Thursday, December 6, 2007

2nd draft of fourth chunk

My reaction to Lang before starting this unit was that I felt he was saying some very insightful thoughts. His ideas were not shocking to me because I’ve read articles dealing with similar topics, however he was the first to discuss alienation to such a degree. 
My reaction to Lang now that I’ve done this unit is that of understanding. As I said before, I got what he was saying. I recognized his theory for what it was and then carried on. But doing this unit really brought it home for me. I gained a deeper grasp of his words. I believe that Lang’s point of our forgetting of childhood – not only the content but also the flavor is for the most part true. The nature of memories is that they become blurred and muddy over time – a form of mental corrosion. We are then left with bits and pieces, sometimes not even sure if they really happened or if our minds had created it for no apparent reason. I myself have memories of dreams that seemed so real that the barrier between real life and them has broken down. And this is how it is for my childhood. I am certain of some memories in their realness, yet there are others that I have to question.
Pictures play a great role in helping keep a hold of memories. They serve as great anchors of thought, allowing us to recapture what was lost. I remember, as a part of this project, going through boxes of pictures with my mother. Almost each one seemed to bring back a memory of me from the deepest depths. Her face just lit up. Yet for me, only a few really brought me back to an event, but I was able to remember little chunk of things in the pictures be it a toy or a place, so everything was not completely dead and dull.
Along with pictures, scents and hearing stories about yourself as a child can help as well. Scent is said to be one of the senses most tied to memory. There are certain smells that as soon as I pick them up in my head, they invoke a particular feeling or takes me back to something I’ve experienced long ago. I’m willing to bet that everyone has at least one scent they can identify with in some way. And going further than memory, some scents, new and old, can make us feel safe and comfortable or can make us feel disgusted and awkward. As for hearing stories, sometimes I do remember the event. Having the story being told to me can help to guide the memory, but most of the time it just feels strange. Take, for example, my mother’s tales of how bad I apparently was when I was little, like 5 years of age and younger. She likes to tell people about how embarrassing I was when she would take me with her when she went out shopping and to me it feel seems like a different people. I have no conscience recollection of me beating any male who dared to speak to her and when I picture it in my mind, using what she described I’m merely watching a little version of myself running around attacking people – it is all in third person. And honestly, I just can’t see myself, the way I am now, doing such things.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Another draft of fifth chunk

In R.D. Lang’s paper he said that we don’t pay attention to our dreams. And if we were to be aware of them, it would help us in waking life. I do believe that he is correct. I think that dreams are windows to deepest thoughts. Being able to understand them would help us become more of who we want to be. But most people are not able to do this. Dreams are treated as something that is not real. Many just continue with their lives just ignoring them. Our society on a whole is one that thinks of anything that does not give concert evidence as unimportant. However, dreams are apart of our realities. Everything that we experience is. Thus it is illogical for anyone to rid himself or herself of a piece of life them don’t like or wish to understand. 

Lucid dreaming is an important tool for reaching the sub-conscious. Lucid dreaming is when you becoming aware that you are dreaming as you sleep. When it happens, one can watch how things play out closely or them could even control what takes place. The reason why it is such an important tool is that dreams are said to be extensions of your own thoughts – if you’re able to interact with them then you can gain a new perspective on yourself. “Dreams are the thread that leads us to and from ourselves.”
There are many techniques that can be used to experience lucid dreaming. One popular prerequisite is keeping a dream journal. A journal helps to keep track of dreams and progress. It also helps with your ability to recall dreams. However, my own use of a journal of this sort was short lived. I tried to keep it but I found it difficult to repeatedly go to it. Getting to lucid dreaming itself, my favorite method is the use of something called Wake-initiation of lucid dreams (WILD). It is described as “when the sleeper enters REM sleep with unbroken self-awareness directly from the waking state”(wikipedia). Basically you carry your awareness from when you’re awake to when you’re sleeping. To me it is a bit of a shoot or miss method. By this I mean that it is possible to have a lucid dreaming, but since most of the time I miss that goal and end up in something else. I’ve seen hypnagogic images and felt sleep paralysis and the popular vibrations at a rarer extent. Because of all of the times I’ve messed up and botched the lucid dreams, I have spent a lot of time playing with these things. The hypanagogic images I’ve seen have been fun. I sometimes see patterns of light and it even can seem as if I’m looking around my room through closed eyes. As for the sleep paralysis, this is my far the most interesting occurrence. It is said that the scientific reason behind why it happens is that chemicals are released that causes the body to almost ‘shut down’ so that it does not act out your dreams. But when you regain (or rather keep) your awareness as you fall asleep you can find yourself in that state. You are there, fully alert to what is going around you, yet you can move. Usually when I first get there I’m calm. I take a look around and try to keep relaxed. But at some point I always start to think of things that can end up freighting me. It’s as if my thoughts go on a rampage, running through everything they can. The next thing I know I become alert of something that was not next to me before.
It feels like a presence. Most of the time it is simply there. Possibly just watching me. Yet it is an uneasy presence. I’m not comfortable having it around. There have been times that I’ve tried to talk to it. I wanted to see if it would answer me back somehow. Normally it would just not reply but there was time once I asked if it was god or something of that realm and things went over badly. The presence seemed to become malicious and hypanagogic images flooded my mind. There was so much fear in me that I went mad with trying to regain control over my body and since then I never ever asked that question again. I’ve actually had a friend of mine chastise me for even trying to ask it that.
It would seem that I’m not alone in feeling this presence or whatever it may be. I’ve recently started the book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James. On page 71 he gives an account from an informant who wrote about his encounter with something like what I’ve felt.

