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The term ‘abreaction’ was first thought up by ancient Greek dramatists to describe the purging or cathartic effect that the release of emotion gives. Abreaction is actually a flow of different emotions, and it takes several forms. The overall effect is to release anxiety from the subconscious mind.
What I have found is that some particular emotions are linked together to form four kinds of invariable sequence, which are ways in which the unconscious mind operates. These sequences link together positive emotions with negative ones, or happiness with unhappiness. I give the name ‘abreaction’ to these sequences. The two main ones are the abreaction of guilt and the abreaction of pride. The first sequence links excitement to guilt and resentment, and the second one links sorrow and sadness to bitterness.
guilt is the
Narcissism leads to jealousy ; then jealousy leads to guilt ; then guilt leads to resentment.
pride is the
Jealousy leads to narcissism ; then narcissism leads to pride ; then pride leads to bitterness.
These abreactions flow
dialectical way – thesis, antithesis, and then synthesis.
For example, in the abreaction of guilt :
Initially narcissism and jealousy produce excitement, and then we end up with the guilt and resentment that oppose it. Finally we have the steady state of detachment when the contents of the excitement and the resentment phases no longer interest us.
These ideas mean that abreaction generates dialectical change. Abreaction releases anxiety from the subconscious mind during the process of character transformation, and this release occurs by an oscillation between states of mind. Therefore the process of character transformation is a dialectical one.
Social Abreaction is just the extension of the sequences of abreaction to society as a whole, and they produce what I call laws of social change. The morality of an age determines what is good and evil, and these ideas form the content of social abreaction. The intensity of these abreactions depend on the rate of social change : the faster the change the greater are the effects of abreaction.
The first law of social change is the abreaction of guilt : it starts from a catharsis , which often contains left-wing or progressive views, but always ends in a right-wing backlash of resentment. Politically the resentment generates Conservative, even Fascist, attitudes.
The second law of social change is the abreaction of pride : it starts from sorrow and ends in bitterness. This abreaction usually ends in forms of Nazism, such as police death squads, the Stalinist political show-trials of the 1930s, and political or sectarian genocide. Bitterness is always worse than resentment. So Nazism is always worse than Fascism.
For more analysis, read the article Emotion and Abreaction.
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Initially the infant takes its mother as a role model. It identifies with the parental image. As the child grows up it changes its identification model several times, to father, to adolescent peers, to teachers. The resulting adult is a montage of different models, of different foci of identification. Identification can be viewed as a psychological union with an external source ; the emotion that facilitates bonding is jealousy.
A different drama is enacted by the introverted child. Identification with an external source ceases to have any intensity beyond the parental models. The narcissistic child begins to take itself as its own model : it begins to identify with itself. A better way of expressing this identification is to say that the child becomes self-absorbed.
Identification is based on jealousy, whereas self-absorption is based on narcissism.
The physical body that is seen with the physical eye is only one part of human structure. The person capable of extra-sensory perception can see other ‘bodies’ that are associated with the physical one : these are the emotional body and the mental body and the causal body. As a complex they are called the astral bodies of the person ; they are the vehicles for consciousness in higher planes of reality where there is no need to have a physical body
All matter exists in states of vibratory motion or energy. Each body has its own frequency of vibration. The matter of the physical body vibrates at the lowest rate, and the matter of the causal body (the home of the soul) at the highest rate. The other two bodies fit in-between. The vibrations from all the bodies fill the same space, like a radio spectrum.
Extra-sensory perception means nothing more than that the person has developed the ability to respond to these higher frequencies. Like any other ability, it is just a question of training.
The astral bodies of a person radiate energy which can be observed by extra-sensory perception. This energy field of a person is called the aura and it can freely interact with the energy field of another person when they are close enough together, allowing the direct transmission of emotion from each to the other. The most important situation where this occurs, from the psychological perspective, is that between parent and infant – whilst being nursed the infant is constantly absorbing the parent’s emotions (both conscious and subconscious ones).
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The psychological model that I use most of the time is a static one. This has three levels of activity: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. However, when I need to describe agency I use a dynamic model.
Static model: consciousness is a state of being that has three modes, those of will, mind and feeling. Therefore, for me, consciousness is not the same as mind (and neither is mind identical to the brain). This model is for understanding how the various factors of consciousness relate together, in ways that are independent of agency.
