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The Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet

The Digitally Divided SelfThe Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet is on Amazon.

ISBN 9788897233008
274 Pages – Format: 6″ x 9″ – $17.90 (discounted on Amazon)

It is nearly half a century since Marshall McLuhan pointed out that the medium is the message. In the interim, digital technologies have found an irresistible hook on our minds. With the soul’s quest for the infinite usurped by the ego’s desire for unlimited power, the Internet and social media have stepped in to fill our deepest needs for communication, knowledge and creativity – even intimacy and sexuality. Without being grounded in those human qualities which are established through experience and inner exploration, we are vulnerable to being seduced into outsourcing our minds and our fragile identities.

Intersecting media studies, psychology and spirituality, The Digitally Divided Self exposes the nature of the malleable mind and explores the religious and philosophical influences which leave it obsessed with the incessant flow of information.

I am deeply touched and extremely grateful to the people who took the time to read, support and endorse The Digitally Divided Self. Being my first English book, and basically self-published, I didn’t expect to receive many reviews, much less from such leading thinkers and writers – nor such positive responses.

It was also a surprise to find common interests around eastern spirituality with so many people into technology and media. This makes me hopeful for an evolution of the information society – from chasing external stimulation to inner explorations and silence.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

Order on Amazon.

Praise for Digitally Divided Self

 “Quartiroli’s The Digitally Divided Self is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the ever-increasing hegemony of the digital world in the individual psyche. Drawing on diverse fields and traditions, the author analyzes numerous mechanisms by which IT separates us from ourselves. Readers stand to benefit from such an understanding that is a prerequisite for mounting a defense of one’s individuality.” —Len Bracken, author of several novels and the biography Guy Debord—Revolutionary

 ­“With great insight, Ivo Quartiroli captures the subtle as well as the gross impact that media use has on our individual and collective psyches. The challenge before all of us is how to adapt to the new technology in a healthy way that allows us to retain our essential humanity. He offers us a solution born of his experience and confirmed by neuroscience. This is a must read.” —Hilarie Cash, PhD, co-founder of reSTART: Internet Addiction Recovery Program

 “It is difficult to offer a spiritually based critique of today’s network culture without sounding like a nostalgic Luddite crank. Immersed in the tech, but also in various meditative traditions, Ivo Quartiroli is the perfect person to offer integral wisdom-tech with clarity and bite.” —Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica.

  “Aware of the profound and rapid psychological and social metamorphosis we are going through as we ‘go digital’ without paying attention, Ivo Quartiroli is telling us very precisely what we are gaining and what we are losing of the qualities and privileges that, glued as we are to one screen or another, we take for granted in our emotional, cognitive and spiritual life. This book is a wake-up call. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates should read it.” —Derrick de Kerckhove, Professor, Facoltà di sociologia, Università Federico II, Naples, former Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology.

 “The Digitally Divided Self alerts us about the insidious dangers of our growing dependence on Information Technology. Ivo Quartiroli warns us that Internet can easily develop into an addiction that undercuts our connections with nature, with other people, and with our deeper inner reality. The spiritual nourishment coming from genuine relationships is then replaced by the empty calories of fake relationships, with the resulting deterioration of our personal and social lives. Using an incisive style, Ivo Quartiroli can be provocative, iconoclastic, at times exaggerated, but never boring. Behind each observation there are pearls of wisdom that are guaranteed to make you think.” Federico Faggin, designer of the microprocessor.

 “Global culture is not only the latest step in the human evolutionary journey. It is also, as Ivo Quartiroli shows in The Digitally Divided Self, a critical opportunity to apply non-Western techniques of awareness to ensure healthy survival in the 21st century.” —Michael Heim, author of The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Virtual Realism, and Electric Language.

 “Question the merits of technology in the past and you’d be called a Luddite. But now technologists are leading the way toward a new, more balanced view of our gadget-driven lives. Drawing from his fascinating expertise in computer science and spirituality, Ivo Quartiroli presents a compelling critique of the corrosive impact of the Net on our humanity. It’s a warning we must heed.” —Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.

“A profoundly premonitory vision of the future of the 21st century, The Digitally Divided Self unlocks the great codes of technological society, namely that the very same digital forces that effectively control the shape and direction of the human destiny are also the founding powers of a new revolution of the human spirit.” —Arthur Kroker, author of The Will to Technology and Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory.

 “People today, especially young people, live more on the Internet than in the real world. This has subtle and not-so-subtle effects on their thinking and personality. It is high time to review these effects, to see whether they are a smooth highway to a bright interconnected future, or possibly a deviation that could endanger health and wellbeing for the individual as well as for society. Ivo Quartiroli undertakes to produce this review and does so with deep understanding and dedicated humanism. His book should be read by everyone, whether he or she is addicted to the Internet or has second thoughts about it.” —Ervin Laszlo, President, the Club of Budapest, and Chancellor, the Giordano Bruno Globalshift University.

