Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tao as Universal Unconscious Mind

Leafing through this great Havens book on Milton Erickson I was struck by this:

[W]hile on the Research Service of the Worcester State Hospital he interviewed a catatonic schizophrenic who manifested a variety of bizarre behaviours and beliefs which struck Erickson as familiar. Eventually he was able to relate them to those of several primitive tribes, a discovery which puzzled him greatly because the patient obviously was unfamiliar with the beliefs and rituals of any of these tribes. These and other observations of the spontaneous development of identical patterns of thought and behaviour among separate individuals throughout the world and throughout history led him to conclude that basic human thinking and emotion are very much the same from person to person in spite of individual and regional idiosyncrasies. In other words, he observed that the human mind has an incredibly wide but finite range of potential patterns available to it and that everyone has the capacity to function within any one of those patterns.

The particular patterns that any given individual adopts or manifests, he realized, are a result of limitations imposed upon this original pool of potentials by culture and by the individual’s unique experiential history.

This is just so it. Humanity is bounded but infinite — but cultural humanity is far more bounded. The schizophrenic was tapping into the underlying pool — who knows exactly how. But (as with Jung) the behaviour tipped Erickson off to the unlimited nature of human cognition free of the social. The need to have the social be “everything” is quite strong, but partly thanks to a weird childhood in which recovery from polio played a major role, and partly to his great natural oddness, Erickson never had that need and brought a very objective eye to human beings.

That eye is the eye of the unconscious itself. Havens:

Erickson’s fundamental orientation towards life, perhaps the central theme of his work, was that people must learn to recognize, to accept, and to utilize, what actually is in order to meet their needs, accomplish their goals, and satisfy their purposes. Rather than lamenting, distorting, or denying the unpleasant facts of life or fantasizing about an easier, more ideal reality, Erickson proposed that people must experience and acknowledge the realities of their situation and apply whatever capacities they have in order to cope as effectively or purposefully as possible with those realities.

That may seem obvious — it’s the classic wisdom and never outdated — but the point is that “we” are not merely what “we” think ourselves to be. Your consciousness begins your physical life far less local to your body. Much of the most interesting stuff in your mind is stuff you never really look at after you become localised. Hooking into the body you start to leave the non-bodily behind — and then you hook into a cultured body, and get caught in language. But just reach behind and unhook those, and you have things you had no “conscious” idea about, mental aspects that already understand life in a less biased way than you do, so you can lean on them. As Havens says:

His most general observation was that people have both a conscious mode of functioning and an unconscious mode of functioning. The conscious mind represents a prejudiced and limited perspective on reality which can result in various distortions and behavioral anomalies. The unconscious mind, on the other hand, is a flexible system of thought and awareness which perceives and responds to the literal or objective qualities of reality. It is relatively unprejudiced, is very intelligent, and contains a vast reservoir of previously acquired, experientially based knowledge and memories.

The relation of this to “spirituality” is for example: just think of everything as having an unconscious mind. You can learn to tap into it by these and all sorts of methods. In an STE you become conscious of it, including as a whole — hence “cosmic consciousness”.


The very definition of “relevant”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi recalling childhood experience of World War II:

As a child, I witnessed the dissolution of the smug world in which I had been comfortably ensconced. I noticed with surprise how many of the adults I had known as successful and self-confident became helpless and dispirited once the war removed their social supports. Without jobs, money, or status, they were reduced to empty shells. Yet there were a few who kept their integrity and purpose despite the surrounding chaos. Their serenity was a beacon that kept others from losing hope. And these were not the men and women one would have expected to emerge unscathed: they were not necessarily the most respected, better educated, or more skilled individuals. This experience set me thinking: what sources of strength were these people drawing on?

Now that is a good question, as the unpleasantly squirting shits of a rotgut technoswill society continue to play havoc with smugness in their degenerative storms. Luckily there are quite a few good answers. The second Havens/Walters hypno book I just mentioned last post has an approach to this called psychological hardiness — good term — that comes from some research at the University of Chicago, a subset of the general question of psychological resilience which is as important to individuals as physical resilience is to communities. I’m not saying I particularly like their definition, which is business-orientated, but once you start fooling with it…

(And by the way, the singular lack of psychological resilience in many isn’t at all unrelated to the total non-resilience of the culture.)

