Information

What is the relationship between the ego, amygdala and consciousness?

What is the relationship between the ego, amygdala and consciousness?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

I've been reading a lot about emotional responses lately, and the following points seem to surface in different writings:

"Amygdala is a very ancient system, intended to quickly alert a person of danger".

At the same time, we have a part of our consciousness, where thoughts of danger, lack or negativity towards others may arise. I've seen spiritual/personal development writers attribute these thoughts to the function of the ego. I'm not sure if they are using the term correctly, as they have a mostly negative perception of the ego, as something that strives to dominate cognition and act out of fearful/selfish desires. Here's a description from wikipedia:

The ego is the organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions.

I'm trying to understand - Is person's ego a projection of the responses of their amygdala onto the conscious experience?

I've looked around and see some bloggers like this one make a claim that the amygdala and the ego are one and the same. Is this true?

To clarify my question - I'm seeking to understand if there's a structure/process in cognition that integrates input from various "lower mammal brain" structures and translates them into thoughts?


Assuming your question is "Is person's ego a projection of the responses of their amygdala onto the conscious experience?", I think it would translate to "Does the amygdala determines or houses the ego". In that light, the question hinges on the meaning of ego. Given the question is asked at Cognitive Sciences SE, I assume the ego is "The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity". In that case I would say no, the amygdala is not involved in the ego.

Generally, the amygdala is considered to be an essential part of the limbic system. The limbic system controls the core emotions (fear, pleasure, anger) and drives behaviors essential to life (hunger, sex, and the care of offspring). The functions of the amygdala are indeed mainly associated with emotions, but also with learning and memory (Martin & Hans, 1985). A notable example is post-traumatic stress disorder (Shin et al., 2006), where it mediates imprinting of memories through fear.

However, the amygdala definitely shapes "the self". Given the Latin meaning of "ego" (literally, "I") one could definitely argue for an essential role of the amygdala in the ego. In that context, though, arguably every single part of the brain at the macroscopic level is an essential part of the ego.

PS: the 'blog' you linked is an advertisement for the services of Sara Harvey, a personal coach for folks with executive functions. Not the most reliable source of information.

References
- Martin & Hans, Behav Neurosci (1985); 99(2):342-80
- Shin et al., Ann NY Acad Sci (2006); 1071: 67-7


I believe an overactive amygdala certainly plays a pivitol role defines ones ego. As the amygdala is part of the limbic system. An overactive limbic system has been linked to depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.

While I do believe the amygdala does play a small part in defining the ego, I believe other parts of the limbic system, play a significant role in the overall definition of the ego. Having a strong active frontal cortex also helps the person logically define their "ego" or who they are as a person.

So the correct answer is No, the ego should not be defined as conscious experiences projected simply by the amygdala. Other parts of the brain play a significant part in defining ones "ego."

David Lopez Blass


PTSD, the Hippocampus, and the Amygdala – How Trauma Changes the Brain

But in the brain of a person with PTSD, emotional distress could physically (and perhaps even visibly) change the neurocircuitry.

In a normal brain, the interaction between the hippocampus and the amygdala is important for processing emotional memory. It’s suspected that they both change in response to experience as well.
But when someone experiences trauma, do these parts of the brain change together, or are they completely independent of one another?

In a recent study led by Quan Zhang, MD at China’s Tianjin Medical University General Hospital, researchers looked at the relationship between the hippocampus and the amygdala in coal miners suffering from PTSD after surviving a gas explosion.

Specifically, they were interested in the change in gray matter volume in these areas of the brain after the traumatic experience of the blast.

Would the volume in both of these emotion-processing brain regions decrease? And if so, do the amygdala and the hippocampus change together?

Questions of how the brain changes after trauma are critical for developing more effective interventions to speed healing.

So, the researchers recruited 14 coal miners with PTSD from a gas explosion as well as a matched control group of 25 non-traumatized colleagues of the victims.

They used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at different parts of the brain of each participant.

Then Dr. Zhang and his team used voxel-based morphometry (VBM), a computerized analysis technique to calculate brain volume from the MRIs. They looked at the differences in hippocampus and amygdala volume between the PTSD patients and the control group.

They found that the coal miners with PTSD had significantly decreased gray matter volume in the hippocampus in addition to a decrease in volume covariance between the hippocampus and amygdala compared to the control group.

This decrease in volume may be associated with the dysfunctional emotional memory processing in PTSD patients that leads to symptoms like hyper-arousal or avoidance.

Now, we need to be careful about generalizing these findings to include all PTSD patients because the sample size was quite small. And it only included people who had been in a coal mine explosion, which means there’s a possibility some other factors could be involved.

But this work is a step toward better understanding the neurocircuitry of a brain with PTSD, which could inform our choice of intervention when working with trauma patients struggling to regulate their emotions.
If you’d like more details about Dr. Zhang’s work, these findings were published July 7, 2014 in PLOS ONE.

And if you want to learn more about how PTSD affects the brain, including some of the latest treatments that focus on rewiring the brain after trauma, then check out our Rethinking Trauma webinar series.

So now, I’d like to know what you think. Has learning about the brain impacted your work with patients who have PTSD? Please leave a comment below.

Please Leave A Comment Cancel reply

32 Comments

Karolena Rafferty, Student, Newtown, CT, USA says

Hi!
I really enjoyed reading this and was wondering how to cite it if I wanted to use some of this information?

ngfdkunjbt, Nutrition, LB says

Katie Kohl, Other, Genoa, NE, USA says

I want someone to study my brain

I am having extraordinary success along with 8 other practitioners utilizing cold laser therapy.you may download my forthcoming paper regarding case studies.go to website paintherapyusa.com

A message from children of war veterans says

I wanted to add, this doctor seems to be doing pretty good with her understanding of helping those with PTSD. It’s really great that someone like her is working so hard to help. However, this article about emotional dysfunction, not so good. Only the part about the brain is interesting, but what happens to the brain is only the trade off for developing super human might.
PTSD should really be called, prolonged superhuman might. However, it does get more difficult to control over time as damage occurs to the body systems which overwhelmed helping with super powering the body.

A message from children of war veterans says

PTSD after a traumatic experience is not “dysfunctional emotional processing”.
It’s really terrible that so many psychology professionals, researchers and even doctors just don’t have years of observation experience to understand that PTSD is a protection mechanism which develops in times of extreme danger. Therefore, it is NOT dysfunctional. It’s actually highly functional in order to survive danger. Understand-a person experiences extreme danger–that person becomes changed to survive extreme danger.
In those who do not develop PTSD, they are not going to survive danger as well those who do get PTSD. Therefore, those who do get it are actually more likely to survive danger, and they are stronger, faster, have faster reflexes and react much quicker to dangerous stimulus. You aren’t going to see as much of it from one traumatic experience as a war veteran who experienced extreme danger with many traumatic events for an entire year or more.
Flashbacks exist to allow for extremely fast reflexes, to bypass fear, to force an individual to spring into action, become immediately strong, fight like no other, and win at all costs, without thinking first. Get it? Flashbacks are actually NOT dysfunctional, they are highly functional taken in context of the situation.
To stop these memory imprints created to survive danger, and lower adrenaline levels in the extremely traumatized, one needs to rewrite the brain so to speak, much in the way a computer is rewritten with one operating system, in order to switch from another operating system. Make sense?
Over time, PTSD will make a person much more dysfunctional in regular everyday life, as adrenaline builds and causes damage to organ systems in the body, then making PTSD even worse. Adrenaline has been shown to kill neurons at higher levels, maybe the reason for the decrease in volume in parts of the brain? Seems likely. It also has effects on the heart, vascular system, and kidneys. It causes damage over time to keep super human powers. There is a trade off.
Please stop publishing articles on PTSD with misinformation about dysfunctional emotional processing. It’s not correct. If trauma is experienced over a long period of time, PTSD will develop, because that person’s mind has subconsciously reasoned the ability to survive future dangerous similar situations needs to be retained over a long period of time in order to survive.
I hope someone can make use of this very valuable information. There’s a saying which says, if you want the truth, get it from a child’s mouth.

“In those who do not develop PTSD, they are not going to survive danger as well those who do get PTSD. Therefore, those who do get it are actually more likely to survive danger, and they are stronger, faster, have faster reflexes and react much quicker to dangerous stimulus.”
I don’t happen to agree with you as people with PTSD don’t have the ability to evaluate situations accurately. If you’re constantly switched on to flight or flee response, you’re not likely to have the clarity of mind to make a decision as to whether a situation is actually dangerous and if so how dangerous? Sure if you have PTSD you’ll be good at fleeing but that is not always the appropriate response.So no your statement is wrong, people with PTSD might be faster at reacting to danger whether real or not, the fact that their nervous systems are on constant overdrive will mean that they will not be faster than someone without PTSD, in fact they are likely to make mistakes and die if they are in a real dangerous thought because they don’t have the benefit of a regulated nervous system that allows for clarity of thought when it matters most.
Flashbacks ARE dysfunctional because they are bit perceptions that surface that are intrusive, if they were functional super powers people with normal healthy functioning would have flashbacks all the time. They don’t and there is a reason for it.
The body is NOT geared up to be on alert all the time: it exhausts physical and mental reserves that need to be preserved for when these reserves are actually needed and put into use.
I can understand why you would want to interpret these dysfunctions as helpful super powers because feeling a sense of powerlessness when you have PTSD will mean people will grasp at any explanation to resume a sense of some control. If you have had PTSD for years you will witness your life go downhill and you feel almost powerless to change it unless you get help.
What I do marvel at is the body- mind’s rather imperfect ability to make the best of a bad situation and being gripped in absolute fear creates a scenario where brain lock occurs and then after that you’re not living you’re existing within a limited pre-programmed reflex coming from the place of fear and fear alone. How can you possibly say that is functional? Or even helpful.Scary is more like it. PTSD is about extreme dysfunction that arises from a mechanism that is meant temporarily to protect you from further harm but lands up creating more damage in the long run, if left untackled.
On the plus side there is good news.A study was conducted that suggests that a mother can trauma proof a child by ensuring that she teaches the child self regulation and self soothing.Connection and bonding teaches the child to self sooth itself.(or rather it’s teaching the nervous system a way to stay regulated and stable under all conditions)Want to make it 100% better, then try love flooding the child and this not only allows the child to feel loved and accepted but also teaches the body to release oxytocin(feel good).Oxytocin is then released that counter balances the gripping affects of fear when the person is confronting a traumatic incident. It actually then calms down the nervous system and allowing it to bounce back quickly without any permanent dysfunction or maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Try this out for size: once a day for three months, sit quietly and actually talk to yourself calmly like you would to a friend who you’re trying to reassure.Talk to yourself in a way to sooth your fears etc…. for a minimum of 30 minutes. Ensure you are deeply relaxed when you do this. I always listen to music to relax before I do this but you can do whatever gets you in a receptive state. Even if what you say to yourself doesn’t feel true: for example you can say” I feel totally and blissful safe in my body”, the aim is not so much what you say in the beginning but rather the loving calming tone of voice.At the end of the session bring up a happy memory where you were being loved and cherished with a loved one and allow that memory to expand into your body.(you can always imagine it if you have never had an experience like this) If your body is starting to feel warm and even tingly then you know you are doing it right.
So let me tell you what happens after 3 months of this: your sleep will improve massively, you will feel less days of feeling fearful for no reason and in my case, my aches and pains disappeared. I was pain free for the first time in years. In 6 months of this practise the results were even more spectacular, but don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself. This works. It’s something so simply that done continuously with practice actually re-wires the brain into being more resilient. It has been a godsend in reducing and in many cases getting rid of my PTSD symptoms all together. Obviously this is just one tool that can be used along with others.

I will have to try this. Thank you!

Thank You for these comments It’s encouraging coming from Children of Combat Vets. As a a Combat Vet with PTSD in recovery/ Renaissance for 20 years and a Presenter- Teacher in the Mental Health System , I realize that the Health care system wrongly thinks that the Brain can be Reprogramed by Chemistry and it’s functioning can be measured by the size of the Hippocampus and the number of gray mater. Chemistry can only help the brain think better It doesn’t tell it what to think . The brain can only be reprogramed by the Individual’s Mind as in Relearning .Learning is the original Function that Consciousness is attended by . PTSD and some other Disorders can Only be Managed by Identity Integration and ” Tibalization “.

joan cross, PT,MPH Neurofeedback Practitioner, Mt.Vernon, WA, USA says

The brain is a non-linear, complex, dynamical system and the networks of neuron synapses are constantly feeding back on each other and to many other places in the brain and body. there is no controller, coordinator. all networks feed back in many circuits leading to emergent behavior. Neurofeedback is the best intervener in that its ones own brain re-training itself using the orienting and relaxation responses built into the CNS. The Hippocampus and Amygdala are just elaborate networks that are part of the natural complex dynamical systems within the human body. Trauma can be retrained with neurofeedback as any other experience. Neurofeedback just helps whatever brain become as efficient as its structure can allow.

I think,what he was saying that if youre in combat PTSD is what keeps someone safe. Hes not saying in a persons everyday life after coming back after combat.
Everyone has their right to their own interpretations. They shouldn’t have to be told theyre,wrong for how they feel an see.
I have PTSD an have been in an out of therapy for half my life. On every medication an had Electric Shoke Treatments 12 times. An honestly nothings helped me. My fear in my conscience has never left. I would have to be brain dead to not get a trigger of some sort at anytime i see or hear of an association.
Theres nothing wrong feeling fearful an being smart. PTSD gives a 6th sense.
Isolation works for me. All people do is make judgements. Im tired of dealing with ignorant people that think i should be what society says we should be. There’s nothing wrong how i want to live my life. Im so sick an tired of having to be an do what the certain criteria is that society has made for being a person. Theres nothing wrong with being who i am an how i feel. But society says there is. I am who i am an im tired,of trying to fix myself an be someone im not to fit in. Thats the problem with the world. People have been taught to not accept one another for who they are. Everyone has a problem with one another. Its sicking an very very sad.its no wonder we have so many suicides. We’re not allowed to think we’re ok.
I hope in my next life i dont return as a human!

