Communication Breakdown

The mother of one of our patients poured out blame upon her husband for refusing for fifteen years to hand over control of the family finances to her.

The father of the patient said, "I admit that it was a great mistake of me not to let you handle it, I admit that. I have corrected that. My reasons for thinking it was a mistake are entirely different from yours, but I admit that it was a very serious error on my part."

Mother: Now, you're just being facetious.

Father: No, I am not being facetious.

Mother: Well, anyway I don't care because when you come right down to it the debts were incurred, still there is no reason why a person would not be told of them. I think the woman should be told.

Father: It may be the same reason why when Joe (their psychotic son) comes home from school and he has trouble he doesn't tell you.

Mother: Well, that's a good dodge.

The pattern of such a sequence is simply the successive disqualification of each of the father's contributions to the relationship.

He is continuously being told that the messages are not valid. They are received as if they were in some way different from that which he thought he intended.

But, per contra, from her viewpoint, it seems that he is endlessly misinterpreting her, and this is one of the most peculiar characteristics of the dynamic system which surrounds - or is schizophrenia.

The bind becomes mutual. A stage is reached in the relationship in which neither person can afford to receive or emit metacommunicative messages without distortion.

There is, however, usually, an asymmetry in such relationships. This mutual doublebinding is a type of struggle and commonly one or the other has the upper hand. [In cases of families with a psychotic offspring] the asymmetry takes the curious form that the identified patient sacrifices himself to maintain the sacred illusion that what the parent says makes sense.

To be close to that parent, he must sacrifice his right to indicate that he sees any metacommunicative incongruities, even when his perception of these incongruities is correct.

The patient is an accomplice in the parent's unconscious hypocrisy. 

 The result may be very great unhappiness and very gross, but always systematic, distortions of communication [...] these distortions are always precisely those which would seem appropriate when the victims are faced with a trap to avoid which would be to destroy the very nature of the self.

If somebody attacks the habits and immanent states which characterize me at the given moment of dealing with that somebody [...] they are negating me. If I care deeply about that person, the negation of me will be still more painful.

From theory we may predict that every participant member of such an institution must be defensive of his or her own immanent states of action and enduring adaptive habits; protective, that is, of the self.

I believe that this is the essence of the matter, that the schizophrenic family is an organization with great ongoing stability whose dynamics and inner workings are such that each member is continually undergoing the experience of negation of self.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.236-7, 242-3

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They are playing a game.

They are playing at not playing a game.

If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me.

I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.

[R.D. Laing]
Knots

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Related posts:-
What's Your Phantasy?
Watch the way you're acting

Full Spectrum

In a society at any one time, if there is x quantity of individuals who show their lack of sense of society by developing an antisocial tendency, there is z quantity of individuals reacting to inner insecurity by the alternate tendency - identification with authority.

This is unhealthy, immature, because it is not an identification with authority that arises out of self-discovery.

It is a sense of frame without sense of picture, a sense of form without retention of spontaneity.

This is a prosociety tendency that is anti-individual. People who develop in this way can be called 'hidden antisocials'.

Hidden antisocials are not 'whole persons' any more than are manifest antisocials, since each needs to find and to control the conflicting force in the external world outside the self.

By contrast, the healthy person, who is capable of becoming depressed, is able to find the whole conflict within the self as well as being able to see the whole conflict outside the self, in external (shared) reality.

When healthy persons come together, they each contribute a whole world, because each brings a whole person.

Hidden antisocials provide material for a type of leadership which is sociologically immature [...] Once in such positions, these immature leaders immediately gather to themselves the obvious antisocials, who welcome them as their natural masters (false resolution of splitting).

The election of a person implies that the electors believe in themselves as persons, and therefore believe in the person they nominate or vote for.

As a whole (healthy) person he has the total conflict within, which enables him to get a view, albeit a personal one, of total external situation.

The election of a party or a group tendency is relatively less mature. It does not require of the electors a trust in a human being.

For immature persons, nevertheless, it is the only logical procedure, precisely because an immature person cannot conceive of, or believe in, a truly mature individual.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Home Is Where We Start From ('The Meaning of the Word 'Democracy''), p.243-4, 249

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The Mature Character
Projecting a Shadow
Contain Conflict
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Carry Each Other
Democracy
Ownership 
Attainment of Autonomy
Go Your Own Way
The Colour Wheel
This, Not That 
Sentencing Circles  
 

Everything and Nothing

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Nothing                    Something                    Everything
Rest                            Motion                        Rest


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0
'The Sea'
'Metaxy' (Plato/Hillman)
'Emptiness' (Buddhism)
'Wuji/Wu chi' (Taoism)
'The zone of no-thing' (R.D. Laing)
'O' (Wilfred Bion)
'Creative Indifference' (Salomo Friedlaender)
'The fertile void' (Fritz Perls)


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The Chinese word Wuji (pinyin) or Wu Chi (Wade-Giles) refers to the unmanifest aspect of Tao: Tao-in-stillness, in other words.

