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feariatry (10)

I have just written a new Tech Paper 75.pdf entitled "HYPNOSIS TO FEARGNOSIS: An Introduction to Trance-Formations" (click on for pdf), below is the Abstract. I see this as an important contribution to Feariatry:

Hypnosis to Feargnosis: An Introduction to Trance-Formations

                                              - R. Michael Fisher,[1] Ph.D.       ©2018                                                                             Technical Paper No. 75

Abstract

This paper explores initial theories, ideas, and examples of feargnosis. This new term, created in Feb. 2018 by the author, is intended to help us all work with fear in text, conversations and teachings with an improved sensitivity to the way hypnosis, and trance, and other arational modes of consciousness impact on our fear-knowledge and basic learning about this topic of fear (and fearlessness).

Note:

[1] Fisher is co-founder of In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989- ) and Research Institute (1991- ). He is also founder of the Center for Spiritual Inquiry & Integral Education (http://csiie.org) and is Department Head at CSIIE of Integral & 'Fear' Studies. He is an independent scholar, public intellectual and pedagogue, author, consultant, researcher, coach, artist and Principal of his own company (http://loveandfearsolutions.com). Currently, he is developing The Fearology Institute to teach courses. He can be reached at: r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

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Is the WHO organization spreading more fear dis-ease than it is preventing, while playing out their worst fears re: Epidemics?

This blog is all about the intersection of Health & Wellness and Fear. I see many research and career opportunities for people studying fear(ism). Here are 4 examples from one small local Alberta newspaper (March 16, 2018) [1] that show this intersection. I also know, in the West at least, there is a lot more available dollars and funding in the Health and Medical Field than any other field and they are likely to be more interested in fear and its impacts. There is a readiness for fearism studies awaiting. Now, to the four examples, and my brief critiques: 

Example 1: WHO is seemingly in its policies so overly exuberant to prevent disasters regarding "new" or "old" viruses and bacterial epidemices it has, according to this newspaper article (above) named "Disease X" as its priority. You have likely heard of Zika, SARS, Ebola, etc. but WHO has decided to name the worst epidemic disease before it is known. There is something really weird about that, even though they will tell us, as in this article, their rationale is to pre-prevent as much as possible the "next" outbreak that could threaten us. WHO is becoming like this major "security" company, organization, dominant voice and player in the role of fear and disease. Yes, as I read this article they want us to be afraid of the next unknown big killer disease before we know what it is. That's weird, and seems on the point of extreme dis-ease (fear-based) way of operating and making policies about world health. Even if their intention is good, which I trust it is, their means of getting there is dubious and I think adds more fear on the planet, and more fear adds more distress to people awaiting and trying to avoid getting sick from anything. More fear, more distress and worry, and guess what, one's immune system goes down in functioning because it is on chronic altert (worry mode) and that creates more susceptibility to infections. WHO is not paying attention to their own dysfunctional logic to create this "Disease X" as the unknown big killing epidemic disease. By calling it the unknown disease, listen to what the reporter of this article writes, and others will too as they spread the news of WHO and its listed "Disease X": "The WHO said Disease X could come from anywhere and strike at any time" and goes on to say (citing a scientific adviser to WHO) "it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before" and don't know how to treat and people will not be immune. On and on this newspaper article goes creating the fear of the unknown in all of us over something we don't know will happen but probably will, according to experts, and they are sure good at creating the worst case scenarios and then try to convince us we should trust WHO because they are so on top of protecting us or will try to do so... etc. As I say, this is a type of totalitarian thinking and authoritarian politics to health and wellness, that the world doesn't need, it only breeds more fear. This is a primary case, on a global scale, of fear appeal advertising at its worst. It creates dependency and fear of the unknown everywhere and anytime; it creates ghosts in our minds and lives, and this chronic fear distress is a fear-disease itself being spread by a global organization (WHO) that is supposed to be improving our health, not compromising it(?). 

 Example 2: ADDING HOPE TO FEAR(S) is about how to best boost people's motivation to be well, healthy, happy, while at the same time warning them of health risks. Adversting in the field of what is called "Health Education" or "Health Communications" is a topic of research and debate. The question and concern is how much "fear" should be induced to motivate people, and when is it too much or better to add "hope" (for e.g.) to create empowerment in the consumers of these advertisements and educational programs to promote well-being? This next article gives some research, and sides in favor that "Fear will get attention, but it is better to provide them with possible solutions." I won't give more details, but this article is pointing to research that is the exact opposite of the WHO strategy (above), thus, a contradiction in the health field as our health experts themselves may not be following their own research and best practices and advice(?)

 Example 3: Love and Fear debate is ongoing, and Desh and I have written about it in our book (Fisher and Subba, 2016), and I have done research on this debate for 28 years.  In this popular article the author opens with the lines: "Reject fear, choose love" --although, it is easier said than done. If we all did it the world would be a fantasy utopia and health and wellness and good relationships would abound. What the article does not analyze, other than an individual making a committed choice to follow love even when fear pulls them in the opposite direction, is the full nature of the Fear Problem in the first place. Because, it raises the issue about why love, if it is so great, hasn't kept us as a species out of the spiraling down the drain into major crises where clearly fear is ruling not love. My point, "fear" no matter how you look at it, isn't just a "choice" and that begins a whole other philosophical, psychological, historical, theological, sociological inquiry. Fearism is one more additional mode of inquiry into this debate, and of course, the author of this article doesn't mention fearism as a new perspective in the study of fear. Unfortunately, this binary simplification "love vs. fear" (as a choice) is really kindergarten education, better than nothing, but it leaves out more than one can imagine--or, more than I'd like to see be left out of our basic fear management/education on this planet. I can say, there is an huge amount of popular interest, writing, workshops, and teachings about love in relationships, and I am glad (somewhat) that fear is recognized as a most powerful, if not the most powerful, "emotion" in relationships that can be useful or be destructive. Trying to just replace by choice fear with love, however, is fallacious and reductionistic--it will work perhaps "a little" but not a lot. And, we need a lot more understanding about the nature of fear. Although, as I say that, I know there is a great swarm of advocates who will disagree and say "no you are wrong, we need mor understanding about the nature of love." Who is right? I say, and Desh and I have said, we need a dialectical methodology of fearism to study the love vs. fear problem. [see Fisher, R. M., & Subba, D. (2016). Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue. Australia: Xlibris.)