And i go to one of the best: DARTMOUTH
My next try will be to see if I can get Neuroplasicity if i can live that long.
I would like to be happy before I die from finding the courage to stop the misery of my life.

Andrea Schinze, Mayer , MN, USA says

Part of overcoming ptsd for me was training myself to think more positively and be more appreciative of everything and everyone in life, bad and good. Because after all you are in charge of your own happiness and if you are not finding anything positive that you can focus on in your life, that’s a sign that your not as happy as you could be. And its up to you to make changes in life In ordered to find happiness. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Life is a journey and thr joy is right here around you now. You deserve a daily share of it….

Julie Unger, LPC, NCC, Littleton, CO says

I am planning to use all the new information I am learning from the Rethinking Trauma webinars with my PTSD patients and with others. I just recommended neurofeedback to a client with a son who has autism, based on what I learned in the last session. The parents have the money to follow up on this, even if insurance won’t pay for it, so she is looking for a place to get her son some neurofeedback even as I write this.

Very interesting series. Thank you.
Response to lija and anyone else interested in an excellent, readable and easy to understand guide to the different parts of the brain and their function, read “Who’s Who of the Brain – A Guide to its inhabitants, Where they live and What they do” by Prof Kenneth Nunn ISBN 978 1 84310 470 4

Mary Scott in Surrey BC says

VERY VERY interesting – could be related to the triggering that happens so often with trauma pts
Thanx – mary

Christine Lauwers, ex-scientist, Belgium says

So interesting ! My mother aged 88, suffers from an unusual form of dementia. Her short-term memory and desorientation in time and place are severe. Otherwise she is not recognized as being an Alzheimer nor an age related dementia patient. The above article explains why I think… My mum is a WW2 victim, and at the age of 18 she survived bombing on her house, her mother and brother did not survive the disaster of oct26,1944. Her entire life as from that day she suffered from chronic depression, hyper arousal, avoidance as well as from schizo-affective mood swings (almost daily) and dys-functional memory processing i.e severe form of melancholia, suicidal thougts and frequent nightmares. She was/ still is a highly intelligent person. So could it be that the hippocampus underwent such a high level of stress, resulting in some form of shrinking or disactivation of packages of braincells (hubs), as a defence mechanism to “forget” the trauma ? What are your thoughts …

My thoughts are years of living with the trauma and parts of the brain could possibly stop working completely after being inactive for so long. IE: Living in a constant state of stress can reduce function especially the frontal lobe. Im no expert just diagnosed with ptsd and trying to research it myself.

Jim, Psychologist, Lexington, Ky says

Question pertaining to the above remark about “the decrease in volume (of the hippocampus & the amygdala)………… that leads to hyper-arousal or avoidance.” Does it necessarily have to be one or the other, or could it lead to both: hyper-arousal & avoidance as defense mechanisms against the fear of external imaginary threats & the fear of rejection, abandonment, etc, which in essence would all be threats to the emotional security of the person. This seems to me to be a logical deduction that both symptoms would manifest within the same time periods for many people, if not most. Thanks for the free viewing.

Marya Mann, Ph. D. - Art Therapist, Hawaii says

Aloha! This is so helpful, Ruth. The series so far has helped us understand the long-standing issues surrounding trauma, but I haven’t heard anyone address specifically childhood trauma. When an individual’s system is stressed before a sense of self develops, before the age of reason, there are unique personality development, boundary and trust issues that underlie every other learning and experience in life. I hope someone is planning to address this and share the most up-to-date treatments for what I see increasingly in my practice — Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in childhood. Thank you so much! This series will help our world tremendously. Bravo to you for hosting it!

Ruth, Seebern Fisher mentioned either the equipment she uses or the training progam but I could not understand her reference. Could you tell me what she said regarding her training.
Thank You

Ralph Lewis, Electrician, San Bernardino, CA says

Yes, Sebern Fisher’s enunciation did not come through clearly at that one critical spot on the “Rethinking Trrauma…” webinar’s audio. She was referring to a product that was using a play-on-words with EEG in it’s name. ( EEGer )
Complete a web search for ” How to Conduct A Neurofeedback Session” wqhich should get you to the ” EEGer 4.3 Tutorial.” I think this will get you going.
I have noticed training days between 1 to 4 days. Contact the companies involved to learn more of the Who?, When?, Where? How long? and How much?
Hope this helps.

Sophie O'Gorman, France says

Further to David Berceli pointing out that trauma has been part of our evolutionary process, I’m wondering if we will also find that the body can also resolve these apparent differences post trauma ie can we track the miners years later? Will the brain differences be as apparent in 5 years time? Can the brain/body continue to heal despite stuckness and in the absence of formal therapeutic intervention? What does the body accept as health?

While we may not know specifics of trauma impact on neurocircutry, we are learning clearly that here is a physiological impact. I believe this helps reduce shame and promotes compassion and curiosity related to treating and living with the effects of trauma. I am excited about moving towards trauma informed care in many venues.

That’s a skillful answer to a dilcfiuft question

vera muller paisner,psychoanalyst,connecticut says

Indeed,learning more about the brain is crucial in understanding trauma. when working with PTSD I have px cortisol levels checked, so am looking forward forthe latest tx!

My name is Joe from Mass and I suffer from comlex PTSD due to birth trauma and PTSD. I am currently working with Neurofeedback 7th session today and looking to see the results over the next 7 weeks.

Williams, Translator, Netherlands says

I find the research studies you cite difficult to trace. Could you please give more details.

Ricardo Rojas Bedoya, Neuroscientist of Consciousness, Lima Peru says

Hi, this is Ricardo from Peru. I hereby send you the link to download a pdf of the study on coalminers mentioned by Ruth. Bon appetite.
Please write to my email address to confirm you have received this. Thanks for that.

Iija, counsellor, England says

Thank you for this free webinar. It’s great to be learning about the latest scientific research and the impact of trauma on the brain. I can see the use of Neurofeedback in getting the mind body connection after experiencing trauma but it sounds too technical for me. However, like all the other methods, if it works , use it. Any new knowledge is useful for adding tools to my toolbag, giving me a wider choice for intervention with individual client’s unique adaptations. There’s always some new learning in exploring new interventions even if I don’t practise the method in it’s entirety.
I wish I could get the vocabulary sorted for the different parts of the brain and their functions. It would make learning about the brain and it’s circuits so much easier. The plasticity of the brain gives us possibility for change and new learning, I find that really empowering.

Louise Sonnenberg,Psychiatry,USA says

Thank you for your continuing efforts to understand and explain the impact of trauma on the brain which will lead to improved treatment as we we understand brain neuroplasticity.


What is the relationship between the ego, amygdala and consciousness? - Psychology

This moment in which the mirror-stage comes to an end. . .

22
At the end of the mirror stage--again, it's important to understand that the mirror stage "ends" only in its status as a phase of psychic development, but continues as a structural element of psychic life--the initial relationship between the infant and her Ideal-I becomes the foundation for the child's social relationships and for the child's self-image as a social being. To illustrate the dialectical nature of this relationship, Lacan turns to a type of behavior in young children observed by the child psychologist Charlotte Büauthler: young children may cry in pain when they see another child injure himself a child who hits another child may complain of having been hit. Lacan gives a fuller description of this transitivism, using these examples, in "Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis" (Ecrits 19). While this form of transitivism does not persist in older children, the child's "I," even when it is established as a separate entity distinct from others, will continue to be dependent upon others for its stability and coherence. In addition to transitivism, Lacan views jealousy in pre-verbal infants--early instances of sibling rivalry, for example--as another indication of how the child's experience of selfhood is bound up with the presence of others. In "Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis," he quotes a passage from Augustine's Confessions to support this point (Ecrits 20).

23
For Lacan, we are "who we are" only in relation to other people. Our aims and desires are shaped by the desires of others, in interpersonal terms and in terms of social expectations and prohibitions. Our knowledge of the world comes to us by way of other people the language we learn to speak prexists us, and to a great degree our thoughts conform to preestablished concepts and linguistic structures. As we assimilate to these social conventions, the pressures of our instinctual drives--sexuality, for example--appear to us as threats, as "dangers." Those of us who were raised in the Christian tradition might recall anxiety about "sin," which can serve as an example of a socially elaborated defense against instinctual impulses that are viewed as harmful to the integrity of the self (the "soul.") The prohibition of incest in the Oedipal complex--accompanied by the threat of castration for the male child-- is the classical example in Freudian psychoanalysis of the intervention of cultural norms into the child's sexual impulses.

24
Freud's theory of primary narcissism underlies much of Lacan's thinking here. The infant develops two strong libidinal attachments: to his mother (or other primary caregiver) and to his own ego. What is the connection between sexual libido (what Freud in "On Narcissism" calls object libido, which is directed outward toward persons and things, and the libido that is invested in the ego (what Freud calls ego-libido? The ego-libido is a kind of double-edged sword. Part of the ego's investment in its image is positive minimally, we need to have some investment in ourselves to nourish our bodies and preserve them from harm. The Ideal-I, because it never fully corresponds to the entity the subject experiences as "herself." also spurs disappointment, frustration, and anger, In Lacan's terms, we never "measure up" to our Ideal-I, and this failure emerges in our psycho-social lives in the form of insecurity, envy, and hostility. The dissatisfaction that arises from the split in our egos colors all of our social behaviors. Lacan alludes to the Christian parable of the good Samaritan to suggest that even our greatest acts of self-sacrifice are driven in part by the need to shore up our ideal image of ourselves--the gratifying vision of ourselves, for example, as saintly, self-sacrificing people.

25
The otherness of the image the subject assumes in the mirror stage creates a negative dimension in the subject's existence. I am never, in Lacan's model, fully "myself" because the relationship within which my ego, my "I", comes into being is a relationship with an image that is not me, that is an unattainable ideal. Lacan notes the similarity between this negativity and the emphasis on alienation and essential meaninglessness of existence in the philosophical movement of existentialism, developed by Jean-Paul Sartre in response, in part, to the phenomenological work of Martin Heidegger. Being and Nothingness, published in 1943, is Sartre's major exposition of existentialism its title echoes Heidegger's 1927 work Being and Time..

26
Lacan is critical of existentialism, however, and his criticism is related to his attacks on American-style ego psychology. Although existentialists recognize the meaninglessness of existence and the human being's responsibility to make meaning out of it, this philosophy formulates this negative outlook in terms of a consciousness that is self-present and self-aware. Lacan's model of consciousness is based on the principle that the self is never self-aware, that what is experiences as "itself" is a misrecognition, a méconnaissance. An existential psychoanalysis did develop out of existentialism, focusing on helping the individual come to terms with the ethical imperatives of his or her existence.


The Amygdala – the secret ruler of your emotions

So it is Friday afternoon. You are in the store, shopping groceries for the weekend. You are in a great mood. A song that you haven't heard in years starts echoing out from the supermarket speakers. And within five seconds you start feeling hurt, sad and depressed. You try to fight it, to wash it off, but to no avail. The feeling weighs you down like a damp cloth, and doesn't start going away until half an hour later. What happened? If you are good at introspection you will soon realize what it was. Maybe you associate the song with a devastating breakup of a long relationship. Or maybe you'll never find out what caused your angst and depression that Friday afternoon. But after reading this blog post you will know a bit more about the small part of your brain that causes such situations: the amygdala.

When writing my upcoming book on happiness, after going deeper and deeper, I finally wound up researching the anatomy of the human brain and how it relates to different psychological models such as the rider and the elephant or Freud's id, ego and superego. When doing this research I learned something that over the months has proven to be among the most valuable things I've learned in 2016. This piece of knowledge is simply understanding that the amygdala exists, and how it functions. Being aware of the amygdala's effect on me has made a huge impact in my life.

The amygdala triggers pleasant or unpleasant emotions in response to certain stimuli. A stimulus can be something we see or hear, or feel. Anything that comes in via the senses. When we experience something deeply distressing, the amygdala stores an association with whatever stimuli we experienced in connection with that distressing situation. And the other way around of course for pleasant experiences. The stronger the emotion we feel about something, the stronger the emotional memory that will be stored in the amygdala. Then when we experience the same stimuli later, the amygdala triggers the emotion again.

So if you experience deeply unpleasant feelings during a breakup, the amygdala will spin into action. "Hey, that's some strong negative emotions right there. Let me just take note about everything in your surroundings right now, and make sure that the next time you encounter these things you will experience the same strong emotions. So that you learn to avoid these surroundings." So that song that was on the radio, the room you were in when you got the breakup phone call, the food you were eating at the time – all of them might trigger distress in the future.

You might have heard of PTSD – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The classic example is a war veteran whose whole world crumbles when he hears a loud bang years later. Another example of the amygdala at work.

Yet more interesting, the amygdala, likely being an old part of our brain, has a faster and more direct pathway to the senses than our more modern, thinking, frontal part of the brain. Thus the amygdala can make us all upset over something before our thinking mind have even had the chance to process the sensory input. This is why you can become angry and upset with something you are totally fine with on a rational level, just because the amygdala is acting all childish.

The amygdala only stores connections between stimuli and emotions, and it seems to work completely independently of the rest of our memory, which can store more than just emotions. This leads to the consequence that we sometimes can have a strong emotional reaction to something, a song, a person, a smell, without even remembering why. The actual memory is gone. But the imprint is still there in the amygdala. I think a lot of psychological illness is due to old imprints in the amygdala, and the reason some kinds of psychotherapy might work, is because it can help us rediscover memories which explain these amygdala imprints. When you realize this connection you can become more relaxed towards the emotions.

