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Manual Magic

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  • Therapist as Magician, Teacher as Trickster

    This is from the first paragraph of Chapter 1 (Feuerstein’s book) beneath the heading: The Upside Down World of Tricksters and Clowns “What these approaches have in common is an adept who typically instructs others in ways that are designed to shock or startle the conventional mind…From the conventional point of view the crazy-wise teachers are eccentrics who use their eccentricity to communicate an alternative vision…they are masters of inversion, proficient breakers of taboos and lovers of surprise.”

    So much of this sounds like the themes of essays I’ve written during the past year or so, especially Going the Other Way and The Stimulation of Eccentricity.

    From paragraph 3: “…the trickster celebrates bodily existence, which includes all the many functions that civilization seeks to suppress or control.”

    This sounds even more familiar and in the process of developing my concept of manual magic this has probably been my most common subject.

    Then there’s this: “The trickster is the embodiment of the anticultural forces that surround human society, which are kept at bay by the countless institutions that compose the skeleton of the culture…”

    Well, maybe I don’t need to actually read much more of this book, but I know I will. It appears that performing and teaching manual magic requires that the therapist begin by seriously questioning the rituals and dogma of traditional care and work to reveal what it is about the way we are told live our lives without stepping from “the herd” that leads to pain.

    I’m already there, and I’ve been for a long time.
    Barrett L. Dorko


    • Crazy Enough?

      Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true.

      Legendary Physicist Niels Bohr

      I spent a lot of time at breakfast this morning reading more about “crazy wisdom” and especially the characters that displayed it. Feuerstein’s book is enormously detailed and I will admit that while reading the intricate descriptions of the behavior pursued by those he feels truly “got” the concept of living and teaching this way I often grew uneasy. In fact, I nearly gave up on the idea of finding my way toward more of this as I develop further the concept of manual magic. These people often appeared psychotic and reveled in that. I cannot.

      But then later in the morning as I ran hard uphill on the treadmill, my iPod blaring away in my ears, my eyes fixed at the television above tuned to an old episode of Charmed that I couldn’t actually hear, I had a sort of epiphany, or, at least my version of such a thing. I thought, “Who appears crazy at the moment? At least, in relation to the behavior of most men my age in the world?”

      Craziness is a relative thing, of course, and though I can explain in great detail to anyone why I do these things, I’m sure that there are many out there who wouldn’t get it. Without trying, to them I am acting strangely, and perhaps I can use this in some way. Then again, the students I actually have should probably see something crazy from me as well.

      I’m working on it. More about that soon.
      Barrett L. Dorko


      • Earlier in this thread I mentioned the dress of Howard Thurston, a contemporary of Houdini’s - a man who took his clothes off at every opportunity, but then, he wasn’t much of a magician. Thurston dressed formally and was never seen otherwise, to my knowledge.

        When I teach I always dress up as well, though I’m no Howard Thurston. I see this in a number of ways. It provides the class a way of recognizing who I am and I firmly believe that it is a display of respect; a respect for those in attendance and for the subject matter as well. Over the course of the day my coat comes off and my sleeves get rolled up. I become more like the therapists around me and by virtue of what they’ve learned they become more like me. My goal is for us to truly meet somewhere and I think I get there with a few. Of course, we soon separate once class is over. I encourage them to meet me again on these pages but that hasn’t been an especially successful endeavor.

        I find myself returning again here to the subject of secrets. Thurston and Houdini guarded theirs carefully until they could sell them. Manual magicians keep nothing once they’ve learned it – not from the patient and certainly not from other therapists interested in learning.

        What my class sees is my semi-formal but common dress but what they soon hear are my unusual ideas about what is wrong (and right) about our patients and what we would should and should not do for that. To some, these ideas sound crazy and the appearance of ideomotion, even in their own hands as they practice, is startling. In magical terms it is The Turn (introduced in post# 155) i.e. getting an ordinary thing to do something extraordinary.

        If such a thing is seen within the context of culturally dictated adherence to convention (which is another way of saying “The instructor looked normal enough – he was even dressed rather nicely) I feel it is more likely to “stick” to the therapist witnessing it. My dress is, in effect, a little Velcro for the progression of thinking that includes the meme of abnormal neurodynamics, Simple Contact and ideomotion.

        I don’t think that dressing like a clown would help this along.
        Barrett L. Dorko


        • More Cowbell

          I’m convinced that manual magic contains an attitude of lightness and humor that is often not found in the “heavier” methods of manual care. Coercion carries with it the connotation of control while the legerdemain of Simple Contact is much more likely to be permissive in nature. Here I’d like to say something about humor in relation to the “craziness” some find in the gentle nature of manual magic.

          Feuerstein refers to a book titled Zen and the Comic Spirit by M. Conrad Hyers where you’ll find this: At every level of manifestation, humor spells freedom to some degree. Humor means freedom. The freedom to laugh within the bondage of life becomes the freedom to laugh on the other side of enlightenment. He who is longer in bondage to desire or the law and no longer torn apart by alienation and anxiety can laugh with the laughter of children and great sages.

