; many found it not to their liking, but for some, something went 'ping' as the topics expanded.

Those who looked and stayed away probably felt it was too 'strange' to participate in, when there were other sites which catered for well-recognised wants, rather than needs.

Then the drift away from other sites began, with strong individual participation. The SS Somasimple was starting to net the fish it was searching for, but on radar there were whole schools of fish out there it was missing. The emphasis remained on self-learning with some guidance, with an expectation that people appreciated the need for self-initiation of personal and professional growth; this was a high expectation that has only been partially successful.

A desire to elicit human movement in a non-coercive way has always been a tenet of the site. Appropriate manual therapy does this. It is the definition of appropriate therapy with the interests of the patient in mind, rather than those of the therapist. The interests of the patient have been interpreted as getting the body better; the missing fish have focused too long on this aspect, swimming around looking for more details on body bits and pieces, instead of dining on the cargoes in the hold of the ship.

So Somasimple has been a movement to capture those fish, in terms of thoughtful therapy which lurks in the holds.


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Old 08-09-2007, 01:47 AM   #8
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Like ants after finding a good source of sugar, SomaSimplers surely must be secreting 'cybernetic pheromones' over the internet and in their behaviors at work, which will influence the behavior of other therapists and ultimately how people around the world behave in response to pain, and hopefully it's for the better. Though individually, we may be no more cognizant of the effect our actions have on the emerging phenomenon than a common worker ant.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:24 PM   #9
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All wonderful and accurate insights. Though the moderators collectively (ironic, huh?) refer to Soma Simple as some sort of ship, and I like that, as Eric says it is more akin to an ant colony.

In relation to movement therapy, we often pursue and try to understand the smallest motions first and, of course, the brain events that precede them.

There's a line from Cold Mountain about the way we have of looking at things. I'll have to go home to find it.

Back soon.
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:37 PM   #10
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Found it.

You learned the mountains and where you stood in relation to each other, and then you filled in the details, general to particular. To live fully in a place you kept aiming smaller and smaller in attention to detail.

From Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Eventually therapists learn that thriving in the clinic is not a matter of skill or strength or even the length of time you’ve been there. It’s a matter of how you choose to see it as you move with attention and awareness. I think Frazier’s allusion to “from the general to the particular and back again” is about how the emergent qualities of nature are seen at both the largest and smallest scales. Ignoring either is a mistake.

More soon.
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Old 11-09-2007, 09:25 PM   #11
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Default Jumping into the organism

I went strolling through the old threads today (Stuck in the airport with little else to do) and found one begun by our friend and brand new moderator, Nick Matheson. It’s here, titled Ideomotion and Intention.

Jon provides a wonderful link and Luke chimes in with some information about the anatomical origins of various movements. Nari, Diane, Emad and Bernard all contribute one way or another. I'm there briefly. It’s a common thread on Soma Simple; direct and clear, perfectly relevant to clinical practice and perfectly cognizant of what modern neuroscience has to say about whatever we’re discussing.

It’s not mysterious in any way for those of us who have been willing to live here as we have and, like every other useful track (like E. O. Wilson’s pheromones) we know what else it might be connected to. When Jon says “…sensorimotor movement (is) teleomatic and ideomotion (is) telenomic. Volitional behavior would be teleological…” I know to go to my review of Into The Cool here to make sense of this.

The thing is, the people populating the thread are the ones who’ve been willing to build the anthill, as it were, and those only lurking will never understand it as we can until they dive in, grab something they’ve found and drag it around for a while. Only then can they see “the particular” that forms and ultimately contributes significantly to “the general.”

Too often, therapists stay at one end of the spectrum or the other, typically, the clinician with the large view and the academic with the microscope. And how well has that worked for us?

We need, all of us, to join into the emergent phenomenon that practice can be, that the study of the body must be and, I think, what a place like Soma Simple inevitably becomes.

