Twenty Second Post – Spiritual Gravity II

Quite a while ago – coincidentally shortly after a contemplation seminar for which I’ll take the advanced level in a week – I thought about spirituality, religion, philosophy and how my understanding of people, the world and the universe fits into that.

In my original blog post, inspired by the film “Interstellar”, I named my “discovery” Spiritual Gravity.

Recently, I stumbled upon something that remarkably resembles my spiritual gravity theory – Panpsychism.

This theory essentially states that the entire universe might have some kind of semi-conscience. This is nothing new to many spiritual theories but in science it is still a hotly debated topic. Despite my artistic and psychological background I’m still mostly a natural scientist at heart and I was really excited to learn that there are scientific models to support my “Spiritual Gravity”!

In psychology and neighboring fields, it is not even fully defined what “consciousness” is and where it comes from. The search for the basic definitions of consciousness and what has it and what doesn’t, leads to – as Christoph Koch puts it in a comprehensive and well written article on this subject – “panpsychism, modified for the 21st century, being the single most elegant and parsimonious explanation for the universe I find myself in.” Over the centuries the meaning of consciousness has been continuously challenged and revised, from religious constructs like the “human soul” to the psychological model of “self-awareness”.

Scientifically, there seems to be no reason to attribute consciousness to the human mind but not to other complex systems; after all, key attributes of consciousness like self-reflection, using and creating tools, play, supporting others, communication, lying, cheating and creative problem solving can be found in countless creatures, from insects to fish, birds and mammals, and even plants.

Starting in physics, the basic question that leads to a panpsychism model is the property of quantum particles whose behaviour seems to be dependent on an observer. Depending on how they are observed, for instance in the famous double-slit experiment, they “choose” to behave like a wave or a particle. Even more curious is that this also holds true for observations of light that left a star millions of years ago; it could be said that observing it now changes how the particle behaved when it left its home before life developed on earth. The Copenhagen interpretation states that everything exists in all its possible states at once until it is observed and “collapses” into one chosen state. It is obviously very unintuitive to extend this principle to larger bodies and thus there might be physical laws that hold true for some phenomena but not for others. But how does a particle “choose” to be a particle rather than a wave and, most curious of all, how does it know that it is being measured?

Panpsychism explains this behaviour elegantly by taking the quotation marks out of the choosing. It states that there might be universal laws setting the foundation to develop consciousness in complex systems, like the brain – but also systems like the universe.

It sounds questionable at first, maybe, but once you dispose of incense waving, chakra invoking biases and allow the existence of “gradual” consciousness, it is not at all implausible. There are some observed phenomena that would be neatly explained by a theory of complex system consciousness, like Parenago’s Discontinuity, the faster movement of cooler stars compared to their hotter counterparts; coincidentally the threshold falls onto a temperature level that enables the formation of molecules within the stars, making them essentially more complex systems. If the GAIA satellite currently mapping the galaxy confirms this movement pattern outside the centre of the galaxy panpsychism is one of the few elegant theories able to explain the observations. It would even solve the question about “dark matter”, which cannot be measured other than in the theories it is used to explain.

I will refrain from citing the material in the articles I found but rather invite you to read them yourself and draw your own conclusions – and I’d, of course, be happy if you shared them in a comment or two.

Personally, with this new scientific-spiritual influx of information, I’m very much looking forward to my contemplation seminar that originally gave rise to my Spiritual Gravity Theory !

Another recommendation for a more entertaining read touching consciousness, philosophy and physics that deeply impressed me is the “Three Body Problem” by Liu Cixin. One idea appearing in this book is the increasing complexity of particles in higher dimensions. Alien technology allows for “unfolding” a particle to lower dimensions so it can be programmed like software – in higher dimensions these particles gain a complexity that resembles that of our universe with equal chances to develop self-aware, intelligent life. Who knows, maybe we exist in a proton and our universe ends when giant, low-dimensional aliens decide to smash us to bits in their particle accelerator!


Twenty First Post

Moving forward through a Sea of Sand

Or: how Dune helps me through my very own desert. (sadly, the version with only one “s”.)

