Thursday 9 July 2020

Short Observations

  1. 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.

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

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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"?

  8. 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.”

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  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 (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."

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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?

  20. 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. 

  21. 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.

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

  23. 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!"

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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. 

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

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

  35. 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?

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

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

  43. 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).

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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?

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

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

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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."

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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.]

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

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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.

  83. 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.

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

  85. 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.

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. 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?

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

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

  91. 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.

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

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

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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.

  97. 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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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.

  100. 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.

  101. 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.

  102. 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.

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

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

  105. 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.

  106. 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.

  107. 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.

  108. 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.

  109. 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, ...

  110. 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).

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

  112. 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?"

  113. 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.

  114. 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.

  115. 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.

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

  117. 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. 

  118. 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.

  119. 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.

  120. 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.

  121. 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.

  122. 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?

  123. 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.

  124. 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.

  125. 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.

  126. 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.

  127. 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.

  128. 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.

  129. 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.

  130. 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.

  131. 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.

  132. 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.)

  133. 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.

  134. 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.

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

  136. 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.

  137. 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.

  138. 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.

  139. 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.

  140. 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?

  141. 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.

  142. 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.

  143. 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.

  144. 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.

  145. 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.

  146. 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.

  147. 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.

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

  149. 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.

  150. 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.

  151. 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.

  152. 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.

  153. 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.

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

  155. 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.

  156. 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.

  157. 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.

  158. 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.

  159. 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.

  160. 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.)

  161. 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.

  162. 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. 

  163. 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.

  164. 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).

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

  166. 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.

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

  168. 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.

  169. 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.

  170. 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.

  171. 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.

  172. 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.

  173. 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.

  174. 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.

  175. 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.

  176. 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. 

  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 (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.

  179. 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. 

  180. 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. 

  181. 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).

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

  183. 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.

  184. 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.

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

  186. 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.

  187. 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.

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

  189. 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.

  190. 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.

  191. 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.

  192. 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.

  193. 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.

  194. 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.

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

  196. 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.

  197. 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?

  198. 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.

  199. 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.

  200. 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.

  201. 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."

  202. 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.

  203. 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.

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

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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. Longer Observation (5): Measuring Time: There are many ways of measuring time.

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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  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 (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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  12. 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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  13. 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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  14. Longer Observation (9): Imagination & Reality: Forgetting the difference between Imagination and Reality.

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  15. 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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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18. 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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  19. 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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  20. 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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  21. 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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  22. Longer observation (3): "Why do Good People Suffer?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

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A Psychological Approach to Tension and Migraine Headaches

Introductory Comments

Introductory Comments

This is a discussion of migraines from a psychological point of view — from the "inner" point of view. [I hope it is clear that it is not offered as a cure or psychological treatment for headaches. It is meant to be used in addition to psychological, psychiatric, and/or medical treatment, not as an alternative or replacement for them. The goal is to help the reader understand possible underlying psychological factors involved in some headaches. It is aimed at people interesting in learning about themselves.]

The discussion below is aimed at headaches with a psychological component. If an headache is 100% biologically caused, the ideas in this paper will have no application. Further, it is meant to apply to tension headaches and to migraines that start as tension headaches. If there is such as a thing as a pure migraine with no tension component, these headaches are beyond the scope of this paper.

It seems that headaches, when they cross a certain line, hit a point of no return where psychological methods usually don’t work. Even here though, a psychological approach can be useful for a person wanting to understand the cause of his or her headaches: the present one, but also past and future ones.

There is no psychological method for getting rid of headaches — a parallel with golf

Even for headaches covered in this article, I am not giving a method for ending them. My goal is to sketch out a path a person can take to get to a certain point of awareness where it may be possible to see the cause of the headache. It is possible that seeing the cause of ones headaches can be a step on the road to a lessening or dissolution of one or more headaches. However, the steps between 1) seeing causes and 2) thebettering of one or more headaches is not one that can be charted. I will give the deeper reason for this later in this article.

For now, I will make the strong statement that, as far as I know, there is no psychological method or recipe for getting rid of headaches. And one reason for this is that the frame of mind from which one can affect a headache is not a frame of mind that can be chosen or willed. It may happen from time to time, but it is not something you can do “A,” “B,” and then “C” in order to enter it.

It is like what Bobby Jones said about his golf game: that there were only a few times in his career where he hit a shot that felt just right. For headaches, if a person can get rid of headache through a mental act, it is like entering into what is now called, the zone. While in the "zone,” a golfer feels as if he or she has entered an almost dreamlike state of perfection, and then the golf shot comes off perfectly. But the golfer can not choose to enter the zone (in this respect, entering the zone is similar to the Christian idea of divine grace).

