Tag Archives: Psychology

FORENSIC HYPNOSIS FOR MEMORY ENHANCEMENT

A6Forensic hypnosis is the scientific application of memory enhancement—an investigational aid to law enforcement leads and admissible courtroom evidence. Hypnotic recall assists witnesses to reliably relay hidden details of events and descriptions that aren’t extracted through conventional interview techniques.

In my police career, I’ve had many cases using hypnotic memory enhancement. Several had amazing success.

A5I’m fascinated with the human mind. I think modern medicine and psychiatry are just beginning to understand the complexity of how our consciousness works. Hypnosis is a tool to assist in entering our subconscious and unlock the vault where memory is stored. Its magic is the ability to alter the subject’s state of consciousness which is what Shamanism is all about. But, then, Shamanism is for another discussion.

The best forensic hypnotherapist I’ve had the pleasure to work with is Dr. Lee Pulos of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Here’s how Dr. Pulos explains it.

A1“Hypnosis is a natural state of consciousness that we drift in and out of quite regularly. For example, while driving along a highway and then suddenly discovering that you ‘lost’ several miles without being aware of it. This can also happen during reading when you may notice that you have ‘read’ a chapter or two without being mindful of the content. Hypnosis is basically a technique for focusing consciousness by entering a deep state of absorption. It allows you to shift from your outer to inner awareness and tap deeper levels of consciousness so we can re-educate and reprogram the subconscious with empowering suggestions or beliefs.”

The word hypnosis comes from the name of a Greek god Hypnos, who presided over sleep. In the late1700s, Anton Mesmer brought the technique into popular consciousness in Europe and in 1843 Scottish physician James Braid coined the term hypnotism for the experience that was passing in many circles as animal magnetism.

A8Hypnosis places a person in a trance state that can resemble sleep, but instead is an altered state of consciousness more akin to lucid dreams. Often, people in a trance are quite alert but focused in a way that differs from their normal conscious state. Contrary to popular notions, subjects in a light trance are aware of everything going on.

A7I’ve seen a rough and tough biker-witness under hypnosis who was instructed to play “patty-cake” by clapping his hands on his knees.  He couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that he couldn’t control his hands, though he seemed perfectly conscious in a way that ought to have enabled him to resist the instruction. His hands changed to patting his head and stomach at the hypnotist’s instruction. They looked at each other the whole time and even had a conversation with his hands patting about.

The trance-state, which has its own ebb and flow, is the result of a trusting and cooperative process between the subject and the hypnotist. It’s not one person controlling another and there’s no way the hypnotist can make the subject do something they would not do while they’re in a normal state, such as an illegal or immoral act.

A9“Hypnosis,” says Kevin McConkey, President of the Australian Psychological Society and co-author of Hypnosis, Memory, and Behavior in Criminal Investigation, “is essentially a phenomenon that reflects genuinely experienced alterations of reality in response to suggestions administered by a hypnotist. The subject’s testimony is what confirms the trance, although susceptibility varies among individuals. Those who are highly suggestive will behave as if going through truly significant cognitive alterations.”

Hypnosis involves concentration that is heightened to the point where one can recall details that seemed to elude that same person in a conscious state. It’s a powerful forensic tool for criminal investigation, although some researchers challenge the notion that hypnosis leads to significant increases in memory.

There are two basic purposes for using forensic hypnosis.

The most common is inducing relaxation when anxiety and stress may obstruct a witness’s ability to recall as much information as possible. The second occurs when retrieval of information from witnesses cannot be acquired through other means.

A4The first court case involving forensic hypnosis was Cornell v. Superior Court of San Diego in 1959. Although forensic hypnosis is mostly used by prosecutors, in this particular court case, it was the defense that used hypnosis as an aid in preparing its strategy. Since then, many famous cases have used hypnosis as an aid, including the Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy, and Sam Sheperd.

Currently, no overriding judgment has been handed down regarding the admissibility of evidence achieved through forensic hypnosis and the use of hypnotic evidence varies between jurisdictions. Adding to the reliability problem is that solid evidence can be devalued as a result of unprofessional circumstances in obtaining evidence through hypnosis.

