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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd


Defense mechanisms

The weakest moment in this conditioned state, the moment when you could detect that all is not as it should be, is when you switch from one identity state to another. But this is minimised, or "buffered", by the way that identities are rationalized and structured together, part of an active arrangement of false-personality, which maintains its organization in spite of change and stress. defense mechanisms smooth out the shock that occurs when we switch from one sub-personality to another, so we don't notice the contradictions in ourselves.

The internalized prohibitions of the culture are felt as one's conscience or "Superego". A strong Superego can flood us with anxiety and fear for even thinking about a prohibited action, much less doing it. A defense mechanism, by making us unaware of the prohibition prevents a Superego attack; they also buffer our awareness from disappointments and threats in life. We could not maintain our consensus trance without their buffering effect.

With each surrender of an aspect of our essential self, energy is taken from essence and channelled into supporting our developing personality. Slowly we create a more and more comprehensive mask that is a socially approved presentation of ourselves, something that makes us "normal". As we identify with that mask, as we forget that we are acting a role and become that role, as false personality becomes more powerful, our essence withers. We may be able to sublimate some aspects of our essential nature that are not allowed direct expression, to salvage them. A few may persist because our culture happens to value them. For many aspects of our essence, their energy is lost, absorbed in maintaining the false personality, the mask.

This denial can destroy our lives, as the essence is the vital part of us, the truly living spark of spirit. As false-personality eventually uses up our vital energy, the light fades and life is a mechanical, automated set of habits, lifelessly moving us along with crowds of other lifeless, automatised victims, further reinforcing our depression and emptiness. Gurdjieff put it quite harshly, stating that many of the people you see walking down the street are "dead" - that they have no real hope or even wish for change.

To really change, false-personality must die. This should be a transformation process, a skilled process based on the knowledge gained through extensive self-observation. Gradually the real "I", the essence, can grow and begin to use the resources, knowledge and power now automatically used by false-personality, from a higher level of consciousness. The magnitude of change possible (and necessary) for full awakening is indeed like death and rebirth.

“With each surrender of an aspect of our essential self, energy is taken from essence and channelled into supporting our developing personality. Slowly we create a more and more comprehensive mask that is a socially approved presentation of ourselves, something that makes us "normal".”
Jung stated that the unconscious mind, the mind of our primitive forbears, makes itself felt through dreams, moods, accidents and illness. Since we interact as beings, there is a "group unconscious mind" causing reactive emotional responses as well. Just look at how people behave when they are in a group compared to when they are on their own.

Jung felt that any group naturally evokes a creative energy that sweeps people along unconsciously. Only through an individuation process in which a person becomes conscious of the myths and the archetypes expressed through him (the cultural personality or behavioral stereotypes that we unconsciously deify - such as ourselves, parents, symbols of reason, science, sexuality, our ancestors, Jesus, and so on) can such a person approach a level of real sanity - for the Culture is pathological and "normality" is not sanity.

To differentiate ourselves from all the collective factors with which we identify and that are contained in the collective unconscious (transmitted genetically, by cultural programming, mutual agreements and perhaps by group telepathy or psychic connection) is not to discard such factors but to become less driven by unconscious forces.

Experience and feelings that can be confronted and handled in the mind can then be resolved in the environment, however problematical that may become in practice. The problem is a challenge of life, and overcoming survival challenges is life's pleasure. It is when overwhelming experiences and feelings empower unconscious, habitual and uninspected reactive thinking or limiting beliefs, that a person's freedom and effectiveness is encumbered, so that life holds few pleasures.

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