 “The Mind-Body Split is a pervasive condition/affliction in the developed world, wholly un-recognized; yet fundamental to the great worldwide problems of health, environment, and economic inequity. Ivo Quartiroli’s Digitally Divided Self masterfully examines the effects of the insulated digital experience on the mind and the body self: exacerbating illusions and the Mind-Body Split; and contrasts it to the processes of self-discovery, growth, and healing: true inter-connectedness with nature, each other, and our selves. If the digital age is to solve our real problems, rather than create them, it will be with the knowledge contained in The Digitally Divided Self. Well done!” —Frederic Lowen, son of Alexander Lowen, Executive Director, The Alexander Lowen Foundation

 “Ivo Quartiroli here addresses one of the most pressing questions forced upon us by our latest technologies. In disturbing the deepest relations between the user’s faculties and the surrounding world, our electric media, all of them without exception, create profound disorientation and subsequent discord, personal and cultural. Few subjects today demand greater scrutiny.” — Dr. Eric McLuhan, Author and Lecturer

 “The internet is an extension of our central nervous system. When you operate a computer, you are extending yourself, through its interface, potentially all over the world, instantaneously. Extending yourself in such a disembodied, discarnate fashion only further entrenches your separateness, your ego self. In contrast, the introspective freeing from the physical through meditation also has the effect of creating a discarnate, disembodied state. That state is one that is progressively less identified with the ego self. This is the dichotomy that Ivo Quartiroli explores in The Digitally Divided Self. This book is well worth investigating.” —Michael McLuhan

 “We should all be asking the questions Ivo Quartiroli asks in this bold and provocative book. Whatever you think right now about technology, The Digitally Divided Self will challenge you to think again.” —William Powers, author of the New York Times bestseller Hamlet’s BlackBerry

 “It isn’t easy to find an informed and critical look at the impact of digital media practices on human lives and minds. Ivo Quartiroli offers an informed critique based in both an understanding of technology and of human consciousness.” —Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs.

 “Ivo Quartiroli is mining the rich liminal territory between humans and their networks. With the integrity of a scientist and the passion of artist, he forces us to reconsider where we end and technology begins. Or when.” —Douglas Rushkoff, Media Theorist and author of Cyberia, Media Virus, Life, Inc. and Program or Be Programmed.

 “You might find what he writes to be challenging, irritating, even blasphemous and sacrilegious. If so, he has proven his point. The Internet, Ivo suggests, might just be the new opium of the masses. Agree with him or not, no other book to date brings together the multitude of issues related to how the seductions of technology impinge upon and affect the development of the self and soul.” —Michael Wesch, Associate Professor of Digital Ethnography, Kansas State University

 The Digitally Divided Self is a refreshing look at technology that goes beyond the standard, well-worn critiques. Ivo Quartiroli charts new territory with a series of profound reflections on the intersections of computer science, psychology and spirituality.” —Micah White, Senior Editor at Adbusters magazine.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

Order on Amazon.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: From Awareness of technology to technologies of Awareness .. 1
Chapter 2:“It’s only a tool” .. 17
Chapter 3: The Roots of It .. 39
Chapter 4: The Digitization of Reality .. 53
Chapter 5: Intimacy and Sexuality.. 73
Chapter 6: Commoditizing and Monetizing.. 89
Chapter 7: Politics, Participation and Control .. 97
Chapter 8: Come together: the Rise of Social networks.. 115
Chapter 9: Digital Kids ..125
Chapter 10: Literacy and the Analytical Mind.. 133
Chapter 11: Lost in the Current .. 143
Chapter 12: The Digitally Divided Self.. 165
Chapter 13: The Process of Knowledge .. 189
Chapter 14: Upgrading to Heaven .. 205
Chapter 15: Biting the Snake.. 223
Appendix: The People of Contemporary It and what Drives them.. 233

Introduction

Like many people nowadays, much of my personal and professional life is related to technology: I use the Internet for keeping the connection with my work projects and friends wherever I am in the world. I published the first book in Italy about the Internet. I run a blog and a Web magazine, do my investments online, shop on the Net, do interviews by email and Skype, and have even indulged in cybersex. Right now I’m in Asia developing this book – which is full of references to Web articles, blogs and material found only on the Internet – with online support: an editor and writing coach in California, copy editor in India, book designer in Italy, and a printing and distribution service with multiple locations in USA. My life is immersed in the digital loop.

I have been involved in IT since I was a student. As I learned meditation and explored spiritual paths, I developed an inner observer and discovered states beyond the mind. Thus, I found myself going back and forth between processing consciousness and information. Slowly my focus has shifted from what we can do with technology to what technology does to us. As a first-hand explorer, I’ve observed the subtle changes of our massive use of the Net.

Just as a spiritual researcher can go beyond the mind only after having observed and mastered it, it is necessary to enter the digital world to step beyond it. We can’t become aware of its effects without being engaged in it. Since digital technology is unavoidable now, we need to master it without becoming lost in it, using its tools with our full awareness.

