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Ernest and Kathryn Rossi present their second article in their Leading Edge exploration of quantum physics and the science of psychotherapy. Their first article appeared last year in our September issue (Volume 6, Issue 9, 2018). In this article we are introduced to new research and a discussion of what this could mean for our understanding of the processes that underpin psychotherapy, how they might work and why research into quantum physics continues to be relevant in psychotherapy. With the Rossi’s approval, I have added some comments regarding the implications of the research presented here.
It is unabashedly prescient and speculative, but propositions from the minds of Ernest and Kathryn Rossi warrant our attention. This is truly an article from the Leading Edge. Please send your questions and comments. What can we create from this?
A Quantum Field Theory (QFT): Integrating Feynman’s Path Integral of Physics with Milton Erickson’s Pathways of Effective Consciousness and Cognition in Neuropsychotherapy
Ernest Lawrence Rossi and Kathryn Lane Rossi
We will explore how Richard Feynman’s (1948) Path Integral Theory of Quantum Physics may have equivalence with Milton H Erickson’s (1964/2008) Many Paths to Effective Psychotherapy (see the other Rossi & Rossi article in this issue). There is no evidence that these two geniuses knew of each other’s work. We also have no prior discussion on how quantum physics could serve as a foundation for psychotherapy. Nor was this evident in the early origin of academic psychology research known as psychophysics, first named by German physicist and philosopher, Gustave Fechner, in his publication Elemente der Psychophysik in 1860 (see Boring, 1933, 1950). These early insights into the relationship of physics and psychology were just before the beginning of quantum science by Max Planck and Albert Einstein (~ 1900). We begin with a few quotes from the current issue of Science Magazine and some historic quotes from Richard Feynman that illustrate his Noble Prize-winning insights about the meaning and significance of the quantum world view for the 21st century. Our integration of physics by Feynman and psychotherapy by Erickson motivates us to propose a new quantum foundation for a client-responsive neuropsychotherapy that facilitates natural problem-solving and mind-body healing that is consistent with Milton H Erickson’s many paths model of therapeutic consciousness, cognition and rehabilitation with medical hypnosis (Hill & Rossi, 2017).
The Computable Perspective
In a recent issue of Science, Bravyi, Gosste & König (2018) introduce the computable perspective (describing quantum processes in the context of research into quantum computing). They contrast traditional classical 17th Newton perspective of science with the new quantum world view for the 21st century. Ashley Montanaro (2018) explains the relevance of the breakthrough made by Bravyi et al. in the quest for quantum computing this way:
It is widely believed that large-scale quantum computers, when they are built, will outperform their standard, “classical” counterparts. This supposition has inspired huge public interest and very substantial state and private investment in the development of quantum computing hardware. Yet, is it actually correct? Bravyi, Gosste & König (2018) prove (1) the first rigorous separation between two analogous, natural quantum and classical computational-complexity classes. Quantum computers can solve certain problems, such as integer factorization (2) and simulation of quantum systems (3), exponentially faster than our best classical algorithms. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no rigorous mathematical proof that no better classical algorithm exists. Indeed, it is often extremely challenging to prove separations between computational-complexity classes. In particular, proving the existence of an exponential quantum speed-up would be a major breakthrough in complexity theory. Here, the authors sidestep this barrier by considering the setting of “low-depth” computations. These are computations that can be interpreted as a short sequence of groups of elementary operations (quantum or classical logical gates), where each group of operations takes place in parallel. Bravyi et al., describe an explicit family of problems that can be solved with a quantum circuit of constant depth, whereas any classical circuit must have depth that scales logarithmically with the size of the problem. Further, the quantum circuit contains only operations that act across nearest neighbors. (Montanaro, 2018 , p. 289)
Montarnao’s comments suggest to us there is evidence that a variety of calculations can be made at the quantum level with a constant “depth” of computational capacity. The classical computation, however, has to utilize a geometrically increasing number of calculation gates (the “0” and “1” gates that are the language of computing) as the problem increases in difficulty and complexity. We wonder how this can be translated to the human experience. If, in classical thinking (or what we might colloquially describe as “working it out”), it is harder to solve more difficult problems because of the increasing number of calculation gates required (which in the brain are neurons and/or synapses), than it can be at the quantum level for those problems, even as they become more complex. The problems are solvable faster and more effectively at the quantum level. We know that an individual can work laboriously through a problem and arrive at a realization or solution, but a flash of insight can also produce an equivalent or better answer in an instant which is then permanently transformative. Insights are accompanied by a flash of gamma-wave activity (Jung-Beeman, et al., 2004) – an energetic burst – that seems to transform neurological structures permanently and with seemingly little effort. We suggest that this is experienced in the moment of breakthrough we describe as the 3rd Stage of the creative cycle which precedes a rise of creative activity.