I remember one judge rejecting evidence from a witness who had been subject to hypnotic recall stating “There’s nothing more unreliable than an eyewitness, never mind one who is tainted by hocus-pocus.” One the other hand, I recall another judge being fascinated by the process and readily accepting witness evidence, particularly because the information obtained under hypnosis was corroborated by independent facts.

As in all types of evidence, the key is reliability.

To ensure solid forensic hypnosis used in criminal investigations is not devalued, it’s become standard and vital operating procedure that all hypnosis sessions are video/audio recorded and the session is witnessed by independent observers. To strengthen the case, the hypnosis must be performed by a trained forensic hypnotist.

A10

Before a forensic hypnotist is allowed to begin a session, one very important condition must be met. The subject must be assured that during the hypnotic session no attempt shall be made to elicit any information that is not directly relevant to the investigation. In addition, the forensic hypnotist must also assure the subject that no information retrieved will lead to self-incrimination.

Critics of forensic hypnotism center their attacks on the accuracy and reliability of the evidence that’s obtained. The concern is that suggestion(s) implanted during hypnotism may create false memories through the use of leading questions.

A11

One thing that a forensic hypnotist cannot do, and is never called to do, is to help a suspect confess to a crime. Not only is this impossible, but any confession arrived at through hypnosis would never be admissible in court.

Here’s a true case I investigated where forensic hypnosis for memory enhancement led to a break through in solving the crime. It was conducted by Dr. Lee Pulos.

A12In wintery April, a lady was alone in her cabin on a remote gold claim in northern British Columbia. A masked man with a handgun appeared at her door, demanding she hand over her gold stash. She refused. He proceeded to blindfold and hog-tie her, then began torturing by burning her hands and ribs with a red-hot knife heated on her wood stove.

Now this lady was one tough old bird, as you’d expect a gold miner to be. She later stated she’d worked so hard to build her gold stash that she’d “rather die than turn it over to this asshole.” Realizing his interrogation technique was going nowhere, the bad guy quit in frustration. He set the cabin on fire with her still tied, blindfolded, and left her to die. She was able to wiggle over and boot the door, then crawl outside where she laid in excruciating pain on the snow in sub-zero temperature until her husband returned.

Because this was such a horrific crime, we “pulled the stops”.

A13We flew her to Vancouver to undergo hypnosis with Lee Pulos. He was able to extract two things that led to solving the case. One, she recalled the bad guy was using a two-way radio or ‘communicator’, as she called it. Second, he used the term for her gold stash as being ‘squirreled away’.

A14Now knowing an accomplice was involved, we focused the investigation on a neighbor who’d been involved with a gold claim boundary dispute. We identified the suspect as a Hells Angels striker who’d been hired by the neighbor, so we ran a wiretap which caught him using the term ‘squirreled away’. This led to an elaborate, clandestine sting operation resulting in his confession to an undercover agent. He was convicted and got twenty years.

Like I said, I’ve always been fascinated with how the human mind works. One thing I’m positive about—there’s more to consciousness than modern medicine and psychiatry know—except for the Shamans.

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Dr. Leslie Gray is a professor at UCLA Berkley and the Core Shaman who’s altered states of consciousness teachings inspired “No Witnesses To Nothing”. Her website is www.WoodfishInstitute.com in San Fransisco.

But, then, Shamanism is for another discussion.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CREATIVITY

A8Creativity is the phenomenon of finding imaginative ideas and turning them into reality. It’s the process of bringing something new and original into existence. The results can be intangible products, like theories and songs, or tangible products such as inventions and the new crime-thriller novel I’m struggling to create. Creativity appears to come easier to some folks than others and we tend to see high achievers as gifted, natural creators rather than nurtured normals.

But is that so? Are there a chosen few, born with greater creative ability? Or can creativity be learned—a skill that can be taught, practiced, and mastered?

