Awareness — Are We Talking About Psychology?

Plus de DeMello:

Are We Talking About Psychology In This Spirituality Course?

Is psychology more practical than spirituality? Nothing is more practical than spirituality. What can the poor psychologist do? He can only relieve the pressure. I’m a psychologist myself, and I practice psychotherapy, and I have this great conflict within me when I have to choose sometimes between psychology and spirituality. I wonder if that makes sense to anybody here. It didn’t make sense to me for many years.

I’ll explain. It didn’t make sense to me for many years until I suddenly discovered that people have to suffer enough in a relationship so that they get disillusioned with all relationships. Isn’t that a terrible thing to think? They’ve got to suffer enough in a relationship before they wake up and say, “I’m sick of it! There must be a better way of living than depending on another human being.”

And what was I doing as a psychotherapist? People were coming to me with their relationship problems, with their communication problems, etc., and sometimes what I did was a help. But sometimes, I’m sorry to say, it wasn’t, because it kept people asleep.

Maybe they should have suffered a little more. Maybe they ought to touch rock bottom and say, “I’m sick of it all.” It’s only when you’re sick of your sickness that you’ll get out of it. Most people go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to get relief. I repeat: to get relief. Not to get out of it.

There’s the story of little Johnny who, they say, was mentally retarded. But evidently he wasn’t, as you’ll learn from this story. Johnny goes to modeling class in his school for special children and he gets his piece of putty and he’s modeling it. He takes a little lump of putty and goes to a corner of the room and he’s playing with it. The teacher comes up to him and says, “Hi, Johnny.” And Johnny says, “Hi.” And the teacher says, “What’s that you’ve got in your hand?” And Johnny says, “This is a lump of cow dung.” The teacher asks, “What are you making out of it?” He says, “I’m making a teacher.”

The teacher thought, “Little Johnny has regressed.” So she calls out to the principal, who was passing by the door at that moment, and says, “Johnny has regressed.” So the principal goes up to Johnny and says, “Hi, son.” And Johnny says, “Hi.” And the principal says, “What do you have in your hand?” And he says, “A lump of cow dung.” “What are you making out of it?” And he says, “A principal.”

The principal thinks that this is a case for the school psychologist. “Send for the psychologist!” The psychologist is a clever guy. He goes up and says, “Hi.” And johnny says, “Hi.” And the psychologist says, “I know what you’ve got in your hand.” “What?” “A lump of cow dung.” Johnny says, “Right.” “And I know what you’re making out of it.” “What?” “You’re making a psychologist.” “Wrong. Not enough cow dung!” And they called him mentally retarded!

I can certainly identify with the confusion that I imagine DeMello is describing when people come in expecting religion and he breaks out the psychology.

I get the same basic thing with people I used to discuss computer science with and now tend to head off into religion and philosophy. I’ve had a few people who subscribed to my blog back when it was all technogeekery that don’t read any more.

My response is about the same as DeMello’s. He says, “it’s the goal that matters, and I’m just looking for the right tools.” I’m interested in computational methods for understanding preference and cognition. People have been trying to figure out the nature of the human experience for thousands of years. It frustrates me that many people seem to think that science somehow came along and invalidated the experiences and reasoning of the billions of people who were working on this before modern history.

DeMello’s book and description are fundamentally about a practical approach for attaining sustainable happiness. He has insights into the nature and process of cognition that are important regardless of whether his language is mathematical, descriptive or allegorical. The only way to really figure it out, as best I can tell, is either to guess as to what is going on in his head, or, better yet, to try and replicate whatever it is in my own head and poke at it there. That has the pleasant fringe benefit of also leaving me with a method for sustainable happiness in my head.

I do like the idea of finding an actual solution to my problems. I had a long meeting with my adviser today where she told me that she wasn’t happy with the progress that I’m making and I told her that I don’t blame her since I’m not particularly happy with the progress myself.

I’ve had this same basic realization about fifty times now. If you read back through my writing there’ll be little periods of work and productivity followed by me getting bored and then starting to slack off. Then I see the pattern happening again, resolve to change my ways, and get back on the horse once again.

There’s a quote that I can’t find an attribution for that goes something like:

I don’t know that I can succeed, but I try to fail less and less.

I’m mostly just amazed at how dumb I consistently prove to be. Mostly it’s just being a chicken shit. The project I am working on is a mess. The main developer is writing it like it’s something he’s working on in his basement and it’s a mass of hard coding and special compile tricks. I have had a hell of a time working on it and my biggest problem is since I know that I’m behind schedule I don’t like admitting when I’m stuck.

I instead go the oh so brilliant route of trying to dig in and figure out what the hell is wrong myself and generally end up getting irritated and quitting. So, I end up both with no solution and sick of working on the project; everyone’s a loser.

This is something I’ve been doing for years and has been responsible for horrible work performance at pretty much all of my jobs. It’s why, even though I really do have a good head on my shoulders, if I’m not careful my projects tend to flounder.

Do I want a solution though or do I just want my problem to go away? If I really want a solution wouldn’t I sleep, meditate and exercise? That’s the three simple activities that reduce my chances of falling off the horse again by at least 90%. In spite of having discovered this a dozen times I still don’t consistently do it.

I suppose though there’s no time like the present to try again. ☺ That something is difficult isn’t a good reason to do something, but it’s not a good reason to give up either. Off to the gym I go…

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