Author Topic: 3 - Tribe, Identity and Self  (Read 6497 times)

Matt Koeske

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3 - Tribe, Identity and Self
« on: June 26, 2011, 11:03:50 AM »
Tribe, Identity and Self

Perhaps the most basic and observable reason for the fundamental necessity of tribalism for our species is that tribalism is inextricably intertwined with identity.  Identity is no modern invention.  It was always absolutely essential to human survival.  And it has always been fundamentally a factor of human sociality.  It is probably due to the modern emphasis on the individual that we have come to believe the myth that identity is primarily individual or is to be understood in the context of our individuality.  But this is another aspect of the modern myth I find to be illusory.  Identity is essential to sociality.  It is a way of knowing and trusting or mistrusting one another.  It is not primarily a matter of "true self" or individual uniqueness.  Rather, it is a token of affiliation.

Jung at times talked about identity as the psychological construct of persona, a kind of mask that one wears in specific situations of interaction with others in order to facilitate those interactions.  In Jungian thought, the persona is often belittled, considered largely "false", and differentiated from the ego.  In my observations, there is no real difference in structure or function between persona and ego.  Personae are merely the scripts and masks we are at least partially conscious of "wearing".  The companion implication of this revision to Jungian theory is that the ego is not really the "center of consciousness" but can be at times very much unconscious.  Even as it is our point of identification, we do not see it entirely or clearly.  We do not generally know its composition or understand its function in the personality.

I am not claiming that the ego/identity/self is entirely constructed by and for the environment.  It is almost entirely constructed by and for the environment.  But there is, I feel, also a predisposition that informs and co-constructs identity.  And in the Jungian tradition, I will call this the capital-S Self.  The Self is a representation of autonomous psychic and biological factors in the personality.  It is composed of the species-wide genetic standards expressed through the variations of human traits that make each individual genetically unique.  Additionally, the Self manifests (psychically) as a complex dynamic and adaptive system and principle of organization whose goal is homeostasis.  But the ego or identity of any individual is only marginally related to the Self . . . at least relative to its relationship to the environment.  Identity is not a vehicle of selfhood/Selfhood (as the modern myth typically tells us).  It is a vehicle of sociality.  Identity is for others, even if we come to know ourselves also by this identity.  But to the degree that we assume that this identity is "who we really are" or serves our selfhood most of all, we are deceived.  And of course, we are all commonly so deceived.  Such selfhood, such identity is not inherently something for us to be conscious of.  It is a functional illusion that serves egoic stability and reduces anxiety.  Concerns about the validity of our identity tend to render our sociality and individual capacity to survive and thrive in society dysfunctional.  The so-called "identity-crisis".

Most moderns suffer from identity crises of varying degrees many times throughout their lives (and some constantly suffer such identity crises).  Identity is a problem for moderns because moderns are polytribal.  Our identities are made up of numerous part-identities.  But these part identities (like our many tribal affiliations) do not seamlessly fit together and add up to a unified whole.  But (not unlike Jung) I feel there is an innate drive toward wholeness which is expressed in the organizing principle of the Self.  This is not to be confused (as it commonly is in Jungian thought) with a potential "wholeness" of the ego.  There is no possibility for the ego to be "whole" or to become the Self.  That is not the role of the ego in the psyche . . . and attempts to push the ego toward that role typically result in inflation and delusion.

Still, the psychic organizing principle isn't "pluralistic".  It seeks to organize the many parts of the system under one dynamic principle: the maintenance and seeking of homeostasis.  Where having numerous disparate or even compartmentalized "splinter psyches" impedes homeostasis, it runs up against the drive of the Self principle of organization and meets with various resistances and compensations.  The conflicts manifest as anxiety and egoic destabilization.  In other words, loading up identity with numerous inadequately interconnected and integrated part-identities makes us anxious.  But the anxiety is not enough to be a significant evolutionary factor most of the time.  We cope with anxieties all the time.  Humans are very robust.  These anxieties don't necessarily affect our reproduction in significant ways.  The most likely way in which human sociality and identity could have evolved in the last 10,000 years is to have become even more robust and anxiety-tolerant (just as we have verifiably become more disease-tolerant).  But even if our egoic destabilization thresholds have increased, they still exist, and stability and homeostasis (anxiety reduction) are still sought.

