Transcript: Helen Palmer on Personality Development and the Psyche – Interview by Jeffrey Mishlove |Leave a comment
March 22 by The Running Son
The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.
PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT AND THE PSYCHE
with HELEN PALMER
Interview by JEFFREY MISHLOVE
JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Today we’re going to be looking at psychic experience in everyday life. My guest is Dr. Helen Palmer, a member of the faculty at John F. Kennedy University, and also the founder and director of the Center for the Investigation and Training of Intuition. Helen, welcome to the program.
HELEN PALMER: Hello, Jeff.
MISHLOVE: It’s a pleasure to have you back again.
PALMER: Thank you.
MISHLOVE: You know, many mystics, many parapsychologists, psychic teachers, all say that everybody really has psychic potentials. And yet, most people only experience consciously being psychic on rare occasions, not all the time. It’s kind of a mystery, isn’t it?
PALMER: Well, many people experience an opening into psychism, a realm of information that just is not available to the thinking self, in an extraordinary moment, where they either come under pressure or they come into some state of grace, and so they’re moved into a kind of point of view that is not a usual one. Many of the rest of us were not so graced by a higher experience at the beginning, but found a great deal of unusual perception, an unusual form of knowing, in the middle of extraordinary moments that might be called neurotic. I think that’s a very common experience that people have. They don’t realize that a great deal of the source of their own information is not from their linear, thinking self, but is actually from other parts of themselves that are equally intelligent, but not the thinking self.
MISHLOVE: You seem to be saying that if we could reflect on the shifts of attention that we have during the day in our stream of consciousness, we might discover quite a bit of psychic activity going on that we’re just unconscious of.
PALMER: Yes, and yet in a way everything depends upon it, because our whole style of life depends on these kinds of shifts, or as you call them, slants of attention, that are particular to individuals, and which we might call neurotic or unfinished, from early childhood — the kind of points of view that we get attached to. We don’t realize that there are extraordinary kinds of perception that support those points of view. For example, a child who has been traumatized, a frightened child, can become extraordinarily sensitive to the potential of anger in other people, without realizing that they are focusing and recognizing through their body and through their inner mind the kind of aggressive possibilities in adults, for protective reasons. And kind of an opposite situation, just to give an example — a child who is dearly loved may learn how to tap into the available affection in people, how to keep the available love flowing in their direction, usually by merging with the wishes of others, knowing how to please, being very sensitive to minute changes in temperament in adults. And these are actual psychic potentials that can get way over the line of linear thinking, without the individual realizing that they’re doing something unusual.
MISHLOVE: You’re reminding me of the story of the great Dutch psychic, Gerard Croiset, who was hit on the head by a rock as a child and fell into some water and nearly drowned. Thereafter — he died recently, but much of his career was devoted to being able to locate the bodies of missing children who had drowned. It’s as if there was some kind of a wrinkle that got created through this early experience that opened up his own psychic perception in that particular area.
PALMER: Yes. I think if we could do some expert plumbing, and focus our attention deeply into our own neurotic functioning, we would find a wellspring of particular ways in which we use our attention in order to derive the information that supports our point of view. It’s often the case that if the undercurrent is ready to have an opening — you know, a psychic experience of some kind — then there’s a kind of collusion between the unconscious that wants to express itself, the psychic potential that is lying dormant, that wants to come forward. And so it will instigate a situation for the individual to experience, like the example of your Dutch psychic. Or in my experience, I placed myself, without realizing it, in a very frightening set of circumstances that went on for a number of years, and in the midst of those experiences a great deal of truly psychic information came forward, but it was so embedded in the context of my survival that I didn’t realize I was trying to access a really important part of myself. I think that we engineer circumstances, so to speak, so that we can recognize our own potential in a conscious way, and then it becomes a conscious ability, and used very specifically, rather than in a kind of unconscious and repetitive way.
