In this quest for deep self-knowledge there is always a strong element of cause and effect, stretching back to a primal and fundamental time. I believe this is an inevitable paradigm into which we work as human beings, at least by default. We see only our perception, and time seems linear as a result of it. The hand carries the stone, the hand drops it, the stone falls. The hand dropping is the cause and the stone falling effect. Something causes the hand to drop and so forth back to the ‘beginning of time’.
With deep psychological matters such as personality and trauma, we could use a similar linear understanding in the analogy of a tree: the deep roots ae the fundamental essence of our being, the trunk and the branches more conscious forms. ‘Most people only ever live at the surface. They might prune the branches or support the trunk but they never change things at the roots. And it is precisely at the roots where we must change things. the roots are the ultimate cause.’
I think it is a useful analogy. I also fear that ‘roots and depths’ might be the wrong way to look at things outside of simple analogy. That we might be caught floating in a clusterfuck of forces the understanding of which is very difficult.
Contrast the cause and effect, linear progression of roots and trees with an analogy about gravitational forces.
The are two bodies of matter floating in space: A and B. A has an effect on B and simultaneously B has an effect on A. It doesn’t make sense to say A causes B without knowing how B also causes A. The relation is simultaneous. One may have a greater effect than the other (if B is larger for instance) but still A is still a cause. When we introduce C, to understand the effect A has on B, we must also understand the effect C has on A. And of course, A is simultaneously altering the outcomes of C. A has an effect on B and C, B on C and A, C on A and B. This varies and changes as they move around each other. This is just three forces and already the causes and effects are multiplying exponentially.
When we add D, E, F and G, we start to get close to something of complexity. How can we even begin to understand A’s effect on anything without a decent understanding of B, C, D, E, F and G, how they all effect and alter one another? The order between them, the power of each element is not within itself. The ability of it to effect another body is dependent on its location and the other forces in question. There is no inherent power of force in any element, but only a relational power. Which is significant, which less so? Each effect has many causes and each cause causes many effects! The ‘order’ which emerges out of this interplay is extremely difficult to comprehend.
How this non-linear analogy might aid me psychologically is to dispel the idealization of catharsis or total healing. ‘If only that one great poisoned root was torn out’ or ‘if only I could find the line of causality that caused this’. There will always be greater and lesser causes and it does make sense that the traumatized being will remember most prominently the most powerful. But one is not only caused upon but also part of causation, even if it does not feel that way. If I see myself as a force in motion in the cosmos, then I was never wholly helpless or formed from without, but also played a part in the relationship which brought me here (however small my part may have been and perhaps it was larger than I thought).
I am not helpless and I am not determined by only a few major events. I am as much a part of things as anything else. It is narrow thinking – and more fundamental still the paradigm within which we think! – that is exacerbating things and trammelling me into a certain fixed mode. In fact my agency only makes sense in this relation to others. My thriving is not dependent upon achieving one or two great things; a defining moment, the resolution of primal dreams, the supreme love. It is ongoing and unreachable, like a receding horizon. It will change when the tides do, and they will. How much I can do and can be is limited but also given meaning by the conflux of many, many things upon which I and all beings are mutually dependent.
From one to many.
No single soul but a thousand.
No centre-mind but a hollow circle.
The engine of life is what is before it.
The cosmos needed no creator and time needed no winding up by the hand of god. If we seek back for primal causes we may miss that we are occurring within one as we speak.
But I love the analogy of the tree, the language of roots, the seeking for primal depths. Maybe if the tree is one of many, and we consider the soil and the touching roots, and the quality of the air, and the animals in its branches…