Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC

The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 675 Route 72 E Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Telephone us at(609)709-2043 and (609) 709-0009.Take Mill Creek Road South, just off Route 72, on the road to Beach Haven West.After about 400 feet, turn right into the office complex of Greater Coastal Realty. Then turn right and go past the Lyceum Gyn. Continue on to the Prudential Zack Building. We. are the last office at the end. We accept Medicare and most other major insurance.Weekend and evening office hours are avalable.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Determinism is the Secular Equivalent of Salvation

In considering the question of free will, it is also necessary to consider the question of moral responsibility. We hold people legally and morally responsible for their actions to the extent tha they know what they are doing is wrong, and understand the consequences of doing so. To the extent that this understanding is diminished, their guilt is reduced. But what criminal facing execution would have deliberately and with full understanding committed the crime that sealed his fate? How then could we hold him fully responsible for his act, and demand the ultimate penalty? 

Who could ever knowingly be so STUPID as to knowingly
and deliberately do anything that would lead to this?
Thinkers and philosophers have been debating the question of determinism versus free will for centuries. Briefly, the argument goes like this. If someone announces that he has made a decision and you ask him why, he will answer, "Because," followed by a list of reasons. Would he ever have decided otherwise? you ask. "Yes," he would answer, if he had other reasons. Our reasons determine our decisions, and our reasons are determined by our motives. But we do not choose our motives! Therefore, our decisions are all caused, and free will is an illusion. 

Can you think of anything that any human being ever does that is not determined by our motives, and the alternatives which we perceive before us? The most that a psychologist is able to do is to point out the existence of still other motives, of which we may be unaware.  The question is not, "Do I choose?" but "Do I choose to choose? and the answer is no!

Just as a computer makes choices in accordance with its instructions, we make choices in accordance with our motives. They are our programs. We only "feel" free if the choices before us are pleasant ones; but in reality, free will does not exist, for this kind of choice is just as determined as any other.

Today, neuroscience provides us with the conclusive answer to the question of whether or not we have free will. 

What we commonly refer to as "freedom" lies in the range of choices which are open to us, and whether or not those choices are experienced as pleasant or desirable, then some people's freedom can be a lot more limited than that of others. The psychiatrist Milton Erickson wrote a classic case study entitled "The February Man," in which he described a client who had such an inadequate personality that he had to do a series of age regressions with her to provide the corrective socializing experiences that she had missed, from childhood through her teen years and all the way into adulthood. This changed both her self and her motives, and greatly expanded her freedom to make her own choices.

Prisons  are still needed, of course, to the extent that they protect the public from dangerous persons, to the extent that they serve as a deterrent to others, and to the extent that they can make us want to do what we know that we ought to do (That's why we call them correctional institutions.). I worked in the NJ State Prison system for fifteen years, and i know that the system doesn't always work as it should, I agree -- but sometimes it does, when people begin to realize what leads to what. When I asked one inmate how he came to jail, he replied uneasily, "I was found behind the wheel of a stolen car." I asked him, "Did you steal it?" and he reluctantly replied, "Well, yeah."

When I say that there is no such thing as a behavior without a cause, I also have to admit that a person's self can be one of the causes. And what is the self? Is it the sum total of a person's past experience, or does it have a unique structure that is more than the sum of its parts? Most of us would say that each person's self is uniqe, and is capable of initiating action on its own.
But aren't there still reasons why you develop one kind of self and not another? Of course there are! So this whole free-will vs. determinism debate is like a reversible figure. If you look at it one way you see one thing, and if you look at it another way you see something else. That[s why the debate has persisted for hundreds of years, and why it will continue to persist until people recognize that it all depends on your point of view,
As far as deciding which view to emphasize, most of us would agree that Adolf Hitler should not be forgiven because he could not help himself/  But sometimes a  voluntaristic view of right and wrong needs to be balanced up a bit. Every day, I see people in my clinical psychology practice whose depression, anxety, and unhappiness are the result of beating themselves up for things which they couldn't help doing in the situations in which they found themselves. Determinists, however, realize this, and therefore they have no guilt. For atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers (although I an none of these), determinism is simply the secular equvalent of the Fundamentalist experience of :"salvation.".

Successful psychotherapy also provides us with  an increased range of choices available to us which did not exist before, and in that sense it can be said to expand our freedom. This is also the promise and the potential of hyperempiria, or suggestion-enhanced experience, and of visiting multiple Universes to re-write our own history, for the enhancement of human potential, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the fulfillment of human existence.    

See also: Hypnosis and the Mind-Body Problem

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Color Blindness Tests and "Hypno-Blindness" Tests

Some people grow up never knowing that they are color blind. They have to take a test similar to the following samples from the Ishihara Color Blindness Test in order to find out. They are shown a series of plates which are carefully constructed so that regardless of what color they aree,  the same of amount of light is reflected from each of the tiles of which they are composed.  Some the tiles that are of different colors than the others are arranged in the form of numbers.  Between twelve and twenty percent of the white male population, and a tiny fraction of females will not be able to see any numbers in the plates reproduced below. Can you

Why is such a test necessary? Because color-blind people believe that they are no different than anybody else, this causes them to operate in a "cultural trance" in which they gloss over very real differences in their experiential abilities.

A hypnotic induction may be thought of as  a "hypno-blindness test." A certain percentage of the population, more imaginatively gifted than the rest, is naturally capable of visual and auditory hallucinations, insensitivity to pain, and all of the other phenomena that we associate with high hypnotizability.  But, like those who grow up never knowing that they are color blind until they are tested for it, these experientially gifted individuals also operate in a cultural trance which causes them to feel that they are no different than anybody else, and which makes them gloss over real differences in their experiential abilities until they are tested.

What does hypnosis do to change things? In a recent thread on the Hypnothoughts discussion forum which asked people to describe the most unique induction they know, After the obviously humorous ones were removed, the only thing the remaining ones appeared to have in common was that they were all suggesting or implying that the subject's consciousness was beginning to function differently. And what does that accomplish? When a hypnotist suggests that someone's consciousness is beginning to function differently, this removes their cultural blinders and, if they are sufficiently able and willing, frees them up to use their imagination in what to the rest of us appears to be an "Alice-in-Wonderland" fashion.

Exceptions do occur, of course, when the cultural blinders are ineffetive, and people manifest hypnotic-like behavior without an induction. But we are usually quite hesitant about appearing to be very much different from those around us. As I have stated previously, if I were to walk up to an imaginatively gifted person, ask him to close his eyes, and suggest, with no previous induction, that by the time I got to the count of five he could open his eyes and see me dressed in a Santa Claus suit and hat, he would usually think that I was crazy. And if such a suggestion should actually happen to work, he would probably think that he was crazy! But if I first suggested that he was "going into hypnosis," using some sort of an induction proxedure to make such a sufggestion sufficiently plausible,then he can use the power of his imagination to do whatever he or she is able and willing to do with these gifts -- that is, until the session is concluded and they have to put their cultural blinders back on. 

It has been said that the organisms most frequently experimented on are the laboratory rat and the college sophomore, because they are the most available to academic researchers. The differences in hypnotic responsiveness I have just referred to are reliably obtained when data are gathered under standardized testing conditions such as a college classroom. But, unlike differences in color blkndness, which are largely hereditary, when the testing conditions for suggestibillity are fundamentally changed, these individual differences can instantly vanish.