We Are Our Addictions

“We must never forget that the crooked paths of a neurosis lead to as many obstinate habits, and that, despite any amount of understanding, these do not disappear until they are replaced by other habits. But habits are only won by exercise, and appropriate education is the sole means to this end.”

Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search for a Soul

What if we are our addictions? Playing passenger to drives that ultimately direct our lives. As terrifying and helpless as that might sound, I think we retain some control over how those addictions actually manifest. Certainly we have uncontrollable factors in our life that shape our tendencies. By right of birth, some are thrown into horrific living conditions and exposed to endless trauma, and much less are fed from a silver spoon their entire life. These things that lie outside of our control most definitely play a role in forming those initial addictions. The initial drives that initiate our journey. However, I must make the claim that we can maneuver these addictions, or rather, direct the addictions to other physical manifestations. I suggest we dedicate our energy to aiming our addictions rather than trying to remove addiction itself.

One of the most identifiable aspects of consciousness is our understanding of time. We operate on a 24 hour cycle that continually repeats. Therefore a primary task of consciousness may be the need to fill those waking hours with some sort of engagement. We must direct our awareness somewhere. Most of you will be familiar with the way some basic computer programs works. For example, they could take a task that is repeated ad nauseam and streamline the process. Or they could take a set of variables and determine values in order to create a specific optimized output. If we have a goal of filling our waking hours with awareness of something, addictions would easily develop as a tool to help this drive. Addictions could act as a highly powered computer program, running rampant, trying to direct our waking hours to some object or activity. When we are addicted to something, we simply want to spend more time doing whatever that activity may be. So not only do addictions help solve the current problem of what do I do now, they also have this lurking power to populate our futures. As the addiction program runs, it becomes more powerful. It becomes harder and harder to pull away from whatever it is driving your towards. Over time, it has an exponential effect on our awareness and can become all consuming – even increasing the bounds of consciousness by sacrificing sleep.

Sex, drugs, alcohol, money, competition, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There are endless things to which we can be addicted, and most people would ascribe an overall negative to being addicted to any one of those items. But here is the idea: All of the above listed addictions (plus those not cataloged), are downstream, or on the surface, of the addiction itself. The computer program of addiction is operating behind the scenes. The constant obsession with Instagram is just the surface level output of some impressive evolutionary machinery. I think we are much better equipped to change to output of the machinery rather than to tackle the machinery itself.

I do not want to emphasize a score keeping mentality, or a ‘my addiction is better than yours’ attitude, but I think most people would agree that in today’s society, an addiction to exercise is more productive than an addiction to alcohol. I think we may also agree that a moderate addiction is better than a severe addiction. For instance, an addiction that compels two hours of my awareness per day is less damaging than an addiction that compels ten hours per day. For argument’s sake, we could make a correlation between the strength of the addiction and the amount of time we spend on the activity. Going back to the original premise, if we are our addictions, it would be beneficial for us to have eight different two hour addictions rather than two different eight hour addictions. This would be something like keeping the strength of the addictions at bay. This allows us to retain some level of defense, as the presence of many addictions make it difficult for any one addiction to spiral out of control.

In closing, this is not to make any moral judgements. For instance, on a moral level, I am not convinced an addiction to exercise is any more virtuous than an addiction to alcohol. However, we have to play by the rules of our society. From the perspective of society, an addiction to exercise is much preferred to an addiction to alcohol (not to mention the obvious preference of your body). So in a way, this whole theory is about structuring our addictions to align not only with ourselves, but the society we live in. This theory also implies the ubiquity of addiction. It is something every single one of us struggle with. With this understanding, hopefully we can push back against the stigma associated with addiction. In the above paragraph I am arguing for MORE addictions! Taken out of context, that would be read as totally outrageous. Clearly, I am using the word addiction in a different light than it is commonly used today. We need to stop condemning the idea of addiction and start progressing on how to live and work with ourselves. Meet reality on reality’s terms. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I am certainly no professional. I just enjoy thinking about difficult problems, and trying to come up with approaches that get us to a better place. If we are not free to develop new ideas about old problems, we get to keep the old problems.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/23/2020

A New Psychology

Preface: This will be my first post digging into Nietzsche. Nietzsche is incredibly deep and it is easy to spend hours on one passage. However, there is usually a point when it clicks. A point when I understand (on some amateur level) the profundity of his ideas. So don’t feel inferior if you have to read his quotes five times for some intro level of understanding, you are in good company. And it is well worth your time. So let this stand as my simple interpretation. It should by no means be considered the only interpretation nor a correct interpretation.

