Scotland Rambles

With a very affordable ticket from Euston to Glasgow, we set off on our 5.5 hour train ride up through the west side of England, through Cumbria and into Scotland. The last long train ride we took was the sleeper from Toulouse to Paris, and I must admit, that whilst I didn’t sleep terribly well on the night train, I did not suffer the travel sickness I felt on the bouncy Virgin train. Both of us looked a little pasty at one point. That aside, it was a smooth journey with increasingly dramatic landscape to look at.

Arriving in Glasgow Central train station, we had a short 5-minute walk to Glasgow Queen Street. Up a pedestrianized street with cafes, friendly and helpful police (do we really look like lost tourists?) and some young street performers who look like the fell off the back of the truck from ‘O brother where are thou?’ Another 30 minutes on another train and we arrived in Linlithgow.

The name, Linlithgow, is derived from the Old British lynn llaith cau meaning “lake in the damp hollow”. There is a lake, next to the palace (birth place of both James V and Mary Queen of Scots) and the grounds were having a festival of sorts. Folk etymology ties the name back to the Gaelic liath gu – “grey dog”, and the burgh arms sport a black bitch. St. Michael is their patron saint, with the motto: kinde to straingers… not something that appeared to have been embraced by the locals we met on our passage. Any way, I digress. We took a cab to our final destination of Bo’Ness.

Borrowstounness is a coastal parish. Sitting on a steep hillside, it has lovely views across the Firth of Fourth to the northern hills. This name is derived from the Old English Beorn ‘warrior/man’ or ‘bear’ + weard, ‘warden, guardian, keeper’ + stun ‘town’ that later morphed to Borrowstoun, and now, contracted to Bo’ness.

The Antonine Wall, representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, starts at Bo’ness and stretches between the Firth of Forth and the Kirth of Clyde to Old Kilpatrick on the west coast of Scotland. But what 7 year old cares about that?! There’s the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in Scotland, the hippodrome. Opened in 1912, this is the oldest surviving cinema, now showing Captain Underpants, but more importantly, we have the Bo’ness and Kinneil heritage Railway Museum.

Operated by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway Museum operates a total of over 5 miles of track. Round trip was about 1-hour with a couple of stops that you can get off at if you want to roam around. It has largest railway museum in Scotland with three large buildings containing lots of locomotives and carriages that you can wander around and in to, including a Royal Mail sorting carriage.

The museum is also home to the No. 1 Lord Roberts (Neilson Reid 0-6-0T) – better known as Thomas the Tank Engine. This engine was built in 1899 in Glasgow and was withdrawn from service in 1968. After being donated to the SRPS, its restoration was completed in 1996 when it became a fully licensed Thomas replica for events. With a museum admission price of a fiver for adults, and free for kids under 16 (with an adult), this was a perfect option for my little man. The train ride was a bit more.

The Explorer Pass. But how can you come to Scotland and not go and see the Castles?! And what a lot of Castles to see… in various states of ruin and grandeur. The Explorer Pass provides access to over 70 locations (entry to Stirling and Edinburgh castles alone exceed the cost of the explorer). Valid for three days (over a five day period), there’s a decent amount of flexibility to get around.

Stirling Castle – One of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, the first record dates from around 1110 when Alexander I established the chapel and royal center here.

Placed at the top of Castle Hill, three sides of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs. There are still a few structures from the fourteenth century, but the outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century Before the union with England, Stirling Castle was one of the most used of the Scottish royal residences, being a palace as well as a fortress. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here in 1542.

Most of the buildings that we walked around were constructed between 1490 and 1600 when the Stewart kings, James’s IV, V and VI, developed Stirling as a principal royal centre. The Stewart Dynasty, eager to flaunt their international style, prowess and ambitions, used an eclectic mix of English, French and German architectural influences. Mary of Guise, married to James V, also brought her tailor from France to ensure she would be appropriately and fashionably dressed.

On the palace façade, there is a strategically positioned sculpture of James V looking towards his carefully selected other statues, Ganynede – cup bearer to the gods, Venus, Saturn, and Abundance! All representative of the greatness he would bring to his rule.

On the South Wall, more sculptures include one that is thought to represent Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, obviously a very busy man given his role in the architecture, design and reinforcements of several other castles we saw.


