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.

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Nothing Makes Sense.

Maybe it was getting off the Effexor mixed with the stress of trying to find a new apartment and a new job. Perhaps the mindfulness meditation has something to do with it, too. In any case, I feel an increased self-awareness lately — of automatic thoughts, relentless emotions, patterns of self-sabotage and so on. It is as if I am increasingly able to see much of what I have formerly identified as myself with more clarity and see them for the elaborate system of habit patterns that they are. Which is all well and good, though it has come paired with an apparent inability to change anything I have become aware of. I have discovered my personality, inner and outer — ego and persona — is but a masque, but I am unable to break out of it. There is this claustrophobic sense of imprisonment in my established patterns. It leaves me feeling as though I am dealing with my false self as I would another person, and I am incredibly disappointed, frustrated with and embarrassed by this person. In my head and often out loud when I’m alone I give myself pep talks, tell myself off, attempt to reason with myself. I threaten and try to coerce myself. For all my effort my masque remains the wall I keep slamming my head against, leaving behind no dents or cracks and certainly not breaking the stubborn barrier down.

To make matters worse, I have yet to get a call back for my follow-up appointment so I can get put back on mood meds — sad as it is that drugs have so far been the only thing that has managed to inspire positive change in my state of mind and life as a whole. If I were still on meds, I feel I would have gotten an apartment by now and a better job. In any case, I would not feel so emotionally unstable, so fearful and depressed, so fucking pathetic as I have lately.

As I said to the sexy psychologist upon my first appointment, I find it odd that if my alien and out-of-body experiences are truly internally generated and manifest due to stress that both have been entirely absent lately.

Nothing seems to make sense, even when I openly confess I’m a mess.

Lifeline for the Double-Blind.

Physicists and cosmologists both have come to seriously entertain notions that our universe may in fact be part of a multiverse, and the implication is that our universe may be but a small part. 

 When it comes to our universe, human beings were a little late to the party. Carl Sagan compressed the entire history of our universe, from the Big Bang New Years Day until New Years Eve now, into a single calendar year. Our recorded history, he tells us, would comprise only the final seconds in the very last minute of December 31st.
 
In our present universe, according to current estimates, dark energy makes up 72% of the universe, dark matter makes up 23% and our familiar matter a mere 4.6%. We are, then, a small, late part of our universe, which may itself be a small part of a vast multiverse. 
 
Our senses each pick up a certain type and range of signal from the roughly four percent of the objective universe to which the body belongs. Our senses then influence one another, as in how the sense of smell effects the sense of taste. Our sense signals are then translated into a species-specific symbolic perception. This perception is in turn influenced or sabotaged by a coupling of present conceptions and memory.
 
Our memories of these perceptions are influenced by other past perceptions and are further contaminated by our present state of mind.
 
So no, I won’t “just have faith.” I will examine, I will question, I will uproot what my culture holds sacred and examine and challenge my own fundamental axioms as well. 
 
No one can trust their perceptions. No one can trust their memory. 
 
Experiments suggest that we cannot even trust the timing of our decision-making, nor that our conscious thinking and emotional evaluation processes gave birth to it.
 
We try to overcome obstacles that keep us from directly contacting reality, that keep us from directly contacting ourselves. A meat-machine tries to pierce through the thick veil to achieve greater understanding of the universe at large through use of strategy, methodology, and the creation and use of technology.
 
He first sees if others have found some of the answers he seeks. If so, that will save him time and will no doubt inspire further questions to be explored. If they have not found the answers, they will provide inspiration for his own ideas.
 
The idea may not be born rational, but that is the quality of the hypothesis that results. He then experiments to falsify or verify. He leaves the fate of his ideas in the hands of the experiment’s ultimate feedback. Going on to revise ideas if found wrong, or test further to ensure we’re as right as it at first seems. 
 
That’s the only hope we have of taking so much as a glimpse beyond the thick cocoon of maya standing between self and reality, self and self.

Time to Transcend the DSM.

All empirical and rational disciplines aimed at unlocking the secrets and gaining mastery over the mind-brain need to gather together, exchange notes, discuss issues and then author and release a well-documented User’s Manual for the Mind. A manual that will allow us, if we are willing, to apply the vast knowledge gleaned in these fields to our day-to-day lives in a practical fashion that could, perhaps, lead to a bottom-up cultural transformation.

