Archive for the ‘Unconscious’ Category

taking it personally

When we have an unpleasant encounter with someone and aren’t able to shake it off, we  are often told that we shouldn’t “take it personally.” But what does this mean? A close look reveals that over-personalizing something implies one or more of several unexamined assumptions:

  • this event is about me
  • this event reflects something about me
  • this event reflects something about my nature
  • this event is about something I’ve done
  • this other person is aware that their action is having an effect on me
  • this other person is aware of what effect their action is having on me
  • this other person intends to have the effect on me they are having
  • this other person is aware of how I am feeling
  • this other person wants me to feel the way I am feeling
  • this other person is responding to something they attribute to me
  • this other person’s attribution is accurate
  • this other person’s action is because of something I’ve done
  • this other person’s action is because of something I’ve said
  • this other person’s action is because of something about my nature
  • this other person knows I exist
  • I deserve to be treated the way the other person is treating me
  • I should feel the way the other person wants me to feel

These aren’t necessarily inaccurate. However,  if we automatically accept them as true, we set ourselves up to carry an unnecessary burden of responsibility. Simply stepping back and noticing gives us the opportunity to consciously evaluate the situation and determine for ourselves what is so.

The fishbowl of life

I just watched a wonderful video clip on Michael Mead’s website excerpted from his CD set “The Soul of Change”, in which he tells the story of a woman who had a pet fish. One day, noticing that the water in fishbowl was cloudy, she put the fish in the bathtub temporarily while she cleaned the bowl. Watching the fish in the tub, she noticed that it swam in exactly the same size circle that it had in the fishbowl, despite that it was in a large tub of water. She immediately understood that this was also our condition, psychologically.

Both psychology and spirituality have pointed out that we live in a very limited internal world. Not just our behavior, but even our identities, have been shaped by our environmental conditions. For the most part, what we think of as ourselves is largely a set of psychological habits. It is as if we are living in a trance.

The promise of this story is that we potentially have a much larger domain of experience available to us if we can find a way to break the spell.

Before Freud…

At the Association Transpersonal Psychology conference last weekend I heard a wonderful presentation by Mark Ryan on the work of F.W.H. Meyers, an little known and under appreciated figure in the history of psychology. Meyers was a major influence on both William James and Pierre Janet and laid, according to Ryan, the foundation for what is now known as Transpersonal Psychology.

Ryan proposed the following five seminal contributions of Meyers’ work:

  1. The application of rigorous empirical methods to the study of subjective experience.
  2. The assertion of the reality of spiritual experience and the inadequacy of materialism to address it.
  3. An extensive map of the psyche as a spectrum of consciousness.
  4. A view of the unconscious as an avenue to transcendent experience and higher human potential.
  5. Belief in the evolution of consciousness.

In recent years there has been a rediscovery of Meyers’ work and a deepening appreciation of his contribution to psychology in general, and Transpersonal Psychology specifically. A comprehensive review of his work and integration with current developments in the field can be found in the encyclopedic Irreducible Mind (Kelly et al, 2007). Thanks go to Mark Ryan for presenting this voluminous topic in a clear and accessible manner.

Kelly, E. F., Kelly, E. W., Crabtree, A., Gauld, A., Grosso, M., & Greyson, B. (2007). Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.