Monday, March 06, 2006

Our Wayward Minds

I want to mention the excellent book by Guy Claxton - THE WAYWARD MIND, an intimate history of the unconscious (2005, Little, Brown, and Co. Great Britan, published only in Britan but available from with 4-6 week wait) Here is a excerpt and paraphrase from pp. 348-252:

"What we call our "self " is an agglomeration of both conscious and unconscious ingredients, cans, needs, dos, oughts, thinks - the temptation is to assume that the "I" is the same in all of them - so that instead of having an intricate web of things that make me ME, I have to create a single imaginary hub around which they all revolve, to which they all refer - the attempt to keep this fiction going, to "hold it together" can become quite tiring and bothersome - If "I" am essentially reasonable, if I imagine that my zones of control - over my own feelings for example - are wider and more robust than they are, then I am going to get in a tangle trying to "control myself." If I have decided that who I am is clever, attractive, athletic, stable, creating the hub of "I" locks everything together and prevents it moving. It stops Me expanding to include the unconscious, or graciously shrinking to accommodate old age. I can not enjoy my waywardness, nor see it as an intrinsic part of ME - (note: he gives Ramachandran's two foot nose pinocchio demonstration as evidence of plasticity of self image), and then says - The orthodox sense of self is thrown by such experiences, and tends to suffer a sense-of-humour failure. It sees all waywardness as an affront, and tends to become earnest or myopic in response. In a nutshell: it is bad enough to have a nightmare, without your rattled sense of self telling you that you are going mad. Weird experience can never be just funny (as the pinocchio effect can be) or matter-of fact (as possession is in Bali), or transiently inconvenvient (as a bad dream is), or wonderful (as a mystical experience can be), or just mysterious (as a premonition might be). For the locked-up self they have to be denied, explained or dealt with. All the evidence is that a more relaxed attitude toward the bounds of self makes for a richer, easier and more creative life. Perhaps, after all, waywardness in all its forms is in need not so much of explanation, but of a mystified but friendly welcome. We can explain it if we wish, and the brain is beginning to a reasonable job. But the need to explain, when not motivated by the dispassionate curiosity of the scientist, is surely a sign of anxiety: of the desire to tame with words that which is experienced as unsettling.

No comments:

Post a Comment