Wuji is the undifferentiated timelessness which, in the Taijitu Shuo (a traditional Taoist diagram) is represented by an empty circle. In Taoist cosmology, Wuji refers to a state of non-distinction prior to the differentiation into the Yin and Yang that give birth to the ten-thousand-things-- all the phenomena of the manifest world, with their various qualities and behaviors.

The Chinese character for Wuji (Wu Chi) is composed of two radicals: Wu and Ji (Chi).

“Wu” includes the meanings: without/ no/ none/ non- / [where there are] no.

“Ji (Chi)” includes the meanings: limits/ extreme/ end/ ultimate/ extreme boundary.

Wuji (Wu Chi) can, then, be translated as: infinite, unlimited, boundless or limitless.

[Elizabeth Reninger]
'Wuji (Wu Chi): The Unmanifest Aspect of the Tao'


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If there are no meanings, no values, no source of sustenance or help, then man, as creator, must invent, conjure up meanings and values, sustenance and succour out of nothing. He is a magician.

Their source is from the Silence at the centre of each of us.

The zone, the zone of no-thing, of the silence of silences, is the source. We forget that we are all there all the time.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.37, 38

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In nothingness there's nothing at all, while 'emptiness' is in fact the opposite of nothingness - it's a universal potential, the universe, beings, movement, consciousness.

No phenomena at all could ever be manifested if their ultimate nature wasn't emptiness.

In rather the same way, though this is only an image, the visible world would not be able to unfold without space to unfold in. If space was intrinsically substantial and permanent, no manifestation, no transformation, would be possible. That's why the texts say, 'Since there is emptiness, everything can exist.'

Emptiness thus contains all possibilities, and those possibilities are interdependent.

The analogy of space allowing worlds to be formed is only an image, to show that nothing in the phenomenal world is substantial, permanent, or intrinsically existing [...]

The idea of emptiness is to combat the innate tendency we have to reify the self, consciousness, and phenomena.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.137, 142


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When I flowed out from God, all things declared, "God is!"

Now this cannot make me blessed, for thereby I acknowledge myself a creature. But in the breakthrough I stand empty in the will of God, and empty also of God's will, and of all his works, even of God himself -

then I am more than all creatures, then I am neither God nor creature: I am what I was, and that I shall remain, now and ever more!

Then I receive a thrust which carries me above angels. By this thrust I become so rich that God cannot suffice me, despite all that he is as God and all his godly works; for in this breakthrough I receive what God and I have in common.

I am what I was, I neither increase not diminish, for I am the unmoved mover that moves all things.  

Here God can find no more place in man, for man by his emptiness has won back that which he was eternally and ever shall remain.

[Meister Eckhart]
Meister Eckhart, p.221
Found in 'Psychology and the East' by Carl Gustav Jung, p.158-9

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[The Garland Sutra] calls the world of ordinary life "the Dharmic World of Phenomena."

Its condition is such as we ordinarily experience when there are two separate things, A and B.

A has its own particular characteristics, as does B; A and B thus are clearly distinguished from one another, and there is no question of confusing the two.

If the boundaries between phenomena are removed, however, we see the world differently.

This dissolution of boundaries is characteristic [...] of Buddhism in general and other Eastern philosophies. "The minute and infinite differences of actual existence instantly disappear in a vast space of nondiscrimination.

Here, the differences between objects disappear, and so self-nature is negated. This state Zen Buddhism calls "nothingness or emptiness" [...]

Such terms as "nothingness" and "emptiness" do not signify an empty world of no things, but rather a world that contains infinite possibilities for "being." "Emptiness" in the Dharmic World of Principle is pregnant with the dual meaning of nothingness and being.

[...] in order to have such "emptying" of existence [...] it is necessary to empty our ordinary consciousness, our "discriminating mind," which discriminates things one from another, always wanting to see the differences.

The world of phenomena embodies various kinds of discrimination. Each and every thing can be seen separately. But once a person acknowledges their Emptiness before or beneath such discrimination, one can see the world entirely nondiscriminately.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.99-101

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The ubiquitous absence of 'God' in ordinary life is this sense of non-existing, of mystery, of incalculable potentiality; this eternal doubt that hovers between the thing in itself and our perception of it; this dimension in and by which all other dimensions exist.

The white paper that contains a drawing; the space that contains a building; the silence that contains a sonata; the passage of time that prevents a sensation or object continuing for ever; all these are 'God'.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos, p. 27

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....................

