This is how the mind reacts when some piece of information throws a schema in to doubt. A “lacuna” develops in our awareness and the mind, in defending its perception, completely diverts the mind to a totally unrelated point to reaffirm the schema and fill the hole left by the lacuna. Thus certainty of the schema is re-established and the doubt that threatened the schema is nullified. This way, someone just being helpful, if your schema of this person cannot cope with this diversion from the schema, his or her helpfulness is dismissed before it readily becomes conscious. This was once called Perceptual Defence. But is now known as Diversionary Schema.

So, someone being helpful and finding lots of reference of religious paintings featuring a skull, their helpfulness being in conflict with the schema of this person, “he found me lots of examples” is replaced by a totally unrelated piece of information “he is emailing my sister saying nasty things about me” and thus the desired truth is re-established, and the real truth is diverted from awareness.

The question this poses is “How could people, seemingly intelligently, know something is threatening their schema and act to defend their awareness, before they are consciously aware of it?”

Is there a perceiver, outside of our conscious awareness yet within us, that dictates what we can and can’t be allowed to be aware of? This would seem to be the case..

One might think that the above phenomenon describes someone with a mental disorder, but extensive tests suggest that this is something that happens all the time in a normal mind.

“This effortless and regular avoidance of anything that had once been distressing affords us the prototype of repression. It is a familiar fact that much of this avoidance of what is distressing – this ostrich policy – is still to be seen in the normal mental life of adults.” Freud

“The defence mechanisms are, in essence, attentional tricks we play on ourselves to avoid pain. They are the wherewithal for implementing the ostrich policy. These self-deceits are not unique to the psychoanalytic session. Freud’s point is well taken, we all use them.” Daniel Goleman

Just because we all use them doesn’t make them healthy

“According to Freud, the penalty for repression is repetition. Painful experiences not dealt with are, unconsciously, repeated. We do not quite realise that we are repeating ourselves, because the very diversionary schemas we are repeating keep the fact of their repetition out of our awareness. On the one hand, we forget we have done this before and, on the other, do not quite realise what we are doing again. The self deception is complete” Daniel Goleman

Advertisements