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Questions About Symptoms

the Emergence Explorer

Questions for the Week of January 22, 2007






Emergence Character Type Babies 9-AI-2


This Week's Questions


[posed by Ed D'U.]
  • Is every discomfort, irritation, bruise, painful feeling and distraction a symptom?
  • Is "not knowing" a symptom? In other words, is "what you do not know," a "wound?"
  • If "blocked needs cause symptoms," and if a BLock is a "hole," then are "symptoms," the "edge of the hole?"

Do you know?



[Question 1] Is every discomfort, irritation, bruise, injury, feeling, distraction, etc., a symptom? If so, then I have yet to truly learn this in an Emergence sense. For instance, I will often attend to a painful hip, only to have my wife point out that I should explore the other one as that is where the wound is. It seems, attending to symptoms is like have an itchy nose and licking your lips to stop the itch. This never quite gets it.)
[Answer] Is every discomfort, irritation, bruise, painful feeling, and distraction a symptom? Yes. However, in order to understand what this means, you need to know the fractal for symptoms. In other words, what is the recognizable visual pattern of relationships we call a "symptom?"

Symptoms are what happen to us when our visual access to a need gets blocked. In other words, "blocked needs cause symptoms." Why? Because you cannot chose to attend to what you cannot visually see. At least, not consciously. Thus, even when we manage to avoid our symptoms (such as when we medically reduce them to invisibility), we more miss the bullet by sheer luck than become bullet proof. In other words, the war hasn't ended. And we are still being shot at. We've simply survived another near miss and may take a bullet at any moment.

Being conscious, meaning, being visually unblocked, is much like being bullet proof. Not so much from that we can be shot and feel no pain. Rather, it is like the scene in the end of the first Matrix movie, wherein the hero is so fast, he avoids the bullets. And the punches. And the kicks.

Bringing it back to your specific question though, and to your hip pain, the question to really ask is which of your needs could be blocked? And as your wife wisely reminded you, the place to begin to look is in the place where you're least likely to look; the place where you see no symptoms. Your other hip. Why? Because the wound is always what you can't see. Never what you can.

So what might you not be seeing? Perhaps that you injured this other hip years ago, say in a fall or by getting kicked during a Tai Chi match. Perhaps you even got startled by your falling, or by your taking a blow to this hip. Being as I can't imagine falling or getting kicked without first becoming hyperaware, in either case, being startled would have injured you. How? By permanently connecting the mind emptying energy of the startling event with whatever physical / emotional / spiritual experiences you felt immediately preceding this event.

What could have preceded this startling event? One possibility is that you might have been standing off balance, as in placing too much weight on the opposite leg. What makes me say this? Because this very stance, repeated over time, would cause overuse symptoms to develop. Of course, if this is true, then at the point this happened, you would likely have done what all human beings do when they are in pain; they look for relief from the pain rather than for healing. Which guarantees they will experience the symptoms again.

So in your case, what might the real injury be? The non visual state which occurs each time you stand in this same unbalanced stance. The same stance which you stood in during the wounding event. And the same stance which caused your overuse symptoms.

Why call this the "injury" though? Because if you were visually aware that you were standing off balance, you would have corrected this. Every time. Why? Because the minor discomfort of this unbalanced stance would have gently reminded you to calmly correct this imbalance. Because you cannot change what you cannot see though, and because your injury has made you hyperaware of the other hip, you never even notice this minor discomfort in the hip which is actually injured. Which means, you never attend to the actual injury.

[Question 2] If "blocked needs create symptoms" and if a BLock is a "hole," then are "symptoms" the "edge of the hole?"
[Answer]
Are "symptoms" the "edge of the hole?" Yes, Ed. They are. And if you think about it, this makes our obsession with symptom relief rather ironic, don't you think? What I'm saying is, we humans focus almost all of our efforts to heal ourselves on something which is, in reality, so close to the wound. Close but no cigar though and in real life, our bodies give us no credit for coming close to healing. Only for healing itself.

