gnosisman, I am ultimately going to respond to the self-descriptor you used in your third post here, “deep existential despair,” and also to a few things you said in the Academy category under the topic “Questions for Wilber.” In that post, you asked “where do you go to grow up?” and “how can integral psychotherapy help with this?” You used the phrase “existential depression,” (which you’ve researched in some of your reading), and spoke of feeling alienated, demoralized, and with no meaning in your life.
I of course am not Wilber, so if I am intruding into your psychic space in ways you would prefer I not, I sincerely apologize.
No, not at all. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you (and everyone else) put replying to me; you’d make a good psychotherapist.
I missed the first half hour of the Ken Show Saturday, so perhaps, for all I know, your questions for Wilber were posed and answered, in which case, my apologies again for going on and on, as I will be doing here.
What you describe as “…illusions to keep us dumb, stupid, obedient, and complacent” is worthy of validation, although I would add that I don’t think it’s anyone’s specific intent to keep us stupid; I don’t think there’s a conspiracy by any “powers-that-be” to keep us dumbed down. It’s just a matter of where the evolution of consciousness is in society; whether it’s in the area of love relationships, or politics, or education, or religion, etc., they all are lacking in higher perspectives. You of course already know this.
Yes, I do. And true, I would not go so far as to say all this is a conspiracy. It’s just painful as hell discovering just how bad things are and the many years it took me to see it. It hurts me most when I can’t find a woman who has at least a modicum of inquiry on what it means to love. Dr. John Amodeo said that
A successful relationship requires considerable work, primarily regarding our own personal growth. The romantic myths we grew up with ignored the fact that we first need to grow as autonomous individuals (at least to some reasonable degree), before we can sustain a meaningful primary commitment with another
And so the question arises, who among the many women are willing to live up to Amodeo’s very sound advice or even from Keith’s book? It’s very discouraging. Even if women were aware of their conditioning, the vast majority would care less about it. I feel like telling them to then just shut up about love and stop being a pussy, as Keith said in his TED talk
You’re familiar with Cook-Greuter’s work; in her “Ego Development: Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace,” she writes that the “highest goal of Western civilization” is the conventional Conscientious stage, and yet there are four stages beyond that in her model. As Wilber and others have often stated, one is pretty much on their own if they grow/develop beyond society’s “highest goal” as culture does not support further growth, much less encourage it. So yes, there can be feelings of alienation, particularly if one lives in an area that is ultra-conventional/conservative, as it sounds like you do.
Thank you for pointing this out. I knew I was on my own but considering what you just said, it’s understandable. Not encouraging but at least I know where I am in the scheme of things.
A phrase that seems in vogue again, as I’ve come across it numerous times in recent readings, is “consensus trance.” Perhaps you’re familiar with this phrase? Coined decades ago by the psychologist and theorist on states of consciousness Charles Tart, it refers to the cultural conditioning and the conditioned reality we all live in. It means that we all are subject to “automatic and conditioned patterns of perception, thinking, feeling, and behaving.” The cultural narratives that you refer to are part of this consensus trance, but we can “wake” from it, and when we do, in my experience, there often can be a sense of anger, as I sense you may be feeling. Just as we may feel anger about our parents having raised us with a lot of “wrong thinking,” we can feel the same way about cultural conditioning that we have to unlearn.
**Yes, yes, yes!! Did I say yes? Thank you for sharing this point. I read Tart decades ago and saw him on the Thinking Allowed program. His consensus trance is a good way to describe what I was trying to say, especially with amorous love. Clearly, Alain De Botton’s knows nothing of this trance but his talk is about where it all started and how we internalized the stories of amorous love and turned them into objects of idolatry. A case in point: when I was in my mid teens, I was infatuated by Doris Day. I prayed that, in time, I’d marry a woman just like her. Not long ago, I saw a clip on youtube where she was being interviewed by Johnny Carson. Now at midlife, as she was hawking her autobiography, he asked why she wrote it.
