Saturday, March 31, 2018

Views from a Troubled Mind
Scene #4
Bad Memories & Nightmares

Perspective #1
The Road Leading to the Homeless Camp

I dreamt I was piloting a jumbo jet. 

I remembered learning that left controlled climbs and dives, and that right controlled velocity. But the controls did not correspond to my maneuvers. 

A hand from behind me reached over and flicked on the automatic switch. And we landed.

As I exited into the city, I wondered what became of my comic books. 

I was at the University. I climbed the stairs. Maybe I'd find my comics there. 

Perspective #2
The One-Way Stairs

But I couldn't see the small letters on the campus map. The small boy next to me was holding a pair of glasses that looked like mine. Those are mine, I told him. One dollar, he said. The old man next to him whispered into his ear. Then the boy said, Forty five dollars. I told the old man that he can buy them if he wants. I won't pay even a dollar for what is mine. 

The police arrived and I saw my comics in the patrol car back seat. The door was open. I grabbed the bag tightly and thought, No dream will take what is mine. With comic bag in my grip, I slid down the stairway rail to the waiting jet. I boarded and didn't look back as we ascended.

Perspective #3
Where the Horizon Meets Itself

A Footnote on Therapy & Treatment: Update #6, re Defense Mechanisms

The Dr forgot two Defense Mechanisms in her essay: Avoidance and Procrastination. Maybe they aren't psych terms., but they should be. It occurred to me that these two terms may be mutually exclusive, but I'll treat them as two separate mechanisms here. 

What is Avoidance? When we think of something bad that happened to us, we sometimes whistle; we blink our eyes or we cluck or tongue. Then we're thinking of something different. We avoided the bad thoughts. 

What is Procrastination? We put off till tomorrow actions that will bring up bad thoughts. I'll mow the lawn tomorrow; here, for instance, the smell of fresh cut grass may remind you of the day your pet cat was killed by that neighbor's dog. You put off the memory by putting off the activity. 

That's why perceptive is so important. The wide mouth of the distance ends with a sharp point and at this point there is a familiar creature, the beast of nightmares: The bad memory. The closer you get to this monster, the further away it gets. You never reach the horizon. But, oddly, the creature can simply reach out and crush you even as you stay a safe distance from the beast with Avoidance and Procrastination. For the beast looms larger in front of the perspective, and your safety lies there in the sharp point of the distance. To your eye, the two points are the same distance; to your mind, tomorrow is far away. But today is yesterday's tomorrow, and the beast never leaves. It lives simultaneously in the wide mouth at the front of the perspective and in the point at the end of the perspective. 

And you bring it closer with every tomorrow you live today by hiding in the false safety of your illusory Defense Mechanisms. Do you hear the whistling? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

After the Storms

The Sky is trying to be clearest blue
Save for puffs of billowing Clouds
Staining the afternoon Sun
And a laughing Wind
Haunting the Horizon.
The squawking of feral Parrots 
Blossoms from the top of the Tree.

Poem & Photo 
by Anthony Servante

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Update Six
Trauma & Therapy

The Traumatized Child: A Malleable Mind
An Essay
by Dr. Marcy Davidson

Traumatized 15 Year Old Girl Self-Portrait

by Anthony Servante

In this update, I decided to address the approach that therapists take toward traumatized children. I talked to two experts in the field: A therapist and an academician. Dr. Marcy Davidson agreed to write a summary of children's therapy from diagnosis to goal-setting.

Let's begin.

Trauma & Treatment for Troubled Children
by Dr Marcy Davidson

What is a troubled child? If you ask any parent, you'd receive a variety of answers. Parents tend to focus on the actions and behavior of their kids for their answers, rather than on the child's frame of mind or the source of the troublesome activities. My child shoplifts food that he would never even eat; his closet is filled with canned goods and moldy cheese. My child walks until he is so exhausted, I have to go pick him up and drive him home; I've driven as far as the beach once, and we live in Los Angeles. That's a six hour walk. My child pretends to go to sleep, and when my husband and I are asleep, she watches TV using headphones to stay quiet. Her teachers have told us that she sleeps in class and in the lunch area. She is ridiculed by her fellow students, but it doesn't bother her at all. My child talks aloud to herself; she says she's trying to drown out the voices in her head. The anti-psychotics don't help at all. My child gets into fights with anyone who meets eyes with her. My child washes her hands till they're raw. My child suffers nightmares that she describes as "more real" than her home life. My child cries for no reason, and minutes later, she happy as can be.

