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The divided self

Old 05-25-2017, 01:59 AM
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The divided self

I've been ploughing through William James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience". It's a great laugh, and his description of the conversion process reminded me a lot of AVRT.

I thought I'd post the following quote to show what I mean. The parts in bold are what I think is the matching term from AVRT and the ellipses omit parts of the text that are overtly religious and so don't really fit.

Hope this makes some kind of sense anyway

He said, talking of deliverance:

It consists of two parts:

1. An uneasiness; and

2. Its solution.

1. The uneasiness, reduced to its simplest terms, is a sense that there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand [are in addiction]

2. The solution is a sense that we are saved from the wrongness by making proper connection with the higher powers [authentic self]

The individual, so far as he suffers from his wrongness [Beast] and criticises it, is to that extent consciously beyond it, and in at least possible touch with something higher, if anything higher exist. Along with the wrong part there is thus a better part of him, even though it may be but a most helpless germ. With which part he should identify his real being is by no means obvious at this stage; but when stage 2 (the stage of solution or salvation) arrives, the man identifies his real being with the germinal higher part of himself; and does so in the following way. He becomes conscious that this higher part is conterminous and continuous with a MORE of the same quality [authentic self] ... which he can ... in a fashion get on board of and save himself when all his lower being has gone to pieces in the wreck.

It seems to me that all the phenomena are accurately describable in these very simple general terms. They allow for the divided self and the struggle; they involve the change of personal centre and the surrender of the lower self; ... and they fully justify our feelings of security and joy.
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Old 05-25-2017, 10:01 AM
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Mr Trimpey , god bless him, took the time and effort to put his 'method' together and rightfully trademarked and copyrighted his endeavor, but as he noted the main ideas and principles are as old as the hills.
Truths and associated wisdom by nature don't change , they can be overlooked and forgotten or poorly apprehended but nonetheless remain .
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Old 05-28-2017, 09:08 AM
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this post reminds me of a sociologist who studied epistemologies but I don't remember his name...

He studied alcoholics basic Knowledge structures .... the world they lived in ....

He concluded that there is something so wrong with the alcoholics view of the world that drinking seems to make it more right.

I call it more that alcohol was a way to escape "the way things are".
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Old 05-28-2017, 09:30 AM
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I'd question what he considered alcoholics, what people how they were identified.
And what type(s?) of control groups, drinkers whose views were spot on, nondrinkers with non spot on views. Did the views change when addiction was self identified by the participants, after recovery had views changed.
What the 'right' view is, what view of the world is shared and to what degree among people who became addicted because they loved getting drunk, those kinds of questions before I'd even consider his answers.
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Old 05-28-2017, 01:17 PM
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Hi DW!

Well I know he was considered an excellent research scholar by his peers, but I didn't look up all that sort of information. Some times I do, but if it reflects my own experience I think I often don't bother.

Wish I could remember his name so you could look up the information.

I just know that for me - I consider myself an alcoholic, I couldn't bear the world the way it is, and drinking seemed to make me able to be in the world in a way more consistent with social norms.

Thus reading it confirmed something that my heart knew from my own experience.

Basically you can treat this as "anecdotal"

I love your questions cause they are so perfect for evaluating the scientific accuracy of things!
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Old 05-31-2017, 10:10 AM
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When you think about a divided mind it seems natural to think "Well I need to try and unify it in some way then". But with AVRT, of course, separation between the I and IT is sought and achieved.

Whats helping me is the realisation that we'll only have a sense of freedom and calmness in the face of the AV if this separation is 100%. Otherwise it would be like being told we've just been released from prison and can go home but unfortunately our little finger still has to serve a bit more time and has to stay in the cell - I guess we would be in quite an ambivalent state and wouldn't feel very free in this, hopefully unlikely, event.
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Old 06-01-2017, 09:52 AM
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The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, was handed a copy of William James' "The Varities of Religious Expereinces" by his friend, Ebby Thatcher, who was a member of the Oxford Group, for which the book was recommended reading material. Ebby told Bill that his own alcohol problem was solved when he found God, in the Oxford Group, led by Frank Buchman.

Bill Wilson joined the Oxford Group, after his spiritual 'white light' experience whilst undergoing the 'Belladonna treatment' for alcohol detox at Towns Hospital; whilst visited by Ebby and other Oxford Group members, as part of their religious conversion program.

Bill W. credits William James and his book, in the AA Big Book, Chapter Two, "There is a Solution": "The distinguished American psychologist, William James, in his book “Varieties of Religious Experience,’’ indicates a multitude of ways in which men have discovered God. We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired".

I think it's fascinating that part of William James' 1902 book which the OP set out, explains the divided self known as "ambivalent" in AVRT:

"Along with the wrong part there is thus a better part of him, even though it may be but a most helpless germ. With which part he should identify his real being is by no means obvious at this stage; but when stage 2 (the stage of solution or salvation) arrives, the man identifies his real being with the germinal higher part of himself; and does so in the following way. He becomes conscious that this higher part is conterminous and continuous with a MORE of the same quality [authentic self] ... which he can ... in a fashion get on board of and save himself when all his lower being has gone to pieces in the wreck."

