Changes.

At the end of the 1960s, and the mystical hippie dawning of the Aquarius age, we were all Still searching for meaning.

The big four philosophers when I was 18 were Hesse, Vonnegut, Brautigan and Tolkien.

Of course I read other influential writers, but at the time I really believed everything I needed to know about being a decent human being was in the works of those four, though it took me another 50 years to really begin to understand why.

There was another influential book I encountered.

In the course of exploring the world I came upon the I Ching. inevitably. It had a great deal of credibility amongst the hippies of my generation. Of course I looked into it. I still have, in my lock-up in New Zealand, a beautiful translation from Chinese through German to English, of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm.

Yarrow sticks were hard to come by where I grew up, but I was a numismatist, and had in my collection several of those fascinating old Chinese coins with square holes. It seemed appropriate to use them. Having designated which side was heads and which was tails, I had a culturally acceptable method of obtaining a randomly generated hexagram, in accordance with the instructions accompanying the book.

My youthful, hopeful self was quite surprised to find how seemingly accurate and appropriate was the advice I gleaned from the wise words of the Tao. The last remnants of my Roman Catholic superstition we’re slowly fading at the time (now only the guilt remains) and I could possibly have easily fallen into the woo mentally of believing some spiritual power, something beyond myself, was guiding me, through the words of the book.

But I read something – I don’t recall exactly where – some scientific article, perhaps, that said our brains were hard-wired to look for patterns. We look for visual patterns, such as potentially threatening animal or human shapes hiding in the trees, and we look for patterns of events and try to make some sense, often wrong, of the coincidences and causality.

The evolutionary advantage of this pattern recognition behaviour is in the significance of the value of the false positive over the false negative.

If I see what looks like a lion lurking in the bushes, and run, the likelihood of staying alive is increased, whether it is a real or imagined lion. If I decide it’s a trick of the light, and ignore it, my chances of survival are decreased if I am wrong.

The same principle applies if we recognise a pattern of events that seem to coincide. Should it rain enough times after we ask nature politely for a shower to water the crop, we may come to believe that asking causes rain.

The downside of this, is that as there is, or was, an evolutionary advantage to being superstitious. We suffered from pareidolia. It became an affliction. We came to see those shapes and faces in the bark of trees, as beings, and ascribed to them powers and motives. We recognised patterns of events, some like the celestial movements, or the seasons, quite real. Then some smart arse recognised the patterns of our own behaviour, saw an opportunity for power and put himself forward as an intermediary between the common people and the spiritual world. And we got religion.

But I digress. I was speaking of the I Ching. I recognised that my brain was looking for patterns in the events of my own life. I was taking the words from an ancient book written in Chinese, translate first to German then to English, and gleaning valuable meaning from them. But this was not superstition. The advice the book was giving me was good. Why? Because it was written in such a way that it was inevitable that the reader would apply the general advice in such a way that it would most benefit him. Because the Tau was the way of the upright, it had to be good advice. For a few formative years the I Ching helped me make decisions that brought me to where I am now. I have few regrets.

These musings were inspired by coming upon this following little piece in one of the philosophical emails that turn up in my in-box from time to time.

After a few more hours swimming up and down the Bribie Island pool, I may have more to write on the subject.

The following is borrowed from Psychology Today.

Impact of the I Ching on Carl G. Jung & its implications

Jung, Taoist psychology, and cross-cultural communications

Posted Mar 01, 2017 

Although research has examined how world cultures (e.g., independent vs. interdependent ones) each uniquely shaped psychological experiences, few investigations focus on how cultures influence one another in the psychological domains. This issue is important, because cross-cultural information and knowledge exchange, contacts, and influences, though moderate in the past, have transformed all cultures, including the field of psychology. For example, Taoist psychology is one of the main cultural inspirations for Jungian psychology.

