The Power of Zen (Part One)

Spaceballs01Hello there. Welcome back for what I hope is another entertaining and helpful read.

Imagine you and me in a spaceship. Neither of us know exactly where we are going, but we’re happy to just head out into the galactic lanes and follow a scenic route to the closest picnic planet to lunchtime. Our  ship’s name is “Personality”.

“Who am I?” is one of the most difficult questions we ask ourselves. Here’s another, maybe an even more difficult one to answer: “Where am I coming from?”

Some of us human beings display no e-motion after a brain injury. Some of us even become unaware that we are unaware; we don’t know that we don’t know. (In the second case it’s unlikely we would have the curiosity to ask the “where from?” question at all. Importantly, we would not have the choice to not choose something.)

But let’s assume you and I are still curious. Having a brain injury, we’re blissfully looking out into the depths of Space in our passenger seats on the good ship, “Personality”. Sharing the piloting are Vilayanur Ramachandran and Rollo May.

Neurology

World famous neurologist, Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran is one of my inspirations. He begins his Ted Talk (“3 Clues to Understanding Your Brain” (approx. 23 min’s) with the following…

He says: “Here is this mass of jelly – this three pound mass of jelly. You can hold it in the palm of your hand and it can contemplate the vastness of intersellar Space. It can contemplate the meaning of infinity. And it can contemplate itself contemplating the meaning of infinity. And there is this peculiar recursive quality that we call self awareness, which I think is the Holy Grail of neuroscience…”

(Already I hear in my mind’s ear, a chorus of 2 1/2 year-olds chanting “But why?!”)

Zen

Anyone remember “Blake’s 7”? Basically, it was kind of Robin Hood / Dirty Dozen in outer space.One of the seven outlaws was a computer expert called Avon. In a remake of the series, he gives an alien computer an “interface” called Zen which allows him and the computer to exchange information; Zen becomes the computer’s personality.

Personality is our awareness and voice in action.  It allows us the chance to know each other.

Existential Therapy

Okay, having stopped off for a bite, or dare I say “byte”, on planet Neurology, back on board our spaceship, psychologist, Rollo May decides to take us for afternoon tea on his homeworld – Existential.

But let’s not go there straight away. Let’s visit next month in Part Two. I’m pooped and I’m guessing you are too. For now, let’s have a quick flick through our metaphorical tour guide.

In it we see the goals of Existential Therapy are:-

  • To understand unconscious conflict
  • Identify unhelful defencive / coping mechanisms
  • Discover their destructive influence
  • Diminish secondary anxiety
  • Righten restrictive ways of dealing with self & others
  • Develop other ways of coping with primary anxiety

Bye for now,

Sean

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