The reason we get super-serious, humourless, stressed out, aggressive, and mechanically driven in life is because our world has become decomplexified so that there is only one way to look at things, only one way to do things, only one outcome that really matters. Everything hangs on the attainment of this ‘one outcome’ and all we can do therefore is to try very hard to succeed within the terms of the narrow system that has been imposed on us. This is a situation in which there is no freedom, another words, and that is why we have become so serious – our sense of humour about things, and about ourselves, cannot survive in a decomplexified version of reality. Who we actually are cannot survive in a decomplexified world.
Our sense of humour about things is our basic sanity and so what living in a decomplexified world does to us is that it causes us to lose our basic sanity. The reason this point is worth making is because we are almost always living in a ‘decomplexified version of reality’ – that’s what the socially constructed world is, it’s a hugely oversimplified analogue of the real world. This isn’t to say we should exclusively blame society for robbing us of our basic sanity (although it does just this – madness and civilization can never be separated, as Foucault says) but rather to say that what we call society is a merely particular instance of the type of oversimplified world that thought creates. Thought – because it is based upon stressing the generic at the expense of the unique – invariably produces decomplexified worlds. Thought is logic and logic can only understand things in terms of formulae or rules, i.e., in terms of generic cases. Society – we might say – is simply a construct of thought which we have all tacitly agreed to take seriously, and although this agreement has an immediate pragmatic value, it inhibits all genuine individuality, as Jung has noted. Jung noted this but modern psychologists won’t! The practical advantage is that we get to work effectively towards a common goal, we get to sing from the same hymn sheet, we get to hold the same values, but we don’t have any authentic individuality. We try to obtain a particular ‘identity’ for ourselves, in order to get a sense of ourselves as being different and unique, in order to stand out from the crowd, but that isn’t the same thing. Identity has nothing to do with actual individuality.
Thought are just thoughts, we might say, but when we all share the same standardised view of things (i.e., a construct of thought that has been collectively validated) then this is something that is very hard to go against. We don’t get any support for going against the consensus view of things, we only get support when we go along with it! This is of course just another way of saying that we don’t get any support for moving in ‘the direction of increased Wholeness’ – which is where we become real, which is when we become more truly who we actually are – but only when we move in the direction of trying to accord more closely to the standards that have been set for us, only when we try to become who we are supposed to be but aren’t. We get validation for the roles we play, but the opposite of validation what do you want to find out who we might be behind these roles, behind this act that we are putting on. Society promotes the false and punishes the actual, in other words, and this is true across the board – it is true in the mental health services just as it is true in the wider culture because these services are made-up of socialised human beings, human beings who have been coerced from birth to believe that they are the role that they are playing. This is what Alan Watts calls ‘social adjustment therapy’. The system benefits from SAT, but we certainly don’t.
When we are socially adjusted then it becomes an impossibility for us to listen to the idea that this that it is this generic mode of being that is responsible for our mental ill-health. Our conditioning is telling us that wellness comes from adhering to the socialised view of what it means to be human being, not from departing from the sacred standards. Departing from the collectively-validated standard is deviance and from the point of view of the collective deviance is always wrong, deviance is always an error. It is a moral failing which will lead us to a bad place. Conformity to the group norms is what will make us happy and fulfilled, not deviance, we say! We have ideas about what is right and wrong (although they’re not really ‘our’ ideas since we have passively absorbed them from the social milieu) and everything in our lives comes down to trying to live up to these ideas, and castigating ourselves relentlessly when we’re not able to do so. The suggestion that the only healthy thing to do is to rebel against these insidious ideas is quite incomprehensible to us. We are far too naive to see that. As time goes on it seems that we are becoming less and less able to comprehend what is actually a very simple idea.
The process of socialisation always separates us from our basic sanity, therefore. It can’t not do and if we properly understood the process of socialisation then we’d see this very plainly indeed. Thought imposes its own type of order on everything and then we struggle to adjust ourselves to this imposed order, not seeing that the more we orientate ourselves in relation to the bureaucracy of thought the more alienated from our actual nature we become. The more we succeed in according with the idea that we have of who we are the more brittle and artificial we become. We talk a lot about this thing called ‘resilience’ and we see building resilience as being the key component of any credible mental healthcare programme. This sounds reasonable enough, perhaps, until we actually look into it; as with everything else, we assume our starting-off point – which is the socially conditioned self – as being completely fundamental, which means that our approach is always going to be to ‘add stuff on’, which we imagine is going to help that self to become better able to cope with what it clearly isn’t able to cope with. Resilience is one such ‘add on’. The problem with this however is that not only is the conditioned self (our starting-off point) artificial so too are all the gimmicks we try to fix it with. Trying to fix the artificial self with all these extras, all these add-ons just isn’t going to work! At best, this superficial and short-sighted approach will just keep us living in an artificial (and ultimately unsustainable) way a bit longer, which is the very last thing we need!
The source of our psychological problems is the concrete identity itself, which tends to sound strange to us since – culturally speaking – the identity (which is to say, the role we play or the face we present, both to the world and to ourselves) is the most important thing of all. Identity is just another construct of thought however, nothing more. It doesn’t exist anywhere apart from in our minds. We perceive it to be the case that are well-being lies in conforming to this mind-created identity, in protecting and promoting it, whilst the truth of the matter is at our well-being (our released from artificiality) lies only in rebelling against the humourless tyranny of the self-construct. This doesn’t mean that we should fight against it, that we should be aggressive and controlling towards it, because that just makes it all the stronger. Fighting against Satan is what gives Satan his power, after all. The identity is an unreal thing, and yet we set it up above ourselves as our unquestionable master, and this of course causes the whole of our lives to become equally unreal. The identity is a fixed entity, something very definite, something that can be clearly and unambiguously defined. The identity or self-construct is an actual ‘thing’, in other words, but in reality there are no things and there never could be. ‘From the beginning not a thing was’, says Bodhidharma. Thought makes things by arbitrarily separating the parts from the whole. There are no things in the real world however, only the illusion of things that the mind creates for us, and which we cling to out of our fear of openness, out of our fear of change.
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