Cognition & Reality

Monday, 4 April 2011

Something Will Happen

Filed under: Attachment,Basic Goodness,Perennial Philosophy — drtone @ 9:28 am

Last summer, a client and I came up with a sort of slogan describing the usual status of human affairs: “Something will happen.” Just when you think things are on a rail–going well, or going South–something will happen that changes your circumstances and your attitude. For example, last year I thought I was running completely out of money until I discovered, more or less by accident, that I could draw on my 401K at age 59-1/2. I would be that old exactly when I ran out of my other source of funds. Admittedly, it’s not great to be drawing on my retirement right now, but it’s better than immediate penury. Presently, I’m worried about my psychotherapy practice, because I have so few clients, but Something Will Happen. Guaranteed.


Friday, 1 April 2011

Changing The Past

Filed under: Attachment,Emotion,Film,Psychotherapy — drtone @ 1:50 pm

In previous posts, I have discussed the non-existence of past and future. They are projections consisting of nothing but complex thoughts, and are therefore not real. In its many guises, the past can be particularly problematic. From a “psychotherapeutic” standpoint, the past, as we conceive it to be, is the source of many difficulties in the present. We trace the defensive adaptations that seem to get in our way to the distorted family dynamics of childhood. Our memories of the past, constructed though they are, can appear to us with great clarity. Although they refer to the “past,” our memories happen to us in the present.

You can’t change what doesn’t exist. In movies, sometimes, a character journeys into the past, where he or she has no power and can’t even talk to those he or she sees, perhaps to warn them of an impending disaster. Our experience of the past is much more like those movies than we usually recognize. Memories, especially when they are very clear, seem to be as subject to the rules that govern reality, such as the laws of physics, as are events that actually occur in the present. So we try to solve the problems that come to us from the past as if they were happening now. The problem is that we walk around in our memories much like a character in a movie who wanders wraithlike through scene after scene in which he or she can touch nothing nor be heard.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

“Getting Better”

Non-attachment means recognizing the basic goodness of our situation. I give up my goals, my notions about improving, because trying to “get better” implies moving away from WHO I AM NOW. Whatever I do, win or lose, come or go, I experience reality as it happens, unadorned by my stories about it. By the same token, as long as I focus on where I want to be in the conjectural future, I reduce the psychic space available in the present. If I am not attached to results, not only am I free from the suffering I might engage in, but also my mind and senses are clear. Paradoxically, once I renounce my attachment to going anywhere in particular, I become more effective at going where I want to go.

We can’t open selectively, however. Because pain and turmoil are part of life, we must accept them if we are to remain open to love and joy. I have told clients who have come to me as a result of ruptured relationship or financial crisis to welcome the opportunity the seeming disaster presents. Although these events are painful, to say the best, they also can illuminate pathways that would have been impossible to see under the prior, apparently more comfortable, circumstances. Notoriously, for example, a secure marriage, once gone, reveals itself as having been a hindrance to growth. Non-attachment from the immediate consequences of separation and divorce can therefore lead directly into previously foreclosed possibilities.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Filed under: Attachment,Non-Dualism,Perennial Philosophy — drtone @ 2:26 pm

Before birth, beings are not manifest to our human senses. In the interim between birth and death, they are manifest. At death they return to the unmanifest again. What is there in all this to grieve over? Bhagavad-Gita II

Because it is only a web of stories, subjective consciousness is not real. The self, the mind, the world, all these are illusions. There is nothing novel in such a view, which has been held and developed for millennia by Eastern sages. I am a story I tell myself. Attachment is, therefore, little more than a dream, because the “I” or ego who is the central character is an illusion, as is the timeline through which the ego moves.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Fruits Of Action

Filed under: Attachment,Perennial Philosophy — drtone @ 1:21 pm

I have no desire at all for the fruits of action. Sri Krishna: Bhagavad Gita IV

The consistency that makes my story understandable and believable is an illusion designed to maintain the coherence of an ego required to give an account of itself. My story about myself happens to me as I move from the past into the future. The value of the story depends upon my identification with the central character, me, and upon my attachment to the story’s “plot,” as I win or lose, attain happiness, or sink into sorrow. Subjective consciousness is not real. The idea of self, the idea of mind, the idea of the  physical world, the idea of the psychological world, all these are illusions. There is nothing novel in such a view, which has been held and developed for millennia by Eastern sages: I am a story I tell myself. Attachment to the fruits of my actions is, therefore, little more than a dream, because the “I” or ego who is the central character is an illusion, as is the timeline through which the ego moves.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Problem Of Me