To me it has made a great difference in day to day life to simply know about and acknowledge the amygdala. It makes me able to instantly recognize whenever I am having a sudden emotion due to the amygdala, and this awareness in itself greatly helps me downplay the emotion. I can let my rational mind think through whether it is useful for me to be having this emotional reaction. And if it is not, I can wait for the emotion to die down without getting lost in it. Before I was aware of the amygdala, and the fact that it often triggers irrational emotions, I often got lost in them and amplified them by spinning up thought loops and doomsday scenarios. I simply didn't understand where the emotions came from, so I always took them very seriously.

So get to know your amygdala. The next time you feel overtaken by an emotion – ask yourself if it is due to an old imprint in the amygdala, or caused by something else. If you think it is caused by an old imprint in the amygdala, that understanding in itself can make it easier to dismiss the emotion. In the long run this makes for great self-therapy.


Ego – Personality, Consciousness and Individuation

The ego, the subject of consciousness, comes into existence as a complex quantity which is constituted partly by the inherited disposition (character constituents) and partly by unconsciously acquired impressions and their attendant phenomena. [“Analytical Psychology and Education,” CW 17, par. 169.]

Jung pointed out that knowledge of the ego-personality is often confused with self-understanding.

Anyone who has any ego-consciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them. In this respect the psyche behaves like the body, of whose physiological and anatomical structure the average person knows very little too. [“The Undiscovered Self,” CW 10, par. 491.]

Individuation Challenge of the Ego

In the process of individuation, one of the initial tasks is to differentiate the ego from the complexes in the personal unconscious, particularly the persona, the shadow and anima/animus. A strong ego can relate objectively to these and other contents of the unconscious without identifying with them.

Because the ego experiences itself as the center of the psyche, it is especially difficult to resist identification with the self, to which it owes its existence and to which, in the hierarchy of the psyche, it is subordinate.

The ego stands to the self as the moved to the mover, or as object to subject, because the determining factors which radiate out from the self surround the ego on all sides and are therefore supraordinate to it. The self, like the unconscious, is an a priori existent out of which the ego evolves. [“Transformation Symbolism in the Mass,” CW 11, par. 391.]

Identification with the self can manifest in two ways: the assimilation of the ego by the self, in which case the ego falls under the control of the unconscious or the assimilation of the self to the ego, where the ego becomes overaccentuated. In both cases the result is inflation, with disturbances in adaptation.

In the first case, reality has to be protected against an archaic … dream-state in the second, room must be made for the dream at the expense of the world of consciousness. In the first case, mobilization of all the virtues is indicated in the second, the presumption of the ego can only be damped down by moral defeat. [“The Self,” CW 9ii, par. 47.]

© from Daryl Sharp’s Jung Lexicon, reproduced with kind permission of the author.


Ego in Jungian Psychology and Why We Need It | Personality Development

The ego gets a pretty bad rap these days. People say things like “It’s just ego,” as though the ego were something we could just dispense of at will.

As the center of our conscious mind, the ego is a psychological necessity. Perhaps a lot of what people say today comes from the influx of Eastern philosophy. We should remember that the idea of the dissolution of the ego arose in a different cultural context.

Dissolution of the ego is not something we can simply adopt as an attitude. It is something, however, to which we can adapt – if we keep the practice within the context of our culture. Individuality is one of the greatest contributions of Western culture to humanity.

I think we should be more respectful of something so precious as our individuality. Individuality is an expression of authenticity. The idea that an individual can contribute something of value gives a human being a sense of meaning and purpose.

Meaninglessness, by the way, is something from which a lot of people suffer these days. I work with some of these people on a daily basis. Of course, their presenting problem is rarely, “I suffer from meaninglessness”, but it often comes down to that.

Table of Contents - Jump To Section

What Affects the Ego?

We are surrounded by the Collective on two fronts: the Collective Consciousness in our external world and the Collective Unconscious in our inner world. Both of these act upon us like objects – meaning that each front has a certain level of autonomy over which we have no control.

From the external front, Collective Consciousness, we are bombarded with cultural norms, social pressures and social roles (personas). These promote societal and cultural conventionalism.

Conventionality assimilates individuality. On the internal front, we have the Unconscious, which encompasses both a personal (biographical) and a collective (archetypal) aspect.

The difference is important, the details of which are best left to another topic. For now, let’s look at the Unconscious as those overpowering emotions, thoughts, moods, fantasies and daydreams which can possess us against our will.

What is the Ego?

The ego is the “commander in chief” as Jung called it,

… its reflections and decisions, its reasons and doubts, its intentions and expectations are the general staff, and its dependence on outside factors is the dependence of the commander on well-nigh incalculable influences emanating from the general headquarters and from the dark machinations of politics in the background.

A stable ego provides us with the necessary foundation from which to do our transformational work as individuals. We can look at the ego as a sort of complex that serves as the center of consciousness. Consciousness – what we know about ourselves – transforms only by the work of a well-established ego.

A well-established ego works in conjunction with those forces that are beyond its control. When our ego is not well-established, the onslaught paralyzes us. Moods, thoughts, emotions, and images can take over and possess us in such a way that we no longer feel like ourselves.

In order to withstand the onslaught of life, we have to build up strong ego boundaries. In psychological terms, this boundary is called a stimulus barrier. Hence, when our stimulus barrier is too permeable, we can become overwhelmed, especially when we are in particularly dark states of hopelessness and fear. Similarly an alchemical text reads:

… be not too hasty in bringing your work to pass, and remember that your door be well and firmly shut, that he which is within fly not out and thus by the help of God you shall obtain a wished effect.

Generally speaking, the work we are bringing to pass is our own transformation. Whenever we collapse under the pressure of the world, we lose a piece of ourselves.

The Ego as the Vessel of Transformation

the alchemical vessel from Splendor Solis

In terms of alchemy we can look at our egos as an aspect of the “vessel” in which the work of transformation takes place. When we leave the door of the vessel open too wide, we become overwhelmed by both fronts – duty, obligation, and service on one and difficult thoughts and emotions on the other.

This is a tension that must be born. Only when we have a keen sense of our egos can we distinguish between our authentic selves and conventional opinion on the outside and the “dark machinations” of the Unconscious from the inside.

Our process of individuation, or Self-discovery, is the means by which we excavate what is truest to our individual nature.

The greatest events of world history are, at bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations first take place, and the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately spring as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals. In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.

(Carl Jung, Collected Works 10, par 316)

Ego and Personality Development in C.G. Jung’s Psychology

As with many of my posts, this piece started with a question about Jungian psychology:

How would you explain Jungian psychology? Is it all about trying to find the ‘real you’ or your real personality?

As usual, the phrasing of the question is tricky because it makes a lot of assumptions. We have to keep in mind that Jung meant something very specific with the words he used. He always clearly defined what he meant when he used certain words by establishing an operational definition. Many people argue semantics instead of getting clear on what Jung meant he said something. What did this guy mean by “real personality” and “real you”?

For Jung, there was no difference between real personality and real you. He even used personality and soul interchangeably. In Jungian psychology, the development of personality is a soul-searching journey called individuation.

To see what Jung mean by personality, let’s return to the quote above:

We need to unpack this quote in order to understand Jung’s definition of personality. We’ll explore what he means by the following:
  • universal conditions of existence
  • successful adaptation to these conditions
  • innate idiosyncrasy
  • courage
  • self-determination

Personality Development: What is Personality in C.G. Jung’s Psychology

For Jung, personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being, “an act of high courage flung in the face of life.”

The biggest problem people run into is thinking they already know what their individuality is. But we actually don’t know that. That’s because part of our individuality is conscious and a bigger part of it is unconscious.

Your true individuality is a lot more than you are conscious of. We have all kind of ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions beneath the surface of consciousness. All of that stuff comes up through your dreams.

Furthermore, the unconscious aspects of your individuality are the source of most of your issues. The ego strives in one direction, but the unconscious counterweight holds it back.

Anxiety, depression, panic, stagnation, lack of success in life – all of these are symptoms that you are out of touch with your true individuality. And all of this is what we work on in Jungian Analysis.

That’s where courage comes in. It takes courage to let go of who and what you think you are.

Individuation means becoming an “individual,” and, in so far as “individuality” embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as “coming to selfhood” or “self-realization.” (C.W. vol 7 par 266)

As I said above, the universal conditions to which we must successfully adapt are the external world of society and culture (aka, the collective) and the internal world of the collective unconscious. Everyone has to find a way to adapt to both of these forces of nature. Only when we do that are we truly self-determined.

Personality development: Recognition of our universal conditions

I’m pulling some old posts together, so forgive me if I repeat myself here. If you’re like me, it never hurts to hear something again.

Again, there are two universal conditions to which each of us must successfully adapt: the external world of society and culture and the internal world of the objective psyche. Jung called the external world the collective consciousness (or sometimes the collective psyche) and the internal world the collective unconscious. Successful adaptation basically means that we have recognized the unconscious components of our personality and their effects on us.

As I said in the post on the necessity of the ego, essentially we are surrounded by the collective on two fronts: the collective consciousness in our external world and the collective unconscious in our inner world. Both the external and the internal world have a certain level of autonomy over us. By this I mean that certain things just happen to us and there’s nothing we can do about it.

From the external front, collective consciousness, we are barraged with cultural norms, social pressures and social roles (personas). All of these promote – and to some extent, enforce – societal and cultural conventionalism. Conventionality assimilates individuality.

On the internal front, we have the unconscious, which encompasses both a personal (biographical) and a collective (archetypal) aspect. For example, we are born into certain families and that family dynamic has a profound impact, not only on how we see ourselves, but also on how we see the world. That lens is part of your personal unconscious.

The universal conditions at the collective level are the archetypes, which form the basic structure of the uniquely human psyche. Archetypes are generalized patterns of human perception and behavior.

Personality Development and Collective Consciousness

When Jung uses the term collective consciousness he means the general thoughts, ideas, behavior, and feelings shared by a people, a culture, or humankind in general. This includes the generally accepted truths according to religion, science, or society. We also call this conventionality.

You can identify conventionally-minded people within a few seconds. These people are simply collective. They completely merge with the collective consciousness and unconsciously identify with the conventionally accepted opinions, thoughts, and beliefs of their external environment. For example, surely we all know people who watch the nightly news or read CNN or Fox, and then, repeat what they’ve heard or read in conversation with each other, with all of the authority and conviction of an original opinion.

An authentic opinion is cultivated by honest reflection and consideration of the matter at hand.

Collective Assimilation of the Individual

Many people are collective, meaning they unconsciously identify with either the external or the internal world. Some merge with the collective consciousness, where they identify with the collective opinions of the external world.

For example, the people mentioned above, who only watch the nightly news or read CNN or Fox, and then, repeat what they’ve heard or read in conversation with each other.

Others are merged with the collective unconscious. This would amount to identification with or possession by the archetype, in particular, the god-image. We see this in religious, idealistic, or political fanaticism – anything with an ism after it has you.

In any one of these situations, the true individual gives way to the collective. We have to extricate ourselves from both collectives in order to discover and embrace that “innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness,” something which is innate in each of us.

When Jung speaks of embracing our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, he did not mean that we should embrace “some supposed peculiarity rather than … collective considerations and obligations”. That, he called individualism. While individualism is essentially the opposite of collectivism, both have the same effect: alienation of the true individual.

The true individual is both collective and unique. That particular aspect of Jung’s idea of personality development is lost on a lot of people.

Personality Development: don’t be one of the sheeple

the best card anyone has ever given me

Here’s another example of falling into collective mindset. My good friend and her teenage daughter were visiting me in 2003. This was back when internet chat rooms were common. My friend’s daughter had been carrying on in those rooms all day long.

I took a look at the list of rooms and noticed one where artist-types hung out. There were only five people or so in the room. I casually mentioned, “that looks like the place to be”. My friend’s daughter innocently responded, “No, this room has 100 people in there. That’s where all the cool people are.”

Now, I certainly wasn’t going to let that one go. I wish I could remember exactly what I said to her, but it went something like this: being cool is unique. The room with the most people in it is anything but unique.

Or take the comment section YouTube. If you see a video with 47,000 likes and 1,200 dislikes, you’ll see insult after insult about those 1,200 dis-likers! This is how badly people can’t stand those who step outside of the majority. I mean, seriously – it’s baffling.

It takes a lot of courage to do your own thing, whether you are walking a path that no one else walks or expressing an opinion that’s outside of the norm.

C.G. Jung and individuation

Personality development and individuation are the same thing. Jung defined individuation as

The better and more complete fulfilment of the collective qualities of the human being, since adequate consideration of the peculiarity of the individual is more conducive to a better social performance than when the peculiarity is neglected or suppressed. (C.W. vol 7 par 266)

A peculiarity is not a strangeness, but rather

a unique combination, or gradual differentiation, of functions and faculties which in themselves are universal. (C.W. vol 7 par 267)

Like I said before, first we have to extricate ourselves from the universal/collective qualities before we can discover our uniqueness – not to alienate ourselves, but rather to embody and fulfill those qualities in our own unique way.

The universal factors that form the psychological structure of our humanness, i.e., the archetypes, are infinitely variable – in the same way that we all have the same anatomical structure, but with individual expressions of it.

Individuation, therefore, can only mean a process of psychological development that fulfills the individual qualities given in other words, it is a process by which a man becomes the definite, unique being he in fact is. (C.W. vol 7 par 267)

Personality and Personhood

That unique being is what Jung called the whole personality. Now remember, he wrote in German. The word personality in German is Persönlichkeit, which is almost like saying, “personhood”. I use this wording to make it sound like neighborhood.

A neighborhood is a community of people living in the same vicinity. Our personhood is also like a neighborhood. Each of us lives with a community of others, but it is an inner community. The dreams we have with all of those strange people wandering through them – they are our inner community. Learning to listen to them is part of personality development. Why?

… in each of us there is another whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he sees us from the way we see ourselves. When, therefore, we find ourselves in a difficult situation to which there is no solution, he can sometimes kindle a light that radically alters our attitude—the very attitude that led us into the difficult situation. (C.W. vol 10 par 325)

Personality Development: Who are the people in your neighborhood?

