Detection: Logic, Emotions, and Memory

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Would Sherlock Holmes secretly make this statement, especially in one of his drug-induced states? Does he feel the madness of his passions? I think most of us would say “Yes” to that question. Much has been written about his constraint of emotions, his logical thinking capabilities, as well as his ability to put important pieces together.

Yet in the “Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” he says to Watson after “losing it”: “Should you care to add the case to your annals, my dear Watson, it can only be an example of that temporary eclipse to which even the best-balanced minds may be exposed.” He is only human after all, and feels everything we do, but through mindfulness and memory, a superior emotional control system, and logic, seems to find a unique balance. In the “Sign of the Four,” one of Holmes reaction to Mary Mortan … “But love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things.”

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 So what does this mean for us? What is the uniting element of these three factors. Does it help us in detection? Does it hurt us in detection? Beyond all else, we protect ourselves and collect and maintain evidence, logic, feelings, and memories that allow us to feel that we, as a human being, are okay. “Self-Justification is deeply  ingrained in each of us.” (Emotional Competency.com). We will distort reality to increase our self esteem. We will even present a one-sided argument to make ourselves feel good. Even though we are a more logical than emotional person, we can use different types of faulty logic to support a position that we want to be true. A few of these are briefly defined (Emotional Competency.com):

Filtering: failure to consider all the evidence in an objective manner. Over-generalization:arriving at a general conclusion based on a single fact. Polarized thinking: either black or white. Mind reading: you conclude how a person is thinking without evidence or testing assumptions. Personalization: everything a person says is in reaction to you. Attribution errors: Thinking you know a person’s intention for a behavior. Disproportionate Responsibility: many causes contribute to each result. One of my favorites–very difficult for detectives to unravel: Confabulation: making up a plausible story for surprising events or behaviors. People unknowingly fill in gap in memory with fabrications they believe to be true. They often confuse true memories with false memories–they make up explanation after the fact. Asch Effect: change your opinion to agree with the majority.

Our logic can be distorted, and so can our memories. They fade over time. The effects of emotions can block memories. Lapse of attention causes us to forget. Sometime we place events in the wrong time or place. If we want a certain result, we’ll remember it the way we want it to go. Our memories are bias by our attitudes and beliefs, experiences and emotions. Memories of a critical emotional state may sometimes not leave, or not return. In this case, our emotions have ruled our logic and our memories.

So what can we do to help be the best of life’s detectives, to lessen the confusion and put ourselves, logic, emotions, and memory back in balance? Back to mindfulness, add some humility so we don’t have to justify situations, don’t deny a problem that comes to your attention, admit an unpleasant side of yourself, as did Holmes above. That’s a good start.  It’s tough for me to remember all the others  … not sure my self esteem could handle it.



 

 


 

 

Mindfulness Vrs. Attention

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 The Mind

Now you are mindful, paying attention, and in the moment. You feel centered, know yourself, and trust that you can continue to learn how to be a better detective. Detection is not an art. It is a learned behavior, a compilation of training your awareness not to take anything at face value (be skeptical), drawing from memory (now where in my memory did I place that?), assimilating facts remembered into a logical wholeness (wholeness, like putting it all together?) … oh, and let’s not forget … imagination, creativity, and motivation. Whew!

John Madina, in The Brain Rules (Pear Press, 2008) discusses “attention” at length. He says that you have about fifteen minutes to make an impact, whether as a teacher, lecturer, or book reader. Keep the most important facts short. The way to keep the attention going and focused? Link it to memory, interest, and awareness. Interest increases motivation. Interest influences memory. Interest is undeniably linked to attention and awareness. We have to be aware of something before it grabs our attention.

 As you know, the brain is divided into two hemispheres. Keeping them in balance is a feat. They share what we attend to–how we attend to it–and what we do with what we attended to. We hear something close by, our mind and ears tune into it, we turn toward it or away from it, we decide what to do about it. All the time our two hemispheres are working their neurons asking all systems on both sides to help. Attention multitaskes.