Can’t we take the information gleaned from the often inhumane mind-control techniques borne in the black heart of the CIA, make the best out of the worst? What of the information we could siphon from classical and behavioral conditioning? Neurofeedback looks intriguing, why has it not been more thoroughly explored and more widely applied? How well does Neurolinguistic Programming, Rational-Emotive-Behavioral Therapy, Jungian therapy — all those various approaches — really work? We need a manual as well as a place to execute the knowledge utilizing specialized tools. A clever and often high-tech gym for our minds. Countless studies have and can provide facts upon which we can base strategies and fashion tools in order to apply this knowledge of change to oneself.

It seems more worthy an investment of time and mind than, say, the DSM.

Mildly Medicated Meditations on the Mind.

Mind or consciousness is a spectrum composed of moods or states of consciousness traversed by conscious awareness, which accesses or abandons a given state by means of reacting to internal and external triggers. As awareness shifts from one state to another within the confines of working memory, there is a corresponding shift in personality, memory and perception.

There are, of course, two aspects to the conscious personality we’re talking about here. Each state is composed of a distinct ego and persona in a committed, monogamous pairing. One’s conscious attention or awareness is bound at once to the field of consciousness, through which it adopts a personal masque or ego specific to the internal or subjective context, and the field of the senses — the simulation within consciousness of what’s beneath and beyond the skin — through which it adopts a social masque or persona specific to the social context.

The social masque or persona, said Jung, is a collaborative creation of both the individual in question and the social groups to which the individual belongs. In a given state, the persona would be the aspect of the personality that relates to the social context of the external world. Anyone who has been incredibly drunk, has been under the influence of a recreational drug, has gotten really angry, happy, depressed or horny — has also had the golden opportunity to observe just how highly dependent personality is on state. You behave differently, adopt a different posture, you say different things, you relate to others in different ways. A friend might say to us, “Who are you, and what have you done with Ben?” After a night of heavy drinking and embarrassing behavior, we might excuse our behavior by saying that we aren’t like that. We weren’t ourselves that night. We were just drunk. Others may provide this excuse on our behalf, of course, if they see our sense of personal responsibility becoming too burdensome. In any case, all of this reflects the fact that the persona is relative to state.

While we relate through and are perceived as being the persona, we experience things through the ego of a given state. The ego, our self-image or personal masque, is a result of conditioned reactions to personal experience in the state. Our ease-of-access to memory is limited to those memories which conform to the mood or state we find ourselves in. When we are happy, we most easily recall memories that resonate with that emotional tone; when we are angry, we can remember only the countless things that have pissed us off. This is state-specific memory. In assistance is state-congruent memory, which refers to the fact that when we remember something, our recall will be more accurate the closer our present state is to the one in which we were in when the event we’re trying to recall actually occurred. Not only are we more likely to recall depressed memories when we are depressed, but we will remember those events most clearly, and will find it difficult to remember anything but. The state does not only designate what we can remember, but how we remember. We may share memories throughout various states, but they will be different versions of the memory, each colored by the nature of the state in question.

The way we perceive the world will also be highly dependent on our mood or state. When we are happy, the world seems to glow and everything seems beautiful, as if there is some awesome benevolence permeating all of existence; when we are angry, we live in a malevolent, belligerent cosmos entirely void of any vague semblance of justice and its every man for himself, and the virus of humanity should be subjected to a global, week-long storm in which napalm rains from the sky relentlessly. Aside from these potential bigger-picture perspectives, I should add, there are specific projections as well.

Each state defines the nature of the relationship between their monogamous persona-ego pairings as well. States are generally more prone to introversion, emphasizing the ego, or extraversion, in which awareness is directed towards the persona. A rather extreme state of introversion, for instance, would be the dream state, where not only is our attention directed inward but the volume of our senses have turned down to the absolute minimum and our physical body is fixed in a state of paralysis. So states would appear to dictate not only how we perceive the world, but what world or worlds we perceive.

