The end of another week which I'd like to reflect on. I guess an overarching theme is that of doubt
. But we'll get to that. I'm well into uni now (end of third week) and am getting up again in the mornings. Dosing with stimulant meds has recommenced (to help me study) but I'm still trying to find the right balance where I can focus but still think the way I'm used to. Work has slowed down (one or two shifts a week) and I don't miss it. Money is tight, though, because I am still putting it aside to pay that fine. But these words are drifting further from reality - work and finance occupy a very small part of my focus. What follows is what really has been happening (which appears in a somewhat linear fashion but the arrangement of insights is only for clarity of narration):
Family issues continue and trigger many things. It seems every time I go over there I return injured in some way. But this isn't necessarily a set-back as it usually turns into a catalytic probing of some sort which helps me advance. For instance, the last time I was there I was alone with my mother. Knowing there were still unresolved issues (relating to the mother within me) I was nervous. Conversation is always difficult for me and even more so within this tight and personal boundary. Paranoid thoughts started to rise again, reminding me of things I forget until they point them out again, and my worldview starts to collapse again. I leave shortly thereafter in a poor state.
Back at home I start researching psychedelic experiences again (I often have searched for them hoping for some explanation of my own trip). This time, however, I bear in mind some words a friend told me to the effect of "your experiences are unique to you but reflected in the experiences of others." I started to this reflection in the stories of others. Although no-one had experienced exactly what I had, I could see how the same underlying processes were operating to produce different "illusions." I defined what I had as a "psychedelic crisis" and for the first time considered that what happened wasn't "real" in the ordinary sense but was produced by myself from my peculiar psychic state. This was very liberating because I could see beyond my fears to what caused them, whereas I used to doubt that the reality beyond them wasn't real.
I have also recently gained insight into addiction, thanks to the work of Gabor Mate (Gar-bor Matt-eh). In brief, the theory is that if as a child you do not receive the love and attention you need your brain misses out on some essential chemicals that it requires to complete particular neural circuitry. Later in life, you receive these neural-chemicals through substance addiction or obsessions with work, sex, power, etc. Of course, the pseudo-love is transient and never enough so as you grow more and more desperate you increase the quantities or intensity of the obsessions. I become addicted to so many things: alcohol, cigarettes, fast-food, caffeine, porn, shopping. What I've become aware of is the "completion" I feel when I am engaged in these things and then the emptiness that returns afterwards.
By understanding and becoming aware of these emotions I believe I am slowly becoming free of their hold. Apparently when you are in the midst of an emotional urge to engage one of these addictions the executive functions of brain shut down and your limbic system takes over. This part of the brain doesn't think rationally and thus you have to "reboot" you prefrontal cortex. You do this by asking what events caused the emotion, how you interpreted those events, and what your emotional reaction was to those events. Events can be externally or internally triggered. I performed this exercise when I was about to go out for fast-food two hours before dinner. I wrote about two pages and discovered exactly where my feelings of insufficiency had come from. During that process I was relieved and "back in control" (steady). Later, I did this again in a different situation and had the same results: I regained the overall awareness of myself that had temporarily been blocked by the triggered complex. These emotional longings happen in different degrees I must note that there is always an underlying emotional void whose filling is a long-term project.
In asking the question whether to love from within or from without I am still unsure. There is always a base feeling of incompleteness. But it is "manageable" without addictions - however, addressing it is the sole purpose of my life. I don't feel love but need to; I don't feel worthy but need to; and I don't feel a sense of belonging but need to. Will I have to rely on the care and attention of others to fill this need, or is there an untapped spring within? While pondering these very same questions outside last night, my foot bumped into a young and ungrown pine cone. Something like this:
There had been a pine tree in our yard but it had recently been cut down because it didn't survive the dry and hot summer we've just had. Anyway, for me the pine cone had the potential to act as a symbol of the pineal gland. Thus I thought that in order for me to feel complete I had to work with the pineal in some way (i.e. the answer is love from within). As much as I want this to be true I still doubt it, and I swing between me being on some path to liberation vs. me being a deluded neurotic making meaning where there is none. From the spiritual/religious perspective, I was denying grace. Yet from another there was nothing to deny because I am just crazy.
This particular strand of doubt is very significant because a lot of my drive in life comes from a sense of purpose I get from believing myself on some kind of mission. I worry, in fact, I'm producing certain fantasies myself in order to perpetuate my belief systems. The thing is, these fantasies are old and deeply rooted, and to do with my deepest desires: ideas about my vocation, family, self-realisation, etc.
