People

Module 1B

FIRST BASIC QUESTION ANALYZE & SYNTHESIZE FORMULATION (Level of Interaction)
#1 WHAT IS IT? Observe the problem & explain it.

1B: The Genesis of the Momentum of Choice: Perception, Factual Memory, & Volitional Memory

“The letter does not lie still on the page:
memory arouses it, monument of wind.
And who is the reminder of memory,
who raises it, where is it planted?
Brow of brightness, the lightening womb,
memory is a root in the dark.”

–Octavio Paz, 1961 (1)

ABSTRACT

To move forward in our understanding of how anyone could relinquish their freedom to chose, the elements of Body, Mind, & Spirit that we used define the Self in Module 1A are re-configured as the ongoing relationship between Body-Mind & World. Within the remaining series of modules, Body, Mind, & Spirit are no longer legitimate distinctions, but ingredients in the evolving Process by which the State of Self is continuously and consistently recreated as we choose, remember the results of those choices, and then choose again. A serious of choices carries its own Momentum, and at The Genesis of the Momentum of Choice, Perception immediately partitions into the Factual Memory of who we really are—the Factual Self, & the Volitional Memory of who we think we are—the Self-Image. In this manner Memory both mediates our perception of Self and becomes a unifying principle as we build a model of who we are, who we think we are, and how we make choices to bridge that gap. Self is not just an Event of Being; Self is also a Process of Becoming.

Note: So where is “Spirit”—or God—in an admittedly austere characterization of Self as the “ongoing relationship between Body-Mind and World”? Our new synthesis of addiction explanations has been designed to be as amenable as possible to various religious approaches; however, the work of translating terms remains, for now, in the hands of the student. Whenever possible I will sketch out a few stating points. For example, if one needs a theistic understanding that will breathe a little life into our characterization of Self, then I propose that within this model, God the Creator can usefully seen as the novelty of the next moment—the creative process that is constantly supplying infinite possibilities guaranteeing that each moment will be fresh, each moment will live and die unto itself. As little “g” made directly in the image of big “G” the Self chooses among those infinite possibilities and recreates its own life in the same manner that big “G” recreates the universe. The basic question for a human being is whether he chooses randomly, or chooses with intent and purpose. There is no power in the now, only in the continual creativity of the next moment.

WHAT IS ADDICTION?

1A Disease? Choice? Sin? 1B Self & Self-Image 1C The War Within Self
DISEASE: A spiritual illness that manifests in two ways: a mental obsession for the first drink and a physical phenomenon of craving that inevitably develops after taking the first drink. DELUSION: Addiction is a distortion of memory that assigns a permanent identity to an impermanent stream of desires. DUALITY: A pathological inner struggle which traps a person indefinitely in repeating cycles of wanting to quit drinking (Never Again!) and wanting to continue. (I’ll quit tomorrow!)

Addiction is a lie, a grand hoax perpetrated by man upon himself in which a wedge is driven between who he really is and who he perceives himself to be. For example, in alcoholism a distortion of memory—which appears to be real—persists and continually incarnates, mutates, and manifests as the perceived inability to resist taking the first drink or to moderate drinking once one has taken the first drink. An alcoholic becomes not a person who as to drink, but a person who thinks they have to drink. Once we understand how this self-deception has been perpetrated, the afflicted can reclaim their freedom to choose by simply reversing the Process by which they relinquished it.

In the Food Network hit show Chopped! four chefs are presented with a basket full of a few food items that they have never seen before and asked to prepare a dish within a certain amount of time. They must use all the ingredients in the basket or risk disqualification. Three judges evaluate the dishes, with how the contestants repurpose their ingredients being one of the key criteria for judging. Do they just make a beignet with beignet mix or do they make something else? The most successful contestants know how to transform ingredients into something surprising and delicious that not only reflects their vision as a chef, also as a human being. Occasionally a contestant leaves out one food item, but the remaining ingredients are so masterfully prepared that the judges ignore the rules and give the chef a pass to the next round.

