My Message to Modern Thinkers
(about “Your Head” and the mental-emotional stuff it seems to contain)
You see, there is nothing that I loathe more, dear reader, that an encounter with people who will reject what I say before I say it or, equally, who will believe what I say before I have said it.
— Yanis Varoufakis
The quote above is one that you’re going to see scattered around this blog site (not too much, though – I promise I’ll try to keep it down a bit).
It illustrates that ‘head-thing’ that happens between people with a certain mind set – and those who present opposing and new ideas. Particularly those ideas that are a challenge to fixed ways of seeing. The iconoclastic Varoufakis has that trouble when he presents ideas to a locked-in public and obstinate (and fearful) politicians. His visions are born of a more wide-angled look at the world, as illustrated through one of his great loves and interests – his specialty, actually – game theory. He refuses to play by the rules when the rules have been made out of broken and outdated concepts.
In my years of presenting affectology (as a theoretical platform presenting the science of ‘where our emotions come from‘) and the practical therapeutic approaches of Af-x, and now ECR, I have encountered the same sorts of blocks. It’s perfectly understandable really, since I advocate that SOMETIMES, if you’re suffering depression, anxiety or any number of the current syndromes, the very worst thing you can do is try to bring your feelings to the fore in verbal form. In other words, to talk about them! That amounts to heading down the completely wrong road.
My presentations of the facts about preverbal feelings and their place in adult life are well supported by affective neuroscience, but let’s not spend time in this post on that vast body of evidence. Plenty of time for that later. But you might see already that presenting an idea like mine to a society that has spent a couple of hundred years cementing their belief that the only answer is to “talk it through,” is in general terms, anathema. In that case – back to the quote above – people reject what I say before I say it.
On the other hand, I have as much aversion to those who simply hear my cry of “you don’t have to talk about it to participate in good and productive therapy” without being curious as to any concrete proof behind the approach. My work involves what amounts to a good degree of client re-education about:
- how we develop emotional reactions, if not in the womb, but at least in the very early stages of life,
- how the human unconscious sets patterns of affect reaction that perseverate over our lifetime,
- and that they persist into adulthood in some hidden and silent form, influencing who you are and how you run your life.
All that is a mouthful, but it’s not quite good enough to blindly accept my statements simply because I say them, and to accept that Af-x has led to thousands of people achieving happiness and contentment (although, of course, that IS proof in itself). With such a foreign set of notions – facts, actually – we need to fill the knowledge cup a little more in order for us to accept it on all mind levels. And in that case – back to the quote above – it depicts those people who accept what I say before I have said it.
Maybe you can see why I am so fond of Varoufakis’ quote!
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BLACK SWAN
There is an argument from the world of pure mathematics and philosophy that offers that the difficulty that most people (and indeed many of the medical and psychological community) have with acknowledging and recognizing the importance of a COMPULSORY ABSENCE OF TALK in Af-x is because of its alignment with BLACK SWAN THEORY. In fact, Af-x and ECR could very well be the perfect example of this theory.
The term black swan comes from the pre-18th century Western conception that ‘All swans are white.’ In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 18th Century discovery of black swans in Australia metamorphosed the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass.
So, in that metaphor, the last century and a half of the development of psychological thought, theory and practice has been full of white swans. ONLY white swans. Those swans represented ‘narrative’ … TALK.
But because the world of psychology is still full of white swans, that doesn’t mean that black swans do not exist. The black swans represent this whole world of mine – the non-narrative affect self – the fact that we human beings house a significant aspect of ourselves that cannot be communicated with, either outside ourselves, and more significantly, within ourselves as “self-knowingness – insight.”
But, as in the Black Swan proposition, most of the world only accepted white swans and continued (even after the discovery of black swans) to relate the word ‘swan’ with ‘white’.
In psychological terms, professionals and the public alike continue to equate ‘psychotherapy’ with ‘talk’ – narrative. Physically, black swans did and do indeed exist in spite of the world’s non-acceptance, and in our case, the principles of the silent and hidden emotional self of affective neuroscience exists in spite of any insistence that psychotherapy naturally requires narrative.
….We love the tangible, the confirmation, the palpable, the real, the visible, the concrete, the known, the seen, the vivid, the visual, the social, the embedded, the emotional laden, the salient, the stereotypical, the moving, the theatrical, the romanced, the cosmetic, the official, the scholarly-sounding verbiage bullshit, the pompous Gaussian economist, the mathematicized crap, the pomp, the Academie Francaise, Harvard Business School, the Nobel Prize, dark business suits with white shirts and Ferragamo ties, the moving discourse, and the lurid. Most of all we favor the narrated.
Alas, we are not manufactured, in our current edition of the human race, to understand abstract matters — we need context. Randomness and uncertainty are abstractions. We respect what has happened, ignoring what could have happened. In other words, we are naturally shallow and superficial — and we do not know it. This is not a psychological problem; it comes from the main property of information. The dark side of the moon is harder to see; beaming light on it costs energy. In the same way, beaming light on the unseen is costly in both computational and mental effort….”
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan
My message here (in line with Varoufakis’ “people who will reject what I say before I say it”) is that the insistence on narrative has been around so long in the texts and understanding of the dogma of orthodox psychology (theory and practice) that this ‘new view that we affectologists hold will take time for the color to change from the white narrative to the ‘black swan’ realization that something vital exists within the human psyche that can not be ‘told’ or put into the clumsiness of language.
- WHITE SWANS = Talk therapy in psychotherapy
- BLACK SWANS = Specific absence of talk in psychotherapy
- What everybody thinks they know about psychotherapy = WHITE SWANS
- The challenge to the social hallucination of “only white swans” = BLACK SWANS
…. (but black swans still exist, and are beautiful)
In spite of holding up a real black swan in front of people, many will be habit-ridden (spellbound) to still say that “all swans are white!” In other words, I’ve come to NOT expect everyone to readily accept the new finding – particularly those who make their living from white swans … those who invested a significant amount of money and time being indoctrinated by colleges and universities where black swans are apparently nonexistent. The hallucination of the “white swans only” is alive and well in professional and public arenas.
Black swans are a difficult concept for those of the “white swans only” set. They don’t want to accept the existence (Heaven forbid) of black swans. But the Modern Thinker will give it a go. I’d like to think my message is being listened to by you, as a modern thinker.
…so, if you’ve comfortably reached the end of this article without being distracted, then I’m sure you ARE a ‘modern thinker’.