Every time after I crash I have to work my way out of that dark place again and it feels like I’m trying to climb up a slippery sandy slope or swim up against a streaming swirl of syrup (I couldn’t help myself after I noticed the first alliteration). I see where I want to go but every movement towards where I was before my crash is so exhausting. I get a boost of energy and motivation, I go running once, I get some household chore done, I paint a picture, and then it gets dark again. Like a faraway lightning flash illuminating the person I could be for a second.

But I hold on to the thought that after every flash it gets ever so little brighter, even though I feel blinded for a moment.

It’s still so exhausting, though. I have to force myself to not look ahead. Only at the things directly in front of me; one step after the other, stumbling, sliding backwards. My therapist told me he’s impressed that I can keep my motivation up for one or two weeks, that I can get back to it on my own after yet another crash.

I’m just afraid that at some point there will be a crash where I cannot. I’m afraid of all the tasks before me that seem insurmountable. I know they aren’t. Bloody hell, there’s idiots finishing their MSc degree every day and to me it seems I try to win the Nobel Prize. I just wish I had some kind of creative safety net. Something like writing or painting or at least some kind of sport. I do these things but they, too, consume energy, rather than give it to me. Everything needs persuasion.

Sometimes I get so angry at myself for that. But being angry consumes way too much energy.

Currently, my plan is to learn how to deal with those crashes; maybe how to not fall so hard or slip back so often. For now, I’ve given up on not crashing anymore. I know I will. I know it might be like that for the rest of my life and that thought is incredibly scary. But I’ve gotten past so many of them by now – although it doesn’t get any easier maybe I can at least learn to deal with them better.

One tool I found for myself is the “Litany against Fear” (much obliged to Frank Herbert and his magnificent world of “Dune”). I read the first novel when I was actually too young to understand everything but this one aspect stuck in my mind. I now rewrote the Bene Gesserit “Litany against Fear” into a “Litany against Fear and Despondence” (and it was quite difficult to find an adequate noun/verb combination with the meaning of “giving up” to complement the “fear”).

I want to share it, just in case someone else is looking for something to cling to when all other reason fails.

I will not fear.

Fear is the Mind-Killer

I will not despond.

Despondence is the Little-Death,

Leading to Obliteration.

I will face my Fear.

I will face my Despair.

I will let them pass over,

And through me.

I will turn the inner Eye,

To see their Path.

Where they have gone,

There shall be Nothing.

Only I will remain.

Twentieth Post

My boyfriend recently introduced me to a digital manga – you can’t really call it “game” because there are very few choices, actually – called “Doki Doki Literature Club“.

I guess, I should have heeded the warning at the beginning, that it might not be suitable for someone suffering from depression. It’s really nicely done and the first character you encounter is the main characters childhood friend. She’s a cheerful girl, always trying to make everyone around her happy, always has a smile for everyone. When you join her literature club everyone is tasked with writing a poem to share for the next day. I don’t want to say too much about it, because if you like manga – or even if you don’t – it’s a creepy but very entertaining story to follow and it only takes a little more than an hour.

I just want to say that her second poem really touched me; I have no idea about poetry. I recognise classical poems, I know sonnets, but the patterns and rhythms of modern poetry often escape me. Hers stuck with me, I guess, because I found so much of myself in her character.

This is probably not the right way to look at this topic, but when I followed her story to the end my first thought wasn’t sadness or horror, it was admiration. My first thought was that – although she wasn’t portrayed like that at all – she was courageous in her decision. In one final choice she had the courage to put her own interest above that of everyone else.

Sometimes I wish I had that courage.

Anyway, this is her poem that I liked so much.


Nineteenth Post

The Door, the Hermit and the Never-Ending Story

More introspective musings !

(If I ever repeat myself I apologise for that. Since there are months if not years between my individual posts, I might forget that I have mentioned something already.)

I found a new favourite image for my depression. A door. When I was young it was hidden behind the wallpaper; I noticed that there is something and it made me aware that there are aspects of myself that I cannot grasp yet. As I grew older the wallpaper slowly peeled away around it the more I questioned my surroundings, myself and life – but I was still content in my externally structured everyday life with school and later university. Once I encountered the first moments where true, autonomous decisions about my life were expected of me, the door swung open, and I found… nothing. Nothing that binds me to life like all others around me seem to be.

