Wednesday, February 11, 2015

End Psychic Segregation Now!

Yesterday we spoke of various types of integration that result in the release of human potential. Two of the main types are vertical -- brainstem/midbrain/cortex -- and horizontal -- left hemisphere/right hemisphere/corpus callosum. But then those two (vertical and horizontal) need to be integrated with each other, so you see how things can get complicated pretty quickly.

Let's see how many relatively autonomous systems we can identify, in order to understand how they must be integrated with the restavus. Remember, integration must be preceded by differentiation.

Siegel mentions one we tend to take for granted because it mostly happens automatically -- unless one is a Brian Williams or Barack Obama -- that is, the integration of past and present. Like everything else in our mind (and relationships) this has a physical substrate, whereby the present "enters" us, either from the senses or from higher centers, but then encounters "the past," AKA memory, or our working maps of reality.

The cortex, for example, "serves as a source of perpetual filtering, shaping the nature of what we are aware of as it compares prior experiences of similar events or objects with ongoing, here-and-now sensory input" (Siegel).

In other words, the world is always streaming into us on a nonstop basis. Siegel analogizes the latter to a kind of "bottom-up flow of ongoing sensory streams of energy and information," which in turn encounters -- or sometimes crashes into -- the "top-down flow" from the accumulated past. These two waves must find a way to coexist harmoniously, or the world will simply make no sense.

So every moment is like two waves from opposite directions that must somehow become one. Fortunately, waves can do that. Most of the time. But think, for example, of trauma. Trauma is like a present-wave that completely crashes over us, like a psychic tsunami. My wife, for example, is having a very hard time with the recent death of Tristan's teammate's mother. In addition to the tragedy itself, it is just too close to emotional home. It is overwhelming the present, and is impossible to assimilate.

Which I think is what bereavement is all about: the slow assimilation of an unassimilable event. In the past I have compared trauma to one of those snakes that swallows a whole rabbit. Our minds too must metabolize experience, and some experiences take a long time to digest. Indeed, some are only partially digested, or not digested at all, in particular, very early trauma that ends up hardwired into the nervous system (more on which later).

As an aside, I want to highlight how different this is from Brian Williams-style lying. In his case, it is not due to bottom-up (or outside-in) trauma disrupting and overwhelming his top-down narrative memory. Rather, it is quite the opposite: the conscious imposition of a false narrative on the past for some secondary gain in the service of his narcissism. Big difference.

As we shall see, integration and narrative are intimately related. In short, an accurate narrative is an integrated one, and vice versa.

Siegel has a helpful chapter called Domains of Integration. Each of these domains can be characterized by rigidity or chaos, which is the hallmark of un-integration, the latter of which preventing intra- and extra-psychic harmony.

He also mentions the subtle point that "when integration of consciousness is not present, individuals may be prone to identify thoughts and feelings as the whole of who they are."

For example, when a person becomes depressed, it is very much as if the depression displaces everything else in the psyche. Or, it is like a mind parasite that hijacks the machinery of the host in order to reproduce itself in the form of more depressed thoughts and feelings. The part becomes the whole.

In fact, Siegel's first category involves the integration of consciousness. Easy, right? Well, a schizophrenic, for example, absolutely cannot integrate consciousness, which becomes a moment-to-moment unfolding of catastrophic novelty.

An acquaintance recently experimented with psilocybin and had an unfortunate experience along these lines. It can be visualized as Munch's scream, only forever. He was plunged into a dreadful realm of unintegrated and persecutory psychic bits, so to speak. Later I ran into this article on what 'shrooms do the brain, causing it to go from the image on the left to the one on the right:

As the author writes, "the shrooms" facilitate "a whole lot more connections between disparate parts of the brain...." (emphasis mine). Yes, this can allow "creativity and imagination to blossom when we let go of the old ways of thinking," whereby we leap -- or are pushed, rather -- from our familiar attractors, those "established patterns of connectivity" that may "limit our potential."

But for how many shroomheads does this actually succeed, and for how long? Look at John Lennon, who took LSD everyday for like a year. True, we got the classics Rain, Tomorrow Never Knows, I Am the Walrus, and Strawberry Fields Forever, before he burned out his neural fields forever. So, this is not the ideal way to try to integrate unintegrated parts and explore new psychic territory.

Importantly, there are times that we want to become dis-integrated, or to oust ourselves from our customary attractor(s). I do so every day, only not with psychedelic drugs. Here is how Siegel describes it: we may become "swept up by a feeling" -- or thought or activity -- "and lost in the power of its persuasion. Sometimes this flow is a useful way of getting lost in an activity, of joining fully, without reservation and perspective..."

