© Jared Rodriguez / Truthout
Everyone dissociates whether it be through daydreaming, watching movies, playing games, reading and meditation. The ability to dissociate seems to be hard-wired in humans and is especially prevalent in children during play as one of their primary modes of learning. Dissociation can range from mild forms of disengagement from the surrounding environment to a more severe detachment from physical and emotional experiences. Flights of fancy can be a great wellspring of creativity or a maladaptive escape from reality.

How much dissociation is too much? How can it be used for good? Join us for this episode of The Health and Wellness show for a lively discussion.

Stay tuned for Zoya's Pet Health Segment where the topic is animal spies and how our pet companions have been used for espionage.

Running Time: 01:27:01

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Jonathan: Welcome to the Health and Wellness Show everybody. Today is Friday, March 16, 2018. My name is Jonathan. I'll be your host for today. Joining me in our virtual studio from all over the planet we have Doug, Gaby, Erica, Tiffany and Elliot. Hey guys.

All: Hellos.

Jonathan: So we're starting an hour "late" today because the Europeans haven't figured out that you're supposed to arbitrarily change your time around. {laughter}

Doug: Obama changed it man. We were perfectly fine before until Obama changed it.

Jonathan: Americans figured out the right way. You guys should do it that way. {laughter}

Gaby: Right.

Jonathan: So today our topic is, Is Anybody Home-Dissociation and ...Oh I Forgot what the title is. {laughter} We just want to talk about dissociation. You might hear the term now and then. Also not the same as dissassociation. I've made that mix-up quite a bit. Dissociation is like daydreaming, watching movies, playing games, even reading and meditation. So dissociation, what we want to talk about is not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly can be. It can be extremely bad but it can also be good and even extremely beneficial depending on when and how you do it.

So it ranges from mild forms of disengagement to more severe detachment, psychological trauma, things like that. But even talking about addiction to media or doing a certain activity, anything that's unhealthy is not in moderation, depending on the context. So that's what we want to talk about.

Tiffany: Disassociation is to distance yourself from somebody or something in order to not...

Doug: Associate.

Tiffany: Yeah, be associated with that person.

Gaby: What if that person is yourself?

Jonathan: Oh.

Tiffany: Probably not the best thing {laughter} to dissociate from yourself.

Jonathan: So we want to disassociate from negative dissociation.

Doug: Yeah!

Jonathan: I guess I'll confess first. I have multiple PhDs in negative dissociation.

Gaby: Tell us all about it.

Jonathan: I have taken it all the way to having multiple full cases of burned movies in my movie pirating days, which is beyond the statute of limitations.

Tiffany: Legally.

Jonathan: So it was more than seven years ago.

Doug: Legal pirating.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Erica: No one was harmed.

Jonathan: Block Buster is no longer in business. For many years I've watched a lot of films but I also read books and listen to podcasts and I listen to a lot of podcasts because I work at home, I work on the computer. A lot of times it's easy to do that and put something on and do your work. But then of course you have to concentrate so you turn it off. At a certain point it becomes a thing that you have to manage. But I have taken it to the unhealthy extreme at times of setting aside work or setting aside obligations in order to dissociate because that was more comfortable. So I try to recognize that now. I certainly don't succeed all the time but I also still really like entertainment. That's more complex that it sounds on the surface and I'd love to get into it but I don't want to talk about me the whole time. So what about you guys?

Tiffany: I don't think that you necessarily have to make a confessional, like you're so guilty of dissociating. {laughter} That is something that all human beings do. It's like it's built into us. We have to have some way of getting outside of ourselves. I think maybe at one of its bases it's a way to empathize with other people. You have to be able to put yourself into their shoes to a certain extent.

Doug: I don't know. Maybe we should define dissociation because I don't think of dissociation that way.

Tiffany: Well I'm thinking of dissociation through watching a movie or reading a book or hearing a story. You have to be able to step outside of yourself in order to empathize with the character that's in the story.

Doug: Well I think that's one form of dissociation but I think that humans actually spend if not most, but a significant amount of their time dissociated.

Tiffany: At least children.

Doug: Yeah. If you're in the middle of a conversation and somebody says something that triggers a memory for you and you go into that for a second and then you come back out, that's a dissociation; whenever you're not fully cognizant of what's in front of you and what you're doing at that point. Like when you're driving your mind starts going off into all these different places while your body just manages to stay on the road, miraculously.

Gaby: I think that's a key concept. Maybe we should define the opposite of dissociation as well so we have a better idea of what we're talking about. I would think the opposite of dissociation is being embodied, feel literally the ground underneath your feet, the chair where you're sitting. There's no veil of fogginess or anything between you and whatever stands in front of you. What do you guys think?

Erica: I think those moments are fleeting though.

Doug: Yeah, I would agree with that as well. When you think about it, how often are you aware of your weight on your feet or in your chair? How often do you actually come to yourself and think "Oh, I'm here right now."

Gaby: Like never? Like doing exercises of grounding.

Doug: Yeah, grounding, exactly.

Jonathan: What we're talking about is something that people spend their entire lives trying to achieve. It's one of the main goals of human existence, to be mindful in a consistent way. So I don't know if we need to take it all the way that way right away because I think constant, actual consistent mindfulness is possible but you're talking about somebody who has worked at it for many, many years.

Doug: Enlightened beings.

Jonathan: Well maybe not even enlightened but just focused. There are people I see who I consider to have that quality but there are very, very few of them. So I think sure, that should be a goal but I guess I'm just trying to put it in context. If you don't mind, let me do the Wiki here on dissociation.

"It is commonly displayed on a continuum. In mild cases dissociation can be regarded as coping mechanisms or defense mechanisms to master, minimize or tolerate stress including boredom or conflict. At the non-pathological end of the continuum dissociation describes common events such as daydreaming. Further along the continuum are non-pathological altered states of consciousness."

So I think that's the key. It says it involves a general detachment from reality rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis, psychosis being something entirely different. This is a temporary detachment. I think in some cases that's appropriate. In order to be fully focused and mindful and present for every second of every day that you're awake, you have to have an extremely high distress tolerance because during those times you're going to run into stuff that a normal person would have to dissociate from for a minute, two, three or five minutes. But to be mindful through all of that you really have to be a strong psychological person.

Gaby: Not necessarily bad. Maybe we are just meant to dissociate, like it's an innate capability. It can be hijacked for negative purposes or it can be used positively.

Erica: I think it's a survival mechanism too, learned in childhood.

Doug: Have you heard about when an animal is caught by a predator, it's taken down, they say that the animal at that point, although it's still alive and being eaten, it's not there anymore. It's kind of like a mechanism so that it doesn't suffer the absolute horror of being eaten essentially. So I wonder if it's this innate thing that's built into animals and us as well for being able to pull out of extremely stressful or traumatizing situations.

Tiffany: And I don't think that it's necessarily necessary to be useful just in traumatic experiences. If you look at a child or a group of kids playing, maybe they're playing make believe, cowboys and Indians or something like that, kids dissociate a lot even in non-traumatic situations. I think that it's a way for them to learn.

