The Nature of Child’s Play.

“Over the last couple of years, the photos of me when I was a kid, the ones that I never wanted old girlfriends to see… well, they’ve started to give me a little pang of something — not unhappiness, exactly, but some kind of quiet, deep regret. There’s one of me in a cowboy hat, pointing a gun at the camera, trying to look like a cowboy but failing, and I can hardly bring myself to look at it now… I keep wanting to apologize to the little guy: ‘I’m sorry, I’ve let you down. I was the person who was supposed to look after you, but I blew it: I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me.”
— Nick Hornby, High Fidelity.

“Well, then get your shit together. Get it all together and put it in a backpack. All your shit. So it’s together. And if you gotta take it somewhere, take it somewhere. You know, take it to the shit store and sell it, or put it in the shit museum. I don’t care what you do, you just gotta get it together. Get your shit together.”
— Morty, Rick & Morty.

Towards the end of my high school career, when I finally went to see a psychologist regarding the strange memories and experiences that had come to envelop my life, I did so with some trepidation. My limited experience with social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists had suggested to me that they could have just as easily been patients, and I feared this guy may just serve to reinforce my opinion. It turned out I was wrong. He was intelligent, passionately interested in the subject matter, and seemed to have a firm footing on more than one reality at a time. Though part of me was quite happy that he wasn’t judgmental, he seemed very careful about revealing any thoughts he had on my experiences. I knew I had to corner him, and I did, insisting that he tell me what he thought my flashback regarding the Doctor was all about.

This was a flashback that occurred somewhere on the bridge between 1994 and the following year. By that time I had remembered a wide variety of strange incidents and odd dreams, but it was nothing like what happened that evening. Unable to get any shuteye, I had been staring at my lava lamp while in bed and it suddenly seemed to have almost psychedelic effects on my vision, which was waving like the surface of a pond. When my eyes landed on a book on the shelf attached to my bed, a book I have yet to read — War of the Worlds, by HG Welles — I was instantly somewhere else, somewhen else. Later, when I would read Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse Five, I was instantly reminded of the intense flashbacks I began having that evening. It wasn’t just remembering, it was reexperiencing.

Despite the length, this is the most condensed version I can muster. In this flashback, I had re-experienced hiding beneath my bed around five or six years of age. This I determined due to the leg braces I was wearing and the fact that I had worn them for a little under a year when I was a kid. From beneath the sheets and blankets hanging over my bed, I watched these creatures, some of whom had three toes, as their feet pitter-pattered across the carpet. They seemed to be going through things in the room, picking things up and examining them. Afraid they would eventually find me, I tried to scoot myself even further under the bed, but one of my braced legs hit a large box my parents had my sisters and I always keep there. It contained our drawings, report cards, and other such things. This not only made my leg abruptly jut out from beneath the bed, but made a loud noise for added effect. I winced and the silence in the room was deafening. When I finally opened my eyes again, I saw the feet and legs of one of the creatures standing by my braced leg, reaching down three, long, tan-colored fingers to touch it. Instantly it reminded me of the closing scene in the 1950s film War of the Worlds, which was my favorite movie at the time.

Certain for some reason that they would make me forget, with determined eyes I scanned this creature from his feet to his face so that one day, when my talents were good enough, I’d be able to draw him. I have in the years since, but I can never seem to get it right. I do know that he had eyes akin to those of a human’s, which is to say a white sclera, a yellow or brown iris, and a black-as-death pupil. His had a pug nose and his face was etched with deep wrinkles. His most memorable feature, however, was a long, deep-set, almost cartoonish frown.

Upon meeting his eyes, we were suddenly communicating mind-to-mind. They were scientists, I understood, and he was The Doctor. He was very old, very wise, and in some way served as a grandfather to me. After this, which seemed to be a form of internal yet interpersonal dialogue, I next found myself in a setting that seemed to be my room, but not quite. I was sitting down by my bed, looking up at the Doctor, though now he was different. He wore glasses that magnified his eyes instead of bearing eyes that were naturally that size, as was the case before. He wore a long white lab coat, had a stethoscope around his neck, held a clipboard and his cartoonish frown was inverted into a Cheshire grin. He told me that they just needed to run some tests, that this was just a check-up.

As he said all this, he seemed to be standing in front of me in a way that suggested he was purposely obscuring something, but all I could make out from behind him were bright lights, indecipherable chatter and a lot of activity a short distance away in my room. I also couldn’t ignore my growing suspicion that this was all a sort of dream we were sharing, one that he was sort of shaping into a false memory or cover-story.

It was an incredibly real experience, somewhere between a memory and mental time travel into my younger body. I experienced this formerly-forgotten event as if for the first time, and it was only the first of two such flashbacks I’d have that very night at sixteen. As my psychologist and I had been talking about the Doctor flashback, however, it was this that I so desperately wanted his opinion on, so I kept badgering him.

Finally, he let out a reluctant, “I think you had a confrontation with your Shadow.”

Though I knew what he meant, I had but a limited understanding of the concept. Before I had met him I had come across references to Carl Jung in my reading but had never read the words of the man himself. Around twenty years of age, I became rather obsessed with the ideas I found in The Portable Jung, however.

Jung referred to the total personality of an individual as the psyche, which he then broke down into three levels that constantly interacted with one another. The conscious mind, sensibly enough, would constitute everything we’re aware of at the moment. It’s the only sector of the psyche we ever experience directly. Regardless as to whether we have a present sensory experience, remember something or have a dream, we must experience it through consciousness. The personal unconscious is the basement or attic of psyche, the graveyard of the forgotten and repressed or dissociated. It is the giver of dreams and memories, shaper of perceptions, keeper of habitual behavior, passions and tendencies.

He saw yet another level to the psyche, however. Having studied myths from across the world, he saw recurring stories, themes and symbols, and in studying his patients, he saw many of the same themes and symbols manifesting in their dreams, fantasies and behaviors. In an effort to explain this, he posited the collective unconscious, composed of what he referred to as archetypes.

There are two ways of explaining archetypes that make some sense to me, and the first is a useful metaphor. Say that consciousness is a sheet of paper and all of our thoughts, emotions, and memories are iron filings sprinkled atop it. An archetype would constitute a magnet below that paper, arranging those iron filings in a pattern. The pattern of the iron filings provides the only evidence we have of the magnet, however, which we cannot perceive or interact with directly.