Back to Sherlock Holmes before I lose you. My time is almost up. In Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova (Viking, 2013), She address the attention of a poor policeman in A Study in Scarlet: “And the criminal was right in front of his eyes. Only he didn’t know how to look. Instead of a suspect, he saw a drunk man–and failed to notice anything that would have told him otherwise, so busy was he trying to focus (pay attention) on his “real” job of looking at the crime scene.” His interest, awareness, and attention was on the crime scene. In detection, we can take no observation at face value. Here, the facts about the drunk were not assimilated or logged for further use. The policeman had “attentional blindness” where a focus on one element of the scene causes the other elements to disappear.

I have that with my wine. I see it, take it, sip it, and everything else in the room disappears. Maybe that’s not the same thing … hmm.

Next … we discuss the impact of logic vrs emotions … oh, and memory.

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Hmm…

Getting Centered: the Intent of Mindfulness

My husband, Larry, who many people know because we hang together, and he loves the writing world and shares it with me, wrote an article: “Staying Centered: The Inner Game of Pool” for a magazine I was the editor, many moons ago, in Kauai Hawaii. It was a holistic magazine I helped start, called “Inspiration, A Journal of the Body, Mind, and Soul”. Larry is an excellent pool player, and was a CT, NY, and NJ champion–more than many moons ago.

But while I was trying to search out how we find mindfulness in what we do, as well as get centered in/ with ourselves, (as we all often try to do) as a continuance for my “Mindfulness and the Power of Detection” articles, I realized Larry had already addressed “staying centered”. Almost like a survival instinct, we inherently find a mindfulness in what we love, an ultimate focus where we are truly being with ourselves, and not allowing the outer world distract us. Like Sherlock Holmes, the art of detection is within ourselves.

“Staying Centered: The Inner Game of Pool” by Larry Morin

Staying centered sounds like a cliché, proverb or gold, doesn’t it? It’s an elusive phenomena that we strive to obtain; however it always seems to be slipping away from our grasp. This never stops our pursuit to maintain a center of balance in most things that we do in our lives. Although we try hard to live in the perfect realm, life pressures, unforeseen complications, self-doubt, and other factors force us from that wonderful place. We try to stay in the zone by minimizing variables and keeping things as simple as possible while concentrating on the execution and follow-through of what we’re doing here and now. Not easy, is it? It is the same with the inner game of pool; the game that is played to your full potential can take you into a world of pool ballet in motion that at times seems to defy the very laws of physics. It’s a place or zone were it is okay to selfishly steal away precious time from pressures and demands. It can yield the marvelous benefits of feeling accomplished and mentally recharge. It can be a safe and solid place to go to get centered when all else seems just the opposite. After all, isn’t it great to have a hobby, such as pool, being an ingredient to really living life? Let me take you on my path into the inner game of pool. Let’s see if my passion of 35 years relates to the guidelines of my hobby. You be the judge, and who knows, you may even decide to take up pool.

All of us get hooked on instant gratification and results. Runners is building endurance. After running the first smile, they try for two, then three and so on. For the golfer, it’s getting the lowest score, and perfecting the swing. And pool, the special feeling comes from pocketing a ball, or reaching your desired position with the cue ball to get in line for your next shot. What an exhilarating feeling when you have size up a shot, determine where you want the pool ball positioned, and have executed everything to plan! Your self confidence grows! You must know what this feels like. At times, the click of the cue ball and the snap of the object ball dropping into the pocket, and the ballet of seeing what they can do in those positions is exhilarating! You begin to think, “Hey, I can do this a second time, and a third time, too!” Total concentration takes hold and everything else is blocked out, leaving you in your own pool-table world. It’s a world where the pockets begin to invite the balls, creating snap sounds. The six doors that appear to be exits seem to open wider producing ball quick-snap music. You are lulled into a deeper trance induced by more concentration. Possibilities seem infinite. You feel like you can carry out any shot you choose. You are now on the next level of “dead stroke” where life’s worries are for the moment forgotten. It’s the magic zone where you are totally centered. You can only win. And your knowledge and experience have brought you here.

The five steps that he outlines (with a lot more pool talk) are:

1.Consistency, it eliminates confusion.

2. Seek the support of the table. Lock in to your position. Focus.

3. Take aim at the shot you want.

4. Take a risk with your shot. Make a commitment. Don’t change your mind. Go for it.

5. Follow through with your shot. Always look at the object ball.

6. Give 100 percent.

7. Evaluate.

8. Adjust, and add to your learning foundation.

Larry ended with “See you at the pool hall.”