Doug: That's true.

Elliot: I agree with Tiff. Could the imagination be classed as some form of dissociation? Because technically what you're doing is taking your - whatever you want to call it - consciousness or whatever, and you're taking it to a place that is in your mind that you have fabricated, that you have created, an imaginary scenario. Can that also be beneficial? I'm sure many of the great discoveries throughout history may have stemmed from some sort of dissociative process.

Doug: I think that's very true. I think that in times of high concentration on a task, in a sense that is dissociative; when you're really working on something and the whole world around you disappears. Somebody could call you on the phone or knock on the door and you're just not there, you're so focused on your task. That's definitely a form of dissociation.

Erica: The state of flow they call it.

Jonathan: That's where you get really granular. Dissociation is a detachment from reality but even if you're focused on a task, is that task then not reality? It's something that you're doing. But I see what you're saying. Somebody could come up from behind you and crack you with a pipe {laughter} and you wouldn't know that they were right there.

Tiffany: It wouldn't be necessary. If you're going to create something that doesn't exist or doesn't exist for you at least, like a project, whether it be art or some woodworking or sewing or anything like that, you want to bring something into existence, you need to imagine it beforehand.

Gaby: Maybe people have this ability to dissociate because it is like a faculty that enables us to access other realities that are real. That's a possibility.

Elliot: Possible realities that could be manifested.

Jonathan: Gurdjieff the Russian philosopher - I'm sure most of our listeners are aware of, but if you're not, check out G.I. Gurdjieff. There's a lot there. But he talks about the wrong use of imagination which implies that there's a right use of imagination. To me that is associated with planning. If I'm planning out something I'm going to do or something I'm going to build in a house or even how my day is going to go, where I'm going to end up around 6:00, of course everything is fluid, but when you come up with a plan and you're strategizing, 'if person A does this then I have to do X and if they don't then I have to do Y' and that gives me X or Y after that and you're mapping out the near future, that's a use of imagination. You're completely disconnected. None of this has happened yet and it's not real. So is that positive or negative? I mean, you're using it to a positive end I think, to be more efficient. But it's nuanced.

Now if I started to stress about whether or not person A is going to say yes or no to whatever, then I'm beginning to use it wrongly because I'm negatively tied in with my imagination about something that hasn't happened yet.

Erica: Would you describe it as ruminating?

Jonathan: No, not really. What I'm referring to specifically is stressing, like worrying. Ruminating I think of as being productive.

Doug: Really?

Jonathan: Yeah. So if I'm approaching a problem, sometimes I'll detach from it and think very broadly and esoterically. If I were to say what I was thinking out loud it would make no sense at all but then it comes back around to a solution. That's what I think of as ruminating.

Doug: I think of ruminating as just turning your wheels, just spinning the negative wheels. That's what I think of as ruminating.

Tiffany: I consider it a more intense and prolonged form of worrying.

Doug: Exactly. Worrying.

Jonathan: In that context then, yeah, that's what I would call that.

Doug: Can we say that dissociation is maybe the opposite of self-awareness?

Jonathan: I don't know.

Tiffany: To a degree maybe.

Jonathan: We can argue about this, but I think that it's possible to be aware that you are dissociating.

Doug: Oh. Really?

Jonathan: Yeah. {laughter}

Elliot: But then are the two not exclusive of one another because doesn't the definition of dissociation denote the lack of self-awareness?

Doug: That's what I would think.

Jonathan: I think that what I'm saying is true. I would like to explore it because if you sit down, let's say you've focused all day. You've done a lot of work and you're going to watch a movie and you're like, "Okay, I 'deserve' this time or I'm going to take this time to relax" and you consciously go into a state of dissociation, in that moment, granted if you want to get super granular, when you are dissociated you're not aware, but you go into it being aware that it is what's happening. And if you do come out of it, to pause the movie and go to the bathroom or whatever, "I'm engaged in a positive dissociative activity". You may not think those words but that awareness is there of what you're doing.

Doug: I'm not saying you can't come out of it but I'm just thinking that while you are actually watching that movie, you're fully engaged and everything around you disappears. You're not thinking about work. You're not thinking about wife and kids or whatever, I would say that that's a dissociative state and that it does lack self-awareness.

Jonathan: I totally agree with that.

Tiffany: I still say to a degree. I don't know who brought this up earlier, but when you're driving somewhere and it's a familiar route and you're maybe listening to music or something and you get to your exit and you have no idea of how you got there, I say that you are dissociated during that time but you're not completely unaware of your surroundings.

Erica: Unless you miss your house or your stop.

Tiffany: If you were completely unaware you'd lose control of the car. So to a certain degree you're less aware I think. For example, when I used to jog, I'd put on the headphones and go to the park and start running and listening to the music I would start thinking about myself maybe singing the song or playing an instrument on the song and it was just a way to keep my mind occupied while I did the drudgery of jogging. But I knew I was dissociating and I knew that that's the zone that I got into when I jogged every day.

Doug: There is certainly a spectrum of dissociation, more or less self-awareness, but I think that also humans seem to have the ability to mentally dissociate while their body can accomplish tasks, so do whatever it needs to do at the time, even though the brain doesn't have to be present whatsoever. The example of driving is a good one because I think everybody can relate to that, as long as they drive. While you're driving you could be having a conversation. You could be daydreaming. You could be singing along to the radio and you're not necessarily concentrating, using all of your brain power on your driving yet your body knows 'this is what I need to do. I've got my hands on the wheel. I've got my foot on the gas, etc. etc.' and it just seems to go through those motions even though you're not necessarily concentrating on that fact. I do think that that can be a dangerous thing.

Gaby: Not necessarily. This theory of autonomous nervous system, system 1 and system 2, system 2 running mostly automatically. There are lots of things that we get done just by allowing our autonomic processes to take care of everything.

Elliot: Yeah, just simple pattern recognition seeing, say for instance in the context of driving, I think a lot of that is simply just detecting patterns. This isn't something that your brain would consciously have to go through. It would just be your autonomic nervous system and the subtle, deep parts of your brain detecting when there are changes and then adjusting.

Jonathan: It's instinct, right? Instinct comes into play. So there's got to be some kind of connection there between instinct and dissociation.

Gaby: I think neurologically speaking there is conscious awareness and unconscious awareness or what we generally know, like I said, system 1 and system 2, system 1 being where you have to do a mathematical equation that requires effort, you're engaging your system 1 and your system 2 is more automatic like driving. You do that automatically. It comes naturally. You don't have to think about it.

But then when it comes to dissociation, it overlaps between those two concepts or can make them work differently or towards an aim that can be negative or positive depending on the dissociation.

Tiffany: Well if we get back to Jonathan's definition and just consider it as being on a spectrum, from things that are not so harmful to complete detachment from your body, say from being in a traumatic experience. Can you imagine how awful it would be if you were fully aware of everything that was around you and everything that you were doing and all the sensations in your body all the time? I think that that would be pretty terrible.

