“Dear Bob, Call Dr. Wilson. I am tired. Hope this works. Good bye, my darling. They can’t cure me, so let it go at that. Lovingly, Florence -P.S. You’ve all been swell guys. Everything is yours.”
These explanations, given by great authorities of science, and often expounded in the presentist, narcissistic-wonderment of journalism, leaves the reader with an illusion of knowing -the false sense of security that the great ecclesiastics of modernity have it all under control.
The lesson is: genes, neurotransmitters, hormones, and cells, taken collectively, are expressions of what we call, on the social or personal level, emotions, motivation, and action. These are not causes, but rather, qualities.
Photo 1978 by Sophie Bassouls.
I was recently asked to address a group of students on this question: what is the single most important issue facing America today? As expected my fellow guests, a philosopher, a sociologist, and a psychologist, seemed to situate themselves around a predictable hub of economic, ecological, and national security issues. Instead I proposed that the greatest threat to America today was the American attitude itself. It is not an external threat, but rather, an internal locus, a sort of pathological way of being that has come to be a hallmark of success. I want to outline what I had to say in that discussion. It centers on the ideas of two thinkers, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, and is nicely articulated by a third, Erich Fromm.
We call this cultural force desire. The social animal is a transcended Being that is not governed by cause-and-effect chains of logic, but rather, by an integrated being-in-the-world in which an individual’s environment is not an objective situation that they are in, but rather, an active interpretation that they are participating in making. We find here a main point in Fromm’s thinking, that we are not confronted with culture, but that we are a vital, shaping agent of culture. This is a sort of feedback-feedforward loop that is experienced as the world we live in. In fact, it is less a world we live in and more a world that lives within us.
“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.” -Eric Fromm
Fechner’s iceberg analogy adapted to Freud’s topography.
|Chromatic Gradation Effect|
- The fundamental human condition is a striving from a state of “felt minus situation towards a plus situation, from a feeling of inferiority towards superiority, perfection, totality.”
- We strive towards a biological and environmental self-ideal, a fiction that we (ultimately) create and choose to endorse as our guiding fiction.
- We go about our business largely unaware of our guiding fiction, it is unconscious.
- The goal (guiding fiction) is a final cause. It is a teleological pull towards the self-deal fiction. One must identify the final fiction to organize the behavior into meaningfulness.
- Ones style of life is shaped by this final fiction from an early age. Behavior that seems contradictory or absurd becomes meaningful when viewed from the final fiction of the self-ideal.
- The style of life is a system that is comprised of conscious and unconscious processes.
- Biological and environmental factors are relative to the goal. Genes and experience are not direct causes but probabilities that function through the style of life towards a self-ideal.
- An individual’s opinion of themselves and their worldview (enframing) influence all psychological processes.
- The individual self is embedded with the social context. The self and context are not independent.
- All biological and personal desires become social desires.
- The goal of the healthful individual is social interest; an un-narcissistic, non-ego-centered life.
- Maladjustment includes lack of social interest, a persistent and defining sense of inferiority, and a goal of personal superiority over others.
The final words that Siddhartha Gautama spoke before dying were “be your own light”. We can understand this as being one’s own teacher. Although we can learn from the teachings of Siddhartha and others who came before us, our main way of researching in Buddhist psychology is through meditation. There are many different ways to and reasons for practicing meditation. In Buddhist psychology we categorize meditation into four categories: concentrative, generative, receptive, and reflective meditations. After we briefly understand what each kind of meditation is, we will study the most basic of Zen meditations called Zazen.Continue reading “How to Meditate: An Introduction to Secular Buddhist Psychology (Part 2)”
This week I would like to answer a question that someone asked me.
“Dr. Giobbi, do you believe in reincarnation? I like Buddhist concepts, but I don’t believe in reincarnation. Do I have to believe in reincarnation to study Buddhist psychology?”
This is a great question. Firstly, to most Buddhists, the concept of rebirth or reincarnation probably does not mean what you think it means. That being said, there are some Buddhists for whom reincarnation is very important. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism rebirth plays an important role in their worldview. There are other Buddhists for whom rebirth doesn’t enter into the conversation at all. Zen Buddhists, for example, tend to not be interested in the question. For those interested in Buddhist psychology, the question overlaps with a conversation going on right now in Western evolutionary psychology; that of Lamarckian hereditary theory. A short answer to your questions is, American, Buddhist psychology is interested in this life. What comes after is not a topic of interest for most who study this form of psychology. Buddhist psychology is interested in insights into living now.Continue reading “Reincarnation or Rebirth: An Introduction to Buddhist Psychology (Part 3)”