The art of detection: Is it that much difference?

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness and the Power of Detection

Mindfulness and the Power of Detection

Our brains gives us the power to speak, imagine and ...

Irene Adler: Why are you always so suspicious?

Sherlock Holmes: Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?
Ortega y Gasset: “Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.”
Deep in the great minds of homicide detectives and mystery writers are characteristics that enhance the creative powers of detection. I believe one of the most important characteristics, that helps answer the who, why, where, and how questions, is mindfulness.
    There is a big difference between seeing and observing. Holmes often points out his “powers of observation” and what others merely “see”. He asked Watson how many steps in his house, and Watson, who had traveled them countless times, didn’t know. Watson had seen them, but made no observations about them.
    In Psychology, (Philosophy and Spirtualism) this kind of observation is called mindfulness. What is Mindfulness?  Mindfulness is, according to Jon Kabit-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in Massachusetts:
“Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.” No daydreaming or fantasies allowed. No obsessing over what should have been done, or what to do.
    My friend once called me annoyed. She had told herself to go to the liquor store to get wine for our dinner. She even wrote herself a note during work. But what did she do? Drove right by the store, to her home, into her garage, and then cursed herself out loud for driving right passed the store–then asked me to pick up a bottle up on my way to her house. (Yes, I remembered!) So this is not an example of mindfulness, but it is an example of what most of us do everyday, probably more than we would like to admit. We give in to the routine we have established, without even a thought. 
    However, while waiting in my car for a light. I observed a man going into a store, and as he spoke to the retail person, his hands flew into the air, the retailer stepped back, another female retailer came over to the man who continued to point to something on, what I thought must be, the counter. I said to myself, “God, he must be really pissed off.” I had to move on, with the traffic, from that observation. Once I stepped back and reflected on the situation, still in observation mode (and another characteristic of a good detectives), I asked myself (and I bet you know what I’m going to say): “Hey, can I create a mystery short story around this?”
    Part of the road blocks to minfulness in this “day and age” is the use of computers, iPhones, and digital media. It decreases mindfulness, and also decreases the use of attention on the whole. How often do you notice anything about you and the environment as you multi-task? It steals much of our creative powers. We don’t notice our own thoughts and thought patterns anymore. But don’t get me started on how our minds are deteriorating. Thank goodness for that extra sensitivity we have to mindfulness and the the true powers of observation.

Being Social, Being Alone

Although I’m being social at the Deadly Inc conference, what I felt most this week was being social, while being alone. Getting reconnected to my roots in New York City. Remembering thunderstorms, and walking through the after-rain puddles in the new neighborhood, and watching drops fall from a railing. Nodding to people I didn’t know on a crowded sidewalk.

 

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eavesdropping on front-stoop conversations, and feeling a part of them. Talking to no one, but feeling apart of everyone.

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And having the best time socializing alone, and still looking for that mystery.

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Character Psychology and Questions

Characters are born, develop, and sometimes die in our minds. They live with us and are manipulated by us. We think about them, nurture them, and care what happens to them, even if they’re evil. While writing a novel or short story, I think more about my characters than my family. Our characters portray humanity and all its flaws; they could be our sisters, brothers, parents, and friends.

With that in mind, we could all be personalities unfolding in a writer’s storyline about love and relationships, life and death.

But few of us are psychologists. As a result, we can misrepresent how the mind actually works. I’ve read books in which a psychopath develops a conscience. That never happens. Psychopaths have no conscience. Why would they care enough to develop one?

Do you know your character’s psychological make up? If not, how do you construct a character arc when some of the vital symptoms, traits, and behavioral manifestations are missing? Not only will the character and their back-story suffer from inaccurate information, but also the character will become less believable.

Most writers have known people with psychological problems. As the author Rita Mae Brown once said, “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you.”

The madness of the protagonist or antagonist can be, and often is, the driving force of the story. (Think about Hannibal Lecter.) To understand and label that madness is to truly know your character-type creation.

Or does it really matter? After all, we as writers can make up our own diagnosis as long as that diagnosis doesn’t spill over the boundary of believability.

