Reply To: Counterfactuals

  • Paul

    March 17, 2023 at 7:50 pm

    I play music and took degrees and worked in in psychology for 20 years, moving on to new things about 10 years ago Don. I earn a living otherwise now but continue with music and with psychology as a philosophical pursuit.

    Recently I suddenly realised that I’ve been thinking about consciousness and human experience since I was maybe 7, getting on for 50 years now. In some ways it seems the progress has been slow, with successive disappointments… But then I think of the magnitude of the mystery, its history and its tendency to sublimate suddenly into something else the moment you catch a glimpse of an answer out of the corner of your eye and I think maybe I’m doing ok 😄

    It is interesting that your formulation of pain chimes with how I think about psychological distress generally. When I had to comfort my son when he was a bit younger, having woken from a nightmare I would speak to him in a particular way, ostensibly providing an explanation for the experience but offering physical contact/ comfort and, most importantly, time for him to relax a little and for my mind to range into the poetic, seeking something overarching, something better than a simple explanation.

    After running your exercise just now, it put me in mind of these moments and I wonder if the cognitive/ verbal self that represents the embodied, comforting parent that is yet guided by something else, something working only in this moment; that needs time to formulate and find a beautiful resolution to the crisis in hand.

    This seems to me an example of the two parts of the self: the less responsive, explicit self is there with some immediate answers and some simple calming (having encountered the situation before) giving way as the more implicit, responsive self begins to germinate something better, tailored to the suffering it is encountering here in this moment.

    Maybe in this small drama we find the instinct for the counterfactual? Is it to risk speaking without thinking, to rely on ‘knowing’ rather than telling, dismissing or attributing as the overarching aim?