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States Of Consciousness

July 20, 2013

States Of Consciousness, Charles T. Tart

Because we have begun in recent years to question the foundations of our consensus reality and the value of our normal state of consciousness, some of us have tried to alter consciousness by experimenting with drugs, meditation, new kinds of psychotherapies, new religious systems. My own reading of history suggests that some of the experiences people have had in altered states of consciousness, generally called mystical experiences, have formed the underpinnings of all great religious systems and of the stable societies and consensus realities and consensus realities that were formed from them. Now we do not only question our inherited social systems, we go directly to the sources, to altered states of consciousness, in our search for new values and realities…no one of us knows precisely where (this) is going. Yet we have, perhaps, a chance to understand our own transition and possibly to guide it—things no society in the past has been able to do.
This opportunity is granted us by science, particularly the young science of psychology. Instead of being blindly converted to ideologies created by powerful experiences encountered in altered states of consciousness, or avoiding them because of fear, we may be able, through science, to gain a broader understanding of our own minds and of those forces and to exert some intelligent guidance.
…psychology…is entering a state of rapid transition. Once defined as the study of the mind, psychology made little headway as a science; it lacked the elegance, precision of understanding, and power of doing the physical sciences. So it was redefined by many of its practitioners as the study of behavior. Overt behavior is easier to study than experience, and the examination of overt behavior has given us many useful tools for predicting and changing behavior.
Now I see psychology once again becoming a science of or study of the mind…We cannot shun the study of the nature of the human mind simply because it is difficult, and confine ourselves to the easier analysis of overt behavior…
…This book presents a new way of viewing states of consciousness—a systems approach. It is a way of looking at what people tell us about and how they behave in various altered states of research. I have worked out the major dimensions of this way of understanding to a point of great usefulness to myself, and I believe the method can be useful to others, as well. It is now clear to me that the need is great for some kind of paradigm to make sense of the vast mass of chaotic data in the field, and I offer this systems approach to others…I present this systems approach now, even though it is unfinished, in the hope that it may lead us toward the understanding we need.
This book (also) represents a variety of personal transitions for me. One…is a professional one—from experimentalist to theoretician. I am not entire comfortable with this change…Yet the systems approach presented here…seems so promising that I have chosen to deemphasize my immediate involvement in experimentation to look at the larger picture of the nature of states of consciousness…
Another…transition is that I have lately given more attention to direct experience of some of the phenomena associated with altered states of consciousness. While much of what I write about here is intellectual or theoretical knowledge based on reports from others…some of it comes directly from my own experience—enough so that the systems approach I describe clearly makes basic experiential sense to me…

The Systems Approach to States of Consciousness
…This chapter gives a brief overview of my systems approach to states of consciousness—a brief sketch map of the whole territory to provide a general orientation before we look at detail maps…
Our ordinary state of consciousness is not something natural or given, but a highly complex construction, a specialized tool for coping with our environment and the people in it…As we look at consciousness closely, we see that it can be analyzed into many parts. Yet these parts function together in a pattern: they form a system. While the components of consciousness can be studied in isolation, they exist as parts of a complex system, consciousness, and can be fully understood only when we see this function in the overall system. Similarly, understanding the complexity of consciousness required seeing it as a system and understanding the parts. For this reason, I refer to my approach to states of consciousness as a systems approach.
To understand the constructed system we call a state of consciousness, we begin with some theoretical postulates based on human experience. Because some volitional control of the focus of awareness of possible, we generally refer to it as attention/awareness. We must also recognize the existence of self-awareness, the awareness of being aware.
Further basic postulates deal with structures, those relatively permanent structures/functions/ subsystems of the mind/brain that act on information to transform it in various ways…The structures of particular interest to us are those that require some amount of attention/ awareness activate them. Attention/awareness acts as psychological energy in this sense. Most techniques for controlling the mind are ways of deploying attention/awareness and other kinds of energies so as to activate desired structures (traits, skills, attitudes) and deactivate undesired structures.
Psychological structures have individual characteristics that limit and shape the ways in which they can interact with one another. Thus the possibilities of any system built of psychological structures are shaped and limited both by the deployment of attention/awareness and other energies and by the characteristics of the structures comprising the system. The human biocomputer, in other words, has a large but limited number of possible modes of functioning.
