How I Medicate Myself

I am one of the founders of a local “radical mental health” group. Its facebook page is:

https://www.facebook.com/PhiladelphiaRadicalMentalHealthCollective

Each meeting we do presentations and for my own presentation recently I wrote these words. (If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted it’s because I’m putting my writing energy into my book.):

So my history. I have such a strong individuality that I wasn’t able to see eye to eye with any psychiatrists that I met. I took a bunch of random drugs that they had for me, but eventually it became evident that they weren’t able to understand my basic human nature – my soul. The development of my soul was the most important thing to me, and I decided that the medical establishment could not help me in this area. By focusing on the brain, they missed the importance of the soul.

So I left them, cutting them off wholesale from participation in my road of trials.

But that didn’t mean that there was nothing which could be improved in my physical condition, just that the doctors were not going to be the ones to do it. For a few years I just lived with my body “au natural”. I am an intellectual by nature, not inclined to pay much attention to the “mind-body” connection, as it were. But living purely based on feeding myself whatever appealed to me and was affordable led me to a situation where I was somewhat desperate. It turns out my body is more fragile than I wanted to admit. I felt that the continued pursuit of my soul’s journey was in danger, if I could not find some way to enhance my mental and physical strength and stamina. There were too many problems, and they were invading me too quickly. So I went to a health food store and bought a big book of the descriptions of ailments and their recommended natural food cures.

I was able to improve my mental and physical condition quite dramatically over time through trial and error of different foods and supplements. The first big – no, huge victory was the discovery of the power of the so-called omega-3 fatty acids. In plant form the best source is cold flaxseed oil. These omega-3’s are a little fragile and preserve best when kept cold. But the most efficient way to get omega-3 acids is fish oil. I sometimes wonder how this oil is taken from the fish in order to deliver it in little pills or what have you. But these oils ended up invigorating my mind – these acids are used by the tissue in the brain, among other things. My understanding is that many studies show a variety of benefits, not just mental, from taking fish oil. These oils work best in cold temperatures, and it is because they are so liquid that they don’t freeze – and I imagine that this looseness is how they work in the brain too, by “loosening it up” and greasing it somehow. Anyway, Omega-3 oils have been studied scientifically, but since there is no way to patent them, I’m sure they are not as well promoted as the chemicals with which the giant pharmaceutical companies stand to make billions of dollars. But they improved my mental condition far more quickly and lastingly than any drug I was ever given by a doctor. I had always had a low energy level, and it took a lot of effort for me to move my body. But these oils help bridge the gap between my natural energy level and that of a “normal” person. I felt the level of energy a normal person must feel, possibly for the first time, when I took fish oil.

There is another nutrient which the brain uses, or so I hear, called phosphatides. They are available – maybe by prescription, I’m not sure – as pills, and they are moderately expensive. It turns out my mother was taking these pills for a while, and they boosted her mental energy level. Now many traits are passed on genetically, and it doesn’t surprise me that when I was able to consume more phosphatides, my energy level went up as well. Yet I was able to find this nutrient in a cheaper form. There is something in certain plants called lecithin, and it can be processed out of the plants by some means, although I don’t know exactly how. Anyway, the most commonly available type of lecithin comes from soybeans and is called soy lecithin. It can be bought in liquid form, but for me the best way is in a large bottle full of these little yellow granules. This lecithin contains a lot of phosphatides. It is often found in chocolate bars because it enhances the flavor and texture and tastes a little bit like butter. There is a kind of chemical substance called an emulsifier whose purpose is to dissolve oil-based chemicals in water-based chemicals, and lecithin is one of these. When I sprinkle a little lecithin on some peanut butter, for example, it both enhances the flavor of the peanut butter and makes it digest more easily. So it’s fun to experiment and see what works.

One difficulty so-called bipolar people commonly have is being excessively agitated, affecting their ability to concentrate and to sleep. I never thought of myself as bipolar insofar as it is thought of as a bunch of strange moods which just take over a person completely randomly. But I do have a sensitive nervous system, and over time I was able to identify many subtle details about how I am affected by my environment. Perhaps the most fascinating is that I have a form of photosensitive epilepsy which was never diagnosed. Some kinds of seizures are difficult to spot from outside. There is a kind of seizure called an absence seizure in which a person’s consciousness is partially disrupted, but it can only be detected from outside by careful observation. I get these when I encounter many various forms of flashing lights. It’s also important to note that there are many speculations about the links between epilepsy and bipolar disorder, and several of the drugs used to treat epilepsy are also used for bipolar disorder.

Anyway, I’ve found some cheap, over-the-counter nutrients which help me focus and get to sleep very well. For a long time, I’ve been taking a combination Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc. I thought it would be good to take three nutrients instead of one, but recently I’ve bought just Magnesium by itself. Now these are simple chemical elements, which might remind people of Lithium, another simple chemical elements. But Lithium is toxic and will destroy your kidneys if you’re not careful. Magnesium is another simple chemical element, but it is cheaper, more abundant, and less toxic, and I’ve found it works like a charm to help me sleep. When has your psychiatrist ever recommended this cheap, non-toxic alternative to the very harmful other chemicals they constantly peddle? I find the whole thing pretty frustrating. If it can’t be used to show you how special they are as doctors, then they will rarely recommend it, which to me demonstrates nothing more than the sorry state of the modern mental health profession. Anyway, so far I’ve found Magnesium works great for calming me down.

Another thing which helps calm down is this amino acid called taurine. It turns out that this nutrient is used, along with caffeine, in energy drinks, of all things. I don’t know why. It is a common amino acid, and the body will produce it naturally from other acids if it can’t find enough of it. Yet it does seem to work for reducing my sensitivity to light and other things which tend to cause little seizures in me. It is just one of many types of supplements which can be bought over-the-counter which can, with a little trial and error, probably do just as good a job, if not better, than any of the fancy budget-busting prescription pills your psychiatrists is more-than-eager to push down your throat.

