Cognition & Reality

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.


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.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Weird News

Knowing that my therapist, Michael Sieck, was involved with the Diamond Approach, I have reluctantly concluded that all roads lead to Ken Wilber.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Ignorance Is Strength

Filed under: Propaganda,Wilhelm Reich — drtone @ 10:42 am

I usually don’t comment here on politics. My other blog, long neglected, is for that. As I have said here and elsewhere, I have been abstaining  for the past year or more from the habit, begun when I first learned to read, of following politics closely. Nevertheless, one cannot help noticing what has been going on in our country of late, nor can one help noticing the parallels to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s. At that time, Wilhelm Reich saw a direct connection between political repression and psychoemotional repression. I write now in that spirit.

We are seeing the perfection of the science of propaganda, as originally devised during World War I and carried to great heights by the Nazis, by the Italian Fascists, and of course, on the other end of the political spectrum, by the Stalinists. In the last couple of decades, the Right wing in this country has achieved a new level of competence in the realm of propaganda, as we saw dramatically demonstrated in the 2004 election and again in the election season just past.

The Right has consistently been on the wrong side throughout history, as measured against current values, having opposed desegregation, child labor laws, Social Security, and equal rights for women. They’re still hopping mad about the income tax. It never seems to occur to them that, in spite of these many “handicaps,” the United States became and remains the most powerful political, social and economic entity in the world today and possibly in all history.

The people we’re dealing with now, who have established a place on the national stage unimaginable 30 or 40 years ago, when they occupied the far right fringe, are not interested in government or governing. They win whether they get anything done or not, because it’s in their interest to make it appear that government does not work. For example, they won the Monica Lewinsky thing, even though they ostensibly lost, because they win any time people in Washington look like a bunch of clowns. It’s their MO. They just won the House on the weakness of a national economy that they more or less deliberately drove to its knees when they were last in power a few years ago. They know that self-fulfilling prophecies are the best prophecies of all.

The new leaders in the House, John Boehner and the rest,  have already proven that they don’t mind looking foolish. They don’t have a program, not only because their whole show is based on racism and other forms of hatred that don’t need a program, but also because they don’t believe in government. They believe in the Bible or they believe that people who do believe in the Bible will support them in dismantling government, a dismantling that serves the few who are willing to use the many to achieve their aims.

Orwell said it all when he attacked the purveyors of propaganda in 1984: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength.” It’s the last that has our country by the balls. One can hardly help sneering at Sarah Palin’s uninformed approach to the world. There is a strong–and quite dangerous–tendency to dismiss her as an ignorant rube who can’t act because she doesn’t understand how things work. As I’ve said before, however, the people who like Sarah Palin do so precisely because she is ignorant, just like them. They are threatened by education, expertise and the other products of a progressive, centralized society, those things that Palin explicitly rejects and implicitly does not grasp. And the people behind Palin like her because they believe they can control an ignorant cunt of her ilk, and they are probably correct in so thinking, although whether they are is anybody’s guess. They might be making the same error liberals do, taking her ignorance for a weakness. Ignorance is, after all, strength.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Discomfort Zone

The discomfort zone includes the darker corners of yourself where you feel unhappy and disturbed. You know what the discomfort zone is like: Your stomach churns, your neck tightens, your jaw clenches, and your mind races with unpleasant thoughts. The nausea, the pressure seem unbearable. One’s first thought on entering this zone is, “Get me outta here!” Consequently, the discomfort zone becomes a punishment in itself.

But what if you decide to stay in the discomfort zone. What if you start to explore the place, with its oppressive climate, complete with tsetse flies, crocodiles, and all manner of frightening predator? What if you take up residence in the Heart of Darkness, and start mining for the gold in the “horrible” feelings you find there? What then?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


The “past” and “future” are constructions, as I have discussed previously (in the fictional past). The specific representations we offer ourselves as “proof” of past and future, I refer to as “stories,” a terminology that did not originate with me. A “story,” in this context, is a description of something that supposedly happened or will happen, built from elements of reality.

