Decisions of Motion

Why is it that whenever something comes to an end we tend to, or inevitably succumb to the urge, reflect back upon how it all began?

There is a part of me that wants to refuse the tug of the past and instead continue steadfastly moving forward, with my gaze fixed upon the potentialities held within the unknown mystery of the future. Thus, I’m also pulled forward by my anticipation of what lies hidden and awaits being actualized, while simultaneously being tugged on by the past’s allure to be reflected upon and mined for gems of wisdom and treasures of meaning. The result is a state of tension and disequilibrium; my inner world stirs with the restlessness of indecisiveness of where to place my focus – which direction should I place my attention and, subsequently, galvanize my energetic resource to pursue.

Life is held in this dialectical tension, if by nothing else, by the law of entropy, which is solely responsible for the arrow of time. Consequently, we fill our time with busyness working tirelessly against disorder while also hoping to arrange our lives in some order that we find a sense of safety or security in – at the very least, a sense of familiarity. We crave normalcy and, to some degree, we cling to the delusional notion that someday our lives will be suspended in some abstract fixed state of continual satisfaction; we desire a state of being where all of our needs are met, so we conjure goals from our hopes, dreams, and role models to develop some plan of action for setting out on this quest.

However, the undertaking is tricky for two main reasons: first, future goals have a way of branching off into additional goals and/or dividing themselves into numerous subgoals that serve to continually postpone our attainment of the initial goal we set as our target; second, even when we have attained a particular goal, inevitability dissatisfaction and tension finds us once more, and we are left feeling as if we’ve drifted back to the shore from which we’d initially set sail. The cycle repeats once more.  

Many people convince themselves of their eventual conquer of this journey and spend their lives committed to this belief, even until their last day. Others, also convince themselves of thoughts more comforting than the truth and pretend that all their needs are already met, so there is no need for them to strive.

It is challenging to confront these distorted beliefs held within ourselves because to do so requires some degree of both acceptance and humility. Both of which are praised as virtues, when viewed from a distance, such as abstractly, but seldom do we genuinely wish to adopt and embody these virtues in the experiential realm. Rather, we decide that an intellectual appreciation of these virtues will suffice and, once more,  dodge the actual challenge presented to us by life.  

We spend most of our lives trying to avoid the realities of life by either convincing ourselves or allowing ourselves to be convinced by others’ fictions about life. This cognitive maneuvering allows us to sidestep the discomfort experienced when life’s challenges are indeed acknowledged as an obstacle. We prefer to become like Sisyphus destined to exert effort toward a task that never ceases in the rest of completeness but provides the illusion of progress by conflating motion with progress. Unlike Sisyphus who the repetition of his task to be his punishment, we harness our creative powers of meaning-making and allow our imaginations to construct grand narratives of how our work and task-pursuit are in fact of the utmost significance.  

There is real meaning to be found in the tasks we choose to undertake in our lives. However, issues tend to arise when we choose to deny the reality that we will never arrive at the fixed permanent state of satisfaction, which we so crave.

This issue resides within ourselves. We lack the sufficient self-knowledge necessary for us to properly identify what tasks, goals, and pursuits provide us with the meaning, purpose, and satisfaction we seek.

Consequently,  if we haven’t allowed ourselves to succumb to the illusion of pursuing tasks like Sisyphus, then we may find ourselves aimlessly wandering from place to place searching for others to tell us about where we should look within to discover answers to what propels our internal restlessness. This movement of outsourcing may even be taken so far as to alter how we perceive our inner world as to align ourselves more fully with the direction we’ve allowed others to corral towards. 

Yet, this too is fruitless and leads to feeling stifled or as if one were an imposter. Nevertheless, many choose this path because it supplies more comfort and security than embracing the alternative; that is, the recognition of what an incredibly challenging, ambiguous, and arduous task it is to become an individual.

A word of caution feels warranted here because of our proclivity to gravitate toward extremes. To be an individual is to understand, appreciate, and embrace the inherent uniqueness of oneself and others; it does not necessarily entail that one must become solely an individual concerned only for oneself and own self-interests.