I also take a multi-vitamin, and an extra B-vitamin supplement, which both seem to help with my energy level.

Other things I learned about my physical body assist me in keeping myself energetic and healthy. For example, after much trial and speculation, I believe I have a mild case of fructose intolerance, which is a somewhat rare inability to process the simple sugar fructose. Also, I’m hypoglycemic, and I need a certain minimum amount of fiber in my food in order to be able to digest it easily. Thus I must add a fiber supplement in order to easily digest white rice, or french fries, or donuts, for example, although I generally just avoid these things for convenience’s sake.

I have two points. One is that psychiatrists will not generally help you find what is easy and affordable for you to take, because their professional pride – all those years of expensive training and an elitist medical culture – makes them balk at the notion that someone might not actually need those treatments which only they can legally provide. That most people can do just as well without any of their prescriptions precipitates in their psyches an existential crisis which most of them have not the courage to confront, and they instead take it out on their patients by forming a sort of devil’s pact with the pharmaceutical companies, which are only too ready to comply by fabricating what the doctor’s must always tout as the latest and most modern wonder drugs.

My second point is that the physiology, not to mention the psychology, of each person is different. Thus what works for me might not work for you. But there are a zillion things to try. All you need is a scientific mind, a willingness to experiment, and the courage to believe that you don’t need any sort of degree in the mental health in order to know what works for you and what to leave on the shelf. In fact, I left establishment mental health on the shelf many years ago, so to speak, and I feel pretty good about it.

Essay on the Anima and Animus

This article is in response to a specific request, made by the sponsor of the previous article. You too can sponsor articles on this blog! Just name an amount and a topic! Everybody wins!

One of the old interpretations of the story of Adam and Eve was that Adam was hermaphroditic before his ribbed got pulled out to make Eve. The Original Man was either genderless, or was both genders at once.

In many creation stories, one can easily see a parallel to the development of human consciousness. In the womb and with newborn infants, the sex differences are barely present in the personality.

Gender is one of nature’s most important distinctions. Most species reproduce sexually, and therefore require division of the species into males and females. Carl Jung’s psychology is very focused on what might be called the “Archetype of Wholeness”. This archetype does not distinguish between Male and Female, but like the Original Man contains both. By declaring that individuals have access to the Archetype of Wholeness, it is implicit that this archetype supersedes Masculinity and Femininity both.

I heard a joke which ran: A man finds a bottle on the beach and rubs it and a Genie pops out. The Genie says he can grant the man one wish in return for setting him free. The man says he has always wanted to be able to drive to Hawaii from California and asks for a road between the two to be built. The Genie complains about the technical difficulties of such a project, and asks the man if he could wish for something else. The man says okay, that he has never really understood women, and that if he could just understand women his wish would be satisfied. The Genie says, “Do you want that highway with two lanes, or four?”

The implication of this joke is that the nature of femininity is utterly inaccessible to a man. This works pretty well so long as the gender roles in a society are rather clearly defined. But in the modern world that couldn’t be further from the case. Our society is running along the motto started by Thomas Jefferson, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal.”

If our society is moving towards the equality of all people, men and women alike, the joke above about the Genie will start to seem out of place.

In trying to understand gender roles, there are two sources of information, Nature and Society. Both Nature and Society play critical roles in creating what we think of as a “Man” or “Woman”. The modern world has discovered a distaste for any sort of legal separation between what men and women are allowed to do. Thus, our Society is rebelling against its own traditional ideas of men and women. Nature does not give in to fads so easily, and the chemical hormones which nature pours into the genders continue to affect their behavior in well-known ways. However, modern science’s newfound mastery of those chemicals allows people who don’t identify with the genders nature gave them to switch according to their individual feelings of what gender they “really” are. The process isn’t perfect, though, especially when it comes to anatomical changes. But the psychological results of hormone treatments are pretty effective.

Still, it is very common for someone invest a huge part of their identity into their gender. They do this both at the bidding of Nature – by means of her powerful hormones and the way she constructs the physical body – and of Society, which despite the modern tendency to neutralize the sex differences, still has many ideas about what is right and wrong for Men and Women.

Since the pull of gender identity is so strong, a conflict arises when the Archetype of Wholeness comes into play. For some people, the development of only a few parts of their personality becomes a source of great depression. Society tends to encourage a person to develop his areas of strength but to ignore his areas of weakness. One’s areas of strength are more quickly noticed and more quickly rewarded. In order to survive, a person will normally abandon the development of her areas of weakness. These take longer to develop and tend to go unnoticed or, being noticed, are bullied into submission by people who are jealous of competition in their areas of strength.

The more parts of a person which are bullied into submission, the more work it will take later on when the person’s attention turns toward the Archetype of Wholeness instead of toward the specific field(s) they have mastered in their early years.

The Jungian concepts of the Anima and the Animus – in Latin, the “Soul” and the “Spirit” respectively – are descriptions of natural tendencies Carl Jung noticed in people’s dreams, fantasies, and visions. For men, he noticed that the Archetype of Wholeness was often associated with the figure of a woman or women – which he called the Anima, and vice versa in the case of the Animus. In a man’s dream, a woman may show the way to a new destination, or represent a missing piece of a larger puzzle. This indicates that the man’s ego is very attached to his idea of “Manhood”, and that the Archetype of Wholeness has run into a conflict with that idea.

It’s important to remember that gender roles are reinforced not just by an individual’s idea of himself, but by those around him as well. Thus, the role of “Man” may be thrust upon someone by his wife, his children, his work partners, etc. Thus, it’s not easy to instantly divest oneself of one’s gender identity even if one has some understanding of the phenomenon.