In May 1930, Jung gave the Eulogy at a memorial service in Munich for Richard Wilhelm. Jung integrated the Eastern philosophy into his principles of psychotherapy and human psyche through his study of Richard Wilhelm’s translations of I Ching (The Book of Changes), The Secret of the Golden Flower, and their frequent interactions that lasted from the early 1920’s until Wilhelm’s death in 1930 (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung said that Wilhelm “inoculated us with the living germ of the Chinese spirit and we found ourselves partaking of the spirit of the East as we experience the living power of the I Ching. It is capable of working a profound transformation of our thought.” Jung said that Wilhelm’s work was of such immense importance to him because it confirmed what he had been seeking in his efforts to alleviate the psychic suffering of Europeans. The book was both a carrier of human experience and a door to the energy of the archetypes. “I heard from him in clear language the things I had dimly divined in the confusion of the European subconscious. I received more from him than from any other man” (cited in Karcher, 1999; also see Goulding, 2015; Stein, 2005).

Jung expressed his deep gratitude for what he received from Wilhelm, because through his translations and teaching, Taoist psychology influenced Jung’s theoretical frameworks by facilitating the formation of his chief conceptions: synchronicity and individuation, in addition to confirming his views about the unconscious and nonlinear or circular psychological development for adult (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung’s comprehension of Tao is much deeper than the conventional translation “the way.” As he commented, Tao is the interaction between the mind and reality. The essential Taoist idea in I Ching suggests that all of the ingredients make up the observed moment. Understanding human experiences involves recognizing a special interdependence of objective events among themselves, as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers (Jung, 1967). In other words, according to I Ching, psychological experiences are determined by the interaction of the mind, time, space, situations, and action or non-action. The mind and reality interaction, rather than being an isolated or independent event, symbolically represents the person’s dialogue with a broad reality transcending a specific moment and space. It is the interactions that serve as the parameter for deciphering psychological experiences.

In short, Jung’s achievements in integrating the East and West demonstrate that psychological phenomena and principles are both cultural and universal.

References:

Goulding, J. (2015). The forgotten Frankfurt school: Richard Wilhelm’s China Institute. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41:1-2 (March–June 2014) 170–186

Jung, C. G. (1967). Foreword. In The I Ching or Book of changes (C. F. Baynes, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Karcher, S. (1999). Jung, the Tao and the Classic of Change. Journal of Religion and Health, 38, 287-304.

Stein, M. (2005). Some reflections on the influence of Chinese thought on Jung and his  psychological theory. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(2), 209-222. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8774.2005.00524

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The Power of Words.

I well understand the power of words. I understand their power to hurt and to soothe.

I know the not-so-subtle difference In meaning and context, for example between Women Being Raped, and Men Raping Women.

Ive been trained in forensic interview techniques. I’ve been lied to, insulted and cursed by the best, in several languages. When this happens, I do almost the same thing I do if I have somehow got myself into a life-threatening or dangerous situation. (I do that now and then. It is part of my nature to see how far I can go).

When I’m insulted, I become calm and analytical. I try to figure out if I am in the wrong, if I deserve the criticism, or whether it is a defence/offence mechanism.

So I was taken aback recently when, after posting an old photo of myself on my bike at Katanning airfield, one of my friends made the comment “Yobbo”.

It seems reasonable enough, one would think. I could be mistaken for a yob.

The comment was surely intended in the humorous vein of friendly joshing we all indulge in. I am sure of it.

So.

I don’t know why I’m so insulted by that comment. Maybe the word is psychologically loaded in my subconscious. Call me a larrikin or a yahoo and I’d probably smile and agree. But yobbo hits a raw nerve somehow. Is there something in my youth or childhood to explain this feeling?

I can’t recall. I have thought about it for a day and still my first instinct is to say “go fuck yourself” or delete the comment. Why? I’m 67 years old, I’ve been successful in at least some of my fields of endeavour, I’ve worked in 7 countries, speak three languages, can say basic phrases or at least “thank you”, “may I have”, and “where is … ?” in another 10. I understand the power of words. Where does this one gain its power over my subconscious?

This is most interesting. It’s like listening to a song that makes you cry, even though it is not the sort you might think would do that. There’s a trigger I don’t recall. Fascinating.

