“It is a common delusion that you make things better by talking about them.” Rose MacAulay

A little while ago someone said to me “Psychology doesn’t work.” I felt a bit defensive about this, since I am studying psychology (with Psychosynthesis and Ecopsychology) and find it a valuable and useful tool in my work. But it soon occurred to me that they were right! Psychology doesn’t work at all. It’s just a bunch of theories and methods for knowing and working with the human mind. Just tools.

People work, not psychology. People make psychology work.

If you are not willing to look within yourself and understand yourself using psychology then of course it doesn’t work! People go to therapy or counselling hoping that some “magic wand” (or pill) will help them get better, that somehow you just turn up and They; the therapists, psychiatrists and counsellors will do something. They don’t. They can only share their understanding and help facillitate your inner work. Maybe they can help start the process of inner healing with their knowledge and understanding but it’s not them that will have to follow through and accomplish the work (though sometimes these psychological facillitators may not always be competent, as I’ve found out, further undermining the value of psychology). Will power is a very important part of the process; the willingness to look at yourself and do the necessary work.

It’s a common delusion that someone else can work on your own psychological processes. That’s the delusion. There’s no one else in that mind except you and yourself. You will have to face Yourself someday, in the end. Know thyself (and what a journey that’s been, and will continue to be!).

To reflect on the quote above; of course talking doesn’t make “things” better. It’s not “things” that understand words but people. People understand words, they understand their significance, and words can help affect changes within. To give one example they can work like a release valve, releasing some of the pressure within (“A problem shared is a problem halved,” as they say).

And sometimes you don’t even need another person to hear them, sometimes it’s just worthwhile to put your inner thoughts and feelings into words that can help clarify and reflect on what’s going on (for years I’ve found this release mostly through poetry. In fact any art will do). But communication of inner thoughts and feelings also stops people from becoming isolated within themselves, proper communication, not just talking for the sake of talking. Talking for the sake of creating understanding.

Psychology doesn’t work, people do.

“People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.” Denzel Washington as Eli in The Book of Eil

Why are post-apocalyptic films so resonant? Why do they speak to us as though they are relevant? Is it because they talk about something that will happen?

Or is it because they are talking about something that has happened, and in fact is happening now?

Appearances aren’t what they seem. What Denzel is describing isn’t just something that happens before a apocalypse, something that creates it, it itself is he apocalypse. Instead he is describing an apocalyptic world! The Buddha was right, the action that creates the karma is the karma itself.

Let’s face it, whilst there are lots of nasty happenings in the world can we really believe that everything is right in the wealthier countries? We’re in the midst of an apocalypse right now, but some countries can hide it better than others. But how long can we hide it?

Ok ok ok, maybe saying “apocalypse” may be a bit of an exaggeration. And by that I mean I don’t expect the Four Horsemen to materialize and cause havoc, the anti-Christ to wage war or the Kingdom of God to miraculously descend on Earth after all the bad things have happened. Or that the Earth suddenly stop existing, like it really is the “end of the world”.

But there is something not quite right. And apocalypse seems to be a frighteningly relevant word even if not particularily accurate.

I look at our “wealth” and have a feeling that something isn’t quite right, that it’s all a lot of a show and no substance, that the foundation is all a bit, well, flimsy to say the least. A look at the facts about peak oil shows just how flimsy. We have built a stone castle of cardboard foundations!

What are the essentials for living a fulfilling and healthy life that don’t include “lots of stuff”?

How can we dig down through the foundations of our society and find the bedrock that we really need?

Can we do it before this Great Edifice collapses on us?

And what is it that we really need to build and develop?

One thing’s for sure, some films get you thinking and questioning… and if more people do that we are en route to a better world.

The quote above hints at something, and that is the values we hold, the values that lead us to use or misuse the world around us… and each other.

We build our world by our values. What values are we building with?