In a way, seeing past symptoms to the actual wound is like trying to see the light from a flashlight when it is being held in front of a circus search light. Here, the actual wound is the flash light and the symptoms, the search light.

So can you see the flash light's light while standing in the light of a search light? Not really. So what if your pain relief depended on your being able to see the flash light's light while standing in the light of a search light? In reality, it very much does.

Have I lost you here? If so, I very much understand. Thus, like much about Emergence, my flash light / search light analogy is counter intuitive. In truth though, this analogy is the way it works, in that the symptoms are always many magnitudes greater and more distracting than the discomfort of the actual injury. Why? Again, you cannot attend to what you cannot see.

Thus, in the case of your hip pain, the ratio of symptomatic (but uninjured) hip pain to non symptomatic (but injured) hip discomfort is probably many thousands to one. Which makes attending to the pain of the real injury quite similar to discerning the flash light's light in the wake of a search light's light. Not an easy task, to be sure.

What makes this doable though is the very thing you've mentioned here; the idea that the symptoms are what is immediately around the hole. Thus, no symptoms stray very far from the actual wound. Moreover, you need not find this discomfort in order to find the wound. You need only notice where the screen of your mind empties. Why? Because it is never normal for the mind to empty. And because an empty mind always indicates shock, which is an unnatural state. For human beings anyway. And probably for all other beings as well.

[Question 3] When stuck in the compulsion of having to know (as in, the pressure to force Momentum Learning), is this pressure a symptom of a Blocked need to see what you can't see? What I'm asking is, is "not knowing" a symptom? In other words, is what you do not know, a "wound?"
[Answer]
Three questions and three answers. First question first. Is the pressure to know something a symptom?

The key to answering this question lies in the amount of pressure. Do you feel the pressure of curiosity, the explorer's motive? Or do you feel the pressure of being stupid for not knowing, the injured student's motive? The first is a good thing and entirely natural. The second, neither a good thing nor natural as it can often destroy one's love of learning.

As in the previous answer, the thing to watch for here is for an empty mind. Curiosity causes the mind to cycle very pleasantly between beautiful mists and crystal clear views; exciting to say the least. Whereas attempts to force learning empty the mind for long periods, which often then get punctuated by intermittent spurts of Layer Two logic. Which feels cold, empty, sterile and non visual.

This then brings us to your second question; Is "not knowing" a symptom? My answer? No. Not at all. In fact, the Yin state of learning is a condition we call, the "state of unknown."

What you might see as a symptom, though, is the state of learning which immediately precedes this, the sate we call, the "dead stop." And lest you hear this phrase as a negative, consider that the navigational controls of all great ocean vessels call their starting point the same thing. Coming to a "dead stop." Which unlike being "dead in the water," often saves the lives of the entire crew, should this dead stop avoid a collision.

Finally, you ask, is what you do not know, a "wound?" Here, I have to admit, I have yet to consider myself as having a real answer. At least, one which would fractally satisfy this question. Thus, at times, I see the abrupt emptying of the mind as the only real injury, as in, this abrupt mirrors the experience of being startled while hyperaware.

At other times, though, I see "not knowing" as something other than a wound, perhaps as being like the Buddhist sense of not knowing. Nothing wrong. Just something to be non judgmentally observed. Attended to, as you might say.

I guess the thing to know here would be, does all not knowing result from being startled? Or can "not knowing" simply be a virgin mind waiting to be filled?

My guess. All "not knowing" results from being startled. Even if you've no memory of ever having been startled.

How then would this apply to being conscious in the Buddhist sense? Again, this is only a guess. I think that when we ask ourselves things like is there a life after this one, if we push ourselves hard enough to find an answer, we may be startled by our own realization that we cannot find an answer. Moreover, if this occurs when we are in before seven time, our experience of this not knowing may well involve the quality that we never will know. A startling experience for a child to be sure.