  Example 4: Pain Reduction: Fear Reduction is an article about the new research in medicine showing that use of opioids (e.g., methadone, heroine, etc.) cause worse symptoms regarding pain and anxiety problems than are helpful. The opioids are addictive and actually damage the biological systems own resilience to pain and fear. I suggest this is a great teaching to us all, and a critique of the field of Medicine overall, and a metaphor. Too much trying to take pain and fear away (as they are like twins), is not going to help in the long run. Of course, my complaint about the "pain" and opoid studies and the way the media covers this research, is that there is not enough talk about the fact that "fear" with "pain" is what the real problem is, and instead of just getting chronic pain (addicts) "off opoids" is not a solution but a moving the furniture around in the room. What these fear-patients need (a term Desh prefers, as does Feariatry, which we are working on), is attention on "fear" as the core of their problems, along with pain that goes with it. That's the larger discussion needed, is to look more closely at pain management within the context of fear management--then, we can really move forward as a society, and doctors who prescribe pharmaceuticals can readjust their paradigm of treatment, and truly follow the Hippocratic Oath they took in med schools, that is, to "cause no harm" in trying to help. Again, I believe there is a larger metaphor and teaching that goes to apply here to all of society, not just the field of medicine. Parenting and schooling and socialization in a culture of fear, a risk-avoidance society, etc. is the real problem. We end up teaching children, against their nature, to "fear pain" rather than truly come to understand it, themselves, and manage pain better: and, I could say the exact same thing with fear. Let's move this agenda of fearism forward because there are openings in the culture now, more than ever, to really find this new paradigm, perhaps it is a Fearlessness Paradigm, that can liberate.   

 

Notes

1. All articles are excerpted from www.TheEpochTimes.com ; (March 16-23, 2018), for educational purposes only. 

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Gun Problem: Fear Problem

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a psychiatrist and Director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society (Vanderbilt University, TN)

 https://www.vanderbilt.edu/mhs/faculty/jonathan-m-metzl/

I just watched an interview with Dr. Metzl on Democracy Now on the internet, and I know his expertise is very important to the debates, as we now witness the tragedy of another mass murder shooting in a Florida highschool, another one, one of 18 such incidents in the school year so far in the USA. 

Most important in the discussion on the program was the impact on society of such events, which Metzl raised as the "broader questions" beyond all the details and symptoms of these mass murders. I heartily agree, as he says, "In terms of what I think psychiatry and mental health can do.... the question that rarely gets asked at times like this is why do we need so many guns in the first place? What kind of society do we really live in and want to live in?....in the aftermath of this people start to mistrust each other, all of a sudden, we need more guns in schools, more armed guards, more metal detectors....this mistrust becomes so pervasive," he says.

And, yes, mistrust only can register and grow like a virus damaging the social fabric (i.e., sociality and social trust) if fear is rampant and spreading like a virus. The word fear was not actually mentioned on the entire story Democracy Now covered, or in Metzl's dialogue. I think this is where feariatry (as one of the branches of fearology and the three pillars, in Desh Subba and my books) comes in... we will not get to the roots of what Metzl is concerned about without a serious study of the Fear Problem, as more important than the Gun Problem, and that whole shift would really give us a chance to ask what kind of society we live in and want to live in. Since the mid-1990s these issues have been brought up with the documenting and naming of the "culture of fear" problem in America, but fast spreading around the world... and, actually, this label goes back to the early 1980s. So, clearly, there isn't much take-up of the problem, and much really serious public discourse on fear--and, certainly, in my 29 years studying this all the school systems are loath to get into discussing it. We so lack vision in W. society.

Anyways, there will always be more opportunities, and unfortunately, more deaths... more guns... more mistrust and more fear. Feariatry has to be brought up to help inform psychiatry (and mental health) at all levels. I have written on several of the mass murders about these things for years. So far, no one really is listening too intently and rather people follow the fear trail... and look who to blame ... a point Gavin de Becker made back in the late 1990s as he studied these issues as a security expert... yes, change is very slow. Though, one cannot predict the future totally by the past--thank goodness, otherwise, I'd be motivated to say, "we're fucked!" 

 

 

 

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Update of "Three Pillars": Fisher & Subba

This is the latest update (2018) of the diagram in Fisher & Subba (2016), Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue. We invite further ideas on this ever evolving integral model as we look for all the ways to apply the philosophy of fearism to large domains of societies and individual's lives. The latest addition is "Fearcriminalysis" (all issues to do with law and order). For full definitions of these all, you can consult our book for some, but there will be an upcoming FMning blog that will define these.

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The Fearism Study Center offers Professional certificates to students who engages in research studies(6months, 1year, and 2years) on the main three courses of Fearism:

1. FEAROLOGY- The transdisciplinary study of the relationship of fear and life (could include other beings including non-living)- usually, refers to human experience but does not have to be so restricted; serves as one of the pillar technologies or disciplines of practice under the umbrella of the philosophy of fearism and philosophy of fearlessness.

2.FEARIATRY- The study and application of fear-disease relations in the mental health and wellness fields; analogous to psychiatric.

3. FEARANALYSIS- Study of fear related issues and the impact in the life of the individual and society.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Fearismstudies/

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Phenomenological Encounters at the Edge

I will describe below another interesting, albeit somewhat terrifying, experience psychologically that has been with me for the past 48 hrs. I am alright, just a little shaky and mostly exhausted.

I suspect, there are some potentially useful insights in these experiences for learning about fear and fearlessness. I see them as engagements or encounters with the "edge" --or, you might say, with the 'surprise' in one's life where the ontological and existential disruption of the rational and one's sense of normal identity is challenged. The first of these phenomenological inquiries I post here on theFM blog Oct. 12/17 Spontaneous Fear "Practicing" in the Unconscious. That may be a good article to read before this one. Note, all this work "practicing" fear at the edge is perhaps useful to Feariatry work.

I suggested in that first article that "fear" has more than a genetic (primal) and/or learned (conditioned) dynamic. The common rational view would be to stick with those two categories as they are empirically studied phenomena, of which psychology has well documented. As partial truth. I suggested the unconscious (via psychoanalysis) is also itself a dynamic field of fear/terror production amongst other things.

