Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ramble #2: Additions to past articles on thinking and believing*

This post is about a subject I would, admittedly, find too boring to read about or listen to, but feel a need to address. It’s the mess of adult human consciousness. None of it is understood but by observations and conjectures, or to say it’s in the brain and body: chemistry, nervous system. Here will be a few of my own ideas.

Note that the concept of “free will” is unsettled. Honestly and rigorously, we cannot insist that “we” create the thoughts that come into our head. They happen. So it’s hard to even take passive credit for a bright idea. Already, our “identity” becomes somewhat illusory.

An infant’s mentation is simpler and more identifiable than ours. Receptive. Stimulus-response. Feeling. Not mixed with thought yet, not predominately blurred by emotion (such as fear), not hijacked by “emotionalized thought” – attitude. Yet early on, something – a pattern or skein of prepotent emotion – may form and begin to predominate in the consciousness, shaping thoughts, beliefs, assumptions.

Two major differences between a healthy person and an unhealthy one are: the amount of embedded emotional pain as a ground, determining behavior and consciousness; and the implacable brake that this pain places on developing maturation – emotional, cognitive and even physical. A healthy person can focus clean on your point of view, not on his spin of it; can consider an unfamiliar idea: receive stimuli without a translucent or opaque filter mediating. And he or she will not receive it through child’s eyes or feelings. (Though it’s probable that “childlike wonder” will be incorporated into the adult’s antennae.) An unhealthy person will be transformed by emotional and temporal filters planted and cultivated through the early years: An idea will incubate in those filters or be perceived through them. “White people are not superior”? “Bullshit! I know they are, I see it, I can prove it, I’m disgusted by that idea.”

The concept of “a belief” or “I believe” (in God, in Trump, in human goodness, etc.) is more elusive and imaginary than most people would ever want to know. Resistance to knowing would come from the reductio ad absurdum of “Why do you believe that? which would lead downward to a naked feeling void of sense. Looked at deeply, a belief deliquesces into a fusion of historical feelings past and recent and their ideational representation or defense.** And if we understand that many individuals lost the natural spectrum of emotions and emotional sensations through childhood suppression and repression, we must conclude that these many people do not have any beliefs at all, or only kaleidosco­pically insubstantial and varying ones.

We will see that beliefs rooted in early pain have no actual substance but pain and frustrated need: They would not hold, their fever would break, were the person deeply therapized, or loved.

I am certain that the new president has no beliefs. What many see as convictions, and more recently as an unearthed open-mindedness, is only the compass needle of a hollow self tilting to various influences and grounded in the magnetic pole of narcissism.

Take a belief – not some consensus-sanctioned truism like “I believe in people” or “I believe children are our future,” but a personal bias such as “men are better drivers” or “blacks have a genetic defect” or “liberals are commie leeches draining the blood of the wealthy” or “God listens to my prayers.” Notice that the belief is idea and feeling – both a declarative and a soup of sensation. If it concerns, say, some superiority of men, detect within it your feeling about being a man (or a woman). It – the feeling – will not equal “superior”: “superior” is not an emotion. It will equal hurt, contempt-hurt, anger, inferiority, shame. It may equal having been stung by a woman, academically displaced by a sister, laughed at by girls in junior high or first grade. It may equal your diffuse sense of self and maleness that came from home and a father who never played rough-and-tumble with you. The verdict – “superior” – may not even be yours, but a gift from the culture, your father or “the boys.” You may not be able to explain it.

Earlier I suggested that questioning free will should disrupt one’s identity. I have long wondered why human beings need a sense of me-ness and personal value. One might feel pride, creativity or happiness without having to identify oneself as good, better or best. A normally healthy person would defend himself from harm without having to grow an ego and attitude about self-worth. But alas, we feel a need for identity. It has to be fabricated from dream patches and unknowable intangibles. One of those intangibles is a belief, a label we give to a crucible of painful and needful feeling. So in theory, we might one day be healed of our beliefs.

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*,,,, and certainly others.

** If Im thinking accurately, an interesting example of feeling and defense would be those extreme bigots who deny the Holocaust. By amazing coincidence, these selfsame people hate Jews and should, by all logic, wish a Holocaust upon them.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.