Reflections On ‘The Way Of Error’
When we try to fix ourselves, mental health-wise, this is The Way of Error. The reason trying to fix our own mental health is ‘the way of error’ is because it is guaranteed to make things worse for ourselves not better – all fixing type activity, of whatever sort, is absolutely guaranteed to increase the amount of suffering that we’re going through and this is of course precisely what we don’t want.
This is easy to understand if we are willing to understand it, which we generally aren’t, and so it isn’t easy! The thing about fixing that we never see (and which we are incredibly resistant to seeing) is that before we can start with the fixing, and head off down this particular road, we first have to jump some to some sort of conclusion with respect to who or what we think we are. Without an idea about this to work off, we can’t engage any fixing. Fixing is completely off the menu in this case. The term ‘fixing’ is actually completely meaningless here…
So we have to have an idea or theory before we can launch into any ‘fixing-type’ behaviour, before we can get stuck into trying to control what’s going on, and this presents us with a very grave problem. The problem in question is that there can never be any such thing as a correct idea or theory about reality! What would that even mean, anyway? We assume that it is important (if not vital) to ‘correctly understand reality’ but this notion is itself deeply flawed. Who says what ‘correct’ is anyway, other than the self-validating mechanism of thought, which is responsible for coming up with the idea or model in the first place? The correct idea of reality (reading between the lines here since this is something that is never going to be admitted) would be one that does away with the need for reality, and there has got to be something suspect about this.
Why on earth would we want to substitute a limited black-and-white logical picture for the genuine illogical (or unbounded) article? What would our motivation be for wanting to do such a bizarre thing? Ideas and theories only work as ideas or theories by excluding stuff, stuff that doesn’t fit, stuff that doesn’t agree. The thing about this however is that having a theory about what reality is can never work since reality isn’t reality if we exclude anything. If we don’t exclude anything (which is to say, if we don’t draw any boundaries) then what we’re looking at is not an idea, not a concept, not a theory at all. It’s Wholeness, but we can never say anything about Wholeness.
Not having any boundaries involved, any categorisation involved, any ‘rule-based exclusion’ involved, is the way to stay real (and avoid incoherence) therefore, but the thing about this, as we started off by saying, is that we can’t engage in any fixing-type behaviour in this case – we can’t engage in any fixing-type behaviour because in order for there to be fixing there has to be a standard for what normal is, what right is, what correct is. We have to have an equilibrium value to aim at. Without any idea of what normal or correct is fixing just doesn’t exist since fixing means going back to what is normal; it means ‘returning to what the prescribed and correct value is’. Psychologically speaking ‘normal’ is significant because normal is how we get to cultivate an unquestionable sense of self, which is of great subjective importance to us because this is our source of ontological security in the world. If we don’t have this sense of ‘unquestionably being this self’ then we don’t have this ‘subjectively important’ feeling of being secure in the world.
Having the perception that ‘everything is normal’ is what allows us to have a concrete sense of self and what allows us to perceive that everything is normal is our controlling. A little while ago we were saying that there could be no such thing as controlling unless we first had some concept of normal to orientate ourselves towards and now we’re turning that completely around to say that ‘there can’t be any such thing as normal without controlling’! Both of these statements can be true at the same time however – we are slave to our linear thinking for the most part and as a consequence we can’t see that ‘an effect’ can also generate that very same cause that created that effect. This seems completely illogical to us and yet nature herself has no problem with this sort of thing; symbolically, the motifs of self-creating and self-developing both refer to this type of paradoxical circularity. In alchemy we have the symbol of the pelican, which in myth is said to feed his offspring with flesh that it takes from its own chest, and we also have the symbol of the snake which eats its own tail, the ouroboros. This is the ‘logic’ of the Psyche and there is nothing linear about it at all.
Our hidden or undisclosed motivation for being in control is that this creates that strange thing called ‘normal’ and this thing which we call ‘normal’ allows controlling since we can keep on trying to come back to it. And easier to understand why you’re pushing this is to say that. It is a bit easier in our logical minds to say that. In order to have a baseline, an immutable point of reference or equilibrium value we first have to assume one for once we have assumed it then we can then reify it to make it seem like a natural thing; we reify the equilibrium value by unreflectively acting upon it as a basis, by automatically trying to bring everything back to this assumed reference point. When we act on our assumed basis this is what we call controlling and controlling makes our assumed basis (our taken-for-granted reference point) seem real to us even though it isn’t.
Once we understand this crucial bit of circular logic then we can of course immediately see why ‘fixing’ has no legitimate place in psychological therapy, profoundly loathe though we are to admit this. In the psychological sphere fixing or controlling means one thing and one thing only – it means trying to make something seem real when it isn’t! If I’m trying to fix a leaking water pipe then this might be said to be a perfectly a legitimate (and very useful) form of fixing, as everyone concerned will agree, but if I am trying to ‘fix myself’ then this is not in the least bit legitimate and it never can be. How can making something seem real that isn’t real be legitimate from a therapeutic point of view? How is this ever help our mental health? All I’m doing here is increasing my reliance on an illusion by falsely reaffirming the existence of something that didn’t exist in the first place and so what we’re looking at here is the perfect antithesis of ‘mental health’! We are in thrall to a suffering-producing illusion and we’re doing our level best to make that suffering-producing illusion seem more and more real to us, even when that very same illusion is putting us through hell.
All of this is easy as pie to understand once we let go of our linear thinking, which just so happens to be the one thing that we don’t want to let go of, as we have already said several times. Linear thinking comes down to ‘the logic of cause and effect’ and we are very attached to this logic. We are very attached to it because that’s where the illusion of purposeful activity comes from and it is the illusion of purposeful activity that allows us to continue with our cherished belief in the concrete self, which is to say, ‘the self that is in control’, ‘the self which decides what is going to happen next’. We are attached to the logic of cause and effect because that linear logic allows us to identify with the cause (or with ‘the causer’) and this act of identification with an assumed causal agent is the basis upon which we live our lives. We insist on seeing who we are as this ‘discreet causal agent’ despite the fact that it doesn’t exist, despite the fact that what we are insisting on so stubbornly in this way goes on to cause us a whole (unnecessary) world of pain and suffering.
We’re ‘attached to normal’, in other words. We’re attached to a point of reference doesn’t exist and which were trying as hard as we can to get to seem to exist (or to continue to seem to exist). We are attached to the equilibrium value that doesn’t exist but which we are nevertheless completely depended upon! Being completely dependent upon this imaginary baseline because it’s the only type because this dependence gives rise to the only type of life we know. The only type of life we know and believe in is the life that makes sense in relation to our assumed frame of reference. Given that this is the case (and who could argue that it isn’t?) there is absolutely no way on earth that ‘struggling as hard as we can to make a life that isn’t real appear to make sense in relation to a standardised baseline that we ourselves have made up’ can work out for us! Our fixing, our controlling, our goal-orientatedness, is all about ‘the War against Strangeness’ and yet ‘strangeness’ is all there is. Our purposeful activity is all about our ‘love affair with the normal’ and yet ‘normal’ is a subjectively real hallucination that is caused by our staunch refusal to look reality in the eye!