This is an example of how often we take a particular point about a specific matter and then run ahead with it, applying it to a whole host of other ideas. Quickly, and often subtly, the result of this type of hasty generalization is a product that has lost its connection to, or hardly even resembles, the initial point from which it was derived. Consequently, this too leads back to another method of deceiving ourselves.

How significant must this force be that we try everything within our powers to wriggle our way out of having an encounter with it by means of avoidance, suppression, denial, and the list could continue ad infinium. Nevertheless, despite any of our attempts, like Sisyphus, we are not capable of such a maneuver, as to sidestep or bypass this force that imposes upon us, since, to succeed in such an endeavor would be to contradict our essential quality of being. For what confronts us is the task of becoming something with the being that is inherent to our existence. 

While the temptation to delegate the contemplation of the topic of being to the domain of the philosopher is an enticing way to, once again, duck our responsibility, we are nonetheless incapable of escaping the task placed upon us by life itself to discover what it is that we are, both as an individual and within the context of society.  

We know that we are something; we know that we exist and can quickly provide a list of identifiers to prove our existence within a societal context; that is, by utilizing the tool of language to articulate the ways by which we identify, or distinguish, ourselves from that of others. However, does this articulation of an inventory of individual identifiers truly resolve the task placed upon us by life? Is there not more to our existence and to who we uniquely are than merely that which can be articulated in a manner as to communicate it to others?

However, since these aspects to which I refer are definitionally ineffable, their existence becomes easy to merely dismiss as sophistry and continue navigating through life operating purely from what can be explicitly stated or objectively shown. Moreover, science and empiricism offer further validation that it is only the manifest, the quantifiable and the qualitative, that our existence is justified. Consequently, that which is unable to be spoken nor seen must then not actually exist. Yet, how much of our life is undermined and/or dismissed if our sole criterion for evaluating existence requires some sort of external or externalizable proof before being eligible to be deemed as being something “real”?

Voices of the Collective

If only we changed this single aspect, then these types of tragedies would be reduced or elminated; it’s too much of that and not enough of this; it’s actually too little of that and too much of this.

In fact, it’s not so much either this or that but rather another singluar aspect that hasn’t been taken into account appropriately: mental health. Actually, saying this is only a way of scapegoating the real issue of gun control and is even harmful to the work to destigmatize mental health.

I think it’s the effect of these new and extremely life-like video games that are normalizing violence, even encouraging it. Actually, the research doesn’t support the connection between violence in video games as a predictor for the committment of violent acts.

It’s probably the constant coverage the news media provides that serves to amplify the perpetrator and allow for others to seek that kind of recongition, especially because of our culture’s emphasis on celebrities.

Whatever cause or combination of causes that resulted in the action does nothing to erase the actuality that it happened, and it hurts — it should hurt because it is a tragedy.

Often we become lost in muddled arguments and too quick to avoid genuine engagement in them. However, without the proper usage of argumentation and discourse within the public square, nothing has been processed nor any action taken toward the prevention. Consequently, we are just taken back to where we started; another repetition completed.

What was gained this time around?

Aging and Emotional Preferences

Most of us strive to feel good; this doesn’t necessarily mean we are continually striving after pleasure in a hedonistic sense; rather, our strivings toward feeling good can be described as striving toward feeling a positive affect.

In science, and specifically the field of psychology, the term affect typically refers to the visible manifestation of a given underlying emotional experience by a person. Within the context of the affect valuation theory, the term affect is used even more specifically by including three dimensions that comprise affect (Barrett & Bliss-Moreau, 2009):

  1. Valence – the subjective evaluation of a particular experience as being either positive or negative.
  2. Arousal – refers to the degree of activation of the nervous system, typically ranging from low-high levels of arousal; higher levels of arousal, in this context, refer to increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system.
  3. Motivation – in relation to these other dimensions and the overall theory, this type of motivation is referring to the strength (or intensity) of a person’s desire (or urge) to take action toward or away from a particular experiential state of being.

