If You Don't Mind, I will

A Wholistic Existential Model of Psychology

Anyone who wishes to study the Human Psyche begins with two fundamental problems. First such an activity can only be imagined to take place by using the very subject of such an investigation as the tool for carrying out the investigation. Psychology can only be created by the psyche which it is intended to study. This proposition finds support in the writings of Plato, the classical Greek Philosopher, Lao Tzu, the Chinese Philosopher, and in those of Emanual Kant, the German Philosopher. Each of them states or implies that the forms of human knowing are an important determinate of what is known, because it is part of how it is known.

The Second Problem, which appears to grow out of the first, is that there is no way to be certain what is the right starting place for such an activity. A comprehensive psychological theory must also be a theory about reality or the universe, or the world in which the psyche develops and functions. And yet the acceptance of the of problem one above, also indicates that we cannot know about reality (ultimate reality, reality independent of our psyche which knows it) any more than we can know anything about the psyche except as our psyche conceives it. Although we have a lot of evidence which supports the idea that there is an (ultimate) reality independent of our knowing, the idea is another creation of our psyche, and the evidence is only known through the filter or limitations of our psyche. It is also necessarily true, if we follow the line of reasoning offered here, that if there is a reality independent of our knowing, we must assume that it is likely that we can never completely know its nature. This way of thinking is presented powerfully by Lao Tzu who uses language in its most abstract, imagistic, poetic forms to circumambulate any direct statements about ultimate reality, because he says, even by naming it we have already distorted it.
The fact that we are only indirectly in touch with ultimate reality (through our minding), and that it is unlikely that we can thoroughly or precisely or exhaustively know it, doesnt mean that a reality independent of our psyche doesnt constrain us in many, many ways. For example, it may be true that the concept of wall-- and the activity of painting, and the calculation of how many gallons of paint would be needed to cover a particular wall using measurements of the height and length of the wall --are all mental constructs of the psyche. None-the-less if those human constructs dont correspond in some way to something about ultimate reality, we are likely to have too much or too little paint.
We are free to believe that human beings can fly or that the stock market can keep going up forever, but if we base our existence and our actions on these ideas we are likely to encounter ultimate reality in rather dramatic waysperhaps even moving from being to non-being which as concepts are psychic phenomenon, but which seem related to some very powerful aspects of ultimate reality. Money is clearly a construct of the human psyche and our money more and more is existent only as tiny electrical events in cyberspace, but as complex and abstract as the chain of relationship may be, food and shelter are available or not available to us depending on those events in the electronic Cloud.
The French philosopher Rene Descartes was searching for the most solid contact between the human psyche and ultimate reality and this led him to conclude that the starting place for constructing a metaphysics (and metapsychology) should be the Latin statement Cogito ergo sum (Je pense donc je suis in French; I think therefore I am in English). We could adopt and adapt his statement to make our own starting place for the study and theory building of the human psyche by saying, I experience and I exist. We will include both experience and existence as basic aspects of our psychology, but we will not make them the starting point.
Instead I am beginning with what I will call minding (I began minding at least as soon as I wrote the first word above, thereby demonstrating, at least to my satisfaction, what I said above-- you cant psychologize without using the psyche). I will continue my minding by stating a first postulate: 1. Human beings have a mind, or human beings mind (as a verb, a process).
Another basic proposition I will state is that 2. One fundamental quality of minding is numbering. It is hard to imagine a psychology or a psyche that doesnt involve numbering. Numbering will play a part in the creation of our basic structural model of the psyche.
Antoine De Saint-Exupery has his fictional character, The Little Prince , draw a diagram so that he himself and others might better understand what he was imagining. In order to guide my further thinking and with the hope that it will help others to follow and understand where my minding is heading, I too have drawn a design. Please consider Diagram One as a basic guideline to understanding the structure of the (human) psyche as my mind imagines it.

Diagram One

Since full minding for adults seems require words, like The Little Prince, we present Diagram Two, since Diagram One may not perfectly demonstrate the above points to everyone. If this is true for you, please move on to Diagram Two.