Because we are creatures with a certain kind of body and nervous system, a large number of human potentials are in principle available to us. But each of us in born into a particular culture that selects and develops a small number of these potentials, rejects others, and is ignorant of many. The small number of experiential potentials selected by our culture, plus some random factors, constitute the structural elements from which our ordinary state of consciousness is constructed. We are at once the beneficiaries and the victims of our culture’s particular selection. The possibility of tapping and developing latent potentials, which lie outside the cultural norm, by entering an altered state of consciousness, by temporarily restructuring consciousness, is the basis of the great interest in such states.
The terms state of consciousness and altered state of consciousness have come to be used too loosely, to mean whatever is on one’s mind at the moment. The new term discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC) is proposed for greater precision. A d-SoC is a unique, dynamic pattern or configuration of psychological structures, an active system of psychological subsystems. Although the component structures/subsystems show some variation within a d-SoC, the overall pattern, the overall system properties remain recognizably the same…In spite of subsystem variation and environmental variation, a d-SoC is stabilized by a number of processes so that it retains its identity and function…
Examples of D-SofCs are the ordinary waking state, nondreaming sleep, dreaming sleep, hypnosis, alcohol intoxication, marijuana intoxication, and meditative states.
A discrete altered state of consciousness (d-ASC) refers to a d-SoC that is different from some baseline state of consciousness (b-SoC). Usually the ordinary state is taken as the baseline state. A d-ASC is a new system with unique properties of its own, a restructuring of consciousness. Altered is intended as a purely descriptive term, carrying no values.
A d-SoC is stabilized by four processes: (1) loading stabilization—keeping attention/awareness and other psychological tendencies deployed in habitual, desired structures by loading the person’s system heavily with appropriated tasks; (2)negative feedback stabilization—correcting the functioning of erring structures/subsystems when they deviate too far from the normal range that ensures stability; (3) positive feedback stabilization—strengthening activity and/or providing rewarding experiences when structures/subsystems are functioning within desired limits; and (4) limiting stabilization—restricting the range of functioning of structures/subsystems whose intense operation would destabilize the system.
In terms of current psychological knowledge, ten major subsystems (collections of related structures) that show important variations over known d-ASCs need to be distinguished: (1) Exteroception—sensing the external environment; (2) Interoception, sensing what the body is feeling and doing; (3) Input-Processing—automated selecting and abstracting of sensory input so we perceive only what is “important” by personal and cultural (consensus reality) standards; (4) Memory; (5) Subconscious—the classical Freudian unconscious plus many other psychological processes that go on outside our ordinary d-SoC, but that may become directly conscious in various d-ASCs; (6) Emotions; (7) Evaluation and Decision-Making—our cognitive evaluating skills and habits; (8) Space/Time Sense—the construction of psychological space and time and the placing of events within it; (9) Sense of Identity—the quality added to experience that makes it a personal experience instead of just information; and (10) Motor Output—muscular and glandular outputs to the external world and the body. These subsystems are not ultimates, but convenient categories to organize current knowledge.
Our current knowledge of human consciousness and d-SoCs is highly fragmented and chaotic. The main purpose of the systems approach presented here is organizational: it allows us to relate what were formerly disparate bits of data and supplies numerous methodological consequences for guiding future research. It makes the general prediction that the number of d-SoCs available to human beings is definitely limited, although we do not yet know the limits. It further provides a paradigm for making more specific predictions that will sharpen our knowledge about the structures and subsystems that make up human consciousness…
Induction of a d-ASC involves two basic operations that, if successful, lead to the d-ASC from the b-SoC. First, we apply disrupting forces to the b-SoC—psychological and/or physiological actions that disrupt the stabilization processes discussed above either by interfering with them or by withdrawing attention/awareness energy or other kinds of energies from them. Because a d-SoC is a complex system, with multiple stabilization processes operating simultaneously, induction may not work. A psychedelic drug, for example, may not produce a d-ASC because psychological stabilization processes hold the b-SoC stable in spite of the disrupting action of the drug on a physiological level.
If induction is proceeding successfully, the disrupting forces push various structures/subsystems to their limits of stable functioning and then beyond, destroying the integrity of the system and disrupting the stability of the b-SoC as a system. Then, in the second part of the induction process, we apply patterning forces during this transitional, disorganized period—psychological and/or physiological actions that pattern structures/subsystems into a new system, the desired d-ASC. The new system, the d-ASC, must develop its own stabilization processes if it is to last.
