02 March 2011

David Narby - Chapter 5 - Personality Conflict

Everyone spoke very loudly at the same time. Some were beginning to shout and thump the table with their fists. There was a lot of anger and frustration on all the faces in the room. The door burst opened and the nurse came into the room, glaring. She didn’t say anything but her evil eye was enough to quieten every one down. Feelings of guilt and shame circled the room. Then she said,

“Mr. Narby, can I talk to you outside.” No ‘hello David’ or any other pleasantries. We went out to the common room, which was empty. If she was angry she was controlling it very well. She said,

“David, you have been using the therapy room for some weeks now, and up until today your ‘meetings’ have been very civil. Some of the doctors and nurses got concerned about what was going on in there today, what with all the shouting and banging.”

I started to explain what had been happening, but she interrupted me.

“We don’t care what you were talking about. Your Thursday visits have so far been very helpful to the patients. This is beginning to sound like a mad house. You need to get it under control.”

As she walked away I wondered if there was an implied threat. I took a few minutes to review what had happened in our session to cause such strong reactions. We had been talking about religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Someone had said that there was no scientific evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ. This had got Clivid all worked up and it had snowballed from there.

When I went back into the room everyone was quiet and a few were even sullen. I looked around and nobody was making eye contact. We were like a group of school children who’d been left alone for a few minutes and the teacher had come back and caught us misbehaving. I said,

“Let’s not start pointing fingers or trying to figure out who’s to blame. We need to come up with some system so this does not happen again.”

Will responded, “No, David, I think we better sort this out. That was quite a reaction you had to a simple statement. You are trying to sweep something under the carpet, something that I think you really need to look at. Explain to us what you think just happened.”

I very reluctantly agreed with Will, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to examine what had happened to get us all upset. I began to ask myself what had caused such an outburst. As I thought about it I realised that I could not recollect much of what had happened. I said,

“I remember Clivid staring fixedly into my eyes and I could feel him boring into my brain. He kept repeating ‘Jesus Saves’ over and over and this expression always annoys me because it is not true. And when I asked him to keep quiet he reacted and attacked me.”

Will said, “That’s not the way I seen it. Yes, I could see you were getting annoyed with Clivid, your face was getting redder and redder and your were clenching your fists tighter and tighter. Eventually, you screamed at him ‘Shut up you Irish Catholic bigot’ and that’s the toned down version without all the expletives. I asked you to relax and take it easy. That made you even madder and then you turned on all of us asking ‘who did we think we were,’ implying that you were somehow better than us. You also said that none of us were really in the position to talk as we were inmates here and you were the only one coming in on a voluntary basis.”

I was getting embarrassed and wondered if I had behaved like he said I had. I decided I’d better apologise so I went around the room and said I’m sorry to everyone and shook their hands. Some were a little reluctant to reciprocate but it did ease the tension somewhat.

Will said, “David, you have been going on like a College Professor, a bit condescending and patronising. You’ve set this room up like a classroom with you the teacher. We need to change that. We’ve all had valuable experiences throughout our lives, we need to pool our resources and share. Let’s rearrange the furniture and see how it goes.”

Under Will’s supervision we moved the chairs into a circle. A spherical light sat in the corner, and this we moved to the centre of the circle. The light was soft enough to be able to look at, and bright enough to make it difficult to constantly look at the person opposite. I was a little surprised at the circle layout, since the only time I had ever seen it used was at AA meetings. I asked Will and he replied,

“The circle is the universal symbol for people working together, as in a ‘circle of friends’. In a circle everyone is equal, there is no superior and inferior, and everyone has an equal contribution to make. The person opposite you acts like a mirror, reflecting back to you the things you really don’t want to see about yourself. And with the light in the centre we can all focus on the same thing.”

I said, “You have laid out twelve chairs, but there are only seven of us here, me, you, Clivid, Darukin and the three newcomers.”