Feynman (1948) originally presented his new quantum perspective in this way.
It is a curious historical fact that modern quantum mechanics began with two quite different mathematical formulations: the differential equation of Schrödinger, and the matrix algebra of Heisenberg. These two, apparently dissimilar approaches were proved to be mathematically equivalent. These two points of view were destined to complement one another and to be ultimately synthesized in Dirac’s transformation theory…
This formulation [that is the subject of Feynman’s paper not reproduced here] was suggested by some of Dirac’s remarks concerning the relation of classical action to quantum mechanics. [Feynman’s paper shows that…] A probability amplitude is associated with an entire motion of a particle as a function of time, rather than simply with a position of the particle at a particular time. The formulation is mathematically equivalent to the more usual formulations. There are, therefore, no fundamentally new results.
However, there is a pleasure in recognizing old things from a new point of view. Also, there are problems for which the new point of view offers a distinct advantage. . . In addition, there is always the hope that the new point of view will inspire an idea for the modification of present theories, a modification necessary to encompass present experiments. (Feynman, 1948, pp 1-2). (Italics added)
Let us now enjoy Feynman’s “pleasure in recognizing old things from a new point of view” and explore whether this “new point of view about quantum mechanics could inspire ideas for the amplification of present theories” of cognitive/behavioral psychotherapy when we supplement them with our new quantum inspired reality neuropsychotherapy.
Feynman’s path integral formulation: the “many paths” idea made simple
The path integral formulation is a tool for calculating quantum mechanical probabilities. Feynman’s recipe, applied to a particle travelling from A to B, is the following:
Step 1: Consider all the possibilities for a particle travelling from A to B. This results in an infinite number of possibilities that include not just movements in straight lines, but loops and curves, varying velocities and making diverse detours:
This illustration only shows six of the infinite number of possibilities. It is possible that the particle went via Saturn or stopped for a rest along the way or even travelled via another galaxy. In short, the first step is to take into account all ways of travelling from A to B, however outlandish they may seem.
Step 2: Show mathematically which pathways cancel each other out, as we see with waves of opposite amplitude. The calculation ends up with all the outlandish pathways cancelling each other out, leaving those pathways that require the least action or the most efficient action. That often turns out to be the most direct, but also the most efficient or effective pathway (which is not necessarily a straight line). Physicists call such a sum over all possibilities a path integral or sum over histories.[wlm_private “1 Year Subscription|3 Year Subscription|NPT Standard|NPT Basic|Staff|NPT Premium|NPT Standard Monthly|2 Year Subscription”]
Reality Is: The Feynman/Erickson Many Pathways Integrals
We begin with an update of our integrated quantum field theory (QFT) of consciousness, cognition and neuropsychotherapy in Figure 1 on the following page. Notice how the outer labels in bold font suggest how some of the historical leaders in psychotherapy were experts who emphasized (without realizing or making it explicit) one stage or other of the 4-stage basic-rest activity cycle of biology with its associated 4-stage creative cycle of psychology. We mention some of the Nobel Prize winning scientists who formulated the fundamental concepts and equations of quantum field theory and told something about their personal stories, struggles and pathways of discovery in their Nobel Prize lectures over the past century (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/lists/all-nobel-prizes). While none of these scientists raised their hand and solemnly intoned explicitly how they used the 4-stage creative cycle to win their Nobel Prize, we notice how many of their personal stories could be identified with the various stages of creative cycle in Figure 1. Figure 1 is a quantum update of the two volumes on our natural mind/brain/body circadian (~24 hours) and ultradian basic rest-activity cycles (BRAC ~ 90-120 minutes (Lloyd & Rossi, 1992, 2008).
Stage 4 of the Creative Mathematician’s Toolbox: Insightful Simplification/Re-Integration
Most recently Ben Orlin’s wife (2018), who is a research mathematician, pointed out a typical path in stage 4 of the creative process that well-describes the essential simplification/re-integration of the Feynman Quantum Path Integral and Milton H. Erickson’s Paths of Effective Psychotherapy.
Step #1: There’s a tricky and exciting question on the loose, an important conjuncture in need of proof. Many try to tame the beast, without success.
Step #2: Someone finally proves it, via long and convoluted argument that’s full of insight but very difficult to follow.
Step #3: Over time, new proofs are published, growing shorter and simpler, shorter and simpler, until eventually the original proof is relegated to “historical” status: an inefficient Edison-era lightbulb made obsolete by sleeker, more modern designs.
Why is this trajectory so common?