To return back to the initial idea of striving toward positive affect states of being, researchers Scheibe et al. (2013) further examined the findings regarding affect valuation theory, particularly focusing on the critical point that the nature of what is a “positive” versus a “negative” affective experience is subjective and, thus, highly dependent upon the individual’s preference.

However, previous research had already indicated that the dimension of arousal is one way of differentiating the differences within individuals’ ideal positive or negative affective state. For example, some individuals sought positive affective states that incorporated low arousal, such as feelings of calm, peace, and so on, while others preferred ideal positive states that included high arousal levels, such as excitement and enthusiasm.

While high or low arousal offers some clarity for distinguishing between differences in a person’s ideal positive state, the results of Scheibe et al.’s research (2013) provided further support for the notion that aging is associated differences in the type of ideal positive states (low or high arousal) preferred by the individual. For example, their research found that older adults showed a greater preference for low arousal positive affective states (LAP) compared to that of high arousal positive states (HAP). Furthermore, while  this preference for LAP versus HAP was present in all three of the study’s older age groups (ages, 40-59, 60-79, and over 80), it was most pronounced in the oldest age group of participants (over the age of 80). In contrast, the age group for younger adults (less than age 40), did not reveal a preference for one state over the other and instead indicated valuing low and high arousal positive affective states equally.

While these findings suggest that a gradual shift in preference for the type of positive affective state does change with the natural course of aging, it also shows this change is a relative one; that is, even those in the oldest age group still reported a motivation for high arousal affective states.

Therefore, our ideal positive affect seems to include both low- and high-arousal states. The degree to which we prefer one over the other may vary between individuals, but the overarching trend is appears to be a gradual shift away from higher-arousal states, such as excitement and zeal, toward a greater emphasis on and appreciation of lower-arousal states that provide us a sense of peace and tranquility. Nevertheless, there is a need for both types of experiential states, and our motivation to attain these states through experience will continue to propel our actions, though the course of time may guide more toward one side.

Reference

Scheibe, S., English, T., Tsai, J. L., & Carstensen, L. L. (2013). Striving to feel good: Ideal affect, actual affect, and their correspondence across adulthood. Psychology and Aging, 28(1), 160–171. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030561

Barrett L. F., Bliss-Moreau E. (2009). Affect as a psychological primitive. Adv. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 41, 167–218. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2601(08)00404-8

Internal Infrastructure: Building Bridges

The mind is prone to wandering. The ego has a tendency toward striving. To ground oneself becomes a continual challenge while withstanding the pushes and pulls of life. It is as if you are a boat being pushed to and fro by the turbulence of the sea in search of an anchor to drop, which would allow, at least, a brief reprieve from the waves. An anchor fixes you to a point in a physical sense.

However, its function in this case is not a physical sense; rather, it is a mental (or psychic) image of an object that offers a sense of feeling more grounded. The mind will soon wander once more or confront another unsettling visitor who comes and knocks at our mind’s door; so it is with life.

There is always more to be drawn out from the shadows—as long as light continues to shine. The scope of the unknowable is and will always be unknown; through repetition and indirect of methods of approximations, the distance between the known and unknown can be lessened, inferences and hypotheses can be made with reasonable certainty—however, it will forever remain a limit of human knowledge to determine the extent to which content stills remains lurking in the darkness of the depths. The totality can never be reached through rational thought, only approximated; to assert otherwise is to demonstrate one’s unconsciousness by pretending to have mapped and ascertained that which, by its very nature, is unknowable, both in scope and nature.

This point of not only acknowledging the existence of that which is unconscious but also appreciating the necessary way in which it exceeds are limited ego-consciousness is a point Carl Jung raises throughout his works. Jung was emphatic that the unconscious cannot be ignored nor overlooked, and Warren Colman encapsulates Jung’s sentiment on the matter quite succinctly, writing, “Jung repeatedly insists on this radically unknown quality of the unconscious: since everything known is a content of consciousness, the very idea of the unconscious presupposes all that is unknown and, since it is unknown, we cannot have any knowledge of its nature or its limits. All that we can say about it is said on the basis of its manifestations in consciousness” (p. 157, Papadopoulos, 2006).