The typical rational psychologist, philosopher or thinker rarely penetrates the phenomenological depths of the fear experience--or what Kierkegaard so rightly labeled the exigencies of "fear and trembling" that go with being human in a world of 'surprises' and great emotional and felt explosions (including deep love for, and loss of, another). The mystics of all religions and beyond religions have often written about these disturbing experiences of altered states and/or some incursion of unconscious aspects into their 'normal' and/or 'spiritual' experiences. At times shaking or shattering their identities. At times, with the right conditions, the unconscious seems capable of causing one to simply lose it. 

In this blog I'll describe my fresh almost 'losing it' (at the edge) experience. Then I'll follow with some theorizing and philosophizing from a fearlessness perspective--and, keep in mind, that a philosophy of fearlessness is my long-term project of which you will want to know that it requires great vulnerability to practice, embody, live and be at times overwhelmed by because of extreme methodological procedures[1]. I'll return to that in the last part of the blog.  

The focus of my last 48 hrs is on somatic experience. But before I get to this, I want to contextualize this experience. My body was (is) 'breaking down' and that is part of a longer-term medical diagnosis recently in the past month of being told by doctors that my little symptom of "shortage of breath" at times is actually a very serious heart disease problem that finally is manifesting. I have genetically-based coronary heart disease. Most all my family members on my dad's side (males only) die of early heart disease and diabetes in their 50s or 60s and/or they get open heart surgery. My brother is a case in point. Apparently, now, I am one of those too.

It's understandable that this disease would eventually catch up to me and throw me for a loop. Again, nearly a month ago I was diagnosed and that came after many medical tests, all of which I cannot stand doing. I have a loathing (and fear) of medical systems for a lot of reasons. I don't like being out of control, and having to give up Authority to the system and establishment which has most all the power when it comes to physical illness and dysfunctions.

My doctors have told me that I am "lucky" to not have had a serious heart attack because I am "a heart attack waiting to happen." I now (apparently) have this medical (problematic) identity to live with--a medical institutional inscription based on something I cannot even see (except on an ECG or with fancy imaging technologies). This of course is a 'surprise' totally to me as I am quite a fit person who rarely goes to the doctor more than once a year for the basic medical examination. I'm a healthy self, body and somatically I love that experience of being relatively strong and fit. Of course, with age (now I'm 65) there is an increasing sense of physical vulnerability as things continue to wear out and/or at times not working so well in the body. I give all this information as context for my structuring of a self-ascribed (self-empowered narrative) to a 'normal' identity as the somatic level, or what could be called a somatocentric "self" (one of my multiple selves). 

It is amazing how the health of the body is foundational to a sense of ontological (psychological) well-being--at least, it has been for me. Now I am disabled. I take 5 medications daily or twice daily. I can never get away from my sickness by this practice. I want to resist it all. But I also live with my wife who cares about me. I have daughters and a grandson, etc. This sense of "healthy" identity is all now up in the air. So, my schedule is all thrown off--now, it is abnormal--and I have an image of myself at my end of life--and, at times I even contemplate choosing death and not having the open heart multiple bypass surgery. The tenuous of my existence, with the image of the heart with clogged arteries is with me now every moment as the medical technology showed me and doctors the disease of several arteries on my heart. I could be in the next second in pain with heart seizure because of shortage of blood to the heart muscles. I could be on the operating table which is in late January (though, I don't yet have a schedule for it) and die on the table in the institution. The post-op recovery time is horribly long and painful, from all accounts of others and what doctors are warning me. 

So, with this context of a barrage of fear-based messaging about my condition and my future--altering everything I know about myself rationally and somatically--I look fine, there is a shaking of ontological and self-identity going on now like I have not experienced ever before. So, then 48 hrs ago or so I got a cold. My wife's young friend Zoe had it when she visited us. Barbara then got it. Then I got it. Barbara had a rough time with the cold symptoms, but I really got hit by it all. Notice the sense of 'surprise' as being 'hit' that I could get this sick. I don't get colds very often, but I don't remember one like this with so much head pain and sinus swellings and weariness--the latter, all part of the drug cocktail I am on as well because of my heart condition. In particular, fear/terror (almost a subtle panic attack) came upon me during the day trying to sleep. Barbara was away working at the studio all day. I was coping with the horrible symptoms that totally dragged me down. I couldn't think or write and get work done on my computer. I tried sleeping because the night before I didn't sleep at all, maybe but a few minutes--the cold symptoms kept me awake and breathing was hard. Yet, then I started to get a fever as the old body tries to fight off the infection. I have not had a fever, with spells of hot flashes, like this for a very long time. 

I could not sleep again, and again and again. I'm exhausted. This really showed through in what I experienced as 'losing it' last night in bed, like a small child, my mind racing and disturbing thoughts, the whole set of changes of my normal routines, of lack of normal sleep and having to take all kinds of extra treatments that Barbara was giving me. I wasn't myself. And, I didn't know who I was as I laid in bed in the dark alone. Barbara was in the bathtub. I felt I was doing so many things for other people, and that included doctors. I was losing who I was, and I was panicking because of disorientation--ontological disruption and being overwhelmed by all the changes going on at the same time. Barbara and I are continually having to talk about medications, treatment, how to prepare for the operation and afterwards because it is a big burden on care-givers. I hate being a physical burden on anyone. I like being the helper not the helped. Or so it seems... these are the kinds of things that led to me having to tell Barbara "I'm scared." I rarely ever say that anytime in my life and not to my partner. 