Dynamic model : consciousness is a state of being that can act as a channel for agency. This model is for understanding the purpose of consciousness. Consciousness contains an agent, the ego, that can make choices.
Self-consciousness implies that agency is internal to the state of being, as in people and some of the higher animals. When consciousness has no aspect of self, as in insects and plants, then agency is external and utilises instinct (for example, such agency may be a group mind, and so consciousness would be a group consciousness).
Functional model : consciousness is a state of being that constructs a paradigm of reality from the results of awareness. This model describes what consciousness does. Awareness is that aspect of mind by which the agent develops consciousness.
The mechanism of this construction is thought. Thought is a sequence of awareness states, or thought is the activity of awareness. The content of thought can be images or words. Images are either images of something or an image of nothing (mental silence). Attention or concentration is the means of emphasising some states of awareness rather than other ones.
is the activity
of will directed into a mental concept.
Hence desire is the combination of will + mind.
is the activity of feeling
a mental concept.
Hence emotion is the combination of feeling + mind.
An emotion is an unconscious idea powered by either a pleasant feeling or an unpleasant feeling.
These definitions are explained in the article Emotion and Abreaction.
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When any aspect of the linguistic sign is examined using a perspective of time, such as how the sign actually evolved in history, this examination is termed ‘diachronic’. When any aspect of the sign is examined in its present state, without regard to how it became the way it is, this examination is termed ‘synchronic’.
For example : if today I look up the present arrangement of teams in the football league, the way that they are grouped into a table, I see a synchronic comparison. Whereas if I follow the teams every week then a diachronic comparison unfolds (because I see the way in which the teams continually change their order in the table).
I use the term ‘dialectical ’ in the Hegelian sense. It represents a movement of thought through three stages. First there is the opening idea, the thesis ; then thought switches to the opposite conception, the antithesis. Finally both stages are blended together in the third stage, the synthesis. In moral ideas, if the thesis is a concept of goodness then the antithesis is a concept of badness. If the thesis represents some badness, the antithesis is that of some goodness. The synthesis is the resolution of the conflict.
is the personality ; it is
the conscious aspect of the person, and excludes the subconscious
and unconscious minds. It is agency, or the agent of
consciousness. The ego has to make choices, and these produce
effects. So the realm of the ego is the realm of cause and effect.
See also Consciousness.
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Some emotions are compound ones and consist of two simpler emotions (these two emotions are factors of the compound emotion). The factors do not exert their influence simultaneously ; only one is dominant at any particular time. I use the term mode to indicate which factor is being dominant at that time, that is, to indicate the manner in which the compound emotion is being experienced.
For example, guilt comprises the two simpler emotions of self-pity and self-hate. So when the self-pity factor is being dominant, I describe this as experiencing guilt (in the mode of self-pity). Similarly, when the self-hate factor is being dominant, this is guilt (in the mode of self-hate). See the article Emotion and Abreaction.
A summary of the factors of some important emotions is :
= self-pity +
Pride = vanity + hatred of other people.
Narcissism = love + vanity.
Jealousy = love + self-pity.
= fear +
Paranoia = fear + pride (mode of vanity).
Resentment = guilt + idealism.
Bitterness = pride + idealism
Empiricism is the attempt to detect the basis of physical existence. In psychology it means the detection and identification of our states of mind, such as emotions, beliefs and desires. To identify our subconscious states of mind requires that we deepen our degree of self-awareness till we can first of all detect them, and then observe their effects on us. By cultivating an intuitive familiarity with them, we can deduce their characteristics and label them. A good way to begin psychological empiricism is to study and practice the Buddhist method of mindfulness. I describe my method of empiricism in the third article on Emotion, Identifying Emotions - see my psychology websites.
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The process of making value judgements depends upon the psychological mechanisms of projection and introjection . Equanimity is the state of mind attained when the person ceases to make value judgements, and hence ceases to use projection and introjection. However, equanimity is extremely difficult to attain. The most effective way of stopping projection and introjection, at least temporarily, is to step outside of all value systems. The traditional Buddhist method of doing this is to practise mindfulness.
Existentialism takes the person as he is now, ignoring how he came to be. It is the way of exploring the meaning of relationships as the person experiences them now, without regard to past or future. What opportunities do they offer him? What kinds of freedom can he express within them? What forms of equality can be explored? The person explores relationships from a perspective centred on his own individuality. The states of mind that the person prefers to respond to are those of free will and choice.
