Bohemian Tangents

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Archive for March 2011

Mnemonic Archaelogy

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I think it’s useful to use metaphors from depth psychology to describe the processes of consciousness. Brain scans don’t really explain why we think or feel the specific things we do at any given moment. If, for example, I am driving in heavy traffic and a car cuts abruptly in front of me, I may get angry in response. Why do I react this way? The brain chemicals and/or neuronal hot spots don’t explain why I react to a stimulus. They DESCRIBE the reaction of my brain without explaining why. The chemicals and electrical activity result from an outside stimulus. So there is an intermediate process, a perceptual and interpretive one, starting with the intake of sensory stimuli, moving into perceiving the meaning of these stimuli, before the hormones and neurotransmitters are released and altering my brain scan, assuming I would be able to see a scan of my brain as the event unfolded. Why do I interpret the event as I do? Do I have an underlying wish to have an open road at my disposal? Do I feel entitled like a child to have no interference with my driving? What if I were able to prioritize a rational analysis of driver behaviors over my expectations?

The mind is like, in certain ways, a pile of memory sediments, one phase of life, with its significant others, friends, hobbies, habits, job(s), etc., all interconnected within a mnemonic web that defines that particular phase. Then something happens. A marriage or relationship fails, breaks up. You quit, get laid off, or fired from a job. You become addicted to something new, a drug, a social network, some other activity or hobby. You change your address, move away from old friends and family, make new friends, etc. There are many things that can dramatically change your life to create a new mnemonic sediment that is piled upon all previous sediments. The current phase always rewrites and reconceptualizes all previous phases. Stuff gets discovered, buried, re-discovered, reinterpreted, redefined within the present context. The new present also creates a new past and some aspects of yourself slip into oblivion unbeknownst to you. Because we fancy ourselves as stable most of the time.

Think about your thought process. You are the master of your conscious mind, right? You voluntarily decide what to think about, what to do, how to react to things that you encounter, as the master of your own destiny. Of course, our legal system and common-sense notions of life itself hinge on this notion of conscious control.

What about emotions? Do you consciously contol your emotional reaction to something? Of course, we all react with horror to scenes of tsunami destruction. But what about your personal idiosyncratic reaction to a person you just met. This person looks familiar and you are attracted to them and yet you are not sure why. Now solve this with a brain scan and neurotransmitter theory. Nope, you can’t. This person reminds you of someone trapped in a mnemonic layer of your mind, buried beneath all the life changes you have had since then. The historical revisions you make with each layer of your life has obscurred your conscious awareness of why you like this new person. So the unconscious speaks directly with primitive unanalyzed emotions to you, but the different layers of past consciousness have filtered out the indentity of the person whose memory makes you feel the way you do.

What about the fact you can’t control the process of remembering something? You have forgotten something important. The emotion of this importance you feel, yet the details are trapped beneath all those mnemonic layers. Then suddenly you encounter some stimulus that penetrates through all those layers and you remember what you forgot. The association between stimulus and remembered fact or experience is not something you consciously control. Yet there is an important agency of your mind that saw the connection and retrieved the forgotten experience or fact. This agency of your mind characterizes you so intimately and yet you are not conscious of it.

What about those times when you are busy in the morning, doing 10 things at the same time. You bring a cup of coffee from one room to the other, then you suddenly remember something you have to do, and you set the cup of coffee down on top of a book shelf or some other weird place. You do a few other things and realize you don’t have the coffee in your hand. Where did it go? Maybe your mind alotted more psychic energy to your morning chores than it did to where you set the coffee down.

Your conscious mind can literally take a vacation from physical reality. Not just with “losing” your coffee. How about when you daydream on a long road trip and you suddenly “wake up” to discover you missed your exit and drove many miles without being aware of it. You multi-tasked and subliminally drove the car while most of your conscious psyche was lost in reverie.

What about those times when you are trying to solve a problem. You rack your brains for hours or days. And then suddenly when you are shaving or in the shower or doing some trivial task, the light bulb shines, eureka! The answer pops into your head. Is this a random process? Like quantum physics when an isotope randomly decays into another? I say no. Something trapped in previously inaccessible layers connected to a stimulus in your environment. An unconscious agency made this connection and the eureka moment ensued.

Those times when these mysterious emotions, recollections, forgetting, splitting of the psyche, and problem solutions all happen, point to a vital essential part of your mind. It is within the unconscious, but not synonymous with it. There is an active function that connects what is on your mind at the moment and what is buried in the unconscious. I call this function or agency the “metaconscious”. Because it is different from the experiences stored in the unconscious reservoir. It determines what you become aware of, what extent you are aware of your surroundings and what extent you get lost in reverie, what you find worth remembering and what you decide to drop into that unconscious abyss. It determines what and how you mentally connect all the things, people, things, ideas, experiences, memories, in your current phase of life and how all previous phases of life are construed. You could, if you were a depth psychologist, equate this metaconscious as the net effect of all complexes and archetypes engaged in a tug of war. Each situation you face speaks to some complexes and is mute to others. You meet someone like your mother in some aspect and you react accordingly in an instinctive idiosyncratic manner beyond your conscious control. That is, certain emotions arise which you may or may not let dictate any behaviors. I would say that the center of gravity for all the complexes is the metaconscious. Maybe each complex has a core of selfhood and these cores collectivize into the metaconscious.

This is merely the initial installment on this topic. I had notes for this and strayed from them, let my own metaconscious do the writing, from some previously repressed outline of which I am not even conscious now.


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March 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm

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March 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm

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