Diagram Two

This is much Clearer dont you think? Will you mind continuing to mind with me? (Dont worry. More words will be offered for those who, as I do, believe, that even with labels, the Psychology represented by Diagram Two is still not fully understandable)

1.., 2.., 3.., 4.......

Diagram Two is intended to support propositions one and two above: 1. that the mind, or our minding, itself creates our ways of understanding the psyche and 2. that numbering is part of how our minds do this. In the Diagram, the label box Mind is at the center of various other aspects of the psychology of human existence as it is being created here and this is intended to remind us that the whole construction is thought to be an aspect of this very mind (which we are trying to understand by our further thinking, writing, minding). And the structure suggested by the diagram has numeric qualities a triangle balanced on its apex, and with several levels the first of which is undivided and the remaining ones, in order divided into two, three, four, and then many (intended to represent perhaps infinite) sections. In this essay, very little will be said about why this effort at psychology is so closely associated with numberingexcept for the assumption that is a basic and useful way that the mind functions.

Level I. Ultimate Reality
The first level of our diagram of human existence and psychology, at the bottom, is undivided and is labeled DAO.
Proposition 3. The mind imagines that there is an ultimate unity to everything
The undivided, bottom level of the diagrammatic triangle, is intended to stand for Ultimate Reality. As suggested in the earlier discussion above, we create the idea that there is a reality which is independent of human existence and independent of our thinking about it. We have experiential evidence that there is such a reality, but we have no reason to believe that we are capable of fully or precisely or exhaustively knowing this reality, since we can only know it through our own ways of knowing. As alluded to previously above, Lao Tzu attempted to deal with the paradox of describing something which is indescribable, by using explicitly metaphoric, paradoxical, poetic, imagistic, non-analytic writing to try to convey something about this ultimately unknowable ultimate reality. He does refer to it as undivided, unified, continuous in ways that human knowing isnt (which is partly why we cant fully or precisely or comprehensively know it). He called it the Dao, The Way.
Our diagrammatic representation of ultimate reality is no more comprehensively precise than the verbal efforts of Lao Tzu. The painting simply attempts to use another part of our psyche, the non-verbal part to represent this reality. It also has the symbolic numeric quality of being one in the series and being undivided in contrast to the other levels of the diagram.
Since we are trying here to represent and convey as best and as fully as we can what we can about this ultimate reality, let us assume that it is also the Dao that Lao Tzu was trying to represent and let us approximate some of his verbal efforts. Since many, many translators have struggled to bring his Chinese into English, and since each of them evokes aspects of the text which may not appear in other translators work, it is well worth reading Lao Tzu in one or more of those translations to help expand the rather clumsy effort to make use here of what he has written. I dont read Chinese and so my words are based on some of what I have gotten from those translations.
The Dao is the (water-course) Way. It is a path, a course, a moving, flowing, energetic field which is formless or beyond form, unspeakable or beyond words, unnamable or before naming, unknowable or prior to knowing. It is unity, un-separated, undistinguishing, all containing and all contained. We are it and it is us. We belong to it and it belongs to us. We are part of it and it is part of us. We are all of it and it is all of us. For Lao Tzu these words attempt to evoke an understanding of ultimate reality. And of course it cannot ultimately be fully represented or perhaps even well represented by any painting, sculpture, poem, dance or music, not to mention words.
This conception of reality also seems to correspond to what the existential philosophers refer to as existence (and experience) before the split into subject and object. It is discussed by some developmental ego psychologists as the unity that exists between the child and the good enough mother, where from the childs point of view there is a containing, continuous, undifferentiated world that has a unity that is before an understanding of self and other, inner and outer, before and after.

