The ‘Assumed Sense of Self’

Our collective viewpoint on what so-called ‘mental illness’ is and how it comes about is, I would say, remarkably obtuse! It’s as if we have a lorry-load of logs stuck in our collective eye. It’s not an accident that we’re so obtuse either – it’s just that this is where our personal and collective ‘blind-spot’ happens to reside and this blind-spot (as all blind-spots do) takes precedence over good sense. It takes precedence over everything. The blind-spot which we are talking about here has to do with the assumptions that we make about ourselves, and (unwisely) use as a spring-board to enthusiastically propel ourselves forward in life…

 

Collectively speaking, all we can ever do is ‘charge blindly ahead on the basis of our unexamined assumptions’. This is because a group of people (rather than ‘a random collection of people’), by its very nature, can only exist on the basis of conventions that are tacitly agreed upon but never actually acknowledged. The group would never hang together otherwise; society itself would never hang together and this is of course why oddballs, misfits and eccentrics are always treated so badly. Anyone in the group, or anyone in society, who does start questioning these ‘unacknowledged conventions’ is there never going to get anywhere; this is ‘a given’ – they’re never going to be listened to, their voice is never going to be allowed on the platform. Only ‘non-questioners’ are going to be allowed this privilege. And yet it is only by questioning the group’s hidden assumptions (or society’s invisible conventions) that wisdom is ever going to arise – in this case, wisdom with regard to these chronic patterns of unhappiness that we call ‘mental health conditions’. Our refusal to look outside of the box means therefore that wisdom is something we are going to have to do without! Wisdom isn’t ‘evidence-based’, after all!

 

The Big Question we never want to go near is the question of ‘who we truly are’ – this is the question we have all tacitly agreed never to look at, and yet this is also the door to wisdom, which is actually something that our particular expert-based form of knowledge doesn’t even acknowledge as ‘a real or significant thing’. When we assume ourselves to be something that we’re not, then this becomes a source of existential problems later on. How can it not? We can go further than this and say that when we go forward (or rather what we think is ‘forward’) on the basis of ‘who we think we are but aren’t’ then we’re never really going to get anywhere. We can’t get anywhere because we’re proceeding on the assumed basis of us being who we aren’t! We might, at times, imagine that we’re ‘getting somewhere’ and this will feel good to us, but the problem or snag here is that sooner or later we’re going to find that ‘the territory we thought we’d gained we haven’t’.  sooner or later we’re going to find out that we’ve been conned, we going to find out that we’ve paid good money for ‘real estate that only existed on paper but not in reality’…

 

This straightaway gives us a model that we can work with: when we have the perception that we’re getting somewhere when we’re not (because the ‘sense of self’ we’re identified with isn’t us) then this gives us the ‘positive feeling in life’ that we’re all trying to get. This particular mind-created illusion generates a type of good feeling that we might call euphoria – euphoria being (we might say) the feeling that attends the apparent well-being of the false sense of self. When on the other hand we experience ourselves (or rather the FSOS) as losing ground rather than gaining it then this produces a type of bad feeling that we can refer to as dysphoria. Everyday life is thus the constant play of euphoria and dysphoria –we are forever going ‘up’ and ‘down’ in our emotions depending on whether we feel that we’re getting somewhere or not getting somewhere on the basis of the FSOS. It follows that just so long as we are convinced that we are this FSOS then all we will ever experience is euphoria and dysphoria. Going up and going is all we ever know – the banal terrain of advantage or disadvantage will constitute the whole of life for us, therefore.

 

So far we have said nothing that relates directly to what is called ‘mental illness’. We have just described the arena of everyday life in its ‘unproblematic’ or ‘unglitched’ aspect – this is the game when it’s not manifesting any systematic faults, faults that cannot be ironed out or ignored. Two major glitches present themselves immediately however, when we start looking into it. One is where we get disillusioned with what we are calling ‘the game’ (i.e. ‘the game of pretending that the assumed sense of self is really who we are’) on some deep level such a way that we can no longer believe in the possibility of ‘gaining ground’. We have this deep-down feeling that we won’t be able to get anywhere (on the basis of us being who we mistakenly think we are) and even though we will try our hardest to fight against this feeling it keeps coming up time and time again. When the process progresses far enough it ends up paralyzing us; we can’t move forward (in the sense of acting purposefully or obtaining goals) because we have no more confidence in our ability to do so. What we’re talking about here is of course anxiety.

 

The other possibility is where we somehow become disillusioned, in a deep-down way, with ‘the game’ (i.e. with the assumption that we are the FSOS and that genuine honest-to-goodness possibilities await us on this basis) in such a way that nothing that we have achieved or gained seems to be actually worth anything. Equally, we are no longer motivated to try to achieve anything, not because we suspect that we can’t (as is the case in anxiety) but because we can’t help feeling that nothing we could achieve would be worth anything. Our so-called ‘achievements’ mock us with their fraudulency and we have been brought to a standstill because we can’t help knowing that nothing we could do would make any difference to this.  We ourselves – in our very core – feel hollow and worthless and – more to the point – we feel as if we’re pretending to be someone rather than being someone. This is of course utterly incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t been disillusioned with the game and – more than incomprehensible – it is perceived as being a deeply sinister development…

 

From the conventional point of view (which is everyone’s point of view) this is a development that is both inexplicable and utterly malign – it is an evil to be resisted with every means at our disposal. We are – when this happens – pronounced by those who have the official authorization to make this sort of pronouncement to be suffering from ‘clinical depression’, which is said to be an illness like diphtheria or smallpox. From the point of view of the model that we are looking at here however neither anxiety or depression is  ‘sinister’ or ‘wholly negative’ sort of a thing, and certainly neither can be equated to a physical illness which is caused by some sort of pathological agent such as a virus or a bacterium. On the contrary, it is through the pain of seeing – in whatever indirect or occluded way – that we aren’t at all who we take ourselves to be (and that this was an utterly mistaken view) that we come closer to remembering who we really are.  Seeing through the false is the prerequisite of seeing the truth, no matter how painful that might be, and the pain we endure is certainly no reason to avoid seeing the truth – the truth is after all not a ‘bad’ thing, it’s just something we could never have imagined…