Similarly with headaches, there may be a zone of understanding into which a person can enter in which the person sees the cause of the headache and how to let go of it and enter a pain-free state, but, if there is such a zone, the person with the headache can not just choose to enter it or do “A,” “B,” and “C” to enter it. Golf lessons can help the golfer, but does not, by themselves, lead to the perfect shot. Our steps in this article, can, at best, help the person with a headache understand underlying factors, but this understanding, by itself, will not and can not make an headache evaporate. Another step is needed, and it is not one that can chosen or “done.”

The parallel with golf goes a little further: A person can take golf lessons and practice and practice and try and try, and the golf game can get worse instead of better. Similarly, a person can try and try to understand the causes of his or her headache, and this can make the headache worse. (This is part of the reason that the psychological approach should be practiced only with, or in conjunction with, a trained therapist.) And some people just do not like to look at their feelings and sensations under a microscope. And probably some people can’t.

The Psychological Approach

The Psychological Approach

What is being presented in this article is a purely psychological "method" and not a method that involves reaching for a pill or stretching or getting up and keeping moving or doing yoga or receiving acupressure or acupuncture treatments or applying heat packs or pressure point packs or any physical manipulations whatsoever. The "method" I will propose does not involve any movement at all. It involves a shifting of attention that might lead to subtle changes in body position, but the moving and changes of position are after the fact. In fact, if one tries to mimic these movements without the understanding and the shift of attention, it can quite possibly make a headache worse, not better.

Obviously headaches, including migraines, are serious problems for many people. Not only can they become extremely painful and debilitating, but they lead to loss of man/woman work hours and so can be accounted for in monetary terms. I have not researched this, but I would guess that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on research on physical treatments for headaches and almost nothing on psychological approaches. Most of the money has been spent developing pain medications aimed at the different pain receptors or at the vascular system thought to underlie migraines, and there is no question to me that medication can help many people some of the time, and some people, perhaps, most, or even all of the time.

Yet medication has a negative side. Medications can have side-effects which can affect a person's alertness and energy level, and so many medications can be seen as dangerous in their own right. More, taking a pill does not help people understand why they get headaches and does not give them a feeling of power in relation to them. Many people do not care about understanding and look for pills or for the latest treatment modality involving the injection of a chemical. Naturally enough, they just want the headaches to be gone so that they can go on with their days. But to make an analogy, let's say we are watching a man who bangs his head against the wall every few minutes and complains to us of having a splitting headache and asks us for a pill to relieve the pain. We suggest he stop banging his head, and the pain will go away. But he gets angry and frustrated and demands a bottle of anti-headache medication.

I see many headaches as being self-induced in a parallel way. The problem is that it is more complex and more difficult to explain: Banging your head against a wall is a physical act that, for most people, would be simple to stop. But the thing a person does that brings on a headache is not a visible physical act, and it is not at all easy to stop. Stopping it involves a deep insight and a profound and subtle change, and, it is for this reason, that our "procedure" or "method" is not really a procedure or method.

In fact, one of the problems in describing the "procedure" to a general audience is that a certain knowledge of ones own psychology is necessary to even understand the procedure, and it is probably safe to say that perhaps 90% of people have neither the time nor the inclination to look inside in a calm manner and be 100% honest about what they find. The history of psychology since Freud is very clear on this point: that people find it very difficult to face themselves in this way, and that it is either too difficult or too painful for most people. Looking inward and being honest with oneself is work, and for this reason alone, it is of no interest to people who have little time or who are already overloaded with and exhausted from work or who do not have an introspective bent.

Not only does the procedure I am about to describe involve work, difficult work (though inner work), and not only does it involve a willingness to face aspects of oneself that one has not seen and may not want to see if they should arise in the work, but even if a person is willing to march into this wilderness, it remains difficult to describe it and map it out clearly enough to make it easy to "get a hold of." Communication about inner matters such as these is very slippery and elusive. If two people are talking about a tree, both can see the tree and can point to it if there are problems in knowing what they are saying about it. But with the inner realities, one person can't hold up something and show it to the other for common view so that they can both observe and describe and discuss it. What we are stuck with here is for one person to look in and describe something and to hope that the other person can look inside and find a parallel something and that the first person's comments will apply for the second person.

Every person is frightened of certain things and certain places. Often a daredevil in the outer world is frightened at the idea of looking within. And vice versa. Just as there are some who just can not make themselves climb a high mountain or go scuba diving and who maybe shouldn't make themselves do these things, so also some people feel they would be flirting with madness if they were to sit around, with eyes closed, and peer into the void. And there is reason to think that some people shouldn't scuba dive in the oceans of the soul or try to climb its mountains.

So again, the point is that the "method" about to be described is not for everyone and maybe not for most people. Yet, if a person has a certain talent for introspection and self-examination and has an interest in it and is willing to put in some work and be willing to try to make a few intuitive leaps to understand the points being made, and, with a little bit of luck, perhaps the following ideas will, hopefully, help them understand their headaches, and this might lead to changes in the headaches themselves.