Another way of explaining archetypes is to compare them to instincts. They may, in fact, be extensions of them, but even if that’s not the case they serve as a useful metaphor. Upon reading The Portable Jung around twenty years of age, I remember Jung describing how a particular insect was driven to enact incredibly complex behaviors devoid of any training, which was essentially what he saw in his patients. Archetypes may then be seen as a bulk of instincts shared by the species that not only organizes behavior into specific patterns but also governs psychological forms and processes. As a consequence, they manifest not only in our behaviors and relationships but also in the realm of the imagination as well: our personal dreams, projections, hallucinations and delusions as well as in our literature, artwork, myths and religions.

While the manifestations differed from culture to culture and from individual to individual, they did so under certain constraints and in accordance with certain guidelines akin to how instincts function. Like instincts, archetypes are not learned but inherited, not personal but the legacy of our species. Like instincts, they cannot be directly observed, only inferred by their influence, their manifestations, how they arrange behavior and symbolic imagery. Unlike instincts, however, at least as popularly conceived, they influence not only behavior but psychology. It seems to me, as it did when I first read it, that archetypes are really the logical extension of instincts. Why wouldn’t they structure and animate the mind as they inspire and structure behavior?

In any case, Jung argued that these archetypes had a huge influence on the life of every individual and we must gain an understanding of them. To grow, to evolve as individuals, we must make the unconscious conscious, we must expand our consciousness. He warns us not to ignore the archetypal manifestations or to identify with them, but to become aware of them, to subject them to analysis.

All archetypes have a bipolar nature, which is to say they have within themselves what we might categorize as positive and negative qualities. Each archetype is also paired with a polar opposite, or shadow, and their relationship is one of interdependence. Whatever archetype we embody and personalize becomes our Ego, then, which casts its corresponding Shadow into our unconscious minds. The Shadow is essentially the anti-ego, serving as a collection of all we have repressed or have failed to bring out of latency in our conscious personality. We all bear both archetypes, but the degree to which each influences us varies in each individual and over time — and to have an excess of either is to live a life out of balance.

If the Doctor really was my shadow, then, at least at that point in my life, what kind of shadow was he — to what archetype did he correspond? If he constitutes an archetype at all it would by necessity be the Senex, which is Latin for old man. In his positive form, he often manifests as a mentor, wizard or shaman. Merlin, Obi Wan and Yoda are all often-cited examples. Disciplined and wise, he has often come from a distant, foreign land to offer knowledge and guidance. In his negative form, he takes the form of a tyrant, hermit or ogre who is bitter, brutal, greedy and stubbornly resists change. Rigid thinking, strict rules, harsh discipline and hierarchy are emphasized. He’s concerned with time, tradition and science. Prone to taking things seriously, he seldom if ever laughs or seems to enjoy himself. He is cold and distant, associated with depression, winter and death. With his frown, his interest in science, his status of a doctor, his claim that he was both wise and old to the extent of centuries and his clearly alien nature, the Doctor fit the negative end of the Senex polarity a bit too close for me to ignore.

Whether I was projecting the Senex onto the creature or the creature was purely a manifestation of my diseased mind is up for grabs, but at the archetypal level it doesn’t change the insight this might offer me about myself. Nimi, the female alien who used to come and visit me, typically at night, once told me that I was an Artist, that art was my “work.” If I am an Artist, it makes perfect sense that the Doctor, leader of his team of Scientists, would have served as a manifestation of my shadow. I am more creative and emotional; he is more logical and intellectual. As I said earlier, opposite archetypes attract — and Senex would serve as the shadow or antithetical archetype for the archetype Jung called Puer Aeternus, or the “eternal boy.”

Appropriately, the Puer is the predominant archetype when we are young and it focuses on play, as it is through play that we experiment, explore, and ultimately discipline our mind, develop our imagination, master our body and adapt to our environment. The Puer also has a bipolar nature, of course, and at the positive end of the pole you have the Divine Child, reflected in the mythical birth stories of figures such as Heracles, Horus, Cupid, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Krishna, and the Buddha. It can manifest as an adult with childlike qualities like Raymond from Rain Man, or a child with adult-like qualities like Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbes comic, Linus of Peanuts fame, or Allie Keys from Steven Spielberg’s 2002 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, Taken. Despite coming into this world weak, vulnerable, and dependent on others to satisfy his needs, the Divine Child is powerful in that he attracts the attention of others, inspiring them, bringing joy, wonder and hope for the future. In its positive form, the Puer brings joy and wonder. He is optimistic and fun-loving, curious and creative, idealistic and insightful.

He is also fertile with possibilities and rich with potential, but this is but a temporary condition in our youth by necessity. Jordan Peterson explains that we have more neural connections at birth than we do at any other time in our lives, but that in that state we are essentially low resolution, latent potential. We contain possibilities and probabilities but are nothing for certain at all. Just within two years, however, we lose most of those connections, which he describes as akin to dying into your childhood personality. This is just the first period of neurological pruning we will experience as we grow, a process in which neglected associations are snipped away and only those that have been repeatedly reinforced remain. Use it or lose it: this is evidently how the brain develops what Huxley referred to as it’s “reducing valve.” With each brush-fire of the brain, the dead wood is burned away and our perceptions and character narrow further, specializing, adapting to the specific environment at hand.

As we develop, we come to see things increasingly less as objects and more as “shadows,” as Peterson puts it, though I think Colin Wilson hit closer to the mark when he used the word “symbols.” These symbols are only complex enough to let us do what we need to in order to survive and achieve our goals, little to nothing more. They are mental maps of sufficient detail: no more, no less. In terms of personality, our character becomes more solidified, which is why the hands that mold us when we are still soft are so influential. We further develop a relatively narrow set of unconscious and automatic programs triggered by familiar stimuli, or what Wilson refers to as the Robot Function. It happens again at the end of adolescence, between sixteen and twenty, where you die into the specialized, adult personality into which you are reborn with senses fine-tuned to your surroundings. When approaching adulthood, you settle on one role to the exclusion of all others. You adopt an apprenticeship, and so enter into an extremely narrow and limited training period that develops the appropriate skills. You become more competent at a specific set of things but become largely blind to all else.

