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Manual Magic

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  • #46
    Tagore's Insight

    I’ve had a number of people tell me privately that they’ve enjoyed this thread, and, for me, it’s been one of those that has sent me pouring over stacks of paper in my office searching for relevant quotes and bits of articles I’ve read or written and then saved for just such an occasion as this writing.

    After her passing my sisters went through my mother’s bureau drawers and found a short poem by Rabindranath Tagore that we had reproduced on a brass plate and placed in a memorial garden. I’d never heard of this Indian poet and associate of Gandhi’s before but his writing always draws me now. I found this:

    “A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame…A teacher who has come to the end of his own subject can only load his student’s minds, he cannot quicken them.”

    What I see here is the teacher/therapist as magician; full of knowledge that grows even as the teacher speaks. I know this happens to me, especially when I speak to patients. It doesn’t happen so commonly when I speak to my colleagues in therapy. I think that this has to do with the relative “aliveness” of the person listening. I find my patients alight with curiosity and not heavily burdened with the mesodermal memes that retard the learning therapists might do given the information I offer. Many therapists walking into my workshops are looking for a place to hide and rest. They openly admit that it’s the CEUs they seek and spend the day in perfect, personal silence. In such an environment the generation of magic can be difficult, but I manage.

    I manage because I have become what Moore and Gillette describe in The Magician Within: “(A mature magician) contributes to healing through stewarding his knowledge. (He) keeps abreast of the latest developments in his area of specialty and in general human knowledge too.”

    More about this and Hillman’s “shadow” magician in my next post.
    Barrett L. Dorko


    • #47
      Hofstadter the Magician

      Another writer with a magician’s archetype strongly expressed is Douglas Hofstadter. I took his thick book, Metamagical Themas off the shelf in my office and discovered that in 1985 I had underlined a bunch of passages regarding Dawkin’s memes (first described in ’76). I remember taking the book on vacation to Travers City Michigan back then but can’t remember marking it or remembering what a meme was. As far as I know, I first became aware of this concept in the late 90s. It appears that my unconscious was trying to get me to notice something carefully long before I understood its significance. I know it led my hand to use the red marker.

      Anyway, there’s another portion of this book devoted to our fascination for magic and our simultaneous desire to make sense of things. Hofstadter puts it like this:

      “Perhaps we all have a desire to dilute reality with fantasy, to make reality seem simpler and more aligned with what we wish it were. Perhaps for us all, the path of least resistance is to allow reality and fantasy to run together like watercolors, blurring our vision but making the world more pastel-like; in a word, softer.”

      I agree. And it seems to me that this tendency is recognized and exploited by the ‘shadow” magicians out there. These are our colleagues full of information often acquired after hard work and careful study. In this way we’re the same, but often they’re also very nice people. Here’s the problem: they create a system of teaching that conveniently (for them) doles out information in dribs and drabs (each one is expensive) and keep people coming back with a promise of magic at the next level. They never give anything away, they only sell it. Maybe the tons of information I acquire and share freely is my primary distinction. In addition, I offer the magic immediately. This hasn’t made me wealthy, just satisfied with that part of my life.

      But Hofstadter goes on: “Yet at the same time, perhaps all of us have the potential capacity to sift sense from nonsense, if only we were introduced to the distinction in a sufficiently vivid and compelling manner.”

      Clearly, this is the teacher/magician’s task in a workshop like mine.

      I’m working on it, really, I am.
      Barrett L. Dorko


      • #48
        After learning what I have over the lasts few years, and putting it into to practice, what strikes me most is how much simpler my work is compared to my peers. I never seem to have charting to catch up on, I stay on schedule, I leave at the end of my shift, sure I have failures like anyone else but for the most part my patients seem fairly happy.

        I entered the profession wanting to be able to perform magic, no doubt about that; I wanted to learn the tricks of the trade. I never learned this at school. What I learned was systems for dealing with uncertainty; systems that became more complex the greater the uncertainty. And to be honest, only a brief taste of the systems is ever offered to undergrads, you have to pay more and work more for the whole thing. Does this not seem really odd? We are graduating therapists, licensed to work with patients, who haven't even been taught the complete system(s)? Just how they heck are they supposed to cope? I hope we don't let surgeons practice autonomously after watching a few videos and being shown where the tools are.