From what I have witnessed as an “outside consultant,” some of the most successful Twelve-Steppers in AA repurpose a selected set of basic ingredients from the Program into something more attractive, more useful, and more reflective of the vision that they have of themselves as human beings—”take what you like and leave the rest.” Those who try to work the unworkable and self-contradictory (Acquire & Apply Modules) Twelve Steps as written often find themselves afflicted by a special kind of insanity characterized by a progressive, irreversible lack of curiosity about everything, chronic bobble-heading, and a smug, self-congratulatory smile known as the “AA smirk.” As always, we build no straw men here, and look towards the progressives who understand that the Twelve Steps are just one person’s opinion and are not afraid to challenge tradition and create something new.

CORE IDEA:

Self as Ongoing relationship between Body-Mind and World

No human being exists in a vacuum. No scientist would study an organism without studying its environment, nor would he describe an environment without accounting for the activity of the organisms that reside within it. Environmental stimuli activate our capacity to respond through choice, whether it occurs through the unfolding of genetics, karma, God’s will, or free-wheeling chance. That choice in turn molds that same environment and the cycle of interdependence between Body-Mind and World continues.

In a similar manner, we cannot evaluate the alcoholic without reference to the environment in which he finds himself and with which he interacts. A description of any aspect of human suffering should not only give an unambiguous cause, but also the conditions under which that cause is expressed. To get a true picture of the composite origin of addiction we must also expand our notion of causality to include the conditions under which the mental obsession, the phenomenon of craving, and self-centeredness (Module 2A) may or may not express themselves, and the way in which different conditions in turn mold and shape that expression. Those conditions include not only the external environment the alcoholic resides in—his family, culture, professional life—but also his internal environment that is no less influential—the beliefs, expectations, and attitudes that all color how alcoholism will manifest in real life. Clearly, every accurate explanation of the nature of alcoholism—including behavioral, social, genetic, environmental—struggles with finding a balance among all these forces. Some intrepid explorers have discovered a practical way to exploit the importance of conditions in the manifestation of addiction, as did this 49 year old binge drinker:

“Slowly, day by day, I made small changes in other areas of my life while continuing to drink, minimizing any harm that might come to others from that drinking. I kept the beer but gave up the chicken and pizza. I exercised more and lost a little weight. I started showing more consideration for the people around me by eliminating unhealthy thoughts and behaviors from my repertoire. Darkness will not survive the light; disease cannot thrive in a healthy environment. I wanted to create a lifestyle that would choke alcoholism out of existence. Instead of attacking the drinking directly, in a psychological sleight-of-hand I attacked the conditions supporting that drinking. In a reversal of common sense that maintains that the alcoholic must stop drinking before their lives get better, I knew my life had to get better before I would stop drinking.”

–Anonymous

To Analyze and Synthesize a practical model of human nature that accounts for who we are (Factual Self), who we think we are (Self-Image), and how we make choices to bridge the gap requires one to move deliberately, observe carefully, and capture our observations with precisely chosen words. We must not be wedded to an arrogant need to understand everything quickly and easily, nor must we be afraid to abandon our construction when it is no longer productive or necessary. We will find that it is the act of building and abandoning such a model that is liberating—a truth often overlooked by those bashers of psycho-spiritual systems who like to skip the work that gives one the wisdom to know when to hold on and when to let go. Fortunately, in describing how the Momentum of our own Choices builds to the level of an addiction, we need begin with only a handful of interrelated building blocks that I will introduce in Three Stages:

Module The Momentum of Choice
1B Genesis Perception Factual Memory Volitional Memory
2B Proliferation Feeling Craving Grasping
2C Corruption Insatiability Fragmentation Ambivalence

Even this abbreviated model will be a challenging one, and our task may at first seem daunting; but we will find that our theoretical foundation is rooted in phenomena that we can observe in our daily life. Although it will take some initial effort to learn a vocabulary that has precise, contextual meanings within the model—you will probably have to read these Modules more than once, the practical rewards will be great: a working knowledge of these nine pragmatic ideas—Perception, Factual Memory, Reactive Memory, Feeling, Craving, Grasping, Insatiability, Fragmentation, & Ambivalence—will deliver an practical understanding of how we hurt ourselves that surpasses anything served up by Self-Helpers or Recovery proponents. And within the cogniventive matrix, knowing who you are changes who you are.