“Anatta: Literally ‘not-self’. The teaching that there is nothing that we can call a fixed self.” Jim Pym, You Don’t Have to Sit On the Floor

“Buddhism is often accused of being a religion so aborbed in the impersonal and the eternal that it overlooks the importance of individual and temporal things. According to its teachings, all things that have form are subject to change and void of any enduring “self,” but this does not imply that such things are unimportant.” Alan Watts

“It may only be a certain nagging sense that the world you live in does not fit. The job you hold, the education you recieve, the institutions that claim authority over you ( the government, the corporations, the courts, the welfare system), all these may seem to have been crudely designed for everybody in general, but for no body in person – least of all you.” Theodore Roszak, Person/Planet

“And still, you know, with an instinctive conviction, that there is an essential you behind all the world’s imposed identities, a you that needs a meaning of your own making, a personal emblem to hold in the face of grief and before the advance of death.” TR

“To give a face to the faceless, a voice to the voiceless – and to each person the one face, the one voice that is uniquely theirs… that is the meaning of personhood.” TR

In Buddhism there is the idea of anatta or no-self. That really the self is just a composition of various elements, converging and diverging in a series of rebirths. Science seems to confirm this; “I” am just a product of a highly developed neurological system, evolved in order to give coherence to the psychological experience of being an organism, itself constituted from various cells, genes, molecules and atoms in a state of flux or “rebirths”.

According to this explanation self is an experience that appears when I awaken and disappears when I go to sleep. If this is the case then “I” do not exist when the brain rests, and perhaps it is a different “I” that wakes up than the one going to sleep the night before. Perhaps “I” am a different “I” every moment time passes. The brain is not static, all cells and molecules within it are in a constant state of flux and nor is its sense of self.

And yet, there it remains; a strong, persistent sense of self. Despite changing over time, despite interruptions in the flow of consciousness called sleep, there is a strong sense of continuity, that, despite being different ages and with different personal qualities, the “I” ten years ago is the same “I” that is experience by this brain now.

Science says I am an impersonal package of impersonal neurons and synapses evolved to ensure the survival of the whole organism and the species of which I am a part. They may well be right, and I don’t deny there is truth to that. But really, let’s be serious, this is not how I experience myself, and no matter how many times I try to convince myself otherwise there’s that persistent feeling that “I” am there and “I” am very real and undeniable.

And with a scientific view we might say that this is fine, it’s way we have evolved, it’s how the organism survives and ensures the survival of its species. But even such a reductionist explanation still doesn’t quite do it justice, not the way I live it every day of my life. I feel it needs more honouring than that (and perhaps that’s just another survival trait?).

From an impersonal “soup” we call the Universe, a person can emerge, consciousness can take on a personal form! Not like it is imposed from somewhere “outside” or “beyond” but that personality is latent in the physical laws of the Universe. “I” existed as sleeping potential in the very fabric of the Universe, but without form or presence. And then an impersonal egg and sperm came together and began a journey that would lead to personhood through a miracle of biology and neurology, with millions of years of evolution preceding this moment. And this has happened not just once but many times over. Millions of persons. Billions of persons. Individual persons, not just masses of people.

Amazing that each human face and each human voice is so distinctive as to not be confused with anybody else… most of the time. Imagine over 6 Billion people with a face and a voice that is uniquely theirs! And that’s only now, imagine all the unique humans there have been and the unique humans there will be! Even animals transmit some sort of instinctive self, if my Cocker Spaniel is in a room of similar Cocker Spaniels I’ll still know which one is “her”. It is imprinted in me. Something that happens with people we don’t know as well, though seem to know so well…

You hear a voice on the radio, you see a face on the TV and instantly you have a sense of recognition. Sometimes you may not remember the name or why they are famous but instantly you know it is that person and no one else. Looking at a DVD cover right now I see a woman’s face, I don’t recognise her. I see a name -Kate Beckinsale- and instant recognition comes to me, it is her, much much younger but you see it is the same “person”. And turning over to the back I see another picture of her with another man poring over a map or something and I recognise him instantly; Art Malik. I see only his face looking down, can’t see much of a profile but I know it is him. Why can’t I mistake him for anyone else if he and I are just impersonal bundles of neurons and synapses amongst billions?

