The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is Santa Real?

I looked up at the wall and watched the clock quietly ticking each moment away.  Just a few more days and school would be out for Christmas, my favorite time of year.  I must have been all of 9 years old at the time. 

During recess, a group of kids were sitting on the floor playing jacks and chatting about what they were going to do during break. Some were going on vacations, others were going skiing with their families.  I piped in saying, "I can't wait until I see what Santa brings me!"  With that they all began laughing, teasing me relentlessly for being such a baby.  

"There is no such thing as Santa stupid!  Your parents buy you all that stuff!" I stood there  - mortified and heart broken.  Not sure if this was true or just some cruel joke, I went home and posed the question to my mother. Ah yes, that dreaded question every parent must face sooner or later. How one answers it makes all the difference in the world.

My mother sat me down and asked me a few questions. "Was Nana real?"  That seemed like a silly question.  Of course my grandmother was real. She used to live right next door to us, at least until she died.   "Do you still believe in her?" Certainly! I knew that she was somewhere, still watching over me. "Do you believe in Love?" Obviously! I was surrounded with it with plenty left over to go around.  "Do you believe in the magic of Christmas?" There was no question about that. All you had to do was look around. Even people who tended to be grouchy seemed to be jolly during the holidays. There was music, lights, colors, decorations, parties, family get togethers, traditions, and a festive feeling in the air. How could anyone not feel the magic?" Do you believe in giving and doing for others?" Nothing made me happier than making gifts for my family in school and lovingly wrapping them or helping my mother bake cookies and taking them to our cousin and her friends at the nursing home. I'd always ask my mother for some coins to toss in the bucket for the donations outside stores or pick out a gift to go under the tree at church for those who would otherwise go without. It made people smile and THAT was a gift in itself. With that she looked at me and said, "Then he is real."

She went onto explain how he existed long, long ago, and would give gifts to those in need. Although he grew old and died, his legend of kindness lived on. Throughout time people adopted his traditions and every country found a way to make them their own. That in itself, the spreading of this one man's acts throughout the world, bringing everyone together to celebrate was magic in itself.  She then told me that, like my grandmother, his spirit lives on and is a part of why Christmas is so special. His love becomes a part of everyone, bringing the joy and desire to give and share. This was something I could accept and treasured. Although no longer in body, he was still alive in the most important place - my heartSanta was and always will be the essence, the magic, the "spirit of Christmas".

I passed this story down to my children when they approached me with that question. For me though, it was not so dreadful, knowing I held the key to keeping the magic alive.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Choosing the Right Therapist

The search for the perfect therapist is not much different than the search for the perfect mate.  It's a specialized relationship requiring "good chemistry", one where you can feel at ease to open up and discuss your deepest, sometimes darkest feelings.  Most people put more time and effort into shopping for electronics than they do choosing the right practitioner for treatment of their mental and physical concerns.   

Here's some tips to get you started off on the right foot.  If it is an emergency, however - by all means call 911.  Don't wait.

Take some time to do your research.  You can't  just point and click and expect good results.

  • Be wary of those who rely on mass media to advertise their services.  A truly good physician (or any other professional for that matter) relies on word of mouth and referrals from their peers to build their practice.  They don't need big, gaudy ads in magazines or newspapers, billboard space or television commercials.  They don't offer coupons,  freebies other gimmicks to rope you in.   
  • If you have insurance, begin with their website directory.  This will confirm let you know who is "In Network" or not.  Most sites allow you to search by specialty and type of practice (private, clinic, group, hospital).  They will included a short profile including educational background, years in practice, languages spoken, sub-specialties and contact information.  It also gives you the opportunity to narrow your search according to your location.  
  • Better yet, ask your primary care physician.  Doctors usually have particular providers they recommend and in turn, can assist you with referrals if necessary.  Although there may be a certain amount of favoritism based on reciprocal referrals, most offices will adjust this list according to patients experiences.  While you're at it, have a check up if you have not done so recently.  Emotional distress might be linked to physical ailments or be the result of adverse side effects of a medication.
  • Friends and family are also valuable resources.  Nothing is better than first hand accounts, that is as long as you allow enough wiggle room for personal preferences and personalities.
  • Just as you might turn to "Consumer Reports" when shopping for a particular item, there are Internet sites dedicated to personal reviews written by former or current patients.  Check out or  Just bear in mind, you need to find that fine balance between extremely positive and negative comments.  Some doctors are trying to fight off patient's freedom of speech, looking for ways to shut these sites down.  However, the fact is - any legitimate business opens itself up to being judged by its clients and consumers and doctors are no exception.  
  • If you are a connoisseur of MDs you can always check TopDocs in America.  Just note - most of these doctors are located in major cities and because of their reputation many may be closed to accepting new patients or have long waiting periods for appointments.  Make sure they are covered by your insurance and if not, be prepared for the bill - you pay top dollar for top quality.  
  • The American Medical Association is another great resource for information on training, certifications, and disciplinary actions.  And if all these resources are not enough, use social media to check them out.  Many doctors have Facebook accounts, blogs, or can be found on LinkedIn (a professional networking site).  Or - simply Google their name.  You'll be surprised how much you can learn with just a few minutes of effort.

