The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Jordan Gruber & James Fadiman. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guests are Jim Fadiman and Jordan Gruber. Jim is a PhD and is former president of the Institute of Noetic sciences and is a professor of psychology. He’s written textbooks, trade books and novels. And he’s one of the foremost researchers in microdosing studies. That sounds damn interesting. The author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and is a co-founder of Sophia University, rooted in transforming the transpersonal. He’s been researching healthy multiplicity for more than 20 years. Jordan Gruber is co-author, he’s had a part in writing books and essays on forensic law, financial services and self-development. He founded the enlightenment.com website and has co-authored an authoritative book on rebound exercise called The Bounce. That also sounds interesting, but today we’re going to be talking about their recent book. They wrote together called Your Symphony Selves: Discover and Understand More of Who We Are.
It was a very interesting book, had me scratching my head there for a while until I finally got it. I suspect this is some of Gruber’s intent, right? The fact that you guys don’t exactly come out and say what these multiple selves are really anywhere in the book, it’s kind of this spiral method of getting at it. But to get down to it, you basically are saying that all human beings, it’s a quote from the book, all human beings, including those who are healthiest and most successful are composed of more than one self. So even though you didn’t quite do it in the book, probably intentionally, what do you mean when you say we have more than one self?
James: : Well, it’s wonderful to know that you read it sufficiently closely to notice that we tend to prefer to report observations of what it looks like and feels like, and is like rather than definitions. I think it’s the notion of the difference between the menu and the meal. People really prefer the meal, but people at least academics in my world love to write menus.
Jim: I must admit as a classic left brainer, that style was probably not optimal for me, but I nonetheless enjoyed it. You kind of kept piling up details and eventually, the elephant emerged from the fog bank sort of, and I can at least tell it was an elephant, not a rhinoceros.
James: : Yeah. And we may quote you with that metaphor.
Jim: Yeah. Fine by me and going on in the book right early on the first page or two, we really are different people or have different minds, parts or personalities in different moments and in different contexts. And this gets to a theme you’ll hear me come back at you again is probably my left brain overly analytical kind of thing, which is the difference between different people which you do talk about a fair amount, the history of actually different people in the same brain versus parts or personalities or moods, et cetera. So no need to go real deep into that right now because it’ll come up as we go along. Just want to give you a heads up. It’s one of the things I’ll be probing on, shall we say to figure out where the boundary is between this elephant and the fog bank?
Jordan: So I have a question, Jim, at a certain point in the book, I think maybe in chapter seven, we do try to relate selves to the idea of selves states and the definition we’re now using is a tiny bit different is that selves also called selves states are recurring patterns of mind, body chemistry, perception, beliefs, intentions and behaviors in human beings. We’re all comprised of a set of constellation of these selves that we cycle through. So to the degree that you can observe someone selves, either their behavior or on the inside, your feelings and thoughts, the claim is that we generally kind of end up in one of several major selves through our ordinary day-to-day lives and that you really can see them from the outside that this really is observable.
Jim: Yes. Let’s jump into it here then. I was going to wait later, but how do you distinguish what you call selves from say moods, right? Okay, I’m a little slow ass this morning, but yesterday I was kind of fired up and kind of ready to rock and roll. I mean, we all have different moods on different days, but we still are sort of the same person, at least we often are. And yet, I will say I had never really thought of my selves as being multiple selves, but after reading your book, I did pull up half dozen or so things that at least seemed like candidate selves, seem to be qualitatively different than moods.
James: : That’s exactly it, Jim. And what happens is, and we’ve seen it over and over and over is people say to us a question like, “Your [inaudible 00:04:57]. Well, isn’t this just moods?” And we say, “Why don’t you just read a chapter or two and then look around at the way you are.” And people come back and say, “Oh, that’s what you mean by selves, it’s an actual shift.” For some people, it’s as simple as having a cup of coffee in the morning. Where they move from a little sluggish and a little tired and maybe not particularly nice, to feeling as if they truly are using a different part of themselves to function.
That their vocabulary shifts, their energy levels shifts, their ability to take in and process information shifts. And what we’re seeing is that shift is not a mood. It’s much more profound than that. And because it happens easily and naturally because that’s how we’re designed, it can also be overlooked because you’re still using the same name. All of these selves can take out the same wallet and look at the same driver’s license, but there isn’t enough so that you notice it and the people that are around you notice it.
Jim: Indeed, as I said. Initially I said, “What the hell is this shit, right?” And then as I read the book, I started looking at some of the examples you give and say, “I think I have some things that could be called selves in that sense.” Let me give you two examples and tell me if this falls into the ballpark of what you are self, called selves. The first one as I was kind of going through my mental history is, Jordan knows, I got a pretty good memory. I can remember an awful lot of strange shit that happened to me over the years. And the first one I stumbled into as I was doing this personal examination was I was a pretty serious baseball player when I was 13, 14 and 15.
And in fact, when I was 15, I did reach the pinnacle of my baseball career and never played it seriously again. But we were a really good team, won the County championship, all this sort of stuff. And when you were in baseball head, it was very different than normal day to day. You had a little pattern, “Hey, [inaudible 00:06:59]. I know [inaudible 00:07:01].” You were kind of signaling to all the players. You were watching every aspect of the game, but there was nothing in your head except baseball for the two hours or so that the game went on. And I said, “I think there’s baseball Jim.” Baseball Jim, at least the last couple of years when I was playing highly competitive baseball, that personality was entirely wrapped up in just that. It didn’t tend to use memory of anything else.
And interestingly, I also thought it’s kind of odd, even though I spent huge numbers of hours with these people on the team, I never really made any friends on the team that I hadn’t had friendships with previously because there probably wasn’t room in baseball Jim, or baseball Bob, baseball Dave and baseball Steve, to actually invest much in interpersonal relationships outside the hard news playing of the game, which was kind of interesting. Does that fall into your category of a self?
James: : Yes. You got that exactly right. And it reminds me of the part in the book where we quote Herschel Walker, the great multi-sport athlete, as well as Game Show winner and Cooking Show winner. He says, “You don’t want Herschel Walker, the football player, babysitting your kids. Those are two different people.” And the way I normally describe to people is that I am not the same if I am talking to people who are my clients, as if I’m hanging out with my old friends and partying. I’m really in a very different part of who I am and being able to make that shift, consciously makes a big difference, which just for a second back to moods, the thing of it is I do think there are moods.
There are more like larger background feelings that can depend on nutrition and hormonal stuff and actual news and events in your life. But regardless of whether I’m in a good mood or a bad mood. Now I’m now aware that there are many times, when I can either shift into my really not nice confrontative self or move into a self, let’s say even with my wife, when she’s done something that drives me crazy. And I go, you know what? I don’t have to go into the part of me that’s going to be mad and gets in the same fight that I always get him when she’s like this. I can literally just choose to move aside. And I can do that now, whether I’m in a really good mood or in a really bad mood.
Jim: That’s a cool thing and when we get to the part about the utility of this model, we can talk specifically about that.
Jordan: Well, let’s go back to your baseball, which is, there’s where you see the utility, which is the best way to play baseball is to pay attention to the game much more than you’re paying attention to anything else. Now imagine that someone else on the team, they’re the second baseman and he’s thinking, “I wonder if the guys really like me. I worry because I got bean the other day and nobody seemed to care. And I don’t know if I really want to be on a team where I’m not liked.”
Okay, now there’s nothing wrong with any of those thoughts, but they get in the way of paying that focus necessary to be a good ball player. Some of the ability, to be in what we call the right mind at the right time is very clear in your example, because the other thing is when you weren’t playing baseball, you weren’t in that same high focus, the game is the only thing in the universe place. And that’s what we call kind of successfully switching, which is you know enough to be in the baseball Jim, during baseball and even more important, you knew how not to be in the baseball Jim when you weren’t.
Jim: Yeah, I think that’s very right. The insight that I had as I was reviewing my life history was that, built gradually I started playing baseball competitively when I was six. And remember six year olds playing baseball, they stand in the field, look at the airplanes going by or pick daisies or whatever, right, least he’s interested in the social and everything else. And it’s only over a matter of many years. And really only finally in the last two years where I was playing at the travel league levels, they would call it… I guess they call it nowadays. We had some other name in those days. That I finally actually get into baseball Jim, who was just all about baseball for the two hours in the game. So it was something that was built by repetition and habit.
