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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd

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Disturbances and Trauma


Many biographical factors are contained within the fabric of a COEX. They may come from different periods of the individual's life but they have the common denominator of a strong emotional charge of the same quality, or the fact that they share connected 'disturbance factors'. These interact with present day existence: new experiences and interpersonal relationships.

There is the reactivation caused by the similarity of present circumstances to the original situation, particularly if that was traumatic. Current attitudes, emotions, sensations or pains may also connect with COEX content and bring that charge to life. This may be going on below the surface, or the person may be aware of a specific trauma or pattern being reactivated and be clearly 'out of present time' and 'in the incident'. For example a person who is still in mourning over the loss of a loved one, or a person still in shock from a brush with death, have this kind of disturbance. A person may suffer 'flashbacks' when trauma is suddenly reactivated.

The individual may not be able to recall the experiences of his life that relate to COEX material that is repressed. He may not be able to communicate about an incident or about areas of his life that relate to the COEX, or speak freely to people involved, or people who are similar in some way to people involved.

A negative COEX will inevitably have a problem structure: a must-do versus can't-do, an effort or intention that is matched by counter-effort or intention. characteristic of this kind of disturbance is being uncertain of what to do or how things are going to turn out, because the consequences on both sides seem unconfrontable. A resolution requires confronting the full facts, understanding all points of view, being willing to communicate to get something done. Fully viewed, a problem becomes a situation that something can be done about.

“A satisfying relationship with another person requires good communication, mutual understanding and empathy.”

Bad actions (actions felt to be wrong) and the need to withhold knowledge of them from others, is another factor that may be part of COEX experience and affecting life now - the source of guilt and hostility. A person commits a bad action if he has been unable to resolve a problem satisfactorily - he will feel 'forced' to commit a bad action. We can become quite disturbed if we feel we have done something cruel or unfair to another, particularly if this is something we then have to hide, and even more so if someone nearly finds out about it. We are then likely to rationalize the bad action, to justify it and find reasons why the act was deserved and indeed not wrong after all.

A satisfying relationship with another person requires good communication, mutual understanding and empathy. If there is a significant drop in one of these factors, e.g. we disagree and have an argument, an upset ensues - we aren't speaking to one another anymore. An upset occurs when there is a sudden departure from what is wanted or expected - an unwanted change or break in the relationship. Such upsets inevitably have emotional consequences; a poorer relationship causes a drop in self tone. People can equally have upsets with objects or situations if there is a diminishment of control or understanding, e.g. I can get upset if my car breaks down or if I suddenly get ill. One may become upset with the frustrations and negative learning spiral of a contra-survival COEX, and be upset with the context and situation of the COEX.

Your volitional control over situations may be disturbed if someone evaluates the circumstances differently from you, and particularly if they enforce that upon you, saying what you should or must do or not do. An invalidation of what you have done or of your capability, may equally cause disturbance.

Accompanying these factors are the decisions that have been made in the face of stressful situations and anxiety, and which have become fixed ideas and serve as defense mechanisms. It is emotional pain, or the threat of such pain, which holds distorted ideas in place. Any person is of the opinion that he is right in what he believes - otherwise he wouldn't believe it. But he can be wrong; he can have all sort of misconceptions, misinterpretations, false data and delusions, and be holding fast onto them in order to be, naturally, right. The fundamental considerations of his belief system, the things that have made sense of past confusions for him, are not changeable by reasoning alone because they are held in place by force - by an unwillingness or inability to confront certain things.

All defense mechanisms are forms of lying. They misrepresent the truth, both to ourselves and others. Gurdjieff was insistent that most people lie, most of the time. That they do not know they are lying makes their situation even worse. When you know you are deliberately lying, your perception of reality is probably adequate. When you identify with the lying and experience the lie as truth, when you deceive yourself, your perception has become very distorted.

Frequently, we pretend to know a truth that we cannot know. People adopt the habit of speaking about things they cannot know, as though they know all about them, e.g. of what other people's motivations and feelings are - in fact, much is imaginary. Man starts to imagine something in order to please himself, and very soon he begins to believe what he imagines, or at least some of it.

Sometimes we lie to avoid our more essential and higher natures. We may tell ourselves and others, 'Everybody does it, it doesn't mean anything', when something in us knows quite well we have not lived up to our true nature: the integrity of the Higher Self.

Four manifestations demonstrate to man his basic mechanicalness, when they are compulsively and reactively engaged in: lying, imagination, negative emotions and talking. They happen so quickly, so habitually and so imperceptibly, that one cannot notice them, and one does not want to notice them because they are defense mechanisms.

Suppression, invalidation and not acknowledging are self-lies used to submerge the truth, to keep it subconscious, to maintain the status quo, to avoid confronting reality or one's true feelings. They are defense mechanisms, used unconsciously, habitually, automatically - attached to anything we don't want to emerge, to look at or know about: the unacceptable. They may be feelings that are opposed or held down by the most strongly held convictions. If a feeling or desire is triggered that is unacceptable, then we distance ourselves from it, we disown it - 'It wasn't me, it wasn't mine' - we identify with some other aspect of ourselves, a sub-personality that daren't have such feelings or desires. So misattribution is a primary lie, or defense mechanism.

