Tuesday, September 29, 2009



Marcelo Bolshaw Gomes[1]

Abstract: This text, besides intending to be a short commented summary on the progress and limitations of the ideas of the contemporary psychologist Albert Bandura and the main concepts of the social learning theory and social cognitive theory, also deals with the evolution of theories and treatments on autism. The idea is to demonstrate that the new cognitive psychologies can help to understand and treat (together with other therapies) the development disorders of the autistic spectrum, specially the Asperger syndrome.
Keywords: cognitive psychology – Asperger syndrome – social learning.

During the 1990s, the ideas of Bandura began to play an important role in the global scenario, starting to be taught in almost every Psychology and Pedagogy Universities in the world. More than this: millions of people, disappointed with psychoanalysis and Behaviorism, started to work therapeutically based on the cognitive behavioral approach proposed by Bandura and other researchers. There was a switch from the therapeutic model of interpretative interviews to the oriented training towards action.
For Bandura the starting point is to ask how people exercise control over their behavior. For the followers of the one-way environmental determinism (or Behaviorism) men is a product of the environment. On the other hand, to the different types of idealistic humanism it is men who create the conditions in which he develops. Both perspectives, although antagonistic, believe in the reciprocity of opposite aspect. In other words, the behaviorists believe in human capacity of changing the environment, as much as the Idealists observe the environmental conditioning.
Bandura´s model is the result of three simultaneous theoretical interfaces: his criticism of Skinner´s radical behaviorism, his dialogue with other cognitivists as Piaget and his clinical and therapeutic progress in relation to psychoanalysis and Freud. In relation to Skinner, Bandura introduced the category of Self (not in the esoteric way as in Jung´s tradition, but as a field of subjectivity and affective interpretation of the stimuli). In contrast, Bandura puts Freudian reflection within a behavioral context. And finally, in relation to Piaget, Bandura rethinks the idea cognitive learning.
Only the social learning theory brings a third term in the model, assuming a reciprocal determinism between personal, behavioral and environmental factors. In the Social Learning Theory, there is a control system – the agency and its cognitive functions – in which the self-regulation is governed by anticipating and by affective self-reactions.
Our first enunciation is that the triadic model of reciprocal conditioning prepared by Bandura allows defining autistic behaviors as those that have no direct interaction between behavior and environment, causing the development of resilience, echolalia, recurrences and fixations in the cognitive field. The autists learn to adapt their behavior indirectly through secondary modeling or repetition of the primary modeling of behavior.
The autistic behaviors are characterized by three basic factors: lack of sociability, communication difficulties, obsessive and repetitive imagination. In autism, there is an error in the reciprocal social interaction: often the autistic isolate himself as if he were in another world; is passive before others and have hard time being with more than one person at the same time; his attempts of social interaction may be disastrous and inapt. Also there are communication difficulties. Some do not speak and have little non-verbal language. Others have limited speaking, with imitation which may be of what the interlocutor had just said (immediate echolalia) or from more distant situations (remote echolalia).
It is common the use of the third person instead of ‘I’, the abbreviation of sentences, expression of the strictly necessary, ignoring social contact and ‘chatting’. The language presents alteration in the reciprocal discourse, in the comprehension of symbolic language and strange intonation, despite the intact vocabulary and grammar. And, finally, there is limited imagination; continuous repetition of movements, routines or specific activities; drastic behavior reactions before changes as, for example, replacing an object in the house; personal rituals; perfection mania; everything must be symmetrical and cannot be out of place. Like to align things, put objects in and out of a box. They have little spontaneity; demonstrate body mimesis, with stereotypical behavior, badly copied from others.
Our hypothesis is that two of these three features (communication difficulty and the absence of sociability) are caused by low behavior-environment interaction, while the third characteristic, the dysfunction in imagination and language, is a form of cognitive compensation, which may develop as resiliency, as in the case of the Aspergic. This, however, does not mean that the ontogenetic and phylogenetic conditioning factors overlap subjectivity and the Self. On the contrary, in the model of Bandura and (so we believe) in the autism symptomatology, conscience is the determinant factor. However, it is also the most variable and flexible factor, adapting to the different types of conditionings.
Autism and Asperger syndrome
Autism was scientifically described first in 1943, by the Austrian doctor Leo Kanner. One may subdivide the development of the studies over the autistic syndrome[2] into three distinct steps: psychogenic phase (or psychoanalytic), in which Autism was understood as an acquired emotional disorder. The behaviorist phase (and vygostskyan), since the 1970s, in which the autism will be seen as an organic-behavioral disorder of biological and hereditary nature (time of the ‘discovery’ of the autistic spectrum[3]). And the current phase, neuro-scientific and cognitivist, in which the genetic, cognitive and environmental factors influence a different brain anatomy. The initial mark of this phase is the clinical research developed by Donald Winnicott over the decisive role of subjectivity in autism.
One can also say that the Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a less serious disorder of the autistic continuum[4]. AS is a disorder of multiple functions of the psyches, mainly affecting the area of interpersonal relationship and communication, while the speech is relatively normal. There are still specific skills and interests, pedantism, stereotyped and repetitive behavior and motor disorders. The aspergic are visual thinkers, literal and inflexible. Oriented by routine and rules, they have a hard time socializing, are quite reliable people and obsessed with their favorite subjects, matters and interests.
At this third stage of research, several partial scientific explanations for the causes of autism have been drawn up, giving emphasis to different aspects: cognitive theories (deficit of executive function, deficit of central coherence, and deficit of Meta-representation), which admit the environmental and innate factors, highlight the role of subjectivity; the hypothesis of food poisoning, which accepts the role of Self and genetics, emphasizing the environment; and the explanations that give priority to the anatomical differences of the brain determined by genetic heredity.
The cognitive theory for the deficit in the executive function is based on the evidence of a compromise on the ability of planning and execution in autism and the similarity between the behavior of individuals with prefrontal cortical dysfunction and those with autism: inflexibility, perseverance, primacy of detail and difficulty of inhibiting responses.
On its turn, the cognitive theory of the deficit of central coherence in representation is an improvement of the executive dysfunction theory which emphasizes the difficulty of processing concepts of abstract totalities and a preference for processing images from concrete partial realities. The cognitive theories have a common characteristic: to assign the social deficits in autism to difficulties in modulate both sensory data and perceptive experience. This way, the autistic ‘retraction’ has been explained in terms of a chronic state of excitement or fluctuations in those states which lead to avoid glances, negative reactions and retraction of social interaction, as mechanisms to control excessive stimulation.
Recovering the notion of innate deficit on the ability to get into affective harmony in autism, identified by the psychoanalytic approaches, also explanation of damage in the ability of meta-represent emerged (or more specifically, the inability to develop a mind with ‘another inside oneself’), as an explanation factor for the autistic spectrum syndromes.
The second major contemporary hypothesis, of food contamination, believes that autism is caused by oxidative stress, inappropriate methylation and sulphatation disorders that reach the brain, provoking what we call autism.
Dr. Amy Yasko is holistic physician and naturopath, works in the USA with a protocol that is done through genetic examinations, based on the genome project and more precisely with epigenetics, science that aim to clarify how environmental factors (dietary habits and stress, for example) may interfere with the functioning of genes. In this perspective, the autistic behavior remains in a tripod that involves the immunologic, intestinal, and endocrinal systems. And the main causes for the autistic disorder are: (a) the presence mercury and heavy metals accumulated in the body; and b) the production of morphines by the body, metabolized from gluten and casein[5]. The protocol is based upon treating autism through the metabolic process of each individual, especially the gluten and casein free diets, vitamin B6 supplements, and use hyperbaric chamber. This hypothesis is embraced by important as organizations such as the Autism Research Institute[6], responsible for the DAN (Defeat Autism Now). Here in Brazil, DAN is represented by ADEFA (Associação Em Defesa do Autismo) and the movement started to be called “autism is treatable”[7]. According to the DAN Protocol there are many issues to be analyzed[8]. Each case has a combination. One may localize the imbalances of the body through specific examinations of blood, urine, feces and mineralogram; and it is prescribed a specific nutritional and biochemical therapy for each case, together with an intensive educational treatment.
And, finally, there are still the approaches that privilege the genetic aspect, considering subjectivity and environment secondary. In April 2008, American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) established clinical practice procedures to be followed by Clinical geneticists, both to determine the etiology of the cases of disorders from the autistic spectrum and to treat patients with this diagnosis. This study confirms that currently there is a well-established routine, clinically available, with biomarkers that help clinical geneticist to evaluate and treat the individuals, briefly describing some biomarkers identified, important clinical tools identified for medical assessment and response to the monitored treatment[9].