Once we’ve adapted to life, after we’ve died to ourselves to do so more than once, we achieve the last half of life. We become the Senex. It is here that Carl Jung thought the proper path in our ongoing development was to come out the other side, that the head of the serpent had to swallow its tail. To adopt the positive qualities of the Senex, the old man must rediscover the child he once was and left behind and reintegrate him into his character. His work now involves opening old doors and rediscovering the world again, accessing new possibilities and regaining his capacity to play. He finds his source of enthusiasm, peace, creativity and joy for life. He not only gets to be what he has earned but regains the potential of the child he was forced to abandon in the process.

In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept known as Shoshin, or “beginner’s mind,” which is essentially a state in which you regain your lost sense of virginity to experience. Free of preconceptions, you approach something in a very present, open and enthusiastic manner. A much-quoted line from Shunryu Suzuki’s book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, summarizes it nicely, explaining how “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” This has clear ties to the positive aspects of the Divine Child and how an adult may integrate that aspect of themselves back into their personality.

This is not, however, the only form and path of the puer, nor is it the one most familiar to me, as I shamefully discovered months ago and has finally begun to set in. It was unnerving to watch a YouTube clip of Jordan Peterson profile the Peter Pan personality type. With every following word, I felt my wince tightening, my heart dropping further, my body sinking deeper into the sofa. My hand went to my forehead as if I were attempting to hide my face from someone in my empty apartment. With every following word, it became increasingly freaky, increasingly clear that he was talking about me. It was the story of the immature man-child, the old infant.

Pan is Greek for “everything,” which is appropriate enough, Peterson tells us, as he is the boy who refuses to grow up. He passionately strives to maintain the latent potential of childhood and resist the actuality of adulthood. This is largely due to his only available adult role model, Captain Hook, who is being chased by a crocodile with a clock always tick-tocking away in its belly. This Peterson refers to as the dragon of chaos, time and death, residing beneath everything. It has already bitten off his hand, in which place he has put the hook that earned him his name, and now the tick-tocking croc has got a taste for him. This, he explains, is a metaphor for what happens when you get older: time keeps biting off pieces of you and sooner or later, it will fulfill its destiny and devour you entirely. Just as a sense of mortality can spawn in some people, this circumstance with the croc traumatizes Hook so much he tries to increase his sense of control over everything, exerting power through cruelty, and so becomes at once a coward and a tyrant.

Seeing Hook for who he is, Peter Pan understandably refuses to end up that way, generalizes Hook as a characterization of adulthood as a whole and so naturally elects to extend his own childhood indefinitely. He flies off to Neverland, a place that doesn’t exist, to become King of the Lost Boys, which Peterson describes as a band of losers who can’t get their act together. Then one day it seems that his Shadow (which Peterson never seems to mention, despite being a fan of Jung and despite some clear correlations with the archetype of the same name) has somehow become detached from him and led him to London, into the bedroom of Wendy. She proves to be a mature girl that accepts her mortality and wants to have children one day. He sacrifices a potential relationship with Wendy, a real girl, however, and continues to content himself with Tinkerbell, an imaginary substitute, essentially the Fairy of Pornography, as Peterson suggested.

Though I’ve never read or heard it serving as an example, I think Rob Fleming, the lead character in Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel High Fidelity (and the subsequent 2000 film), certainly qualifies as a puer. There were two lines in that movie that articulated what Peterson’s saying here in a different way. One involved keeping options open to ensure you can always back out and never get trapped in something; the other, his realization that committing to nothing constitutes suicide by small increments.

A man in the grips of this shadow aspect of the puer aeternus detests restriction and oppression and values liberty and independence. He covets individuality and personal liberty. Individual freedom to the fullest extent. Unrestrained instinct, chaos and intoxication excite him. Limitations, restrictions and oppression are intolerable. He refuses the call to adventure into maturity, shying away from adulthood. Fearing commitment, this emotional adolescent forever extends his “temporary” life because he fears that in making a move he might lose himself and be caught in a trap of a career or imprisoned in a marriage.

Peterson emphasizes the fatal flaw in Peter Pan’s presumptions: you grow up whether you want to or not. Though you can postpone maturity in our culture without suffering an immediate penalty, Peterson stresses, the penalty accrues, and then when it finally hits, it hits much harder. You can be lost and clueless at 25, as it’s acceptable that you’re just trying things out at that age. When you’re instead in your 30s or 40s, people tend to be less understanding. You a have become a 40-year-old King of the Lost Boys, a man-child, an old infant, a living corpse of a child. So you might as well manifest some of that potential in a particular direction and choose to become something as opposed to nothing.

I’m 39. I’ll be 40 this November. Many who know me would undoubtedly say quite confidently that this is me in a nutshell. Since shortly after my high school career came to a close in 1997, I began referring to adulthood as the 13th grade and arguing that adults did not, in fact, exist. What we took to be adults were just children wearing masks, putting on costumes and trying to play the roles the culture tells them to play. They aren’t mature adults, they’ve just achieved that state of “seizure” a child experiences when playing a game of “as if,” as Joseph Campbell has put it, though not in this context. They mistook the game for reality, their masks for their true and original face, their roles for their souls. I always refused to do any of that. I opted out.

My most recent experience on psilocybin mushrooms seemed to communicate, among other things, that reality was a sort of multifaceted illusion, sort of a system of games, and the appropriate response was not to forfeit but to play. This resonated with the “child” theme that has followed me throughout my life and took in a rather life-like quality in the context of my strange experiences just shy of two decades ago. The ultimate message in the psilocybin experience was to play the game we call society or culture, to try and make this ride a meaningful one, to take these games seriously while simultaneously keeping in mind that it was all illusion and was ultimately of no consequence.

Now I find that the observations of those such as Jung and Peterson seem to suggest that it is futile to forfeit the game anyway, for in doing so you turn into precisely what I have become: an old infant, a man-child. Peter Pan in the flesh.