The locale in which our present state and all its specifics reside, be our attention directed to the senses or the imagination, occur within the perimeter of what psychologists now refer to as working memory. Working memory draws from both sensory memory and long-term memory and stores information in short-term memory, which under the right conditions ends up in long-term memory. While its capacity is certainly limited, there is debate as to how limited. Popularly, it is believed under normal conditions to hold five to nine “chunks” of data at once. In essence, working memory is the home of our awareness, which dons the ego-persona personality specific to the state we currently find ourselves, through which we can only remember specific things in a specific way; where we by necessity experience the world through a mood-colored and projection-molested field of sensory data.

We do not, of course, routinely traverse all the states on our personal spectrum of consciousness. Instead, our habitual experience of life tends to elicit a relatively short list of specific states — and it would seem just for that reason, for in being routine, an experience would provide routine triggers. Personality is an elaborate network of habit patterns relating to how we handle our thoughts, emotions, imagination and body. In the eyes of others and ourselves, we are in essence or actuality only what we are consistently.

Those in the community of Neurolinguistic Programming refer to a “baseline state,” or the state we typically find ourselves in. There resides our typical personality. The baseline state also designates the way we typically are perceived by others, the way we typically perceive ourselves. And our corresponding, and hence characteristic, projection-haunted perceptions. And the state-dependent memory bank, of course — the soil that holds the roots, supporting all of the above. Evidently, even in the event of a tragedy these personal and habitual colors of the consciousness spectrum hold strong. The “durability bias” refers to the fact that people tend to greatly overestimate the duration of the state they predict they will experience in the aftermath of a personal tragedy. Be the trigger minor or major league, it would appear that we return to our typical “baseline state” in good time.

Evolution of consciousness would therefore appear to involve two things. One, changing our patterns in various states; two, learning to traverse states intentionally, which would, of course, involve us learning how to access states beyond those that constitute our baseline.

Incongruence.

The relationship I have with myself, which I will assume for the moment that we all have with ourselves, is pretty damn ridiculous when you think about it. To boot, the nature of it could suggest that there is indeed in some sense a duality in consciousness, which is unnerving.

Consider the sad, pathetic facts:

I keep the time on my alarm clock half an hour ahead now so that I’ll actually be ahead of time even though the clock says I’m running late. My roommate does this as well. We’re both idiots. We both know that the clock is set ahead. We’re trying to fool ourselves into getting our asses in gear on time, and now we’re both afraid to set the time back, as we fear we will forget and simply assume that the clock is still set ahead of time and end up being extra-late. We can’t stop fooling ourselves lest we fool ourselves.

I’m always intentionally creating circumstances that force me either to make a particular decision or not make a particular decision. If I leave my debit card at home and just bring this twenty with me, I can’t spend any more than twenty dollars. This will ensure that I really put consideration into what I do with the money, for one thing; for another, it places an indestructible ceiling on my spending. So the logic goes. Then your friend covers you when you end up dry.

For awhile I was also bringing only a certain amount of cigarettes with me to work to limit my smoking, but all that did was drive me to bumming cigarettes off of others, which I loathe doing. I decide not to stop smoking pot until I get to the bottom of the stash, and then, at most a day later, I’m buying it again. I’m sure I won’t say I want to hang out with a friend on a certain day unless I’m sure I’ll still feel like it when the day comes, but the day comes and I avoid the phone and work on excuses or avoidance techniques. Its not only letting myself down, but my friend. Killing two birds with one stone has never been less productive.

I say that if you’re going to masturbate, go the whole nine yards and do it the literal way. Never settle for second best. Don’t try to play mind games with yourself, as its always cut off before the climax anyway. You find ways around your own battle strategies against yourself, have you noticed? Go on about your way if you must, but keep in mind the message behind trying to fool yourself into or out of doing something, too.

The message is this: We don’t trust ourselves. We don’t keep our own sacred vows to ourselves. We consider ourselves unreliable. We’ve let ourselves down too often. Why should we trust ourselves?

Even in our body language there lives suggestion of the dual nature of our consciousness. In NLP, they refer to it as “incongruence,“ separating it into both serial and simultaneous congruence. In simultaneous incongruence, it arises internally as conflicting desires or emotions, and this internal conflict is betrayed in our present behavior.