Deinduction, return to the b-SoC, is the same process as induction. The d-ASC is disrupted, a transitional period occurs, and the b-SoC is reconstructed by patterning forces. The subject transits back to his customary region of experiential space.
Psychedelic drugs like marijuana or LSD do not have invariant psychological effects, even though much misguided research assumes they do. In the present approach, such drugs are disrupting and patterning forces whose effects occur in combination with other psychological factors, all mediated by the operating d=SoC…
One of the most important consequences of the systems approach is the deduction that we need to develop state specific sciences. Insofar as a ‘normal’ d-SoC is a semi-arbitrary way of structuring consciousness, a way that loses some human potentials while developing others, the sciences we have developed are one-state sciences. They are limited in important ways. Our ordinary sciences have been very successful in dealing with the physical world, but not very successful in dealing with particularly human psychological problems. If we apply scientific method to developing sciences within various d-ASCs, we can evolve sciences based on radically different perceptions, logics, and communications, and so gain new views complementary to our current ones.
The search for new views, new ways of coping, through the experience of d-ASCs is hardly limited to science. It is a major basis for our culture’s romance with drugs, meditation, Eastern religions, and the like. But infatuation with a new view, a new d-SoC, tends to make us forget that any d-SoC is a limited construction. There is a price to be paid for everything we get. It is vital for us to develop sciences of this powerful, life-changing area of d-ASCs if we are to optimize benefits from the growing use of them and avoid the dangers of ignorant or superstitious tampering with the basic structure of consciousness.

The Components Of Consciousness: Awareness, Energy, Structures
People use the phrase states of consciousness to describe unusual alterations in the way consciousness functions. In this chapter we consider some of the experiences people use to judge what states they are in, in order to illustrate the complexity of experience. We then consider what basic concepts or components we need to make sense out of this variety of experiences…
Many people make distinctions among only a few states of consciousness, since they experience only a few…To understand people’s experiences in this area more adequately we must develop conceptual frameworks, theoretical tools, that make sense out of the experiences in some more basic way and that still remain reasonably true to the experiences as reported…
Although what we loosely call states of consciousness are often vitally important in determining human values and behavior, and although we are in the midst of a cultural evolution (or decay,
depending on your values) in which experiences from altered states of consciousness play an important part, our scientific knowledge of this area is still sparse. We have a few relationships, a smell-scale theory here and there, but mainly assorted and unrelated observations and ideas. My systems approach attempts to give an overall picture of this area to guide future research in a useful fashion.
I call this framework for studying consciousness a systems approach because I take the position that consciousness, as we know it, is not a group of isolated psychological functions but a system—an interacting, dynamic configuration of psychological components that performs various functions in greatly changing environments. While knowledge of the nature of the components is useful, to understand fully any system we must also consider the environments with which it deals and the goals of its functioning. So in trying to understand human consciousness, we must get a feel of the whole system as it operates in its world, not just study isolated parts of it.
I emphasize a psychological approach to states of consciousness because that is the approach I know best, and I believe it is adequate for building a comprehensive science of consciousness. But because the approach deals with systems, it can easily be translated into behavioral or neurophysiological terms.
Let us now look at the basic elements of this systems approach, the basic postulates about what lies behind the phenomenal manifestations of experience…we will put (the) basic elements of awareness, energy, and structure together into the systems we call states of consciousness.

Awareness and Energy
We begin with a concept of some kind of basic awareness—an ability to know or sense or cognize or recognize that something is happening. This is a basic theoretical and experiential given. We do not know scientifically what its ultimate nature is, but it is where we start from. I call this concept attention/awareness, to relate it to another basic given, which is that we have some ability to direct this awareness from one thing to another.
The basic attention/awareness is something we can both conceptualize and (to some extent) experience as distinct from the particular content of awareness at any time…
A second basic theoretical and experiential given is the existence, at times, of an awareness of being aware, self-awareness. The degree of self-awareness varies from moment-to-moment…There is an experiential continuum at one end of which attention/awareness and the particular content of awareness are essentially merged, and at the other end of which awareness of being aware exists in addition to the particular content of awareness. In between are mixtures…In low-intensity flashes, I have some awareness of what I am doing, but most of the time I am absorbed in (a) particular thought process. The lower end of the self-awareness continuum, relatively total absorption, is probably where we spend most of our lives, even though we like to credit ourselves with high self-awareness.
