Applying TSK to Emotional Intelligence (EI) 5
Emotional Intelligence Best Practices Group
I'm planning, in the next year or so, on posting articles on some of the best emotional intelligence methods. For this I've created a new group, "Emotional Intelligence Best Practices." Feel free to join us. The following topics will probably be addressed:
To appreciate how various emotionally transformative methods operate, it is useful to be somewhat familiar with the spectrum of human consciousness. For this the following three articles should be helpful:
Fractal, by Chris Stallwood https://flic.kr/p/U5JLq5
The Presence of the Self Structure
EI usually considers the self a normal and essential actor/agent owning and managing emotional energies. As we 'grow up', we seem to naturally develop a self as our identity, who we think we are. The self feels like it's located in space, and it's the center of who we are, the "I." From this center all action seems to take place; all our aspirations, ambitions, decisions, disagreements, opinions, experiences are centered in it.
But as with most disciplines, EI seldom inquires about the nature and origin of the self. The self appears at the center of our world, and seems continuously present. However, when we examine over a long period of time whether it is continuously existing, it is doubtful. Kum Nye practitioners eventually find, as a rule, "When we truly relax, it is no longer the `self' that is experiencing--we become the experience itself. We no longer `own' our senses, bodies, and minds, for they all totally participate in the experience." (pp. 201-2, KNR) Thus in the spectrum of "Three ways of experiencing a feeling," the third level (zone) does not include an appearance of self. Nor does the second level include a typical appearance of self, only a less definite structure of identity, often called an observer in meditation literature.
In fact, Trungpa says that "The experience of oneself relating to other things is actually a momentary discrimination, a fleeting thought. If we generate these fleeting thoughts fast enough, we can create the illusion of continuity and solidity. It is like watching a movie, the individual film frames are played so quickly that they generate the illusion of continual movement. So we build up an idea, a preconception, that self and other are solid and continuous. And once we have this idea, we manipulate our thoughts to confirm it, and are afraid of any contrary evidence." (Myth of Freedom, pp. 12-15)
What is the effect of the self being present? Is anything negative about this 'preoccupation'?
Protecting and Projecting, LOK 21, p. 177
Investigate the themes and narratives around which mental activity seems to focus. What ‘purposes’ do such narratives serve; what projects do they serve? Ask this question not only analytically, but by exploring ‘deeper’, more ‘encompassing’ narratives. Note that the sense of ‘being distanced’ that allows for this investigation is itself the outcome of a narrative. Continue to look for deeper, more encompassing narratives. At some point in this process, the ‘content’ of the narratives may fall away, leaving attitudes such as hope and fear, anxiety, and expectation to operate without their usual accompaniment.
Exercise 19 -- Past, Present, Future of Each Moment
Sit quietly and remain sensitive to all thoughts, feelings, and sensations. You may eventually be able to see a past and a future tinge to all your lived present moments. Each ordinary present has a subtle past-present-future structure to it that provides a feeling of personal identity, continuity, and direction. (p. 174, TSK)
As long as we continue to operate within a limited ‘lower space' perspective which perceives a 'self' set apart from an 'other', our experience will remain a self-perpetuating cycle of anxiety, frustration, pain, and despair. We need to transcend the ‘isolated self' perspective altogether in order to deal directly with the root of our emotional and psychological problems. (p. 66, TSK)
How a "Continuous Self" is Fabricated in 'Real Time'
Can we build a castle out of sand? In a somewhat similar way, can the sense of self be fabricated from momentary discriminations? Can a series of discrete mental mini-events generate our apparently authentic feeling of ordinary existence and reality?