We may say yes but our body language says no. We may try to convey an emotion we’re not really experiencing fully, if at all, and our facial expressions don’t match up to our tone of voice and what we’re saying. In some fashion, we are telling conflicting stories here. It could be that there is but one vital element in our overall sphere of communication that stands out from the rest, and this gives us away. Or perhaps we are sending the mother of mixed messages. Worse yet, we may not even consciously acknowledge the conflict ourselves, which means that in some cases others may be able to discern more about us far more easily than we can ourselves. Johari Window could come in use here.

There is, however, also the matter of serial incongruence. Say its Tuesday. We may really mean what we say and the emotions we express may be authentic as we tell you we’re cool for hanging out on Saturday, but come Saturday we would rather wash a savory meal of dog shit down with gasoline and then remove a mite with our teeth from a homeless man’s ass-cheek than be an active member of any conceivable social situation. We were congruent Tuesday and we are congruent on Saturday, but we are incongruent on a time scale of a few days. That’s serial incongruence.

Here I should pay my well-earned attention. Its long-term choices I usually have a problem with, because freedom ends with the choice until you’ve fulfilled it, and I always prefer to have my freedom quite handy. “Until death do you part,“ is horrifying in its ramifications, as that is a serious commitment you can only die out of. The word “love” denotes an even deeper promise based on your recognition of a feeling that, while part of you, binds you to her and seems to transcend you both. At some level love truly is sincere happiness in slavery, as unromantic as that undoubtedly comes out.

Yes, the way in which I just conveyed that strongly suggests what is commonly known as a fear of commitment, but perhaps it could also be referred to as what you perceive to be an overvaluation of freedom, as that’s really what I’m hearing behind the words when they‘re spoken to me. It’s never a question of commitment, but what one is committed to. All of us are committed by nature to our natures, so I get a gold star. We haven’t killed ourselves, at least none of us entombed in flesh have done so successfully. Barring literate zombies and other incarnations, put uip another point for me on the score-board.

For all of us living, corporeal creatures with our natural , hardwired fear of death, there might be good reason to say that we’re rather committed to life. As much as it might seem that we’re committed to a cosmic asylum or circus life specifically, we have kept our soles planted here for at least as many years as it takes to read, I surmise, so we’re all sort of members of this insane cult we’ve got going here. Some might say we’re cornered in life or trapped in life, but how difficult is the alternative to life if you are sure about it and really want to get the job done? Human life is very fragile. We didn’t make it this far because we don’t value our lives, but quite the contrary. It’s a cult of the willing.

I know I have promised myself I would do or resist doing things and that I have followed through with it. Promises have been made within that have been kept. That’s why any personality is identifiable over time, after all. We are habit, and habit is a long-term commitment.

We just need to manifest that capacity in other areas and it will be recognized as such, not because we are not committed, but because we fail to commit to what others feel certain of or deem as valuable, but which we find doubtful and suspect may not be worth it.

Less cynically: perhaps to get back on the right path, which is always your own, one must build up trust in himself. He should practice making mindful, manageable, relatively short-term vows to himself and put every molecule of might into executing those vows. Gradually, one builds up to long-term promises involving not just oneself but other people over time. But first thing’s first.

Cease the self-defeat.

Cyclone of Syzygies.

Beginning in infancy, we are highly empathic with those closest to us, namely our parental figures, a capacity referred to as limbic resonance in the 2000 book, A General Theory of Love. In the book they reveal that empathy is vital for that child’s healthy development.

The maternal bond develops almost immediately, which makes sense, as what is to become the body of the child is, until that body’s birth, less of a body than it is part of the body of the mother. (As a consequence, the child quite literally knows her inside-out.) In the twelvth chapter of Joseph Chilton Pearce’s 1992 book, Evolution’s End, he goes into detail concerning the impact of the maternal bond. Through the bond, the developing fetus shares, hormonally, the emotional experience of the mother. The mother’s voice, heartbeat, and any other rhythmic stimuli will imprint the child’s developing brain, and around the seventh month of pregnancy the child begins to learn to understand language.