For example, after reading Jung last night (I want to read more of him and more comprehensively - I usually read him out of context), I wondered about my thirst for knowledge at uni. I am doing well at uni. I am getting high grades, ranking top of the courses, I study hard, am learning heaps, have the attention of several tutors and the university, am supported, and feel like I am unfolding as a scholar/researcher. Jung provides a story of a lady whose father, which she had a very close bond with, dies, and experiencing emotional lack, subsequently starts avidly studying philosophy. Jung says the feeling void is compensated for on the intellectual plane but the lady won't fill the void unless she finds a suitable outlet for her feeling.
The reason I study so hard is to figure myself out. I have this idea that once this is done I may be able to help others do the same. By going through this intense experience so consciously, and with a curiosity towards it, and with a certain talent for writing and teaching, I believe I am well suited for this task. However, what if this idea is a manifestation of the fantasies above? What if my idea of myself as a researcher and the intense energy I pour into study is a psychological compensation for the inner feelings of incompleteness and unworthiness? What if it is not really my "destiny," but a symptom of neurosis? Does this mean the best course of action is to abandon the search and just focus on integrating with "normal" people. Does it mean eventually I'll realise that I'm kidding myself and don't have it in me to be a researcher? That it wont ultimately provide what I need"
For as long as I can remember I've been shy. Ever since preschool I've gotten more and more alienated. I don't know who I am apart from feeling unloved, unworthy. I know I am sensitive, but if I had felt loved as a child where would I be today? Would I still be interested in philosophy, pyschology, metaphysics, society, and culture? Is that my "natural" inclination or a symptom of mental illness? Is there a core to me? If I had no feelings of lack, and was just sensitive, what would have my path been in life? A musician? A scientist? A builder? I would really like to know. Is this scholarly gig just another "coat" to soon discard? What I am apart from these interests?
Look, when it comes down to it I know I will have the strength and intelligence to deny my illusions and uncover the true self. Past history has proved that I have these two skills: discernment, and the courage to do what I know is right. So if this forage into study is just a detour on the way to stripping back the layers of the self I will be able to accept it. There is a lot invested in it though. I feel like I am connecting the dots. And the future "vision" of myself as some form of teacher is very sincere and powerful - it came to be when I was in Peru asking what my task in this life was.
When I am in my room or at uni studying and writing I feel so alive. I love finding and understanding new concepts. I love gaining new insights. I love connecting ideas and tweaking my own. I love writing about them. I love the process of discovery. I am tearing up as a write this. I don't like partying. I don't like going to shopping malls or the beach. I don't like crows of people. I like solitude. I like walking in nature. I love animals. And I love reading, and researching. I feel like it was what I was born to do. I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life. But what if these feelings and preferences are determined by childhood experiences of being unloved? What if this process of gathering ideas and theories is nothing more than a broken psyche looking for answers? Like a body-builder pressing twice his weight because he's insecure about his image. He has the support of the gym community and looks set to make a career in weight-lifting comps but the whole ordeal is based on a mental problem and is in fact not his true calling. What if my scholar-ideal is the same thing? Then it follows that all these signs I perceive that I am to write and teach are not divine guidance but my own illusions? So you see, I am having difficultly locating the real me apart from the broken me...
I do know, however, that there are problems in the above thoughts. I am sure life is more complex than it seems and there are a vast array of possibilities. It could very well be that this search for wholeness does lead me "into my correct fate." Regardless of my environmental adaptions I might very well have been the scholar type anyhow. People did say that as a child I displayed tendencies that hinted at such a vocation. I was inventive, creative, intelligent. There are negative manifestations of this though, like the business entrepreneur who wins success because he needs to prove to his father that he can "be somebody." I don't know though. What I am saying is that there are many possibilities that I need to be open to.
Then there is the issue that this is all a manifestation of a deeper level of doubt. This level is concerned with trusting oneself and their interaction with the process of life. This is me not looking for outside authorities on my own life but looking within. The trouble I'm finding is discerning what is true intuition and what is fantasy. What is really guiding me and what is my desires/hurts leading me astray? Do I in fact require someone older and more experienced to guide me inbetween these two influences? Can I really trust myself or is the unconscious more complex that I realise? If individuals are left to themselves can everyone's psyche really lead them to liberation without outside influence?
These are questions I am asking myself and currently working through. It is a matter of building a sense of self and then letting it be eroded and rearranged as one opens themselves up to more of the mystery, unfamiliarity, and complexity of the psyche. Reconstruct and deconstruct. Hypothesis and test. Fail and try again.