The relative rarity of self-awareness is a major contributor to neurotic qualities in behavior and to the classification of ordinary consciousness as illusion or waking dreaming by many spiritual systems…The higher end of the continuum of self-awareness comes to us even more rarely, although it may be sought deliberately in certain kinds of meditative practices, such as…Buddhist vipassana meditation…
The ultimate degree of self-awareness, of separation of attention/awareness from content, that is possible in any final sense varies with one’s theoretical position about the ultimate nature of the mind. If one adopts the conventional view that mental activity is a product of brain functioning,
thus totally controlled by the electrical-structural activity of brain functioning, there is a definite limit to how far awareness can back off from the particular content, since that awareness is a product of the structure and content of the individual brain. This is a psychological manifestation of the physical relativity… Although the feeling of being aware can have an objective quality, this conventional position holds that the objectivity is only relative, for the very function of awareness itself stems from and is shaped by the brain activity it is attempting to be aware of.
A more radical view, common to the spiritual psychologies, is that basic awareness is not just a property of the brain, but is (at least partially) something from outside the workings of the brain. Insofar as this is true, it is conceivable that most or all content associated with brain processes could potentially be stood back from so that the degree of separation between content and attention/awareness, the degree of self-awareness, is potentially much higher than in the conservative view.
Whichever ultimate view one takes, the psychologically important concept for studying consciousness is that the degree of experienced separation/awareness from content varies considerably from moment to moment.
Attention/awareness can be volitionally directed to some extent. If I ask you to become aware of the sensations in your left knee now, you can do so. But few would claim anything like total ability to direct attention…Like the degree of separation of attention/awareness from content, the degree to which we can volitionally direct our attention/awareness also varies. Sometimes we can easily direct our thoughts according to a predetermined plan; at other times our minds wander with* no regard at all for out plans.
Stimuli and structures attract or capture our attention/awareness…This attractive pull of stimuli and activated structures may outweigh volitional attempts to deploy attention/awareness elsewhere…
The ease with which particular kinds of structures and contents capture attention/awareness varies with the state of consciousness and the personality structure of the individual. For example, things that are highly valued or are highly threatening capture our attention more easily than things that bore us. Indeed, we can partially define personality as those structures that habitually capture a person’s attention/awareness…
Attention/awareness constitutes the major energy of the mind, as we usually experience it. Energy is here used in its most abstract sense—the ability to do work, to make something happen. Attention/awareness is energy (1) in the sense that structures having no effect on consciousness at a given time can be activated if attended to; (2) in the sense that structures may draw attention/awareness energy automatically, habitually, as a function of personality structure, thus keeping a kind low-level, automated attention in them all the time (these are our long-term desires, concerns, phobias, blindness); (3) in the sense that attention/awareness energy may inhibit particular structures from functioning. The selective redistribution of attention/awareness energy to desired ends is a key aspect of innumerable systems that have been developed to control the mind…
Note that the total amount of attention/awareness energy available to a person varies from time to time, but there may be some fixed upper limit on it for a particular day or other time period.

The mind, from which consciousness arises, consists of myriad structures. A psychological structure refers to a relatively stable organization of component parts that perform one or more related psychological functions.
We infer (from outside) the existence of a particular structure by observing that a certain kind of input information reliably results in specific transformed output information under typical conditions…Experientially, we infer (from inside) the existence of a particular structure when, given certain classes of experienced input information, we experience certain transformed classes of output/response information…
We hypothesize that structures generally continue to exist even when they are not active, since they operate again when appropriate activating information is present..The emphasis here is on the structure forming something that has a recognizable shape, pattern, function, and process that endure over time. Ordinarily we are interested in the structure’s overall properties as a complete structure, as a structured system, rather than in the workings of its component parts. Insofar as any structure can be broken down into substructures and sub-substructures, finer analyses are possible ad infinitum. The arithmetical skill structure can be broken down into adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing substructures. Such microscopic analyses, however, may not always be relevant to an understanding of the properties of the overall system, such as the state of consciousness, that one is working with…Our concern, then, is with the psychological structures that show functions useful to our understanding of consciousness. Such structures can be given names—sexual needs, social coping mechanisms, language abilities.
Note that some structures may be so complex that we are unable to recognize them as structures. We see only component parts and never understand how they all work together.