But if you ask these parents why their children act out in this way, they'll say that it is because they have problems with authority, they're going through a teen phase, or they may be Autistic. Maybe they are seeking attention. Maybe they are displaying symptoms of early onset Schizophrenia. Maybe they are on illegal drugs.

But rarely do parents say that their kids are suffering from traumatic stress and they don't know how to deal with it.

That's why the first step a therapist must take when meeting with a patient alone (the primary meeting with parents, therapist, and patient determines whether the child qualifies for therapy or if the anti-social behavior is rooted in non-traumatic circumstances, such as reacting to a divorce situation at home). The evaluation serves to eliminate non-therapy problems, including issues with environment, until only the issues of the child's mental health can be assigned a corresponding treatment. Once it is determined that therapy may provide solutions for the problem child, the parents are brought in to sign off on the prescribed treatment. Root causes for the problematic behavior are spoken of only in general terms. Here goals are set for the child so the parent can have indicators to observe and track at home and to share with teachers at the patient's school to also track indications of progress or regression.

Once the parents agree to the therapy goals, the therapist meets with the patient to discuss their home environment, school environment, and typical routines of the child. The environmentalization process is the beginning to finding the underlying patterns that hint at an internalization of psychotic or social trauma. For instance, was the child touched in an inappropriate way at home or school or is the child bullied? Perhaps the news on television about the death of a child his or her own age brought about a break in an old routine or created a new branch for a new routine that may be deemed "odd" for the child. The therapist maps the patient's external social life in an effort to find the source of the anti-social breaks in the environmental maps.

Then we pinpoint neurotic behaviors in the maps, repetitive social tics that can indicate a causal relation lying behind each neurosis. For example, Anxiety manifests as fear of animals, strangers, dark places, or bad memory triggers. They child may take a different route home from school or a different route to school from home that may indicate an avoidance of a particular memory. Denial manifests itself as displaced reality, where fantasies become the new version of the source of the trauma. The child may disappear into elaborate video games, TV shows, books, or fantasy card games where certain characters take on an importance in the child's routines. Protective states such as withdrawal or excessive daydreaming render the child unapproachable. The child may avoid conversation or answer in monosyllabic responses or not communicate at all. Insomnia reflects possible night terrors, nightmares, or fear of uncontrolled memories (as unleashed in dreams). The child may deliberately stay awake in an effort to suppress bad memories that bad dreams may unleash. This, of course, is but a brief list. Once the underlying neurotic triggers correspond with the environmental maps, therapeutic techniques and their goals are then considered and chosen.

Hereafter, communication is the primary source for gathering indicators. The therapist, the parents, and the teachers must pool their findings of the child's activities to adjust the therapy until the right environmental paths can lead us to these goals to help change the child's self-destructive behavior.

Firstly, if the patient is inclined, the therapist can talk with the child. The good in this oral form springs from the information that can be gathered while also observing the manner and tone of the child's voice and their body language; the bad is the difficulty for the therapist to determine whether or not the child is telling the truth or manipulating the account in order to shape the therapist's own expectations. Secondly, a medium can be selected by the patient to put down their thoughts; this form includes drawing, painting, writing poems or stories, molding clay figures, dream interpretation, or any other tangible artistic outlet that the child feels comfortable with regarding sharing their internalized trauma via an external objective outlet. This can also include texting by cellphone between patient and therapist and taking photographs with the cellphone to capture images that remind the patient of something relative to the past.

Two areas of the child's mind are being brought to the surface with these play techniques: One, the unconscious motivations for the problematic behavior; two, the triggers for this behavior. The roots of the problem can be revealed to understand the manner of hiding the roots (projection, denial, aggression, withdrawal, etc) while the surface reasons for the bad actions can be correlated to the environmental maps. Here the therapist takes on the role of translator and interpreter, but one must be careful with such therapy as such techniques also bring with them the risk of the therapist's own subconscious weaknesses (fear of misreading the maps and play, anxiety about transference from the preteens and adolescents, and worry about too many hours spent in conference with the child--over ten hours a week in some cases). In nearly all cases, the therapist must work with the parents during each step of the child's therapy, from diagnosis to "play" therapy techniques. At minimum, the therapist should consult with a fellow therapist to compare notes in regards to diagnosis, selection of therapy, play, and progress.

