Friday, February 19, 2010

Emotional Gambits, Neural Threat Environments, and the Four Horsemen of Divorce


(Edmund Leighton, The Accolade)


Predicting Divorce

In the popular book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the ability of psychology professor John Gottman to determine---with a reported 96% accuracy rate---whether or not a married couple will get divorced. This feat is impressive even before considering that Gottman can make his predictions after observing how the couple interacts for only five minutes in his "Love Lab", a sort of wired, pseudo-bed-and-breakfast facility on the University of Washington campus. The Love Lab is used for recording how couples interact during weekend getaways.

Although Gottman's primary research field is marriage, his work generalizes to most human relationships, and even those who have never been married will quickly recognize the scenario pictures that he paints.

In writing this kind of post, I realize that some readers may find it incongruous, perhaps even disturbing, for an anarcho-capitalist who trains in MMA and keeps assault rifles, tactical knives, and a notoriously dangerous Japanese breed of hunting/fighting dog in the home to be blogging about sensitive ways to resolve relationship conflicts. I personally see the two areas as providing a satisfying synergistic effect---we can look at it from the "drive to bond" and "drive to defend" perspective, view this as a yin-yang complementarity issue, see them as different tools on the limbic system approach-withdrawal continuum, or use some other abstraction that makes sense.

I only wish that I had begun making a sincere study of relationship dynamics many years ago. In other words...don't be like me, because I prove the truth of Ben Franklin's maxim: "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."

Because of the importance of the subject and its applicability to all manner of situations, from de-escalating potentially violent, emergency events at a bar or football game to avoiding divorce, among the most emotionally brutal threats in the modern environment, this blog topic seemed particularly important.

Gottman and Goleman

Gottman's work is in some ways an applied extension of Daniel Goleman's study of "EQ", or "Emotional Intelligence." EQ as Goleman defines it is a multi-factor form of intelligence that is distinct from what psychometricians term "g", the general intelligence factor that is (to some extent) measured by IQ tests. The core ability of EQ is the capacity to avoid creating so-called "amygdala hijackings"---blind emotional responses that view the world in stark, frequently inappropriate fight-or-flight terms---in both oneself and other people. A person of genius-level EQ would not only remain in control of public displays of harsh negative emotionality, but would be extremely good at de-escalating or even pre-empting amygdala hijackings in those around him or her.

Goleman is optimistic in that he maintains that EQ can be raised through training and practice (of course, a Helen Fisher student would predict that "Negotiator" personalities would have a natural advantage in this area), and his books provide all kinds of useful examples and ideas for how we can go about this.

John Gottman's particular task is to describe how EQ works in the context of successful marriages (or any serious romantic relationship, really), and he starts to do this by breaking down the relationship destruction cycle into phases.

Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse



Gottman's model for divorce prediction has five components:

1. Harsh Start-Up. Gottman maintains that the best way to predict how a conversation will end is by observing how it begins. The initial framing of the conversation has a strong influence on the outcome nearly 100%of the time. This is why a critical, abusive, or accusatory start-up pretty much dooms the rest of the conversation.

2. The Four Horsemen. The presence of these negative interactions alone gives Gottman a divorce prediction accuracy rate of over 80% (observing failures in repair attempts take him to 96%). As he says, "Certain kinds of negativity, if allowed to run rampant, are so lethal to a relationship that I call them the Four Horsmen of the Apocalypse. Usually these four horsemen clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling."

Horseman 1: Criticism. Gottman: "You will always have some complaints about the person you live with. But there's a world of difference between a complaint and a criticism. A complaint only addresses the specific action at which your spouse failed. A criticism is more global---it adds on some negative words about your mate's character or personality.

Horseman 2: Contempt. Gottman: "...this sarcasm and cynicism are types of contempt. So are name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt---the worst of the four horsemen---is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It's virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you're disgusted with him or her."

Horseman 3: Defensiveness. Gottman: "Although it's understandable that (the victim of the criticism and contempt) would defend herself, research shows that this approach rarely has the desired effect. The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner...defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it's so deadly...criticism, contempt, and defensiveness don't always gallop into a home in strict order. They function more like a relay match---handing the baton off to each other over and over again, if the couple can't put a stop to it."

Horseman 4: Stonewalling. Gottman: "...where discussions begin with a harsh start-up, where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, which leads to more contempt and more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. This heralds the arrival of the fourth horseman."