Among the approaches that emphasize the brain anatomical differences, we may highlight Ramachandran, V.S. and L.M. Oberman´s, “Broken Mirrors. A Theory of Autism”, that affirms that the anatomic deficiency on the system of mirror neurons is the cause of autism. The mirrors neurons are responsible for shaping the behavior from the environment and its biological dysfunction would explain the cognitive overload, once the mimesis function would be developed by other parts of brain. Also in this paradigm, there are many such as Oliver Sacks (1995) that no longer consider autism to be a disease but rather a different way to feel and think the world, as valid as any other. Although having a different brain anatomy is not necessarily pathology, for the majority of people, autism is still a serious problem in life and not ‘an alternative way of being’[10].
While naturalist doctors give excessive emphasis on the gluten and casein free diet and radical detoxification of heavy metals; psychiatrists believe the prevalence of genetics/ anatomic difference of the autistic brain; and clinicians, to the hypothesis of cognitive mismatch; each one betting on specific genetic, pharmacologic, or psycho pedagogic therapies. However, the best treatment results are achieved adopting various therapies together – what comes from the conception that believes in a system of multiple determinants and not in one single main cause for the autistic spectrum disorders.
And this leads to our second enunciation: the Social Cognitive Theory, due to its model of reciprocal conditioning between environmental, cognitive and heritable factors, is the ideal philosophy for the integration of treatments and therapies on Autism, through the technique of modeling.
The most important theoretical and practical contribution of Bandura is the idea of modeling. Modeling means the adaptation/change by creative mimesis of behaviors, that is, through the reinterpreted imitation of attitudes, gestures, ideas, affections. For him, every social learning is given through modeling of behavior.
The term ‘mimesis’ was used by Plato and Aristotle (and many art researchers and philosophers such as Paul Ricoeur) to designate the same as ‘modeling’: creative apprehension (many times unintended) of others procedures for incorporation into one´s own behavior.
In his early works (1961-1986) concerning social learning theory, Bandura studied the pedagogical role of imitation. In a second moment (1986 until now), he will deepen his studies in order to verify the therapeutic efficacy of imitation, of “transmission of procedures through modeling”, especially in the treatment of psychological phobias and dependencies. However, it is important to cite the famous experience of modeling aggressive behavior with Bopper Bop Buddy[11] In the experience a group of children watched a film with adults (of both genders) shouted and assaulted an inflatable doll. The children were separated and a group of control was not submitted to the movie presentation. In the time that ‘Bop Buddy’ is introduced to the child, they have no hostile attitudes towards the doll. However, after observing the adult having an aggressive behavior with the toy, the children start reproducing the aggressive behavior. Bandura observed that the children who had seen the movie presented the twice aggressive responses compared with the group of control, including inventing new forms of aggression that not had been observed. He also noticed that among those who were exposed to violence, boys were more vulnerable to the aggressive imitation than girls.
Modeling as therapy was originally used by Bandura to work with people with obsessive fear of snakes, making them imitate models of snake exposure, thus overcoming the phobia. Bandura realized that modeling provides both in social learning and in therapeutic re-adaptation, three different effects of change in behavior: the Modeler, interpreter and the observer[12].
It is commonplace to say that autistics, mainly people with AS, copy behaviors, speeches, accents and appearance of others. On the other side, one of the most common symptoms on autism diagnosis is the inability to put oneself in the place of others or even the ability to represent and/or abstract. It may seem contradictory, but the two affirmatives are true: Aspergic are remarkable imitators at the same time that are unable to represent. If our central hypothesis is correct, autistics have difficulty in modeling involuntarily, they need to learn to learn behaviors. The three distinct Bandura effects are simultaneous, but can also be seen as the development steps of the modeling technique for autistic syndromes and the integrated objective of his cognitive training must be the development and expansion of the capacity of meta-representation. Training through modeling incorporates other psycho-dramatic and theatrical techniques.
But let´s get to the point: our second enunciation is that the modeling elaborated by BANDURA is the ideal method for integrating the Autistic disorders treatments.
The ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) treatment is the main program of intensive instruction of skills necessary to ensure that the individual diagnosed with autism or development invasive disorders may acquire the best life quality possible. Learning opportunities are repeated many times, until the child show the ability without mistake in various environments and situations. The main feature of the treatment is the use of positive or strengthening consequences (gifts, compliments, rewards).
Bandura´s Modeling works with three types of positive reinforcements: past incentive (traditional or classic Behaviorism), promised reinforcement and vicarious or indirect reinforcement, the selective capacity of self-motivation through the choice of the environment, models and reinforcements. Note that these reasons have traditionally seen as the ‘causes’ of learning. Bandura says that they are not determining ‘what’ we learn, but conditioning ‘how’ we learn.
Of course, there are also three negative motivations to imitate: the remembering of punishments, threatening (promised punishment) and vicarious punishment through situations that require great performance or frustrate the apprentice inhibiting undesirable behaviors. Bandura says that the punishment in its various forms, does not work as well as the positive reinforcement and that, in fact, there is a tendency on the restrictions system to go against the development of the learner. By ‘punishment’ one should not understand beating or moral coercion, but consensual penalties assumed in advance, ‘gifts’, compensatory activities conducted spontaneously. The positive use of guilt allied with changes in the forms and occasions for self gratification may accelerate a learning process through modeling. In any case, Bandura´s modeling allows bringing great increment to the ABA treatment on its traditional conception.
In the movie Son-rise: a miracle of love, 1979[13], There is a scene where behaviorist doctors criticize the parents of the protagonist autistic boy because they are imitating his pathological behavior, while ‘the correct’ would be that only the child imitate his parents and teachers. And, as movie shows, the key to get into emotional contact with the autistic child is precisely the modeling reciprocity; the fact of it being two-way is what creates real communication. The great relevance of this approach however, is to prove the central role of affectivity in changing the autistic behavior. And, in the ABA, imitation is unilateral and follows a one-one model of interaction.
Another form of autistic treatment through cognitive training very well known and applied is the TEACCH[14].While ABA is a behavioral therapy that aims to adapt the carrier of the disorder to the social environment, the program TEACCH, more actual, brings an emphasis on the development of the neuro-cognitive difference awareness. Change the behavior is not a goal in itself. It is possible to combine strategies of TEACCH and ABA, however, it is very important for them to be philosophically integrated (By the Cognitive Social Theory, for example). Perhaps those who work with ABA do not emphasize so much the autonomy, sometimes being difficult to avoid that children become dependent on models. On the other side, working with the TEACCH approach may lead to focus too much on independence and cease to work with imitation.
Among the many therapies, there are also combination possibilities, but the most important are: occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy and speech therapy. The integration of therapies can be based in TEACCH and ABA programs. It could also use PECS (Picturing Exchanging Communication System) resources.
I had already acknowledged the educational and therapeutic potential of imitation, due to my experiences with the Repetition Circle. BANDURA, however, makes an impeccable scientific reasoning construction with several empirical researches and many specific discussions.
The Repetition Circle is a technique that consists in imitating together each participant of the circle. The order and the time of participation can be free, in an organic manner; or it may be established a sequence (clockwise, for example) and a specific time (minimum and/or maximum) for each one, but the imitation must be as perfect as possible in terms of movement, voice and intention – highly avoiding to ‘interpret’ the other, although this is inevitable and people end up seeing how they are seen by others. This is not the main function of the exercise, just an initial stage. Over time (about 30 minutes), an unconscious connection among participants is created, and they start to feel their presence in others and the others presence within themselves, and a deep game of exchanging identities and ways of seeing and thinking is established. The Circle involves different applications such as pedagogic (language and music teaching, mythical storytelling), therapeutic (expression of suppressed emotional content, expansion of the individual identity) and hypnotic (imagination travelling – repetition of voices with the eyes shut), although the true essence of this practice is its playful and open to improvisation character. The repetition circle opens the door to countless other circle techniques (Biodanza, circular dances, ring around the rosey), psychodramas, dreams and mythical narratives.
However, in order to promote such integration of treatments and therapies through social learning by modeling of behavior, it is not enough to adopt imitation as primary technique, it is also necessary to highlight the relevant processes of cognitive mimesis:
1. Attention. If you will learn something, you need to be paying attention. Attention is the focus of perception. Some of the factors that influence the attention have to do with the model properties. If the model is colorful and dramatic, for example, have more attention. If the model is attractive, prestigious or appears to be particularly competent it will draw more attention. And if the model is closer to us, it calls further attention. These variables were used by Bandura to measure the effects of television over children.
2. Retention. Secondly, we must be able to remember what we were paying attention to. Here, imagination and language are included, reanimating the image or description so that we may reproduce it with our own behavior.
3. Reproduction. At this point, we are daydreaming. I can spend a whole day watching an Olympic ice-skater and not be able to reproduce his jumps, because I know nothing about skating. It is necessary to have the ability to reproduce the behavior memorized. On the other hand, it is through imitation that one improves its own behavior.
4. Motivation. In addition to pay attention, remember the behavior and knowing how to reproduce them, we still would not modify ourselves unless we have a good reason to do so. As we saw, there are three positive and three negative reinforcements.

