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Posts tagged "psychology"

Jun 19, 2014
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9 good bits from Adam Phillips’ Paris Review interview

1) “I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.”

2) “One thing you discover in psychoanalytic treatment is the limits of what you can change about yourself or your life. We are children for a very long time.”

3) “Fortunately, I never recovered from my education, I’ve just carried on with it. If you happen to like reading, it can have a very powerful effect on you, an evocative effect, at least on me. It’s not as though when I read I’m gathering information, or indeed can remember much of what I read. I know the books that grip me, as everybody does, but their effect is indiscernible. I don’t quite know what it is. The Leavisite position, more or less, is that reading certain sentences makes you more alive and a morally better person, and that those two things go together. It seems to me that that isn’t necessarily so, but what is clear is that there are powerful unconscious evocative effects in reading books that one loves. There’s something about these books that we want to go on thinking about, that matters to us. They’re not just fetishes that we use to fill gaps. They are like recurring dreams we can’t help thinking about.”

4) “You can only recover your appetite, and appetites, if you can allow yourself to be unknown to yourself.”

5) “That’s what a life is, it’s the lives you don’t have.”

6) “I hope you read one of my books because it gives you pleasure or because you hate it—you read it for those sorts of reasons—and then you discover what you find yourself thinking, feeling, in the reading of it.”

7) “You can’t write differently, even if you want to. You just have to be able to notice when you are boring yourself.”

8) “Anybody who writes knows you don’t simply write what you believe. You write to find out what you believe, or what you can afford to believe.”

9) “[I]f you live in a culture which is fascinated by the myth of the artist, and the idea that the vocational artistic life is one of the best lives available, then there’s always going to be a temptation for people who are suffering to believe that to become an artist would be the solution when, in fact, it may be more of the problem. There are a number of people whom you might think of as casualties of the myth of the artist. They really should have done something else. Of course some people get lucky and find that art works for them, but for so many people it doesn’t. I think that needs to be included in the picture. Often one hears or reads accounts in which people will say, Well, he may have treated his children, wives, friends terribly, but look at the novels, the poems, the paintings. I think it’s a terrible equation. Obviously one can’t choose to be, as it were, a good parent or a good artist, but if the art legitimates cruelty, I think the art is not worth having. People should be doing everything they can to be as kind as possible and to enjoy each other’s company. Any art, any anything, that helps us do that is worth having. But if it doesn’t, it isn’t.’

Such a good read.

(Update: my friend Mark Larson has a great AdamPhillips tag.)

Jun 30, 2012
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C. G. Jung, The Red Book

Now here’s a book you can’t read on the StairMaster at the gym. Weighing in about 10 pounds and over a foot long, you have to find a nice big table to spread out with this thing. My friend @jessicahagy said, “I love having that big book in my office. Just opening it on a flat table feels like a ritual of sorts.”

The most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology. When Carl Jung embarked on an extended self-exploration he called his “confrontation with the unconscious,” the heart of it was The Red Book, a large, illuminated volume he created between 1914 and 1930. Here he developed his principle theories—of the archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the process of individuation—that transformed psychotherapy from a practice concerned with treatment of the sick into a means for higher development of the personality.

While Jung considered The Red Book to be his most important work, only a handful of people have ever seen it. Now, in a complete facsimile and translation, it is available to scholars and the general public. It is an astonishing example of calligraphy and art on a par with The Book of Kells and the illuminated manuscripts of William Blake.

There’s also an excellent introductory essay by Sonu Shamdasani that places the Red Book in the context of Jung’s life and work.

It ain’t cheap — about $120 — but it’s well worth seeking out. (I borrowed it from the Austin Public Library.)

Nov 27, 2011
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I know what’s going on inside me—I’m not a fool. But I don’t want to analyze it, I want to use it.

Aug 22, 2011
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William James’ attention exercise: “Draw a dot on a piece of paper, then pay attention to it for as long as you can.”

From Sam Anderson’s excellent, “In defense of distraction”:

James argued that the human mind can’t actually focus on the dot, or any unchanging object, for more than a few seconds at a time: It’s too hungry for variety, surprise, the adventure of the unknown. It has to refresh its attention by continually finding new aspects of the dot to focus on: subtleties of its shape, its relationship to the edges of the paper, metaphorical associations (a fly, an eye, a hole). The exercise becomes a question less of pure unwavering focus than of your ability to organize distractions around a central point. The dot, in other words, becomes only the hub of your total dot-related distraction.This is what the web-threatened punditry often fails to recognize: Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both. In their extreme forms, focus and attention may even circle back around and bleed into one other.

From James’ original text, Talks To Teachers:

From an unchanging subject the attention inevitably wanders away. You can test this by the simplest possible case of sensorial attention. Try to attend steadfastly to a dot on the paper or on the wall. You presently find that one or the other of two things has happened: either your field of vision has become blurred, so that you now see nothing distinct at all, or else you have involuntarily ceased to look at the dot in question, and are looking at something else. But, if you ask yourself successive questions about the dot,—how big it is, how far, of what shape, what shade of color, etc.; in other words, if you turn it over, if you think of it in various ways, and along with various kinds of associates,—you can keep your mind on it for a comparatively long time. This is what the genius does, in whose hands a given topic coruscates and grows.

William James’ attention exercise: “Draw a dot on a piece of paper, then pay attention to it for as long as you can.”

From Sam Anderson’s excellent, “In defense of distraction”:

James argued that the human mind can’t actually focus on the dot, or any unchanging object, for more than a few seconds at a time: It’s too hungry for variety, surprise, the adventure of the unknown. It has to refresh its attention by continually finding new aspects of the dot to focus on: subtleties of its shape, its relationship to the edges of the paper, metaphorical associations (a fly, an eye, a hole). The exercise becomes a question less of pure unwavering focus than of your ability to organize distractions around a central point. The dot, in other words, becomes only the hub of your total dot-related distraction.

This is what the web-threatened punditry often fails to recognize: Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both. In their extreme forms, focus and attention may even circle back around and bleed into one other.

From James’ original text, Talks To Teachers:

From an unchanging subject the attention inevitably wanders away. You can test this by the simplest possible case of sensorial attention. Try to attend steadfastly to a dot on the paper or on the wall. You presently find that one or the other of two things has happened: either your field of vision has become blurred, so that you now see nothing distinct at all, or else you have involuntarily ceased to look at the dot in question, and are looking at something else. But, if you ask yourself successive questions about the dot,—how big it is, how far, of what shape, what shade of color, etc.; in other words, if you turn it over, if you think of it in various ways, and along with various kinds of associates,—you can keep your mind on it for a comparatively long time. This is what the genius does, in whose hands a given topic coruscates and grows.

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What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
— Economist Herbert A. Simon, 1971, quoted in Sam Anderson’s piece, "In Defense of Distraction" (Other gems from William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to,” and Merlin’s wife: “You have all the information you need to do something right now.”)

Aug 18, 2011
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Nothing has a stronger influence…on their children than the unlived life of the parents.
— Carl Jung, quoted by Clay Tarver of Chavez in his terrific piece, “The Secret Life of a Rock Dad

Aug 17, 2011
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Poets who eventually commit suicide use I-words [I, me, my] more than non-suicidal poets.

May 06, 2011
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Empathy is like a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble.

May 04, 2011
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We have to have our dark corners and the unexplained. We will become uninhabitable in a way an apartment will become uninhabitable if you illuminate every single dark corner and under the table and wherever—you cannot live in a house like this anymore. And you cannot live with a person anymore—let’s say in a marriage or a deep friendship—if everything is illuminated, explained, and put out on the table.

Mar 02, 2011
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