My question: What is so frightening about joining into the organism as it grows?
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Old 12-09-2007, 03:36 AM   #12
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Quote:
What is so frightening about joining into the organism as it grows?
I don't have an answer for you, but I like the question. I've been googling and as usual am astounded by the amount of sites out there devoted to this topic. Here's one I think you might like. It describes how emergent behavior might be designed by manipulating (sorry Diane) the agents of emergence.
Agents and Emergence by James Odell
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Old 12-09-2007, 03:52 AM   #13
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Here's another interesting site to browse, from Mitchel Resnic a researcher who attempts to engage people in learning activities with things like this; an Active Essay exploring emergence. He also wrote a book titled Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams that looks like it would be interesting for a motivated reader.
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Old 12-09-2007, 07:22 AM   #14
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Quote:
What is so frightening about joining into the organism as it grows?
Joining in on a conversation as opposed to lurking requires extraordinary courage. You must put yourself out there with the potential for criticism. The potential discomfort is likely a large factor.

Attaching oneself to a growing organism may also be quite scary if one is not quite sure if the growth of the organism is a good thing or not. Determining that this organism's growth is a good thing requires an understanding of what is spoken of here and that takes some work. The amount of work alone could also prove a burden that prevents the leap from lurker to poster. Not an excusable one, but one nonetheless. This says nothing of the discomfort of dissonance that often will accompany this burden.

For those brave souls who post, despite the work, despite the uncomfortable dissonance, I think that courage grows as does understanding. I know that my growth of understanding is directly linked to the amount of active participation I bring and the expression it allows.
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Old 12-09-2007, 09:39 AM   #15
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Something that I thought about this evening on this topic is that emergence is constantly happening, in organisms, at a biological/evolutionary level. But little or nothing can survive without an environment that is friendly, i.e., a niche that is supportive, a good supply of available raw material from which to extract necessary energy to grow, some sort of recognition that it is good to "eat" coupled with capacity to "digest" it, utilize it.

Lots of biological "emergences" die on the vine, so to speak.. Lots of cool morphological forms that would go on to become a seed for a new species just don't make it, because their mutations are fatal instead of enhancing in the impoverished or hostile environment in which they occur.

The difference here on SS, is that this emergence is social, not biological: it also happens to be a social emergence which has as its basis, a 'friendly' attitude toward biology and the rapid advance of this branch of science (more a tree with many branches), that we work with for real in people every day. Certainly there exists much fodder for thought. No shortage of that.. more than one person could ever hope to absorb and still have a life treating patients.

The other part of the "environment" or situation in which we find this socially emergent group is the hostility of the rest of the profession (in which most of us are embedded) toward any ideas that exist outside of A-level "certainty", the refusal of many of the more entrenched and vocal members to face any sort of necessary change, or relinquishment of any space. If we want space for this little collective emergence, we have to take it some day. I guess that means, at least in part, growing some thickness of hide and not being afraid to stick up for ourselves or give any ground we already have. As humans with minds. Learning to use them. Separately and collectively, and sometimes in defiance of what passes for status quo. Which isn't hard, since the others seem to require a much more restrictive mental "diet". Specialists, like pandas or koalas. At the moment the pandas and koalas of our profession seem to be inexhaustible, and the supply of bamboo and eucalyptus endless, but things change. They always change.

My prediction is that we'll have to wait awhile for the forces that be, to shift. But when they do, we will already be "emerged", already chubbed up from all the new info that is continuously pumped out on a daily basis, and ready to take up our space, ready to influence the profession in a new way toward more coherence between cognition, awareness of biology, and practice that reflects it.

I don't know if this makes sense to anyone else - at the moment it's a very conflated metaphor, but I thought it needed to "emerge" even if it was awkward and convoluted. Cheers.
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Old 12-09-2007, 11:36 AM   #16
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Cory, I like your reference towards trusting the organism to be benign and useful to the greater good. I think that is important, especially when it's a newly evolved organism still feeling its oats.

What is frightening about joining the organism as it grows?
Perhaps, a concern that there will be criticism which may be hard to defend, especially in a PT world where there isn't much evidence around that can be staunchly defended against any challenge.

Perhaps, too, a cautious approach is safer: read, learn, think but stay out of any challenges. That could mean no posting. Even a nicely put challenge may disrupt the carpet under one's feet. If one is looking for a change of carpet, however, then it doesn't matter in the least that shibboleths are tumbling. No-one can be shaken by lurking. It's safe.