So be aware. “Yobbo”, for some reason I cannot explain is a grave insult to me. As bad as, or even worse than, “climate change denier” , “antivaxxer”, or “creationist”.

Yes. There are songs that make me cry.

Living Alone.

THE MORE LOVING ONE

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell,

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn

With a passion for us we could not return?

If equal affection cannot be,

Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am

Of stars that do not give a damn,

I cannot, now I see them, say

I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,

I should learn to look at an empty sky

And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

By W.H. Auden

HYMN TO TIME

Time says “Let there be”

every moment and instantly

there is space and the radiance

of each bright galaxy.

And eyes beholding radiance.

And the gnats’ flickering dance.

And the seas’ expanse.

And death, and chance.

Time makes room

for going and coming home

and in time’s womb

begins all ending.

Time is being and being

time, it is all one thing,

the shining, the seeing,

the dark abounding.

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Science of Sleep: Dreaming, Depression, and How REM Sleep Regulates Negative Emotions

Reposted from Brainpickings

“Memory is never a precise duplicate of the original… it is a continuing act of creation. Dream images are the product of that creation.”

For the past half-century, sleep researcher Rosalind D. Cartwright has produced some of the most compelling and influential work in the field, enlisting modern science in revising and expanding the theories of Freud and those of Jungabout the role of sleep and dreams in our lives. In The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives (public library), Cartwright offers an absorbing history of sleep research, at once revealing how far we’ve come in understanding this vital third of our lives and how much still remains outside our grasp.

One particularly fascinating aspect of her research deals with dreaming as a mechanism for regulating negative emotion and the relationship between REM sleep and depression:

The more severe the depression, the earlier the first REM begins. Sometimes it starts as early as 45 minutes into sleep. That means these sleepers’ first cycle of NREM sleep amounts to about half the usual length of time. This early REM displaces the initial deep sleep, which is not fully recovered later in the night. This displacement of the first deep sleep is accompanied by an absence of the usual large outflow of growth hormone. The timing of the greatest release of human growth hormone (HGH) is in the first deep sleep cycle. The depressed have very little SWS [slow-wave sleep, Stages 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle] and no big pulse of HGH; and in addition to growth, HGH is related to physical repair. If we do not get enough deep sleep, our bodies take longer to heal and grow. The absence of the large spurt of HGH during the first deep sleep continues in many depressed patients even when they are no longer depressed (in remission).

The first REM sleep period not only begins too early in the night in people who are clinically depressed, it is also often abnormally long. Instead of the usual 10 minutes or so, this REM may last twice that. The eye movements too are abnormal — either too sparse or too dense. In fact, they are sometimes so frequent that they are called eye movement storms.

But what has perplexed researchers is that when these depressed patients are awakened 5 minutes into the first REM sleep episode, they’re unable to explain what they are experiencing. This complete lack of dream recall in depression has showed up in study after study, but it’s been unclear whether it’s due to patients’ reluctance to talk with researchers or to truly not forming and experiencing any dreams. That’s where recent technology has helped shed light:

Brain imaging technology has helped to shed light on this mystery. Scanning depressed patients while they sleep has shown that the emotion areas of the brain, the limbic and paralimbic systems, are activated at a higher level in REM than when these patients are awake. High activity in these areas is also common in REM sleep in nondepressed sleepers, but the depressed have even higher activity in these areas than do healthy control subjects. This might be expected — after all, while in REM these individuals also show higher activity in the executive cortex areas, those associated with rational thought and decision making. Nondepressed controls do not exhibit this activity in their REM brain imaging studies. This finding has been tentatively interpreted… as perhaps a response to the excessive activity in the areas responsible for emotions.

Cartwright spent nearly three decades investigating “how a mood disorder that affects cognition, motivation, and most of all the emotional state during waking shows itself in dreams.” What proved particularly difficult was understanding the basis for this poor dream recall during REM sleep, since anti-depressants suppress that stage of the sleep cycle, but early research suggested that this very suppression of REM might be the mechanism responsible for reinvigorating the depressed.