In this time, the intensification of mental inputs is a phenomenon that must be kept in balance. Our contemporary culture does not acknowledge anything beyond the mind, but in other traditions the mental world is just one of the aspects of our wholeness. In the West a sort of Cartesian “pure thinking” has been given priority. Although the mind is the best-known organ of thought, it is not the only cognitive modality. Nervous systems have been discovered both in the heart and in the belly, and the global awareness that can be accessed by spiritual practitioners is pervasive and non-localized. Yet these modalities cannot be represented digitally, so they are relegated to the sidelines.

Our technological society militates against uninterrupted conscious attention. Several authors have documented the effects of IT on attention, literacy and intellectual skills. It also intrudes on the silent time needed to be aware of inner transformations. We don’t realize we have become servomechanisms of IT – precisely because IT has weakened the inner skills of self-understanding. Shrinking of the rich range of human qualities to privilege only those which can be represented and operated digitally arises from the nature of the ego-mind and our particular Western history which has engendered – then valued – mental representations of reality. My focus here is to understand why the mind can be lured by the magic of the tools, while forgetting the person who is using them.

We believe we are empowered individually and politically as we post articles on our blogs and participate in social networks. In actuality, we feed the machine with our “user-generated content” which becomes candy for advertisers who then design ads based on what we say on Twitter, Facebook, and even our emails.

Jumping from information to self-understanding is necessary if we are to regain real freedom, a freedom from conditioning of our mind and the manipulation by information – whether self-created or from external sources. We mistake the transmission of gigabytes of data for freedom.

In our advanced technological society there is a reticence to acknowledge the inner, spiritual or metaphysical dimensions of life. What cannot be calculated – which is, thereby, “not objective” – is considered unworthy of investigation. Even more strongly denied is the relationship between technology and the impact on our psyche. Technophiles declare that it’s only a tool, as if our psyche could remain untouched by continuous interaction with digital media, and as if we could control its impact on us. We can indeed be in control of digital media – but only after we become fluent in those cognitive modalities which can’t be reached by such media.

To be unaffected by digital media, we need a Buddha-like awareness with sustained attention, mindfulness and introspection. Yet these very qualities which are needed to break out of the automated mind are especially difficult to access when we are drowning in information – information that is predominantly ephemeral and transient, and which lacks a broader narrative. Awareness is what gives meaning and depth to information, but for awareness to expand we need to empty our mind. A story will illustrate this. A university professor approached a master to learn about Zen. Tea was served, but when the cup was full, the master did not stop pouring. The cup, like the professor’s mind with its concepts and positions, was full. It must first be emptied to understand Zen. So, too, for the digital world.

The world over, people using the Internet click on the same icons, use the same shortcuts in email and chats, connect with people through the same Facebook modalities. This is the globalization of minds. In the process of the digitization of reality, regardless of content, we use predominantly the same limited mental channels and interact with the same tools. We bring the same attitudes, gestures and procedures to working, dating, shopping, communicating with friends, sexual arousal, and scientific research. And most of these activities are impoverished by this phenomenon. Everything is seen as an information system, from the digitization of territory (like Google Earth and augmented realities software) to our biology.

Judeo-Christian culture places nature and the world of matter at man’s disposal. Acting on them is a way to garner good deeds and regain the lost perfection of Eden. In this culture that has considered miracles as proof of the existence of God, we have developed technologies that resemble the miraculous and the divine. We are compelled to welcome the advent of new technological tools with the rhetoric of peace, progress, prosperity and mutual understanding.

The telegraph, telephone, radio, TV and other media have been regarded as tools for democracy, world peace, understanding and freedom of expression. The Internet is just the latest in a succession of promising messiahs. Yet we don’t have more democracy in the world. In fact, big media and big powers are even stronger, while freedom of expression has ceded to control by corporations and governmental agencies. The Internet, like TV, will be entertaining, dumbing people in their own separate homes where they will be unable to question the system. The Internet might already be the new soma for a society experiencing economic and environmental degradation. But with the huge economic interests connected to it, criticizing its effect is akin to cursing God.

Many technological developments appeal to people because they answer psychological and even spiritual needs – like the quests for understanding and connection with others. Already digital technology has taken charge of truth and love – the drives which are distinctly human. Those primordial needs have been addressed, on the mental level, with information. Reflected only at that level, our soul is left empty with craving for the real qualities, and our mind is left restless, craving more information and chasing after satisfaction in vain.

The need to extend our possibilities through technology derives from the need to recover parts of ourself that were lost during the development of our soul – the states of sharp perception, fulfillment, and peace. Information technology (IT) also satisfies our ancient drives for power and control, even giving us several options with a simple click or touch of a finger.

The endless multiplication of information can keep the ego-mind busy – and thus at the center of the show. IT is the most powerful mental “pusher” ever created, feeding the duality of the ego-mind (which is symbolically mirrored by binary technology). More than TV whose attractions are framed between the beginning and ending time of a show, the Internet, video games, and smartphones have no structural pauses or endings. Hooked on a “real-time” stream of information, they take us farther away from both the real and the appropriate time frames.

The computer charms us by reflecting our mind on the Net. Like Narcissus, we mistake the reflected image and enter a closed loop, charmed by our reflection. The Internet, since the beginning, has been considered a technology which could crumble central governments and organizations. Perhaps that forecast was an external projection of what can happen inside us: disturbance of the integration of our psyches.