"'You are tiring yourself, Joseph,' he said softly, his voice full of that touching friendliness and solicitude you know so well. That was all. 'You are tiring yourself, Joseph.'

As if he had long been watching me engaged in a too-strenuous task and wanted to admonish me to stop. He spoke the words with some effort, as though he had not used his lips for speaking for a long time.

And at that moment he laid his hand on my arm - it was light as a butterfly - looked penetratingly into my eyes, and smiled.  At that moment I was conquered.

Something of his cheerful silence, something of his patience and calm, passed into me;  

and suddenly I understood the old man and the direction his nature had taken, away from people and toward silence, away from words and toward music, away from ideas and toward unity.

I understood what I was privileged to see here, and now for the first time grasped the meaning of this smile, this radiance. A saint, one who had attained perfection, had permitted me to dwell in his radiance for an hour; and blunderer that I am, I had tried to entertain him, to question him, to seduce him into a conversation.

Thank God the light had not dawned on me too late. He might have sent me away and thus rejected me forever. And I would have been deprived of the most remarkable and wonderful experience I have ever had."

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 257

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Wolfert (2000) describes the Gestalt principles of refraining from preconceptions, and openness of the self to what emerges, as rooted in and parallel to Taoist traditions.

Through this attitude of openness, a flexibility is present that allows for creativity and sacred experience to emerge. This practice of open attention within Gestalt therapy is similar to many forms of meditation (Naranjo, 1970).

A Gestalt approach also challenges us to sit in openness with feelings of not knowing, lack of meaning, or emptness. These feelings are often associated with the feeling of “a void.” Sitting in “a void” is a familiar aspect of Taoist and Zen Buddhist traditions (Van Dusen, 1977). This is often called a “fertile void” by Perls or place of “creative indifference” by Friedlaender in Gestalt psychology (Frambach, 2003).

It is the center from which all phenomena arise. 

Wolfert (2000) tells us that it is through dwelling in the fertile void that we can have deeper contact and allow spiritual experience to enter. This fertile emptiness also has been compared to the psychological openness of grace in Christianity.

[Lynn Williams]
'Spirituality and Gestalt: A Gestalt-Transpersonal Perspective'


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The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

Everything in the universe comes out of Nothing.

Nothing - the nameless is the beginning;

While Heaven, the mother is the creatrix of all things.

Follow the nothingness of the Tao,
and you can be like it, not needing anything,
seeing the wonder and the root of everything.

And even if you cannot grasp this nothingness, you can still see something of the Tao in everything.

These two are the same only called by different names

- and both are mysterious and wonderful.

All mysteries are Tao, and Heaven is their mother:
She is the gateway and the womb-door.

[Lao Tzu]
Tao Te Ching, Chapter One

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Related posts:-
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All is Change
The Middle Path
Sailing the Turbulent Seas 
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Playing the Art Game | Distance
Playing the Art Game | Art as In-between
Are you sure?
Guiding Fiction
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Empty Container
In-between 
Art as In-between
This, Not That 
The Eternal Ideas
Everything is Connected
Small Mind/Large Mind
Escaping Uncertainty 
Where language ends and art begins
Silence

Positive Space


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Love means creating for another the kind of space in which he can flourish, at the same time as he does this for you.

It is to find one's happiness in being the reason for the happiness of another. It is not that you both find your fulfilment in the same goal, like hitting the open road clasped together on a motorcycle, but [...] that you each find your fulfilment in the other's.

The liberal model of society wants individuals to flourish in their own space, without mutual interference.

The political space in question is thus a neutral one: it is really there to wedge people apart, so that one person's self-realization should not thwart another's. Nobody here - to put the point in a different theoretical idiom - seems to receive themselves back as a subject from the Other, as opposed to attending with due sensitivity to what the other has to say.

This is an admirable ideal, nurtured by what is in many ways a deeply honourable political tradition. The 'negative' freedoms it cherishes have a vital place in any just society.

But the space involved in love is rather more positive. 

It is created by the act of relationship itself, rather than being given from the outset like a spare seat in a waiting room.

To be granted this kind of freedom is to be able to be at one's best without undue fear. It is thus the vital precondition of human flourishing. You are free to realize your nature, but not in the falsely naturalistic sense of simply expressing an impulse because it happens to be yours. That would not rule out torture and murder.

Rather, you realize your nature in a way which allows the other to do so too. 

