Thursday, 30 October 2014

Instantly Disliking Someone

Whether we admit it or not, everyone has seen total strangers while shopping, at a restaurant, at the park, walking down the street, driving etc., who you have instantly disliked or even hated for no logical reason whatsoever just for the way they look. I know some of you out there will be thinking "I never judge a person by their looks, but by the way they act etc", which is well and good. But, "judging" someone implies a rational thought process of weighing what we perceive to be "good" and "bad" about a person's character, and then making an informed opinion as to whether we like that person or not. However, this is a lie in most instances. No matter how much a person's character might be deemed "good", if you have a inate problem with the way that person talks, eats, or looks, you're not going to like them.

This is some sort of instinct we have. I see plenty of people like this every day: ones I feel an instant and irrational dislike for, and ones that I feel sympathy for for equally irrational reasons. If I actually got to know them on a personal level my feelings might be the opposite. This is a luxury most of us don't have, and making shotgun decisions about strangers we see on a daily basis is natural.

Human Resources departments and interviewers have a first impression of people the moment they see them, which in all likelihood will determine whether that person gets the job or not in many cases. Would you rather hire a totally qualified person who you have a distinct irrational dislike for, or a less qualified person who you immediately feel comfortable and friendly towards? These feelings are in all of us. They are human feelings and there is really nothing that can override them. The only totally fair way to make hiring decisions would be to see resumes with no names on them (as many HR departments are either pro or anti man/woman). Instead of asking questions face to face candidates for a job should be given a questionnaire to fill out with whatever a normal interview would have had. It is only after this and after a decision has been made for the most qualified candidate would I consider an interview process to be totally fair.

There is no point in denying that many of our decisions are make for seemingly irrational reasons. This then begs the question how irrational are "irrational" feelings? They are part of our instincts, which have been honed over hundreds of thousands of years to keep us from danger.

All of us have seen strangers who we instantly dislike because they are: too fat; too skinny; too perfect; bald; have dyed hair; have bad teeth; have perfect teeth; seem arrogant; seem stupid; seem rich; seem dangerous; seem better off than we are; have a mustache; have a beard; have stubble; seem like they have had plastic surgery; seem lazy; look like yuppies; have an expensive car; have an old pick-up truck; have a hot girlfriend; have an ugly girlfriend etc etc.

And of course there are people who just have something about them that makes us instantly hate them. It seems inexplicable. We could feel bad about it, but then again we can just take it for what is is: our instincts talking to us. You'll probably never see that person again, so just go with it. Just remember, other people are constantly sizing you up on a daily basis too, and they either instantly like you, dislike you, or see right through you and you leave no mark on their feelings either way. That's just the way things are.

Even babies are known to prefer one total strangers face over another during experiments done with photos. It's not bad to embrace our instincts. You never know, maybe our seemingly irrational likes and dislikes aren't that irrational after all.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

