Just Smile.

“Pain in the conscious human is thus very different from that in any other species. Sensory pain never exists alone except in infancy or perhaps under the influence of morphine when a patient says he has pain but does not mind it. Later, in those periods after healing in which the phenomena usually called chronic pain occur, we have perhaps a predominance of conscious pain.”
~Julian Jaynes, Sensory Pain and Conscious Pain

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a child react to a cut or stumble only after their parent(s) freaked out. Children are highly responsive to adults. If others think something bad has happened, they internalize this and act accordingly. Kids will do anything to conform to expectations. But most kids seem impervious to pain, assuming they don’t get the message that they are expected to put on an emotional display.

This difference can be seen when comparing how a child acts by themselves and how they act around a parent or other authority figure. You’ll sometimes see a kid looking around to see if their is an audience paying attention before crying or having a tantrum. We humans are social creatures and our behavior is always social. This is naturally understood even by infants who have an instinct for social cues and social response.

Pain is a physical sensation, an experience that passes, whereas suffering is in the mind, a story we tell ourselves. This is why trauma can last for decades after a bad experience. The sensory pain is gone but the conscious pain continues. We keep repeating a story.

It’s interesting that some cultures like the Piraha don’t appear to experience trauma from the exact same events that would traumatize a modern Westerner. Neither is depression and anxiety common among them. Nor an obsessive fear about death. Not only are the Piraha physically tougher but psychologically tougher as well. Apparently, they tell different stories that embody other expectations.

So, what kind of society is it that we’ve created with our Jaynesian consciousness of traumatized hyper-sensitivity and psychological melodrama? Why are we so attached to our suffering and victimization? What does this story offer us in return? What power does it hold over us? What would happen if we changed the master narrative of our society in replacing the competing claims of victimhood with an entirely different way of relating? What if outward performances of suffering were no longer expected or rewarded?

For one, we wouldn’t have a man-baby like Donald Trump as our national leader. He is the perfect personification of this conscious pain crying out for attention. And we wouldn’t have had the white victimhood that put him into power. But neither would we have any of the other victimhoods that these particular whites were reacting to. The whole culture of victimization would lose its power.

The social dynamic would be something else entirely. It’s hard to imagine what that might be. We’re addicted to the melodrama and we carefully enculturate and indoctrinate each generation to follow our example. To shake us loose from our socially constructed reality would require a challenge to our social order. The extremes of conscious pain isn’t only about our way of behaving. It is inseparable from how we maintain the world we are so desperately attached to.

We need the equivalent, in the cartoon below, of how this father relates to his son. But we need it on the collective level. Or at least we need this in the United States. What if the rest of the world simply stopped reacting to American leaders and American society? Just smile.

Image may contain: text

Credit: The basic observation and the cartoon was originally shared by Mateus Barboza on the Facebook group “Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”.

13 thoughts on “Just Smile.

  1. And we wouldn’t have had the white victimhood that put him into power.

    Okay. I’m going to stop you there. The “white victimhood” narrative is just that: a narrative, that grows more insufferable by the day — regardless whatever side it’s coming from.

    “White victimhood” didn’t put the orange puppet into (supposed) power, as much as (supposed) “white victims” would like to claim.

    What put the orange puppet into power was the same, fucking system we’ve all been struggling against for… well, centuries.

    • White victimhood was a contributing factor. My point is that our entire civilization is built on victimization mentality, similar to how its also built on addiction. It’s far from being limited to whites. And this culture of the victim is at least centuries old. That is my whole point.

        • I understand your call to power. And I don’t disagree. But I was more simply explaining. I see this victim mentality as probably having its roots in the post-bicameral Jaynesian consciousness of the Axial Age. If so, its millennia old at this point.

          My thought is that, in our being immersed in it, we have to first understand it before we can do anything about it. This was part of my point in arguing that Christian martyrdom is probably an invented history, as part of this victimization culture and mentality. It goes to the foundation of our society.

          Reclaiming our power is easier said than done, especially considering what it means in the larger context. What exactly are we reclaiming and where did it go that we need to reclaim it? Was there a time in recent history when we had such power?

          • Part of our disagreement might be more seeming than real. I assume we are coming from different backgrounds of ideas and influences.

            That is indicated by your using scare quotes around “power”. It’s not a word with a universally agreed upon meaning. That is what makes it an interesting word.