As additional reinforcement, there remains the fact that I’m still not convinced that a single, actual adult exists on earth. I still think our game is essentially stupid, but I am beginning to regret not having taken the game seriously, not choosing a role to play and having time force me into a rather pathetic and meaningless one. I’ve resisted intimate relationships, kept friends and family at an arm’s length, and have remained in an extended “temporary” job more suitable for high school kids. Fast food should serve as a sort of “scared straight” program to inspire kids to go to college and make something out of themselves so they don’t have to suffer this fate into their forties. For some, it’s worked out just fucking dandy; evidently, it has failed to work for me to this point. I’ve forfeited the game and remain here in a fast food McNeverland just because I’m afraid to play the role of the adult.

I should have identified an appropriate adult role for myself right out of high school, but I was too wrapped up in the craziness of what had happened, too depressed and anxious, too damned undisciplined and unstructured. I thought that of myself even then. I could have finished college when I finally went in my thirties, but the crippling anxiety that shot through the roof when I again attempted public speaking paralyzed me and I fled. I could have been a master of the visual arts and writing by now, translating what is in my mind more effectively. I might be living off my passions and expressing myself through play as a way of life.

I fucked up.

After enough sessions, the aforementioned psychologist gave me a homework assignment: to master the mundane. He told a tale of students going off on a vision quest, receiving a profound one, and returning to their master, excited for the next step, invariably disappointed when the master told them to chop wood and carry water. I needed to have my feet planted firmly on the ground, he told me. I needed a career, friends, a girlfriend. What he was saying makes more sense now than ever: I needed to go through the process Peterson described. And I didn’t, not really, and here I am, two decades later, with an inner child deserving of an outer adult to nurture it — an outer adult I have I have utterly failed to develop and provide.

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On Memory Issues With Strange Experiences.

The most unusual experiences of my life were ones that occurred when I was stone cold sober, though they certainly share certain qualities with my psychedelic experiences. In each category, the most frustrating obstacles deal with memory and translation.

Memory is problematic enough by nature and it doesn’t help matters that it is truly all we ever know of experience. Sorry, my dear Buddhists, but we know of no Here and Now. We are always living in the past. There is a time delay between when our bodies receive stimuli and when we experience it, a fact that I think Sam Harris has exemplified pretty well.

As he has explained, when I extend my arm to touch something the signals clearly have a longer journey to the brain than, say, when something brushes my nose — yet if I take my own finger and boop my own nose, I seem to experience both my finger touching my nose and my nose being touched by my finger in tandem. No apparent delay. How? Well, my brain waits until it has all relevant data before providing me with my perceptual experience.

Our immediate perceptual experience, then, is sensory memory, and so we are always living in the past.

On top of that there is the possibility that every time we remember something we are in actuality recalling our former memory of it. In other words, with every subsequent occasion in which we recall something it decreases in accuracy. This may not be the only way in which we can remember, of course — there may be ways in which that root, sensory memory can be directly accessed and it is only that this memory-of-a-memory chain is simply more economical and becomes a sort of default as a consequence — but without knowing how to switch gears or at least differentiate between them, we’re still left with the problem. We’re still left to rely on our increasingly inaccurate memories and often trust them too blindly.

In some instances, however, we aren’t even granted what ultimately constitutes false memories but are instead left with hazy recollections or, worse, no memory at all, save for perhaps remembering that there was something profound that has been forgotten. The easiest example is transitioning from the state of dreaming to awakening — or the similar experience of transitioning from being high on a psychedelic to being sober.

Why are carrying over those memories so damned difficult, however? Part of the issue, I suppose, is that in these cases we have to rely on memory greatly, even entirely, because leaving the state of dreams or the psychedelic-saturated sensory landscape takes away the environment (or the state-dependent perceptions of our environment) that would otherwise assist us in triggering any associated memories.

It may also be a translation problem, which is to say it may not only be that the memories themselves are state-specific but that the manner in which we were feeling, thinking and perceiving while dreaming or while under the influence of a psychedelic may be so distinct from our typical, awakened, sober mode of consciousness that they are lost in translation.

On the shroom trip some things seemed so clear, so self-evident in that state, but later seemed frustratingly out of reach. I get the sense sometimes that these experiences are allergic to language — much as is the case in my unusual sober experiences. It even seems at times that the experience becomes even more confusing as a result of my attempts to understand it.

Of Spinning Wheels and Skipping Records.

Though it has been plain to me and has, in fact, plagued me for a good, long while, I only recently came to learn there have been various terms for it in psychology: fate neurosis, destiny neurosis, and most recently, it seems, repetition compulsion. In essence, this is an individual’s unconscious impulse to repeat their history over and over again, in many cases while remaining exceptionally blind to the fact.

It appears to me as if there are at least three steps to repetition compulsion. The origin of the skipping record is typically perceived as a “seed story” or circumstance one faced while in childhood and as a consequence tends to deal with the relationship one had with one’s caretakers. One may have been neglected or abandoned, physically or sexually abused, or perhaps suffered under the reign of an authoritative parent. Another dawning situation, as it is with one dear friend of mine, may be a home life that breeds parentification — a process in which the child is forced to take on the role of the parent due to the actual parent’s general incompetence when it comes to parenting. There are potentially endless scenarios for such a seed story.

Whatever the circumstances, there comes a time when the child is no longer technically a child and so she wastes no time getting the bloody fuck out of dodge. Consciously determined, she then attempts to make her own life, but the subliminal aspects of her being, addicted to that familiar story, immediately get the shakes and they quickly intervene. Though she isn’t aware of it, she then finds herself unconsciously gravitating towards people and finding herself in circumstances that have an uncanny affinity with the people and circumstances she had just managed to escape. Like a shadow, the weight of her history appears fundamentally inescapable: the past, it seems, is forever present.

After successfully anchoring herself in the familiar, the phenomenon of transference takes hold, prompting her to exhibit conditioned reactions in her new context and inevitably, through projective identification, generates the desired reactions from the other person or people in question. In this way, the feedback loop creates and maintains the familiar circumstance.

Repetition compulsion can also come in one of two forms, the most direct being what we could call the Remake. If we can conceive of the original story as a sort of movie, every subsequent regurgitation would constitute a remake. I say this because the distinguishing feature of a remake is that it honors the source material, plagiarizing where it can get away with it and striving to pay homage where it must yield to the call for modernization.