Now that you have narrowed down your selection, "the dating phase" begins.  Begin taking careful notes even before meeting face to face.

  • Were you able to get in to see the doctor within a reasonable frame of time following your initial request for an appointment?
  • When you arrive at the office, is the staff friendly and welcoming?  Remember, they are the conduit to him and if they are miserable, rude or outright incompetent - it might give you an idea about the character in the other room.
  • Note the waiting area.  Is it clean, pleasant and orderly? Are there reading materials and informational pamphlets for to peruse that are up to date - or are they torn and dated?  I like to keep the late Erma Bombeck's quote in mind -“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”
  • How long are you kept waiting before seeing the doctor?  No more than ten minutes is ideal.  However, if you are left sitting there for a half hour or more or are told, "I'm sorry but the doctor is running behind" too often, it may be time to find someone new.  Remember, your time is also valuable, a fact that should be respected.  For those who choose to sit it out, make sure your session is not rushed or cut short.   
  • Does the doctor greet you by name and shake your hand? 
  • Look around.  Is his office and desk neat and organized? This is a good indication about how HIS mind works.   

Before getting down to business ask some or all of the following questions.  This is your chance to interview him to get an idea of whether or not he is the right person for the "job" of treating you.  After all, this will be a working relationship.  Get a feeling for his style, temperament and approach and how comfortable you are with it. 

• What are his credentials; schooling, accreditation, licensing etc (if you do not already know)?
• How long has he been in practice?
• What is his specialty?
• What are the office policies on missed appointments, payments etc?
• Is he available, on call in emergencies?
• What sort of approach does he take to therapy? (have him explain it in detail)
• How long does it take for him to evaluate a patient confidently (this should be a min. of 6 visits)?
• If this is a psychiatrist, is he all drugs and no talk, or does he combine both approaches?
• Is he open to you receiving or referring you to alternative therapies?
• Is he willing to disclose his treatment plan and notes to you (by law all doctors must do this as well as providing you with an idea of how long you will be in therapy and what goals you are working towards?

If you are in a weakened state of mind, take a family member or friend with you as support.  They cannot and should not be turned away.

We need to be informed and ready to advocate for ourselves.  While we may need help when it comes to healing our bodies and minds, our welfare is ultimately in our hands.  Carefully choosing the right therapist will maximize the benefits reaped from the experience.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PSSD or Post SSRI Sexual Dysfunction

PSSD stands for Post SSRI Sexual Dysfunction.

It is estimated that up to 50 - 80% of patients that take SSRIs (Selective Serotinin Reuptake Inhibitors or antidepressants) suffer from sexual dysfunction to one degree or another.  This may occur while taking the drug or upon discontinuation of use.   The actual numbers are difficult to confirm as many people may feel uncomfortable discussing intimate issues with their physician out of shame, embarrassment or fear of stigma.  It should be noted that PSSD can occur on mild-high dosages, short-long term treatment and when  discontinuing SSRIs. Every person is different and no two cases are the same.  Dysfunction may last from weeks to months, or permanently in some cases.

PSSD may include:
  • Low or non-existent libido or sexual drive
  • Anorgasmia or muted, premature, delayed or absent orgasm or ejaculation 
  • Sexual Anhedonia - reduced or lack of pleasure during orgasm or ejaculation 
  • Vaginal dryness or reduced lubrication
  • Decreased vaginal, clitoral or penile sensitivity, ranging from mild to complete genital anesthesia
  • PGAD or Persistent Genital Arousal Syndrome in women unrelated to desire.  Similar to Restless Leg Syndrome, this condition and can be extremely dibilitating, uncomfortable or even painful. ^
  • Spontanious orgasams or ejaculations
  • Priapism - erection lasting 4 or more hours, a potentially harmful condition considered to be a medical emergency that can result in permanent vascular damage
  • ED - inability to develop or maintian an erection of the penis
  • Loss or decreased response to sexual stimuli (visual or physical)
  • Reduced semen volume
  • Impotency
FDA-approved indictaions for treatment with SSRI's include: ^

OCD or Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder 
Bulimia Nervosa
PMMD or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Panic Disorder
PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Social Phobia

 "Off Labeling", or the practice of doctors prescribing these drugs for indications for which they have not been approved  is rampant. Such conditions include:

Alcohol Dependency
Chronic Pain
Back Pain
Migraine Headaches
Diabetic Neuropathy
Binge Eating

and of all things - Sexual Dysfunction.  This is simply criminal. The only sexual dysfunction SSRIs have been shown to effectively treat is premature ejaculation, while still potentially causing the other undesirable effects mentioned above.  Additionally, it requires continuous daily use to prevent this problem.   Only two drugs have shown promise in immediate & occasional use: Chlomipramine and Viagra.

If we return to the first and primary indication for antidepressants, namely DEPRESSION,  first it must be recognized that among the most common symptoms are low or non-existent sexual desire and dulled ability to experience pleasure.  If this is already an issue you are concerned with, careful consideration should be taken before beginning treatment with SSRIs. The last thing you want to do is make a bad situation worse.