Since James' book a century ago, science has proven the lower and higher brains (lower autonomous, habits, compulsions etc.) higher brain (seat of logic, can weigh up repercussions and override the lower brains urges). Buddhism and many religions realised this centuries ago.

So as William James said, man can save himself, Authentic Self trounces Lower Self, therefore no requirement for God's input. As a spiritual person, one could say that God is the creator of the Authentic Self, that still, small voice inside, that knows right from wrong, that can stand apart and override the clamouring ranting of the automatic, habitual, lower brain Beast shouting for ITs alcohol fix.
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Old 06-01-2017, 12:31 PM
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Yes, AVRT does not need the explanatory power of God for it to work but, as you say, that does not mean that it is incompatible with religious or spiritual beliefs - the question is just not something that it's concerned about.

A higher, authentic self or God would do - I think one thing we could say with certainty is that whatever the "MORE of the same quality" that James speaks about is, it has a moral character.
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Old 06-01-2017, 01:42 PM
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Yes, addiction cure last century would've taken a whole different turn, if it was realised that William James spoke not of the external God that people pray to for deliverance from addiction, but instead, of that internal battle in homeo-sapiens' brain, between the survival drives' instant gratification automatic programing and the higher, authentic selfs consideration of future ramifications of that drive, and its ability to override and transcend it - veto power, or as I like to call it won't power.

AVRT is not, as you say, incompatible with religious beliefs. I was raised a Catholic, although lapsed. Since stopping drinking through AVRT, I've an interest in religion and spiritualism. I was taught by the Church that the God of my religion, empowered humans with the ability to over-ride our urges, cravings., compulsions (all lower brain) which is the whole basis of the Bible, transcending sins, we have the ability. I was taught that God doesn't expect us to pray to him for the power, because we already possess it from birth.

Whether I believe in a God, the jury's still out, but I know for sure that humans have personal ability to conquer addictions, as the Bible spoke of, as science have proven, as William James wrote - because I'm living proof, as are many others.
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Old 06-01-2017, 02:15 PM
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I think many people attach religion to addiction because they feel or, if they have no personal experience of it, sense that it is so powerful that only a miracle can overcome it.

With AVRT we don't need a miracle, we are the miracle because our authentic self is untainted by addiction. It is also, I believe, morally pure and this technique allows us to get a glimpse of that and to start living from this new centre.
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Old 06-01-2017, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by AlericB View Post
I think many people attach religion to addiction because they feel or, if they have no personal experience of it, sense that it is so powerful that only a miracle can overcome it.
That is what I was taught in a recovery group. Pray and hand over to God and listen for his instructions, wait for the miracle, or spiritual experience. But as diligently and as hard as I followed those steps, it didn't stop me drinking. My tutors didn't understand the workings of our brains.

But by learning and practising AVRT I stopped my drinking: I became the miracle.
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Old 06-01-2017, 02:38 PM
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I agree Tatsy. I too wonder if they would have made it different if they understood about the base brains drive to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. Any painful experiences, even just being hungry and the base brain says, I know what would make you feel better! Have a drink! If you are feeling great the base brain says, I know what would heighten this experience! Have a drink! Heck why stop there? Have another and another and another........

I've never been a religious person but from the bits of the bible I've read and my limited exposure to church my perception has also been that God created us in such as way that He wants us to choose between right and wrong. That's what I thought the whole point of the morals in the bible were. Not that God would do it for us but that we would be tested through our power of choice as to whether we would choose sin or redemption.
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Old 06-01-2017, 07:06 PM
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Well, this is what i remember from reading "Varieties.......".
and it stuck with me because it rang true for me when drinking.
for a little while, a little window when the amount of alcohol was " just right"

just sharing f.y.i.


“The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to simulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the greater exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth. Not through mere perversity do men run after it. To the poor and the unlettered it stands in the place of symphony concerts and of literature; and it is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognise as excellent should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleeting phases of what in its totality is so degrading a poisoning. The drunken consciousness is one bit of mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it must find its place in our opinion of that larger whole.”
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Old 06-01-2017, 07:44 PM
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That sway can turn an enthusiast into a zealot, and then hopefully a regretful one.
Never thought I'd be grateful of my regret, it's on odd universe from some angles, eh?
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Old 06-02-2017, 02:15 AM
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Yes, when the two parts of the brain are fighting, the lower brain sub-conscious desire for alcohol (via its links to the higher brain i.e. AV) and the higher brain's conscious wish not to consume - if that struggle culminates in the decision to take a drink, as alcohol affects the brain - a sway seems to occur which alters the balance of power. Until the sway is complete and the balance of power is completely shifted to the lower brain and the person acts out as the lower brain does with its ugly, often regretful behaviour, eventually blackout occurs and the person is functioning, without retaining memories, until they pass out into unconsciousness and the sway is complete. Eventually, that became my experience, every time I drank.
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Old 06-03-2017, 07:08 AM
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Wow, rich discussion here. So many associations came up while reading this. First, I appreciate the parallel between the idea of a lower and higher brain and the AV being the lower brain. It makes sense in that the AV is about impulse and craving. Also, the discussions about why we drink (or drank). The lower brain could drive this in terms of survival, or misinterpreting pleasure as good and pain (or suffering) as bad. So, some of us drank because we were in pain. For me, drinking wasn't problematic until physical and emotional pain became overwhelming. Also, the idea that alcohol provides a certain kind of magic or mystical sense that things are "right." So, drinking is kind of an adaptive behavior (lower brain) that works until it no longer works. Like the woman who was sexually abused as a child and who overeats to be less attractive to men (consciously or unconsciously - there is a well established correlation between obesity and childhood abuse).

