Psychological Fragments: Emotional Systems

Emotions are energetically charged psychic content. The magnitude and direction of this charge can be mediated or controlled by conscious cognitive processes, such as thinking, and less conscious aspects, such as attitudes.

Emotional charges have affinities for like-charged units and tend to form clusters that increase their gravity (psychic significance) and complexity. Moreover, these aspects can also extenuate similar features present in the particular situation, thus contributing to an increase in the energetic charge of the overall situation.

Emotions can also become encompassed in larger internal structures. An illustration of this might be something akin to adding a patch to a quilt that represents internalized emotions and activating affective structures. Through this process of extending into broader internal structures, subsequent effects or secondary effects may or may not be functionally autonomous from the initial point of activation. Thus, this secondary effect has the potential to become independent of the initial cause as the cascade of the activational pattern is set into motion.

Chained activation patterns are unconscious, at least in their totality, and only manifest or exert a force when tripped or activated.

Tracing activation patterns can provide information about core infrastructure of one’s inner world and information about one’s way of processing information. How an individual makes sense of and processes this environmental information sheds light on their cognitive style, comprised of attitudinal patterns and preferences for information processing.

A technique for investigating these affective activation patterns is an intervention similar to behavioral chaining, which involves the examination of antecedents and consequences. However, there is more of a need to focus on idiosyncratic associations to gather something of a nodal network of affective (emotional) infrastructure within the individual’s psyche, which, subsequently, allows for an analysis of themes, directions, and inferences about the aim and function of the individual’s emotional repertoire.

Tension of the Times

One of the hallmarks of Carl Jung’s work is his conceptualization of the shadow. Roughly speaking, the shadow consists of instincts, aspects, qualities, and the like that are unrecognized or repressed in oneself. Jung did not believe that the shadow was only comprised of bad things but also included good parts and positive potentialities (Sharp, 1991).

However, Jung believed that ignoring the shadow had dangerous consequences since he believed this simply contributed to the person continuing to operate through life in an unconscious manner, driven by forces unknown to the individual. Therefore, Jung earnestly believed that the task (or process) of assimilating one’s shadow is an essential one that each individual has a responsibility to undertake for the development of one’s personality.

Another central feature of Jung’s work is not solely focusing on the individual but instead demonstrating the interconnectedness between the inner and outer worlds, the individual and the collective. This lens allows us to observe the ways our interactions with the outside world affect the state of our inner world. This can be reversed to observe the way our inner world is affected by the happenings of the outer world. It is the latter of these two vantage points that offer an entry into what is called Shadow Work, which is the conscious process of becoming aware of parts of oneself that had previously been hidden or repressed and working to find a way of coming to terms with these parts that are viewed by the conscious mind as being in someway unacceptable.

Below is a quote from Joseph R. Lee, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Jungian Analyst, sharing his thoughts on a recent episode (#217) of the podcast This Jungian Life:

We are in a stunning time in the western world. Where powerful cultural mechanisms have been set in motion which support us in disavowing enormous aspects of our own nature and allowing us to weaponize our own denial, so that we will find targets of people, institutions, religions, any numbers of things, where we will lay parts of our own unacceptable nature and then participate with great fervor in the destruction of the thing we’ve landed our shadow on and the motivation to annihilate the thing that I have pushed my shadow into has reached a shocking, shocking level in our culture.

Jung offers us an antidote for that, but it cannot be forced on anyone; the only way out of the place we are in our culture is to see that the enemy is us, and if we have any hope for transforming this muddy painful mess that we’ve all created in our culture it’s in the redemption, and the purifying fire that is set in motion when we reclaim our accusations and transform them into statements that declare what I do not want to know about myself (Lee, Marchiano, & Stewart, 2022, 44:46-46:47).

This excerpt addresses the rampant and intensifying reliance on and usage of projection to sidestep our dire need for inner work, both as individuals and as a collective society. It is through our perpetual avoidance, assisted by the mechanisms of denial, projection, and the like, that the societal we have been able to maintain this unyielding holding pattern between the polarizing forces vying for societal control.

Nevertheless, the underlying tension between these opposing forces has not been stagnant; rather, it is growing in intensity with the amassing of each piece of reality suppressed, denied, distorted, or in any other way blocked from the path of integration. The path that is not sought after—at least collectively—is nonetheless the path necessary for wielding the enormity of the tension between the opposites present in our time. Nevertheless, the responsibility lies on each of us to learn to navigate this path, if not for the purpose of growth as an individual, then, at least, as a citizen indebted to some degree or another to each other.

References

Lee, J. A, Marchiano, L., & Stewart, D. (Hosts). (2022, June 10). Death: A Jungian perspective [Audio podcast episode]. This Jungian Life. https://thisjungianlife.com/episode-217-death

Sharp, D. (1991). C. G. Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms and Concepts (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts) (First Edition). Inner City Books.

Holding Pattern of the Tension of Opposites [Digital Image]. Self-created (2022). https://nightcafe.studio/

Perceptual Differences in ADHD

ADHD continues to gain interest throughout those who do and do not have the diagnosis alike. Why is interest in this neurodevelopmental disorder gaining traction? Likely, it is a confluence of events, namely the movement toward neurodiversity, increasing acknowledgement of adult-diagnosed ADHD, and a continued normalization of mental health, in general.

As one of the most well-researched diagnosis, ADHD has been one of the first to lose some of its mental health stigma; however, this movement has been, in part, a result of a growing understanding that ADHD is not solely about difficult behaviors in children but also differences in information processing in adults (i.e., neurodiversity).

One of the hallmark features of these differences in perception between those with ADHD versus neurotypical individuals is an altered sense of time. Time perspectives, put extremely simply, different preferences in where people typically orient their attention in time, such as being future-oriented or past-oriented (see Philip Zimbardo writings for more on time perspectives).

While typically individuals have one that is preferred over the other time perspectives, Dr. William Dodson puts forth the notion that those with ADHD are immersed in the present. Thus, ADHDers have difficulty, likely at the expense of excessive working memory, to differentiate between time perspectives, such as being able to disentangle future events into categories like short-term, intermediate, and long-term future states. Conversely, the past is loosely structured, if at all, in typical time structures of memory and, collectively, the present is somewhat mixed together with the past and future. Dr. Dodson describes this state of time perception as being curvilinear, which is defined by Dictionary.com as “consisting of or bounded by curved lines.”

While this definition doesn’t clarify much more of what is meant by having a curvilinear perception of time, Dr. Dodson’s usage of the term is in respect to the point that people with ADHD have a skewed sense of time, and it’s particularly skewed toward the present. Therefore, this bias in time perspective could substantiate Dr. Dodson’s conception that ADHD makes it difficult to distinguish, or parse out, the future and past from the present moment.

If this is the case with ADHD, then it would help to explain ADHDers’ challenges with learning from past mistakes and effectively planning for the future. One extension from this idea is it’s likely also the case that ADHD impacts spatial processing, since space and time are interrelated. Collectively, it would stand to reason that the ability to conjure and manipulate mental representations may be a central aspect to the symptoms present in ADHD; moreover, this inability or deficit may be a transdiagnostic symptom of other psychiatric diagnoses.

Reference:

Hallowell, E., MD, & Ratey, J., MD. (2022, January 10). ADHD Needs a Better Name. We Have One. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/attention-deficit-disorder-vast/?fbclid=IwAR3dvgGPAykYKUdsAiDqPRSv97fF1XV7SdmRVv_sUH-G_GXW0W_QlzjDc4g