The easiest personal example I can offer is Sandra, who was a longtime friend before I finally had to sever the close tie. Part of the reason was her overall lack of empathy and compassion, particularly with me, despite the fact that I exercised such empathy and compassion with her. The second reason, related and more to my point here, is that she was unable to see the Groundhog Day nature of circumstances, particularly when it came to men. She used to come into my room in the house I shared with her and her brother, lay on my bed and spill her soul to me, raw and unfiltered. This in and of itself is not unusual, as even total strangers tend to do this with me. I don’t mind. But over the course of countless failed relationships, I was hearing damn near the same exact story. No matter what part of the story she happened to be in at the timeI could tell her not only how she had gotten there but where it was going.

It should have been for her like it was expressed in that Nine Inch Nails song, “Everyday Is Exactly the Same”:

“I believe I can see the future
because I repeat the same routine.”

But she never saw it. I have often critiqued her for being unable to see beyond her own head to understand others; the truth of the matter was that she seemed utterly incapable of seeing so much as herself. Her deafness towards her own skipping record life soundtrack was heartbreaking and endlessly frustrating.

By no means is this phenomenon limited to her, of course. I certainly see it in my own life — but for me, that was and remains the difference: I see it. If nothing else, strive to gain some degree of self-awareness, for fuck’s sake.

Another way in which repetition compulsion can play out is in the form of Role Reversal. Whereas in the remake the person always plays the ego, the role they played in the seed story, here the person plays the role of their shadow, seeking out or forcing another into their previous position.

In many cases this can lead down a rather dark path: while you seek out the same general circumstances inherent in your core story, you now abandon your dawning role as the victim and put on the costume and mask of the victimizer. The song “Prison Sex” off of Tool’s album, Undertow, encapsulates the essential nature of this, perfectly summarizing the underlying aim with the line: “Do unto others what has been done to you.”

There may be various underlying motivations for repetition compulsion. Seeking out the familiar, no matter how painful, provides a greater sense of psychological security than the health and safety that may be possible, even probable, given a different pattern, simply because familiarity offers predictability, and therefore the illusion of control — and that’s certainly part of it. Also, as has been said in the case of recurring dreams and flashbacks, it may be an attempt on behalf of the unconscious to discharge emotions or desensitize one to the stimulus through relentless redundancy. Conversely, it may be an unconscious attempt to master the circumstance, to find a solution, to achieve resolution.

This sounds an awful lot like the Hindu take on reincarnation, which is to say we keep repeating the same damned cycle, our story, until we ultimately extinguish our desires. Buddhism offers a different take on the matter: one can take charge and work towards escaping the cycle now, within this lifetime, within this most recent adaptation of our recurring story. It involves transcending the ego and, as a consequence, the circumstances it compulsively perpetuates through mindfulness — through witnessing rather than engaging with the mind.

There may be additional measures one could take to escape the chains of their existential echoes, however: creative outlets. Just as our seed story can manifest in our objective circumstances it can also manifest in our music, play, writing, art, as well as in dreams and hallucinations, making us more mindful through the reflection such creativity offers. Carl Jung’s Active Imagination technique could potentially accelerate the process, too.

Thought-Talk Monologue Voice-Over.

Some might say
that you never existed
in the first place,

but your reality was cemented
in me through the nature
of our conversations.

Just as they use
verbal communication
atop nonverbals,

you use subjective still-frames
and mental motion pictures
complemented

by a thought-talk
monologue
voice-over.

Imagination
is your telepathic
nonverbal.

You’re the best voice
that’s ever been
in my head.

Aliens, UFOs and Abnormal Psychology.

Dismissing myself as crazy has been my convenient go-to, a default triggered when my strange experiences and their apparent implications become too overwhelming. When this surreal aspect of my life comes to face the giggle factor, meets the laughter curtain and exceeds my boggle threshold, the barrier beyond which I am no longer able to suspend disbelief, I endure a sort of nausea of the mind so intense that I, for a time, submit to it. Declaring myself crazy by no means makes me feel better — to the contrary, I always feel worse — but condemning myself in this fashion requires less energy than continuing my efforts to actually understand my experiences. The issue is that once I get beyond the emotional devastation of labeling myself crazy and subject this self-diagnosis to analysis I ultimately come to realize it really doesn’t constitute a diagnosis at all. “Crazy” is just a buzzword, dismissive in spirit and entirely devoid of true explanation.

So early on, back in high school, I found myself trying to identify a more specific self-diagnosis by reading through books on psychology, even an Abnormal Psychology college textbook I got from a friend. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or terrified when I found that no single condition I read about seemed to cover the crazy shit that I had been experiencing. No umbrella terms appeared to be available. When I began seeing a psychologist shortly thereafter, and one that I had quickly developed a respect for, I explained how I had tried diagnosing myself and failed, as no disorder seemed to encompass it all. In my memory, he retorted, stating that I was wrong, and when I pressed him he fumbled and mentioned schizophrenia. The fact that he immediately seemed to backpedal when he saw my reaction only made my terror increase. The moment hung with me and I fell back on it when the weirdness weighed me down. At one point I remember finding a page on the net that described traits of the schizophrenic and the schizoid personality that seemed to fit me perfectly.  I scotch taped it to my bedroom door.

In 2002, when I came back to him after an intense cluster of experiences and casually acknowledged in our session that I was fully aware that I was schizophrenic, he immediately asked me, with a skeptical look on his face, who it was that had given me that diagnosis. When I stated that it had been him, he was emphatic that this could not have been the case. After explaining to me that the term schizophrenia was essentially a dumping ground for what may turn out to be various disorders, he took on this proposed diagnosis directly.

“If you’re a schizophrenic,” he told me, “you’re certainly a highly-functioning one.”

I found the notion that I, a twenty-something living at home yet again and working fast food, could be described as “highly functioning” by any measure to be ludicrous, but he was, after all, the goddamned professional. Though he predicted that I had particular abnormalities in certain regions of my brain and called my experiences “perceptual anomalies,” he never gave me a diagnosis.