MISHLOVE: This is an important insight, I think, that you have, because what you’re suggesting is that what we normally call neuroses or psychological problems of one sort or another are really an effort from the deeper layers of the psyche to achieve freedom or psychic liberation in some sense. We put ourselves under stress in order to create psychic openings.
PALMER: Yes. You know, there are all these stories — and I’ve actually interviewed several people who have been under objectively dire circumstances for prolonged periods, and had unusual experiences during the time that they were under pressure. These were concentration camp victims during the Second World War, camp survivors. And their powers — both healing powers, self healing and sometimes to affect other people who were ill, transferred healing, and definite precognitions of the events that would befall their group, that were helpful to the survival of their small group in the camp — those experiences are not that unusual, when ordinary people like ourselves are put under extraordinary circumstances. We always have the example of the mother who in an extreme case lifts the car off the child, finding some resource in herself to affect the situation. And in a smaller way, a reduced way, I think we do that all the time. We need to put ourselves under some sort of circumstance where we have to revert to a part of ourselves that we’re not usually used to dealing with. And I feel that’s a real indicator — in fact, I think the neuroses, instead of being seen as something dark or negative, are a wellspring of buried, latent, almost-on-the-surface, almost-ready-to-come-up, kinds of psychic abilities. For example, the child who was loved, able to merge with the wishes of another. Now, this can be a real neurotic burden to an adult — you know, always putting the other first, selling out their own priorities in order to be loved, in order to receive affection, being always a kind of doormat kind of personality. And so it can be seen as a burden rather than as a talent. But the neurotic preoccupation, the need to be loved, is an indicator of what that person might do if they adopted an internal practice and recognized the moments when their attention shifted into this kind of merger or replacement of themself with the wishes of another.
MISHLOVE: The words that you used, an internal practice, seem crucial here, because I suppose that’s what distinguishes a neurosis from a real growth or breakthrough kind of experience.
PALMER: Oh yes, that’s a very good point. I think that when we’re still attached — in other words, identified with the neurosis — if we’re still attached to the paranoia, then the fact that we may be specifically talented, psychically talented — recognizing other people’s unexpressed aggression, we may refer this to ourselves, we might feel this within our own body, we might feel somehow under attack if we’re predisposed to paranoia. But rather than seeing that as negative, you can see it as a talent. But a practice would have to be adopted, where that individual who is so-called afflicted with paranoia, perhaps blessed in another way, would have to be able to distinguish between times when they were just identified with the idea that the world is a terrifying place and looking for it in every corner — you know, falsely projecting their own terror, attributing it to the other, trapped in that kind of loop tape of projection — and when actually they are recognizing something unexpressed. And so it’s an internal practice of recognizing the difference between the projection and the truthful impression that is coming from outside of the self, that was registered as a psychic impression.
MISHLOVE: I suppose another example might be in a romantic situation, where one person gets hung up on another person. They may actually be experiencing forms of telepathic merger with that person, and not be aware of that.
PALMER: You know, I think that happens with intimate situations of all kinds — parents and children, for example, or lovers, or mates — that we have these experiences of becoming the other. I had a very striking example of that. In fact, it was one of my very first clearly psychic experiences, and in was in relationship with myself and my son, who was then quite young, seven or eight years old. We were in some conflict, I even forget what the situation was, and I had an internal practice, which at the time was self hypnosis. It was very interesting to me, the shift from what I had thought of in self hypnosis as a technique to modify my own reactions, my own behavior, and how it led me into what you might describe as a merger with another person, which is actually taking on the characteristics and the viewpoint of another person. It’s quite different than something like psychological empathy, where you have a close approximation. You see, you kind of imagine what it would be like to stand in someone else’s shoes; that would be a close approximation. A real psychic merger is you become the other person, sometimes even with their thoughts and their inner feelings that might be quite unknown to you, and that you never could have imagined, because they’re alien to you. You see, they’re not your own, so you can’t closely approximate them yourself. This experience of merger happened in a very ordinary setting; I had gone into an inner state of attention to focus on modifying my reaction to my son’s behavior. I wanted to be more calm, and not to try to convince him that he was wrong, because he was having a bad reaction to my convincing him. And so in a very sturdy way he was opposing me, and that upset our family scene. And so what I did was try to affect myself by visualizing both of us in an inner room in my mind, down many, many flights of stairs in my hypnotic induction, and then I wound up at the bottom of these flights of stairs, and there I was with my little son, and I was viewing myself as I was looking out from behind my own eyes toward my son who was seated at the other side of the table in my imagination, in my inner vision. And within the confines of the practice my attention shifted, in a way that it never had before, so that I became not myself, seeing through my own eyes, seeing his face, but I was inside him, seeing his face from my position. And when that happened, it was extraordinary, because his perception of me was quite radically different than I had supposed.
