Tuesday 25 April 2017

Short Observations

  1. Short idea (172): Linear (or active) Thinking is a chain or line of thought in which we use thoughts to solve a problem. Associative (or passive) Thinking is a line or chain or thoughts linked together by previous associations. Both Linear and Associative are step by step processes with each link in the chain, each point on the line, connected to the previous one by an understandable connection. There is another type of thought that we might call Archetypal in which an idea "pops into ones head," and it seems completely unconnected with any previous thought. It "came out of no where," as it were, "out of the blue." If, on examining a new archetypal thought, it does seem connected with ones previous thoughts at all, it seems more as if it is an observation or commentary or insight about the line of thought that came before. It may seem as if it came from outside oneself, almost as if it was the point of view of another, often more intelligent and wiser, person.

  2. Short idea (96): The logic and geometry of experiences is different from the logic and geometry necessary to get through everyday life in public. Here is an experiment in introspection the reader can do to see what I mean: Focus on a sensation deep within your body. Now focus on one on the surface of your skin. Now focus on a visual sensation somewhere outside your body. Now focus on a far away sound, as far away as possible. Now try to focus on outer space, space past our Milky Way galaxy, the furthest part of space there is. Now ask yourself where this last experience took place. I think you will find that the experience of outer space, if you had it at all, was a combination of thoughts and images within your own head. So, typical of the laws of logic and geometry for experiences, outer space was outside your body, beyond sights you were seeing and sounds you were hearing, but, at the same time, it was inside your head. — If you want to explore your own experiences, you have to get used to this kind of twist.

  3. Short idea (123): The ongoing argument between Creationists and Evolutionists assumes either we are descendants from the apes or we have not evolved from apes. There is a third possibility: that we are apes.

  4. Short idea (77): "If only I had listened to her (or him)!" is a thought I have had many times. But I have also had the opposite thought: "I shouldn't have listened to her (or him)! I should have listened to myself!" Based on this, sometimes I should listen to others, and sometimes I should listen to myself. It would be nice to have a rule to tell when to do one and when to do the other, but I haven't found one.

  5. Short idea (57): "Seek the truth," they say, but is that enough? Mustn't we then catch a glimpse of it, and then aim towards it and try to grasp it, and then learn to hold on to it and then to handle it and to clarify it and refine it and absorb it and digest it, and also to carve it into something beautiful and useful to ourselves and others?

  6. Short idea (195): There are beautiful ideas and there are true ideas. Occasionally we find a beautiful idea that turns out to be true. And, occasionally, we stumble across a true idea that we come to see is very beautiful.

  7. Short idea (113): From a developmental point of view, I think that Sensation must have been the first adaptive psychological function to appear (every living cell senses — as do human infants). Imagination assumes Sensation and builds on it, and I think it must have been the second function to appear (dogs dream). Thinking assumes Imagination and Sensation and integrates them into itself, and, I think, it must have been the third of the functions to appear (language is needed for thinking; infants don't yet have language). Reflection, Evaluating, Moral and Ethical Reflection, and Planning integrate Sensation, Imagination, and Thinking, and I think it is the fourth function to arise and probably does not arise in everyone. Wisdom couldn't develop without being able to build on the previous four functions and there would also have to be character traits present such as courage. And, if there is any psychological function further along than Wisdom, perhaps some Unifying function, it would develop, if at all, only after everything else was in place and functioning.

  8. Short idea (115): Alfred North Whitehead said that all European philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. Plato lived roughly 2,500 years ago and Freud lived roughly 100 years ago, but, to paraphrase Whitehead, I would say that all psychology, including all American psychology, has been a series of footnotes to Freud. — I say this even though I am not a Freudian.

  9. Short idea (183): People say "Relax!" but this assumes that it is in our power to relax. A Jewish prayer says, "Grant us Peace, Thy Most Precious Gift, Oh Thou Eternal Source of Peace" (Union Prayer Book II). If we think of the word "peace" as being an ancient word for what we now call "relaxation," the prayer implies that we can not relax, that we can not choose to relax, that we can not do something to make ourselves relax. It is not up to us. At this point in my life, I would say I agree, though with some reservation. 

  10. Short idea (98): In colleges in the U.S. we are trained to see Imagination and the Intellect as inherently at war. I think it is more useful, and probably more accurate, to focus on the possibility of them cooperating and on what they have in common. After all, they are part of the same organism and probably developed with the same goal, that is, the adaptation of the organism. I think they have a common source, and images are part of thinking. The two are like two gangling beasts who are married and who are constantly stumbling over each other and who often get into conflicts but who, deep down, still love each other, or, at least, should learn to get along.

  11. Short idea (177): It is continuously amazing to me how people can feel they are the greatest, when everyone else can see they are jackasses or fools. To be fair we have to include ourselves in this evaluation and be aware that we also, at the exact moment we feel we are at our best. are often being selfish and stupid and blind and weak. Just because a person feels good and thinks they are good doesn't mean they are. It is sobering to see what we are really.

  12. Short idea (25): There are two types of people. One type thinks they're really something. The other type thinks they aren't anything much. People who think they're something are surprised when they realize they will die. Those who think they're nothing special may be surprised when they realize they're alive.

  13. Short Idea (41): If Moses had decided never to come down from Mt. Sinai and to stay forever with the Lord, we might not have learned we shouldn't steal or kill or disrespect our parents.

  14. Short idea (120): If you think brain activities underlie all our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and so on, here is a paradox: I can influence your brain (say through my words to you), and you can influence mine, but it seems impossible for me to influence my own brain or for you to influence yours. Why? Because if you think you are doing something to influence your own brain (maybe telling yourself happy words to make your brain have a different chemistry), it is your brain making you want to do the thing in the first place, it is your brain that lies behind your actually doing it, and it is your brain that causes you to be aware you are doing it. Similarly, if a man is strong enough and big enough, maybe he could lift any human being on earth, but he could never lift himself.

  15. Short idea (127): Freud and Jung disputed over whether dream images were signs (of something else) or symbols. I wonder if it isn't possible that dream images and, actually, each and every thing, is both a sign and a symbol at the exact same time. Every thing is a sign of other things; every thing is also a symbol. Every thing
    1) is
    2) is linked to other things
    and 3) points beyond itself to things in the future and to things in the past.

  16. Short idea (109): Anything can become everything within a person's experience.

  17. Short idea (165): Two Provisional (and condensed) Definitions: 1) Humility = Self-Knowledge + Knowledge of the Future. 2) Arrogance = Ignorance. Axiom: The more self-knowledge you have and the more knowledge of the future you have, the greater humility you have.

  18. Short idea (196): Every person on earth, I would guess, is, by nature: 1) remarkable, 2) ordinary, and 3) inferior. Through work a fourth state can, if things go well, can be added, and this fourth state can be positive or negative depending on which direction the person exerts his or her energy.

  19. Short idea (131): To a vast degree, the world is not what we think or imagine or perceive or expect or want it to be.

  20. Short idea (153): There are many reasons to have censorship in movies. For example, it can be awful to see abuse and killing in films, and many would like a censor to keep these things out of what we and our children see. One reason not to censor is that films are an expression of the psyche and soul of a people. In this way they are like dreams, and like dreams, they probably have a balancing function. If you could censor dreams, the individual might become unbalanced. Also, films can be used to monitor what is going on in the collective psyche. This monitoring can give sensitive people a window into the future of a nation, into what is about to happen, and it gives some time to prepare. Censoring, whatever its value, takes away this mirror.

  21. Short idea (149): Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time thinking about the psychology of Anxiety. If I had to sum up my thoughts at this point in time about what is Anxiety I would say: Anxiety = Future. 

  22. Short idea (95): Every experience has a "tail," which is to say that a piece of every experience lingers on after the experience is over. For example, the experience of being in a severe thunder storm lingers after the storm is gone. The alertness, the feelings of fear and/or awe, etc. Tails can last a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, days, weeks, months, years, and even for a whole life-time. As you get older you accumulate more and more of these permanent tails, and all new experiences you have are filtered through them. The thicker the web of old tails, the less of each new experience will get through, and, gradually, new experiences will all come to feel pretty much the same, have the same flavor, as it were. Experience will become stale.

  23. Short idea (49):
    1) Psychological Suffering = Suffering.

    2) Psychological Suffering + Unconsciousness = Suffering x 2 (or possibly x 3).
    3) Psychological Suffering + Consciousness + Time + Quiet + X + ? = Peace + Calmness.

  24. Short idea (108): There are people who object to religion with their intellects; the ideas of religion don't seem rational to them; they strike them as superstitions. But there are other parts of a person's psyche that can have a negative reaction to religion. A person's emotions and feelings may be jarred by one or more religious practices, or a religious practice can jar a person's value system. Even a person's imagination can rebel against religion: it is possible to have one's own images of how the world was created and so on. I think the body too can react negatively to some thing or things in a religion. If all these parts of a person object all together, the person is, for all practical purposes, no longer involved in the religion in any deep way. The person will have to turn elsewhere for answers to the deepest questions.

  25. Short idea (93): To explore the idea of experience, it is useful, for a few minutes, to pretend that the following idea is true, even if it is false: Every experience you have is part of your body. Every sound you hear is part of your body. If you are driving a car and look out and see green grass and green and brown trees — and whatever you are currently looking at — this is all part of your body. Under this view, your body has different layers, to use an imperfect word. There is the visual layer, the sound layer, the skin layer, the muscle layer, the inner organ layers, the heart layer, the lung layer, and so on. Each embodies it's own unique type of experience. The central part of this idea is that there is a layer of sights and and a layer of sounds that are each part of your body but are experienced as outside of it — as outside the skin and what is inside the skin.

  26. Short idea (36): Devastating experiences make a person feel closer to those who have been through similar experiences and distant and separate from those who haven't. Losing a child separates a person from most other people; losing an old parent makes one feel part of the natural flow.

  27. Short idea (40): If you want to examine worms or Sumerian clay tablets or other galaxies or the species of human beings in any one of its many aspects, there is a department in some college where you can go. But if you want to examine your own mind and study it, where is the college that has such a department?

  28. Short idea (169): Regarding which mattress is the most comfortable: When you are tense and troubled, no mattress feels comfortable.

  29. Short idea (156): Many people would be just as sad if there were only one religion as if there were only one type of food or one type of tree or one type of person.

  30. Short idea (106): Everyone has two sides to one degree or another. There is the normal, sane side and the wild, crazy side. People feel good when they manage to let out the wild, crazy side in a normal, sane way. They feel bad if they never are able to let it out or if it bursts out in a wild and crazy way.

  31. Short idea (167): Speaking as a psychotherapist, I guess that some school shootings and work-place shootings are irrational, incorrect, misguided, illegitimate, and immoral attempts to gain power, respect, and dignity.

  32. Short idea (70): There are unknown events going on inside and outside our bodies that, at this very moment, are shaping our futures.

  33. Short idea (11): An interesting thought a violent schizophrenic patient told me many years ago: "I like to think that everyone has the same amount of suffering they have to experience in their lives. For some it is spread out, and, for others, most of it comes all at once, but we all have the same amount of suffering."

  34. Short idea (47): Some experiences are too painful to remember. This doesn't mean they're gone.

    The first snow covers the grass.

    Soon we forget the grass.

    But it's still there.

  35. Short idea (198): To argue that evil doesn't exist because all it is, is the absence of good (privatio bono) is parallel to arguing that death doesn't exist because all it is, is the absence of life.