For a time, specifically after reading Dr. Marlene Steinberg’s book, The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation — The Hidden Epidemic, I also explored the notion that I might suffer from a dissociative disorder, perhaps even Dissociative Identity Disorder. Without doubt I experience what has been labeled dissociative symptoms. In addition, my memories and experiences may in part be due to some alternate personality or “alter” and there appears to be evidence of its beginnings in my childhood. My initial rush of memories and the flashbacks that followed might represent a previously compartmentalized sector of my mind, one belonging to this alter, colliding with my conscious personality and merging. My experience with the ideomotor response in my use of the Ouija board, in my spontaneous artwork and writing, as well as during the hypnosis session, all may have represented the alter gaining slow and localized control over my body. The entity I encountered during my “astral projections” might be one manifestation of an alternate personality or alter as well — perhaps after sharing previously isolated memories the separate aspects of mind we have governed over blended further, giving rise to shared lucid dreams I took to be “astral projections.” Maybe the incidents between June and August of 1995, climaxing in the incident at the java juicer, represented transient periods where the alter took control of my body entirely.  

The issue is that this degree of dissociation is typically associated with intense physical and psychological trauma. On the surface, at least, this presents itself to me as an utterly insane proposition. As I imagine is the case with anyone, I have my share of complaints and grievances with respect to how I grew up. My mother favored my sisters over me and I had endless power-struggles with her over the course of my childhood. It hurt and enraged me, and I continue in my attempts to deal with those issues. Even so, I recognize that I was one lucky little asshole. My parents never physically abused us kids. I was certainly never sexually abused. Our harshest punishments as children, which I faced often enough, involved either staring at a corner for a length of time measured by my mother’s oven timer or being under “room arrest,” confined to my bedroom until further notice. Without doubt this nonviolent discipline is what made the abuse I witnessed at Jimmy’s house all the more traumatizing — and indeed, that was all certainly traumatizing from the position of a witness as well, but that it might provide the fuel for alien encounters seemed far more ludicrous to me than the thought that, well, I might have legitimately had alien encounters.

It isn’t just trauma and mental disorders that can allegedly produce these alien encounters, however. People have linked alien abduction experiences with various drugs such as Salvia Divinorum, Ketamine, and psilocybin, but most often DMT. All are classified as psychedelics, I believe, aside from ketamine, which is a dissociative, but unless you’re willing to concede that each of these chemicals constitute different rabbit holes leading to the same parallel universe, all are psychedelic in the true sense of the term, which is to say that they are “mind-revealing.” In other words, these drugs draw back the egoic curtain and let you take a peek beyond the veil of mundane consciousness, bringing you can deal more directly with the more subliminal aspects of the mind — just as psychosis can.

Some believe sleep paralysis alone can produce the abduction experience, which I find ridiculous for several reasons. Even among the popularized abduction cases one can see that bedrooms are not the only place encounters occur and that often enough the people involved are not asleep at the time of the event. They might be fishing or driving, for instance, and be among others who are taken along with them. In addition, I have had sleep paralysis myself and the earliest such experience is the succubus experience mentioned early in the book. Even at the time of the experience I did not interpret it as an alien breaking into my dark room, crawling atop my bed, straddling my immobilized body and proceeding to dry-hump rape me. Instead, I assumed it was a disembodied entity doing something analogous or — more likely, I supposed — this was all a hallucinatory experience brought on by one-part sleep deprivation and one-part prescription medication.

So I have explored the Psychological Hypothesis (PH), which alleges that while it may require activation through trauma, drugs, mental disorders or the peculiar circumstance in which your mind wakes up before your body does, the abduction experience is purely a product of human psychology. There is no external intelligence at work here, only my own. It’s all in my head. A related school of thought I explored posits what I’ll call the Psi Hypothesis (PsiH), and it attempts to compensate for the failure of the PH to account for physical evidence by bringing parapsychology into the fold — specifically, the psi capabilities of the human mind.

My train of thought ultimately ran along this track: if one finds the PH absurd and instead accepts abductions as nuts-and-bolts physical experiences, these physical experiences require you to accept the existence of paranormal phenomena. It is simply a given. After all, a cursory glance at abduction reports should make it clear that telepathy and moving through walls, for instance, is by no means rare in abduction events. To the contrary, paranormal phenomena is pretty fucking standard — and not just during these events, either, but in the wake of them. There is the matter of the “paranormal afterglow” that manifests in my life during these experiences, and while some investigators fail to mention them, personal reports from abductees reveal that I am by no means alone. Others also experience spontaneous telepathic experiences, poltergeist activity, vivid dreams that seem like awakening in a parallel reality, odd coincidences and other strange events.

As this paranormal afterglow runs the full spectrum of psi, stretches on indiscriminately into the gamut of the strange, it seems natural to wonder if the aliens themselves, rather than extraterrestrials, might just be another manifestation. In other words, it could very well still be that the phenomenon is purely psychological at the roots, that it is governed by compartmentalized aspects of my mind that influence me subliminally, that this is truly my conspiracy against myself. Maybe it also branched out into physicality utilizing psi abilities, however: powers which for whatever convenient reason I cannot wield consciously.
This would by necessity be a form of poltergeist. In this view, the phenomenon of poltergeists is explained as a living individual who is experiencing recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis; the psychokinetic activity is the result of subconscious and involuntary acting-out of the focus individual.

For a clearer picture of how this might work we might first turn to a series of parapsychological experiments that have been conducted since 1972. These experiments sought to demonstrate that the display of psi phenomena often attributed to deceased individuals could manifest without them, and so such phenomena were not necessarily evidence for life after death. In the beginning, which in this case was 1972, there was Philip Aylesford, the child of eight members of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research. He was a fictional character they developed with an elaborate backstory regarding his birth, life, and eventual death. They collectively meditated on him before attempting to communicate with him in the style of a Spiritualist seance. Participants reported not only communications but manifestations — they not only saw and heard things, in other words, but poltergeist phenomena also manifested. Other groups conducted similar experiments, reporting that they had successfully created and then conjured Lilith, a World War II French Canadian spy, Sebastian, an alchemist from medieval times and finally Axel, who was from the future.

As expected, results of these experiments were disputed — as were the tales regarding the more extreme manifestation of what has typically been called the tulpa in Western culture and which is also variously known as an egregore or a thought-form. It is often conceived as an imaginary entity that achieves, through ritual intent of its creator, a physical manifestation — according to some, an intentional and advanced rendition of your typical poltergeist.

