Friday 28 July 2017

Short Observations

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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

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.

There is some reason to believe that all (or almost all) people feel that there is such a mystery or secret even if they don't know they do. Maybe they call it by a different name or don't admit it to themselves or others. Whether or not this is true, it may seem surprising that some of the people who go on this search find what they were looking for. A fictional example can be found in Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.

So, whether or not there is a Great Mystery or an Answer or a great Secret, many people (if not most people) feel (or secretly feel) there is one.

Psychology can throw light on this topic. The main point I want to make comes out of Carl Jung's idea that there are different types of people. Jung discusses eight types, and distinguishes them by which psychological function is dominant in them. Everyone thinks, but, in a thinking type, thinking is the first and dominant way they approach problems. Sensations types are very good at noticing things and naming them and categorizing them. And so on. Everyone has all the functions, but only one is dominant. The analysis is quite a bit more complex than this, but there is no need to go into the full picture here.

Just as everyone has a dominant and well-developed function, everyone, according to Jung, has an inferior function, one that is almost completely undeveloped. It comes out in unruly forms that can hurt a person and not help. Unlike what you might imagine, Jung thought that it is impossible to "work on" or develop your inferior function. It is truly outside your control. It is unconscious.

This is relevant here in two ways. First, it is the unconscious, according to Jung, that is fascinating to us. It is the unconscious that gives us the feeling of a mystery, a great mystery, and of the greatest mysteries. It is the deeper layers of the unconscious that make us feel there is a deep secret or answer to life's deepest questions. I think many people understand this idea of Jung. It is captured in sayings like, "The grass is always greener ..." What is not ours, not in our control, not certain, not known that interests us and fascinates us.

But the second point is one that may not be quite so clear. Jung says that, because there are different types of people, there will be different things that will be unconscious and out of control for each. And so each type will be attracted to a different Great Mystery or Answer or Secret. One person's Answer is another's commonplace truth or experience. 

An example would be a shy, introverted man who likes to think and dream and who barely knows the time of day. If he is the type to believe there is a Great Mystery or the Answer or the Secret and is brave enough to go on a search for it, what will he come up with, assuming he begins to find what he is looking for? We guess he will become captivated by some woman who seems dazzlingly beautiful and tempting to him (if not to his friends and advisors). Typically, he will not notice her thought processes or her dreams but her clothes, her hair, and so on.

It is interesting to think of one formulation of the Answer in Tibetan Buddhism. I have read they talk about the "White Light," and this same dazzling, mystical White Light was experienced and described by introverted LSD takers in the 1960's. But what is White Light except ordinary white light that is being experienced by someone who never notices the world of his (or her) senses?

From a psychological angle, the fascination comes when a person begins to discover something new for him (or her). Once it becomes familiar, the feeling of fascination disappears. It is the fact that there are unconscious and unexplored parts of oneself that leads to the feeling that there is a great mystery, a great secret or answer. And the more the unconscious begins to come out and is successfully absorbed and adjusted to, the less fascination is felt, and the more the individual begins to feel he or she is running on all cylinders.

To complete this presentation, all we have to do is remember that not everyone is a shy introvert. A man who is a wild extrovert who charges ahead into the world and knows how to get along in it may not be fascinated by the type of "dame" who would attract the introverted thinker. A man who is a Sensation Type might fall in love with a woman doctor or lawyer or writer. And he may fall in love with one of his own thoughts or become absorbed in his aches and pains and feel they hold some deep meaning and answer of him. 

If Jung is right, and there is no way to empty the unconscious, that compared to the unconscious, consciousness is a speck, this means that, for each of us, there will always be a vast area that is uncontrolled and unknown. This is a psychological way of saying that, for all of us, there is a Great Mystery and that there always be one.

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

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




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