  36. Short idea (190): Knowledge and Power: 
    The Intellect thinks: "Knowledge is power."
    The Imagination, when it experiences Self-Knowledge in itself or in others, thinks: "Super-Power!"
    When the Imagination experiences Consciousness, it thinks: "Magic" or "God-like" or even "All-Powerful" ("Omnipotent") and "All-Knowing" ("Omniscient").
    [This observations grew out my wife, Adelle Hersh's, thought that it is both a blessing and responsibility to have self-knowledge.]

  37. Short idea (2): Take anything on the earth or in the heavens or in the seas: There is someone who could become interested in learning about it. Whether it is a rainbow or the rhyming system of certain poems or ancient Sumerian palaces or how to fix a toilet or the mating habits of Sumatran elephants or the cost of pine nuts from China or the composition of dust or how children learn to spell. So it is no wonder that there are some people who are interested in learning about themselves.

  38. Short idea (28): Regarding the psychology of Place: the most important thing is Where you are and Where you're not. Here versus There.

  39. Short idea (118): Psychotherapists learn quickly that people who appear good are almost never as good as they appear, and people who appear bad are rarely ever as bad as they appear.

  40. Short idea (126): Here is a powerful idea I heard that I think is an exaggeration with some little truth in it, though you may have a different opinion: All suffering that remains unconscious becomes a physical illness. If the suffering is the private suffering of one individual, the individual will get a physical illness. If it is the suffering of a country, people all over the country will get sick. If the unconscious suffering is of all the people in the world, people all over the whole world will get sick. If the unconscious suffering is deep enough, painful enough, and unconscious enough, the resulting physical sickness is a fatal one.

  41. Short idea (91): There's a parallel between the passion of sex and and the passion of anger. I think almost every human being in the world would agree that there should be some limitation and restraint on the expression of sexual impulses and angry impulses (both for themselves and for others). It would be impossible for all humans to agree on just where the lines should be drawn, but pretend we all could agree. Pretend we all went to a big conference and could all agree that people, from now on, can express their sexual and angry impulses up to a certain boundary line but no further, that certain sexual and angry behaviors are totally unacceptable. Then, we might also agree that, as long as people do not step over the lines, everyone is free to express their sexual and angry impulses any way they see fit in accordance with their own individual styles. The points I am making are: 1) every human being has sexual and angry impulses; 2) every human being has to limit them; 3) every human being needs to express them in some way; 4) and people have just as much variation in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their anger as they do in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their loving feelings.

  42. Short idea (81): I was raised in an environment where it was considered a problem if a child preferred being alone. It was understood as a fear of others, and the child was encouraged to overcome the shyness and "be more social" and "try to make friends." Preferring to be alone was seen as an escape from others, from the natural inclination to be with others. But it also happens that being with others can be an escape from being with ones own thoughts and feelings and the figures that appear in ones dreams and fantasies. Not everything frightening lies without. Not everything good lies without.

  43. Short idea (35): Elephants are so big many people have trouble imagining they are emotionally vulnerable and sensitive and can feel fear, let alone dread and terror and agony.

  44. Short idea (76): To give in to impulses or to resist them? Everything depends on learning which to give into and when.

  45. Short idea (124): Even old wise men can have delusions, even many delusions.

  46. Short idea (90) : Dying is not death. It is an experience (or ongoing experiences) within life. It often involves a long series of "Goodbye's."

  47. Short idea (137): A tentative psychological idea: There are two kinds of people: those who are too anxious and those who aren't anxious enough. A person is either one or the other. If a person could choose his or her type with respect to how they worry, they would have to choose between being a worry wart or a naive babe in the woods. It must be added that people often don't worry about the things they should be worrying about.

  48. Short idea (132): Every family struggles with psychological problems to some degree (just as every family struggles with physical or economic problems to some degree). It is a matter of degree.

  49. Short idea (114): Frederich Nietzsche famously said, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." This is now the title of a popular country song in the United States. Hard to believe, but true. The irony is that the beautiful and inspiring idea that has come into the minds of so many people who are suffering was not true of Nietzsche himself; he got weaker and weaker over time. 

  50. Short idea (136): The eyes and ears are extra-sensitive parts of the skin and sights and sounds can be thought of as feelings received through touch. At the same time, the less specialized areas of the skin can be thought of as relatively insensitive eyes and ears that receive sights and sounds through touch. — If this isn't true, it is a useful mental exercise in introspection.

  51. Short idea (17): An agitated, angry moment; an ecstatic, happy feeling; an itch in the right knee; a dream of a red fox walking in the snow; a thought of tomorrow's barbecue — all are made of the same "stuff." There is a common denominator.

  52. Short idea (171): Derived from my own introspection and understanding of Freud's and Jung's dream theories: If you are heavily caught up in the external world and intent on succeeding and feeling you have a good chance of succeeding, then Freud's theory applies. If you are withdrawn from the world or are pursuing private and personal goals, then Jung's applies. For Freud, dreams reminded you of your inner goals that were overshadowed by you concentration on externals. For Jung, archetypal dreams drew you into deeper and deeper places in yourself and in the world as it appears to you when you feel alone. 

  53. Short idea (160): What we believe is different from what we think we believe.

  54. Short idea (29): When a person withdraws from the world as much as she or he can, what's left is Psychology, that is, the psyche.

  55. Short idea (54): Being decisive is not always good. With some people it's better if they never make up their minds. If you're getting ready to do something bad, we pray you will waiver.

  56. Short idea (3): "Everybody is a moon, with a dark side never to be seen by others." — Mark Twain. This was true when Mark Twain was alive, but now psychology gives us ways of seeing the dark sides of ourselves and others — if and when we want to.

  57. Short idea (5): Some have, as the whole goal of their lives, to come out of their shells and to enter the world and to venture out and to live and experience and achieve. Others have, as their goal, to retreat from the world, to dampen and tone down their experience, to withdraw from new experiences, to filter out much of the incoming stimuli, to protect themselves. The same person can have the opposite goal at different times, even at different times of the same day.

  58. Short idea (197): Things we like and enjoy can be bad for us, including some people we like and enjoy.

  59. Short idea (89): Say there is a king who is a great man, and he has a servant. This doesn't mean that the servant is a great man (or even a great servant).

  60. Short idea (43): A good side of difficult experiences is how they peel off the surfaces of yourself. If you're a fan of self-knowledge, this is a plus. It creates a chance to catch a glimpse of things you don't and can't usually see. If the painful experiences are rooted deeply enough, they cast a new light on ordinary experience and behavior. This, in turn, can lead to the development of new adaptations.

  61. Short idea (69): Sensations are like the sounds of the individual instruments in an orchestra; Feelings are like the sound of the whole orchestra. A Sensation is like a moving picture of an individual leaf on a tree moving in the wind; A Feeling is like a moving picture of all the leaves (and the whole tree) moving in the wind.

  62. Short idea (129): For every single problem, there is always a solution, and there is always at least one good and right way to solve it and one wrong and bad way.

  63. Short idea (34): If you rely on people being unreliable, you won't get as angry as if you assume everybody is reliable. (But many people really are reliable much of the time.)

  64. Short idea (146): Every century is unique. Every decade is unique. Every year is unique. Every day is unique. Every moment is unique. Every thing is unique. Every event is unique. For example, every breath is unique. It is also true that we often feel that everything is the same, tedious, and boring and that nothing ever changes.

  65. Short idea (122): Computers have been compared to brains and spoken of as brains, but the brain has different parts. It seems to me that computers can be correctly compared with the higher cortical brain, the part considered to be responsible for logical thinking, the type of thinking used to solve complex mathematical problems. But computers do not have lower brains, the part of the brain connected with need and want and drive and emotion and passion. Because of this, computers can't be irrational; they can generate random series of numbers, and they can make mistakes, but this is different from being irrational. To be irrational you have to have interests, and you have to have passions that make you act irrationally by going against your interests. Computers don't have interests, so they can't act irrationally. If a computer could be given a lower brain, such a computer would be much more human.

  66. Short idea (13): There is a difference between the mind, the psyche, and the self. Mind has to do with thinking and imagination. Psyche includes the mind. And the self includes the psyche.

  67. Short idea (168): You can make two columns — one for all the things in life that are fun and one for all the things in life that are just work. For many people, as you get older and older, activities that were in the first column when you were younger have to be moved over to the second column. Towards the end of life, activities that were fun or so easy that they were barely noticed, like breathing or walking, can become labor and even labored.

  68. Short idea (73): There's a difference between accepting, liking, and, maybe, loving yourself, which is a wonderful thing, and being in love with yourself and worshipping yourself which is, at best, immature.

  69. Short idea (189): We tend to believe "he was a good man": 1. If he was polite to us and 2. if he gave us things or helped us. If he was difficult with others it does not make as great and deep and lasting an impression on us as how he was with us.

  70. Short idea (148): We all have good tendencies, and we all have bad tendencies. We all have saintly tendencies, and we all have evil tendencies. We all even have godly tendencies, and we all even have demonic tendencies. A tendency we have that isn't always good and can be evil or even demonic is to think we are being good or saintly or even godly when we are being bad or evil or even demonic.

  71. Short idea (117): Whatever journey each one of us is on we can't slow it down, but we can't speed it up either.

  72. Short idea (107): I think psychology could (and should) be a meeting ground for all religions, a common ground. The deepest religious experiences are experiences, vague perceptions of the deepest levels of our psyches, and can, I think, be taken as psychological perceptions. Here are five explanatory points: 1) Religious dogma is not the same as living religious experience. 2) My view implies that no religion has exclusive access to reality; each is a different window into reality. 3) Religion should not feel in competition with science or with other religions; they are all searching for reality. 4) Religion is not "primitive superstition" but an attempt to express truths that are difficult to express in ordinary language. 5) Religion should be viewed as bringing to light new areas for scientific research; it should not feel pushed into standing against science in order to defend the objective territory it knows it has found and knows it has been exploring for millennia, often heroically.

  73. Short idea (92): "God is in the Heavens." If you are thinking about God, and you are thinking of Him in the Heavens, you are doing this in one of two ways: 1) you are outside under the sky, actually looking up into the sky, and picturing Him up in the sky. Or, 2) you are inside, picturing Him, picturing the sky, and picturing Him in this pictured sky. For 1) you have to be outside, with eyes open, looking up at the sky. For 2), you can be inside, sitting in an easy chair, eyes closed, imagining the sky with God in it. There is such a big difference between 1) and 2) that I think people who think about God in the heavens in the second way may not be able to picture Him in the heavens the first way.

  74. Short idea (173): Some mythic stories can be understood, among other things, as attempts to present psychological states of mind that are difficult (or even impossible) to describe or present in ordinary language. An example is an American Indian story that tells about a man who was picked up off the ground and blown far away from his home by a great wind. When he landed he became a great healer. The whole story is one big metaphor.

  75. Short idea (194): Mania and Anxiety can be seen as forms of increased psychological Energy (Libido), that is, excitement. Each can be taken as the opposite of Relaxation.

  76. Short idea (59): If you have a camera whose pictures are getting more and more inaccurate — this is a good metaphor for getting old. Decaying tools can cause problems. There are additional problems if you don't know your tools are decaying. And still more problems when you insist to others that everything's fine when everyone can see it isn't.

  77. Short idea (187): In my experience everyone is bad. In my experience everyone is good. In my experience, when focusing on the bad of a person, the person is experienced as all bad and when focusing on the good of a person, the person is experienced as all good. In my experience, when focusing on the reality of a person, the whole person, the good and bad of a person recede into the background as natural properties inherent in everyone.