Though the notion is reasonably dispersed across the collective consciousness at this point, methinks, the only alleged personal account I have come across is the one told by Alexandra David-Neel. In her journey through Tibet, she became interested in tulpas. Having elected to make one herself, she decided on a friendly, pudgy monk, and was eventually able to visualize him as a hallucination in her visual field. Over time the hallucination gained clarity, and eventually she found it indistinguishable from a living, breathing, physical being.

The frightening aspect of her little experiment soon became apparent, however, when the monk began appearing when she hadn’t conjured it, and then began behaving in ways it had not been programmed by her to behave. The monk also seemed to be losing weight and had taken on a distinctly malicious appearance. Nothing was as shocking, however, as when an individual she knew, who knew nothing of her practices, began questioning her about the stranger that had been meandering about in her tent. She reports that it took half a year, but she was eventually able to abolish the creature through other Tibetan techniques.

Though in both of these cases the entities were intentionally generated, in both cases they reportedly also exceed their programming and seemed to take on a life of their own, independent of the conscious aspect of the mind: essentially, a spiritual form of artificial intelligence. It also fits the profile of a dissociative identity state, an alternate personality. They are essentially intentionally-generated alters that can manifest physically.

An interesting aspect of the Philip experiment was that none of the eight involved were gifted psychically. Nonetheless, they were apparently capable of creating and programming a spiritual entity that could communicate in a way that was consistent with that personality and, most important and amazing of all, producing psychokinetic effects. David-Neel seemed to be at least moderately gifted psychically and have some degree of discipline as well; despite being a lone individual, she was able to produce a creature that could be seen by her and others. The entity was also able to become independent of its creators, functioning autonomously. Naturally, this might lead one to wonder what kind of effects a large group of psychically-gifted individuals might be capable of producing.

All the people I know that have had experiences similar to mine seem to have no knowledge of the UFO or abduction phenomenon beyond the superficial reports that the media regurgitates every now and then. Despite this, correlations between our narratives are plentiful right down to unanticipated details. From the way one friend described the shadows of the beings from outside her tent during a formative experience while camping as a child to the way another friend described the manner in which one of the creatures in his encounter ran, there are correlations even in the details littering our experience that I cannot in good conscience deny. This extends to many of those of whom I have read and read about in blogs, articles and books and seen through interviews and documentaries. Could the answer really be that our collective unconscious is conspiring against us, utilizing telepathy to share a narrative and RSPK to bring that narrative to life?

Despite finding the concepts of both the PH and PsiH fascinating, I have, in the end, always choked in my attempts to swallow. Those who have posited that poltergeist activity is the unconscious product of an individual note the similarities in individuals around which the alleged recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) manifests. In cases of alien abduction, on the other hand, it is clear that these experiences are shared by people from all walks of life, people all across the spectrum — racial, religious, cultural, class, education — as well as people of wildly different constitutions who react to these shared experiences in very individual ways. This sounds less like a psychological disorder — with or without psi effects — and more like an actual, nuts-and-bolts experience.

Ex Caput Mortuum.

Sixteen,
slipping headfirst into the black.

Alone at last, embracing introversion,
stumbling through the jungle, to the tender lips
of the abyss within, listening
to ancient whispers, denied memories,
buried aspects of my personality:

truths of a type
that nightmares are made of.

Ink in pen, pastel, pencil, various media
in hand, fingers to keyboard,
hungry for bloodletting,
expel the poison,
work the dirt out from the sore
that I become in this prison
of ignorance,
hunt and peck
until they blister and spill my essence…

I try to bleed it dry, swallow it whole,
deep certainty that this is the only way to let go
of that which I have been entirely blinded to,

not least of which the fact
that I hold and have held
for so long, though this hole is deeper
than I could ever have guessed, could have known,
a surreal vortex that threatens
any sense of self or sanity
with ruthless, violent, unmerciful
disintegration.

Crows peck meat from bones,
ghosts torment the mind drifting free
from body, now at war with the chaos,
eyes as black as my head is dead,
flies encircles my eyes, halo of crows spinning
like satellites around my charred
and wasted mind…

Cannot believe the weight I hold.
(Arrogance.)
Cannot believe the age of soul.
(Age is not synonymous with wisdom.)
Fight against the accusation
that I am a part of this, participant
in this mess,

my freedom, my responsibility.
Belonging nowhere, gather the lost, fight
for a better home. Feel like I need
to do something, use all that I have got,
though I’m lost,
fuck,
what am I supposed to do
with all of this?

No one could
(not even sure that I completely)
believe it.

No faith in self.
No hope is scientifically
discerning anything else.

How can I know what side
is right to fight
on if I know enough to know
that I don’t know myself?

(Nimi, where are you?
My guide, my confidant…)

Need to gain
a sense of direction
to find the off-ramp,
escape my personal hell,
embrace my work,
be myself.

Notes from the Pocket.

Was it the hypnosis videos I listened to again last night to relax? Was it her who opened the door again?

It began last night and they, the memories, have continued creeping in since I awoke. Like a pocket of memory with an ever-widening hole and these fragments keep slipping through. Recollections hiding in this strange mood, now emerging before me yet again. The same things I always remember about the place, be it a parascom or otherwise, though now I feel closer to them.

A phosphorescent oasis in the midst of a dark wasteland. Ferns and trees glowing neon. A sense of beauty and lethality within this patch of jungle. Across the desert, predatory creatures, like swiftly-moving psycho-pompoms with long spider legs. Sand and hard ground and rock formations. An underground place, fairly well hidden, that I call home. Death machines, war machines, like triangular tanks without visible guns and with wheels that stretch far above my head. Every brief and vivid memory, so convincingly lifelike. Within the memory my vision seems widescreen, crystalline clear and farsighted. Bigger and better eyes, perhaps, or an atmosphere high in oxygen. As that creature pounces, dust flies up and settles slowly, as if the wasteland is low in gravity. This can’t be earth. I can’t be human. This can’t be real, the rational part of me insists. Why do I remember this as if I were there? Why so rich an illusion, so strange a lie? Just let me see the face I’m looking out of. I keep striving for my reflection in these forbidden recollections.

If this is real, what does it mean? If it’s not real — what the fuck does it all mean?