MISHLOVE: That would seem to me almost one of the key experiences of anybody who is developing psychic abilities
— seeing yourself through the eyes of another. It must be one of the most frightening things, and I would imagine one of the reasons why so many people are afraid of ESP, or would rather deny that it even existed.
PALMER: You know, I agree with that. That is a specific practice, actually, that I did for many years — seeing myself through other people’s vision, and sometimes with great shock and surprise at the discrepancy between what I thought I would observe and what I actually observed when I was in the altered state. You see, I don’t get freaked out by things like that. My interest draws me into that; I’d rather know than not know.
MISHLOVE: But I suppose for many people it’s not that the experience is so bad, but it’s the fear of it.
PALMER: Well, altering your awareness — you can’t be too attached to this simple reality. There are many, many versions of reality; and the psychic world, actually, is kind of a lightweight version. There are many spiritual realms that are far superior to the psychic realm. But the psychic realm has an interesting relationship, really, to the stable personality, and often the stable personality does get a little upset if you start having perceptions that are not agreeable to what you would like. That really is the truth, you know — the psychic world does open up a range of accurate perceptions that are alien and even contrary to what you would like to see.
MISHLOVE: What you’re saying reminds me of an interview I did with Arthur Clarke, the science fiction writer, who once said he doesn’t believe in ESP because he doesn’t want anyone else to read his mind.
PALMER: Well, the game is up, you know; the spiritual teachings are out, and on any metaphysical bookstore shelf you can see wonderful volumes on how to alter your attention and how to enter other states of awareness. So the game is up. You must be disciplined in your willingness to undertake an internal practice and to follow it, and the willingness to risk what comes out at the other end.
MISHLOVE: When you use the term internal practice, you’ve referred to the self hypnosis work that you were doing.
PALMER: Yes, that was my beginning.
MISHLOVE: But I gather internal practice can mean many different things.
PALMER: Oh yes. Let me say one other thing, in reference to people’s tension around getting into an altered state and seeing something that may not agree with their personality. There’s a very popular parapsychological — I guess it’s a theory, a psychological theory — that’s called the social masking theory, and I absolutely agree with this. In childhood we build certain defenses that keep us unique and keep us operating, and we would rather not know the information that our defenses keep out. And we really want to believe what our perceptions, however distorted, however defended — we really want to believe that what we see is the truth. But it’s extremely distorted, and it’s very modified in order to keep the personality feeling secure. And we need those defenses.
MISHLOVE: And this is always the case.
PALMER: Always the case, unless your’re a saint. But for me it was certainly the case. When you start altering your perception to see the discrepancy, in the altered state, between that reality, which is a lot broader, and is a much different point of view than your own finite view of things, it brings up the specter of all of the possibility
— that what we suspected in our early childhood was so; that at times we weren’t loved, and that a great deal of our perceptions were distorted in order to keep us feeling more secure. And we can’t stand it, so we close the door and become afraid of altering our own awareness, and become very afraid of those people who do. So the psychic person, the intuitively inclined person, comes in for a great deal of speculation and projection from those individuals who are afraid of what they might see about themselves, their own unconscious material. You see, if you’re really going to pursue an inner practice, which is your real question, the first thing is as soon as you modify your awareness you’ve taken away the guard of defenses. So the first thing that floods out is buried unconscious material. In a way the practices are very safe, because they’re modified and they’re gradated in difficulty, so you don’t get flooded.