In order to access the less developed parts of the man or woman in question, the Archetype of Wholeness will assume the form of the opposite gender, in his or her dreams, for example. When it does, Jung called it the Anima or Animus. In order to grow and adapt, the person must increase his or her conscious awareness of the nature of the identities he or she has unconsciously assumed. The relationship he or she has to both sexes is usually a very powerful influence on his or her expectations, but in order to grow, those expectations need to change.

The power of the Anima and Animus speaks to the power of the gender identities given to us by Nature and Society both. Sometimes gender becomes the primary point of difficulty, at which point the figures in one’s dreams will have pronounced gender roles. In the end, the Archetype of Wholeness is really more powerful than the “Archetype of the Genders”, and the symbol of Wholeness can appear in many more forms besides simply Men and Women – Crystals, Snakes, Rocks, Cities, Circles, Rainbows, Butterflies. But when the Archetypes of Gender appear, they must be encountered with full seriousness. All the archetypes are like Gods and one must treat them as such, or face the consequences.

$10 Blog

If somebody offered you ten dollars to write a blog entry on a topic of your choice, would you do it?

The short answer in my case is yes. I have not been a writer for all that long, but I understand that the internet age has come as a hit to professional writers. A professional writer of 30 years ago may have balked at the paltry fee of ten dollars for a piece of his work, but I am neither a professional writer, nor is it 30 years ago. At this point it would be a boost to my ego to make any money from writing. Indeed, it would be such a boost to my ego that I would undergo much self-scrutiny. Will I disappoint the client? Am I worth it?

When I consider the fact that I receive Social Security Disability, Food Stamps, and Medicare, that if it weren’t for these programs I would not have my own place to live and would be begging for food, it pleases me to consider that the government is not giving me handouts. Rather, it’s actually my employer. I can buy into this notion. When I write a blog entry, make a video, or write my book, I’m actually working for the government.

In the so-called developed world, most countries will have some means of keeping people such as me off of the streets. In the so-called developing countries, the old rules of anything-goes, survival-of-the-fittest reign. The wealthy nations feel the need to flaunt their wealth through programs designed to keep their citizens from starving and having no healthcare, and the like. Before one decides too quickly in favor of the developed world, one must bear in mind the evidence that wealthy countries are able to acquire and sustain their wealth only by restricting the development of the poor countries, that they might keep the cost of raw materials low, for example.

Nonetheless, the competition for moral character among the developed nations leads them to create programs which, as I said, keep people like me from having to beg for food, shelter, etc. I think that’s the best way to understand why the nations behave like they do. A given country doesn’t want to be the only one amongst its peers letting its people starve. Therefore, it uses its treasury to pay for programs preventing this. Or, to prove its greater wealth, gives them even more benefits.

I don’t mean to imply that desire to look good in comparison to neighboring countries (or states) is the only motivation for setting up social welfare programs – but considering that the program is not designed to benefit anyone outside the country, that as far as any given national or state welfare program is concerned, the people just outside the border can go rot in hell, it does seem clear that the benefits are designed to make the country look good rather than to help humanity in the general sense.

That, however, is only the beginning of a discussion which I will revisit eventually. I need to work my way back to the ten dollars which I received in advance for this blog post. 

The way I can justify receiving food stamps, disability money, etc. is by thinking that I indeed work for the government. The events leading to their “hiring” me are another story to which I must return eventually. But my position satisfies me. I have found no individual who has both the means and the desire to employ me. Working for a large profit-making corporation is no better in my view than working for the government, unless I wish to make large amounts of money. Yet to make such money by working for a large corporation, I would need to be able to satisfy my moral conscience about who they were, whom they served, what part they played in the greater matrix of the world, and why. Needless to say, most companies are far too busy making money to retain a clear understanding of these questions, and as far as I understand it, they would expect me to do the same. So I’d rather working for the government at a mere survival wage, for now at least. 

The particular position I have landed with the government allows me an enormous amount of freedom. I can act in whatever way I believe most benefits the government, and no one is standing over my shoulder. In many ways, as an independent philosopher, this is a perfect position to have obtained. Since the government is paid for by millions of taxpayers from every state, I do not need to make pointless enemies by acting in favor of any one group. Nor do I need to ally myself with the government’s positions either. The program under which I have been hired seems to allow even for total disagreement with government policy. Yet my morality and common sense prevent me from falling into complete ignorance of what is paying for my survival. If the government goes down, I go down with it. Not to mention simple gratitude that there is such a program which is helping me out. 

But don’t let the above expressed gratitude make you think I will sacrifice my high philosophical standards simply to take sides with my government at the expense of those parties it chooses for its enemies. There is virtue in hiring someone for their independence of mind in contrast to their loyalty. Well-run institutions need more than just a bunch of “Yes men”. Still, such independent minds must remain very discreet, and never forget that their independence can pose just as much of a threat to their employers as a help. No bureaucracy is morally pure, and the independent mind who finds himself employed by a bureaucracy must take pains to preserve a means of escape should the prevailing winds turn against him.

Anyway, just because I work for the government doesn’t mean I make a whole lot of money. A friend drove to pick me up in my new neighborhood and was locking up the car when I saw ten dollars peeking out from under the seat. I pointed it out and he handed it to me, saying I could hold onto it. I told him that I’d hide it for him. I forget what happened next, but he suggested that I write a blog post, and at my current government salary, it was the kind of offer I couldn’t refuse.

Update, with More On My Book Effort

So I’ve been living at my new place for one week. It’s an acceptable situation. I’m not sure I can afford to pay for an internet connection at home, so I’m saving this blog post to a flash drive and bringing it to the public library, which is only two blocks away from my house. I will sign in and post it there.