Psychology takes the person as he has become, since it is his own history that is important for determining how he is now. The history of the person has helped to produce his present reality. And, in general, his relationships make up a large part of his history. Psychology is a way of exploring the value of relationships to the person. He explores relationships from a perspective centred on his social orientation. What needs do they satisfy? The states of mind that have the greatest effects on him are those of determinism and social conditioning.
An existential perspective means how relationships are understood now. A psychological perspective means why such relationships are as they are.
Another way of looking at these differences is to bring in the concept of two identities, by which I mean a person's focus on being either socially-orientated or orientated to being an individual :--
Psychological beliefs are concerned with values, the values that relationships have for the person. He explores what he gains and loses from his relationships. These beliefs provide a person with his sense of social identity.
Existential beliefs are concerned with meaning (and purpose), the meaning (and purpose) that relationships have for the person. He explores why he needs, or does not need, relationships. These beliefs provide a person with his sense of individual identity.
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Feelings are not the same as emotions. This fact is not clearly recognised, especially as definitions of them tend to be ambiguous and vague. Confusion often abounds in ideas and articles about them.
There are a multitude of emotions, but only three feelings. The three feelings are the pleasant one, the unpleasant one, and the neutral one. This is the Buddhist understanding and I verified this fact directly during the time when I used to practise meditation. In the past, some moral theorists believed that the neutral feeling is only an equal mixture of both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, so that the net effect is zero. But meditational awareness disproves this assumption.
The importance of feelings is that they help give rise to emotions, that is, the bases of all emotions are the three feelings. See article Emotion and Abreaction.
When I open my eyes in the morning a world of objects greets me. But do these objects really exist ? Realism (or philosophical materialism) is the view that these external objects do in fact exist and are composed of a substance called matter ; these objects are independent of me, and will continue to exist even if tomorrow I cease to exist.
The opposing philosophical theory to realism is called philosophical Idealism, or even just Idealism. Philosophical Idealism comes in two forms : subjective Idealism and objective Idealism.
Subjective Idealism assumes that the person's mind is paramount and creates his reality, including the objects of his world. Whereas, within objective Idealism, objects occur because they exist as ideas in the mind of god. This mind is universal, or objective, as compared to the subjective mind of the individual person. Hence reality is the product of objective mind.
[ I use a capital 'I' for Idealism to distinguish it from the psychological use of 'idealism', meaning the pursuit of one's ideals.]
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This has two parts: rationality and intuition.
These two parts work together in conceptual analysis, that is, when we try to analyse something, when we think about concepts and their meanings. Conceptual analysis can be split into three modes:
Logical thinking – uses reason alone.
Dialectical thinking – uses both reason and intuition.
Relativistic thinking – uses both reason and intuition.
Intelligence expresses the activity of the mind, whilst intellect is an indication of the degree of maturity of the mind.
One way of defining intelligence is that it is the ability to learn from experience, the ability to apply logical thought to experience. Whereas intellectuality is a mental trait that is cultivated by applying that intelligence to problems in order to generalise the answers. Intellectual capability is the intelligent application of theory, the ability to see beyond the immediate problem, the ability to think at the level of abstraction.
Sometimes, where accuracy is not very important, I treat these two terms as being equivalent. However, the difference is :
inference that is validated
Intuition is an inference that is validated by the thinker’s belief systems.
There are several forms of determinism : some are rigid (such as the social class that a person is born into), whilst others can be more variable (such as the effects of childhood conditioning). The Indian term ‘karma’ is ideal as a general-purpose term.
Overall, karma is the effects of a person's behaviours, actions, and thinking. The most important way to understand the concept of karma is that it is the effects of the fixed ideas, beliefs and attitudes that the person carries with him through life (and lifetimes!) : these aspects of character help to generate a person’s actions and behaviours.
has two forms, relative
One form relates to the person's behaviour and fixed beliefs (that is, beliefs which have formed his character) ; whatever the person does produces an effect. This form is a relative one, and includes everything that is not caused by abreaction.
The other form relates to the mental processes, particularly to the subconscious mind ; when this is active, the person's mental states oscillate in a dialectical way. Abreaction is the source of this dialectical form of karma.
See also the Note on Karma.
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I use this term partly to denote intellect, and partly to denote the way that it helps to give rise to desires and emotions. It is not the same as consciousness.
