Are you really autonomous?

Autonomy*

The attainment of autonomy is manifested by the release or recovery of three capacities: awareness, spontaneity and intimacy.

Awareness

Awareness means the capacity to see a coffeepot and hear the birds sing in one’s own way, and not the way one was taught. It may be assumed on good grounds that seeing and hearing have a different quality for infants than for grownups (1), and that they are more aesthetic and less intellectual in the first’ years of life. A little boy sees and hears birds with delight. Then the “good father” comes along and feels he should “share” the experience and help his son “develop.” He says: “That’s a jay, and this is a sparrow.” The moment the little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing. He has to see and hear them the way his father wants him to. Father has good reasons on his side, since few people can afford to go through life listening to the birds sing, and the sooner the little boy starts his “education” the better. Maybe he will be an ornithologist when he grows up. A few people, however, can still see and hear in the old way. But most of the members of the human race have lost the capacity to be painters, poets or musicians, and are not left the option of seeing and hearing directly even if they can afford to; they must get it secondhand. The recovery of this ability is called here “awareness.” Physiologically awareness is eidetic perception, allied to eidetic imagery (2). Perhaps there is also eidetic perception, at least in certain individuals, in the spheres of taste, smell and kinesthesia, giving us the artists in those fields: chefs, perfumers and dancers, whose eternal problem is to find audiences capable of appreciating their products.

Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future. A good illustration of possibilities, in American life, is driving to work in the morning in a hurry. The decisive question is: “Where is the mind when the body is here?” and there are three common cases.

1. The man whose chief preoccupation is being on time is the one who is furthest out. With his body at the wheel of his car, his mind is at the door of his office, and he is oblivious to his immediate surroundings except insofar as they are obstacles to the moment when his soma will catch up with his psyche. This is the Jerk, whose chief concern is how it will look to the boss. If he is late, he will take pains to arrive out of breath. The compliant Child is in command, and his game is “Look How Hard I’ve Tried.” While he is driving, he is almost completely lacking in autonomy, and as a human being he is in essence more dead than alive. It is quite possible that this is the most favorable condition for the development of hypertension or coronary disease.

2. The Sulk, on the other hand, is not so much concerned with arriving on time as in collecting excuses for being late. Mishaps, badly timed lights and poor driving or stupidity on the part of others fit well into his scheme and are secretly welcomed as contributions to his rebellious Child or righteous Parent game of “Look What They Made Me Do.” He, too, is oblivious to his surroundings except as they subscribe to his game, so that he is only half alive. His body is in his car, but his mind is out searching for blemishes and injustices.

3. Less common is the “natural driver,” the man to whom driving a car is a congenial science and art. As he makes his way swiftly and skillfully through the traffic, he is at one with his vehicle. He, too, is oblivious of his surroundings except as they offer scope for the craftsmanship which is its own reward, but he is very much aware of himself and the machine which he controls so well, and to that extent he is alive. Such driving is formally an Adult pastime from which his Child and Parent may also derive satisfaction.

4. The fourth case is the person who is aware, and who will not hurry because he is living in the present moment with the environment which is here: the sky and the trees as well as the feeling of motion. To hurry is to neglect that environment and to be conscious only of something that is still out of sight down the road, or of mere obstacles, or solely of oneself. A Chinese man started to get into a local subway train, when his Caucasian companion pointed out that they could save twenty minutes by taking an express, which they did. When they got off at Central Park, the Chinese man sat down on a bench, much to his friend’s surprise. “Well,” explained the former, “since we saved twenty minutes, we can afford to sit here that long and enjoy our surroundings.” The aware person is alive because he knows how he feels, where he is and when it is. He knows that after he dies the trees will still be there, but he will not be there to look at them again, so he wants to see them now with as much poignancy as possible.

Spontaneity

Spontaneity means option, the freedom to choose and express one’s feelings from the assortment available (Parent feelings, Adult Feelings and Child feelings). It means liberation, liberation from the compulsion to play games and have only the feelings one was taught to have.

Intimacy

Intimacy means the spontaneous, game-free candidness of an aware person, the liberation of the eidetically perceptive, uncorrupted Child in all its naïveté living in the here and now. It can be shown experimentally (3) that eidetic perception evokes affection, and that candidness mobilizes positive feelings, so that there is even such a thing as “one-sided intimacy” – a phenomenon well known, although not by that name, to professional seducers, who are able to capture their partners without becoming involved themselves. This they do by encouraging the other person to look at them directly and to talk freely, while the male or female seducer makes only a well-guarded pretense of reciprocating.