This brings us to the regulatory purpose of dreaming. Cartwright explains:

Despite differences in terminology, all the contemporary theories of dreaming have a common thread — they all emphasize that dreams are not about prosaic themes, not about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but about emotion, or what psychologists refer to as affect. What is carried forward from waking hours into sleep are recent experiences that have an emotional component, often those that were negative in tone but not noticed at the time or not fully resolved. One proposed purpose of dreaming, of what dreaming accomplishes (known as the mood regulatory function of dreams theory) is that dreaming modulates disturbances in emotion, regulating those that are troublesome. My research, as well as that of other investigators in this country and abroad, supports this theory. Studies show that negative mood is down-regulated overnight. How this is accomplished has had less attention.

I propose that when some disturbing waking experience is reactivated in sleep and carried forward into REM, where it is matched by similarity in feeling to earlier memories, a network of older associations is stimulated and is displayed as a sequence of compound images that we experience as dreams. This melding of new and old memory fragments modifies the network of emotional self-defining memories, and thus updates the organizational picture we hold of ‘who I am and what is good for me and what is not.’ In this way, dreaming diffuses the emotional charge of the event and so prepares the sleeper to wake ready to see things in a more positive light, to make a fresh start. This does not always happen over a single night; sometimes a big reorganization of the emotional perspective of our self-concept must be made — from wife to widow or married to single, say, and this may take many nights. We must look for dream changes within the night and over time across nights to detect whether a productive change is under way. In very broad strokes, this is the definition of the mood-regulatory function of dreaming, one basic to the new model of the twenty-four hour mind I am proposing.

Towards the end of the book, Cartwright explores the role of sleep and dreaming in consolidating what we call “the self,” with another admonition against memory’s self-editing capacity:

[In] good sleepers, the mind is continuously active, reviewing experience from yesterday, sorting which new information is relevant and important to save due to its emotional saliency. Dreams are not without sense, nor are they best understood to be expressions of infantile wishes. They are the result of the interconnectedness of new experience with that already stored in memory networks. But memory is never a precise duplicate of the original; instead, it is a continuing act of creation. Dream images are the product of that creation. They are formed by pattern recognition between some current emotionally valued experience matching the condensed representation of similarly toned memories. Networks of these become our familiar style of thinking, which gives our behavior continuity and us a coherent sense of who we are. Thus, dream dimensions are elements of the schemas, and both represent accumulated experience and serve to filter and evaluate the new day’s input.

Sleep is a busy time, interweaving streams of thought with emotional values attached, as they fit or challenge the organizational structure that represents our identity. One function of all this action, I believe, is to regulate disturbing emotion in order to keep it from disrupting our sleep and subsequent waking functioning.

The rest of The Twenty-four Hour Mind goes on to explore, through specific research case studies and sweeping syntheses of decades worth of research, everything from disorders like sleepwalking and insomnia to the role of sleep in knowledge retention, ideation, and problem-solving.

Snippet.

I sit quietly, regarding the empty compartments of the weekly pill organiser.

Time to refill it. It is Saturday again.

These pills, ten and a half taken every morning and five every evening – plus an iron supplement taken every second day (because it causes constipation), keep me going.

Metaphorically – or not – they replace love, family, professional pride, enthusiasm for sport and hobby, pets, wildlife, aquaria and frog ponds. Things that kept me going.

Again. It is empty again.

I look into the compartments, each a morning or an afternoon, and try to recall how it was I filled them. How I took again from them the medicine of each hour, and used it.

Medications

Hypnopompia

I learned two new words today. Hypnopompic and the related term hypnagogic.

I have frequently experienced these phenomena and, frankly, in my younger days they scared me. Some of the times I experienced this, it seemed to suggest I might have some form of prescience because in a vivid dream I had apparently “predicted” an event that later did in fact happen. I wondered if I was psychic. I was pretty sure there would be a completely rational explanation. I posited to myself that perhaps my brain, subconsciously aware of data I had not consciously considered, had worked out a likely scenario which was later confirmed, as “predicted”.