Now, I oscillate between phases of motivation, where I keep on trying for the sake of those who love me, where I get myself to more or less believe that I’ll find this “something” at some point, where “the needs of the many clearly outweigh the needs of the few” (or, in this case, one) – to quote one of my childhood heroes – and phases of despair, where nothing has meaning, there is no reason to fight, I feel the love of those around me as shackles chaining me to existence. Or, to get back to my metaphor, phases where the door is closed, the meaninglessness behind it is white noise in the background that I can ignore or distract myself from, and phases where it is wide open and the greyness behind it is seeping in every corner, stealing every colour away, the noise drowning out everything else.

The thought that scares me most is that my existence will be governed by these cycles, distraction and despair, searching and meaninglessness, battle and exhaustion.

Do not misunderstand me; I do enjoy things. Little things mainly, like baking a cake, seeing a beautiful autumn leaf, listening to a song I like, waking up and everything is shrouded in fog, watching a good film… When the door is closed. I probably seem very happy. Because listening to the white noise only makes it stronger, so I pretend it’s not there. I do have “dreams” for my future, but they’re all “snapshots”; having a child some day (although this is rather vague and a very controversial one, I believe I can be as much a terrible mother as a good one), travelling to the Himalayas, diving, seeing the aurora… now that I think of it, that’s it, really. A little pitiful, honestly. They’re not dreams of what I want to become, what I want to achieve. I don’t have those.

An analogy I, by now, told two friends, that I liked a lot is my “hermit problem”. Makes it sound really scientific.

From what I observe, people have this innate, inextinguishable will to live. If someone thinks of suicide it’s (almost) always not a wish to die, but a wish to escape whatever constitutes their current life/situation. No one I talked to actually wanted to die. They want to be somewhere they can be happy, but sometimes lose the belief that there is a way to ever be happy. My hermit analogy is then: Assume that there is a person who is happiest when they’re alone, no ties to anyone, no dependencies or influences either way. They move to a lonely hut in the woods with a garden and everything they need for living comfortably on their own terms.

Why do they go on living ?

Might sound silly, but I really don’t know.

If you have a few happy days there, where does this need to accumulate more and more happy memories come from ? You cannot really “accumulate” them. If you rule out something like writing a diary for someone to find some day, what’s the point ? I know religion has some answers here if you believe in a meritocratic afterlife. I don’t. I do hope that there might be some kind of continuation of existence, but that’s really my curiosity here. If there isn’t it’s just as well.

Sometimes, this makes me wonder if my depression is innate somehow. I have no external reason for being depressed, no traumata, no screwed up childhood, no mobbing, no relationship gone awry. I could be (or should be) really happy right now. I have everything most other people with depression crave.

And yet here I battle white suicide noise every bloody day.

But, as one of those “many” in the quote above put it, I’m “part of someone else’s happy memories.” Quite a few, actually. Sometimes more than I want. So I guess that’s that. You know, the never-ending story,

close the door;

hold it shut;

tire out;

resign, drown in grey, panic, fight, struggle, push;

close the door…

Eighteenth Post – Revisited

I have to admit, I completely forgot that I wanted to translate this last post at some point – well, here it is:

(This article, as the last few, is not supposed to be some cry for help. I observe my thoughts and I try to put them into words for those who have an interest in understanding me. That is all.)

I remember my very first psychotherapy. I told my therapist that, deep inside, I’m actually a very happy person. I described my moods like an ocean; the surface can be whipped up by storms and the skies darkened, but deep underwater it always remains calm and quiet. At that point, it was like that. I lead the structured, externally guided life of a child – although biologically I would long have been counted as an adult. I did question the purpose of my own existence from time to time but at that point, the answer “for the happiness of those who love you” was more than good enough.

Now, the image of the ocean still holds true, with its changing weather at the surface, but through the loss of these supporting, externally defining structures it is now more of a quiet sadness and emptiness in the depths below. The challenges I face in life lead me more and more to the question what the purpose and reason for my existence is. The answer that was valid so far is of course, still true, but it is no longer satisfactory – if it is just because by now I came to the conclusion that there should be an intrinsic purpose to life which seems to unquestionably natural for most people, they cannot even imagine it not being there.