A2Back in the Greek and Roman days, creativity was seen as facilitated by a muse who connected individual human minds to the gods. Daemons were the Greek equivalent of guardian angels. They accompanied a soul from birth to death, some being highly creative which manifested themselves in outstanding and intuitive people like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Romans saw these paranormal intermediaries as Geniuses—disembodied messengers from a heavenly intelligence, delivering divine wishes to mortals.

The Renaissance era disagreed. Creative individuals were enlightened, they posed. Creativity came from within the self and gifted ones—DaVinci, Beethoven, and Shakespere—were born intellectually superior with unique abilities to create. They were the geniuses; being able to connect directly with a plane of higher intelligence rather than having an imaginary genius translate for them.

B2Today’s neuroscience has another view on this. It sees creativity as a complex psychological process that occurs via the brain’s ventral striatum and amygdala and can be enhanced through neuroplasticity, or rewiring the brain through practiced behavior.

In other words, a planned and continual workout program for your brain can definitely improve your creativity.

Improving creativity starts with a foundation of subject knowledge, learning a discipline, and mastering a proper way of thinking. You build on your creative ability by experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions, using imagination, and synthesizing information. Learning to be creative is like learning a sport. You need a desire to improve, develop the right muscles, and be in a supportive environment.

You need to view creativity as a practice and understand five key behaviors:

1. Associating—drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields.
2. Questioning—posing queries that challenge common wisdom.
3. Observing—scrutinizing the behavior of others in, around, and outside your sphere.
4. Networking—meeting people with both common and different perspectives.
5. Experimenting—constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge.

A3Read this as — listen, watch, ask, mingle, and stir. Sir Richard Branson has a mantra that’s bred into the corporate DNA of his Virgin staff — A-B-C-D — Always Be Connecting Dots. Branson swears that creativity is a practice and if you practice these five behaviors every day, you will improve your skills in creativity and innovation.

Now, if these five behaviors put you in the right direction for improving creativity, then there must be behaviors to avoid. I found eight:

1. Lack of courage—being fearful of taking chances, scared of venturing down new roads, and timid about taking the road less traveled. Fear is the biggest enemy of creativity. You need to be courageous and take chances.
2. Premature judgement—second-guessing and early judgment of outcome severely restrict your ability to generate ideas and freely innovate. Let your initial path expand and follow it to its inevitable destination.
3. Avoidance of failure—you can’t be bold and creative if you fear failure. Creativity requires risk and making mistakes. They’re part of the process.
4. Comparing with others—this robs your unique innovation and imagination. Set your own standards. Be different. Something new is always different.
5. Discomfort with uncertainty—creativity requires letting go and the process doesn’t always behave rationally. Accept that there’s something akin to paranormal in real creativity.
6. Taking criticism personally—feedback is healthy, even if it’s blunt and harsh like 1&2-Star Amazon reviews. Ignore ridicule. Have thick skin, a tough hide, and don’t let criticism get to you.
7. Lack of confidence—a certain level of uncertainty comes with any new venture. Some self-doubt is normal but if it becomes overwhelming and long-lasting, it will shut down your creative abilities. The best way to create is to first connect with your self-confidence.
8. Analysis paralysis—overthinking renders you unable to make a decision because of information overload. “Go with your gut” is the answer to analysis paralysis.

A9

Aside from positive and negative behaviors, there is one overall and outstanding quality that drives successfully creative people.

Passion…

Passion is the secret to creativity. It’s the underlying feature that’s laced the successes of all prominent creators in history.

A10Passion is a term we’ve heard over and over again. Chase you passion, not your pension. But few understand what passion implies. The word comes from the Latin root “pati which means “to suffer. Passion is what perseveres in getting to your goal despite fear, discomfort, unhappiness, and pain. It’s the determination—the motivation—to push through suffering for the sake of the end result. And this passionate feeling of motivation has its source in your brain.