I was thinking about my situation. Do I think it’s good or bad? Am I happy with it? The thing which makes me feel okay is that I can’t see what job exists in the world which I would rather have than my current situation. Of course I can’t know whether I’d really like a job until I’ve worked it for a while, so I’m not saying that if I magically had Job X that I wouldn’t like it. What I am saying is that I don’t have the impulse to seek Job X from where I am now. The only thing I have real motivation for, to which I am able to devote sustained effort, is the book I decided to write about 5 months ago. And it’s not like I’m terribly excited about the book either, but the difference is that whereas I may put in a day or two looking for possible employment before becoming once again uninterested, I tend to put work into the book every day.

So the book is the current justification for my existence. As to how good it is, my opinion tends to vary. I have several motivations for writing it, which I am trying to balance out. I want it to be a good read, for example, in contrast to, say, an academic tome which merely contains useful information. Most importantly is that it represents an expression of my current self, just as any given painting represents the current expression of its artist. I’m learning to paint words.

I mean for the book to be read by people of different times and places. This is because I don’t think of myself as quick enough with current events to be able to ride their wave and get rewarded for it. I want to speak to humanity, rather than some subculture or section of it. This aspiration is not necessarily a formula for financial success, because most financially successful books have target audiences. If it turns out that without knowing it, I do have a type of audience which appreciates the book I will be glad for that. All I’m saying is that I have not consciously chosen to direct the book at one specific demographic.

Another peculiarity of the book that I can’t escape is that it’s my first one. On the plus side, it will therefore be more raw and possibly more compelling in terms of sheer energy. But it will be deficient in terms of the craft of book-writing. I think this is true of all first books, though, but I thought I should mention it anyway.

I also want to say if I haven’t said it before that the original goal of making my video game proved too lofty to attack directly. My book is proving far more manageable. I have finished the first phase in which the task was to write, write, write. Now I am in a hybrid phase where I continue to write but I am reading what I have written, trying to find the “book in the book”, so to say. Editing is a necessary task which looms like a monster for me. I have deferred that task until I get a better sense of the whole purpose of the book.

The experience of writing my book is giving me a valuable understanding of how the way one perceives oneself abstractly meets up with concrete reality. My obligation to finish the book means I can no longer imagine myself to be something or other – I must find out what I really am. It will be present in the end product. If I cannot produce an end product, then that will be an indicator of the kind of person I am too.

So I need to put a certain amount of passion into each chapter in order to increase the quality of the end product, but not so much passion that I become frustrated with what I have written and never finish. That’s the experience writing this book is giving me.

Changing Life

Well my life is changing. For many years a retired professor let me stay at his house. I lived in Swarthmore, a very nice, although quiet neighborhood. For the month of March I’ve been living in the second bedroom at his new retirement home, to help him get adjusted, but I’m not meant to stay here permanently, nice as it is to eat so many meals with old people. So I’ve found a room in a much poorer lower-middle class neighborhood, Collingdale, PA. This is the kind of place I would have had to live in for the last ten years, based just on my income from Social Security Disability. Come April I will have no more cushy safety net which I got, arguably, simply from being raised in an upper-middle class town.

There is a little bit of the crucible feeling in this. I suspect the change will be good for me, because I won’t have to imagine what it’s like to be poor. My spiritual focus will align with my material focus. There will be no vague feeling that I watch the struggles of the world through a veil without having to deal with them. I will probably be as close to the idea behind the passage “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” as I will ever be.

The best possible outcome is that my new situation sharpens my sensibilities and gives my writing an even more honest flavor than they already have. I just found out that there is no internet connection in my new room. Therefore I must find a way to check email, post on my blog, and other things, if I am not willing to pay for in-house internet myself. I hope the public library can allow me the access I need. I hope I can write my posts on my home computer and save them to a flash drive, and publish them when I get to the library. If that fails, I’ll need to buy a laptop computer and use free Wifi wherever I can find it. If that fails, I will have significant difficulties achieving regular access to the internet. Paying for a home access might be outside my current budget, which affords a perfect example of the sharpness of my situation.

I may find aspects of my new life difficult and/or depressing. This can be offset by the idea that I consider myself a hunter of the genuine, for whom insight into reality is worth a little depression. The public stands to gain by the corresponding sharpness of my perception and thus my expressions of that perception, as mentioned above, whether it be in writing, video games, music, youtube videos, or something else.

I have finished Phase One of my book-writing process, which consisted of raw writing. Phase Two has begun, which consists of reading the results of Phase One. My goal is to find the “book” in the mass of material I have produced. I need to get outside the total content of what I wrote. I have not achieved this perspective yet. I consider that the work of Phase Two, which is designed to last half the total duration of Phase One. I am trying to edit pieces of the work as I read them, but I am currently overwhelmed by the size of the task before me. I still write a page per day so as to maintain the skills I have acquired by writing for so many days in a row.

I can imagine my book being very good, but there is still a ton of work to do. I learned how to write two pages per day, but the art of editing remains very elusive to me. I think it’s good that I partitioned the challenges into phases, but it’s still hard for me to imagine how I can edit the contents of Phase One efficiently and wisely: I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of text I must now pore over. I need to arrive at a central concept around which the rest of the book revolves. I believe that I will accomplish my goal, but there’s plenty of fog in the landscape, for which I can only assume the dispersant is persistence. I believe I can maintain persistence simply because I did it for the first 127 days of this effort. No point in giving up now. I’m not so attached to the book that I can’t let it go.

A Letter of Recommendation For Myself

I found this looking through my notes, and in a fit of narcissism decided the public might like it.

Zach Tollen        Jan. 8th, 2014

Letter of Recommendation for Myself to the Delco Certified Peer Specialist Training

Since I couldn’t find the right person to recommend me, I will write a letter for myself. At the same time, I’m not going to make a joke about it. What I really would like to do is tell you what’s going on with me and leave it up to you to decide whether I’m right for you.