Consider an ordinary, first-level scenario: We believe we are the independently capable selves felt at the center of our lives, the selves that apparently are responsible, do the thinking, make the decisions, and sometimes have problematic conditions. At this first level we are identified with the self complex. But just as the convincing reality while watching a movie depends on the speed with which it's projected, the perceived reality of our selves and all the objects and events within our stories may depend on a rapid sequencing of apperceptive* cycles. Just as a movie is actually a series of still images, "the experience of oneself relating to other things is actually a momentary discrimination, a fleeting thought. If we generate these fleeting thoughts fast enough, we can create the illusion of continuity and solidity. It is like watching a movie, the individual film frames are played so quickly that they generate the illusion of continual movement. So we build up an idea, a preconception, that self and other are solid and continuous." (Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom, 1976, p. 13)
*(An apperceptive process is a set of mental micro-events that constitute a 'greater' mental event.)
So the apparently continuous movie of life, with the convincingly 'real' self at center stage, may be a fabrication of individual mini-events that occur and are 'assembled' very rapidly.
Neurologist Oliver Sacks also suggests a cinematographic model to understand the continuity of things and events: "One level of brain activity may be working automatically, while another, the conscious level, is fashioning a perception of time, a perception which is elastic, and can be compressed or expanded. . . . There is much to suggest that conscious perception (at least, visual perception) is not continuous but consists of discrete moments, like the frames of a movie, which are then blended to give an appearance of continuity." (p. 64, "A Neurologist’s Notebook: Speed Aberrations of time and movement," by Oliver Sacks, The New Yorker, August 23, 2004)
Similarly, but in a more detailed account of what's actually happening in our experience, Dr. Charalampos Mainemelis, a professor at the London Business School, suggests that we "draw a distinction between direct--or immediate--and ordinary experience. Direct experience is the experience of the immediate present moment and consists of fleeting apprehended instants, which in and of themselves are atemporal: they are instantaneous impressions of an external reality characterized by heterogeneity and nonlinear patterns of change. . . . as the instants of direct experience are processed . . . they are linked to one another and experienced as an inner duration . . . as states . . . lasting for a moment and then fading away, but which are also infinite because they permeate each other, living and disappearing within each other as a continuous and holistic flow of events. As inner duration is generated by instants that contain one another, the self is made up by states that generate each other . . . .
"[Philosopher Henri] Bergson saw this process as a kind of cinematographic operation: consciousness takes several snapshots of reality; it keeps a record of them by means of inner duration; it arranges them successively side by side to form a reel; and it projects the reel back to space "in high speed," creating the illusion of a uniform linear movement that progresses through an invisible homogeneous medium of "time." . . . Time, however, exists only in the apparatus.
"Without inner duration there would be no becoming--only instantaneous experience. Without the notion of time, the self would be a heterogeneous multiplicity of impressions varying infinitely across different moments in terms of qualities, evolution. and acts. By inventing time, consciousness is, in fact, creating an abstract homogeneous medium, in which the self can change, age, and evolve while paradoxically always enduring. In other words, by projecting inner duration to the external world, consciousness temporalizes external change into "before and after"--into past, present, and future states--and ascribes to the self and other objects a lasting ontological quality that endures through change and goes beyond the experiential moment of recognition.
"Ordinary experience, then, is the experience of the present moment as integrated in a sequence of other moments and events--as a tiny link attached to an infinite chain of experiences and instants. Ordinary experience presupposes the notion of time, but direct experience is timeless." (Mainemelis,, Charalampos. “When the Muse Takes It All: A Model for the Experience of Timelessness in Organizations,” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 26, No. 4., pp. 549-550)
Our natural state of being is awareness: an awareness which is not of anything, but which is an all-encompassing state of pure experience. Within awareness our minds are balanced, light, free, and flexible. We are not however, able to stay in this awareness, for our immediate inclination is to want to know who is experiencing what. As a result, awareness gives way to our ordinary consciousness which divides our perceptions into subject and object, creating as subject a self-image, the 'I'. But what actually is this I? Can we actually find it anywhere in the mind? When we look carefully, we see that the I is simply an image with the mind has projected. This I has no reality in itself, yet we take it as real, and let it run our lives. The I then obscures our awareness and separates us from our experience by dividing it into a subjective and an objective pole.