 

If everyone we came across were disposed towards supporting us in remembering ‘who we really are’ then this would make all the difference in the world but this is not the way it works – that’s not the way it works at all. To experience profound and painful disillusionment with the game (that no one recognizes as a game) is a tremendous opportunity, more tremendous than we could ever imagine, but neither anxiety nor depression (nor any other crippling disturbances to the life of the FSOS) is seen as any sort of an opportunity at all – all the talk is of ‘recovery’ or ‘being cured’, which is code for ‘returning to a wholehearted belief in the game that no one sees as a game’. If things were left to the proper authorities the opportunity would be crushed unceremoniously and we would be led to understand that there is something wrong with us – we would be led to understand that everyone else is well (in the way that they see the world and themselves) but that we are unwell. This has of course always been the way things are when the consensus reality has been called into question.

 

It isn’t the onset of anxiety or depression that is unaccountable but rather why some of us get disillusioned with the game (against our own wishes) whilst others don’t. If someone doesn’t develop a crippling neurotic condition this doesn’t mean that they’re not living life on the basis of a false sense of self – we’re all in the same boat there – it just means that they’re still sleeping soundly! So the question becomes, why do most of us sleep on soundly, obliviously, whilst others – apparently against their wishes – are called upon to painfully wake up to the true nature of their situation? This is the real mystery…

 

We now come to what is called ‘psychosis’ and how this relates to the model we are exploring here, but before we do that we could say a few more words about this question of ‘who we really are’ as opposed to ‘who we assume we are within the context of the game we are playing without admitting that we are playing it’. The assumed ‘sense of self’ that we’re all so familiar with (or most of us anyway) is such an extraordinarily limited sort of a thing – it’s fantastically limited, but we just can’t see that. The assumed SOS is made up of limitations (i.e. statements about what we’re not) rather than actual context, even though saying this does not make any sense at all to the rational viewpoint, which is the only viewpoint society cares about. We are constructed out of restrictions, out of denials, out of prohibitions, even though we don’t (and can’t) see it like this. When I say “I am this” (which sounds positive to us) I am at the same time saying that I am not everything else, whatever that ‘everything else’ may be (and I don’t actually know that). I have therefore reduced the ‘range of possibilities’ to virtually zero; I don’t see what I have just excluded in order to arrive at this positive statement – I don’t see what I have had to ‘throw away’ and – what’s more – I don’t care either because all my attention is on the ‘defined world’, which is an abstraction created by the thinking mind.

 

By making something ‘definite’ (i.e. by making it ‘this-but-not-that’)we exclude Wholeness, in other words, and by doing this we imagine that we have obtained something real, something that is tangibly true and ‘objective’. But when Wholeness is excluded – as it must be in order to define anything – we obtain nothing. Or rather, we obtain a skinny mind-created abstraction which now looks like a real thing to us (because we have excluded Wholeness from our awareness) whilst what is truly real has been placed ‘out of bounds’ for us. We can no longer relate to or have any connection to reality itself, and instead can only believe in the images that the thinking mind produces for us, which includes ‘the image of myself’, which is the assumed ‘sense of self’ that we keep talking about. I now have no way of relating to or connecting with reality as it is in itself and if by accident I did ‘run into reality’ then it would show up the basis of my experience of ‘being here in the world’ (which is the assumed SOS) as being a mere abstraction, something that is not there at all but only seems to be there when we look at the world in the peculiar narrow way that the thinking mind makes us do. Both the cut-and-dried world we believe so unreflectively and the black-and-white idea of myself that I place so much reliance in are shockingly  revealed as being insubstantial mind-produced phantoms – the ground is ‘cut away from under my feet’, in other words.

 

This brings us to the nature of psychosis. Using Stan Groff’s terminology, we can say that al psychotic experiences, without exception, are due to ‘holotropic intrusions’. The Whole manifests within the realm of the fraction that had up that point arrogantly considered itself to be the Whole, when it was no such thing. What happens when Indivisible Wholeness starts to show itself in the fractional world of the assumed sense of self? How are we going to relate to this occurrence? It is Everything and our entire world (never mind us) is nothing more than a mind-created abstraction, something like a cartoon or an ad on a subway wall. As far as we were concerned the Whole of Everything doesn’t even exist – the thinking mind has made it unreal, even though it is the only reality. We didn’t really think that the Whole of Everything ‘didn’t exist’ of course (as we have already said) because we have our ‘substitute’ for it, which is the image that we have in our minds of reality and our place in it. So when the substitute gets shown up as ‘only a substitute’ and the real thing sudden enters our little world, what are we going think then? This is like the Buddhist story of the frog in the well who doesn’t believe that the ocean could be bigger than his well until he goes to see the ocean one day and his head explodes…

 

To say that this eventuality comes as a tremendous earth-shattering shock is far too mild and feeble a way of putting it – it is Indivisible Wholeness itself we are talking about here, and what are we to compare this with? What happens to us when we try to cling to our mind-created world in the face of Indivisible Wholeness? And yet our trained experts in the field of mental health will tell us that what is going on is merely due to ‘chemicals misbehaving in our brain’ (or some such story), and that our extraordinary perceptions when we’re suffering from ‘psychosis’ don’t really mean anything at all really…

 

 

 

 

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