Will said, “Well, let me introduce them to you. There’s Helen Hickey who we all call Hix; Smigs here who likes to think of himself as Professor Sigsmig, our expert on all things historical; and Charlie Casey, who believes himself to be the last in the line of Shamans of Ancient Mexico. And that leaves five free for those who are still to come.”

We all sat down, Clivid was sitting directly opposite from me, and if he was glaring at me I could not really see. Darukin said,

“When discs are arranged in a circle, it takes six to completely surround the seventh. When spheres are arranged around each other it takes twelve to completely surround the thirteenth. Take conception as an example. The current view is that all the sperm compete so that one can  fertilise the ovum. This is not true. All the sperm cooperate to get to the egg. When they get there they all dance around it until the twelve that are identical in size to the nucleus of the egg are touching up against its membrane. Then the membrane breaks and the twelve sperm completely and perfectly surround and merge with the nucleus. This is why twelve is regarded as such an important number in all the thought systems of the world, twelve hours of the day, twelve months, twelve star signs, and the twelve gods of ancient Greece and Rome.”

Clivid said, “There is only One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.”

Will said, “Hold on Clivid, there are a few things we need to get straight before we get into this discussion. David, do you feel guilty?”

I said, “I’m feeling both guilty and ashamed, as well as very confused. If your version of what happened is true, I have no idea where that outburst came from. It’s like a totally different ‘me’ had taken over, one that I’m not too happy about.”

Will said, “When we look at, or think about, each other we think that we are singularities, one personality per person. However, we all have multiple personalities. Most of the time one holds sway, but occasionally, and usually under stress, another personality comes to the fore. Most people keep within the range of acceptable behaviour no matter what personality is in charge. When we constantly go outside the range and can’t control them we are given the label ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’. Your outburst, David, was the equivalent of a two or three year old’s temper tantrum, but with a lot more power and venom behind it.”

Will then produced a diagram to illustrate what he was talking about. He said,

“We have organised this room with twelve chairs with the light in the centre. This room then becomes a model for our minds. For simplicity’s sake I have shown only twelve personalities, each of us may have hundreds of them in our minds. Each of the coloured segments on the outside represent a personality. The dark region between the outer segments and the inner light represent the veil of darkness our belief in separation puts between our personalities and the all-knowing mind which is the light in the centre.”

Will had gone silent. I could see what he was getting at, even though I could not figure out how we switched from one personality to another, or how I could have gone from my normally controlled self to the raving, ranting tyrant that he claimed I had become for a while.

Clivid said, “John 14.2, My house has many mansions.”

Will said, “My mind has many personalities. Some psychologists believe that they develop very early in childhood. When things happen to us that we cannot understand, our mind splits and we store the experience in the split-off part. If the experience is traumatic enough we store it in a compartment that we lock away from the rest of our mind. In fairy tales, this is the monster that gets locked up in the dungeon.”

Hix interrupted, her voice harsh and beating out each syllable staccato, “This is a load of horse man-ure. I am not a mon-ster. I am not a mul-tip-el per-son-al-it-y.”

Will said, “If we keep using the same emotions to get our way, like Hix is using her anger, then a dominant personality develops. We then think of this dominator as our total and only self. You, David, have developed a ‘reasonable man’ approach while your other personalities have been locked away.”

I said, “So, looking at your diagram, which box is my ‘reasonable man’ personality and is the ‘raving ranting tyrant’ locked up in the black hole dungeon?”

Will replied very quietly, “No, David, the black hole is associated with chronic depression. Sufferers of chronic depression usually see themselves in almost total darkness, cut off from everyone and incapable of making contact with anyone else. As we look at the diagram, your reasonable man would be associated with the golden colour, centre left and the other with the maroon colour, bottom left.

What got Hix going earlier and helped trigger your outburst was your description of your experiences since you made your great escape. I see these as examples of getting into the light, in the centre, where everything becomes possible.”