OK, there are some reasons why folks lurk.

All I can suggest is that entering anthills or deep oceans or into whatever other metaphors have emerged over 3.5 years, is an experience well worth any perceived risks. After all, if one doesn't like the heat, metaphorically or otherwise, one can always leave the kitchen.
But at least, go into the kitchen, open a window and have a talk with a few chefs. (Who, by the way, still burn steaks and curdle milk occasionally)

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Old 12-09-2007, 03:20 PM   #17
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I think that like the simulations in the active essay I posted to above, the rules of engagement can be hard to decipher at first. Fear regarding the uncertainty about where joining in might take you, and for how long, probably keep many to the sidelines. Thats' where either one has to have the courage to join in or has come to the realization that there are no negative consequences of just joining in anywhere. The simulation where you get to pick your own squares is exactly like what happens to a thread here. Some fizzle out quickly, others last a little longer, but I've yet to see one achieve a state of perpetual motion, yet. If you vastly expand the size of the black grid, and remember that if one person starts a thread somewhere, and another starts a thread somewhere else, and so on, there's every possibility they could interact in ways that could create something interesting and useful to the whole. Participation is the key. Unlike the simulations, the rules here don't change, although they may be impossible to define.
I hope I've interpreted the significance of this correctly!
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Old 12-09-2007, 04:57 PM   #18
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There passage from Modelling social systems as complex: Towards a social simulation meta-model suggests passive interactors are in fact an important aspect of the social system.

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It has been said that humans are creatures of habit. Habit, be it behavioural or conceptual (paradigms) may constrain the variability of interaction or serve to reduce the degrees of freedom. Habit development, norms, rituals and conventions may serve to reduce the density of interconnection (to collapse a potential many onto a few dimensions) in social systems and therefore become a basis for control of the dynamic characteristics. The more 'norms' constrain interaction, the more stable the society (and conversely the less adaptive or responsive to perturbation). Significantly, these patterns do not require a prospective forward looking logic to become established. As Macy (1998, p. 3) notes "The rules that secure social order emerge not from the shadow of the future but from the lessons of the past". Macy links social 'norms' to genetic inheritance but there is no need for this, cultural transmission and selection will suffice. Indeed the stability and self-reproducing character of many norms, rituals and habits of action constitute a lineage of a kind (Plotkin 1994). Social routines such as these will continue to propagate to the extent that they help the social system of which they are a part, to remain viable. They are, however, maintained on the basis of past contribution rather than prospective relevance. Importantly, the lack of need to invoke rational foresight implies no need for conscious action as a basis for explanation of co-operative interaction and regulative behaviour in social systems. Some individuals may choose to adopt the 'norm', perhaps seeing its social value, but 'blind following' will serve the same purpose. Further if the normative strategy is robust, such 'blind following' need imply no weakness nor diminish the viability of the social system it helps to integrate. What we as observers call 'norms' may be emergent patterns which stabilise social dynamics but which themselves arise from those dynamics. In other words they are an emergent self-regulatory mechanism. This is important for, as Macy points out, altruism as examined through analytic game theory, implies the conscious and rational selection of a "...prudent detour in the pursuit of self interest" (Macy 1998, p. 4). Relaxing the necessity of rationality in order to explain either selfishness or altruism makes possible a broader explanatory framework. Co-operation does not imply altruism (Castelfranchi 1998) as it may be used for selfish or altruistic motives. Routines of co-operation (and for that matter of non-cooperation or hostility) constitute means for regulating the overall stability of social structures and systems of societies. The in-group/out-group phenomena serves to break social networks into 'patches' (Kauffman & Macready 1995), while habitual, or conscious cooperation between such groups serve to maintain linkages of varying strength to maintain some overall coherence and stability as well as adaptability.
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Old 17-09-2007, 10:35 PM   #19
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All wonderful insights into the problems people have with joining in.

Let's go back to the actual practice of therapy.

There’s a little study by Libet, conducted at various times in the 60s that really threw a wrench into the previously held notion of “free will,” and, not surprisingly, Libet used movement to demonstrate that what we’d always presumed to be true simply wasn’t.