I use the term ‘subconscious
mind ’ for what is
to the individual,
and the term ‘unconscious mind ’ for what is general to humanity.
For example, emotions
general to humanity, so part of their origin lies in the
Whereas the desires that influence a person are his own, and so come from his subconscious mind.
This is a technique derived from Buddhist meditation that can be used to neutralise the power of desires and emotions. It is an essential component of the practice of self-awareness. It consists in watching states of mind instead of evaluating them or acting on them. Perception is switched into neutral mode, so that no values are projected or introjected. See equanimity. The cessation of judgement means that any state of mind, including madness, can be entered and experienced, without becoming engulfed by that state of mind.
The standard way of formulating mindfulness in a concise manner is :
only the seen,
in the hearing, only the heard,
in the touching, only the touch,
in the smelling, only the smell,
in the tasting, only the taste.
Hence no evaluation is made of sensory impressions.
A distinction needs to be made between moral rules that are adhered to because of the person’s social conditioning and moral rules that are accepted through free personal choice. I call ‘morality’ those rules that are a part of a person’s social conditioning ; these rules are subject to erosion from stress during periods of social change or in times of sorrow. ‘Ethics’ is the term that I use for the acceptance of rules through free choice and understanding. Another way to put this difference is:
implies ideas of right
and wrong based on social conditioning.
Ethics implies ideas of right and wrong based on critical reflection.
G.E. Moore summarised a certain perspective in philosophy derived from Immanuel Kant
... just as, by reflection on our perceptual and sensory experience, we become aware of the distinction between truth and falsehood,
so it is by reflection on our experience of feeling and willing that we become aware of ethical distinctions.
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Projection means that we imagine that our own virtues and vices and attitudes are embodied in other people. We see in other people what is in ourself. This psychological stratagem is particularly noticeable with regard to our vices. We try to escape from our faults by denying them ; we see them only as aspects of other people – it is always other people that are the source of conflict.
Introjection is the complementary process. We emulate the virtues (and vices) in the people that we admire. We incorporate into ourself the attitudes of people that are significant to us. Our own idealised image of ourself can also act as a source for introjection : we can use such an image as an object from which we can introject virtues that we need. It is through introjection that a child absorbs the values of the parents.
Projection and introjection are the means of handling values.
For an in-depth analysis, see article Projection and Introjection on my psychology websites.
The general meaning of relativity is that a subjective effect always goes hand in hand with an objective effect. Relativity ties subjectivity to objectivity.
The ego is a relative construction created by the infant in order to tie its subjective world to an objective reality. Since it is relative, the ego has existence but no essence. The relativity of the ego is the ground of the relativity of all values, moral codes, and beliefs.
See the article Ego and Relativity.
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My use of ‘soul ’ is equivalent to the term ‘higher self ’. Soul is the source of spiritual idealisms, and it is ‘the silent watcher ’. Another common name is ‘the witness’. The soul is a ‘higher self ’ to the ego (this should not be confused with the creation by an ego of an idealised ‘self ’). The soul acts as a guide to the ego, trying to steer it through the confusion of a human life. The ego reincarnates (though in a complicated manner), but the soul does not.
For me, spirituality does not necessarily equate to religiosity. A religious person can also be spiritual, but a spiritual person does not have to be religious. A religious perspective is a self-sufficient belief system containing all acceptable values and meanings within it. It is a belief system that has boundaries around it, since the world of the subconscious mind is excluded from it. A spiritual perspective can be more open and flexible. I view spirituality as the attempt to live in harmony with life. This view entails the necessity to aim for harmony in all of one’s personal relationships and situations.
Emotions are partly derived from ideas or mental concepts that influence us below the level of normal consciousness. The mental concept that is associated with an emotion actually creates the boundaries of that emotion. If the mental concept changes, the emotion does not change ; instead, it fades away and a different emotion arises, one that fits the current mental concept. To work out the underlying concept, the overall theme or motif of the emotion needs to be considered, that is, what the emotion is trying to express.
Emotions are not unique to any particular individual, so the ideas or concepts that underlie them come from the unconscious mind. Since the concepts are unconscious they are extremely difficult to identify. The concept is normally unconscious, so I call it an unconscious concept or an unconscious idea.
For a list of unconscious
ideas, see the article Emotion and
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© 2002 Ian Heath
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