And as the Jewish Prayer, The Kaddish says, Let the name of the Holy One be glorified, exalted and honored, although Gd (the ultimate reality which cannot be named) is beyond all the praises, songs and adorations that we can utter.
Returning to the purpose being pursued here, which is to create a model of the psyche, it is important to remember that Lao Tzu says, quite explicitly, that our being, our existence is the Dao and the Dao is our existence. Thus, he is saying that our psyche shares all of the qualities of the Dao. Since I accept this idea, it implies that in our diagram and in our theory of the psyche, level one is not only ultimate realityas opposed to psychic realityit also is the foundation of the psyche itself. Or, to try to say another way that which is not sayable, our theory of the psyche, includes the idea that from one perspective, the psyche also is unified, undivided, not analyzable, flowing, energetic, whole, not separate from what it knows.
Level II Yin and Yang The Creativity of complementary opposites (or polarities).
The second level of our diagram of human existence and psychology, one up from the bottom, is divided into two parts and is labeled BODY.
The next Proposition of our Wholistic Existential Psychology is: 4. The Human Mind often functions by way of dualistic distinctions. That is, our minding often proceeds through the utilization of categories which divide phenomenon into TWO parts.
Lao Tzu says that ultimate reality is undivided and unitary (see discussion above). He maintains that it is the human mind, most notably manifested by our words, which breaks up reality into (opposing, or polarizing) dualities. Following the theorizing here, I would maintain, that the concept of (a) TheDao is a product of what we describe as the human mind, and therefore, even saying that it is unitary and undivided is ultimately only a creation of our human (way of) minding. As indicated above there is a lot of evidence that there is an ultimate reality, and Lao Tzus characterization of it as undifferentiated is powerful and persuasive, but in a sense, we can only proceed with psychology if we contrast unity with something else. (Lao seems to clearly know this and to see its paradoxfor part of his writing expresses opposition to writing part of his thinking is against thinking).
In any case, we dont know if reality corresponds to our thinking, or how much our thinking corresponds to reality beyond or before our thinking. Although, as written above, it seems highly likely that there are correspondences since we have experiences which convince us this is so (we can figure out how much paint we need to cover a wall and it works). It appears that our mind makes distinctions, and that a basic one may be the distinction between One and Two. OR ONENESS AND TWONESS.
In this minding process that we are doing to develop this theory of psychology, our thinking and our diagram suggest that dividing phenomena into twos is a fundamental process, that it is related to oneness and the minds tendency to separate aspects of that oneness into dualistic categories or concepts.
I am labeling this level of our psychological model with the word body, because it seems likely to me that the most fundamental psychological dualism that the mind creates (or notices) is that between inner and outer, which eventually becomes the distinction between self and other. As Piaget points out, the early constructing and construction of the psyche grow out of the action, movement of the body and its parts and these concepts in action (sensory motor schemas) eventually form the foundation of later verbally saturated, verbally expressed, and verbally created concepts. According to Piaget, our earliest thinking is body centered, and later verbal and logical thought are foundationed in those bodily created concepts.
Body itself is a mental construct, part of our psychology, created by our own minding. Again, there is a lot of experiential evidence which suggests that the concept gives us a very useful understanding of what seems to be part of fundamental reality, but the distinctions that it grows out of (i.e. inner and outer, me and them, dead and alive) are aspects of our minding. The tree and the sound waves it produces when it falls are most likely there even if no one is around, but we have no way of being certain of that.
The Ying Yang symbol stands for our tendency to experience the world in terms of polarities which include such basic concepts as male/female, receptive/insertive, weak/strong, good/evil, pleasure/pain, tall/short, hard/soft, hot/cold. The black and white of Level II in Diagrams I and II are meant to refer to the Ying Yang symbol.