"I think it could be a good influence. That is the only reason really. One other thing maybe that I was always, you know, -the image has been so boring- you know. The virgin and the goody two shoes and all the nonsense, which, you know, it’s not human and I wanted to straighten the record."
Even though I already knew that the many characters she personified were an affront to what is actually required for a lasting relationship -as Dr. Amodeo points out- I felt a deep sense of loss when she said that her roles were not human. I also felt duped and angry that this whole charade was going on for so long as it brainwashed my parents, siblings, or anyone else who watches these retrograde romantic narratives that do more harm than good.
But ultimately, for myself anyway, the anger gives way to a feeling of gratitude and freedom, as one is no longer “under the thumb” of conventional (and pre-conventional) thinking, feeling, behaving, perceiving. Do you experience any of that gratitude (because you are fortunate you know, if you’ve awakened from the consensus trance), or any of that freedom?
Yes, I do feel freer and the gratitude is there but it came too late in my life. Feelings of regret has a way of squashing it but I just have to make the most of it- I have no choice
And while I’m speaking about anger, I also sense you have, perhaps not hate, but anger toward women for their still being subject to the consensus trance. I don’t think women as a group are anymore subject to the consensus trance than men are, perhaps just in different areas/ways. But both sexes are equally affected. Have you read any of Warren Farrell’s material on men (and boys)? Some good stuff there about the cultural conditioning of males, which might be worth a look if you’re not already familiar with it.)
Yes, that it my biggest gripe in that I will never find male friends and especially a woman who are free of the consensus trance. Of the few close friends I had, I lost them because of this. I’m Ok with it, but 12 years is a long time to be without someone who cares for you; I have not hugged -much less kissed- a woman in all these years. I could just as well drown my petty sorrows in alcohol or dupe women in bed, but it’s just not in me to do any of this. The only thing that keeps me from losing my f–king mind are my books because they speak to me at a deeper level. Erich Fromm and Karen Horney saved my life in the 1980’s and I still read them quite often. (it was much later that I started reading Ken Wilber). To me, they have far more to offer than all those PhD professors we have in the humanities.
Finally, regarding the existential despair/depression you speak of. In the book “Integral Psychology,” Wilber says a few brief things regarding this (and maybe you’ve already read this too?) I quote:
"In fulcrum-5, as…the center of gravity begins to shift from conventional/conformist to postconventional/individualistic, the self is faced with “identity versus role confusion”: how is the self to discover who or what it is, once it no longer depends on society (with its conventional ethics, rules, and roles) to make decisions for it? In fulcrum-6, the panoramic view of vision-logic brings existential issues and problems to the forefront, along with the possibility of a more fully integrated bodymind (or centauric self).
He goes on to say that “Humanistic-existential therapies tend to deal with (all the issues of the prior fulcrums) and on actualizing an authentic self, existential being, bodymind integration or centaur (F-6).”
You may have already exhausted the opportunities for therapy in your area, or even the Pittsburgh area, which sounds like it’s at least an hour’s drive for you anyway, but if you feel you’re dealing with an existential depression, and if you still wanted to explore therapy a little more, then you might just google “humanistic therapists in Pittsburgh,” say, and check some of them out. I recognize financial resources can be a problem for some people, but I hope it can work out for you. Humanistic therapy is non-judgmental, here-and-now focused (versus addressing so much of one’s past), and works with your strengths toward self-actualization (which can take many different forms). To be able to clarify and examine your thoughts and look at alternative ways of thinking can be really useful, and bring meaning back into your life.
Makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, my health insurance will not cover a humanistic or existential therapist. I had about 4 sessions with a mainstream therapist 5 years ago. It helped to some degree, but I stopped when they told me I needed antidepressants. In this, much is offered by way of spiritual retreats to wake up, but as far as I know, nothing on growing up. Why is that?
Finally, I don’t think anyone who responded to you on this post had anything but good intentions, and that includes me. While we may have all missed the boat in saying anything really useful to and for you, it’s not because we didn’t want to. So keep us in your circle of care, okay?