For most of my adult life, I have had little interest in following established pathways. I lost interest in established pathways at the age of fifteen. I felt that my questions about the real meaning of life were not being addressed by any of the adults I knew. There’s a story about when Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Henry David Thoreau when he was in a prison cell for refusing to obey an unjust law. When Emerson said, “What are you doing in there?”, Thoreau replied “What are you doing out there?”

I’ve never wanted to be a part of this society because I felt there were no moral philosophers who lived up to a high enough standard who could provide me a way to live without violating my own morality. Eventually, I started to imagine becoming a public persona who could capture the attentions of enough people to make enough income to survive, but this hasn’t happened yet. As I said in the answers to the other questions on my application, I’m working on a few fronts to try to become such a persona. But as long as my total revenue from that endeavor has not risen to the level where I can pay my own way, I have to find temporary ways to survive.

When asking various people what the jobs were for someone like me with no academic credentials and no other job experience for more than ten years, they mostly seem to suggest Certified Peer Specialist. So long as my public personality has not yet taken off, I need to act as if it won’t take off, if only to prove my sanity.

I also want to add that I don’t think recovery happens in a vacuum. If a person has uncommon experiences and knowledge, it will probably be necessary to share those experiences with others in order for them to completely recover. So if someone is supposed to apply for a training like this, and the prerequisite is to present themselves as if they are already completely recovered, then it ignores the fact that helping other people recover can be critical to one’s own recovery. If I’m actually going to become a peer specialist, therefore, it will be part of my recovery too. The mental health system in general suffers from this mistaken logic, that only a completely “healthly” person should have anything to do with the “sick” people. It’s one of the many broken pieces of the modern mental health paradigm.

While I’m sure I’ve left out many details which might help you figure me out, I hope that you are able to make your decision based on the above broad statements. It’s really a matter of your needing to decide whether the CPS program is right for a person like me or if I should pursue other avenues of growth and development. If you want a picture of me, my facebook account has one: http://www.facebook.com/zach.zachary1

Sincerely,  Zach Tollen

(I was not accepted to the training program.)

Lecture by Edward F. Edinger

I don’t want to bump my own lecture down on my blog, so I’m mentioning it again here. See the previous blog post for the links.

For many years, one of my big heroes has been Jungian analyst Edward F. Edinger (died 1998), but information about him on the internet has been very hard to find. I have recently discovered that the San Diego Friends Of Jung has posted two audio recordings of his lectures on youtube. In this age of screens and sounds, only being able to read Edinger’s books made me wish for something more, which I now have. Here’s the link to the first one:

Edward Edinger – Individuation: A Myth for Modern Man

I’m hoping the lecture speaks for itself. The most important point to bear in mind if you don’t understand what he’s saying is that in my opinion, he is one of the people who goes deep without making excuses or seeing the world from rosy-colored glasses. If you’re a deep person like I think I am, most “deep” people have facades of some sort. It’s rare for me to find anyone who can confront the harsh realities we really face while still connecting it with the long course of history. Without people like Edward Edinger, Joseph Campbell, and others, I would not be able to sustain my own investigations, because there would be no living precedent for that path for me.

He’s also a really good case study of an extreme introvert, too. His genius is applied to his material in a way I think only an extreme introvert is capable of.

Just In Time

Yikes! My unbroken string of entries-per-month is hanging by a mere… thread! Without this here entry there would be nothing said for the entire month of January 2014. I may not care about the audience of this blog to write more frequently, but I *do* care about my string of months in which I have posted at least one-a-month for more than a year now.

Just kidding, I do care about my audience. The writing of my book is such a fragile enterprise, and it has been hard enough just coming up with the minimum number of words for my book, that I have left this blog to rot. The plus side is that gestation often takes a long time, and one might see the few recent entries here as a period of development out of which some new and glorious results will eventually arise.

I don’t blame me for being scared of the internet, though. At least on *that* point the infrequency of the entries here is justified. Despite many of the web-based traditions being more than ten years old, something about this new technology continues to terrify me. I’ve always wanted my blog to walk the line between embracing and being appropriately scared, of the web. On that account the low number of entries here is fine.

I’m doing fine on a lot of other accounts too. I still don’t have a job, or an obvious future, but I take comfort in the fact that people I know wouldn’t let such a darling personality such as myself fall too low into bowels of poverty. (Perhaps.) If you’re going to let me sink into poverty, the best time to do it is summer, of course, becuase it gives me plenty of chances to find stuff and sleeping outside in the summer is actually quite pleasant sometimes. But I digress. My main point is that I think my natural charm should be enough to keep me from having no friends and no options, a fate which can easily be observed simply by venturing into Philadelphia and walking around the train station area for a while.

I could perhaps feel more ashamed of not wanting to work if the overall mechanics of the modern American economy were at all transparent to me, but we seem to be floating on air. We consume, but we don’t produce, and I can’t really feel that bad about not participating in a local economy which from my standpoint doesn’t really produce anything anyway. Until I can make it as a creative person and an artist, I think I am extremely unlikely to find enjoyment in any kind of “normal” job. But I’m in favor of surviving, which means I’ll notch myself down the ladder of employment to the level I’m forced to if it comes to that.

The ticket out of this miserable dilemma is finding an audience for the fun, “celebrity” side of my personality, whether it’s my upcoming book or youtube videos or anything else which somehow makes life interesing and fun (again? was it ever fun the first time???). There are probably many ways in which I could be used for my mind and wisdom, but I haven’t fallen into circles where I stand to make a living doing that. I’ve never felt like my ideas would be welcomed in the halls of institutions, which unfortunately have a large portion of the money for ideas to go around. I’ve often felt like I’ve had to sacrifice money-making in order to preserve the integrity of my ideas and my psyche. Still, while I have so little income, I wonder how I might get my foot-in-the-door in some operation which can find my ideas and abilities helpful and useful.