Because intimacy is essentially a function of the natural Child (although expressed in a matrix of psychological and social complications), it tends to turn out well if not disturbed by the intervention of games. Usually the adaptation to Parental influences is what spoils it, and most unfortunately this is almost a universal occurrence. But before, unless and until they are corrupted, most infants seem to be loving (4), and that is the essential nature of intimacy, as shown experimentally.

REFERENCES

  1. Berne, E. “Primal Images & Primal Judgment.” Psychiatric Quarterly. 29: 634-658, 1955.
  2. Jaensch, E. R. Eidetic Imagery. Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1930.
  3. These experiments are still in the pilot stage at the San Francisco Social Psychiatry Seminars. The effective experimental use of transactional analysis requires special training and experience, just as the effective experimental use of chromatography or infrared spectrophotometry does. Distinguishing a game from a pastime is no easier than distinguishing a star from a planet. See Berne, E. “The Intimacy Experiment.” Transactional Analysis Bulletin. 3: 113, 1964. “More About Intimacy.” Ibid. 3: 125, 1964.
  4. Some infants are corrupted or starved very early (marasmus, some colics) and never have a chance to exercise this capacity.

 

* Adapted from: Eric Berne M.D. (1910-1970). Games People Play – The Psychology of Human Relationships (1964). Chapter 16, page 158.

Pupila mortal – Mortal pupil

05.10.2016

 

No es el lugar

soy yo y mis múltiples duelos

mis agazapados, sordos deseos

y el más oscuro anhelo

del abismo más allá de nuestros cuerpos

en la pupila mortal que observa el miedo

o la oscuridad voraz que engulle el tiempo.

 

It is not the place

it is me and my multiple griefs

my crouching, deaf desires

and the most obscure longing

for the abyss beyond our bodies

in the mortal pupil observing fear

or the voracious darkness swallowing time.

 

El Matallana

An introduction to Polyamory

Polyamory – New Paradigms for Loving Relationships – April 20, 2013

How Polyamory is Turning Patriarchy on Its Head

Resilience, importance and meaning*

22.10.2015

Most people seem to have the capacity to recover from any traumatic event. There are many extreme examples that we could remember as a result of our wars, massacres, persecutions, genocides and so on. For instance, the recovered victims of the Colombian Conflict or the great survivors of the Second World War. These people could offer us enough inspiration to go on, no matter what. But I would like to mention some humble examples from our everyday life:

Last year I met a really kind and competent mathematics teacher, who works in a well-known university. He is a Peruvian citizen from a Chinese family. He told me the story about his third wife. When he was 22 years old he married the (first) love of his life who sadly died 10 years later due to cancer. He thought he would die with her but he was able to recover. Four years later he found the (second) love of his life again. After 14 years of happiness his second wife died of cancer… When I met him, the kind mathematics teacher was already in his fifties and having a happy relationship with her third wife. She seemed to be really healthy, luckily.

I have met three women from different continents (America, Europe and Asia) who could not find love in a man again. They had to recover from sexual abuse suffered in their childhood… Today they are happy with a male partner that respects them and love them.

In France, a friend of mine lost all he had in a crisis that questioned his life as a real estate agent. Today he travels around the world. He wants to discover the planet in 8 years and learn 10 languages.

A German friend of mine lost her parents in a car accident before she was a teenager. Now she is a person like anyone else.

A Colombian friend of mine has learned how to live his life with two non-functional kidneys.

I know someone who almost died during the first five months after finding out that he is HIV-positive. Today he claims to live a more conscious and happy life than before diagnosis.

I have lost people, beliefes, occupations, customs, places and things that I thought essential to be what I am and live my life. I thought I could not live without them… But all those losses only served to define me and make me happy as I am now.

We all know people that thought their lives were coming to an end after a break up, the death of a beloved one, the loss of a job, a disease diagnosis, a rejected application to do this or to be that, etc. Most of those people have surely found an alternative way to be happy. They could find joy under conditions that were different than originally expected.