One of the ways that I have been approaching identity construction (and deconstruction) is by looking at the history of identity-destabilization as it is generally understood.  Prehistorically and tribally, such destabilization can be tracked (and reconstructed) because it was a signature trait of specific members of society: shamans.  In shamans undergoing "Call" and initiation, identity was "dismembered" and reestablished in a less rigid way.  We know it to be less rigid, because the initiated shamans cultivated egoic fluidity in order to engage in their ecstatic ceremonies in which they "crossed over to the other world" to accomplish some task (perhaps the retrieval of a tribe member's soul) and then returned to the world of the living.  There is also a known history of identity-fluidity in shamans of some cultures (who could be both "good" and "evil", sometimes simultaneously, or who cross-dressed or exhibited various behavioral eccentricities and signs of mental disease). How this shamanic trait developed or spread may not be discoverable, but my suggestion is that this very capacity for egoic destabilization and recomposition in tribal shamans is an extreme and concentrated expression of the way in which identity and society have adapted to the radical reconstruction of environment that modernity thrust upon us.
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Viking

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Re: 3 - Tribe, Identity and Self
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2011, 03:42:06 PM »
"Identity is essential to sociality.  It is a way of knowing and trusting or mistrusting one another.  It is not primarily a matter of "true self" or individual uniqueness.  Rather, it is a token of affiliation."

Very interesting assertion.  As I read this piece, I found myself thinking of the correlation between brain size and social group size in primates, of which you are probably aware.  If the correlation holds true for humans, our expected social group size would be 100 to 200 people.  About tribe-sized, I would think.

Also, when one considers the social behavior of other species in general, it seems to suggest that this tendency has a biological basis.  In my early education, the notion of instinct was thought to be the exclusive property of non-human animals.  Why would that be?  Would not the capital-S Self contain layers of primitive cognitive (and largely unconscious) function that we then defend and elaborate with stories about ourselves, explaining why we are the way we are, which is a conscious fabrication that supports our membership in a social group?

Matt Koeske

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Re: 3 - Tribe, Identity and Self
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2011, 06:00:56 PM »
As I read this piece, I found myself thinking of the correlation between brain size and social group size in primates, of which you are probably aware.  If the correlation holds true for humans, our expected social group size would be 100 to 200 people.  About tribe-sized, I would think.

Yes, Dunbar's number.  I can't personally evaluate the theory, but it is a fascinating factoid with potentially large implications.  And it certainly correlates with my observations that identity groups are tribal.  But modern tribes as I have been thinking about them (as psychological constructs) can also in certain circumstances extend (well) beyond 200 or so members.  For instance, religious identity groups tends to exhibit many tribal organizations of identity . . . Christianity, Judaism, whathaveyou.  We rely on these tribal affiliations to determine who is "in" and who is "out", what is "proper" and what is "heresy", etc.

Noting this, I tried to figure out if this observation could be correlated with Dunbar's number.  My guess thus far is that tribes that are actually independent and self-sustaining (such as we only encounter in pre-modern examples and in cults) can hit an important wall when their populations approach Dunbar's number.  What happens to these tribes at this population point is a matter of "culture", I suspect.  That is, what laws, beliefs, practices, and attitudes typical of that culture might serve to keep the group together as it grows or else enable it to split into separate tribes?

Tribal splintering is very common in both premodern and modern tribes . . . and I have noted that such splintering is often embodied in a "culture hero" figure who is the heretic of the original tribe but the founder of the new splinter tribe.  Christianity is the most obvious example.  The Christ myth is the story of a Jewish heretic who splinters off and starts his own tribe.  Of course, it is much more complicated than that . . . but seen in this general light, a new perspective is enabled on the supposed urgings of Jesus for his followers to leave their families and follow him.  And the notion that he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword (to divide one family member from another).  No theological interpretations of this are necessary when applying the tribal lens I have been using (along with the basic concept of Dunbar's number).