        If on the first day of class students were given the option of doing this (the degree) the hard way or the easy way, I wonder which most would choose?

        ‘House’ on tv tonight said something like “doing nothing ensures that nothing gets done.” This may have been true in the context in which it was said, unfortunately I’m afraid this meme steers most towards the hard way of doing things, at least in our profession. Call me a sucker, but I am equally impressed with the magic of a simple trick involving one coin as I am with extravagant Vegas style shows. It’s all magic, not better or worse, more or less. I think patients want magic too. When they don’t get it, they must console themselves in the fact that someone is working really hard on their behalf; someone who will try to do as much as they can for them, and put on a really good show to top it off. They must think that if this therapist is willing to work so hard, the least they can do is match their effort, and around they go on the more must be better spiral. When magic is all that’s needed, the magic of neuroscience, a really simple trick will do.

        Who wouldn’t want to make their life simpler??
        Eric Matheson, PT


        • #49

          One would think that it is everyone's goal to make physiotherapy simpler.

          But many complicated methods seem to indicate proficiency, cleverness and competence, viz: the body is complicated, therefore its remedies must also be, to keep out the charlatans. And patients are impressed by this hard work...
          Eric, if you are a touch cynical now, watch out. Age tends to increase cynicism and scepticism.......



          • #50

            Sounds like my practice. I have a funny story though. I had my charts reviewed and of course they looked rather simple. When you tend to do one thing for a system vs 100 things for various structures, the notes look a little sparse. I was criticized for this of course. Seems insurance doesn't pay for understanding something, just doing something. The eval is great also. It is an extensive computerized list you have to check off, posture, biomechanical exams, etc. it's pretty detailed. I'm always relieved when I finish it and can finally ask, "does it alter with position or use?" and "are ya a little cold?" Then my work can begin.

            Christopher Bryhan MPT

            "You are more likely to learn something by finding surprises in your own behavior then by hearing surprising facts about people in general"
            Daniel Kahneman - Thinking Fast and Slow


            • #51
              This thread is great.
              I think there are two opposing dynamics going on in our profession.

              On one side are people (like us maybe) who say, wait a minute, all we really are is human primate social groomers. The big thing people hate having to deal with is pain. If we aim straight at that, and blast it to pieces, and teach patients how to keep their own pieces small thereafter, we'll have done our job and we'll have a satisfying life with steady referrals from satisfied ex-patients. It's simple, really. And quite peaceful.

              On the other hand there is the contingent who don't trust the idea of "simple." They want it to appear they know a lot, for whatever reason, (maybe because they haven't figured out how simple it all really is), plus there is some perceived need on their part to grow this profession into some sort of hyper visible edifice, like a skyscraper with lots of blazing lights and neon signs attached. So they endlessly keep the inner economy booming by attending each others courses so they can demonstrate how busily everyone is engaged in learning, how hard they are working, all a theatrical event to impress who? Themselves, each other, insurers.. the health care system.. I'm not really sure anymore. It's all such a bore.
              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


              • #52
                I found this "magic" picture. (more symbolic than it shows at first).
                Consider the panel as a patient or a PT.
                Attached Files
                Last edited by bernard; 31-01-2007, 07:29 PM.
                Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. L VINCI
                We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. I NEWTON

                Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not a bit simpler.
                If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Albert Einstein


                • #53
                  Physicist-Superhero or Physicist-Magician?

                  As often happens when I grow intrigued by a certain subject or line of thought I begin to find references to it everywhere. Of course, they were always there but my brain hadn’t been primed to notice them. So, I wandered by the “New Nonfiction” shelves at the Falls library this week and found several books specifically on the nature of the archetypal magician and what these people are like. I should probably say that the book’s authors didn’t necessarily know that they were writing about this.

                  My favorite so far is Hiding in the Mirror by Lawrence M. Krauss. This is a highly respected physicist and author who has spent a large chunk of his career right here in Ohio. Coincidence? I think not!

                  Krauss begins this book by describing an episode of Twilight Zone that aired about forty-five years ago. I remember it clearly. It was titled “Little Girl Lost” and began like this: Two parents waken to sounds of their daughter crying out for them in the distance. They can’t find her and come to the grim realization that’s she’s lost in a way they can’t imagine is possible. Suddenly the father races to the living room, picks up the phone and dials a neighbor. Hanging up he says to the wife a line that has probably never been heard on television before or since:

                  “Bill’s coming over. He’s a physicist! He ought to be able to help!”