A psychological structure may vary in the intensity and/or the quality of its activity, both overall and in terms of its component parts, but still retain its basic patterns (gestalt patterns) and so remain recognizably the same…
Some structures are essentially permanent. The important aspects of their functioning cannot be modified in any significant way; they are biological/physiological givens. They are the hardware of our mental system. To use an analogy from computer programming, they are fixed programs, functions built into the machinery of the nervous system.
Some structures are mainly or totally given by an individual’s particular developmental history: they are created by, programmed by, learning, conditioning, and enculturation processes that the individual undergoes. This is the software of the human biocomputer. Because of the immense programmability of human beings, most of the structures that interest us, that we consider particularly human, are in this software category.
Permanent structures create limits on, and add qualities to, what can be done with programmable structures: the hardware puts some constraints on what the software can be. The physiological parameters constituting a human being place some limits on his particular mental experience and his possible range of programming.
Our interest is in relatively permanent structures, ones that are around long enough for us to conveniently observe, experience and study. But all the theoretical ideas in this book should be applicable to structures that are not long-lasting, even though investigation may be more difficult.
Structures, for the outside investigator, are hypothesized explanatory entities based on experiential, behavioral, or psychological data. They are also hypothesized explanatory concepts for each of us in looking at his own experience…

Interaction of Structure and Attention/Awareness
Many structures function completely independently of attention/awareness. An example is any basic physiological structure such as the kidneys. We infer their integrity and nature as structures from other kinds of data, as we have no direct awareness of their functioning. Such structures do not utilize attention/awareness as energy, but the other forms of physiological/psychological activating energy. Structures that cannot be observed by attention/awareness are of incidental interest to the study of consciousness, except for their indirect influence on other structures that are accessible to conscious awareness.
Some structures require a certain amount of attention/awareness energy in order to (1) be formed or created in the first place (software programming), (2) operate (3) have their operation inhibited, (4) have their structure operation modified, and/or (5) be destructured and dismantled. We call these psychological structures when it is important to distinguish them from structures in general. Many structures require attention/awareness energy for their initial formation.
Note that while we have distinguished attention/awareness and structure for analytical convenience and in order to be true to certain experiential data, ordinarily we deal with activated mental structures. We acquire data about structures when the structures are functioning, utilizing attention/awareness energy or other kinds of psychological energies.
Although we postulate that attention/awareness is capable of activating and altering psychological structures, is the fuel that makes many structures run, our experience is that affecting the operation of structures by the volitional deployment of attention/awareness energy is not always easy. Attempts to alter a structure’s operation by attending to it in certain ways may have no effect or even a contrary effect to what we wish. Attempts to stop a certain structure from operating by trying to withhold attention energy from it may fail. The reasons for this are twofold.
First, if the structure is (at least partly) operating on energy other than attention/awareness, it may no longer be possible to change it with the amount of attention/awareness energy we are able to focus on it. Second, even if the structure still operates with attention/awareness energy, complete control of this energy may be beyond our conscious volition for one or both of the following reasons: (1) the energy flow through it may be so automatized and overlearned, so implicit, that we simply do not know how to affect it; and (2) the functioning structure may have vital (and often implicit or hidden) connections with our reward and punishment systems, so that there are secondary gains from the operation from the structure, despite our conscious complaints. Indeed, it seems clear that for ordinary people in ordinary states of consciousness, the amount of attention/awareness subject to conscious control and deployment is quite small compared with the relatively permanent investments of energy in certain basic structures composing the individual’s personality and his adaptation to the consensus reality of his culture.
Since the amount of attention/awareness energy available at any particular time has a fixed upper limit, some decrement should be found when too many structures draw on this energy simultaneously. However, if the available attention/awareness energy is greater than the total being used, simultaneous activation of several structures incurs no decrement.
Once a structure has been formed and is operating, either in isolation or in interaction with other structures, the attention/awareness energy required for its operation can be automatically drawn on either intermittently or continuously. The personality and normal state of consciousness are operating in such a way that attention is repeatedly and automatically drawn to the particular structure. Personality can be partially defined as the set of interacting structures (traits) habitually activated by attention/awareness energy. Unless he develops the ability to deploy attention in an observational mode, the self-awareness mode, a person may not realize that his attention/ awareness energy is being drawn to this structure.