“To learn to learn” through observation and modeling of behaviors, implies the ability self-regulation and the learning subject ‘to be an agent’, that is “to make things happen intentionally” (2008, 69) depending on the development, adaptation and change – not only behavior but also on the environment that conditions and determines it.
The idea of Agency
The idea of Agency, more than being defined as mere mediator of environmental and behavioral aspects, has a key role in the constitution of these factors and is formed from four distinct cognitive activities: intentionality, anticipation, self-reactivity and self-reflection.
1) Intentionality – In addition to the conscientious desire of change and/or adaptation of behavior, the intention to modify over time implies plans and strategies.
2) – Anticipation – Furthermore, the planning to modify one´s own behavior implies determining goals and foreseeing results.
3) Self-reactivity or self-regulation as a cognitive activity necessary to change of behavior can be subdivided into: a) motivation, this is, the ability to maintain emotionally confident about change, mainly trough beliefs of self-efficacy; and b) actual self-regulation, which for BANDURA is given mainly through modeling (the creative imitation of other models of behavior).
4) Self-reflection – It is consciousness, understood as self-reference and metacognitive ability to reflect about yourself as the main inward factor in social learning process and in adaptive behavior changes.
Agency can still be personal, delegated or collective; but never individual in order to avoid dichotomy with social. In particular, I also do not like collective agency. What is important, however, is that the notion of agency allows to think about the possibilities of increasing the autonomy of the behaviors according to its conditioning, then changing part of this conditioning.
An example: in order to change a diet (to cut sugar and carbohydrates with gluten – which is fundamental to the autistics), a person should, first, understand that the desire is stronger than the will, desiring to have quality of life (or “to stay fit and good-looking”) to win the will to eat candies and pasta, and not the opposite (place the will against the desire to eat it).
But the correct definition of the desire to be intended, avoiding interpreting the restriction as corporal punishment, is not enough without a strategy and a plan involving time, reinforcements, conditioning changes. The faculty of anticipation, on its turn, allows constant redefinition of possible goals and the motivation through the results achieved. The person may, for instance, avoid for some time situations and places that lead to a dietary derange. Self-regulation presents two aspects. Belief that one is able to change habits is preponderant to do so. Many self-help books advise to use the gerund (“I am changing”) or even long-term decision artifice (“I already decided to lose weight and I will no matter how many times I need to start again”). The other aspect is modeling, that is, the imitation of healthy people behaviors: the example of friends who are admired and family support, besides different therapeutic reinforcements, exercising, and other routines. The body learned to eat junk food by modeling and need to learn other behaviors in order to quit the old conditioning.
Self reflection, as sub-function of cognitive agency is the understanding of the excessive consumption of sugar and starch (actually, a dopamine addiction associated to alimentation) as a good opportunity for the mind un-conditioning. Conscience is grateful for the lessons of compulsion; therefore understands its role in the development. Even considering the self-reflection as the most important sub-function in the process of cognitive agency between behavior and environment, Bandura emphasizes self-regulation.
Process of self-regulation (trough contingency self-prescribed)

The process of self-regulation, to BANDURA, begins with self-observation, followed by self-judgment, which enables self-reaction. The cycle of the self-regulation sub-functions is not automatic and the steps only occur when activated selectively and voluntarily by conscience. Bandura prescribes a mental self-observation of medium and long term, based on two groups of parameters: performance dimensions (addiction motivations) and quality of monitoring (how many times and how we observe ourselves). These two parameters allow establishing self-judgment procedures, taking into account our personal standards as well as other performance references (comparisons with others and with one own performance at different times).
Then it may be established the value of the activity observed and whether their determinants are external and/or psychological. From then on, emotional self-reactions of enthusiasm and frustration are evaluated and the punishment and incentives measures required to modify the observed behavior are prescribed. At this point, we realize the importance of the subject's observed/observer system of beliefs. And among the beliefs, Bandura highlight the importance of the belief in one own efficacy as being the most relevant in social learning.
The belief in self-efficacy
To Bandura, among the factors that provide a dynamic self-regulation towards the change in habits and behavior is the belief in self-efficacy, resulting from the expectations of performance and the outcome.
Said like this it may seem ‘positive thinking’ or another self-help illusion, in which by desiring one thing, it happens - as in the movie The secret. However, the self-efficacy is only the judgment of the personal capacity (2008,32) and not a magic or telepathic force capable of influencing events.
While the self-image (or self concept) is a resultant of the past and the self-esteem is rooted in the present emotional situation, self-efficacy is a belief that refers to the future. “Self-efficacy is the judgment of the capacity to organize and perform actions necessary to achieve certain types of performance” (2008,101).
Then, let´s see how the belief in self-efficacy fits into the set Bandura´s ideas. A conscious intensification of this secondary modeling, through the training of social skills is highly recommended in numerous situations, for example when the person is submissive socially and intolerant with the family. Usually this behavior (as well as other alike) is the result of an inappropriate education of people with severe special needs and it can be modified through one-to-one modeling.
However, to people with Asperger syndrome (as well as for other types of high functioning cognitive disabilities in which the carriers have autonomy), the cognitive social theory prescribes self therapy, in which the belief in self-efficacy has a central role. A technique that have been successfully applied to problems such as smoking, eating disorders, chemical dependency and change of habits in general.
It may be subdivided into three procedures:
1. Behavior record. Self-observation requires you to write forms of behavior, both before and after the attempt to change. This includes simple things like counting the food consumption per day until more complex behaviors, such as, for example, every reason for eating them.
2. Environmental planning. Change the environment: eliminate or prevent situations that lead to addiction (television, refrigerator, children). Also to change environment: doing gymnastics, enjoying nature, avoiding bars or programs associated with reckless alimentation.
3. Self-Contracts. Least, there is a declaration of commitment to the change plan, with its rewards and punishments. These contracts must be written in front of witnesses (our therapist, for example) and the details must be very well specified: "I'm going out to dinner on Saturday only if I don't eat junk food this week. Otherwise, I'll stay at home working.” Or similar promises.

In one-to-one, modeling therapies, others (the therapist and parents) control the rewards and punishments to motivate the change in behavior, because people with severe needs are not able to be very strict with themselves. In the self-therapy, however, it is a matter of strengthening even more the agent´s ability of self-regulation, giving the maximum supervised autonomy to ensure a minimum of frustrations and negative experiences. Of course error is part of learning. However, in the development of the belief in self-efficacy is more important to celebrate victories than to reassess unsuccessful attitudes.
Another important policy is to establish the self-efficacy and cognitive disabilities domains and establish targets for difficulties reduction and optimization of capabilities. Following the same example: an autistic believes his efficacy in the mathematical or musical domains and his disability in the field affective and social life.
One could say that the set of domains (efficient and deficient) form a vicious circle of co-recurrent causes in which recurrent situations repeat compulsively and unintentionally. The vicious circle can be reversed through a plan of life excellence, removing and adding reinforcement factors, in order to maximize the self-efficacy domains and minimize the disability domains. And as that the person realizes these repetition patterns, the vicious circle breaks and there is a cognitive reorganization and a progressive change in its internal structure.
In most cases, we should think of a gradual process that begins with the condition of a dependent patient (of the family and the therapist reinforcement) and evolves into the context of an aware agent that struggles to achieve autonomy, transforming as he transforms his environment. Typically, this requires that mothers (and sometimes, fathers and brothers) also get into therapeutic process, training new behaviors.
There are several ways to define the efficiencies and deficiencies, as well as to understand domains and detail them. On the website ‘Coaching Asperger’ there is a list of the eight competitive advantages of Asperger[15]- which is quite interesting, but limited to the professional domain.
From the point of view of schooling (and cognitive development of language and communication), there is actually a strong emphasis on computer usage as prosthesis of the autistic mind[16] and in the fact that there is a great number of people with AS that become programmers ‘naturally’. But when we talk about mental prosthesis is not only a matter of the visual cognition offered by computer syntax, but a matter of the constitution of an identity ‘at distance’ through the Internet, transforming introverted and isolated individuals in a network of social beings, which is a prerequisite not only for an effective social action in a voice in the public arena but, above all, to a change in the autistic behavior and identity[17].The most important of these first groups is the ANI (Autism Network International)[18].
Of course, computers do not replace the dedication of teachers, nor the parental affection and attention. It is only a tool to overcome the triple disability of autism (communication, social interaction and recurrent behavior), an instrument for self-efficacy development. The important thing is the change in attitude.
It is, primarily, through self-representation, that the autistic can develop their autonomy and win the scheme of physical and psychological dependency inherent to their condition.
In addition to perform a brief commented summary of ideas of the contemporary psychologist Albert Bandura, his main concepts were applied here to the treatment of high functioning autism and/or Asperger syndrome.
With the triadic model the autistic behaviors were defined as those who have a disability on direct interaction between behaviors (ontogenetic conditioning), environment (phylogenetic conditioning) and the Self, in which resiliencies, echolalia, recurrences and fixations in the cognitive field develop. We stress also that, in Bandura´s perspective, behavior and the environment are conditioning factors, while the Self, the subjectivity, and the consciousness are determinant factors for cognitive development and social learning.
Then, with the method of social learning through four processes modeling (attention, retention, reproduction and motivation) as the ideal method for the integration of treatments and recovery therapies for people with Autistic disorders: casein and gluten free diet (compiled from clinical examinations), medication (according to the genetic biomarkers) and psycho-pedagogic training of the cognitive representation capacity[19].
With the notion of Agency and its cognitive properties (intentionality, anticipation, self-reactivity and self-reflexivity) considerations of self-regulation (anchored in observation, judgment and self-reaction) from the Social Cognitive Theory were presented.
Finally, we presented the belief in self-efficacy, discussed the techniques of self-therapy (behavior records, environmental planning and use of self-contracts) treating AS treatment, mainly with the use of computers and Internet.
And ended up concluding that: it is through self-representation in its different spheres (social, political and personal) that the autistic can conquer autonomy and a better life within society.