SSRI's have been shown to be highly effective in improving mood, alleviating self- loathing, revitalizing energy, and returning a sense of normalcy to the depressed individual, which is why they are used as a first-line treatment by medical doctors and psychiatrists.  It should be noted, however, they also have been shown to reduce inhibitions,  give rise to suicidal thoughts and tendencies, cause aggression and mania, induce insomnia and restlessness, and may lead to Bipolar Disease.  However, the most counterintuitive side-effect of all - Antidepressants may cause Depression.

Unfortunately, the medical community heavily uses these drugs in children and teens, exposing them to the risks of reduced sexual pleasure, performance and impaired reproductive abilities as they mature.  Already studies have shown that while the number of teens receiving these drugs is increasing expoentially, sexual activity among the same group has been on a downward trend.  For those looking to promote celibacy, lowering the risk of teen pregnacies, or reducing population growth this may be a bonus, however, the long term effects may not be as positive as one would hope. Additionally, parents should be careful making decisions for their children, that could have life-long impact on their welfare and happiness, unless they are in dire need and there are no other alternatives. It's never too early to consider these possibilities.

Contrary to popular belief, your brain is your largest sex organ. When behaving properly, it produces neurotransmitters (brain chemicals including serotonin) that  increase the communication between cells. Upon stimulation through sensory input, these chemicals signal the body  to increase blood flow to the sexual organs when stimulated and voila - sexual arousal occurs.   Free serotonin is functional (a feel good chemical).   Depression, however, can interfere with the signals. SSRI's block the re-uptake or re-absorption of serotonin into the neurons, thus improving overall mood.  Unfortunately, once again, the drugs can also cause depression both up and downstairs. These factors must be weighed out carefully.

Sexual Dysfunction for an individual can raise havoc with self- esteem, confidence, and anxiety. We live in a world where sexuality is paraded in front of our faces 24/7. Advertising, media, TV, movies, music, fashion - sex is everywhere.  It's only natural to want to live up to these "images" in spite of how inflated they may be.   While one quarter of society suffers from HSD or  Hypoactive Sexual Drive, few talk about it, leaving all too many people feeling inferior or different [while that's far from the case].  It's even more devastating when you used to have the drive, but  find it slowly fading.  Until we learn to measure ourselves as  individuals rather than being compared to artificial standards, we will continue to suffer.

Sexual problems for couples can produce stress, straining their relationship and further complicating dysfunction.  It interferes with connectiveness, intimacy, and the ability to bear children. In spite of the fact that a classic study called "Sex in America" found that 1/3 of couples were having sex only a few times a year, once again the media begs for us to believe a different story. The Social Media Gurus chant that active sexual relations, up to three times a week, should be taking place for everyone from teens to those in their 90's.  Obsession with celebrity portrayals of "Mr. & Mrs. America" on screen and pornography leaves people with unrealistic expectations. PSSD only worsens this issue unless properly addressed. A couple willing to weather the storm and take a new course though, can find new and exciting seas to sail with mutually satisfying results.

Newer antidepressants including Wellbutrin, Remeron, Serzone and Survector (not available in the U.S.) have few or no sexual side effects. ED (Erectile Dysfunction) drugs may be added. Hormones can be used to boost libdo in some cases. Couples or sexual therapy can be helpful in finding alternative methods of coping with this disorder. While PSSD or HSD is the most common complaint addressed by marital/sex counselors, millions of couples suffer in silence.

Open communication for this condition is essential.  Talk to your M.D., ask your psychiatrist if there are alternatives.  Most of all, discuss this issue with your spouce or significant other. And please - report side effects to the FDA. 

Most of all, relax. You are far from alone and this is not your fault.  Don't let anyone tell you it's all in your head.  Seek help and don't feel ashamed or embarrassed. Trust me, they've heard it all before.

^ Formulary

^ Drug Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis: Facts and Comparisons, a Wolters Kluwer Co; 2002.

^ McEvoy GK. AHFS DrugInformation. Bethesda, MD:American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; 2001.
/Source: K.C. Lee, PharmD, M.D. Feldman, MD, and P.R. Finley, PharmD

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ANOMALISTIC PSYCHOLOGY - Taking the Para out of Normal

Public interest in the paranormal has increased throughout history during tumultuous eras of uncertainty, crisis, war, economic downturns and changes in the social & political climate. Considering the state our world is currently in, it is no wonder that interest has once again peaked. Gallop Opinion polls back in 2005 revealed that 73% of those interviewed believe in some one sort of supernatural activity or another.