B11A study released in the Journal of Neuroscience identified the ventral striatum, in connection with the amygdala, as the brain’s emotional center that controls the motivation feeling—the higher degree of motivation you feel, the higher the activation will be in this part of your brain. So that intense feeling of motivation you feel when you are in a creative state—that feeling of euphoria when engaging in something you feel truly worthwhile and meaningful to you—is real and is something physiological occurring in your brain. It’s one of the least researched areas of psychology, yet has the biggest impact on your creativity.

I sense you’re wondering if there’s a trick—a method to stimulate your ventral striatum and amygdala—in improving your creativity. Well, yes there is. It’s long been known and practiced by the greats:

Relaxation, along with definite purpose.

Relax. Put your thoughts and desires out to the ether. Relax and wait. Creative ideas will come.

A13I’m a life-long student of the Napoleon Hill Philosophy of Personal Achievement which is the psychology behind the world’s best self-help book, Think and Grow Rich. Hill clearly outlines the path to unlimited creativity which he postulates comes from the source of Infinite Intelligence that we all can tap. In order to get creative ideas from Infinite Intelligence, first you must know what you want, then you must relax and let Infinite Intelligence deliver ideas or answers to you.

Relaxation can be done in many ways. Meditation. Workout. Vacation. Change of environment. Retail therapy. Long showers. Reading. Music. Deep breathing. Long walks in nature. Maybe a stiff drink or two. The methods are varied but whatever you choose, it needs to put you in a headspace receptive to creative ideas.

A11Napoleon Hill didn’t have the anatomical knowledge of how the ventral striatum and amygdala worked, but he sure understood that definite purpose, motivation, and relaxation opened the doors of creativity. Hill described this part of the brain as being like a radio transmitter and receiver which exchanged creative thought with Infinite Intelligence.

So, if I can give one single piece of advice on how to improve your creativity it’s to read, understand, and practice the seventeen principles of success Napoleon Hill outlined in Think and Grow Rich.

Click Here for a previous blog post I wrote on the Napoleon Hill’s science of personal achievement.

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A post script to this DyingWords article—while I was researching this piece, I came across a TED Talk with well-known author, Elizabeth Gilbert. Her presentation on creativity for writers is a fascinating look at the process. Click Here to watch it.

THIRTEEN STRANGE SUPERSTITIONS ABOUT DEATH

A8Death is an uncomfortable subject for many folks. Perhaps it’s the severe emotional reaction people have to death—especially if it’s someone close—that makes the living act in bizarre ways. Or, maybe it’s because death’s process is not well understood that causes normally rational individuals to believe in irrational concepts.

Yesterday I was looking over notes from my basic coroner training. One segment was in understanding various cultural practices and traditions about death. This was valuable information as a difficult part of a coroner’s job is interacting with the deceased’s family and those relations can come from a diverse ethnicity with some pretty peculiar beliefs.

I thought I’d share thirteen strange superstitions about death.

13. Coins On The Eyes

A11The practice dates back to the ancient Greeks who believed the dead would travel down to Hades and need to cross the river Styx in order to arrive in the afterlife. To cross over, they needed to pay the boat driver, Charon, so coins were placed over the eyes of the dead so they’d be able to pay the fare.

Secondly, and more practically, many people die with their eyes open. This can be a creepy feeling, having the dead stare at you, and it was thought the dead might be eyeing someone to go with them. Coins were a practical item to weigh down the eyelids until rigor mortis set in—coins being round and fit in the eye sockets as well as being relatively heavy.

The most famous set of eye coins is the two, silver half-dollars set on Abraham Lincoln, now on display in the Chicago Historical Museum.

12. Birds And Death

A12Birds were long held to be messengers to the afterlife because of their ability to soar through the air to the homes of the gods. It’s not surprising that a number of myths materialized such as hearing an owl hoot your name, ravens and crows circling your house, striking your window, entering your house, or sitting on your sill looking in.

Birds, in general, became harbingers of death but somehow the only birds I personally associate with death are vultures.

11. Burying The Dead Facing East

A13You probably never noticed, but most cemeteries are laid out on an east-west grid with the headstones on the west and the feet pointing east. This comes from the belief that the dead should be able to see the new world rising in the east, as with the sun.