The whole personality includes both conscious and unconscious aspects. These elements of a whole personality include: ego, persona, shadow, and anima/animus, and the self. The self is the closest to the center of the whole personality.

Each of those aforementioned elements have their rightful place and function in our personality. Identification with any of these elements is always problematic. The ego has to discover that it’s not the master of the house. It must learn to listen and answer to something far older and infinitely wiser than itself.

  • We need the protective cover of an authentic persona in order to face and navigate the external world.
  • We must integrate our shadow – both its light and dark aspects – so that we don’t project it onto others.
  • We need our anima or animus, not only to discover our inner opposite, but also in order to face and navigate our way through the inner world.
  • And we need contact with the self so that we can orient ourselves to something beyond this infinitesimal field of awareness that we call consciousness.

The Differentiated Individual

Individuals are formed and differentiated through a recognition, understanding, and integration of all of the different elements and dimensions that make up a living personality. I use the passive voice purposely because sometimes we are formed by forces other than ourselves. We like to think that our will drives everything, but anyone who’s self-aware knows that this is not true.

Each of those aforementioned elements have their rightful place and function in our personality. Identification with any of these elements is always problematic.

Inborn in each of us is an authentic, whole being which wants to be expressed and fulfilled, but we have to work with it and not against it. This means that sometimes we have to let go of the ego’s petty wants and desires and really pay attention to a deeper impulse. Only then can we become that individuated being that Jung speaks of.


How does this affect your life?

Well, I don’t need to tell you that reacting impulsively to every single situation is definitely not the best idea.

If you’ve ever snapped at a partner and gotten all defensive and started a fight- there’s a good chance that was your reptilian brain.
When we get all worked up, our frontal cortex literally disconnects- we literally flip our lids and think only with our reptilian brain.

That part of your brain is constantly scanning the environment for threats.
If it processes a piece of information and does determine it’s a threat- that information doesn’t actually go up the chain to our mammal brain and neo-cortex. It goes to a different section of the brain called the amygdala which basically judges if you’re gonna fight, flight, or freeze.

So, if someone close to you slights you, your reptilian brain might determine that as a threat to your ego, therefore to your survival, so it’s gotta go on the attack… and your partner is super confused because they were only running 15 minutes late.

Let’s apply this to another situation, like parenting.
You know those adorable little hell-raising tantrums kids love to throw? Perfect example of the reptilian brain.

If they see a chocolate bar while you’re out grocery shopping and you tell them no, they can’t have it- their brain is automatically thinking “F**k me, I’m gonna starve! I can’t believe I’m never allowed to eat again! That’s the only source of food on the planet and I need it NOWWWWWWW!”. When you get this it becomes a whole lot easier to remain calm as a parent during meltdowns which is crucial.

Understanding the reptilian brain can also improve your sales and marketing strategy. You just need to be aware that all the messages you’re putting out there, need to pass through this threat/opportunity filter in the reptilian brain.

Your marketing material should appeal to people’s sense of survival- people want to pursue opportunities, not run away from threats. Make it exciting, beneficial, risk-free.

If you’re confused as to why someone’s getting cold-feet or being a bit flaky on a business deal, there’s a good chance their reptilian brain is telling them that something’s a threat.

And I’ll tell you something for free- when you’re making a sale, the easiest way is to tap into someone’s reptilian brain motivation.

The reptilian brain is not a bad thing- by any means. It’s always a good idea to show a little bit of self awareness, understand how people think, and be conscious of your own behaviour.

When we understand our thought process, we can make better choices. And isn’t that all we’re ever trying to do?


Understanding the Ego in Psychology, Spirituality, and Psychedelics

With so many passing references, can we be certain everyone’s talking about the same thing? After all, ego is an inherently abstract concept, and if it’s central to psychedelic work, it seems important that we come to some consensus on the definitions we’re using.

Colloquial Use of Ego

The most general usage of the term conjures images of a jacked-up, tank-top wearing bro telling people how much he can bench while slamming Jaeger at the club. “He’s so egotistical,” one might say. “His ego is as big as the Earth!” This colloquial use of ego equates to being full of oneself, entirely self-centered and incapable of empathy.

While this usage bears relevance for our discussion, this is not the ego that folks refer to with terms like “ego death.” The colloquial ego is seen as negative, and though the ego of psychedelic conversations is often presented negatively, it is far from inherently antagonistic rather, it’s necessary for life as a human being.

But before we go deeper, let’s look at the term’s psychological roots.

The Ego in Psychoanalysis

If you’ve taken Psych 101, you probably learned that ego was a central concept for Sigmund Freud. The Freudian ego is the house of consciousness. It operates according to the “reality principle,” which mediates the unconscious battleground between the warring energies of “id”—our primal, chaotic instincts, like sexuality—and “superego”, our internalized societal voice dictating when those instincts should be curbed. The result of this struggle is repression and neurosis, which the ego can heal through “making the unconscious conscious” via methods like hypnosis, free association, and dream analysis.

Freud’s protege, Carl G. Jung, concurred that the ego is the seat of conscious awareness however, Jung broke from Freud in 1913 by rejecting his mentor’s dogmatic focus on sexuality, ultimately amending the ego concept entirely. Jung’s ego is in continual dialogue with the “personal unconscious,” which, like Freud’s unconscious, is constituted of memories, traumas, and fantasies unique to the individual. But Jung’s ego is also engaged with the “collective unconscious,” a repository of the totality of human experience across cultures and time.

The collective unconscious manifests through archetypes—patterns of energy that organize the psyche and play out symbolically through dreams, myths, and visions. Jung’s ego engages with archetypes through a personal lens, finding alignment with particular patterns at particular times along its process of “individuation,” becoming the Self one is meant to be. The Self is the psyche’s core archetype, represented via symbols such as mandalas, and egoic unity with the Self’s transcendent nature marks the completion of the individuation process, the achievement of wholeness in life.

These psychoanalytical concepts are among the most common reference points for the term “ego” as used in psychology. However, these concepts are distinct from the ego of spirituality, which is more akin to the ego we find in psychedelic conversations. While understanding these psychological conceptualizations can be helpful in psychedelic journeys, confounding them with terms like “ego death” would constitute a fundamental misunderstanding.

Ego and Spirituality

When spiritual communities speak about ego, they are typically referring to a structure of the psyche that frames one’s worldview. It is one’s filter on the world, creating the reality that passes through. It’s our beliefs, fears, desires, fantasies, regrets, expectations, and anything else affecting what Buddhists call “clear seeing.” It’s analogous to the Buddhist notion of “self”: the illusion that we are a chronological entity of concrete, indivisible qualities, when really we are as impermanent as the world we perceive.

Like the colloquial ego, this spiritual ego is self-centered in its focus on our individual perception, but unlike the colloquial ego, that perception isn’t always insistent on our awesomeness. Ego could tell a negative story about ourselves: “I’m not worthy of love,” or, “I’m bound to fail.” Perhaps it creates a negative expectation: “My friends will leave me,” or, “My partner wants to cheat on me.”

Ego might be understood as the way our narratives of self and world affix reality to the structure of our lives. But these narratives cannot always be reduced to words. They include embodied responses, such as anger at traffic or judgment over someone’s political leanings. According to David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, these narratives constitute our default setting: “a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”

Doors of Perception and the Default Mode Network

In relation to psychedelics, Aldous Huxley provided a helpful metaphor in his groundbreaking 1954 book The Doors of Perception. In documenting his experiences on mescaline, Huxley spoke of the brain’s “reducing valve.” “To make biological survival possible,” wrote Huxley, “Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive.”

The universe is profoundly overwhelming, a barrage of stimuli that would render anyone nonfunctional if received unfiltered. The psychedelic experience, according to Huxley, loosens that valve, opening one into a broader experience “beyond the veil,” closer to how things really are.

A simple but helpful metaphor is the noise spectrum. The human ear is capable of hearing a limited range of frequencies. Other animals are attuned to different frequencies bats, for instance, can echolocate due to their attunement to high frequency reverberations. If humans heard a broader range, they’d have a broader world to navigate, and if that extra noise didn’t serve adaptation, the breadth would become a hindrance. A reducing valve is necessary for mere survival.

Recent research in neuroscience from Imperial College London appears to have found the neurological corollary of this reducing valve. A 2014 study led by Robin Carhart-Harris discovered that under the influence of psilocybin, the brain shows reduced activity in the “Default Mode Network” (DMN), an “orchestrator” of consciousness, the “physical counterpart of the narrative-self.” The DMN reduces “primary consciousness”—formless, disorganized entropy—into “a sensation of possessing an immutable identity or personality.” In short, the DMN reduces overwhelming reality into a chronological self, or ego, and the psychedelic experience shuts that ego down, opening consciousness into a primordial state of being.

Neither Huxley nor Carhart-Harris framed this ego reduction as an enemy. These functions of the brain are essential to our survival, for without them, we would be continually overwhelmed, vulnerable to predators and unable to survive.

Ego as Enemy or Friend?

This is not to say that the ego is always an ally. The key point of differentiation is the nature of one’s relationship with the ego. For instance, the colloquial, overconfident ego demonstrates a particular kind of ego-relationship that is so reductionistic in its filtering of reality that one loses the ability to delineate between boundaries of self and boundaries of the universe, convincing oneself that the filters are congruent with reality itself. When the ego is mistaken for reality, problems ensue, for this ego-relationship filters out qualities like openness to new perspectives, humility, and contemplation of a transpersonal dimension.

In spiritual communities, it’s common to see a different version of a similar kind of ego: the “guru” ego who claims to be “egoless” due to deep inner work that has dismantled the illusory self. It’s likely that these folks have had transpersonal experiences, and that these experiences have been “ego dissolving,” deactivating their DMN and fusing them into entropic non-dimensionality. But these would-be gurus mistakenly believe that such non-dimensionality becomes permanent, and that their ego won’t return. Thus, they integrate a new interpretative structure in their DMN: the belief that their DMN no longer exists. Ego convincing itself it’s non-ego, and there’s no arguing otherwise.

In such a state of self-delusion, these people often project unresolved shadow issues and insist that projection is truth received from an intelligence beyond themselves. History has shown that these people are often able to convince confused, vulnerable seekers of their spiritual authority, such as we’ve seen with the cases of Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and countless other “gurus” with pathological egos. Remember that Wallace quote: “an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.” Harmful as these folks may be, they are ultimately prisoners of their own perception.

Understanding Ego Death

We all have ego. Without some interpretative structure, we are groundless and vulnerable. The goal is not to eradicate it forevermore the goal is to become more aware of it and to challenge its stalwart beliefs, especially if those beliefs promote unhealthy behaviors. Nevertheless, temporary eradication can provide valuable insight, as claimed by many who experience “ego death.”

The Default Mode Network’s deactivation into a more entropic state appears to be a correlate to “ego death.” In ego death, the filtering valve goes offline, and one transcends the ego. One’s default understanding of self dissolves, and one recognizes that their identity, along with the world they inhabit, is far more complex than they had previously realized. Such experience can grant valuable insight into how the ego constructs experience. It can also be terrifying, leaving one to question,“If I am not my ego, then who am I?” When there is no clear answer to that question, where might a person turn?

Many turn to various wisdom traditions. In the transcendent experience of Hinduism, “Atman”—the self, the ego”—recognizes its identity with “Brahman”—Ultimate Reality, the universe itself. Christian mystics speak of “Christ consciousness,” of the individual’s soul-level unity with “the Godhead.” Huxley referred to “Mind at Large” as one’s ultimate identity. Some describe identity as “awareness,” or “pure consciousness.” However you choose to describe it, the “true” self is felt in the numinous, mystical experience spoken of by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, where “noetic” and “oceanic” qualities strike us with the power of ultimate truth.

Of course, none of this can be reduced to mere words. Trying to communicate “ego death” is like trying to describe noise to a deaf person. The only way to possibly understand it is through direct experience.

This is not to say that you should scurry off and obliterate your ego with a heroic dose. If you do, however, it’s best to hold yourself lightly, because when your sense of self unravels, and you have no ground on which to stand, there’s no real telling how you might respond. In such a state, struggling to cling to ego identity would bring only terror. Regardless, it’s likely to transform your understanding of the world and your place inside it. As the DMN goes back online, it will incorporate this new information, and your structures of self will be altered in what could prove to be a lasting way.

It may be helpful to bear in mind words often attributed to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the controversial founder of Naropa University: “The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.”

Just don’t get to thinking that navigating an experience like this makes you transcendent forevermore. We all have egos. When ego is the enemy, we are at war with ourselves, and our internal battles have a way of manifesting externally. When ego is an ally, we work with its edges, amending it into as compassionate and holistic a framework as possible. It’s challenging to look honestly at our patterns, but as we do, we transcend those patterns, lessening their stranglehold on experience and integrating limitlessness into our limited being.


What Is the Ego – The Illusion of the Ego

Are you your name, individuality, personality or body, or are they just tools you use for expressing yourself in the external world?

These are not strange, meaningless questions. Have you ever questioned your identity or wondered who you really are? It is most likely that you never did.


Comments

In the middle, you were saying…

“A group of University of Mexico psychologists have studied women’s shifting preferences for symmetrical men.”

But it should have been University of ‘New’ Mexico.

This is interesting, but it is my opinion that it is not very well researched. The standard of beauty has changed throughout the years and is different in different cultures. Also telling people to “be as beautiful as you can be.” I have finally come to terms with my special beauty and people can see it as I exude confidence. Very biased article and just plain wrong.

Symmetrical people means good genes and that’s equal to beauty (thanks to evolution). That’s beyond cultural preferences. And, as the article itself says: “Beauty is unfair. Not everyone can be born with great genes. Not everyone can be born symmetrical. Not everyone can be born enticingly, well, average. But obviously there are many factors contributing to attractiveness that are potentially under our control”. Your confidence is the factor under you control, has nothing to with how symmetrical you are and has nothing to do with the article’s point (which you’re not getting and seems like you’re bashing the article just because you’re not considered pretty).