"Quite early in the night I was awakened…I felt as if I had been aroused intentionally, and at first thought some one was breaking into the house… I then turned on my side to go to sleep again, and immediately felt a consciousness of a presence in the room, and singular to state, it was not the consciousness of a live person, but of a spiritual presence. This may provoke a smile, but I can only tell you the fact as they occurred to me. I do not know how to better describe my sensations than by simply stating that I felt a consciousness of a spiritual presence…. I felt also at the same time a strong feeling of superstitious dread, as if something strange and fearful were about to happen."

As I read this passage and those around it, felt as if vindicated in someway. As if I was not crazy, or rather if I am, then at least I am not the only one.

Yet that was not the only time I’ve felt fear during sleep paralysis. When I’m in state, if I’m not dealing with the presence, I’m thinking about random things and trying to experiment with what I can do. I find that generally my ability to visualize becomes very sharpened. I also notice that I can let my mind wonder and sooner or later I fall asleep. But if I try to let go of my grasp on my body, I may start to feel the vibrations. For me at first they are nice and calm. They feel gentle. But I normally have a hard time letting go. I have to force myself to unless I’m really tired. Tiredness seems to bring the vibrations at a quicker pace. But after they’ve come and I let myself drift into them they take over. It really does feel like being engulfed in them. And they don’t really cut through my body. They always enter from my head or feet and travels in almost vertical lines. The vibrations can get so bad that I always get too scared to continue. They really are unsettling, as many times as I’ve felt them.

An interesting question about dreams is whom are they happening to? Are them happening to you or someone else and you are just watching, as if they are movies? It is my firm belief that dreams happen to you, not something, or anyone else. People who say that their dreams happen to something else just don’t wish to talk responsibility or accept that part of their existence. 
If I was to say that the experiences that I described earlier never happened to me but to something that is not me, I would be lying to myself. There is no way for me to deny them. I was fully aware of my surroundings as they took place so I can’t say I was not there. Also they have left such a lasting impression upon me that if I were not to accept them, I would only be stoning myself.
Before entering this unit, as you should be already able to tell, I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences with dreams. I’ve always been mindful of them. I collected books and scoured the Internet for information about dreams. I think it is because of my time investment to the subject that lead me to be able to have positive results with lucid dreaming and just remembering the dreams that I’ve had. However, I noticed that I couldn’t force it. When I do, the average amount of dreams I can purposely manipulate drops. I have to let them happen at a near random basis. However the best way of going about things for me would going to sleep with the intention of remembering or anything else that I wish to do.

Sixth Chunk First Draft

The unit we are now in is mainly about thinking. We’ve explored how we normally think, how we can think about our thinking and why it is that we do that. This was all in response to one of R.D. Lang’s arguments, in which he states that most of us who think that we’re smart really are not, unless if is in self-interest. He goes on to say that a lot of our so-called ‘original’ thoughts are not original but really are conformist in nature. I personal reaction to this is that I understand his basis for that theory. It does make sense and it does hold true for many people. When I took at a topic such as politics and see the ideas that exist, I see that most of them are merely in circulation. They reuse so many thoughts that others have already stated that it is extremely hard to find something that is ‘fresh’ to the whole situation. And as for your good thoughts being mostly in your favor I believe this is correct as well. We as humans do have an inert sense of selfishness in all of us. It is fully understandable that we make sure ourselves are fully taken care of before looking out for others around us.
One of the issues we explored was how automatic thinking works. Automatic thinking is when we act on the first thought that pops up in your head, in response to something. For example, if I were to say, “Think of blue” your most likely initial thought would either be of the color blue or something relating to it. We don’t have a real sense of control over it. Automatic thinking then goes deeper in that we live most of our lives in an automatic manner. A lot of things that we do are merely done without any thought about why we’re doing it.
One way to remedy automatic thinking is to become more metacognitive in daily life. Metacognition is defined as being aware of one’s own thought processes. In class we were given mind puzzles to allow us to experience how metacongition is implemented. Our teacher would pose a riddle to us and we would try to get the answer. After a few minutes of contemplation we would then write down how we went about solving the problem. One riddle was as follows: There is a team of scientists that were on frozen tundra. They discovered a male human body stuck in the ice. They then set out to free the body and before they were done, one of scientists yells out “It’s Adam.” And she was right. How come? A few of us instantly yelled out whatever answer popped out into our heads – once again, automatic thought processes are work there – but we were all wrong. Thus in reaction to that, we retreated into our minds and thought about things on our own. At the end we identified some of the strategies that we used in an attempt to find the answer. We found that a lot of us went back to the beginning of the riddle then systematically broke it into parts and went through each, one at a time. We called this the complete search of the narrow. Others had visualized the situation or contextualized it in order to “understand the little by understanding the big it’s apart of.”