Anyhow, now returning to those feelings of love. I believe I felt communal love for the first time in a long time the other day, on St Patrick's Day actually. I had done some work, I can't quite remember; clearing, or writing, or something like that. I had read about the need for that feeling of connection and had gone through the reasons while I feel so unworthy much of the time. Through understanding it I gained temporary release from the usual feelings of inadequacy and thus anxiety. Two of my room-mates and one other were cooking lunch in the kitchen. I went out and became engaged in conversation. Not being anxious and thus not feelings threatened like I usually am (and thus not on the "fight of flight" alert) I was able to relax and actually enjoy conversing. I suddenly felt a warmth from them and a sense of inclusion. I felt so grounded and wholesome. Other housemates were moving around and I had the feeling of a happy, busy household full of love. I went to have a shower and it had just been used before me; instead of feeling annoyed it was pleasant and warm to be in that room, with the remaining scents of the person previous, like I was back in my heart. This feeling of social connection and happiness last an hour or two before wearing off slowly in the afternoon.
This was a feeling of love and community that NEVER occurred in our house. My housemates are kind and mature and once I could accept their presence their openness allowed for strong feelings of communion and social connection. In my family there are always disputes under the surface; hungry and insecure egos propping up their banners; entwined and conflicted histories; and my own unresolved familial complexes. So to experience this sense of belonging and acceptance I had to find it in another group that wasn't my family. And who said the family is supposed to provide this stuff? Not mine. It so nice to realise that these feelings could be had and that part of the problem was that I blocked them (my family environment clearly contributed to my walls of defence). So that was a new and unexpected experience that has provided me with direct knowledge of what it feels like to have those circuits connected in the brain (the ones I want to connect with inward
love) and I will use the memory of that feeling to direct me as I go forward.
Another interesting experience was my third (as far as I can remember) realisation of "satori." The first was in 2009 after reading Tolle and that "no time for karma" ebook. The feeling of carelessness actually contributed to me giving up school at that time. The second time was while I was driving out of town to clear me head - I actually started crying it was so insightful. And the third time was a couple of days ago. I had just smoked a cigarette, and it must have been something to do with the nicotine that just made me so clear and present. Before smoking I was obsessing on some issue, going over and over it in my head, getting bogged down in detail, when I felt myself moving beyond the thought. I, again, woke up to the awareness that I was and moved beyond thought. When I tried to think about it and the "I" and "me" identity came back in I realised that wasn't me. I was able to discern between the me that thinks and the me that observes the thinking. This brought GREAT peace and felt all the pressures and weights of my problems be released. It was very, very relieving. I was so happy afterwards that I became kind of manic. I was like a young child again, singing and talking happily with people, and dancing around the place. I was reminded not only about the nature of consciousness but also about a part of my personality that is often hidden.
This time, however, instead of turning (just) to Tolle to get some theory on the experience, I went deeper. I found Sartre has explored the same ideas and experiences of consciousness and come to the same conclusions as me (but at a far more advanced stage and in far greater detail - the basic and foundational ideas are the same though). In the introduction to his main work, Being and Nothingness
, it is written: "the consciousness which says, 'I am,' is not actually the consciousness which thinks. Instead we are dealing with a secondary activity," and "the pre-reflective cogito
[is] the primary consciousness" (xi). When you observe an object usually you are non-reflectively conscious of you awareness: i.e. "I see a chair." When you reflect on the act of noticing chair, you realise you are aware of the act of observation. However, this awareness of yourself now posits your-self also as an object. (Self means here the sense of yourself, your ego.) Thus to consider yourself you must create an image of yourself, an "I," that is then able to reflect of the act of observation. Therefore it follows that the primary consciousness is the "pre-reflective" consciousness, it is a "non-positional self-consciousness." It is not a thought form, which is always an object of consciousness and thus secondary. It is the underlying awareness: we cannot say "I am conscious," only "there is consciousness;" not "my consciousness" but "consciousness of me."
These ideas seem to me very similar to what I know of Zen Buddhism (through Alan Watts). Consciousness, Sartre writes, determines the state, and the state determines the ego. The ego stands as the ideal unity of all my states, qualities, and actions, but as such it is an object-pole, not a subject. It is the "flux of Consciousness constituting itself as the unity of itself." I have observed this in myself. There is an inner urge or feeling first, which words then convey with the added subject-prefix of "I." For instance, whilst walking to uni I anticipated the crowds I would soon have to manoeuvre through. Carrying an existing anxious reaction to this I felt a resistance towards the thought form of "walking through crowds soon." This was a spontaneous feeling of consciousness that first imagined the future and then reacted against it - I suppose it was emotional. The feeling was then expressed through thinking as "I hate walking through crowds." Thus it was the expression of unity (in this case, of states) through a constructed "pole" of "I." Aversion and inclination (pain and pleasure) seem always states of consciousness that determine our path through "the world" and the totality of our past aversions and inclinations are expressed through the ideal union of the self as ego.