BANDURA, Albert. Teoria social cognitiva: conceitos básicos. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 2008.
BOSA, Cleonice. Autismo: breve revisão de diferentes abordagens. Revista de Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica (ISSN 0102-7972) vol.13 n.1 Porto Alegre, 2000.
GODOY, Herminia Prado Síndrome de Asperger: Revisão Bibliográfica. Trabalho de Conclusão de Curso. PUC-SP, 2008.
GOMES, M. B. Um Mapa, uma Bússola - Hipertexto, Complexidade e Eneagrama. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Mileto, 2001.
SACKS, Oliver. Um Antropólogo em Marte / Sete Histórias Paradoxais. São Paulo: Editora Companhia das Letras, 1995.
RAMACHANDRAN, Vilayanur & OBERMAN, Lindsay. Espelhos Quebrados – uma teoria sobre o autismo. Revista Scientific American Brasil, ANO 5 – Nº 55 12/2006. http://www.sciam.com.br/
RIBEIRO, Valéria Llacer Bastos. Breve análise da cognição da pessoa com autismo e porque o computador tem um papel preponderante na educação da pessoa com autismo. http://euautista.blogspot.com/2009/06/cognicao-visual.html
RICOEUR, Paul. Tempo e Narrativa. Tradução: Constança M. Cesar. 3 volumes. Campinas: Papirus, 1994.

[1] Journalist, Social Communication Professor in UFRN (Brazil), doctor in Social Sciences, Aspergic and editor of the blog Eu, austista? (Me, austistic?) http://euautista.blogspot.com/
[2] ‘Syndrome’ means a set of symptoms of ignored causes
[3] The autistic spectrum is formed by the following syndromes: typical autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, Syndrome X Fragile, Landau- Kleffner syndrome, Williams syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.
[4] Complete bibliographic review on Asperger. GODOY, 2008.  http://euautista.blogspot.com/2009/08/revisao-bibliografica.html
[5] gluten and casein are transformed in peptides, known as gliadino morphine (the fracture of gluten protein) and caseo morphine ( from the fracture of casein protein). These peptides are complex chains of amino acids and require a good operation of enzyme production to be properly broken and absorbed by the organic functions. Both peptides act as the morphine in the body. This happens with people who have fungus problems in the intestine. The theory is that a group of fungi with deregulated growth adhere to the limits of the intestine making it permeable. Substances which are not fully digested can enter the bloodstream and reach the brain. Several studies show that the autistic have both severe deficiencies on enzyme production with little or no production of the enzyme DPP IV responsible for breaking these peptides, and the imbalance of intestinal flora, causing the permeable intestine and letting these substances enter the bloodstream and connect to opiate receptors in the brain. Disability in sulphuring is another factor that contributes to permeable intestine. The glucose-amino-glucan, polysaccharides responsible for maintaining the cellular integrity of intestinal mucosa and of the hemato-encephalic barrier, are dependent on sulphuring. Without sulphuring, the glucose-amino-glucan cannot fulfill their role of maintaining the cellular integrity.
[8] Indicators: levels of secretory IgA reduced; intestinal inflammatory disease; nutritional deficiency, gastro-esophageal reflux; intestinal permeability; heavy metals accumulation, thrombophilia; sensory dysfunction; chromosomal alterations; recurrent measles; opiate presence; melatonin deficiency; nutritional deficits; food allergy; dysimmune brain; change in perfusion; dopamine levels change; altered CMIS; disbiosis; gastritis; high level of ammonia; alteration in Purina levels; changing levels of serotonin; change in sulphiting mechanisms; and deficiency in the levels of Omega 3.
[9] 1. Pofirin biomarker- helps determining whether toxic mercury is present and, when found, monitors alterations in the quantities of mercury, during the detoxification therapies (read: chelation); 2. Trans-sulphatation biomarkers -helps to determine whether there is bio-chemical susceptibility to mercury and when found, monitors the patient's response during nutritional therapy supplementation, such as: methyl-cobalamin (the methyl form of vitamin B12), folinic acid and piroxidin (vitamin B6); 3. The oxidative stress / inflammation biomarkers – help to determine if there are excess of sub-products metabolic ways and when found, monitors the progress of patients during supplementation with anti-inflammatories, such as Aldactone ® (espironolactona); 4. Hormonal biomarkers - helps to determine whether there is hormonal variation, and monitors the progress of patients during the indicated treatment with hormonal regulation drugs such as Lupron ® (leuprolide acetate) and YAZ ® (drospirenone/ethynyl oestradiol); 5. Mitochondrial dysfunction biomarkers- helps to determine if there is disorder in the course of cellular energy production and monitors the progress of patients during supplementation with drugs like Carnitor ® (l-carnitine); and 6. Genetic biomarkers - help to determine if there is genetic susceptibility or causal factors, and provides tips on behavioral changes that reduce the impact of these genetic factors.
[10] For a full bibliographic review on autism v.: BOSA, 2000.  http://euautista.blogspot.com/2009/08/revisao-bibliografica-autismo.html

[12] In time and Narrative (1994), the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, confronting Saint Augustine ideas with the thought of Aristotle, also develops a triple theory of mimesis or three levels of reading of the world. Mimesis I is a practical world that haven't yet been explored by poetic activity therefore it has not been narrated yet. This world is already fraught with a pre-narrativity which will serve as reference for the poetic construction (configuration), or mimesis II. The mimesis is not enclosed at the time of configuration (the world of text), but in the reading activity, or, according to Ricoeur, at the time of refiguration, mimese III. In the hermeneutic mimesis, there is a course that comes from the life lived and not yet narrated, goes through the plot configuration and meets the final reader's world.
[13] The movie tells the story of other important therapeutic initiative in the treatment of the autistic syndrome, the Son-Rise Programe ®. At the beginning of the 1970s, the couple Barry and Samahria Kaufman heard from the specialists that there was no recovery for their child Raun. It was from the intuitive and loving dedication that they developed the Son-Rise . Raun did recovered after three years and a half of intensive work with his parents, continued to develop, attended a University and now works in Autism Treatment Center of America . Since then, thousands of children using the program have been developing far beyond expectations, some of them presenting complete recovery.
[14] TheTEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children) is a special education program directed to the individual learning needs of the autistic child based on daily development. Based on the fact that autistic are often visual apprentices, TEACCH bring a visual clarity to the learning process seeking receptivity, comprehension, organization and independence. Although the TEACCH do not focus specifically on social and communicative skills and as the ABA, it can be used together with this treatment in order to make them more effective.
[16] Prosteshis in two different aspects. The first is that autistic visual cognition is similar with the computer syntax . While the autistic mind ‘run Windows ’,the neuro-typical mind programs itself through an algorithm operating system. There are also some advantages offered by computers in education and treatment of autism: structured environment, foreseeable responses, visual organization, individual self-aid. And there are still four aspects about using the computer in special education that are relevant to its use with Autism: increases the communication ability ; improves cognition; help in activities involving motor coordination; and you it can also help with the education policy of inclusion in regular schools.
[17] Today, besides thousands of blogs of mothers and autistic children, which are multiplying rapidly on the Internet, there are several interesting initiatives being developed in this direction. But there are also practical initiatives such as the idea of a grandfather, John LeSieur, which created a special browser, to his autistic grandson Zackary Villeneuve: the Zac browser. http://www.zacbrowser.com/es/index.html  A browser designed specifically for autistic children, whose main objective is for them to interact through games and activities developed especially for them, so that it is easier for their comprehension and understanding, focused on their way of seeing the world (and with dispositives for parental supervision and content control).
[19] For an individualized survey on cognitive, social and personal difficulties, there is a test in: http://euautista.blogspot.com/2009/06/aspie-quiz.html

Friday, August 28, 2009

just ideas

Santo Daime is based upon tree structures: the church, the doctrine and the sacrament.