After birth, the “space around mother,” perhaps seen as extending so far as the house or extent of one’s property, serves as a second womb for the infant, or so said Joseph Campbell. If one takes a look, one clearly sees that in all the vital ways it really does. Though no longer receiving sustenance through the now-severed umbilical cord, the mother still supplies nourishment, though now through the breast. Emotional sustenance is supplied through limbic resonance and limbic regulation through the mother‘s reactions.

Upon birth, the up-to-twenty-inch-long umbilical cord keeps the placenta and the child connected, providing nourishment in the transition between environments as the mother instinctively holds the infant in her arms. The simple act of holding and touching the newborn in direct skin-to-skin fashion is vital for the child, as it helps remove the protective substance that coats the skin within the womb (though perhaps wiped thoroughly with the squeeze through the vaginal exit if the birth is not Cesarean) while providing vital epidermal feedback through stimulating the child’s nerve endings.

As the mother holds the child, she instinctively does so in such a manner that the infant’s head is held in close proximity to the area of the left breast. Here, the familiar and stress-alleviating sound of the mother’s heartbeat can be heard. The child’s position also serves as the optimal one in which to breastfeed. The production of breast milk in the mother’s body produced a hormone known as oxytocin, which inspires bonding, and there is suggestion that the nature of human breast milk may serve the attachment agenda as well. Among mammals, human tit-juice bears the least amount of fats and proteins, which requires a snack from the rack every third of an hour or so, perhaps of evolutionary advantage because, as mentioned earlier, the act of breastfeeding fosters reinforcement of the maternal bond.

From this vantage point the vision of the child, which can only perceive a human face and only do so at a distance of six to twelve inches, is able to see and imprint the mother’s face. If all goes according to plan, that face will play an important role and we will be turning our gaze to it all too often. We will learn to interpret what the different expressions mean and how they relate to the various tones of voice that we have heard in the womb, which we have already learned to associate with her various emotions, as we could feel them hormonally. In infancy, the limbic system requires emotional feedback through empathy or limbic resonance with the mother, who cues us in on how to adjust our own emotional reactions, allowing for limbic regulation. Visual contact with her face allows us to regulate our emotions through her.

She acts as an emotional prompter, we follow the script drawn up for us in her emotional reactions. If a child falls, for instance, they look up to their mother, and if both verbal and nonverbal cues indicate she is worried, the child cries. Humor could also be a reaction to the fall, and if that is the case the child will take it lightheartedly, giggling away. We can no longer feel her emotions hormonally, but there is a sort of psychic equivalent to umbilical residue, and that is the maternal bond and the empathy or “limbic resonance” it offers. The mother’s face, eventually with the help of body language, serves as mediator between us and our emotions.

Over time, this teaches the infant to self-regulate in the style the child has become accustomed to through the maternal bond. The profound, long-term effects the nature of the maternal bond has on a child was first suggested by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth’s studies in the 1970s. She identified three distinct forms in which maternal bonds manifest. Her studies, as well as the later ones it inspired, revealed how a particular style of parenting at one end of the bond corresponds to a particular type of child on the other. The mothers differed in their empathy with the child and the children differed in the ways in which they handled their emotions.

Most common among the three is what she called the secure child, raised by an empathic mother attentive to the child’s needs. Confident in an area of security around mom, the child will use her as a safe home base to which they return as they go out on their exploratory missions. Once in school, their self-regulation is growing, though they still require an available and empathic parent. The secure child is found to be happy, passionate, empathic and popular among their peers. They go as far as they can with a problem alone, asking for assistance only when it was truly needed. As infants develop, they become increasingly self-reliant, internalizing the feedback system provided by the maternal bond.

A rigid and callous mother crafted an “insecure-avoidant” child unaffected by the mother’s absence and actively ignoring her upon return. Once reaching grade school age, these children showed promise in growing up to be total assholes. Mean-spirited and belligerent to both authority and fellow members of the group, these kids never asked for help, especially when they needed it most.

