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  • We're looking for a movement

    “We’re looking for a movement”

    Soma Simple as an Emergent Phenomenon

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I’m not certain where this thread is headed, but that’s probably best.
    Barrett L. Dorko

  • #2
    Early in Johnson’s book, and in the recommended podcast as well, E.O. Wilson’s work with ants is spoken of extensively. As it happens, the first slide I show to my classes contains a quote from this amazing scientist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Note: Those who are attempting to follow this thread without registering are going to struggle with your lack of access to archived material and links aside from that.
    Barrett L. Dorko

    Comment


    • #3
      I’ve left this thread empty for a while. Not because I’ve nothing more to say, but because I couldn’t figure out how to say it in a sequence that would display the connection between emergent phenomena, therapeutic practice and Soma Simple.

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

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

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

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

      More soon.
      Barrett L. Dorko

      Comment


      • #4
        Conway's Game of Life may be helpful in developing some understanding.
        "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris

        Comment


        • #5
          Will Wright's Vision

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

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

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

          See where I’m going with this?

          How are human movement, therapy practice and Soma Simple connected to all of this?
          Barrett L. Dorko

          Comment


          • #6
            Having read lately about oscillators in the brain, their self-organization, spontaneous arising, complete automaticity at an individual level, yet strangely, when combined, their exquisite sensitivity to each other and capacity to notice and respond to their environment, then restore themselves... how all of this operates within each of us like a giant creative biological clockwork....
            How are human movement, therapy practice and Soma Simple connected to all of this?
            ... I'd say that they allow (intra- and inter-personal) capacities to develop and self-reinforce - as long as dumbing down is not always provided as the main dish. (It's easy for that to happen in PT.. most seem to dive for recipe rather than mental rigor, equating "better" with "more efficient" to "strengthening the profession", seem to not have gotten bored yet. Not realizing that they dampen the oscillators when they do that.)
            Diane
            www.dermoneuromodulation.com
            SensibleSolutionsPhysiotherapy
            HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
            Neurotonics PT Teamblog
            Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
            Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
            @PainPhysiosCan
            WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
            @WCPTPTPN
            Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

            @dfjpt
            SomaSimple on Facebook
            @somasimple

            "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

            Comment


            • #7
              Perhaps a review of the beginnings of SS is useful.
              It was created by Bernard to fill a gap left by the demise of NOI in 2004; the site started with only three PTs, as many sites do.
              From the start, it was designed to be different from other sites, with broad-ranging topics and a strong focus on neuroscience.

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

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

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

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

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


              Nari

              Comment


              • #8
                Like ants after finding a good source of sugar, SomaSimplers surely must be secreting 'cybernetic pheromones' over the internet and in their behaviors at work, which will influence the behavior of other therapists and ultimately how people around the world behave in response to pain, and hopefully it's for the better. Though individually, we may be no more cognizant of the effect our actions have on the emerging phenomenon than a common worker ant.
                Eric Matheson, PT

                Comment


                • #9
                  All wonderful and accurate insights. Though the moderators collectively (ironic, huh?) refer to Soma Simple as some sort of ship, and I like that, as Eric says it is more akin to an ant colony.

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

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

                  Back soon.
                  Barrett L. Dorko

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Found it.

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

                    From Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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

                    More soon.
                    Barrett L. Dorko

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Jumping into the organism

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

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

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

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

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

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

                      My question: What is so frightening about joining into the organism as it grows?
                      Barrett L. Dorko

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What is so frightening about joining into the organism as it grows?
                        I don't have an answer for you, but I like the question. I've been googling and as usual am astounded by the amount of sites out there devoted to this topic. Here's one I think you might like. It describes how emergent behavior might be designed by manipulating (sorry Diane) the agents of emergence.
                        Agents and Emergence by James Odell
                        Eric Matheson, PT

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Here's another interesting site to browse, from Mitchel Resnic a researcher who attempts to engage people in learning activities with things like this; an Active Essay exploring emergence. He also wrote a book titled Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams that looks like it would be interesting for a motivated reader.
                          Eric Matheson, PT

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            What is so frightening about joining into the organism as it grows?
                            Joining in on a conversation as opposed to lurking requires extraordinary courage. You must put yourself out there with the potential for criticism. The potential discomfort is likely a large factor.

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

                            For those brave souls who post, despite the work, despite the uncomfortable dissonance, I think that courage grows as does understanding. I know that my growth of understanding is directly linked to the amount of active participation I bring and the expression it allows.
                            Cory Blickenstaff, PT, OCS

                            Pain Science and Sensibility Podcast
                            Leaps and Bounds Blog
                            My youtube channel

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Something that I thought about this evening on this topic is that emergence is constantly happening, in organisms, at a biological/evolutionary level. But little or nothing can survive without an environment that is friendly, i.e., a niche that is supportive, a good supply of available raw material from which to extract necessary energy to grow, some sort of recognition that it is good to "eat" coupled with capacity to "digest" it, utilize it.

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

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

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

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

                              I don't know if this makes sense to anyone else - at the moment it's a very conflated metaphor, but I thought it needed to "emerge" even if it was awkward and convoluted. Cheers.
                              Diane
                              www.dermoneuromodulation.com
                              SensibleSolutionsPhysiotherapy
                              HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
                              Neurotonics PT Teamblog
                              Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
                              Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
                              @PainPhysiosCan
                              WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
                              @WCPTPTPN
                              Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

                              @dfjpt
                              SomaSimple on Facebook
                              @somasimple

                              "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

                              Comment

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