 And that means that you realize your nature at its best - since if the other's self-sulfilment is the medium through which you flourish yourself, you are not at liberty to be violent, dominative or self-seeking.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.169-70

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Related posts:-
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Taking back the Projection
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A Pat on the Back
Individual v Environment
One Love?
Carry Each Other
Life Support
Giving and Receiving

Taking the Rough with the Smooth

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Rough                      -                    Smooth
Undefined                -                    Defined
Chaos                        -                   Logos
Dionysus                  -                    Apollo
Unsure                     -                     Sure
Liquid                       -                    Solid
Change                     -                    Permanence
Unknown                 -                    Known
Probability               -                    Certainty
Approximate            -                    Exact
Plurality                   -                    Unity
Decentrate                -                    Concentrate
Complex                  -                    Simple
Irregular                   -                    Regular
Impure                      -                    Pure
Heterogenous           -                    Homogenous
Immanent                 -                    Transcendent
Imperfect                  -                    Perfect
Earth                        -                    Heavens
Matter                       -                    Pattern
Mother                      -                    Father
Man                          -                    God


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The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

[Wallace Stevens]
'The Poems of Our Climate'



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The gods did not reveal, from the beginning,
All things to us, but in the course of time
Through seeking we may learn and know things better.
But as for certain truth, no man has known it,
Nor shall he know it, neither of the gods
Nor yet of all the things of which I speak.
For even if by chance he were to utter
The final truth, he would himself not know it:
For all is but a woven web of guesses.

[Xenophanes]

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The individual may strive after perfection [...] but must suffer from the opposite of his intentions for the sake of his completeness.

[C. G. Jung]
Aion, CW 9ii, par 123


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Dr Von Franz: That is where we differ.

You think God has published general rules which He keeps Himself, and we think He is a living spirit appearing in man's psyche who can always create something new.

Remark: Within the framework of what He has already published.

Dr Von Franz: To a theologian God is bound to His own books and is incapable of further publications. That is where we lock horns.

[Marie-Louise von Franz]
Alchemy, p. 142


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We must have the courage to live relatively, provisionally, without foundations. Or rather, we must have the candour to confess that this is how we live anyway, allowing our beliefs to catch up with our practices.

Fundamentalism is a textual affair. It is an attempt to render our discourse valid by backing it with the gold standard of the Word of words, seeing God as the final guarantor of meaning.

Literalness of interpretation is of its essence. It means adhering strictly to the script. It is a fear of the unscripted, improvised or indeterminate, as well as a horror of excess and ambiguity.

Fundamentalists do not see that the phrase 'sacred text' is self-contradictory - that no text can be sacred because every piece of writing is profaned by a plurality of meanings. Writing just means meaning which can be handled by anyone, anywhere.

Yet if there is no clarity, if no meaning is free from metaphor and ambiguity, how are we to construct a solid enough basis for our lives in a world too swift and slippery for us to find a foothold?

This is not an anxiety to be scoffed at. There is nothing quaint or red-neck about searching for some terra firma in a world in which men and women are asked to reinvent themselves overnight, in which pensions are abruptly wiped out by corporate greed and deceit, or in which whole ways of life are tossed casually on the scrapheap.

Fundamentalism is a diseased version of this desire. It is a neurotic hunt for solid foundations to our existence, an inability to accept that human life is a matter not of treading on thin air, but of roughness.

The fundamentalist is adrift on the rough ground of social life, nostalgic for the pure ice of absolute certainty where you can think but not walk. He is really a more pathological version of the conservative - for the conservative, too, suspects that if there are not watertight rules and exact limits then there can only be chaos.

The problem for the conservative or fundamentalist is that as soon as you have said 'law' or 'rule', a certain chaos is not kept at bay but actually evoked. Applying a rule is a creative, open-ended affair, more like figuring out the instructions for building the Taj Mahal out of Lego then obeying a traffic signal.

As for law, nothing illustrates its slipperiness more than Portia's legalistic sophistry in The Merchant of Venice [...] Portia gets the doomed Antonio off by pointing out to the court that Shylock's bond for securing a pound of his flesh makes no mention of taking any of his blood along with it.

No actual court, however, would admit such a fatuous argument. No piece of writing can spell out all of its conceivable implications. You might as well claim that Shylock's bond makes no reference to the use of a knife either, or to whether Shylock's hair should be tied back in a rather fetching pony-tail at the moment of incision.

Portia's reading of the bond is false because too faithful: it is a fundamentalist reading, sticking pedantically to the letter of the text and thus flagrantly falsifying its meaning.

To be exact interpretation must be creative. It must draw upon tacit understandings of how life and language work, practical know-how which can never be precisely formulated, which is just what Portia refuses to do. If we want to be as clear as possible, a certain roughness is unavoidable.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.198, 202-6

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Wabi-sabi  represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. 

The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

For Richard Powell, "[w]abi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." Buddhist author Taro Gold describes wabi-sabi as "the wisdom and beauty of imperfection."

Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object.  

Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

In art books, it is typically defined as "flawed beauty."

'Wabi-sabi'


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Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.

It is not good either to forget the questions philosophy asks, or to persuade ourselves we have found indubitable answers to them. To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralysed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can do for those who study it.