Erica: It would overwhelm your emotional and physical nervous system.

Jonathan: That's autism isn't it? That's what autistic people experience, a lot of them, is a sensory overload, almost like a hyper awareness which is why they have to then, I think, withdraw from that.

Tiffany: I think even in non-autistic, there's something in you that has to withdraw and just veg out for a while in order to recharge your batteries in a way.

Jonathan: Yeah, I think that's totally appropriate. We're talking about forced dissociation. In the context of trauma I think of shock as being a form of that, where your body just goes 'the brain can't do this right now'.

So I guess exploring the idea of entertainment, I'm curious what you guys think about that. We were chatting about it before the show. I think we can all agree that there is redeeming entertainment. We don't need to get so meta that we wonder if that's actually true or not. Somebody might argue that there's no redeeming entertainment. I disagree personally. But it's hard to suss out and I think it's also different for everyone. For some people I think maybe the Walking Dead is a redeeming story and for other people it's absolutely horrifying and they wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. There's different contexts there.

For me, I like things that make me think about whatever the topic is and go down a rabbit hole thinking about whatever is the subject at hand. I don't like airy fairy things but I do sometimes. Everyone once in a while you just want something popcorn, just put it on. Not all the time but that does happen. I'm not trying to argue that that kind of stuff is redeeming but then I think there are pearls from swine kind of things too, where you can draw out the redeeming values. Is it worth the effort? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It's a complicated thing.

Tiffany: Well even if something that you're watching has no value that most people would agree on, if you can discern what is valueless about it, maybe you've learned something and maybe it's not so negative after all.

Jonathan: Yeah. There have been shows that I've tried to watch in the past, like one about lawyers in New York and you're like "High intrigue". So you start watching it and you realize it's about glorifying assholes and you ask "What's happening here? I don't resonate with any of this." So that does happen too.

Doug: Like the story of Sonny in Philadelphia.

Gaby: I think the lesson is "It's not worth my time".

Jonathan: Yeah. That got me into a semi-heated discussion with a friend of mine about the most recent season of the Walking Dead which I have not yet watched and not sure that I want to because sad shit happens in life normally. Do I need to subject myself to a story that's about something that's so tragic I have a hard time dealing with it? Is that really necessary? Because those things happen in my life.

Doug: The zombie apocalypse?

Jonathan: Yeah. Death, loss, tragedy, things like that. This sounds weird but I'm "fine" dealing with those things when they're a part of reality because that's reality. Bad things happen. But I choose what to entertain myself with. When we were talking about this the response was 'Oh, the story's too sad for you? You can't look at it? You have to look away?' No, do I want to look and then that's the discussion that we got into about it.

Gaby: For me, retrospectively, I think the movies or TV shows that were most helpful for positive dissociation involved interpersonal relationships, just seeing the dynamics, the bad guys, the good guys, the hero, the heroine and how it all evolves. It teaches you a lot about your personal relationships. Those are my favourite.

Elliot: I never used to have this kind of perspective about these things. I used to feel a little bit black and white about it but I've come to learn that, say if you're watching some sort of series or a particular movie, that it can really be quite beneficial to attempt to place yourself into the characters' position and think about what you would do in that situation and what situations you have experienced that are similar to that or if you've never experienced anything like that, then it can be helpful to almost prepare yourself for if you were to experience that in the future. So it's almost like potentially learning the lessons of the characters without necessarily having to go through the experience itself. I'm not sure whether that's entirely possible. If you see in a movie that the main character's loved one dies and then your loved one dies, you're still going to go through that whole experience. Maybe that wasn't a very good example but what I'm trying to say is that I feel like sometimes it can be a beneficial learning experience to see the different dynamics and try to apply that to your own life or to try to learn what you would do in that situation.

Gaby: That's a very good point.

Jonathan: Yeah. To that point, the previous seasons of the Walking Dead that I have watched, that's kind of what I liked about that. It makes you imagine what would I do if a man was going to try to kill myself and my friends. Would I kill that person or would I try to, or would I try to subdue them? What do I think about that and how would I act? You start thinking philosophically about that sort of scenario. That's what I like about that.

Gaby: Isn't there some added benefit where you have a spouse or friend you can discuss with what you just saw, what you would do? And also I was thinking that for people who don't have a lot of discernment going on, who are very consumed by mass media, etc., there is an added benefit to watching movies that are generally classical positive dissociation. I'm thinking of Charles Dickens. The BBC versions of Charles Dickens are all invaluable. They're great. And it's not the kind of thing that says "Oh boy! Let's go watch Charles Dickens!" But for a person that is open-minded enough, why don't you give it a try. You'll be surprised how it can really touch your soul, so-to-speak.

Doug: I wonder if rather than being "we can label this as positive dissociation whereas this is negative dissociation', I think at the poles you probably could have not too much trouble discerning it but I think there's probably a grey middle area. I wonder if it has more to do with how you actually are dealing with what you're dissociating with.

For instance, Pokemon Go, probably not positive dissociation and I don't know that there is necessarily a way to positively dissociate with that. I could be wrong about that. Maybe there is. But I think with some of these things it probably has to do with how you are relating to the material. If you're just turning off your brain and turning on mainstream media evening news, then that's probably not positive dissociation. You're probably just getting filled up with a bunch of lies and garbage whereas if you were maybe more active in your viewing of it and more critical, that that might be a more beneficial way, a positive dissociation. But then again, I think about the Pokemon Go and maybe if somebody is out there like a father and his son, "Let's go catch some Pokemons" and they go through a bonding experience or something like that, maybe that is a positive side.

Erica: And they get outside.

Doug: Yeah, they get outside.

Erica: In the sunshine.

Jonathan: I think what might be connected to what you're saying is the idea of addiction and maybe addiction is not necessarily the right word, but obsession or something along those lines. My example would be fishing. Most of the time when I go fishing, I try to go after I've done everything but there are times when I screw off from obligations to go do it and those times I cannot get it out of my head and I don't actually enjoy the experience because I've got something else looming. It's the same activity. Everything is involved, the amount of time is all the same but it has a different context.

Gaby: So positive and negative dissociation has to be put in perspective, depending on your aim and also there is an element of morality. Is it good or bad for me?

Tiffany: You have to also take into consideration that example you used, of going fishing when you had other obligations. Are you using that as a means to escape your life and your obligations and things that you have to do?

Jonathan: Yeah.

Tiffany: And if you're not then it's probably more on the positive end of the spectrum.

Jonathan: Totally.

Doug: Like crossed emotion.

Erica: Yeah, it's like if you have a deadline and you decide to binge watch Netflix instead of getting your work done.

Jonathan: But the reward when you do get your work done and then do something positive like that is great.