The last pairing involves a distracted mother that provides inconsistent empathy. She gives rise to a child of a type variously referred to as insecure-ambivalent or insecure-resistant. The ambivalence or resistance derives from the fact that the child appears to seek two diametrically opposing things from the mother figure at once. This is exhibited, for instance, in the child’s dependent act of clinging to the mother when she is near, but his resistance to her when she attempts to interact with him. Finding a sort of unreliable home base in the mother, the child has predictable issues when it comes to a sense of security, and so have difficultly straying too far from her to explore foreign environments. Since the mother fails to provide a sense of stability and security, any distress the child experiences will not be soothed by her presence. Compared with the secure child, the insecure-ambivalent is more likely to experience anxiety, display aggression, be argumentative, lack self-confidence and — undoubtedly due to their full-spectrum hypersensitivity — remain withdrawn and as a consequence socially inept and isolated.

The maternal bond presents to the child her or his first attachment figure, making mom the prototype on which will be based the bonds or attachments the child forges with other social beings. For heterosexual men at least, and perhaps homosexual women as well, the maternal-bond also serves as the model for the pair-bond. We are drawn into having relationships with women and find not only that the women bear characteristics similar to mom, but that the nature of the relationship is akin to the one you had with your mother.

How the mother affects us is a strange story when one considers it. We literally came from inside her. She kept us in the first womb, inside of her, at which point we technically “were” her, and she served as the literal bridge between what constitutes our inner and outer worlds, between us and our beginnings. When we were born from the first womb into the outer world, we actually were born into the second womb, the halfway house of the space around her. Then we gave birth out of the second womb, into the womb of the earth.

With that birth, however, echoes of the past live on within.

Inside lives a phantom mother pulling our strings and pushing our buttons. We came from inside mom, and now mom is inside us. For we have internalized our mother in a sense, having been conditioned with a model for the self-regulation of our emotions based on the style of feedback she provided through her facial expressions, body language, verbal language and tone of voice when we, for instance, fell as a child and looked to her. It is through this that we form our lifelong means of handling our own emotions and relating to other members of the social group. Given this, it makes sense that she affects our view on religion and life perspective: both are far more emotionally based than rational. That the Jungian anima would serve as a bridge and guide between the conscious and unconscious makes sense as well, as that is the role what our actual mothers served during our journey from the first to the second womb. Both her effect on us unconsciously through limbic regulation and the fact that the maternal imprint was the first imprint we had with another living being would seem to justify the associations with the unconscious.

Enough about the mother. What of the father? Most research seems focused, if not on the parents as a unit, on the role of the mother specifically, but there is data to be found out there on the nature of the paternal bond.

According to Jerrold Shapiro, professor of counseling psychology at California’s Santa Clara University, a father develops a bond with his child in one of three points in the child’s development. It can occur when still in the womb or at the time of birth. Typically, however, it develops later in childhood. This common delay in paternal bonding is thought to stem from two factors. The traditional role of the father is to provide the essential environment for the maternal bond to develop and to protect that bond. Only later does the bond develop as the father beings to gradually acclimatize the child to the ways of the world around them. The other reason the paternal bond is delayed deals with the intimate level of feedback the father requires of the child. Unlike the maternal bond, it is not a natural and nearly inevitable outgrowth of an incubation period that requires a two-way free-flow of subtle communication. Lacking that fundamental bond with the child, the father has no means of acquiring the intimate degree of feedback required for its development. As a consequence, the paternal bond must often await development until the stage at which the child develops the ability to offer feedback through play interactions and language.

Having read much of Carl Jung and finding myself fascinated by his ideas and observations, I wondered if current psychological studies and experiments might bring down the gavel for me once and for all. Can his concept of the anima and animus survive the facts as we know them today?

That the pair is bound as a syzygy, as Jung called it, makes sense if we consider the mother and father the alpha and omega imprints. As we can see from the evolution of the “attractors,” for heterosexual men (at least) the mother is the base imprint for one’s relations to the opposite sex. The father, on the other hand, is the first male role model, and they craft their own persona or social masque in his image, and so are influenced by his attractors. Dad was attracted to mom, mom to dad. Mom’s attractors were clearly compatible with dad’s. As a consequence, it seems to me that the two would be best seen as a pair, a package deal in our psyches. The pair-bonding style of one’s parents would then become the basis of your own pair-bonding tendencies.

Sounds complete. There are missing pieces to Jung’s anima-animus duality, however. Pieces as big as his yin and yang. Pieces like hermaphrodites, homosexuals and bisexuals, for starters.