I’m getting better at writing though. I have a two-page minimum per day for writing my book. The book still feels more like a chaotic effort to produce something than a coherent whole, but the practice is still valuable. I need to practice something, and writing seems as good a thing as any.

Until next month…

Special Treatment?

I don’t know if I want special treatment or not.

I’ve been thinking about the strange course my life has taken, the ways I’ve gone against the grain. A lot of my choices don’t make sense from the perspective of someone who is trying to follow established paths in order to get ahead. When I decided not to follow established paths, I guess I did it out of some feeling of moral obligation. What moral obligation would that be? Maybe the simplest way to put it is to notice the increasing (and terrifying) divide between the rich and poor in my country.

The wealthiest 20 percent of people in the USA have been getting wealthier for several decades, while the poorest 80 percent have been getter poorer. What is the moral obligation of someone who finds himself right on the divide, then? I say moral obligation because this is the line, as if there is exactly one ocean liner departing for heaven, where the person who makes it onto the boat is really indistinguishable from the person who gets turned away.

I don’t know if I was ever the type of person who was close enough to the top 20 percent to be able to guarantee himself a position on the boat, if he only tried hard enough. Or if some combination of my character and my circumstances would guarantee the opposite – that I’ve never been the type who would secure a spot in the material elite of the nation (or the world – this is really a world problem I’m talking about). It seems as if my choices – particularly the choice to study the world in isolation instead of believing in the type of authority granted by schools and other institutions – were the kind which, if I ever had a chance to be in the financial elite, would ensure that I would never get there without disrupting at least some of the social norms which created the elite in the first place.

What nags me is my awareness of the phenomenon of psychological projection, and the knowledge that I might be projecting onto the world unfulfillable expectations, and that even though I know about psychological projection, my inner need to continue the projection is so strong that it overrides my most sophisticated understanding of its existence. If this is the case, then a lot of the drama of the world I project onto the outside is actually just my own personal drama, from which I clearly need to awaken. If I am doing this, I haven’t been able to pinpoint precisely the origins of my error.

Knowing that I might have such a projection, I then wonder, how might I behave differently if my delusions were gone? Would I still resist so strongly using the academic system to get ahead in life? I think I avoid things like the academy because it seems like one can’t root out corruption from the inside, when one is already infected with the virus which one hunts. But I know that some day I might wake up and realize that I am simply shooting myself in the foot by waging a one-man war against the academy, that I’ve been hurting no one but myself, that rather than the academy turning out to be the real villain, it is only what I project onto it which is evil. And if I realize that, then it’s inevitable that the reason for my projection was some darkness in my own character, for which I merely found – unconsciously – a convenient scapegoat in the institutions I so love to hate from afar.

What would I do differently if I didn’t project my own hurts and pains onto the world around me? Would my spirit attain a heretofore unknown freedom, a unifying energy which would alleviate many doubts and allow a far more focused type of creativity than I currently know myself to be capable of?

Would such an energy involve the mutually beneficial interchange of resources between myself and whatever institutions I had seen anew because I was no longer seeing myself in them?

Beats me. After all, it’s also possible that I’m not projecting onto them. That my view of institutions and the steep prices they demand are too high to pay in exchange for the rewards they offer. I may not even be projecting onto them, except in a harmless way, the same way the grass is greener on the inaccessible lawn.

I don’t know whether I am projecting or not. I don’t know whether I want special treatment or not. If my views of the external world are correct, then I am seeing reality at a deeper layer. If I am genuinely seeing reality at a deeper layer, then I arguably deserve some sort of special treatment or another. But I can’t ask for special treatment, because if I am projecting things onto the world, then my whole view is simply a defense mechanism for some weakness which is too hard for my ego to bear. I’ve often thought I have such weaknesses.

I do not, however, succumb outright to the weaknesses. I am strong, strong enough to know that I may be delusional, but that it’s worth risking it, just in case I’m not. That has been my life. I can be extremely confused about the slowness and uncertainty of any given moment. Some days I just want to know for sure what is what. I think that’s asking for too much though. After all, if I don’t know what’s going on, maybe no one does. And if no one does, then I’m no more confused, and therefore no more deserving of immediate clarity than anyone else.

December News in Zach

I feel like I need to put another update on this blog, just to assure people that I haven’t gone anywhere.

So how do I assure people that I haven’t gone anywhere in an interesting way?

I’ve definitely been writing my book, almost every day. The basic essence of the book is to write a blog entry which represents four months of writing, and edit it into book form. The two core ideas about this process which differ from normal blog entries are 1) secrecy and 2) packaging. Secrecy means that you don’t get to see until the end what I’ve been working on. That enhances the feeling of mystery, initiation, and illumination surrounding the writing which would not be there in daily blog posts. Packaging means that the writing can be seen as one big thing, so it gives off the aura of something substantial, and as such can possibly be sold on the marketplace.

My actual approach to writing the book is hardly any different from writing my blog posts, with the exception that after the initial writing phase, I will spend a much greater portion of the time editing what I write than I would in a normal blog post. I will have to balance the perfectionist tendency to keep improving something with the pragmatic need to finish it. When I write a blog post, I don’t have high standards for what I publish and what I keep hidden. I often end up going back after a post is already published and edit spelling and phrasing, because I know I can. But with the book I will really spend serious time trying to figure out what I want to say and how to say it. I still don’t know what I want to say with the book, but the serious time investment involved will probably motivate me to make it the best book I can, and generally speaking, good books say something.