I believe I got that right. It still makes sense to me. More sense than having psychic abilities, anyway.

Many times I have awoken thinking “Wow. How did my brain come up with all that? Where did it come from? Then within a few minutes I have totally forgotten everything except how impressed I was with myself for having dreamt it. Occasionally I have had such a frightening dream that I have never forgotten it.

Once I dreamed I was holding my infant child’s cold, grey corpse and weeping. I awoke still weeping and could not shake the dread that I felt. At that time June had taken our baby girl back to Solomon Islands to present her to the family. I had stayed in NZ. I couldn’t afford a ticket for myself as well, nor spare the time off work.

When I awoke, the dream had been so real I was panic stricken. In those days there was no way I could contact the family in the village to assure myself all was well.

I was working in the area of home that day so I called in to check the mail at lunch time. There was a letter from June. It was postmarked a week ago. Sumana was seriously ill in hospital in Muda. It was a Wednesday, which just happened to be the one day of the week there was an Air Pacific flight to Honiara via Nadi in Fiji.

I immediately called the bank and arranged for them to cover payment for a flight to Honiara, and contacted a cousin in Honiara to arrange a flight for me to Muda as I could not arrange it myself or through a travel agent. I then called work, told them I was taking leave, packed a bag and headed for the airport. That night I slept in a hotel in Nadi and by ten the next morning I was in Honiara. My relative’s wife met me at arrivals with a ticket for the next flight to Western Province. An hour or so later I was in Muda, where I borrowed a bicycle and pedalled from the airport terminal to the hospital. There I learned that Suma had been discharged. I pedalled back to return the bike, then headed down to the wharf by Agnes Lodge resthouse. As I arrived I called out to a passing canoe in my grammatically poor Roviana to ask if they were going anywhere near Nusa Hope village. “Of course we are” answered my sister in law, whom I had not recognised.

So it was that barely 24 hours after reading June’s letter, I arrived in Nusa Hope village, where Sae, my father-in-law said “I told them all you would arrive today. No one believed me”. He added ” You are looking fat” and then, knowing why I was there, and to my great relief, “Leana hola sa komburu.” The baby is fine.

It turned out that Suma had suffered what was probably heat prostration and was taken to hospital where she was tested for, and diagnosed as having, malaria. Despite being already on prophylaxis she was treated with a massive dose of chloroquine, which made her sicker. Hence the letter.

She was well again by the time I arrived. Apparently someone had mixed slides in the lab. Another child had not been diagnosed when he should have been.

**********************************************************

Shortly after I arrived in Halls Creek, I had another weird hypnogogic experience that I still remember distinctly. I was, I was quite sure, completely awake, staring through the darkness at the green glowing digits on the air conditioner, telling me it was running at 18 degrees. I heard three sharp knocks on my bedroom door and turned to see an elderly aboriginal gentleman standing in the doorway, smiling at me. He was very old, dressed in shorts, with white hair and beard, and a long stick or spear. He looked at me with a penetrating gaze and a friendly smile. I felt no unease, though I was surprised, because I was sure I had locked the doors before coming upstairs to bed.

“Hello”, I said. “How did you get in?” Then, for some strange reason, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

I got up, turned on the light in the hall, and went downstairs to put the kettle on. Then I went to check the doors, which were just as I thought, locked. I turned to ask again how my visitor had gained entrance. Of course he wasn’t there. Standing in the kitchen I realised I could not possibly have seen him as clearly as I believed, because the room had been dark with only the green glow of the LED digits of the aircon to illuminate it. And where had he gone when I arose and turned on the light?

Afterwards, realising I had imagined it, I wondered whether I had actually got up and gone downstairs, or had I imagined that too?

These two events are examples of a few that are different from most I have experienced because I have never forgotten them, and can still picture in my mind what I dreamed, or thought I saw at the time. Most are forgotten within minutes of waking.

The mind is an odd thing.

I can well believe it when someone says “It came to me in a dream”.