Subconscious defense mechanisms.

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Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Indrajala » Sat May 08, 2010 11:26 am

I've noticed something lately about modern English speaking civilization (I won't say western because I don't know any other European language other than English).

We will often employ uncritically ideas like "the subconscious" or "the unconscious mind" and other concepts derived from western psychology like "defence mechanisms", "id" and "ego" and so on.

I think these influences run very deep in the minds of people to the point that they're uncritically accepted as common sense matter of fact, but in reality most of it is entirely abstract and theoretical. One might potentially infer that some kind of "unconscious mind" operates in the depths of a human being as some suggest, but there is no solid proof for such an entity. Still, one will often hear about this unconscious mind or the subconscious as if it was a matter of physical immutable fact.

I suppose it has more validity in the minds of many because psychology is sanctioned by the state and utilized in psychiatric medical care. On the other hand, Yogacara theories and Abhidharma, which can stand toe to toe with western psychology and probably win in terms of feasibility and efficacy, is considered mere religion and is neatly set aside. Such ideas have no place in the secular world even if they're just as able, if not more, to explain the operation and behaviour of human beings (and probably animals too).

So, this is something I have to be mindful of in my own situation when I study the Buddhadharma which does not have the same default standards that western psychology does. Owing to my cultural background and language, I'm quick to employ ideas from western psychology as matter of fact and natural even if they are incompatible with Buddhism. My interpretation and understanding of Buddhist psychology could be potentially flawed if I'm not careful.

On this point I also think it would be wise to completely do away with vocabulary like "ego" and "the subconscious" and so on to avoid distorting the meaning of Buddhist concepts which in history have had absolutely nothing to do with western psychology.
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Aemilius » Sat May 08, 2010 11:41 am

Huseng wrote:I've noticed something lately about modern English speaking civilization (I won't say western because I don't know any other European language other than English).

We will often employ uncritically ideas like "the subconscious" or "the unconscious mind" and other concepts derived from western psychology like "defence mechanisms", "id" and "ego" and so on.

I think these influences run very deep in the minds of people to the point that they're uncritically accepted as common sense matter of fact, but in reality most of it is entirely abstract and theoretical. One might potentially infer that some kind of "unconscious mind" operates in the depths of a human being as some suggest, but there is no solid proof for such an entity. Still, one will often hear about this unconscious mind or the subconscious as if it was a matter of physical immutable fact.


If you consider the teaching of Pratitya samutpada, especially the first three links: unknowing conditions mental formations, mental formations condition consciousness, consciousness conditions name and form,...
I think it is an unconscious process to a large degree !!! If you are aware of it you no longer belong to the ignorant & unaware masses (some pali word here).
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Indrajala » Sat May 08, 2010 12:50 pm

Dependent origination hardly corresponds to a "subconscious".
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby shel » Sun May 09, 2010 12:57 am

Hi Huseng,

Huseng wrote:On this point I also think it would be wise to completely do away with vocabulary like "ego" and "the subconscious" and so on to avoid distorting the meaning of Buddhist concepts which in history have had absolutely nothing to do with western psychology.

Ego, superego, id, unconscious, etc, are only labels used for describing how the mind works. And I don't believe that anyone in western psychology would claim to know everything about how the mind works. Psychology is a science and as such it is not concerned with ultimate meaning or transcendence in the way that religion is, so I guess that I agree with you.

In my experience those terms are often used within Buddhism, particularly the word ego. I've frequently heard the advice that we must completely do away with the ego (not just the word! :tongue: ).
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun May 09, 2010 3:50 am

We will often employ uncritically ideas like "the subconscious" or "the unconscious mind" and other concepts derived from western psychology like "defence mechanisms", "id" and "ego" and so on.


I agree with you that these are ingrained into our thinking. Or maybe another way to say it is that these concepts are simply accepted without much question and people make reference to the unconscious or subconscious as if they're proven, substantiated entities or legitimate parts of the psyche.

However Psychiatry these days is finding little evidence for an "unconscious" or a "subconscious." This makes sense anyhow, because these hypotheses are so old. But they stuck, Freud was something of a genius.