In Blackmore’s Consciousnes – An Introduction the author uses the title “The Half-Second Delay in Consciousness” for the chapter concerning this. I’d recommend a careful look at this book or this site.

Basically the deal is this. The brain needs a relatively long period of activation to elicit awareness of the things we do. This means that our decision to move precedes our conscious awareness of our decision to do so. Our brain moves us and our mind just comes along for a ride though we have the sense that the mind made the decision first, but it is the other way around.

This, of course, is a little unsettling for those of us who are trying to choreograph an exercise regimen for our patients. We hope for the best, but “the best” movement for pain relief is the movement we would choose instinctively, and without the interference common with planning and consideration of goals – to say nothing of how little control we have over such things.

Maybe the movement we’re looking for exists in this space between the brain and the illusion of the mind’s control that Libet demonstrates.

Maybe when these movements emerge in sufficient numbers we’ll find the therapy we seek.
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Old 18-09-2007, 02:08 PM   #20
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Default Fear of the smallest things

Consider Pirsig’s classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, a book I’ve owned for years and never read. Actually, I have a few more of these. Anyway, according to this entry on Wikipedia “The book features two types of personalities, those who are interested mostly in gestalts (romantic viewpoints, e.g., Zen), the other who needs to know details, the inner workings, mechanics…”

Right away I’m thinking of those of us interested in the deep model and the others who want only to understand and consider what they see on the surface – the Gestalt, which is another word describing the consequences of emergence. Pirsig makes it clear that both views are necessary for “a higher quality of life.” I agree, and I’m sure the author would be thrilled with that.

Our willingness to not only reflect upon the smallest details of movement and brain function but to sense them in the patient as we handle their skin separates us from those who don’t care about such things and want only to measure the gross mesodermal changes they feel are relevant and easily described in an outcome study.

But every phenomenon begins as a small, small thing, and its eventual nature is vitally dependent upon what that thing is and what it’s capable of doing. We sense an inability to both measure and control the things that form the basis of our world, and a patient in pain - in our hands - is one of those things. Many therapists fear it.

Where has this fear led us?

More soon.
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Old 19-09-2007, 02:35 PM   #21
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I'm working on a post titled "A fear of small things" that isn't yet complete but I thought I'd ask a question here while it's forming in my head.

If you had a choice, would you prefer to be attacked by a relatively large animal or by a colony of ants? Why?

Take your time, the answer isn't all that obvious.
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Old 19-09-2007, 03:13 PM   #22
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Barrett,

Feldenkrais spoke of choice. At one point I think he said that if we only have one way of doing someting then we have a compulsion. With two comes a dilemma but with three we actually have a choice. Barrett, it looks like you have given us a dilemma. I guess my ansewer would depend on the speed with which the large animal could travel and the confines of my environment.

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Old 19-09-2007, 03:42 PM   #23
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In either scenario are there any chances of escaping or is death implied?
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Old 19-09-2007, 04:10 PM   #24
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Chance,

Great answer. Always a good idea to include some of Feldenkrais' insights.

Perhaps I need to frame the question more carefully. I'm not especially interested in the consequences of the attack or the specific circumstances or the surroundings - I'm interested in your first thoughts about fear and the origins of that fear.
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Old 19-09-2007, 04:19 PM   #25
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Neither.
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Old 19-09-2007, 04:25 PM   #26
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Diane,

Not an option here.
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Old 19-09-2007, 04:34 PM   #27
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Barrett, cool question. Takes me back to the days of philosophy classes, and "would you tear the legs off a roach for $1000.00?"

First impression, I would choose the one large animal. I could see the threat easier, hopefully making it easier to size up the threat and fight a single foe.
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Old 19-09-2007, 09:43 PM   #28
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One large animal.
Ants, though very small, have threat advantages in terms of numbers, tenacity, cleverness.

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Old 20-09-2007, 01:32 AM   #29
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Over lunch I was able to get another's ansewer in response to you query, Barrett. Her response was dependent upon her assumptions about her death at said hands of ants or large animal. Her answer was dependent upon the presumed feelings she felt she may have during her upcoming death. My answer or lack there of was in regards to surviving the attack and therefore, seeking of more information. Erik's answer/question is quite relevant here. I think the origins of one's fears are often dependent upon one's perceived abiltiy to change or alter the threat value of the percieved situation or in the abiltiy to accept.