One last point before proceeding: I think it is universally agreed that headaches can be ranked from almost imperceptible to being intensely painful. And, as mentioned above, many people find that, up to a certain point of intensity, headaches can be reversed with some favorite method but that there is a point of no return where only bed-rest or medication will do the trick. It is common to separate tension headaches from migraine headaches, but I think it is possible that it is more a matter of degree than of kind. Some tension headaches, once they pass the point of no return, are called "migraines." What physically is added to the tension headache to turn it into a migraine, and just how many migraine headaches — if any — start as tension headaches, is not clear to me, but this is not the point of interest of this paper.

And nothing in this paper is meant to deny that muscles are involved in headaches or that blood vessels or nerves or sinuses are involved or posture or lack of exercise or the wrong kind of exercise and so on. To me it is obvious that every headache has a biological, physical component. And, again, I would never deny that the physical approaches, from muscular manipulations to heat applications to exercises to baths to pills, can't help. Our approach, however, is purely psychological.

The Theory

The Theory

Moving on to the psychological approach, I want to say again that I do not know how to get directly to the point. So I will begin with the idea that, and I hope the reader will agree, that basic to our nature is a reaction that when something is causing us pain we tend to pull away from it. If you are walking in bare feet and step on a thorn, the tendency is not to step down harder, but to pull your foot up and find the thorn and pull it out — to get rid of the offending object that is causing the pain and so to get rid of the pain. But headaches are not caused by thorns or bee stings or the pricks of needles or by any external cause. In spite of this, there is a tendency when one has a headache to pull back from the pain, to move ones head in the opposite direction of the pain, as if the body "thinks" it is pulling away from an external pain stimulus. It "feels as if my head is in a clamp" or "it feels as if there is a knife blade in the back of my neck" and the like are how people describe headaches, and so it is natural for them to pull back, as if to pull out of the clamp or away from the blade.

So it goes somewhat against the natural instinct when I say that, in our approach, a person with a headache should not "pull away from" the pain but should, in some inner sense, turn towards it and even move towards it and into it. Pulling away makes it worse, or, at least, does not help. There is no external painful stimulus. There's nothing to pull away from. So all the squirming around "to get comfortable" is of no use.

But what good can it possibly be to face the pain? Doesn't this "wallowing" just exaggerate it? And isn't it masochistic — almost trying to make it worse instead of ignoring it and getting on with ones business? But sometimes, though not always, just facing the pain and "going into it" can, for some reason, make it feel better. It is as if the "running" from it required effort and that this effort made the tension worse and so made the pain itself worse. If the pain had to do with tension in the first place, the manipulating to get rid of it just adds another level of tension. If the reader is willing to lend some credence to this view and is willing to "explore" the phenomenon of the pain next time a headache occurs instead of trying not to pay attention to it, then I think the attentive reader will find that pains are like external objects in the sense that they have an inner, more intense area and a peripheral area that is less intense. And the idea here is to go straight into the heart of the storm with ones attention and in ones mind.

As mentioned, this, in itself, can sometimes make a headache go away. It is as if the headache does not want to be the center of attention and dissolves once it is approached. Or perhaps it is that attention is a relatively weak function and can not focus too long on any single object of focus, and so, trying to fix the center of pain in attention, by the nature of attention, makes the pain slip out of attention with attention attaching to some other point of interest.

But I am not proposing this as the proper fix for the headache. I am putting it out here for two reasons: First, as an exercise for becoming more conscious of the experience of pain, and, second, and more important, for the person with the headache to face the fact that he or she feels bad, really bad. This sounds odd, because the person may be complaining about the pain and doing this and that to get rid of it, but it is just this "running to and fro" that can be seen as a denial that there is a pain or at least of the seriousness of it. And, if the goal is to get rid of it at all costs, this is to devalue the pain. But what if the pain has a value? We might even think, for a moment, of the pain as a person who has a reason for being and a goal. Or we might think of it as a divinity that is trying to tell us something. Or we might think of it as an electric fence surrounding a field and that it is there to keep us out of a dangerous territory and that it causes us pain whenever we try to go past a certain point.

But what is this point and why does the person suffering with a headache keep trying to go on and does not want to stop and "listen" to the headache? And the answer, at least sometimes, is that we try to ignore the pain in order to push on with our projects and our thoughts about our projects. We try to keep on as normal when really we are in pain. We do not want to feel the pain. We want to pretend to ourselves it isn't there or that it isn't too bad or that it is easy to get rid of. We want to get on with our lives and our plans and our goals. We don't want this waste of time. What this means is that a person who is in pain and wants to keep thinking about something else or to get up and finish a project is valuing the project over the pain, over his or her own body.