Gaby: Reward is important. {laughter}

Tiffany: I think a lot of it has to do with your level of knowledge too. If you watch certain movies and listen to particular types of music and you don't know that there are elements in society, certain pathological people who create certain things in order to ponerize society into giving people their minds, to use that phrase, and you go into it and none of your defences are up, I think that that can be a bad thing because you're being influenced by lies and you come to accept those. People have a natural inclination to dissociate. People have imagination and pathological types can use that to their own benefit in order to make you do things or think about things or not think about things in the way that they want you to.

So if you go into whatever you're doing for entertainment knowing that that's a possibility of happening, then at least you have some protection and you're more discerning because you know 'This type of thing is not really my scene. I'm not into that so I might have watched it once but I know that it's just not for me" versus somebody who has no idea and just keeps watching it or engaging in whatever entertainment that they're engaged in.

Jonathan: Sure. Understanding the context. What you said made me think of the lyrics of songs. There's a lot of songs that people listen to where they haven't looked into the lyrics.

Tiffany: Yeah, they just like the beat.

Doug: Yeah, it's a catch tune, but - I've had that experience a number of times where I thought it was a catchy tune and I liked it and then I really start listening to the lyrics and I think "This is terrible!" Then you're torn. It's like "What do I do now?"

Jonathan: This is a poignant example so bear with me if I read a short snippet of lyrics. "Don't try to fight the feeling 'cause the thought alone is killing me right now. Thank god for mom and dad for sticking through together 'cause we don't know how. If what they say is "nothing is forever" then what makes love the exception? Are we so in denial when we don't know we're not happy here. You don't want to hear me, you just want to dance."

That sounds like a sad song. That's Hey Ya by Outcast. The Heeeeyyyy-Ya. So it sounds like a happy tune, right, but it's actually really sad when you get into it. Everybody hears that song on the radio and they're bobbing their head but it's about a broken relationship. So I think it's kind of interesting. But more on the extreme end of things - and I don't want to just demonize rap because it's not. There's a lot of other genres that are involved in this. Let's just say violent lyrics, violent to specifically women or other people, physically and emotionally violent language, stuff like that that's become very normalized. I include metal in that as well and not just music on the hardcore side of things like gangster rap or heavy metal but also a lot of emo music too. It might sound kind of innocuous but it's really depressing. When you get into it it's so over the line of being depressing. I think that's why people are annoyed by emo. It's like "Get your shit together and just live normally."

That's a huge thing and I think there's a big subconscious influence when we're listening to music or watching entertainment. Slapstick in film and TV has gotten to the point now where because with CG you can do so much, that splattering a person with a piano on the sidewalk and having their blood spray for 20 feet in every direction is slapstick now. And people will laugh at that and that I think is subconsciously very dangerous. It totally can make me sound like a prude to young people, but I think it is really dangerous because over time you don't realize the effect that that has on the way you see and approach the world around you.

Erica: Well the same could be said about cartoons that children watch.

Gaby: The violence.

Erica: Yeah, violence.

Tiffany: One of our chatters said "Well what about music without lyrics?" I don't listen much to the radio anymore. My musical tastes are strictly grounded in the 70s. {laughter} But when I do go somewhere and there are songs playing overhead you notice it sounds all auto tuned and atonal. It's like they're not even using real instruments. It's all synthesized.

Erica: Well they're probably not. It's probably all pre-recorded individually and then they just mix it together.

Tiffany: And what is this about a certain hertz that is used in music nowadays, that some of the more geeky people could probably understand or describe better than I can, but music without lyrics, like the instrumentation itself, can have an effect on you.

Jonathan: Oh for sure. Yeah, long story short, it comes down to the amount of waves per cycle. So if you have an even number of waves per cycle it's more harmonious physically and mentally. Picture a sine wave and then a set segment of time on that sine wave and if the end of the segment is a random spot on the wave, that's discordant, if that makes sense. Same thing with appliances. You can measure the frequencies coming off of your refrigerator and it's very dissonant to translate it into sound. It sounds awful. But there's a whole world around that.

And then if you get into the energy that's put into things, like Wagner. Wasn't Wagner a Nazi? So is Wagner music damaging in some way to listen to? Because he was thinking about the master race while he was writing it?

Erica: I don't know. I like him. {laughter}

Doug: It's a good question actually. I don't know. If it isn't lyrical and it's not easily translatable into concrete concepts, who knows what Wagner's intention was behind it as well, but just the fact that he held those ideas, is that going to come across some way in that music?

Jonathan: Yeah, who knows? I can't remember his name now. Maybe it'll come to me. There's a famous painter in the 1500s who is highly revered. It's really bugging me. I can't remember the name. I'd have to look it up, but in life he was a gangster, a real gangster. He murdered a few people and was terrorizing the town, but one of the most brilliant artists known to history. So are a few vocalists that I'm aware of that are very, very good singers, for different bands, who are total jerks, really, really bad people.

Doug: R. Kelly.

Jonathan: R. Kelly. There you go.

Doug: He's a scumbag.

Jonathan: He's extremely talented but yeah, a total scumbag. So I think we can agree that creativity and talent is not necessarily tied to good character.

Doug: Well yeah.

Jonathan: It should be but it's not. I don't listen to R. Kelly because I don't like his style of music, but for people that like that style, is it possible for them to listen to that and not infuse his messed up values?

Erica: I think when songs are repetitive, it's almost impossible not to, when they repeat the same line over and over and over. I notice that with teenagers. They'll sing a song and they're not even aware of what they're actually saying. They're just repeating it. It's almost like a monkey.

Tiffany: That's where knowledge comes in. If you had no idea that R. Kelly was a friggin' child molester, some people do know and they still go "Well I like his music. I didn't know that." But if you don't know some things about the artists whose art you consume, you just don't know and you go on consuming it.

Jonathan: It's interesting. I guess that plays into the idea of taking money from tainted sources where you can use it for good ends, like taking money from the devil or robbing Peter to pay Paul, that kind of thing. So I guess that ties into what I was saying earlier about pearls from swine. There are cases where if you want to, you can pick out positive things from something that might otherwise be negative or, like Tiffany said, you can take the recognition of the negative aspect as a lesson in and of itself, which is valuable. Now if you keep doing it over and over, you're asking for the consequences of that. But I think it's possible to even take something like sitting down to watch a bullshit TV show for three episodes and then feel awful about how I just wasted two-and-a-half hours of my life. Well, the positive thing then to do would be to take that lesson, feel appropriately remorseful about it and not do it anymore.

Doug: Well we have a question in the chat. Somebody's asking "Is music dissociative by definition?"

Tiffany: Yes. That's why it's so good.

Gaby: What if you're learning to play an instrument?

Erica: Yeah, I was just going to say. It can take you to another place, especially classical music or just instrumental. It can take you to a different place, as daydreaming or mind wandering, provide calm, especially if you have a high stress job or family life and just sitting down and listening to a piece of classical music can help calm your spirit or your mind. Is that a bad thing? I don't know. I think that we all need moments of respite and that music can assist in that.

Tiffany: Well what about music that will send chills up your spine?