This last phrase is important: When I ask you what happened at such and such a time, you might tell me about your parents’ divorce. True, your parents did get divorced, but an infinite number of other things happened at the same time: The hostages were released in Iran, your report card showed all “A’s.” the bulb in the bathroom light fixture blew out, rust continued to form on the wrought-iron fence…

From that infinite store, you have selected one from Column A, one from Column B, and so on, to present a “story” about your parents splitting up. When I say that it’s a “story,” I don’t mean that it’s not a compelling account of something you experienced, but I am say that it is your construction of that experience, which also included countless other elements that you left out. Therefore, “my parents divorce” is a selection from the infinite variety of life as it is lived.

To show that it is a “story,” consider how your siblings or your parents would report on the same period of time. There would probably be a great deal of similarity between your account and theirs, but there would be differences, as well. Notice that I referred to others’ accounts about  “a period of time” rather than, say, “a series of events,” because the putative “events” are the elements of the story.

Say that you were at home when the divorce happened, and your older sister was away at college. Her “story” would differ from yours in many ways, right? The “events” in her story would occur in other places and at other times, relative to the “events” in your story. In some cases, two witnesses to the same supposed set of actions can present accounts that have almost no similarity, which is the basis of the film “Rashomon” and the novels in The Alexandria Quartet.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Can Do Better?

One formulation of  behavior is that we are all “doing the best we can” at all times. There is some good there, recognizing that everyone, all the time, is adapting to circumstances. Nevertheless, “the best I can” presupposes a range of effort (or some other quality) that could be occurring now, although NOW does not accommodate a range of anything, but only only what is happening. Thus, I am doing the best that I AM doing, because I am doing what I am doing and nothing else. I AM THAT I AM, as the god of the desert says.


Wednesday, 6 October 2010


In every situation, one is establishing a  reality with another. Michael Sieck has termed this mutuality “co-creation.” It is unavoidable once contact is made, even in relatively superficial interactions. For example, as I was exiting a Trader Joe’s yesterday, I got into one of those “please-go-left-when-I-go-right” interactions with a young mother. By the time we passed each other, we were wagging our carts and smiling broadly at a game that had emerged out of nowhere. On the other side, a pact of mutual avoidance remains a co-creation, because it still involves complete immersion in a situation that would not exist were it not for the other person and his or her actions. Not only does every action have an equal and opposite reaction, but every action is a reaction within a co-created reality.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Thinker

If one is having thoughts, that is to say experience, then there is a thinker who is not those thoughts, an experiencer who is not the experience.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

More Basic Goodness

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the goodness underneath areas of emotional conflict. Because the pain radiating from those spots connects directly to the trauma from which it originates,  unconscious fears and the defenses they foster are  immediately available, ready to brought to consciousness. For that reason, psychotherapy through catharsis need not always involve overt dramatics.

This past weekend, I attended one in a series of quarterly retreats to receive training in Relational Somatic Psychotherapy. In this instance, because one of my dogs was in pain, I chose to commute daily to the retreat, rendering the “retreat” concept partially moot. One of the nights, worried about my dog, I left without saying goodbye to anyone, and had barely reached my car before I regretted not having stepped into the kitchen as the others were lining up for dinner to announce my departure. Nevertheless, I drove down the hill, building up guilt the entire way.

Burning with upset when I got home, I tried to settle into a movie, but couldn’t quite. Late in the evening, I had a brief correspondence with a former member of the group, attempting to persuade him that he was welcome back. In an email to him, most of it a serious appraisal of the situation, I joked that perhaps he wasn’t qualified, after all, because during his absence the rest of us had “become enlightened.” His next email revealed he did not get the joke. That was the cue for me to switch from my guilt and frustration at not having said goodbye when I left the retreat to not having been clear with my correspondent.

I reported all of this to the group the next morning. After I was done, Michael Sieck, the group leader and also my individual psychotherapist, asked others what they had observed. As I watched, the three people in the couch across from where I was sitting began shaking their legs. I wondered why. Then one of them pointed out that I had been shaking my leg during my presentation. I was stunned for a moment, and then it made sense. It was as if the innocent, frightened self inside me had, without my conscious permission, been waving a signal flag.

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