An Insider's Guide to the
Perceptual Revolution

 
Psyche

Most of the Handbook series is about perceiving more of the world around us, but the Psyche section focuses on the universe within.  Reflecting on one's own psyche is an inherently subjective study, so I don't pretend to offer scientific observations here, nor do I claim to have a road map to perfect inner harmony. That being said, I have spent many years paying close attention to my own inner experience, as well as what other people say about the universes within themselves. Perhaps I have learned something along the way that you will find helpful. 


   At the core of everything we think, feel, and do is the psyche, a vast, churning matrix of ideas, feelings, memories, imaginings, and sensory impressions.  It is the whole of a person--the gestalt, or sum total, of every aspect of your consciousness.  These aspects are held together by a force from within the psyche, called attention.   Attention’s purpose is to structure our awareness; if not for the order it imparts, there would be nothing to keep us from drifting between instinctive behaviors and vaguely grasped imaginings.  We would lack the clarity to focus on specific impressions, feelings or beliefs.  

   The inner cosmos of the psyche is much vaster than the island of impressions that we perceive at any given time.  The conscious mind, though it is the most narrowly focused layer of the psyche, is intricately layered.  We constantly multitask a stream of ideas, feelings and impressions. Some of these amalgamations gravitate to the center of our conscious attention, the core self. Thoughts, feelings and memories which are especially traumatic can become repressed, in which they sink down into the unconscious. Qualities of which we are only partially aware tend to waver in the borderlands of the preconscious (the psyche's back burner), waiting to see if we will bring them back into full awareness by illuminating them with our conscious attention.  

   Most animals seem to possess a certain degree of sentience.  They show a capacity for learning, compassion and other “higher” emotions, and a capacity to assume roles in relation to other living things.  The least sentient of the animals are servants of instinct for the most part, but are aware of the world as something apart from themselves.  In the plant kingdom, there is little evidence of self-reflection.  Plants, have no nervous systems, so their capacity for thought (as human beings understand it) is either greatly reduced or nonexistent.  Some mystically inclined people believe that minerals have a certain type of “inner being,” especially crystalline structures such as quartz, but again, there is little supporting evidence for this theory outside of the anecdotal observations of mystics through the ages.

   Humankind seems to be at the top of the pyramid: we are incredibly complex beings with a capacity for imagination and logical deduction far superior to any other species on the planet.  Human sentience is so complex, in fact, that many aspects of each person can be considered “sentient” at a given time.  No matter how much we tell ourselves that we are cohesive beings, a great deal of activity is happening beneath the surface, in what Freud called the unconscious.  We mostly experience these layers of our psyches through secondhand channels such as dreams, impulsive reactions, and slips of the tongue.


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© 1999, 2003 by Lucius R.  Ringwald.  All rights reserved.