5 Classic Studies in the Psychology of Attraction

Most of the time our articles focus on current, cutting edge studies.  Yet, the nature of science is that it continually builds on findings from previous research. Inevitably, current research stands on the shoulders of giants. Here are some of the “giants” or classic works in attraction research: 
1. Similarity: Liking Others Who Are Like Us
At the heart of attraction is the idea that we like being with people who provide rewarding and positive interactions. An early study on attraction assessed whether rewards were associated with how similar to people are.1 To do this, researchers asked over 150 participants to read an questionnaire about attitudes (e.g., attitudes about premarital sex, television shows, etc.) allegedly completed by another participant, or what researchers refer to as a “bogus stranger,” then rate the attraction toward the bogus stranger. The researchers altered the scales to manipulate how similar the bogus stranger was to the participant and how many attitudes appeared on the scale. They discovered that proportion of similarity is more important than overall number of similar attitudes, such that it is more important to be similar on 7 out of 10 traits (i.e., 70%), rather than 30 out of 200 traits (i.e., 15%). This study laid the foundation for hundreds of subsequent studies into the importance of similarity in attraction. (Turns out that similarity is VERY important.)  
1Byrne, D., & Nelson, D. (1965). Attraction as a linear function of proportion of positive reinforcements.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology1(6), 659-663. doi:10.1037/h0022073 
2. Friends in the Dorm: The Power of Proximity
There is a saying that “you can choose your friends, but not your family.” However, it may be that your choice of friends isn’t totally within your conscious control either. In a classic study of friendship formation, researchers asked nearly 300 MIT dormitory residents to list their closest friends. The researchers then looked at where the listed friends lived in the dorms.2 When someone lived one door away, there was a 41% likelihood they were listed as a close friend. As the number of doors increased, that likelihood decreased such that those living four doors away had only a 10% likelihood of being listed as a close friend. This study demonstrates the importance that proximity, or being physically near others, has on relationship formation. Click here for an application of proximity to How I Met Your Mother.
2Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K. (1950). Social pressures in informal groups; a study of human factors in housing. Oxford England: Harper.
3. The Bridge Study
In this classic study,3 researchers left the laboratory to examine men’s attraction to a female they met under one of two conditions: on a high unstable shaky bridge or on a low sturdy bridge. In each condition, as the men crossed the bridge, they met a female experimenter who asked the men to tell stories about a set of ambiguous pictures. She also gave the men her phone number “just in case you have any questions” (slick). The men who met her on the high bridge told stories with more sexual content and were more likely to call her than the men who met her on the low, sturdy bridge. The reason?  Misattribution of arousal, or the idea that the high bridge created a sense of arousal that the men mistakenly thought was due to the female experimenter. For more about this study, check out this previous post.
3Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30(4), 510-517. doi:10.1037/h0037031
4. Lots to Gain: The Power of Winning You Over  
Which is more attractive: someone that has always liked you or someone who first did not find you appealing but eventually became more positive? A clever study tested this by having college students engage in a series of meetings.4 The participant “accidentally” (it was actually an intentional part of the study) overheard the experimenter describe them in one of four ways: all positive; all negative; initially negative but becoming positive, or initially positive but becoming negative. As you would expect, participants liked the experimenter when the evaluation was completely positive, but, surprisingly, liked the experimenter even more when the evaluation was initially negative but became positive. This finding demonstrates the gain-loss theory of attraction, or the idea that winning over people who had an initial bad impression is more rewarding to us than someone who liked us all along. Click here to see this theory applied to vampires on True Blood.
4Aronson, E., & Linder, D. (1965). Gain and loss of esteem as determinants of interpersonal attractiveness.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology1(2), 156-171. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(65)90043-0
5. What is Beautiful is Good
Most people assume that being physically attractive is a good thing, but this study shows just how good it can be. Undergraduates viewed pictures of men and women representing several levels of attractiveness.5 Based on the photograph alone, they rated the more attractive people as being more kind, outgoing, modest, sensitive, sociable, and interesting. But the positive perceptions didn’t end there. Participants also viewed more attractive people as having better jobs, better marriages, and better lives. These results demonstrate our strong bias toward beauty and the stereotypical beliefs we ascribe to more attractive individuals. For example, I'm sure the woman in the picture is an world class journalist who is extremely articulate, and happy in life.
5Dion, K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology24(3), 285-290. doi:10.1037/h0033731
Interested in learning more about relationships? Click here for other topics on Science of Relationships. Like us on Facebook to get our articles delivered directly to your NewsFeed.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Hypnotherapy: The Virtual Gastric Band

A woman has shed a whopping six stone after she was hypnotised into believe she'd had a gastric band fitted.

Lorraine Robb, 39, tipped the scales at 21st 7lb after years of gorging on burgers, chips and massive portions of fatty foods.

But after being hypnotised into thinking her stomach had shrunk to the size of a tennis ball, the mother-of-three, from Doncaster, has managed to slim down to just 15st.

Now Lorraine, who said she was on the brink of going under the knife, struggles to even finish a single meal.

Throughout school Lorraine was taunted about her weight by cruel bullies who called her the Honey Monster.

Trapped in a vicious eating cycle after years of emotional abuse her eating habits began to spiral out of control and she began regularly binging on crisps and biscuits between meals.

