Paul DeFatta, Opening the Doors of Perception
The heightening or deepening of sensitivity involves the removal of those accustomed filters and muffling veils between our souls, our imaginations, our feelings, our senses, our intellects, on the one hand, and the plethora of intelligible phenomena that surround and inhabit us, on the other. Unless we have developed our ability to handle or make some kind of meaningful sense of the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and imaginings that flood into us—as we lower the shields and widen the gates—we may be opening Pandora’s Box instead of enriching our life experience. These two go together—or SHOULD, in any case: sensitive responsiveness and sensible handling of the impressions and perceptions that we are confronted with. Profound sensitivity or openness without the crucial addition of these organizing and meaning-bestowing abilities often results in something like the computer ‘crash’ that occurs when the processor is overloaded and freezes up. On the other hand, superior management skills that are not coupled with sensitivity to the richness and variety of Life’s offerings often leads to sterility, monotony, and tyrannical control of a tiny fiefdom.
No doubt, most of our directed thinking—and certainly our habitual or dogmatic assumptions—unintentionally hamper and limit our general sensitivity to ideas, feelings, and imaginings that are otherwise within the easy reach of our minds and hearts. Thus, our established mental habits and accustomed feeling valuations CAN function like pinpoint portals or colored filters that block out all but a tiny quanta or very limited spectral range of visible light. If the portals were greatly expanded or the spectrum was significantly broadened, we might be hurtled into something very much like an LSD trip. When we open the ‘doors of perception’ (the phrase [from Blake via Huxley] that inspired the name of that famous psychedelic rock group fronted by Jim Morrison) we are in danger of drowning under a tsunami of ideas, sensations, desires, and fears from which we are usually shielded by our firmly established desensitization or anesthetization. It would seem, then, that these doors must be opened carefully, gradually, and only by persons who are courageously prepared to confront what is waiting to greet them as they ‘break on through to the other side. ’
Is there a necessary connection, I wonder, between re-sensitization (in any area of one’s makeup) and de-stabilization? There quite clearly appears to be a connection between the anesthetization of our minds, hearts, and imaginations, on the one hand, and those often automatic and undeviating patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that provide stability and regularity to our lives, on the other. These established circuits and channels constitute the stream beds down which psychic energy courses through our little ‘microcosmic’ systems. As psychic energy courses down these specific routes, of necessity it results in an overall picture (or Gestalt) of self and world that mirrors this particular configuration of established thought-forms, feeling values, affective reactions, and recurring associations. Although these individual systems—the circuitry that constitutes the ‘programs’ we live in and by—are extremely limited and largely automatic in their functioning, we unconsciously project them, like road maps or Cartesian grids, onto the infinitely variable, protean, and ultimately opaque ‘X’ just beyond our maps—conflating map and territory in our heads, in the (unconscious) process. Thus, the ‘world’ is to a great extent made to conform with our restricted, distorting, and thoroughly prejudicial map of territory we almost never encounter directly—precisely because the ‘world,’ OUR constructed world, gets very much in the way.
In speaking of sensitization I am speaking of the conscious attempt to see and feel and experience beyond the limited circuitry of our established patterns of psychic activity. Before we can begin to dismantle the enclosing walls of these trenches, we must first become aware of them AS trenches—and of our existential situation as a form of ENTRENCHMENT. Our attachment to our trenches is perfectly understandable—despite the fact that lifeless corpses (and vigorous vermin) also abound there, as well. In the trenches we enjoy a certain amount of protection from the ‘dangerous’ world outside. We are submerged within this partially protected labyrinth of subsurface channels. This becomes ‘home’ for us. Unless some kind of truce is established with the ‘enemy’ without, we are likely to wile away our cramped little lives in the trenches. But this is only one way—a particularly dire one—of viewing entrenchment within our confining, familiar, semi-protective circuitry. Nonetheless, it is a way of speaking about the human situation—one that resonates quite powerfully for many of us, for it points to the enormous risks that are involved in liberating ourselves from our entrenched situation. At some level, we all make peace with those imprisoning walls that offer partial protection from the artillery and shrapnel flying about just beyond the walls. Of course, there are far more benign and interesting things than artillery and shrapnel waiting to greet us beyond the walls, as well.
Perhaps the first genuine indication that a person is ready to begin the risky adventure that commences with the lowering of the walls and the opening of the gates is precisely this feeling that one’s world, one’s ‘circuitry,’ one’s MAP, has become a cramped prison cell. At such a point we begin to weigh the advantages of continued protection and insulation against the disadvantages of ongoing boredom (with oneself and with others) and progressive asphyxiation (often from one’s own noxious gas emissions). When continuing self-incarceration becomes so unbearable that we would prefer to 'do ourselves in' rather than remain stuck on our own map, some of us will venture into the STRANGE rather than die in the cold, flaccid arms of the FAMILIAR. But, alas, many are so thoroughly addicted to prison life, such a course is inconceivable. And we all know about the high costs of maintaining inmates in our ever-expanding prison-systems.
Feb 2, 2012