Many times writers will decide when the character is born what the psychology of the character will be. Ms. A is depressed. The writer might run to the DSM V psychological diagnostic manual, and copy down the traits of depression, and then mold the character’s psychology by those traits. Ms A sleeps a lot and isn’t eating. However, in the middle of the book, she’s out of bed and feeling frisky, eating like a horse, and ready to take on the world, and exhibiting some kooky behavior, among other things.

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Characters have a mind of their own, and the author can be back reading the DSM V.

The first thing I question my character about is Demographic, as I’m sure most writers do. Like my character Ariel James in my short story, “Case Study”: Ariel James, a sixteen-year-old Caucasian Jewish female, is model-tall and thin, attractive (long blond hair and hazel eyes), bright, verbal, and sexually active. She lives in an upper middle class neighborhood with her computer-programmer father (Mike), his fifth-grade-teacher girlfriend (Rho), and her eleven-year-old baseball-fanatic brother (Stu). Ariel referred herself for counseling May 7, 2012. She called and said: “I have big problems and I want to talk to someone.” I asked Ariel about her hobbies, what she likes to do on her free time, and what she does when she’s alone. From there: it’s the psycho-social: social (external), personal (internal), financial, career choices, educational, spiritual, family ties, and what is causing her stress. Then we’re on our way together toward an adventure and unique relationship. I revisit the personal feelings and social events often before I label my characters because, as you know, they can be so damn fickle.

The Never-Ending Process of Purpose

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Traveling cross country from San Francisco to our new New York City apartment with a caravan full of “stuff,” and the blaring sun reminding us how burning hot it can be, I thought about the word purpose, a purpose unto itself. Purpose was all around me. In fact, we were in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store, and I heard this song I don’t know, and the crooner is singing about finding something to believe in or not living. Those weren’t the exact words, but I was holding too much “stuff” to write it down.

But what I did get to do, and I thought it quite exciting—wish I had a video camera—was to interview people I had met about what they thought when I said the word purpose. What the heck, I thought. Michael Black hit the salient features of “purpose,” and I couldn’t agree more. Carole added some purposefulness to the word, and Rita gave us many writers’ and philosophers’ quotes on the subject. All great in their own way. Susan and Hannah had existential definitions for the words as their day and adventures took them into the here and now, the ever important daily purpose, or describing obstacles to achieving one’s purpose.

A young bartender we met, Danielle, a wise 24 year old, answered that question. Here is a bit of the conversation. Larry, my husband, added a few things, also.

P: What is purpose?

D: It is cause and effect, everything happens for a reason.

P: Is it transient?

D: Yes it is.

P: So it changes.

D: Of course.

P: Does it change as your life changes, or as the experience changes? Can one experience have several purposes, or is it that you have to go through an experience, and in that experience there is a purpose?

D: For me you have to go through an experience that has a purpose, then you have another experience and that has a purpose.

L: Pat, why the meeting with Danielle and Tierney (another interviewee—is that a word?), what was the purpose?

D: Hey, that’s what I said when I went home last night. I met those people for a reason, not just to serve them wine. If I meet this Joy (a person we recommended) and she helps me with something that is life changing, then that’s the purpose of our meeting. You become the purpose.

So what I have gleaned about “what is purpose” is this: There’s a silent movement to it. Its vicissitudes in life are individual, constantly changing, and very important. There may even be an ingredient of serendipity to the mix. My cousin, Wally Gold, a songwriter (who wrote “It’s my Party” and “It’s Now or Never” and others) said that because of serendipity, he met Aaron Schroeder, the music king at that time, and that changed his life and his life’s purpose. Maybe for me, the benefit of this trip, in a spiritual way, was to help people take a look at what is truly meaningful to them.

Depth

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When thinking about the word “depth,” it is hard to imagine what it really means. I naturally think of water (the distance below the surface), a drawer (distance between front and back), maybe a jungle (distance to the most remote part), or maybe even art (depth of color or three dimensional forms). When it comes to the individual, depth become harder to envision. What is the quality of being deep? Is it experiences layered with experiences layered with even more experiences? Is it a profound or intense state of feeling, as in the depth of misery?

What life could be lived, or experiences gained, without self? It is another word that is hard to imagine. Self is the core of our being, the essence of what makes us home in our body. But when I imagine it, it’s seems as endless as an oil shaft, like our center core is unlimited. There is no single image that identifies it. One women I saw in therapy said that she had lost her self, and was grieving that loss. She no longer acted in a way that felt authentic to who she was. Whew! Right?