Desperate to lose weight the supermarket assistant claims she spent more than £1,000 on dieting shakes and even resorted to taking Orlistat, a prescribed slimming pill.

But despite her efforts to lose weight, by the time she reached her thirties she was wearing size 24 clothes.

Ashamed of the way she looked, Lorraine considered having gastric band surgery - which can cost up to £6,000 - but instead, turned to a weight loss hypnotherapist for help at the last minute.

After just one 25 minute treatment session with hypnotherapist Bev Davies, she began to see drastic results as her weight began to plummet.

The therapist tricked Lorraine's mind into believing she can only eat tiny portions of food, which involved speaking to her subconscious to make her think her stomach had shrunk. And Lorraine says that her desire to eat diminished almost instantly.

At just £25 for the 'virtual gastric band' treatment she said she could feel her stomach tighten immediately, allowing her to curb her eating habits with ease.

She said: 'I have always been a big girl, I used to get bullied at school because of my size and looking back I think food was my only friend.

'Kids can be so cruel - the names they called me, things like 'fat-so' and 'Honey Monster' were so awful, I think that's always stayed with me and always will.

'For years I tried all sorts of different diets, from milkshakes to slimming pills, but nothing seemed to work for me, I felt hopeless.

'The extent of my weight problem really hit home when I saw a couple of pictures of myself on a night out, I was wearing a red dress, I just looked massive compared to my friends.

'It was when I realised the prescription weight loss pills weren't working that my doctor recommended I had a consultation for gastric band surgery - which I was really opposed to.

'But at the last moment, I saw an advertisement for weight loss hypnosis on Facebook and thought I may as well try it, I had nothing to lose.'

From that point, Lorraine attended just two group weight loss therapy sessions in which her mind was trained to believe she'd had a gastric band fitted.

Since her first session in March 2014, she says her eating habits have changed irrevocably, completely cutting out snacks from her diet.

To her disbelief, Lorraine has now lost 6st and dropped a huge10 dress sizes.

Lorraine said: 'Before the treatment, my weight would see-saw and there was no real way to control it.

'I probably spent thousands on all sorts of different dieting regimes; the milkshakes alone would have cost me an absolute bomb - it's not worth thinking about.

'But for the sake of £25, I've avoided having potentially dangerous surgery, surgery which I was very worried about.

'Now I can only eat a very small amount of food, anymore then I feel too full, which is great.

'Nowadays I mostly eat fruit, salad, meat and fresh veg which suits me perfectly.

'People say I look like a different person which makes me feel amazing.

'I don't think about those bullies half as much as I used to, the hypnotherapy has changed my life and the way I think about food.'

Bev Davies, 48, a qualified hypnotherapist for 21 years, said: 'Lots of people with weight problems feel they are on their own, but when they come to a group hypnotherapy session they realise that their problems aren't unique.

'I'm not surprised Lorraine has lost weight so quickly as this is a regular result.

'People have deeply rooted psychological habits that cannot be altered by the insertion of a physical gastric band, so people should think twice about having surgery.

'Hypnotherapy is much cheaper, it's non-invasive and it helps to change someone's mind-set permanently without the risks associated with such drastic surgical procedures.

'I've dealt with hundreds of people who have had actual surgery but they've regained their weight due to deeply rooted problems that need addressing through specialised therapy such as this.'

Read more:

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Clinical Hypnosis for Children with Cancer

By Christina Liossi, Lecturer in Health Psychology. University of the West of England Bristol

Clinical Hypnosis for Children with Cancer
Hypnosis has established a successful record in the paediatric oncology setting mainly in the management of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting (NV) and procedure-related pain.
Initial reports on the use of hypnosis to treat NV were in the form of case studies. Subsequently several controlled studies have assessed and supported the efficacy of hypnotherapy in alleviating chemotherapy-related NV. In the most recent study Hawkins et al (1995) demonstrated the effectiveness of hypnosis for the reduction of anticipatory NV in a randomized controlled-design study that aimed to assess the possible therapeutic gains that may be derived from hypnosis while controlling for gains that may be derived from non-specific therapeutic factors.

