Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

Pic 1

SELF SIMILARITY, SELF ORGANIZATION, AND THE NEUROSCIENCE OF SELF

Neuroscience, Complexity, Chaos, Fractal Geometry, Self-Organization, Emergence, and Jung are explored in the Asheville Jung Center conference “Jung and Neuroscience”. Seven years ago, I enrolled in a college math class at UNC Asheville. I had been unable to crack the code and learn Fractal Geometry on my own (click on this link for a fascinating page on Fractals).  Twice each week for an entire semester I scheduled myself out of my office and trekked to the campus of my in order to immerse myself in the study of this quirky field of mathematics.   A short list of some of the topics the course covered (and some images that illustrate the topic) provide a good segue to at least one of the presenters for the Asheville Jung Center’s conference “Jung and Neuroscience”.   Attractor (a set towards which a variable evolves in a dynamical system)   Fractal Dimension (a measure of detail in a pattern [strictly speaking, a fractal pattern] that changes with the scale at which it is measured Self-similar sets (sets that look the same up close and from far away) Stable Attractors (points of equilibrium into which systems settle until disrupted) Strange Attractors (points in a system where the graphic display of equations bifurcate)   Chaotic Attractors (in chaos theory an attractor that displays marked sensitivity to initial conditions)   Julia Sets  (consists of values such that an arbitrarily small perturbation can cause drastic changes in the sequence of iterated function values and thereby the graph) Self Organizing System (denotes a system of synergistically cooperative elements whose patterns of global behavior are distributed (i.e., no single element coordinates the activity) and self-limiting in nature) DNA self replicates and self assembles (electron microscope on the right)   Birds Flocking   Social self orgainizing in international drug routes     Consider several broad phenomena we all engage in our work as therapists.
  • There are motifs that seem to recur in some people’s lives whose particular manifestations evolve depending in the phase of the person’s life.
  • Consciousness arises as a complex, emergent phenomenon out of the prima materia of an organ weighing about 3 lbs, the physical body that sustains it, and the soical/interpersonal milieu in which these dynamical systems are nurtured.
  • When we sleep, self-organizing phenomenon emerge using the stuff of our daily lives.  The intricacy of such phenomena seem to demonstrate exquisite sensitivity to the set of initial conditions (think about Chaos Theory).
  • Therapy and analysis involves two complex systems interacting.  The language of transference and countertransference could be overlaid upon certain ideas related to dynamical systems.
  • The nodes of electronic communication that permit a conference like “Jung and Neuroscience” to weave together a half dozen presenters and hundreds of attendees from dozens of countries.
  One of today’s presenters, Dr. David Kahn who is speaking at the International Association for the Study of Dreams in Sonoma, CA, holds a PhD from Yale and has looked at self-organizing systems.   There is an eerie beauty to the images and ideas mentioned above.  I find myself contemplating the ageless ideas proposed by Hermes Trismegistus, ideas like “As above, so below”.  That is for me the linguistic representation of self similarity.  What does it mean to propose that God made man in His own image?  What do we find so intriguing in movies like “Sliding Doors” or “Crash” in which we recognize the power of certain initial conditions.   “Jung and Neuroscience” is an exploration of the interface between the burgeoning field of neuroscience and the field of Jungian psychology.  It is too easy to approach these as though they are divergent paths but we are likely to be better served to make our approach like the particle physicists have done when contending with light’s dual, complementary nature as both a wave and a particle.   The mathematics that undergirds the fields of dynamical systems, fractal geometry, and chaotic theory emerged from the work of Henri Poincaré, a  late 19th century mathematician.  With the advent of modern computing capacity that permitted “iterative” functions to be calculated ( and plotted) after hundreds or thousands of cycles.  (an iterative function takes the output or solutions of a system of equations and uses them as the inputs for the next cycle of computation.)   The beauty and elegance of the images appearing above can be produced because of the insights Poincaré introduced and the ability to use today’s computational capacity to graphically display the results of thousands of iterative calculations.   Poincaré’s Recurrence Theorem is one of the many intriguing things he posited.  He stated that certain systems (nonlinear dynamical systems) will, after a sufficiently long time, return to a state very close to its initial conditions.  The notion that a system of equations can “forget” for very long times yet somehow return to its initial conditions, is a profoundly attractive idea.  This evokes reminiscences of a sphinx like journey of exodus and return.   Dr. Murray Stein quoted from CW 10 para 318 in his effort to characterize the lunar mind “It is not our ego-consciousness reflecting on itself, rather it turns its attention to the objective actuality of the dream as a communication or message from the unconscious, unitary soul of humanity.  It reflects not on the ego but on the self, it recollects that that self, alien to the ego which was ours from the beginning, the trunk from which the go grew.”  The lunar mind knows things that the solar mind does not know or does not yet know, or that have not been taken into consideration.  Our solar mind can be fast but in its speed it may miss certain vital dimensions.  The solar mind and the lunar mind conceived as strange attractors of the dynamical system that comprises our psyche.  Consider the idea of personal and collective unconscious as strange attractors of the dynamical system we know as unus mundus.     Dr. Margaret Wilkinson explores the rich metaphoric realm of the dream.  Dream analysis is a co-constructive process.  As implicit speaks to implicit in the analysis, dreams are a shared, emergent process.  Emergent phenomenon, the appearance of patterns that arise from relatively simple interactions, cannot be predicted from the simple rules of interactions.  Just as analysis, a process that at some level involves simple rules (appointments, rituals like engaging dreams, active imagination, etc) produces unpredictable results.   In part, the dream may function in part to assemble dissociated self states that are disconnected.  The voice of these self states can be discerned in the dream and its images.  Through metaphor, unconscious states of the mind are exposed to conscious.  Dr. Wilkinson’s comments about the dream images being organized around affective patterns, these patterns that are born of our personal experience provide the elements from which we assemble and organize our selves.   There is  no destination to these musings.  Instead, I hope this blog serves as an invitation to the reader to further exploration.  I intentionally posted this blog during the Asheville Jung Center’s conference “Jung and Neuroscience”.  There was an aspect of this post that was experimental, testing if my hypothesis about how the small amount of information I have about Dr. Kahn might have presaged some of his contributions.  If these ideas do not emerge during the conference, so be it.   There is something about posting these reflections and the possibility that they might resonate with or evoke in another some useful effect that redeems anew the countless hours I offered to the project of learning fractal geometry.  The cycles of life, the iterations involved in remembering my fractal geometry class, the sharing of these thoughts as a blog resemble an iterative function.  First I enrolled and completed a class in fractal geometry as a way of answering a deep call within.  Anticipating the “Jung and Neuroscience” conference, I take the results of that class from seven years ago and plug it back in like entering results of an iterative equation back into the original equation again and again.  The posting of this blog like the plotting of solutions to an iterative function, is a display of the working and reworking of psychic material.  My sense about such processes and the emergent results is that given enough time, the process of my psychic unfolding might eventually prove consistent with Poincaré’s Recurrence Theorem so that I may find myself returning to something very close to my original state.   By Len Cruz, MD   “The psychic is a phenomenal world which can be reduced neither to the brain or metaphysics.”      Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par. 667