Perhaps then, we incur many such "not knowing" injuries before age seven. And because these startling not knowing experiences occur internally rather than externally, it may be we have a harder time attributing our blankness to being wounded. Why? Because we can see no possible evidence for our having been wounded. At least, none that is easily seen.

In reality then, this may account for the fact that we humans have trouble discerning the difference between the pain of Dead Stops and the Yin state of learning we call, the Unknown.

[Question 4] Is there any difference between not knowing something in an emergence sense and being wounded? In a universe made up of fractals, is not knowing how to recognize a fractal akin to being blind? Can you know anything without knowing the fractals involved? Can you learn by extension without seeing / knowing the fractals involved? Can you teach anything without knowing the fractals involved? Is mastery a reflection of learning by extension? Can we learn to recognize fractals like we recognize squares?
[Answer]
This time, Ed, you've asked a whole slew of questions. I'll do my best to address them, one at a time.

Is there any difference between not knowing something in an emergence sense and being wounded? As I said a moment ago, I'm not sure. My best guess is that at the deepest level, there is no difference, but that at the experiential level, there is discernable difference. In fact, despite my having helped many people to heal wounds of the second kind, in truth, it's much harder to heal wounds wherein we've been injured by our own imaginations than by external events. Mostly because it's so hard to even know where to begin. I guess, in a sense then, internally generated startling events may cause the most difficult of all to heal blocks. Perhaps this is why Buddhism focuses there. Why? Because it probably is the place we have the most to gain.

In a universe made up of fractals, is not knowing how to recognize a fractal akin to being blind? It's actually more like needing reading glasses, Ed. In other words, if you're far sighted, you miss quite a lot of the beauty in the world. Especially at the level of small details, which is where much of the beauty in fractals exists. Being far sighted myself, I often feel amazed when I do see things I normally do not look at through my reading glasses, things like wall textures and finger nails and butterfly wings.

Thus, being blind to what a fractal is very much resembles being far sighted. You do see the stuff that is big enough to see, but you miss most of the beauty. Ironically, in this case, the may be very much like the alter ego of the cliche, "the devil is in the details." As in, the beauty is in the details.

Knowing fractals reveals this beauty to us. Not knowing them means we remain blind to some of the best stuff we might even lay eyes on. So to answer your question, yes, being unable to recognize a fractal is akin to being blind. Very much so.

Can you know anything without knowing the fractals involved? The simple answer? No. Unfortunately, explaining this "no" requires quite a lot of learning. The quick shot? Anything fractal contains infinite levels of detail, whereas anything artificial hits a point at which these levels of detail disappear.

For example, take the difference between silk roses and real roses. Both are made of materials which are fractal in nature. Roses and silk are both naturally occurring things. However, at the level at which the parts connect, the silk roses contain many non fractal joints, whereas the real roses contain none. All real transitions are phase transitions, rather than abrupt transitions.

My point? These transition points, the places where the parts connect, may be what make us see so much more beauty in the real rose as opposed to the silk rose. Thus, while a silk rose can indeed be beautiful in it's own right, this beauty lies more in what is fractal; the silk, than in anything else. Moreover, whatever beauty the silk rose has then ceases to exist each time this fractal nature ceases to exist. Which happens at every non phase transition. At every one of the joints.

As for your question, can you know anything without knowing the fractals involved? Ed, my answer is, no. Why? Because non fractal things are what we call, "artificial." Literally, they are not real. Moreover, you cannot know the nature of anything which is artificial. In reality, it's nature has been destroyed.

This is why I say you can only know what is real. In other words, if you do not know the true nature of something, you cannot truly know it. In this sense, only what is fractal, and so, only what is beautiful, is knowable. And what a thought this is. All fractal things are real. All real things are beautiful. A deeply meaningful thought to be sure.

