Archive for December, 2010

If there is one thing that this holiday season has confirmed conclusively, as if I hadn’t already realised, it is the fact that I am an extreme night owl. As soon as I do not have to get up at any specific time to go to work, my body clock automatically resets itself to its natural pattern. I wake up mid-morning, and do not sleep until the wee hours.

For years, I thought that I was an insomniac. I would lie in bed with my thoughts churning and sleep obstinately refusing to come for hours, and then I would be absolutely impossible in the mornings, falling against the walls. The earlier I knew I had to get up, the more difficult it was to sleep. I tried everything. My “insomnia” came in such industrial strength that I could have a hot Radox bath, drink a calming herbal infusion, take a calcium/magnesium supplement, and lie down in the dark with a brainwave entrainment track for sleep playing on my MP3 player – and still be stubbornly awake (and becoming increasingly frustrated and angry) over an hour later.

People would ask me if I was worried about something. Well, no. What were these thoughts that would go round and round? My boyfriend said write them down on a pad for the next day. When I tried that, it only encouraged more ideas to come and I wrote for half the night. Why was I getting all this creative stuff come and annoy me when I had to sleep?

Eventually I realised that the answer was very simple – my day simply wasn’t finished. As far as my body clock was concerned, I was trying to go to bed when, from its perspective, it was still “early evening”, when most people would expect to be wide awake and working on their hobbies and interests.

Conversely, in the morning, I was trying to get up for work at a time when my body clock thought it was still the middle of the night. No wonder I was having a hard time!

Years of being forced, or forcing myself, onto a socially acceptable sleep schedule for school or work never “took” and my body clock remained obstinately lagging behind the schedule of the rest of the nation by some hours. It was literally like being jet lagged without going anywhere. In fact, this problem, I have discovered, is sometimes called “social jet lag”. Doctors unfortunately seem to think that if the person is able to get up with the use of an alarm clock, then there is no problem. As a person who struggles through the morning and then comes alive later in the day, I would disagree.

One treatment, it would seem, is through the use of a light box: sitting in front of a bright lamp at the time of morning at which one wishes to get up until the body clock readjusts to a more socially desirable schedule. I wouldn’t mind experimenting, if I can find such a device for a reasonable price.

As one of the crew says in “Aliens 2” on being awoken from suspended animation: “They don’t pay us enough for this moment”. When my alarm goes off in the mornings, I couldn’t agree more.

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I got sent an email today advertising this company’s Christmas specials.

I like brain training games and brainwave entrainment. This website’s claims for their products can be extremely overblown. However, there is a wealth of articles with some interesting content here:


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As part of my ongoing self-education, I started reading “Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain” (Bear, Connors and Paradiso, LWW, 3rd edition, 2007). Near the beginning of the textbook are two tables: Table 1.1 lists the medical specialists associated with the nervous system, and Table 1.2 lists the types of experimental neuroscientists.

Ok, I said to myself as I read through these lists. So there are the people who are involved with the medical or clinical side, and are interested in fixing things when they go wrong. And then you have the experimental side, where data is collected and added to the sum total of human knowledge about the brain and mind.

But surely there is something missing here? What about the branch of neuroscience that is involved with taking the average or above average individual, and using what we know to improve, build upon or customise what he or she already has?

Michael Hutchison, author of “Megabrain” and “Mega Brain Power”, was aware of this very problem when he wrote the first edition of “Megabrain” in 1986. He sums up the problem perfectly in one chapter on mind machines:

“…I began to read the literature more systematically, to talk with scientists engaged in brain research, and found what seemed to be an extraordinary unanimity of opinion and interest. Scientists in virtually every discipline concerned with investigating the brain – electroencephalography, biophysics, neuroendocrinology, neurochemistry, neuroanatomy, bioelectricity, psychiatry, psychobiology, psychology – were excited by the wealth of new ideas and information…and were enthusiastically exploring the potentials of brain-machine interaction.

“However, as I delved deeper it became clear that underlying the apparent unanimity was a serious division, that the investigators of the mind-machine connection were split into two factions. In the first faction were those scientists who want to use new machines for medical and therapeutic purposes. They are interested in how the devices can be used to treat schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, mental retardation, Down’s syndrome, and so on. When they speak of using machines to enhance brain functioning or mental powers, their main concern is with restoring normal brain functioning to those who have suffered brain damage or loss of mental powers because of sickness, stroke, accident, or birth defects.