I went through that needy feeling of dependency, of losing it (meaning, losing my full rational self-control)--of losing my mind, of the irrational and arational elements pouring over me--and, 'surprising' me to such an extent that I could go so low as to be so helpless or needing care from another to comfort me. It was very humbling. I didn't get much sleep again but I am able to write this blog. It is my therapy of trying to find some 'normalization' of what it is I like to do and who I think I am. I get to be the fearologist, the philosopher the rational person. At least, it is a semblance of such. But I think when I walk back into the dark bedroom alone today, and feel all the overwhelming changes of my identity and my body, and the threat of continually wondering is my heart going to seize in the next 5 weeks before the operation, oh, my it is not a pleasant thing to go into that dark with my vulnerable and exhausted body ... and, eventually, if I don't sleep my mind will (more or less) breakdown. I have been terrified on several occasions in my life by people having mental breakdowns (e.g., panic attacks, psychoses), including my love-ones. I know this experience well. I never thought I might be the one to go through such--though, I always knew it was possible. I feel "victimized" all around. Not that I want to feel that way. It is irrational, and arational, and it is from the unconscious and circumstances of multiple 'big' changes all at once. Fear (unconscious-based) emerges with and alongside many sources. 

So a philosophy of fearlessness, has always been a philosophy of vulnerability as true and authentic courage to live and breakdown and die--the latter, is happening all the time, but we keep that in denial and at bay and when we are young and healthy we sure don't think about it much. So, I am now both not young and not healthy. That's totally weird but it is a good chance to practice philosophy of fearlessness. I cannot rely on rational deduction or thinking to get me through. I know my body needs to heal through a lot of distress, and trauma, still... because I am convinced, as fearlessness says, that our worst fears are from old wounds that are often being triggered in the present by stressful circumstances. This painful reminder is our existential condition. Suffering exists. There is no relief. But fearlessness is also joy found in the midst of that suffering and fear/terror--even panic. I am learning from this all. I trust my experiences may help others. I have learned, as the philosophy of fearism also says, there is no need to try to escape from fear-- it is the foundation of everything. 

A philosophy of fearlessness thus would say that "fear" experience, phenomenologically, is essential to our human condition and it is a great way to grow and mature if we handle and manage fear well. Doing so by feeling in and through the depths of the vulnerable, the deconstruction of one self, the failure of one's skills, and finding many selves, and finding there is no "solid" self identity to depend on-- all these things are part n' parcel of developing what I call existential and emotional competency and humility. But such skills and meta-skills of competency to 'walk through' and 'fall through' and 'break down' are only built by dropping down into the out-of-control feelings and losing it! Even going crazy to some degree is real too. It doesn't have to be a clinical diagnosis (or identity) that psychiatry puts on it (on us) as the final meaning.

I wish in my life to follow this path and feel and experience what I do because it is this diversity of being in control and losing control that make for wisdom and compassion. I will admit, that I have been not well-balancing my skills in the domain of losing it. I've been too in control for too long. I have been the strong one for Barbara and others. I have been the leader and caregiver. And, now, I have to go through my own disability and needs to be taken care of. I have to realize I may get strong again, but not until after I have this operation and put my 'heart' and my 'life' literally in the hands of others--they are the experts, they are the powerful authorities. I have to let go. This latter quality is deeply ingrained in the mystical paths (universally) of what I call the path of fearlessness.

The rational philosophers tend to stay away from this messy interiority of life and experience, but the existentialists have been more the courageous explorers in that territory. Philosophy of fearlessness goes beyond what the existentialists have to offer, I believe, because there is a path and map of the soul's journey that goes with philosophy of fearlessness [2]. It is a developmental philosophy and requires we do our development work with credibility, with integrity, and mostly with vulnerability. How could I really trust a philosopher or philosophy that has not deeply gone into and through the fear/terror experiences of 'surprise' and losing it? 

Notes

1. The implicit argument is that 'authenticity' is the hallmark of this orientation to philosophy and psychological living experiences, and not just alone but in relationships. In my dissertation (2000-03) I totally immersed myself in studying the "culture of fear" phenomenon using an arts-based performative method called a/r/tography. The qualitative research method was also heuristic inquiry which demands one steep their entire lives in the study of their subject, which includes themselves and the co-mutual interactions going on. In the end, my dissertation was labeled by colleagues as "authentic" but was too disturbing or difficult to understand. I ended up labeling my methodology (i.e., practicing fearlessness) a "voluntary performative schizoidal praxis" (Fisher, 2008, p. 145). See Fisher, R. M. (with Quaye, S. J., and Pope, B.) (2008). "Fearless Leadership": R. Michael Fisher's story. In Four Arrows (Jacobs, D. T.) (2008). The authentic dissertation: Alternative ways of knowing, research, and representation (pp. 143-48). NY: Routledge.

2. I am referring to my map in Fisher (2010), p. 48. The traveling from stages of victim, to survivor, to warrior to lover. My wife Barbara and I have been discussing with this recent major turn of events (and life transition) that I now have to work more closely with her to find the way from my 'warrior' identity to 'lover.' It's rocking my boat. See Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 

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There is plenty of literature in the fear management/education genre that more or less breaks down "fear" origins into genetic (primal) or learned (conditioned). I think there's lots of validity in those two categories, although I do not believe they are fully adequate to cover the more sublime phenomena and territory of fear origins. I have been carefully observing one of my own interesting "fear" experiences for several years now, and it has arisen only significantly as I have got much older, in early-60s is when it began. I think this blog speaks to issues in feariatry.

The fear experience I am speaking about is one that comes spontaneously out of the unconscious, and although it has no doubt some genetic and learned components, I would say it is unique in that it comes from within the dream state, when I am sleeping or very near sleeping (some call the hypnogogic). For e.g., last night I was deep in a dream of having sex and it being very pleasurable and I was very concentrated, yet relaxed, and suddenly with no clues or stimulus from within the dream narrative itself, my entire body jolted and woke me up, my heart rate jumped and I realized I was having a fear/startle experience that seemed to have no obvious cause at all. I listened intently and heard no follow-up real sounds in the awake state. I even got up and checked out all the windows to see if there were any prowlers trying to break in as maybe I heard a bang--that was my first intuition of why I bolted up from the dream/sleeping state. But nothing was there. I saw a white-tailed prairie hare feeding on the front lawn of the yard and it was totally relaxed and that cued me that there was nothing unusual going on in the real world, nor did a loud noise actually happen. My mind had made it up. That was my conclusion. 