All psychology so far has got stuck in moral prejudices and fears.” – Nietzsche

Nietzsche believed we had not even come close to honestly broaching the spectrum of psychology. That we have only been playing on the surface of an ocean with tremendous depth – “insofar as it is permissible to recognize in what has been written so far a symptom of what has so far been kept silent.” He states, “A proper physio-psychology has to contend with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator.” This approach to psychology depends on the reciprocal nature of the opposites. It requires a temperament that treats the “wicked” drives with the same care and righteousness displayed to those “good” drives. This view is a complete and total acceptance of evil, of suffering, and of all that would fall under the ever-changing umbrella of ‘bad.’ “If, however, a person should regard even the affects of hatred, envy, covetousness, and the lust to rule as conditions of life, as factors which, fundamentally and essentially, must be present in the general economy of life (and must, therefore, be further enhanced if life is to be further enhanced) – he will suffer from such a view of things as from seasickness.” Here, Nietzsche warns this understanding is not to be taken lightly. For he is asking us to level what we have grown to assess as good and evil. Unification of opposites is no small request! However, if one can come to terms, it provides a new arena for advancement and understanding of the psyche. 

Speaking from a perspective of appraisement, good deeds must stand in contrast to evil deeds. There is simply no ground on which to discriminate good if one does not maintain the the polarity, evil. I would like to make this idea more concrete. First, examine yourself. Your emotions. How do you currently feel, right now? Comfortable, tired, restless, joyful, depressed, excited, etc. Now consider how you felt 24 hours ago. Realize there is some sort of line connecting how you felt yesterday to how you feel right now. This is not to say you can’t dramatically change moods or you can’t remain relatively emotionally constant, but to point out the connection of your emotional states through time. Now realize this line does not only connect the two simple states you identified 24 hours apart. It connects the continuum of emotional states you exist in from moment to moment. If you were somehow able to assign a number to your overall emotional state every hour, with 0 being the absolute worst most horrible, depressed state imaginable, and 10 being pure bliss, you could construct a table of values. Then if we connected those discrete points you would have a crude visual representation of the emotional ride you had been on for the last 24 hours. It might look something like this.

Visualization of emotional status throughout a day

Now take this same idea and extend it over two days, a week, a month, a lifetime. We are simply zooming out from the above graph.

Visualization of emotional status over an extended period of time

The y-axis of ‘Emotional Rating’ is completely unique to you. My graph may have a value of 10 at some point in time because I had a great night of sleep (big sleep guy). Another day my 10 might be because a loved one’s cancer went into remission. And maybe your 10 is simply because you were able to have a hot meal today. Our emotional states are completely relative to our experience and perceptions. They are subjective. There is also a concept of emotional inertia or momentum. This is the idea that it is easier to make a ‘good’ choice after a previous ‘good’ choice; likewise it is easier for a ‘bad’ choice follow a prior ‘bad’ choice. In our graph this would be represented as an event’s likelihood to affect our rating. If your are currently at a 10, some minor annoyance may not have the emotional valence to drop you down to a 9. So you keep cruising right along at 10. On the other hand, if you were trending down from 7 to 6, that same minor annoyance may shoot you down to 3. Graphically, this is giving weight to the derivative of our emotional rating curve. 