Level III Omnia Mentis in tres partes divisa est: (All of the mind is divided into three parts)
The next level of our diagram of human existence and psychology, the third from the bottom, is divided into three parts and is labeled MIND.
The fifth proposition in our Wholistic Existential Psychology is: 5. The Human Mind often functions by way of Triadic distinctions. That is, our minding often proceeds through the utilization of categories which divide phenomenon into THREE parts.
The Psychological Triad that the Mind creates, is the one that includes itself and which divides human existence into three aspectsBody, Mind and Spirit.
The so-called Mind-Body problem has a long history in philosophy and psychology and at one time had to do with a search for how the mind and body were connected in such a way that they might influence one another. At some point, modern psychology, believing it was modeling itself upon physics, decided that there is no mind distinct from the body (only a brain) and thus, there is no problem. Sigmund Koch in his Psychology: The study of a Science, pointed out that psychologys understanding of physics was always flawed and that this one sided materialism was not really representative of the best scientific thinking. Existential writers have always maintained the need for concepts of both mind and body and Heidegger, addressing his seminar of doctors, argues forcefully that our study and understanding of the brain cannot really be successful if we dont have a theory of mind which is as sophisticated as the theory of brain we are trying to relate it to (and, of course, vice-versa). None-the-less, materialistic science still dominates much of our current cultural and especially medical beliefs and research, and many doctors and neuro/pharmacological scientists are speaking and acting as if eventually the mind will be reduced to the brain (i.e. body). Heidegger argued forcefully against this assumption in the seminars.
I have made modest efforts to find early thinking/writing that employs the triadic distinction of Body Mind and Spirit, and I thought that I learned somewhere in high school or college that this was part of Greek Philosophy. Ernest Hilgard, a modern American Psychologist says that finds no reference to the triad in Greek psychology. He attributes the distinction to early Hebraic/Christian tradition. However, in The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu there are several statements indicating that humans are constituted of Body, Mind, and Spirit. It is believed that these writings date from perhaps as early as 2500 BC. Whether, when, and how his thinking may have influenced Western thought I do not know. It is interesting to note that the place where this distinction has been kept alive most prominently, at least in the United States is the 12 step movement, which maintains that addictions are diseases of the Mind, Body, and Spirit (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1937).
In any case, modern scientific philosophy did away with Spirit as a basic concept long before the Mind-Body debate ended in a decision by some to do away with the distinction between them and reduce mind to body (or brain). If the Mind is too immaterial to be included in science, the Spirit is even more so. By now, it should be clear that the current theory of psychology, re-minds us, that is, puts the psyche and the mind at the center of psychology as both subject and object, and therefore provides no basis for excluding what has been traditionally included in discussions of spirit or spirituality. In fact, what is argued here is that the tendency of the Mind is to create this basic trinity which includes aspects that are physical, mental and spiritual.
Recapping several of the points made so far in creating this theoretical structure, we are not arguing that ultimate reality includes a spiritual dimension that is as real as the physical one. Instead we are saying that the distinctions between physical and spiritual, between mind and body, between inner and outer, are all distinctions of the mind and are equally real. Some other system of psychology is free to make its own distinctions (or to have none) and to include or exclude the ones made here. Ultimately the criteria to decide which psychology to adapt depends upon which seems to match our experience and which seems most useful (where usefulness might also include certain values)see the brief discussion of this issue toward the end of this essay.
Diagram Two, also suggests two other primary Traids which our minding has created, both of them related to the structure of our psychological world. The Triad which is formed by FEELING THINKING WILLING is one that our mind creates to describe its own Innner world. The Triad which is formed by OBJECT INTEREST AND ATTRIBUTE is one that our mind creates to describe its own relationship with the Outer world. It is this triad which leads to the creation of meaning which is the essence of the realm of Spiritsee discussion of Level V below.