There is a fluctuating but generally large drain on attention/awareness energy at all times by the multitude of automated interacting structures whose operation constitutes personality, the normal state of consciousness. Because the basic structures composing this are activated most of a person’s life, he perceives this activation not as a drain on attention/awareness energy, but simply as the natural state of things. He has become habituated to it. The most important data supporting this observation come from reports of the effects of meditation, a process that in many ways is a deliberate deployment of attention/ awareness from its customary structures to nonordinary structures or to maintenance of a relatively pure, detached awareness. From these kinds of experiences it can be concluded that attention/awareness energy must be used to support the ordinary state of consciousness…from experiences of apparent clarity, the automatized drain of attention/ awareness energy into habitually activated structures is seen by meditators as blurring the clarity of basic awareness, so that ordinary consciousness appears hazy and dreamlike.

Interaction of Structures and Structures
Although the interaction of one psychological structure with another structure depends on activation of both structures by attention/awareness energy, this activation is modified by an important limitation: that individual structures have various kinds of properties that limit and control their potential range of interaction with one another, but have important individual characteristics. You cannot see with your ears.
Information is fed into any structure in one or more ways and comes out of the structure in one or more ways. We can say in general that for two structures to interact (1) they must have either a direct connection between them or some connections mediated by other structures, (2) their input and output information must be in the same code so information output from one makes sense to the input for the other, (3) the output signals of one structure must not be so weak that they are below the threshold for reception by the other structure, (4) the output signals of one structure must not be so strong that they overload the input of the other structure.
Now let us consider the ways in which psychological structures may not interact. First, two structures may not interact because there is no direct or mediated connection between them. I have, for example, structures involved in moving the little finger of my left hand and sensing its motion, and I have structures involved in sensing my body temperature and telling me whether I have a fever or a chill. Although I am moving my little finger vigorously now, I can get no sense of having either a fever or a chill from that action. Those two structures seem to be totally unconnected.
Second, two structures may not interact if the codes of output and input information are incompatible. My body, for example, has learned to ride a bicycle. While I can sense that knowledge in my body, in the structure that mediates my experience of riding a bicycle when I am actually doing so, I cannot verbalize it in any adequate way. The nature of the knowledge encoded in that particular structure does not code into the kind of knowledge that constitutes my verbal structures.
Third, two structures may not interact if the output signal from one is too weak, below the threshold for affecting another. When I am angry with someone and arguing with him, there may, during the argument, be a still small voice in me telling me that I am acting foolishly, but I have little awareness of that still small voice, and it cannot affect the action of the structures involved in felling angry and arguing.
Forth, two structures may not interact properly if the output signal from one overloads the other. I may be in severe pain during a medical procedure, for instance, and I know (another structure tells me) that if I could relax the pain would be lessened considerably’ bit the structures involved in relaxing are so overloaded by the intense pain that they cannot carry out their normal function.
Fifth, two structures may be unable to interact properly if the action of a third structure interferes with them. An example is a neurotic defense mechanism. Suppose, for instance, your employer constantly humiliates you, but instead of feeling angry (the natural consequence of the situation), you are polite and conciliatory, and do not feel the anger. A structure of your personality has suppressed certain possible interactions between other structures (but there may well be a hidden price paid for this suppression, like ulcers).
Now consider the case of smoother interaction between structures. Two structures may interact readily and smoothly with one another to form a composite structure, a system whose properties are additive properties of the individual structures, as well as gestalt properties unique to the combination. Or, two or more structures may interact with one another in such way that the total system alters some of the properties of the individual structures to various degrees, producing a system with gestalt properties that are not simple additive properties of the individual structures. Unstable interactions may also occur between two or more structures that compete for energy, producing an unstable, shifting relationship in the composite system.
All these considerations about the interactional structures apply to both the hardware (biologically given) and software (culturally programmed) structures. For example, two systems may not interact for a lack of connection in the sense that their basic neural paths, built into the hardware of the human being, do not allow such interaction. Or, two software structures may not interact for lack of connection because in the enculturation, the programming of the person, the appropriate connections were simply not created. All the classical psychological defense mechanisms can be viewed in these systems as ways of controlling interaction patterns among perceptions and psychological structures.
Remember that in the real human being many structures usually interact simultaneously, with all the above-mentioned factors facilitating or inhibiting interaction to various degrees at various points in the total system formed.
Thus while the interaction of structures is affected by the way attention/awareness is deployed, it is also affected by the properties of individual structures. In computer terms, we are not totally general-purpose computers, capable of being programmed in just any arbitrary fashion. We are specialized: that is our strength,weakness, and humanness.


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