This is a laborious explanation in order to drive home the point that your present state is unique, incredibly complex, and also relative. Here is the pay off of this exercise: Think of another person. Maybe in your house, maybe across the world. Now realize their “Emotional Rating” graph is equally complex and unique to them, but also connected to yours through time. At every point along your graph, billions of people are experiencing their own unique drama. Your particular rollercoaster of a graph is built from your range of emotions but it is only the smallest slice of the world’s emotions. We each exist at every point in time, holding space in another’s world. When we are at a 10, having the day of our lives, there are millions of people across the world experiencing 0’s, trying to see just the smallest of touch of hope. Fighting to feel the tick back up the scale.

Let’s close with a return to Nietzsche and an abstraction of our graphs. Nietzsche claims when we approach psychology from this perspective, “we sail right over morality.” Now imagine our graph, but the y-axis is no longer ‘Emotional Rating.’ Now the 0 and the 10 simply represent any pair of opposites. For example, 0 = ‘Good’, 10 = ‘Evil’ , and all numbers in-between represent the spectrum of possibilities between the polarities. You could do the same exercise, assigning values to different aspects of your experience. The unifying principle remains. While you may be experiencing a 10, someone across the world is experiencing (at the same time!) a 0. This is why we all exist for each other, we hold space for each other. We hold the 10 while someone else is experiencing the harmony of 0, hoping to one day experience the 0 ourselves. The existence of the 0 requires the existence of the 10. Good requires evil. In this new psychology we must appreciate and equally value the complexity and different requirements of our existence. We cannot favor the 0 nor the 10, good nor evil. In this way, “we sail right over morality.” The psychologist who “makes this sacrifice…will at least be entitled to demand in return that psychology shall be recognized again as the queen of sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist. For psychology is now again the path to the fundamental problems.

All of the above quotes come from aphorism 23 of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, Walter Kaufmann edition. Thanks for reading.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/16/2020

Archetypes, Religion, & Society

Archetypal patterns and symbols seem to underly what we collectively refer to as religion. However, as religions have progressed though history, there has been a pressure to replace innate symbolism with dogma and tradition. As this happens, we begin to lose the divine aspects of the symbols that have touched and shaped human life from the beginning. We sever the religion from the forces that actually gave it life. Carl Jung notes this phenomena in The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, “I am convinced that the growing impoverishment of symbols has a meaning. It is a development that has an inner consistency. Everything that we have not thought about, and that therefore has been deprived of a meaningful connection with with our developing consciousness, has got lost.

When things are lost they leave a vacuum, or void. Jung continues, “What is worse, the vacuum gets filled with absurd political and social ideas, which one and all are distinguished by their spiritual bleakness.” I presume this void left by our symbolic impoverishment still contains that fervor once seen in pursuits of the divine. Now, that intensity sits behind social and political values. This leads to increasing displays of tribalism, assuredness in one’s personal views, and ingraining of the self versus other duality. I would argue these problems sit at the foundation of today’s society, yearning for reconciliation. Now there is certainly something sovereign about the individual, and this must be protected with the utmost urgency. But is there not some way we can preserve the sovereignty of the individual, while also helping people realize we are here for others and in fact, that it is only an illusion demarcating the boundary between self and other.

This spiritual bleakness has tremendous implications. We have made immense gains in the realms of intellect and technology. We have gazed upon the vast extremities of our galaxy and the equally expansive microcosms of our own cells. Through harnessing the power of the atom we have equipped ourselves with the god like ability of utter destruction. And are we not embarking on divine creation itself through the advances of CRISPR/Cas9 and other gene editing technologies? This is certainly no alarm or cause for panic, as pushing our boundaries and abilities has always been a part of our story. However this bounding advancement in intellect and technology has significantly outstripped the advancement of wisdom and the spirit. The real danger does not lie in the technology itself, but the lopsided nature of the relationship between spirit and matter.