The FEELING THINKING WILLING triad has a long history in psychology (see Hilgard, 1980) with some events paralleling those indicated in the discussion above about BODY MIND SPIRIT. In fact, in certain respects, it can be argued that the FEELING aspect of existence, while clearly related to the realm of the mind, has its origins in the world of the body (evolutionary biology indicates body manifestations which seem to physically parallel our feeling states in many animalsfor example fear). Also, in certain respects, Thinking can be seen as being associated most closely with the Mind aspect of psychological structuring. Finally, Willing, seems most closely associated with meaning, and therefore, the spiritual aspect of existence.
Our minding seems to lead us to think there is an ultimate reality underlying known reality. Our minding suggests that there can be bodies without minding (objects, amoeba, plants, cows). Our minding suggests that there cannot be minding without a body. Our minding also suggests that there cannot be spiriting without minding. Our psychology assumes that full human existence requires Body, Mind and Spirit. These relationships are suggested by the arrangements of Figures I and II.
The centrality of the Object, Interest, Attribute triad is presented in Robert Barness writings about Meaning. The potential usefulness of this triadic distinction to a theory of psychology is twofold. The OAI system is useful for describing how the mind logics and in that way is a theory of formal thoughtperhaps analogous to Piagets system of formal operations as a description of how humans think logically. While Piagets system applies to a system of rules for creating hierarchical categorizing for physical reality, Barness system shows that permutations of combinations of OAI can lead to an understanding of various kinds of inferential reasoning about social (group) reality and human action. Thus, such sociological terms as achievement and ascription, status and role, being and becoming, sacred and secular can all be understood in the way that the mind sees relationships between Object, Interest, and Attribute.
A Psychology of human existence has to include social parameters, since part of every humans world is social and we create social structures and cultures in relation to a system of meanings.
In the psychology proposed here, it is also presumed that human existence requires meaning. To some extent all meaning has to do with the realm outside of ones individual existenceit relates us to the past and the future, it relates us to spatial realities that are beyond touch and sight. It relates us to goals and purposes that give direction and motive to our lives. In this way it is spiritualit moves toward the universal and eternal. It also involves values and idealswhat is good and true and beautiful.
Although this Spiritual world is always related to the world that is larger than the individual and in part this means the social world of other individuals and the groups we form, there is also always an individual psychological aspect which has to do with the meaning that each person creates and gives to his or her own life. For people who live in stable and well functioning cultures, or for people who are well socialized within a culture that functions for them, their sense of meaning may be given from the outside and taken in whole to give meaning for those individuals. For individuals who live in more complex and or less well functioning cultures, their sense of meaning comes out of their own formulation of what is meaningful.
The OAI language is also useful in that it can be arranged to generate a set of categories which appear to describe an exhaustive category of (meaningful) Orientations to Action. In other words, the OAI language can describe that part of our minding which creates individual meaning. In fact, Barnes indicates how the Triad generates a set of six Orientations to Action which describe six different patterns of minding which can support meaningful existences. These are: The Instrumental, The Traditional, The Ritualistic, The Creative/Expressive, The Romantic, and The Charismatic. These will be explored more fully in a later essay.
The word mean comes from Anglo-Saxonto tell recite, intend, wish; The word meaning-- purpose, goal, intention. We give meaning (purpose, goals, intention (will) to our lives by the stories we tell about life and about our lives. It is hypothesized here that the stories that people tell about their lives (written, oral, in pieces, comprehensive, artistic, exploratory, explanatory) represent a search for meaning, and that the above six Orientations will be found to be the framework out of which peoples minds create their stories.