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Old 20-09-2007, 01:47 AM   #30
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Quote:
I'm interested in your first thoughts about fear and the origins of that fear.
Going on this, my gut tells me I'd vote to be attacked by the ants. Probably an illusory sense of being able to have more control over the behaviour of the ants than the largish animal. The emergent properties of the animal are more threatening than those of an ant or its colony.

I'd be more afraid of a tidal wave than rain shower for the same reasons I suppose.
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Old 20-09-2007, 02:30 AM   #31
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How large is relatively large?

I think I'd take my chances with the ants.

And, call me cruel, but I would definitely tear the legs off a roach for $1000. What does that say about me? Donna?
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Old 20-09-2007, 02:42 AM   #32
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Nick,

I had a bear in mind. Don't know why. Also, I mean a lot of ants. Think The Discovery Channel.

I think you’re all answering the question, which was posed primarily to generate the kind of thinking we see here.

It was Paracelsus who said, in effect, “It is when we understand the things we don’t see but know about anyway that we truly become physicians. ANYBODY can deal well enough with the big stuff.” (I’m really paraphrasing here)

Emergent phenomena begin with very small things and there’s no indication of what these small things may become once they get together. Rather like the insects E.O. Wilson (see post #2) studied in his youth. Ironically, Wilson was drawn to small things he could easily examine and see beneath a microscope because an eye injury robbed him of the sight he knew would be necessary to see the larger things in nature. So was I. Unable to see well at all until corrected with thick glasses at age seven, I’ve never really trusted my sight.

Personally, I’d be less fearful of the large animal, if only because I can track it, grasp it, relate to it with a level of consciousness that might not be like mine exactly but is a whole lot closer than an ant’s. Its attack isn’t invisible to me, and that, for me, is the most important factor.

Others may have equally good reasons for choosing the ants as an adversary, but I’m about to make the case for this: A fear of small things stands in the way of reasonable care for many painful problems.

See where I’m going here?
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Old 20-09-2007, 02:45 AM   #33
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I've been thinking about something similar to this over the past month though I don't know if it's the same thing and I don't know why i started thinking about it. In my scenario I was wondering if I would rather live in a community under attack by a giant poisonous spider vs. one under attack by many tiny poisonous spiders. While both scenarios would cause some anxiety I think the second would make me more anxious because at least I could see the giant spider coming. Tiny spiders could hide in my clothes, sneak in my bed and being less visible, I would probably be more fearful always expecting and guarding against the perceived threat… I vote for the large animal attack.
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Old 20-09-2007, 02:47 AM   #34
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Dang, posts crossed... I swear
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Old 20-09-2007, 07:02 AM   #35
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One reason why I would choose the large animal is that I can't begin to anticipate what a large bunch of ants might do. They can be everywhere and anywhere - too many to avoid - and one would have to know a lot about ant movements and behaviour.

Whereas with a large animal, there is some predictability, so the odds are in my favour. I can also see and interact with it better than half an acre of ants.
Mind you, if I were immobile and saw an army of ants marching towards me, I would most likely change my mind. But that is not the point.....


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Old 20-09-2007, 01:09 PM   #36
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I'm afraid of both, pretty much equally. I don't even know how to begin to choose which would be the lesser of the two horrors.

I haven't known anyone attacked by ants (yet) but I've personally known two people attacked by bears, one of whom was killed - a five year old girl at Banff (nice light snack?) daughter of some people I knew; the other was an aquaintance from biology class, a grown man, asleep in his tent in Glacier National Park.

He survived, with deep infected scalp wounds and deeply lacerated forearm, thanks to his friend in an adjacent tent, also a grown man, who attacked the bear with a large wooden branch/club and distracted it long enough to get it to let go of man #1, whereupon they both ran into a nearby icy lake to hide, for about an hour; then when the bear left they had to hike an hour to reach other campers who could assist. He was hospitalized for a couple weeks getting these wounds disinfected and grafted. One has little chance of surviving if the bear is attacking hungry. The corollary is, bears are always hungry, unless they've just eaten. The bear that attacked the man, at night, in his tent, who was minding his own business and sleeping, not teasing a cub or anything stupid, was an old male, half starved. On his last forage. Couldn't find anything else to eat I guess. The park wardens found him and took him out.