Under the influence of the self-image we perpetuate this subject-object orientation. As soon as we identify, comparison begins; grasping and selfishness rapidly follow. Then the Mind makes discriminations and judgments, which cause conflicts. The self-image gives energy to these conflicts, and these conflicts in turn feed the self-image. The self-image thus perpetuates itself, tending to filter experience in ways that allow only its own rigid constructions room to function. Neither open nor accepting, the self-image imprisons us in blockages and constrictions. Our natural flow of energy is interrupted, and the range of our responsiveness and the depth of our experience are severely limited.
To free ourselves from the interference of the self-image so that our natural balance can have room to function, we must first see that the self-image is not a genuine part of us, that we do not need it, and that, in fact, the self image obscures our true being. One way to do this is to step back and observe our thoughts whenever we are in the midst of emotional ferment.
Even when we are very upset, it is possible to separate ourselves from the pain of the emotion. Stand back and actually look at the pain. With this knowledge, you can see that the disturbance is actually the operation of the self-image. You may even see that much of your unhappiness was the result of the self-image leading you to have expectations which could not be fulfilled. The self-image is a kind of fantasy itself, so it tends to build a fantasy world. This fantasizing arouses a great deal of energy, and when these fantasies do not come true, the energy is blocked, and turns into frustration.
We can find all sorts of rational reasons for our difficulties, but an honest look can go beyond these reasons to discover that our unhappiness comes from identifying with the self-image and following its dictates. The self-image dominates and controls us, so that we are caught in its power and lose our independence.
Even when we see our predicament, and try consciously to stop our suffering, our self-image often leads us to repeat painful experiences again and again. We may not really want to change. The attachment to a self image is powerful: we may not want to seek new alternatives because we sense a possible loss of our identity.
We often actually cling to our suffering, for suffering seems to offer more security than opening to real change. Yet to experience genuine happiness and balance in our lives we have to give up the root cause of our suffering: the self-image.
The instant we stop serving the self-image and its needs, all our difficulties disappear and our energy is released to flow smoothly. This energy can then be used to further enhance our understanding of ourselves.
Go back into your emotions, and intentionally make them as vivid as you can, letting the sensations grow more and more intense. Look at the grasping nature of the self image: it is always making demands, always wanting more and more. By feeding the self-image we perpetuate what we can never essentially satisfy. In the end, we have difficulty finding any satisfaction, for the grasping turns satisfaction into frustration.
Frustration leads to negative feelings, but any negativity is in conflict with the inherent positive quality of mental energy. The transformation of negative feelings occurs naturally when we cultivate a positive and accepting attitude toward all experience. The resulting energy can make us more creative, more aware, more open to learning. This energy can counter the action of the self-image which feeds on negativity and redoubles its strength with each frustration it undergoes.
As soon as we know the self-image for what it is, we know that we can change, that we can develop flexibility in our attitudes without giving up anything. This change is possible because our consciousness is by its nature not fixed, but flexible.
We can develop this flexibility by adopting new perspectives. For example, every time you feel unhappy, say, "I am happy." Say it strongly to yourself, even if your feelings contradict you. Remember, it is your self-image that is unhappy, not you. It is possible to switch instantly to a happy, balanced attitude, and to stay there by believing it. There is this choice when you are open to a positive attitude. Your whole inner quality can change, even if the external conditions do not.
Another way to counter the self-image is to become immersed in the unhappiness, feel it and believe it, and then switch it swiftly, electrically, like a fish darting in water, to happiness. First, be the experience, completely accept it. Then, jump to the opposite extreme. How is it? It is possible to clearly see the differences between the positive and negative experience, and sometimes to experience both at the same time. By jumping mentally from positive to negative and then back again, it is possible to see that both are manifestations of awareness, and as such have a neutral energy which can be used in any way. In the beginning, try to gain skill in this switching technique. You can see what you are feeling now and how it was before, sometimes feeling the two different situations simultaneously. . . .
(Pp. 12-15, Openness Mind)