MISHLOVE: But usually as you say, if it’s subconscious material, undoubtedly it must have a lot of libido, sexual, aggressive drives, which are the very things, according to Freud, that we want to hide the most.
PALMER: But when you’re in a state, let’s say, of inner vision, you’ve taken down the guard of the thinking self and its defenses, like projection and denial and the various defenses that we have, and you’re in a state where any old thing can shoot out from your unconscious and be revealed to you through the state of vision, for example. So it’s a tricky state because you’re unguarded. I have to say I’ve seen things about my own unconscious aggressions and my own sexuality that would turn most people blue, frankly, because they can’t stand that this might be part of one’s own nature.
MISHLOVE: I suppose the only ultimate saving grace is that everybody has it.
PALMER: Oh yes, and it’s only a question of time until the neurosis and its defenses become thin enough, or limiting enough, that we either rebel against it, because we know it’s limiting and we’re inspired to get rid of it, or again a collusion, perhaps, from the unconscious, to engineer a situation that becomes more than what we can tolerate with the defenses, and so they become explosive. And then, sure enough, intuition and its abilities come forward. But first I think we really have to see what our limitations are, because as soon as you see a bigger picture, like in an altered state, and then you recognize the limitations of one’s own point of view, it can be very depressing.
MISHLOVE: And aren’t the inner practices, the inner disciplines, somehow a bridge between the limitations of the small self and the possibilities of the large self, what we see?
PALMER: Oh yes. And again, the inner practices, there’s no big deal about it, they’re simply how to learn to modify your own inner attention, and how to be able to stay aware, to stay constantly aware of the very subtle impressions that are there all the time, but that we never really have quite sharp enough attention or interest to gather, to pay attention to. These images, and these senses of things, are there all the time. They’re happening to you and to me right this moment. But we happen to be focused in a conversation; we’re not paying attention to that realm. If we shifted our attention and went into an inner vision or an inner sense of things — the two dominant forms of intuitive connection between people and nature and God — we would immediately find that we do have impressions — about each other, about God, about nature, about whatever object you’re focusing on.
MISHLOVE: I had the experience of listening to a tape of yours while I was driving in my car. You were talking about this subject, about how our attention tends to slip. I discovered, while listening to you, that I had blanked out for a moment. Then I thought, what was she talking about? Oh yes, she was talking about how the mind tends to merge with another person at certain moments. And then I realized, oh, that’s what I had done just then. I guess it’s that subtlety of, for example, noticing when you lose consciousness, maybe for a second or two, in the middle of another conversation. There’s something going on there.
PALMER: Yes. You can also just be blanked out; you can just be inattentive. That’s also a possibility. But what you’re really suggesting, I think, is that often we shift into a moment of merger, and are inclined to disremember the connection back into the thinking self. And then we may operate from that source of information, thinking that we thought it up, believing that it came from an intellectual source. I think that happens a great deal of the time, many times during the day.
MISHLOVE: Well, our culture certainly supports us in denying intuitive faculties.
PALMER: And I think our culture in some ways shows that — because we’re very individualistic, and we need to support the idea of individualism because we’re competitive. The idea that somehow if I win, nobody else loses; or that my win doesn’t affect other people in some way, though I may not be thinking about them — that somehow my direct action is particular to me and doesn’t affect anyone else. As soon as you move into an intuitive realm, or you realize the degree of actual mergence between individuals who think of themselves as separated, it’s shocking. Because if I injure myself, the other guy gets it too. If I boost myself at someone else’s expense, I also suffer from that, though I may not know it. And in the merged state, you’re immediately aware of those things.
MISHLOVE: And the role of these inner practices, I guess, is to tease these things out — to somehow become aware of these little subtle currents that are sort of in the backdrop of our lives.