Now here’s the second Jim that I found though, which was quite different. This is not built by repetition and habit. And this is what I would call standardized test Jim, turns out I was always extremely good at taking standardized tests. And I would occasionally joke, I could probably take a standardized test in French and even though I don’t know a word of French other than bonsoir, I’d probably do okay. Because I kind of clicked into this mental state, which I later learned was called flow, where everything became clear and everything just seemed easy. And you could sort of see through the meta games that the test designers were doing. Even at a pretty young age, around seventh grade, we took these things called IOS standardized tests or some darm thing. Even though, my grades were okay, but my test scores were like at the very tippy top of the chart.
And it was because I had somehow got into this standardized test Jim, just went off, something they have never really ever done before suddenly were there. And then every two or three years they’d have these standardized tests, then we had the SATs and other kinds of stuff like that. I even took a military recruiting test once and pegged it, ridiculous thing took the government civil service test got the highest sport in the United States, right. And again, it was frankly, well above my actual abilities, I’m pretty strongly sure. But there were… I just have this kind of flow state that I can pop into for standardized tests. And it feels qualitatively very different than my normal self. In fact, I remember very little of what happens while I’m in that state.
Jordan: Actually, that last sentence you made is one of the reasons that we get clear about people having selves is that when you’re into say the standardized test self, it remembers a lot of what you took, but since you’re not in that self and you don’t need those memories, you don’t have as easy access. You have them, if you search around. And one of the definitions of healthy is that you do share memories, self to self to self. So that you can remember even now baseball Jim because all those memories are yours, they belong to the whole being. But it’s wonderful to notice that both of your examples demanded a kind of incredibly tight focus and the use of your mind in particular ways.
Now the two examples are different and I could undoubtedly think of some very high tension points in your business career when you’re about to buy or sell or merge with a company. And there’s a negotiation, for example, that’s a time when the part of you that has a sore toe and that you’ve got a pet at home and the pet isn’t feeling well, that doesn’t come into what you’re doing. And that ability for tight focus is one of the attributes of what we’re finding in very successful people that they intuitively have figured out when to be in the right self and it shows.
Jim: Now interesting you mentioned that because most of my business career, I was just in my normal self, right. I obviously have not much different than I was when I’m working at the farm or talking to my wife. I took my business career seriously, but not super seriously to tell you the truth right of the time. And now of course there were those intense points. As you say, negotiating the sale of a company or whatever but. I got less worked up about it than most people did because I really didn’t define myself in terms of my business career all that much. But I did have two other selves, which I discovered when I was doing this exercise while reading the book, which I did use to my advantage in business. One is not a nice self, we’ve talked the baseball self and standardized testing self.
There’s no shame in having either of those. In fact, probably a little pride in having them, but angry Jim is not pretty. I’m generally a real easygoing guy, best of friend. But then I would also add worst of enemy. And in my business career about once every two years, somebody would push me too far. And typically if they did something unethical to our business or to one of my employees, I would just literally explode in rage. I mean, really just fuming for 15 or 20 minutes and just screaming, yell and say the worst damn things you can possibly imagine in the phone, in person, toe to toe. One time non-business, this is exactly the thing. People at home never, never do this. We were in Boston, we lived in Boston time, home of bad obnoxious drivers. Somebody ran a red light and I was trying to get through the intersection and we kind of come up almost collided.
And sure enough, like the ass-hole I was when I was 29 or 30, I jumped out of the truck and started yelling at the guy and he jumped out of his car and we stood there chest to chest screaming at each other, right. So anyway, once every two years back in my business career, probably once every five years, once I retired, angry Jim could come out 20 minutes and then would kind of calm down. But in business world, it would often transition to one of my really favorite ones as I was starting to think about this stuff, which I call war fighter Jim, which is after 20 minutes of no longer being actually angry, then there’s maybe an hour of kind of jiggliness kind of post adrenaline something or other, I don’t know exactly what it would be but I’m not as tightly focused as I could be.
But then if I felt that this anger was justified and due to an injustice or the person just pissed me off enough, I’m going to go get them. I’d go into war fighter mode, which is kind of like standardized test mode, but it can last for weeks. And I’m just in this mode where I can just thinking through all the moves. And I can remember one time building a war room and literally putting eight war fighting scenarios on the board over a couple of weeks and taking my management team through which of these war fighting scenarios is actually the best. And we actually picked number seven.
Number one was rollover and take it. Number eight was thermonuclear war, number seven, seventh most extreme was called huff and puff and then settle, right. And it’s a war fighter when I was doing my introspection. Again, I didn’t have names for these things at all, right. And one of the things I took away from your book is the usefulness of naming yourselves. And so anger could maybe 50% of the time transition and about an hour and 20 minutes to war fighter and damn better watch out if war fighter Jim ever came after your [inaudible 00:18:09], you were in trouble.
Jordan: Because the angry self didn’t have the sort of game playing abilities and flow access that the war fighting Jim has and he can sustain it. The angry self is just all bluster and emotion and physical. And once that calms down, then you moved into the strategic part. And you know what I would say from what I know about you is that that test taking self and your sort of game playing self and your strategic self that’s a real part of you. I’ve just kind of seen that come into play. I fought network wars when you built it, I mean, that’s a part of you that you know how to access it. And the great thing is, is that you are aware that you have the angry self in your pocket if you need it, which is why it rarely has to come up. That’s a big advantage. And then, you know you have the other war fighting self again, if you need it.
Jim: Yeah, the fighting self might actually be handy to be able to haul it out on demand. But generally it requires angry self to initialize, which is kind of interesting and curious. Maybe if I were still working, I would think through how can I initiate war fighter without having to go through angry. Interesting question. Anyway, get back to your book. You gave some examples of selves. Have you ever argued with yourself? For instance, talk about that one a little bit. I can’t say I’ve ever actually argued with myself. I have internal dialogues all day, every day, but I can’t say I’ve ever remember arguing with myself.
Jordan: No, no, but that’s the point is when you dialogue with yourself, who are you talking to? And the obviously answer is, well, I’m talking to myself, well then there’s clearly at least two of you in the discussion. And what we use that as an example is because everyone immediately understands that, “Oh, my goodness, there is someone else I’m arguing with.” Because sometimes the part of myself that I’m arguing with wins the argument. And there’s this switch where you have to kind of say, “Well, I guess you’re right.” Because we’re not suggesting anything other than what is obvious, once you start to see it. And it’s wonderful the way you’re just looking at your life Jim and saying, “Oh, I actually can easily understand what’s in this book because I’m a very good example.”
In fact, we have not yet found anyone who isn’t a good example because that is just how we are built. It’s kind of like saying, “Gee, there’s a difference between what happens when my heart is excited or when my liver is stressed.” And you then say, “Well, can you find me someone for whom that’s true.” And you say, “Yes, human beings are designed that way.” Now we’re designed to have multiple selves because it’s evolutionarily incredibly helpful to have angry Jim available, it’s wonderful. To be angry Jim all the time is just [crosstalk 00:21:08].
Jim: And I think people know there’s angry Jim there somehow. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Jordan: Yeah, right. Right, don’t mess with Jim [inaudible 00:21:16]. If you step him in the wrong place, he will explode.
James: : The other really nice thing you did, Jim Rutt, is you gave us an example of how a positive focus self can come into being over time, over several years with the baseball Jim. Because people always say, “Well, our selves [inaudible 00:21:33], where do they come from?” And we lay out in the book all the possible places they may come from, but this idea that a positive focus self will develop year after year, your seven-year-old was better and more focused and then you’re eight and you’re nine and you eventually got that full on baseball head down. And that’s a good example. So thank you for that.
Jim: Cool. Another one you give, which friends of mine it’s happened to them for sure. Would probably happen to me when I was a young fellow. Ever gotten so inebriated that you said or did things you would normally never do, right? Oh, oops. Yeah. As hard drinking college students in 1971, it was known to happen, right?
Jordan: Yeah. It happens all the time.
James: : It happens all the time. And also people drink in order to get to that other self. Wonderful [inaudible 00:22:18] ashes about this poor Irish kid in a very dysfunctional family. And his father has a job, but he tends to bring his paycheck only as far as the bar. And a lot of it’s gone by the time he gets home. But he hates his job and he is so happy when he’s drunk. He’s funny and cheerful and dances and sings, is loving. And it’s clear that alcohol gave him access to a place in which he’s happy. And being sober in this case didn’t. But again, that’s not a surprising story.