Alternatively, splintered tribes can manage to coexist peacefully and even to coordinate their efforts on occasion (wars, special rituals, etc.).  But if it is the case that day to day coordinated activities bog down with groups larger than 200 or so, keeping this in mind for any community planning could prove extremely important.  It's certainly an area where further research should be done.

But where identity is concerned, population number seems to be less important because identity is an abstract or psychological construct to which anyone might affiliate.  This is especially so for modern identity, where we all have so many partial affiliations and group-based identity constructions (none of which have to be self-sustaining).  But where a tribal group is engaged (probably unconsciously) with the maintenance of identity, Dunbar's number might become an important obstacle.  That is, where a tribe is self-sustaining and utilizes rituals, beliefs, and shamanism to regulate identity, can the groups sustain a population of much over 200 before the rituals can't involve everyone adequately, the beliefs are subjected to too many divergent interpretations, and the shamans are stretched too thin.

It is in realms like this that EEA and mismatch are hard to evaluate and implement (especially without a distinctly psychological interpretation).  I.e., what really is the trait that evolved in a specific EEA?  It's not really something specific and easily grasped like lactose tolerance.  Human sociality instincts are very complex.


Also, when one considers the social behavior of other species in general, it seems to suggest that this tendency has a biological basis.  In my early education, the notion of instinct was thought to be the exclusive property of non-human animals.  Why would that be?  Would not the capital-S Self contain layers of primitive cognitive (and largely unconscious) function that we then defend and elaborate with stories about ourselves, explaining why we are the way we are, which is a conscious fabrication that supports our membership in a social group?

From what I've been able to gather, the term instinct fell out of vogue a while ago, but the concept is still going strong.  I don't mind using the term, because it is so much more distinct and evocative than the increasingly abstract and cumbersome terms that have been substituted to mean more or less the same thing.  The most common rejection of the term instinct I've come across depends on defining instinct as something absolutely compulsive that reflexively determines behavior.  At least in humans (and probably in other animals depending on the situation), this obviously becomes too simplistic and reductive a model for most behavior. 

But if instinct is simply redefined to allow predispositions and vaguer urges and compulsions that can be interpreted in various ways, the term is still completely viable.  And that is the way evolutionary psychologists view inherited predispositions today (i.e., not as "determiners" of behavior, but as predisposers that must take shape through interaction with an environment).  But Freud and numerous less than scientific psychologists appropriated "instinct" in the earlier 20th century in a way that has "tainted" the term for those aspiring to more scientific studies of human and animal behavior.

I don't mind being anachronistic, though.  Anything to avoid the horrible and confusing abstractions that many people are drawn to.  I've written a lot on this site about the "instinctual Self" (regrettably most of it is scattered randomly).  In general, I find the resistance of many moderns (including most Jungians) to the idea that humans can have "instincts" to be a sign of hubris and entirely unhelpful to a functional study of our behavior and cognition.  My hope is that evolutionary psychology will find a way to remedy this . . . but the psychological (and tribal/ideological) resistance to EP has been huge.

It's ironic that fairly overt demonstrations of instinctually-based behaviors and attitudes (especially regarding tribe and identity) are being employed to argue against human instinct.  We have a long way to go before we can approach this topic en masse without extreme ideological distortion . . . but I've noticed that EP, at least, has consistently and rapidly revised and improved itself.  In other words, it has proceeded like a healthy and progressive science should.  Developmentalist theory, on the other hand, has had the tendency to entrench itself ideologically and rely on its social influence over various academic fields (mostly the humanities and some of the social sciences) to maintain "Truth".  As I argued recently in regard to ongoing debates in the Journal of Analytical Psychology regarding developmentalism and "nativism", the developmentalist perspective (as it permeates Jungianism, at least) if nothing else, relies on entirely inaccurate misrepresentations of evolutionary psychology and nativism in order to dismiss its adversary.