                  I don’t know about you, but I find this hilarious.

                  Krauss likes it too, but goes on to proclaim that the man who saved the girl was a “physicist-superhero.” Of course, I understand him as a physicist-magician. In light of this thread’s content we know that this is perfectly possible, and a good thing too. After all, who else are you gonna call when your daughter has fallen into another dimension?

                  The book is full of similar insights. More to come as I travel this week.
                  Barrett L. Dorko


                  • #54
                    I think that Krauss’ introductory chapter contains enough good stuff to justify the price of the book. Here’s another bit about “the allure of extra dimensions.”

                    “Because of the deeply ingrained nature of the concepts I want to deal with here, while science will form the core of our narrative thread, this book will present a broader history of ideas. This cultural context for the notion of extra dimensions is almost equally compelling, whether in literature or art. Science is not practiced in a vacuum, and, as I have argued, the very fact that the same ideas crop up, often centuries apart, may be telling us something, if not about the natural world, then at least about the human mind.”

                    I'm going to let that sit in my brain for a while, then I'll be back.
                    Barrett L. Dorko


                    • #55
                      Krauss quotes Albert Einstein at one point: "The theoretical possibilities in a given case are relatively few and relatively simple....Considering these tells us what is possible but does not tell us reality is."

                      Reading this I immediately thought of my "origins of pain" lecture and how it points out (hopefully) that considering this first simplifies so much. At the same time, it reduces the patient's storytelling tendency, thus making their reality more so unknown.

                      I also recall seeing an old, comic magician pull out a pair of scissors and cut the thread which had been attached to a small item he had just "levitated." The audience groaned and he looked at them and said, "Hey, how else?"
                      Barrett L. Dorko


                      • #56
                        Magicians commonly attempt to appear as if they can extend some sort of “force” over a distance. They can’t actually do this of course, but wouldn’t that be cool? Anyway, I’m thinking about how Simple Contact appears to have distant effects in the patient, often leading to widespread change. This is the reflexive effect touch begins and the brain decides to allow to grow one way or another. If it’s not perceived as threatening it might become the catalyst for change in the right direction.

                        It’s the distance that this effect can achieve that often appears so strange and “magical” to many students. It draws some closer to trying this, and it drives others away. It drives those away who can’t wrap their heads around one of the four known natural forces (gravity, electromagnetism, the weak and strong nuclear force) acting so powerfully in the body. If they do, they consider gravity alone. I think this is a consequence of a strict mesodermal and biomechanical approach to pain. Big mistake if you’re going for manual magic as defined here.

                        Electromagnetism is a far stronger force than gravity and much easier to manipulate. (See “The Significance of Gravity in Shallow Dive) I think this accounts for the sense of “magic” with this method of gentle handling. I’ve been searching for something to say about this and think I finally found it.

                        There’s a book I got while in Montana two years ago and then never opened, it’s titled Newton’s Gift. On page 75 I found the following:

                        “If forces are allowed to act at a distance, what point remains to the very notion of a mechanical explanation? Nonetheless, it was precisely the concept of action at a distance that first tantalized and then captivated Newton’s imagination. There is no overestimating his intellectual daring. The moon is very far from earth. In extending gravity to its orb, Newton was filling the space with mystery (and) he knew he was embracing an absurdity. He persevered nonetheless. (He seized) the solutions that were accessible to him while deferring, perhaps for centuries, the problems that remained."

                        This passage stood out as if in relief when I came across it.

                        Any idea why?
                        Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 05-02-2007, 02:34 AM.
                        Barrett L. Dorko


                        • #57
                          Now I’m reading Death By Black Hole where Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the most highly regarded astrophysicists and science popularizers known today, says, “When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.”

                          Manual magic, as described here, appears mysterious precisely because it is so often subtle, not only in its visual presentation but in its physiologic effect as well. I’m often surprised that unless something especially dramatic occurs within the context of a therapeutic session many therapists are unimpressed at best and oblivious at worst.

                          But the processes that lead toward improvement are typically hard to see easily and will effectively accumulative over time. Understanding the small things we know will help and encouraging them might be the very thing that separates the manual magician from the rest of us.
                          Barrett L. Dorko


                          • #58
                            I’ve also begun reading The Prestige, a novel about magical performance at the turn of the last century. I’ll be watching the movie made recently next week but I’ve only just begun the book.