Above the Royal Palace rooms is a gallery dedicated to the original oak Stirling Heads – these impressive metre-wide 16th-century oak medallions were hand-carved with images of kings, queens, nobles, Roman emperors and characters from the Bible and Classical mythology. The faces are quite extraordinary as they distort on the far side of the flat. The medallions have been replicated to re-decorate the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall.

Several actors in historic dress were roaming around, discussing life in the time of the Stewarts, and there was also an interactive area for kids, including a dress up area. In the great hall, there is the opportunity to sit at the head of the table, and from the Gardens, you can look over to the William Wallace monument.

Doune Castle – Originally built in the thirteenth century, this castle was damaged in the Scottish Wars of independence before being rebuilt in its present form in the late 14th century by Robert Steward, Duke of Albany, (c.1340–1420), son of King Robert II. The castle was passed to the crown in 1425 and was used as a royal hunting lodge and dower house. By 1800 the castle was ruined (after the Jacobite Risings of the late 17th century and 18th century).

IMG_5530Mary Queen of Scots (reigned 1542–1567) stayed at Doune on several occasions, occupying the suite of rooms above the kitchen up a very narrow spiral staircase. There were two small rooms off the back of the main living area that looked like possible bathrooms. Very drafty, there was a large fireplace and you could imagine heat being generated by the huge Kitchen chimney. The lords quarters on the other wing were slightly grander, but also included the “lords hall” where he would pass judgment on the villagers with a possible sentence that would impose the literal fall from grace, down through a trap door into the cell.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed around Doune Castle, and more recently, the stand-in for the fictional “Castle Leoch” in Outlander.

But the highlight of the day was a trip to Inchmahome Priory.

Located on the island of Inchmahome in the centre of Lake of Menteith, you have to take a lovely little boat trip – with a maximum of 11 other explorers- to get to the Priory.

Inchmahone PrioryThe priory was founded by the Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn in 1238 for a small community of the Augustinian order. Apparently fifteen monks would have lived here – eating, praying, sleeping – together at any given time. Sworn to a vow of silence, the only place they could talk was in the “parlor”.

After splitting with Rome and in order to strengthen alliances, Henry VIII proposed the marriage between his son Edward and Mary (queen of Scots). “We liked not the manner of the wooing, and we could not stoop to being bullied into love” commented George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly.

Frustrated and with Scotland’s decline of marriage, England decided to attack Scotland in the war named The Rough Wooing. In 1547, following the defeat of the Scots army at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh – Mary Queen of Scots, at the tender age of four, was hidden at Inchmahome for several few weeks.

It was a beautiful peaceful place with an eerie sense of ghosts and spirits hovering around. Very special.

Blackness Castle – The ship that never sails… I really liked this castle (referred to as a ship because of its footprint). The garrison fortress dates back to 1440s as home for Sir George Crichton. It also served as and a state prison. I think the prison quarters for one prisoner (eg: Cardinal Beaton) were larger that all my apartments put together! Its dramatic location on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth provided great views and the buildings were full of rooms, passages and stairways to explore.

In 1534-1540, Sir James Hamilton of Finnart – second cousin to James V and expert in artillery fortification, oversaw a program of fortification that included a Caponier … (apparently derived from the French word, capon coop ie: hen house but I cant find this reference in the French dictionary) which is a passage within the external wall of the entrance, allowing the defenders to fire at the backs of any attackers in the entrance area who had breached the gate. There are only three surviving Caponiers in Scotland, Stirling & Craignethan having the others. Who knew. And we have seen them all!

Linlithgow Palace – A royal manor existed on the site in the 12th century, but then this was replaced by a fortification known as ‘the Peel’, built in the 14th century by occupying English forces under Edward I. The location made it an ideal military base for securing the supply routes between Stirling and Edinburgh Castle.

The palace was built in 1424 by James I of Scotland and is apparently considered Scotland’s finest surviving late medieval secular building. It was one of the principal residences of Scottish monarchs in the 15th and 16th centuries. The stonework of the South façade was renewed and unified for James V in the 1530s by the then keeper, James Hamilton of Finnart (the fore mentioned Mr. Artillery/fortification designer.)

Mary Queen of Scots was born here in December 1542 and occasionally stayed there during her reign. Alas, it was burnt out by the English army under the command of the Duke of Cumberland in 1746. Whilst unroofed, it is still largely complete in terms of its apartments. There was a lovely fountain in the court yard, and there were certainly corridors and halls to roam around. We didn’t stay long here, but we certainly got a sense of the former splendor of the palace.