If the person stops the project and decides to look within, the person can find that the pain in the head is one small component of a bigger complex of sensations and feelings that is spread throughout the whole body and of which the sensations in the head are just one small part. This wider area includes, most importantly, the chest area and the heart deep inside.

Now, if I am right, if the person were to focus on this global complex, a complex I call a feeling (and not just on a particular sensation of pain), he or she will find that the global feeling is not pleasant. Whether it is a feeling of anger or of failure and frustration or of fear or of being overwhelmed, it is a feeling that the person wants to escape from as sure as if it were a sharp pain. And this unpleasant feeling propels the person to escape it into certain behaviors. And these behaviors — whether they involve pushing oneself to accomplish more and more chores or to think harder and harder about a problem — combined with the developing pain, serve to divert the person away from the feelings. Up to the point where the pain becomes unbearable, the headache pain is the lesser of two evils from the point of view of the person. The most important thing is to get away from the bad feeling, or so it seems, and it is worth ignoring any developing pain to get on with the project of escaping the bad feeling.

Now we can take the next step. Remember that the headache is a specific painful sensation located in a particular part of the head and that the fear or anger is a complex of sensations or series of sensations that are spread throughout the body and to which I refer to as "a feeling". And it is our view that the person, in trying to escape the unacceptable feeling does things that lead to the pain. The "pushing themselves" and the "wracking their brains" makes the pain worse, and it is this single sensation, the pain sensation, that winds up being the focus of the person's attention instead of the global feeling. And the person, at least up to a point, would rather feel the sensation of pain in the head than the complex feeling spread throughout the body.

It is important that the general feeling is incompatible with the sensation of pain located in the head. If a person is focusing on the global bodily feeling, the sensation of pain no longer can be the center of focus. It recedes to a a distant point on the periphery of the body — where it belongs. And out there, it dissolves. It can not maintain its concentration and melts. If the heart and the chest and the stomach absorb the person's concentration and re-assume the dignity of being the center of consciousness, the pain loses its importance, and the person is cured. Sometimes an headache pain goes away merely by finding a more generalized and a more centralized place of discomfort. In this case, the cure for the head problem is for full consciousness to flow back into the full torso and the full body. The person may have an actual feeling of coming back into his or her body, of stepping back into the body, of suddenly remembering they have a full body and are not just thinking heads.

And this "stepping back into the body" is accompanied by a realization that the needs of the full body have been ignored. The body has a rhythm with an ebb and flow of energy. Energy comes in small packets, as it were, and after an energy component is used up, the natural thing is to rest for a bit and recoup ones energy, before setting out again. Animals are good at this as can be seen in their bursts of energy followed by naps. People are animals in this sense, but civilization has made it nearly impossible for people to maintain their animal rhythms. When a person, as we have been describing, "moves back into his or her full body," the person comes to realize that the rhythm has been ignored. That, when the energy level of the full body ran out, and where the natural tendency would have been to sit down and rest and "lick ones wounds", this person ignored the retro-active impulse and pushed on and on and on and on. Recovering from the headache is the same as returning to the natural rhythm. Recovering from the headache is a slowing down and stopping, a stepping back from goals and projects, which, for the civilized person, may be experienced as failure or paralysis, as a "breakdown", as a proof of weakness and inferiority.

If these ideas are accurate for certain people at certain times, one question is, "What is it that makes some people hate feelings of fear and vulnerability so much that they push themselves into a headache?" The answer may seem obvious. It may seem obvious that these feelings are inherently unpleasant and that this alone is enough to explain why people would try to "get out of them." But everybody has these feelings, and not everybody gets headaches, not everybody pushes themselves to this point. Is it that some people are genetically prone to headaches? — in fact they do seem to run in families, a grandmother and a grandson, a daughter and her mother and her aunt.

But the psychologist, though not denying the importance of genetic factors, looks towards the inner explanation. And one possible answer is that, though all people get feelings of failure and of being overwhelmed and so on, not everyone reacts to these feelings in the same way. Some seem willing to give into them and allow themselves go through a healing process. These people, it seems, are willing to stop activity, take a rest, eat something, settle down, and do what it takes to return to equilibrium. It is possible that what makes one person push on over the edge and another stop and recover has a genetic component, but it also may be that each has learned a reaction to losing and failing. Parents can teach their children never to give up or never to let fear get the upper hand, and so on, and these rules can become internalized and can wind up being the inner guiding principles when the children grow up.

Even more, a whole culture can teach this ideal — in their schools and churches, in their work places and through their media. We can almost define a headache as the conflict of the goals of society implanted within an individual with the natural energy modulating system of the individual. It is the intersection of cultural values (family and/or societal) and the bodily needs of an individual.