Can you learn by extension without seeing / knowing the fractals involved? No. And this is true for the same reason as in the previous answer. Because you cannot know the nature of anything which is "not real." In fact, the only thing you can truly know about "what is not real" is that these things are not real. Why? Because whatever nature these things may have once had gets destroyed when their contiguously fractal nature gets fragmented into parts. Why? Because abrupt visual transitions of any scale cause our minds to empty, no matter how seemingly slight. This then is the nature of shock itself. The mind empties when we witness abrupt transitions.

Can you teach anything without knowing the fractals involved? No. But you can teach people to consciously witness that they do not know something. If, as the teacher, you are humble enough to model this admission for your students.

Is mastery a reflection of learning by extension? Wow, Ed. What a great question. As I think about it, I think, yes, it is. In fact, I believe you have pretty much nailed this one. Thus, any additional words will only serve to dilute the beauty in your wisdom. Good one.

Can we learn to recognize fractals like we recognize squares? No. And grasping why we can't is one of the hardest things I know of to teach someone. In a way, it's like teaching a maiden what child birth is like. Experience is the only teacher.

Conversely, teaching these differences as Layer Two concepts is one of the easier things to do. As easy as saying, squares are linear, and fractals are non linear. Which, if you think about it, shows you what makes learning to see fractals so hard. With linear geometries, you learn one set of rules and they apply every time. With non linear geometries, every time you learn one set of rules, you see what you've learned disappear. By the time you learn to see it, it's already changed.

Fortunately for us humans, while our logical minds are indeed geometrically linear (or at least, we aspire to make them this way), our visual minds are, by nature, geometrically non linear. Thus, even when we have no idea of what a fractal is, we still experience life fractally. Which makes it quite a mystery to me as to why we have such a hard time learning to recognize fractals.

In other words, a good Layer Two way of describing fractals might be to say they are our visual observations of recognizable patters of change. Then again, even I can't polish that turd of an idea. Yet another mystery to be solved, I guess. Or at least, marveled at.

[Question 5] What happens when a person is caught between a block and something which has emerged? The picture in my mind is like being caught between the sun and a black hole. For instance, I love and hate writing, martial arts, working out, making music, and art. I am constantly torn in my relationships with these things. I have a sense that I spend a lot of my time Layer Two-ing it, and that the level of mastery I seek involves me leaving Layer Two (and the comfort there) and going into the visual realm of the Inner Layers. What prevents me from doing this then? I'm not sure exactly. I only know I end up feeling stuck and suspect that if I were better able to recognize fractals, I would begin to learn at a much greater pace. Damn, being blind and lame sucks.
[Answer] Ed, with this one, you have me shaking my head. With love. On the one hand, I certainly recognize the situation you're describing; being caught between what seems to be love and hate. On the other hand, I'm not sure that the thing we call "love" in these situations is actually something which has emerged. In fact, I suspect it's not, this despite our strong feelings to go toward it.

So what is this feeling? I thing it's probably what we might better see as the two sides of symptoms. A fractal, really. On the one side, we feel the addictive qualities which draw us to this wound. On the other, we feel the avoidant qualities which warn us to steer clear of any and all contact. The psychologist's famous, "approach / avoid" conflict.

As I think more about it, I suspect the potential for us to feel these two contrasting qualities may exist in all blocks. However, like trying to stand a coin on end, we probably rarely experience this with most blocks.

And the one's we do experience it with?

I'd guess that these blocks are our most difficult. Why? Because, though great effort, they become the one's we're closest to healing. If so, then a good way to picture these experiences may be to see them as us being at the summit of a great mountain, about to reach the top, while at the same time, unable to find the way in which to overcome the last hurdle. What a painful place to be!

Perhaps though, that we can endure this pain is a proof we humans have the spark of divinity in us. Certainly, this pain seems to be the very struggle the ancient Greeks saw as the quest of the gods. Or at least, the essence of a hero's journey. If so, then the struggle here is more the struggle between our desire to win the good and our desire to avoid the bad than anything else. Certainly a deeply rooted human desire. And certainly a symptom of our very humanity.


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