Children and adolescents in treatment for cancer undergo also numerous painful procedures including venepunctures, lumbar punctures, bone marrow aspirations and biopsies. A number of controlled studies have shown that hypnosis is effective in treating procedure-related cancer pain.

Hypnosis interventions have been found to be of significant help in reducing pain and anxiety in all of the studies conducted so far. In the most recent one Liossi and Hatira (1999) reported a comparison of hypnosis versus cognitive behavioural (CB) skills training in alleviating the pain and distress of thirty paediatric cancer patients undergoing bone marrow aspirations.

Results indicated that both hypnosis and CB coping skills are effective in preparing patients for BMA with hypnosis being superior in minimizing anxiety and behavioural distress.

The consistency of the findings among the studies contacted so far indicates the usefulness of hypnosis as an effective intervention for helping children and adolescents to control the pain and anxiety associated with medical procedures (Liossi, 1999).

Additionally, there is possibility for hypnosis to be utilized for the management of other cancer-related symptoms such as chronic pain, phantom limb pain, needle phobia, generalized anxiety, dysphagia for pills, insomnia etc.

It is important to remember that at any particular time, the young cancer patient may present a number of symptoms, one of which can be dominant at a single hypnotherapy session, but that does not mean that other symptoms need be ignored.

Although the relationship between hypnotizability and symptom reduction is not perfect, there is a much increased probability of successful symptom reduction for those children highly responsive to hypnosis, at least with procedure-related cancer pain (Hilgard & Hilgard, 1994).

Children have long been regarded as good respondents to hypnosis and hypnotic interventions with hypnotic-like states common to their experience. Antecedent conditions are found in childhood play, fantasy, and imaginary playmates.

Several studies have demonstrated that children are more hypnotically responsive than adults. The relationship between age and hypnotic responsivity is complex. Hypnotic ability is limited in children below the age of 3, achieves its apex during the middle childhood years of 7-14, and then decreases somewhat in adolescence, remaining stable through midlife before decreasing again in the older population.

There are no significant differences in hypnotic responsiveness between boys and girls at any age. Children's natural desire for mastery of skills and for understanding of, and participation in, their environment is directly related to responsiveness to hypnosis (Olness & Gardner, 1988). Clinicians capitalize on these qualities when they introduce hypnosis to a child as 'something new you can learn how to do - not everybody knows how to do it, just as not everybody knows how to ride a bike' (Wester & O'Grady,1991).

Apart from specific correlates of hypnotic responsiveness in childhood, several variables not directly related to hypnotic talent may enhance or impede hypnotic responsiveness. Prior to conducting any hypnosis it is imperative to remove any misconceptions that may be held by patients, parents, or health care professionals. Most of these will stem from demonstrations of stage hypnosis or dramatizations on television or in films.

The process of clinical hypnosis conceptually can be divided into six phases: (1) preparation, (2) induction, (3) deepening, (4) therapeutic suggestions, (5) post-hypnotic suggestions, and (6) termination (0'Grady & Hoffman, 1984). The hypnotist develops an overall plan of the hypnotic session by choosing tasks for each phase and arranging the suggestions for the task in a sequence.

Preparation usually includes discussion of the reasons for utilizing hypnosis, clarification of misconceptions, and full reply to questions. Details of the child's likes and dislikes, significant experiences, fears, hopes, and comfort areas are discussed.

Children respond to a large number of hypnotic induction techniques (e.g. visual imagery, auditory imagery, movement imagery, story-telling, ideomotor, progressive relaxation, eye fixation, distraction) each with countless variations. Any induction method may also be used as a deepening method, and methods may be combined in almost any order.

The choice of an appropriate induction for any given child depends on the needs and preferences of the child. One needs to know something about the social and cultural backgrounds of young patients, general likes and dislikes, and themes of interest related to storybooks, television programmes, and current films.