There are followers that give more emphasis to the institutional aspect; others emphasize the doctrinaire aspect and a few ones, in which I am included, consider the sacrament to be the most important element. The ‘institutionalists’ give emphasis to the administrative rules; the ‘doctrinerists’ to the liturgical and ritual norms; and the ‘sacramentalists’ to the development of the conscience. They are flexible before the rules of the first ones and the norms of the second.

Usually, the doctrinerists criticize the institutionalists. The first say that the second are bureaucratizing the doctrine, that they want to administer everything and everybody and that, deep inside, all they really want is money (the most radical doctrinerists totally oppose to the payment for the sacrament). The institutionalists on their turn aim to associate with the doctrinerists and they argue that a traditional behavior is no longer possible in the modern world, that it is necessary to modernize, to be democratic, to pay monthly fee so that the sacrament is not sold, and so and so. But, truthfully, the institutionalists believe that the doctrinerists are somehow hypocritical and false, that they use the traditional rigidity to hide their incapacity of personal and social change, once they are trapped on a net of parochial gossip.

Both conceptions, the institutionalist and the doctrinerist, are consumers of Daime. Only sacramentalists understand Santo Daime as a production process capable of changing their agents. The church and the doctrine came from within the sacrament. However, in order to develop Santo Daime as a whole, it has to integrate the institutional, doctrinaire and of self-sufficiency aspects. The exaggerated development of the two consuming types leads to the dependence of the groups on the forest.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Homosexuality and spirituality in Xena, the warrior princess

Abstract: The document analyzes the TV series ‘Xena, the warrior princess’, from which the author raises some up-to-date theoretical references on mythology and argues over the hyper-textual aspects of the narrative structure of sacred stories.

Our culture is full of stories. Each commercial we read or see is really a story – told in an intelligent, artistic and costly way. Consumerism is the main story of our civilization. It feeds our not-fulfilled appetites; it is nourished by the fact of us not being spiritually supplied, of existing inside of an emptiness that cannot be filled, no matter how much we spent in goods or treats.
Consumerism is a dangerous and debilitating story, but we can bring back - we need to recover - our strength in telling stories. We may deviate from those habits that we spend billions of dollar and hours with. We can recover wastefulness and recycle, creating more authentic stories. We can annul the toxic effect of our pseudo-history, replacing them for more rewarding stories that satisfy heart, mind, imagination and the quest of each one of us for justice and peace, and for the return of the blessings upon our daily life. (FOX, 2002, 252)

Xena: Warrior Princess is a North American TV series that was produced in the New Zealander city of Auckland and its surroundings, and was broadcasted originally between 1995 and 2001. It premiered with the actresses Lucy Lawless and Renée O' Connor.

The series started in 1995, as one spin-off of the series ‘Hercules: The Mythical Trips’. The Saga of Xena in the American television started with a special participation of Xena in Hercules during three episodes, The Warrior Princess, The Gauntlet and Unchained Heart. In the two first episodes, Xena was a villain, but in third, she feels sorry for her past and ally with Hercules.
Xena had such success with the public that the producers of Hercules had decided to record an exclusive series with the warrior princess. The producers Robert Tapert and John Schulian had the idea, and together with Sam Raimi, signed an agreement with the Renaissance Pictures for 24 episodes of Xena, as audience test. From then on, the series had a huge success and it has been reported as a cultural phenomenon and a pop-feminist icon. In a short space of time, Xena became synonymous for feminine force and frequently appears in other contemporaneous works: video games, comics, other show series (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; Dark Angel; Alias), and as far as in Tarantino´s Kill Bill and others[2].

And while Hercules was a failure, lasting only two seasons, Xena endured for six years with a great international success. Besides the charisma of the two leading actresses, the success is mainly due to the conjunction of two apparently incompatible subjects: homosexuality and spirituality.

Homosexuality here is Greek, ‘saphic’ and not ‘lesbian', that is, the protagonists are not masculine, they actually sisterly share and stand up for the feminine values: they have children, partners, but the girlfriends keep one another as their main affective relation. Although without explicit erotic scenes, there are innumerable mentions to the homosexual relation between Xena, Gabrielle and other personages of the Saga – for the delight of great part of the GLS public[3].

But the great success of Xena does not lie simply in this bisexuality with feminine preferences, so old and yet so actual: in contrast to Hercules, that is a patriarchal hero fighting against the great goddess Hera; Xena is a matriarchal heroine fighting against Ares, the god of the war - what it is much more, let´s say… politically correct. She, in fact, aggregates and defends the feminine values. The macho and violent behaviors are constantly ridiculed through Joxer (Ted Raimi) and Ares (Kevin Tod Smith). A good example of this complete demoralization of the patriarchal values is the episode Here She Comes… Miss Amphipolis, in which Xena applies for a beauty contest as Miss Amphipolis to find out which of the sponsors want to kill the participants. The criminals discovered, after a hilarious feminist mockery where the main candidates give up the competition, a transvestite wins the contest. But, beyond the saphistic homosexuality, spirituality is another theme that passes by the whole series and one of the reasons for its success.

Are histories always sacred?

George Orwell says that when he was in the front of the Spanish civil war, a place where a human being would not give away even a used match for his best friend, he witnessed soldiers that would give half of its food to hear a story. By the way, many already had said that the list of the human necessities has only two items: bread (the food nourishes the body) and circus (the narrative feeds the soul). But would it be that our need for entertainment is that important? What would be the true importance of the narratives for our psychological balance? And still: would it be that all stories have the same merit?

The 11th annual conference of the Common Boundary - a North American NGO, headed toward the study and divulgation of experiences on the relation between psychotherapy, spirituality and creativity – it was entirely dedicated to the matter of the sacred histories. There were researchers of different areas and specialties participating: Edith Sullwold; Gioia Timpanelli; Robert Bly; Allan B. Chinen; Richard Lewis; Nancy J. Napier; Shaun McNiff; Meinrad Craighead; Walter Wink; James P. Carse; John McDargh; Matthew Fox; Richard Katz; Al Gore; Clarissa Pinkola Estes; Maya Angelou.

Among approaches on specific mythologies, I emphasize three: David Peat, that related the actual Chaos theory and the cosmovision of the North American natives; John L. Johnson, who spoke on the re-habilitation of drug abusers through the narration of African histories; and John Daido Loori, who presented a work on Zen koans.