Level IV The Perfection of the Square
The next level of our diagram of human existence and psychology, the fourth from the bottom, is divided into four parts and has no label.
The fifth proposition in our Wholistic Existential Psychology is: 5. The Human Mind often functions by way of Quaternary distinctions. That is, our minding often proceeds through the utilization of categories which divide phenomenon into FOUR aspects.
This level of the diagram does not belong to Mind, Body, or Spirit, because it is the level which begins to include the outer worldphysical and social. It includes many important distinctions which have historically been created by human minding (some in its culturing aspect), and which are often related to the world of meaning and spirit. Space has been structured as having four directions, or points of the compass; Time has been structured into four yearly seasons. Greek psychology included four body humors which were thought to underlie human experience and personality:
Blood: SANGUINE (confident, optimistic, cheerful)
Water PHLEGMATIC (calm, sluggish, unemotional)
Yellow bile {FIRE} CHOLERIC (extremely irritable or easily angered)
Black Bile {Earth} MELANCHOLIC (sad, dejected, gloomy)

The Existential aspect of the current effort to create a useful psychology includes the proposition that human being involves 4 universal challenges that must be accounted for as each person lives life. These challenges are DEATH, MEANINGLESSNESS, POWERLESSNESS and ALONENESS. These four challenges are seen as foundational to understand the struggles inherent in human living and are likely to be present in every course of psychotherapy.
Level V. What can be counted doesnt always matter; what matters often cannot be counted (Albert Einstein).
The Top level of Diagram Two is divided into many aspects and is labeled Spirit. The many sections are actually intended to be without a discrete number and are intended to stand for infinity.
The Sixth proposition in our Wholistic Existential Psychology is: 6. The Human Mind often functions by way of abstractions that refer to distinctions that are without end. That is, our minding often proceeds through the utilization of categories which divide phenomenon into more units than we can count (are more than any number we can imagineare beyond numbering).
The realm of meaning is created by going beyond the individual and discrete and entering the realm of the spirit. This notion moves us beyond logic and countability, into aspects of existence that we Mind as eternal and universal (infinite). We talk about idealslike Truth, Beauty and Goodness (another trinity). We pursue valueswhich grow out of our relating to Objects, Attributes, and Interests. It is the array of relationships among the terms of that Triad that generate the Barnes Orientations to (meaningful) Action, discussed above.

Experience, Awareness, and Evidence
As suggested in the beginning of this essay, it is difficult to know where to begin articulating or formulating or conceptualizing, theorizing, constructing, creating Psychology. And perhaps the psychology we are trying to build here should have started with the concepts of awareness or experience (or consciousness). Our opinion that there is a need for a human psychology, arises out of our awareness that we have an existence that is different from other forms of life. Or that we have Existence as opposed to just life. We have art and literature and speech. All of them attest to awareness and levels of experience that we have not found elsewhere in the universe. We symbolize, we abstract, we create external evidence of our inner world. Otherwise we wouldnt be capable of psychologizing and we wouldnt need to. As intelligent as whales and chimpanzees and dolphins are, as much as they can learn and communicate and even generalize, they havent convinced us that they have Existence or that they have the kind of awarenessconsciousness, self awareness-- that we do. They may learn from their experience, but they dont formulate their experience.
All of this is relevant to the epistemological issues raised in this essay. Because ultimately, the truth about any psychologizing, even whether it is necessary or plausible as an activity, or how widely or narrowly it should be conceived, must be done with modesty and a sense of relativity. Just reading Greek Philosophy/psychology, we are impressed with how much they knew of what we know, and how unuseful much of their thinking has proved to be-- at least for us moderns-- in the light of what we know and are aware of. They thought the earth was the center of the universe, for example and based whole systems of understanding the world on that belief which we now no longer find tenable or useful.
We are left with criteria of truth that have to do with usefulness and experience. Some of that experience has to do with the empirical way we formally collect evidence (Science) and how we validate that experience consensually among ourselves in groups. And our evaluation of what is true, and even useful, can take into valueswhich can be aesthetic and ethical.
There is a recognition here that we cannot create a psychology that isnt already pre-committed to a certain view of reality (for example that there is a we to create it and a psyche to be studied). The TRUTH of the above model of psychology ultimately depends on other peoples experience of itas provocative, as insightful, as practical for guiding activities or understanding them, as predictive, as coherent, parsimonious, balanced, logical, as aesthetically pleasing, as understandable, as communicable, as moral. It is written with the clear understanding that even if it is pleasing and useful at this moment, it cannot represent ultimate truth, and it is almost certainly going to pass away.
Psychology and Individual Differences
The issue of individual differences is also quite important for a psychology and is related to the issues discussed immediately above. Both Piaget and Chomsky are universalists (as is Freud, up to a certain point), looking at what they see as the expressions of human Mind/psychology as common to all people. The psychological theorizing which has been articulated in this essay is also of this universalist nature. However, modern scientific (or experimental) psychology as well as modern clinical psychology has been mostly about individual differences.
We know that individual experience effects people a lot (external eventsteaching, trauma, culture, blessings) and we know that there are individual biologically centered differences that effect each persons Existence. (this is part of the wholism advocated here). Look at the common people vs. the main protanosists, in Shakespeare, in Tolstoy, in Harding, for example). How does human existence manifest itself differently in different people. It is one thing to say that different people participate in different meaning systemsbut how coherent are they for different people, how articulated, how much are different peoples stories shaped by the balance of their feelings, thought and will.









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