Gaby: Or down.

Erica: Or bring back memories, positive and negative.

Gaby: Yeah, that's my point of dissociation as a means to touch other realms, to reach other realms. It can be truly like a different state of consciousness. This is why we have to be very mindful of what we're listening to.

Tiffany: Yeah, and the powers that be know that too. That's why it's so heavily manipulated.

Erica: You hear the same things on the radio. I don't listen to the radio either, but when you go into a public place, they play the same top 10 or whatever over and over and over and then you get that little ear worm. You don't even want to be singing that song but it's somehow stuck in that loop in your mind.

Doug: I wonder though if music, in and of itself, is dissociative. What about if somebody is meditating with music on in the background. The goal of meditation is to be very self-aware and really present in the moment. You're not necessarily tuning out the music to do that. So I think maybe we have a tendency to dissociate towards music but I don't know if it's necessarily 100% that music is dissociative.

Gaby: It's a tool. The capability to dissociate is ours.

Jonathan: Yeah, I think that's more the case, that it's more like a neutral tool that can't necessarily be defined in that way. It's how it's used.

Tiffany: Yeah. You can use a hammer to build a house or you can also use it to bash somebody's head. {laughter}

Doug: Good point.

Gaby: It's got to be impossible to dissociate when you're learning how to play an instrument.

Elliot: Yeah, it seems like that.

Erica: It should sound like this {laughter} but it doesn't.

Jonathan: Doug you brought up meditation. I think that's an interesting thing we could talk about because I would argue that's an inherent duality in meditation; it's dissociative and associative at the same time.

Doug: Explain.

Jonathan: You have to get into a certain space. You can't just stop on the sidewalk and meditate necessarily. Somebody might tell me differently, but what I think of as meditation, you just sit down in the middle of the street and do it.

Erica: JP Sears says that how you do it to get ultra-spiritual. {laughter}

Jonathan: I agree that the goal of meditation is mindfulness and that you are concentrating on being mindful but you have to get away from reality in order to do that.

Gaby: Some Tibetan monks actually went to meditate in the cemetery. How well put can you get?

Tiffany: It's still a quiet place though.

Jonathan: But that's part of the point that I was bringing up earlier; those are Tibetan monks. They've dedicated their entire life to doing this. It's like saying "My goal is to be mindful 100% of the time but when is that going to happen or do I think I'll ever reach that point?" I have no idea.

Erica: That's why they call it a practice.

Jonathan: Yeah, exactly.

Erica: Because sometimes it could be a minute or two minutes maybe and then the mind starts taking over. Essentially it's dissociating for anyone who's tried meditation.

Jonathan: And it's a different path. There's the ascetic path where a monk will withdraw from society in order to specifically do this thing. I think it's also possible to pursue those kinds of goals in daily life but you are hamstrung in a certain way because you do have to take the garbage out. You do have to check the mail. Or answer phone calls.

Erica: But that can be meditation too.

Doug: That's the thing. There are traditions where the whole idea is to reach that state while you are doing what you need to do in your life, that it isn't about taking yourself away from life in order to achieve this but that you're here on this planet to do things, even if that's chop wood, carry water. You brought up Gurdjieff before, his whole concept of self-remembering and self-awareness. That's what that is. Having a level of self-awareness while you're in life.

Jonathan: I totally agree. Also just to point out - please correct me if I'm saying this incorrectly - but Gurdjieff said that only a limited number of people were able to do that.

Doug: Well yeah.

Jonathan: So that's why I'm saying we can't necessarily expect everyone to have that goal in their life.

Doug: I'm just talking about our listeners.

Jonathan: Well you guys all have straightened your shit out, but yeah. {laughter}

Gaby: Well maybe a good example is our favourite breathing and meditation program, Éiriú Eolas. You have to set aside time to do it but you don't have to retire from life, be a Tibetan monk or anything or go to the top of a mountain. You can just do it and just by breathing the specific rhythms in the program, using the seed which is the prayer as a meditation, as an anchor for your awareness, that can help you discipline your monkey, your mind and be more aware at whatever level you are in your life. It's specifically tailored for each person's life.

Erica: And I think the seed is good too because it helps keep you anchored, as you said. So we all have that tendency to let our thoughts wander, at least I do, and I find that the seed brings you back to your breathing, to your eyes clear. It's almost like a reminder again and again when the mind starts to wander.

Gaby: And for some people it's pretty difficult and the seed anchor, but also body awareness while you breathe can be very helpful. I have to admit that for me Éiriú Eolas has been difficult.

Tiffany: Yes.

Gaby: And I wanted to ask right at the beginning when Jonathan, you shared that you watch lots of movies. I wanted to ask you, do you remember those movies?

Jonathan: Not all the time, if I'm being honest. Not all the time.

Gaby: Because I was reviewing my journal of ten years ago the last couple of weeks and I had the bad habit of listing the things that I did for the day and the movies I watched. It was like, "Yeah!? I watched that movie!" {laughter} I was dissociated, right?

Erica: Or you watch it and you realize halfway through it that you've seen it.

Tiffany: So that means you were dissociating while you were dissociating.

Gaby: Yeah. Pretty bad, yeah.

Tiffany: There's a lot of movies that I've seen and books that I've read, plots I cannot remember. I know that I saw them and I read them but I can't remember details about them so where was I when I was reading it or watching the movie?

Gaby: Yeah, that's my question. {laughter}

Jonathan: Somewhere else.

Tiffany: Yeah! Where do people go? Is there a specific place? Is it individual for every person? What is that place?

Jonathan: I think that's imagination. If imagination is also just a tool it can either be good or bad or a spectrum in between that you go to your imagination in your mind. It's like zoning out when you're driving like we've mentioned a couple of times. I guess if you were to say "Where are you?" when that happens, you're in whatever space you created in your mind, whether it's a daydream or a place of worry or a place of hope where you're thinking about something that's not what you're doing at the moment. That's kind of where your mind goes.

So if you were in that movie and you don't remember it, you weren't in a place of consciously ingesting the story. You were inhabiting the story in your mind and so you weren't connected. So that might be a reason why you don't remember.

Elliot: If it's something that happened quite a long time ago then it could be that your brain has sort of decided that a lot of the information was quite irrelevant and it has just discarded a lot of that. I've been reading a book recently by a doctor - I think his name is Matthew Walker - called Why We Sleep. I don't want to go too off the subject but he's talking about during sleep how that's one of the functions; the brain is essentially combing through all of the irrelevant pieces of information and scrapping them and then forming or solidifying memories. Like you were talking about before, all of the information input that is coming into the system is so overwhelming so the brain is only going to want to pay attention to a small part of that and then get rid of the rest.

So even for the majority of people, if you were to ask them what they did yesterday, they probably wouldn't be able to tell you. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I'm not saying that it's a good thing but I'm saying that it doesn't necessarily suggest that it is dissociation in and of itself. It may be just a mechanism whereby the brain is discarding useless information.