            If you want, you could explain what power means to you. Not just in practical terms but culturally, psychologically, and even metaphysically. It’s not a word that can be used with the assumption others know what you’re meaning.

            Part of claiming or reclaiming, depending on perspective, of power implies a particular ideological project in mind. And this requires asserting some kind of vision of what power is or could be.

            In doing this, it might be useful to consider etymology. I can’t say I’ve looked much into the word “power”. But now you’ve brought it up, I’m curious.

            Anyway, when you look at the bicameral societies, they never had a single source of “power”. Motivating forces of action were many and competing. Even the body and mind was not perceived as singular.

            So, the idea of a singular “power” would have been incomprehensible. Monotheism arose along with egoic consciousness, both making claims of singularity. But I’ve often wondered if this dominating singularity might, in some ways, be disempowering.

            That leaves us with questions about not only what it is to have power or be powerful but about humanity itself. Victimhood is a story we get locked into, even or especially when we are unconscious, i.e., part of the self is repressed. But oddly, when you look at many stories attempting to invoke empowerment, they often have hidden within them a sense of victimhood.

            This is the schizoid experience that Scott Preston is always going on about. It’s certainly an interesting phenomenon. And it speaks to the world we find ourselves in.

          • Another part of the problem is communication, even if we had better understanding.

            This is a simple post. And there was a flurry of thoughts in my mind as I wrote it. I put it together rather quickly without explaining all of those thoughts. No doubt the post was less clear than it could have been.

            Making the comment about Trump and his supporters was sort of an after thought, not central to the point being made. I used it as an example. But maybe that made it more confusing, throwing it out there like that.

          • This is something I’ve been thinking about for many years. I often throw ideas around with the person who writes posts such as the following:

            The change from the bicameral mind to Jaynesian consciousness, as I understand it, is a shift from ritual sacrifice to victimhood identity. The former requires no individuality and, if anything, requires its lack. But the sacrifice of the Axial godmen, as with the martyrdom stories, represented and reinforced individuality.

          • I’m not entirely sure why sacrifice and victimhood are so important. But to my mind, it is undeniable that they are important. And I’m far from being the first person to think so (e.g., Rene Girard), considering our society is based on Christianity.

          • I’m thinking in terms of how little we understand our own minds, our consciousness. This isn’t a new phenomenon. The problems of modernity do have to do with power but also with our understanding of power. And I’d suggest much of our understanding is likely wrong or inadequate.

            This is why I connect it back to the changes that have happened over centuries and millennia. To grapple with power, we have to understand such things as what Julian Jaynes meant by authorization, both archaic authorization and self-authorization, and how the two aren’t as far apart as we’d prefer. This is a much more difficult issue than it first appears, so it seems to me.

            I’m not saying I have this all figured out. Quit the opposite. I’m suggesting none of us has it figured out. Jaynes explanation was radical. And my sense is that he was right about at least some of what he proposed. But even if he is wrong on some aspects, we would still need to find other insights that are equally as radical to meet the challenge offered by the evidence.

            So, I don’t know what it means. And I realize I’m not offering a satisfying answer. I’m sorry about that. This is simply what makes sense to me at this time. But as always, feel free to disagree.

      • White victimhood was a contributing factor.

        Was it? Really?

        See…. Now, anyone (obviously not you) who buys into the over-arching narrative of … “this group against that group against some other group”… is rather obviously still in thrall to the Megamachine, as I see it.

        If so-called “leftists” want to get themselves out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, they have to stop going along with that.

        Want to get my attention? (Not that I’m special or anything.) Start talking about “the (materially) poor…” regardless their supposed “station” in life, i.e. ethnicity, so-called “class,” or pretty much any other category a “Social Scientist” might want to lump them into.

        That will definitely get my attention. Anyone involved in the “us vs. them” narrative, on the other hand, I seriously couldn’t care less. They constitute a significant minority, as we’ve seen. Ergo, they are of no consequence to the “transformation of ‘conciousness'” whatsover.

        • It seems we’re talking about different things. I’m coming from a particular perspective with a background of ideas you might not share. From my perspective, victimhood is no more or less real than egoic individuality and the modern mind, voice-hearing and spirit possession, etc. I’d go so far as to see it is inherently and inseparably built into Jaynesian consciousness. To be individuals is to be victims. That isn’t to say we are trapped and helpless, though. I also argue that individuality is the other side of authoritarianism. But anthropology, philology, etc indicates not all societies have been this way.