As you can see, therapy is a village, not a doctor-patient relationship. As always, progress is the main goal. For childhood trauma, there is rarely a cure, but making it through each day adds up to weeks, months, and years of leaving the trauma in the past, even if only a minute at a time. With consistent therapeutic play and measurement, the child can learn to deal with the trauma well into his or her adult life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon (2016)

Reviewed by
Anthony Servante

The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon (2017) has been getting the troll treatment with undeserved bad reviews. Look, just you didn't like it doesn't make it a bad movie and just because I liked it doesn't make it a good movie. What in the film in and of itself had qualities to be or not to be enjoyed? Well, first get the genre right. It is a science fiction story, not horror. Just cuz there's an ax doesn't make it a slasher film. It deals with time travel. 

An Apollo crew lands on the moon to investigate a sighting by the previous crew. They find a wormhole. One of the astronauts enters the fissure and disappears. The next crew is sent to look for the lost crew mate. The wormhole appears again, an astronaut looks in, sees a woman, grabs for her, but she pulls away as the fissure closes. The astronaut is left holding a crucifix that he grabbed from the woman. 35 years later, a team is sent to investigate a fallen satellite. They are attacked. They kill their attackers. The attackers return to life to attack them again. Even their own man who was shot comes back from the dead. 

Then the investigators find the missing astronaut from the Apollo mission. He has learned to control the wormhole and is messing with time, life, and death. He looks creepy because he is still in his astronaut suit and all he says is, "Death is dead" and "Nothing". Interrogating the silent man in the space suit is futile, and the investigative team calls in to be picked up. The command center orders the remaining soldier (Foree) to kill all threats (namely the undead) before the rescue team arrives at dawn. 

And this is where the ax works its way into our story.

The "horror" element comes in when the soldier keeps trying to find a way to permanently kill the undead. It proves to be a difficult task. But he is up to the challenge. 

Let's back up a bit.

We meet our team in the first act and learn a bit about their psychological twitches and tics. They are professional in their investigation until they realize there is no downed satellite, and then we move to act two, where our team sets up camp in what appears to be an abandoned ranch. Here we meet our three ranchers from the dead and our lost astronaut from the Apollo mission gone bad. The scientist begins to freak out. The stress of fighting off the reanimated farmer, his wife, and their son still wearing the suit he was buried in, begins to peel away the scabs healing of the other three team members' weak psychological wounds. They each begin to break down. The confuse flashbacks with the present and the dead with the living. And there in the middle of it all is that damn astronaut, silent and staring as death itself. 

When the wormhole appears again outside the ranch, we move into act three. The woman investigator looks inside, sees an astronaut who reaches for her and grabs her crucifix, and backs off as the wormhole closes. The dots are starting to connect. I'll leave the rest of the mystery for you to solve, and there is more than one mystery and more than one plot line in each act to tie together in the final act. 

The movie is atmospheric, which is easy to mistake for a horror movie setting, but most of the old Outer Limits episodes used a similar creepiness to their SF tales to great effect. But "les piece de resistance" is the soundtrack. It takes the creepy atmosphere over the top.
1. Don't Keep on Me Waitin' (Omega) 7:21
2. Us and Them (Dweezil Zappa) 7:41
3. Brain Damage (Colin Moulding) 3:49
4. Mask (The Anix) 4:24
5. 1799 (Echolust) 4:35
6. Paranormal (Nik Turner) 5:30
7. Serenade for the Dead (Leæther Strip) 3:53
8. Astronaut's Nightmare (Nektar) 6:27
9. C. Abyssal (Le Seul Élément) 5:27
10. Nebula (Brainticket) 4:45
11. Dynamics of Delirium (Rick Wakeman) 3:27
12. Into the Eyes of the Zombie King (Chrome) 3:07
13. Notre Dame (Mothership) (The Rift Edit) (Guru Freakout) 5:01
14. Ufolove (Guru Guru Groove Band) 5:06
15. I Ran (So Far Away) (Re-Recorded) (A Flock Of Seagulls) 5:01

The film stars Ken Foree (George Romeo's Dawn of the Dead 1978), Monte Markham (still looking young and fit after all these years), Katerina Cas, and Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers 1992, Masters of Horror 2005-2007). Directed by Dejan Zečević, who makes science fiction thrillers. Forget about the horror backdrop and concentrate on the time travel aspect and how it's played for chilling effects (this is no Back to the Future, I can promise you). Whether it has a happy ending depends on your perspective. But when you look at this film as the science fiction thriller it is, you'll have a happy beginning and middle as well.