“The second faction comprises experimenters who are eager to explore the possibilities of using mind devices on perfectly healthy, psychologically fit people, expressly for the purposes of stimulating mental excellence. One research foundation with this orientation has recently undertaken a study of ‘The Neurobiology of Excellence,’ with the stated purpose of seeking tools for developing ‘extreme proficiency in performing selected tasks,’ and improving ‘such higher-brain function’ skills as information processing (e.g. extremely rapid mathematical calculation, conducting a symphony orchestra), memory (short-term/’encyclopedic’/photographic), and concentration.”

The “second faction” to which Hutchison refers is not to the various aspects of experiemental neuroscience referenced in my textbook, but to the “missing” branch so conspicuously absent from its pages. Sheesh, I don’t even know what you would call such a branch of neuroscience, without it being either a complete mouthful to remember or pronounce, or a name indistinguishable from the title of every website you ever stumbled upon espousing yet another self-styled guru’s take on the Law of Attraction!

Hutchison goes on to explain that a major problem for the personal excellence faction is that research is tremendously expensive, and that virtually all research money available is awarded to projects intended to have medical or therapeutic value. Hence, even though a scientist may have enormous personal interest in how, say, EEG neurofeedback may be adapted to induce extraordinary mental abilities, their eff0rts are channelled in the direction of projects deemed to be more socially useful (i.e. therapeutic purposes) by the bodies that control the grant purse strings.

 So, what tends to happen is that those individuals passionate enough to wish to research in the personal excellence field have to find another way of making money to fund the project. Rather than work with a fully equipped laboratory, a knowledgeable team on hand, and all the funds, pre-screened volunteers and other resources necessary to conducting a full-blown scientific study, these investigators often end up developing a product on a shoestring and marketing it directly to the public in order to fund further research. Bill Harris explains in his book “Thresholds of the Mind” how he developed the prototype of the “Holosync” program while tinkering with various bits of audio equipment at his kitchen table and realised that the only way he was going to be able to research further in the field of audio entrainment technology was if he were to develop a product that the public would buy.

Most entrepreneur/researchers are not merely Arthur Daley types who see the opportunity to make money from a marketplace easily blinded by science. Many have scientific or medical backgrounds, all of the ones Hutchison interviewed for his book were well versed in the latest brain research, and had made every attempt to ensure that the devices they had developed made use of that research, and were keen to validate the efficacy of their devices through rigorous, controlled scientific studies.

True scientific research, Hutchison goes on to explain, is founded on value-free studies that are under intense scrutiny by others in the scientific community. There are double-blind studies, control groups, and large numbers of subjects undergoing pre- and post-study tests, and long-term follow-up studies.

Entrepreneur-researchers mostly do not have the luxury of operating under these same set of rules, for obvious reasons: they simply do not have the resources for such expensive and time-consuming studies. It goes without saying that this leaves these self-funded researchers and possibly even the very subject of the neuroscience of personal excellence open to criticism – not because there is anything wrong with them, or it, but because the field is pushed out from the laboratory and into the marketplace, where different rules must necessarily apply.

Even though I still have no idea what to call this missing branch of neuroscience, I have no intention of selling out, giving up and going to work in clinical research. I know what I am interested in, and this is where I want to research:

I’m viewing the subject from the point of view of someone who wants to build neuropsychological hot rods. Who’s with me?

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This is now the type of behaviour exhibited by protesters demonstrating over the UK Government’s proposals to increase university tuition fees:


By their actions, the individuals caught on camera swinging from the Cenotaph or peeing on Winston Churchill’s statute have demonstrated that they are probably too irresponsible and lacking in basic education to benefit from university.

If I were paying for professional services from someone needing a degree to practise his or her vocation, I would expect minimum standards of behaviour, decency, respect, and personal and social responsibility. I feel these people lack the personal qualities necessary to hold the type of jobs that require a degree.

If I had anything to do with university admissions, these “students” would not have any tuition fees to worry about at all. Because they would not be going to university, period, irregardless of whether or not they could afford the fees. They can take ordinary jobs, just like the millions of non-graduates have to, until they manage to grow up a bit.