The advice I’m given is usually obvious but not very helpful; a purpose is not necessary to solve the immediate challenges I’m facing. Maybe that is true, but when is it relevant, then? At what point is it legitimate to say that there seems no purpose to ones own existence? I do try to follow this advice and I struggle through these “small steps” I’m supposed to focus on. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not so much – of course the successes feel good, I fought through some obstacle and achieved the result I set out to reach. I tell myself it will get easier with every step I take forward, every task I can check off (after all, that’s what all these habit advisers say), but I found out that this is not true. At least not for me. It doesn’t get easier or less taxing at all. If I successfully completed the step before doesn’t have any influence on the difficulty of the next one; and thus all these little steps drain my strength. Every morning, get up, struggle, sleep; every morning getting up is a little harder; every morning my mantra that I have to just hold on a little longer and it will all get easier feels more like a lie. Each task takes more of a struggle and this unanswered question what it is all good for is harder to push away.

This is then the moment when it all slips away again, my self-imposed structures collapse, my careful documentations lose all value, my contacts and hobbies become exhausting and encumbering. Training plans, work schedules, journals, mood diary, food diary, painting, drawing, even video games which have always been my last mean to escape reality, lose their supporting function and break down. I escape into sleep because it seems the only way to escape these constant questions, doubts, responsibilities, for which I have no answer and no one else seems to, either. To use another image, it feels like it’s getting darker around me and the struggle to keep this flame burning, is getting harder, everything slowly losing every significance. All that is left is a tiny, flickering candle telling me that there is nothing I have to give to the world that no one else could give in my stead; nothing I could be for anyone that not someone else could be better – except one: my parents’ daughter.

This is what I hold on to; they, who did everything right, who I could not imagine any better way, deserve it least of all people that I shatter their world so utterly, intentionally and knowingly. How ungrateful would I be to do such a thing. I am supposed to articulate my thoughts, this emptiness inside, see the despair and horror they provoke in those who love me, realise that there is no valid reason to inflict this kind of suffering in people I care about. And thus I get up for the next little step…

And my own cycle of light and darkness continues, fight and capitulation, until my carefully constructed life starts slipping out of my hands again and it, once more, needs the despair of my loved ones to spark my little flickering candle to new light – which always also illuminates the chains of expectancy, love and responsibilities tying me to this path. And still, nothing seems to get easier, needs less struggle, has more meaning. Every idea I have for my own future is as transient like all the other interests I follow but only briefly distracts me from the inherent meaninglessness. I followed so many ideas, always full of hope that this one, surely, will be the one that lends meaning to everything. By now, I sense them but I lost the enthusiasm they used to spark within me, knowing it is yet another failure. I don’t have this kind of strength anymore; I need it for my next little step that everyone expects of me.


PS. I recently came across the difference of “expecting something of someone” and “thinking someone capable of doing something”. I have to admit, none of those is a positive enforcement to me; if someone is expecting something of me, I disappoint their, well, expectations, if someone thinks me capable of something, I not only disappoint their expectations but I disappoint at a more personal level since their expectations were fuelled by their impression of my abilities to solve the given tasks.

Eighteenth Post – Meiner Eltern Tochter

(I might post an English version soon)

Ich erinnere mich, als ich meine erste Psychotherapie machte, sagte ich meiner Therapeutin, dass ich im Grunde genommen ein glĂŒcklicher Mensch sei. Ich beschrieb einen Ozean, an dessen OberflĂ€che zwar StĂŒrme das Wasser aufpeitschen und den Himmel verdunkeln konnten, aber in den tieferen Regionen bliebe alles ruhig und ausgeglichen. Damals war das auch so, als noch das strukturierte Leben eines Kindes fĂŒhren konnte – auch, wenn ich dem Alter her natĂŒrlich als erwachsen bezeichnet hĂ€tte werden können. Ich habe mich gelegentlich nach dem Grund meiner Existenz gefragt, und damals, als mein Alltag aus vergleichsweise mĂŒhelosem und fremdstrukturiertem Schulunterricht bestand, war die Antwort “FĂŒr das GlĂŒck derjenigen, die dich lieben” auch gut genug.