With Peat, we learn that the mind (collective or individual) works as a map formed by narratives, through which we have access to the territories exterior to the cosmos. With Johnson, we discover that drug abuse is a history of social failure that can be told again. With Loori, we are introduced to the koans, mini-stories, usually absurd and paradoxical that aim to provoke an insight, a change in the perception state of the listener (and not to give to ethical advice or moral teachings through parabolas or allegories).
However, the center of the debates was the sacred characteristic of the narratives. Regarding this, it is possible to set three distinct and yet not conflicting positions: the ones that have nostalgia of the traditional stories; the ones that consider histories as cognitive narratives for the constitution of biographies; and the ones that understand sacred and profane narratives as parts of a complex game of identity.
Sam Keen, for instance, integrates the group of the eco-traditionalists. “In order to free ourselves from the destructive myth of progress, we have that to rediscover our familiar mythologies and personal history”. (KEEN, 2002, 43) In the traditional scenario, we believed in a myth that guided our life; in the modern scenario, history took the place of the mythical stories; and in post-modern times, there is not only one myth nor only one history that shapes our identity, but we are overwhelmed by many histories from various different places[4]. For Keen, this multiplicity of global narratives generates a discontinuous and fragmented culture, with space/time ruptures that deviates men from themselves and from nature.
Mary Catherine Bateson also considers the current culture discontinuous, but she believes there it has a spiritual continuity passing through the different discontinuities of our life history. Therefore, she emphasizes: the important thing is to live life as a creative process. It means to be the authors of our own history of life, to be the artists and the very work of art in evolution. The stories, in this context, are seen as connection between people and images, as a form of art therapy. Bateson has a special interest for the conversion narratives.
And, finally, there are the authors who believe that the “sacred narratives are constituted of symbols and metaphors of the profound truths about the mysteries of the life.” We live in a universe formed by histories - histories of the family, the school and the media. Histories inform, distract, and teach us. But, not every story is sacred. There are also histories that are silly, obscene and even immoral. The sacred ones are those that tells us who we are and what is our relation to the cosmos, those that “transforms us bring us closer to the others” (SIMPKINSON, 2002, 09).
But, what make a story to be sacred is its form and not its content. What matters is how one tells history and not on what it is about. There are religious histories that are not sacred. A sacred story is recognized by “meaning effects” it unchains in the receiver.
Or even better: profane histories say who you are, while sacred histories say what you are not.
Present not your profile
Forget thy side vision
All that is exterior
Search for your other half
Always by your side
And tend to be what you are not.
(Antonio Machado. BLY, 2002, 130)
Initially the idea of the producers was that Gabrielle would die in the second episode, but as the charisma of Renee O' Connor conquered the public, they had decided to keep her. In the first season, Gabrielle is young, prattling and innocent and demonstrates her intelligence and diplomacy. It is she who writes the history of Xena. Although she does not fight, she proves her value next to Xena using sagacity. She becomes, then, the heroine who does not use of the brute force. In the third year, there are quarrels between the two heroines and Gabrielle becomes self-sufficient in the fights. Finally, in the fifth and sixth years of the series, Gabrielle is a complete warrior.
In many moments, not only the coadjuvant takes the place of the protagonist, but the narrator takes the place of the hero. In the episode The Titans, Gabrielle reads a magical parchment and resurrects three Titans; in Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards, she participates in a storytelling competition; in The Quill is Mightier, Aphrodite bewitches Gabrielle´s parchment, in such way that everything she writes turns into reality; The Play' s the Ting, Gabrielle directs a play based on the adventures of Xena, metalinguistically reflecting the series, aiming to conciliate the enjoyment of the public for sex and violence with the ethical and aesthetic intentions of the artists.
The pair Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, created by Cervantes, is a model to critically think the heroic narrative, in which the protagonist, idealist and dreamy, live submerse in the universe of the stories (of medieval gallantry) and the supporting role, has its critical conscience well rooted in the world of the material reality and its needs. The pair of heroines formed by Gabrielle and Xena is the inversion of this model, therefore while the warrior is pragmatic and realistic; the poetess constantly confuses reality with her narratives. By the way, this inversion of the perspectives allows not only the character to learn from someone inside other story, but, overall, to be a dynamic and transforming dialogue between who writes the story and who carries out the narrative. That is: the pair Xena/Gabrielle is a re-interpretation of the author-personage reflective model considered by Cervantes to think the journey of the hero.
And more: Walter Benjamin observes that, in modernity, there is been a change in the narrative way through which we tell stories. In the traditional environment, the stories were transmitted verbally; therefore, they were repeated always in the same way - as the children are told to do in their first years. Or yet, when having written versions, the narrators do not assume to be authors of the narrative: Homero, Hesiod, Virgilian, and Apuleius only repeated the narratives they had heard.
In the modern environment, however, the storyteller (writers, filmmakers, artists) must ‘be creative’, original and remarkable for the newness, not only telling the same story in different forms, but always telling new stories. Thus, with the technical reproductability and the disappearance of the ‘aura’ of art objects in general, originality would have been substituted by novelty also in the discursive field of the narratives.
But, within post-modernity, it became common place not only to retell classic histories with an authorial style, but also to combine histories from different cultures and times, relating them, mixing its characters and texts, making citations to be recognized. The classic A Midsummer Night's Dream, of Shakespeare, for example, is homaged in the episode A Comedy of Eros, in which Bliss, son of the Cupid and Psyche, steal the arrows of his father and makes Xena to fall in love for Draco, that falls in love with Gabrielle that falls for Joxer. Or in the episode The Furies, which is an interpretation of the tragedy Electra, from Sophocles. The episode A Solstice Carol is a parody of a Christmas Tale: Xena, Gabrielle and the toy manufacturer Senticles join and disguise as the Fates so that king Silvus won’t banish the children from an orphanage.
Beyond the interaction with several Greek gods (Ares, Aphrodite, Hades, Bacchus, etc), Hercules and other legendary characters from the Greek mythology (Ulysses, Helen of Troy, Prometheus), Xena also re-interpretates narratives from other cultures. In The Rheingold, the Nordic warrior Beowulf asks Xena for help; in Giant Killer, Xena decides to face her friend Goliath in order to defend the Israelis to be killed by the philistines; in Altered States, Xena saves the boy Ikus (in allusion to Isaac) from being sacrificed by his father Antheus (name given to Jacob) and finds out that the instigator of the crime was a single god. Many other examples could be given. But, the mythical approach most daring and most import for the narrative of Xena, is the history of Eli (or Jesus Christ). Initially Eli (Tim Omundson) is an Essenian mystic man that the heroines met during a peregrination to India, who preaches the philosophy of non-violence and universal love. Gabrielle is converted to these ideals. He reappears in Devi, episode where the poetess has her body possessed by the evil spirit of Tataka, in India, and is exorcized by Eli; and, in The Way, when Xena fights against Indrejit, the most powerful of all demons, who kidnapped Gabrielle and Eli. At the beginning of the fifth season, in Fallen Angel, the heroines are resurrected by Eli after a battle between heaven and hell. And, finally, in Motherhood, Eli appears once again, when granting to Xena the power to kill all gods from the Olympus.
Beyond re-interpret narratives of different cultures with its feminist-matriarchal framing, the stories of Xena are fractals, that is, each episode of the series will describe elements of the set of the Saga seen from a specific point, each story is full of details and subtitles that advance and explain what it is to happen or what happened in another story, inside of a gigantic time-puzzle. Thus, the first episode, when Xena comes back sorry to her native village to ask for her mother to forgive her after many years of slaughters and wars, is when we get to know how she left Amphipolis. Or in the episode Death Mask, Xena finds her older brother Toris to revenge the death of their youngest brother, Lyceus. Or yet in Orphan of War, Xena meets again her son Solan that had been educated by the centaurs for ten years.
In each new episode, the shady past of Xena is shown in flashbacks. At the same time that the narrative structures a gradual history of a warrior in search of redemption, it also constructs a regressive history of guilt and savagery, previous the conversion of Xena. This double narrative, regressive/progressive, leads to the construction of a time line in two directions, with characters, places and time very contradictory.
A good example is the episode Past Imperfect. While Xena revives her memories from the time of her pregnancy until the death of Borias and the birth of Solan, Xena confronts her former-servant, Satrina, which is attacking cities in the present with the same techniques used by her to destroy Corinth in the past. In fact, the complete Saga of the warrior princess can be subdivided in cultural cycles: the Roman Cycle (joint of episodes where Xena is crucified twice by Julius Cesar (Karl Urban); the Chinese Cycle (with two trips of Xena for China permeated with memories of her spiritual mentor Lao Ma); the Germanic cycle (in which Xena convinces Odin not to commit suicide and is transformed into a Walkiria); Cycle of the Amazon and the Centaurs; Japanese Cycle (where Xena, in the past, provokes a fire that kills 40,000 people to revenge the death of the princess Akemi and, in present time, dies decapitated by the samurais); etc.
Besides this simultaneous construction of the narrative in the past and the in the present, Xena and Gabrielle also travel, in its trans-cultural revision of mythologies, in other dimensions of the space-time: in Dreamworker, Gabrielle is abducted by the priests of Morpheus and Xena enters the world of dreams to rescue her; in The Bitter Suite, after dying, Xena and Gabrielle go to the kingdom Ilusia where they make up; in Paradise Found, Xena and Gabrielle fall in a hole and arrive in a paradise that is governed by Aidem, a sorcerer who feeds from people's kindness. Xena had been in hell many times, as in the remarkable episode where she kills Mephistopheles and becomes the ‘Queen of Hell’ (The Haunting of Amphipolis), and soon after, in Heart of Darkness, makes the archangel Lucifer to commit the seven deadly sins so that he would assume the place of ‘King of the Hell’ instead of her.
But, among the regressive cycles involving trips to the spiritual worlds, the episodes that tell the story of the Siberian witch Alti (Claire Stansfield) hold a special place. Gabrielle dies (for the first time) in the end of the third season. And in the first episode of the 4th year, Adventures in the Sin Trade, to have one last contact with her, Xena decides to go to the place “where Amazon goes when they die”, but finds out that Alti, her former ally and powerful shaman, imprisoned the old Amazon souls on a sort of ‘limbo'. Xena, then, remembers her agreement with Alti to become `the annihilator of nations' and of her betrayal to the amazon queen Cyane. Xena, once more, ransoms her debt with the past, freeing Gabrielle and the amazons, but she will also awake the anger of the witch that will haunt her from then ahead, during the whole series, in many dimensions, places and times.
Also there are displacements in the future time. By the way, Uberfic is the used term (created by Xena’s fan club in the Internet) to assign the stories where the personages are shown in some episodes in the future, usually incarnated in other bodies, and soon after acknowledging about their past lives. This kind of resource was used in the episode The Xena Scrolls, in the second season: in Macedonia 1940, anthropologists Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington, reincarnations of Xena and Gabrielle, look for scrolls that have the adventures of Xena. In Between the Lines, Xena and Gabrielle are sent to the future to fight the reincarnation of Alti. In Déjà Vu All Over Again, when, in present time, Harry, Anne and Matie, the reincarnations of Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer do regression therapy from past lives and when Xena and Gabrielle are interviewed by a TV reporter in You Are There.
There are still two episodes dedicated to the present time: Send in the Clones, in which Xena and Gabrielle are cloned by three fans obsessed by the series; and Soul Possession, which presents a Buddhist solution (body exchange) to the karmic conflicts of the three main personages of the series: the spirit of Xena reincarnates in the body of the actor Ted Raimi and the spirit of the foolish Joxer in the body of the actress Lucy Lawless. Thus, the union between the twin souls of Xena and Gabrielle would become ‘heterosexual' `- what many fans disliked.