Meditation helps us recognize that we construct reality and that the mind leads us astray. Meditation is a path back to reality, to truth, to knowing and mastering our minds – instead of mastering the computer as a way to outsource our mind’s skills. It is a way to expand our awareness and join the other global “Net” – of awareness that permeates everything.

Though I am Italian, I am publishing this book for the English market because it is a post-digital book which can be better appreciated in countries where digital culture has spread throughout society. In Italy, one politically powerful tycoon owns most of the media, and uses it to demonize the Net. In that setting, being critical of the Net invokes the accusation of aligning with power to castrate freedom of expression, which is the polar opposite of my intention.

I welcome every medium which expands our chances of expressing ourselves, but I am aware that true self-expression can happen only when there’s a true self, which can hardly be shaped by screen media.

I am grateful to my spiritual teachers who opened new dimensions for my soul in my journey toward awareness, especially the intensity of Osho and the brilliant clarity of A. H. Almaas. I thank my copy editor Dhiren Bahl (www.WordsWay-Copyediting.com) for his painstaking corrections of my English text and my editor David Carr (www.MovingWords.us) for his clarifications and stylistic improvements. I’m grateful to my friends, too many to list here, for the numerous talks bringing together heart and mind in sharing our passion for truth.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

Order on Amazon.

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Awareness of feelings and Internet addiction

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CyberPsychology & Behavior has presented a study entitled “Alexithymia and Its Relationships with Dissociative Experiences and Internet Addiction in a Nonclinical Sample.”

Alexithymia causes difficulty in understanding, differentiating and communicating emotional states. It is not considered a clinical condition, but a personality trait, shared among more or less 7% of the population, with a slightly greater prevalence of males. The term is relatively recent, being coined by Peter Sifneos in 1973. The subjects usually lack imagination, have little intuition and scarce introspective capacities. One of the predominant characteristics on the relationship level is a limited capacity of having emotional connections with people since they are not able to see both in themselves and in others the shades of emotion, but just obvious ones of “feeling good” or “bad.”

As often happens in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, interpretations of the causes for alexithymia are divided between those who consider the genetic and neurochemical factors as predominant, and those who think that the reasons are to be searched for in psychological factors (for example, too-intensive emotional experiences which lead to defending oneself from them, or lack of recognition of the son’s or daughter’s emotions by the parent).

Another characteristic of alexithymics is an attenuated capacity of controlling their impulses, so much so that some of them discharge the tension caused by the unpleasant inner states by compulsive acts, such as abusing food or substances, or through distorted sexual behavior.

The authors of the study (Domenico De Berardis, Alessandro D’Albenzio, Francesco Gambi, Gianna Sepede, Alessandro Valchera, Chiara M. Conti, Mario Fulcheri, Marilde Cavuto, Carla Ortolani, Rosa Maria Salerno, and Nicola Serroni e Filippo Maria Ferro) worked on a sample of 312 students, identifying the factors associated with the risks of developing Internet addiction.

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CyberPsychology & Behavior ha presentato uno studio dal titolo (tradotto) “Alexitimia e la sua relazione con le esperienze dissociative e la dipendenza da Internet in un campione non clinico

L’alexitimia è la difficoltà a comprendere, a differenziare e comunicare gli stati emozionali. Non è considerata una condizione clinica, ma un tratto della personalità, condiviso da circa il 7% della popolazione, con una leggera prevalenza di soggetti maschili. Il termine è relativamente recente, essendo stato coniato da Peter Sifneos nel 1973. Questi soggetti di solito hanno una vita fantasiosa carente, poca intuizione e una scarsa capacità introspettiva. Una delle caratteristiche predominanti a livello relazionale è un’altrettanto scarsa capacità di rapportarsi emotivamente con il prossimo in quanto incapaci di vedere in sé e negli altri le sfumature emozionali al di là di quelle grossolane quali “benessere” o “malessere”.

Come spesso succede nel campo della psicologia e della psichiatria, le interpretazioni sulle cause della alexitimia si dividono in chi ritiene che i fattori genetici e neurochimici siano predominanti e in chi invece ritiene che le cause siano da trovarsi nei fattori psicologici (ad esempio, esperienze emotive troppo intense che hanno portato a difendersi da queste, oppure una mancanza di riconoscimento delle emozioni del figlio/a da parte dei genitori).

Un’altra caratteristica degli alexitimici è l’attenuata capacità di controllo degli impulsi, tanto che alcuni scaricano la tensione degli stati interiori sgradevoli con atti compulsivi quali l’abuso di cibo o di sostanze oppure tramite comportamenti sessuali distorti.