This has become one of the main battles in Jungianism against science.  On the other hand, the extremely small representation of Jungians trying to utilize EP to bolster archetype theory has its own ideological hurdles still to overcome.  I haven't yet found what I would consider a "right thinking" Jungian publishing theories on this particular topic.  The problem, in my opinion, is not nativism or evolutionary psychology,  The problem is archetype theory itself and its tendency to ignore the data set it means to explain (i.e., so-called archetypal images).  My own approach, though generally interactionist (like EP) is decidedly phenomenological and less "interpretive".
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Sealchan

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Re: 3 - Tribe, Identity and Self
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2011, 05:51:23 PM »
Language alone makes us a necessarily social being and probably there would not be language if we were not biologically social beings.

Similarly, mirror neurons seem to support a social-mental neurobiology although mirror neurons are probably not biologically distinct cells but merely cells whose firing was trained in the course of the life of an individual to be neutral to self-other distinctions.  In this sense, our sociality could be a fall out of the complex adaptive system that is the brain, but is, itself, only indirectly a matter of genetic evolution.

Quote
Still, the psychic organizing principle isn't "pluralistic".  It seeks to organize the many parts of the system under one dynamic principle: the maintenance and seeking of homeostasis.

If homeostasis is the overall organizing principle that IS the Self then that is probably true because homeostasis is a property of layer upon layer of homeostatic systems that are part of the brain and its environment.  Homeostasis takes place at levels that are even below the neuron such as in the process of the polarization across the neural membrane and the availability of neurotransmitter at the synaptic cleft.  The human body, in so many ways, has evolved to protect itself against breakaway positive feedback loops (analogous to uncontrolled nuclear fission) and against restrictive negative feedback loops (like getting bored with repeating a rewarding experience) that homeostasis is a major organizing force in the structure and function of the human brain and body.

The psyche will obviously reflect this as well.  Any attempt at ordering neurons from processing sensory stimuli to referencing and editing short and long term memory to formulating ideas or evaluating situations will be subject to homeostatic influences at all levels.  Society itself provides multiple homeostatic systemic influences on the individual through the many ways in which society will respond to individual excesses and to the individual's susceptibility to a constant need for new stimulation.       

But at the highest, most individualistic, levels of organization in the brain is there a central, distinct homeostatic system?  I suspect not.  Ironically, it may be the case that at the very top, the overall sense of homeostasis may derive from the homeostasis of the parts in a non-systemic sense. 

My idea of personality centers which was inspired by Daniel Dennett's "multiple drafts" model of consciousness might fit into the discussion regarding Dunbar's number in that the number and type of dream figures might relate to the brain's capacity to relate to a "tribe" of a given size.  I've notice a pattern in dreams where the level of power of a dream figure seems to be limited by the number of other differentiated dream characters.  In other words, you can only experience a a substantially more powerful dream figure in the presence of a few or no other differentiated dream characters.  The more numerous the dream characters the more likely they are to be "nameless ranks".  In other words, there might be only so much libido to go around for characters in dreams.

However, I might qualify this idea with my other idea that the total amount of libido available in the psyche during a dream is much less than what is available when the dreamer is awake.  This allows archetypal patterns to emerge into consciousness much more readily since the deluge that is the sensory world is not sending its flood of information through the brain as it does during the waking state.  In other words, while the brain is in conscious-waking mode the homeostatic systems are been trained the hardest.  When asleep, the "backroom/background" processes get to direct the libido and the same homeostatic systems get trained with less fervor in an alternate direction.  That would correlate with the relative rarity of long term memory storage of dream experiences when compared to waking experiences.

The fact that in dreams, when the general libidic levels are diminished, we see a diverse array of dream characters modelled in part on people from all stages of our life and in part on internal responses to those dream characters shows that our psyche is itself a kind of tribe.  Dream characters may orient more or less in line with the goals of the dream character and the dream character can undertake radical metamorpheses during the course of a dream, even changing sex or level of power over other dream characters.  Certainly across dreams in a given night one's dream character can take on a diversity of roles and experiences that belie the waking sense that one is a consolidated person. 

I think the new generation of social networking games suggest that the Internet and computer technology have accessed some level of this tribal participation by applying basic concepts developed in fantasy role playing games (hit points, levels, skills, etc...) to qualitatively capture the experience of life in a finite array of measurable statistics.  People play simple games repeatedly in order to gain social status (through points) and also to join into groups who cooperate in only the most passive way.  In fact, in some cases I've seen that when one "fights" another game player the number of people in each tribe seems to have a proportional impact on who wins the fight.  So any one tribe member can start a war in which all the other tribe members are vaguely participating. 