3 and 4. Flooding and Body Language. Gottman mentions how the amygdala hijacking scenario that Goleman articulates so well becomes a regular feature of toxic relationships:

Usually people stonewall as a protection against feeling flooded. Flooding means that your spouse's negativity---whether in the guise of criticism or contempt or even defensiveness---is so overwhelming, and so sudden, that it leaves you shell-shocked. You feel so defenseless against this sniper attack that you learn to do anything to avoid a replay. The more often you feel flooded...the more hypervigiliant you are for cues that your spouse is about to 'blow' again...the way to do that is to disengage emotionally from the relationship.

I would be able to predict divorce simply by looking at physiological readings...when we monitor couples for bodily changes during a tense discussion, we can see how physically distressing flooding is. ...Recurring episodes of flooding lead to divorce for two reasons. First, they signal that at least one partner feels severe emotional distress... Second, the physical sensations of being flooded---the increased heart rate, sweating, and so on---make it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving discussion.

When your body goes into overdrive during an argument, it is responding to a very primitive alarm system we inherited from our prehistoric ancestors. All those distressful reactions...occur because on a fundamental level your body perceives your current situation as dangerous. ...from an evolutionary perspective, not much time has passed since we were cave-dwellers. So the human body has not refined its fear reactions---it responds the same way, whether you're facing a saber-tooth or a contemptuous spouse demanding to know why you can never remember to put the toilet seat back down....you're left with the most reflexive, least intellectually sophisticated responses in your repertoire: to fight (act critical, contemptuous, or defensive) or flee (stonewall).




5. Failed Repair Attempts. From Gottman: "It takes time for the four horsemen and the flooding that comes in their wake to overrun a marriage. And yet divorce can so often be predicted by listening to a single conversation between newlyweds. How can this be? The answer is that by analyzing any disagreement a couple has, you get a good sense of the pattern they tend to follow. A crucial part is whether their repair attempts succeed or fail. Repair attempts...are efforts the couple makes to de-escalate the tension during a touchy period---to put on the breaks so flooding is prevented."

Gottman notes that repair attempts are the final defensive line against downward emotional spirals. "In unhappy marriages, a feedback loop develops between the four horsemen and the failure of repair attempts. The more contemptuous and defensive the couple is with each other, the more flooding occurs, and the harder it is to hear and respond to a repair. And since the repair is not heard, the contempt and defensiveness just get heightened, making flooding more pronounced, which makes it more difficult to hear the next repair attempt, until finally one partner withdraws."

Men Stonewall and Flood, Women Launch Harsh Start-Ups

The best approach to avoiding divorce, then, is a layered one that attacks each of the phases in the down-cycle. The research that has come out of Gottman's lab has indicated that "men are more easily overwhelmed by marital conflict than are their wives", so any relationship therapy which pushes confrontation, negative emotional disclosure, lack of clear gender roles, and criticism is going to create serious psychological burdens for the man. Gottman finds that many situations are started by women because women are ultimately less stressed by emotional/relationship conflict.

Gottman:

In 85 percent of marriages, the stonewaller is the husband...the reason lies in our evolutionary heritage. Anthropological evidence suggests that we evolved from hominids whose lives were circumscribed by very rigid gender roles, since these were advantageous to survival in a harsh environment. The females specialized in nurturing children (and gathering) and the males specialized in cooperative hunting.

As any nursing mother can tell you, the amount of milk you produce is affected by how relaxed you feel, which is related to the release of the hormone oxytocin in the brain. So natural selection would favor a female who could quickly soothe herself and calm down after feeling stress. Her ability to remain composed could enhance her children's chances of survival by optimizing the amount of nutrition they received. But in the male natural selection would reward the opposite response. For these early cooperative hunters, maintaining vigilance was a key survival skill...

To this day, the male cardiovascular system remains more reactive than the female and slower to recover from stress....Psychologist Dolf Zillman...has found that when male subjects are deliberately treated rudely and then told to relax for twenty minutes, their blood pressure surges and stays elevated until they get to retaliate. But when women face the same treatment, they are able to calm down during those twenty minutes. (Interestingly, a woman's blood pressure tends to rise again if she is pressured into retaliating!) Since marital confrontation that activates vigilance takes a greater physical toll on the male, it's no surprise that men are more likely than women to attempt to avoid it.