[Bertrand Russell]
History of Western Philosophy ('Introduction'), p.2


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We do not, any of us, achieve rigor. 

 In writing, sometimes, we can take time to check the looseness of thought; but in speaking, hardly ever [...]

I know that I personally, when speaking in conversation and even in lecturing, depart from the epistemology outlined in the previous chapter; and indeed the chapter itself was hard to write without continual lapses into other ways of thinking and may still contain such lapses.

I know that I would not like to be held scientifically responsible for many loose spoken sentences that I have uttered in conversation with scientific colleagues. But I also know that if another person had the task of studying my ways of thought, he would do well to study my loosely spoken words rather than my writing.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry'), p.230


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To a much greater extent than men, women can be said to form their abstractions from personal experience. Interestingly enough, the same can be said of the Ladakhis and many traditional and non-Western cultures.

To understand the complexities of the natural world, theory must be grounded in experience.  

Experiential learning is based in messy reality, with all its paradox and untidiness, its ever-changing pattern, its refusal to conform to our expectations.  

As such, it inevitably leads to humility.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.190

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Often I never really heard what she said - I’d be staring at her legs. They were very comforting.

Because sometimes there’d be little bruises or marks around her ankles from the elastic in her socks. That’s how come I knew she was real.

['Danny Embling']
Dialogue from the film 'Flirting'


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If we think of idealists in terms of Jung's speculations about the shadow, it's clear the idealist is a man or woman who does not want to go down. They plan to go to the grave with the shadow still repressed.

The idealists are shadow-haters.

By exclusive interest in "the truth," they exile the shadow, or keep it exiled ...

[Robert Bly]
A Little Book on the Human Shadow, p. 74


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Repeatedly a woman may tell me how hurt she is by other people's boorish responses. Her battered sensibilities withdraw from the constant onslaught.

What she does not realise is that she is trying to make everything around her sacred and that other people may not understand that they are treading on her sacred space or moving in her sacred time, and so they are unwittingly desecrating her sacred temple.

[Marion Woodman]
Addiction to Perfection, p. 31


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The core problem – as Goethe sees it – is this: Romantic love hopes to ‘freeze’ a beautiful moment. 

It’s a summer’s evening, after dinner, Werther is walking in the woods with his beloved. He wants it to be always like this: so he feel they should get married, have a house together, have children. Though, in reality, marriage will be nothing at all like the lovely June night.  

There’ll be exhaustion, bills to pay, squabbles and a sense of confinement. By comparison with the extreme hopes of Romanticism, real love is always necessarily a terrible disappointment. 

That’s why Goethe gradually moved away from Romanticism towards an ideology of love he termed Classicism – marked by a degree of pessimism, an acceptance of the troubles that afflict all couples over time, and of the need to abandon some of the heady hopes of the early days for the sake of tranquillity and administrative competence. 

Goethe was a critic of Romantic ideology not because he was cold hearted or lacking in imagination but because he so deeply and intimately understood its attractions – and therefore its dangers.

'Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



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Cathy: Heathcliff, make the world stop right here. Make everything stop and stand still and never move again. Make the moors never change and you and I never change.

Heathcliff: The moors and I will never change. Don't you, Cathy.

Cathy: I can't. I can't. No matter what I ever do or say, Heathcliff, this is me now; standing on this hill with you. This is me forever.

[Emily Brontë]
Wuthering Heights


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We are doomed to formulate conceptual structures that are much simpler than the complex phenomena they are attempting to account for.

These simple conceptual structures shield us, pragmatically, from real-world complexity, but also fail, frequently, as some aspect of what we did not take into consideration makes itself manifest.

The failure of our concepts dysregulates our emotions and generates anxiety, necessarily, as the unconstrained world is challenging and dangerous. Such dysregulation can turn us into rigid, totalitarian dogmatists, as we strive to maintain the structure of our no longer valid beliefs.

Alternatively, we can face the underlying complexity of experience, voluntarily, gather new information, and recast and reconfigure the structures that underly our habitable worlds.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
‘Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict’, in Cortex, December 2002, p. 429



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What I call Platonicity, after the ideas (and personality) of the philoso­pher Plato, is our tendency to mistake the map for the territory, to focus on pure and well-defined “forms,” whether objects, like triangles, or social notions, like Utopias […], even nationalities.

When these ideas and crisp constructs inhabit our minds, we privilege them over other less elegant objects, those with messier and less tractable structures.

Platonicity is what makes us think that we understand more than we actually do. But this does not happen everywhere. I am not saying that Platonic forms don’t exist. Models and constructions, these intellectual maps of reality, are not always wrong; they are wrong only in some specific applications.