  78. Short idea (86): When good people become bad, they often become very very bad, and when bad people become good, they often become very very good.

  79. Short idea (179): It is only when it feels that all is lost that the self can emerge.

  80. Short idea (175): Anger is a way of holding things at arm's length, of isolating oneself from what you are angry at. We know the negative sides of this distancing for oneself and for others, but a positive function is that it seems to be a necessary step in thinking; it is pre-condition of observing and analyzing.

  81. Short idea (65): Even in a dream there is left and right, near and far, inside and outside, ordinary and awesome. When the dreamer wakes up, there is also a left and right, near and far, inside and outside, etc. It's difficult to describe the difference. This is partly because it's difficult to compare the two. And this is partly because it's difficult or impossible to be in both states at the same time.

  82. Short idea (130): "2 plus 2 = 4" may express an eternal truth, but adding 2 plus 2 is a mental operation that takes place in particular people at particular places and times. Thinking is an activity that uses up time, and it always occurs in a particular place. Thinking can be done out-loud or to oneself, with others or alone, while awake or while dreaming. Like all other activities, we think for reasons, and these reasons can be more or less conscious. And we can think too much or too little, and in a useful way or in a way that causes trouble for ourselves and/or others.

  83. Short idea (201): We can injure ourselves while we are sleeping

  84. Short idea (88): "The Great Mystery" — To many, these words are exciting, inspiring, and meaningful. To others, the idea of a Great Mystery is dangerously irrational and superstitious and agitates and angers them. What does this disagreement signify? One possibility is that it is a simple, intellectual disagreement and that one side is right and the other wrong. Another possibility is that there is a Great Mystery for some but not for others. It also may be that, for most people, those not at the extreme ends of the continuum, there are occasions when they sense a Great Mystery, whereas, at other times, they think the idea is a childish, naive wish.

  85. Short idea (139): I am sympathetic with those who speak of an inner and an outer world, but this way of speaking leads to needless complications. I think it is less confusing to say there are two ways to experience the world: inner and outer. — There is an inner way of experiencing something and an outer way.

  86. Short idea (26): The Israelites thought it was a miracle when the Red Sea closed over the Egyptian army. But, when the Egyptians back home heard the story, they would not have thought it was a miracle. The escape of the hare is a miracle to the hare but a curse to the fox and his family. Current day Israelis and Egyptians hear the story with different ears.

  87. Short idea (61): The Jewish people, as a people, suffer from PTSD. This doesn't mean that every individual Jewish person has PTSD.

  88. Short idea (138): Feelings can be thought of as like watercolor paints: They can stand alone, individually, or blend together. There are an infinite number of possible blends. You can have a specific feeling, and then a new one can come and mix with it, wholly or in part. Or the new one can become superimposed on the first in a transparent or opaque way. Or, like two side-by-side colors, if you have two "side-by-side" feelings, one can stand out and be brighter or more intense than the other and the other can be shadowy and vague and in the background. And so on.

  89. Short idea (15): An experience of the whole, no matter how important and healing and tremendous it may feel, is, itself, only a minuscule and transitory piece of the whole.

  90. Short idea (68): It is very important to Adapt. But to what? Definitely to other people, to the forces of nature, and so on. But also to our feelings, our thoughts, our pains, and to figures that appear in dreams and fantasies. What stands in the way of Adaptation? One thing is the denial of the existence of an experience, or, after recognizing its existence, the denial of its importance or significance.

  91. Short idea (79): Of all the reasons a man climbs mountains, two stand out. The first is to test his endurance, skill, and tenacity and to compare his achievements with those of others. The second is to gain new vistas, to leave the ordinary and enter a new and higher realm, and to achieve a lofty spiritual experience. It is possible to climb for both reasons, and even at the same time.

  92. Short idea (150): Following his quadruple bypass heart surgery, former president, Bill Clinton, was interviewed by Diane Sawyer on October 28, 2004 for her program, Primetime Live. President Clinton spoke about his changed values with respect to the political "game," and he added, "I thought, you know, you've been given an unknown but substantial amount of extra time. And you should give it back. So, that's what I'm going to try to do.” On the one hand, it is nice that he has had some sort of conversion to wanting to devote his life to helping people. On the other hand, it would be nice to think of all presidents, including him, as being devoted to this during their presidencies.

  93. Short idea (55): Learning and Knowledge are not always good. It depends on what people learn and what they do with the knowledge.

  94. Short idea (182): Relaxation is not a "Yes" or "No" thing; it's not that we are either relaxed or not. Relaxation and Tension are two poles of a continuum with an innumerable number of possible positions. There are  degrees of relaxation and degrees of tension.

  95. Short idea (166): Do animals have religious experiences (that is, numinous experiences, experiences of the sacred)? Do they have a sense of sacred space, sacred objects, and so on? — This is another way of asking if there is a religious instinct.

  96. Short idea (161): Memory is a skill.

  97. Short idea (56): Knowing thyself is a means, not an end. Unexamined lives may not be worth living, but it doesn't mean examined lives are. Knowing you're a jerk isn't enough; you have to do something about it. But what and how?

  98. Short idea (200): Perhaps the most seductive things in the world are words — including the words that come into your head. 

  99. Short idea (94): Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, according to Lord Acton. In our day, with our microscopic focus on human motivation, we might look at it even more cynically. Human nature is already corrupt, but most humans don't have the power to act it out. Fear keeps most of us in check. Give us power, and we let go. Give us absolute power, and look out. — On the other hand, we know there are other, more positive forces working in us, and, in some of us, they hold sway no matter what.

  100. Short idea (188): It seems to me that there is a third option when confronted with an unpleasant situation besides Fight or Flight. There is also Assessment. Assessment includes Stopping, Waiting, Observation, Feeling, Thinking, and Imagining.

  101. Short idea (144): One type of injury, like a cramp, can be helped by exercising it and by not giving in to it. Another type, like certain sprains, require the opposite. These require immobilization and no movement and are dependent on time to heal. It may be that sometimes these never heal; the best you can hope for here is to learn to compensate, to learn what movements to avoid aggravating the injury. There are also these same two types of psychological wounds and the same two types of psychological healing.

  102. Short idea (38): For many, the things they are most proud of when they are doing them are the very same things they are most ashamed of when they reflect on them later.

  103. Short idea (116): From a psychological point of view there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of religions besides the five or six major religions. If religion can be compared to vessels on an ocean, the major religions are like giant ocean liners — like the Queen Mary or the aircraft carriers. The smaller religions are like lifeboats or submarines or tugboats or schooners or houseboats or barges or ferries or fishing boats or rowboats. Some religions are one man (or one woman) boats, big enough for one person only. Of these one man boats, some people make their own which is not easy. Psychologists often see patients who are struggling to make such a one man kayak or canoe. I suppose the ideal is to set out and swim free, without any boat, but that feels almost — almost — unfathomable, inconceivable; at least it is sink or swim.

  104. Short idea (22): Imagine that every single religious architectural structure in the world was destroyed. And that it became illegal to be a teacher of religion and even to talk about religion. And that there was a way of implementing these laws, so there was never again a religious structure, a religious custom, or even a religious idea that ever appeared in public. Some people would say this would make the world a better place; others would say it would be a disaster for the world. The question for the psychologist is, "Is there a religious instinct in us that can not be eradicated no matter what we might do to try?"

  105. Short idea (52): There is a difference between a decision you make inside your head while lying in bed and one your whole body makes after it gets up.

  106. Short idea (121): There is an intoxication from alcohol or drugs, but there is also intoxication from ideas or ideals, or from beauty or love or success or power, or even from danger or food or sex. Some intoxication contains inspirations leading to wonderful things; others contain dangerous, even deadly, seductive delusions. However, whatever the content or cause, intoxication, in itself, can be a dangerous state for the person intoxicated and for those around him or her. It can turn into mania which can lead to exhaustion, ranting and raving, and other dangerous behaviors. (Jung called the danger "inflation.") Since the need for intoxication seems to be one of our basic needs, it must be indulged in with circumspection and in the right time and place. I think, perhaps, it is natural to spend about one seventh of our time in some inspired state. I get this from the idea of the Sabbath: From a psychological angle, I see the law to set one day a week (and no more) aside to be with the Lord as recognizing the human need for intoxication and as setting some boundaries to limit it.

  107. Short idea (51): There may be a difference between what you think you value, what you want to value, what you tell others you value, what values you act in accordance with even though they are not your own, and what you value. It may not be until you are an old man or woman and have seen yourself react in many different situations that you become conscious whether you value this more than that or that more than this, when it comes right down to it. Sometimes it is only in extreme and unusual situations that we see what is really and truly important to us. What you value is connected with how you choose to behave, not just with how you picture yourself.

  108. Short idea (16): Everything you experience is real, but not everything is real in the same way:  Some things are useful and substantial and important to you; others are dangerous; others are pale reflections, elusive and amorphous and hard to describe and maybe fleeting and unrepeatable and useless; others mislead you like a delusion that comes into the head while lying in bed on a long Winter's night.

  109. Short idea (78): There are two psychological states, A (withdrawn) and B (involved). One's self = A + B. It is only while in A that a person can learn about A, about B, and, therefore, about A + B. While in B there is too much activity, and so no time to look at B. Yet to know about oneself it is not enough to know only A. A has to look out at B and examine it as well. — Further, no one can be in A and B at the same time. It is probably impossible to be good without knowing oneself, which requires A. It is impossible to be good while in A. A good person must act in B based on what is learned in A.

  110. Short idea (104): People do the worst things when they think they're right. They can do even worse things when they know they're right.

  111. Short idea (39): We can find ourselves in unfamiliar territory such as in another state or a foreign country, but we can also find ourselves in an unfamiliar inner state of mind. There are unfamiliar thoughts and feelings and images and impulses and dreams.

  112. Short idea (9): "Going along with others" versus "Getting along with others."

  113. Short idea (63): We make decisions all day long, but only a few are made consciously. Decisions pile up. Over the years we have piles and piles of them lying around. One day we turn around and look at them. It can be a shock, like looking in the mirror and seeing that your hair has turned white. You've looked in the mirror every day but never quite saw yourself this way. However, in peering at the sum of what you've chosen, you aren't seeing how you now appear, but who you now are.

  114. Short idea (105): In some ways, Heisenberg's ideas can be applied to consciousness: when we try to "observe" our own conscious experiences, the act of trying to observe them changes them or even destroys them. The reason this happens is different from why, according to Heisenberg, our attempts to observe sub-atomic particles change them. Speaking metaphorically, we are embedded in our conscious experiences, absorbed in them. In order to inspect them, we have to pull out of them, and this pulling out, this distancing ourselves from them, is part of what changes or destroys them.

  115. Short idea (158): I can think of 5 roots of anxiety: Ignorance, Knowledge, Cowardice, Attachment, and Chemical Interactions.

  116. Short idea (203): Psychology has set up its store at the intersection of Reality and Imagination, at the corner of the Literal and the Metaphorical — there in that fire pit, in that cauldron.

  117. Short idea (202): It is not necessary to have a philosophy of fear, anxiety, depression, and terror, but it is necessary to have a philosophy of the place of fear, anxiety, depression, and terror.