The reader will notice that we have shifted our psychological focus from a sensation (of pain) to a global feeling and now to a value (in ourselves and even in the general culture). We can say that the type of headache we have been discussing is not just a sensation. And it is not only a result of a reaction to an underlying unpleasant feeling. But it is also a commitment to a value system and a way of life. And this value system assumes a belief system that sees the world as conquerable. It believes that people, with the right attitude, applied with persistence, can (and should) overcome the problems that confront them. It is a belief in the human Ego, in thinking and hard work and ingenuity. Some may see this as a commitment to a naively optimistic idea of the world and of the ability of the civilized individual human and as a de-valuation of the animal self-regulatory instincts built into us. And it may seem clear that the animal will not stand for this too long. A headache can be seen as the animal biting back.

This is part of the explanation of why it is impossible to come up with a step by step method to get rid of this kind of headache. The problem is that there is a conflict within the individual for which there is no simple solution. The individual has to decide whether to admit and accept that he or she is lost and confused, not the person society idealizes, not the person they had always wished to be or to fight on and take the one more step that might just kick them up to a new level. To step forward is an heroic deed, but to set the collective goal aside and to say, "Screw it, I'm not taking another step, I don't care how it will look," would also require an heroic effort of an equal and opposite kind. To push ahead and maybe join the ranks of the great or to drop back and give up and feel normal and like everyone else?

So it is not simply a matter of the person with an headache choosing to relax and calm down and back off. If the person could make this choice and did make this choice the person would run up against the collective value and, what's worse, against a value embedded deep within him or herself. It is not just a decision to relax; it is the choice of a whole new value system, a system that entwines all the aspects of a person in a web that is almost impossible to become conscious of as a whole. It's hard enough to see our value systems let alone choose to change them. A person can leave the hub-bub of the city life and move to the country to escape the rat-race and to live a simpler, more peaceful life only to find themselves rushing around in the country, pressuring themselves to do this and that, and staying up late at night trying to figure it all out. The Prophet Micah in the Bible prays, "Grant us peace, they most precious gift, O Thou eternal source of peace." If there is truth in this it suggests that peace is not a choice but a gift and that, in the end, there is no method that a person can employ to delete a tension headache. Realizing that one is pushing oneself is not the same as stopping pushing. And trying to stop pushing and deciding to stop pushing and figuring out ways to stop pushing are still pushing. To realize and accept that we are not that great, that our moments of victory are soon to be forgotten, that failure and weakness lie right around the corner, is not something we can do or want to do but is something that reveals itself to us more and more over time, and to this fountain of wisdom and humility we are dragged kicking and screaming. No one chooses this route; they don't, they won't, and the can't. We do quit. We do give up. But we do not choose to quit or give up. It just happens. It is a feat of nature, like our hair turning grey, not a conscious act. Yet, from the psychological point of view, it is just this giving up, just this "collapse," that marks a return to the full self and, sometimes, an end to an headache. But it is as difficult to engineer this collapse as it is to become humble. It is tempting to say that the culture has to change for the individual to be cured, but I do not think this is true.

There is still one more level of this problem that needs to be discussed. A while back I spoke about the feeling that is distinct from the ache in the head. This feeling might be anger or fear or failure (or something else) depending on the person and the situation. For example, a woman may feel anger at her husband and not wish to and feel frightened by how she might respond to the anger, and she finds, in her frenzy of trying to figure out what to do and what to say to him, that she is developing a bad headache. Another person, a man, has been struggling at work to finish a project by the end of the month. He begins to realize he is running out of time and, not only that, he is beginning to realize he may be on the wrong track and that he has no other idea about what the right track might be or even if there is one. He wakes in the morning with a severe headache and can't imagine pulling himself up to go to work, but he can not escape going.

The point here is that it is not the anger or the fear or the feeling of needing to finishing a project that leads to the headache. For example, time pressure can lead to pushing oneself on to meet the deadline, and no headache develops or is even hinted at. When the push is over there is exhaustion but no headache. Headaches come when an inkling comes that there is no chance of success or that there is no point in trying for success, and yet there is still a felt need to go on. It is this "spinning ones wheels" that is the ground of headaches. The artist stands at the canvas with a vision and pushes on through the night. No headache. The artist stands at the canvas, but the vision is gone, and yet he wants to finish, because he vaguely remembers how great his vision seemed to have been, and so he pushes on and on. Headache.