Jung states that we must go through descent before the ascent. We must reach to the depths, and search out the very places we least want to go. “In the Gnostic hymn to the soul, the son is sent forth by his parents to seek the pearl that fell from the King’s crown. It lies at the bottom of a deep well, guarded by a dragon.” The individual each has their own dragon, and their own pearl. We all have unique offerings to share with the world. This adventure occurs both within and without. Here, the individual will certainly encounter their shadow, that living part of the personality that is forced outside of consciousness. This then becomes the first challenge to the hero, for the shadow represents all his “helplessness and ineffectuality.” With honest and real confrontation, one is able to shape his consciousness, resulting in compensatory reactions from the collective unconscious.

You are now more inclined to give heed to a helpful idea or intuition, or to notice thoughts which had not been allowed to voice themselves before…or will reflect on certain inner and outer occurrences that take place just at this time. If you have an attitude of this kind, the the helpful powers slumbering in the deeper strata of man’s nature can come awake and intervene, for helplessness and weakness are the eternal experience and eternal problem of mankind.” – Carl Jung, The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious

Even when we have done all we know to do, there is room for improvement in that infinite realm of what we don’t know. This honest confrontation with the shadow, the meeting of oneself, is the passageway to non-dual experience of life. The way to unification of the opposites, and the quest to elevate beyond the self. To experience this moment, as one with all, holding space for another.

All the quotes in this article are from C.G. Jung’s The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (all in the first chapter even). An incredible work that I get more out of each time I come back to. I plan on exploring more of the book in this format. Going forward, I will certainly get into specific archetypes and a broader understanding of the collective unconscious.

Best explorations

-Ryan

6; 4/8/2020

Why Myth?

One method of exploration I would like to try here is presentation of a quote and a reflection. This of course is just my narrow interpretation of some idea, but perhaps it can be inspiring enough to provoke thought or incite further investigation.

“The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment. His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly releases to whatever may come to pass in him.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

If you are unfamiliar with The Hero With a Thousand Faces, I have to start by recommending the book. It would not qualify as an easy read, but I think most would have no trouble understanding the bulk of the ideas presented. In this work, Joseph Campbell presents the archetypal myth through its many different constellations. He highlights the seemingly unmistakable similarities found in stories originating from all stretches of civilization. The ubiquity of the over-arching principles leads one to the possibility of autochthonous generation of a story common to all human kind. As if the need to tell this story is somehow programmed in our DNA. I would lean towards the idea that these commonalities are found in a psychological realm, the collective unconscious, but either way, the story seems attached to our existence. In fact, I would say it is the story of our existence.

A beautiful aspect of our nature is the ability to attribute mental states to things around us, known as a theory of mind. This is the phenomena that allows us to be captivated with movies, books, and generally any social situation. It is the risk-free version of living different lives. This is the ability to infer another person’s emotions, drives, and potential actions, simply based on some limited set of information. Mind you, this all is taking place in some sort of psychological space. No physical interaction with matter is required. We are allowed to set up and run infinitely varied simulations of reality from the comfort of our own psyche.

What if the archetypal myth is the through line of beneficial psychological simulation? What if understanding this story allows us to become more suited for survival? What if this story instills in us the very adaptability that has given Homo sapiens such an advantage up to this point? If true, it is clear there would be a survival benefit to these ideas, and those species who where unable to develop such stories would be at a sizable disadvantage. I would like to bring your attention back to the fact that we see some version of this myth arise repeatedly throughout the world, and in many circumstances with no connection to previous incarnations of the story. The story seems to force its way out of us, coming into existence colored with the particular culture and time of its emergence.

When we read a book, watch a movie or series, what are we actually doing? Do we not suspend disbelief and place ourselves at the center of the situation being portrayed? The camera crew we know to be behind the shot never touches our consciousness, and we simply immerse ourselves in the situation being constructed. Does true art not make us feel as if we are actually there, in the moment? This sounds a lot like what Joseph Campbell said in his quote at the top of the page. Those moments when we are there, in the scene, we give up “all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears,” in order to take a different perspective. And when we take another perspective, we get a glimpse into another world. A different set of feelings, fears, drives, skills, and shortcomings. A brief exposure to something beyond ourselves.