  118. Short idea (145): One image of love that comes down to us from ancient times is of a cute little chubby infant, Cupid, shooting one of his tiny arrows into someone's heart. This image appears In paintings and on greeting cards and in T.V. advertisements selling gifts for happy lovers. But the image of Cupid shooting an arrow into an heart must have had different meaning for the ancients. We don't use bows and arrows for hunting or warfare, but they did. To be shot in the heart with an arrow would not have been thought by them to be a wonderful, happy experience.

  119. Short idea (163): More important to me than coming up with a psychological diagnosis (from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual, 5th Edition) is to answer the question whether or not the patient can get better and how.

  120. Short idea (12): A human relation is like a weaving or a web; it can be torn or broken, and then it needs to be mended which involves work.

  121. Short idea (66): An educated man I know thinks the idea of "ghosts" is a primitive superstition. Last year his mother died. Recently he dreamed his mother and another dead relative came to him inquiring if he had taken care of the paper work required for them to move to another state or country. He said he had. Even in the waking state after this dream in which he dutifully carried out an obligation to the dead, he didn't think twice about looking down on and ridiculing those he heard saying they saw a ghost or communicated with the dead. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

  122. Short idea (100): People change all the time, like it or not. But there is much argument about whether or not "people can really change," change their personalities. Does psychotherapy lead to real and deep and profound changes or only some more or less temporary and more or less superficial changes of behavior? Psychological observation shows there is such a thing as a complete transformation of the personality. This is not the same thing as willing yourself to change your behavior or deciding not to focus on yourself so much or anything on this level. And it is not the belief that you have changed or a dream or fantasy that you are a new person. It involves a complete and total metamorphosis of the way we think, the way we feel about things, the content of our fantasy life, and a re-valuing of all our values (to use Nietzsche's term). It takes time. Some people say it feels as if they are being reborn.

  123. Short idea (154): Good Action along with periods of Silence and Aloneness can be a shield, a refuge, and a hospital for a weary, lost, bloody soul.

  124. Short idea (155): In every good marriage, at some point, the wife gives her husband an ultimatum. It can come in different forms, but, however presented, in tears or in anger, deep down, it is an ultimatum. If this ultimatum comes from the wife having reached her limits and not from a power complex, and if it is based on just and valid premises, and if the husband sees this and thinks he has been wrong and changes, either in actions or intentions or both, then the marriage can grow into a good one. Otherwise, not. Until then it is a baby marriage, naive and untested. 

  125. Short idea (193): If you believe that there is a religious instinct, then atheism will be viewed as a form of neurosis. It can be seen as a form of hysteria (possibly conversion hysteria) in which one whole chunk of reality is denied.

  126. Short idea (19): Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Emily Dickinson were opposites: De Saint-Exupéry never had a home; Dickinson never left hers.

  127. Short idea (101) : Psychologically speaking, sometimes the only way out is in. At other times, the only way to penetrate deep inside oneself is to go outside and get lost in the world.

  128. Short idea (74): If you watch an horror movie and get anxious, and even feel some fear, this is real anxiety and real fear, but it is caused by events in the movie. What percent of all the anxiety and fear a person feels in life is caused by events in inner "movies"?

  129. Short idea (141): People in cities understand daytime (and light) and its subtleties more than nighttime (and darkness) and its subtleties.

  130. Short idea (152): An introspective exercise I did made me think that thinking is a branch of the imagination and that reason is a branch of thinking. However, it is just as possible that thinking and fantasy are offspring of the same parent (maybe the need to grasp the future). Or that they both come from the same root or need. Or that they are two forms of the same thing.

  131. Short idea (102): Everyone has two sides, but only one side comes out and shows at a time. Some people show one side more than the other, and other people show the other side more often. But all people have both sides.

  132. Short idea (67): Some people believe there is a Secret to Life that will enable them to handle any problem if they can find it and learn it. Some who believe there is such a Secret think they can learn it in school; others think they can learn it from a wise person; and others think they can find it in themselves, but they all believe that such a Secret exists somewhere and that they can find it. Others think the belief in such a Secret to Life is just a wish and a fantasy.

  133. Short idea (46): An abusive episode is like a tornado. Once it passes there is a calm just like on any other day. The only sign of what happened is what is left behind. — The weather is normal 99.9% of the time. Then along comes a tornado and kills a lot of people.

  134. Short idea (135): It is correct to say that, at any moment, we have five senses (some say six or seven) that are functioning to get information about the environment in which we live. It is equally true that, at any moment, we have one overall sensibility or sensorium which we can, if we want, analyze into sights and sounds and tastes and feelings which we can label as inside us or outside.

  135. Short idea (112): It is an interesting psychological hypothesis (not a theological hypothesis) that the search for God involves the search for the self (finding God involves finding oneself). It would go the other way too: The search for the self would be, deep down, also a search for what people call, "God." This doesn't mean, necessarily that God = Self, just that the search for one might turn out to involve (or even be) the search for the other.

  136. Short idea (134): Just as there are people who are stronger than me and people who are smarter than me and people who have more money than I do, there are also people who are morally better than me. And the same goes for you.

  137. Short idea (85): To the young, old age and death seem as unreal as a dream. To the old and dying, youth and life feel no different than last night's dreams.

  138. Short idea (18): What can be done in a minute? – Here are some things: certain complete conversations, brushing of teeth, driving about 1/4 mile on a dirt road, feeding a dog, ...

  139. Short idea (103): A house can make sounds like those of a living creature. Some people, especially at night mistake these sounds for the sounds of living creatures entering their houses.

  140. Short idea (174): A psychological metaphor: The Ego crystallizes from its substrate, the Self, and then dissolves back into it. It crystallizes again and then dissolves. It crystallizes again, and then dissolves .... But in one of these crystallizations it can solidify and harden. If this happens, it has to crack apart or be cracked apart to return to the Self until it crystallizes again. "Dissolving" is another word for "Relaxing," and "Solidifying" is another word for "Working."

  141. Short idea (58): The call to psychology (to know yourself) is: "Stop! ... Stop more! ... Stop everything! ... Stop completely! ... Stop now!" — When everything stops, one's self comes into view (like it or not).

  142. Short idea (128): I was informed of a dream of someone's patient after the election of Pope Francis I. The dream proposed a riddle: "What do Tiger Woods and Pope Francis I have in common?" And the answer was also given in the dream: "They both breathe the same air and eat fish from the same oceans." I thought this dream was worth reporting.

  143. Short idea (60): Success can serve as an anesthetic for the suffering that comes from peering into the deeper levels of reality.

  144. Short idea (178): The only way not to have expenses and expenditures is to be dead.

  145. Short idea (80): Smoking and being a jerk are similar in many ways. They are both addictions that are hard to kick. Still, each can be given up by a simple choice even if this is only after years of denying there is a problem in the face of everyone else saying there is. The choice often comes after some "revelation" that the behavior is not good for oneself or for loved ones. And, like all addictions, there is a period of withdrawal and maybe of back falling and of longing to return to the old, easier way. — Being a jerk, I think, is rooted deeper in the personality and requires more than a change in behavior to understand and uproot completely.

  146. Short idea (30): For whatever it's worth: I've come to believe that either there are two realities or one reality with two "faces." I prefer the second. If true, then one face appears in our dreams, and the other appears when we wake up.

  147. Short idea (83): Without feeling disrespectful in any way, it is useful for a psychologist to think of the impulse to spiritual beliefs as an instinct. If it is, it is as deep rooted as the impulse to eat and the impulse to sex. Some ascetics have tried to cut their eating down to a bare minimum. Other ascetics have tried to eradicate all traces of their sexuality. Ascetics of a different kind try to eradicate all spiritual impulses in themselves. On the other extreme, some dissolute people brag they give into all impulses to eat or to engage in sex. Others, of a different type, are proud they believe in the reality of every visionary experience of every person who reports them ("If a person feels there's a ghost in their house, sure, there must be one"). — Extreme positions with respect to spiritual realities are similar to extreme positions with respect to the other instincts. They have their places in the history of the world and in the history of each individual's life, but, for most people, in the end, they are impossible or near impossible to sustain. It usually doesn't work to give into them all or to try to get rid of them all.

  148. Short idea (159): Almost everything that is happening has never been imagined by anyone.

  149. Short idea (111) : There are four kinds of hurts. Hurts administered by an enemy, hurts administered by a friend, hurts administered by ourselves, and imaginary hurts. Each requires a different kind of response. 

  150. Short idea (50): If you think nobody in the world cares about you, you have to be willing to look closely at the possibility that you don't care about anybody in the world. There is also the possibility that you are absorbed in a waking nightmare (in which nobody cares about you) and that you're not aware it's just a nightmare.

  151. Short idea (170): Asthma, emphysema, and COPD are physical problems, but there is also a psychological side which is experienced as dissatisfaction and desperation in the deepest, most central, most personal spot in the ego. 

  152. Short idea (7): Feelings do not come labeled. Often we don't know what we are feeling and have to wait to find out. Other people may see and tell us. Or we may notice the effect of what we just said on someone and realize we must have been angry. Or we may get a call from a doctor we saw last week and realize all the feelings we have had in our body was nervousness. Or we may never find out. We may feel the feeling but not know what it is. And soon we may forget we are feeling anything. People can go their whole lives feeling tense, never relaxing, and never knowing it.

  153. Short idea (99): The Imagination usually does not come clothed in the words "I am your Imagination at work here." Usually it comes with words like: "So and so is trying to hurt me!" or "What a wonderful thing this is!" or "He is a prince of a man!" or "She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen!"

  154. Short idea (10): In every conversation there are things unstated and un-statable. In every thought process there is something unthinkable. There are things we aren't grasping, can't grasp, and never will be able to grasp — no matter how confident and optimistic we are feeling at any particular moment.

  155. Short idea (33): Everybody is normal. Some people are also abnormal. – This is a paradoxical way to put it, but I can't think of a clearer way. Implications: Abnormal people will begin to seem normal if you get to know them, and normal people may turn out to be abnormal. – You can use the same formula for “ordinary” and “extra-ordinary”: Everybody is ordinary; Some are also extra-ordinary; etc.

  156. Short idea (142): It is helpful for psychologists to think of some families as cults. The leader (often the father) is experienced as God and his wishes are experienced as divine law. Conflicts can develop when family cult law conflicts with civil law. In such cases, families are mini-religions.

  157. Short idea (181): Whatever else is true about Empathy, it requires at least two psychological functions, feeling and imagination (and not just feeling). You have to be able to imagine what it is like to be going through what another is going through, and then you have to be able to respond with the same feeling you would have responded if you were going through it.

  158. Short idea (140): Usually people see myths as attempts to explain and understand processes in nature such as the cycle of day and night. Even if true sometimes, at other times they may be attempts to explain or describe and stay conscious of internal processes and cycles such as the cycle of emotions (from elation to depression). Inner and outer are both pieces of nature and the same processes and cycles are found in both. So an outer cycle can be used to bring attention to a parallel process that goes on inside.

  159. Short idea (186): Seeing is a power. Seeing "below the surface" is a great power.

  160. Short idea (44): I think everybody has been abused by someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. I think everybody has abused someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. Abuse is not everything and everywhere, but it is part of life.

  161. Short idea (180): If there are deep truths and generalizations about the best ways to live, each person must find them him or herself.

  162. Short idea (184): For those interested in experience, there are at least two variables to consider. First is the variety of experience, and this is achieved by living fully. The second is the nature of any individual experience, and this is understood through introspection and meditation.