But personally I've stopped buying into these ideas and I toss them into a bin called "Pop Psychology." But that's my personal thing.

Best,
Laura
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 09, 2010 3:58 am

shel wrote:In my experience those terms are often used within Buddhism, particularly the word ego. I've frequently heard the advice that we must completely do away with the ego (not just the word! :tongue: ).


Ask them how to completely do away with something that was never there to begin with. :smile:

The problem potentially is translating atman

Actually what I see what right now is the same issues that occurred when Buddhism was introduced to China. A lot of Chinese thinkers had a tendency to read Buddhism through a very Daoist lens because they knew no other way and such a way was perfectly natural and valid. The result was a rather distorted image of Buddhism. They even borrowed Daoist terms to describe Buddhist ones. That's not unlike taking "atman" to be "ego".

In our case, we read Buddhism through many lens' but particularly western psychology and materialism. The later is also an issue because you constantly hear this objection, "Well, if there is no self, what is reborn?" which I think derives primarily from materialist influences. Someone brought up with a Buddhist education in a Buddhist culture would probably not have such issues.
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 09, 2010 4:01 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:
We will often employ uncritically ideas like "the subconscious" or "the unconscious mind" and other concepts derived from western psychology like "defence mechanisms", "id" and "ego" and so on.


I agree with you that these are ingrained into our thinking. Or maybe another way to say it is that these concepts are simply accepted without much question and people make reference to the unconscious or subconscious as if they're proven, substantiated entities or legitimate parts of the psyche.

However Psychiatry these days is finding little evidence for an "unconscious" or a "subconscious." This makes sense anyhow, because these hypotheses are so old. But they stuck, Freud was something of a genius.

But personally I've stopped buying into these ideas and I toss them into a bin called "Pop Psychology." But that's my personal thing.

Best,
Laura


Hi Laura. :smile:

Psychiatry thinks they can infer the existence of a subconscious and for their models it makes things a whole lot easier.

Still, it is just theory. :reading:
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Yogicfire » Sun May 09, 2010 9:10 am

Some good points. However, wherever Buddhism spread it naturally took on the hue and colour of the culture (and language) that it encountered. This happened in Tibet, China, and Japan among many other countries and cultures. As you know, there are specific Japanese terms that we use to describe buddhadharma that don't have a direct equilvalent in Sanskrit or Pali.

I do think it is useful though to examine words such as id and ego, and to contemplate on whether they do help us understand buddhadharma in the right way. I think it does depend on the word as well, as 'unconscious' and 'ego' seem general terms that do have some use, while words such as 'id' might carry more baggage and not be quite so useful. Context is important, too.
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby muni » Mon May 10, 2010 11:47 am

Ego? Consciousness processes which are dividing into subject and objects and these get certain meanings; which become hard, frozen by custom.
Reflective discrimination as limitations of the vastness of our being.

Defense mechanism or prison?
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Aemilius » Mon May 10, 2010 12:01 pm

Huseng wrote:Dependent origination hardly corresponds to a "subconscious".


I would say that the whole idea of subconscious mental processes runs very deep in buddhism. It is probably the source where they got this idea in Europe in 1800's.
You could say that avidya is unconscious, unknowing, unaweness... unmindfulness too entails subconscious mental processes, and so on...
Some 20 or 30 years ago it came fashionable in some circles to maintain that there is no unconscius or subconscious mind at all, now that fashion has spread to buddhism, it seems,...
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Clueless Git » Wed May 12, 2010 8:44 am

Aemilius wrote:
Huseng wrote:Dependent origination hardly corresponds to a "subconscious".


I would say that the whole idea of subconscious mental processes runs very deep in buddhism. It is probably the source where they got this idea in Europe in 1800's.
You could say that avidya is unconscious, unknowing, unaweness... unmindfulness too entails subconscious mental processes, and so on...
Some 20 or 30 years ago it came fashionable in some circles to maintain that there is no unconscius or subconscious mind at all, now that fashion has spread to buddhism, it seems,...