The last sentence of the quote certainly summons my bias for stoic philosophy. It is very much the idea of Amor fati, literally “love of fate.” Some may dismiss Amor fati as a quality of the easily manipulated pushover. And it there is no logical flaw with that interpretation. However, that view is too myopic and fails to take into account the strength that can be found in this belief. There is power in the idea that things happen for you and not to you. You are forced to construct a future with whatever circumstances are thrown your way, and there is no regard to the distribution of equality of those circumstances. Your circumstances are what make your hero myth unique, and no one will ever be able to claim your individual story.

There are certainly more directions to go with this one. I will undoubtedly expand on the supreme importance of moving beyond our sense of self (more perspectives!) and the idea of Amor fati. Part of this experiment is to direct my mind on an idea without forcing any particular conclusion. When I picked this quote, this was not the direction I thought I would follow. So here is to exploring different lines of thought, building creativity, and following the intuitions.

Best explorations,

-Ryan

3; 4/4/2020

 

 

Synchronicity, Jung, Infinite Dimensions, & Time

Time to Read: < 5 minutes
Time to Ponder: ∞

Einstein tells us simultaneity is relative. If we take a limited definition of relative to be that which is the immediate intersection of some defined space and its opposite, can we expand the defined space (through infinite dimensions?) such that the border of this “defined” space becomes infinitely large? This taken to the logical extreme, everything becomes relative. If everything becomes relative, and simultaneity is relative, then you become exposed to infinitely more simultaneities. Could synchronicity be the alignment of simultaneity though dimensions that we cannot perceive? This is how you could derive the perception of acausality*. Then, it would simply be the limitations of our perceptions that lead to the inference of acausality. Ironically, this view would then take you back to the determinism that today’s science demands, with a black box large enough to fit the universe. This is infinite dimensions.

*Certainly not denigrating through the label of acausality, we are simply very limited in our perceptions.

Time would be dependent upon the actual observer of time and its frame of reference. So the understanding of time as seconds, minutes, hours, days, is simply a deluded version of something much more expansive and flexible. It helps fit things into their relative place. Time would then be a state function. There must be scales at which time dilation and length contraction are easily observed and felt. Is there ever a truly fixed point of reference? Or is it such that certain framing of scales allows one to disregard the malleable nature of time. Again, everything comes to relativity.

Jung Pauli Quaternio image
Reproduction of quaternio in Carl Jung’s letter to Wolfgang Pauli Nov. 30 1950, from Atom and Archetype

I am only in the beginning stages of exploring Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, and I certainly have a very naive understanding of it at this point. I recently finished reading Atom and Archetype, The Pauli/Jung Letters 1932-1958. This correspondence between two masters (Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli) of seemingly disparate areas of knowledge was enlightening. I was thoroughly intrigued by following their adventure into that unknown realm connecting psychology and physics. It is encouraging to watch people of seemingly unfathomable levels of knowledge trudge their way through an unproven space. The push and pull they each provided, as they shaved the unnecessary clay away from their burgeoning theory, was something I have not had the pleasure of witnessing prior to. The structure of the book (reproductions of letters written back and forth) allows you to see how ideas can come into material form in the world. Even through multiple levels of abstraction (translation, lost letters, missing records of in person meetings, etc.) I was able to follow the growing and shaping of their collective ideas. Though I would not recommend this as the first book to new readers of Jung, it is sometimes fun to jump into the deep end. However, do not let yourself be discouraged, this book serves as a potential of understanding. It is a goal.

As you continue to learn, the meaning of things you have previously encountered changes. Or better, if you go back and watch lectures or read books that you have previously been through, you will likely notice a different interpretation of the content (it has different meaning). This is especially true of reading Jung. As I read more or his writing, I am able to further comprehend ideas that flew right over my head upon first exposure. It is certainly a phenomenon of the further from shore you go, the deeper the water gets. As is the nature of all knowledge. Discussion encouraged.

Best explorations

-Ryan

1; 4/1/2020