AlertDifficulty Alert
Having taught this material for some time, I have found that there are two big obstacles to new students: Frustration at the challenging appearance of the material, and the Laziness around the effort it takes to grasp the meaning. This is not meant to be insulting to the reader, as I share the qualities of Frustration & Laziness—but over different things. Smart people saying stupid stuff annoys me, and if I have to go to the grocery store and the post office on the same day I need a nap. Concerning the material that I have set before you, please do not get lost in the detail as it is the spirit of inquiry that is most important—my story of being willing to go to any lengths for a knowledge that by its very nature is transformative Just relax, absorb as much as you can and try to keep moving. The very construction of cogniventus™ has been designed as a facile delivery system for some elegant, powerful ideas—let matrix do the work for you. But remember that I have trimmed the fat to give very condensed material—reading just a few paragraphs or a few pages at a time will supply you enough material to keep you busy for awhile. It will get a little harder before it gets a lot easier.

One more obstacle: the Substance-Causality worldview that casts the Self as “stuff with attributes”—the Body-Mind-Spirit model. As long as you cling to the idea that the Self is an entity that you can stop in time and examine, it will be very difficult to understand the Modules that follow that are based on seeing the Self as a constantly moving process. To fully release ourselves from limiting conceptions of the Self—and ultimately free ourselves from our addictions, will not occur until Module 4C; however, it will be useful to understand that that is the direction in which we are moving.

We now begin, realizing that as we construct a model of addiction, we are also creating a dynamic vision of our Selves. In a pursuit that will become exceedingly practical, we are both builder and building.

As human beings we begin as an act of consciousness—we see the World and we see our Selves in it. If we do not understand what happens at our psychophysical genesis then we do not understand ourselves, and everything else that arises from our consciousness—our religions, our philosophies, our sciences, our choices—become suspect. Fortunately, we do not have to defer to any experts or sacred texts to begin to learn what we are at this fundamental level: we can simply look.

So relax, take a few deep breaths and forget about “me” and “mine” for a moment. Whether Body-Mind is sitting in a dojo in a full lotus position or jammed into an ergonomically challenged cubicle doesn’t matter—thought will follow. If we do nothing special and wait patiently or our emotions to settle, two immediate phenomena come bubbling out of primordial consciousness:

  1. Perception captures a World of sights, sounds, colors, smells, and tastes and presents a composite Image to Body-Mind.
  2. Memory records that Image.

Body-Mind + World Relationship #1

But a closer look reveals something else happening: not only are Images created and recorded, but they are recorded in two distinct ways:

  1. Factual Memory—Body-Mind’s memory of “facts as such”.
  2. Volitional memory— Body-Mind’s predisposition to reject, accept, or ignore “facts as such” solely in terms of whether or not they threaten, reinforce, or of no interest our Self-Image.

Body-Mind + World Relationship #2

Two complementary aspects of Memory—Factual & Reactive—create two complementary aspects of Self—Factual Self & Self-Image. With some practice we can sense some aspect of Self that does not change—our Factual Self, and some of Self aspect that is constantly changing—who we think we are, our Self-Image. Our ability as human beings to distill down the chaotic flux of consciousness in this manner is not the exclusive province of trained philosophers or skilled meditators, and I am constantly delighted by the profound common sense wisdom that comes out of an individual when the issue is framed clearly and effectively for them. Many people that I have interviewed will note that when they are observing something with which they are familiar, they often can’t tell whether they are looking with the “eyes of the present” or the “eyes of the past.” In this way of looking at things, the Self-Image becomes a “filter” through which the Factual Self is seen with varying degrees of clarity. For me, the idea that the Self-Image is a mirror which reflects the Factual Self with varying degrees of fidelity is preferable. Either characterization shows the relationship: choose one or create your own.

The difficulty in staying both flexible and accurate—and it is an extreme difficulty—comes in agreeing on a common language when communicating these very natural, but often subtle observations. So we must be careful to assign a clear and specific meaning to words that are often used carelessly in normal discourse. If I have been skillful in my assignments, then you will find that the meaning of our nine key terms—Perception, Factual Memory, Reactive Memory, Feeling, Craving, Grasping, Insatiability, Fragmentation, & Ambivalencereinforce each other, so that repeated readings will transform a fuzzy understanding of some these terms to a clear understanding of all of these terms. With that encouragement, we move deeper.

Factual Memory is the storehouse of information that tends to broaden our choices and makes us agents of change in our own lives. Much of our ascendancy as a species is linked to our skill at retrieving Images from a vast databank.