Matt Koeske

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Re: 3 - Tribe, Identity and Self
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2011, 09:18:56 AM »
Hi Sealchan,

I will be traveling for a week, but I look forward to getting back to your post when I return.  You bring up a number of interesting points.

Best,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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modok

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Re: 3 - Tribe, Identity and Self
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2013, 10:35:49 PM »
our expanded frontal lobe is what makes us "spirited" beings; that we believe in a cause higher than ourselves. Identity is relational, while tribe and group are quantitative.

The belief in immortality goes far beyond a belief in God. Though I might die, the glory of the group lives on. It is this feeling of insignificance that deludes us into the importance of the group. We look to the stars and see how truly worthless we are, and modern science did nothing to get rid of this feeling of marginalism. Now, instead of recognizing the throne of an all-powerful, awe-inspiring deity, we look to the heavens and see nothing but a vast nihilistic emptiness and we become aware of how truly alone we are in the universe. The purpose of the group is to regain this lost entitlement. It might sound like I'm a Hegelian, but I'm truly not. The belief in the state is the modern secularized myth, but that doesn't mean Hegel is completely worthless for psychological understanding.

Also, it doesn't need any say that our insignificance doesn't necessarily lead to joining with a group. Self-righteous complete abstinence leads to the envy shadow; the introvert who is the peace-maker seeks a monopoly of select people, the selected becoming the source of his anima and shadow, upon whom he unleashes his suppressed selfish desires to exaggerated extremes, greatly damaging his relationship with others; the extrovert, rather than joining a higher calling, might just outspread her ego to the point of snapping, a self-sacrificing martyr turning a blind eye to those closest to her, with the projected delusion that her individuality is being suppressed.

The difference between the interpretation of individuality through understanding (judgment) is that of universality vs. particularity, where extroverts prefer the former while introverts prefer the latter. I think Carl Jung's interpretation, even if he didn't make it all too clear, was a synthesis between the universal and the particular toward a singularity, or Homeostasis.

I do like Matt k.'s analysis with sustainability. I do believe there must be an optimal size for any group before disequilibrium occurs.

Quote
However, I might qualify this idea with my other idea that the total amount of libido available in the psyche during a dream is much less than what is available when the dreamer is awake.  This allows archetypal patterns to emerge into consciousness much more readily since the deluge that is the sensory world is not sending its flood of information through the brain as it does during the waking state.  In other words, while the brain is in conscious-waking mode the homeostatic systems are been trained the hardest.  When asleep, the "backroom/background" processes get to direct the libido and the same homeostatic systems get trained with less fervor in an alternate direction.  That would correlate with the relative rarity of long term memory storage of dream experiences when compared to waking experiences.

that would be because the synthesizing process of the Ego is turned off, making only our most primitive ideas reveal themselves. I think the fact we don't remember our dreams is because the hippocampus shuts off during REM sleep. I do like your analysis of libido and dream-objects. However, the libido probably functions differently for different processing types. I'm curious to see if a different person might have the opposite experience than what you've noticed in dreams.

Matt Koeske

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Re: 3 - Tribe, Identity and Self
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2013, 04:31:53 PM »
Sealchan, Modok's recent post alerted me to the fact that I seem to have forgotten to reply to you two years ago (as I was out of town and didn't remember when I returned).  Sorry about that!

Some thoughts now (hopefully better late than never):

. . . mirror neurons are probably not biologically distinct cells but merely cells whose firing was trained in the course of the life of an individual to be neutral to self-other distinctions. 

I don't remember coming across this hypothesis about mirror neurons (nor do I recall hearing anything that contradicted this).  It's interesting.  Is there a theory on this somewhere you can point me to?  Or is this your own theory?


In this sense, our sociality could be a fall out of the complex adaptive system that is the brain, but is, itself, only indirectly a matter of genetic evolution.