But separating the higher and lower, keeping them distinct, seems problematic. I related to the idea of shouting down the AV in early sobriety. But meditation changed this. Tsultrim Allione's book Feeding Your Demons taught me to nourish the AV rather than fight it. By accepting the voice and listening to it, I developed a certain kind of compassion for it, and the fight subsided (along with the cravings).

The AV is still there, but it is simply part of my awareness, not something to suppress or something with which to pick a fight. It's part of me and I accept that. Chogyam Trungpa talked about "uniting heaven and earth" which is about bringing the inscrutable dragon of wisdom down and into our bodies and lifting our bodies into the heavenly realm of wisdom. It's about integrating body and mind. It's about integrating rather than separating lower and higher brain.

In meditation I often get the feeling that thoughts are not my own; that they come from elsewhere. This is akin to saying that thoughts can come from the prefrontal cortex, logical and directed, or they can release themselves from the reptilian brain, or the deep, lower brain, into consciousness. Where the hell did that come from? Is that a memory or fantasy?

Trungpa says the key to the process is the development of fearlessness. Through fearlessness we embrace our shadow self with our conscious self while accepting impermanence and the realization that self is, at a deeper level, an illusion. Read the titles in the Newcomers threads and you'll always see words like afraid, terrified, scared...

Recovery is a journey that involves the development of fearlessness. Some get this from faith, but those of us who, despite perhaps even wishing we could summon faith in God do not or cannot have this experience, must develop a different kind of faith. It's a faith found by letting go rather than holding on. It's a faith grounded in an acceptance of hopelessness rather than clinging to (false, perhaps) hope. It's a faith that tells us that all we really have is the moment, and ultimately the rest is either digging up the past or wondering and worrying about the future.

So, in the interest of marrying heaven and earth, of uniting body and mind, of integrating the lower and higher self or brains, I would suggest next time you feel the urge to argue with your AV, instead try listening to it, accepting it as part of the authentic self, learn from it, and make it your friend. Love thy enemy, so to speak, because we are our own enemies and we are our own healers.

Enjoy the weekend!
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Old 06-03-2017, 07:52 AM
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Lovely post zero
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Old 06-03-2017, 09:02 AM
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Thank you all for this discussion -- so helpful. Fearlessness ... so key. I remember the day I decided to get sober... it was kind of a conversation in my brain ..."something is going on in my consciousness, and in my use of alcohol, that needs facing... it's useless to keep running from this reality ... I need to face this despite my fear."

Although separation is the key with AVRT, separation does not mean aversion. I have learned to maintain the separation even in the midst of an attack of vertigo ... but it seems in those moments I struggle temporarily with grasping and aversion.
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Old 06-03-2017, 09:48 AM
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Martin Luther King said something like the best way to destroy and enemy is to make him into a friend and I do agree that the AV should be accepted, and neither denied nor pushed away. But I do think this acceptance involves recognising it for what it is, as any thought, feeling or imagery that could lead to drinking/using again, and I'm not sure that I could ever view this as part of my authentic being.

The Beast may be part of my brain and the AV an object in my awareness but neither are really who I am which is the awareness itself; the continuing thinker rather than the thought.
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Old 06-03-2017, 10:16 AM
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Part of this discussion involves how we define authentic self or being. As far as addiction is concerned, we know that neurons that fire together wire together, so after decades of being a buzzhound, I am authentically, and literally, a buzzhound. Is that not me? Even though I've avoided intoxicants for years now?

And as all things are impermanent, as well as my authentic self, is not my authentic self subject to change? Through redirection of my thoughts and behaviors I am literally rewiring my brain, becoming less and less a buzzhound. Truth be told, I get a buzz from sobriety these days; from opening my heart to the world as it is and allowing myself to be vulnerable. Allowing myself to feel. Crying when the world or my circumstance lead to tears. Laughing when I'm happy, playing with my dogs, or joking with my wife. And accepting that I'm not perfect, but I'm making progress. Awareness of the times I fall into anxiety about the future, about my body failing me, about finances, and through awareness bringing myself back to now. Awareness of the times I fall back into the past and into shame or guilt or sadness about things long past and beyond my control, sometimes even then, and that awareness allowing myself to return to the present where I am okay. I really am okay.

This is rewiring my authentic self, rewiring my brain through the use of my mind and the use of my body, not trying to define myself too strictly because I am a river, always here, but never entirely the same from moment to moment to moment.

Yes, that AV is still in there (but emerges more as a cookie monster these days), and it's me...oh, it's me, alright. And that's alright.
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