…Long story, short: I am surprised by our capacity to recover and adapt to our reality, no matter how hard or different it can be. Almost all that we hold so dear and close to our heart, all that we sustain to avoid loneliness, chaos or despair, could disappear in the blink of an eye. But that does not necessarily mean that we have to disappear with it too… From a more psychological than philosophical point of view, this capacity to recover, also known as resilience, invites me to ask you:

What is really important in your life?

Which things are really indispensable in your life, things you could not live without?

What defines the meaning of your own life?

These questions are not motivated by a pessimistic perspective. On the contrary, these questions make me think that life has more options and opportunities than those that I decided to choose. I am possible in multiple scenarios and under endless conditions. No matter what is the very heart of myself, it will be there and be able to interact with life and be content. It is true that my past has already defined a particular context, but even inside that predefined setting there are many ways to express my existence, plenty of roles that I could play.

If we understand that the life we have is only one among many possible lives (and that only few things are really important), maybe we could live our lives in a more peaceful way. Maybe we could even enjoy what we currently are more without fear of loss or simply without stress.

Even if we lose everything today, tomorrow we will have the opportunity to recover a new everything. Happiness is possible in many ways, it is just a matter of persistence.

* To the resilient María, in her 50th birthday.

El Matallana

Para leer esta publicación en castellano sigue este enlace:

https://elmatallana.com/2015/02/21/resiliencia-importancia-y-sentido/

Sobre percepciones y puntos de vista “realistas”

“El historiador Will Durant logró una gran hazaña en resumir el punto de vista de Kant en una sola frase: “El mundo como lo conocemos es una construcción, un producto terminado, se podría decir que es casi un artículo manufacturado, al que no sólo la mente contribuye con formas que moldean, sino también las cosas con su estímulo”. Kant argumentaba que la percepción de una persona de una cabeza flotante, por ejemplo, es construida por el conocimiento que la persona tiene de cabezas flotantes, su memoria de cabezas flotantes, su creencia en cabezas flotantes, su necesidad de cabezas flotantes, y a veces (pero no siempre) la presencia de una cabeza flotante. Las percepciones son retratos, no fotografías, y la forma de las percepciones revela tanto la mano del artista como las cosas retratadas.

 

Esta teoría fue una revelación, y en los siglos que siguieron los psicólogos la extendieron al sugerir que cada individuo hace más o menos el mismo viaje de descubrimiento que hizo la filosofía. En los años 20, el psicólogo Jean Piaget notó que la niña pequeña* se equivoca a menudo en distinguir entre su propia percepción de un objeto y las propiedades que el objeto efectivamente tiene, debido a que tiende a creer que las cosas realmente son como parecen (y además que otros ven el objeto así como ella lo hace). Cuando un niño de dos años ve que su compañera de juego abandona el cuarto, y después ve que un adulto saca una galleta de un tarro para esconderla en una gaveta, el niño espera que su compañera de juego al regresar mire en la gaveta (sin importar el hecho de que su compañera no estaba presente cuando el adulto movió la galleta de lugar).

 

¿Por qué? Porque el niño de dos años sabe que la galleta está en la gaveta y por eso cree que todos los demás también lo saben. Sin hacer distinción entre las cosas en el mundo y las cosas en la mente, el niño pequeño no puede entender cómo diferentes mentes pueden contener cosas diferentes. Por supuesto, a medida que aumentan en madurez, los niños pasan de su fase de realismo a su fase de idealismo, dándose cuenta que las percepciones son sólo puntos de vista, que lo que ven no es necesariamente lo que es, y que por eso dos personas pueden tener diferentes percepciones o distintas creencias sobre la misma cosa. Piaget concluyo que “el niño es realista en su pensamiento” y que “su progreso consiste en liberarse a sí mismo de ese realismo inicial”. En otras palabras, como los filósofos, la gente común y corriente comienza como realista pero supera esa fase a tiempo.

 

…Pero si el realismo se va, no se va muy lejos. La investigación ha demostrado que incluso los adultos actúan como realistas bajo ciertas circunstancias…”

 

*Se hace referencia a ambos géneros, obviamente.

Traducción (no oficial) de una parte del libro de Daniel Gilbert: Tropezando con la felicidad (del original “Stumbling on Happiness”). Vintage, primera edición. Páginas 94-95.

 

El Matallana