Hix interrupted again, “You are trying to come up with an explanation for the impossible. No one can fly and nobody can change shape. As I said before, David is hallucinating and trying to convince us that his ‘trips’ were real. He was on magic mushrooms, smoking grass or something stronger.”

I could feel the hackles on the back of my neck beginning to rise. I closed my eyes and watched the screen. I calmed down and decided to ignore Hix, rather than trying to defend myself and my experiences.

Smigs said, “If I may interrupt with a question. What has all this to do with the delightful conversation we were having about the history of the church?”

Darukin replied, “I think I see what Will is doing. We had to come up with some mechanism to overcome our personality conflicts, and before we decide on anything, we need to have an understanding of why and how we get into them.”

Will said, “Looking at the diagram we see that the colours on the left have a darker hue than the ones on the right. The ones on the left have some black in them to represent fear and guilt. The personalities on the left suffer from fear, guilt and remorse, whereas the ones on the right have no such hang-ups. They are righteous, believing themselves to be absolutely right and so have tendencies to be dogmatic and autocratic. The white personality at the top is the opposite of the black. People with this personality have total belief in their thought system and have zero tolerance for any idea or anyone who is not in full agreement with them.

Remember that we all have many of these in our makeup, they are a life long habit we have reinforced over many years. It’s just that we are inclined to use one  when calm and another one when stressed.”

I looked around at the others. Charlie was doodling in his notebook. Darukin had closed his eyes and looked like he had fallen asleep. Smigs was looking out the window. Hix was playing with her hair and Clivid was staring fixedly at Will. I seemed to be the only one paying attention, so I asked, “How do we switch from one personality to another?”

Will replied, “Our split-off personalities formed in the first three years of our life and are tied in with our basic ideas of right and wrong. Not right and wrong in a moralistic sense, but what was regarded as acceptable behaviour during those years. We developed a scale based on what our parents and minders thought of our behaviour. They reinforced this with smiles and hugs on the one hand and frowns and slaps on the other.”

Hix said, “Not everyone uses corporal punishment to control their children.”

Will said, “I know that, but the baby is absorbing everything, and knows nothing of the rights and wrongs of parenting. It learns by absorbing everything going on in it’s home. It has no ability to decide what it should take on board, it takes it all.

“By the time we are three years old we know what behaviours please and those that offend, what will be rewarded and what will be punished. As we develop further and move into the world we learn the socially acceptable behaviours. What we got away with at home, might not be acceptable in other people’s homes or in school. Moralistic values start to get attached as we learn right from wrong and good from evil. Most of this is still being absorbed.

“The crucial point comes when we are asked to review our behaviours and decide which were wrong, own up, and take our punishment, whether this punishment is mental, emotional or physical. We are also encouraged to judge other people’s behaviour, and this is one source of  our switching triggers. But, the major source comes from our belief that we must attack and defend, defend what we believe to be right and attack what we believe to be wrong.”

Clivid said, “Your talking about confession and spiritual works of mercy.”

Will said, “Yes, from a Catholic viewpoint, but it is universal in all religions and in all societies. We all learn to watch ourselves and to watch others. We’ve all accepted the idea of crime and punishment or, as Clivid sees it, sin and damnation. More importantly, we all believe that we have a right to defend ourselves when someone attacks us, or our beliefs. Today, David came under attack, he seen Hix as attacking his ideas and experiences and Clivid as attacking his beliefs about acceptable social interaction. He defended himself by adopting ‘attack as the best means of defence’. He tried his best to keep himself under control, to remain ‘reasonable’. In the end, he lost control and we all know the consequences.”

Clivid and Hix reacted at the same time.

Clivid said, “I behaved the way I always behave. I was not attacking David.”

Hix said, “I was expressing my opinion, and I wasn’t attacking him either.”

Will said, “I said that David seen it as an attack, not that either of you attacked him.”

Hix said, “David, David, David, this is all about David, you’d think there was no one else but David in the room. I’m angry and I know why I’m angry. When my parents died my brother put me in here against my will. There’s nothing wrong with me, other than I’d have got in his way when it came to divvying up our inheritance.”