(natural hunters, like these Rhodesian Selous Scouts, have aggressive vigilance systems and testosterone circuits, a combination which can cost them dearly on the domestic front: for these and other reasons, divorce rates in elite military units typically exceed 90%)

Findings from "The Love Lab"

Gottman explains that most forms of relationship therapy or counseling fail because they proceed from the assumption that a core problem in most situations is a blockage of emotional expression. When both parties are able to be honest and disclose their true feelings in a safe, nonjudgmental environment, the theory goes, then the couple can form a more genuine emotional bond.

From Gottman:

The most common technique recommended for resolving conflict---used in one guise or another by most marital therapists---is called active listening. For example...Judy is upset that Bob works late most nights. The therapist asks Judy to state her complaints as "I" statements that focus on what she's feeling rather than hurling accusations at Bob. Judy will say, "I feel lonely and overwhelmed when I'm home alone with the kids night after night while you're working late," rather than, "It's so selfish of you to always work late and expect me to take care of the kids by myself."

Then Bob is asked to paraphrase both the content and the feelings of Judy's message and to check with her is he's got it right. (This shows that he is actively listening to her.) He is also asked to validate her feelings---to let her know he considers them legitimate, that he respects and empathizes with her even if he doesn't share her perspective...Bob is being asked to suspend judgment, not argue for his point of view, and to respond nondefensively. "I hear you" is a common active-listening buzzphrase. Thanks to Bill Clinton, "I feel your pain" may now be the most notorious.

By forcing couples to see their differences from each other's perspective, problem solving is supposed to take place without anger.


Gottman notes that the pioneers of marital therapy took the active listening technique from the work of psychotherapist Carl Rogers. The problem is that active listening was designed for individuals---a single patient meets with his psychotherapist and is encouraged to be honest. The psychotherapist uses nonjudgmental active listening to build rapport and to prevent the patient from self-editing or telling the therapist what he believes the therapist/society would want to hear.

Gottman continues:

Since marriage is also, ideally, a relationship in which people feel safe being themselves, it might seem to make sense to train couples to practice this sort of unconditional understanding...the problem is that it doesn't work...even after employing active listening techniques the typical couple is still distressed...the few couples who benefit relapse within a year. When Consumer Reports surveyed a large sample of its members on their experience with all kinds of psychotherapists, most got very high customer satisfaction marks---except for marital therapists, who got very poor ratings...

Bob might do his best to listen thoughtfully to Judy's complaints. But he is not a therapist listening to a patient whine about a third party. The person his wife is trashing behind all of those "I" statements is him. There are some people who can be magnanimous in the face of such criticism---the Dalai Lama comes to mind. But it's highly unlikely that you or your spouse is married to one of them.


Gottman feels that popular self-help advice leads to extremely unrealistic views of how relationships should work, and creates the illusion that honest communication and "constructive criticism" are key elements of the road to bliss. The prevailing wisdom in most therapy circles is that conflict avoidance will ruin a relationship. In contrast, Gottman finds that successful couples frequently have coping mechanisms in place to avoid conflict as much as possible, and he goes on to say that "...it is probably very clear to you (after reading his book) that there is no such thing as constructive criticism. All criticism is painful. Unlike complaints---specific requests for change---criticism doesn't make a marriage better. It inevitably makes it worse."

Avoid Vicious Feedback Loops



If it appears that Gottman is suggesting that a couple should ignore troubles and the troubles will go away, there is an element of truth to this. He is not alone here: a voluminous quantity of research has concluded that free-ranging emotional self-expression, perhaps being given a virtuous label like "honesty" or "disclosure", may serve a short-term purpose for an individual in a self-absorbed, cathartic way, but it does not generate happy outcomes for relationships.

A feedback loop exists: the limbic system will initiate a feeling of negative emotionality, perhaps irritation, but this could burn out quickly or be suppressed. When an environment is created in which these problems must be discussed openly, the neocortex will be involved and will look for justifications for the initial feeling. It will scan its emotional memories for criticism-worthy failings in one's mate. The criticism in turn triggers subsequent defensiveness or counter-attacks from the other person, and then loops back through the limbic systems of both to create even worse feelings.

We are all probably aware of how fights can start over inane, trivial topics and proceed to spiral, becoming amplified on each pass through the loop that is created, and then become very difficult to withdraw from. The snowball effect can trigger a cascade of resentments and material to fuel new fights.

In other words, social emotional expression is not the terminal state that follows from some internal emotional state: expressing an emotion physically is in itself a catalyst for new, internal emotional representations. We can harbor neutral, even positive feelings until we start criticizing, and then we can start to affect ourselves, elevate our own negative emotionality, and return to the outside world to escalate things even more. The internal state may come first and cause a physical expression; however, the physical state can also lead the subjective emotional feeling.