  163. Short idea (31): Having a positive First Impression of something is different from judging it to be Good. You can often tell immediately if you like something. If you begin not to like it after a week or a month, you say, “It turned out to be no Good in spite of my early impressions." Whether or not something's Good for the whole world may take a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand or even a hundred thousand years to tell. If something turns out to be Bad, then it was just a Fad. A fad can last for a hundred thousand years.

  164. Short idea (64): I see the human Imagination as a step forward in evolution. It is a tool for learning new things, for acquiring new inspirations and intuitions, and for testing new behaviors without ever having to get out of bed. On the other hand, it is fragile and extremely fallible and must be handled very very carefully. It is too easy to fall into it, thinking it is reality.

  165. Short idea (4): In the night: the eyes close, the outer recedes (but does not disappear completely), and the inner comes to the fore. In the morning: the eyes open, the inner recedes (but does not disappear completely), the outer comes to the front. The inner and the outer are in a relation, and, together, they make a whole.

  166. Short idea (97): An altar is a focal point for attention, and it is made to focus attention. A little girl dies and a mother makes a little altar at a spot in a room and places a cross on it, the child's favorite ribbon, and a picture. The altar focuses the mother's attention (and is made to focus her attention) on these things. The things help her remember, and to remember in a positive way, and so to counteract the grief and terror of the loss. Not only can the mother sit in front of the altar, but, wherever she is, she knows the altar is where she left it; and she knows the moves she must make to get back to it; and this, by itself, makes her feel a little better. Creating the altar is an unconscious process and can't be contrived. It happens as everything in nature happens.

  167. Short idea (32): I have developed a method for thinking about minor problems. I withdraw into myself, and wait for a clear and illuminating impression to come. Of all the clear and illuminating ideas I have had, I estimate about 15% have been useful to me or to others. “Clear and Illuminating” is not the same as “True and Useful.”

  168. Short idea (185): Hypothesis: Believing in a life after death is as instinctual as eating or breathing. No matter how silly the idea seems to our thinking, no matter how irrational, no matter how vague or self-contradictory, deep down we it is still there. It's as impossible to hold off the opposite belief too long as it is to hold your breath too long. You can hold it at bay for a while with your rational mind, but, as soon as you relax, the belief in a life after death, for yourself and others, grabs hold again.

  169. Short idea (192): There are two political parties in the United States. Younger members of each party are sure they are right and members of the other party are wrong and maybe even evil. Older politicians may feel this but become more practical and are willing to compromise in order to get anything done. But there is a third position: Neither party is completely right but that each expresses a part of the truth. Compromise is not a process where good makes a deal with evil to get at least some good. Rather it is a struggle that leads, if it works, to incorporating the goodness and truths of both parties into a higher, more complete good and truth. This struggle can take centuries.

  170. Short idea (176): If you are the type of person who is devoted to thinking, it is probable that you are not the type of person who continually tries to balance your feeling state in order to feel as good as you can feel. And vice versa: If you are constantly monitoring your feelings and sensations to adjust them to their optimal state, it will be almost possible for you to be what is called "a thinker." All your thought and energy will be devoted to adjusting your feelings.

  171. Short idea (147): It is easy to have bad motives and to try to cover them over with warm smiles and expressions of care and concern and with promises to always be helpful. So it is possible to be doing very bad things and to appear like an angel. We all fall for this. It is also possible to be doing very good things and not to care at all about how you look. You can be so involved in doing this good thing that you forget about others around you, and they can think you are selfish and self-centered and short-tempered and bad. We all make the mistake, at times, of thinking people are being bad when they are really being very good.

  172. Short idea (21): Everything passes including the awareness that everything passes.

  173. Short idea (82): Certainly it can be cowardly to run away from someone you are afraid of. The psychologist recognizes that it can be just as cowardly to run away from someone in a dream you are afraid of.

  174. Short idea (133): If a person's goal is power, then winning feels good (even if he or she is seriously wounded in the process). However, if a person's goal is to be good, then winning will feel bad (as well as good), because it brings with it responsibilities (that is, responsibilities to the ones who have lost to you).

  175. Short idea (1): In psychology, as in war (and as in life in general) there are no experts. Some psychologists have a lot more experience than others. These are the wily veterans, more familiar with the up's and down's of "the battlefield" than the greenhorns — but they are not expert in the way people who use Microsoft Word or tie bow ties or dice vegetables or solve calculus problems can become expert.

  176. Short idea (191): There are certain moments when we can become aware of the intimate connection between the Mind and the Body and the World around us. One is when we take an in breath. Another is when we feel our heart beat. Another is when we have a sexual response. Another is when we get furious. And another is when we feel an intense pain. Another is when we see or hear. And so on.

  177. Short idea (14): You are driving on a winding, icy mountain road in a blizzard. You are struggling to see enough to stay on the road and in your lane. There are five cars behind you. They have it easier than you; They can keep their distance and follow the tail lights of the car in front of them. Some in the cars behind are impatient. — Moral: if someone seems slow, it may be because they are weak or infirm or old or meandering, but it also may be that they are making an all out attempt to find their way on treacherous ground we will all be entering.

  178. Short idea (27): Some psychologists such as James and Jung have distinguished between Active Thinking and Passive Thinking. Active Thinking is work, because it requires an expenditure of energy over time. And, like any work, it can exhaust.

  179. Short idea (23): Mattress ads claim that the reason a person sleeps badly is because of the mattress, and, if you use their mattresses, you will sleep perfectly. It is the springs or the stuffing or whatever. This is a good example of an attempt to explain a psychological state of unrest or discomfort by reference to a thing or event in the external world.

  180. Short idea (42): "He knows his own mind!" — This can mean, "He knows his own tastes" (he differentiates his tastes from the group's taste); "He knows his own thoughts"; "He knows his own beliefs"; "He knows his own values"; "He knows his own view of further out things;" and so on.

  181. Short idea (71): First come the explorers, then the map makers. Each child is an unexplored continent (or world or universe). A person who becomes interested in self-discovery and wants it to be useful has to become both explorer and map-maker.

  182. Short idea (87): If you cut off the head of a worm, the body goes on for a long time. It's pretty much the same with people. If you cut out our ability to think (maybe by some violent emotion), we can still eat and drink — and vote.

  183. Short idea (6): The way humans are built we can not see the back of our heads directly, no matter what we do.  We can get around this, if we want, by setting up a few mirrors or by asking others to look and tell us what they see. We also can't see the "back sides" of our own personalities. If we want to get around this we can look at our dreams (which reflect the sides of ourselves we can't see) or ask people how we look to them.

  184. Short idea (48): Psychological pain is always an opportunity to learn about our illusions; about where our feelings are registered in our bodies; about our bloated or otherwise incorrect self-images; about our unreasonable and immature expectations; about our obsolete, un-honed, imprecise, conflicting, or superficial values.

  185. Short idea (20): The same door can look different from inside and from outside depending, in part, on our moods. However it looks at any given moment, it is important that it be well balanced, with oiled hinges, and with a strong lock.

  186. Short idea (119): We all feel filled with Energy sometimes, bursting with Energy; at other times listless and sluggish and filled with inertia. This feeling of Energy has a psychological label: Libido (sometimes "Libido" is used to refer to all psychological energy, sometimes only to sexual energy). If we look at objects in the physical world we can often see what fills them with energy. For example, a moving object hits one that is still, and the second objects moves, filled with the energy transferred from the first object. It is not so easy to see what fills us with the feeling of Energy or takes away the feeling. If we do see what does, it is difficult to understand how this can happen. For example, how can bad news make us feel all the Energy draining from us? We may be able to picture how a virus could take the wind out of our sails, but how can hearing bad news do it?

  187. Short Idea (24): There is the god of the Jews, the god of the Arabs, the god of the Christians (the son of the Jewish god), the gods of the Babylonians, and the like. Each people has its god. Is there a god that is the god of all peoples?

  188. Short idea (162): To our Sense of Time, a moment can seem a lifetime, and a lifetime can seem a moment.

  189. Short idea (164): The nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, can be used to illustrate a psychological point. Once the big egg fell and cracked and broke, all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put him back together again. We are like this, psychologically. We start whole, but then we fall and crack up and break, and then nothing can put us back together again. We long to be whole again. Is it possible?

  190. Short idea (8): Everybody has to be inside sometimes and outside sometimes. There is a door that separates the inside from the outside. Some walk easily, back and forth, through the door. Others have to be dragged in and/or out, screaming. And, for others, the door is jammed, and, to get them in and out, a wall has to be broken down.

  191. Short idea (53): If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it is worth a million thoughts and feelings. If words are cheap, then ideas and feelings are worth next to nothing. If actions speak louder than words, then they drown out thoughts and feelings altogether.

  192. Short idea (62): The average person in the United State knows about as much about Arab countries as he or she knows about the planets Jupiter or Neptune. It is probably vice versa also.

  193. Short idea (143): Anger is like a storm: You can't prevent or stop or control it, but you can do your best to weather it and keep down the damage.

  194. Short idea (84): If we make an analogy between the Imagination, Sensation, Need, and Thinking on the one hand and four rivers on the other, then there is a place where the rivers merge with each other and eventually form an ocean. Or, we can start with the idea of an ocean and picture the Imagination, Sensation, Need, and Thinking as four rivers that separate and flow out of it. — Without the ocean and its rivers we would all be dead. On the other hand, people often get swept away and drown in one of them. It's naive to forget the dangers of the rivers and the ocean and equally naive (and even fanatically suicidal) to try to get rid of them.

  195. Short idea (125): There is obviously a world of difference between having $20 as all the money you have in the world and having $200 million in your banks. A person with $20 is very very different from someone with $200 million. There is at least one way, however, they are identical: They both have to count and watch and hold and spend wisely and spend well if they want to be responsible and good. The $20-aire has to count and watch and hold on to his or her pennies and spend them wisely and well; the $200 millionaire has to count and watch and spend wisely and well and hold on to his or her 10's of thousands, but both have to count and watch and spend wisely and well.

  196. Short idea (37): The trouble in describing the deeper levels of the psyche objectively is that there is a tendency either 1) to water them down (because the experiences are so dramatic you don't want to sound crazy) or 2) to over-dramatize them (in a desperate attempt to express how surprising and remarkable they feel) or 3) to fall under their spell and become subject to their ways of viewing things and of speaking (which is to give up all attempts at objectivity).

  197. Short idea (110): There are two ideas of psychological strength: first, if someone is anxious and tense, and they turn away from their psychological pain and push on to meet their obligations, this is considered, by one camp, to be psychological strength. The other idea is that, if someone is anxious and tense, and they turn inward towards their pain and face it and explore it and come to terms with it, that is considered, by the other camp, to be psychologically brave and strong. Often a husband will have one idea and a wife the other. It is not difficult to think of the conflicts that can arise from this configuration.

  198. Short idea (45): There is physical abuse, intellectual abuse, religious abuse, emotional abuse, and abuse where one person browbeats and tyrannizes another person with tastes or values. Physical abuse is probably the most painful. (I say probably.)

  199. Short idea (157): You can't trust anyone completely or count on anyone completely — not even yourself. This can be a hard fact to swallow and adjust to.

  200. Short idea (151): Last week there was a video on the Internet from Australia that was receiving a lot of hits. It was of a life and death struggle between a pond python and a crocodile. The fight lasted over four hours. The python won and wound up eating the crocodile. I think that unless a person knows what it must have felt to have been the croc and what it must have felt like to be the python, he or she is lacking a significant chunk of self-knowledge.