Continue Reading 6 Comments

CROESUS SYNDROME: The Shadow in Psychotherapy

Vignon's Tribute of Croesus shows the influenc...

Image via Wikipedia

CROESUS SYNDROME: The Shadow in Psychotherapy What, if anything, can the psychoanalyst or psychotherapist do to contend with the shadow aspects of their professional persona?   This is by no means a universal concern among psychotherapists for several reasons.  Certainly there are many persons practicing forms of psychotherapy that do not regard the unconscious as their concern at all.  Behavioral, cognitive, and solutions-oriented therapies, to name a few, have no need of the unconscious.  I am reminded of one of my supervisors in residency who attempted to encourage me to face facts squarely about a certain repeated conflict I was experiencing. He pointed out: “It’s entirely up to you whether or not you choose to ignore reality;  the question  is, will reality ignore you?”. Likewise, modern therapies that emphasize ego adaptation are free to ignore the unconscious; the question remains; however, will the unconscious ignore the therapy? A psychotherapist in training is more likely to remain in contact with their unconscious.  Formal supervision may provide a measure of scrutiny to the psychotherapist’s unconscious process.  Ideally, supervision imparts to the psychotherapist a praxis and a habit for such examination.   This may then develop into a continuing process of self-examination that will serve both therapist and clients in the future.  This is, however,  where reality frequently diverges from the ideal objectives of training. There are no formal requirements that the psychotherapist remain in supervision.  Instead, there is a tacit implication that a figure has arisen in the psychotherapist whose function becomes supervisor in absentia.  It seems highly unlikely that if this figure ever really coalesced that it will be preserved.  There are many reasons why such an interior figure is likely to atrophy or die.   Chief among the reasons for this figure either never fully developing or atrophying is what I shall call the Croesus Syndrome.   Croesus was King of Lyda from 560 BC to 547 BC until his defeat by the Persians.  He is credited with being the first to introduce gold coinage of a standard weight and purity.  His wealth and power was vast and before setting out on his campaign against Cyrus of Persia, he consulted the Delphic Oracle. The message provided by the Oracle took its usual cryptic form.  Croesus was told that if he campaigned against Cyrus of Persia a great empire would fall and he was further advised to align himself with the most powerful Greek state.  He struck alliances with Sparta among others and set off.  As was the custom, Croesus disbanded his army when winter arrived.  Cyrus did not and he attacked Croesus in Sardis.  Croesus then understood the great empire that the oracle foretold would be destroyed was his own empire.  Such is often the fate of the psychotherapist who endeavors to cultivate an interior figure that serve as supervisor in absentia.      

Oracle of Delphi

Like Croesus, that psychotherapist seeks the oracle’s message but the psychotherapist’s dreams, associations, and active imagination yield their mysteries in cryptic form.  And also like Croesus, the psychotherapist suffers a predictable inclination toward interpreting his or her unconscious material in accord with their conscious, more acceptable understanding.  Notice that the psychotherapist’s shadow need not be included in this process.  In fact, the shadow elements of the psychotherapist will further resemble Croesus’s tale in that its unacknowledged state may be credited with the failures of the campaign, the psychotherapy or psychoanalysis itself. CHALLENGE I have some ideas of what may be done about this predicament but I am interested in knowing what other therapists think about this dilemma and how others endeavor to address it. Please share the methods you employ to not only remain in contact with your unconscious and also share the strategies you have found useful in engaging the inherent blind spots that Croesus so dramatically illustrated in antiquity. Len Cruz
Enhanced by Zemanta