In terms of my public life, I’m active on a few fronts. I do improv comedy, currently as classes and workshops. If you live in the area and want to do shows on a comedy team with me, let me know. I’m also a little more active in the alternative mental health scene, connecting with various people and trying to form good groups there.

I have also used meetup.com to a great degree recently. It’s fun to meet so many people of different types there. The site is much better than it used to be, informing you of new meetup groups you might be interested in, and generally running a good show. So thanks to that website for the recent improvements. I’ve met a number of really good people there.

The two elements of my dream video game which are missing from the process of writing a book which I would like to do are writing music and computer programming. I haven’t found a way to fit them into my current project, and my efforts in those areas, music and programming, are largely on hold. Beyond that, I feel writing the book is a good creative substitute for what I once thought would be my video game.

Have a Happy Winter Everybody!

It Seems Like I’m Writing a Book

I think I’m writing a book. My confidence in myself is low enough that I am seeking help from a “higher power”. Therefore I say that if I write the book it will be because the higher power allowed it. Regardless of the provable existence of the higher power, I can’t escape the psychological benefit of approaching my task from this perspective.

I have a work schedule which will keep me focused for a few months, writing every day without too much editing. Right now that’s all I have. I am a little scared that once I have my first draft I won’t know what to do. The higher power will have to devise a plausible next step. But it makes sense that I don’t know. After all, if I can keep up the same schedule for a few months, it will be as much as I’ve ever done before, and planning beyond that seems unrealistic.

I have to keep a secret what the book will be about for now.

Unlicensed Psychology Episode 4 is up!

The topic: Extreme Introversion

Part One

Part Two

The psychology of the unconscious focuses on things we do and think without knowing that we’re doing and thinking them. Instead of making pat statements about the outer world, it cautions us to be mindful of the unconscious attitude we bring to the table. One of the oldest divides in these attitudes has gone by different names throughout the centuries. Without a theory of psychological types, each type feels compelled to insist on its unconscious philosophical standpoint, trying to impose it on everybody. In the twentieth century, Carl Jung promoted the terms “introvert” and “extravert” to describe a natural biological bias which leads people to favor one or the other side of the old divide. So he’s connecting the ideas of modern biology – that we come from the animal kingdom with ready-made packs of instincts – to  old philosophical arguments over the nature of the universe. Certain biological traits will favor one or the other philosophical schools regarding the nature of the universe.

It’s humbling to think how much of what we do could be instinctively driven, instead of the result of rational and reasonable conclusions from the conscious mind. The old argument between Materialists and Idealists is re-introduced as rooted in the biological bias of the individual. Obviously, it takes more awareness to be able to value more than one approach equally, so the real task is to seek greater consciousness – which will allow more than one theory to exist simultaneously. However, greater consciousness is still going to be an unpopular goal, because it’s more satisfying to be right than to be aware. Therefore it’s the individual’s task to remain vigilant about his or her own awareness, since there’s no way to guarantee that a group will do it for you.

Core Substance, Part 2?

What is the core substance of the universe? I read my previous blog posts. It’s possible to argue that “Nature” is the core substance. This would be useful for me, because Nature can be defined as something which happens without effort. Effort is something people do to impose their will on what we might imagine to be the “Passive Substance” of the universe – which we might call “Nature”… but even Effort must come originally from Nature, which would make Nature the passive source of the Active Substance. Yet our understanding of free will and choice, and the ability to change the world around us through our choices, is a concept we struggle to separate from Nature.

One reason we might imagine we have free will is to gain credit amongst our human peers for our actions. Any good deed which was done without effort seems less deserving than the one which was the result of deliberate choice and effort. So it may look good in the eyes of other people if what we do is the result of free will instead of Nature. But that doesn’t explain why it would look good.

It looks good because effort itself seems to be a painful exertion of something on our part which isn’t “Natural”. In the Western culture, we have taken particular pride in our ability to choose the future of the outer world and to make it happen through effort. The world as it is is immoral and lazy – not that we think this consciously, but it has been a driving force behind many of our actions.

It seems the best possible circumstance if the painful effort required to accomplish things could somehow come naturally. Instead of “Hard Work versus Nature”, it would be preferable for what looks like Hard Work from the outside to just naturally happen on the inside.

My Hard Work disability, so to say – the characteristic which always seems to make it difficult for me to do Hard Work – is subjectively rooted for me in a feeling of too many choices. If somehow I knew of the One Right Thing to do, and I had no inner doubts, then it would be easy to do that and it would look from the outside like I was working hard when from the inside it felt totally natural. When I face more than one possibility, I find it extremely hard to choose. Each choice seems to lead to two more choices, and they all seem increasingly arbitrary – I have less and less confidence that I’m doing the Will of God and not just arbitrarily doing things for the sake of doing them.

I have seen other people take what seems like a much more practical approach. Not knowing which is the best route, and undaunted by the lack of knowledge, they just pick one, and then pick another one if that doesn’t work out. I can do this on a small scale, but I’ve never been able to do it on a large project. Thus I’ve never finished a large project. I’m not entirely ashamed of this, since I generally feel like I live honorably and according to my true nature.

If I can’t single out One True Thing to do, some part of me feels like it’s being tricked, forced into playing someone else’s game. It may be a neurotic tendency, not rooted in anything other than my own psyche, but who knows. In a way, therefore, the Hard Work mentioned above is really only hard when there is doubt about its necessity. When there is no doubt about its necessity it feels instead like Nature – and while it may be hard, there is nonetheless something about doing it which feels so natural that it is actually a pleasure. Pleasurable Hard Work ™.

I must say, though, that I personally have not yet found too much Pleasurable Hard Work ™. Everything I look at rather quickly becomes transparent and when I look underneath it to see what holds it up I don’t see solid rock but a house of toothpicks. When I think of working on a project which itself is supported by a house of toothpicks, I lose interest.

