Saturday, July 19, 2014

Integration and Faith

In the previous post [Happiness and Meaning] I mentioned at the very end that a cycle of growth and self-knowledge involves a process of ``inner integration'' and a process of ``purifying destruction'' (making things real). I want to expand on both themes and I start with the first.

This morning I was reading an article from Michael Eigen's ``Electrified Tightrope,'' [Amazon link], which is a collection of very interesting papers. (I bought it mainly because it contains an amazing article first appeared in a 1981 issue of The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, ''The area of faith in Winnicott, Lacan and Bion,'' an exceptionally beautiful paper!) The article I was reading this morning was on ``omniscience,'' in which Eigen argues that letting go of the illusion of omniscience (knowing everything) is important in the process of healing and growth. He describes `unintegration' as a condition of openness to new experiences and a state of playfulness.

What does enable us to open ourselves to new experiences? This is such an exciting and broad question, but if I have to give a short answer, I would say, a form of trust is necessary that I call `faith'!
I proudly present my own definition of `faith' as a condition of acting in the presence of basic imperfection in three areas of ``knowledge'' (not omniscient), ``ability'' (not omnipotent), ``responsibility'' (not omniliable, lol). Faith, in my view, contains not only letting go of the illusions of full knowledge, power, and responsibility, but also being able to decide and act in face of the disillusionment! Faith is a deep trust that we can, and should, live with these imperfections.

I emphasize that trust or faith is not an intellectual phenomenon. It's not enough for me to convince you that faith is a good thing and, boom, you would be open to new experiences. Almost anything worthy of being discussed needs deep understanding at the emotional, or even a lower, level and requires lots of practice. Here, many different form of practices such as meditation, mindfulness, Zen, playfulness and more come to mind.

Learning to trust and have faith requires a change at the deepest regions of brain. Stephen Porges (http://stephenporges.com) `polyvagal' theory is relevant. (I have mentioned his work here, for example, in From Cesar Millan to Stephen Porges. This theory is so interesting and multifaceted that requires a couple of posts of its own.) The condition of trust and playfulness requires a form of coordination/integration across reptilian brain, mammalian brain, and neocortex. If this appears circular (trust is required for uninegration which is a prerequisite for integration, but trust requires integration itself), it is circular, and that is one reason why it is only obtained with practice.

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