Integrating primary process and split consciousness. (CC image: msr & naturalturn)

Hidden Integrations

March 31, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: 10-Unconscious, Art, Social Structure, Unconscious

Western society’s reverence for art seems to have revolved around good stories. Individuals achieving entrance to the pantheon of great artists often had childhoods and adult lives characterized by extreme stress. In the West, this may be partly because the artist represents an individual struggling to integrate nearly impossible polarities: community sensibilities with the cult of individuality. An artist seeks to portray what unites us, walking a path seeking unities, while alone. The stories of an artist’s struggle are also a description of how each individual seeks both an allegiance to community and self. It can be argued that the great Western artist finds a way to integrate the two, at least in his or her work.

I’ve described two neurological archetypes in my work on human evolution, autism and current social transformations. There is the male, maturationally delayed, and the female, accelerated, and both are matrifocal, often left-handed, leaning toward autism, inclined toward primary process and inclined toward being simultaneous thinkers. The other neurological archetype includes the familiar male who is maturationally accelerated and the female who is delayed (neotenous), and both are patrifocal, narrative-thinking, split-brained, normal right-handers. I’ve recently been playing with the idea that each displays a unique form of imagination, with primary process individuals exhibiting abilities to perceive and integrate larger patterns contrasted with split-brain thinkers that can easily imagine what does not exist while establishing the steps to get there.

What I’m considering at this particular moment is what might be occurring when a primary process thinker is introduced in childhood to split-brain thinking conventions, or the opposite, when a split-brain thinker is guided or propelled into how a primary process thinker thinks. For me, there is something similar to the life work of an artist, who is seeking to integrate seemingly incompatible polarities. It strikes me that by understanding the world by the way the world is perceived and processed, and offering ways that these two basic paradigms can relate, we might be encouraging a healthy integration.

It may be often the case that those artists and theorists that achieve success in their chosen avocations or professions are those individuals that have accidentally or unconsciously found ways to perceive and interpret information considered from both a primary process and a split-brain perspective. I have hypothesized that our society evolved from a matrifocal to a patrifocal frame and is now headed back to matrifocal, though in many ways what we are experiencing currently is integration. I’m hypothesizing that one way to approach how unique thinkers think is to consider that some individuals experience and exhibit an integration of both primary process and split-brain thinking processes.

It is my guess the integration is often not without stress. In just the way the artist in the West often acts as an example or symbol of the difficulty of synthesis between community and self, or the other ways of describing the existential polarities that we as humans wrestle with, those individuals that discover an ability to live in both primary process and split-brain worlds probably often experience the relationship as a struggle.

An example of two forms of imagination integration might be aboriginal children with natural primary process thinking inclinations that are raised in a Western home by split-brain parents, except that the parents are artists, and the home features an extended family with a mother’s sister and a mother’s mother living in the house. A net result might be an environment somewhat neurologically (and socially) familiar, with constant exposure to what may feel like a complementary opposite neurological condition. The children may become adults with a facility to intuit big picture, simultaneous, interconnected understanding with step-by-step abilities to achieve goals by imagining something that does not yet exist.

A perhaps more familiar example might be one that approximates the artist paradigm in Western culture. Consider a primary process thinker, a left-handed person, with left-handed parents. Borderline autistic, an Asperger’s candidate, this person is traumatized in early childhood and finds himself or herself withdrawing, except the world that he or she withdraws into features an enormous number of words. This person discovers that words are effective at creating a security zone isolating personal experience from a threatening environment. The person becomes an avid reader and uses his or her global imagination to fill the world up with the images his or her words create. Nevertheless, as a primary process thinker, community feels essential, resulting in a vivid imagination devoted to an imagined community, a community featuring many interconnections.

I hypothesize two neurological archetypes with few overt pathways toward integration of the two frames of reference. Some people, over the course of their life, experience various degrees of integration. Sometimes this occurs in an atmosphere characterized by love and affection. Sometimes this occurs in atmospheres featuring distress and misunderstanding. Both situations can result in individuals with enhanced abilities to serve society.

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