defence mechanisms

9. Cultivate Attention and Discernment (1)

“Life is religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the “past.” People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the ‘Future.'”

The Cassiopaea Experiment Transcripts, by Laura Knight-Jadczyk


Reading time: 18-20 mins

“Pay attention.”

A very familiar phrase. I don’t know about you, but this reminds of my school days when I certainly wasn’t paying attention for a lot of the time. I was either messing around at the back of the class or looking out of the window daydreaming.

Hardly surprising. School tends to encourage stress and dissociation plus all the frustrations and inattention that follows. Not that there aren’t some fine teachers about. But the concept of learning has gone so far from the joy and wonder it is meant to instil, that all who partake in this factory of disconnection can only end up blind.  When it extends into adulthood it acts as a fly-paper for a host of other problems – dissociation being one high on the list.

Children have a powerful ability to pay attention to their surroundings. Their “distraction” is a crucial part of developing sensory awareness and something we lose as we reach adulthood. Children actually notice and remember more through this total immersion which is developed through play, interaction and natural presence. [1]  By the time they reach formal schooling (i.e. indoctrination) children are force-fed what to think rather than how to think. Attention is directed to specific blocks of information created and formed by a consensus which is really just a form of hypnosis and entrainment and a product of distorted history and consequent perception management.

Filtration, fabrication and distortion form the education of our day, so it’s no wonder that young adult are feeling adrift after they graduate from such institutionalised propaganda. Thanks to this type of education, social media, a backdrop of content consumption and production there is, according to a recent study, a “…more rapid exhaustion of limited attention resources.” As a result, humanity’s collective attention span is getting shorter. [2]

Then we have the increasing automation of technology which is cutting jobs and laying waste to our ability to hold on to and develop new cognitive and practical skills to take us boldly into the future. There is an attention deficit but it is not restricted to the psychiatric label designed to market more drugs. We have a crisis of attention thus perception which has been going on for a long time.

At the most basic level, without attention, we would all be crashing our cars even more than we do already: burning our food to a crisp; sleeping in everyday; leaving the shower on all day or adding our number to the legion of people that die in accidents at home while attempting to “fix” things. A lack of attention and an overestimation of our knowledge can be a fatal combination.

Without paying attention we cannot simplify our life, give our lover pleasure, find our blind spots, control our emotions, or learn a new skill. Without paying attention we cannot define or uphold what we value. When values are absent knowing the difference between fact and fantasy is a tenuous proposition.

Attention not only matters it can determine whether we live or die, accept a truth or a clever lie. And these two pairings usually go together.

In other words, cultivating attention is a BIG deal.

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Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (2)

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

“Inner silence is for our race a difficult achievement. There is a chattering part of the mind which continues, until it is corrected, to chatter on even in the holiest places.”

— C.S. Lewis


Reading time: 15-20 mins

Inner Considering

You’re on an internal cell phone to your “Self” that never stops ringing. You pick up and you say the same thing over and over. You hang up. And then it rings again and you start over, completely forgetting your last feverish conversation. Our wires become so crisscrossed and entangled with endless contradictions and conflations that we end up trapped in our mind.

A life of endless chatter, deliberation, vascillation, questioning, doubts, ten thousand possible ‘if’s’ and ‘but’s’ fuelled by our fantasies of the future and the past. These thoughts get our brain and nervous system so habitually overheated, criss-crossing over each other with complexity, that we cannot discern or discriminate objective from subjective.

That’s an unfortunate part of being human. We all do it to different degrees – mostly as our default position. It certainly takes me back to all kinds of poor decisions which were based solely on that inner noise of fear and anxiety and not much else. We can even make ourselves believe that it’s all logical and rational rather than an internal babbling of self-protection.

All this has a name: “inner considering”, a phrase drawn from the 4th Way teachings of George I. Gurdjieff and its relationship to indentification and self-remembering.

When we fully identify with the object of our attention we immediately begin a cascade of thought loops about what might or might not be, fuelled by anticipation and inner dissatisfaction. People, in particular, form our most potent forms of identification. This is the social battlefield of unresolved childhood insecurities and misdirected sexual energies. Plagued by endless loops of inner considering we are not motivated by truth but by self-protection and inner comfort. It’s like we carry around a no-entry sign for any authentic interaction. Only those exchanges which bypass “sensitive” lanes into our heart are allowed access. And since most people are asleep to themselves, therefore inauthentic, much of what we see as social interactions are merely the exchange of inner considerations.

Fear is still pumped into society on a daily basis and has produced immense distrust and cynicism. Our infotainment mediocrity elevates artifice and images devoid of meaning which means most of us search desperately for anchors of purpose. Albeit entirely understandable, this is a fool’s game because it is driven by subjective, frustrated assumptions and all manner of negative projections – all of it largely unconscious.

The net result means no change, or change for its own sake. The loops are still there based on a refusal to take responsibility for one’s own development. A contractile denial of one’s own deformations remains in place.

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8. Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (1)

© Infrakshun

“We live in a society where detachment is almost essential.”