Jim: And so in your vocabulary, that would be alcohol, the drunk self is a different self.
James: : Yeah.
Jim: Hall, the drunk self is a different self.
Jim: I guess it depends. It’s certainly at that level where you drank so much. Yeah, I’ve certainly been there where you drank enough that you were a different self. And as we know, people we know who drink too much tend to have fairly characteristic. There’s the modeling Irish drunk singing the old ballads, and then there’s the angry drunk picking fights with everybody. And people tend to be consistently in one form or another. It does make some sense.
So now let’s get back again, do another example you guys gave, which was actually very interesting. And there’s not somebody I knew all that well in the popular culture, I mostly just knew their music. I didn’t know much else about them. And that was David Bowie.
Why don’t you tell the story? Because, when I read the story you laid out, I go, this is a pretty interesting examplar. Or maybe tell us what about David Bowie is an exemplar multiple selves and maybe give us some of the history of it.
Jordan: Well, I’ll take this. Early on Bowie started shifting onstage personas or identities and people would notice that he’d go from, the thin young Duke to Ziggy, maybe Ziggy the alien, and then he would transform it to something else with markedly, different costumes, hair designs, and performance styles. And several people have written about it and we pick it up in the book that Bowie was literally consciously changing into different personas so that he could better embody each one. And he actually knew he was doing this.
Jim: Interesting. And his music certainly changed a lot over time. And again, I never saw him on stage or anything like that. So I wouldn’t have no real sense of those personas, but the way you all described it in the book is that somebody put a GIF together of him morphing from one of these things to another, it was really quite dramatic.
Jordan: Have you seen the actual GIF? It’s really a wonderful GIF to look out. You can find a pretty easy online. So let me just read this paragraph. Bowie himself said, “Even though I was very shy, I found I could get on stage if I had a new identity.” And then a psychologist, Oliver James wrote, “What seems to have been the trigger for his shift from distressed and tortured to emotional healthy was his adoption of personas in his musical career.”
So, music critics and historians were well onto the fact that Bowie did this kind of shifting. The interesting thing was, in some of his later albums, he would occasionally throw back and write a song just like one of his 1971 songs that I really knew. And I thought, Oh, he could have kept writing music, the stuff that made him famous early on, but he wasn’t interested. He wanted to keep artistically shifting and becoming new and different David Bowies.
Jim: Very interesting. Yeah, the other Jim Rutt that I found in my introspection, which I don’t think is yet quite fully formed, it’s kind of analogous, I call podcast Jim now, right? I’ve now done 175 podcasts and the Jim you get on the podcast is pretty much the real Jim, but probably amped up a little bit here and there. And it’s now, I’ve done it enough that it’s got a certain consistency to it. I would say it’s not quite as strongly differentiated as Baseball Jim, or Angry Jim, or Standardized Test Jim.
Jordan: Now, remember, and this is why we’re so fussy around language is all of the Jims are the real Jim. That’s kind of the point. And there are theories that say, you’re inhabited by demons or what’s your better self. And there’s a lot of ways of kind of denying that it’s all you, but the you in this case is a rather tightly knit family. So that what you found is that podcast Jim demanded certain skills, a different kind of attention, a kind of caring deeply about what the other person is saying, which when you’re running a business, that isn’t necessarily the case. So the examples you’re giving are people who move into a self that works better in the new situation. And so the being who is doing podcasts is slightly different than when you’re doing something else.
And that’s, that’s normal, healthy, sane and why we say it’s easiest to see selves very often in very successful people, because part of the secret of their success is they’re able to move into an appropriate self. And what we’re finding is when people do the exercise that you’re doing, they usually say, “Gee, isn’t this wonderful? Just as I have in my garage, a set of screwdrivers, and they are different for different uses. None of them are evil. None of them are good. They’re tools. And that my own inner tools are, I use it for the right thing. I use a screwdriver when I should, and I use a hammer when I should.” And there’s a saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, then you treat every problem as if it’s a nail. And that we know is a definition of how not to have a healthy, sane or successful life.
Jim: Perfect transition. The next point on my questions list is, despite, as you say, once you actually think about it, this is sort of seems kind of obviously true. And yet for a fair amount of the 20th century, the single self assumption has been in the forefront of least certain kinds of intellectual talk about this kind of stuff. So why don’t you define the single self assumption for us and talk a little bit about its intellectual history.
Jordan: We will, but I just want to go back to the Jim the podcaster for a second. What I noticed with you, like I noticed with the Angie Coiro, who’s a well-known Bay area radio announcer, is that when you move into this part of you, you actually do get into a slightly more stentorian voice, you’re actually focused in a different way, and that in part is to let your body know that you’re going to have a certain focus, just like you’re in the booth, which is to let you know, you have a certain focus.
And what you said also reminds me of the fact that everyone we’ve talked to who speaks multiple languages, says that when they are talking in a different language, they move at least part way into a different part of who they are. One of the Israeli people told us that, yeah, he’s definitely not as kind when he’s talking Hebrew as when he’s talking English.
Jim: Yeah. I saw that in the book and I thought that was interesting. As somebody who’s not fluent in a second language, I don’t have that experience, but I could easily imagine it’s true. What’s it though? Saper Wharf effect or something?
Jordan: Sapir Whorf effect, yeah.
Jim: The languages actually shape your cognition in some real ways. I know it’s a non proven conjecture, but it seems fairly common sensical in certain ways.
Jordan: Well, if it’s true, then common sense has discovered it.
Jim: So anyway, back to the single self assumption and a little bit of the history of that idea.
Jordan: Sure. I will take this. We define the single self assumption eventually as that you are or ought to be a single self. And what the book does is it starts in indigenous prehistory, and the Egyptians, and different peoples who have very complicated systems of souls usually, and how they were in the body and how they all had to be present. And there were a couple of cases throughout Europe in the 1600s and such, but then we zip forward to the 1880s and science and medicine are becoming real things. And it starts with Jean-Martin Charcot and the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris on the one side of the continent. And then you also had William James and the people who were his close friends and students who were people like Boris Sidis, and, I’m forgetting his name. It’ll come back in a second.
But they were having conversations and discussions, especially with Charcot’s chief disciple, who was Pierre Janet, who coined the terms dissociation and subconscious. And you have to understand that the people who studied with Charcot included William James, Alfred Binet of IQ fame, Pierre Janet, who is Charcot’s disciple, and Freud. And then later on, of course, Freud and Janet got into a big fight with each other. But in as early as Freud’s first paper, which he published with Breuer, Anna O, you can see him thanking Alfred Binet and the two Janet’s, Pierre Janet and his uncle Paul the philosopher, for the work they did on cases of dysfunctional dissociation with what they’ve called hysterical women.
Jordan: Let me just break in a moment because what Jordan is doing is the question of, how did we lose the normal belief and understanding of selves and move into only a single self? So when you were just asking what is a single self assumption? And we’re coming at it with a little bit more history than you probably thought you were going to get.
Jim: No, actually this is great. I think this was just what I was looking for, actually. How it came and then how it went and then how it came back again.
Jordan: Well good. And thank you, Jim Fadiman. Let me go on with a little bit of the story. So, Freud’s first paper, he’s down with this. A lot of people are down with this. It builds to the point where in 1906, Harvard University brings Pierre Janet over and gives a set of 15, I think it is, medical lectures with a heavy focus on different types of personality. And you have both a Bora citizen, I’m just blanking on his name, the other guy, writing books about this and publishing on multiple personality. But in 1897, Sigmund Freud famously rejected the seduction hypothesis. The seduction hypothesis said that there were people in high class levels of Vienna society who were having sex with people they shouldn’t and who were doing all sorts of other things they shouldn’t. And Freud initially understood that some of the people who were treating was because they were traumatized and they did have these selves that somehow were created in these traumatic moments.
But when he rejected the seduction hypothesis and said, instead, “I have this theory to explain why all these memories are made up and none of this has happened. My theory is about id, ego and superego.” And he basically got rid of, put the kibosh on, selves and hypnosis all at the same time and it all went away. So with a rising Freudian tide, I mean, we have to remember Freud was an unbelievably good promoter. Well, a lot of other people have been working on a lot of things he’d been working on, including Pierre Janet, who had a big lawsuit over some of the intellectual property rights in psychoanalysis, Freud ended up dominating so heavily that anybody who challenged Freud ended up losing. So by around 1910, this idea became what we’ve called a meme non grata, or just verbot. You never heard it spoken about until it later arose in places like [Sybil 00:34:09] and other places with a particularly negative and dysfunctional focus.