This concludes this part of this essay. However there are a few points that still remain to be made. I have portrayed people with headaches as being quite aware of their pain sensations, but of being unaware, or only dimly aware of their feelings, the feelings of weakness or failure or fear or hopelessness or confusion or lack of confidence or doubt. At the same time these people may appear to be confident, even super-confident, maybe even manicy confident. They are often filled with energy and can be inspirations to others. How can this be? The answer is in the nature of the mind. It is possible for the mind to be split. This is true for everyone from time to time, and it is true of the people I am picturing at the time their headaches are developing. If they are lying to us it is only because they are lying to themselves. However we understand it, there is a split between the ideals and goals and immanent victories they preach to themselves and others and the creeping doubts and realization of realities worming their way into the depths within. It is possible, as it is said, for the right hand not to know what the left hand is doing, and it is also possible for the head to be clueless about what is going on in the rest of the body. Even in the victory parade, feelings of failure, feelings of only partial success, and fears of future failure can creep in. The feeling of victory slips away like water through the fingers of a cupped hand. However, it is not these feelings that are the headache. It isn't even the struggling to eradicate these feelings that is the headache. It is the struggling to gain the final victory combined with the feeling that it is a growing impossibility and these combined with the exerting of effort when there is no more energy for it and these at a time when the animal instincts are demanding rest and recuperation. If the person would allow the victory and the goal of victory to slip away, the headache would fade also, or so goes my theory. The fear of fear is itself a phobia, a topic I hope to cover in another paper. And, just as feelings of failure lurk in the heart of every victory, so too, feelings of future victory arise from the ashes of every failure. But this resiliency of the human organism, this play of opposites, can not be manufactured by the conscious mind.

Before ending this section, I want to remind the reader that the feelings that underlie headaches and the value systems that support them in actual people are as varied as the colors of a summer dawn. Though the overall structure may be the same or similar, the way the structure plays out in each individual person is unique. One person will be striving to be a good husband, another will be trying to build his dream house, another will be trying to be the perfect football player. Because of this, working with each headaches must be tailored to individuals. Even more, work with each individual headache will be different, which is part of the reason no method can be developed. A woman comes to a hard-won psychological understanding of an headache she has on Tuesday morning, and it goes away, but the headache she develops on Thursday afternoon is different, and she finds she can not apply what she learned on Tuesday in a cookie-cutter fashion to her Thursday headache. But this does not mean there is no general pattern and nothing to be learned and no fund of knowledge that develops gradually over time. Again, there a comparison with golf can be made. To quote Bobby Jones, "Golf is assuredly a mystifying game. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But such is certainly not the case."

And, in spite of all I have said about the inability to decide to cure ones headache, it does seem that, over time it is possible to get better and better at heading them off. Yet it would be vain and foolish and even immoral if a person were to brag that they had figured out, psychologically, how to get rid of their own headaches or the headache of others. It would be a hubris that might anger the gods. Having headaches is like having an addiction to alcohol. There is only the tiniest gap between drinking and not drinking, and there is only the smallest gap between having and not having an headache.

Finally, one more point about psychological approaches such as the one I am putting out here. There is a physical side even to a purely psychological approach to headaches. When people accept their unpleasant feelings, fall into them, as it were, they are no longer fighting them, and they relax, and, perhaps the headache disappears. Relaxation involves the muscles. The muscles of the head and neck and shoulders change. I have not tested this in any lab, but it is hard to picture that it is not true. When a person relaxes, the position of the body changes, if only subtly, and the muscles relax. So there is a physical side, even in the psychological approach. The point though is that if you were to document, accurately and completely, every single aspect of the physical changes and could teach these changes to the person with an headache, and even if the person could manipulate his or her body to implement these changes, unless the feelings and value system could be made conscious and changed, the body position and muscular and vascular structures would crystallize right back to where they were. It is parallel to the man who is banging his head against the wall. No pill and no exercise and no injection will cure the pain forever as long as he continues to bang his head against the wall. And if he stops, no pill or exercise or injection will ever again be needed.

An Eight Stage Progression

An Eight Stage Progression

The type of headache I am thinking of comes on one when a person is involved in a certain type of task. This task involves thinking, and this thinking can be done in bed, or, even in dreams, and so it is not strange that these headaches can come on while the person is in bed or even asleep.

I imagine that the typical progression for the type of headache I am think of has four initial stages. It is an interesting experiment to insert some stages after the initial four. A few people I know have reported relief, at least at times from adding these extra stages. I find this interesting, and it may be something professionals could experiment with with their patients.

Stage 1

This is a stage before there is any pain at all.

Stage1Stage 1: T = a thought; E = an emotion, I = an image from the imagination; S = a sensation; F = a feeling 

Here there is a series of thoughts, emotions, images, sensations, feelings, and so on that are all aimed at a goal. We can sum this up by saying that there is a drive or an ambition or a striving. There may be physical movement, but I am not assuming any. This is to allow that someone can be in Stage 1 while lying in bed on a day off from work.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is the same as Stage 1, but now there is a pain from an headache. It is not a big one, but it is definite. It is there, no getting around it. It is a forerunner and harbinger of a bigger headache that may come. For some people, this tiny pain is a sure sign that a major headache will come. The arrow with an S under it signifies that some attention has been diverted from the Goal towards the headache. The S stands for Sensation and indicates that the headache is sensed.