Bothwell Castle resides on the lands that Kind David I of Scotland granted to David Olifard (or Olifant), Justiciar of Lothian, along with the barony of Bothwell, in the mid 12th century. The land then passed to his descendents and by 1252 the barony became the property of Walter de Moravia, or Walter of Moray (morphing into Clan Murray… yes, ancestors of Sir Andy Murray) who had married the last Olifard baron’s heir.

The castle was built in the late 1200s to guard the strategic crossing point of the river Clyde, and frequently passed back and forth between English and Scottish hands. As such, it was slighted by the Scots in 1314, then again in 1337, after another back and forth and regaining control from the English.

It is pretty much a shell, with the remains of the preliminary building, the large round donjon (not to be confused with the dungeons that we were in fact looking for) to the west (completed in 1296), and the Great Hall that was added later, to the east. The courtyard is enclosed by long “curtain walls” with round towers at the corners.

Craignethan Castle was built around 1530, and is recognized as an early example of a sophisticated artillery fortification. It was designed by our previously mentioned Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, the Kings “Master of Work” (designer of Blackness Castle increased defenses, as well as the renaissance facades of Linlithgow Palace). He had apparently set out to build a showcase at Craignethan to display his talents in both domestic and military architecture

It is built on a beautiful site above a bend in the River Nethan with steep slopes on three sides. But then we actually parked above the castle and walked down to the entrance (I wouldn’t have thought the high ground a strategic military position of strength?!). There is a low central keep, within a rectangular walled courtyard, and several tunnels and rooms to peruse in the old residential tower, but it is a shell of a castle.

The former entrance leads into a large lobby on the first floor, then to the hall and a turnpike stair by the guardroom. The kitchen is also on the first floor, with a serving hatch and the basement is vaulted and contained cellars.

Apparently Mary, Queen of Scots may have spent the night here before the Battle of Langside in 1568. The Hamiltons formed a main part of her army, but they were defeated by the Regent Moray (co-insidently Mary’s half brother fighting on behalf of Mary’s son, James VI??!!) and Mary fled to England. The castle was then slighted, and much of the defenses demolished. 100 years later, the castle was sold to the Hays (1665), who built a house in the outer courtyard.

Inchcolm Abbey and Island – Alas, we did not make it to Inchcolm Abbey and Island. I had got my navigation wrong, and not paid attention to the fact that we needed to access the ferry from South Queensferry. Nor had I anticipated the extra cost for the ferry (£35 for 2 adults and 1 child), nor had I allowed appropriate time for the excursion – you need at least 3 hours.

Edinburgh Castle –  “Mighty Fortress and defender of the nation”…

Very impressive, but packed with tourists bustling through. We opted for a quick walk around the ramparts where we touched Mons Meg, the huge cannon. Cutting edge of military technology in 1400s, she was capable of blasting a 150kg gunstone for 3.2km (two miles). She retired around 1550, but fired a gunstone to Wardie Muir in 1558 to celebrate the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots. Then she burst her barrel in 1681.

We went to look at the crown jewels. Mary’s coronation crown was next to the infamous Stone of Destiny, the powerful and ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy. In 1296 Edward I of England took the mystical stone – the pillow of Patriarch Jacob when he dreamed of Jacob’s Ladder – from Scone, near Perth, then had it built into his own throne. Since then it has been used in the coronation ceremonies for the monarchs of England and Great Britain.

St Margaret’s Chapel was lovely. Built around 1130 by David I, he dedicated this chapel to his mother Queen Margaret (later to be sainted). The decorated chancel arch is original, while other features, such as the stained glass windows, are more recent.

Moving on to something totally different… Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is definitely a good place for an inquisitive mind and budding paleontologist!

Going back time to the big bang, we saw stars explode on the other side of the galaxy before encountering the primeval forces of nature that shaped our planet…erupting volcanoes, the ice age, tropical rainforests… Who knew Scotland was so instrumental in the geological discoveries that challenged the idea that the earth was 4004 years old. With an introduction from the Father of Modern Geology, James Hutton, we learned how he evolved his theories on the earth’s formation “through the gradual solidification of a molten mass at a slow rate.” He concluded that the Earth was immeasurably old and could not possibly be explained within the limits of the chronology inferred from the Bible….maybe not the best way to make friends back in the day!

Whilst there are rooms without a set time limit, there is quite a regimented passing through of the experience, with films and narrations moving you along, so the whole experience was less than two hours, but we were allowed to go around again.