The difficulty is that a) you do not know beforehand (only after the fact) where the map will be wrong, and b) the mistakes can lead to severe consequences. These models are like potentially helpful medicines that carry random but very severe side effects.

The Platonic fold is the explosive boundary where the Platonic mindset enters in contact with messy reality, where the gap between what you know and what you think you know becomes dangerously wide.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable


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Play


If the cones are not screwed on far enough, the bearings will have "play" [unwanted movement]: the wheel will be able to shake back and forth on its bearings. This is an unpleasant sensation, and may cause control problems.

'Cone adjustment'


The more freedom, or play, in [the] chain, the more room for a reader to generate his or her own meanings from the text. This term 'play' was a key one for Barthes - he used it to refer to a flexibility or movement in the text, that allowed it to be interpreted in different ways.

He also used it to refer to the act of reading and interpretation, which was playful, like a game; and also creative, active, and virtuosic, like a musician playing a score.

'Animating poststructuralism'


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[...] the real reason for discouraging dogma in the criticism of the arts isn’t distaste for elitism but the fact that it puts a stop to conversation. 

Take, for instance, F. R. Leavis’s dismissal of Sterne in his study of the English novel, The Great Tradition, where he refers to Sterne’s ‘irresponsible (and nasty) trifling’. Beyond that phrase, in which even the word ‘and’ sounds dogmatic, the case against Sterne is not made.

What is offensive in the phrase is that Leavis refuses even to discuss the matter: he refuses, by more than implication, the company of anyone who would want to.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 56-7


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[...] the notion 'exactly six millimetres', or exactly any other measurement, is not something that can ever be met with in experience. It is a metaphysical notion.

But from this it does not follow that mankind cannot make invaluable and prodigious use of measurement; nor that accuracy in measurement, because it is absolutely unattainable, does not matter; nor that we cannot make progress through ever greater and greater degrees of accuracy.

Popper's notion of 'the truth' is very like this: our concern in the pursuit of knowledge is to get closer and closer to the truth, and we may even know that we have made an advance, but we can never know if we have reached our goal.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 27-8

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The shapes of classical geometry are lines and planes, circles and spheres, triangles and cones. They represent a powerful abstraction of reality, and they inspired a powerful philosophy of Platonic harmony.

Euclid made of them a geometry that lasted two millennia, the only geometry still that most people ever learn. Artists found an ideal beauty in them. Ptolemaic astronomers built a theory of the universe out of them. But for understanding complexity, they turn out to be the wrong kind of abstraction.

Clouds are not spheres, Mandelbrot is fond of saying. Mountains are not cones. Lightning does not travel in a straight line. The new geometry mirrors a universe that is rough, not rounded, scabrous, not smooth. It is a geometry of the pitted, pocked, and broken up, the twisted, tangled and intertwined.

The understanding of nature's complexity awaited a suspicion that the complexity was not just random, not just accident. It required a faith that the interesting feature of a lightning bolt's path, for example, was not its direction, but rather the distribution of zigs and zags.

Mandelbrot's work made a claim about the world, and the claim was that such odd shapes carry meaning. The pits and tangles are more than blemishes distorting the classic shapes of Euclidian geometry. They are often the keys to the essence of a thing.

[James Gleick]
Chaos, p. 94


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Related posts:-
Land and Sea 
Solid Ground
Everything and Nothing 
All is Change 
You laugh at my back, and I'll laugh at yours
Where language ends and art begins
Playing the Art Game | Art as In-between
A Familiar Story | Post-script
Per-Fiction
Short Cuts
Cut To Fit
Frozen in time
Citizens of the Universe
Dangers of Dogmatism
Live the straight and narrow 
Do you have control (or does control have you)? 
The Real Thing 
Rational / Irrational 
Only Playing
Collaborative Communication

Rights and Responsibilities

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Rights                         -                    Responsibilities
Freedom                      -                    Bondage
Chaos                          -                    Order
Individual                    -                    Collective 


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You must choose between making a man or a citizen, you cannot make both at once.

[Jean-Jacques Rousseau]
Émile, p.39


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M. - The Dalai Lama [has] tried to introduce into the constitution not only the notion of individuals' rights but also the idea of individuals' responsibility toward society and the state's responsibility toward other states in the world.

J.F. - Yes, it's true that one aspect of what we could call the crisis of modern democracies is that in our own state of law the citizens feel that they have more and more rights and less and less responsibilities toward the community [...] people are a lot less interested in the question of citizens' responsibilities than in that of their rights. They're nevertheless two side of the very same thing.

M. - The East is more inclined than the West to think that society's harmony shouldn't be compromised by people using the notion of human rights to justify doing anything they like, at any time, however they want, as long as it's 'allowed'.