Filed under: Attachment,Perennial Philosophy — drtone @ 9:07 am

I’m always trying to figure out the problem of ME. Despite recognizing that my story of myself is an illusion, I have maintained a naive faith that I could position my mind in such a way as to answer every question all at once. Although I recognize that the mind won’t work, because I can only experience my “mind” as a rather complicated story, I nevertheless try to smuggle my mind in.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Science & The Church: An Addendum

Filed under: Attachment,Perennial Philosophy,Radical Constructivism — drtone @ 5:51 pm

Some may have found my entry of yesterday surprising because we are accustomed to think of science in opposition to religion. At least in part, this is because of science’s self-promotion as the only source of answers, demonstrating that it is indeed a child of the Church, whatever its current stance may be regarding religious doctrines. I have been struggling for some time with this sort of phenomenon, which I believe to be a function of closed systems: If a closed system has any products, those products retain the essential characteristics of the system as a whole. Possibly, this is what Varela and Maturana mean by autopoiesis.

Another area in which I think the same law or the same tendency applies is in the area of ego. Whatever it does, the ego’s products inevitably resemble the ego, a version of “You can run, but you can’t hide”: Whenever one enters the ego, one enters at the same place, with the same problems, concerns and beliefs, with the same attachments. At least, I think so.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Why No Joy?

Filed under: Attachment,Emotion — drtone @ 3:23 pm

Yesterday, I had an appointment with a urologist to receive the results of a prostate cancer biopsy performed last week. The results were resoundingly negative (i.e., good): Of the twelve samples taken, all were benign. As readers of my blog know, my prostate cancer story has been going on for six months, ever since a PSA test I had in June was returned showing a substantial jump over my previous tests.

When I received the news from the urologist, after waiting quite a while in a consulting room, I was glad, but I was not overjoyed. I don’t know what I expected to happen to me. I had been meditating deeply for some time, weeks maybe, developing inner peace, not only for its own sake, but to prepare for receiving this news. I had opened up a big space, or so it seemed to me. I was not particularly afraid of receiving bad news. My main concern was that I might be forced to make another decision.

Although I had already come to the conclusion that I would not pursue radical therapy for prostate cancer, I realized as I sat in the consulting room that it was one thing to have reached that conclusion and another to make a positive decision, in the presence of the urologist, not to have surgery or radiation. I remembered all the times, sitting in restaurants as a kid, being pressured by my father to decide what I wanted to order–experiences that have made me the quickest menu reader and food order-er west of the Pecos. I knew I did not want to decide anything. The urologist’s news meant that I didn’t have to, at least not at this time about this issue.

I was relieved, but not exactly happy, nor did I become appreciably happier on the drive home. When I got home, I sent emails to several people with whom I had spoken about my prostate adventure. Some of them have gotten back to me, most expressing feelings of joy and relief that I have not had myself. It’s partly in contrast to these good wished that I am aware of the lack of joy in my own response.

The PSA result had turned into a Big Deal, complete with many hours of Googling and angry rants, some of which have appeared in this blog. Nevertheless, in the last few weeks, I had already moved on, I realize as I write this. It had already become something of a non-issue before I ever made my drive to Fontana yesterday to get the word from the medical world. Yet I did get the biopsy because I wanted to know what was going on “down there.” Now I know, and I don’t care very much. It’s kind of a letdown.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Spiritual Bypassing In Spades

Filed under: Attachment,Perennial Philosophy,Psychotherapy — drtone @ 1:43 pm

While thinking about writing an entry about the relationship of psychotherapy and spirituality, I noticed that some Googling I had previously done on “object relations” had turned up a conference of New York psychoanalysts on “psychoanalysis and spirituality.” As I looked further, and linked to one of the participants, Jeffrey Rubin, a Buddhist psychoanalyst of whom I had heard, I saw that he had a link on his website to a story in the New York Times Magazine about his treatment of a “Zen master.” I’m not sure if it’s precisely relevant to the topic I began with, but it’s an interesting study in how spiritual practice, mystical practice, or whatever you want to call it, can paradoxically act against the process of self-discovery that is presumably at its center.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Soul Without Shame: Book Recommendation

As background for writing a book on the Inner Bully, I’m reading Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown, written from the perspective of the Diamond Approach of A.H. Almaas, with quotes from Almaas. The format is good, using vignettes to illustrate the different forms the “inner judge” or superego takes, and delving precisely into the origins of self-criticism and self-doubt. The Diamond Approach, although based in Sufism and other mystical traditions, draws heavily on object relations theory, making the book of interest to anyone interested in the relationship of depth psychology and spirituality.

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