As I say, I have had this rather disconcerting phenomena for several years now, which I don't remember having when I was young. Sometimes, I am certain in the bolting up from sleep/dreaming state that a gun shot or bang took place. Obviously threatening stimuli potentially. But no, my inspections after had me concluded that no such noise actually happened, but rather my mind made it up, and from what I can tell it did so without any external stimuli or material from within the dream itself that would warrant such a powerful fear/alert response. The whole experience can also sometimes include fairly loud voices of people, even somewhat distinguishable with words, but usually not. This is what might be called "hearing voices" that many psychiatric patients will talk about. These spontaneous productions are from the unconscious reservoir and what I would call the primal state below any dream narrative/imagery, etc. They literally seem to be illusions. They can totally fool my body into their "reality" and enough so to totally give me a fear/startle reaction with all the physiological equipment going into full gear. It takes me only 20-40 sec.'s usually to pull down the heart rate and calm down but they are strong enough illusions of "realness" to make me check out my environment in the house, again, often checking for burglars or some other event that is unusual and could be dangerous to myself or to others (e.g., neighbors). 

So, it is a kind of hyper-vigilance that is interrupting my sleep/dream states at times, and even more disconcerting is when I am only falling asleep and in that trance where the unconscious can throw these stimuli forward and a fear/startle with it that is amazing to me how it can produce this effect. I see why many people can get very freaked out with this kind of spontaneous unconscious experience which seems able to flood all other brain activity, even a sleeping calm body. Why does it do this when there is, as far as I can tell in my analyzing these experiences, no external or internal stimuli that I am aware of? And, because i watch and listen and record my dreams as a regular practice I do well remember usually what I was dreaming at the time of these spontaneous irruptions. So, I can say confidently, there was no imagery in the dream or semi-dream state (hypnogogic) that produced the high arousal of danger. Equally, but a little less confidently, can I say, there was no external stimuli in the environment at the time that was producing the arousal I experienced so suddenly. 

The WHY question remains, and I have this morning come up with a hypothesis that there are parts of the brain/mind/body system that are involved as source of these experiences I've been having. They could be from old (if not traumatic) circuits in the nervous system/tissues, that "replay" and "practice" both a threat and response to a threat, and these experiential loops of rehearsal and 'working through' seem to operate virtually on their own accord without any obvious reason coming from the physical environment or dream imagery and narrative--they have an independence. It is this latter trait, that verges on what could be called a mini-psychotic episode. Because I have lived with an x-spouse and worked with a few clients over the years who have psychotic experiences, my hypothesis seems reasonable and I also know how there can be this weird (if not subtle terror) that one is 'losing their mind' because of the information and experiencing going on in the aroused state that seems to have little to no cause that one can pin down as empirical or rational. Now, my experience of this min-psychotic 'break' is very minor compared to what some people I have seen go through when the flooding of material (e.g., loud sounds, voices, etc.) is highly intense and doesn't let up and it exhausts the fear-response system--and all other rational control systems as well. 

I share this to record and highlight what may be more common than people (so-called 'normals') may experience but don't report to others nor even give it the time of day to reflect upon. I am a fearologist and I like to make notes on these phenomenon for research purposes, but also to make sense of what is happening to me. In the hypothesis I present, I think it is useful (less terrifying) so suggest that I am not 'losing my mind' (and ability to keep in touch with reality) but that my primal fear-system is rather "practicing" now and then as like going to the gym to build up its skills in "helping" me when any real situation of threat comes along, no matter of how subtle. So, in this meaning re-frame, rather than believe maybe I am going psychotic, I prefer to explore the meaning of "practice" and that indeed, I (my ego) is not in control of the "practice" and "working out" that is going on. And, I am learning to be okay with not being in complete cognitive control of all my functions, especially the Defense Intelligence systems (e.g., like the fear/startle response). On the other hand, I will say, that in my analysis of these spontaneous irruptions and illusions I experience now and then, there is always a bit of cognitive linking that I am able to do as to possible causes of such an irruption based on something I saw on TV in a glance or heard of as bad news, or as dangerous somewhere in the world. No doubt, I am linked by "matrixial strings" to these irruptions that are real in the physical and psychical world of people somewhere, or even animals and plants... and, I maybe just attuning in the dream/sleeping state to those matrixial relationships and having an empathic experience. I don't want to rule that out as an explanation either. 

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Advances in the Psychopathology of "Fear"

Introduction: Postmodern Concerns for Feariatry

It has long been my interest to study the large field of "pathology" from a systems perspective. That means, there are ways to identify "pathologies" within systems across the spectrum of complexity of evolution and development. In this sense, I have always been interested in a meta-theory of pathology.

But for now, in this blog I want to keep this short and somewhat uncomplicated with some basic ideas about "Fear" and how it has to be brought into the scope of Feariatry [1] and a general (meta-)theory of psychopathology, for example. I will mention before I make my key points, that "pathology" and "psychopathology" in general, although not particular contentious say 60 to 100 years ago, these terms no long enjoy such a stable status. There have been many attacks on their meaning and who gets to construct the meaning of "pathology" and make the judgments about it. This has huge implications to philosophy and psychology and all aspects of our societies and policies of health and so on. I won't be discussing that all here, but to say it is important to bring into our work on Feariatry especially, and less so Fearanalysis. The postmodern period since WWII and the philosophical turn to postmodernist thought (e.g., deconstructionism) is a big part of the contention and critique of theories and applications of the concepts of "pathology" and "psychopathology" especially. [Note: a topic for another time, is what I see as "fear of postmodernism" itself preventing a progressive Feariatry and 'Fear' Studies overall]

Problem of Pathologizing Fear to Naturalizing Fear

Okay, now to my main point. First, most writing on "fear" today is attempting to make it more "positive" in attributions than in prior eras, especially in the W. world. I think it is fair to move along this axis of re-adjustment of an overly "negative" attribution and pathologizing of the term and phenomena of "fear"--again, the problem becomes how do we define fear and then ought we attribute it to positive or negative evaluations, and on what philosophical, theoretical and empirical grounds do we make such assessments. This is a contested and complicated territory once one removes "fear" from being only an "emotion or feeling." This has been the direction of my work (and a few others). We are continually expanding the conceptualization of "fear" (see my last posting of a Photo of the 5 steps towards a critical literacy of Fear and Fearlessness on the FM ning).