Gli autori dello studio, Domenico De Berardis, Alessandro D’Albenzio, Francesco Gambi, Gianna Sepede, Alessandro Valchera, Chiara M. Conti, Mario Fulcheri, Marilde Cavuto, Carla Ortolani, Rosa Maria Salerno, Nicola Serroni e Filippo Maria Ferro, hanno lavorato su un campione di 312 studenti, identificando i fattori associati con i rischi di sviluppare la dipendenza da Internet. E’ stato rilevato che gli alexitimici avevano più esperienze dissociative, una minore autostima, più disturbi di tipo ossessivo-compulsivo e un maggiore potenziale di sviluppare la dipendenza da Internet. In particolare, lo studio ha rilevato che la difficoltà nell’identificare le emozioni è associata in modo significativo ad un rischio più elevato di sviluppare la dipendenza da Internet.

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Internet and the weakening of central (inner) organizations

the eye[en]

In the Hindu and tantric Buddhist esoteric traditions, human beings are seen as composed of centers of energy called chakras. Of those, the sixth chakra, called Ajna chakra, is located between the eyes and is often associated with the pineal gland and the “third eye.”

The sixth chakra resonates with an intuitive kind of intelligence, with clear thinking and clear vision. The sixth chakra way of knowing allows one to see the forming of clear patterns in a huge amount of information. This chakra synthesizes many different aspects of intelligence and gives the skill to pick out information about anything by non-logical means.

The sixth chakra world points to a fascinating place where pure knowledge is omnipresent. Descartes would probably have loved to imagine such a place. Anybody heavily involved with information technology as well would enjoy the sixth chakra capacity to see patterns in the information overload and to live in a clear, brilliant place where intuition rules.

The sixth chakra is even more than intelligence as we know it. It is pure knowing, where even thinking is not needed any more. It is also a place where single individualities melt, where there’s nobody who knows and just knowing remains, a place where there’s no separation between inner and outer, between me and you… no more duality. There is a transpersonal flavour about the sixth body.

The sixth chakra is supposed to take charge of the person when the ego, through a spiritual path, doesn’t have the primary role any more. The sixth chakra starts to coordinate the body and the mind from a higher awareness than the ego and one of its names is “the command chakra.” The ego keeps the personality together through a thick net of thoughts, feelings and conditionings that are mostly acquired, while the Ajna chakra gives direct vision, knowledge and action, non-mediated by any past conditionings.

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Nelle tradizioni esoteriche Indù e nel Buddismo tantrico, gli essere umani sono composti da centri energetici chiamati chakra. Di questi, il sesto chakra, chiamato  Ajna chakra, è localizzato in mezzo agli occhi ed è spesso associato con la ghiandola pineale e il “terzo occhio”.

Il sesto chakra risuona con un tipo di intelligenza intutitivo, con un pensiero e una visione nitida. La modalità di conoscere del sesto chakra consente ad una persona di vedere con chiarezza delle strutture, dei pattern, all’interno di un’enorme quantità di informazioni. Questo chakra sintetizza molti diversi aspetti dell’intelligenza e conferisce la capacità di estrapolare informazioni su qualsiasi tema tramite procedimenti non-logici.

Il mondo del sesto chakra mostra un luogo affascinante dove la conoscenza pura è onnipresente. Probabilmente Cartesio avrebbe amato immaginare un tale luogo. Anche chiunque è fortemente coinvolto nell’elaborazione dell’informazione si feliciterebbe della capacità del sesto chakra di vedere delle hiare strutture nel sovraccarico informativo e di risiedere in un luogo trasparente e brillante dove l’intuizione la fa da padrona.

Il sesto chakra va oltre alla definizione di intelligenza per come la conosciamo. E’ conoscenza allo stato puro, dove anche il pensiero stesso non è più necessario. E’ anche un luogo dove le singole individualità si fondono, dove non vi è più nessuno che conosce e dove rimane solo la conoscenza, un luogo ove non vi è separazione tra interiore ed esteriore, tra me e te, nessuna dualità. Il sesto corpo ha un sapore transpersonale.

Si ritiene che il sesto chakra si prenda cura della persona quando l’ego, tramite un percorso spirituale, non ha più un ruolo primario. Il sesto chakra inizia a coordinare il corpo e la mente da una conspevolezza più elevata dell’ego, tanto che uno dei suoi nomi è “il chakra del comando”. L’ego mantiene la personalità unita attraverso una fitta rete di pensieri, emozioni e condizionamenti, perlopiù acquisiti, mente l’Ajna chakra produce una visione, una conoscenza e un’azione diretta, non mediata da alcun condizionamento del passato.

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Bioenergetic bytes

[en]

Ronald David Laing was a controversial psychiatrist, often associated with the anti-psychiatrist movement. He combined existential philosophy with psychiatry, giving new perspectives on the nature of mental illness.

In his most-known book, The Divided Self, he describes the schizoid person in these terms.

The schizoid individual exists under the black sun, the evil eye, of his own scrutiny…The “self-conscious” person is caught in a dilemma. He may need to be seen and recognized, in order to maintain his sense of realness and identity. Yet, at the same time, the other represents a threat to his identity and reality…He is, therefore, driven compulsively to seek company, but never allows himself to “be himself” in the presence of anyone else…The self is related primarily to objects of his own fantasies. Being much a self-in-fantasy, it becomes eventually volatilized. In its dread of facing the commitment to the objective element, it sought to preserve its identity; but, no longer anchored to fact, to the conditioned and definitive, it comes to be in danger of losing what it was seeking above all to safeguard. Losing the conditioned, it loses its identity; losing reality, it loses its possibility of exercising freedom of choice in the world (Ronald David Laing, The Divided Self, London: Tavistock Publications, 1959).