Some greater understanding here would be nice…

Haylee & Flashes Before the Mind’s Eye.

On April 3, 2015, in the midst of listening to Haylee’s “Blank and Empty” video, I suddenly receive a flash of what feels like a memory. I am moving across a vast, desert landscape when I come to a broad and narrow entrance. Inside is a ramp that slopes downward, underneath the desert floor, into my subterranean home. I felt safe there; secure. You could not see the entrance from the sky and no one would suspect it was there.

A day or two afterward, while watching Haylee again, I suddenly see a crisp and vivid still image in my mind’s eye. It is the corner of some beautifully blue in-ground pool. It is a bright and warm summer day and I have no fear, no worry, not a care in the world. I feel in the here and now and it is cleansing, refreshing.

Then, on April 6, I get high, watch two Haylee videos and then masturbate. I just observe my mind for awhile, watch as it flips through images as I drift off towards sleep. Suddenly, it manifests before me in my mind, where it appears real close to my face (my innerface, I guess). It is a pitch black silhouette of a man against a bright white background. Faceless and facing me. It is vivid as hell but lasts only a second. When I see it, I bolt awake in my bed, sitting up in shock. The area from my head to my chest was numb and tingly.

Carissa’s Message.

Meditation memory:
1/30/15 (morning).

It was my sophomore year of high school when I met Carissa. Curly hair parted in the middle, delicate face, wonderful eyes. She kind of looked like a Campbell Soup girl.

She had a different kind of energy to her that sort of caught me. It made total sense to me, then, when she told me of having gone to see a psychic about her sister, a psychic who told Carissa that she, too, was psychic.

“You have eyes that look right through me,” she said to me sometime thereafter. I asked her to elaborate, and she explained that she meant to express her feeling that I could see into people. It wasn’t a compliment or an insult, it seemed to me; just her stating an observation. Still, I always seemed to unnerve her.

Her and I were both going to see the school psychologist, Lisa, on the recommendation of our art teacher, who was the school psychologist by nature, though not by profession. Both of us were dealing with what seemed to be lost memories that had returned in flashbacks, though hers were far more down to earth.

Her sister had died and Carissa had been devastated; shortly thereafter, memories of being with her that she had never before recalled began intruding into her mind. I never knew what they involved in particular, but they caused considerable stress for her and my heart went out to her.

An instant crush developed and I became rather captivated by her, though back then I had yet to learn resistance, yet to learn that crushes diminish over time and I need not trust my attachment feelings. I didn’t wait it out; I did a half-assed attempt at trying to go out with her. This was essentially asking her to hang out with my circle of friends and I one weekend.

She would later explain to me how she just didn’t understand my group, because we weren’t alike. All of us were different; she could not wrap her head around how our clique worked. I was confused as to why our diversity perplexed her so. We didn’t need to be like one another, we simply needed to like one another — to accept each other for what and who we were.

Typically we hung out at the coffee shop in a nearby town, getting jacked up in cappuccino, lattes, teas and shots of espresso, though sometimes we went to nearby restaurants as well.

Carissa met us at Pizza Hut with one of her friends; another girl in a letterman jacket. Typical, basic, bland kind of pretty, I suppose, but she didn’t seem to harbor that complexity, irradiate that glow that Carissa did. The scene that my mind keeps flashing to me during meditation deals with her there, by her friend, at the far end of the Pizza Hut parking lot, talking to me. We both liked the song, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” which was a new song back then. Though I don’t know if she said it to me then, for some reason I associate with that scene, during meditation, with what I finally got her to express to me. That we wouldn’t work out in her eyes. We were too different.

“I don’t want to change for you,” she said, “and I don’t want you to change for me.”

Maybe there is no reason this memory has popped in my head during meditation a few times now, or perhaps it was a suggestion from the depths of my mind: relinquish involvement with thoughts, emotions, sensations, fantasies and memories. Don’t change in response to them and don’t try to change them to suit yourself. Accept and respect your difference.

Your mind is not who you are. Just watch the mind. Just be who you are.

Notes on the Growing Attention.

When I can achieve focus, it feels as if I have been stuck underwater, suffocating, panicking, and now I have finally remembered to come up for air. Its a relief, however short-lived.

Later, in bed, I notice where my imagination goes, the themes behind the scenarios playing out in my head. And then at work, as I was cutting the box tops in the stock room, the same strange self-observation comes back on again so easily.

Observing my spontaneous daydreams, I identify the underlying themes, some of which are:

– Worry regarding how others perceive me.
– Seeking to impress others.
– Manufacturing justifications for my actions or imagined actions.
– Engaging in a monologue or a dialogue, often imagined as if I were being interviewed.

I experience not only thoughts, emotions and sensations, however. Memories drift into my inner eye’s line of sight as well, though I’m not as clear regarding their meaning or purpose.

1/25/15:

In the midst of meditation, as my mind drifted I kept seeing that park around the block from my parent’s house. The entrance, the trees, the potholes on the dirt road…

1/26/15:

As I’m working alone in the stock room, I remember waiting in the passenger seat of a car at a gas station off a highway. Whoever is driving went inside for something. I feel gloomy, hopeless, depressed and anxious. Above the gas station and the busy, complex roads around me, the sky looks so open and exposed, the world seems so threatening. I feel older. It feels like the 70s. I’ve had this memory many times before.

1/27/15:

It’s probably shortly after we moved into the new house in 1988. My parents and sisters aren’t home and I had heard things in the house, so I’m standing on the front lawn, summer sun warming me and the dogs beside me as I keep trying to build up the courage to go back inside.

Then, later, while cleaning fryers, I hear the song — was it on the radio or did it just erupt in my head? — “Mama Said,” by The Shirelles. At the same time, I receive another flash of memory that I have recalled before but does not seem to be from my life. It’s an upper-level apartment in some city at night. An old black man lives there. You walk through the door into a dimly-lit hallway and to your right is a closet where, at the bottom, there is a pair of brown leather shoes.

Again, I constantly wonder: are these flashes of memory random, irrelevant, or do they mean something? As for the past life ones: are they authentic or is there some other explanation? At least in the last case I identified the trigger. I’ve decided to pay more and closer attention now and see if the triggers could provide some understanding…