You cannot perform “quality” studies into the PARANORMAL or experiences that defy reasonable explanation without taking PSYCHOLOGY and the HARD SCIENCES of biology, physics, geology and physiology into careful consideration.   It should be noted that ghost hunters/parapsychologists use pseudo-scientific methods.  This is purely experimental research which, although the validity has not been proven, is often the birth place of new discoveries. 
“Parapsychology is the Mother of the opposing twins – Religion and Science”
ANOMALISTIC PSYCHOLOGY is the study of extraordinary phenomena of behavior and experience. It begins with a good deal of skepticism and doubt. Empirical evidence is collected to establish ways in which psychological and physical factors might give the impression that a paranormal event has occurred, while in fact it has not. The following factors are scrutinized carefully: Mental & Physical Illness, Neurological Factors, the Brain and Sensory System, Sleep-related disorders, Altered States of Consciousness, Cognition, Development, Personality, Memory (false or repressed), the Power of Suggestion, group Dynamics, Belief Systems, Religious Background, Superstition, Placebo Effects, Motivation, Deception & Self Deception, Geomagnetic Features of the Land, Natural and Man made Electromagnetic Fields, and the Effects of Infrasound on Human Physiology.
A "good" investigative team should have members offering a variety of skills including a working knowledge of science and human nature, the proper collection of data, respect for experimental design and investigative procedures before they advertise themselves as legitimate consultants. Unfortunately, this field has been overrun by amateur thrill seekers and novices attempting to imitate what they see on TV,  making it difficult for legitimate organizations to establish trust with the public.

Upon being contacted by a potential client, much needs to be taken into consideration besides personal accounts and the eagerness to be involved with the supernatural. You are intruding into someone’s life or property (preferably upon invitation although there are many that resort to trespassing) and are often faced with issues of fear, confusion, and highly charged emotions. This is not a game. Your duty, first and foremost, should be to offer comfort, a sense of empowerment over the situation, plausible explanations as to what is causing it or how they can find assistance in “protecting themselves” according to their individual beliefs. As with doctors "I will keep them from harm or injustice..." or even the Wiccan Rede - “And Ye none harm.”

If such claims are of no consequence to the individual or individuals involved, one must consider motivation. People rarely act without some sort of hidden payoff. Is this merely a selling point and free advertisement for the establishment? Are they looking to hold haunted tours and parties based on your declaration that someone or something is lurking in the dark? Is it a non-profit organization working to preserve a historical home or tourist destination, anxious for more donations to remain in operation? Businesses that have received the seal of “haunted” by investigative teams, particularly those on TV, have shown increased profits in the following years. And what about your investigation team? Have things been slow, motivating you to chase any lead in hopes of notoriety even if the only face you see in the mirror is the face of deception?  

When first considering a new case:

1) Respectfully gather information during an initial interview.

2) Take note of verbal and physical cues without invading one’s privacy.

3) Evaluate all those in the household for distinct personality characteristics, stability and beliefs. You’ll be surprised how transparent living people are compared to the invisible forces in their home.

4) Determine if all accounts personal experiences or hearsay of others?

5) Do all members of the family experience these events?

6) Are the occurrences constant or intermittent? A mere handful of accounts over the period of twenty or more years is not significant.

7) Is this a matter of deep concern or mere curiosity? Do they feel their lives are in eminent danger?

8) What do they believe the reasoning is behind the events?

9) What research have they conducted? Do they have prior knowledge of the location’s history or previous owner’s accounts?

10)  What are their religious/spiritual beliefs and their level of understanding of the "paranormal".

Once these initial factors are considered, the real sluth work begins.  The goal is to take all factors that ARE known constants that CAN be explained into account.  For example, there are all sorts of issues that can contribute to the perception of "Paranormal Activity" or "Demonic Possession".  Mental, neural and physical disorders, social dynamics, as well as natural events in the physical world and their effects on human physiology result in numerous false reports.   (This is not to say that there are not many people who are perfectly sane, healthy, intelligent and honest who experience such events.) Begin by ruling out the following factors if at all possible.

1) Schizophrenia and its cousins Paranoid Schizophrenia, and Schizoaffective disorder. This is the first illness one thinks of when it comes to seeing ghosts or supernatural activity.  These are severe brain diseases that interfere with normal brain and mental function. Episodes may be periodic with periods of normalcy in between.  People with this disorder have several of the following symptoms:  visual & auditory hallucinations, delusions (or false beliefs), paranoia, inability to trust others including loved ones, inappropriate outbursts of anger or laughter, disorganized thinking, speech abnormalities such as disconnected or confusing language, growling or other strange sounds, repetitive motions such as rocking or flaying arms about wildly.
2) Psychotic Breaks in the Manic states of Bipolar Disease may occur during which one loses touch with reality. Symptoms are similar to Schizophrenia, but are not lasting. One may feel they have super human abilities.

3) Clinical Depression including symptoms of stress, anxiety, fear, emptiness, emotional dullness and loneliness will in some cases be expressed as paranormal delusions.

4) Dissociative Identity Disorder is when a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual's behavior with an associated memory loss or amnesia. There may be distinctions in voice, mannerisms, beliefs, emotional lability, gender, even type of being such as animal or demon.

5) Drug and /or alcohol abuse can cause various forms of hallucinations and cognitive disturbances. Even prescription medications, in particular the SSRI’s (Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors) used for treatment of depression can trigger a ghostly encounter.

6) Sleep Disorders such as insomnia, thus sleep deprivation, can induce altered states of awareness. The various states of sleep, 4 in all, can produce very real nightmarish situations.