Will reacted, “I’ve talked to you about your situation, Hix, many times. No matter how often I’ve tried to get you to see that there is more to you being in here than what your brother did to you, you refuse to look at it. When I try to get you to talk about your parents’ death, you go quiet and ignore me. A few times, I’ve pushed you harder, and then you just withdraw completely.”

Hix had gone deadly pale. Her expression was almost catatonic. Will came over to me and whispered that Hix had found both her parents dead in circumstances that indicated a suicide pact. I was shocked. Everyone in the room was looking at Hix. She had gone totally into herself. We all remained silent for quite a while.

Will broke the silence with a nervous cough and said, “Earlier, David gave us a great example of a temper tantrum child acting as an angry parent, using rage to try to control us all. We need to understand this. We are all grown-up here, but we need to learn to look at childhood experiences from the child’s perspective rather than that of the parents’. Let’s look at an example:

“We come across some new wonder as we explore the great outdoors. We rush in the tell Mammy, but she is preoccupied and she does not pay much attention. She is ignoring us, so we go and sulk in the corner. Most times this has worked and she gives us a kiss and a hug, and then we feel great again. This time she totally ignores us. We are left alone in our sulk. We begin to wonder … what have I done, Mammy is different, I must have done something bad. We go over to her and hug her legs. If she relents and pampers us, all is fine. If she brushes us aside, we feel abandoned and go deeper into sulk. Eventually, if our tendency is to be a victim, we roll up in a ball and fall asleep. On the other hand, we decide that the only way to get attention is to throw a temper tantrum. We may not get kisses and hugs but we will get attention of some sort.”

Hix had recovered her normal demeanour and said sarcastically, “Its all Mammy’s fault. That’s right, go ahead and blame the women for everything.”

Will responded, “I’m not blaming anyone, it’s just that years of observation of parents and children by highly trained psychologists, has shown that most of our behaviour patterns are picked up from our mothers. And, our personalities are formed based on these learned behaviours.”

The noise level in the common room was increasing. I looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was nearly 3:15, time for the afternoon tea trolley. Everyone left to get tea or coffee and some biscuits. When they cam back they had another woman with them. Will said,

“David let me formally introduce you to this lady. This is Annorr Quist. Annorr, this is David Narby.”

Annorr sat down beside me and was looking at Will’s diagram as she said, “The personality thing again. Will and I have had quite a few conversations about this. Will’s explanation of the state of our minds and our personalities is a good description of where most of us are right now. And I like his explanation of how we switch from one personality to another. He does not go deep enough.”

Will said, “I have included the light in the centre based on your input, Annorr.”

Annorr continued, “Our personalities are based primarily on images and bodily sensation states. These are all illusions, pictures of ourselves that we take to be real, when really they have no foundation in reality at all. We look in the mirror and we believe the image we see is us. We get a pain somewhere and we believe we are suffering. We look at each other’s bodies and believe that is the other person.”

Hix interrupted, “Try explaining that to the victims of a bomb attack.”

Annorr replied, “Hix, you always take things to extremes. Try and keep this personal. Speak from your own experience.”

Hix said, “I don’t want to talk about my personal experiences.”

I asked, “How do we get rid of these personalities?”

Annorr continued, “We think that we have offended many people in our lives, and we are often offended. As Will’s diagram shows there is a light in the centre of our minds. When we focus on the trauma caused by offence, we are stuck in one or other of our personalities. If we focus on the light in our minds we can get peace and happiness. We need to forgive our enemies and our near and dear ones for what we believe they did to us.”

I said, “That’s easier said than done. There are an awful lot of people I’d have to forgive.”

Annorr said, “You don’t have to forgive them all. Pick one enemy and look at the image you have of them. Think about the wrongs they have done to you. Keep looking until you can see some light in them, even if it is only the tiniest spark. Now look at someone you love. Think about the wrongs they have done to you. Keep looking at them until you can see the light in them. Now allow the light that you see in both of them to shine back on you.”