So, 1906, you have books being published, you have William James and Janet, and all these people and you can just see in the chart that we have in the book, sort of the flows of influence, and who overlapped with who, and who influenced who. But psychoanalysis was such a huge rising tide that anybody who tried at a certain point to deny that Freud was right ended up losing and it didn’t work out well for them. Oh yeah. The other disciple is Morton Prince. So there’s Bora citizen, Morton Prince. And those guys tried challenging Freud and his ideas, but it did not go well for them professionally or personally, because Freud was just too strong.
Jim: Yeah, it’s interesting, the rise and fall of Freud. He was very interesting, very intelligent guy, but he was really more of a, in my opinion, a literature guy than he was a scientist, at least after his early work. And yet he did somehow dominate certain aspects of psychology. What, about the early seventies or late sixties? People started to see the Freudian as actual science of psychology. He had no clothes and they started calling it out more and more. So it’s kind of interesting how that happened.
Jordan: His language still dominates. Right? Everybody talks about egos. He had this threefold separation of id and ego and superego, but those are at sort of such different levels of function and generation that they don’t really at all map onto the idea of people having more than oneself.
Jim: Yeah. Let’s talk about more than oneself because I think you touched on perhaps why this became, what did you say, idea non grata or something. The fact that it somehow got focused on these deeply disturbed, I guess you’d call them, multiple personality disorder cases where people actually were, or at least manifested as separate individuals. Famously three faces of Eve. I remember when we watched that like in elementary school go, “Holy moly, that’s ass weird thing. Could that happen to us?” And sort of this pathologicalization of the multiple selves, maybe that was part of the trigger.
Jordan: But that was very much part of the truth, which is since, I mean, if you think of it, there’s a term called disassociation, which is the parts of you not connecting very well. In fact, not even necessarily sharing a memory. Like you wake up in the morning and you think, how did I get here? And you might turn to your side and you say, I wonder who that is and where did I meet him or her. Not an unusual scenario for human beings and overly done in fiction.
Well, if there is disassociation, it has to come out of association, which is the normal, healthy person has those parts associated so that when you wake up in the morning, you say, boy, I really behaved bizarrely last night and I remember how I got to this place, this, that I’m sleeping in and I’m really regretting what I did last night.
Those are selves in more communication, which is normal. Again, one of the things you learn when you write fiction is push it up, make it bigger, make it more extreme, make it more disturbing, make it more dangerous because that’s what readers are interested in.
Jordan: Yeah and so what we’d like to talk about also is that there’s sort of this, think of an X axis. On the far left of the X axis is someone who has a set or constellation of selves are not associated at all, or we’ll call them in cohesive. Then people move along the X axis until they get to the middle and they think they’re a single self and there are a lot more functional. But if you keep even moving farther and you recognize you have different selves and you become better in shifting in and out of them, that’s what we’re saying is sort of the ideal, but all along it’s different amounts of cohesion.
And on the far left these people with these dysfunctional self systems, they’re the ones who caught all the attention. They’re the ones who have movies like Split coming out, or they’re the ones who people think that that’s what schizophrenia is. Even though schizophrenia is actually very different than a multiple personality, although it shares occasional signs of it.
/so just seeing that everybody has a different level of cohesion and the people who are all the way on the left, you know, are the ones who got in the most trouble. And I’ll say, Jim, that if you haven’t ever taken a look at it, the book the minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes who wrote Flowers for Algernon is an unbelievably detailed psychiatric and police report of this guy who had over 20 selves, some of whom had nearly superhuman abilities in the different cells that were not at all explicable. And that’s an actually a better example of these very dysfunctional self systems.
Jim: Yeah, you mentioned in the book, a case of someone named Timmy who had multiple personalities and most of his personalities could not drink orange juice without breaking out in hives. And one of the personalities, the one named Timmy, could drink orange juice without any problems. I mean, that’s almost incredible.
Jordan: Well, that’s why we put it in because it’s that moment you think either, I’m not going to believe what these guys are going to write about, or this is fascinating, what is going on? And the wonderful thing about Timmy is our source is Danny Goldman. And it was when he was working for the New York Times. So that nobody’s saying to us, well, you made that one up or that’s some case that couldn’t possibly be true.
And it happens that people who have disassociated and normal us, we have very different physiologies when we’re in different States. Now, if we can measure, for instance, you, during your angry self, there’s a huge shift in, you mentioned that adrenaline, but we’re talking a whole lot of other shifts. There’s a whole shift in blood pressure, there’s a lot of shifts in neurochemistry, and that’s very evolutionarily valuable, and it’s equally evolutionary valuable that you can pull back from that self and restore much more stable, physiological functioning. That’s the way we’re designed.
So in a sense that the problem that Jordan and I talked about a lot is how do we write a book about what is incredibly obvious once you get it, but has been obscured by the culture so much that we need to throw in literally, maybe 1000 examples to, to sensitize people, to seeing it that way? And once people get sensitized and you’re a wonderful model, it’s easier to understand yourself.
Jim: Yeah, it is. Oh, I do wonder, I got to say as a editorial decision, I know I’ve got great respect for Jordan’s editorial decision-making and Jim Fadiman’s written a bunch of books too. Maybe did you put too much in about these multiple personality disorder cases? Because it’s somehow distracted me from the story, because the positive part of the story, it really had nothing to do with these multiple personality disorder cases, but, as part of the historical evolution of the idea, but maybe did you guys talk about that a little too much, do you think in retrospect?
Jordan: Well, people are always asking us about, and what we like to say is we’ve gone to school on these dysfunctional cases, but we don’t adopt their model. And that’s why ultimately by the end of the book, we try to get rid of the idea of dissociation as it’s usually used and replace it with cohesion.
So, we would rather just talk about how this is normal, healthy function, but people inevitably come at us with wanting to know about all these, the negative parts. And just going back to the single self assumption for a second. Another reason why it’s so pervasive is because it’s in accord, both with monotheism and the heart of Western philosophy, which is essentialism, which has that a thing is just the thing it is and nothing else.
So you have a lot of different forces wanting to say it’s just this way, but ultimately it’s, we think that it might just be a little frightening and scary for people to recognize that things aren’t as simple as they want to be and yet when you place multiple selves at the center of psychology so much is explained. I mean, we give the example of the paradigm shift and the epicycles and when you look at the data, when you just observe the people in your life, you realize that everyone you know does move in and out of different parts and selves on a pretty regular basis.
Jim: Yeah, I think one part that was actually, I’d never thought of, but it was quite compelling that you laid out in the book, you know, the seemingly obvious fact, but even if we did not have parallel selves, we have different linear selves, right? We are not the same as we were when we were nine years old, by any means. In fact, I don’t really have access back to what was my baseline self at age nine. I got some hints, but I’m sure it’s quite different than my main self today.
Jordan: That’s the fascinating thing about human beings is we often have a part of us that is kind of still a childhood self and that now and then we either have a need for, or a triggered into that childhood self.
I mean, I’m thinking what comes to mind is, I was living in Santa Fe for a while and I was with a Native American family, and the grandfather was about 85 and he had a grandson who was about four, and they were playing with a little set of trains. And then the little boy went away. And the grandfather, who was a very distinguished member of this tribal unit, continued to play with the trains with enormous pleasure. And I thought at the time not knowing any of this, I just thought it felt incredibly healthy somehow that he was able to get back into the same childish or child full of wonder of this little set of trains. So you bet we have longitudinal and horizontal ways of dividing ourselves as we need.
Jim: It was a great little case study, you all quoted about someone didn’t experiment in New Hampshire. They took, it said eight men in their seventies go into a monastery, converted monastery and someone had set up an environment with artifacts, and music, et cetera, from their youth and all kinds of interesting things happen. Tell us about that a little bit.
Jordan: Yeah, that’s Ellen Langer and I think she won the national book award for Counterclockwise and she took these guys back and, it was Look magazine and it was music from 1959, I think, when they were all 19 or 17. And they decided on a bunch of different health measurements that they took beforehand, so they couldn’t cherry pick. And then they took them after hand and these guys began to cook for each other and play touch football and they would just better in nearly every part of who they were.