Sleep paralysis occurs during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This is a perfectly normal physiologic state. However, when your dream begins to creep into consciousness it can produce frightening and realistic night terrors. You may feel things touching you, difficulty breathing which is interpreted as being strangled, a feeling of being held down by unseen hands, hallucinations visual & auditory.

During NREM or deep sleep one may awaken and sleep walk, open their eyes without seeing, and perform skillful activities. Walking around as if in a trance, one may become injured, ending up with bruises and scratches without knowing it.  Upon awakening they may believe that a ghost or demon did this to them.

7) Frontal Lobe Seizure Dysfunction can be brought on by Epilepsy, Autoimmune diseases such as MS, or head trauma. Lesions form that can cause memory problems, outbursts of anger, mood disorders (particularly Euphoria), hallucinations, language problems, apathy, anticipation of things to occur, among other symptoms. People with this disorder are particularly sensitive to low level EMFs as well as fields caused by man-made electrical appliances such as phones, clocks, radios, (often found by the bedside or headboard) lighting, computers, TV’s and so on.  Needless to say the surges in magnetic fields tend to occur at night, when most paranormal experiences occur.

8) Temporal Lobe Seizure Dysfunction affects the part of the brain that is responsible for regulation of emotions and motivated behavior. Seizures can cause a sudden sense of unprovoked fear, the sensation of déjà vu, phantom or distorted odors or tastes, a rising sensation in the abdomen that can be mistaken for levitation, staring, loss of awareness of surroundings, confusion, memory loss, sense of being touched, auditory and visual hallucinations and so forth.
Sound familiar? These are all classic claims of haunting victims. While more severe and persistent forms of seizure disorders are less common, occasionally petit mals (FLS or TLS) occur in more than half the population at one time or another. That ghost may just be a momentary short circuit.

9) Physical Illness can also give way to impaired perception. A fever can produce halluscinations as well as countless other conditions.


Our natural Neural Senses may also raise havoc with perception though "Tricks of the Mind". It's au natural although sometimes quite disconcerting. These phenomena can occur as the result of  insufficient  or overwhelming input.

1) "Pareidolia" is a phenomenon that occurs in the presence of random or vague noises and visual stimuli.  The natural responce is to try to make sense out of them through the act of personalization or assigning human qualities to them. It is natural, dating back to the first few weeks of life, when infants tend to perceive angles, contours and shapes that are consistent with faces. Although it is commonly found in those suffering from psychological or neurological illnesses, we are all innately susceptible.  We can see the face of the Man in the Moon, can make out pictures in clouds or discover the Virgin Mary on a slice of toast or on a potato chip. We hear hidden messages in recordings played backwards, hear the phone ringing while we are showering, hear our name called over other sounds among other strange experiences.  

2) Have you ever noticed how in a crowded room your ears take in bits and pieces of many sounds and voices. Since it would be is impossible to hear every detail of every conversation simultaneously, our brain fills in the gaps, right or wrong with what we expect. It's much like the old game of "Telephone" played by schoolchildren where a message is whispered and passed along throughout the room from child to child.  The result is rarely anything remotely related to the inital communication. (This also accounts for arguments between couples where someone ends up accused of things that were never uttered)

3) When an individual is experiencing a loss of perceived control, they detect patterns to regain a sense of organization.  Fear heightens all of the senses which in turn  take in stimuli from the sensory receptors - the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin and nervous system and  assigns it meaning, and interpretation based on experience, context and interpretation. As we desperately attempt to keep our wits about us, we may end up inadvertantly scaring the daylights out of ourselves instead. Shadows take on eerie, life like forms. Simple creaks and groans of a house settling or expanding and contracting due to heat or cold become disembodied voices. Clunks in heating systems are perceived as knocks.  Drafts make the fine hairs on our skin rise and we feel as though we are being touched by invisible hands.

4) Deficits in any of our senses interfere our overall perception. For example, people experiencing mild deafness or partial blindness are prone to hearing music, muffled voices, or sounds to fill in for the deficit. There is increased connectivity between the areas of the brain that process information and in turn the senses can become confused. A flicker or shadowed motion can be sensed as sound or even a tactile sensation. A color may elicit a taste. Numbers may take on shape and color.

5) Similarly, in the absence of sound or especially when exposed to white noise or full spectrum sound, our brains try to find something familiar in it, especially if it contains mixed frequencies and rhythms, similar to voice-like or musical features. We sleep with a "Sound Conditioner". Although it emits "White Sound" we can hear an array of  things within it. If clever, you can even change the channel and listen to a different genre of music that suits your tastes.
6) Our eyes contain a network of rods and cones. The rods are responsible for peripheral vision and see only blurry shades of gray, black and white as well as motion.  The cones process color, but no motion. How often do you hear someone say they saw a fleeting black figure through the corner of their eye? They quickly turn their head and the figure is no longer there. The change in perspective, eliminates what we "Thought" we saw.

Floaters and flashes known as “photopsia” are caused by tiny clumps of gel or cells in the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the back chamber in your eye. Floaters are black are most visible when staring at a solid background. Flashes are more prevalent in the dark. Like so called orbs are to a camera, these anomalies are visible to the naked eye. Les we not forget that our eyes are easily fooled as demonstrated easily with countless optical illusions.