Parking was easy (under the space) and also had a discount for Dynamic Earth visitors. Fairly central, we left the car there and walked in to Edinburgh old town and ended up at the Scottish National Museum.

Scottish National Museum – EXCELLENT! What a great museum. Interactive, vast, multiple topics, free (donations accepted!) and just such a beautiful building to have a cup of tea in! Light, bright, beautifully presented artifacts.  A match for the London Natural History Museum and the Paris Grande Galerie de l’evolution! We loved it here.





Our (not so) Rational Brains

We are rational creatures and we don’t like to waste our time on what’s not important.

This may be exemplified, right now, by your scanning the first, maybe second paragraph, of this article before deciding whether or not to read the rest. You might be more inclined to read this if you actually know me, or my name, and even if I’ve been somewhat clever with my title to catch your attention, you’ll still quickly determine whether or not the body copy captures your interest.

You might be a little more interested in what I have to say if you see that one of your friend’s has actually “liked” or read my post. But this whole evaluation will take place so very quickly, you won’t even notice that you have done it. Yet you will have evaluated the value of your reading this against your most precious commodity, your time. Is this going to be worth your time …or not.

As a marketer, I know my goal is to improve the productivity of my marketing & advertising efforts. I need to increase the number of profitable shares, to increase the amount that shoppers are prepared to pay for X product, and to increase the profit margin by reducing the cost of consumer acquisition/marketing cost per $1 of net revenue. Easy!

But is it? Loyal customers are great, but are they our most valuable? Maybe not. A hundred people buying my product once is more valuable to me than one person that loyally buys only my brand. Sure I like their loyalty, their ability to advocate on my behalf, and return to me. Heck, I’ll even give them a loyalty card to make them feel special. But my brand isn’t going to grow with Joe Schmoe buying my product; to grow my market share I want increased market penetration. My brand isn’t going to fail if Joe slows down on his buying my product, but it does hurt when I loose those fickle customers to something else because they look at the other brands in my category as if they were near perfect substitutes for each other. And that hurts!

We spend years and years working on gathering stats and facts about why one brand is different to another. But who cares? Virtually no one… A lot of the time, we (consumers) don’t even know why we choose one brand over another; we just want to know that it works. We don’t really know why we buy more or less of one product over another, but ask the question, and I’ll certainly try and come up with a good strong opinion as to the reason why.

But why?! Our subconscious brain makes about 90% of the decisions we make on a daily basis. And it is our behaviours that influence our attitudes. Consider the saying “Act as is” or “Act yourself in to thinking”. Once purchased, our brain will quite happily invest time and energy to justify our behaviour by the rational brain. Not that awareness or recognition alone means that we’ll buy a brand; of course we can be aware of a brand but never buy it. But FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and Loss Aversion will certainly be more likely to motive action.

Dating back to Aristotle’s view of the mind, it is wo/man’s ability to think and reason that sets us apart from beasts. Humans are rational creatures, with the supremacy of reason. Whilst Plato gave more credence to the emotional, referring to the Rational and Emotional as two horses in the brain, pulling in different directions, he considered emotions as dangerous and in need of controlling. Descarte also referred to the Mind/Body Split, but it is because Je pense, donc je suis, so our rational consciousness has remained key. But are we really that smart?!

Antonio Damasio, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute has authored several books shifting the focus on to the impact of the emotional brain as equally if not more in control of our behaviour that “rational” man has wanted to admit. Throughout evolution, emotion has functioned to allow living beings act smartly without having to thing smartly. In humans, reasoning does what emotions do but achieves it knowingly.

In his book, Descartes’ Error, Damasio used the Iowa Gambling task to demonstrate how emotion allows humans to “Act smartly without having to think smartly”. When faced with complex and conflicting choices, individuals are unable to decide using only cognitive processes. Somatic markers (feelings in the body that are associated with emotions, such as the association of rapid heartbeat with anxiety or of nausea with disgust) are then engaged to help with the decision process.

Somatic markers simplify the decision process by directing attention towards more advantageous options. This overall state directs (biases) one’s decision of how to act and may occur covertly (unconsciously), or overtly (consciously), engaging higher cortical cognitive processing. Simply put, he demonstrates that the individual will, in the following order:

  1. feel something
  2. adjust our behavior accordingly
  3. explain afterwards why

But why is the brain so lazy? The brain consumes a huge amount of energy, so the less we use it the more it likes it. The less we have to think, the more automatic a behaviour comes, the more we like it, and the easier it is for us.