Impossible! Isn’t it? And what if it isn’t impossible, what if it is true? Doesn’t that make it even more of a miracle that “I” am here communicating with “you”?

How can individual unique persons be so “mass produced” in such an unconscious and impersonal Universe? The mind boggles! The mind gropes for some plausible fantasy to explain this; a “superbeing” “out there,” or manifest destiny, or a ghost in the machine, or, or, or…

It’s a miracle of nature, an implausible reality, to distill many millions, billions, trillions of impersonal elements; like cells, atoms, subatomic particles, through long long processes of evolution to finally arrive at personhood! The machine is the ghost! There I am. And there you are!

Miracles, each of us.

“Above all, and most immediately, we face the end of the cheap fossil fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as a benefit of modern life. All the necessities, comforts, luxuries and miracles of our time – central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lighting, cheap clothing, recorded music, movies, supermarkets, power tools, hip replacement, surgery, the national defense, you name it – owe their origins or continued existence in one way or another to cheap fossil fuel.” James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century

“Rebuilding local agriculture and food production, localising energy production, rethinking healthcare, rediscovering local building materials in the context of zero energy building, rethinking how we manage waste, all build resilience and offer the potential of an extraordinary renaissance – economic, cultural and spiritual.” Rob Hopkins, The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience

I have only just learnt about Peak Oil. I’ve been more interested in a parallel subject; climate change, and must have skipped over this one completely. But then I’ve also been realising that this issue really isn’t that well known in general, so I’m passing the message along!

I knew long ago what the definition of “non-renewable” was and how that fits in with fossil fuels, but I didn’t know when or what would be happening. After reading The Long Emergency and now reading The Transitions Handbook my eyes are opening a little wider.

But Peak Oil isn’t about having no more oil, this is an issue that happens before then, when we have reached the maximum amount of oil we’ll ever use in history, after which oil becomes more scarce and more difficult to extract and thus more expensive. It’s also when demand for it outweighs supply, clearly a balance that just doesn’t work.

And it’s not a case of replacing oil for other sources of energy because oil represents an energy source that has been created over a long amount of time, storing energy from the sun that arrived on he Earth long ago. It’s like we’re rereleasing all of that energy, whereas something like solar can only absorb as much solar energy as there is in the sky at one time.

There’s something called Energy Return On Energy invested (EROEI). If you’ve ever had to live with a log fire you know that energy has to be put in (chopping, purchase, transport, lighting and maintaining) to get energy out (heat and light). At one point the EROEI of oil was 100:1, which means you could invest one unit of energy or money and get 100 units back. Now it’s closer to 20:1.

Other energy sources have much lower EROEI. Here’s a website with some EROEI figures: http://www.eroei.com/eroei/evaluations/net-energy-list/

Other energy sources will replace some of what oil supplied us with, but no where near the amounts we’ve had in the last century or so. This means not only a change in infrastructure but also in the lifestyles of people.

You can see this as a crisis (long emergency) or an opportunity (transition). In truth it’ll be an uneven mix with not one or the other in different parts of the world. Places where their pre-industrial economies have remained intact may not feel the impact of this so much and also places that have prepared for a post-oil world ( such as the Transitions Movement- http://www.transitiontowns.org/ ).

One thing’s for sure, we’re going to be seeing changes which’ll effect us all for How we take that is up to us (all).

“Eat, drink and be scary.” Anon

Yes it’s that time of year, where we celebrate… fear! Boo!

Fake plastic fear where money making entities prey on the fears of people to suck them of their money, creating fantasies that infect the minds of the common populace with “fun” fear just to make profit.

But as you wander around dressed as vampire, werewolf, ugly green witch or some other imaginary monster remember that there is real fear in the world, that somewhere out there there is someone hoping that today won’t be the day that a bullet or bomb takes their life, that somewhere out there a real monster lurks haunting (or abusing) the mind, heart and body of their victim. Yes, it’s true, there is such thing as real fear! Does that suprise you?