Not unreasonable, but I am in the (more or less EP) camp that find's it very difficult to imagine that the evolution of a species would rely so heavily on environmental determination of essential behavioral traits like sociality.  Also, sociality is common to a great many species including all(?) apes and monkeys.  Your suggestion here reminds me off Stephen Jay Gould and evolutionary spandrels.  I'm not convinced his spandrels can account for many significant aspects of the evolution of species . . . at least not for many traits that are essential to the survival of a species.

Human sociality being a spandrel would be like the human brain being a spandrel . . . well, maybe more like the whole human head being a spandrel.  Because heads are of course not unique to homo sapiens sapiens.  I'm not opposed to the idea of important traits beginning as spandrels, but I find it hard to imagine that any spandrels that become essential to a species' survival would not be subsequently selected for.

And the idea of persistent spandrels across species and immense evolutionary time seems improbable. Maybe, but I would go the Occam's razor direction on this.


But at the highest, most individualistic, levels of organization in the brain is there a central, distinct homeostatic system?  I suspect not.  Ironically, it may be the case that at the very top, the overall sense of homeostasis may derive from the homeostasis of the parts in a non-systemic sense.

Here, I'm inclined to turn to complex dynamic/adaptive systems theory rather than biology.  I don't believe there is a "homeostasis machine/organ" built into the brain, body, or psyche.  Not even something simple like a "homeostatic metronome".

I suspect this homeostasis (and Self system principle of organization) is a function of self-organizing complex dynamic systems.  It is like a law of physics, the way that these complex systems self-organize.  In this sense I guess I would agree with Jung's efforts to locate aspects of psyche "outside" the individual (although I generally oppose that notion and find it inflated and counterproductive).

Of course, the nature of complex systems is not "outside", but actually a fundamental aspect of the universe, and therefore just as much "in" every subatomic particle.  Homeostatic self-organization is never a top-down mechanism.  It's always emergent.

It does appear that many of the subsystems of the human organism could have begun their evolutionary lives as organisms in themselves . . . making homo sapiens (and other animal species) a kind of "super-organism".  But as these subsystems evolve together into this kind of "super-organism", a principle of system organization is needed to help coordinate the functioning of these subsystems.

Of course, brains do a lot of this.  But perhaps brains are the emergent, material expression of complex, dynamic self-organization among the disparate subsystems.  If we look at natural ecosystems, there is obviously no top-down principle that organizes them, but where enough equilibrium exists for many species to coevolve and coexist for long periods of time, we can imagine a kind of ideal point of balance.  It would be a shifting point, because species are evolving, some are dying out, others are coming into being . . . environment is changing, etc.

Ecosystems have no particular identity or sense of self-preservation.  Equilibrium has no one ideal state.  Homeostasis is connected to a singular survival principle . . . and to singular identity.  Homeostatic systems seek to continue on at or near their ideal state . . . so I think there can be said to be a kind of singular organizing principle in homeostatic systems.  There is an ideal state or range for this system, and as it gets far enough away from functioning in that ideal state, it begins to break down.

The Self principle is largely a function of psychic homeostasis, and it underlies a functional sense of identity.  Other biological organs or subsystems might break down, but this does not (until death) have to destroy or even disrupt the maintenance of identity.  Identity functions as a bridge between the individual and others.  It can seem to exist independently from our bodies.  It can seem as though it will live on even after death, that it has its own sustaining essence unrelated to the body.

In essence, it can . . . so long as their are other people to remember and think about the deceased.  I would suspect notions of soul and afterlife to be natural, predictable expressions of this.

But I would be more inclined to see the animating and organizing principle of the Self as an emergent function of complex dynamic systems in general.  This principle coupled with self-sustaining and regulatory systems of the body found the Self representation as (sometimes divine) Other . . . the Other that is personally involved in an individual's sense of identity and being.  But there is no ghost in this machine.  There is no "mind" to this Self.  That is the anthropomorphizing projection we tend to make, our intuitive interpretation of the data we perceive.