It’s also the primary reason that people are buried on their backs and not bundled in the fetal position like before they were born

10. Remove A Corpse Feet First

A15This was Body Removal 101 that we learned in coroner school. We always removed a body from a house with the feet first. The practice dates from Victorian times when it was thought if the corpse went out head first, it’d be able to “look back” and beckon those standing behind to follow.

It’s still considered a sign of respect, but coroners secretly know it’s way easier to handle a body in rigor mortis by bending it at the knees to get around corners, rather than forcing the large muscles at the waist or wrenching the neck.

9. Cover The Mirrors

a16It’s been held that all mirrors within the vicinity of a dead body must be covered to prevent the soul from being reflected back during its attempt to pass out of the body and on to the afterlife.

This practice is strong in Jewish mourning tradition and may have a practical purpose—to prevent vanity in the mourners so they can’t reflect their own appearance, rather forcing them to focus on remembering and respecting the departed.

8. Stop The Clock

Apparently this was a sign that time was over for the dead and that the clock must not be restarted until the deceased was buried. If it were the head of the household who died, then that clock would never be started again

A17It makes me think of the song:

My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf
So it stood ninety years on the floor
It was taller by half than the old man himself
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more

It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born
And was always his treasure and pride
But it stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died

7. Flowers On The Grave

A19Another odd belief is about flowers growing on a grave. If wildflowers appeared naturally, it was a sign the deceased had been good and had gone on to heaven. Conversely, a barren and dusty grave was a sign of evil and Hades. The custom evolved to putting artificial flowers on the grave although it’s now discouraged by most cemeteries due to maintenance issues.

Additionally, it’s always been practice to put flowers on a casket. This seems to have come from another practical reason—the smell from scented flowers helped mask the odor of decomposition.

6. Pregnant Women Must Avoid Funerals

A20Ever hear of this? I didn’t until I researched this article.

It seems to have come from a perceived risk where pregnant women might be overcome by emotion during the funeral ceremony and miscarry.

That’s pushing it.

5. Celebrities Die In Threes

A21Most people heard that Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson died three days in a row. It’s an urban myth that this always occurs with celebrities and it’s the celebrity curse.

To debunk this, the New York Times went back twenty-five years in their archives and apparently this is the only time three well-known celebrities died in a three-day group.

4. Hold Your Breath

A22Another popular superstition is that you must hold your breath while passing a graveyard to prevent drawing in a restless spirit that’s trying to re-enter the physical world.

That might be a problem if you’re passing Wadi-us-Salaam in Najaf, Iraq. It’s the world’s largest cemetery at 1,485.5 acres and holds over five million bodies.

3. And The Thunder Rolls

A23Nope, not the Garth Brooks song. It’s thought that hearing thunder during a funeral service is a sign of the departed’s soul being accepted into heaven.

Where I grew up, thunder was thought to be associated with lightning and being struck by lightning was always a sign of bad luck.

2. Funeral Processions

There’re lots of superstitious beliefs around funeral processions.

A1First, it’s considered very bad fortune to transport a body in your own vehicle. And approaching a funeral procession without pulling over to the side and stopping is not only bad taste, it’s illegal in some jurisdictions. It’s said if a procession stops along the way, another person will soon die and the corpse must never pass over the same section of road twice. Counting cars in a procession is dangerous because it’s like counting the days till your own death. You must never see your reflection in a hearse window as that marks you as a goner. Bringing a baby to a funeral ensures it will die before it turns one. And a black cat crossing before a procession dooms the entire parade.

One thing I know to be true about a funeral procession is what happens when you leave the back door of the hearse unlatched.

1. Leaving A Grave Open Overnight

A24I don’t know if this is a superstition or not, but I see it as good, practical advice. According to the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association, the standard grave size is 2 ½ feet wide by 8 feet long by 6 feet deep.

 With a hole that big looming in the dark, you could fall in and kill yourself.