Not unlike the issue of Chaos Theory and Strange Attractors, this aspect of clinical affectology work can seem to be involved, convoluted, and maybe even of little consequence to the average reader, client or participant.
IN FACT, though, the concepts surrounding this "Avatar" construct are VITAL to an understanding of (1) why clinical affectology is so adamant about client-silence during therapeutic work, and (2) why the clinical affectology approach can be so suitable for online presentation of information.
So I am talking the liberty of filling this page with extracts from one of the most important lessons from the Training Course for Affectology Practitioners.
Please stay aware of the fact that this is produced for students and trainees, but if you are concerned about your inner self, then it is important detail
Your “Inside Person” is the ORIGINAL AFFECT PERSON.
We are not too concerned here about the provenance of the word avatar. That history does not suit our purposes well, as in Hindu philosophy, an avatar most commonly refers to the incarnation (bodily manifestation) of a higher divine being (Deva), or the Supreme Being (God) onto planet Earth. That is not what we are attempting to conceptualise here.
Much more usefully (for us) though, in modern parlance, the world of cyberspace has given the word “avatar” a different meaning, and one that suits our purposes perfectly. An avatar is a representation in another plane – a parallel universe/reality – of the real thing – the authentic person. I cite that modern practice of entering the realm of online cyber-reality gaming in which one is required to develop an avatar, a digital ghost self that is not “me” but is controlled by a “me” and operated somewhat like a puppet: a puppet that is evident to the observer, but which cannot be penetrated by the observer in order to reach a direct communication with the real “me.”
_ (the) later games assumed that you were the Avatar and "Avatar"
was the player's visual on-screen in-game persona.
The on-screen representation could be
customized in appearance. (after “Wikipedia 2007)
In this case (in cyberspace gaming), the observer can never bypass the avatar to get to the authentic operator. And the authentic operator (in our metaphor, the affect unconscious) constantly re-invents the avatar as an ego-driven false mask to the world – and yes, even to therapists, and perhaps ESPECIALLY to therapists – that serves to match its perceived self with what seems to be required. In other words, the argument is that every person is perennially shifting and re-shaping the “avatar self” in an effort to deny authenticity to the outside world, and most often (according to Goleman), even themselves.
By default of the findings in affect-neurological research, we have no choice but to declare our suspicion (albeit a little tempered by the nature of hyperdimensional characteristics of the human mind/brain) that the affect unconscious self and the ego-centric cognitive conscious self exist in disparate states and planes within each individual person. So, by further default, we must assign one to be the authentic self, the other, the inauthentic self. This is particularly true when it comes to the therapeutic exchange.
Before we go on, It is true that this statement above is an over-simplification; that the complexity of the human mind experience disallows for such rude partitioning, just as quantum psychology would profess that a clear and precise left brain / right brain sectioning and differentiation is an idiocy. But for our practical purposes in exposing you to the possibilities (and in my own world, probabilities) of the inauthentic avatar, this differentiation suffices.
So, in this reading, have you yet worked out for yourself which is which? Which is authentic, which is avatar, and what are the implications for therapy – ANY therapy?
If the ego-centric cognitive conscious were the true authentic self, then ALL therapy would go smoothly, and there’s an argument that (all) therapy would be a redundant or obsolete concept as the SUPPOSED authentic conscious self makes whatever authentic changes are necessary from the perspective of “Knowing.”
Affectology walks a fine line in its appreciation of the “affect unconscious” as being the authentic self, and I propose here that we can do well (professionally, as affectologists) to treat the “presenting client self” – the ego-centred cognitive conscious person, as “avatar.” This, of course implies that our apparent relationship with our clients will come from a place that they are not accustomed to, particularly if they have attended other more narratively-oriented therapies. So, the apparent relationship between clinical affectology Practitioner and client seems to be weighted on the side of respect for the affect subconscious and less respect for what the person “thinks” is the person – the ego-centred conscious self.
But I’ll go further than this.
The act of responding to a client’s verbal reports and self-opinions may very well be playing into the hands of various (truly) unconscious task drivers and parts drivers; the most obvious being the “get attention at all costs” parts driver that might be working in conjunction with the “avoidance of change” task driver. So, in very strict affectological terms, ANY engagement on the conscious level, apart from the very important set of re-educative mini-lectures we must give as part of the clinical affectology treatment, has potential to derail an approach that is intended to deal only with the authentic affect unconscious – rather than the avatar.