Laing thought as well that our inner lives and feelings come mainly from our sense of connection with others and from the knowledge that others have about us. Without this, we suffer from an existential insecurity.

In Laing’s words, I can recognize the attitude of another kind of schizoid: the heavy Internet user, who needs to be connected and seen, through social networks and messaging systems, but up to a certain point, at a safe distance. His profile itself and the people he is connected to are mostly objects of his projections. He will introduce himself in order to be seen by others in a likable and acceptable way.

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Ronald David Laing era uno psichiatra controverso. Spesso è stato associata al movimento dell’antipsichiatria e combinava la filosofia esistenziale con la psichiatria, dando nuove prospettive alla natura della malattia mentale.

Nel suo libro più conosciuto, L’io diviso, descrive la persona schizoide in questi termini:

Lo schizoide vive continuamente sotto un sole nero: l’occhio malevole e scrutatore di se stesso. […] La persona “cosciente” di sé si trova in un dilemma. Ha bisogno di essere vista e riconosciuta, per poter conservare il senso della sua identità e della sua realtà; e al tempo stesso gli altri rappresentano un pericolo, proprio per tale realtà e identità. […] Perciò è costretto a cercare compagnia, ma non si lascia mai andare ad essere se stesso in presenza di altri. […] Le relazioni primarie di un io come questo riguardano gli oggetti delle sue stesse fantasie: questa è la ragione per cui alla fine esso si volatizza. Nel suo timore di affrontare con impegno l’elemento oggettivo esso lotta disperatamente per conservare la sua identità, ma non essendo più ancorato ai fatti, alla realtà contingente e definita, corre il rischio di perdere proprio ciò che soprattutto cercava di salvaguardare. Perdendo la dimensione contingente della realtà perde l’identità, e perdendo la realtà perde la possibilità di esercitare un’effettiva libertà di scelta nel mondo. (Ronald David Laing. L’io diviso. Einaudi. Torino. 1969.)

Inoltre Laing riteneva che la nostra vita interiore e le nostre emozioni derivano in grande misura dal senso di connessione che abbiamo con gli altri e dalla conoscenza che gli altri hanno di noi stessi. Senza di queste soffriamo di un’insicurezza esistenziale.

Nelle parole di Laing posso riconoscere l’attitudine di un altro tipo di schizoide: il forte utilizzatore di Internet, che necessita di essere connesso e visto, tramite i social networks ed i sistemi di messaggistica, ma connesso fino ad un certo punto, ad una distanza di sicurezza. I profili che tale utente compila nei siti e le persone con cui si connette sono più che altro produzione delle sue proiezioni. Egli si presenterà in modo tale da essere visto agli occhi altrui nel modo in cui ritiene di essere accettato e allettante.

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Not being able to stop

masaccio-adam-and-eve-expelled-from-paradise[en]

A couple of years ago I started to write this short essay on the inner motivations and the addiction to production. At that time the environmental problem was already full-blown, but the crisis of energy sources which will be with us for a long time wasn’t felt yet.

I asked myself what the psychological roots would be and what conditioning was at the base of the addiction to production in the West, exported thereafter around the whole planet.

The origins of the compulsion for production and the resulting devastation of the planet date back to the interpretation of the messages spread by religions, particularly the Judaeo-Christian religions.

Christianity propagates messages regarding original sin and the impossibility of reaching the divine in human form. Those and other messages produce psychic double binds, like short circuits.

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The only way out for human beings was to redeem themselves, re-creating heaven on Earth through “virtuous” acts, ruling over nature for this purpose, as authorized by the Bible itself.

Religious statements made a sense originally as tools for the spiritual path, but those messages have been misunderstood by the ego in other ways.

Since this article is quite long, is available as a free e-book which can be downloaded clicking on the cover.

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Avevo iniziato a scrivere questo breve saggio sulle motivazioni interiori che stanno alla base della dipendenza a produrre due anni fa. Il problema ambientale era già conclamato ma ancora non si avvertiva la crisi delle fonti energetiche che ci accompagnerà per lungo tempo.

Mi sono interrogato sulle radici psichiche e sui condizionamenti alla base della dipendenza a produrre in occidente, poi esportata in tutto il pianeta.

Le origini della dipendenza a produrre e della conseguente devastazione del pianeta risalgono all’interpretazione dei messaggi diffusi dalle religioni, in particolare della tradizione giudaico-cristiana.

Il cristianesimo ha propagato i messaggi concernenti il peccato originale e all’impossibilità di raggiungere il divino in forma umana. Questi e altri messaggi hanno prodotto dei doppi vincoli psichici, dei corti circuiti.

senza potersi fermareL’unica via d’uscita per l’essere umano era rimasta quella di riscattarsi ricreando il paradiso in terra, tramite azioni “virtuose” e dominando la natura a questo scopo, autorizzati dalla Bibbia stessa a utilizzare la natura per i fini umani.