I don't want to fall into the old discourses of pathologizing "fear" either, and so I and the philosophy of fearism work has attempted to keep Fear as a much more positive concept and phenomenon--and, much of this has led to valuation that says "fear is natural" and thus we really ought not get down on fear and pathologize it in all cases, or even most cases of its interplay with humans or animals etc. Fine, as that is to a point, there are strong arguments against naturalizing "fear" as a counter-balance to overly pathologizing "fear." I won't go into all that argumentation, as it is technical and beyond a brief blog on psychopathology of fear.

So, let's be clear of what a systems view of pathology of fear is (and, thus, how psychopathology fits). I see a system of pathology as potential in all living systems. This includes physiological (biological) pathologies, and on to emotional and psychological pathologies, to sociocultural pathologies over time and history. These pathological systems are totally interconnected, interrelated, and co-evolving. Basically, I am saying pathologies at one level --e.g., physiological can influence pathologies all the way up to the most complex sociocultural dimensions and visa versa. Everything affects everything, is the assumption in systems (holistic and integral) theory.

Anthropocene Pathologies Re-Calibrated: Analogy of CO2 and Fear Levels (toxicity)

I think historically, in the W. world at least, it is fair to say, in general there has been a movement from pathologizing fear to naturalizing fear, and now, my own work and others is beginning to critique that movement, and asking for another 21st century re-calibration and a return to more pathologizing of fear (e.g., fearism-t).

The key issue I have raised in the last year or two, is what happens when a positive valuation of "fear" as natural begins to weaken under criticism that conditions are changing so dramatically on planet earth and its systems, that there is some point (a turning point, or point of departure), perhaps, where "fear" is virtually engulfed in a pathological system and/or set of systems cascading into a pathological destructive cycling? The analogy, and metaphor, is that carbon dioxide (CO2) used to also be only seen as natural and thus positively valued in the living cycles of life and the planet (including temperature regulation of the atmosphere). Then, a turning point came in the Anthropocene era [2] when "CO2" was being constructed as a "pollutant" (toxin) to the atmosphere and was causing excessive warming of the earth and massively changing the earth's living viability. This was a crisis. It still is as many argue today under the banner of human-caused (anthropogenic) CO2 excess production, mainly from agricultural practices and especially from fossil fuel burning. In that geo-historical and physiological layer of Gaia (or earth system), indeed it is potentially useful to label CO2 levels as pathological.

The same can now be said, from a turning point, that "fear" is now a pollutant, a psychopathology (see fearism-t concept [3], a toxin, and is exacerbating major crises in living systems on the planet (and even non-living systems). All of the "fear" in excess due to human activity (thus, anthropogenic). Big problem. I have called this, in part, the Fear Problem (with capitals, as a "wicked problem" we have to figure out how to solve in the 21st century or likely it will destroy life as we know it on a massive global scale).

Now, the question becomes, how do we even talk about "fear" anymore, in a meaningful way, in the Anthropocene, that is, after this point of departure when "fear" is no longer safely represented as "natural" or "normal" because in it is argued it has become pathological? How should fear management/education on the planet adjust to this macro-shift in our very paradigm of thinking about and talking about "fear"? This, my friends, is exactly where my research is going and why we need a serious investigation ongoing into the psychopathology of fear, on a meta-theoretical axis.

Notes

1. Feariatry has been conceptualized as one of the pillars of a philosophy of fearism (a la Subba and Fisher)... and, there are several photos and blogs on the FM ning over the past year or so that you can learn more about this and/or just contact me if you are particularly interested. Also see the book, Fisher, R. M., and Subba, D. (2016). Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue. Australia: Xlibris.

2. A good definition of Anthropocene Era is found on wikipedia

3. Fearism-t - (toxic form of fearism) is defined by Fisher and Subba (2016), p. 157.

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Here is the book review I just posted on amazon books:

"Huge Circle of Fear": How Shadow Walks With Us For Liberation By R. Michael Fisher on December 5, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition
I have known this author, founder of philosophy of fearism, and his work for two years. This novel, his first in English translation from Nepalese, is much better than other things in English translation that he has written. As a short novelette it works with an intensity of both simplicity and profoundness. I like the teaching about fear and the finding of the way to fearless. How the protagonist moves across landscapes and in and through forest primal cultures to the town's and villages is unexpected and filled with surprises. Many kinds of teachers appear, and there is a sense the protagonist, on 'the edge' of sanity, and insanity, throughout, is like a part of you. At least I felt that.

It is a book about 'shadow' in an interesting way. It resonates with Carl Jung's version but there is something more Eastern and mysterious and primal that by the end of the book, I was still asking many questions about what is this shadow that operates in the book. One scholar the protagonist meets says, "The shadow can be ignored considering it to be just a mental disorder. But no matter, to what extent you ignore it, it tends to play inside your body" (p. 50).

The particular shadow that weaves in and out of the narrative of this book, more or less turns out to be the signifier, if not the driver, if not the effect of what the protagonist realizes, like a moment of enlighenment, a "huge circle of fear"... and, as the story unfolds, the experience of "fearless" is unveiled for us to both admire and yet query. Is this a journey we would ever take? The risks are always there, for the reward, if one is listening deeply, primally with a whole other part of our being that we usually don't listen with in the everyday world. Sure, readers will taste the shamanic, magical, and presence of spirit in this soul's journey.

Knowing the author's major philosophical project, the philosophy of fearism, I think this book would be a good text for the teaching of ideas behind what he and I call "feariatry" --a new sub-discipline of psychiatry that focuses on the "huge circle of fear" and the 'shadow' related to it --and, how they impact our mental health all the time.
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New Dialogue with Desh Subba (1)

I hope to make a series of these dialogues with Desh Subba (living in Hong Kong), as we email exchange and co-author work on the Philosophy of Fearism. This dialogue I shaped and led as a kind of interview. Enjoy, -M.

Desh Subba and R. Michael Fisher in Conversation on:

 

            FEAROLOGY, FEARIATRY, FEARANALYSIS [1]:

                  Three Pillars[2] of a Philosophy of Fearism

 M (Michael): One of the things you and I have learned in attempting to promote the newest branch of philosophy [3], after existentialism and postmodernism, is how it is not always easy for people to grasp how a philosophy can aid their everyday life. Especially, it is hard for them to imagine that a philosophy called Fearism is going to be valuable to them or their loved ones or society living everyday life. What has been your experience of teaching? You have done much more direct lecturing than I have on introducing a philosophy of fearism, including your recent teaching experiences to many countries in the East and a few in the West.  