In these episodes, the artists take their critical satire over themselves to the last consequences. The importance given by the fan clubs to the question of the protagonist’s homosexuality is brought inside the show. There is a hilarious scene with the Raimi brothers on the possibility to produce - from the lost scrolls of Xena (found by the switched reincarnations of the old heroes) – a low budget show for American TV “with neo-Zealand locations and casting”.
In a way that the narrative discontinuity of the episodes of the Saga always bring in the problem of the narrator, either through the relation author/actor, represented by the couple of protagonists, either through scenes of metalinguistics and the explicitation of many usually invisible aspects in the TV series, as the role of the producers, the show success, the characters homosexuality, the fan clubs, etc.
The book Myth and Body (2001) is a resulted of the encounter of two great contemporary authors, deriving from different areas of psychology: Stanley Keleman – director of the Center for Energetic Studies of Berkeley, author of many books on somatic therapy and responsible for the approach of Reich ideas in the actual context - and Joseph Campbell, a well-known mythologist that took the postulates of Jung to the fields of archaeology, anthropology and history of the religions, elaborating a universal model for the archetypical journey of the hero.
The main argument of the book is that the Myth is a corporal experience; it keeps the somatic memory of the Body. And the Body, in its turn, is constructed by the Myth. Campbell’s ‘Journey of the Hero' corresponds to what Keleman calls `corporification', the history of our somatic nature, the individuation process (Jung). Thus, there is a resonance between the sacred histories and the personal biographies. The book still brings an interpretation of the medieval Legend of Parsifal as a symbolic script of initiation, rites of passage from youth (and the feeling of pride) towards maturity (and the feeling of compassion).
‘Xena’ tells the story of a cruel and sanguinary warrior who regrets from her violent and merciless behavior, converting herself to the spiritual path of the warriors and defending the weak and oppressed. But, in relation to the archetypical journey of the hero, she is a woman and, instead of the passage from pride to compassion, her story dramatizes the passage from revenge and rivalry feelings for ones of justice and fellowship. This - increased to the fact that the heroines are much more solitary and less competitive then the heroes in general – bring a special tone to the show.
But, with its feminine style, in the basics, Xena fulfills the two basic requirements of the Warrior Path: to be one own enemy (the others are adversaries that can be become allies) and to have death as companion.
Of Course Xena has enemies for which there is no reconciliation, that represented the absolute evil (as the witch Alti; the god Dahak; and Hope, the daughter of Gabrielle), but, during the whole series, the warrior princess fought to convert her adversaries into allies, a time she was a ‘converted' herself. That is particularly visible in the episodes that count with the participation of the warrior Callisto (Hudson Leick).
In hers villainous times, Xena pillaged and destroyed the city of Cirra, killing the family of a innocent girl called Callisto, who, nourishing a mortal hate for the warrior princess, passed her whole life searching for revenge. She is defeated and imprisoned in the episode Callisto; in Return of Callisto, she scapes from prison and kills Perdicas, the husband of Gabrielle. In the episodes Intimate Stranger and Ten Little Warlords, Ares switch the bodies of Xena and Callisto - putting each one in the other´s shoes.
By the way, this resource (of the bodies exchange to demonstrate to the protagonists how others see the world) is used at other moments of the series: in Little Problems, Xena is placed in the body of the girl Daphne; in Succession, Ares join Xena and Gabrielle in a single body. But, let us come back to Callisto. In A Necessary Evil, Xena resurrected by Gabrielle, enters into an alliance with Callisto against Velasca, the goddess of chaos. To stop her, Xena helps in exchange for ambrosia. After Callisto become a goddess, Xena makes her and Velasca to fall in a well of lava. Callisto starts again to resurrect and join to the enemies of Xena (Hope, Dahak, and Julio Cesar) in the episodes Maternal Instincts, Sacrifice and The Ides of March; but, in Fallen Angel, at the beginning of the fifth season, she is redeemed and becomes a celestial angel after Xena save her from hell. In Seeds of Faith, Xena finds out that her future daughter, Eve, will be a reincarnation of the angel Callisto and will have an important role in ‘crepuscule of gods'. Callisto´s redemption is also Xena’s redemption!
The issue on the warrior ethics and non-violence is also set in the episodes Crusader and The Convert, when the heroines meet Najara, a warrior who says to be fighting in the good side, but actually she is religious fanatic, killing the ones that do not want to follow (her) the light path. The encounter with the fanatic warrior served to define that, although they follow their way together, Xena and Gabrielle follow different spirituals paths: Xena follows the Way of the Warrior, guided by Krisna; Gabrielle follows the Way of Love preached by Eli.
Here there is an important point: the love between women who follow different ways and respect each other (this love either being sexual or not) is the great distinguishing subject of Xena in relation to the warrior stories. The fraternity and love between men follow other parameters (it is ruled and competitive) and the women generally do not possess histories that exceed the feminine rivalry and establishes parameters of solidarity with different perspectives.
And if Xena differentiate from the traditional stories due to the feminine way she fights, she also surprises regarding death. In traditional legends, the hero defies his Destiny (and death) and conquers immortality. But, in Xena (and in other contemporaries narratives as we saw in Sandman), the protagonist prefers to die without fear. Altogether, during the whole series, Callisto dies five times, Gabrielle, eight times; and Xena, four – not mentioning the different reincarnations.
In the episode Death in Chains, king Sisyphus captures Celesta, the embodiment of death, taking death away from humanity. And Xena, in contrast to the traditional hero who aims immortality, decides to set death free, bringing humanity back to its ephemeral condition. In actual life, represented in the stories, it is necessary to always `be on the limit'. Death as permanent risk is a new form of producing existential meaning. As a constant presence, before an exclusive experience of a few mystics, death had became now, through the media, a way of mass subjection in the contemporary culture. And life became fragmented in many simulated micro-deaths, in many existential shocks of the body at risk, at many anticipated final moments of a single irreversible time. And the series just reproduces this reality.
In the episode Been There, Done That, Xena thinks constantly on how to break the Cupid charm, in a day that is always repeating itself. It is a homage to the movie 12:01, in which the protagonist live the same day many times until finding out what was going on. To each repeated day, depending on the options of the protagonist, many coadjuvants and the main characters die. But, as the day re-starts all come back to life without remembering they had already passed through those events. By the way, this film is very ‘honoured’ by TV series and even other films, as the Butterfly Effect, also adapt this specific model of secular paradox to its narratives and specific contexts.
It is as somebody once said: “in media, nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is copied.” Or: "One man's trash is another man's treasure". And as everyone copy the stories of everyone, it all starts to be a matter of who tells the story better. And the series itself also brings up this narrative relativism and this plurality of interpretations in the If episode If the Shoe Fits… Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer and Aphrodite take the princess Aesia home and tell her different versions of the story of Cinderella, called by them Cirela.
There are many similarities between the mythological series of Xena and other contemporaries works, such as, for example, the gigantic series of graphic novel Sandman, masterpiece of the English writer Neil Gaiman, telling the tragic epic of Morpheus, the master of dreams. Both narratives are hyper textual, filled with literary, artistic, scientific citations from multiple cultural scenarios; both understand death as a process of change in life, but, above all, the great similarity between Xena and Sandman is in the role played by the Three Fates (a young woman, another one of middle-age and an old one), that, in both histories, represent the past, the present and the future: the inflexible existence of the time above and beyond death and destiny.
In Sandman, Destiny and Death are endless, brothers of Dream, protagonist of the story. And the endless are not gods, but aspects of the human soul. The three witches appear many times in the stories of Sandman in the form of oracle for different characters and, in the penultimate arc, Dear Beings (2008) they are placed above the endless and represent the awakening of the conscience of time in dreaming.
In the Xena show the three Fates also appear many times. In Remember Nothing, in the second season, the three of them make Xena go back in time and never to be a warrior. And they warn that if Xena do not kill, she will not come back to normal. Also in the episode Looking Death in the Eye, in the fifth season, Joxer, already an old man, has a parchment with the story of Xena trying to deceive the three fates to save her daughter Eve from being killed by gods and ends up kidnapping Celesta, the goddess-death. In the end, Xena and Gabrielle forge their own death and Ares think that they had died and freezes them. In the sequence, the heroines are defrosted 25 years after and meet again Eve, with the name Livia that is now is a servant of Rome and lover of Ares. And in the end of the sixth season, in the episode When Fates Collide, they are imprisoned by Julius Cesar who runs away from hell and changes Xena’s string of life, modifying her future and transforming her into the Empress of Rome. But Xena meets Gabrielle, a famous poetess and Cesar get involved with Alti, a powerful priestess of Rome. In the end, Alti kills Cesar and the three fates helps Gabrielle recover the string of life of Xena.
In another occasion (GOMES, 2000), I defined `Hypertext' as being a text in which the reader interacts with the discourse, as an open structure of multiple meaning, edging polysemy and allowing the maximum interpretations. The written text is a linear system in relation to the continuous time that it tries to represent in many 'continuances': the succession of events, the order of the speech, the gradual accumulation of resultant information. The transmission context is different from the many possible contexts of reception, opposing to the single context of orality.
Now, the time of the Hypertext is at the same time continuous and simultaneous, sequential and parallel, historical and circular, successively and simultaneously - it is the re-unification of the contexts in a superior scale. In the text-scripture there is a relation between past and present, history and the social memory; in the Hypertext, the relation is between present and future, between what is prevailing and its virtual simulation.
From this optic, the Hypertext is not only an Internet matter, but actually a new standard of organization, that invaded the daily life creating the basis for another form of thinking and feeling, of a new and more democratic and participative sociability. And it is not only a tool and a product of the webs it engenders (in which the receivers awake from passivity towards the interactive construction of a referent), but, overall, it represents the cognitive integration between two distinct standards, verbal-mythical (one-one) and historical (one-many) to a new standard (many-many).
It is common to say that everyone that forget history, are doomed to repeat it. But not even Nietzsche (in Gaia Science and other writings) nor Mircea Eliade (in his book about the new year of the societies without history) had imagined the broad, pluralist, open, polyphonic, multiple and complex dimension that the Myth of the Perpetual Return gained to the contemporaries audio-visual narratives.
Sandman and Xena are different models of hyper textual structures (or “arch-textual” as the neobaroque critic says about Joyce and Guimarães Rosa) of the audiovisuals contemporaries narratives. If it was not its unexpected, multifaceted and chaotic character it could be compared them the time cycles of the Vedas or to the many conceptions of the simultaneous and immutable universe.
They are histories inside histories inside histories. In A thousand and one Nights, the stories tells one another to the infinite, but they are contained by the ‘real history’ of the Princess Sherazad. In Sandman, there is “a symphonic” narrative (as McConnell said), with a succession of outcomes from many initial narratives. The story of Xena has a narrative more circular. Its episodes are discontinuous and can be placed in any order, so that the general narrative is maintained. There is not a way to know which of her deaths was definitive or the last to occur in her biography.
Also it is necessary to say that the model of Xena has more audience and greater interactivity than Sandman. While, the Saga of the Master of the Dreams reaches a specific type of nerd (in which I am included), the history of international success of the warrior princess is not limited to the GLS public, reaching everyone that relate to the current feminine values. Besides, each season of Xena was written based on opinion pools with the public (a common procedure nowadays for shows and soap operas). Public and spectators appear sometimes inside the show. Because of all this, we choose the Saga of the warrior princess as an example of Hypertext.