We’re kind of shifting to the benefits a little, but we tell a couple of stories in the book. One about me and my TaeKwonDo practice, which I’ve been doing since I was 20, 40 years. And what about Jim practicing with a really well-known Tai Chi master named Huang and in both cases, when you sort of get into it and allow yourself to be the younger part. I mean, in my case, after two or three days of practicing, I’m doing Crescent kicks over my head again. That’s not my 61 year old body. That’s like my 25 year old body. And I literally believe that literally believe- I feel that I’m allowing myself to relax and move into…
Jordan: I feel that I’m allowing myself to relax and move into a younger and more flexible part of myself when I do that.
Jim: Well, let’s move into the benefits part, because you have a nice chapter and you layout a long list of benefits, being able to access ourselves. Why don’t we get start in on those?
Jordan: Well, I think the first thing to realize about the benefits, and this is a really important statement, is that there are just as many benefits to the other people in your life and their selves as there are to you personally. So you will begin to experience other people with increased compassion, patience, empathy, kindness, and less frustration, because you realize they might not be in their best self, or they might not even be in the same part of who they are that you told them something a few hours ago that they’ve then forgotten. So what’s really nice about this is that the compassion seems to be automatically built in as you begin to get that it’s not just you, but everyone in your life is also this way. So that’s the first take on benefits. Jim?
Jordan: Let me just take it back to that first, because that’s critical, is really what we looked at is why are people inconsistent? And that’s a negative word and you think, why can’t? Because we want people to be predictable so that we can interact with them easily and safely. But we know that not only are the people close to us inconsistent, but when we are a little more honest, we are as well. And we then get mad at someone for being inconsistent. But once you step back and the initial benefits are saying, oh, they’re not inconsistent, they’re totally consistent depending on what self they’re in. And just as you can depend on that angry Jim is available, it’s not an aberration, it’s not random, it’s actually something that the rest of you can make use of when the rest of you are too nice. Nobody else can do that job.
So the benefits of beginning to think that way is you end up forgiving the parts of you that you don’t like. And then you begin to realize that your significant other has the same issues, inconsistency, and there’s forgiveness. And then if you look at your children you realize they’re inconsistent, but you automatically forgive them. Small children who have a temper tantrum, you don’t say, “Well, this is just a temper tantrum kid, let’s give him away.” You say, “Well, that’s part of him that doesn’t work very well, it comes in at the wrong time, but part of parenting is getting my kid to be into baseball when it’s baseball.”
Jim: Yeah, though I would also say you don’t want your kid to develop the temper tantrum personality. I can say that was one thing we did with our daughter was, like all kids when she was two, terrible two, two, three, they throw the occasional temper tantrum, but we thought it was part of parenting to just make it clear that, okay, it’s understandable in a two or three year old, but this is not really acceptable behavior as you start to grow a little older. So in some sense there’s some gardening going on there to try to discourage the strengthening of certain not so good personality types.
Jordan: Let’s stick with benefits to others for a while, and this is what Jim has called the Uncle Abner scenario. So you go to Thanksgiving and there’s Uncle Abner. And first everybody knows to not talk politics because if you do, Uncle Abner will get crazy and weird and there’ll be a big fight. But even if that happens, then later on you go, well, that was just that part of him, and you can forgive him. Yeah, that part of him may be an a-hole, but that’s not all of who he is. And we come to this distinction of, somebody might have a bad dog, but they’re not a bad dog. They have a bad dog and you have to learn to work with it, and they may need to keep it away from you, but they’re not a bad dog and needing to be put down, as it were, it’s just a part of who they are. So it does gives you more flexibility and ability to deal with others to begin with.
Jim: And you also both have mentioned more forgiving of yourself, which is interesting.
Jordan: Oh, absolutely. When you see the part of you that is holding a judgment, or is actually the one that’s making a problem, you can see it and you don’t have to be as worried that part of you is doing that because you can recognize that it was really only part of who you are. So if you want the benefits to you as an individual, we like to say that include increased coherence, which means that you’re more understandable to others, increased energy, and that’s an interesting thing that we can go into, because it does seem that things like meditating or taking a short nap, you’re much more relaxed and rested than you should be for the 10 minutes you went down, we think that’s because a different self is maybe now driving you.
Another pieces is hidden talents shown. The parts of you that you may have oppressed, the artistic parts, or the parts when you were a kid and you don’t give them any airtime, as soon as you let those parts out a little bit and do a little whatever it is that you enjoy, they’re so happy and you feel better. So overall there’s a positive, emotional, and energetic impact from managing your own positive and negative behaviors, patterns, habits, and addictions, because you know that all of that is potentially within you.
Jordan: And remember, we all know this intuitively, because it’s part of our biology, so if you say, you just have to excuse me, I’m just not myself today. Everyone in the room, regardless of the size of the room, and I’ve done it for 1000 people, they understand it totally. So we know that we have selves, we just happen to have an intellectual cultural framework that has put it aside for a while, and so we’re really bringing it back. We’re not inventing anything, we’re merely saying, if you look at this in a different way, you can see more clearly what its structure is.
Jim: I’m going to toss back a counter example, maybe you guys can pick through it and tell me what you think. When I was a young single dude and playing the dating game, and all this stuff, some of the feedback I got from women, et cetera, was that I was a little different than a lot of the guys they dealt with. I wasn’t particularly good looking, I wasn’t super athletic, I didn’t have any money, but I did pretty well.
And what I figured out, or what I induced from the conversations, was that a lot of guys, when they’re out in the dating game, had a dating game personality called the seduction self, or the player, and I didn’t show up that way, I just showed up as my normal self. And at least I think I did. And trying to think back at it, I think I’m more or less did most of the time, and that one might be an argument for what the existentialists used to talk about a lot, called it authenticity. And so is this idea of self, of multiple selves, in any way in a dynamic tension with respect to the idea of authenticity?
Jordan: No, I’m just thinking, I’m not quite thinking aloud, as you notice, I’m just thinking, but the notion of authenticity is more sensible and realistic as soon as you’re talking about selves. Because if someone says-
Jordan: Say that again.
Jordan: Basically that, well, let’s go back to the angry. Jim. Was not an authentic person? That was absolutely authentic, that was real, that was who you felt like, that’s where it came from, a real upset at someone’s bad behavior. It meets all the tests for authenticity. What we’re not talking about, and dating is a very good example, is acting as if you’re someone else, because the actor is still acting. And there was a term that I think has gone out of fashion with dating which was called, when you were dating you put out a false self and you called it a snow job.
Jim: Oh yeah.
Jordan: That you were snowing, or overwhelming your intended sexual partner with what a wonderful person you had just made up. And when I was a counselor at Stanford dealing with undergraduates, there was a moment when I was working with someone and I said, I understand that you’re doing this, and that you’re moderately successful with this snow job. But what happens if this girl actually prefers the invented person and not you? You’re stuck being false, being inauthentic in this relationship as long as it lasts.
Jim: Though I would say, and I’m thinking about a particular friend of mine from that epoch who was a very successful cynical, exploitive, ladies man, most successful I’ve ever met, probably, it could be like baseball, Jim, you do that long enough and it becomes you.
Jordan: That’s quite possible.
Jordan: So Jim, you’ve used terms like the real Jim and the baseline Jim, and that brings me back to the fact that, going back to complexity science and basins of attraction, I would agree that, especially in your case, there’s a bigger, more robust basin of attraction that you normally fall back into, but that you might also collapse down into any of these other selves given the moment. From the very beginning I saw your ideas about that, and it was the political essay that you had written, and all that kind of stuff. I thought it was a really good model for how someone’s normal self presents. You never know, really which one’s going to show up, but based on the circumstances, they’ll probabilistically collapse down into one of them. And you might have a more robust because it’s actually a more integrated and you’re actually more aware of yourself than most people from the beginning.
And so it seems that there is this predominant baseline self that’s the real Jim, but as Jim Fadiman just said, it’s not, because that angry self was also authentic, and we also have a terminological issue where people are constantly, and I’m in clubhouse a lot now, they’re constantly talking about authentic selves, true selves, higher selves, all these different selves. And we’re saying, well maybe, but none of that changes whether or not you are integrated in a helpful way, and cohesive with your ordinary day to day selves.