  201. Short idea (199): Many people are running towards something and also running away from something, and they feel they will die if they stop running. Sometimes they are right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes they will die if they keep running.

  202. Short idea (75): In the following I use a flute as an example, but I could have used any thing: It is difficult to stay clear about the difference between the sound of a flute (gotten from hearing), the sight of a flute (gotten from vision), the feel of a flute (gotten from touch), the memory of the sound or sight of a flute, the image or sound of a flute in ones imagination, the idea or concept of a flute (from thinking), the desire to own a flute or see a flute or hear a flute, and a flute.

  203. Short idea (72): For many people, one of the most difficult things, psychologically, is to accept the feeling of uncertainty.

JMH International Essays — Announcement

Original Essays on the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence 

We thank all those who have submitted an essay to the JMH International Prize Essay Contest. As of now, February 1, 2017, we have decided not to continue with the contest.

For those who feel they have an important contribution to the subject of the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence, please feel free to submit your essay with the form provided here. If the judges agree that the essay is a significant contribution, we will publish it here (subject to agreement with the author).

We include here links related to past essays — For the 2014 contest, click here for the summary article and here for the list of winners; for the 2015 contest, click here for the summary article and the list of winners; and for the 2016 contest, click here.

Longer Observations

  1. Longer Observation (21): Deep Cures: Traditional wisdom says that the Lord heals, not doctors. In our times, when medicine is charging ahead recording remarkable successes in its crusade against suffering, is there any place for this old wisdom? In discussing this question I will be focusing on psychological suffering.

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  2. Longer observation (13): Imagining Ourselves Dying (1): There are different ways to try to imagine we are dying. One way is to picture ourselves in the middle of our daily activities, and then to picture the same scene without us in it. And we think, "That's what it would be like if I were dead!"

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  3. Longer Observation (5): Measuring Time: There are many ways of measuring time.

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  4. Longer observation (12): A Suggested Model of Memory: Here I would like to make a suggestion for a possible research approach to Memory.

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  5. Longer observation (10): Experiences of the Location of Sounds, An introspective report: The following is a report of observations I made on four nights over a 3 week period.

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  6. Longer observation (6): Everything is Real: Speaking informally, in ordinary language, not scientifically or even logically, we can say, from a psychological angle, that everything is real, but, at the same time, it is also part of the Imagination, part of our Thoughts, and filled with our Feelings and Emotions.

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  7. Longer observation (3): "Why do Good People Suffer?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

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  8. Longer observation (2): What makes Success: The very thing that makes a person a success in the world, the very consciousness required — the work ethic, the cool objective eye, the ability to close off subjective thoughts and feelings and to focus on an end — these abilities, and they are abilities (abilities that not everyone has but that can be developed);

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  9. Longer observation (17): The Center of Everything: It is usually as clear as a bell to young children that the sun and moon are the largest and closest objects in the sky; that the sun is the brightest object in the sky and the moon is the second brightest; that the sun is the center of the daytime sky and moves around our earth; and that the stars are the faintest and most distant objects in the sky.

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  10. Longer Observation (22): Looking for the Best: Some people are not satisfied unless they have the best, whether it be the best car or the best cheese or the best wine or the best house. If they feel they have anything less, they feel dissatisfied, that they are missing something. There is value in this approach to life, in this value system, but there is also at least one important short-coming.

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  11. Longer observation (18): The Great Mystery: Whatever you think about the Great Mystery, the Answer, or the Secret, there are many people who spend much of their lives searching for such things. A portrayal of someone on a Search or Quest for such things is given by Somerset Maugham in his book, The Razor's Edge.

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  12. Longer observation (1): Raised in a Cave: I read about a South American Indian tribe. In their territory there was a cave, and, occasionally, a newborn child would be selected (I forgot how) to be raised 100% in the cave.

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  13. Longer Observation (9): Imagination & Reality: Forgetting the difference between Imagination and Reality.

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  14. Longer observation (7): Science and Self-Knowledge: It is easy to have views about things, even strong views, even certainties, and to be wrong. Science does not guarantee truth, but the scientific method is an attempt to subject our views, even our certain views, to a slow and methodic and public scrutiny, filled with checks and safe-guards to try to filter out as many false views as possible.

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  15. Longer observation (11): The Body & the Earth: In early thinking the human body is sometimes compared to the earth.

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  16. Longer observation (14): An Objective Measure of Success?: Here is a mathematical formula offered as an expression of the amount of success in a person's life: s = (h-l) + w + gwh - d

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  17. Longer Observation (4): Dream of a Raging River: If a patient can’t cross a raging river in a dream, this can be the whole focus of therapy, and it may take many years for her to discover if she needs to and wants to cross and then how to cross and if she can. And then there is the crossing itself and, finally, the beginning of life on the other side.  These are difficult goals to explain to insurance companies.

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  18. Longer observation (19): Imagining Ourselves Dying (2): Imagining dying is different than trying to imagine death. Dying is a process; death a state. Here I want to write about a certain type of dying, one where there is no pain, no physical discomfort, and no inconvenience. Here is I am trying to imagine an unusual situation: You find that you will be dying, painlessly, in 30 seconds. I think most people, if they became convinced of this, would be upset. The question is, "Why?"

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  19. Longer observation (16): The Growth of Trees and of People: If you look casually at a large tree that has lost its leaves for the Winter, you might be struck by an intriguing and/or beautiful pattern, but the pattern itself will probably appear meaningless and random. A grove of trees or a forest can feel even more overwhelming and confusing and meaningless to an intellect trying to understand it. However, if you begin to think about the tree (or trees) from the angle of their history, the patterns begin to make sense.

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  20. Longer observation (8): A Mother's Sensitivity: When a mother becomes pre-occupied with some concern or other, she may not feel able to handle her children at the level required by her own standards. This is especially true if the children are also worried about what is worrying the mother. It's difficult enough for the mother to handle her own feelings.

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  21. Longer observation (20): Limitations of the DSM-5: Whether or not the newest edition (Fifth Edition) of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual for mental illnesses is an improvement over the Fourth Edition is being debated within the mental health professional community. Which ever side of the debate we find ourselves on, perhaps we will agree that any attempt to categorize mental illnesses has inherent limitations. We use the image of a building with windows to demonstrate the point.

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  22. Longer observation (15): Is he Bad or Mentally Ill (or Both)?: In these modern times we hear people discussing people who have done something bad. One person says, "He's just bad! No excuses! He should be punished!" and the other person says, "No! He's mentally ill! You would have done the same thing if you had been through what he has been through! We should be compassionate!" The person in question could be a criminal on trial or a political tyrant or even a family member who is hurting and, maybe, tyrannizing, people within the family.

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The Unconscious:

The Idea of The Unconscious

Freud thought there is an area of our minds that is unconscious. We all speak of Consciousness and Unconsciousness, but Freud spoke of an area that he called the Unconscious. The Unconscious is filled with ideas, thoughts, feelings, fears and anxieties, angry emotions, fantasies and so on that we don't know are going on inside us. If we want to experience our own unconscious material, we can stop and try to pay attention to what is going on inside us, but, according to Freud, it is usually not enough to make a conscious effort.

Freud's student, Carl Jung, agreed there is an Unconscious in all of us, but thought it has two parts: There is, what he called, the Personal Unconscious (the one Freud talked about), but, according to Jung, there is also a deeper one that he called the Collective Unconscious. The Personal Unconscious "contains" personal thoughts, feelings, and so on; the Collective Unconscious contains material that many people can have all at once, and so it is collective. The Personal Unconscious lies behind some of our shocking behavior (such as irrational angry outbursts or a man suddenly leaving his family and running off with another woman); The Collective Unconscious lies behind mass movements and the moments when we feel swept up in something bigger than ourselves.

Is the Unconscious real?

Many thinkers do not accept the idea of the Unconscious: If something were truly unconscious, how could we ever know it existed? Also, where is the Unconscious; what is the evidence for its existence? You can't see it or study it under a microscope or measure it, so it's just a theoretical that can never be proven.

Many people who reject the idea of an "Unconscious" mind reject the idea of "mind" altogether. They think of themselves as hard-headed, rational realists who only believe in what they can see or what can be proven to exist via physics or chemistry. (The idea of the Unconscious has fallen out of favor in the United States among most psychological researchers and therapists, though, from what I understand, it is still used in European psychology. Psychologists who accept and use the concept have been called Depth Psychologists.)

I think that Freud and Jung weren't just making up theories. They were giving labels to something they saw in their patients and also in themselves. Maybe they didn't put it just right from an intellectual point of view, but what they were seeing was real.

I also think that, in spite of all the philosophical difficulties that you run into if you try to be consistent about such things, it is very useful to talk about the Unconscious. It is hard to get along without the concept once you see how it is used. It is like the saw in carpentry: You can get yourself into a lot of trouble with one, but it is hard to see how you can build a house without one. On this site we are not doing philosophy but the practical work of psychology as it applies to ourselves and others. In short, for all its flaws, I think it is near impossible to get along with the concept of the Unconscious.

What does the Unconscious look like in other people?

There's an old New Yorker cartoon of a man lying on a psychiatrist's couch with the psychiatrist sitting behind him taking notes. The man is propping himself up on his arms and turning his head around so he can to look at the psychiatrist. The man looks furious. He yells at the psychiatrist, "Open your ears fathead! I said people don't like me for some reason!"

We see he is furious. We understand immediately that he is irrational and argumentative, perhaps even cruel, but he doesn't see it. This is a joke, a cartoon, but it reflects experiences we have all had. The way this is put in Depth Psychology is that men like these are unconscious of their anger: We all can see it; we are all conscious of it; but they can't see it. They don't know they are angry.

Drinkers can be unconscious in a similar way. We all see they have a serious problem, but they can't or won't see it.

Another example would be a wife who flirts with men. The men she flirts with know it, and her husband sees it and knows it and gets jealous, but when he mentions it to her, she denies it. At first we may think she is consciously lying to him, but, it can happen that, if he talks with her for a while, he begins to realize she has no idea she is flirting, and she has no idea she has sexual feelings for anyone besides him.

People who are blind like this can be the butt of jokes, but the Unconscious has a side that isn't funny at all. It may not be an exaggeration to say it is the source of all the evil that comes out of us. Just think of the drunk driver who says he isn't drunk, even though we all see it clearly and keep telling him.

All the examples just given are of the Personal Unconscious.

When we see someone in the grip of the Collective Unconscious it looks different. We see a wild looking man on the street corner raving about Christ. We watch film clips of enthusiastic German men and women in a large auditorium listening to Hitler. We listen to our friend who has joined a cult preaching to us how all our problems will be solved if we join. — To us who remain on the outside, these people seem hypnotized, in their own private worlds.

In fact, it was situations such as these (among others), that led Jung to speak of a "collective" Unconscious and to see us all as having a collective part of ourselves in addition to the personal parts. We all have the potential of getting swept away in a mass emotion or fantasy along with thousands or millions of others and of losing our precious consciousness. In such states we feel we are right and that everyone else can't see the Truth.

And sometimes we are right, even if we are unconscious. Sometimes a person who we think is swept up in some crazy idea is really ahead of the times and on to something real and new and important. For this reason, it is difficult to judge the Collective Unconscious from a moral or rational angle or by applying the judgment of the majority. Often the true value of some upsurge of the Unconscious can only be understood years in the future (maybe centuries in the future).

What is it like to experience the Unconscious in Ourselves?