As for ants, I remember (from childhood) horrible cowboy movies where some gang would stake out some victim in the desert to be tortured to death by sun, dehydration and fire ants. Horrid.
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Old 20-09-2007, 01:51 PM   #37
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Diane, I think Barrett's question is purely academic in nature, and the person whom Chance was talking with, quite rightly suggested that the imminent threat at the time would change the responses we probably figured out during a period of no threat.

(It gets complicated in this country, where the sting of one jellyfish can hurt a lttle bit at the time and nothing further happens until the internal organs start desiccating about 2 days later; not to mention a tiny octopus that kills within 5 minutes. That's another story...)

Chance, what would be your reply if you considered a hungry bear (large), a barrage of ants (?small?), and a funnelweb spider (small) caught in your anorak? (By the way, funnelwebs kill adults within a few hours)

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Old 20-09-2007, 01:56 PM   #38
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Diane,

Fair enough.

Nari,

Let me guess. You don't work for the Australian Tourist Authority.
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Old 20-09-2007, 02:00 PM   #39
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Maby I see where you are going with this, Barrett. When it comes to care, there may be an innumerable amount of small fears that are not even recognizable to those taking part in the therapeutic relationship. This reminds me of the context chapter in Explain Pain. An example given there is one of pain in the office setting and about how many subplots may be contributing to the painful experience. This may be the reason so many want to identify with the one large bulging disc as the culprit for thier pain.

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Old 20-09-2007, 02:15 PM   #40
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The book is Ubiquity: The Science of History . . . or Why the World Is Simpler Than We Think by Mark Buchanan. Interestingly, the paperback version was re-titled Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen.

I used this wonderful text as a resource for my essay The End of Evaluation? which came to form one of what I call “The Four Corners of Simple Contact.” Anyway, Buchanan makes it clear from the very beginning that though humans have a distinct tendency to make up stories about how things came to be the way that they are, we can never really know what it was that initiated the events leading to this. Using numerous examples from several disciplines he concludes that “…even the greatest of events have no special or exceptional causes.” Read the book and I think you’ll conclude he’s right.

In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.

Edwin Friedman (Google the name. My favorite link is here)

So what are we to do with our very human tendency to assign blame? After all, isn’t that our job?

The problem is that we can’t accurately pick out the one thing that caused what we see at the moment, though believing we’ve done so may comfort both us and those looking for something to blame. This comfort is an illusion.

There’s also this. Therapists, in my experience, are no different than the general public in that they are impressed by and drawn toward large things that they can objectively measure with ease and control to some extent. Thus, they attend to the mesoderm that they can describe with some accuracy in the patient’s chart. Too bad that the ectoderm is what is actually involved in the patient’s complaint.

But ectodermal structures are like the ants once they’ve colonized and decided they want something. Relentless, uncontrollable and too small to measure, they terrify many people in ways no large animal ever could. In traditional therapy the nervous system is pretty much ignored despite the fact that this makes no sense and can only lead to treatment that is targeted at the wrong tissue.

Is this a consequence of our fear of small things? I think so, and I’ll make a further case for that soon.
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Old 21-09-2007, 03:29 AM   #41
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As yet, no one has objected to my assertion that many (not all) therapists are fearful of small things, and that this fear interferes with their study of neurologic function or even its vast anatomy.

There’s also this. Therapists are also impressed by large motions and large motions only. No matter how many times I make it clear that the range of motion displayed and/or achieved during ideomotion (correction) is meaningless in terms of its ultimate effect or usefulness, my students are disappointed unless the movement is large to the point of drama. I have difficulty convincing them otherwise.

This situation is directly related to chaos theory, “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” and “self-organized criticality.”

More about all of that soon.
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Old 21-09-2007, 04:58 AM   #42
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I will not be one of those objecting, Barrett.