This all can occur because of a lag between vague, submerged emotional reactions and rationalized, explicit, consciously-accessible and categorized ones. The pre-conscious response may create a physical reaction that reveals itself in, say, physiological stress and body language, and the stress and body language may in turn cause us to consciously create a narrative that explains the stress position by looking for reasons why the other person is a threat. As an excellent book by the same title suggests, "We are strangers to ourselves." The problem with creating a forced outlet for expressing negative emotions is that it prevents the concerned party from thinking it is perfectly acceptable to find ways to internally terminate the negativity---patients are told that this "bottling up" is unhealthy and that the emotions must be allowed to run free.

People like Moshe Feldenkrais and F. Matthias Alexander understood how emotions can influence body language and posture, yet body language and posture can also influence emotions. It has even been proposed that one way to deal with the experience of negative emotional flooding may be to force oneself into physical postures that are not congruent with hostility, since the resulting "neural/physiological confusion" may give an opportunity for a few deep breaths, a relaxation trigger of some kind, and the restoration of relative control.

Those who appreciate a Zen perspective on this could say that a quiet mind and a centered awareness of the "eternal present" would assist in preventing an amygdala hijacking due to relationship stress. Freudians and Jungian psychotherapists might consider this a case of needing to strengthen the "Observing Ego", the self-monitoring capacity of meta-cognition.

In any case, we do know that practice does strengthen this capability, as "neurons that fire together also wire together." Simply exercising conscious control over the process and suppressing a hijacking will make it easier to do this again in the future, as a neural circuit making this a genuine skill will be developed and potentiated.

Accept That Most Problems are Unresolvable


(High-EQ couple Bonnie and Clyde know that they will always have their disagreements, but choose to emphasize the positive by finding an activity that they can both really enjoy)

In marriages, the situation is very perilous because Gottman has found that there are two kinds of marriage conflict: "resolvable" problems and "perpetual" problems that cannot be resolved. One of the reasons why active listening and most marital therapies fail is because about 70% of the problems---in both highly successful and highly unsuccessful marriages, the percentages are quite constant---are of this perpetual, unresolvable variety.

Gottman:

Unfortunately, the majority of marital conflicts fall into this category---69 percent, to be exact. Time and time again when we do four-year follow-ups of couples, we find that they are still arguing about precisely the same issue. It's as if four minutes have passed rather than four years. They've donned new clothes, altered their hairstyles, and gained (or lost) a few pounds and wrinkles, but they're still having the same argument.

It is easy to see why therapy attempts offer so little in the way of tangible performance results, if most therapies mistakenly lead couples to believe that something is seriously, fundamentally wrong with their marriages if nearly 70% of their problems are never "fixed." The therapist gains from this illusion because perpetual problems that are mistakely put in the "solvable" file mean an endless stream of appointments and an audience that has been captured by a cruel hoax.

In fact, one is hard-pressed to conceive of a falsehood that would do more damage to good relationships and generate more divorces.

Gottman continues:

...(successful) couples understand that problems are inevitably part of a relationship, much the way that chronic physical ailments are inevitable as you get older. They are like a trick knee, a bad back, an irritable bowel, or tennis elbow. We may not love these problems, but we are able to cope with them, to avoid situations that worsen them, and to develop strategies and routines that help us deal with them. Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: "When choosing a long-term partner...you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you'll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty, or fifty years...Paul married Alice and Alice gets loud at parties and Paul, who is shy, hates that. But if Paul had married Susan, he and Susan would have gotten into a fight before they even got to the party. That's because Paul is always late and Susan hates to be kept waiting. She would feel taken for granted, which she is very sensitive about. Paul would see her complaining about about this as her attempt to dominate him, which he is very sensitive about. If Paul had married Gail, they wouldn't even have gone to the party because they would still be upset about an argument they had the day before about Paul's not helping with the housework..." And so it goes.

In unstable marriages, perpetual problems like these eventually kill the relationship. Instead of coping with the problem effectively, the couple gets gridlocked over it. They have the same conversation about it over and over again. They just spin their wheels, resolving nothing. Because they make no headway, they feel increasingly hurt, frustrated, and rejected by each other...gradually they feel psychologically overwhelmed. They start a slow process of trying to isolate or enclose this problem area. But actually they have become emotionally disengaged from each other. They are on the course toward parallel lives and inevitable loneliness---the death knell of any marriage.