What I cheer in that book is the encapsulation of hardiness in a hypnosis script. I love occasionally finding someone doing things like that; again, this is how it should work. Maybe as a hypnotherapist I’ll offer trance to help with adaptation to peak oil too.

I suspect formless soul isn’t part of that theory though. Ronald Havens was and remains a materialist, a very nice and intelligent chap indeed from a couple of interactions I’ve had with him — loves his motorbikes — but one who works with a “cosmic consciousness” he thinks is in our heads! Yeah. (He did a book on that too BTW, it’s very good for what it is.) Catherine Walters of the golden voice has I think gone the more reiki-and-ascension route since co-writing with Havens, and that’s hardly me either… But any particular biases don’t mean the work won’t be generally useful, since it can always be adjusted.

Those in Csikszentmihalyi’s example who were only happy with jobs/money/status were empty shells all along anyway. He must have sensed their nature wasn’t changed by their fall in circumstance, but revealed. See that is how it works!

Answer to question why develop my own transpersonal application of hypnosis? Because what I’ve seen is just not very interesting. I look at most of the books and courses around, and it’s all blah blah anchoring, blah blah EFT, subpersonalities, addiction, blah blah healing pain relief, spirit release, past lives, blah blah Jungian archetypes. It’s good stuff if you’ve never encountered it, but not what I’d call transpersonal.

I’ve hardly seen anything in hypnosis (with the possible exception of Bernard Aaronson’s famous script for inducing void from 1969 — different era!) that even tries to look at that, and it’s not surprising because what’s involved is rather different from hypnosis as normally understood. As for something like this, I only hope it’s harmless, that’s all. This is the problem with a spiritual free market.

What is nice to see is some people resurrecting Mesmer in terms of energy hypnosis…


Forthcoming…

So! A great big series on Spiritual But Not Religious culture is in the works!

It’s been planned and researched and re-planned several times. I’ve had sample posts written on a page of MSWord that ended up with four pages of tiny notes surrounding them as ideas grew and changed.

The last series on the nature of SBNR was very exterior and sketchy. For this one we’ll get the inside story, look at much more of the nature of spiritual experience itself, and how it links to SBNR culturally. We’ll get ideas on the Ultimate itself — and the thorny question of whether and how it crosses cultures. We’ll lob in structures different from the standard New Agery to get some interesting thoughts on history going. We’ll gradually see the whole past/present/future laid out in a recontextualised way. And we’ll meet a lot of rather interesting people and their exploits and ideas.

We’ll also see a pattern that gets over a lot of the problems noticed in the earlier series, and demonstrates how spirituality can operate free of religious dogma. The pattern is there already but doesn’t seem to have been specifically noticed before. What’s more it is infinitely extensible, nothing closed — there will be a way for anyone to use it even if their SBNR thoughts and experiences are very different from mine. (In fact that’s the point.) My view may be a bit personal and even oddball, but the underlying pattern is very universal, something you can take away and hone when you want to consider your spiritual life in context.

And yes, of course, I’ll be looking at how SBNR can contribute to the future, with its challenges that are (as I mentioned in the first series) completely different from those SBNR has faced until now.

A problem I have right now is the size of this series. I think each post will be about 1,000 words — still quite short, about the length of the last post in the Rogers series. But should I put that much out once every four days? Should I go back to posting weekly? If I do the latter the series will basically last a year… Could people stand 1,000 words every four days? I don’t know! Let me know your thoughts! :)


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XIX

Final Thoughts

The way that I like begins, not with some creed, but with a possibility, to gradually discover and transform into something much more like one’s best self. (In a way this seems to involve healing all the damage done by creeds.) Rogers really has a great approach the human levels of this and gives a lovely modern guide into the process.

The atmosphere is one of complete supportive non-judgmentalism which creates a safety of thought and expression. So one moves from being trapped within feelings and attitudes to being able to notice and understand them, and frees oneself from habitual interpretations. One builds a new self-system and lives in it in a renewed context.