The answer to this dilemma is for me to find a rock and build something on it. But it has taken me years to even find a rock, let alone to build something on it. And I had to leave so many other things behind that I was bound to alienate the majority of people who wonder what I’m doing. So it’s nerve-wracking to have such a different idea about what is good and meaningful in this world.

The Core Substance of the Universe Part One?

When you uncover all the stuff on the surface of the universe, and you look at the core substance underneath it all, what do you see? I can understand the people who see essential goodness underneath it all. I can also appreciate people who see essential badness underneath it all. It’s pointless to use rational arguments to debate what the underlying nature of the core substance of the universe is. It’s a subjective question. The goal of asking the question is not to fall into a debate. Not for me anyway. But it can be very interesting to observe the people who see one or the other, goodness or badness. It’s interesting to look for common character traits in those who see essential badness, for example. Most of the time, I myself fall into this category.

Rationally, using logical argument, one can speculate a third type of substance, which Nietzsche would call “beyond good and evil”. But that is using reason, which is not the point. Using reason can help you conclude things, but they are usually the things you wanted to conclude anyway. The question of the underlying substance of the universe is largely irrational to begin with. Reason itself might try to find the underlying substance in quantum physics, or string theory, but I consider that a way to dodge the question rather than answer it. Generally speaking, people believe the universe to be composed of something essentially good or essentially bad. It’s not something you have to think about often in order to have a belief about.

Someone who proudly claims to be an atheist will typically “prove” how intelligent he or she is by saying that the universe has no inherent goodness or evil. They will typically then say that it consists entirely of matter, particles, and energy. This conveniently projects the issue into some thought process where they think they now have more control. If everything could be construed as some abstract thought process, then it would be subject merely to the reasoning mind. But when people do this, they always seem from my standpoint to want to control the difficulty posed by the question – is the universe essentially good or evil? If you can start talking about particles, then you don’t have to answer the question. Indeed, the stronger the person’s desire to talk about particles, the more threatening the question appears to be to them. Such a need to control the flow of the conversation, to reduce it to some abstract subject which is quite manageable, hints at a great underlying fear.

I can see why someone would not want to discuss the subject for social reasons. They may not want to appear impolite. Many church-going crowds, for example, preach so insistently that God is good – and hence that the universe is fundamentally good – that a person who grew up around such crowds might be quite scared to raise the issue with anyone. They might not realize that the opposing view is actually acceptable in many other places. Or a person may simply not want to engage in serious discussion at all, because they are not temperamentally inclined, or they don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun by raising the issue right here and now. But assuming that it is acceptable to believe either one, that the core substance of reality is good, or it’s not, two questions arise: 1) What are the common personality and behavioral characteristics of the people in each group? And 2) What is the inner psychology – the thought processes, feelings, and beliefs – of the people in each group?

Let’s also address the issue of consciousness, awareness, and consideration of the topic. It is said that “ignorance is bliss”. Perhaps it is, but perhaps not. If someone is constantly asking what the meaning of life is, it may be because they are unhappy, that they generally feel that the ultimate substance of the universe is evil or bad. Therefore, the fact that they are even in the search for answers means that they are suffering. It would make sense, therefore, to conclude that the bulk of people who seek the answer to the nature of the universe are unhappy. If there is any bliss to be gotten from the search itself, then certainly we can expect happy people to seek the answer. But if the search is actually hard, only people who are already unhappy will bother with it. Nonetheless, it is another question: 1) How are the people who consider the universe good versus bad distributed over the scale of how much time they spend thinking about the question? The answer could yield an indication of just how painful the process of asking the question is. Anyway, Carl Jung likes to put pairs of opposites on crosses, and I will do the same. (Sorry about the appearance! Couldn’t get it to line up right.)


   Don't Think Too Much About It
            ^
Is Good <---+---> Is Bad   (The Universe)
           v
        Think a Lot About It

To understand this cross is to understand how hard it is to think, generally speaking. If not thinking is generally more pleasurable, you can expect the most dots (one dot per person) to appear in the upper left and lower right quadrants. If more dots appeared in the upper right and lower left quadrants, then ignorance is not in fact bliss! (More accurately, thinking, regardless of its actual relation to truth, since thinking can lead to falsehood as well as truth.) But if the unhappiness precedes the process of thinking, and the process of thinking leads to greater awareness, then it wasn’t ignorance per se which was bliss. Rather, continued unhappiness indicates the failure of thinking to succeed where ignorance has failed. Thinking was merely a backup plan for an already unhappy person. But it’s really easy to confuse the two. In other words, just because thinking often fails doesn’t mean ignorance was bliss.

Note: The following section on Time is probably better suited for another blog post.

It’s quite possible that for any given person, the Universe is Good sometimes, and Bad other times. In this case the core substance of the Universe is time dependent, depending on one’s mood, more or less. This is putting the idea of Time above that of the core substance of the Universe – the Universe does not include time. Rather, time is its own substance, and the Universe is subject to it. If we are to elevate time to such an important status, we must immediately acknowledge, so as not to lose sight of the greater thought, that our time is limited, that we all die. Therefore, it can be quite common to see time as the enemy. But to think through this clearly, we must assume it is a neutral substance, to which the Universe itself is subject. But that neutral substance is nonetheless somehow evil. If how we feel about the Universe depends on what time it is, then there is a lack of control, which feels bad. For the goodness of the Universe to be time dependent seems bad somehow. We can’t stop the flow of time. We are slaves to time. Maybe there is a way to understand it the other way, but I’m missing it at the moment. Perhaps the Universe is good more often than it is bad, which would be a net positive. I just feel that it’s bad for the true nature of the Universe to be merely a slave to what time it is. I think of Time as less important than the core substance of the Universe, but I can’t articulate why at the moment.