I would add that an additional issue created by the delusion that all problems must be resolvable is the perpetual search for a perfect relationship. If Paul sees that another woman appears to lack the same problem(s) that he finds unresolvable in his relationship with Alice, he may mistakenly think that the absence of this particular problem somehow prevents the new woman from having her own, temporarily-concealed set of intractable, permanent problems. He will unfortunately learn about his fallacy only after leaving Alice and trying to establish a relationship with the new woman. Weeks or months later, the dopamine-fueled novelty will wear off and he will find himself back at square one, perhaps dealing with a set of problems that, while certainly different from the ones he had with Alice, make him feel even more cynical, lonely, compromised, and sad.

Genuine Relationship Skill vs. Social Manipulation

While Fisher might argue that much of long-term mating success is ultimately dependent on inherent personality compatibilities between the various parties involved, Gottman tends to stay away from personality typing and to emphasize general skills that assist in giving any relationship, no matter how strained by the conflicting personality characteristics of its members, a better survivability percentage. A hybrid, active approach to avoiding break-ups might start with personality typing, but then move on to both generic relationship management approaches (Gottman, Goleman) and approaches that are more tailored to the specific personality being encountered.

A number of books have focused on how various external signals, such as consumer spending habits and choices in clothing, can signal our personality types to perceptive observers. A brief sample of recent works in this field would include Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You, by evolutionary psychologist Sam Gosling (which includes a good description of the Brunswik lens model that was mentioned in an earlier post about decision-making under uncertainty---much more about the Brunswik lens in the future); Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are , by Rob Walker; and Spent, by the ever-insightful Geoffrey Miller.

I would also draw a distinction between exchange-based relationship management skills and persuasion-based relationship management skills. An exchange-based approach, such as the ones offered by Gottman and Goleman, is meant to ultimately benefit both parties. It represents a positive-sum game; the intention is to find or create a win-win solution. A persuasion-based approach, on the other hand, is meant to benefit the persuader; the person on the other side of the table may benefit, too, but the target's benefit is not necessary for a persuasion-based approach to declare victory. The intention is for one side, the side using the persuasion technology, to win.

A short list of disciplines and professions that employ or try to employ systematic persuasion technologies of one description or another would include:

-corporate communications (presentations, negotiations, auctions, neuromarketing)
-persuasion psychology (Cialdini being the leader in the field)
-"social engineering" (penetration testers and so-called "Pick-Up Artists")
-illusion (some trial lawyers, stage magicians, cold-reading psychic charlatans)
-the study of etiquette and manners, particularling in pro-dueling societies
-anthropology (Fisher, Hall and his Proxemics)

We also have skills that may be termed "Persuasion Countermeasures", and these are concerned with detecting deception and manipulation attempts by others. Countermeasures tend to come from military, law-enforcement, and intelligence agency interrogation techniques that have been modified for use when the interrogator does not enjoy a captive subject. I have found a few books dealing with body-language and responses to be particularly interesting (for example, a former FBI Special Agent named Joe Navarro has made a second career out of teaching high-stakes poker players better ways to read tells, and his books are informative and fun. Principles of The Kinesic Interview and Interrogation by Stan Walters is another. There are many out there and I can put together a list of favorites if there is interest).

(Just for a brief tangent in this area: a group of former CIA interrogators and case officers formed a company called Business Intelligence Advisors ((BIA)) to teach countermeasure skills in the corporate world. BIA has codified a system of nonverbal and verbal deception-detection techniques it calls "tactical behavior assessment", or TBA. The story goes that the founders left the Agency because they disagreed with the Bush Administration's policy on special physical measures ((i.e., "torture")) in interrogations---not because they disagreed with physical pain on moral grounds, but because they felt that it would be used by unprofessional/incompetent interrogators and lead to bad intelligence ((presumably they believe torture should generally be trusted only to a small, elite cabal of highly trained interrogators))).