It is definitely what I try to do with these posts, i.e., abandon control and just let it flow where it will. But afterwards I always need to exercise another part of the brain in order to edit it -- to clean up any loose s*it -- which comes down to integrating it and making sure it is a "whole" that also fits in with the rest of the Whole.

There are some forms of consciousness we don't want to indulge and abandon ourselves to, for example, anger, resentment, envy, grandiosity, despair, hopelessness, victimhood, etc. Or, if we do, it is only for the purpose of shining light on them so they do not become semi-autonomous mind parasites with unintegrated agendas of their own. Or in other words, we want to re-member them, as opposed to them dis-membering us.

Well, that's about it for today. Funeral to attend, which is in so many ways an exercise and a ritual to help us try to integrate the most difficult thing of all to integrate, which of course brings us back around to the central purpose of Jesus' mission.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

WTF?!

2/11/2015 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Funeral to attend, which is in so many ways an exercise and a ritual to help us try to integrate the most difficult thing of all to integrate ...

True. Not that I don't still go to pieces every day or so, but our daughter is having difficulty because she didn't get to participate in the ritual.

I'll be praying.

2/11/2015 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Whoa! Bagged raccoons at $55 each?

I'm seeing a whole new possiblity for funding my retirement.

2/11/2015 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Guy's on fire. It's the same with global warming: the average liberal who believes in it couldn't begin to explain why.

2/11/2015 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

This is another good and interesting topic. I wish I had something intelligent to add.

So sorry, once again, to hear about Tristan's friend's mom.

2/11/2015 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't want to imply that I am one of those mainly affected. Just a sad situation, though, since she lived right around the corner and was part of our little baseball community. 40 years old, three kids, happily married. Minding her own business, picking up her daughter from school, and plowed into at a stop light by some old guy who probably shouldn't have a license. If she had left home 30 seconds earlier or later, she'd be alive. One of those seemingly totally random and senseless deaths, therefore more difficult to wrap your mind around.

2/11/2015 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"There are some forms of consciousness we don't want to indulge and abandon ourselves to, for example, anger, resentment, envy, grandiosity, despair, hopelessness, victimhood, etc. Or, if we do, it is only for the purpose of shining light on them so they do not become semi-autonomous mind parasites with unintegrated agendas of their own. Or in other words, we want to re-member them, as opposed to them dis-membering us."

Well said. Mind parasites will show no mercy to their host.
It's all about them.

2/11/2015 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"So every moment is like two waves from opposite directions that must somehow become one. Fortunately, waves can do that. Most of the time. But think, for example, of trauma. Trauma is like a present-wave that completely crashes over us, like a psychic tsunami. My wife, for example, is having a very hard time with the recent death of Tristan's teammate's mother. In addition to the tragedy itself, it is just too close to emotional home. It is overwhelming the present, and is impossible to assimilate."

And there's no way to fully prepare yourself for a psychic tsunami.
I mean, you can do some things to help, but it's still gonna be devastatingly painful.

I remember Patti being so broken up over the death of a very close friend that she couldn't make any new friends. Or rather, she couldn't allow herself to become that close to a friend.
I think a lot of her previous traumas and the traumasites she had played a part in that as well.


2/11/2015 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ben -- a fews days ago you asked a question about vulnerability to and recovery from childhood trauma. I believe we'll be getting into that as we go along. A lot of the former has to do with the genes one brings to the table, but the brain is much more neuroplastic than previously realized -- meaning we can rewire ourselves -- so fate doesn't have the last word.

2/12/2015 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Every now and then, a study comes out about adult brains and how different people are hard-wired in particular ways, but usually with the implication that the neurology has been fixed from childhood somehow. As if people are born with a genetic predisposition for, say, typing words on a keyboard, and so the part of the brain where keyboard-typing skills are developed must be especially large in some people from childhood, even if they spent their childhood engaged in entirely different activities.

It seems obvious to me that how we choose to spend our time must necessarily shape the way our brains develop. Free will has real and measurable effects - who knew? But of course, there are plenty of people who try hard to argue that everything about us is caused by neurology. All nature, no nurture, and therefore they can't (in their own minds) be held responsible for anything they might do. They are predisposed, doncha know.

2/12/2015 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Bob.

2/12/2015 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Or in other words, we want to re-member them, as opposed to them dis-membering us."

It seems to me that re-membering is key, add opposed to simply recalling or dwelling upon. Re-membering, re-connecting, integrating the pieces into the form of the new whole.

Tough work. Painful work. Important work.

2/12/2015 09:26:00 AM  

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