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The following exchange resulted from a lesson question I submitted while doing the PMemory course, and the apparent inexperience/lack of willingness on the part of the instructors to consider all angles and available information when dealing with a person who had pursued other methods for evolving the mind and spirit for many years before PMemory, and was at a rather different level of personal development than the typical student.

My only mistake was in taking a gamble that perhaps Ruslan/Ines or one of the instructors had run across someone who had been involved with this particular self-development philosophy before, and might be aware of how someone on the verge of entering the higher levels of that particular practice might respond to the pmemory training.

Unfortunately, my original question to the instructors and the reply I received both got deleted and I cannot reproduce them here.

The gist of the message was that he knew ALL ABOUT the practice from reading the Internet, and that psychology taught that it was a lot of tosh, and that its founder was bonkers. He finished up by saying that he would be surprised if I still felt the same way about pursuing it in a year’s time.

The following was my response:

Seven Sigma  – Re: Your Reply to my Lesson Question, Nov 23 2009; 11:58 AM

[Name of instructor],

Thank you for taking the time to answer me.

With regard to ad homs on [name of originator of the philosophy/practice]: For all I care, he could have been one of Hitler’s inner circle and eaten small babies for breakfast every morning. It doesn’t detract in any way from the workability of what he developed.

Whilst I respect what psychology’s opinion about psychology, I do not think I can say the same of its opinion on other subjects beyond its remit.

I was a senior executive and training director [in an organization devoted to delivering courses etc.]. I have been studying the techniques and philosophy for the better part of 20 years. For my own reasons, I became an “independent” nearly four years ago and continue to use what I learned for the betterment of myself, my partner and others on an independent basis. As such, with the greatest of respect, I believe I am slightly more qualified to pass judgment on [the philosophy] techniques than a person who has spent an hour reading the Internet.

It would take a lot more than a few criticisms of [name of founder] and the pronunciamentos of psychology to reverse nearly two decades of radical self-improvement, my own use of the techniques on others and seeing them win from it, and my direct observation of colleagues and students using the techniques to great results, to make me change my mind. And if I ever should do, you have my permission to chew me out for losing my self-integrity!!!

I’m not too sure what difference another year will make, but just in case you’re curious, I’ll make a note in my diary to let you know!

As an autodidact, I have also studied about 200 books, and probably hundreds more technical papers and articles, on the brain, mind, spirit and allied subjects. My interest in GSR biomonitoring…branched out into an interest in other types of monitoring, and other technologies. I have tested every type of study/learning technique I can get my hands on, Superlearning, Memletics, speed reading, you name it. I have spent about the last two years delving through technical data on audio-visual entrainment, and the Transparent Corp. have invited me to take part in a pilot study for their R&D. (I was upfront with them about where I’m at, and they accepted my volunteership anyway!)

Regarding EEG: I take it you are not familiar with the works of Maxwell Cade and Anna Wise, nor in the burgeoning subject of EEG neurofeedback? Or perhaps the excellent books Megabrain and Megabrain Power, by Michael Hutchison?

Thank you for your encouragement regarding the course. I shall just have to learn to recognize when I am too tired, and finish the exercise next day if it gets to that point. (You appreciate that I have been battling a physical health condition for years.) I just feel that some of the exercises have been too long and I got too tired halfway through, not to mention the other, less easy to explain phenomena that were fired up by going at it too hard.

I took a risk in sharing with the instructors where I’m at, obviously one that didn’t pay off on this occasion. This makes me feel rather alone, as I have no one who really understands, besides my partner, and he isn’t a memory expert. I think I shall just continue to practise the lessons but keep info about other stuff I’m running into to myself, since it’s obvious the instructors won’t believe it’s real.

This was the reply I got back:

[Name of instructor] – Re:Your reply to my lesson question, Nov 23 2009, 11:39 AM

I take the attitude that we can agree to disagree about [the philosophy]. I’ve been taught to love all people including those that disagree with me, and even for those who hurt me.

Unfortunately the number of people that came out of [the organization] and reported being milked out of money they couldn’t afford to spend, being victims of brainwashing techniques and threatened by members of [the organization] are too much to ignore, as are those that commit suicide. Many [name of the organization] survivors are all worse off then they were before.