Well, the first time you arrive at the truth, you’ve often come by a jagged and meandering path. To your credit, it takes patience to survive all the twists and turns. But it takes a more profound patience to keep thinking afterward. Only then can you sort the necessary steps from the superfluous ones, and perhaps boil that sprawling 120-page proof down to a seamless 10-pager. A good mathematician can remember all the details – a great mathematician can forget all the details [and with a simple but profoundly insightful equation like Einstein’s iconic: Energy Equals Mass multiplied by the speed of light squared: E = MC^2](Orlin, 2018, p. 40).
It is interesting to note here how Milton H. Erickson used the same insightful simplification/re-integration process in formulating a set of naturalistic suggestions for a particular patient’s personal problems. Erickson began by actually writing down in longhand about 10 to 30 pages of everything he believed would be of benefit to his patient. He then summarized these pages about 50% reduction that he believed would be most effective for his patient. And then he would reduce that another 50% to about a page or two he would actually say to the patient.
In a classical structure, Erickson would work out the possibilities and gradually reduce the number of potential “pathways” of effective words to say to the client. As we described earlier, working things out in the classical context is linear and requires increasing amounts of resources. Erickson perservered with the process and in a parallel with Feynman’s many paths, some would cancel each other out and others would be easily recognized as outlandish. Finally, a small number of things to say to the client were left. Erickson still did not know which would be the most effective for the client, but he also realized that the purpose of the therapist was to return the burden of responsibility for effective therapy back to the client. We have continued to refine that intention in the mirroring hands approach and protocol. The therapist is encouraged to step back and, as much as is reasonable and safe, allow the client to create/discover their own words, feeling, and actions that they feel are the most beneficial for themselves. In contrast to Erickson’s analogous effort, clients are able to determine the best path to beneficial change rapidly and with surprising mental ease.
We have been known to say to students of mirroring hands, with all honesty, “What kind of genius would the therapist have to be to determine what the client has just discovered privately, utilizing their own resources within?” Is it reasonable to suggest that the client is able to find a resolution without the laborious effort of working out each possibility, such as writing each one down, because the client has accessed the answer through quantum calculations, somewhere within their neuropsychobiology, that rapidly determine the most beneficial pathway(s) to effective therapy?
Is it then reasonable to look at the way in which pathways have been developed in neural structures and appreciate how these pathways may have both observable functionality that is based on the existence of the brain’s physical properties and also the potential of rapid information flow in the quantum space that is not limited by biological structure as we saw in the computational perspective by Bravyi, et al.?
The Pathways of Consciousness and Cognition in Neuropsychotherapy
The Centre for Synaptic Plasticity at the University of Bristol describes the neural pathways of the brain, mind, and information flow like this:
The hippocampus is perhaps the most studied structure in the brain. Together with the adjacent amygdala, it forms the central axis of the Limbic System. It is critical to spatial learning and awareness, navigation, episodic/event memory, associational recollection . . . and much more.
The hippocampus is formed by two interlocking sheets of cortex and in cross-section has a very defined laminar structure with layers visible where rows of pyramidal cells are arranged. The connections within the hippocampus generally follow this laminar format and, as a rule, are unidirectional. They form well-characterized closed loops that originate mainly in the adjacent entorhinal cortex. Thus, there are defined routes for information flow making the hippocampus a very popular target for the study of synaptic function. The different cell layers and sections are defined by the series of connections made. The main pyramidal cell layers are the CA1-4 regions (principally CA1 and CA3) and the dentate gyrus.
The perforant path is the major input to the hippocampus. The axons of the perforant path arise principally in layers II and III of the entorhinal cortex (EC), with minor contributions from the deeper layers IV and V. Axons from layers II/IV project to the granule cells of the dentate gyrus (DG) and pyramidal cells of the CA3 region, while those from layers III/V project to the pyramidal cells of the CA1 and the subiculum. The perforant path can be segregated into lateral and medial pathways (LPP and MPP, respectively), depending on whether the fibers arise from the lateral or medial entorhinal cortex. It was in this pathway that long-term potentiation (LTP) was first discovered. (www.bristol.ac.uk/synaptic/pathways)
The Centre for Synaptic Plasticity at the University of Bristol illustrates the neural pathways of brain, mind and information flow in Figure 2.
With this well documented background of the actual pathways of the hippocampal learning networks of the brain, mind and information flow added to our integrated quantum field theory of physics, math, biology and psychology we can now update Milton H Erickson’s (1964/2008) approach to medical hypnosis, problem solving and rehabilitation. We will explore this quantum inspired mirroring of reality as essence of neuropsychotherapy in greater detail in Part 2 of this paper as we explore examples of successful therapy that did not rely on the structured actions of the therapist, but the private, natural problem-solving capacities of the client.[/wlm_private]