PALMER: Well, they seem subtle when we think about them; they seem very subtle and far away. Actually, it’s not that difficult to tune your attention, to close your eyes, and to be able to tell the difference — to discriminate between a spontaneous image, an image with respect to an unknown situation, and a thought. Or the difference between an emotion — my own, belonging to me, my own particular, peculiar personality — and a reaction that I have with respect to my attention to an unknown situation. Once you turn the attention inward, those discriminations are really not that difficult. I want to encourage people, because it seems like the realm is so far away and so glamorized, in a way. And I think, for the very reasons you’ve been discussing, our fears want to keep them glamorized and far away — because we don’t want to really realize the extent of our merger with other people, the extent of how much we could know. We don’t want the responsiblity. We don’t really want to have to guide our lives from that kind of perspective.
MISHLOVE: One of the things that you’ve pointed out is that sometimes it takes a paranoid state, or a slightly neurotic state, in which a person is willing to believe that they’re right even when they’re wrong, to allow them to appreciate when in fact they are right as regards psychic functioning. There’s so much fear that we might make a mistake or look foolish if we attempt to practice in this psychic realm.
PALMER: Well, but listen to how you discuss the question. We think we’ll be foolish, so we’re locked in a thinking state; or we suppose that we’re going to have this error, so we’re locked in the thinking state. We never shift our state. The practices are actually very modest. It depends on an ability to stabilize your attention in a nonthinking state. You really have to get past the thought barrier and into a relatively empty space, where you can recognize the observer, also called the witness, depending on your nomenclature — the witness, the aware state of mind, the observer. But actually, if you go inside and close your eyes, and you make an image, like a color spot, you’d realize that there are two aspects to your perception. There’s a color spot, and we think, oh, that’s where the information is, it’s in the image. And in a way it is; but the more important aspect of the perception is that which is aware — the observing part of the mind that is able to tell the difference between the color spot and a thought, an emotion, or something like that. So the training is to strengthen this capacity to observe. We rarely in the West, at least — in the East it’s a different story — in the West we rarely have any time during the week where we shift inward and even recognize that there’s an observer. We’re so preoccupied with the objects of attention — the thoughts, the car on the highway, the emotions —
MISHLOVE: With ourselves as an actor rather than an observer.
PALMER: A doer, yeah. We’re very preoccupied with the objects — the doing and the tasks, and the inner vision of the color spot. But the actual training is to strengthen the ability to stay present, observing these very subtle impressions as they go by. They’re not so subtle, actually; when you get into being able to tell the difference between a thought and an image, the images become super strong. They’re not intangible or weak; they can become as strong as billboards inside. So you’re really dealing with very, very subtle objects of attention, like imagination objects — very subtle. But they are as describable as furniture in a room.
MISHLOVE: In effect what you seem to be saying then — to get back to the mystery, which you described at the beginning of our interview — is that the real, essential difference between an average, supposedly nonpsychic individual, and an individual who is using their psychic capacities, their intuitive capacities, daily, is this capacity for self observation.
PALMER: That’s really all it is. You know, I mentioned I had this so-called opening, where I recognized that I could merge my observing state of mind with inner images of unknown situations — a distant part of the world, for example, or a person who I haven’t met — that I could make an image, a symbol, of that individual, and observe it, and merge the observer with the image, so that a small dream, a small set of spontaneous impressions would come with respect to this unknown situation. Well, I had been doing that for years, but I never realized there was any truth in it. I had never set up a test situation where I actually performed an internal practice of moving my attention around, trying to merge with an object, a vision, trying to separate, trying to engage, disengage. It’s actually quite pedestrian, you know — moving your hand forward and backward.
MISHLOVE: But being able to see yourself do that really made all the difference.
MISHLOVE: Helen, we’re out of time.
PALMER: Oh, what a shame.
MISHLOVE: We’ll have to have you back again. Thank you so much for being with me.
[ Repost from: http://www.intuition.org/txt/palmer.htm ]