          What is real on this level is what we experience and what we experience determines our behavior with very real results that express collectively across an entire civilization. So, yes, in a culture and identity built on victimhood, as I’d argue going back millennia to the Axial Age, victimhood contributes and that would be putting it lightly. The more we deny victimhood’s power over us without understanding it, the greater it’s hold over us. It goes deep within the psyche. But no, it’s not inevitable. You’re talking about how you wish the world was and how you think people should be. And I agree. But I’m talking about the world I see as it is at present. The reason I explore this is to bring the realization to awareness that there could be another way. And first we have to understand the cognitive cage we’ve put ourselves in. That is the brilliance of thinkers like Julian Jaynes, Iain McGilchrist, Jean Gebser, E.R. Dodds, Eric Havelock, Marshall McLuhan, Paul Shepard, and a few more I’m sure I could add.

          In order for leftists to dig themselves out of the hole they find themselves in, our entire millennia old civilization will have to change or somehow the social conditions (superstructure?) will have to be altered. How will that happen? I’m not entirely sure. That is why I study it and try to practice what I learn. As you might not, I see individuality and authoritarianism as directly linked to many things such as addiction to stimulants, carbs/sugar, etc; exacerbated by hierarchies and inequality; and all shaped by how we use language in speech and thought, how we use metaphor and metonymy. I experiment with what this all means within my own life and relationships, from the strange influence speaking in the third person can have to the powerful difference being in ketosis has on neurocognitive functioning. It’s all an experiment. We will have to embrace an open-minded approach of curiosity, wonder, and playfulness to discover a new way of being in the world.

          If you go to the Violent Ink blog I linked above, you’ll get a better sense of where I’m coming from. Then again, maybe you don’t share my approach to this issue at all and that is fine. This is what makes sense to me and I can only communicate what makes sense to me. Still, my understanding is likely to change over time. Any point of differing view you have, just share it and I’ll listen. I’m also trying to learn to hold my own views lightly, something I struggle with, as the stakes are so high. I’ll do my best to be patient in becoming familiar with your view and take it on its own terms. With that in mind, let me ask a few questions. How do you think we got here, not just in recent history but over the generations, centuries, and millennia? And where exactly are we, what is this world that we find ourselves in, the kind of identity that has formed? What might it mean to live in an entirely different way, to see and feel and think in a way nearly unimaginable within present cultural constraints and ideological biases?

          Robert Anton Wilson argued that we never escape reality tunnels but just jump from one to another. That is similar to the notion that we don’t solve any problem on the level we created it. Some go so far as to say we don’t solve these kinds of problems at all for our only option is to change so greatly that they become irrelevant and we shift our attention to what one might hope are new and more fruitful problems. And that brings us to the ancient insight that change is inevitable, although these kinds of changes can be more equivalent to tectonic shifts with pressure building up over immense time before releasing in earthquakes and tidal waves. I’m drawn to more melodramatic metaphors, as you can see.

          • It seems we’re talking about different things.


            You and I don’t disagree about much of anything as far I can tell. It was just that blasted “white victimization” thing, both (extreme, social) “left” and (extreme, social) “right”, I was commenting on. Not the entire essay. ; )

            With that in mind, let me ask a few questions. How do you think we got here, not just in recent history but over the generations, centuries, and millennia? And where exactly are we, what is this world that we find ourselves in, the kind of identity that has formed? What might it mean to live in an entirely different way, to see and feel and think in a way nearly unimaginable within present cultural constraints and ideological biases?

            As to how we got there: Men and women a mite more insightful or, at least, informed than me have illustrated that exceedingly well, methinks. So well, I fail to understand how it is that anyone couldn’t co-respond with it. (Rosenstock, Barfield, Gebser, Mumford and their literary counterparts of all cultures, ethnicities and genders, et alia.)

            As for exactly “where” we are: We’re eternally in the present moment as far as I’m concerned. What happens in the present moment appears to be a wildcard.

            What it might mean to live in an entirely different way, to see and feel and think in a way nearly unimaginable with present cultural contraints and ideological biases…

            It is this that never fails to attract my attention.

Please read Comment Policy before commenting.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s