Compared with adults, children are more likely to wriggle and move about, open their eyes or refuse to close them and make spontaneous comments during hypnotic inductions and treatment. Although these behaviours may indicate resistance, this is not necessarily the case. Most often the child is simply adapting hypnosis to their behavioural style.
The induction techniques and the specific therapeutic suggestions used should emphasize children's involvement and control, and encourage their active participation in the process of experiencing and utilizing hypnosis. The purpose of therapy is always to increase the child's control of desired feeling or behaviour, and any suggestion that emphasizes loss of control can only inhibit therapeutic progress.

The therapist can also teach the patient self-hypnosis as a way for them to participate actively (in a motivated and purposeful way) in the treatment process, and to reinforce self-mastery.

Hypnosis has several attractive features. It is safe and does not produce adverse effects or drug interactions. Children enjoy the hypnotic experience. They obtain relief without destructive or unpleasant effects. There is no reduction of normal function or mental capacity and no development of tolerance to the hypnotic effect.

It is a skill which children can easily learn, that provides a personal sense of mastery and control over their problems and counters feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. A beneficial change in attitude towards cancer and hypnosis also fosters a sense of control.

An additional benefit is that hypnosis can be generalized to many distressing circumstances. The child who learns hypnosis for management of bone marrow aspiration may apply their skills to lessen the distress of lumbar punctures, venepuncture, or manage nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, insomnia, anxiety etc. Moreover, hypnosis is an opportunity for the clinician to be inventive, spontaneous and playful, and to build a stronger therapeutic relationship with a child while providing symptom relief (Liossi, 1999).

It is clear that children with cancer would benefit tremendously from the wider application of hypnosis in paediatric oncology centres. In terms of clinical practice, the optimal control of children's symptoms requires an integrated approach because many factors are responsible, however seemingly clear-cut the cause.

Children might well receive hypnotic intervention in conjunction with pharmacological treatments. Hypnosis is a reasonably cost~efficient technique that may well enhance patient compliance, reduce time allocations of expensive medical personnel and equipment, and minimize the distress of children who must undergo invasive medical procedures, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Clinical hypnosis should be used only by properly trained and certificated health care professionals who have been trained in the clinical use of hypnosis and are working within the areas of their professional expertise.
It is therefore imperative that paediatric practitioners are well trained, properly supervised and that the provision of services is carefully planned, resourced and managed.

Full Article:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Carl Jung: The Archetypes and the Collective Conscience

Why did primitive man go to such lengths to describe and interpret the happenings in the natural world, for example the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the seasons? Carl Jung believed that the events of nature were not simply put into fairytales and myths as a way of explaining them physically. Rather, the outer world was used to make sense of the inner.
In our time, Jung noted, this rich well of symbols – art, religion, mythology – which for thousands of years helped people understand the mysteries of life, had been filled in and replaced by the science of psychology. What psychology lacked, ironically given its borrowing of the ancient Greek term, was an understanding of the psyche, or the self in its broadest terms.

For Jung, the goal of life was to see the 'individuation' of this self, a sort of uniting of a person's conscious and unconscious minds so that their original unique promise might be fulfilled. This larger conception of the self was also based on the idea that humans are expressions of a deeper layer of universal consciousness. To grasp the uniqueness of each person, paradoxically we had to go beyond the personal self to understand the workings of this deeper collective wisdom.

The collective unconscious
Jung admitted that the idea of the collective unconscious “belongs to the class of ideas that people at first find strange but soon come to possess and use as familiar conceptions.” He had to defend it against the charge of mysticism. Yet he also noted that the idea of the unconscious on its own was thought fanciful until Freud pointed to its existence, and it became part of our understanding of why people think and act the way as they do. Freud had assumed the unconscious to be a personal thing contained within an individual. Jung, on the other hand, saw the personal unconscious mind as sitting atop a much deeper universal layer of consciousness, the collective unconscious – the inherited part of the human psyche not developed from personal experience.

The collective unconscious was expressed through 'archetypes', universal thought-forms or mental images that influenced an individual's feelings and action. The experience of archetypes often paid little heed to tradition or cultural rules, which suggests that they are innate projections. A newborn baby is not a blank slate but comes wired ready to perceive certain archetypal patterns and symbols. This is why children fantasize so much, Jung believed: they have not experienced enough of reality to cancel out their mind's enjoyment of archetypal imagery.