          “Neurologic freedom” is a term I once saw Butler use and it struck me as another way of speaking of ideomotion. And I have always thought two things: I never helped anybody who did not get warmer in some way and who didn’t laugh at some point.

          I wasn’t above being a little “crazy” in order to get the laughter if I found I had to resort to that. Sometimes that behavior on my part was remarkably subtle but there nonetheless.

          Here’s an example of that sort of small thing from the classic Saturday Night Live “More Cow Bell” performance. I heard this week that in rehearsal it wasn’t that funny – and then Will Ferrell went backstage and came back wearing a smaller shirt.

          To me, that’s not only comic genius – it’s magic.
          Barrett L. Dorko


          • “Neurologic freedom” is a term I once saw Butler use and it struck me as another way of speaking of ideomotion. And I have always thought two things: I never helped anybody who did not get warmer in some way and who didn’t laugh at some point.
            According to the Explain Pain course I attended, laughter stimulates serotonin release, which seems to be helpful in modulating pain. For better or for worse, I took his word for it and have not researched further to know if that is true.

            As I write, I wonder: what stimulates the smile?

            Love the Cowbell reference. Couldn't get the link to work here at work, but I know the skit well. Thanks for the laugh. Even thinking about it stimulates a smile.



            • You see? Undressing a little works.
              "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris


              • I just read a CBS news report here that includes “A group of Japanese magicians sued TV broadcasters on Tuesday for revealing closely guarded secrets behind a series of coin tricks.”

                The brilliant satirist, Steven Colbert, used this as a catalyst for one of his commentaries this week as well. It’s wonderful, and can be seen on Crooks and Liars.

                What Colbert says about the audience at a magical performance describes the attitude of some therapists I’ve met. Not only don’t they know the mechanism; the “trick” behind manual magic, they feel that they shouldn’t ask because that knowledge ruins the effect.

                This thread is about changing that attitude.
                Barrett L. Dorko


                • Another Magician

                  The most recent podcast from New Scientist magazine features a conversation with Richard Wiseman, a psychologist I’m certain will become an important figure in my further considerations of manual magic. He is especially adept at revealing how our perceptions aren’t nearly as reliable as we imagine they are.

                  Just consider this You Tube clip for starters.
                  Barrett L. Dorko


                  • Barrett,

                    In your experience, do you notice a difference in acceptance of your teachings between age ranges and/or educational background (bachelors vs masters vs doctoral)? I understand that this may be difficult to discern and my intention is not to start a discussion/debate of which backgrounds are better.

                    The basis of my question comes from an interaction I had with a classmate at a course in Florida. He told me that for his group research project in PT school, they classified PTs (who were attending the APTA conference) by their educational background. Then, they assessed the subjects views towards continuing education. In sum, the trend was that those with Bachelors tend to take courses to fulfill CE requirements; those with Masters or DPTs tend to take courses to further their learning/understanding. Just wondering if you have noticed a similar trend. My suspicion is that the null hypothesis would be accepted if this were rigorously studied, but I could be wrong.

                    Again, I do not desire to spark another debate about educational levels and degrees, and I realize that these results are not very generalizable. Just a curious question...



                    • I thought the video was great and I show it to anyone willing to watch.

                      By the way, did anyone notice the Gorilla?
                      "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris


                      • Barrett, you referred to someone named Sachs on some thread lately. Is this who you meant?
                        HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
                        Neurotonics PT Teamblog
                        Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
                        Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
                        WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
                        Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

                        SomaSimple on Facebook

                        "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

                        “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

                        “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

                        "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

                        "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire


                        • Diane,

                          It is. Thanks for the link

                          I haven’t forgotten this thread and, believe it or not, I’ve some additional ideas about manual magic and what its application might imply, not only about the nature of gentle handling (a hallmark of Simple Contact) but about the sort of therapist willing to employ this as their primary manual modality.

                          I came across a long article about Ricky Jay, today’s pre-eminent sleight of hand magician and a notable thrower of cards. I work on this regularly myself, often at lunch in the large rooms assigned my workshops. I’m getting better.

                          Jay is a markedly eccentric fellow and in the article titled Secrets of the Magus by Mark Singer in the New Yorker Magazine (1993) you’ll see just how eccentric. I’ve chosen a few quotes from this portrait and intend to use them to explore manual magic further.

                          Let’s start with this:

                          Referring to an interview with David Mamet -Having directed Jay now in three films-and they are collaborating on the screenplay of another-Mamet holds him in high esteem as an actor. "Ricky's terrific," Mamet said. "He doesn't make anything up. He knows the difference between doing things and not doing things. The magician performs a task and the illusion is created in the mind of the audience. And that's what acting is about."

                          The difference between doing and not doing is the main thing I teach when it comes to actual technique, or, as Jay believes, “The most uplifting magic has a spontaneous, improvisational vigor.”