Projection is another defense - when an unacceptable feeling or desire comes up, it is labeled 'this is what someone else feels, needs or wants', such as the person over there. It's disowned and passed to the other person, unknowingly, due to reactive, subconscious suggestions from the past, which make the feeling unacceptable for oneself.

rationalization is substituting a plausible and acceptable rationale for the unacceptable feeling. With this protective device, a lie is covered up with a truth. The mind rationalizes away failures, finds excuses why you should not do something. We lie to ourselves, and we have the audacity to believe it!

In Ayn Rand's words: 'rationalization is a cover-up, a process of giving one's emotions spurious explanations and justifications - in order to hide one's motives, not only from others, but primarily from oneself. The price of rationalising is the distortion of one's cognitive faculty - instead of perceiving reality, reality is made to fit one's emotions.

'Without a ruthlessly honest commitment to introspection, you will not discover what you feel, what arouses the feeling and whether your feeling is an appropriate response to the facts of reality, or a mistaken response, or a viscous illusion produced by years of self deception. The men who scorn introspection take their inner states for granted and let emotions rule their actions - they spend their lives struggling with incomprehensible inner conflicts, alternately repressing their emotions and indulging in emotional fits, regretting it, losing control again, rebelling against the mystery of their inner chaos, trying to unravel it, giving up, deciding to feel nothing - and instead feeling the growing pressure of fear, guilt and self-doubt!'

rationalization frequently occurs when an action or reach is considered a bad action, either because it is not considered acceptable by others, or because the person himself would not like to experience the effect that he caused. Not being able to accept causing that effect, i.e. to be responsible for it, he may justify his action by finding a motive. Then his action becomes the other's fault and instead of reaching towards, he is now in opposition and may then withdraw. After this break in relations the motive may then be used to make himself right and the other wrong, an unrealistic computation that becomes fixed in his mind as a way of handling people and the world - a defense mechanism used unconsciously (without inspection of the new reality) to aid survival. In effect the lower state of being that is withdrawn to, becomes a safe solution - a way of continuing towards the original goal and survival, without having to face opposition previously encountered.

Adopting another identity, viewpoint, idealization or fixed idea for its survival value, its ability to make you right or OK and another wrong or not OK, are such safe solutions. They are a view of things that was at one time in the past, felt to be of service in survival. When the solution is used reactively, without inspection in the present time, it is unlikely to be based on the truth of a current situation, or to be fair or rational behavior, and this is extremely prevalent in all our transactions and thinking.

All of these factors may hang together within a COEX, and in present time the COEX is extended further. For example, a decision made in the past may have been the solutions to problems with wanting to keep quiet about bad actions, which followed on from a trauma, which was due to being forced to do what one didn't want to do and then being criticised for it and physically hit. dramatizing these factors now, causes further disturbance and upset as decisions made in the past may be irrational in the present context and emotional responses of the past may be inappropriate now.

These are the things that immediately concern a person and cause him stress: severe shocks and losses, interpersonal upsets, difficulties with making decisions, internal and external conflicts, guilt and self-recriminations, the fear and expectations of humiliation, rejection and abandonment, and the (not necessarily rational) fixed ideas, beliefs and decisions that have been made in the past and now run his life. Underlying these are the COEX structures that contain constellations of associated experiences and decisions, common to a particular situation or aspect of life that is recurring.

At any time your attention may get fixated on a disagreement or unacceptable reality - involving breaks in communication, understanding or empathy with another - the 'CUE' of relationships; on a current problem; on a missed (nearly found out) withhold from another; on a bad action about which you feel shame or guilt; on an evaluation someone is making affecting your free choice; on an invalidation you are receiving that affects you; or on a 'way to get around' your problems.

These are factors that cause compulsions and inhibitions, which prevent you from being stably in the present with the ability to confront and communicate, and that cause reversals from one motivational state to another, so they need to be looked at in the preliminary counseling, alongside the defense mechanisms you use in life that hold the above in place and make the solutions 'OK'. Also, when necessary the trauma of your life (physical and emotional) that lies behind all these disturbances, when it is uncovered and becomes reactivated. When these factors have been fully examined they fall away - you have got back to the source of the COEX, through the Core Self to the Higher Self, who recognizing this, then has power over it.

These are the primary elements of personality disturbance. Transformational Psychology has a crucial role to play in personality enhancement. Negative COEX patterns are often learned behavior in response to stimuli that were not necessarily traumatic but rather persistent and frequent. They are imprinted patterns and cognitive realization of their existence is not necessarily going to change them, any more than one can easily change one's posture even if one fully understands how faulty it is - one instantly reverts to imprinted patterns as soon as real-life stresses and involvements ensue. The answer is to practice life skills that have global application and can incrementally replace imprinted un-skills. The practice of Transformational Psychology will also help to advance the intelligence, training and education of the individual, which will be necessary for him to effectively study and make use of the advanced procedures.

The genetic and cultural factors, the elements of goals and games that further underlie motivation, and the postulates and considerations of the Higher Self, are need to be examined, revealing the deep roots of COEX phenomena.

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