And no, if a guy is Hitler’s best friend and eats babies, I’m never going to trust anything he proposes. NO WAY!!!

NOTE: There is one particular organization that is infamous for abusing the practices and philosophy, with complete disregard for what the founder developed and wrote. However, that organization and its current leader are NOT the same thing as the techniques themselves. It is like saying that just because the know-how of splitting the atom has been used for warfare, then the technology should not exist or be used for any purpose. The instructor has shown that he is unable to put any mental distance between knowledge existing purely as a subject, and the foibles of individuals or corruption of some groups who do things in the name of that subject.

Meeting a person for a session late at night and have him/her take you repeatedly over a painful experience IS a brainwashing tactic and will result in a feeling of euphoria in the end that will give the impression that the person got free from something.

NOTE: Bizarre analysis, coming from a psychologist: he has just described techniques similar to those used in many types of counselling and therapy and dubbed them as “brainwashing”. He goes on to call other things “brainwashing” such as vitamins/detoxing and claims that, “…most of the time they cause hallucination and brain damage.” That is not my experience, nor is it the experience of my partner or many other people I have helped over the years.

It is all a clever money making trap. You reach [name of a level], everyone is complementing you and you feel awesome. Then a few months go by and something happens and you feel bad again. Ooops … spend more money! Bill Harris of Centerpointe research knows this tactic very well himself and uses it for marketing an overpriced set of CDs.

Of course anyone who has been earning his living from [organization] will deny this, but what else do I expect them to do.

NOTE: This is a classic example of the logical fallacy of Appeal to Motive. To set the record straight, I was a volunteer and had no financial incentive to promote any of it.

EEG reading and Brainwave biofeedback are 2 different things. I am well aware of the potential benefits of brainwave biofeedback and brainwave control.

I have a friend that does brainwave biofeedback. Sean Adam of Alphalearning Institute. He’s got the world record in reading speed. I’ll check those books you mentioned. I did get Megabrain in my hand once but never found time for it.

Sure, I’ll never understand, nor share your appreciation for anything [name of subject] but when it comes to memory, I can understand what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re going through. If I can help in that… I’m here!

This message came over as being so full of false notions and logical fallacies that it prompted me to write the blog entry “Logical Fallacies, and the Origins of Subjects and Technologies”, which I also posted on the PMemory forum. http://www.pmemory.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=5096

Perhaps not surprisingly, after that point, this particular instructor went very quiet and did not really engage in discussions with me on the forum. Even when I posted about an interesting chat that I’d had with Sean Adam of the Alphalearning Institute, and some other members of the forum who clearly knew nothing of Mr Adam’s work started saying it must be a scam, this instructor didn’t post a reply or offer any opinions whatsoever. I didn’t need him to jump in and defend me, I just thought that if members were attacking someone he called a friend, he might have something to say about that.

So, true to my word, one year later I sent the following message:

SevenSigma – One Year Later, Yesterday, 02:23 PM

A year ago, you said I should give it a year and see if I still felt the same about [name of a website] (or any other version of [name of the philosopher’s] technology out there). As my research and interest in the field of the mind continues, I can only say that in the last year, my enthusiasm for, and certainty on, the efficacy of what [the founder] developed has not diminished one iota.

The back story behind this is that when I was young, I couldn’t complete an official course of study. Even though I suspected I was of above average ability, I couldn’t translate that into any kind of academic success.

The reason, I discovered much later, was that most schoolchildren, being appropriately challenged by classes designed for children of their age, eventually luck into some kind of personal study stratagem that serves well enough to get them through school. I never had to find such an approach to study for myself, because the classwork came far too easily. I never did any work, because I never had to.

When I was 6, I was tested at school and the teacher told my mum I had the IQ of a 15 year old. I was like a curious teenager trapped in a tiny, immature body. There is absolutely nothing “gifted” about being one in a million when very young, and not having the life experience to understand why. The school saw no reason to set separate work for me because I wouldn’t do what I WAS given, nor to put me in classes with older kids because I was already being severely tormented by my age mates, and my parents were too awestruck by authority figures to challenge the school on how they were choosing to educate me (not). Consequently, I was bored and listless and had no incentive to make an effort. I learned to daydream, to waste time, to doodle, and that even very modest work compared to what I COULD do drew oohs and aahs from the teaching staff. I learned to do the minimum possible and then get back to my solitary fantasy world.