                            A character is on a train reading a book of magical secrets written by, I believe, his grandfather. The book itself states, “While not strictly speaking an instructional manual…(it gives) startling insights into the mind of one of the greatest magicians who ever lived.” I thought of my slim course manual manual, which I point out isn’t a “how to” book, but, rather a “why to” book. I owe this distinction to Charles Hayes’ writing.

                            Then there is this. The character reading the magic book says that “the trouble with magic is that the more a magician protects his secrets, the more banal they turn out to be.”

                            To me, this certainly explains why the courses that hand out information in tiny increments and continually promise that the really good stuff is in the next course (cha-ching!) are so boring.
                            Barrett L. Dorko


                            • #59
                              The Pact of Acquiescent Sorcery

                              The magician and the audience have entered into what I term the Pact of Acquiescent Sorcery. They do not articulate it as such, and indeed the audience is barely aware that such a Pact exists, but that is what it is.

                              The performer of course is not a sorcerer at all, but an actor who plays the part of a sorcerer and who wishes the audience to believe, if only temporarily, that he is in contact with darker powers.

                              From The Prestige

                              I read the passage above just after thinking a while about how I might revive this thread, and I think it’s perfect for this. The words come from a book within this novel, a book written by the protagonist’s great grandfather, a highly acclaimed magician. There’s more about the performance of magic:

                              The audience knows that what they are seeing is not true sorcery, but they suppress the knowledge and acquiesce to the selfsame wish as the performer’s. The greater the performer’s skill at maintaining the illusion, the better at his deceptive sorcery he is judged to be.

                              I closed the book and thought for a while about the implications of this. I commonly wonder at the popularity of workshops taught by therapists who don’t possess any theory of dysfunction or recovery they can defend. I hear about these “wonderful” techniques from students that seem perfectly rational in every other way. When I ask them a couple of pointed questions regarding the deep model they’re suppose to know they grow confused. Sometimes they’re unhappy because by then they know that I won’t simply accept the “well, it helps” justification for crazy therapy and without that they’re speechless.

                              I honestly believe that many courses of this sort begin with a Pact of Acquiescent Sorcery though no one involved is clearly aware of that, not even the instructor. For the most part anyway.

                              The next question: How is this maintained?

                              Watch for the next post here in Manual Magic.
                              Barrett L. Dorko


                              • #60
                                I think that The Pact of Acquiescent Sorcery, which, to put it plainly means that people just go along with whatever you say, is actually in place before most in the audience even show up for the workshop. After they arrive, it is maintained by the cultural restrictions on behavior that are both insidious and powerful beyond our imagining.

                                Let me explain. In Richard Dawkins’ classic Unweaving the Rainbow he speaks of the tendency of science to make the mysterious understandable and predictable. This has not always been met with approval, specifically by postmodernists today. The title of the book is derived from a poem by Keats who lamented what Isaac Newton (Remember him? The last sorcerer?) had done to help us understand the nature of light. Keats felt that this much information had, in effect, ruined the rainbow’s appeal by describing it with cold, hard physics and mathematics.

                                We needn’t see it that way, of course. I certainly don’t. But it’s been my experience that many therapists side with Keats when it comes to the explanations offered as I handle people “magically” and they see the result. “Just tell me where to put my hands,” they say. “Quit talking so much about the neuroscience of touch and instinctive movement.” If I only got students of this sort my workshop would be over after about an hour and my suitcase full of books much lighter. For students like that, compliance (read acquiescence) to my authority and the readymade ideomotion they see from those handled is more than enough to make them happy. The problem is, this isn’t science, therefore, according to the definition in this thread, it isn’t magic either – it’s the demonstration of a superpower. No wonder courses like that, and there are many, make me laugh. They are little more than a comic book. It’s a rueful laugh, to be sure.

                                I won’t teach like that because I’m a magician, not a superhero.

                                There’s also this. When the students who want a clear, biologically plausible and physically possible explanation from the instructor attend these courses they are struck dumb by the cultural admonition to not embarrass anyone publicly. And by “anyone” I mean the instructor. Thus, The Pact remains in place.

                                More soon.
                                Barrett L. Dorko