Jetzt steht das Bild dieses Ozeans noch immer, mit wechselnden Wettern an der OberflĂ€che, aber durch den Verlust dieser halt gebenden Strukturen ist es nun so, dass in der Tiefe eine gleichbleibende Leere und Traurigkeit herrscht, zu der alles immer wieder zurĂŒckpendelt. Die Anstrengungen, die das Leben mir nach meiner Wahrnehmung abverlangt, lassen mich immer öfter die Frage stellen, was der Sinn und das Ziel dahinter sind. Die bisherige Antwort behĂ€lt natĂŒrlich ihre GĂŒltigkeit, aber sie reicht nicht aus, die Frage befriedigend zu beantworten, sei es nur deswegen, dass ich mittlerweile reflektiere, dass es auch ein intrinsisches Ziel im Leben geben mĂŒsste, und dass es bei vielen um mich herum so selbstverstĂ€ndlich zu sein scheint, dass sich diese Fragen gar nicht stellen.

Die RatschlĂ€ge, die ich erhalte, sind offensichtlich, aber nicht hilfreich. Der Sinn wĂ€re zunĂ€chst einmal nicht relevant dafĂŒr, die momentan anstehenden Dinge anzugehen; das stimmt vermutlich, aber wann ist er denn dann relevant? Wann ist es legitim zu sagen, dass man keinen Zweck im eigenen Dasein sieht? Ich versuche mich an diesen Ratschlag zu halten und kĂ€mpfe mich durch diese angepriesenen kleinen Schritte. Manchmal mit Erfolg, öfter mit einem Fehlschlag – natĂŒrlich fĂŒhlen sich die Erfolge gut an, ich habe mich durch etwas durchgekĂ€mpft und das Ergebnis erzielt, das es werden sollte. Ich sage mir, dass es einfacher wird, wenn ich erst einige Erfolge erzielt habe, einige Aufgaben abhaken kann, aber nach und nach erkenne ich immer, dass das nicht stimmt. Es wird nicht einfacher oder weniger anstrengend. Ob ich eine Aufgabe geschafft habe, oder nicht, wirkt sich nicht darauf aus, wie anstrengend der nĂ€chste kleine Schritt ist. Und so zehren die kleinen Schritte an meinen KrĂ€ften; jeden Morgen aufwachen, durchkĂ€mpfen, schlafen gehen, bis mir das Aufstehen immer ein bisschen schwerer fĂ€llt, und ich meine LĂŒge, dass ich nur noch ein bisschen weiter machen muss, damit es leichter wird, mehr und mehr als diese wahrnehme. Jede Aufgabe erfordert mehr Überwindung, erscheint sinnloser und die unbeantwortete Frage, warum ich das alles tue, ist immer schwieriger wegzuschieben.

Das ist der Moment, in dem mir wieder alles entgleitet, meine selbstauferlegten Strukturen fallen in sich zusammen, meine sorgfĂ€ltigen Dokumentationen verlieren ihren Wert, die Kontakte und Hobbies, mit denen ich mich abzulenken versuche, werden anstrengend und belastend. TrainingsplĂ€ne, ErnĂ€hrungstagebuch, Stimmungstagebuch, ArbeitsplĂ€ne, Malen, selbst Videospiele, die immer mein letzter Zufluchtsort sind, verlieren ihre halt gebende Funktion und brechen zusammen. Ich flĂŒchte mich in den Schlaf, weil es die einzige Möglichkeit scheint, all diesen Verpflichtungen, Fragen und Gedanken zu entkommen, fĂŒr die ich keine Antwort weiß und mir niemand, den ich fragte, eine geben konnte.

Und so, um ein anderes Bild zu gebrauchen, wird es um mich herum langsam dunkler, wĂ€hrend mir die Kraft ausgeht, die Flammen am Leben zu halten und mir nach und nach alles bedeutungslos erscheint. Übrig bleibt eine kleine, flackernde Kerze, die mir sagt, dass ich der Welt nichts zu geben habe und fĂŒr niemanden etwas sein kann, das nicht auch ein anderer an meiner Statt geben oder sein könnte, außer einer Rolle, die tatsĂ€chlich niemand anderes erfĂŒllen kann als ich: Meiner Eltern Tochter sein. Daran klammere ich mich, an den Gedanken, dass sie, die immer alles richtig gemacht haben, die ich mir nicht besser hĂ€tte wĂŒnschen können, es von allen am wenigsten verdient hĂ€tten, dass ihre Welt so gewaltsam zerschlagen wird, noch dazu von meiner Hand. Wie undankbar und selbstsĂŒchtig wĂ€re das von mir.