Archetypes have been expressed as myths and fairytales, and at a personal level in dreams and visions. In mythology they are called 'motifs', in anthropology 'représentations collectives'. German ethnologist Adolf Bastian referred to them as 'elementary' or 'primordial' thoughts that he saw expressed again and again in the cultures of tribal and folk peoples. But they are not simply of anthropological interest; usually without knowing it, archetypes shape the relationships that matter in our lives.

Archetypes and complexes
Jung highlighted a number of archetypes, including the 'anima', the 'mother', the 'shadow', the 'child', the 'wise old man', the 'spirits' of fairytales, and the 'trickster' figure found in myths and history. We look at two below.

The anima
Anima means soul with a female form. In mythology it is expressed as a siren, a mermaid, a wood-nymph, or any form which 'infatuates young men and sucks the life out of them'. In ancient times, the anima came represented either as a goddess or a witch – that is, aspects of the female which were out of men's control.

When a man 'projects' the feminine aspect within his psyche onto an actual woman, that woman takes on magnified importance. The archetype makes itself present in a man's life either by infatuation, idealization or fascination with women. The woman herself does not really justify these reactions, but acts as the target to which his anima is transferred. This is why the loss of a relationship can be so devastating to a man. It is the loss of a side of him that he has kept external.

Every time there is an extreme love or fantasy or entanglement, the anima is at work in both sexes. She does not care for an orderly life, but wants intensity of experience - life, in whatever form. The anima, like all archetypes, may come upon us like fate. She can enter our life either as something wonderful or as something terrible – either way her aim is to wake us up. To recognize the anima means throwing away our rational ideas of how life should be lived, and instead admitting, as Jung puts it, that “Life is crazy and meaningful at once”.

The anima is profoundly irrational – and yet she carries great wisdom. When she comes into your life it may seem like chaos, but it is only later that we are able to divine her purpose.

The Mother
The Mother archetype takes the form of personal mother, grandmother, stepmother, mother in law, nurse, governess. It can be fulfilled in figurative Mothers such as Mary Mother of God, Sophia, or the Mother who becomes a maiden again in the myth of Demeter and Kore. Other Mother symbols include the Church, country, the Earth, the woods, the sea, a garden, a ploughed field, a spring or well. The positive aspect of the archetype is Motherly love and warmth, so celebrated in art and poetry, which gives us our first identity in the world. Yet it can have negative meaning – the loving mother or the terrible mother or goddess of fate. Jung considered the Mother the most important archetype because it seemed to contain all else.

When there is an imbalance of the archetype in a person, we see the Mother 'complex'. In men, the complex may give rise to 'Don Juanism', which can make a man fixated on pleasing all women. Yet a man with a mother complex may also have a revolutionary spirit: tough, persevering, extremely ambitious.

In women, the complex can result in an exaggeration of the maternal instinct, with a woman living for her children, sacrificing her individuality. Her husband becomes just part of the furniture. Men may be initially attracted to women with a mother complex because they are the picture of femininity and innocence. Yet they are also screens onto which a man can project or externalize his anima, and he only later discovers the real woman he has married.

In other forms of the archetype, a woman will go to any lengths to not be like her biological mother. She may carve out a sphere of her own, for example becoming an intellectual to show up her mother's lack of education. A choice of marriage partner may be to antagonize and move away from the mother. Other women in the hold of the archetype may have an unconscious incestuous relationship with the biological father and jealousy of the mother. They may become interested in married men or having romantic adventures.

* * * *

Jung noted that in evolutionary terms the unconscious came well before the development conscious thought. Yet in its youthful enthusiasm the conscious mind feels it can defy or deny its deeper counterpart; it is all-powerful while the unconscious seems a murky irrelevance. Yet he believed that “Man's worst sin is unconsciousness”. We project everything we internally don't like or can't accept onto the world, so that we wage war instead of studying ourselves. It is a case of 'anything but self-knowledge' – but in the end we pay the price, whether as individuals or collectively.