Therefore, according to Jung, through this acknowledgment of some unknown, unconscious factor that exists within and without, our task emerges: to form a relationship with this unconscious self from the stance of our ego-consciousness. It is through this relational bridge that we ferry back-and-forth from one side to the other, striving toward an increasing sense of wholeness. Jung referred to this as the “process of individuation.” It is a manner of forming an integrated personality of selfhood that is unique, full, and rich through the arduous and continuous process of self-refinement. A central method of this process is our relationship with those unconscious parts of ourselves and how we work toward reintegrating those pieces that are split off for one reason or another. However, all of this hinges on the connection between the two sides, conscious (ego)/unconscious, if one side is denied existence, then not only are these methods of healing not allowed, but “dangers” emerge from this “one-sidedness” that can lead to “psychic epidemics” (1959).

References

Papadopoulos, R. K. (2006). The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice and Applications (1st ed.) [E-book]. Routledge.

Jung, C. G., & Hull, R. (1959/1990). The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1) (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, 48) (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G., Hull, R. F. C., & Shamdasani, S. (1958/2010). The Undiscovered Self: With Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams (Jung Extracts, 37) (Revised ed.). Princeton University Press.

An Analysis of Initial Conditions

One of the principle issues in philosophy is causality. Whether engaged in from an academic viewpoint or not the matter of causality is inescapable. In order to have an ordered view of our worlds’, we must have some degree of an organizing principle. And, in order to do this, we also must be able to manipulate objects.

Initially, as children, we learn to manipulate objects in the external world. It is from these experiments that we then can derive and infer broader rules of how objects are to be organized.

Causality is a central concept to understanding the other governing principles that constitute specific “relational frames.” We learn that a given object has a specific name that refers to it; we learn to coordinate objects (e.g., this is next to that); we learn to compare (e.g., this is better than that).

These frames are interesting in their own right, however, they are subordinate to the governing principles, such as causality. In fact, it is chiefly causality that is necessary for the appropriate functioning of one’s ability to organize.

The child is able to experiment and learn from these external objects through an innate sense of causality in conjunction with a basic understanding of laws of nature, specifically time and space (space-time).

Now, these external objects are not just randomly tossed about in the child’s environment, rather, as the child continues to learn, they develop a model or representation of the external world, akin to a map.

These objects have names, coordinates, relations, and a whole host of complex calculations can now be performed. However, this new layer of complexity is taking place within the child’s model of the internal world.

Thus, the external objects, including people, are no longer bound to only the outside world, but they are now a part of the growing internal world.

Here, causality returns to the foreground, as it becomes more nuanced and convoluted with the introduction of the emergence of the idea of self and the internal world.

For example, as children, if child A pushes child B, and there exists an adult who witnesses the order of events, then the correct causality is clear to the adult, and likely known to both children, but their finger-pointing is irrelevant, for there exists an objective vantage point from which causality can be evaluated.

This ceases to be the case as the internal world becomes more complex and one’s sense of self further develops. Armed with agendas, biases, and defensive weaponry, the battle for objective reality becomes one of immense uncertainty.

For example, if adult A pushes adult B, and there exists adult C who witnesses the order of this event, then the order of causality is no longer clear. For adult C cannot serve as some kind of Archimedean point, as the presence of the adult in the previous example could.

This results in a variety of distortions that extend much further than these simplistic situations. For example, this challenge posed by conceptualizing causality is one of the issues within the conventional Western model of medicine. There is such an emphasis on treating the effect that the cause becomes of less importance; however, this doesn’t take into account the significant role of circular causality within systems and rather focuses on linear causality.

As a general rule, linear approaches are suitable for arriving at a solution, but there exist issues whose nature are not fully accounted for by this type of approach, such as the double-bind, which we will explore in subsequent writings.

A Solemn Reflection on Humanity

Consumption and greed are how many feed.

Although there are those whose desire for might supersedes their own foresight.

Blessed be the right, for they know of no sleep tonight.

Rest be assured all of whom refuse to be allured.

Led down into the depths of deception,

Eyes blurred by the grandeur produced from a sense of righteousness.