“But many asymmetries, called fluctuating asymmetries, arise when one’s unfolding genetic program is perturbed during development, for instance by parasites or other environmental challenges. The slings and arrows of life’s fortunes can literally knock our faces off of kilter, just like a punch to the nose. A symmetrical face, like a particularly masculine or feminine one, is a sign of having stood up better to life’s figurative schoolyard beatings.” What research supports this claim?

my experience of beauty is to be judged more harshly. the expectation that I am perfection in all ways not merely physical appearance, and this has led to much angst esp in relationships. I may be beautiful, but I fart in bed. plus occasionally, plain people both men and women have hated me on sight. the weirdest, is when a manager can’t make eye contact. people project their inadequacies. don’t get me wrong it is fun to have free everything, drinks, jewellry etc. You are all beautiful, own it.

This is fascinating stuff. The relationship between beauty and physical measurement ratios have remained more or less constant through the years and across cultures. Here’s a fun ongoing (NSFW) study that looks at these factors, including the relationships between front, back, and face views. (http://www.femalebeautystudy.com/)

Any research here on male baldingness and attractiveness? I’ve read some research using photoshopping to remove hair from people that have full hair and I wonder how computer alterations affects the results. Sometimes it seems that those that look best bald are those that aren’t going bald. I’d like to know if there is truth to that.

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Comments will be moderated. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.


What is the relationship between the ego, amygdala and consciousness? - Psychology

This moment in which the mirror-stage comes to an end. . .

22
At the end of the mirror stage--again, it's important to understand that the mirror stage "ends" only in its status as a phase of psychic development, but continues as a structural element of psychic life--the initial relationship between the infant and her Ideal-I becomes the foundation for the child's social relationships and for the child's self-image as a social being. To illustrate the dialectical nature of this relationship, Lacan turns to a type of behavior in young children observed by the child psychologist Charlotte Büauthler: young children may cry in pain when they see another child injure himself a child who hits another child may complain of having been hit. Lacan gives a fuller description of this transitivism, using these examples, in "Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis" (Ecrits 19). While this form of transitivism does not persist in older children, the child's "I," even when it is established as a separate entity distinct from others, will continue to be dependent upon others for its stability and coherence. In addition to transitivism, Lacan views jealousy in pre-verbal infants--early instances of sibling rivalry, for example--as another indication of how the child's experience of selfhood is bound up with the presence of others. In "Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis," he quotes a passage from Augustine's Confessions to support this point (Ecrits 20).

23
For Lacan, we are "who we are" only in relation to other people. Our aims and desires are shaped by the desires of others, in interpersonal terms and in terms of social expectations and prohibitions. Our knowledge of the world comes to us by way of other people the language we learn to speak prexists us, and to a great degree our thoughts conform to preestablished concepts and linguistic structures. As we assimilate to these social conventions, the pressures of our instinctual drives--sexuality, for example--appear to us as threats, as "dangers." Those of us who were raised in the Christian tradition might recall anxiety about "sin," which can serve as an example of a socially elaborated defense against instinctual impulses that are viewed as harmful to the integrity of the self (the "soul.") The prohibition of incest in the Oedipal complex--accompanied by the threat of castration for the male child-- is the classical example in Freudian psychoanalysis of the intervention of cultural norms into the child's sexual impulses.

24
Freud's theory of primary narcissism underlies much of Lacan's thinking here. The infant develops two strong libidinal attachments: to his mother (or other primary caregiver) and to his own ego. What is the connection between sexual libido (what Freud in "On Narcissism" calls object libido, which is directed outward toward persons and things, and the libido that is invested in the ego (what Freud calls ego-libido? The ego-libido is a kind of double-edged sword. Part of the ego's investment in its image is positive minimally, we need to have some investment in ourselves to nourish our bodies and preserve them from harm. The Ideal-I, because it never fully corresponds to the entity the subject experiences as "herself." also spurs disappointment, frustration, and anger, In Lacan's terms, we never "measure up" to our Ideal-I, and this failure emerges in our psycho-social lives in the form of insecurity, envy, and hostility. The dissatisfaction that arises from the split in our egos colors all of our social behaviors. Lacan alludes to the Christian parable of the good Samaritan to suggest that even our greatest acts of self-sacrifice are driven in part by the need to shore up our ideal image of ourselves--the gratifying vision of ourselves, for example, as saintly, self-sacrificing people.

25
The otherness of the image the subject assumes in the mirror stage creates a negative dimension in the subject's existence. I am never, in Lacan's model, fully "myself" because the relationship within which my ego, my "I", comes into being is a relationship with an image that is not me, that is an unattainable ideal. Lacan notes the similarity between this negativity and the emphasis on alienation and essential meaninglessness of existence in the philosophical movement of existentialism, developed by Jean-Paul Sartre in response, in part, to the phenomenological work of Martin Heidegger. Being and Nothingness, published in 1943, is Sartre's major exposition of existentialism its title echoes Heidegger's 1927 work Being and Time..

26
Lacan is critical of existentialism, however, and his criticism is related to his attacks on American-style ego psychology. Although existentialists recognize the meaninglessness of existence and the human being's responsibility to make meaning out of it, this philosophy formulates this negative outlook in terms of a consciousness that is self-present and self-aware. Lacan's model of consciousness is based on the principle that the self is never self-aware, that what is experiences as "itself" is a misrecognition, a méconnaissance. An existential psychoanalysis did develop out of existentialism, focusing on helping the individual come to terms with the ethical imperatives of his or her existence.


How does this affect your life?

Well, I don’t need to tell you that reacting impulsively to every single situation is definitely not the best idea.

If you’ve ever snapped at a partner and gotten all defensive and started a fight- there’s a good chance that was your reptilian brain.
When we get all worked up, our frontal cortex literally disconnects- we literally flip our lids and think only with our reptilian brain.

That part of your brain is constantly scanning the environment for threats.
If it processes a piece of information and does determine it’s a threat- that information doesn’t actually go up the chain to our mammal brain and neo-cortex. It goes to a different section of the brain called the amygdala which basically judges if you’re gonna fight, flight, or freeze.

So, if someone close to you slights you, your reptilian brain might determine that as a threat to your ego, therefore to your survival, so it’s gotta go on the attack… and your partner is super confused because they were only running 15 minutes late.

Let’s apply this to another situation, like parenting.
You know those adorable little hell-raising tantrums kids love to throw? Perfect example of the reptilian brain.

If they see a chocolate bar while you’re out grocery shopping and you tell them no, they can’t have it- their brain is automatically thinking “F**k me, I’m gonna starve! I can’t believe I’m never allowed to eat again! That’s the only source of food on the planet and I need it NOWWWWWWW!”. When you get this it becomes a whole lot easier to remain calm as a parent during meltdowns which is crucial.

Understanding the reptilian brain can also improve your sales and marketing strategy. You just need to be aware that all the messages you’re putting out there, need to pass through this threat/opportunity filter in the reptilian brain.

Your marketing material should appeal to people’s sense of survival- people want to pursue opportunities, not run away from threats. Make it exciting, beneficial, risk-free.

If you’re confused as to why someone’s getting cold-feet or being a bit flaky on a business deal, there’s a good chance their reptilian brain is telling them that something’s a threat.

And I’ll tell you something for free- when you’re making a sale, the easiest way is to tap into someone’s reptilian brain motivation.

The reptilian brain is not a bad thing- by any means. It’s always a good idea to show a little bit of self awareness, understand how people think, and be conscious of your own behaviour.

When we understand our thought process, we can make better choices. And isn’t that all we’re ever trying to do?


Ego in Jungian Psychology and Why We Need It | Personality Development

The ego gets a pretty bad rap these days. People say things like “It’s just ego,” as though the ego were something we could just dispense of at will.

As the center of our conscious mind, the ego is a psychological necessity. Perhaps a lot of what people say today comes from the influx of Eastern philosophy. We should remember that the idea of the dissolution of the ego arose in a different cultural context.

Dissolution of the ego is not something we can simply adopt as an attitude. It is something, however, to which we can adapt – if we keep the practice within the context of our culture. Individuality is one of the greatest contributions of Western culture to humanity.

I think we should be more respectful of something so precious as our individuality. Individuality is an expression of authenticity. The idea that an individual can contribute something of value gives a human being a sense of meaning and purpose.

Meaninglessness, by the way, is something from which a lot of people suffer these days. I work with some of these people on a daily basis. Of course, their presenting problem is rarely, “I suffer from meaninglessness”, but it often comes down to that.

Table of Contents - Jump To Section

What Affects the Ego?

We are surrounded by the Collective on two fronts: the Collective Consciousness in our external world and the Collective Unconscious in our inner world. Both of these act upon us like objects – meaning that each front has a certain level of autonomy over which we have no control.

From the external front, Collective Consciousness, we are bombarded with cultural norms, social pressures and social roles (personas). These promote societal and cultural conventionalism.

Conventionality assimilates individuality. On the internal front, we have the Unconscious, which encompasses both a personal (biographical) and a collective (archetypal) aspect.

The difference is important, the details of which are best left to another topic. For now, let’s look at the Unconscious as those overpowering emotions, thoughts, moods, fantasies and daydreams which can possess us against our will.

What is the Ego?

The ego is the “commander in chief” as Jung called it,

… its reflections and decisions, its reasons and doubts, its intentions and expectations are the general staff, and its dependence on outside factors is the dependence of the commander on well-nigh incalculable influences emanating from the general headquarters and from the dark machinations of politics in the background.

A stable ego provides us with the necessary foundation from which to do our transformational work as individuals. We can look at the ego as a sort of complex that serves as the center of consciousness. Consciousness – what we know about ourselves – transforms only by the work of a well-established ego.

A well-established ego works in conjunction with those forces that are beyond its control. When our ego is not well-established, the onslaught paralyzes us. Moods, thoughts, emotions, and images can take over and possess us in such a way that we no longer feel like ourselves.

In order to withstand the onslaught of life, we have to build up strong ego boundaries. In psychological terms, this boundary is called a stimulus barrier. Hence, when our stimulus barrier is too permeable, we can become overwhelmed, especially when we are in particularly dark states of hopelessness and fear. Similarly an alchemical text reads:

… be not too hasty in bringing your work to pass, and remember that your door be well and firmly shut, that he which is within fly not out and thus by the help of God you shall obtain a wished effect.

Generally speaking, the work we are bringing to pass is our own transformation. Whenever we collapse under the pressure of the world, we lose a piece of ourselves.

The Ego as the Vessel of Transformation

the alchemical vessel from Splendor Solis

In terms of alchemy we can look at our egos as an aspect of the “vessel” in which the work of transformation takes place. When we leave the door of the vessel open too wide, we become overwhelmed by both fronts – duty, obligation, and service on one and difficult thoughts and emotions on the other.

This is a tension that must be born. Only when we have a keen sense of our egos can we distinguish between our authentic selves and conventional opinion on the outside and the “dark machinations” of the Unconscious from the inside.

Our process of individuation, or Self-discovery, is the means by which we excavate what is truest to our individual nature.

The greatest events of world history are, at bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations first take place, and the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately spring as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals. In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.

(Carl Jung, Collected Works 10, par 316)

Ego and Personality Development in C.G. Jung’s Psychology

As with many of my posts, this piece started with a question about Jungian psychology:

How would you explain Jungian psychology? Is it all about trying to find the ‘real you’ or your real personality?

As usual, the phrasing of the question is tricky because it makes a lot of assumptions. We have to keep in mind that Jung meant something very specific with the words he used. He always clearly defined what he meant when he used certain words by establishing an operational definition. Many people argue semantics instead of getting clear on what Jung meant he said something. What did this guy mean by “real personality” and “real you”?

For Jung, there was no difference between real personality and real you. He even used personality and soul interchangeably. In Jungian psychology, the development of personality is a soul-searching journey called individuation.

To see what Jung mean by personality, let’s return to the quote above:

We need to unpack this quote in order to understand Jung’s definition of personality. We’ll explore what he means by the following:
  • universal conditions of existence
  • successful adaptation to these conditions
  • innate idiosyncrasy
  • courage
  • self-determination

Personality Development: What is Personality in C.G. Jung’s Psychology

For Jung, personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being, “an act of high courage flung in the face of life.”

The biggest problem people run into is thinking they already know what their individuality is. But we actually don’t know that. That’s because part of our individuality is conscious and a bigger part of it is unconscious.

Your true individuality is a lot more than you are conscious of. We have all kind of ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions beneath the surface of consciousness. All of that stuff comes up through your dreams.

Furthermore, the unconscious aspects of your individuality are the source of most of your issues. The ego strives in one direction, but the unconscious counterweight holds it back.

Anxiety, depression, panic, stagnation, lack of success in life – all of these are symptoms that you are out of touch with your true individuality. And all of this is what we work on in Jungian Analysis.

That’s where courage comes in. It takes courage to let go of who and what you think you are.

Individuation means becoming an “individual,” and, in so far as “individuality” embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as “coming to selfhood” or “self-realization.” (C.W. vol 7 par 266)

As I said above, the universal conditions to which we must successfully adapt are the external world of society and culture (aka, the collective) and the internal world of the collective unconscious. Everyone has to find a way to adapt to both of these forces of nature. Only when we do that are we truly self-determined.

Personality development: Recognition of our universal conditions

I’m pulling some old posts together, so forgive me if I repeat myself here. If you’re like me, it never hurts to hear something again.

Again, there are two universal conditions to which each of us must successfully adapt: the external world of society and culture and the internal world of the objective psyche. Jung called the external world the collective consciousness (or sometimes the collective psyche) and the internal world the collective unconscious. Successful adaptation basically means that we have recognized the unconscious components of our personality and their effects on us.

As I said in the post on the necessity of the ego, essentially we are surrounded by the collective on two fronts: the collective consciousness in our external world and the collective unconscious in our inner world. Both the external and the internal world have a certain level of autonomy over us. By this I mean that certain things just happen to us and there’s nothing we can do about it.

From the external front, collective consciousness, we are barraged with cultural norms, social pressures and social roles (personas). All of these promote – and to some extent, enforce – societal and cultural conventionalism. Conventionality assimilates individuality.

On the internal front, we have the unconscious, which encompasses both a personal (biographical) and a collective (archetypal) aspect. For example, we are born into certain families and that family dynamic has a profound impact, not only on how we see ourselves, but also on how we see the world. That lens is part of your personal unconscious.

The universal conditions at the collective level are the archetypes, which form the basic structure of the uniquely human psyche. Archetypes are generalized patterns of human perception and behavior.

Personality Development and Collective Consciousness

When Jung uses the term collective consciousness he means the general thoughts, ideas, behavior, and feelings shared by a people, a culture, or humankind in general. This includes the generally accepted truths according to religion, science, or society. We also call this conventionality.

You can identify conventionally-minded people within a few seconds. These people are simply collective. They completely merge with the collective consciousness and unconsciously identify with the conventionally accepted opinions, thoughts, and beliefs of their external environment. For example, surely we all know people who watch the nightly news or read CNN or Fox, and then, repeat what they’ve heard or read in conversation with each other, with all of the authority and conviction of an original opinion.

An authentic opinion is cultivated by honest reflection and consideration of the matter at hand.

Collective Assimilation of the Individual

Many people are collective, meaning they unconsciously identify with either the external or the internal world. Some merge with the collective consciousness, where they identify with the collective opinions of the external world.

For example, the people mentioned above, who only watch the nightly news or read CNN or Fox, and then, repeat what they’ve heard or read in conversation with each other.

Others are merged with the collective unconscious. This would amount to identification with or possession by the archetype, in particular, the god-image. We see this in religious, idealistic, or political fanaticism – anything with an ism after it has you.

In any one of these situations, the true individual gives way to the collective. We have to extricate ourselves from both collectives in order to discover and embrace that “innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness,” something which is innate in each of us.

When Jung speaks of embracing our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, he did not mean that we should embrace “some supposed peculiarity rather than … collective considerations and obligations”. That, he called individualism. While individualism is essentially the opposite of collectivism, both have the same effect: alienation of the true individual.

The true individual is both collective and unique. That particular aspect of Jung’s idea of personality development is lost on a lot of people.

Personality Development: don’t be one of the sheeple

the best card anyone has ever given me

Here’s another example of falling into collective mindset. My good friend and her teenage daughter were visiting me in 2003. This was back when internet chat rooms were common. My friend’s daughter had been carrying on in those rooms all day long.

I took a look at the list of rooms and noticed one where artist-types hung out. There were only five people or so in the room. I casually mentioned, “that looks like the place to be”. My friend’s daughter innocently responded, “No, this room has 100 people in there. That’s where all the cool people are.”

Now, I certainly wasn’t going to let that one go. I wish I could remember exactly what I said to her, but it went something like this: being cool is unique. The room with the most people in it is anything but unique.

Or take the comment section YouTube. If you see a video with 47,000 likes and 1,200 dislikes, you’ll see insult after insult about those 1,200 dis-likers! This is how badly people can’t stand those who step outside of the majority. I mean, seriously – it’s baffling.

It takes a lot of courage to do your own thing, whether you are walking a path that no one else walks or expressing an opinion that’s outside of the norm.

C.G. Jung and individuation

Personality development and individuation are the same thing. Jung defined individuation as

The better and more complete fulfilment of the collective qualities of the human being, since adequate consideration of the peculiarity of the individual is more conducive to a better social performance than when the peculiarity is neglected or suppressed. (C.W. vol 7 par 266)

A peculiarity is not a strangeness, but rather

a unique combination, or gradual differentiation, of functions and faculties which in themselves are universal. (C.W. vol 7 par 267)

Like I said before, first we have to extricate ourselves from the universal/collective qualities before we can discover our uniqueness – not to alienate ourselves, but rather to embody and fulfill those qualities in our own unique way.

The universal factors that form the psychological structure of our humanness, i.e., the archetypes, are infinitely variable – in the same way that we all have the same anatomical structure, but with individual expressions of it.

Individuation, therefore, can only mean a process of psychological development that fulfills the individual qualities given in other words, it is a process by which a man becomes the definite, unique being he in fact is. (C.W. vol 7 par 267)

Personality and Personhood

That unique being is what Jung called the whole personality. Now remember, he wrote in German. The word personality in German is Persönlichkeit, which is almost like saying, “personhood”. I use this wording to make it sound like neighborhood.

A neighborhood is a community of people living in the same vicinity. Our personhood is also like a neighborhood. Each of us lives with a community of others, but it is an inner community. The dreams we have with all of those strange people wandering through them – they are our inner community. Learning to listen to them is part of personality development. Why?

… in each of us there is another whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he sees us from the way we see ourselves. When, therefore, we find ourselves in a difficult situation to which there is no solution, he can sometimes kindle a light that radically alters our attitude—the very attitude that led us into the difficult situation. (C.W. vol 10 par 325)

Personality Development: Who are the people in your neighborhood?

The whole personality includes both conscious and unconscious aspects. These elements of a whole personality include: ego, persona, shadow, and anima/animus, and the self. The self is the closest to the center of the whole personality.

Each of those aforementioned elements have their rightful place and function in our personality. Identification with any of these elements is always problematic. The ego has to discover that it’s not the master of the house. It must learn to listen and answer to something far older and infinitely wiser than itself.

  • We need the protective cover of an authentic persona in order to face and navigate the external world.
  • We must integrate our shadow – both its light and dark aspects – so that we don’t project it onto others.
  • We need our anima or animus, not only to discover our inner opposite, but also in order to face and navigate our way through the inner world.
  • And we need contact with the self so that we can orient ourselves to something beyond this infinitesimal field of awareness that we call consciousness.

The Differentiated Individual

Individuals are formed and differentiated through a recognition, understanding, and integration of all of the different elements and dimensions that make up a living personality. I use the passive voice purposely because sometimes we are formed by forces other than ourselves. We like to think that our will drives everything, but anyone who’s self-aware knows that this is not true.

Each of those aforementioned elements have their rightful place and function in our personality. Identification with any of these elements is always problematic.

Inborn in each of us is an authentic, whole being which wants to be expressed and fulfilled, but we have to work with it and not against it. This means that sometimes we have to let go of the ego’s petty wants and desires and really pay attention to a deeper impulse. Only then can we become that individuated being that Jung speaks of.


Ego – Personality, Consciousness and Individuation

The ego, the subject of consciousness, comes into existence as a complex quantity which is constituted partly by the inherited disposition (character constituents) and partly by unconsciously acquired impressions and their attendant phenomena. [“Analytical Psychology and Education,” CW 17, par. 169.]

Jung pointed out that knowledge of the ego-personality is often confused with self-understanding.

Anyone who has any ego-consciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them. In this respect the psyche behaves like the body, of whose physiological and anatomical structure the average person knows very little too. [“The Undiscovered Self,” CW 10, par. 491.]

Individuation Challenge of the Ego

In the process of individuation, one of the initial tasks is to differentiate the ego from the complexes in the personal unconscious, particularly the persona, the shadow and anima/animus. A strong ego can relate objectively to these and other contents of the unconscious without identifying with them.

Because the ego experiences itself as the center of the psyche, it is especially difficult to resist identification with the self, to which it owes its existence and to which, in the hierarchy of the psyche, it is subordinate.

The ego stands to the self as the moved to the mover, or as object to subject, because the determining factors which radiate out from the self surround the ego on all sides and are therefore supraordinate to it. The self, like the unconscious, is an a priori existent out of which the ego evolves. [“Transformation Symbolism in the Mass,” CW 11, par. 391.]

Identification with the self can manifest in two ways: the assimilation of the ego by the self, in which case the ego falls under the control of the unconscious or the assimilation of the self to the ego, where the ego becomes overaccentuated. In both cases the result is inflation, with disturbances in adaptation.

In the first case, reality has to be protected against an archaic … dream-state in the second, room must be made for the dream at the expense of the world of consciousness. In the first case, mobilization of all the virtues is indicated in the second, the presumption of the ego can only be damped down by moral defeat. [“The Self,” CW 9ii, par. 47.]

© from Daryl Sharp’s Jung Lexicon, reproduced with kind permission of the author.


The Amygdala – the secret ruler of your emotions

So it is Friday afternoon. You are in the store, shopping groceries for the weekend. You are in a great mood. A song that you haven't heard in years starts echoing out from the supermarket speakers. And within five seconds you start feeling hurt, sad and depressed. You try to fight it, to wash it off, but to no avail. The feeling weighs you down like a damp cloth, and doesn't start going away until half an hour later. What happened? If you are good at introspection you will soon realize what it was. Maybe you associate the song with a devastating breakup of a long relationship. Or maybe you'll never find out what caused your angst and depression that Friday afternoon. But after reading this blog post you will know a bit more about the small part of your brain that causes such situations: the amygdala.

When writing my upcoming book on happiness, after going deeper and deeper, I finally wound up researching the anatomy of the human brain and how it relates to different psychological models such as the rider and the elephant or Freud's id, ego and superego. When doing this research I learned something that over the months has proven to be among the most valuable things I've learned in 2016. This piece of knowledge is simply understanding that the amygdala exists, and how it functions. Being aware of the amygdala's effect on me has made a huge impact in my life.

The amygdala triggers pleasant or unpleasant emotions in response to certain stimuli. A stimulus can be something we see or hear, or feel. Anything that comes in via the senses. When we experience something deeply distressing, the amygdala stores an association with whatever stimuli we experienced in connection with that distressing situation. And the other way around of course for pleasant experiences. The stronger the emotion we feel about something, the stronger the emotional memory that will be stored in the amygdala. Then when we experience the same stimuli later, the amygdala triggers the emotion again.

So if you experience deeply unpleasant feelings during a breakup, the amygdala will spin into action. "Hey, that's some strong negative emotions right there. Let me just take note about everything in your surroundings right now, and make sure that the next time you encounter these things you will experience the same strong emotions. So that you learn to avoid these surroundings." So that song that was on the radio, the room you were in when you got the breakup phone call, the food you were eating at the time – all of them might trigger distress in the future.

You might have heard of PTSD – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The classic example is a war veteran whose whole world crumbles when he hears a loud bang years later. Another example of the amygdala at work.

Yet more interesting, the amygdala, likely being an old part of our brain, has a faster and more direct pathway to the senses than our more modern, thinking, frontal part of the brain. Thus the amygdala can make us all upset over something before our thinking mind have even had the chance to process the sensory input. This is why you can become angry and upset with something you are totally fine with on a rational level, just because the amygdala is acting all childish.

The amygdala only stores connections between stimuli and emotions, and it seems to work completely independently of the rest of our memory, which can store more than just emotions. This leads to the consequence that we sometimes can have a strong emotional reaction to something, a song, a person, a smell, without even remembering why. The actual memory is gone. But the imprint is still there in the amygdala. I think a lot of psychological illness is due to old imprints in the amygdala, and the reason some kinds of psychotherapy might work, is because it can help us rediscover memories which explain these amygdala imprints. When you realize this connection you can become more relaxed towards the emotions.

To me it has made a great difference in day to day life to simply know about and acknowledge the amygdala. It makes me able to instantly recognize whenever I am having a sudden emotion due to the amygdala, and this awareness in itself greatly helps me downplay the emotion. I can let my rational mind think through whether it is useful for me to be having this emotional reaction. And if it is not, I can wait for the emotion to die down without getting lost in it. Before I was aware of the amygdala, and the fact that it often triggers irrational emotions, I often got lost in them and amplified them by spinning up thought loops and doomsday scenarios. I simply didn't understand where the emotions came from, so I always took them very seriously.

So get to know your amygdala. The next time you feel overtaken by an emotion – ask yourself if it is due to an old imprint in the amygdala, or caused by something else. If you think it is caused by an old imprint in the amygdala, that understanding in itself can make it easier to dismiss the emotion. In the long run this makes for great self-therapy.


Understanding the Ego in Psychology, Spirituality, and Psychedelics

With so many passing references, can we be certain everyone’s talking about the same thing? After all, ego is an inherently abstract concept, and if it’s central to psychedelic work, it seems important that we come to some consensus on the definitions we’re using.

Colloquial Use of Ego

The most general usage of the term conjures images of a jacked-up, tank-top wearing bro telling people how much he can bench while slamming Jaeger at the club. “He’s so egotistical,” one might say. “His ego is as big as the Earth!” This colloquial use of ego equates to being full of oneself, entirely self-centered and incapable of empathy.

While this usage bears relevance for our discussion, this is not the ego that folks refer to with terms like “ego death.” The colloquial ego is seen as negative, and though the ego of psychedelic conversations is often presented negatively, it is far from inherently antagonistic rather, it’s necessary for life as a human being.

But before we go deeper, let’s look at the term’s psychological roots.

The Ego in Psychoanalysis

If you’ve taken Psych 101, you probably learned that ego was a central concept for Sigmund Freud. The Freudian ego is the house of consciousness. It operates according to the “reality principle,” which mediates the unconscious battleground between the warring energies of “id”—our primal, chaotic instincts, like sexuality—and “superego”, our internalized societal voice dictating when those instincts should be curbed. The result of this struggle is repression and neurosis, which the ego can heal through “making the unconscious conscious” via methods like hypnosis, free association, and dream analysis.

Freud’s protege, Carl G. Jung, concurred that the ego is the seat of conscious awareness however, Jung broke from Freud in 1913 by rejecting his mentor’s dogmatic focus on sexuality, ultimately amending the ego concept entirely. Jung’s ego is in continual dialogue with the “personal unconscious,” which, like Freud’s unconscious, is constituted of memories, traumas, and fantasies unique to the individual. But Jung’s ego is also engaged with the “collective unconscious,” a repository of the totality of human experience across cultures and time.

The collective unconscious manifests through archetypes—patterns of energy that organize the psyche and play out symbolically through dreams, myths, and visions. Jung’s ego engages with archetypes through a personal lens, finding alignment with particular patterns at particular times along its process of “individuation,” becoming the Self one is meant to be. The Self is the psyche’s core archetype, represented via symbols such as mandalas, and egoic unity with the Self’s transcendent nature marks the completion of the individuation process, the achievement of wholeness in life.

These psychoanalytical concepts are among the most common reference points for the term “ego” as used in psychology. However, these concepts are distinct from the ego of spirituality, which is more akin to the ego we find in psychedelic conversations. While understanding these psychological conceptualizations can be helpful in psychedelic journeys, confounding them with terms like “ego death” would constitute a fundamental misunderstanding.

Ego and Spirituality

When spiritual communities speak about ego, they are typically referring to a structure of the psyche that frames one’s worldview. It is one’s filter on the world, creating the reality that passes through. It’s our beliefs, fears, desires, fantasies, regrets, expectations, and anything else affecting what Buddhists call “clear seeing.” It’s analogous to the Buddhist notion of “self”: the illusion that we are a chronological entity of concrete, indivisible qualities, when really we are as impermanent as the world we perceive.

Like the colloquial ego, this spiritual ego is self-centered in its focus on our individual perception, but unlike the colloquial ego, that perception isn’t always insistent on our awesomeness. Ego could tell a negative story about ourselves: “I’m not worthy of love,” or, “I’m bound to fail.” Perhaps it creates a negative expectation: “My friends will leave me,” or, “My partner wants to cheat on me.”

Ego might be understood as the way our narratives of self and world affix reality to the structure of our lives. But these narratives cannot always be reduced to words. They include embodied responses, such as anger at traffic or judgment over someone’s political leanings. According to David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, these narratives constitute our default setting: “a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”

Doors of Perception and the Default Mode Network

In relation to psychedelics, Aldous Huxley provided a helpful metaphor in his groundbreaking 1954 book The Doors of Perception. In documenting his experiences on mescaline, Huxley spoke of the brain’s “reducing valve.” “To make biological survival possible,” wrote Huxley, “Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive.”

The universe is profoundly overwhelming, a barrage of stimuli that would render anyone nonfunctional if received unfiltered. The psychedelic experience, according to Huxley, loosens that valve, opening one into a broader experience “beyond the veil,” closer to how things really are.

A simple but helpful metaphor is the noise spectrum. The human ear is capable of hearing a limited range of frequencies. Other animals are attuned to different frequencies bats, for instance, can echolocate due to their attunement to high frequency reverberations. If humans heard a broader range, they’d have a broader world to navigate, and if that extra noise didn’t serve adaptation, the breadth would become a hindrance. A reducing valve is necessary for mere survival.

Recent research in neuroscience from Imperial College London appears to have found the neurological corollary of this reducing valve. A 2014 study led by Robin Carhart-Harris discovered that under the influence of psilocybin, the brain shows reduced activity in the “Default Mode Network” (DMN), an “orchestrator” of consciousness, the “physical counterpart of the narrative-self.” The DMN reduces “primary consciousness”—formless, disorganized entropy—into “a sensation of possessing an immutable identity or personality.” In short, the DMN reduces overwhelming reality into a chronological self, or ego, and the psychedelic experience shuts that ego down, opening consciousness into a primordial state of being.

Neither Huxley nor Carhart-Harris framed this ego reduction as an enemy. These functions of the brain are essential to our survival, for without them, we would be continually overwhelmed, vulnerable to predators and unable to survive.

Ego as Enemy or Friend?

This is not to say that the ego is always an ally. The key point of differentiation is the nature of one’s relationship with the ego. For instance, the colloquial, overconfident ego demonstrates a particular kind of ego-relationship that is so reductionistic in its filtering of reality that one loses the ability to delineate between boundaries of self and boundaries of the universe, convincing oneself that the filters are congruent with reality itself. When the ego is mistaken for reality, problems ensue, for this ego-relationship filters out qualities like openness to new perspectives, humility, and contemplation of a transpersonal dimension.

In spiritual communities, it’s common to see a different version of a similar kind of ego: the “guru” ego who claims to be “egoless” due to deep inner work that has dismantled the illusory self. It’s likely that these folks have had transpersonal experiences, and that these experiences have been “ego dissolving,” deactivating their DMN and fusing them into entropic non-dimensionality. But these would-be gurus mistakenly believe that such non-dimensionality becomes permanent, and that their ego won’t return. Thus, they integrate a new interpretative structure in their DMN: the belief that their DMN no longer exists. Ego convincing itself it’s non-ego, and there’s no arguing otherwise.

In such a state of self-delusion, these people often project unresolved shadow issues and insist that projection is truth received from an intelligence beyond themselves. History has shown that these people are often able to convince confused, vulnerable seekers of their spiritual authority, such as we’ve seen with the cases of Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and countless other “gurus” with pathological egos. Remember that Wallace quote: “an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.” Harmful as these folks may be, they are ultimately prisoners of their own perception.

Understanding Ego Death

We all have ego. Without some interpretative structure, we are groundless and vulnerable. The goal is not to eradicate it forevermore the goal is to become more aware of it and to challenge its stalwart beliefs, especially if those beliefs promote unhealthy behaviors. Nevertheless, temporary eradication can provide valuable insight, as claimed by many who experience “ego death.”

The Default Mode Network’s deactivation into a more entropic state appears to be a correlate to “ego death.” In ego death, the filtering valve goes offline, and one transcends the ego. One’s default understanding of self dissolves, and one recognizes that their identity, along with the world they inhabit, is far more complex than they had previously realized. Such experience can grant valuable insight into how the ego constructs experience. It can also be terrifying, leaving one to question,“If I am not my ego, then who am I?” When there is no clear answer to that question, where might a person turn?

Many turn to various wisdom traditions. In the transcendent experience of Hinduism, “Atman”—the self, the ego”—recognizes its identity with “Brahman”—Ultimate Reality, the universe itself. Christian mystics speak of “Christ consciousness,” of the individual’s soul-level unity with “the Godhead.” Huxley referred to “Mind at Large” as one’s ultimate identity. Some describe identity as “awareness,” or “pure consciousness.” However you choose to describe it, the “true” self is felt in the numinous, mystical experience spoken of by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, where “noetic” and “oceanic” qualities strike us with the power of ultimate truth.

Of course, none of this can be reduced to mere words. Trying to communicate “ego death” is like trying to describe noise to a deaf person. The only way to possibly understand it is through direct experience.

This is not to say that you should scurry off and obliterate your ego with a heroic dose. If you do, however, it’s best to hold yourself lightly, because when your sense of self unravels, and you have no ground on which to stand, there’s no real telling how you might respond. In such a state, struggling to cling to ego identity would bring only terror. Regardless, it’s likely to transform your understanding of the world and your place inside it. As the DMN goes back online, it will incorporate this new information, and your structures of self will be altered in what could prove to be a lasting way.

It may be helpful to bear in mind words often attributed to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the controversial founder of Naropa University: “The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.”

Just don’t get to thinking that navigating an experience like this makes you transcendent forevermore. We all have egos. When ego is the enemy, we are at war with ourselves, and our internal battles have a way of manifesting externally. When ego is an ally, we work with its edges, amending it into as compassionate and holistic a framework as possible. It’s challenging to look honestly at our patterns, but as we do, we transcend those patterns, lessening their stranglehold on experience and integrating limitlessness into our limited being.


Comments

In the middle, you were saying…

“A group of University of Mexico psychologists have studied women’s shifting preferences for symmetrical men.”

But it should have been University of ‘New’ Mexico.

This is interesting, but it is my opinion that it is not very well researched. The standard of beauty has changed throughout the years and is different in different cultures. Also telling people to “be as beautiful as you can be.” I have finally come to terms with my special beauty and people can see it as I exude confidence. Very biased article and just plain wrong.

Symmetrical people means good genes and that’s equal to beauty (thanks to evolution). That’s beyond cultural preferences. And, as the article itself says: “Beauty is unfair. Not everyone can be born with great genes. Not everyone can be born symmetrical. Not everyone can be born enticingly, well, average. But obviously there are many factors contributing to attractiveness that are potentially under our control”. Your confidence is the factor under you control, has nothing to with how symmetrical you are and has nothing to do with the article’s point (which you’re not getting and seems like you’re bashing the article just because you’re not considered pretty).

“But many asymmetries, called fluctuating asymmetries, arise when one’s unfolding genetic program is perturbed during development, for instance by parasites or other environmental challenges. The slings and arrows of life’s fortunes can literally knock our faces off of kilter, just like a punch to the nose. A symmetrical face, like a particularly masculine or feminine one, is a sign of having stood up better to life’s figurative schoolyard beatings.” What research supports this claim?

my experience of beauty is to be judged more harshly. the expectation that I am perfection in all ways not merely physical appearance, and this has led to much angst esp in relationships. I may be beautiful, but I fart in bed. plus occasionally, plain people both men and women have hated me on sight. the weirdest, is when a manager can’t make eye contact. people project their inadequacies. don’t get me wrong it is fun to have free everything, drinks, jewellry etc. You are all beautiful, own it.

This is fascinating stuff. The relationship between beauty and physical measurement ratios have remained more or less constant through the years and across cultures. Here’s a fun ongoing (NSFW) study that looks at these factors, including the relationships between front, back, and face views. (http://www.femalebeautystudy.com/)

Any research here on male baldingness and attractiveness? I’ve read some research using photoshopping to remove hair from people that have full hair and I wonder how computer alterations affects the results. Sometimes it seems that those that look best bald are those that aren’t going bald. I’d like to know if there is truth to that.

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Comments will be moderated. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.


PTSD, the Hippocampus, and the Amygdala – How Trauma Changes the Brain

But in the brain of a person with PTSD, emotional distress could physically (and perhaps even visibly) change the neurocircuitry.

In a normal brain, the interaction between the hippocampus and the amygdala is important for processing emotional memory. It’s suspected that they both change in response to experience as well.
But when someone experiences trauma, do these parts of the brain change together, or are they completely independent of one another?

In a recent study led by Quan Zhang, MD at China’s Tianjin Medical University General Hospital, researchers looked at the relationship between the hippocampus and the amygdala in coal miners suffering from PTSD after surviving a gas explosion.

Specifically, they were interested in the change in gray matter volume in these areas of the brain after the traumatic experience of the blast.

Would the volume in both of these emotion-processing brain regions decrease? And if so, do the amygdala and the hippocampus change together?

Questions of how the brain changes after trauma are critical for developing more effective interventions to speed healing.

So, the researchers recruited 14 coal miners with PTSD from a gas explosion as well as a matched control group of 25 non-traumatized colleagues of the victims.

They used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at different parts of the brain of each participant.

Then Dr. Zhang and his team used voxel-based morphometry (VBM), a computerized analysis technique to calculate brain volume from the MRIs. They looked at the differences in hippocampus and amygdala volume between the PTSD patients and the control group.

They found that the coal miners with PTSD had significantly decreased gray matter volume in the hippocampus in addition to a decrease in volume covariance between the hippocampus and amygdala compared to the control group.

This decrease in volume may be associated with the dysfunctional emotional memory processing in PTSD patients that leads to symptoms like hyper-arousal or avoidance.

Now, we need to be careful about generalizing these findings to include all PTSD patients because the sample size was quite small. And it only included people who had been in a coal mine explosion, which means there’s a possibility some other factors could be involved.

But this work is a step toward better understanding the neurocircuitry of a brain with PTSD, which could inform our choice of intervention when working with trauma patients struggling to regulate their emotions.
If you’d like more details about Dr. Zhang’s work, these findings were published July 7, 2014 in PLOS ONE.

And if you want to learn more about how PTSD affects the brain, including some of the latest treatments that focus on rewiring the brain after trauma, then check out our Rethinking Trauma webinar series.

So now, I’d like to know what you think. Has learning about the brain impacted your work with patients who have PTSD? Please leave a comment below.

Please Leave A Comment Cancel reply

32 Comments

Karolena Rafferty, Student, Newtown, CT, USA says

Hi!
I really enjoyed reading this and was wondering how to cite it if I wanted to use some of this information?

ngfdkunjbt, Nutrition, LB says

Katie Kohl, Other, Genoa, NE, USA says

I want someone to study my brain

I am having extraordinary success along with 8 other practitioners utilizing cold laser therapy.you may download my forthcoming paper regarding case studies.go to website paintherapyusa.com

A message from children of war veterans says

I wanted to add, this doctor seems to be doing pretty good with her understanding of helping those with PTSD. It’s really great that someone like her is working so hard to help. However, this article about emotional dysfunction, not so good. Only the part about the brain is interesting, but what happens to the brain is only the trade off for developing super human might.
PTSD should really be called, prolonged superhuman might. However, it does get more difficult to control over time as damage occurs to the body systems which overwhelmed helping with super powering the body.

A message from children of war veterans says

PTSD after a traumatic experience is not “dysfunctional emotional processing”.
It’s really terrible that so many psychology professionals, researchers and even doctors just don’t have years of observation experience to understand that PTSD is a protection mechanism which develops in times of extreme danger. Therefore, it is NOT dysfunctional. It’s actually highly functional in order to survive danger. Understand-a person experiences extreme danger–that person becomes changed to survive extreme danger.
In those who do not develop PTSD, they are not going to survive danger as well those who do get PTSD. Therefore, those who do get it are actually more likely to survive danger, and they are stronger, faster, have faster reflexes and react much quicker to dangerous stimulus. You aren’t going to see as much of it from one traumatic experience as a war veteran who experienced extreme danger with many traumatic events for an entire year or more.
Flashbacks exist to allow for extremely fast reflexes, to bypass fear, to force an individual to spring into action, become immediately strong, fight like no other, and win at all costs, without thinking first. Get it? Flashbacks are actually NOT dysfunctional, they are highly functional taken in context of the situation.
To stop these memory imprints created to survive danger, and lower adrenaline levels in the extremely traumatized, one needs to rewrite the brain so to speak, much in the way a computer is rewritten with one operating system, in order to switch from another operating system. Make sense?
Over time, PTSD will make a person much more dysfunctional in regular everyday life, as adrenaline builds and causes damage to organ systems in the body, then making PTSD even worse. Adrenaline has been shown to kill neurons at higher levels, maybe the reason for the decrease in volume in parts of the brain? Seems likely. It also has effects on the heart, vascular system, and kidneys. It causes damage over time to keep super human powers. There is a trade off.
Please stop publishing articles on PTSD with misinformation about dysfunctional emotional processing. It’s not correct. If trauma is experienced over a long period of time, PTSD will develop, because that person’s mind has subconsciously reasoned the ability to survive future dangerous similar situations needs to be retained over a long period of time in order to survive.
I hope someone can make use of this very valuable information. There’s a saying which says, if you want the truth, get it from a child’s mouth.

“In those who do not develop PTSD, they are not going to survive danger as well those who do get PTSD. Therefore, those who do get it are actually more likely to survive danger, and they are stronger, faster, have faster reflexes and react much quicker to dangerous stimulus.”
I don’t happen to agree with you as people with PTSD don’t have the ability to evaluate situations accurately. If you’re constantly switched on to flight or flee response, you’re not likely to have the clarity of mind to make a decision as to whether a situation is actually dangerous and if so how dangerous? Sure if you have PTSD you’ll be good at fleeing but that is not always the appropriate response.So no your statement is wrong, people with PTSD might be faster at reacting to danger whether real or not, the fact that their nervous systems are on constant overdrive will mean that they will not be faster than someone without PTSD, in fact they are likely to make mistakes and die if they are in a real dangerous thought because they don’t have the benefit of a regulated nervous system that allows for clarity of thought when it matters most.
Flashbacks ARE dysfunctional because they are bit perceptions that surface that are intrusive, if they were functional super powers people with normal healthy functioning would have flashbacks all the time. They don’t and there is a reason for it.
The body is NOT geared up to be on alert all the time: it exhausts physical and mental reserves that need to be preserved for when these reserves are actually needed and put into use.
I can understand why you would want to interpret these dysfunctions as helpful super powers because feeling a sense of powerlessness when you have PTSD will mean people will grasp at any explanation to resume a sense of some control. If you have had PTSD for years you will witness your life go downhill and you feel almost powerless to change it unless you get help.
What I do marvel at is the body- mind’s rather imperfect ability to make the best of a bad situation and being gripped in absolute fear creates a scenario where brain lock occurs and then after that you’re not living you’re existing within a limited pre-programmed reflex coming from the place of fear and fear alone. How can you possibly say that is functional? Or even helpful.Scary is more like it. PTSD is about extreme dysfunction that arises from a mechanism that is meant temporarily to protect you from further harm but lands up creating more damage in the long run, if left untackled.
On the plus side there is good news.A study was conducted that suggests that a mother can trauma proof a child by ensuring that she teaches the child self regulation and self soothing.Connection and bonding teaches the child to self sooth itself.(or rather it’s teaching the nervous system a way to stay regulated and stable under all conditions)Want to make it 100% better, then try love flooding the child and this not only allows the child to feel loved and accepted but also teaches the body to release oxytocin(feel good).Oxytocin is then released that counter balances the gripping affects of fear when the person is confronting a traumatic incident. It actually then calms down the nervous system and allowing it to bounce back quickly without any permanent dysfunction or maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Try this out for size: once a day for three months, sit quietly and actually talk to yourself calmly like you would to a friend who you’re trying to reassure.Talk to yourself in a way to sooth your fears etc…. for a minimum of 30 minutes. Ensure you are deeply relaxed when you do this. I always listen to music to relax before I do this but you can do whatever gets you in a receptive state. Even if what you say to yourself doesn’t feel true: for example you can say” I feel totally and blissful safe in my body”, the aim is not so much what you say in the beginning but rather the loving calming tone of voice.At the end of the session bring up a happy memory where you were being loved and cherished with a loved one and allow that memory to expand into your body.(you can always imagine it if you have never had an experience like this) If your body is starting to feel warm and even tingly then you know you are doing it right.
So let me tell you what happens after 3 months of this: your sleep will improve massively, you will feel less days of feeling fearful for no reason and in my case, my aches and pains disappeared. I was pain free for the first time in years. In 6 months of this practise the results were even more spectacular, but don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself. This works. It’s something so simply that done continuously with practice actually re-wires the brain into being more resilient. It has been a godsend in reducing and in many cases getting rid of my PTSD symptoms all together. Obviously this is just one tool that can be used along with others.

I will have to try this. Thank you!

Thank You for these comments It’s encouraging coming from Children of Combat Vets. As a a Combat Vet with PTSD in recovery/ Renaissance for 20 years and a Presenter- Teacher in the Mental Health System , I realize that the Health care system wrongly thinks that the Brain can be Reprogramed by Chemistry and it’s functioning can be measured by the size of the Hippocampus and the number of gray mater. Chemistry can only help the brain think better It doesn’t tell it what to think . The brain can only be reprogramed by the Individual’s Mind as in Relearning .Learning is the original Function that Consciousness is attended by . PTSD and some other Disorders can Only be Managed by Identity Integration and ” Tibalization “.

joan cross, PT,MPH Neurofeedback Practitioner, Mt.Vernon, WA, USA says

The brain is a non-linear, complex, dynamical system and the networks of neuron synapses are constantly feeding back on each other and to many other places in the brain and body. there is no controller, coordinator. all networks feed back in many circuits leading to emergent behavior. Neurofeedback is the best intervener in that its ones own brain re-training itself using the orienting and relaxation responses built into the CNS. The Hippocampus and Amygdala are just elaborate networks that are part of the natural complex dynamical systems within the human body. Trauma can be retrained with neurofeedback as any other experience. Neurofeedback just helps whatever brain become as efficient as its structure can allow.

I think,what he was saying that if youre in combat PTSD is what keeps someone safe. Hes not saying in a persons everyday life after coming back after combat.
Everyone has their right to their own interpretations. They shouldn’t have to be told theyre,wrong for how they feel an see.
I have PTSD an have been in an out of therapy for half my life. On every medication an had Electric Shoke Treatments 12 times. An honestly nothings helped me. My fear in my conscience has never left. I would have to be brain dead to not get a trigger of some sort at anytime i see or hear of an association.
Theres nothing wrong feeling fearful an being smart. PTSD gives a 6th sense.
Isolation works for me. All people do is make judgements. Im tired of dealing with ignorant people that think i should be what society says we should be. There’s nothing wrong how i want to live my life. Im so sick an tired of having to be an do what the certain criteria is that society has made for being a person. Theres nothing wrong with being who i am an how i feel. But society says there is. I am who i am an im tired,of trying to fix myself an be someone im not to fit in. Thats the problem with the world. People have been taught to not accept one another for who they are. Everyone has a problem with one another. Its sicking an very very sad.its no wonder we have so many suicides. We’re not allowed to think we’re ok.
I hope in my next life i dont return as a human!

And i go to one of the best: DARTMOUTH
My next try will be to see if I can get Neuroplasicity if i can live that long.
I would like to be happy before I die from finding the courage to stop the misery of my life.

Andrea Schinze, Mayer , MN, USA says

Part of overcoming ptsd for me was training myself to think more positively and be more appreciative of everything and everyone in life, bad and good. Because after all you are in charge of your own happiness and if you are not finding anything positive that you can focus on in your life, that’s a sign that your not as happy as you could be. And its up to you to make changes in life In ordered to find happiness. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Life is a journey and thr joy is right here around you now. You deserve a daily share of it….

Julie Unger, LPC, NCC, Littleton, CO says

I am planning to use all the new information I am learning from the Rethinking Trauma webinars with my PTSD patients and with others. I just recommended neurofeedback to a client with a son who has autism, based on what I learned in the last session. The parents have the money to follow up on this, even if insurance won’t pay for it, so she is looking for a place to get her son some neurofeedback even as I write this.

Very interesting series. Thank you.
Response to lija and anyone else interested in an excellent, readable and easy to understand guide to the different parts of the brain and their function, read “Who’s Who of the Brain – A Guide to its inhabitants, Where they live and What they do” by Prof Kenneth Nunn ISBN 978 1 84310 470 4

Mary Scott in Surrey BC says

VERY VERY interesting – could be related to the triggering that happens so often with trauma pts
Thanx – mary

Christine Lauwers, ex-scientist, Belgium says

So interesting ! My mother aged 88, suffers from an unusual form of dementia. Her short-term memory and desorientation in time and place are severe. Otherwise she is not recognized as being an Alzheimer nor an age related dementia patient. The above article explains why I think… My mum is a WW2 victim, and at the age of 18 she survived bombing on her house, her mother and brother did not survive the disaster of oct26,1944. Her entire life as from that day she suffered from chronic depression, hyper arousal, avoidance as well as from schizo-affective mood swings (almost daily) and dys-functional memory processing i.e severe form of melancholia, suicidal thougts and frequent nightmares. She was/ still is a highly intelligent person. So could it be that the hippocampus underwent such a high level of stress, resulting in some form of shrinking or disactivation of packages of braincells (hubs), as a defence mechanism to “forget” the trauma ? What are your thoughts …

My thoughts are years of living with the trauma and parts of the brain could possibly stop working completely after being inactive for so long. IE: Living in a constant state of stress can reduce function especially the frontal lobe. Im no expert just diagnosed with ptsd and trying to research it myself.

Jim, Psychologist, Lexington, Ky says

Question pertaining to the above remark about “the decrease in volume (of the hippocampus & the amygdala)………… that leads to hyper-arousal or avoidance.” Does it necessarily have to be one or the other, or could it lead to both: hyper-arousal & avoidance as defense mechanisms against the fear of external imaginary threats & the fear of rejection, abandonment, etc, which in essence would all be threats to the emotional security of the person. This seems to me to be a logical deduction that both symptoms would manifest within the same time periods for many people, if not most. Thanks for the free viewing.

Marya Mann, Ph. D. - Art Therapist, Hawaii says

Aloha! This is so helpful, Ruth. The series so far has helped us understand the long-standing issues surrounding trauma, but I haven’t heard anyone address specifically childhood trauma. When an individual’s system is stressed before a sense of self develops, before the age of reason, there are unique personality development, boundary and trust issues that underlie every other learning and experience in life. I hope someone is planning to address this and share the most up-to-date treatments for what I see increasingly in my practice — Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in childhood. Thank you so much! This series will help our world tremendously. Bravo to you for hosting it!

Ruth, Seebern Fisher mentioned either the equipment she uses or the training progam but I could not understand her reference. Could you tell me what she said regarding her training.
Thank You

Ralph Lewis, Electrician, San Bernardino, CA says

Yes, Sebern Fisher’s enunciation did not come through clearly at that one critical spot on the “Rethinking Trrauma…” webinar’s audio. She was referring to a product that was using a play-on-words with EEG in it’s name. ( EEGer )
Complete a web search for ” How to Conduct A Neurofeedback Session” wqhich should get you to the ” EEGer 4.3 Tutorial.” I think this will get you going.
I have noticed training days between 1 to 4 days. Contact the companies involved to learn more of the Who?, When?, Where? How long? and How much?
Hope this helps.

Sophie O'Gorman, France says

Further to David Berceli pointing out that trauma has been part of our evolutionary process, I’m wondering if we will also find that the body can also resolve these apparent differences post trauma ie can we track the miners years later? Will the brain differences be as apparent in 5 years time? Can the brain/body continue to heal despite stuckness and in the absence of formal therapeutic intervention? What does the body accept as health?

While we may not know specifics of trauma impact on neurocircutry, we are learning clearly that here is a physiological impact. I believe this helps reduce shame and promotes compassion and curiosity related to treating and living with the effects of trauma. I am excited about moving towards trauma informed care in many venues.

That’s a skillful answer to a dilcfiuft question

vera muller paisner,psychoanalyst,connecticut says

Indeed,learning more about the brain is crucial in understanding trauma. when working with PTSD I have px cortisol levels checked, so am looking forward forthe latest tx!

My name is Joe from Mass and I suffer from comlex PTSD due to birth trauma and PTSD. I am currently working with Neurofeedback 7th session today and looking to see the results over the next 7 weeks.

Williams, Translator, Netherlands says

I find the research studies you cite difficult to trace. Could you please give more details.

Ricardo Rojas Bedoya, Neuroscientist of Consciousness, Lima Peru says

Hi, this is Ricardo from Peru. I hereby send you the link to download a pdf of the study on coalminers mentioned by Ruth. Bon appetite.
Please write to my email address to confirm you have received this. Thanks for that.

Iija, counsellor, England says

Thank you for this free webinar. It’s great to be learning about the latest scientific research and the impact of trauma on the brain. I can see the use of Neurofeedback in getting the mind body connection after experiencing trauma but it sounds too technical for me. However, like all the other methods, if it works , use it. Any new knowledge is useful for adding tools to my toolbag, giving me a wider choice for intervention with individual client’s unique adaptations. There’s always some new learning in exploring new interventions even if I don’t practise the method in it’s entirety.
I wish I could get the vocabulary sorted for the different parts of the brain and their functions. It would make learning about the brain and it’s circuits so much easier. The plasticity of the brain gives us possibility for change and new learning, I find that really empowering.

Louise Sonnenberg,Psychiatry,USA says

Thank you for your continuing efforts to understand and explain the impact of trauma on the brain which will lead to improved treatment as we we understand brain neuroplasticity.


What Is the Ego – The Illusion of the Ego

Are you your name, individuality, personality or body, or are they just tools you use for expressing yourself in the external world?

These are not strange, meaningless questions. Have you ever questioned your identity or wondered who you really are? It is most likely that you never did.


Watch the video: Der MENSCH ist sein eigenes größtes PROBLEM - Kurt Tepperwein u0026 Sami Sires, Gespräch m. einem Freund (May 2022).