Monthly Archives: December 2008

Uncertainty

Posted by: Mike

We humans are driven or motivated by a number of internal drives.  For most of us in comfortable middle-class America, we are not aware of needs for shelter and coverings, but of course we are aware of our need for food or nourishment.  We also have needs for recognition by others, needs for affection and sex, and we have an internal drive to create, or to act on our  environments in ways to control, manipulate, produce, or change aspects of our world.  These drives or motivations are innate or learned.  It is likely that the drives described are primarily innate, having been ingrained in our DNA through thousands of generations of coping with life on our planet, through the survival of those individuals who were most adaptive, not only with the skills to survive, but with the motivations necessary to utilize those skills.

In looking at specific emotions, it can be seen that some of our emotions are themselves motivators.  For  example, fear.  Fear is an emotion that is generally reactive to a specific situation (although in neurosis, generalized fear or anxiety is often nonspecific and generalized to any situation or to a general condition or state).  Fear, in its most useful aspect is also a motivator; if I am afraid of a something that is present and my fear is reality-based and not  neurotic, that something is legitimately worthy of fear and concern, and after experiencing the  emotion of fear, I am likely to do my best to find a way to absent myself from  the presenting stimulus, or to control  it in some way.  So fear can be a motivator, just as other emotions can serve the same function.  Anger, love, sexual arousal, all of the emotions that tend to be reactive to external stimuli can all serve as motivators of action.

What is the  situation regarding our topic of the day, “uncertainty.”  It sounds like it is a thought, reactive to, primarily some thing or things in the environment around us (and also our internal reactions).  Uncertainty appears to be a condition of thought.  There is a stasis implicit in the idea.  But  in addition, there will be emotions that are experienced concurrently with the perception of uncertainty.  It seems to me that the most likely emotion coupled with uncertainty would be fear.  However, for  some, it is possible that anger, terror, rage, perplexity could also be a part of the reaction.  Including perplexity leads me to reflect that though we have reached a high level of technical sophistication  in our society, we are still at the beginning stage  regarding our understanding of our own thinking and emotional processes.  Our language  and verbal expressive abilities are stretched to the limit at times when we try to tease out the thinking/feeling aspects of our internal perceptual processes.  And we often have difficulty distinguishing what came first, the  thought or the feeling.  This has been a major point of conflict in the past among those who study psychologist processes; many of the labels we use to express emotional conditions that we experience seem to be a combination of thoughts and feelings, like perplexity.

[to be continued]

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Posted by: Mike

So– just to clarify, flotsam is wreckage of a ship or boat that is found floating or washed up on the shore, and jetsam is unwanted material that has been thrown overboard.  Jetsam is a contraction of jettison, and flotsam is from Anglo-Norman French, from “floter,” to float.  Although they result from two quite different scenarios, it is reasonable to see the two terms combined, as the finder of either, at sea or on the shore, might have some trouble distinguishing between them.  If you find a crate of trash, however, or a spar and life jackets, the distinction would be rather easy to make.

Metaphorically, lots of uses can be made of flotsam and jetsam.  To be a little morbid, but to make a point, over the years helping to clear out the homes of the recently deceased it has been easy to see how much most people accumulate of “things”; most of which not only could have been jettisoned and most of which was acquired for reasons that were not based upon need and which could have been dispensed with.  It must be something innate in humans that drives us to accumulate and to be so reluctant to let go.  I’m not talking about the compulsive hoarder, but rather about most of the rest of us.  It makes sense, however, if you think about early humans living in small tribes.  Although living a nomadic existence warrants having only limited possessions, once the tribe has settled down, some aspects of having things makes life a whole lot easier.

It might be good practice if we could say to ourselves, “Could I walk away from everything I have and remain reasonably happy and who I am now? ” If we say, “No,” to the question, I wonder if it would be possible to redirect ourselves (somehow working out the internal conflicts) so that we could be able to say, “Yes,” and mean it.  Remarkably, I expect that we would find it quite freeing.  The flotsam and jetsam may contain some of our history, but they also contain binds that limit our freedom to be who we are.

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Holiday Hooey

What if people really told the truth in those holiday letters?  How about having them do a stream of consciousness that really reflects the events of the past year?  Let’s face it.  Life has its downs as well as its ups.  Some of these letters are so full of wonderful “accomplishments” of the writer’s family members that they make the rest of us “ordinary” people feel like losers.  I guess, though, it’s not reasonable to expect people to air their dirty linen to friends and acquaintances.  We do like to put our best foot forward to others.  If we’ve got problems or conflicts within ourselves or our families, other people really shouldn’t be bothered with them, unless, of course, we’re looking for solutions or sympathy.  However, where is that line where our representations of ourselves and our family passes the limit of what is reasonably in touch with reality?  Keeping ourselves grounded in reality is difficult enough, without our trying to keep up an image to others that is false.  So if you’re going to write a holiday letter to let others know what’s been going on with your family, what might be the best approach? Sorry, I don’t have an answer at this moment; but whatever you write , it should be reasonably be grounded in reality; and it should not be such that anyone reading it will feel that you’re doing so much better than they are that they feel bad about themselves.

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Time Warp

Of course it’s not new with me, but have you ever thought that the experience of time might be (let’s say is) quite different for nonhumans.  How about an insect?  Or an elephant.  Or that Carolina wren that moves so fast among the shrubs that it’s mental processing and physical responsiveness is many times faster than what we experience.  The few hours of life of the ephemera that we see in the morning light circling in the still air is like a lifetime to us.  I understand that there is a Galapagos tortoise on an English estate that is 150 years old.

That’s right–I am seemingly combining apples and oranges here, but I know you can make the connection.  Oh, and I know the issue of “experience” related to animals and others.  It’s likely that we would begin to see (understand) animals in a different way if we allowed them the “right” to “experience.”  Would likely result in more vegetarians!

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Subjective/objective

You find not infrequently in writings references to “objective” or “subjective.”  Most of us likely think that we know what these terms are all about.  But I wonder?  It seems to me that what is really objective are things that we can see and touch (I understand the problems inherent in perception; but let’s not go there—yet, any way).  Subjective would be any idea/concept/notion that is not objectively concrete.  There are, of course, some notions—that are really more than notions—like scientific “laws” and mathematical theorems—that we can’t see or touch, but that are clearly more than “subjective.”  Objective then can be seen as inclusive of things that we can see and feel and theoretical concepts that have proven to have “objectivity” and “reality” through rigorous testing and retesting.

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A New Day

It is a new day!  The 22 of December.  Noteworthy as the day the sun is beginning its return to the Northern hemisphere.  Granted that it’s just beginning; but we need to recognize that beginnings are necessary for any kind of change to take place.  So let’s rejoice in this beginning. Parenthetically, -I’ve sought out ways to change the title of my blog, but so far haven’t got it; I am confident that I’ll find a way. Sometimes – in fact – often we “don’t get it”; perhaps humility and persistence are more significant here than “confidence.”  I like the title of his new post, however; “A new day.”  Can we all see every day as that?

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