Our 5 senses are capable of absorbing 11 million bits of information per second, yet our conscious brain processes 40 bits of information per second. So over 99% of our brain’s work is subconscious…and yes, almost 95% of our purchases are determined subconsciously. And you thought you were making intelligent smart informed decisions!

As Daniel Kahneman, Israeli-American psychologist, Nobel laureate, and author of ‘Thinking fast and slow’ (2011) saidHumans are to independent thinking like cats are to swimming. We can do it when we have to, but we’d much rather not”. Kahneman identified simple biological truths about the way we buy and rationalize our purchase decisions based on the following premises:

  1. Our brains are inherently lazy things
  2. We don’t naturally like to think too hard about tasks and problems
  3. Our most significant purchase decisions are emotional, not rational

So for marketing purposes, Kahneman advocates keeping things simple when trying to sell. That doesn’t sound like rocket science… what’s the single most important thing you want to convey? Stick to it. Simple briefs are the best briefs. Faced with a multitude of inherently lazy brains, how do we make sure our messages rise to the top, be consciously acknowledged, and create the desired affect?

Understanding how the mind really works can give anyone in marketing a competitive advantage. But is marketing and advertising the transmitter of necessary information, helping the democratic populous be aware of all the product choices available to them in the free world, or is it actually a deceptive, duplicitous and underhanded. How subversive are the messages we are surrounded by on a daily, or hourly basis?

We spend our time thinking about creating strategies of desire, and how we can tap in to automatic behaviours. The world of inference and assumptions are wonderful for brain shortcuts. Building on Damasio and Kahneman’s theories, we can assume that the less the consumer has to think, the more automatic their behaviour comes, the more they like it, and the easier it is for them….and the easier it is for the marketer.

Brain Science is now helping to identify the implicit and explicit processes and triggers that impact marketing and decision-making. And we are discovering how deeply buried beliefs and assumptions are driving every decision we make. Brand awareness is good, but brand salience is critical to brands, and this distinction is the essence of branding.

Kahneman’s taked about the two systems of the brain. The unconscious portion is on duty twenty-four hours a day, every day of your life. It’s incredibly powerful. While the conscious brain loses focus every six to ten seconds, your unconscious brain never, ever loses focus, not once, not ever! So obviously, this is where all the action is located.

This is where everything from perception to habits, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments and achievements take place. This is the seat of change that allows you to follow through with all of the activities that produce the intended outcomes concocted by the conscious mind, which defines, articulates, and establishes the basic direction.

Kahneman’s Two Systems


  • Unconscious
  • Automatic
  • Fast & Frugal
  • Instinctive & Intuitive
  • Emotional
  • Pervasive
  • Helps us make judgments in
    less that 1/30th of a second
  • Long term brand preferences

  • Conscious
  • Considered
  • Slow & Deliberate
  • Rational & Logical
  • Post-rationalization helping to justify decisions
  • Not always aligned with the non-conscious brain
  • Loses focus every six to ten seconds

Whether we call them Somatic markers, Cognitive Levers, Cognitive Bias Combinations, automatic behaviours, inference, assumptions, or Heuristic Cues these pathways within the brain evaluate decision making in a consistent, describable, yet irrational way. So targeting the subliminal mind, we can familiarize people with products, just by sheer share of voice (how many times did we hear Trump’s name on the airwaves during the campaign). Familiarity of information makes it more readily absorbed and accepted. And if a picture is worth 1000 words, a symbol is worth 1000 pictures. Planting images, symbols, sounds, or smells below the subconsious, all impacts behaviour and leads to ‘Predictive Programming’ where visual clues and symbols are encoded into all forms of art, film, media works, aimed to infiltrate large audiences (product placement in movies is a fine example of this). These images and symbols, subtly conveyed in encoded form, are all designed to influence the subconscious mind.

In the world of big data, we can assess and analysis and influence consumer behaviour more and more… for good, and for bad. From data crunching, we know that big brands have more customers than small brands, and that these customers are a little bit more loyal than they are to other brands (known as the Law of Double Jeopardy). Categories also share customers. However, the degree to which they share is influenced by brand size. For example, buyers of small brands are more likely to buy big brands; buyers of big brands are less likely to buy smaller brands (The Law of Duplication of Purchase). More buyers buy once, than those who five or more time, and there are a lot of light buyers, even amongst large brands (The Negative Binominal Distribution); and buyers change their buying propensities. Around 50% of heavy buyers remain heavy buyers; the others become medium, light or non-buyers. In addition, brand user profiles tend to reflect the category as a whole (vs. different types of buyers buy different brands).

