Saturday, June 4, 2011


 This section of text comes from a book I linked to not too long ago called "Transpersonal Psychology: Transforming the Mind" (Chapter 2, pages 21-23):

"The insecurity stemming from the common cultural belief that the universe is hostile,
that we are flawed and fragile, makes identification, as an apparent shield against
change, seem tempting. But reality keeps changing - by identifying with things we
set ourselves up for eventual loss. The body gets ill, ages, eventually dies. The car
breaks down. Possessions wear out, or may get stolen. Memories fade. Many of the
things and roles you identified with were not your choices anyway - you were
cajoled and conditioned to identify with many roles, ideas, people, causes and values
that may have had no interest or were counter to your essential personality, your true
self-determinism. Identification is too automatic, too subconscious. Gurdjieff
expressed it as the fact that any one of your many identities can sign a cheque; all the
rest of you is obligated to pay, whether you/they like it or not. The person who has to
fulfil a promise may not be the same person who made the promise.
But the main cost of identification is that a conditioned system of automatically
available identities can hide you from the fact that you don't know your real identity,
the essence behind these surface manifestations. Are you really your name? Your
roles? Your feelings? Your intellectual mind? Your body? You are far more than
anything you identify with.

A person in an identity state usually does not know that it does not represent the
whole of himself - that is the horror of consensus trance. The usual range of identity
states that we function in, ordinarily called personality, was called ‘false personality’
by Gurdjieff because the identity states were forced on us in the process of
enculturation rather than by self-determined choice. The overall pattern we call
consciousness is largely consensus trance, directly analogous to post-hypnotic
suggestion in ordinary hypnosis: when the suggested/conditioned stimulus appears,
the linked behaviour, the conditioned response, the particular ‘I’ (or sub-personality)

But we are not a blank state on which culture can write as it pleases with no
consequences to us. We also have a unique genetic and spiritual endowment, which
will begin to manifest more as we grow, so we might dislike athletics and like
walking in the woods, for example, or find Shakespeare boring but enjoy writing
letters, or find physics pointless but be fascinated with maths, or search for deeper
truth despite being ridiculed by others who believe what they’re told.

Consensus trance induction does have some powerful techniques, however. Just as
we record the Parent's do’s and don’ts and our Child responses, childhood is
inevitably a process of shaping the behaviour and consciousness of the child to be
‘normal’, to fit social norms. And that inevitably involved certain aspects of your
essential personality being invalidated, neglected, denied and punished until their
external manifestations were suppressed. As an adult you would act docilely and
subserviently, and try to feel that way inside. You would tell yourself that you are a
good person, a normal person. Others would tell you, you are normal, and would
accept you as a friend, reinforcing and validating your behaviour. But inside,
something, a part of your essence, has been squashed - you may also have a vague
feeling that something isn’t right, that even though you should be happy, you don’t
feel very happy. Some of your animation, your essential energy, has been lost to the
maintenance of consensus trance. Or you may know that lots of things make you
angry but you worry - ‘Am I normal? I’m not supposed to feel like this’.

This sort of trance induction compares startlingly with conventional hypnosis. In an
ordinary induction, it is time limited, only an hour or two. In real life your parents
and your culture begin shaping your development from the moment of birth; it
involves years of repeated inductions and reinforcement of the effects of previous
inductions. Furthermore it’s intended to last for a lifetime - there is no cultural
therapist to give you the suggestion to wake up. Not until now at any rate.

In a conventional session, the subject does not expect to be bullied, threatened or
harmed in any way by the therapist, it is a voluntary relationship between consenting
adults. In the cultural situation, the power relationship between Parent and Child puts
a strong forced quality on a natural consent to learn. Parents can use physical threats
as needed, and actualise them with slaps, spankings, revocations of privileges or
confiscation of toys. Since the easiest way to act in a culturally approved way is to
feel that way inside, the fear of punishment helps structure internal mental and
emotional processes in culturally approved ways. The parents may use conditional
love and affection to manipulate, as a threat or to validate conformity. As the child
establishes social relationships with other adults and children (who also act as agents
of the culture) he learns more about how he must act to be accepted. As these
approved habits of acting become established and rewarded, they further structure
the habitual patterns of mental functioning. Fear of rejection is a powerful motivator,
because you have an inherent social instinct, a desire to belong, to be normal.
Nobody likes being thought bad, but we are invalidated in so many ways that a
general sense of unworthiness and guilt can easily be built up.

Another factor which gives this process great power, is that the mental state of a
young child leaves him very open to suggestion. In our ordinary state there is an
enormous amount of automatic association of previous knowledge to incoming
stimuli, but the child does not have much other information to come instantly to
mind, so the suggestions operate in a disassociated state, isolated from other mental
processes - a hypnotically suggestible state.

The lack of language (which increases our ability to associate information) further
contributes to the disassociated quality of the child’s mind. When we try, as adults
(predominantly verbal thinkers), to understand our enculturation and conditioning, it
is difficult to recall because much of it is not stored in verbal form.

Additionally, children have a deep trust in their parents on whom they are totally
dependent. The parent is unconscious of the cultural trance he himself is in and
simply sees himself as acting ‘naturally’. The mental, emotional and physical habits
of a lifetime are laid down while we are especially susceptible as children. They have
that compulsive quality that conditioning has; it is automatic. They may include
suggestions that block later change, that even block later hypnosis on that subject, for
example the resistance hypnotic subjects have to immoral suggestions."

When we are 'unconscious' of our motivations, we function within the framework of the race psyche.  We are moved along essentially automatically by the expectations of society.  We must become positive to our environment and become 'conscious' of those motivations.  We must not repress those natural urges that might go against what the race expects of us and considers morally acceptable.  Growing up in this Aristotelian culture where our parents taught us right vs. wrong, i.e. a two-valued system that does not fit the structure or reality, we have something to overcome (at least most of us do).  Erich Fromm tells us that we live in a culture based around having as opposed to being.  Our parents, mostly 'unconsciously' instilled this fear of failure and losing our possessions, the acceptance of the group, our status and so on.  It takes hard work and suffering to re-imprint how we view and react to the world.  Are we able to create our world or are we content reacting to stimuli and simply fitting into the mold?  Can we create a world where character comes first even though our peers may not value this quality in ourselves?  Two streams converging against each other.  The struggle for independence from the race seeking to be an individual but fearing being cut off.  What we have become being a mirror of those formative experiences we had when we could barely walk.  And now to create a change, a re-orientation having to backtrack along the way and effectively alter those experiences or at least our emotional reactions to them.  We must release that stored tension of the painful experiences in our lives if we are to unlock the creative energy necessary to move into higher states of consciousness.  Walking the path is going against the tide, ice-skating uphill, swimming against the currents.  And so we must forget the pain produced from the friction that is manifested from these two streams converging.  As they say, its not about the end result but its about the journey.  When one can experience those moments of seeming pain instead as moments of bliss, thou hath already attained what thou seek.