(I became aware of TBA because BIA has made a market in teaching this material to hedge fund managers as part of their ongoing professional development, but BIA certainly has a number of other interesting clients, including some investment banks and Cascade Investments, the personal private-equity firm of Bill Gates. It is normally used by analysts setting out to perform due diligence on potential investments---to uncover deceptions being put forth by senior management teams. I personally have some misgivings about the way that it is being occasionally over-marketed as "foolproof" because I don't think TBA will necessarily work well on the most dangerous, evil-genius, Lex Luthor or Victor von Doom-type uber-criminal masterminds ((who will probably have consumed all of this educational material, anyway, and will know a lot more about this stuff than the analysts themselves do)). It is ultimately an enhancement that gives the user a probabilistic edge in some situations---maybe a CFO is clearly nervous about a line-item on an annual report, perhaps an unfunded liability, and an analyst can tell that the executive is lying and trying to give a bad situation a positive spin. Even with my reservations about some of the marketing hype, I do think that TBA is a very sophisticated and interesting program, and I'd recommend the Principles of the Kinesic Interview book, Cialdini's books, the Navarro stuff, and a few other pieces to anyone who wants a good sense of what TBA is about, but cannot attend a BIA-run class right now).


(Marvel's Victor von Doom claims that he is affable, comedic...just a "misunderstood social scientist" cursed with an unfortunate nickname ((one that he intensely dislikes and fears can make him seem cold and difficult)). Does he deserve our sympathy? Would he be an easy one for an analyst to read?)

The persuasion technology work is tremendously fun to talk about and it consists of a variety of tricks and techniques, some of which seem to be aimed at those of significant intellectual deficit and others of which appear to have more widespread application. Because they are so entertaining, some of these will be the subjects of future posts. However, I would argue that they are not particularly effective, at least in the long run, unless they are built on a fundamental capacity for genuine, good-faith rapport development, and an interest in forming a better understanding of other human beings. The parlor tricks and games can trick or deceive in the short-run and the countermeasures are certainly very valuable if you work among the "morally flexible" or deceptive, but the primary goal should be to be more skilled at forming mutually-beneficial, long-term relationships.

COMING NEXT: The next blog post will be on Gottman's prescription, his concept of a "relationship cure" that can mitigate the effects of the Four Horsemen, amygdala flooding, and the other destroyers. I will also give my initial thoughts on the potential for building an integrated model for interpersonal skill development. This model builds on the great work done by several people we have discussed, including Helen Fisher, Harry Browne, Daniel Goleman, and John Gottman.


....................................

I will close this one out on an upbeat note of Spanish guitar, with a clip of a great musical partnership in action:

5 comments:

  1. Hey Seb -- great stuff and glad to see you sharing it with the world! If you haven't seen Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama's latest book (interesting pairing, huh?) check out EMOTIONAL AWARENESS. The chapter on Compassionate Anger was incredibly liberating for me -- the Dalai Lama talks about wanting to kill someone...

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  2. That's a great book suggestion Marcus! I read it last fall and will probably go back to it again. Very useful from several perspectives and worth trying to implicate into one's every day life and human interactions. Great discussion between those two men.

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  3. Marcus, thank you very much, my friend! That is a very interesting writing duo. Speaking of books---can we expect a new Marcus Wynne thriller to be released soon...?

    Nordicfreya, it sounds like a second vote for the Dalai Lama/Ekman book. I will have to go get it this week.

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  4. Lovely! Glad Marcus suggested the same thing then. ;) Looking forward to discussing it with you. Hope you enjoy the read. :)

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  5. Hey Seb! I just found out via our lovely mutual friend nordicfreya about your blog -- wished I'd known about it before...now I'm sinking time into reading through your back archives (well worth it, though). Great material, Seb. You've been told this enough -- book material here. Just compile it. I'm waiting to hear back on two novels and three screenplays, Seb! My unpublished mss is *extremely* popular as a passed around e-file over in A'stan and elsewhere among shooters, and I've been hammering doors with it. It's an unprecedentedly difficult market right now for authors, in large part because the publishing industry is going through a sea change very similar to what the music industry did when digital music and iTunes etc. became a force. The traditional publishers are like air craft carriers being swarmed by agile wooden speed boats; like most institutions, they continue trying to do the same thing, just harder, while the people who are actually making the transition are doing things completely differently (ala THE LONG TAIL) and making it work. Interesting study, but f***ing difficult to deal with when one is trying to make a living in the middle of it. I'll fill you in on the details offline if you'd like.

    I'm sure you already follow John Robb and Global Guerrillas; I'd be interested in your take on his latest which focuses on reinventing the economy through local resilient community investment.

    And if you haven't read Daniel Suarez's two novels DAEMON and FREEDOM, pick them up when you pick up the Dalai Lama book -- must read for someone in your line...

    Drop me a line, dude!

    cheers, m

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