For indeed, such an attitude is really a form of anarchy. It leads to an imbalance between right and duties, between liberty for oneself and responsibilities toward others.

The individual is supreme in Western societies. The individual can do practically anything, as long as it's within the framework of the law.

The individual's responsibility is to consciously preserve the harmony of society. That's something that can only be done if individuals respect the law, not as an obligation, but in the light of an ethical sense, both spiritual and temporal.

The point is not to restrain individuals' freedom but to instill in them a sense of responsibility.

[...] the public's fascinated by violence and sex, and commercially it works very well. The producers only see money to be made, while the legislators are paralyzed by the fear of even touching people's freedom of expression.

The result is complete ignorance about responsibility and an inability to translate such a notion into either law or convention.

If human rights are considered on their own, without human responsibilities being taken into account, there's never going to be a solution to the problem.

In the end, a sense of responsibility has to come from the maturity of individuals, not from restrictive laws. And for individuals to attain such maturity, spiritual principles that make inner change possible have to be alive and well in society, instead of being cruelly missing.

[Matthieu Ricard]
and [Jean-Francois Revel]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.282, 284, 286-7

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We must offer to a young man objects on which the expansive force of his heart can act, which expand and extend it to other beings, and which cause him everywhere to find himself again outside himself.

On the other hand, he must carefully avoid those objects which might restrain and repress his heart and stretch the mainspring of the human I or ego, etc.

[Jean-Jacques Rousseau]
Émile, p.115-20


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In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

[Harold Pinter]
Nobel Lecture, 'Art, Truth & Politics'


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Related posts:-
Entitlement and Accountability
Beggars and Choosers
Ownership
Forget Yourself
One Love?
A Mature Society?
Democracy
The Mature Individual
Old Thoughts for New

Buddhism and Psychoanalysis

While Buddhism aims at freeing ourselves form the stagnation of thoughts like a bird taking off from the fumes of the city toward the pure mountain air, psychoanalysis, or so it seems, brings about an exacerbation of thoughts and dreams - thoughts that are completely centered on ourselves, in fact.

Patients try to reorganize their small world, and to control it as best they can. But they stay bogged down in it.

To put it in a nutshell, the problem with psychoanalysis is that it doesn't identify the basic causes of ignorance and inner enslavement.

Conflict with one's father or mother, and other traumatic experiences, aren't primary causes, they're circumstantial ones. The primary cause is attachment to the ego, which gives rise to attraction and repulsion, infatuation with and the desire to protect oneself.

Where Buddhism's approach and that of psychoanalysis diverge is the means used to attain liberation. Psychoanalysis is correct, and works within the framework of its own system, but that system is limited by the very goals it sets itself.

Take the problem of libido, for example. If you try to repress all the energy of desire, it's bound to come out via some roundabout route and be expressed in an abnormal way. So psychoanalysis tries to redirect it toward its proper object and give it back its normal expression.

But according to Buddhist contemplative science, you neither try to repress desire nor give it free reign in its ordinary state - you try to be completely liberated from it.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.299-300

Related posts:-
Step toward Madness
Forget Yourself

The Tyranny of Novelty

M. - If you're always looking for novelty, you're often depriving yourself of the most essential truths.

The antidote to suffering and to belief in a self consists of going to the very source of your thoughts and recognizing the ultimate nature of the mind. How could such a truth ever grow old?  

What novelty could 'outmode' a teaching that lays bare the very workings of the mind?

Very often, fascination with things that are new and different is a reflection of inner impoverishment. Unable to find happiness within ourselves, we desperately look for it outside, in objects, in experiences, in ever stranger ways of thinking and acting. In short, we get further away from happiness by looking for it where it simply isn't to be found.

It seems to me that the notion of novelty, the desire to keep on inventing things through a fear of copying the past, is an exaggeration of the importance given to the 'personality', to the individuality that's supposed to express itself in an original way at any price.

J.F. - [...] Do you think [that] Buddhism might provide a refuge for people who are fed up with the whole tyranny of novelty?

M. - [...] If you try to see where that thirst for novelty comes from, it seems to arise from neglect of the inner life.

We stop going back to the source of things, and the idea occurs to us that by trying all sorts of new things we might be able to compensate for that feeling of lacking something.

[Matthieu Ricard]
and [Jean-Francois Revel]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.313

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[...] the idea that the artist should always be trying to give free rein to his imagination is clearly foreign to traditional sacred art, which exists to provide material for meditation and reflection.

Artists put all their heart and talent into what they do, but their personality vanishes completely behind their work.  

For that reason, Tibetan painting is essentially anonymous.

Western art often tries to create an imaginary world, while sacred art helps to penetrate to the nature of reality. Ordinary art's aimed at rousing the passions, sacred art at stilling them. Sacred dance, painting, and music try to establish a link with spiritual wisdom in the world of forms and sounds. They're arts whose goal is to link us through their symbolism with spiritual knowledge and practice.