I agree that small things, especially numerous ones, require a whole different thinking process versus looking at ONE big thing (that large disc bulge, Chance, indeed). I do see eyes glaze over with MTs and PTs alike when I try to use my patient style education about the nervous system, pain, brain and non-pathoanatomical causes of pain. A "joint", "muscle tightness" or "weakness", or "rotated pelvis" are much more linear, bigger, non-fractal (yes, Barrett, from way back when), and easier to explain to patients.

Assigning blame is much, much easier indeed if the enemy is a large and easily identified beast. Not if it is a teeming mess of details all interacting ...

And it is not just PTs - all patients at one time or another have been presented with the big singular tissue issue of blame. The doc looking at the x-ray, the chiro at the alignment, the MT at the toxins in the tissue, everything in the media, and yes, their previous PT using all of the above and then some.
These are the patients who are re-enforcing the existing PTs' behaviourisms; find the "cause".
As well, it is human nature to try and reduce complexity to simple organisation - hey, I see a disc....

Of course you will have a problem making those PTs see the little ants....
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Old 21-09-2007, 05:13 AM   #43
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I won't be objecting either.
One of my rants over the past 5 years has been the attraction of PTs to visible things: tension in muscles, atrophy, discs bulging on MRIs, LLD, scoliosis, disjointed pelves, imperfect gait or posture...ad nauseum. I guess these things are the bears, or the blue-ringed octopi.

Whereas one can't see the ants. And many PTs don't want to see them, it would seem. Somehow ants are not part of the picture, they are someone else's problem, usually the patients' problem until they (the patients) find someone who likes ants and knows how cunning and complex they are.
I started out saying I preferred bears to ants. Then I introduced very small highly toxic critters in my own argument, so now I'm lost in my own metaphors. Barrett, it must be your fault....

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Old 21-09-2007, 05:22 AM   #44
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Interesting sidebar that most of us who responded to the question of attacker preference chose the larger animal. Is it possibly a characteristic of those who have followed this path to not be afraid of the little things?
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Old 21-09-2007, 05:31 AM   #45
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People in Texas are scared of fire ants. Of course they don't have bears to choose from.

I thought about what if I were being chased by a bear in Texas and had to jump into a fire ant hill to escape, what would I do? I think I'd jump into the ants. While a bear would kill me quick, I might be able to survive several ant stings and still have leftover time to get away from them if the bear leaves. I'd at least have a chance to actively free myself instead of just play dead. Of course, I've hiked around bears before and am well aware of my choices and chances if attacked.

People in Texas are concerned with ants because 1) they are there (can be seen) 2) they know very well of the damage and pain they can inflict (familiarity).

Someone who has experienced fire ants may choose the bear. So, how do you get people to experience fire ants before they must make the choice?
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Old 21-09-2007, 05:56 AM   #46
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(Cory, somehow you must get the bear into the fire ants/get the fire ants on the bear, so that you can get away.)

OK, back to the thread.
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Old 21-09-2007, 07:18 AM   #47
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Barrett, if PT's have trouble with the tiny nervous system, how do you think they respond to your discussion on "The Culture" That can be practically invisible (I think).
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Old 21-09-2007, 04:06 PM   #48
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Default Breakfast with Kevin

So I’m seated at breakfast with my brother Kevin this morning and I told him about this thread. He asked, “What about Them!?”

I think I’m the only poster on Soma Simple with a brother whose mind works in this way.

Anyway, if you click on the link you’ll find this 1954 science fiction classic depicting an epic battle between humans and humungous ants created by that all-purpose 50s standby, nuclear testing. Ironically, this discussion makes it clear that if the mutation of the ant colony had simply included a whole lot more ants rather than a few really big ones, well, they would have been a lot harder to handle. As things went though, James Arness survived and went on to become Sheriff Mat Dillon.

Nothing like breakfast with Kevin.
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Old 22-09-2007, 01:56 AM   #49
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Barrett,
MARSHALL Matt Dillon.
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Old 22-09-2007, 02:32 AM   #50
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Gary,

When you're right, you're right. I don't know what came over me.

Isn't there some really small movement common to that Tai Chi stuff you know so well? At least at the beginning? Something that's essential and, perhaps, hard to teach?

Chris?
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