I messaggi della religione avevano un senso originario come strumenti per la ricerca spirituale, ma tali messaggi sono stati interpretati sul piano dell’ego nei modi che questo poteva.

Poiché l’articolo è piuttosto lungo, l’ho impaginato in forma di e-book gratuito che si può scaricare facendo clic sulla copertina.

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The mind as a kind of media

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Marshall McLuhan told us that every medium and every technology has a role in the extension and numbness of our organs. The mind’s extensions created by computer technology on the one hand expand our mental possibilities in terms of research, information, and knowledge processing, but on the other bring us to amputate or to numb some of the capacities of the same mind.

The computer can seem an extension of the mind’s capacities, but in reality it numbs our capacities to observe our minds from the inside, as self-consciousness, of our mental mechanisms, and of our whole body/mind systems.

At this point, my hypothesis is: If the computer is a way of outsourcing the mind’s functions, the mind itself could be considered as a “medium” which determines an extension and an anesthesia, in this case in relation to the original completeness of the soul. This is an application of McLuhan’s theories considering the knowledge that comes from the psychology of the ego.

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Sappiamo da Marshall McLuhan che ogni medium ed ogni tecnologia hanno un ruolo nell’estensione e nell’intorpidimento dei nostri organi. Le estensioni della mente create dalla tecnologia del computer se da una parte ci espandono le possibilità mentali in termini di ricerca ed elaborazione di informazioni e conoscenze, dall’altra parte ci portano ad amputare o intorpidire alcune capacità della stessa.

Le estensioni della mente create dalla tecnologia del computer se da una parte ci espandono le possibilità mentali in termini di ricerca ed elaborazione di informazioni e conoscenze, dall’altra parte ci portano ad amputare o intorpidire alcune capacità della stessa. Il computer, che può sembrare un’estensione delle capacità della mente, in realtà intorpidisce le capacità di osservazione della nostra mente dall’interno, intesa come consapevolezza di noi stessi, dei nostri meccanismi mentali e del nostro sistema globale corpo/mente.

A questo punto la mia ipotesi è che se il computer è un modo di esternalizzare le funzioni della mente, la mente stessa può essere considerata come un “medium” che determina una estensione e una anestesia, in questo caso in relazione alla completezza originaria dell’anima. Un’applicazione delle teorie di McLuhan considerando le conoscenze della psicologia dell’ego.

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Virtual worlds and Maya 2.0

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The creation of virtual worlds has an immediate fascination over human beings. Second Life. World of Warcraft and other environments are amongst Internet developing tendencies.

The great appeal of these worlds is augmented by the fact that the mind itself is a powerful creator of artificial worlds and it complies with an intrinsic need within the mind.

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La creazione di mondi virtuali ha un fascino immediato sugli esseri umani. Second Life, World of Warcraft e altri ambienti sono tra le tendenze in sviluppo di Internet.

Il grande fascino di questi ambienti è aiutato dal fatto che la mente stessa è una creatrice di mondi artificiali, quindi non fa che assecondare un bisogno instrinseco nella mente.

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Metabolizing information

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The speed of e-contacts and communication prevents the full assimilation of the messages we receive. Split and fragmentary attention has become the rule for online activities, but this procedure is gradually being exported offline. But the time needed for soul maturity goes much slower than electronics.

When we are not present with our aware attention, we are only passive containers of every message we receive. In this way, we are at risk of becoming simple consumers of messages which play on a banal emotional immediacy bypassing any kind of critical analysis.

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La velocità dei contatti e delle comunicazioni elettroniche impedisce la capacità di metabolizzazione dei messaggi che si ricevono. L’attenzione divisa e frammentaria è diventata la regola nelle attività online, ma questa modalità tende ad essere anche esportata offline. I tempi della maturazione dell’anima e della consapevolezza sono però assai più lenti di quelli elettronici.

Quando non siamo presenti con la nostra attenzione consapevole, siamo semplici contenitori passivi di qualsiasi messaggio che riceviamo. In questo modo rischiamo di diventare consumatori di messaggi che fanno leva su una banale immediatezza emotiva bypassando qualsiasi analisi critica.

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Subjectivity and objectivity

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All sciences ground themselves in a particular approach to knowledge. Scientists believe that knowledge only has value if comes from an objective place. The myth of objectivity is so pervasive that it controls even such a subjective science as psychology, dealing as it does with the interior of the human mind.

For centuries the possibility of including our subjective experience in inquiring into the world has been inhibited; furthermore, subjectivity and objectivity have been divided into two separate worlds with separate values. Perhaps is time to let both modalities coalesce in an effective way.

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Tutte le scienze si fondano su un particolare approccio alla conoscenza. Gli scienziati credono che quest’ultima abbia valore solo se viene da un luogo oggettivo. Il mito dell’oggettività è così diffuso da dominare anche una scienza soggettiva come la psicologia, che studia l’interiorità della mente umana.