The brain is a incredible computer capable of storing bits of information without our awareness, as in "Subliminal Stimuli".  Our memories can play this back when least expected raising havoc with perception as well.  

1) PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can conjure up memories of terrifying events of the past that have been long repressed. They can come to life in nightmares or hallucinations. Memory without awareness or is normal. Kids who witnessed abuse in their family as young children may have it tucked away, only to have it come back as haunting shadows in their adulthood.

2) Selective Memory gives us a false sence of being "psychic" . You will always remember the time when, by coincidence, you friend calls just as you were about to pick up the phone which leads to a false positive association. However, you will not remember the hundreds of times they were the last thing on your mind when they rang you up. This is known as confirmatory bias. We tend to have much better recall of events and experiences that validate what we believe to be true than those that negate those beliefs.

3)  Things that we dream, especially in the lucid stages of sleep, may seem so lifelike, that we have difficulty distinguishing between imagination and reality. As time passes, our minds distort recollections leaving us prone to false memories, a fact that life regression therapists prey upon.

In the absense of mental or physical abberations, the power of Social Psychology plays a powerful role in perception.

The Power of Suggestion and group dynamics prove that PT Barnum was right when he said, “There is a sucker born every minute.” Tell a group of tourists or investigators ghost stories before the exploring a property and at least one person is guaranteed to experience something. He or she in turn tell others and the experiences grow exponentially. It’s just human nature. 

The brain is expert at pulling the wool over our eyes, as well as all our senses. My daughter's roommate noticed a puddle of water next to the shower. Immediately he assumed that her dog was the culprit. He took off his sock and sniffed it, certain that it smelled of urine, rather than stinky feet. He showed it to his brother, suggesting, "Doesn't this smell like dog piss to you?" He too could smell the offending oder. My daughter sniffed the sock and then boldly tasted the liquid on the floor. It was clear, and void of taste for it was - water that had leaked from the shower door. 
This factor must be taken into consideration when investigators review EVPs (Electronic voice phenomena), so-called disembodied voices that can be picked up on hand held tape recorders, while not being detected by the human ear. In reviewing such evidence, as soon as the first person assigns words to an unexpected noise, especially if it occurs right after a question, everyone nods in agreement and hears the same thing even if it was coincidental contamination from other sources. This is easily avoided when several team members review the same recordings separately and comparing their outcomes.

In paranormal investigations, people are always sent out in groups for safety reasons. While it obviously has its benefits by providing collaboration of events, it also allows group psychology to prevail.  If one person sees a shadow, and three others jump in claiming they saw it too, the guilty party that waved his or her hand in front of a light source will be less likely to speak up and accept responsibilty.  We are only human.


Beliefs can cause one to misinterpret experiences. This has held true throughout history. Schizophrenics, those with Autism or psychosis, people suffering Grand Mal Seizures have all been at one time or another considered to be possessed by a demon. Those whose religious beliefs reject science are likely to turn to evil as an explanation for medical issues.

Irrational beliefs also control our perceptions. For example, if I were to offer $10 to you in return for holding a baby doll, clutching it to your heart, would you do it? Now if I were to tell you that it was owned by a serial killer who would offer it as a lure to attract young children so he could kill and dismember their lifeless bodies who would still be as interested? We view evil as something physical and tangible.  It’s as though it has the ability to spread like an infection.

It is ingrained in our nature from early man to assign a living threat to an unknown and ask questions later.  It’s simply one of the keys to primitive survival. Ancient man would not have survived long if he were to stop and try to do a scientific investigation as to whether that bear like form was about to devour him for dinner or if it was just a harmless rock formation.

Guilt or shame may leave us believeing that anything and everything that goes wrong in our life is a curse or mysterious power out to advenge us. Even the most sensible people will believe in Voodoo, black magic, superstitions if the tides turn against them. It's easier to blame outside forces than to admit we are responsible for bringing on troubles ourselves or giving into the fact that sometimes, the odds are just against us.


To further muddy the waters, just as EMFs coming from items as innocuous as a clock radio can set off seizures in anyone who is prone to them, high tension wires can affect just about anyone and have been suspect in many cases of reputed telekinesis, poltergeist activity and the feeling of uneasiness or being watched. Low-level geomagnetic activity has been shown to affect dreams. Physics can be a sinister, but playful antagonist to our brain.

Infrasounds, low frequency sound waves that cannot be heard by the human ear, have a physiological effect on our bodies, in particular our eyes and their ability to sense motion. Infrasound results naturally from severe weather, surf, lee waves, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanoes, waterfalls, auroras, lightning and upper-atmospheric lightning, tornadoes or turbulent air flow over mountain tops. They can be also produced by man-made vibrations such as those caused by sonic booms, explosions, diesel engines or large-scale subwoofer speakers. These vibrations have been shown to cause feelings of awe & fear in humans. It also explains the incredible highs, besides those induced by pot or beer, that concert goers experience, or why so many theaters are reputed to be haunted.