I said, “And that’s all there is to it. I only have to forgive two people by seeing the light in them. I don’t have to go and prostrate myself before them and beg their forgiveness.”

Annorr said, “That’s all, and you don’t have to bow down to anyone. You don’t even have to be physically present with them, look at them in your mind. Really see these two people as radiant beings, and yourself as well, and then you will be able to see the light in everyone. We are dominated by the idea that to get rid of something we have to kill or destroy it completely. Because everything is an idea, nothing can be killed or destroyed. Because our personalities are based on the idea of separation, when we fully realise that all minds are joined by the light, our personalities just disappear. When we switch on the light in a darkened room, the darkness disappears. When we allow the light in our minds to shine brightly, the dark images we have of others disappears and our personalities along with them.”

Clivid said, “John 8:32 The truth shall set you free.”

Annorr said, “That is true, Clivid. We ask ourselves what is the truth. Being in the light is our only reality. Thinking we are personalities leads us into illusion. We are as God created us. We are the Holy Sons of God Himself, the Christ in all of us. All God’s gifts are in our minds, always have been and always will...”

At this Clivid interrupted, “Here she goes again, the blasphemous WITCH, claiming to be a Son of God. God will damn you, woman.”

At that Clivid stomped out of the room. I commented,

“Well, at least he spoke in sentences, rather than in his usual biblical sound-bytes.”

Charlie said, “Everyone is full of their own self-importance today, it must be the full moon. We take ourselves too seriously. We are so important in our own minds that we feel justified at being annoyed with everything. As long as we feel that we are the most important thing in the world we cannot really appreciate the world around us. We are like blinkered horses; all we see is ourselves apart from everything else.

“A light and amenable disposition is needed. We get scared and quit because we feel too damn important. Feeling important makes us heavy, clumsy and vain. We need to be light and fluid. Certain things in our lives matter to us because we think they’re important to us. When we overcome this self-importance not a single thing is important any longer, neither our own acts nor the acts of any of our fellow men.

“We go on living because we have a will. Because we have tempered our will throughout our lives until it is neat and wholesome and now it doesn’t matter to us that nothing matters. Our will controls the folly of our lives. We believe that our acts, as well as the acts of our fellow men in general, appear to be important to us because we have learned to think they are important. We learn to think about everything and then we train our eyes to look as we think about the things we look at. We look at ourselves already thinking that we are important. And, therefore, we’ve got to feel important. But then when a man learns to “see”, he realises that he can no longer think about the things he looks at, and if he cannot think about what he looks at everything becomes unimportant.”

Some of us were scratching our heads trying to figure out what Charlie had just said. I asked,

“If nothing is important, then why do we bother doing anything?”

Charlie said, “We do things because we love to do them, not because we are trying to please anyone. The idea that nothing is important is intended to help us lose our self-importance about what happens to us or about what we do. When we think we are doing something because it's important we may be looking for fame, fortune and VIP status. This then implies that we have to please someone or many someones. The key is that we are not after self-importance or public recognition, we are enjoying our creative expression through being ourselves.

It was getting on in the afternoon and coming up to supper time. Will said,

“I think we better leave it there for this afternoon.”

They all got up, said their goodbyes and left the room. I was sitting on my own. Somewhere in the background I could hear Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. I was annoyed with myself, I was feeling frustrated, and I was beginning to get sad. I had been behaving like a WASP, a Wilful Arrogant Selfish Prick, as the lads here interpreted it rather than its usual connotation. This brought a smile to my face that did not last for long. I was getting sadder. Tears began to stream down my face. I felt someone gently lay their hands on my shoulders, and whisper in my ear to close my eyes, and let the tears flow. I could feel waves of pulsating heat coming from his hands, and all the tension in my body was easing. Again, he spoke in my ear,

“I am always with you.”