Per secoli, la possibilità di includere la nostra esperienza soggettiva nell’indagine del mondo è stata inibita; inoltre, soggettività e oggettività sono state divise in due mondi separati, con valori distinti. Forse è tempo di far sì che entrambe le modalità si fondano in modo efficace.

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Mechanisms, mysticism and Amazon Mechanical Turk

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Human beings have always felt the need to give themselves to something bigger than their individualities: to art, to love, to a cause, to truth, to a guru, to God. When we devote ourselves to something bigger, we transcend ourselves, we go beyond our little narcissistic ego who would always like to be the center of attention. Dedication annihilates a part of ourselves and at the same time it lifts us up to another state of being.

We give ourselves, we trust and we nullify ourselves into technology. We are religiously devoted to the objects of technology, which absorb most of the time of an increasing number of people. As McLuhan wrote, “By continuously embracing technologies, we relate ourselves to them as servomechanisms.”

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Gli essere umani hanno sempre sentito il bisogno di darsi a qualcosa di più grande della propria individualità: all'arte, a un amore, ad una causa, alla verità, a un guru, a Dio. Quando ci dedichiamo a qualcosa di più grande trascendiamo noi stessi, oltrepassiamo il nostro piccolo ego narcisista che vorrebbe sempre stare al centro delle attenzioni. La dedizione ci annienta da una parte e allo stesso tempo ci eleva da un'altra.

Ci diamo, ci affidiamo e ci annulliamo nella tecnologia. Siamo religiosamente devoti agli oggetti della tecnologia, che assorbe la maggior parte del tempo di un numero crescente di persone. Come scrisse McLuhan, “Ricevendo continuamente tecnologie ci poniamo nei loro confronti come altrettanti servomeccanismi.”

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Zen archery and computers

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The use of tools and technology is probably the most singular behavior that separates human beings from animals. Humans have self-consciousness, that is consciousness conscious of itself: we are aware that we are conscious.

Being aware of having consciousness allows us to project the same consciousness outside our bodies in creating tools that extend our body-mind possibilities. During history the use of tools diversified and grew exponentially, with computer technology as the most advanced mind-extension tool yet created.

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L’utilizzo degli strumenti e della tecnologia è probabilmente il comportamento più originale che separa gli esseri umani dagli animali. Gli esseri umani possiedono autoconsapevolezza, ovverosia coscienza che ha coscienza di se stessa: siamo consapevoli di essere coscienti.

Essere consapevoli di essere coscienti ci consente di proiettare la stessa coscienza all’esterno dei nostri corpi nella creazione di strumenti che estendono le possibilità del corpo-mente. Nel corso della storia l’uso degli strumenti si è diversificato ed è cresciuto esponenzialmente, con la tecnologia dei computer che rappresenta attualmente lo strumento più elaborato per l’estensione della mente.

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My friend got a “minditis”

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Everybody gets some inflammation in his or her body. Sinusitis is quite common, as are bronchitis, tendinitis and other “i’ itis’s”. External attacks, as a sudden change of weather, bad food, carelessness, stress or too much effort, can trigger some unbalance in our bodies. Human beings are not perfect. If the inflammation episode does not repeat itself often and it does not become chronic, in most of the cases it will resolve itself spontaneously after few days. No need for special cares but occasionally, some natural treatments or chemical support might be necessary. However, once the symptoms are gone, we can stop the treatment and we use the experience to learn how to take better care of our bodies. Of course, nobody would take painkillers or antibiotics for a year after a complaint is already over.

Nevertheless, when the mind is involved, this is considered a special case. I have a friend in her early 40s, a teacher at university, who is a brilliant and emotionally alive woman. Almost one year ago, she experienced an acute mental episode triggered by a problematic relationship with her lover.

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Tutti sviluppiamo infiammazioni del corpo. La sinusite è abbastanza comune, così come la bronchite, la tendinite e altre “iti”. Le aggressioni esterne – per esempio: un improvviso mutamento climatico, cibo scadente, mancanza di cura personale, stress o sforzo eccessivi – possono provocare squilibri nel corpo. Gli esseri umani non sono perfetti. Se l’infiammazione non si ripete spesso e non diventa cronica, nella maggior parte dei casi sparirà da sé dopo pochi giorni. Non occorrono cure speciali anche se, di tanto in tanto, può essere necessario fare ricorso a trattamenti chimici o naturali.

Tuttavia, una volta spariti i sintomi, possiamo abbandonare la cura e usare l’esperienza per imparare a prenderci meglio cura del nostro corpo. Naturalmente, dopo la scomparsa della malattia, nessuno continuerebbe ad assumere antidolorifici o antibiotici per un anno intero. Ma quando si tratta della mente, il discorso cambia. Una mia amica – professoressa universitaria poco oltre la quarantina – è una donna brillante e molto viva dal punto di vista emotivo. Quasi un anno fa, ebbe una grave crisi psichica provocata dalle difficoltà nei rapporti con il partner.
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