It is often easy to see the Unconscious in others, but it is almost always hard to see it in ourselves. This is partly because many times things are unconscious in us for a reason, and sometimes the reason is that we don't want to see them. We don't want to see that we are angry or sexually attracted to someone or frightened or jealous or greedy. It may not fit in with our self-image or the expectations others have of us.

But let's say we do want to understand ourselves, even the most remote area and the areas darkest and most foul. How could we recognize them?

Let's start with the Personal Unconscious. What does it look like if catch a glimpse of it in ourselves?

The Personal Unconscious is often experienced as something taking us over. You do something, but you feel it isn't you doing it. Or it is you, but it is not the real you. A word we use now use for this experience is impulse: "I had an impulse to do it! I couldn't control myself!" Or, "Something came over me! It wasn't the real me! I don't know what happened!"

It used to be called possession: "Some spirit or demon must have taken me over! I wasn't responsible! Something made me do it!" We still blame liquor which we still call spirits (remember the words Demon Rum): "It must have been the liquor! I would never do anything like that!"

The psychological approach, as introduced by Freud, looks at these situations in differently. What took me over was not a spirit or a demon or even some abstract impulse; what "possessed" me was something in me, something that lay hidden and unconscious in me but that was really part of me. It was my own, personal sexual feelings or anger or feeling of anxiety or feeling of envy.

You can see that the psychological approach creates more moral difficulties for us. It places responsibility in ourselves: We are the problem! Our own deep feelings and fantasies and needs are what lead to our doing bad things. Even if we're not fully responsible for these parts of ourselves because we're unconscious of them, still it is our responsibility to try to become conscious of them, so we can have more control. The idea here is that it is consciousness and only consciousness that can give us some control over our futures and show us the need to make restitution for our past bad deeds. It is consciousness that gives us whatever Free Will we have. Will and New Year's Resolutions are never enough.

To see the different unpleasant unconscious parts of ourselves can be shocking, disturbing, and troubling, and it can be near impossible to force ourselves to turn towards them and stare at them. Once we get accustomed to staring at these realities and giving them their proper labels, we realize that they were there all along and that we were always dimly aware of them. And, though it is a shock at first, gradually we become accustomed to the sight, and we don't feel the need to turn away. And we realize how much energy we had put into keeping our eyes turned from reality, and we can relax more.

This is the Personal Unconscious.

So what does the Collective Unconscious in ourselves look like?

If I experience the Personal Unconscious as not me as something that comes over me or possesses me, I experience the Collective Unconscious as the real me, the true me, the deep and deeper and deepest me. It often happens that a person feels as if this part has been hidden away for years and that it is now time to explore it and let it out. It often feels like an untapped source of creativity, deep inside. One way people put it is that it is the unused part of the brain, and people are on television offering to show us how to untap this source of our creativity and power.

It often happens that people want to experience the Collective Unconscious but find it hard to access. They feel as if there is a Great Mystery, and they can feel they have been called to search for it.

Or it can burst out spontaneously, as if out of nowhere and unwanted, like a lightening bolt from heaven or an earthquake or volcano or tidal wave. Depending on its content, it can feel like a blessing or a curse. It can feel blissful, like a taste of Heaven or excruciatingly painful and terrifying, as if one has entered into Hell. It can change a life in one instant, in a flash — for better or worse.

Even though an experience of the Collective Unconscious can feel like the true me coming out, what Jung noticed was that, from an outside and more objective point of view, it is just the opposite. What feels to us to be "my ingenious insight" or "my most profound feeling" is what every other person of our generation or race or religion or country is going through. At the very least these are thoughts and feelings that people have had in all time and places. What feels like our own touch of genius is a thought that people all over the world have had throughout the ages and that lie in all of us. There is nothing new under the sun, just different expressions of the same old things.

The collective is captivating, enchanting, exhilarating, and it feels deep, because it is an expression of deep instincts in us all. It is often activated in many people at once. It feels as if I have found myself as an individual, but I have really lost my individuality and become part of a mass mind or movement. I feel I am now special and unique and the greatest in history, but I have sunk into a common state of mind.

If drugs such as LSD open up the Collective Unconscious in someone and make them feel they are having all sorts of miraculous insights and discoveries, those around are witnessing a person playing with his or her own feces or babbling like a baby or scribbling meaningless doodles or some such thing.

This doesn't mean there is no value to a person or to society to touch into the Collective Unconscious; it just means it is a precarious and ambiguous enterprise.

Another common way that we can see that the Collective Unconscious is awake in us is if we begin to feel we are in touch with super-powers in ourselves, physical or mental. It is what is now called, being in the zone. In previous times it was thought of, among other things, as finding our genius (that is a guiding spirit).

This genius can appear as an actual personality, perhaps in a "Big" Dreams, and people make pacts with these "spirits." Fictional examples can be found in Goethe's Faust in which Faust trades his soul to the Devil in exchange for super-powers and super-knowledge and in the popular musical, Phantom of the Opera, in which Christiana is asked to give herself to the Spirit of Music.

Some people feel they have become capable of magic and that they can use it for good or evil, or they feel they are witches or warlocks, or they become sure that other people are witches or warlocks. We can argue all day long about whether there are such things in reality, but they do exist in our imaginations, and people who are fascinated by such things are, by Jung's understanding, caught up in the Collective Unconscious.

Another sign you are caught up in the Collective Unconscious is if you begin to feel you are different from others and superior to them (or, alternatively, you can feel worse than others and lower than and inferior to them). Generally, any very strong emotion — positive ones such as elation and negative ones such as depression and melancholy — are signs that the collective has been awakened.

On a deeper level still, a person can feel he or she has seen angels or even god-like figures. It is even possible for a person to feel he or she is in the presence of God and communicating with Him. It is possible for people to feel they have been given a special mission from God. It is even possible for some people to feel they are the Messiah or Christ or even God, Himself. — Without debating about what is true and false here, the thing we can say, as psychologists, is that the Collective Unconscious has been awakened. Such situations are ambivalent: There is potential for great good and for great harm.

These experiences, even if they don't make a person insane and lead to hospitalization, often alienate the person from others and make him or her feel like a loner. A man can feel he is like Caine in the Bible. Or, like Nietzsche, he can feel he has transcended ordinary human values and is now Beyond Good and Evil, an Over-man. Nietzsche's fictional character, Zarathustra, is an example of a man who feels he is an Over-man, but who we, looking from the outside, feel is a madman. It is useful to mention in this context that, in the Hebrew Bible, the invention of science and art is attributed to Caine: It is alone, apart from friends, family, and society, that discoveries and inventions are made.

Even if a person doesn't get completely caught up and lost in the Collective Unconscious, the idea of God may come to mind. People who feel an inspiration or a moment of mystical oneness are having an experience of the collective. If a man takes a walk in the country and feels he has stumbled into a sacred, magical spot, that is an experience from the Collective Unconscious. If a man sees a woman walking towards him, and she looks like a glowing goddess, this an experience from the collective. If it feels as if the world stops and time stands still, and if a feeling of heavenly bliss comes over one, this is a touch of the collective.

As said, these experiences can feel especially attractive to people who are enmeshed in a million everyday responsibilities. Life can become stale and meaningless, and a person can feel dead. A person in this state can set out on a journey in search of these otherworldly experiences which have been called by a thousand different names. They can travel to foreign countries, pay thousands of dollars to gurus, take up meditation, take drugs, or enter psychotherapy — all in search of collective experiences.

It has to be said that there is a need for the collective as real as the need for food or water or sex. I see this need as instinctual.

Evaluating the Unconscious

If we look at the need for the collective experience as instinctual, it is easier to understand the ambivalent, ambiguous nature of the Collective Unconscious. It is no different from the moral ambiguity of any instinct. All instincts have two sides: They create needs that must be fulfilled so life does not shrivel and die, so, from the point of view of life, it is good to satisfy them. However, it is possible to overindulge to the point of satiation or to indulge them in inappropriate ways that are dangerous to oneself and others.

It is no different, it seems to me, with the instinct to have collective experiences. Without collective experiences, life becomes stale and meaningless, so it is necessary to maintain some contact with the Otherworld. On the other hand, it is possible to overindulge and to get lost in it or to enter it through means that lead to our destruction.

In our sober, work state, we can look down on all the instincts as weakness. We can be proud to be able to resist our hunger, to resist our desire for water, to resist and control our sexual impulses, to refuse to give into our desire for possessions. And we can also be proud that we are sober and strong minded and aren't scurrying around taking drugs, meditating, going to psychotherapy, paying gurus in an attempt to run from reality and escape our responsibilities. But we are flirting with disaster if we take this attitude for too long, because the instincts assert themselves, and, if they are not allowed to have any expression, they can come out indirectly or burst out suddenly and destructively.

As said, these unconscious aspects of our personality are easier to see in others than in ourselves. The Unconscious, Personal and Collective, is a problem for us. It is us and lies behind most, if not all, of what we do. On the other hand, we are at odds with it and have to struggle with it in order to be who we are and what we want to become. It is as if our human existence is a Paradox, a contradiction. The Ego has to evaluate and stand up to the Unconscious, but it grows out of the Unconscious and is its "baby."

It seems that some sort of balance needs to exist between the two poles. With respect to the collective, if we have a problem and try to solve it with our rational, conscious thinking, we can soon begin to feel we are going around and around in a circle. To get out of this rut we have to get away from the problem, and then some spontaneous thought or dream may come that points to a resolution. But if we "marry" ourselves to this resolution, we can forget our thinking, and we can sink into an irrational and dangerous quicksand. Some sort of balance seems necessary, a balance that is half way between the conscious and the unconscious minds. Because this balance involves more of us than our rational sides, we can never arrive at it through an A, B, C approach, because the step by careful step approach is a rational approach.

How can we get Self-Knowledge about the Unconscious in Ourselves?

When we are involved in our daily lives, we can not help but forget that the Unconscious exists. We have to forget it in order to get done what needs to get done. However, the Unconscious is still there. It is real and always present. Our whole conscious lives stand on it like our bodies stand, ultimately, on the earth. We can go up an elevator to the 19th Floor of a building, but the building we are in is on the ground.

It is inevitable that we forget the existence of the Unconscious. It is also inevitable that we forget its power. The earth we live on is a wonderful and gentle and ever-present support, even if we forget it. But it is also the source of massive earthquakes and tidal waves and volcanoes, and we forget this. We think we can drink or take drugs or meditate or enter psychotherapy and that we will become happier. We naively assume our guides will guide us into greener pastures. We can be crazily naive as to the dangers just like those who build houses on the San Andreas Fault in California.

Entering psychotherapy is no guarantee we will be helped. Pushing around in the Unconscious can awaken all processes that may be difficult or even impossible to control, even with psychiatric medications. The search for Self-Knowledge is not for everyone and should not be undertaken lightly. It is important to have sober, stable people around who have covered some of the territory themselves and who are willing to act as support. And even this is no guarantee. The dragon in the fairy tales kills most of those who try to find the other kingdom. It is only a rare person who makes it through and then only with special helpers.

I am not trying to be negative but only to express sober truths. And it is with these warnings in mind that we approach our new question of "How can we get Self-Knowledge about the Unconscious in Ourselves?"

As stated above, it seems to me that most people are too busy even to entertain questions about what they are like underneath. If they do find themselves asking the question, they don't have the energy to expend that is necessary to answer it. In addition, there is a natural inclination to feel that pursuing such questions is dangerous. We correctly sense we can become unbalanced, fall into some irrational abyss or get lost in an intellectual maze, and lose our ability and desire to function in the world of our adult responsibilities.