Warwick scientist, Vic Tandy of Coventry England discovered that the frequency of 18.98 Hz, 19.00 Hz is the ideal frequency, causing eyeballs to vibrate, emotional responses, optical hallucinations, etc…  This experiment was replicated in many places deemed haunted, each with the same results, including a concert titled “Infrasonic” where patrons experienced anxiety, uneasiness, extreme sorrow, nervous feelings of revulsion or fear, chills down the spine and feelings of pressure on the chest.  Sometimes it’s not in what you hear, but what you don’t hear that’s freaking you out.

Geological features of the area such as hill sides that reflect noises in the distance, man made contaminants of the premises such as high levels of electromagnetic energy due to poor wiring, high-tension electrical wires, fluorescent lighting and household appliances; the storage of hazardous chemicals, or simply poor, old or malfunctioning structural details of a building can elicit strange effects and perceptions. Wouldn’t it be great if each team had a building inspector on hand to determine the difference between the creaks and cranks?

Please understand, what I have presented to you is not intended to poo-poo the belief in the paranormal. I’m just playing “devil’s advocate”. Understanding of the psychological and physical factors that I have discussed here are just as important tools to carry with you into an investigation as Infrared cameras, EMF recorders, K-2 sensors, and so forth. It keeps the line between reality and illusion in check. It allows us to explore ourselves and have a clearer idea of why we are here and what it is we are truly searching for.  When it comes down to it, the child in us is always going to want to explore, discover and find answers to the unknown. And no matter how determined we are to view things scientifically, there is nothing like a security blanket to keep us warm and safe at night. The idea is to just “keep it real”.

Monday, August 23, 2010


It is one of the best kept secrets behind bedroom doors - "the SEXLESS MARRIAGE". Oh, I can already hear the cries - young couples saying "That could never happen to us, right honey?" Mental health researchers saying, "Damn! If this gets out, there goes another theory on the status quo down the tubes!" The makers of sexual enhancement products saying, "What can we come up with to cut this train wreck off before it cuts into profits?" Marital Therapists (especially those who specialize in D-I-V-O-R-C-E) etching out their newest book "It IS broken and you CANNOT fix it if it isn't a daily practice!" My favorite though is, “Thank you for bringing this up. We thought we were the only ones and were far too embarrassed to talk about it." 

Don't fall victim to SEX STIGMA; those who try to perpetuate the idea that everyone wants to have sex regularly until the day they die or they are not "normal". That propaganda is made up by money hungry "Marital Counselors" looking to inflame otherwise perfectly happy unions. Lets face it - do they mention the FACT that there are 20,000,000 married couples living in sexless marriages (less than 10 times a year)? They try to make NOT having sex as evil as having affairs.

I too thought my husband and I were "unusual", living in a perfectly happy, loving and rewarding relationship sans that one ingredient - SEX. Well, not completely. We're just more on schedule with Cupid, Paul Revere and the Fourth of July, and the Macy Day Parade than the mail man who comes every day. However, to my surprise, it turns out that we are one of a growing number of successful relationships that have found deeper meaning to "love" other than just trying to keep up with the statistical frequency of intercourse at any given age, made up by others who probably are not doing it as often as they "claim".

After being together 30 years, we have found that marital bliss is not based on how often we jump each others bones, which after age fifty isn't as comfortable or gratifying as it used to be. Personally if I am going to physically exhaust myself; suffer leg cramps and back spasms; work up a sweat and end up with next day muscle pain, I'd be better off joining a gym! All that work, and for what? A moment of, "Was that it? I couldn't quite tell. Maybe it was just another muscle twitch." Or, "I'm sorry honey, I missed it. I was too busy“trying to catch my breath”.

Sorry, but as you age, the days of multiple fire work shows backed up by 1812 Overture becomes more of a game of Jack-in-the-Box with a lot of winding! It takes much longer to get the same effect that turning off a light switch did at age 20. And you know you're taking too long if your spouse says, "Honey? Would you mind changing positions, I need to turn the page."  And it's not that something is WRONG with us, it's that SEX ISN'T EVERYTHING in spite of what some try to tell you. 

Now don't get me wrong, it's not that we've lost interest in each other. We enjoy cuddling, having romantic "dates", being playful and laughing together. You know the tricks that young love doesn't have time for between hormone crazed lust ins. It's just now when we get out on the course, calling out "Fore" is more important than trying for a hole in one! It's more about enjoying the scenic route, rather than arriving at the destination. And we're not bored! Heck, in our earlier days we read "Everything you Wanted to Know About Sex" and the "Kama Sutra". After a while it became, "Uh huh -.been there, done that." Hell, we began writing our own chapters! Anything more erotic would either get us thrown into jail or tear a ligament! Our flexibility just isn't what it used to be.

I realize I can't speak for everyone, but I personally find openness, respect, honesty, mutual support and compassion, commitment, and sharing simple pleasures more sexy than two bodies (now with some extra padding) pounding against each other. Sort of reminds me of trying to work out with a twenty pound weight belt around your waist. It’s even tougher if  you get into the higher weight brackets.