Jordan: It’s a story, and I’m thinking that you would probably be delighted to know that you have access to baseball, Jim. And here’s the story. This is a self-development author who is also a tennis pro, and he is working with someone as a demonstration. This is in the Oakland Coliseum, there’s about 4,000 people there, and they’re watching Tim Gallwey talk about tennis and spiritual something or other. And he says, “Would someone in the audience like to come down, who’s having trouble with their tennis?” Okay. So this woman comes out of the stands and comes down and he starts to rally with her. And as they’re rallying, he’s talking to her and asking, what’s her problem with tennis? And she says, “I’m not as fast as I used to be, my backhand is weak,” and so forth.
And he keeps rallying, and he keeps talking to her. And then at one point he says, “How did you use to play?” And then you watch, and there all of us are watching, she moves more quickly, her backhand improves, and he continues just to keep talking and keep her, in a sense, distracted from what her body is doing, and her body, at some point he says, “Oh, so that’s how well you used to play.” And then there’s this moment when she becomes aware of how she has full access to that earlier self, and it’s a little bit like the Ellen Langer experiment with the older men. So there are things we can begin to look at easily once we have broken away from the notion that you’re a single, consistent self. There are a lot of other opportunities that come up.
Jim: That’s very interesting. I’m just thinking of another one I did not think of while I was reading the book, but until just a couple of years ago, used to get together with a bunch of my old buddies from the time I was a kid for deer hunting season every year, and we reverted, to a very substantial degree, to our 10 or 11 year old selves. I was Jimmy, that was Johnny, that was Bobby, literally, and my wife and daughter would just be pulling their hair out saying, “Jesus y’all are a bunch of 10 year olds.” And we go, “Hell yeah, we are.” We have fun for two or three weekends a year, and that was kind of neat.
Jordan: That’s a great example.
Jordan: That’s a wonderful, right, that’s the example is you really did what that experiment was. You got together with old friends, you immediately kept to the old patterns of communication of actually who you called yourselves, very, very important. You may not know this, but Jordan and I are going to use that particular example from here on in.
Jim: Fine by me.
Jordan: Another example, which we haven’t touched on on this interview, but which we often go to, is what happens when someone goes to Alcoholics Anonymous versus when they see a psychotherapist. If you look at the research, Alcoholics Anonymous generally does much better than most psychotherapist. So what we like to say is that when somebody goes into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, one of the things everyone there who’s part of the group says at the beginning is, “My name is Jordan Gruber, and I’m an alcoholic.” When you do that, you bring the part of you that is an alcoholic, and that has a problem, into the room where it can be seen and supported and worked with.
But contrast that with someone who has gone to see a therapist, let’s say their husband or wife sends them and they’re like, “Yeah, I don’t really have a problem, I don’t know why I’m here, I’m only here because she told me to come here,” and it could take who knows how many sessions before they even touch the part of them that actually has the problem.
Jim: Yeah, I read that. I thought that was quite interesting. It’s funny, I am chatting with the people at alcoholics anonymous, they actually are interested in having me come on their board of directors, and we’ve talked about some of these issues, and I’m considering it. It’s a huge time investment. And they actually said something very similar, they don’t use psychological terminology, but the fact that people are present, I think is the word, that the drinking person is present is part of their secret sauce, which fits in very nicely with the quote. It’s interesting you read it, I actually had the quote here in my topics list, because I thought that was a really good example of that. The drunk Jordan shows up at the AA meeting rather than the rationalizing Jordan who’s trying to figure out how to not actually disclose what’s going on in their soul.
Anything else you want to say about the positives? You had a long list of them, increasing ability to access skills, talents, and creativity was one on the list, for instance.
Jordan: I guess in a sense when you start the positives, what you’re looking at is, once you begin to see yourself as you actually are, then you’re more likely to feel flexible in moving into what we call the right self at the right time. So one of the things that I know as a writer, and I’ve written fiction, is there are times when I know I can sit down and it’s going to be fiction, and it’s going to be good, bad, or indifferent, but I can focus, and I’m no longer looking at my outside world, I’m no longer late in my taxes, I no longer maybe have a cavity. I’m in the 12th century with my heroine, and she’s in trouble, and I’m concerned about her. And then a few hours later I come away from that, and then the next day when I go back to those pages, I’m so happy to find out that I’ve already written a certain amount of it.
So this is a benefit of understanding that a writer, or a painter, or a parent, changes selves appropriately. I used to teach something for adults when I was teaching goal-setting for people who were involved in work, is how not to take it home. This was before we had computers that followed you home, which was in the garage, literally I had people buy a body bag. This was then when men worked and women didn’t, it’s a long time ago. And I said, hit the body bag for a couple of minutes so when you come in, you’re a father and a parent and a spouse. You’re not this guy who just had a very hard day at work and is mad at someone. It seemed absurd when I was teaching it, until I would get people who had taken the course say, “It was absolutely absurd, but I thought I could try it, and it’s amazing how it has shifted my marriage.”
Jim: It’s an interesting pop culture example that I think about it, is that kids show Mr. Rogers. When Mr. Rogers comes on, he always takes off his shoes and puts on his soft shoes, and he puts his sweater on, and he goes through a whole series of ceremonial changing who he was. Who knows, maybe Mr. Rogers was a debt collector on the outside, towing people’s cars away, or something. But when he comes in to be with the children, he goes through this little ceremony, or role, and becomes Mr. Rogers.
Jordan: Right, and how many people do we know, during COVID, dressed to go to their Zoom?
Jim: Not me.
Jordan: Not you, but a lot of people, and it was an interesting discussion, as people gradually got that they didn’t have to change into work clothes, since work was at home. I was on a podcast the other day with some people in Holland, they said one of the wonderful things in Holland is so many of us bike to work. So when you leave home and domestic life, you have 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, outdoors, clean air, and so you arrive at work in a very different, and this was their term, a different state of mind. We keep giving you examples which are ordinary because that’s the way it is, and once you begin to be sensitive to the ordinary reality of selves, what we’ve found, and again, we’re dealing with other people’s reports, is I just feel better about who I am. And that’s an amazing thing to get from reading a book.
Now, small parenthesis, I’ve written a self-help book, and I’ve read a lot of self-help books. Self-help books have the same problem, all of them, which is you finish it, and it says you got to do stuff. You got to make lists, you got to change your diet, and you got to change your running pattern, you got to learn to apologize, whatever the book. What’s fascinating, and we didn’t anticipate this, is people read the book as you did, and they just start noticing. They’re not doing anything, they’re just starting to notice what’s in front of their faces, and that’s the shift that we’re glad to see, because it just takes the tension out of your own life to understand yourself better.
Jim: It was interesting, your very right brained approach seduced me into doing that. I’m going to come back to, because it was actually a major theme in the book, you mentioned it in passing just a few minutes ago, comes up at least three different times, which is mental health as being in the right mind at the right time. You want to dig into that as far as you can take it?
Jordan: Yeah, I’ll take this. So it’s possible for somebody to move into a dysfunctional self if they’re triggered or switched by external circumstances we hear terms triggered and switched a lot. Our view is that you want to learn how to shift into the right mind at the right time to consciously, proactively, do that, and that begins by recognizing that you actually do have these different selves, and then there are a lot of different ways people can set that up. You can set up an Odysseus pack, like Odysseus told his guys, “Don’t untie me from the mast no matter what I tell you,” and they didn’t, of course they all die anyway, but he knew he’d be in there.
So you can make deals with yourself that if you start… I’ll give you an example. I have a thing where sometimes I’ve been in restaurants and I’m so good at shielding myself from other people that sometimes I won’t be seen and I won’t be served and people will go in front of me, and I used to get pissed off and confront them and get really angry, and they’d give me a free meal, but it was never worth it, because I felt terrible, and my adrenaline and cortisone. And now these days, if something like that happens, I will literally walk myself, it rarely happens anymore, but if it does happen, I will walk myself out of the restaurant, because I don’t want to finish moving into the part of me that has begun to be triggered by something that doesn’t have anything to do with other people, it has to all do with me.
And similarly, once you recognize that you can shift, and that you have this latitude, you will see someone you know or love coming at you in a way where you know you’re going to walk into the same argument or fight or friction that you’ve had dozens of times before. But if you get that you actually have the option to move into a different part of yourself, that doesn’t have to happen. And as another micro example of that, we have some wisteria in a walk between two of the buildings on the property. And normally I have this thing called a corridor rule. I don’t like any plants or anything blocking the main corridors, just feels wrong, and normally I would whip out my pocket knife and just cut it off without thinking. But I had the thought, and I literally heard it in my head, what if you were the kind of guy who could relax and literally just smell this wisteria and enjoy it and appreciate it?