Are we so detached from our emotions and reality that we have to compensate with a synthetic fear?

I look at the Earth, at the changing season. I see Samhain, the ancient festival that honours ancestors gone from life and observes the life of the Earth begin to rest for the winter. That is the truth of the season, we’d do well to remember that.

Samhain blessings.

“A gentleman never offends unintentionally.” Oscar Wilde

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” Noël Coward

I had a dream that I was trying to provoke someone I know into showing some authentic emotion, because he’s always too nice to be real. I think I tried to smash up some of his stuff but to no avail, he just wasn’t getting the hint. In the end it was “me” that had the problem with anger and he was “so glad to have been able to help”, as if I was the one needing therapy! So patronising! So frustrating! And in my own dream too!

That reminds me of a discussion I had on a message board I was involved with, talking about how rubbish the state of the world is. People were leaving positive yet realistic comments saying “It’s bad but we’re trying to do something about it.” I felt positive, it felt like it was going somewhere, and then someone said something that just deflated the whole thing, something that finished off the conversation like a soggy balloon. It’s like a seed had just started to grow but was quickly crushed underfoot by someone that didn’t see it (from henceforth I shall call them BigBlindFoot).

So I got angry (on purpose), making a very sarcastic comment in response, which was invariably misunderstood by others as something unreasonable and even insulting. I even got a mild warning from the moderator (I have a little celebration when I get one of those, it means I’ve got somewhere near to the truth! hehehe) I wasn’t trying to start a flaming war, honest! My intention wasn’t a random explosion of anger but a conscious attempt to provoke some intense, yet constructive, discussion; anger that blows away cobwebs and brings focus to an otherwise random or deflated mess.

On the Internet? You must be joking! BigBlindFoot didn’t even respond, either they were intimidated by what I said (unlikely as they consider themselves a Warrior! RAAAH!!!), or they were hiding behind the shield of misunderstanding that others had created for them, or their comment was a Hit and Run comment, which they just left there for others to pick up the pieces. After my “explosion” I went into reasonable diplomat mode, which neutralised my earlier comment as I saw I was going nowhere except into a deeper hole.

I hate it when I make an impassioned comment and it doesn’t get answered (grrr anger grrr). I’ve noticed that when I write a response that is particularly clear and strong in meaning and feeling, people somehow “lose” the energy to respond, so they don’t respond. I get the feeling that sometimes what I’ve said is so accurate and to-the-point (on no! But I can’t say that, that’s conceited *gasp* shock-horror!) that people can’t find any way to disagree and yet they don’t want to agree, so they “conveniently” stay silent on the subject. Or if they do respond it’s a flippant joke used to deflate any potential seriousness and if I (rightly) get angry at that it’s because I “lack a sense of humour.” The Internet is a rabbit warren that houses some slippery inhabitants, I warn thee!

And then of course discussions are usually “played” like a round of opinion-tennis, comments go backwards and forwards but no one gets anywhere. It gets going and then ends when the balls drops because all people are trying to do is get points for being “right” or “wrong.” That’s how I perceive the nature of most (but not all!!!) message board discussions, where casual comments are preferred over sustained dialogue. But that’s only to be expected in large group settings where dialogue intent is often diluted. (Sometimes it’s funny (haha grr haha, oh I’m laughing, grr) to get a comment that is COMPLETELY out of context, because someone that doesn’t “get” what I’m talking about and instead picks on one little irrelevent detail).

One-on-one, now that’s usually interesting and it often goes somewhere! There’s a feeling of something being built, of a relationship growing from it (like the seed metaphor from earlier). The discussion’s energy is focussed, its evolution is clear yet organic, and usually not a random mess. Honest anger is not misunderstood or taken out of context but fuels the conversation in a positive way, if properly focussed.

Still, the chaos of some message boards is entertaining and educational. It’s a place to experiment, to learn how people tick and how many different ways I can be angry without breaching too many limits (oh what sport!). But wouldn’t it be nice if dialogues could grow, flower and fruit instead of just appearing and disappearing. I’m sure it must happen… somewhere…

So what now? These wise words were spoken to me once; light the blue touch paper and stand well back!