So why is this new trend emerging? Well, there are a number of reasons.

First off, many couples these days are just plain exhausted; both working to survive in today's financial climate while trying to raise a family. Others are forced to live in different states because they either can't sell their house thanks to an upside down mortgage , or one has a solid career on the home front, while the other has to take a job out of state just to remain employed. Yes - you can thank capitalism for not only tanking the economy, but your sex life as well. 

Married couples are increasingly turning to separate sleeping arrangements as a way to resolve conflicts in the bedroom, according to recent studies by the National Sleep Foundation. Not only are home builders seeing increased demand for dual master suites, but other couples may be using the spare bedroom or den as a separate bedroom, according to author Tracie Rozhon in the March 11, 2007, New York Times article, “To Have, Hold and Cherish, Until Bedtime.”
Secondly, you can blame our diet and bad habits. Hormones and additives put in processed food these days, alcohol and recreational drug use, obesity not to mention a number of other factors, are causing changes in our natural hormone levels, affecting libido, causing sexual dysfunction and impeding reproduction. Pour your self one too many stiff ones and well ...  So ask yourself this - is a spouse of a individual that becomes handicapped in any way, shape or form, leaving them unable to function, to abandon his/her better half because of statistics (which by the way are even more unreliable than airline schedules?

Thirdly, thank “Modern Medicine”. How about some truth in advertising! Such as, "SSRI's: the happy pill that insures you’ll be coming back for more!" "Pain killers: Pain is not the only thing you will not be feeling!" "Sleeping aids or Anti-anxiety meds: "You'll feel relaxed, upstairs and downstairs too!" Don't be gullible enough to believe that the loss of libido is "only temporary", unless you also believe that death is "only temporary". Although not an absolute, a large number of patients who have taken or are currently taking these medications will find that sex is not what it used to be. The smile on your face will certainly not be due to what you did last night. (isn't it funny the one's who destroy your libido with a prescription pad are the one's claiming if you don't have sex 3.7 times pert week your marriage is doomed)

Certainly age, financial stress, food additives, bad habits and the prescription drugs do not affect everyone across the board the same way. I'm sure there are o haired hippies out there, still toking, smoking, hopped up on drugs to fix what's broken are still managing to get in some midnight groping. There are plenty of men out there in their fifties on up that have proven their ability to contribute to over population, jumping from one female young enough to be his daughter to another. And some women are seeking equal opportunity by having babies well beyond what Mother Nature intended. But does any of this prove that these people are sexually “active” all the time or that “getting it on” equals a good relationship? Absolutely not! Otherwise, there would not be so many single mothers or fathers paying child support.

Sadly, it’s these statistics or as I call them, “implied expectations for pass or fail” do more harm than good. I’m sure many professionals treat couples of all ages that come in looking to “fix” a perfectly healthy relationship because of something they read in Cosmo; or thanks to the media’s portrayal of a happy relationship (usually based on passionate love scenes), or due to some half baked quiz they took on the internet. “Well it says we should be making love at least 3.7 times per week and we only average 1.3! What’s wrong with us?” People who rely on outside opinions and generalized theories rather than their own hearts will soon find themselves, questioning their relationship; having affairs to hit the target number and ending up divorced hoping the next one will hit the mark. This may work, initially, but when that boil slows to a simmer, you end up back at square one. In couple counseling, this should be carefully addressed - marriage can take many forms and be strong. You DON’T have to live up to Status Quo! ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. Also make sure your marital counselor doesn't get kick backs from the local divorce lawyer.

When we first married we saw a counselor for issues derived from what turned out to be a curable disorder. He kept insisting that we should divorce; that there was no way our relationship could survive. Well, here we are 30 years later happily married. His wife left him shortly after we quit seeing him in a messy divorce. His embittered feelings were transferred onto each patient that walked through his door. It's always good to know if your potential therapist might be carrying some heavy luggage of their own before entrusting your welfare into their hands. Sure, it can be argued that they are professionals, but they are also human.

Indeed, there is a nearly extinct species beginning to gain ground again. Those of us who have managed to allow "Burning Love" fueled by an abundance of hormones to gradually soften into warm embers while we bask in the "Days of Wine and Roses". For those who find themselves in this situation, as long as the feelings are mutual and each others needs are fulfilled, you will find yourself in relationship over pouring in love; one where you can develop a deeper spiritual connectedness that does not require nor necessarily desire regular gratification of a bodily nature. Don't allow anyone to tell you that this is a disease, not "normal", or the sign of a troubled or weak relationship. Spiritual fulfillment takes you to a higher realm than those concerned only with the physical can comprehend.

So here's to you who have found that the true key to "Marital Bliss" goes deeper than the skin. Bless those who can love each other without an engine powered by hormones. Let's give credit to those who can break away from conventional thought and create a loving and accepting relationship of their own design. May you enjoy sharing the rest of your life with your “Best Friend Forever”. You are not alone and just perhaps - you are among those who have drunk from the "Fountain of Eternal Love". A sexless marriage is not always something bad. Beware of those who preach it is then ask for a copay to explain why.