International Conference on
Identity Studies
Vienna, Austria, Hotel Le Meridien
07/26/14 – 07/27/14
The Psychological Construction of Reality:
An Essay in the Buddhist Psychology of Knowledge
Robert Beshara, M.F.A.
The Uni...
Sources of inspiration
Identity
Technologies of self-knowledge
Who
am
I?
“I’m the f***ing Mona Lisa, bitches!”
In the West,
we fetishize
the Self via
new
technologies
(e.g.,
smartphones
and socia...
Changing the question
Who am I? How am “I” (this body-
mind complex in
spacetime called
Robert)—how am I
interbeing with t...
Deconstructive questions
• What are self and identity, and what is the
relationship between them?
• What is the relationsh...
Self and Identities
Self and Identities:
Same idea, different words
• Self and skandhas or aggregates (Buddhist
Psychology)
• Self and id, ego...
The Five Skandhas
(or aggregates)
1. Form
2. Feelings
3. Perceptions
4. Mental formations
5. Consciousness
The decentered subject of
Freudian Psychoanalysis
Who we are
(consciously and
unconsciously) vs.
who we think we
are (e.g....
Richard Schwartz’s
IFS Model
According to the IFS model,
the Self is a leader like the
conductor of an orchestra.
There th...
Carl G. Jung’s
Analytical Psychology
The goal of therapy:
deconstructing identities to
reconstruct the Self
(aka individua...
Roberto Assagioli’s
Psychosynthesis
Understanding Our Mind:
Key Buddhist concepts
• The Four Noble Truths: suffering, creating
suffering, cessation of creatin...
Three Kinds of Suffering
1. The suffering of suffering (e.g., the pain of a
toothache).
2. The suffering of composite thin...
Anattā, or non-self
• Non-self means we are empty of a separate
self. We do not exist in a vacuum.
• In other words, every...
Right View: Interbeing
“As a practitioner of mindfulness, you look deeply into
this flower and you see that it is made onl...
Knowledge vs. wisdom
Oedipus
(Aristotle/empiricism/science)
Tiresias
(Plato/rationalism/philosophy)
Wisdom and the eye of the mind
Transpersonal Knowing (Hart, Nelson,
& Puhakka, 2000) vs. Knowledge
Wisdom Ignorance
Knowing
Past
Present
Non-self
(Interb...
Ways of Transpersonal Knowing
• Examples include: empathic encounters between
persons, sexual experiences, and service.
• ...
Seeds of mindfulness
(Hanh, 1998, p. 208)
I think therefore I am not.
To be or not to be, that is not the question.
Theses
• The Self is a paradox. It is an illusion; nevertheless, a
useful one (e.g, self-leadership).
• We have multiple i...
The Self Illusion:
The Self as an organizing principle
The mind-body problem & the
hard problem of consciousness
The 3rd
substance as Ultimate Reality
Electromagnetism as a metaphor
for bodymind
Why do we need a Self?
The Mirror Stage
Healthy narcissism of the modern neurotic
Auto-eroticism vs. self-reflection
Self-reflection as vanity (think selfies) vs. the mirror
as “a symbol of the power of r...
Self-leadership:
The Self as a conductor
Towards a transdisciplinary psychology:
Body, mind, and world
Mind ≠ Brain
Body ≠ perfect European man
(e.g., the Vitruvia...
What is mind?
• “Mind is defined in Buddhism as a non-physical
phenomenon which perceives, thinks, recognizes,
experiences...
The dualistic nature of language:
Or how we reify our Selves
• “Lightning strikes”
• A similar principle is at work when i...
The myth of individualism
Governments,
corporations, and the
mass media will have
us believe that we are
incredibly unique...
Context is everything:
Self vis-à-vis society
In the West, the
Copernican revolution
was a paradigm shift
that resulted in...
Our relationship with the world:
Cosmology as a metaphor for the Self
The geocentric model
The heliocentric model
The cult of celebrity: In contemporary mythology, we
worship celebrities, whom we view as demigods....
ECOCENTRISM
The next developmental stage in our evolution?
Premodernity => modernity => postmodernity =>
transmodernity
Eg...
Essentialism and performativity
• “All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women
merely players.
They have their exit...
Free will vs. determinism
• How can we reconcile biological determinism
with freedom of choice?
• The Buddhist answer is p...
Conclusion
• Our Self and identities are not only socially
constructed, they are also psychologically constructed.
• SC ca...