Ich soll meine Gedanken und meine Leere mitteilen, sehe die Traurigkeit, das Entsetzen und die Verzweiflung, die sie in denen auslösen, die mich lieben, sage mir, dass das kein Ausweg ist, den ich verantworten kann und so stehe ich auf, und erkÀmpfe den nÀchsten kleinen Schritt.

Und damit geht dieser Zyklus aus Licht und Dunkelheit, Kampf und Kapitulation, weiter, bis mir das nÀchste Mal mein Leben aus meinen kraftlosen Fingern gleitet und es die Verzweiflung meiner NÀchsten braucht, um die flackernde Flamme wieder etwas anzufachen, die mir aber gleichzeitig die Ketten aus Erwartungen, Liebe und Verantwortung aufzeigt, die mich an diesen Weg fesseln.

Nichts wird leichter, erfordert weniger Kampf als zuvor, hat mehr Bedeutung fĂŒr mich. Jede Idee, die ich fĂŒr meine Zukunft habe, ist genauso flĂŒchtig, wie jedes andere Interesse, dass ich kurze Zeit verfolge und das dann seine FĂ€higkeit verliert, mich von der Sinnlosigkeit in allem abzulenken. Ich habe so viele Ideen gejagt, immer mit der Hoffnung, dass es diesmal allem einen Sinn geben wĂŒrde. Mittlerweile nehme ich sie noch wahr, aber verfolge sie nicht mehr mit Enthusiasmus, weil ich weiß, dass sie doch wieder ein Trugbild sind. Diese Kraft habe ich nicht mehr, ich brauche sie, um mich durch die kleinen Schritte zu kĂ€mpfen, die jeder von mir erwartet.



PS. Weil ich vor Kurzem auf den Unterschied zwischen “jemandem etwas zutrauen” und “etwas von jemandem erwarten” gestoßen bin. FĂŒr mich ist keine von beiden stĂ€rkend und Ersteres die grĂ¶ĂŸere Belastung: wenn jemand etwas von mir erwartet, dann erfĂŒlle ich nur die gestellten Voraussetzungen nicht, wenn ich die Erwartung nicht erfĂŒlle; wenn mir jemand etwas zutraut, dann erfĂŒlle ich nicht nur die Voraussetzungen nicht, ich enttĂ€usche auch auf einer persönlichen Ebene, da mir aufgrund meiner scheinbaren persönlichen Kompetenzen die FĂ€higkeiten zugesprochen wurden, die Aufgaben erfolgreich zu bewĂ€ltigen.

Seventeenth Post – Sea of Sadness

The depression I’ve been fighting through in the last year made me think a lot about how outside events influence my feelings. I just spent two weeks on the Cape Verde islands with lots of free time, walking along the beach, listening to the waves, thinking, feeling.

I came to the conclusion, that it feels like there is a well of sadness somewhere in my being, and events are more or less different channels tapping into it. But the well has always been there. That is my theory to explain that all these events feel so connected, tapping into the same sadness, easily flowing from one memory to a completely different one and the feeling itself seems to have always been there, like a deep current.

Of course, sadness is an innate feeling for many lifeforms and thus it is easy to say “it has always been there”. But it feels like a deeper, melancholic sadness; a longing for quietness, being alone, not this loud, attention demanding sadness. Maybe that is endogenous depression; if it has always been an integrated part of one’s personality. I think that is the main reason why I recently discovered my passion for diving. It reflects that sea of sadness inside of me. It is quiet, muted colours in hues of blues and greens, floating in slow currents.

The channels – i.e. sad events – seem to stay open, for me. They don’t diminish in volume or capacity, they just can be out of focus if another channel gets focused on due to some internal or external trigger. But when they are moved back into focus nothing has changed; I still get washed over by sadness just as much as before. (However, at least it is the same with love, too.) Sometimes, it feels like I fall through one of these channels and get pushed around from one memory to another or without any specific memory at all.

Despite sadness being a negative emotion, often I feel … at home floating in that sea. Maybe because it has always been there. My suicide thoughts – when life seems too much of everything; noise, colours, light, talking, people, thoughts, feelings – always incorporate images of being alone, floating into some kind of dark nothingness. Space. Sea. Silence.