Self is a simple (intangible) systemic mechanism with extremely complex and all-pervasive influence on the individual. It can be, in a sense, a created God that is unified in its ideal goal while being various in its specific effects and influences.  Where we perceive this goal, we project oneness and "self-ness" and some form of will and mind onto it.  But we mostly experience the Self in smaller forms, in its instances of influence.  The Self as god image is less common (and perhaps a bit more cerebral and interpretive) than the Self of small things, the Self of impulses and compensations, and various movements of affecting organization.

Often similar things are said of God or Tao, etc.  Yet it is all of a singular process or principle defined by its goal/ideal: homeostasis.  Characterizations of Tao are typically very homeostatic.


However, I might qualify this idea with my other idea that the total amount of libido available in the psyche during a dream is much less than what is available when the dreamer is awake.  This allows archetypal patterns to emerge into consciousness much more readily since the deluge that is the sensory world is not sending its flood of information through the brain as it does during the waking state.  In other words, while the brain is in conscious-waking mode the homeostatic systems are been trained the hardest.  When asleep, the "backroom/background" processes get to direct the libido and the same homeostatic systems get trained with less fervor in an alternate direction.  That would correlate with the relative rarity of long term memory storage of dream experiences when compared to waking experiences.

I'm not sure I agree.  I might be misremembering what I've read about the dreaming brain, but my recollection is that the dreaming brain is every bit as active as the waking brain and that the activity is quite similar in kind.  To simplify drastically, dreaming is like waking but with the body's "switch" switched off.

Libido theories are difficult for me to cozy up with in general.  I accept libido as a metaphor for an aspect of psychic process, but as a quantifiable substance, it's hard to substantiate.

Still, an interesting factor to consider in this regard is the huge information barrage that is received while awake and not while asleep.  Is the barrage actually more while awake (I don't know)?  That barrage has to come through the brain anyway.  Sleep is well know (both anecdotally and scientifically) as reparative for both the body and the mind/ability to think well.  I have suspected that dreaming can be at times (perhaps not all times) a reflection of this reparative process.  I have seen dreams as dynamic memory organizing "experiments" or proposals (and dream work as reinforcements of some of these proposals).

I am not sure it is known (or even hypothesized) how sleep repairs the coherence of thought.  In any case, I may be misremembering, but I thought it was kind of a mystery that, since we know the brain (and particularly the neocortex) consumes a massive amount of energy and is very "expensive", the sleeping brain is not "dormant".  For quite some time, the prevailing idea was that this energy consumption must be stopped or greatly slowed during sleep to allow a regeneration of mental energy.  But I swear I have read that more recent research has shown that the brain keeps gobbling up energy during sleep, that it keeps working away much as it did while awake.  The brain doesn't "sleep".

If that is correct, the whole process is all the more fascinating.  I'll have to revisit the research to jog or update my memory.

Also, I'm not sure that long-term memory retention of dream experience is less than waking experience retention.  Short-term, yes, but I see it as perfectly feasible that a powerful dream would lodge itself in long-term memory just like any other powerful waking experience.  Think of Jung's detailed memories of his childhood dreams in MDR.  My guess is that any memory that is potent and gets frequently reinforced over time is likely to maintain long term memory presence.


The fact that in dreams, when the general libidic levels are diminished, we see a diverse array of dream characters modelled in part on people from all stages of our life and in part on internal responses to those dream characters shows that our psyche is itself a kind of tribe.  Dream characters may orient more or less in line with the goals of the dream character and the dream character can undertake radical metamorpheses during the course of a dream, even changing sex or level of power over other dream characters.  Certainly across dreams in a given night one's dream character can take on a diversity of roles and experiences that belie the waking sense that one is a consolidated person.

I agree.  The "society" of characters in our dreams can be very tribe-like.  We are tribes unto ourselves . . . which is why we can be poly-tribal and exist in the modern world where monotribes are not functional.  My sense is that the tribe is really the most common "imprint" for the Self.  Disparate single functions interacting with one another and giving rise to a unifying, organizing principle.

I suspect it is the path of the tribal shaman to experience the tribe from within her or himself.  In other words, whereas the typical member of a tribe experiences Self mostly or only through the tribe, the shaman of a tribe experiences the tribe mostly through the Self.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]