Conclusion (CONT’D)
• In other words, we are not who we think we
are: we are not our bodies and we are not our
minds, soul...
The other side:
Mirrors and reflections in contemporary art
At Belvedere till October 12th
, 2014
From the exhibition
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Self and identities

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Self and identities

  1. 1. International Conference on Identity Studies Vienna, Austria, Hotel Le Meridien 07/26/14 – 07/27/14
  2. 2. The Psychological Construction of Reality: An Essay in the Buddhist Psychology of Knowledge Robert Beshara, M.F.A. The University of West Georgia
  3. 3. Sources of inspiration
  4. 4. Identity
  5. 5. Technologies of self-knowledge Who am I?
  6. 6. “I’m the f***ing Mona Lisa, bitches!” In the West, we fetishize the Self via new technologies (e.g., smartphones and social networks) But is this really a practice of self- knowledge?
  7. 7. Changing the question Who am I? How am “I” (this body- mind complex in spacetime called Robert)—how am I interbeing with the world? Or more importantly, who do I want to become?
  8. 8. Deconstructive questions • What are self and identity, and what is the relationship between them? • What is the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious? • What is the relationship between knowledge and wisdom? • What is the relationship between the body, the mind, and the world?
  9. 9. Self and Identities
  10. 10. Self and Identities: Same idea, different words • Self and skandhas or aggregates (Buddhist Psychology) • Self and id, ego, and super-ego (Freudian Psychoanalysis) • Self and Parts (Internal Family Systems Model or IFS) • Self and complexes & archetypes (Analytical Psychology) • Self and subpersonalities (Psychosynthesis)
  11. 11. The Five Skandhas (or aggregates) 1. Form 2. Feelings 3. Perceptions 4. Mental formations 5. Consciousness
  12. 12. The decentered subject of Freudian Psychoanalysis Who we are (consciously and unconsciously) vs. who we think we are (e.g., delusions of grandeur).
  13. 13. Richard Schwartz’s IFS Model According to the IFS model, the Self is a leader like the conductor of an orchestra. There three main parts identified by Richard Schwartz are: Managers, firefighters, and exiles.
  14. 14. Carl G. Jung’s Analytical Psychology The goal of therapy: deconstructing identities to reconstruct the Self (aka individuation). In other words, who’s in charge here?
  15. 15. Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis
  16. 16. Understanding Our Mind: Key Buddhist concepts • The Four Noble Truths: suffering, creating suffering, cessation of creating suffering, and the path. • The Noble Eightfold Path: Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. • The Three Marks of Existence: impermanence, suffering, and non-self. • The Two Truths Doctrine: Relative Truth and Absolute Truth
  17. 17. Three Kinds of Suffering 1. The suffering of suffering (e.g., the pain of a toothache). 2. The suffering of composite things (i.e., everything decays). 3. The suffering associated with change (aka impermanence): we all grow old, get sick, and die.
  18. 18. Anattā, or non-self • Non-self means we are empty of a separate self. We do not exist in a vacuum. • In other words, everything is interconnected —we inter-are. • A positive restatement of non-self is to call it relational, social, or dialogical Self. • The Self is empty because it is made up of non-Self elements as I illustrated earlier with the bit on Self and identities.
  19. 19. Right View: Interbeing “As a practitioner of mindfulness, you look deeply into this flower and you see that it is made only of non- flower elements. There’s a cloud inside also, because if there’s no cloud, there’s no rain and no flower can grow. So you don’t see the form of a cloud, but the cloud is there. And that is the practice of what we call signlessness. You don’t need a sign, a certain form of appearance in order to see it. There’s the sunshine inside. We know that if there is no sunshine, no flower can grow. There is the topsoil inside. Many things are inside: light, minerals, the gardener. It seems that everything in the cosmos has come together to help produce this flower” (Hanh, 2013).
  20. 20. Knowledge vs. wisdom Oedipus (Aristotle/empiricism/science) Tiresias (Plato/rationalism/philosophy)
  21. 21. Wisdom and the eye of the mind
  22. 22. Transpersonal Knowing (Hart, Nelson, & Puhakka, 2000) vs. Knowledge Wisdom Ignorance Knowing Past Present Non-self (Interbeing) Separate self Who you think you are (consciousness) Who you are (consciousness + the unconscious)
  23. 23. Ways of Transpersonal Knowing • Examples include: empathic encounters between persons, sexual experiences, and service. • Mindfulness, as a practice, is one way of transpersonal knowing, where affect, cognition, and volition can be in harmony. Body and mind are one in the here and the now.