Heterosexual men and heterosexual women are different. I mean this, of course, in a sense that points beyond the obvious corporeal trimmings. Our instincts do seem to be traditionally different, and we acquired fundamentally different evolutionary strategies based on our fundamentally different evolutionary aims. This suggestion has been reinforced again and again in the field of evolutionary psychology. The behavior of both simply makes sense given the context provided. Some differences are as instinctual as the genitals are biological. Heterosexual men and women bear instincts that seem fundamentally distinct, mutually compatible and logically consistent with their sex-specific evolutionary aims and strategies to continue the species-specific path of evolution. In light of this, what seems to be a more likely evolutionary scenario?

Did women and men develop their instincts independently, through mutations naturally selected out of their interactions with one another? If so, perhaps while men usually get only masculine instincts and women get only feminine instincts, occasionally there is an anomaly — like a man getting a woman’s instincts, a woman getting a man’s, or either getting both? Or did the instincts develop as a unified mutation bearing both mutually compatible instincts, with one of them triggered to life when genes switch in accordance with cues from the genome? If this is the case, the instincts or archetypes for both male and female exist at once in a person, regardless of what biological sex that person happens to be, and given sufficient conditions in the context of the genome (or perhaps even triggering stimuli in the context of the external environment) the sex-specific instinctual programs for the opposite sex are triggered to life, leaving the other half latent, perhaps inevitably projected.

Still, this is too simplistic, as it does not account for the variance of gender identities regardless of the pairing of biological sex or sexual persuasion, or the gender identities to which we are attracted, regardless of all of the above. There is not merely the biological gender one is and the biological gender to which one is attracted, after all, but the psychological gender with which one identifies and the psychological gender to which one is attracted. One should not neglect to take into account hermaphrodites with respect to gender, however, or bisexuals with respect to the gender to which one is attracted. And it well testified that there are many who identify as neither gender. And within the hermaphroditic realm, there are degrees; in bisexuality, there are degrees. And what of this dear friend of mine, a female with both feminine and masculine features and qualities, but predominantly feminine, could be described as bearing a gay heart with the rest of her technically taking on the role of a hypersexual bisexual acutely slanted towards lesbian? Is sexual persuasion instinctual, and is the sex-identity as well — and do we all bear the full spectrum, upon which we actualize some parts and perhaps project the rest upon another, bonding with them in order to forge a sense of completeness?

If anything remotely resembling the anima and animus is to survive these accommodations, it will have to be more than a mere duality. It will have to be woven in different colored threads than the black and white spools Jung conceived and have many knots among them. Even duality, it would seem, must vanish in the sygyzy for those who do not identify with either sex and yet have the plumbing popularly attributed to both. And here I must emphasize my naiveté: I am but a man in a man’s body attracted to women, so from personal experience I know of no other means of relation in the area of sex or romance but for my boring narrow path of straight-hood. Yet even I — from my comparatively boring (but at least not vanilla) PP-plus-V sexual perspective; from this friendly outside peering in — even I can clearly see that things would have to be much more complex than Jung’s anima and animus would have it.

In the case of a heterosexual male such as myself, at least, if not also for the homosexual female, the notion of the Jungian anima might be a fitting concept.

Useful Illusion.

We don’t live in the world, we live in pictures of the world we make and keep inside our heads. People often talk about where they’re at as if they would like to be somewhere — nay, anywhere — else, but perhaps they seek something on the spatial axis that they will only find on the psychological axis. Psychology just isn’t another ingredient in the cake we call reality, it is the predominant one. The essential one.

Most of life is driven by reaction to something based on an interpretation of the stimulus, the consequence of which is most often attributed to the stimulus itself, freeing us of responsibility, but with it a powerful form of liberty. Our reaction is just our answer to the question of experience, which may come across as an abundantly cheesy statement, but I say it to offer contrast with the popular notion that reaction is just a button pressed by the finger we call the stimulus. This being the case, merely changing one’s state of mind can transform reality, as if your brain were a flask in which you preformed some existential alchemy with the prima materia offered by the cosmos through the conduit of your bodily senses.

This does not need to be hopeless and futile. This does not need to be so dismal. Confidence can be found.

So I tell myself, if only to offer a useful illusion.