Well ...

I was going to post a "tish'n'pish! there definitely is a subconscious ..." type answer.

I like that better though. The idea that unmindfull=subconscious seems to be both very buddhist and makes perfect sense to me.

Nice post Aemilius :bow:
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Clueless Git » Wed May 12, 2010 9:04 am

muni wrote:Defense mechanism or prison?

Both?

Kinda thinkin there that all animals, us included, are biologicaly 'hard-wired' with what is usualy called 'flight or fight' syndrome. That being the thing that triggers fear at any percieved threats which then manifests either as aggression or panic.

At the physical level fear is a brilliant defence mechanism. For those striving to get their minds above and out of the physical level fear is a prison.
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Aemilius » Tue May 18, 2010 6:57 am

Huseng wrote:Dependent origination hardly corresponds to a "subconscious".

It is subconscious, by learning it and by meditating on it you become conscious of it, and so on...
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 18, 2010 1:46 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Huseng wrote:Dependent origination hardly corresponds to a "subconscious".


I would say that the whole idea of subconscious mental processes runs very deep in buddhism. It is probably the source where they got this idea in Europe in 1800's.
You could say that avidya is unconscious, unknowing, unaweness... unmindfulness too entails subconscious mental processes, and so on...
Some 20 or 30 years ago it came fashionable in some circles to maintain that there is no unconscius or subconscious mind at all, now that fashion has spread to buddhism, it seems,...


Is this subconscious one of the skandhas or outside of them?

The alaya-vijnana and/or the vipakaphalam-vijnana (retribution consciousness) don't qualify as subconscious, or id, or ego, etc...

So from this perspective there is no place for a subconsciousness to reside.
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Aemilius » Wed May 19, 2010 1:45 pm

[quote="Huseng]

Is this subconscious one of the skandhas or outside of them?

The alaya-vijnana and/or the vipakaphalam-vijnana (retribution consciousness) don't qualify as subconscious, or id, or ego, etc...

So from this perspective there is no place for a subconsciousness to reside.[/quote]

I would say the process of dependent origination is happening but one is not aware of it, therefore it is subconscious.
Are the 12 links of dependent origination included in the 5 skandhas? Is this what you are asking ?
Yes they are: the 5 skandhas of the past life are the cause for the arising of the 5 skandhas of this life, which in turn are the cause for the arising of the 5 skandhas of a future life.
To what extent are you conscious of this process ??
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 19, 2010 11:56 pm

Aemilius wrote: I would say the process of dependent origination is happening but one is not aware of it, therefore it is subconscious.
Are the 12 links of dependent origination included in the 5 skandhas? Is this what you are asking ?
Yes they are: the 5 skandhas of the past life are the cause for the arising of the 5 skandhas of this life, which in turn are the cause for the arising of the 5 skandhas of a future life.
To what extent are you conscious of this process ??


None of this corresponds to the various ideas in western psychology of a "subconscious" or "unconscious mind".
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Re: Subconscious defense mechanisms.

Postby Aemilius » Fri May 21, 2010 11:58 am

Huseng wrote:
Aemilius wrote: I would say the process of dependent origination is happening but one is not aware of it, therefore it is subconscious.
Are the 12 links of dependent origination included in the 5 skandhas? Is this what you are asking ?
Yes they are: the 5 skandhas of the past life are the cause for the arising of the 5 skandhas of this life, which in turn are the cause for the arising of the 5 skandhas of a future life.
To what extent are you conscious of this process ??


None of this corresponds to the various ideas in western psychology of a "subconscious" or "unconscious mind".



The term "unconscious mind" was coined in the 18th century by a german philosopher Christopher Riegel. Western philosophers such as Spinoza, Leibniz, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzche developed a view of mind which foreshadowed Freud. Obviously they were confronting the same reality as were the buddhist philosophers a thousand or two thousand years before.
"Subconscious mind" is a later term, it was invented by a french psychologist Pierre Janet, and it has been used and variously defined in english and in other languages.
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