When secondary school started to really up the ante in preparation for our final GCE exams, suddenly I was presented with shopping-lists of data that was expected to be known, but I had no acquired methodology for learning it all. My life-long stratagem of doing no work because I’d read it all on my own years ago, no longer sufficed. If anything did happen to present a challenge (like arithmetic did, and anything involving physical speed and co-ordination) then I felt that I’d failed. What I was blatantly lacking was a disciplined, structured approach to work.

Glad to have survived the bullying in one piece, I left at the first opportunity and drifted into a series of dead-end jobs, as I had no particular qualifications and needed time out to focus on my music and songwriting. For a long time, music was the only thing I thought I could do.

It wasn’t until I was 23 and I did a course at the [name of the organization] … which covered in detail how to study anything, that I really got put back on the rails as a student and wanted to train as a supervisor so I could help other people learn these techniques.

Subsequently, I took an access to business course (the equivalent of A levels) at a further education college, and got top marks on every single module. I also did the Royal School of Music theory exams and was getting quite a few 100%’s, and that was long before GMS. Learning Study Tech had taken me from being a course dropout to someone who aced everything. Raw theoretical potential was now able to connect up to the driving wheels.

At the time I first enrolled at the London Organisation I was a painfully shy person, to the point where my first job (in a shop) was pretty scary. The…training drills that I did gave me so much confidence that I began contesting elections, sitting on a platform at public meetings with my MP and other local candidates, fielding questions from the floor. If you Google my real name, most of what comes up is a bunch of old election results. I guess at least for the duration of the various campaigns, I felt listened to as someone who knew what they were talking about – the EU is also a subject I have researched.

I have read all sides of [name of the philosopher and the subject]. I know all the little salacious details. I have read everything you may have seen on the Internet, and then some. Some of it I know is true. Much of it I know from personal experience is false. I have interacted with [practitioners] who have been involved for a long, long time, and who have probably seen more dirt on this subject than almost anyone existing. And yet, they are still involved. You may want to ask yourself, “why?”

My fiance and I left [name of organization] five years ago, still practise, and have no intention of stopping. We know people who left decades ago but still practise independently with no intention of stopping. Again, you might want to ask yourself, “why?”

The usual brush-off “explanations” proffered by critics, psychologists and other vested interests may not be nearly enough, when you consider the burgeoning of the Independent movement and the lengths to which people will go to continue receiving [name of philosophy] services even when involvement in the official [organization] is no longer an option.

There are two possibilities. One is that it is all an elaborate con-trick, that somehow manages to hold onto people 30+ years later and convince them, even in the face of sustained and direct opposition, that they are achieving states and abilities that couldn’t possibly be. The other is that people want to continue because they have simply found that the techniques do what they’re supposed to do. Which seems the more plausible explanation?

Someone recommended me a book entitled “The Serpent on the Staff: The Unhealthy Politics of the American Medical Association”, published in 1994 by two award-winning medical reporters from the Chicago Sun-Times. It explains how the AMA has throughout its history attempted to block anything it saw as possible competition: for example, the AMA spent decades, and lots of money, trying to eliminate the practice of chiropractic nationwide. Can you imagine? They felt threatened by chiropracters! Eventually, the AMA was sued in Federal court and lost. Among the charges that stuck, was that the AMA indulged in “anti-competitive practices”. The fact is, the AMA exists for the purpose of furthering the economic interests of medical doctors, and has always pre-emptively struck at anyone who even talked about offering any kind of better health by any means. And the first step is “research”, in order to create ‘dead agent’ packs against the potential competition, to present to their members and most importantly, to legislators.

Then, a few days ago, I got sent a link to this page http://www.yell.com/health/blog/say-no-to-…ral-healthcare/ – my contacts in Brussels say you need look no further than the pharmaceutical giants who will stop at nothing to lobby the EU commissioners until they get their own way. This story about the vitamins wasn’t new news to me, but it certainly illustrates how hysterical certain organizations will get when it seems a natural (read: non-patentable) cure may render results that threaten their profit margins on expensive drugs.