Lest our souls never forget this, that we are but singularities.

Let our minds never become clouded to the point where we view despair with unyielding eyes,

Where are convictions of morality overlook actuality and meet human necessity with no degree of decency.

Work within to not succumb to those darker urges of rage nor resign to a state of callous indifference.

For then, what is anything for, if we know no more of one another;

And, instead, have found sustenance from believing we are above all others?

A Psychological Survey of Current Events

“When a speculative philosopher believes he has comprehended the world once and for all in his system, he is deceiving himself; he has merely comprehended himself and then naively projected that view upon the world.” – C.G. Jung

The beliefs held by individuals comprising today’s society have become increasingly separated from one another; that is, the foundational beliefs that previously were points of overlap are following the trend of polarization.

Most recently, this pattern of civil disagreement is being illustrated with the rising tensions between the West and Russia. Interestingly, those in the United States who align with the political Right have taken an almost sympathetic approach to Russia, during this geopolitical event. While legislation about addressing this issue has been, relatively speaking, met with bipartisan support, conservative media figures and influencers, such as Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk, have continued to focus on domestic suspicions related to the situation.

One example that illustrates this point is what Donald Trump Jr. stated to Sean Hannity of Fox News, speculating that the U.S. intelligence agencies could be “lying to us to try to instigate us getting into another war.” This statement provides insight into more than merely thoughts about the elements of this particular world event; it serves to highlight the core issue of our current civil differences: doubt and distrust.

The focus of this article is not about the given political ideologies themselves, rather I have selected this quote about this current event to serve as a point of inquiry for investigating the broader societal and psychological changes that are associated with and have contributed to this way of thinking about the government. Moreover, this particular geopolitical issue is a significant indicator to explore broader trends because both party’s stance toward Russia has historically been united and, particularly, this political issue previously was a point of emphasis for the political Right and central reason for the lasting influence of the Regan administration on the conservative movement.

However, it would seem that this historical precedent has been less than influential than that of the checked past of the United States intelligence agencies on shaping conservatives’ views about the current international issue. This seemingly indicates that distrust of government is stronger than that of historical precedent related to political part.

Furthermore, even if the point of the intelligence agencies is conceded, and we adopt the belief that these agencies have and continue to operate nefariously, the counterbalance, in this particular situation, is believing Russian intelligence. Additionally, this situation is broader than merely the United States’ intelligence agencies against those of Russia, but it includes the collective intelligence efforts of Western countries comprised in NATO. Therefore, the scope and magnitude of the current situation implies not only a doubt of the U.S. but also of those Western countries unified against Russia.

Some political analysts have explained that the current situation is similar to two different types of civilizations trying to determine a way to coexist. China’s tacit support of Russia appear to substantiate this notion of the current situation being that of a standoff of the East and the West.

However, this makes the statement doubting the United States intelligence agencies more confusing, given the popular conspiratorial belief that President Biden and Vice President Harris are puppet leaders installed by the Chinese government. Since the second half of initial statement insinuates (arguably outright accuses) that the U.S. intelligence agencies are stoking the tensions between Russia and Ukraine to initiate a war, then it would not be logical to hold both of these beliefs simultaneously; that is, the current administration are puppets of the Chinese government and that the intelligence agencies are trying to start a war that would poise the U.S. and China against one another (as U.S. officials have asserted their intention to hold China responsible for their enabling of Russia were war to occur).

This is one of many examples of cognitive dissonance that have been more clearly elucidated by the current geopolitical situation. From a psychological perspective, to assert claims of doubt and distrust toward the U.S. and Western intelligence agencies necessarily implies a belief in another information source that is considered to be more credible. From a societal perspective, the issue of a source’s credibility is increasingly contributing to ruptures within the public sphere and appears to be breaking off into fragments of information bubbles, diminishing the capacity for civic discourse by reducing the areas of overlap that serve as a necessary foundation for starting a discourse from agreed upon premises. Lastly, while the outcome of the current geopolitical tensions between the East and West are still to be determined, it appears that despite what does or does not occur there is significant fracturing within the landscape of the United States.