                          Spontaneous and improvisational - sounds like manual magic to me.
                          Barrett L. Dorko


                          • The Magician's Manner

                            The manner of the manual magician is, I think, every bit as important as their technique, though it doesn’t trump their knowledge. Nothing is more important than that. My own manner has matured, of course, and what I’ve included here sounds familiar to me.

                            Below are a few words from the article’s author and the comedian/actor/novelist Steve Martin. I truly admire this man’s mind.

                            He has a skeptically friendly, mildly ironic conversational manner and a droll, filigreed prose style (and) he quotes Vernon's belief that "cards are like living, breathing human beings and should be treated accordingly."

                            The actor Steve Martin said not long ago, "I sort of think of Ricky as the intellectual Èlite of magicians. I've had experience with magicians my whole life. He's expertly able to perform and yet he knows the theory, history, literature of the field. Ricky's a master of his craft. You know how there are those teachers of creative writing who can't necessarily write but can teach? Well, Ricky can actually do everything."

                            I was especially struck by Vernon’s description of cards as “living things.” These practitioners of ordinary magic don’t have the advantage the manual magician has. We work with animated objects capable of performing alone, and, in fact, are able to learn how to continue without us.

                            You could never say this about an ordinary magician’s props - even Rick Jay’s.
                            Barrett L. Dorko


                            • The Importance of Understanding

                              So, what’s important? The manner? The “secret”? The technique?

                              When asked these days about the relation between my work and the “unwinding” taught in the Barnes’ MFR courses or “somato-emotional release” promoted by Upledger I always begin by visibly shuddering at the mere mention of these things. This is part comedy and part warning. I don’t want to be associated with either of these methods; not even in the same sentence. If you’re wondering why, read through the Myofascial Release; The Great Conversation thread. It won’t take you long to appreciate my objection to this so-called therapy.

                              Then I say, “The most important aspect of the patient/therapist interaction is the understanding of the therapist. Understanding, which implies defendable theory, precedes appropriate care and a progression toward ever more effective and safe practice. (everybody nods) These people do not understand what they’re doing nor can they describe the patient’s response with an explanation that approaches reality.” In response these days I get nothing but silence. Oh, there is the occasional whiny, “Yea but it helps,” from someone who has forgotten what I’ve already said about how useless it is to justify what you do in this manner.

                              In short, what is of primary importance is understanding.

                              From the perspective of the manual magician, I see this issue as it is spoken of in the New Yorker article:

                              One guy in a tuxedo producing doves can be magic, ten guys producing doves is a travesty. "Ricky won't perform for magicians at magic shows, because they're interested in things," Weber says. "They don't get it. They won't watch him and be inspired to make magic of their own. They'll be inspired to do that trick that belongs to Ricky. Magic is not about someone else sharing the newest secret. Magic is about working hard to discover a secret and making something out of it. You start with some small principle and you build a theatrical presentation out of it. You do something that's technically artistic that creates a small drama. There are two ways you can expand your knowledge-through books and by gaining the confidence of fellow-magicians who will explain these things.

                              I found myself focusing upon the words “…working hard to discover a secret and making something out of it.” Manual magicians certainly do this, but they differ from the stage magician in a significant way – they don’t keep the secret, well, secret. They tell the patient what’s going on, the patient’s family, and, most importantly, they tell other would-be manual magicians about it without hesitation. And, if possible, without demanding a fee, or, better yet, a series of fees.

                              Does that sound like Barnes or Upledger to you?
                              Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 01-06-2007, 05:18 PM.
                              Barrett L. Dorko


                              • The World Wants To Be Deceived

                                I found this in the MFR thread, posted originally by Nick Matheson and attributed to Walter Kaufman who I’m pretty sure is this guy.

                                "Mundus vult decipi: the world wants to be deceived. The truth is too complex and frightening; the taste for the truth is an acquired taste that few people acquire. (In fact), there is a hierarchy of deceptions. On a higher level we find fictions that men eagerly believe, regardless of the evidence, because they gratify some wish. Near the top of the ladder we encounter curious mixtures of untruth and truth that exert a lasting fascination on the intellectual community.”

                                This fits well with "The magical aspect of Ricky Jay is very strong," Diaconis says. "It's one thing to see someone who is very skillful with cards and quite another to witness an effect and have just no idea what happens. With Ricky, it's very hard to isolate technique from performance. I can sense when a sleight has happened and how it happened, but I still don't see it. I just feel it intellectually.” (from The New Yorker)

                                Often when therapists watch me employ Simple Contact they strain forward, looking for “the trick” to handling. Seeing nothing, they lean back again, quietly. I explain that the subsequent ideomotion they see emerges because my understanding has changed the context, and though many seem to “get” this, most dismiss it as a practical matter as soon as class is over. I imagine them saying to their colleagues, “It was interesting, I think it might be useful. I can’t imagine ever actually doing this though.”

                                They feel it intellectually, but the magic escapes them.

                                Remember: The world wants to be deceived.

                                Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 02-06-2007, 02:33 AM.
                                Barrett L. Dorko