 D (Desh): It is human nature that we ignore common things that are habitual around us. Teaching Fearism, as a new type of philosophy, is difficult for people, be they ordinary citizens, professionals or academics. They tend to think what is common in everyday is normal and things have been like this from ancient time.

 M: Yeah, habituating to routines, norms and traditions is a powerful stabilizer in cultures of all kinds. Yet, you and I are nudging for people to attend through a fearist lens at the common things in their world, hoping they will begin to see them differently. 

 D: During my lectures in India, China, Bangaladesh, Nepal and even in the USA and Australia, I sometimes would ask the audience counter-questions by giving examples of their surroundings—e.g., window, door, balance of diet, physical exercise, etc. I say all these things are for making a better quality and longer life. And analogously, I say, we have fears habitually—that is, fear of accidents, diseases, death etc.

 M: I find it intriguing. I mean your teaching style. I sometimes wonder if it is uniquely Eastern and so different than how I approach teaching about fear in the West. That makes for an interesting exchange of the East-West dialogue as we can learn from each other, from very different perspectives. It seems to me you focus on teaching people to understand that fear is so common and habitual, and that has been part of human evolution as a motivator for everything we do, that people, for the most part, don’t realize it—its become a routine to live that way. And you reinforce that mostly that is good fear helping to improve our lives, like windows, doors, balance of diet, physical exercise. However, you and I also say that as tribes move to cities and become nations through time and development they tend to become more educated in knowledge and aware of more dangers. This makes for more things to fear. They tend to be more fear-based in motivations everyday, to the point where it is no longer all good fear that motivates.

 D: Yes. When I’m lecturing I say the scientists invent new technological devices and advance comforts and it mostly serves human life and society. It depends on our use and how to make it valuable to life. Analogously, I teach that Fearism is the same kind of device. We have discovered it now; we teach ways to use it. It’s time for them to learn and practice how to use it to improve their quality of lives.

 M: And, you and I as teachers sure wouldn’t want to force it on anyone. In particular, for this conversation today, I want to focus on practical concerns you and I have in regard to applying a fearist perspective that co-emerges with a philosophy of Fearism. I am thinking that our most practical direction offered to humanity, as outlined in our co-authored book, Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue (2016) has been a pointing to how to end suffering. You wrote, in your opus work Philosophy of Fearism (2014), “... man suffers from fear due to various reasons.... There are lots of problems and diseases [caused] from fear.” And, the situation is getting worse in our Extreme Fear Age, you pronounce—and, I heartily agree.

 Of course, there have been other philosophies and religions that have been offered for this same goal of stopping suffering; but based on our long studies, you and I believe they have all, more or less, fallen short of a proper analysis of suffering because they have minimized systematic critical study of the nature and role of fear in their philosophy or religion. You and I also believe this has been the problem with sciences. For sciences, like medical science especially, has attempted to cure disease (and dis-eases, as in psychiatry) and stop suffering as well. Yet, we argue that religion, philosophy, science, social theory and politics, have all been inadequate in their theorizing on “fear.” This is the premise of a philosophy of Fearism.

 D: I am not arguing that philosophy of Fearism is a complete philosophy for humanity. My point: it is a core philosophy in human life. There are typically not practical daily explanations in other philosophies to assist people from morning to evening and birth to death. Fearism starts from our consciousness. Consciousness starts from birth. Its central point and motivation is fear. On the basis of fear we look at the world. I met Dr. Hariwani, a writer from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, in Shillong, Meghalya, India in a recent Hindi literary program. He says not only life is conducted, directed and controlled by fear but the whole universe is conducted, directed and controlled by fear.

 M: As I understand this unique point of view, and it is interesting you have others who agree with you, in the Eastern world anyways, you paint a macro-picture for the good role that fear plays beyond merely in the world of humans or even earth.

 D: There are many universal fears. We cannot find an explanation for this reality and ways of seeing in previous philosophies. In 2012 there was a world warning of a Nebula coming near and/or striking earth and 6 billion people were in high alert with its dangerous course. I put the question on social media saying: Which philosophy can explain it? This type of A, B, C Nebula always emerges in human life and history of our solar system. Or we can say we are in the unique trap of multiple Nebulas that seem to be focused on destroying earth and killing us. Only a Philosophy of Fearism closely monitors, and explains this matter in a wider and more rational way. In the former type of thinking and analysis, without Fearism, people’s victim consciousness creates more suffering due to fear than is necessary. Fearism takes us on a course of consciousness that relieves this victim perspective and thus relieves some suffering.

 M:  So let’s get down to the focused topic for this conversation. As I said, you wrote in your opus work, Philosophy of Fearism (2014), “... man suffers from fear due to various reasons.... There are lots of problems and diseases from fear. This obstruction has occurred, as fear has not been theorised for a long time. Fear has been interpreted a lot. It has been theorised” (p. 159). I realize your text (2014) has been written in Nepalese, and the English translation is not the best here, but I interpret that by “obstruction” you mean a limitation and disturbance has appeared in humanity’s knowledge systems and disciplines that, more or less, has missed seeing and thinking clearly about the role of fear in human problems and diseases. And then you say fear as “not been theorised” very well for a long time in human history but more recently is being theorized (especially in psychology)—and, yet, if I understand you correctly, you are also saying this recent theorizing on fear is still quite inadequate and requires assistance from a philosophy of Fearism—and, more specifically, it requires assistance from developing sub-fields of Fearology, Fearanalysis and Feariatry. Is that correct?

 D: Yes, you are right, it is inadequate. Not only this, but previous philosophies are inadequate too. Humans have done their best and always try to complete their work on these things, but we have left a hole in our knowledge. Philosophy of Fearism was totally left out. You and I are the first persons making Fearism a philosophy and showing it to the world. Even our work at times only touches the macro-level but is not always useful on the micro-level. To patch the holes we need multiple explanations and that requires sub-fields of Fearology, Fearanalysis and Feariatry. To maintain our goal these have to be pillars; and, later as circumstances may change then we may require more pillars according to demand.