 Stage2Stage 2: same as in Stage 1 but with the addition of En = a burst of energy and H = Headache

Stage 3

In this stage the headache has grown into something sizable. It is no longer possible to dismiss it or just hope it will go away. It has grabbed the attention.

Stage3Stage 3 

Now there is a new goal, Goal 2, which is to get rid of the headache. The thoughts and imagination are working on this problem as well as on the original goal. Energy and attention are diverted from Goal 1, the goal that had been occupying the attention.

Stage 4

In Stage 4, Goal 2 has become the main focus of attention (as indicated by the two arrows below). The headache is more intense. It has diverted most of the energy from Goal 1 and is threatening to take over completely. Thoughts and feelings and imagination are becoming absorbed in the question of how to get rid of the headache.

Stage4Stage 4 

It is here that we can try a different tack which can lead to a different path than the usual one headaches take.

Stage 5

In this stage which we can choose if we want, the attention is split still further than it was split in the previous stages. Goal 1, Goal 2, the headache, and all the thoughts and feelings and energy and imagination and emotions that have been devoted, one hundred percent, to the issues at hand, are stepped away from and become the object of observation and investigation. Now there is a third goal, Goal 3, which is to understand the meaning of the whole process.

Stage5Stage 5 

One Thing that becomes apparent here is, as discussed in the previous section with a slightly different emphasis, that there may be a relation between all the striving towards Goal 1 and the headache. It is as if the headache has the function of diverting some of the energy away, perhaps towards the body. Perhaps there is an imbalance caused by the drive towards Goal 1, and the body has no other way of correcting it besides creating a diversion.

Stage 5 is the second to the last stage of the "method". A person can choose to enter Stage 5 (and Stage 6). It is a matter of will and of diverting ones attention. But Stages 7 and 8 are not a matter of choice. In Stages 7 and 8 there is no more headache, and this is not a matter of choice.

The idea is that relaxation and headaches don't go together. You can not be in a state of deep relaxation and peace and have a tension headache. If there are headaches caused purely by biological factors, maybe this kind of headache could persist. But if it is a tension headache or a migraine that built itself out of a tension headache, it can not co-exist with relaxation.

But relaxation is not something that we can choose. If anything, trying to relax makes us more tense. It is the Bobby Jones phenomenon, where a relaxed golf stroke is necessary for a "sweet" swing and hit, but this is a once or twice in a life-time phenomenon.

But there is more. Relaxation and headaches can't co-exist, but drive and striving can't co-exist with relaxation either. If a person's Value System is such that the number one goal in life is Goal 1, then Goal 1 is more important than relaxation. By definition, given a choice between striving for Goal 1 and Relaxation, the person will choose pushing on towards Goal 1.

As discussed in the last section, Goals and Values are notoriously difficult to change. You can not choose to change your goals or values. If you have a deep desire for riches, you can not just tell yourself that this is a bad thing, and I won't go for it any more. No sermon, no New Year's resolution, no belief that riches are superficial will penetrate to the depths where these urges and drives develop.

There are only a few things that can touch down into the center of the urge and change it for good. One thing is giving oneself permission to follow the urge to its end. The problem here is that, depending on the urge, following it to the extreme can cause problems for oneself and others. And yet it is very difficult to get an urge out of ones system without satisfying it to the point where it no longer has a major charge to it. The life of St. Augustine shows how this works. A dissolute man, he turned to a religious life. He fell to the bottom and saw it wasn't as exciting as it had seemed. And it fell away from him like mud on the skin that has turned to dirt in the hot sun.

A more ordinary example is how adolescents are notoriously wild. Parents are often upset if their adolescent children are not wild enough. The hope is that certain things have to be gotten out of the system before one can move on. Not everyone agrees with this idea, and it has great dangers associated with it. If finding out the folly of your ways by crashing from your own experiences can be avoided, what a good thing. But temptation is often so powerful that it feels like a wave against which the will has no power to resist. It can not be denied, or it feels that way. And it appears to be the good, brave, and strong path. It is only later, looking back, that one is ashamed and has to pay the piper.

Another way that seems to lead to the same end, to the re-valuation of ones values (as Nietzsche called it), is an awareness that comes to one of what is important and what isn't important in life. What leads to such awareness is varied. Sometimes it comes from living out the urges until they fall away, as with St. Augustine. But other times it comes in a moment of reflection, when one sees where ones behaviors are bound to lead and what they mean for oneself and for loved ones. For this awareness to take hold, it has to be very deep and permanent. It is not something you can choose to see. Some seem to be naturally more sensible about such matters than others.