So businesses or “Brand owners”, driven by quarterly profits, need to recruit more buyers to grow. Recruitment is key to maintenance and growth, but penetration is the most important metric. Loyalty metrics respond to changes in penetration, but loyalty does not drive penetration.

Brand Marketers only need three or four metrics, only one of which is brand specific, to understand the buying behaviour in a market, and the 100% loyal customers are not that valuable to brands – they are usually light buyers of the brand, and category.

Brands compete as direct substitutes for each other. DoP analysis show how brands compete for SIZE. And SIZE is a function of mental and physical availability, benefiting economies of scale that is the real driver of profitability.

This isn’t all to say that people don’t think about their purchases. There are a lot of times when we will investigate a purchase… when it has a high ticket price, when it is something that we care passionately about, or when you are in-front of the shelf looking at prices… and ‘Brands’ are an extension of our ego, our personality, our beliefs and how we want to be perceived. But it would be naïve to think that we are not being subconsciously swayed before we get to our conscious decision act.

Subconscious Attention comes before conscious recognition, and conscious recognition comes before cognitive evaluation. And the rational evaluation of messages is less important than we think. The distinctive Brand Assets are the essence of brand equity that have been established in our memory structures way before we are aware of it. And it is the distinctive brand assets, and memory association that increase sales and improves marketing productivity. Brands that are easier to recognize, will have increased brand preference, and they will be faster to find. This of course is the reason why you will find packaging looking so similar… The “I buy the green dog food… not sure what it is, but it’s got a green can!” syndrome.

Excellent, another revenue stream, this time for copyright lawyers! Distinctive Assets are legally protectable in many markets, so the color, the logo, the swirl, the name can all be trade marked. But there are some brand differentiators that can be easily copied by other brands/private label etc.

Visual Heuristic Cues help the brain cope with the information overload and to make it easier for us to make decisions. These cues are judgment-relevant “information shortcuts,” or “knowledge devices”. They are rules of thumb, educated guesses, stereotyping, profiling, common sense ideas that are stored in our implicit memories.

Auditory signals also help influence our behaviour. Marketing experts make use of the power of music extensively. In almost all commercials music is one of the key design elements. Again, the subconscious effects of music go un-noticed, yet when the music fits the product, it can increase marketing effectiveness by 20-30%. There is no rational messaging required with music; it is working purely on the emotional system. So when you are in the store, and there is some music being piped in to the food isle, or the wine area, check out if you’re listening to Indian music and putting indian food items in your basket, or listening to French music and putting French wine in to the basket! Article

In today’s world, there is an over supply of goods eg: Fast Fashion, off shoring. In fact we are drowning in material products. The charity shops can’t even keep up with the donations. We are exposed to marketing messages everywhere, anywhere and at any time of the day, and there is huge competition for our attention. With the quarterly cycle of Wall Street, and the need for more profits, the ideas of crop rotation, living with in your means, or only eating, wearing, buying what you need is long gone.

So when you think you’re in control of you’re decisions, think again. It may not be you at all!



Some additional reading:

This slideshare by Benjamine Pedrosa about neruomarketing is quite interesting.:

Unconscious Branding, How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. Doug Van Praet:

“Consumers are not in control of their brand choices,” he writes. “Humans operate from two separate and often contentious cognitive systems and the mind that drives most of our behavior is ironically the one unbeknownst to ourselves.” Van Praet cites numerous studies showing that 95% of our thinking and most of our choosing occurs in our unconscious minds.

“As consumers,” he continues, “we make choices without understanding their foundations, and as marketers, we sell and brand products without understanding how to truly connect them to people. We are all playing a game, and we don’t even know how that game is being played.”

“Seducing the subconscious: The Psychology of Emotional influence in advertising” Robert Heath

“The anatomy of Humbug: How to think differently about advertising”. Paul Feldwick

The Rubin – The World Is Sound

“What?” she said. “Pardon”, “Sorry, I didn’t catch that”, “Can you repeat what you said?” We have these magnificant tools on either side of our head, that continually hear things, but we have a fairly lousy ability to actually listen!