Quiet enables recovery from a hundred minor traumas and perhaps some major ones. The sweet rest of the parasympathetic comes to predominate in the nervous system. (Peace also turns out to be strongly linked with invigorating aliveness, whilst unpeacefulness inculcates deadness at rates which should be sobering but sadly rarely are.) No body is ungrateful for having its tendons transformed.

As Glenn says, the result of discovering meaning and meaningfulness is to exist in “calm connectedness”. This means normal life would otherwise be disconnected (estrangement). The recovery process thus leads somewhere one couldn’t consciously aim, therefore one gradually learns to trust it. Whoever one “is”, whatever the life one is entrained to, the process takes in all of its elements and begins to reveal the underlying connection between them, the person who is doing that living, who would be lost if focused on objects. One expresses this in one’s own way, learning to know where the ups and downs naturally come and when to push or relax. This is part of what Rogers called “being process”.

I don’t mean to imply in this series that seeing a therapist (or indeed a healer) isn’t a good idea. One might uncover difficulties emotionally, and whilst there are some people who find it possible to get over that by themselves, there are others who don’t. Follow your heart. But whether one sees a therapist or not, the process is the process, and it is your process. You be the judge of what is needed as you make your moves and allow spontaneous action/reaction. Success often lies in taking the highest promptings seriously.

Meditation actually improves the Rogerian formula even at the beginning. Silence, that ultimate answer to all earthly questions, is not usually used in a non-transpersonal therapy. When combined with Rogerian technique, it brings a deep balm, ease and peace to the person who has probably been without it for a long while.

The stillness of meditation starts to manifest the deeper meaning of the person’s life which begins to be directly felt. This creates an atmosphere that forms the basis for realisation, for awareness of depth. It is totally natural and comes unsought. It simply needs to be allowed to come, needs the space in which to come. Although it may not have the mighty luminosity of transpersonal experience at first, the solidity, selfness, reality of the result still comes to be valued more than anything else which could disturb it, and thus life changes suggest themselves to preserve and deepen what one is becoming. There may be considerably less sayable in the new identity than in the old.

To my mind this all concatenates with chi kung. I should mention shen, a hard-to-translate word rendered variously as “spirit”, “mind”, “daimon”, “all-embracing love” or “awareness”. Shen as it first manifests in chi kung tends to give the feeling of a deep heart-peace and acceptance, intimately quiet and relieving, that gradually reveals an inner illumination which is the beginning of (re-)encountering the real. It also, in the Chinese conception, is the result of natural processes, which harmonise and unblock chi whilst jing, life essence, is allowed to build. Shen later is spirit or consciousness itself, and therefore the signal of realisation.

There are obviously many transformations after this, on the path I like, many things that reveal themselves beyond this initial stage. Spiritual truth is not “psychological” in the modern sense and the quest reveals itself on levels that (I believe) we all know, but in practical terms, have mostly forgotten if not for the promptings we all feel towards those levels. Gopi Krishna attributed those holotropic promptings to the Kundalini process making itself known on a quiet level to everyone, I think correctly. Our lives wish to deepen.

But as long as this initial understanding has been attained, it can be developed in daily life as well, and forms a sign of what is to come as well as a doorway to it. Everything that happens becomes part of its flow. One always has an awareness, a place to which to return. One is just oneself, after all.

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That’s the end of the series — many thanks for reading and welcome to all the new subscribers!

The reading lists all need a huge amount of redoing… I hope to get that done later on… I know I keep saying that…

The problem is that the next series has made for a huge amount of research, and I’d like to make as much of it available as I can. In fact that research is still ongoing, so there’s going to be a gap before the series begins, but fear not as I’ll be doing short posts on various other subjects as they take my fancy.

Answer to the question: do I still use hypnosis? Yes. Didn’t mean to imply otherwise at all. More on that in a sec. Does hypnosis tie in with this series? Absolutely can. The Ericksonian unconscious works by the same kind of spontaneity. (EDIT: Just saw this book combining Erickson and Rogers.)

More recent work in the vein of Maslow and Rogers has been done by Czikszentmihalyi and Seligman, and there are various other things out there of interest in the same direction. More on them as I fill in before the next series, but I won’t be writing about psychology in any depth for a while now as we need to venture into the wild.