And I did that, and I left it, and that was a much sweeter, gentler part of me. And it’s because I know these different parts are real I have a lot more facility into moving in and out of them, and just like Jim Fadiman said, I’m a writer too and I can be very productive and effective, but if I’m not in the part of me that, if I haven’t been fed and exercise-
Speaker 1: But if I’m not in the part of me that… If I haven’t been fed and exercised and watered, and if I haven’t done those things, the writer part of me isn’t really going to stay still very long and do his job. So I have to work with the different parts of me to get them to be fully present.
Jim: I’ll give you an exercise that everyone I’ve met knows. And it’s one of the things that you’re given as a child is a method of changing into an easier, more appropriate itself. It’s called count to 10. As a child, when you were told that, you thought, “That is just so dumb. I’ve got no idea, but giant adults who control my life are saying I should count to 10.” But when you look at it, what you’re doing is you’re moving off of the focus of say being angry or upset or frightened or whatever it is, and you’re simply paying attention to the count. You’re also breathing. This is before mindfulness became so popular. So as you are taking that moment to go, in a sense, to be in a place where there’s no conflict, when you come out of that place, you have a possibility of being in a healthier state.
And so what I like about it is we teach ourselves how to take care of ourselves even without the faintest bit of understanding of what we’re doing. And that’s I guess why biology preceded cognition.
Speaker 1: And the other thing with kids is everybody knows especially with small children is that when they’ve done something bad, there are some moments that are teachable moments and there are other moments that aren’t. And if you try to teach them something when it’s not a teachable moment, you’re only going to make stuff worse and they’ll be crying and upset, and they won’t learn anything. If you wait until they calm down and say, “You shouldn’t pull the cat’s tail or set it on fire,” then they’ll get it because even as a kid, they’ll be in a part of them that’s open and receptive and not ashamed or afraid part that they’ve done something wrong. So we know a lot of this stuff intuitively, but we don’t allow ourselves to see it because of the single self assumption.
Jim: I’m glad you mentioned that. I’ve seen both good and bad parenting over the years, and it may well be that one of the main powers of good parenting is just exactly that, the horrible parents that are beating their kids in the Walmart for messing with something on the shelf. That’s just not the right thing at all to where that kid is at that moment. The kid is bored stiff and just wants to be out of there. And a parent that’s aware where the kid’s at, distracts the kid, gives them a toy or something like that. And my mother used to do… she was very smart lady… she’d always buy a box of animal crackers. Remember animal crackers that came in a little box with circus animals?
Speaker 1: Oh, yes.
Jim: One of the first things she did was she got the AMP where we did our shopping was bought a box of animal crackers and just put it the basket. And then should we start getting antsy, she’d open up the box animal crackers and started giving them to us one at a time. And if you’re good, calm down. And we calmed down, we got to eat the animal crackers, and she’d check the empty box of animal crackers through at the checkout, and all was cool.
Jordan: I’m thinking of childhood and this term that we use because we say children are easily distracted. What we’re really saying is children are very content and open to getting into a better self. And if you can break the little pattern of upset or anger or tears or whatever it is, they move with great ease into the new self. As adults, we lose that flexibility, and what we’re doing is getting people to restore that childhood flexibility.
Speaker 1: This is an important point. One of the reasons kids can move so quickly from being terribly upset, and five minutes later, they’re happy again, is because they go fully into the upset self. They experience it fully. An example I’ve been using is that there were times in the past year when I just needed to cry, literally, and be first thing in the morning. I had realized that if I let that happen and I really felt the tears without thinking too much about it or naming [fells 01:13:22] or any of that and experience it fully, five or 10 minutes, I would be completely discharged. And I would be at a much better equilibrium and really ready to move into the rest of my day. So the kids innately do this. Whatever self they’re in, they experience it fully and then they can move on to the next more easily.
Jim: Yep. You guys give a long list of things that people might do to switch between selves if they feel like they need to or ought to, everything from taking a nap to meditating to singing. That’s an interesting one. Micro-dosing, on and on and on. So I suppose it’s anything that breaks the current cycle. Is that a reasonable way to think about it? That there’s a way to initiate a boundary phase transition possibly that at least gives another self an opportunity to step up.
Jordan: Exactly. No, exactly right. In boundary phase, it’s exactly that shift. It’s kind of the Venn diagram. And then you pull it a little bit apart and you’re in the other one. And again, the reason we have a long list is because as human beings… There’s nothing clever in our list. There’s no inventions. But as human beings, we have evolved a lot of methods to make ourselves work more efficiently just as we know that by taking deep breaths, we’re going to make a shift in our physiology and in our literally strength capacity.
We all have what we would call our tricks. How does that work? I mean, for instance, I’m aware that I have two little dogs. And if I show up after not being around for a little while, whatever mood I’m in, they ignore it. They just say, “Oh God. Wonderful person who can do magical things like open doors and has other amazing feats who I look up to is home. And I’m just happy.” And if I say to them, “Look, I’m dealing with the problems. Do know what happened in Syria today?” They look at me and they say, “No, but I do know that you’re a wonderful person. And if you will pet me, you will feel better.”
We shift. And we know we shift and we know it feels better. And all we’ve done in a sense is say, “Notice it more. It’s a lot easier.”
Speaker 1: Did you see the Howard Stern example on the book, Jim? He learned transcendental meditation from his mother when he was a kid. He thought it was BS. And then he found it was really good. And today as a radio caster, he says that after eight hours of doing live shows with really cantankerous people and technical stuff, he almost always has a headache. And then he does the 20 minutes and his line is, “And I feel like a totally new person.” So we would say that that 20 minutes is that phase boundary shift mechanism. And he does that. And then the happy, partying, loving Howard Stern comes out and he’s with his family at night, or does whatever Howard Stern does at night.
Jim: It may be it almost doesn’t matter what the trick is that allows you to open up that boundary for phase transition. And each person can look at these various long list of techniques that you have. Sex, I like that one. That’s a good one. Or the one I had to laugh at was limiting unhealthy food. I can tell you the story the other way back in my business days when I was a middle level business wizard, sometimes you’d have these impossible deliverables that had to be done and I’d click into Deliverable Man. Wasn’t another self. Maybe it was. And for me it was the most unhealthy food possible that powered Deliverable Man, a gigantic bag of Doritos, a couple of Hostess cherry pies, and two 16 ounce bottles of fully caffeinated Dr. Pepper was actually the perfect one to put me into Deliverable Man that could power me through 12 hours of producing the perfect PowerPoint. So it really doesn’t matter what it is, right? Whether it’s healthy or unhealthy, changing the homeostatic equilibrium may be what the secret actually is.
Speaker 1: Well, that’s like the Hawthorne effect in social scientists, right? They turned the lights down at the Westinghouse plant and productivity went up. They turned the lights off and productivity went up. All they had to do was ping the system and productivity went up.
Jim: Yeah. Then if we get back to our basin of attractions idea, a jolt to the marble in the salad bowl increases the probability of the marble flying out of the bowls on blaze. Right? So if this is a phase transition, literally, which it may well be.
Jordan: What’s wonderful about your Deadline Man is that we all know. We all know what you said is, “Here are the things that I need to change my physiology so I can have 12 hours of pretty good focus. And the fact that I’m going to pay for that, I understand that too.” There’s no unconscious. There’s no deception. This is saying, “I need to get into that self. And any of my normal selves is going to get too tired. So I’m going to drug it so that it can do its work.” And then you say, “Okay, I’m ready. Let’s go.” I mean, in architecture, there’s this thing called a charrette, which is you stay up 24, 48 hours to finish a design in order to [inaudible 01:18:29]. And it’s a macho notion that you can basically run your reserves down when you need to.
And again, that’s healthy and sane. Now, when you run your reserves down all the time, you’re unable to switch into healthier selves, your body eventually says, “I’m not supporting this anymore.” I know as I was reading about someone who has done 13 iron mans. But during one of them, he’s about 20 miles out on the run part, and he simply collapses. He just falls down because almost all of his systems at once say, “We have no reserves left.” And from that, he makes a lot of interesting points about how you take care of yourself rather than see how hard you can damage yourself before it’s too late. And again, that’s the wrong self at the wrong time.