To reflect on the world and comprehend it from a stable viewpoint Consciousness creates an object of itself (held together by memory and habit) known as "me" and "I." "The 'I' is the ideal unity of actions," writes Sartre, "the 'me' that of states and qualities." Over time this way of thinking (or "being") gets stronger, more "natural" and automatic, and the constructed sense of self more easily identified with. Sitting outside smoking that cigarette I was reminded of the reality outside my constructed sense of self and it was like being raised out of a thick fog. I image my ego is stronger than others too become of obsessive patterns of thinking and my crippling complexes.
Because of this extra reading I believe I have a better understanding of how "consciousness operates in me." With Tolle I felt one had to reject the ego, like it was "fake" and thus "negative" and needed to be "transcended" (which for me, in practice, meant ignored). However, now I really do see it as a tool. It is a way of relating the experiences of consciousness with and through the world. It is a hypothetical person for ease of interaction and comprehension. It is almost like the ego for was a sphere of smoke, floating in front of me, tangible enough to use but intangible enough to remember that space between it (the object) and consciousness (the subject). So I believe I am on the way to relating to it better now.
The trouble is, of course, turbulent emotions which initiate re-identification. I used to think how terrible it would be to let go of attachment to ego only to have your life fall to pieces and then, through emotional re-attachment, have the experience all the troubles of the degenerated situation. I had a hard time the other day staying in that state of "non-attachment" (for lack of a better term) because my attachment to emotions is so strong. An analogy would be trying to recover the peace of a meadow as tornadoes rip through it. My method for dealing with these "interruptions" is the inner psychological work I'm performing. It is a slow-process but working through the complexes gives me insight into their nature and allows me greater perspective on the way my personality has developed.
This work on the things that interrupt the spontaneous flow of consciousness are poured back into the development of the ego which eventually, I assume, sits (or floats) quite stable. Thus the ego is developed and the awareness of pre-reflective consciousness recovered. I am not sure what the later entails. I haven't read that far into Sartre. I do believe though, that his position is that the ego limits the possibility of consciousness to act spontaneously and thus if the subject was no longer hypnotised by the ego it would spell the freedom of consciousness (the question is: what would then arise?). Tolle's answer is similar but is clothed in religiosity. The freedom of consciousness to act in the present is enlightenment and out of that state of being (shared by humanity) a "new earth" would arise. You can see him practising this spontaneity in interviews actually (he pauses for a while before answering). But I want to understand Sartre so I have a lot more reading to do.
Anyway, the third experience of "satori" and subsequent research has definitely advanced my understanding of the matter. And I am eager to explore it further.
There are many other things I would like to cover. I have starting reading more seriously, no only Sartre but others as well. The thing that worked for me was carrying a pencil around and writing and underlining text right in the books. I never bothered to read as much as I'd like because I knew I would forget what I learnt if I didn't write it down. However, then the act of reading became too intense because I'd have to transcribe everything I read onto paper. Writing in the book, however, provides a summary and highlights important points whilst I read, and so this has increased my motivation and dedication to read. I am also starting to write ideas down as they come to me. It started by putting an A1 piece of paper on my desk and jotting things down then needed. But I have also started using an A4 lecture pad and I am using it thoroughly. This is all to do with connecting ideas and starting to form a body of work that unifies the understandings I am uncovering.
I am also starting to accept that I am "shy and introverted." It has taken a while but I am allowing my aversion to certain activities and kinds of people to be okay. So I feel I coming more into my self; like my ego is becoming more authentic.
There are a few other things but I have exhausted my self-reflective capacities for today. I also feel I am becoming too detached from my "felt self-knowledge" and thus starting to intellectualise too much. I do, however, stand-by all I have said, but any definitive statements should read more hesitantly and any apparently now conquered new "states of being" understood as offered me a small taste. Already I have re-attached to my ego and have bought many sugary items from the supermarket. My queries of doubt may have already been replaced by self-involved ideas of importance. The past week was a taste of new levels of being that will be explored in the coming months.
Another thing, I feel like I am writing to a large readership. Maybe one or two will most likely read this. However, I would write this even if no-one read it. I do get sucked into the idea that I have something to say though. It is something I am working on.
If you have gotten this far, thanks for taking an interest. Loneliness is a bane and companionship such a blessing. I have been writing for five hours straight and it feels good to get this out. The internet is kind of a surrogate listener for the lonely, I think. I don't even imagine it being public, just personal. Somewhere I can talk and someone will listen, who ever they are.
Anyway, au revoir.