— Philip K. Dick


Reading time: 15 – 18 mins

The quote above highlights a growing shift in the consciousness of Western populations – if not the globe – namely, the detachment and separation from our political system to offer any kind of resolution to domestic and international problems. The defeat of the remain camp in the Brexit exit poll to the election of Donald Trump are both symptoms of disillusionment with establishment politics. They represent a negative detachment of progressive politics not from rejecting the conservative “other,” but from an attachment to a dream of what ought to be, thus in direct oppostion to objective reality.

As Gilad Atzmon notes in his recent book Being in Time: A Post Political Manifesto (2016):

The Post-Political condition is an era defined by a complete failure of politics (Left, Right and Centre) and ‘Grand Ideological Narratives.’ Liberal Democracy, Marxism, communism, capitalism, and free markets are all empty, hollow signifiers as far as contemporary reality is concerned.

Total detachment describes the current relationship between ‘the political’ and ‘the human.’ We Westerners are becoming keenly aware that we have been reduced to consumers. The present role of ‘the political’ is to facilitate consumption. Our elected politicians are subservient to oligarchs, major market forces, big monopolies, corporations, conglomerates, banks and some sinister lobbies.

Liberal Democracy, that unique moment of mutual exchange between humans and the political, has failed to sustain itself. [1]

In the context of politics and culture, non-identification is essential if we are to separate from belief and move toward constructive solutions. Not to play the game of identity politics is to reject the idea that just because there is disagreement with a certain ideology does not mean prejudice against a race, sexuality, gender or religion. Identitarians would have us all categorised into rigid groups of tribal affiliations according to opinions, feelings and surface image rather than the logic and plausibility of the idea itself. Since identity is enmeshed in ideology and persona, to oppose an ideologue is to launch a personal attack. A specific defence mechanism is thus created to maintain this triad.

Examples of this would be:

  • Being white and male you are privileged and inherently racist
  • If you vote for Trump you are sexist, misogynist and a white supremacist Nazi.
  • Everyone knows there is a rape culture and if you deny it you support it.
  • If you disagree with pre-school education on transgender sexuality means you are transphobic
  • Criticising Islamic extremism means you are “Islamophobic”.
  • Criticising Israel’s human rights record against Palestinians means you are anti-Semitic
  • If you stand against police brutality you support radical anarchists like antifa
  • Institutionalised racism exists and police target black people as a result.
  • All those who criticise the science of human-global warming are “climate deniers”.
  • Being pro-Brexit and skeptical of the EU means you are xenophobic and right wing

Such identitarianism is spellbound by image and feeling rather than reason an logic. There is no room for nuance or complexity. With identify politics, radical feminism and social justice groupings, group identity and its beliefs take precedence over individual belief and autonomy. Any attack against the group is an attack against personal identity, the latter of which the individual give ups to further group cohesion. The ability to discriminate and critique based on reality rather than personal sensibility is lost. As such, it is a collective defence mechanism called “splitting” which we will look at later on.

To identify with someone’s pain or difficulties is to engage empathy. But when we identify with the ideology and belief – regardless of good intentions –  we limit our ability to see outside that ideology. It is then that empathy becomes politicised and distorted toward power and projection fuelled by the momentum of the group itself.

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Practice Self-Control (2)

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

– Carrie Fisher

Reading time: 15 mins

Delaying gratification

The late Hollywood star Carrie Fisher certainly knew about instant gratification. Known for her biting wit and satirical bent the above quote was a comment on her own weaknesses but also described the nature of culture in the 21st Century. Gratification, in all its guises has proven to be the primary channel through which the human family escape reality and the darkness within.

That drive for the instant “hit” gets ever stronger the moment it is satiated. This leads to the following statistics:

    • Obesity: About 36 percent of American adults are obese — more than 1 in 3. And, globally, more than 1 in 10 humans are obese.
    • General substance abuse: Nearly 21 million Americans ages 12 and older had a substance use problem in 2015.
    • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths each year.
    • Sex: The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimated that 6%-8% of Americans are sex addicts, which is 18 million – 24 million people.
    • Pornography: More than 80% of women who have porn addiction take it offline. Women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs.
    • Gambling: Over 80 percent of American adults gamble on a yearly basis. [1]

The above are extremes. But for every addiction that becomes full-blown there’s another one germinating in the wings. We don’t have to be a gambler or substance abuser to know that we have a problem with controlling our desires and impulses. Often it’s a very fine line between addiction and what is considered “normal.” Equally we can be addicted to all kinds of covert negative behaviours which cry out for limitations and order. “Think before you speak” might be the most obvious and applicable to most of us. Practicing self-control means that you’re able to delay ego-gratification without going into an emotional tailspin. Do this often enough and it becomes an asset, thereby improving the quality of your life.

Stanford professor Mischel has spent his life exploring this very topic and provided some very interesting data that proves self-control is a key component of individual mastery. His psychological studies date back to the 1960s and involved children with an average age of 4 – 5 years old. Mischel and his research team published their findings in 1972 as Cognitive and Attentional Mechanisms in delay of gratification and it remains the most influential experiment on self-control available. These experiments were refined and improved over the decades, but the basic format remained the same. Popularly known as “The Marshmallow Test” from the book of the same name, Mischel’s discoveries and conclusions make fascinating reading, so we’ll return to some of suggestions on building self-control later on. Meantime, let’s look at what this ground-breaking experiment was about.

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