The Rubin Museum’s exhibition, The World Is Sound, was full of sonic experiences designed to show you how to listen with your whole body, with a consideration as to how sound, space and perception impact you.

“Deep Listening” was about the practice developed by Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016). Designed to improve our sonic awareness, Oliveros considered “deep listening” as integral to our creativity, our connection to the environment, and the expansion of our consciousness. She created a set of instructions called Sonic Meditations, and in this, listening and hearing are not interchangeable. Whilst hearing is the physical reception of sound in waveforms, listening is focused on the interpreting the waveforms and providing them with meaning. She believed Deep listening could enhanced openness and compassion. A tall order… she thought not. It’s not about silence, its about embracing the sounds in our environment.

IMG_5213There were mantras available to listen to next to the beautiful sculptures and paintings of the museum, along with an immersive room playing a complication of over 1000 OMs that were recorded by visitors to the museum over the spring. There was also the fabulous audio installation that extended from the ground floor to the ceiling of the top gallery. Circling the vestibule, walking down the stair way  created another exploration of drone sounds through space and time.

In addition to the sonic exploration, I was thrilled to discover that there was the Henri Cartier-Bresson: India in Full Frame photographic exhibition. I love his photographs and these were some exceptional shots from his trip in 1948, including shots of Ghandi’s last day of life and the events around his funeral.


“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” Musings on Splitting.

Over the past two years, we have witnessed and participated in two incredibly polarizing political campaigns.

Brexit and Trump have caused more passionate debates and a proliferation of facebook de-friending’s than I can remember. There has been no room for “a middle ground”, and the foundation of the democratic system, a system based on checks and balances has gone the way of all flesh. Polarized, Brexit is going to destroy, or save Britain. Trump is either all evil, or a savior. And if you think one way, and I think another, how on earth can I possibly like you? We are living in split nations. The splitting and division of these two nations, nations that I belong to, has been interestingly timed with my exploration of the role, benefits and downsides of splitting within the individual.

The word “split” or “splitting” – is derived from the 16th century Dutch word – splitten – meaning to ‘break up a ship’. But the word also alludes to the violent force of the storm or rock that destroys the ship. This seems applicable in terms of how “splitting” is considered within the individual, as it is often associated with a tumultuous break within the psyche. The splitting of the ego, whether a primary (instinct: flight/flight) or secondary (psychic: repression/suppression) defense mechanism, it in fact de-stabilizes the whole.

The scientific developments of the 19th century had a major impact on understanding health and disease; within the field of psychology, experimental research resulted in new knowledge and theories regarding the human psyche.

In the 1880’s, Pierre Janet, French psychologist and medic, was a leader in the field of dissociation and traumatic memory. He was one of the first to allege a connection between events in a subject’s past life and his or her present-day trauma. But in keeping with the general belief that all illness had hereditary causes, in 1889, Janet wrote that splitting was the product of innate weakness and a defense against overwhelming traumatic experience.

More widely know, Freud, and his colleague Breuer, elaborated on Janet’s theory when they considered “the splitting of the mind and dissociation of the personality“. Freud pointed the difference between their views and those of Janet, saying “We explain it dynamically, from the conflict of opposing mental forces, and recognise it as the outcome of an active struggling on the part of the two psychical groupings against each other.” So they proposed splits in consciousness were not as an innate constitutional weakness of mental functioning, but the result of inner conflict. As a defense mechanism, Freud considered it “possible for the ego to avoid a rupture … by effecting a cleavage or division of itself” The challenge though, what is pushed down in one place will inevitably pop up and play out in another! Whether in the individual, or in the split nation… we’ve seen a surge in hate crime since our divided nations have become so apparent.

Melanie Klein, another great psychodynamic theorists and practitioner, started analyzing children in 1919. Freud didn’t believe children could be analyzed, however, using novel therapeutic techniques for her work with children, Klein presented new theories on infant development. Her work, along with that of the Scottish theorist Ronald Fairbairn, led to a different use of “splitting” within the development of Object Relations theory. With sufficient ego present at birth, the infant can experience anxiety, primitive defense mechanisms, and object relations.