Gaby: It's like creating space for the new.

Elliot: As long as you don't use that as a reason to not to try to be mindful.

Jonathan: Right.

Gaby: Good point.

Jonathan: It can take all forms. Like we were saying, it can be things that otherwise seem totally innocuous or even beneficial. There was a period of time where I was learning a lot about agates, which are a semi-precious gemstone that come out of Lake Superior and other places in the northern US - they're all over the world - but learning about those stones and how to identify then and going out to the beach and picking them, it was fun learning a new skill. But then there were times where I have sort of OCD tendencies, not really clinical but definitely there, I would leave work early to go out to the beach and look for stones.

So it was starting to get into that thing where all it is is something that I'm obsessed with and that gets in the way of obligations. It can be anything. It can be building a table in the shop, or whatever.

Doug: It kind of comes back to the whole dopamine hit idea too. Some of these things that people are dissociating on, they're getting a dopamine hit out of it. I'm thinking of things like video games or...

Erica: Social media.

Doug: Social media, absolutely. Smart phones. Those things are little dissociation tools, right? "Oh, jeez, awkward pause. How am I going to dissociate? Oh, I've got a phone in my pocket. Okay." And then go into that and get all those dopamine hits and all that kind of stuff. I don't know exactly how I'm trying to relate these things here but I wonder if it is related to that dopamine system, that reward system. Maybe this comes into the whole idea that maybe negative dissociation is how the brain deals with uncomfortableness like boredom or social awkwardness or something going on where the brain needs to take a pause and not deal with this right now.

Erica: Or waiting for results of something.

Tiffany: Yeah. The thing that makes that negative, like say you have this fantasy where you're a rock star or famous person or you won the lottery or something like that and you spend a lot of time thinking about this, in the end it's just an escape from your own dreary life and you're not really taking anything out of that. You're not learning anything. You're not applying any new knowledge in any ways that will make your life better. You're just leaving because you want to feel good and that's what makes it negative.

Doug: There's an addictive quality to it too. You might at first just be checking your Facebook because you're bored but then it gets to the point where that dopamine hit is required. It's like suddenly any time that you're not doing that is when you're uncomfortable and it's an escape from not being on Facebook.

Jonathan: So I guess the key then would be to somehow consciously integrate our apparent need for that into your own life and still be productive.

Doug: Yeah, that's a good point.

Erica: Or learn to assess when you're doing it negatively and when it's for the greater good.

Tiffany: Yeah. First you have to know that you're doing it in the first place.

Doug: Yeah, exactly.

Erica: It's hypothetical.

Gaby: You need discernment.

Jonathan: While we're on the topic of Russian philosophers, another one, Boris Mouravieff, one of the things that he wrote about that was really impactful to me was the idea of inner separation and how you can separate the observer from the subject and we're getting into a super deep thing so I don't mean to take it too far, but most people think of themselves as being a cohesive whole which they are not, and neither am I and neither are you. Nobody is. So the idea then is in your daily life - and the way I and a couple of my friends tended to frame it in such a way that we could talk about it was to call it the white coat. So it's a scientist with a white coat on and a clip board who is standing next to you throughout your life saying "It is now paying for the coffee. It is now getting in the car. It is turning the car on." It sounds very clinical but what happens after doing that for some time is you're then able to say "Oh, it is dissociating" and your observer kicks in while the automatic part is doing something else and that I think is one of the key in being able to do that so that you can catch yourself. Most people can't catch themselves in those moments. That's why you have crimes of passion. People lose their focus.

Doug: Yeah. And it starts off with just very quick, brief moments where it's coming to yourself I guess is the way of putting it, where you realize "Okay. I'm doing this right now." But I think that with more practice it gets to the point where those moments end up being a bit longer or maybe more frequent. Like you said Erica, it's a practice. I don't know that there's ever a final goal, like "Oh, I'm 100% self-aware all the time." "I won! I won it!"

Gaby: Maybe to bring it more down-to-earth so to speak, it's like seeing it from a cognitive perspective, this is more like a top-down approach where you self-observe, you use your cognitive resources to not be able to be controlled by this crazy monkey that is in your brain. It's backed by research and experience, people who live in a perpetual state of traumatic experience like developmental trauma for example, have a great difficulty using these cognitive resources. They're just constantly not only dissociated, just completely broken down so to speak. In these cases there are other tools that can help. For example neurofeedback has been very helpful for a lot of people with developmental trauma. So that's another interesting thing to bring to this dissociation topic.

Doug: Definitely.

Jonathan: We had spoken before the show about bringing up some positive media that people can seek out. Do you guys have any recommendations on that?

Gaby: Yeah! That's a good point.

Jonathan: Dora the Explorer? Is that a good one? {laughter}

Tiffany: The Walking Dead.

Erica: Lord of the Rings.

Tiffany: Like Gaby said earlier, the BBC series where they have the classics.

Erica: Mystery and Masterpiece Theater.

Jonathan: I like Poldark. Have you guys ever watched Poldark?

Tiffany: No.

Doug: No. I've never heard of it.

Jonathan: It's one of the PBS or BBC series.

Elliot: I think it's BBC. I was just going to say that's one of the only reasons - it makes me feel-how can I say it-I feel happy to be British. {laughter} Because of the BBC dramas. They are fantastic. They are absolutely fantastic. It makes me really proud. That's just about the only thing, other than a nice cup of tea, that's the only thing that makes me proud to be British. {laughter}

Doug: Fish and chips.

Gaby: That's why I love your accent. It reminds me of a David Attenborough documentary. {laughter}

Jonathan: That's good.

Gaby: Blue Planet.

Jonathan: You Brits have been writing stories a lot longer than we have so you've got that unlocked.

Tiffany: So we've got the BBC. We have some classical literature.

Gaby: Maybe we should mention a few of the titles, some of my favourites from the BBC. Bleak House. Cranford. That's another great one.

Erica: Midsomer Murders.

Gaby: Well that's pretty cheesy.

Erica: But you try and figure out who the murderer is and you really just don't know.

Gaby: Exactly. That's good positive dissociation. Detective stories. They're mindless detective stories but you just go to bed thinking and resolving your life. {laughter}

Doug: I find that I tend towards science fiction, particularly hard science fiction where it's stuff that really makes you think about the implications, whether it is about certain technologies. Because I think at its heart a lot of times these things are moral questions, and not even necessarily based in technology. It's framed in this sci-fi thing but they can often be more moral.

Gaby: Yeah. It has positive applications if it makes you think differently from these current three dimensional world reality and I think interrelationships. It has a more powerful message. It's a positive dissociation because it's all dynamics that makes up people's lives.

Doug: Yeah. And they're not necessarily happy stories either. One I'm thinking of is Ex-Machina which was a movie out a couple of years ago that was really very powerful science fiction. It had me thinking for a long time after watching that.

Gaby: Is this the robot that has to prove it's artificial...

Doug: Yes.

Gaby: Oh yeah that was very good.