From a realistic perspective, we must tread very carefully in this task. I’m sure it’s not in any of us to be intentionally rude, but always bear in mind that powerful and very clever forces are at play within your client at unconscious level that are designed (with positive intention, by the way) to sabotage attempts to “have the unconscious see reason and arrive at new realizations.” So, firstly, we must remember all the conclusions of Jaynes, Goleman and others in the realisation that there can NEVER be authentic communication from subconscious to conscious. And that as a given, secondly, we must understand that any conversation involving self-reporting from client to practitioner is open to a huge range of interference from complex aspects of the subconscious, and the resultant possibility (then) of inauthenticity.
So it may be said that insofar as we accept, on a conceptual basis, that the affect unconscious is the authentic self, then what presents for therapy – this conscious, cognitive, self-assessing stratum of a client – must be an AVATAR.
While there are no observable boundaries or definable divisions between the affect subconscious and the “awake” and aware self, from a practical perspective as affectologists, we have little choice other than to develop acceptable ways to procedurally shun that part of our clients that is avatar, in the interests of a direct communication with what we believe to be the authentic self. The more we do one, the less we do the other. We cannot serve two masters or mistresses.
Those two existent “selves” are mutually exclusive.
We know that we enter into a relationship with our clients contracting to do all we can to help bring about a “re-learning change” at the level of the affect unconscious. In the esoteric world of the study of bicameralism and the way in which all humans are open to self-deceit, that contract can only be honoured and fulfilled by the judicious care with which we pay respect only to the territory of the subconscious. We owe it to our clients to keep on track of this and beware the avatar. The dynamic that might very well be “our enemy” is that dynamic that constitutes the varied ways and means by which the deceptive self can be manifest.
We have addressed Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind in previous study, so you have no trouble (I’d hope) with the notion that the more the conscious self attempts to unearth and make sense of the dynamic of the sub-aware self, the more the unconscious intuitive protects the information and disassembles (sabotages) the attempts.
HOW do Affectology Approaches CIRCUMVENT THE AVATAR?
The million dollar question!! You already know that I place great importance on telling every client about the phenomenon of transderivational search. This particular segment of our session work is not only important, but VITAL to effective clinical affectology. As a matter of fact, I think it’s vital to many other professions as well, but that’s another argument.
Revise our addressing of Transderivational Search in previous studies, and revisit in your mind just how important this is to us. If a client has grasped the concept well (read: if you’ve explained it well), then it provides an answer to the question of “how” the mind can allow messages to be taken on board at unconscious level (authentic affect self) without the necessity of filtering through the conduit of the conscious narrative self (avatar).
Furthermore it explains how we as practitioners can proclaim that although there may be no reaction or awareness of process at conscious level, we are convinced that through the process of TDS (transderivational search and isomorphism) the unconscious affect self accepts and “processes” the information in its private business of coming to a change of realization about “self.”
The task is to do all we can to ensure that this communicative processing is not sabotaged / derailed / interfered-with by the avatar.
Depending on the tone of the relationship between my client and I, I am often heard to joke – but for me it really isn’t a joke:-
“The only thing you really need to do for us to do good work, is for you to (1) stay in the room throughout, and (2) keep your hearing aid turned up!”
As irreverent as this might sound, it has set many a client to rest about any non-ability they may have thought they’d had about “letting the process happen.” To this end, we are proclaiming that (as a professional notion) the avatar can do whatever it wants, but the message is getting through. But we must remain suspicious of the possibility that the more the avatar is involved in the process of cross-narrative, the more it will interfere with the natural process of TDS.
Further to this, it also provides the perfect foil for those clients who are afraid they may not have the ability to “Go into auto-trance or self-attention” (before the fact), or may be afraid they did not (after the fact).
For the sake of performing well in respect of what we claim as being “private” and “subconscious” about our work, we have no choice but to ascribe “authenticity – the real person” to the affect matrix operating at true unconscious level, with all its foibles and tricks to delude self and others, and to ascribe “avatar” to the person who talks to us, presents with symptoms and seems to make all the rational choices that we usually attribute to “people.”
So, if the practitioner’s preparation of the client’s understanding of these things, along with a professional awareness of a high potential for parts and task driver activity, is adequate, then the solution to the problem of circumventing the avatar is that you ignore it.
I finish with a repeat of this completely challenging comment. Within the specific context of Clinical Affectology and all that has been presented above,..
“The more you show you care, the less you are really caring.”
That comment MUST be informed by a realization that the “questionable caring” mentioned (the overt expression of person-to-person caring) would be only for the avatar, and not for the authentic affect unconscious, and that “caring for and with” the avatar sets in train a great cascade of inauthentic cross-communication between the unconscious and the conscious of your client. Insofar as this seems to corral us and our work into very specific esoteric procedural territory, this then defines the “specialization” and particularization of Clinical Affectology and defines procedural imperatives and illustrates the uniqueness of the approach.
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