Continue Reading 22 Comments

Wilderness of Childhood: Adventure and Creativity

WILDERNESS OF CHILDHOOD: Adventure and Creativity I tore an essay by Michael Chabon out of the July 31, 2009 issue of The Week magazine nearly a year ago and retrieved it from a stack of magazines early this morning.  The essay first appeared in the New York Review of Books<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/jul/16/manhood-for-amateurs-the-wilderness-of-childhood/> under the title “Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood”.  Chabon begins by describing the joy and wonder of explorations in the Wilderness of Childhood.  For some of us it was a real wilderness of varying degrees of tameness.  For me, it sometimes consisted of nothing more than riding my bicycle eight to ten miles to South Miami where my brother and I fished for gar along the banks of canals and hooked each other as often as the stolid fish. In the Wilderness of my youth, development hadn’t pushed large tracts of strawberries or sugar cane deeper into the Everglades. The Wilderness of a child is devoid of adults.  Children’s writers understand this.  There is a realm of childhood wherein adults have been expelled.  Children’s writers like C.S. Lewis, Charles Schultz, and Paul Pullman understand.  Apart from the watchful and too often stultifying view of adults a child encounters the Wilderness in which she engages the adventure of her life. Contemporary urban or suburban, American children may miss the joy of  Wilderness.  They are victims of our collective fears of abductions, preventable injuries, drug abuse, and more.  Parents are more determined than ever to provide children every available opportunity to thrive, learn, and excel.  Given such vigilant attention, there is little room left for Wilderness.  The Wilderness of childhood hasn’t been civilized as much as it’s been strained of nearly all traces of danger and unpredictability. According to Chabon, our children have become “…cult objects to us, to precious to be risked. At the same time, they have become fetishes, the objects of an unhealthy and diseased fixation.  And once something is fetishized, capitalism steps in and finds a way to sell it.” Chabon wonders about the impact of closing down the Wilderness upon children’s imagination.  Perhaps the answer is glimpsed when we see children dining with their parents at the Rain Forest Cafe or visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Those of us who never let our children out of our site, who schedule our children’s activities, who strive to enrich them, may unwittingly be extinguishing the sparks of adventure that can later ignite into flames of creative inspiration.  From Wilderness beginnings where dangers lurked in the shadows behind tree trunks and sticks became rifles come novels, films, inventions, and new business ventures. Jung’s Red Book created a stir among Jungians.  His inner explorations and his artistry are a torrent of illumination.  Below are two paragraphs from Frank McLynn’s book Carl Gustav Jung (St. Martin’s Press). “At around the age of four Jung developed a morbid fascination with death and corpses: he was fascinated by the dead body of a four-year-old boy found near the Rhine Falls and, clearly — Jungians would say — at the unconscious level, wished he was that boy. Accident proneness was much in evidence. Firstly he fell downstairs, then he fell against the leg of a stove, scarring himself so badly that the wound was still visible in his senior year at Gymnasium. It is a familiar idea that accident-prone children tend to have problems with their mother and ‘self-destruct’ because of rage against the nurturer who has failed them. The preoccupation with the corpses also fits the scenario of rage against the mother. “More serious than the falls was an accident on the Rhine bridge at Neuhausen when the child Carl Gustav had one leg under the railing and was about to slip through when the maid caught him. Jung himself attributed these untoward events to an unconscious suicidal urge or a kind of fatal resistance to life in this world. But while still alive and an international figure he explained his `corpse preoccupation’ as simply a means of trying to accommodate to the idea of death.” This is not a childhood without a measure of Wilderness. And here are two more paragraphs from the first chapter of McLynn’s book. “It was just before he went to school that he had one of the most significant dreams of his life; although Jung claimed this occurred when he was aged three or four, clinical evidence points to five or six as the more likely time. “In the dream Jung was in a meadow near Laufen castle and discovered an underground passageway. He descended and in a subterranean chamber found a kind of altar or king’s throne on which stood what he thought at first was a tree trunk, some twelve to fifteen feet high and about two feet thick. The object was made of skin and naked flesh, with a rounded head and a single eye on the very top of the head. Later he would recognize the object as a ritual phallus. He was awoken by his mother’s voice, as it were from outside, crying out, `That is the maneater!’” Jung is not accompanied by adults on his subterranean adventure, and, perhaps this prepared him for the solitary explorations he would undertake in later years.   His mothers voice, an adult voice, retrieves him from the adventure. Let yourself recall the Wilderness realms of your own childhood, and if you can bring yourself to do so, release a child to have an encounter with their wilderness.  We can scarcely predict where this leads. Chabon closes his essay this way: “Art is  form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map.  If children are not permitted–not taught–to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?” Len Cruz

Continue Reading 1 Comment

Register your E-mail for
New Jungian Seminars and Exclusive Offers

Email: