Coded gray.

Wednesday 26 July 2000

Forest w/ light & shadow

Pic of the day: The small shadow down there is I.

The voices told me to

I had recently come to work and was doing some casual work on my computer, when I suddenly found myself staring dumbly at the screen. I was in the process of doing something, but my thoughts had been derailed, as can happen. "F1" said I, and obediently pressed F1. And lo & behold, the computer proceeded. Of course I had known all the time that it was the F1 key that did it. I have even taught it to others often enough, years ago. Yet at that point, the part of my brain that remembered the correct key found it easier to talk than to get through to the other part of my brain that was supposed to handle the keyboard.

It isn't the first time it happens, either. I can't say when it started, but every few months at least, something like this will happen. It is a bit disturbing.

Other times my thoughts will just run out. Like, there's nothing more to think in that direction, and I haven't other thoughts lined up to be thought. And then my brain basically makes a soft reset. It thinks something extremely banal or basic, and that particular thought tends to be the same (or one of very few) for months or more, so I get to think it quite often. I call this "the blackboard of my heart", in honor of an expression in the Bible. (Or rather the Norwegian translation.) Not that I can remember there have ever been anything from the Bible written there. On the other hand, not quite the opposite either. It's more things like: "I am Magnus Itland, a human like other humans." Nice to know. Another great classic: "OK, I'll try to make this as simple as possible."


I don't think I am clinically insane. It's more like what Freud called "everyday psychopathology". You know, like when people cannot remember the name of someone they are about to introduce. Or when they make a horrible spelling mistake, especially in pubic. "Freudian slips" as we still call them today.

I was about to say that I don't like Freud, but that's not really true. I found his first books entertaining and thought provoking. Freud was my introduction to psychology. (Not counting the goats. The goats showed me the basics of psychology and not least sociology.) Freud was my hero when I was about 12, I think. I lapped up his ideas that when people dreamt about umbrellas or suitcases or fruit, it was actually about parts of the human anatomy not spoken about in the upper classes of the Wiener society, or in my home. Then I became 13 years old, and I found out that my dreams were not censored in the least. They were painstakingly explicit. Exit Freud. Good try, though.

Years later I stumled upon - or was miraculously led to by synchronicity - some works of Carl Gustav Jung. To this day, I find his map of the psyche much more similar to my terrain. Though I would not be surprised if there are simpler people out there. Ahem. Anyway, according to Jung, our psyche is organized into complexes. Each complex is based on some core concept or experience or emotion. Some, he claimed, were basically instinctive. We are born with the ideas of mother, father, hero, twins, and some other. The tree of life, I think. Snakes. Anyway, whether these are indeed hardwired or just part of our culture (perhaps our language), the concept of the complexes remain my best understanding so far.

Basically, the complex is a miniature ego, or the ego is a really huge complex. Whether it is based on some "ego archetype" or simply the body, I could not say. If you basically take all events that emotionally relate to your body and use this emotional glue to tack things on, you get a crude approximation of the ego. Or so I think. I'm not sure Jung actually claimed that. But he did claim that some major arch-typical complexes were like personalities. They would show up as persons in dreams, or in vivid imaginations. You could actually have conversations with them.

The chilling thing is that when C.G. Jung was around my age, he was having long conversations with his complexes, under various names, and learned a lot from them. I hope it won't go that far with me. Particularly since unlike Jung, I don't have one and a half wife to take care of me while I descend to the underworld of the mind.


As you know, there are some people who are more like a gathering of minds. These days, this is considered a disorder or some such. There may have been times in history when it was more natural. The ancient Egyptians did for instance believe in two souls. Possession by various spirits were common at times, and still happen. The line between psychiatry and religion in these cases is a painful one to draw.

But the intriguing thing, in my opinion, is that the modern self seems to be very much an integrated society of the mind. If you take the time to observe your own mind through meditation, you can see how it works. If you calm yourself and empty your mind, you will notice thoughts or emotions "bubbling up". It seems that the mind abhors a vaccuum. Whenever you stop thinking of one thing, another pops up. With time and patience and training, you will see that the "second tier" of thoughts is rather random and disorganized, but still has the power of reasonably coherent thought for a short span. Like the complexes?

I don't think anyone really know how thoughts form in the human brain. It is certainly one of the most fascinating events that we know of, and it can be at least partly observed without expensive equipment. Of course, expensive equipment has added some new details too. But the matching of thoughts and feelings to actual groups of neurons is still a long way off, except for the simplest of basic emotions.

I'd say that the sheer fact that we can think about these things is a miracle in itself. I can live with the occasional glitch. Nobody is perfect, after all; but we are all fantastic.

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