The I-M Story


3 comments   |   Blog, Imax

Let me flash-back to 1982. I had graduated from Sarah Lawrence College two years earlier in 1980 with a BA in Liberal Arts.


But in 1982, I decided I wanted to be a physician, and enrolled in the Columbia School of General Studies while continuing in my day job.

Aerial View, Columbia University New York City


I was going to complete my pre-med requirements and apply to medical school.
I was taking physics. (Still awake? I find that people suddenly fall asleep when I mention the word physics). In ph****cs the symbol “I” stands for a potential current, for electricity. But I wondered what would happen if the “I” was turned over, still an “I” but now stood for “current potential”. Current is right now, but with the potential to change in the very next second to another current moment. And what if at any one of those current potentials we were at a maximum current potential, so that at every moment in time we were doing the best we could but with the potential to change in the very next second. I named that current maximum potential an Imax.

I was also taking calculus (please, please don’t fall asleep!), and was intrigued by some of the calculus symbols that represented large sets of other numbers. The first was the symbol ∑, which is a summation, the sum of all the parts of something. How would this apply to a person’s Imax? How do the summations of a person’s life influence who they are today, their current maximum potential. In particular, how do all the experiences at home, and all the experience at school, or on the bus, or in a workplace influence your Imax? I separated these into two “domains”, distinguishing the home environment from the rest of the social experiences we have in the world. ∑, I thought, captured the concept that we are the sum of all the previous experiences of our life.

I was also attracted to the idea of integration, how all these things in the summations of our home and social domain become integrated into who we are: how do the things outside our body, in our home and social domains, become integrated into who we believe are and how we respond to those external domains? In calculus this symbol, ∫ represents an integer, or “the area under the curve” (see illustration). I thought this symbol captured the idea that we are an integration of all those experiences at home or the rest of the world: they have influenced our brain and our body, what I called the Biological domain. Our Imax is made up of every cell in our body, and each of those is doing the best they can at each particular moment.

The Four Domains were represented as such:

eq1The sum of your home environment

eq2The sum of your social environment

eq3 Your current individual concept, how I see myself, how I think other’s see me

eq4 The Integral of one’s current genetic/biological/developmental potential at this moment in time.
I put the Imax on one side of an equation with these domains on the other.

*       This symbol represents the augmenting property of the functions. * implies that a small change in one Domain can have a ripple and amplified effect throughout the entire system.
ArrowsThese arrows represent the Dynamic Equilibrium. The Equation is always changing, dynamic, but always balanced, in equilibrium.

As such, the original Imax equation looked like this:


This was our Imax.

Not the theater. I was 24 in 1982, and in retrospect did not have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex capable of anticipating the future. If I knew then in 1982 what I know now I would have developed a different name. The phrase I-Max was already taken. In the late 1960’s, a company called “Multiscreen” changed its name to IMAX, beginning the launch to the brand it is today. The two men who formed the company, Roman Kroitor and Graeme Ferguson, followed the quest to always increase the impact on the audience watching the movie. (Kroiter was the originator of “The Force” in Star Wars.) “Multiscreen” first tried to make a new movie impact by having an audience watch lots of small screens that made up huge image. They used lots of cameras to project onto multiple smaller screens to make an impact, but showing those films ran into a lot of problems. Multiple cameras had to be coordinated so the projection on the multiple screens made sense. A much simpler but more effective solution was to use one camera to project one film very, very large. “Multiscreen” changed its name to IMAX what became the remarkable cinema experience it is today. Alas, my pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for solving problems, executing a plan, and anticipating the consequence of that action was not fully developed so it seems and I blithely continued using the phrase Imax to describe this idea that we are all at a current maximum potential just doing the best we can given the influence of the four domains.
In fact, the name of my Approach went through its own shift in its I-M. While writing this book, my Editor from Hazelden, Sid Farrar, who was using his PFC, wondered if I could actually use the term Imax or if it would infringe upon the IMAX™ trademark.



His legal team feared that using the term Imax may indeed infringe upon the resource owned through the relationships of people of the IMAX Theaters ™ residence. In other words, we faced the potential of some fairly hefty law suits!


In one of those truly amazing coincidences, I received Sid’s email on 11/16/13, but did not read it until the next day, 11/17/13. Kroitor, an originator of IMAX had died on 11/17/2012! I read about the possible trademark infringement on IMAX on the year anniversary of his death!!!
So I contacted the IMAX Corporation at first through their website asking about licensing. In the appropriate request box, I wrote an explanation how my Imax concept was different than their IMAX, and pressed the send button. The email did not go through instead reporting that my answer was too long, by over 1000 words. After several tries, I distilled my question to IMAX as this, within the confines of their allotted 510 characters:


I am Joseph Shrand, a Child Psychiatrist. I treat based on my idea that we do the best we can at every moment in time. In physics “I” stands for a potential current. I flip it upside down and call “I” a current potential. At our maximum current potential the term becomes Imax.
Do I need a licensing agreement, or is using Imax in such a completely different fashion and arena, as a mathematical term illustrating a state of being, having nothing to do with cinema, acceptable in the eyes of your company?


I did not hear back from them so I called their office in New York and was directed to a person in Canada. To their credit, IMAX did not dismiss the idea out-of-hand, but eventually did send a very polite letter declining my licensing request, instead asking I “phase out” my use of the term Imax and suggested Pmax instead “with the P standing for Potential”.

This news, although not unexpected, had an effect on my Imax. After more than thirty years of developing the concept, mechanism, and application of Imax I had to change the name. So I did. Sid in my social domain began to think of other names, and hit upon I-Maximum, which he felt conveyed the central idea that we are always doing the maximal we can at that moment. At home I began to replace all reference other than to advance the story of Imax to I-Maximum. As I did, however, I thought we could instead do I=Maximal, emphasizing that we are, indeed, always doing the maximal we can: I equal my maximal.
But I then began to feel that the phrase I-Maximal would conjure an image of a Roman Gladiator. I imagined the movie scene where all those gladiators say “I’m Spartacus” replaced with “I’m Maximal.” “No I’m Maximal.”


As I realized that I was going to have to change the name of a concept I had been working on for over thirty years I could feel my Ic domain respond, moving from one Imax to…what? I was still doing the best I could, but needed a new way to represent it. And then it hit me. I-M. I am at a new I-M. Yes I am! It really didn’t matter whether my current maximum potential was called an Imax, an I-M, or a peanut butter sandwich, the reality remained the same. A rose by any other name…

My Ic domain had slightly altered. And then I felt a little fear: my biological domain had changed. Would I have to change every past reference to my Imax Approach? My cortisol levels began to rise slightly, causing my heart to beat faster, my breathing shallower, my skin cooler, and perhaps my digestion slowed down just a little. I had activated the flight branch of fight-flight, subtle to be sure, but still there. One of those small fears we all may experience every day. I had gone a little limbic.
And then my Pre-frontal cortex kicked back in, acknowledged the elegant warning signal of my limbic system, and I wondered if I could use this book to sincerely apologize to IMAX, while thanking them for helping evolve the I-M Approach brand, and a new Ic. Perhaps a little oxytocin was released.


I relaxed, and changed my I-M.

imax approach examines home social biology perceptions

  • Dr Charles Leonard

    What a wonderful, rich story. It touches many parts of my journey, and also released some oxytocin in me. Dr. Charles Leonard

  • DrJoeShrand

    Thank you Dr. Leonard. Now my oxytocin is aflowin’. I look forward to hearing your story.

  • Scott Stevens

    Great to see a new post this week. Very insightful. Thanks Dr. Joe.