Jim: That’s an interesting perspective. And that’s [inaudible 01:19:26] switch to. I guess we’ll probably end up here. Wish we had more time because I got another couple of pages of notes, but that’s okay. And this might be a bit more controversial, actually, your claim that much of what we call mental illness looks like or can be described in terms of having the wrong self in control at the wrong time. Would you extend that to major mental illnesses like depression, clinical depression, or schizophrenia?
Jordan: Well, the word mental illness… I’m the psychologist here. The word mental illness is a very messy term. And most of it is that it’s the only set of illnesses in the medical world where every five to 10 years they redefine them all. I mean, no one gets together and says, “Let’s redefine the appendix.” That’s silly. But in psychiatry and psychology, they’re rather vague. And the notion schizophrenia… These are called basket terms, which is you throw in a whole lot of people, a whole lot of difficulties. And another simple way to look at mental illness is how well am I functioning?
Because let us say somebody who is a gifted athlete and spends most of their life being an athlete and has no social life, doesn’t get along with other people, doesn’t have a good relationship with their parents. Are they mentally ill? Well in our culture, if you’re a very successful athlete, we overlook all of the other defects in your [inaudible 01:20:56] all the other selves that are not being nourished. So when we’re saying a lot of mental illness can first of all, look at, is it a wrong self at the wrong time? It may be. If not, it may be genetic. I mean, one of the things we’re learning… and this is so embarrassing to my psychiatric friends… is a great deal of mental illness can be attributed to the mixture of viruses and bacteria in your intestines because they happen to communicate to the neurons, which are the same as your brain neurons, and they send signals about emotional issues.
I mean, why is it when we’re feeling say upset and you say, “Would you like a drink? Meaning would you like a soft drink? Would you like a caffeine drink? Would you like something sweet?” which raises your blood sugar, all those change your mental state. So what we’re saying is sure, clearly if you have brain damage, if you have a concussion, that’s not a self. But what we do know is even people who are very disturbed will suddenly pop out and say something totally reasonable. So that part of them is saying, “Yes, I’m behaving crazy. But part of me is okay.” So it changes the nature of therapy when you’re talking about selves. You’re not trying to squeeze everything back into the single box where it never fit in the first place.
So we’re redefining not mental illness is sometimes physically ill and it shows in the mind. Sometimes it’s about your past and your emotions, being lonely. Is that a mental illness? Well, mental illness is not defined as we have a pill for that. Mental illness is something where it isn’t physical. And there isn’t too much that a certain amount of mental disturbance and upset is definitely wrong self at the wrong time. So I’d say the sentence is a little too strong, but that’s where we’re headed.
Jim: Gotcha. It reminded me a little bit… You didn’t mention him, but someone I read in… I guess when I was in the mid-’70s, got named Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness. Remember that guy?
Jordan: Yeah. Yeah. The notion that a lot of mental illness is what the culture says is mental illness.
Jim: Your idea of not having the right self at the right time may well be culturally conditioned what is the right self at the right time. Might be perfectly reasonable in a different culture.
Jordan: Well, I think we’re still at a stage where if I say, “Big boys don’t cry,” people will now hopefully see, “Gee, that’s just bad parenting.” But it used to be you were trying to set a cultural ideal where men didn’t have access to their feelings. And when people don’t have access to their feelings, when they’re upset, they have to behave it out. So there’s another wonderful phrase. It’s called, I don’t know what got into me. And we know what that means. It means that a part of you took over and did something that the rest of you disapproved of.
Speaker 1: I just wanted to say that the point here is that there is an aspect of mental illness and a function that is about how cohesive or incohesive your selves are. And then when you know you have different selves, one or more of them might be “mentally ill” or the one that is “bipolar”. And then you can focus on the part of the person that actually needs the help and the treatment.
And we do see this in psychedelic integration after a psychedelic trip and someone is coming down on their approaching their normal set of selves. And it might be that one of those parts of who they are is very upset, and a good guide or therapist will then come. And it might be that they do have this inner child, a part of them that’s still basically eight years old and very upset. And because you know that that part is a real part, you can then address it and work with it and love it and show it dignity. And that’s how the healing happens.
Jordan: Yeah. Let me give you an example from the psychedelic world. It was very early research where we would work with an “alcoholic”, however they were defining themselves. That’s why they were there. And afterwards, they would go out, and almost without exception, within a week, they would take a lot of alcohol in. And then they would come to us and say, “What have you done to me?” And we said, “What do you mean?” He says, “I didn’t enjoy it.” And then you begin to get that alcohol is something you use to make you feel better. Not better about yourself, but just to not feel bad. And in some cases, up to a certain level of alcohol, you feel better. And then that goes away.
But if the self that needs to drink can be helped in some other way… and psychedelic therapy seems to do that… then the alcohol behavior goes away. And I listened to a film of someone who would been an alcoholic, had psychedelics. It’s now 40 years later. And they were terrible alcoholic. They were losing their family, their job, their kids. And the filmmaker says, “What about your drinking?” He says, “I haven’t had a drink in 40 years.” And the filmmaker starts to talk about willpower and the guy laughs and he says, “It has nothing to do with that. I’m not interested in drinking.” So we’re saying he had now replaced the drinking self with one that said, “That doesn’t interest me.” And that was the dominant self that was now talking to us over the past 40 years.
Jim: I mean, again, if we’re talking about phase transition, that makes sense that a psychedelic experience could help create a new basin of attraction, essentially, that takes some parts from the original self, the drinking self, takes certain parts of it, and leave some parts behind.
Jordan: Michael Pollan calls it shaking the snow globe. And when all those little flakes settle down, they settle down into a new pattern. And what we’re finding is that the integration of selves is where the healing really happens.
Jim: Very interesting. Unfortunately, we’re running up on our time here, but I do want to get into one final question. You have this very interesting two different sections about the history of the idea and how it turns up in language itself and in plays it and religions and traditions and all this sort of thing, which I would certainly encourage people to read in the book. And the book is a fun read in that way. But you didn’t mention one of my old favorites, which was Julian Jaynes and his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, that somehow struck me as something that would have had some relevance to the story you were telling.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I told you we should’ve put it in there. Just kidding.
Jordan: I mean, I know the book and I remember when it came out, and there was a lot of fuss. And one of the parts of it that made it very hard was the notion that Greeks didn’t see in color. And he has a lot of “evidence”, most of which actually didn’t exist, that makes that point. And then when you actually study the history of languages, colors come in at certain points in the development of a language, but all languages, and the physiological system of the eyes has not changed since ancient Greece. So in my world, it’s a fun theoretical romp, but some of the implications were sufficiently nonsensical that it was hard for me to stay with the parts that were valuable in the book.
Jim: Came up with a possible experiment, which I’m not sure anybody ever did, that could either prove or disprove Jaynes, which is to do a series of psychological experiments on say Amazonian uncontacted tribes, as soon as you contacted them, and see if they manifested this bicameral mind or not. Jaynes, basically, your God is in your head and is talking to you all the time because it’s essentially one hemisphere talking to the other, and that ought to be easily detected probably even with an EEG. And so I don’t know if it was ever done to prove or disprove Jaynes.
Jordan: If you go to what’s called The Area Files, which is descriptions of various anthropologists of hundreds of hundreds of different groups, you can simply, in a sense, ask that question, which is, “Are you in contact with your God? And does he speak with you?” And some tribes will say, “Well, of course. How can you function any other way?” And others say, “What are you talking about? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Yeah, well of course, when we have rituals, we have this lovely feeling about nature and so forth.”
There are a lot of solutions to how the mind arranges itself for maximum benefit. And the nice thing about the anthropological world is it’s amazing when you find different groups that have such totally different world views from ours that function fine. There’re very optimistic tribes that feel most people are basically good. There are other groups who have a deep distrust of anyone outside and most people inside. They’re just in different parts of the world and have different ways of handling it.
Jim: Well, I think we’re going to wrap it up there. This has been a really interesting conversation with Jim Fadiman and Jordan Gruber. And we’ve been talking about their book, Your Symphony of Selves: Discover and Understand More of Who We Are. I can recommend this book to my listeners. And as I said, I actually learned some things about myself. And maybe they’ll be helpful, maybe not. Who knows? But as mother used to say, “Learn something new every day.” And I certainly did from reading this book. Thanks gentlemen.
Speaker 1: Thank you. This is wonderful.
Jordan: Thank you.
Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting. Music by Tom Muller at modernspacemusic.com.