So, when it comes to the competition between Goal 1 and relaxation in Stage 5, it is not a matter of simple choice. Poised at Stage 5, even if one sees the connection between Goal 1 and the Headache, a person can still feel helpless to give up Goal 1, even temporarily. The drive towards Goal 1 can be so deep and so strong that it is not even possible to imagine what it would be like to give it up. It is unimaginable.

I should remind us that Goal 1 may be something that others are pushing us towards. We want to please parent or spouse or teacher or boss or cohorts or country, and so external factors may have no impetus towards us relaxing. In these cases, we may feel evil to lay down our tools and relax. And, maybe we are, in fact, being weak and evil. It depends on the circumstances (even by our own standards, headaches . So there is often a conflict, a real one, between values that leads to our being locked into a path that does not agree with us on a physical level. And what is the answer?

On the other hand, seeing the whole complex or mega-complex from the outside, as the picture of Stage 5 indicates, a person may possibly be able to get a bit of a hold on him or her self and become a little bit more objective about what one wants and what the body can take. And it may be possible, at least for a moment, to let go, to let go of Goal 1, at least for the moment, and slip into a state of peace. In this state, Stage 6, the headache is immediately felt as dissolving. The peace comes over the head and neck as well as over the rest of the body. It is more than a feeling, it is a physiological state.

Stage 6

This is the last stage that can be chosen with an act of will. The picture here does not quite do it justice. Here there is an awareness that the focus of ones efforts have become, nearly one hundred percent, to get rid of the headache, and the inspection (introspection) of this effort is the focus of Goal 4.

Stage6Stage 6 

The goal here, in Stage 6, is 1) to examine how much energy and thought has been given, up to this point, to getting rid of the headache. It will be noticed that behind the methods of Goal 2 and Goal 3 and Goal 4 lies one predominant, underlying goal and that is to get rid of the headache. Once the headache has arisen, almost all our energy has been spent trying to get rid of it. All the thoughts and observations made in stages 2 through 6, even though they were not all directly aimed at the headache, had, underneath, the function of trying to get rid of it. To put this another way, all of our energy has been wrapped up in getting rid of the headache. It is the over-arching goal, and, as such, it can, itself lead to an headache or increase the intensity of the one we have. From one angle, it is just another goal. And the more we struggle to achieve it, assuming we are failing, the more energy we put into it, and the more tense we become, and this tension and struggling and the accompanying anxiety, is just the emotional structure and framework that we have been arguing can cause headaches in the first place. This reverberating circuit of trying and failing and feeling a little more hopeless and then trying again and failing again and feeling still a little more hopeless, and so on, this is the structure of inner emotions and needs and goals and feels and efforts that set up the need for a compensatory headache to get us away from this self-defeating and endless circuit. The tension from trying to understand the headache and trying to relax can be just as powerful as the tension towards any other goals including the goals that were there when the headache arose.

The second goal of Stage 6 is to see that, if we have gotten this far in the exercise, we have, knowing or unknowingly, arrived at a state of desperation. We have arrived, unless the exercises have helped us snap out of it, at a place of failure and at growing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness (with respect to the headache) and at our ability to cope with the headache and, maybe, with life in general.

What should be clear now is that no matter how many more stages we add to the exercise, no matter how many more ways we try to understand and/or manipulate the headache, it will not help and may make it worse. We are in a spinning, reverberating circuit and can not get out.

If there is an answer, it is to realize this and to give up and to admit we lost and to stop trying. This is when the headache, by my view, can go away. But, and this is why there can not be a method, we can not choose to give up and relax and let the headache drift away. Maybe if we are in “the zone” we can, but we can not just choose to get into the zone and trying to get into can make the headache worse.

In a way it is a miracle if the headache goes away. And it involves a whole change in our personality. If we are nervous and worried about something, we have to relax about it, about just that exact thing that makes us nervous and worried.

On the other hand, it can happen that we do relax and that the headache melts away. Stages 1-6 are our exercises. Stages 7 and 8 are a leap that happens or doesn’t, that we make or that we don’t. The parallel with golf is that we have taken our lessons, have approached the ball on the tee on the golf course, have thought all the thoughts about what to do and what not to do, and now we hit the shot, and it is either a good shot or it isn’t.

Let’s assume it works. We let go of the whole project that led to the headache and the project of letting go of the headache. And we feel the headache leaving.

Stage 7

And then there is a clean slate.

 Stage8Stage 7

Stage 8

After a period of rest and relaxation, now there is a return to ones regular state. Everything is as it was before the headache. There is a renewed burst of energy and interest, either towards the old goal or towards new ones.

Stage9Stage 8



There is no reason to think that, without some deep readjustment of values, another headache won't come, sooner or later.

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

via reflection on the world
via reflection on one's immediate experience

   the One   the Whole
the Sacred
the Ordinary
feeling stuck
feelings of failing,        of dying
 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