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SIMPKINSON, Charles & Anne. Histórias Sagradas: uma exaltação do poder de cura e transformação; tradução: Ione Maria de Souza Ferreira. Coleção Arco do Tempo. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 2002.

[2] In 2005, the team that discovered the dwarfed planet 2003 UB313 called it Xena in homage to the TV character. In October 1st of 2005, the team announced that 2003 UB313 had a moon, that they nicknamed Gabrielle. The objects officially had been called Eris and Dysnomia for the International Astronomical Union in September 13th of 2006. Although the official names have legitimate roots in Greek mythology, Dysnomia also means lawlessness or anarchy, perpetuating the connection with Lucy Lawless. (Source: Wikipedia)
[3] Among the fans, it is a matter of much interest to know if Xena and Gabrielle are lovers or not. Xena has being cultuated as icon for the lesbian community. There is also a lesbian group of activists called The Marching Xenas which participated of several gay events. The question is left ambiguous by the writers of the series on purpose.
[4] Keen still criticizes the non-political interpretation of the traditional thinkers who work with myths (Carl Gustav Jung, James Hilmann, Bruno Bettelleim), who reduce evil to the psychological shade and use the term archetype- that he considers to be a term culturally conservative. Actually, Keen literally reproduces the arguments of Paul Ricouer (without citing him) on the advantages using of the notion of metaphor instead the concepts of archetype in the symbolic narratives.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Creator of the Universe, we ask you today to help us accept ourselves as we are. Help us to accept our mind as it is, with all its emotions, hopes and dreams, with our personality, our unique way of being. Help us to accept our body as it is, with all its beauty and perfection. Allow the love we feel for ourselves to be so strong that we will never more reject ourselves or sabotage our happiness, our freedom, our love.

From this moment on, allow our every action and reaction, our every thought and emotion, to be based in love. Help us, Creator, to increase the love we feel for ourselves, until the whole dream of our life transforms itself, changing fear and drama to love and happiness. Allow the power of our self-love to be great enough to squash all the lies we believe in because we were programmed to believe them, all the lies that we are told claiming that we will not be able to do what we want. Allow the power of our self- love to be so great that we no longer have to live according to the opinions of others. Permit us to trust in ourselves so completely that we can make the changes necessary to our lives. With our self-love, may we no longer be afraid of assuming responsibility for our lives, no longer afraid of facing our problems, whatever they may be, and solving them as they arise. Permit us to achieve whatever we wish to achieve with the power of our self-love.

Starting today, help us to love ourselves so much that we never create adverse circumstances. May we live our life being ourselves, without pretending to be otherwise just so that others will accept us or tell us we are fine, because we know who we are. With the power of our self-love, allow us to like the image we see of ourselves every time we look in the mirror. Put a big smile on our faces, lighting up our exterior and interior beauty. Permit us to feel such an intense love for ourselves that we always appreciate our own company.

Permit us to love ourselves without judgments because when we judge, we blame ourselves and then feel the necessity to be punished, thus losing from sight Your love. Strengthen in us this moment our desire to forgive ourselves. Cleanse our minds of emotional poisons and judgments, so that we may live in love and peace.

Allow our self-love to be the power which changes our life dream. Allow the power of self-love -- this new power in our hearts -- to transform all our relationships, beginning with the relationship we have with ourselves. Help us to free ourselves of all conflicts with others. Permit us to be happy because we have shared our time with our dear family and associates, and can forgive them for whatever injustice we feel they have committed against us. Help us to love ourselves so deeply that we can forgive anyone who may have hurt us.

Give us courage to love our family and friends unconditionally, and to change our relationships in a positive and loving way. Help us create new channels of communication in our relationships, so that there be no declared war, neither winner nor loser. Allow us to work together as a team with love, happiness and harmony.

May the relationship we have with acquaintances and friends be based on respect and joy, so that we no longer feel the necessity of telling them what they should think or be. May our love relationships be marvelous. May we feel happiness every time we give of ourselves to our partner. Help us to accept others as they are, without judging them, because when we reject them we reject ourselves; and when we reject ourselves, we reject You.

Today is a new beginning. Help us to restart our lives today, with the power of our self-love. Help us to appreciate the fact that we are alive, to appreciate our relationships, to explore life, to take risks and not be afraid of love. Permit us to open our hearts to the love which is our right since our birth. Help us to become Masters of Gratitude, Generosity and Love, so that we may rejoice in all Your creations, today and always.