Psychological Fragments: Ease and Uncertainty

Cognitive ease states that how efficiently we process information influences our attitude and feelings toward whatever that something is that we are mentally engaged with; moreover, our motivation to expend effort and move toward (approach) or opt for conserving energy and not taking action toward whatever the perceived end goal might be is also affected by our evaluation of the relative amount of effort (i.e., cost) and appraisal of the expected outcome (i.e., reward).

Furthermore, research continues to highlight that uncertainty is closely intertwined with stress, as researchers Peters, McEwen, and Friston underscore in their 2017 article exploring the connections between uncertainty and stress:  “Applied to our everyday life, this means that we feel uncertain, when we anticipate that outcomes will turn out to be something other than expected – and that we are unable to avoid surprise. As all cognitive systems strive to reduce their uncertainty about future outcomes, they face a critical constraint: Reducing uncertainty requires cerebral energy.”

When conceptualized in this manner, it becomes easier to understand our cognitive processes from a cost-benefit system based on forms of energy as the common currency; however, this serves only to model, or construct a somewhat clearer mental representation of what is happening in our inner worlds. This stops short of providing more information for understanding the ways in which our drives and motives are set into motion through our perceptions, appraisals, and wagers on future events and actions.

Reference

A. Peters B. S. McEwen K. Friston. (2017). Uncertainty and stress: Why it causes diseases and how it is mastered by the brain. Progress in Neurobiology. Volume 156, September 2017, Pages 164-188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2017.05.004

Flows and Fragments

Celebrate with a drink! Cheers to good health with the consumption of a known toxin.
Mustn’t let yourself fret over such trivialities – let’s return to building our own reality.
Where to begin? Are you a friend or foe? Wait – regardless of what you say, how can I trust you?
The response would naturally then be: how can I trust anyone?

We are pressed often by pain; often driven or propelled by an internal pressure that combusts to sustain our inner flame.
The heat motivates, or rather, stirs us into motion. Fueled by an emotion at any given time sets our actions into motions.
Each presumably, and hopefully, preceded by a deliberation followed by a conscious decision. If we know the act was driven instinctually, in most cases, this being synonymous with the term unconscious, then we can conclude or redirect our initial inquiry.

If we know the actor of an action didn’t do so intentionally, i.e., remember not having thought prior to their action, then we can eliminate this channel of inquiry. This speaks nothing of the tenability of other channels. Particularly, we move to the group that can at least acknowledge the presence, even in retrospect, that the effect of their action emerged from some choice on some level of emotive (including somatic) and/or cognitive (e.g., linguistic) grounding.
To acknowledge a phenomena’s existence must precede the stage of naming such a thing – order of events is an important rule of thumb to help remember the principle of reversibility.

Still waters – why do we believe we strive for stillness? Because we’re so busy we are dying to rest? True. But this merely means that we need rest and not that we want to stay there. Sure. We may want to now, as we think of this as a future potentiality, but our minds would likely change upon the actualization of this desire. However, this speaks to reduction of tension not to an elimination of it altogether. Rather, this speaks to a wish for a temporary tensive reprieve.

As actors, we enjoy getting to act upon others. This of course requires there exists others upon whom we might be able to act. But their existence can be conjured in the imagination, if necessary, so we’ll make the assumption and conclude in the affirmative of this statement’s validity.

Next, to move as an actor onto another, there must exist some dimensional gradient; that is, an imbalance that functions like a slope allowing for flow to occur. This is juxtaposed to stagnation. That is to say that the actor and the acted upon must have some degree of difference (> 0). This needn’t be a categorical difference. It merely must be enough of a difference to allow for the bifurcation of identity, i.e., each receives its own identity. Some degree of sovereignty over our own machine; how’s that working out?

We spend time worrying about the various things that are going to or have the potential to kill us while overlooking the stronger likelihood that the culmination of stress, pain, fatigue, apathy, and chronic pain will somehow not ultimately be our killer. I believe we secretly wish this to be true because then we wager with the death toll collector about when, or at what age is our toll due, evading these types of contemplations through the inner games we play with ourselves to manipulate time.