I haven’t written here for a while, but I thought I’d share this. It’s something I wrote for a message board. I’ve talked about it a bit before in at least two different blogs. Some of these quotes have made a guest appearance before.

Psychological Synergy is how I am describing my political view point. Psychology because that is my political tool. And Synergy because that is my utopian vision.

My ideas are probably left-leaning, liberal and green, or something like that. But for me that doesn’t sufficiently answer the deeper problem. Protests, policies, votes, petitions, bills, laws etc etc etc are very good at changing things, and a lot of things do need changing. However changing things doesn’t always change people, and if the people aren’t changed then the things that are changed do not have a strong foundation for any change at all.

Psychological Politics
“Neuroses are much more difficult to get rid of than beliefs. We can all change our opinions more easily than we can eliminate destructive patterns in our lives, however hard we try. It is the same with religion and, surely, the same with a culture. Our religious beliefs may have changed but our emotional compulsions have remained.” Karen Wilson. And it’s the same with politics; we may make changes to the structure of society, and who runs it and how they run it, but the people within that society don’t change and so the same problems appear again, just through different people and different social structures and different political ideologies.

Psychological reform at a political level is near impossible. And perhaps it is better that way as the power to create psychological reform at political level would get into the wrong hands, which would mean certain brain-washing of the populace. It is best to keep the two things separate, with psychological reform “infiltrating” society and politics from the bottom up rather than being imposed from the top-down and politics itself being used as a relatively stable structure within which to enact any such changes.

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” Confucius

Psychological reform must start with the individual. Each person takes responsibility for themselves, their own life and for their part in the world. From this strong foundation they have the strength and integrity to resolves the problems of others. This cannot be something imposed by anyone or anything else but only freely chosen by the individual. But the more people that choose this path the easier it becomes to choose as the social momentum builds, making change exponential.

Utopian Synergy
The first part of my Utopia is seen in this quote;
“If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.” Carl Rogers
Each individual is encouraged, from birth, to be an individual, to grow to be psychologically independent. In this way the power structure of society is interdependently represented in the minds of each individual and not separated into those “who know”, those “who govern” and those “who do.” Each individual becomes a whole person in themselves, without having to be compensated for their lack by other people. People can still specialize in certain professions and fulfill specific roles, but they don’t need to be so psychologically programmed to fit those, developing a holistic intelligence of all psychological functions; spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, social etc

If each person is psychologically whole and balanced and able to maintain that independently then the need for control on society would be obsolete; “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” Plato. The “law and order” would be maintained by the individuals themselves without it having to imposed in by them, because part of being whole and balanced human beings is to be a social creature, part of a group or community, and to be able to make that group or community work; “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi. Social consensus, theoretically, would come natural to whole, balance and autonomous individuals.

This is Synergy, where each individual is psychologically independent enough not to need governing by any external entity and lives a life of personal fulfillment and freedom, and yet also willingly acts as a participant in the working of their society. I’d imagine that in this situation the need for politics and government would become minimal, serving only as a point of communication and coordination between people and populations. Organisation and conflict resolution would be inbuilt in all levels; social, national and international, all because it would psychologically developed and maintained in each individual involved with these levels. Citizens could trust their government and the government could trust their citizens.

And everyone would be free, fulfilled and harmonious, peace would reign, no one would want, and they’d all live in balance with the Earth and its resources and making developments to society in an ethical way. All because each and every individual is, and has been raised to be, psychologically autonomous, balanced and whole.

This is Utopia, not reality. It is my Vision, my North Star. I won’t see it in my lifetime, maybe no one will, but this Vision guides my steps as I walk my chosen path. I attend to my spiritual and psychological needs first and foremost and work to express that into my life and collaborate with those who share my vision, to be able to express it in the world. At present the democratic politics I’m in allow me this, so I’m pro-democracy but I need to see beyond it too. Before I work on the world, I work on myself.