Rather than considering Splitting as a specific defense mechanism called in to action in the face of adversity, in 1935 Klein proposed that the infant’s “primitive states tend to deconstruct objects into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bits” also know as ‘part-objects’. Klein called the first stage of the child’s development the Paranoid Schizoid position. At this time, the infant experiences the world in polarized extremes. Everything is either all good or bad: things the child loves (good, gratifying objects) and things the child hates (bad, frustrating objects). This initial ‘splitting of the object’ addressed the necessary resolution of contradictory feelings of love (mom is feeding, comforting me) and hate (mom is not here, not feeding me, not comforting me) the infant felt towards the mother. Klein exemplified this through the good breast and the bad breast; the child cannot comprehend the mother is both the source of nourishment (emotional and physical) but also the source of pain and frustration. It is as the child learns that people and objects can be good and bad at the same time, s/he progresses and matures in to the next phase – the Depressed Position.

Not to be confused with “depression”, or a “depressive” position, Klein’s “depressed position”, was defined by the depolarization of the two drives, entailing “a steady, though painful, approximation towards the reality of oneself and others.” The increasing nearness of good and bad brings with it a corresponding integration of ego. We learn to understand that the mature life is lived in the shades of grey. The infant comprehends not only the good and bad in the mother, but the good and bad feelings towards her, within him/herself. This process, and the internalization of a good loving object, is critical to healthy development as it is the “internalized good loving object” that produces a sufficient sense of security and state of well-being that in turn, provides the necessary coping mechanisms for defending the adult-self when under stress (internal or external). Klein believed that if the individual does not succeed in working through the depressive position and with it, the integration of complex contrary feelings, the individual would continue to struggle in adult life. If we live in a split, divided and polarized nation and state of belief, we will struggle. There is no flexibility, no checks and balances, no openness. We as individuals, and a society, will regress… mob and group mentality scarily comes to mind.

The pathological splitting of the ego often uses Projection to misattribute undesirable or unacceptable thoughts and feelings onto the external object (or person). Whether a lack of insight or acknowledgement of one’s own motivations or repressed feelings, it may be representative of a defense mechanism. Taking it a step further, through Projective Identification’, the unwanted thoughts and feelings are projected into the external object (or person). For example, I cannot tolerate or acknowledge feelings of anger and aggression within myself, so I act in a subconscious manner that triggers the anger or aggression in you. This way, I defend my “self” against aggressive impulses, but I have the necessary cathartic release as you act out the aggression. In a way, I loose part of my identity, but I elicit that part –the emotion and expression of it- in you.

When manifesting in the “leader” of group, this pathological splitting can have potentially dangerous and unfathomable results. The group, relinquished of responsibility, defers to their “leader” for guidance, and when living in a state of fear and anxiety, the ‘group’ then acts in unmentionable ways in the name of their leader (Hitler as an easy example). The split of the individual instigates splits within the group, and if splitting is regressive, you have regression leading regression… you have de-stabilization.

When we feel stressed, overloaded, or confused; we stop, and try to simplify our thoughts into a manageable form. So as a primary defense mechanism, splitting serves to simplify and help make sense of the world. But if we stay in this split state, is it a sign of “ego weakness” or immaturity. The world cannot be lived with all or nothing thinking.

Yet, over and over again, we see these extreme opinions and states of being in individuals, in families, in work places, and in politics. Splitting, in the DSM is defined as “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation”. Within depression, the client may exhibit exaggerated all-or-nothing thinking. For example: My efforts are a fabulous success or it’s a total failure; Therapy is a waste of time/ I can’t live without it.

There is a prevalent lack of self-acceptance, a pervasive dissatisfaction with who we are, what we have, how our bodies are, how young, or how old we are. There is envy, hate or distrust of others who are not familiar to us.

Whilst ‘Splitting’ is not a new concept, it has been used throughout history. Whether referring to Plato’s Tripartite soul as defined in the Republic Book IV (400 BC), Aristotle’s: Three souls (psyches)
(vegetal, animal, and rational) On the soul (350 BC), Descarte’s Dualism Mind/Body Split “Je pense, donc je suis” (Principles of Philosophy 1637), Janet “disassociation” “subconscious” (1889);  Freud’s distinction between the Id, ego & superego (1910), the role of the brain (or mind), and the meaning of Consciousness has been an ongoing philosophical debate over time.


Descartes mind-body split, left brain/right brain creative/logical split, or the use of splitting as a divide and conquer tactic in politics and war. Whilst often considered in a negative context, splitting can also be deployed as a necessary survival mechanism – it serves as the basis of distinguishing, discriminating and attending to this vs. that; it can help you perceive danger and act accordingly. But whether a defense mechanism, part of the developmental process, or a group divisive tactic, splitting is an unstable and unsustainable state of being.


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