Jonathan: But Black Mirror I think is quite redeeming.

Doug: Yeah.

Jonathan: And Electric Dreams. We were talking about that before the show. It's on Amazon. It's based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? That one is really good. It's very similar to Black Mirror. It's vignettes but it makes you think about where we are in history and culture and what we're doing, what we're doing wrong, what we could do. One of my favourites from Electric Dreams is the autofac that humanity built to make everything more convenient for itself. It's a factory that makes everything and it makes it and distributes it so humanity can just live and have everything made for itself. Well the world goes to crap as a result and the autofac continues to deliver goods so at the point at which people get sick of it and try to shut it down it says "The autofac must have consumers" and so everybody else is going to die if you're not going to consume the goods that come out of the autofac.

So those kinds of lessons are good to watch and think about and get involved in, in your mind and 'how do I apply that to my life'? The Man in the High Castle I think is excellent, absolutely excellent. It's very well written. The original story is great but the show they did on Amazon, they nailed it. I think it's really good. It's historical fiction. Long story short - what would happen if the Nazis won WWII and then they took over America. The eastern United States east of the Rockies is the Fourth Reich and west of the Rockies is essentially the Japanese empire in the story. But it's modern. It's set in the '60s. So what are the 60s like if America is ruled by the Germans and the Japanese?

So your Joe Blow police officer is wearing a Nazi armband. It's that kind of thing and it takes you out of your current context and puts you in something else that makes you think about what your life is like. I think that's applicable in what you're saying about science fiction. That's why I also really like sci-fi.

Tiffany: Yeah, that's the reason I really like it too. I also like dystopian sci-fi, dystopian futures where you have to put yourself in the shoes of the main character and try to figure out what you would do in that situation. I love that movie The Road but it was such a bleak and horrible movie, but it really made you think.

Doug: Or Children of Men. That was another one.

Tiffany: Yeah, I love movies like that.

Jonathan: Children of Men was good.

Elliot: Yeah. The end of the world movies, similar to The Walking Dead where the main characters come across some various scenarios which would probably never take place in our modern day world, or as it is now, but they can allow you to get to a place in your mind where you're trying to figure out, "Okay, how would I do that?" In an example, say, if the floor just split into two and you had to jump across and then you had to decide who you were going to save. You had a baby in your hands or you have your wife and your kids and you have to choose. That's a funny example, but you know what I'm saying.

Jonathan: Totally. I think you can apply the lessons from those kinds of shows to stuff that actually exists in your life too. One thing from The Walking Dead that makes me think of the concept of trust, how and why do I trust people? Do I or don't I? And if I don't, is it legitimized or am I being paranoid? You think about those lessons and how to apply them. I think it's totally reasonable to take that kind of lesson from a show or from some sort of a drama.

Tiffany: Or 'how can I develop my knowledge so well that I can read people without having to know them for years and years and know whether they're trustworthy or not?'

Jonathan: I would like to make an argument that Queer Eye for the Straight Guys is a redeeming show, specifically the new one. I wasn't very familiar with the old one but Netflix re-released Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. What it is, is this group of five gay men who go around and they make over straight men. It's gimmicky. It is what you think it is. {laughter} So they're like Nascar dudes. The guy has been married to his wife for 30 years and there's no passion in their relationship anymore and that kind of thing. My argument for it is though it seems very campy, I have discovered that at the end of the episodes I'm thinking about compassion, understanding, how to get and keep my life together, how to take care of myself, how to present myself to the world and to the people I love. Am I giving back the investment that other people give to me? These are the things I find myself thinking about when the shows are done. So I have to think about it being a positive influence even though it seems dumb. That's my argument.

Eric: And is that like a reality TV show?

Jonathan: Yeah. They pick the subjects and they pick them to be interesting, like the Nascar guy or the cop who's got a big gut and eats donuts all day and doesn't take care of himself. The funny part about it is, it's the guys who are people who are usually either really uptight or straight up homophobic and they just have to get over it to do this show. So those kinds of things I think are fun. But the lessons in the show I think are really interesting. I don't mean to belabour the point. I just thought it was kind of funny. If you're not watching it because you think it's dumb, at least try one episode.

Tiffany: I don't know. {laughter}

Elliot: Yeah, I don't know about that.

Gaby: How about books for recommendations?

Jonathan: Mostly the subjects are straight guys but one was a gay man who was not out yet to his mom. So in the episode he came out to his mother and it was this really emotional moment and she said "Son, I don't care. I love you." I thought it was great. But of course I'm not associated, I'm dissociated. But in retrospect I can see that the emotions were positive, the outcome was positive. I've thought now more about how I should be more compassionate and understanding of other people. That's my point. Maybe that's just me. Maybe it's specific to how I ingest media. I don't know.

Tiffany: Sounds like it's pushing a homosexualist agenda.

Jonathan: Yeah well.

Tiffany: But I haven't seen it.

Jonathan: But it's fun. It was meant to be a joke but I do think that I would actually make that argument. You mentioned Lord of the Rings earlier, I think that's one of the top ones, talking about archetypal redeeming stories. I think Lord of the Rings is right up there.

Erica: Overcoming challenges.

Tiffany: The hero's journey.

Jonathan: The hero's journey, yeah. That's another thing. Pretty much every story that's based on the hero's journey is redeeming in some way because that's the archetype of conquering adversity.

Tiffany: That's why everybody loves superhero movies so much.

Jonathan: Totally.

Doug: It's true.

Jonathan: What's the Marvel show? Not Avengers.

Doug: Agents of Shield?

Jonathan: Yeah, Agents of Shield, yeah, that is a great show. It's totally campy.

Doug: I've never seen it.

Jonathan: Oh man! You have hours of wonderful association ahead of you! {laughter}

Doug: I do like some superhero movies.

Jonathan: Yeah. Daredevil, even while violent I thought was quite good.

Doug: Yeah, I did too. I only saw the first season though but it was quite good. It was violent though - disclaimer.

Jonathan: Yeah, extremely violent.

Doug: It's not going to be everybody's piece of cake, no.

Jonathan: That's a funny thing too. Of course we could go on and on about this but the standards around media and censorship. Now I think it's beginning to change but it was not okay to use certain language or to show certain body parts in a film but you could kill as many people as you wanted. There was a huge double standard there. Now with streaming services the FCC is kind of losing its teeth. I think that that is becoming more normalized, where now you can actually get what the writer intended the story to be, whatever that might be. That's the angle I approach it from, whatever the content might be; is it the intended written story?

Doug: Right.

Jonathan: South Park. {laughter}

Erica: The Simpsons.

Jonathan: Totally, totally can make a lengthy academic argument for the importance of South Park. {laughter} But I won't get into that.

Doug: I would agree with you. The social commentary is pretty excellent I have to say.

Jonathan: And the fart jokes also great.

Doug: Also great.

Jonathan: Alright. I think we are coming up on our time. Should we go to Zoya's pet health segment for today and then we'll wrap up when we come back?