 M: I agree; there is never a fixed or static solution. A fearist perspective will continue to evolve as fear evolves. It seems to me one of the most pressing problems is the state of the environment, e.g., global warming (pollution effects). This will cause major planetary changes of mega-proportion, and with that, lots of destructive fear and terror through the disruptions—a time of great pressures, challenges and risks to life survival. We really need to get Fearism in place around the world soon to prepare for this crisis time, which has already started for the past few decades, at least. 

 D: Philosophy of Fearism is a general philosophy but also a flexible one to analyze such crises and helps in fear management and better education about fear. To specialize in particular matters, needs particular pillars. However, our three pillars will assist and sustain the use of Fearism for likely a long lasting time.

 M: What do you think might be the cause (motivation) for this “obstruction” to good theorizing on fear throughout history? Likely, there are multiple causes for this, but what do you think are the most important ones. And why?

 D: In my opinion, the main obstruction is Meaning. Everything is based on it. Meaning means perception, social consciousness and social knowledge. How knowledge is changeable, meaning changes accordingly. The current meaning world, and how individuals and institutions create it is what obstructs change of meaning.

 M: Some researchers call this a “meaning frame” which determines everything one understands about them selves and their relationships to everything. It is hard to change a meaning frame because it is so unconscious for most. But once it is made conscious, which is what education and self-reflection can do, the meaning frame (or “paradigm”) can shift dramatically.

 D: People have to make fearological knowledge, and consciousness and perceptions part of their new meaning frame. Thus, they can develop a new fearological world.

 M: Desh, you also wrote in your 2014 book (p. 159): It will be easier to identify the disease caused by fear when its definition, condition, source, origin, effect, types, etc. are interpreted. The treatment system develops [i.e., improves] when a [medical] doctor declares [i.e., admits] that the disease is a result of fear. Medicine can be discovered for it.” In this last phrase I interpret you mean that Medicine, as a field of curing and aiming to stop suffering, can be reformed and transformed for making this change that a philosophy of Fearism is calling for it to discover. You also wrote, “All hospitals are established and medicines [discovered] due to fear. Yet fear was not identified [as so important] in [the history of] medical science.”

 That is, Medicine, from our fearist perspective, needs to discover more emphatically the importance of the nature and role of fear in general, and in its own evolution as a field of Medicine. Both you and I would go so far as to suggest new sub-fields of study and application need to be invented like Fearology, Fearanalysis and Feariatry to better inform the Medical field and society as a whole. Why do you think Medicine as a whole has not regarded fear as so important all these years of its history? Do you think this “obstruction” to do so is found in all parts of the world, East, West, North, and South? Do you think past cultures had “medicine” practices that were more in-tune with the critical importance of fear? If so, what ones and how so?

 D: Look Michael, every one is suffering some sickness from fear. Nowadays, I am studying the Holy Bible. Whenever I read it, top to bottom, I see many forms of fear: threatening, warning, killing, attack, disaster, hunger, disease, punishment, imprisonment, escaping, hiding etc. I am using a lens of Fearism to evaluate it. So, I can vision clearly this fear-based drama depicted in the Bible stories. Similarly, when we read life, society, economy, and politics with this lens, we can see obviously different forms of fear. Likewise, disease can be studied accordingly, we can find Feariatry world, which is unseen at this time but we can imagine it. Philosophy of Fearism is analyzing and arguing from this lens. Until now, patients in psychiatry and therapy are being treated under various names and diagnoses, but not in the name of “fear patient.” Fear is not seen as the source of the mind pathologies. This is blunder of the Medical world. The same blunder is everywhere for the most part in the wider world too. The world is following foolishly a rather zigzag ineffective road, instead of a straight road to the root of the pathologies of the mind and body. This is the reason we are not approaching good mental health soon. And sometimes we seem as societies to have become lost on the way. Medical science is doing the same, particularly in case of the fear patient who is suffering from fear unrecognized as the root source. I suspect this problem is in the East, West, North, and South. I don’t know if other cultures from the past were all that different.  

 M: Do you know of any medical professionals who are listening to your lectures, reading our books on philosophy of Fearism? Or, is our movement largely being listened to by only writers and literary people (i.e., artist-types) so far? How do we best get our fearist perspective to at least be considered in the Medical field and especially in the medical education programs? A big topic...

 D: No medical professional, that I know of, has listened to my lectures so far. I try my best to reach to them. You are right, mostly I lecture to writers and literary people and scholars in the humanities and arts.

 M: Same with me.

 D: Every one has some kinds of pillars of truth they believe in. It is not simple to remove their views. The major reason behind this is they want to hold onto it—their pillars. They don't want to shake them or have them shaken by others. Without shaking pillar, there is not chance to mix with new thoughts. They tend to believe in a pillar and that is final.

 M: Something this reminds me of, and I have written about it often, is the problem of people being too afraid to change their views on fear, to challenge their knowledge pillars about fear and its management and how we should be educating ourselves and others. It’s a real stumbling block to progress.

 D: Indeed. Yet, this resistance is not happening merely to a philosophy of Fearism. Similar problems we can see historically in each new ideology. Time will come to remove the old and replace with the new. It has happened in the past and will happen again. This is the time for a philosophy of Fearism to be delivered to every ear. I am doing my part of that, and so are you. One day, one ear will get the message and speak and share it with the rest of the world.

 M: Teaching about fear in this way takes a lot of patience. Thanks Desh for your patience to do this interview with me. Good luck with your work. I look forward to doing more of these dialogues.



End Notes:

[1] I am currently finishing a first draft of a book A General Introduction to Fearanalysis, which is my equivalent (analogy) to Freud's A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. My book, modeled after Freud's format, consists of 13 lectures. This ought to really move the work of fearanalysis out there.

[2] Technically, to be more precise to Fisher and Subba (2016, p. 141), the model we presented suggests the three pillars of our work are (1) Fearist Perspective, (2) Philosophy of Fearism, and (3) Fearology (including Feariatry and Fearanalysis).

[3]. See Subba, D. (2014). Philosophy of fearism: Life is conducted, directed and controlled by the fear. Australia: Xlibris; and, Fisher, R. M., and Subba, D. (2016). Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue. Australia: Xlibris.

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