The traditional artist puts all his skill into the quality of his art, but he'll never just give his imagination free rein to invent completely new symbols or forms.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.310

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It is very easy to fall into the notion that if the new is viable, then there must have been something wrong with the old. This view, to which organisms already suffering the pathologies of over-rapid, frantic social change are inevitably prone, is, of course, mostly nonsense.

What is always important is to be sure that the new is not worse than the old.

It is still not certain that a society containing the internal combustion engine can be viable or that electronic communication devices such as television are compatible with the aggressive intraspecies competition generated by the Industrial Revolution. 

Other things being equal (which is not often the case), the old, which has been somewhat tested, is more likely to be viable than the new, which has not been tested at all.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 194-5

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Related posts:-
Lines and Circles
All is Change
Status Quo
The Preoccupied Mind
Having to hide from Being
Sell Yourself
Sell Out
Make It Personal
Make it Big, or Make it Right?
Familiar Territory
Safe Distance
Open Source
Rooted in blood and soil 
Information and Knowledge 
Welcome to La-La Land 
Live Forever?  
Who's steering the ship?

Having, to hide from Being

Material development without spiritual development can only lead to the general feeling of discontent that we see today.

In a society based on the education and development of wisdom rather than of information, the whole orientation is very different.

Although it's an oversimplification, you could say that one is centered on being, the other on having.

The fascination for always having more and the horizontal dispersion of knowledge are both things that take us away from inner transformation. Since the world can only be changed by changing ourselves, always having more of everything doesn't matter very much.

Dissatisfaction arises from the habit of seeing what's superfluous as being necessary. This isn't just a question of wealth, but also of comfort, of pleasure, and of 'useless knowledge'.

The only thing one should never be satisfied with is one's wisdom, and the only efforts that one should never see as sufficient are the efforts one makes toward spiritual progress and achieving others' good.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.316

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Related posts:-
Information and Knowledge
The Preoccupied Mind
The Tyranny of Novelty

Making Sense

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Life                           -                      Death
Solid                         -                      Liquid
Certain                      -                      Uncertain
Coherent                   -                      Random
Rigid                         -                      Flexible
Order                         -                      Chaos


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Freud claimed to be a scientist, and was certainly not a philosopher in the technical sense [...] Nevertheless, he resembled some philosophers in being a system-builder.

Very early in its history, psycho-analysis left the narrow confines of the consulting room and made incursions into anthropology, sociology, religion, literature, art, and the occult. It became, if not a philosophical system, at least a Weltanschauung; and this extraordinary expansion of a method of treating neurotics into a new way of regarding human nature had its origin in the psychological needs of its founder.

Freud repudiated religion as an illusion, yet needed some systematic approach to making coherent sense out of the world.

Excessive generalization is a temptation for all original thinkers, who are usually in love with their own ideas and who therefore over-value them. 

[It can spring from a] desire or need which is very characteristic of thinkers with obsessional personalities. Because their psychology is based on the need to order and control, they tend to look for, and be attracted by, comprehensive systems of thought which promise near-complete explanations of human existence, and which therefore hold out the hope that the individual can master both his own nature and external reality by means of his new understanding.

[Anthony Storr]
Freud, p.8-9

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Related posts:-
The Devil is in the Details (and God is in the Generalities)
Deep vs Shallow
Constellating
Joining the dots
Escaping Uncertainty
Dangers of Dogmatism
Solid Ground

Acting Better

"I can't ever lose control with you"

The beloved compels us to be on our best behaviour, to be the best we can be at this moment in time.

And, inasmuch as this best behaviour runs contrary to our default patterns, it may sometimes seem like an act; as if we are playing the part of being good, whilst deep down maybe it isn't who we really are.

But the act needn't seem false; it is necessarily put on, and in putting it on we are able to craft ourselves, mould ourselves into the shape we want to be.

"Enough. Remember who you are"

Maintaining the act involves a frequent remembering. To stay on course may require constant minor adjustments, because we all forget the way from time to time.

Abstinence becomes a sign of inner strength, the hardest act to maintain. In conquering of one the strongest instincts (one of the strongest defaults), we light the road that leads to other victories.

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The chaste brain has tremendous energy and gigantic will power. Without chastity there can be no spiritual strength. Continence gives wonderful control over mankind.The spiritual leaders of men have been very continent and this is what gave them power.

Chastity in thought, word and deed always and in all conditions is what is called Brahmacharya. Unchaste imagination is as bad as unchaste action. The Brahmacharin must be pure in thought, word and deed.

[Swami Vivekananda]

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Related posts:-
A Higher Power
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Walk a Straight Line