Volitional Memory is memory in that it is recorded and preserved; it is not memory in the sense of having definable content. Volitional Memory is our reaction to Factual Memory; it is that intangible remainder, that little extra force of intent that gets carried over from experience to experience. Because these leftovers accumulate, Volitional Memory possesses a Momentum that accumulates as a direct result of the choices we make. I can still remember when and where I first chose the word “Momentum” to describe how the force of an individual choice combines with the force of other individual choices to snowball out of control: cooking burgers on an outside grill with a hungry Twelve Stepper. It is an easy, descriptive word, well-used in the popular lexicon: you can’t watch a competitive sports event without hearing it several times—the big “Mo.”

Popular words such as “momentum” often began with a narrower, technical meaning that can be useful to us if we make a few simple, substitutions. For example, take a simple definition of “momentum” used in physics.

“a strength or force gained by physical motion or through the development of physical events.”

and insert the word “psychological” for “physical.” We can then usefully characterize The Momentum of Choice as:

“a strength or force gained by psychological motion or through the development of psychological events.”

This simple substitution of language gives us two new terms that will expand our understanding of the Momentum of Choice.

  1. “Psychological Motion” simply means that the strength or force of our choices appear to unfold as a sequence.
  2. “Psychological Events” are those chosen preferences that accumulate over linear time, and which congeal into an Image that we have of our Selves: my likes, my dislikes, things I just don’t care about.

AlertVocabulary Alert
As our model matures, we will change from “Psychological” Momentum to “Psycho-Physical” Momentum in order to more closely match the definition of Self as the ongoing relationship between “Body-Mind” and World.

These Psychological Events are our moment of perpetually, creative becoming driven forward by the Momentum of our part, remembered Choices. Our Psychological Genesis gives birth to a Factual Self—who we really are, and our Self-Image—who we think we are. Just as our eyes are not positioned to see our own face directly, our consciousness is not positioned to see the Factual Self directly. This is why other people can see who we are better than we can see ourselves. In reality, we do not exist independently of our relationships with the World around us, which is reflected back to us as our Self-Image. When we observe without accumulation of past choices, the Self-Image reflects the Factual Self with perfect accuracy. When Volitional Memory processes perceptual images because of how they may threaten or enhance our Image of who we are, then the Self-Image becomes distorted and reflects back to us a False image of who we think we are.

But how do we get from this bare-bones sketch of consciousness to that defining moment of when we seem to act contrary to our imagined intentions? This question has baffled human beings for millennia because the ability to observe how the building blocks of perception, memory, and momentum manifest within in the dirty details of daily living requires an elusive pair of skills: the ability to see directly & the ability to see simultaneously. (Module 3B and Module 3C) Paradoxically, addiction exaggerates the chaotic flux of consciousness even more, allowing us to see much that we might not normally see.

MEDITATIONAL EXERCISE

At dawn each day the Norse God Odin sent out two ravens to gather information about his Kingdom. They shared duties: Hugin looked; Munin remembered. Odin needed both for a complete picture of his kingdom: the image-maker, and the image-recorder. At the end of each day Odin reconstructed a picture of his World, just as each moment we reconstruct a picture of ourselves through perception and memory. So what goes wrong? Why do we cling to images of ourselves that have no independent reality—even as they continue to cause us so much pain and heartache? In the following modules, we will begin to follow the flight of Hugin and Munin to its inevitable conclusion, a preliminary answer to the question: What keeps us from a liberating realizing of why we hurt ourselves?

The Illusion of Now:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”—Heraclitus.
Self-help gurus love to talk about “living in the moment,” and Self-help devotees love to try “living in the moment.” When the “moment” is just a frozen cross-section of our lives, living there is just a subterfuge, an attempt to catch the wind in your hand. When the “moment” is a constantly moving stream, we find that each moment is a moving target with an historical push and a teleological pull. Living in this “Etermal Now” we move forwards towards our understanding of each choice having an ancestor in past choice and an offspring in a future choice. We no longer submerge ourselves in the comfort of the present, but embrace a sense of urgency, the knowledge that we have a vital stake in the very next choice that we make. There is no power in a “now”— only in the novelty of the next moment.

NEXT CHOICES:

CONTINUE ON LEVEL B: 2. Discover Causes, Conditions, & Effects

MOVE TO LEVEL C: 3. What Is Happening To Me?

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