Spiritual archetypes
Why is psychology as a science so young? Jung suggests it was because for most of human history it simply wasn't necessary. The wonderful imagery and mythology of religions was able to express the eternal archetypes perfectly. People feel a need to dwell upon ideas and images relating to rebirth and transformation, and religions supply these in abundance for every aspect of the psyche. The Catholic Church's strange ideas of the Virgin Birth and the Trinity are not fanciful images but packed with meaning, Jung wrote, archetypes of protection and healing that administered to any ruptures in the minds of the faithful.

The Protestant Reformation reacted against all this. The rich Catholic imagery and dogma became nothing but 'superstition', and in Jung's view this attitude made way for the barrenness of contemporary life. Genuine spirituality must engage both the unconscious and the conscious mind, the depths as well as the heights.

Jung observed the trend of people in the West flocking to Eastern spirituality, but felt this was hardly necessary given the depth of meaning embedded in the Christian tradition. Another result was that that people are attracted to political and social ideas that were “distinguished by their spiritual bleakness”.

Humans have a religious instinct, Jung believed, whether it is a belief in God or in some secular faith like communism or atheism. “No one can escape the prejudice of being human” he observed.

'Individuation' was Jung's term for the point when a person is finally able to integrate the opposites within them - their conscious and unconscious minds. Individuation simply means to become what you always were in potentia, to fulfil your unique promise. The result is an individual in the real sense of the word, a whole and indestructible self that can no longer be hijacked by splintered aspects or complexes.

But this reintegration does not happen by thinking about it rationally. It is a journey with unexpected twists and turns. Many myths show how we need to follow a path that transcends reason in order to fulfill ourselves in life. Jung went to some length to define the self. He understood it to be something different from the ego; in fact the self incorporated the ego, “just as a large circle encloses a smaller one”. While the ego relates to the conscious mind, the self belongs to the personal and collective unconscious.

The healing mandala
Jung included in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious many reproductions of mandalas, abstract patterned images whose name in Sanskrit means 'circle'. He believed that when a person draws or paints a mandala, unconscious leanings or wants are expressed in its patterns, symbols and shapes.

In his therapeutic practice, Jung found mandalas to have a 'magical' effect, reducing confusion in the psyche to order, and often affecting a person in ways that only became apparent later. They worked because the unconscious is allowed free reign; what has been swept under comes to the surface. Motifs such as egg shapes, a lotus flower, a star or sun, a snake, castles, cities, eyes, etc. are produced for no obvious reason, yet reflect or draw out processes that are going on deep below that person's conscious thinking. When a person became able to make a meaningful interpretation of the images, Jung observed that it was usually the beginning of psychological healing. It was one step taken in the individuation process.

Final comments
We think we are modern and civilized with all our technology and knowledge, but inside, Jung says, we are still 'primitives'. He once observed in Switzerland a Strudel, a local witch-doctor, remove a spell from a stable – in the shadow of a railway line on which several trans-European expresses roared by.

Modernity does not do away with the need for us to attend to our unconscious minds. If we do neglect this side of us, the archetypes simply look for new forms of expression, in the process derailing our carefully made plans. Usually the unconscious supports our conscious decisions, but when a gap appears the archetypes are expressed in strange and powerful ways; we can be ambushed by lack of self-knowledge.

The universe of ancient symbols we once used for deciphering life's changes and larger meaning has been replaced by a science – psychology - that was never designed to understand the soul and cater to it. Writing of the scientific mindset in general, Jung wrote: “Heaven has become for us the cosmic space of the physicists...But 'the heart glows,' and a secret unrest gnaws at the roots of our being.” Modern man or woman lives with a spiritual emptiness that was once easily filled by religion or mythology. Only a new type of psychology that actually recognized the depth of the psyche would be able to quell this secret unrest.

When it seems you are helpless in the face of problems, it should be remembered that this deeper mind carries the totality of human experience, a vast store of objective wisdom and perfect solutions. It only has to be recognized and accessed.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Infographic: Psychology of Gambling