But some people — and it is often people who have few responsibilities and a lot of free time — do go on a search to find out more about themselves, to find out who they really are. So the question now is, if a person is trying to gain self-knowledge, how can he or she learn about the unconscious part of themselves?

We have already discussed this in some detail. In this section we focus on a few practical ideas.

Basically there are two ways to learn about yourself: 1) through observing yourself and 2) through learning how others see you.

1) Generally speaking, there are two ways to observe yourself:

a) You can use introspecting to "look inward" and observe and examine your inner states such as your thoughts, images, feelings, and bodily sensations. This is the internal approach, but it only gives you access to conscious material or material that flits in and out of consciousness. In addition, though much material can be gathered in this way, it is easy to get caught in a way of looking at it that makes oneself look good.

Realizing the limits of introspection, Freud proposed two ways to access the Unconscious. The first was Free Association. This is where a patient reported to the psychoanalyst whatever came into his or her mind. Eventually unconscious material would come out. The patient might not recognize it as such, and this is where the analyst comes in. The analyst explains the true meaning of the material that emerges. I must add again, that this method has dangers, and, like all the methods discussed here, should only be done under the guidance of a sober and experienced person.

Freud's second idea, gotten through his own personal experiences, is that, as he put it, "Dreams are the Royal Road to the Unconscious." But an important caveat, emphasized by Jung, is that dreams should not be taken at face value. An example he gave is that, if a man dreams that he kills his beloved father, it does not mean, necessarily, that he has murderous impulses towards his father. It may be that the dream is a compensation for the love. The son may be too bound up with the father, and the dream balances this out, so the son may move on with his life. It is impossible for most of us to figure these things out for ourselves. If we have such a dream, we can jump to the conclusion that we want to murder someone, and we can feel terribly guilty. On the other hand, sometimes we should be scared of the impulses that lie in the dream. So, again, it is important to have an experienced and sober person who can help sort through the material as it arises.

Also dreams can take you very quickly into very dangerous places. It really can happen that a charismatic figure can appear in a dream and demand some action. One patient dreamed he heard a voice to go to Las Vegas and go to a roulette wheel and place all the money he had on red. And the demands can be worse. It is very important to understand the great danger to self and others of such dream experiences, and it is another reason why it is critically important not to undergo such self-analyses on ones own.

b) It is important to combine the introspective approach with an objective examination of ones own body and behavior. For example, a man in marriage counseling is asked by his counselor to watch a video of himself interacting with his spouse. Even though he resists this disquieting experience, he sits and watches and begins to see how he raised his voice, had a threatening expression on his face, and so on. Or he may allow himself to be hooked up to a biofeedback machine, and he can not deny to himself how the needle jumps when certain words are mentioned to him or when certain subjects are raised. — In ways such as these, if a person is motivated and interested, he or she can learn a lot about themselves, things that they didn't know and that were unconscious.

2) There are also two ways to get feedback from other people:

a) It is possible to make an effort to listen to what others say about you. Even if we ask, in all sincerity, people often will not say what they really feel or think. For example, if we are someone's boss, our employee would probably not risk angering us by telling us the truth about how they see us? Still, people often do let their true thoughts and feelings slip out, maybe in a moment of anger. And we can, if we are open, learn a lot from these outbursts. (It is important to remember that we can jump to incorrect conclusions it here also: Just because a person tells us honestly what he or she sees, it doesn't mean they are right.)

It is also possible to hire a professional therapist to reflect ourselves back to us. This is a delicate and difficult process for both parties, but it seems to be growing in popularity.

b) A related, though more indirect approach to gaining knowledge of the unconscious part of ourselves, is to try to notice how our behavior differs from the majority of those around us. Do others see us as weird or scary? Do we take drugs in a community where this is not normal behavior, do we dress differently, or do we stand out in some other more or less dramatic way? The more we differ, the more there is a chance we have an unconscious problem. This isn't the automatic conclusion we should make, but it is a piece of data in our search for the truth about ourselves. And even if we do begin to see that we have a problem, it doesn't mean we are all wrong or all bad. We don't want to throw out the diamonds in us just because they are tarnished or because they lie next to some poison. And people on both sides must realize and try to remember that sober, rational people are often wrong and that even people in mental hospitals often have a valid perspective on things. This makes it confusing working with such people, as they often come out with brilliant, even astounding, truths.

Navajo hunters went into a sweat bath before the hunt and, we are told, "became" wolves. As wolves they hunted and killed deer. After the hunt, the wives would not let these wolves come directly home. On returning from the hunt the first thing the hunters had to do was to go back to the sweat lodge and "become" humans again. Apparently it was necessary for the wives to remind their husbands that they were, unconsciously, still animals. If we find ourselves spending more and more time alone, or if we find ourselves embedded in some extreme group that frightens others, it is likely we have slipped into an unconscious state and that we may really have become a threat to others. Again, this doesn't mean we should just do anything to fit in and be social; the hope is that we can learn more about ourselves, so we can act a little more consciously.

Strong evidence that we are under the influence of an unconscious component of our personality is if we are told by others that we should "get some therapy." This means others are seeing us in a way that differs from how we are seeing ourselves, and this is often a sign that we have some sober self-reflection ahead of us.

If others think we are mentally ill it often indicates we have unconscious parts of ourselves to deal with, and another sign is if we find ourselves in trouble with the Law. Trouble with Psychiatry and trouble with the Law are two objective signs that something is going on in us that is escaping us. We may not want to look at it, but, for ourselves and others, we should try. In situations such as these, it is my experience that others are usually right or at least partially right. This isn't always the case, but, I have found, it usually is. So it is useful to monitor any feelings that develop in us that we are being backed into a corner by others. Again, even if we are acting out some unconscious instinct, it doesn't mean we are wrong or all wrong, but it is worth examining ourselves so as not to hurt ourselves or others we care about or would care about if we got to know them.

Relating to the Unconscious

We have already spoken of the dangers of falling into the unconscious, and we have spoken of the dangers of trying to avoid and deny the Unconscious altogether. It is as if there are two quicksands into which we can fall, and by trying to back away from one, we are in danger of stepping into the other.

This is a modern way of stating what our ancestors saw as a religious problem: If God was not in their lives they felt dead and soulless, but if they got too close to God, they could die or become insane. This isn't to say that God = the Unconscious but only that these are two different ways people have used for describing similar experiences.

As we said, since the problem is not solely a problem involving the rational side of ourselves, the solution can not be found by immersing oneself in the rational side (or in either side). It is not an intellectual problem, and its solution involves struggling with dangerous and irrational instincts. The model, put in religious terms, is of Jacob wrestling with the Angel for the whole night. He doesn't destroy it or dominate it, but he does learn its name. And he is injured in the process. Jung saw the proper approach to the Unconscious as a dialogue but not an intellectual dialogue. The word he used was the German word, auseinandersetzung, which implies a struggle between two sides in which both are changed.

It is important to point out, once again, that there is no guarantee in such a struggle. Jacob could have lost the battle. How and why he won was undoubtedly due to his skills and persistence, but there must have been a certain about of luck involved. And perhaps the Angel let him win. The point is that the outcome of such struggles is not known in advance. In the last moment, no matter how well we have been prepared, we are on our own, and this is, or should be, at least somewhat terrifying.

I think it is useful to think of the Jewish descriptions of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew Bible states that Solomon's Temple was the home of YHWH, the Hebrew god. This god commanded Moses to have the Temple built, so that He could have a home on earth. (This was a common idea throughout the ancient Near East — temples as the home of a deity). The Bible states that all Israelites had to recognize the God who lived in the Temple and His importance and attend to Him, though not everyone had the same responsibilities. Some only had to visit the Temple a few times a year and give gifts to the Lord inside the Temple. Others had to live near or in the Temple and repair it and take care of it. Only one person, the High Priest was allowed (or, better, required) to enter into the innermost part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, the room in which the Lord lived. And he could only do this once a year, on the holiest day of the year, and in a highly prescribed manner and for the purpose of pleading the cause of the whole people of Israel. No one else could go inside the room or they would die. There is a story about how the two sons of Aaron, the first High Priest, went into the Holy of Holies with the highest motives, but, in spite of their pure motives, they were immediately killed by the fire of the Lord.

Some people still take the Bible as literally true, and, for them, psychology has little meaning, but for those of us who have found psychology useful and who no longer believe in the literal truth of these ancient holy writings, we can still recognize the presence of something completely different from the ordinary, the Collective Unconscious, to use our more modern terms. And since, in those days, people didn't seem to doubt and analyze as we do, we can see their customs as a direct expression of the unadorned religious instinct, or, to use our terms, of the instinct to find a proper relation with the Collective Unconscious.

And it is my view that, with a slight turning of the biblical stories, we can find truths that apply to modern people who are looking to establish an healthy relation with the Collective Unconscious. The fact that everyone had to recognize and respect the Lord in the Temple parallels our idea that we all have to find some way to acknowledge the importance of the Unconscious. We deny its importance at our own peril. However, not all of us are "called" to get too close to the experience. Some must just make an occasional sacrifice to acknowledge its importance to them. If they went any closer to the Unconscious, they would be "burned" by its fire, as it were. On the other extreme, there are some (maybe a twelfth of us — parallel to the one of twelve Hebrew tribes who tended the Temple — the Levites) who are required to live close and tend to the "source" and its power. If no one would tend the Temple of the Collective Unconscious, as it were, the whole world could get stuck in tradition and could shrivel up and stop adapting to Reality. The Levites who attended the Lord in the Holy of Holies, are paralleled by the psychologists, and the pioneers, Freud and Jung, would be parallel to Moses and the High Priests (to use Freud's own analogy).

It is interesting to remember the concept of Sabbath in Judaism and in Christianity. The idea is that six days a week we can get involved in the world and get further and further away from the divine presence. However, one day out of seven, we must go to Church or Temple to get closer to the Lord and to re-establish our mutual relation. To me this implies that, according to our instinctual nature, roughly one seventh of our time should be spend in exploring the Unconscious. This is instinctually based. If true, this implies that, for most of us, roughly one seventh of our time should be spent in self-examination, reflection, meditation or what ever we call that which takes us closer to the deeper and unconscious parts of ourselves.

It is, I think, part of the genius of Freud and Jung to see that it is only by becoming more conscious that we can become less driven. Relating to the Unconscious gives us more of what we call Freedom, it frees our Will, at least to some extent. And, further, it allows us to adapt better to our environments, to keep up better with the ever-changing world around us.

Unanswered Questions

Every discussion leaves things out and leads to new questions. Three questions I still have are the following.

1) What is the place of chemistry and biology in what we have been calling "conscious" and "unconscious" processes? What brain mechanisms underlie the different psychological states? Where do our genes fit in? Etc.

2) A philosophical question that still remains for me is, "How is it possible for something like a pain to be unconscious?"

3) Finally, I wonder if, in the end, there isn't a closer connection between the Personal and Collective Unconscious than Jung thought. Both seem to contain instinctually based material, so maybe it is a matter of degree. Or maybe they are two different ways of looking at the same thing.

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

via reflection on the world
via reflection on one's immediate experience
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   the One   the Whole
the Sacred
the Ordinary
People
Action
Experience
Consciousness
Universals
feeling stuck
feelings of failing,        of dying
waiting
 waking up — feeling reborn
   focusing   on the self
confronting the   unconscious
the whole person
living in multiple       worlds
learning about     the world
feelings of success,     of the good life