  24. 24. Seeds of mindfulness (Hanh, 1998, p. 208) I think therefore I am not. To be or not to be, that is not the question.
  25. 25. Theses • The Self is a paradox. It is an illusion; nevertheless, a useful one (e.g, self-leadership). • We have multiple identities not just one; they shouldn’t be in charge. • A transdisciplinary psychology ought to look at the interactions between the body, the mind, and the world. • We need not only knowledge (science) but also wisdom (philosophy) if we are to survive as a species, which is a call for secular ethics--a new mythos perhaps?
  26. 26. The Self Illusion: The Self as an organizing principle
  27. 27. The mind-body problem & the hard problem of consciousness The 3rd substance as Ultimate Reality
  28. 28. Electromagnetism as a metaphor for bodymind
  29. 29. Why do we need a Self? The Mirror Stage Healthy narcissism of the modern neurotic
  30. 30. Auto-eroticism vs. self-reflection Self-reflection as vanity (think selfies) vs. the mirror as “a symbol of the power of reflection to modify desire (Booth, 2008, p.95), which perhaps distinguishes us from other animals?
  31. 31. Self-leadership: The Self as a conductor
  32. 32. Towards a transdisciplinary psychology: Body, mind, and world Mind ≠ Brain Body ≠ perfect European man (e.g., the Vitruvian Man) World ≠ the Americas
  33. 33. What is mind? • “Mind is defined in Buddhism as a non-physical phenomenon which perceives, thinks, recognizes, experiences and reacts to the environment.” • “The two main types of mind are explained as the conceptual and the non-conceptual. The conceptual is the "normal" mind aspect we use to survive in daily life, but is ultimately mistaken about the way in which reality exists. The non-conceptual type of mind is also called the Buddha nature […] fundamental pure nature of mind which realizes emptiness.” Source: http://viewonbuddhism.org/mind.html
  34. 34. The dualistic nature of language: Or how we reify our Selves • “Lightning strikes” • A similar principle is at work when it comes to selfhood, or psychological reality in general. When we say “I,” we reify ourselves, and we separate ourselves from the Other, which is the subject-object problem in Western philosophy. • Can consciousness exist without an observer?
  35. 35. The myth of individualism Governments, corporations, and the mass media will have us believe that we are incredibly unique so that we do not stop consuming, be that in the form of purchasing a product or casting a vote. (individualism vs. individuation, which is a transpersonal concept that has to do with integration)
  36. 36. Context is everything: Self vis-à-vis society In the West, the Copernican revolution was a paradigm shift that resulted in the decentering of the Self among other things
  37. 37. Our relationship with the world: Cosmology as a metaphor for the Self
  38. 38. The geocentric model
  39. 39. The heliocentric model The cult of celebrity: In contemporary mythology, we worship celebrities, whom we view as demigods. No wonder why we call them ‘stars.’ Perhaps, we ought to come up with an alternative system of secular ethics in place of the god of capitalism?
  40. 40. ECOCENTRISM The next developmental stage in our evolution? Premodernity => modernity => postmodernity => transmodernity Egocentrism => Ethnocentrism => Worldcentrism/Ecocentrism/Biocentrism
  41. 41. Essentialism and performativity • “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages” – from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
  42. 42. Free will vs. determinism • How can we reconcile biological determinism with freedom of choice? • The Buddhist answer is pragmatic: we work with the givens, and so beyond free will and determinism, we try to liberate ourselves from suffering through understanding (transpersonal knowing) to achieve greater freedom; after all, creativity is about working within limitations.
  43. 43. Conclusion • Our Self and identities are not only socially constructed, they are also psychologically constructed. • SC can help us understand how our Self and identities are socially constructed, while Buddhist Psychology can help us understand how they are psychologically constructed. • Said psychosocial understanding can only be the result of a marriage between knowledge and wisdom/knowing (e.g., mindfulness), especially if we want to become empowered as individuals in society, that is, if we want to practice our freedom of choice in performing any act we desire without being delusional about who we are.
  44. 44. Conclusion (CONT’D) • In other words, we are not who we think we are: we are not our bodies and we are not our minds, souls, or spirits. Rather, we are bodyminds interbeing with the world in the here and the now. • Think of the liberating potential of the current framework in terms of individual transformation and social change.
  45. 45. The other side: Mirrors and reflections in contemporary art At Belvedere till October 12th , 2014
  46. 46. From the exhibition
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