Psychology is the study of the Psyche. Modern Psychology can help us understand more about Jungthat “self”. With Depth Psychology, we learned that the psyche is more than a conscious mind, it had depth, illuminations which are not visible, the unconscious. Carl Jung (picture to left) believed that there were aspects of our psyche that were common to us all. These aspects include images, dreams, the spiritual (soul), art, philosophy, and the para-nornormal. Jung did his doctoral research on the Occult, and studied a fifteen-year-old medium. I believe that these ingredients are also important to what make up the “depth” in all of us, the authentic self.

When exploring the characters in your life, as well as your books, or maybe even yourself, probe the most important facets of that character: spiritually, emotionally, their dreams, their fantasies (which few share), their real and imagined desires. That’s what I do to get that added dimension. That way I feel as though I’m not writing about their lives, but of their lives.

The New Way to Create Your Story

The Interactive Way to Write Your Next Book: Crowdsourcing!

ImageRecently, I was at a meeting with my new publisher and several of the authors from Harper Davis. We discussed “Branding,” and my need to redo the way I brand myself as well as my blog, website, and name. I tend to use Pat Morin, and not the Patricia L. Morin signed on my books and short stories. When discussing the use of name, one of the marketing people suggested I crowdsource an opinion of which of the names I should use. I had never heard of it. Several of the authors had explained that authors are now using crowdsourcing to write their novels. With the help of their fans, their new stories are being created.

Wow! First let me define crowdsourcing (and if some/all of you know, please forgive the repetition).

Crowdsourcing is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. The general concept is to combine the efforts of crowds of volunteers where each one could contribute a small portion, which adds into a relatively large or significant result. Crowdsourcing is different from an ordinary outsourcing since it is a task or problem that is outsourced to an undefined public rather than to a specific, named group. Although the word “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006, it can apply to a wide range of activities.Crowdsourcing can apply to specific requests, such as crowdvoting, crowdfunding, a broad-based competition, and a general search for answers, solutions, or a missing person.

There is even a new platform for writers all over the world launched by CrowdSource, LLC. The new portal, called Write.com, aims to recruit new writers to enrich Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing marketplace.

Authors are able, through this new format, to change endings and rewrite books, as was discussed on LadyKillers Blog before. But now, we can include our fan base to help create the story from the start.

Out with the outline, out with the plotantsers, out with the 1,2,3. In with the new group interactive process: crowdsourcing!

What do you think about all this?

Rejection and Resilience

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What interested me the most about the rejections that authors received from publishers and agents, beside the types of letters, and diversity of the language in the negative responses (some very positive, also), was the reaction of the author. I know when my reject slips started flooding in, I felt angry, defensive, bewildered, and sometimes indignant (usually not all at the same time). I worked hard to keep my spirits up, and push through a bit of despair to send my stories to the next publisher, hopeful of an acceptance.

We’re resilient. We’ve bended, adapted, shifted, sometimes in ways we never thought we could. I most certainly did not handle all my rejections effectively. I cursed out several agents (the one who sent the fortune cookie size response). I even wrote to one agent and told her how rude she was in her rejection letter, and would suggest no one hire her—since we do have to pay them for services.

Anyway, the resilient person, moi, does not always, to this day, handle refusal of my work well. However, the strength, I believe, is in the ability to rebound. According to Robert Brooks, Ph.D, there are four concepts that help people when confronted with rejection. All four have been touched upon in The Ladykillers Blog this week at one point or other. I’m just putting them all together.

  1. Avoid self-defeating assumption. Rejections do not indicate a basic flaw in our personality.
  2. Don’t magnify the rejection in terms of the impact it has on your life. It is not a forecast of your future. After about 75 rejection slips, I sorta had a hard time believing this one.
  3. Don’t allow the rejection to derail your dreams. Persevere.
  4. Learn from the rejection, even if there is no suggestion for change. Seek helpful feedback from others.
  5. (Mine) reevaluate the agents and publishers, the people you are hoping to win over–they my not be right for you. I’ve had to change my list several times.
  6. STAY RESILIENT!

Can you add to this list? What has helped you stay resilient? Cat buddies that purr on your lap are acceptable.