You also have to ask yourself why the APA, AMA, WFMH, Big Pharma, MI5/MI6 and others got their panties in such a bunch when [name of the first book] was published. No body with that sort of official clout cares enough about a snake-oil cure to wage the kind of discreditation campaign against it that we have witnessed against [the founder] since 1950. The profit margins or dirty secrets of some organisation way up the food chain on this planet must have been at serious risk.

A number of posters (including one instructor!) [N.B. another instructor, not the one with whom I’d been exchanging these messages!] have repeatedly PM’ed me for information on various mental technology and self-development techniques. Clearly, when I said I had studied through hundreds of books, papers, websites, recorded lectures etc. and had the better part of two decades’ practical experience of teaching others how to study, debugging students’ study problems…and delivering hundreds of hours of various types of counselling techniques and other technical procedures to handle different things, the fact I might have achieved a result or two in my time, must have at least impinged on a few people.

It pains me when people speak to me on the forum as if I am a rank amateur, as I have through my own choice and personal interest over the years picked through more data on the mind and allied areas than most psychologists would ever study in a lifetime.

I feel I am in a very strong position to evaluate the efficacy of various techniques and technologies, because although I practice [name of subject], among many other things, I am not limited to only those practices. Further, perhaps it is actually a good thing that I did not go to university and be pounded into rejecting data that didn’t fit with the official orthodoxy (medicine, psychology and psychiatry). I studied the things that I did from the perspective of my own personal integrity. If something looks like it may have workability, I will try it.

It’s going to take at least a couple of years to save up for Alphalearning, so I have decided I might as well get myself up through [name of a certain level] in the meantime, in the independent field. If I had run into any “upper level” case phenomena while doing the pmemory course then it was my own fault for attempting to undertake such a project while technically in [reference to a band of development where one should not really perform other stretching mental practices such as PMemory]. I really ought to have gotten my ass up through [name of a level] first. I guess sometimes my enthusiasm for stuff that works runs away with me.

The concept of gradients in study, i.e. locating the student’s starting level of ability and then progressing step by step, is a key datum in teaching and course design. Putting all the difficult drills at the beginning of a course is never an ideal way to proceed, unless the curriculum can break them down into much smaller steps to allow the student’s skill and stamina to be built up in a more gradual and manageable way.

The key concept of undercutting, i.e. going back to a level that the student can cope with, rather than insisting he drills at a level that is too difficult, lengthy or strenuous, seems to be missing. From [name of yet another instructor]: “You have to be able to train a marathon to run a marathon.” What about the overweight couch potato who’s never put on a pair of running shoes in their life – do you as their fitness trainer have them slog miles on their first training session?

I could use my experience as a course supervisor and study debug specialist to help restructure this course so that the School keeps more of its students beyond the early lessons. But unlike you, I am not a psychologist, or a member of any degree-toting profession, so probably my years of practical experience with training members of the public of all ability levels and backgrounds, and sorting out literally any study problems they present, probably don’t count for anything. Oh, well.

I had been thinking of quietly slipping away, as I didn’t feel my knowledge or experience were valued, and when I managed to write something one of your medical students didn’t like, I got a know-besty and didactic-toned reply…

Anyway, every time I went away for a couple of weeks, I got new PM’s from people who were genuinely interested in what I had to say, with new questions or simply asking as to my whereabouts. In truth, I have only stuck around as long as I have because of the members who have continued to correspond with me by PM.

You might ban me after this, but at least I felt I had a chance to explain.

Sincere regards,
[my real name] (a.k.a. SevenSigma)

To date, this instructor has not replied, and I very much doubt that he ever will. I believe he is someone who will stick to his college training (indoctrination) and not search very far beyond it. Memory techniques are hardly avant garde enough to make a psychologist feeling he is going outside his comfort zone.

I will continue to answer PMs from the forum as long as members send them and my account stays active, as there are more open-minded than closed-minded members there. Unfortunately, as always, it is the actions of a few that spoil things.

In closing, I am going to draw attention to this piece of irony: the instructor in question may believe that I had been “cultified”, yet he has been deafeningly silent about the way Ruslan/Ines has been heading with Magic Pill (see yesterday’s post).

I wonder what his professional opinion is as a psychologist regarding Magic Pill?

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