Tiffany: It's on animal spies.

Zoya: Hello and welcome to the Pet Health Segment of the Health & Wellness Show. This week's topic has to do with covert operations and espionage. And why not when there is a supporting scandal by Ruskies and as they say, likely Putin himself is hot in the news right now. But since this segment deals with the more or less furry inhabitants of this planet, let us speculate that Putin isn't to blame for the poisoning per se. But perhaps it is one of his dogs! Who knows? Maybe Putin trained his Akita Inu to travel incognito to the UK and then use his highly developed canine sense of smell to find Skripal and his daughter and then get close to them, wag his tail in a cute way, and then release the neurogenic poison. What a deceit!

Yeah, and if you think this scenario is ridiculous listen to the following news report by RT where they discuss how various nations have been spending millions of dollars on programs to create animal spies. Have a great weekend and don't forget to pay attention to the Akita next door. She may be a Kremlin bot. До свиданья [Duh svee-dah-nee-ye].

RT: In recent weeks we've seen more than one news story where animals became spies and criminals. A vulture was recently detained in Saudi Arabia and labelled as an Israeli spy because it was carrying a GPS transmitter from Tel Aviv University. Before that, Egyptian authorities have speculated that Israel put blood thirsty sharks off the coast of Egypt in order to hurt tourism.

And as outlandish and ridiculous as all these claims may sound, there is in fact a rich history globally of nations spending millions of dollars on programs to create animal spies, bombs, telephones, you name it! So we're going to take a look back at some of the most popular, most inhumane and perhaps biggest wastes of money when it comes to turning our furry friends into military machines. Joining me from our studio in Los Angeles to discuss it is Cord Jefferson, culture editor at Good.

Now Cord, thank you so much for joining us.

Cord: Thanks for having me.

RT: These stories seem so crazy but there really is a rich history here. I want to go through a few of them. Let's start with his acoustic kitty story. Apparently they spent $20 million on this. Can you tell me more.

Cord: Yeah, acoustic kitties is one of my favourites. It turns out that the CIA during the Cold War era tried to outfit a cat with acoustic equipment to spy on the Russians. They did a lot of surgeries on it. They even installed an antenna in its tail apparently and then during its first mission, after spending about $20 million on the cat, during its first mission which was supposed to take place at the Russian compound in Washington, D.C., the cat was promptly run over by a taxi cab and killed and it wasted all of the money.

RT: That's just horrible. These stories make me really sad. Another one was introduced in 2006 and is something they're still developing - bomb sniffing bees. Do we have any proof that these things can actually work, that they're better than dogs out in the field?

Cord: Well there is proof that the bees can smell C4 explosives and dynamite and TNT and things of that nature. Whether or not they can be used as efficiently as dogs has yet to be seen but I think they're just trying to promote this technology in any way possible and sort of see what animals are capable of. So while they haven't been able to yet harness the power of bees to be able to smell out dynamite and whatnot in these kinds of situations, the technology exists and science proves that it can work.

RT: Well let's talk about something else that could sniff out which is gerbils. Apparently gerbils were used because they could smell an increase in adrenaline of someone who's getting a little nervous at the airport.

Cord: Yeah, this is really fascinating. The Canadian government actually discovered that gerbils could detect a rise in adrenaline in people's sweat. So Te Aviv in Israel is constantly looking for ways to detect terrorism, as you know. So the Tel Aviv airport actually started using gerbils in strategically placed locations around the airport to smell people's sweat and detect if there was an increase in adrenalin. The problem with that was that it turned out that the gerbils couldn't distinguish between rises in adrenalin because a person was a terrorist or rises in adrenalin because a person was just afraid of flying. So that idea, while kind of ingenious, it was also scrapped eventually.

RT: You could be nervous for a variety of reasons. It's not like a human can necessarily instantly say who's a terrorist and who just doesn't like to fly. But here they are trying with animals. I want to go on to another one. It's something we've actually covered on this show before which is using killer dolphins to perhaps get spies in the water and I know sea lions. We're still using this technology, right?

Cord: Yeah, actually there are dolphins patrolling a naval base off the coast of Washington State constantly 24 hours a day. The technology that they have with dolphins - speak of ingenious - it is amazing. Dolphins are very smart. They're very fast. So using them to patrol oceans and to patrol the ocean around a ship and also to patrol a naval base is actually pretty amazing and very feasible. They've also trained sea lions to cuff underwater spies' legs with leg cuffs to prevent them from swimming if they detect an intruder in the water.

So these ones are a bit less inhumane than the kinds in my article like the anti-tank dogs that exploded to destroy tanks in WWII. These ones are actually pretty amazing where it's kind of a symbiotic relationship where the dolphins are going to be swimming anyway. They're treated humanely by the US government and as situations like the USS Cole can show you, where terrorists were able to undetectably destroy a US ocean liner, it can actually be very beneficial for our government as well.

RT: Now I just wonder. We have so many advances in technology today, do you find it at all odd that we still try to rely on animals?

Cord: I think that in some ways it is odd but I think that there's also some truth to the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Dolphins are doing a great job right now of patrolling the ocean for us, better than any technology that we've been able to come up with. So I think that asking them to do these jobs for us as long as we treat them humanely and as long as they don't hate it, I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. I think that once we have technologies that emerge that are able to do these jobs better then let's let the dolphins go. But as long as it goes now, it isn't as primitive as it sounds.

RT: Well definitely very interesting. You went over the eight strangest government programs.

Cord: Yeah.

RT: I didn't get to go over all of them, but people can check out your piece.

Cord: There's a lot more.

RT: It's still something that the government is doing. I don't know whether the killer sharks in Egypt really were an Israeli spy, but...

Cord: I think that that's kind of a long shot.

RT: Cord, thank you so much for joining us.

Cord: Thank you.

Jonathan: Careful. The goats are spying on us. That was fascinating. Thanks Zoya. I find myself wondering - did he say at the beginning it was a vulture that they declared an Israeli spy? Or a pigeon? I didn't catch what word it was but I thought it would be really funny if you could make a legal argument that the government had declared vultures to be sentient because they had said that it was a spy and a spy would have to have some sort of intent. Just a funny thought.

But it's pretty fascinating. We got a new puppy in January and have been raising and training her and she's incredibly smart. I can see totally how a lot of this is possible. I've never personally encountered some of the highly intelligent creatures like dolphins or elephants but when you come across a really smart dog where they seem to actually understand English, it's really weird.

Anyway, that is our show for today so I'd like to thank everybody for turning in. Go out and watch out for what you're watching I guess. {laughter}

Erica: Watch yourself, what you're watching.

Jonathan: Keep an eye on your awareness and your presence, whether or not you're here now. Everybody say Ram Dass thing to "be here now".

Doug: Be here now.

Jonathan: Yeah. Alright. We will be back next week so thanks to everybody in the chat. We had a pretty busy chat today so that was cool. We will see you next Friday.

All: Good-byes.