Monday, March 27, 2006

Subpersonalities, Lost, Masturbation, and Virtual Rape

Bill Harryman posted an interesting piece on subpersoalities. Personal development counselor Adrian Longstaffe defines a subpersonality as "a complex of thoughts, feelings and even body sensations which is capable of acting as a complete person for shorter or longer periods of time" and says virtually all of us have them and can benefit from becoming mindful of them and working with them by having them dialogue with one another. In a recent blog entry, Harryman describes the development of some of his own subpersonalities, including the “Little Boy” that arose when he repressed the carefree young teenager in himself in order to prematurely assume adult responsibilities after his father died and that now causes him problems when ignored. Not only does the idea of subpersonalities or Internal Family Systems seem promising as psychotherapy, but it also underlies a fascinating new spiritual practice called Big Mind Process. I believe that I could benefit from both the psychotherapeutic and spiritual approaches.

Beliefnet features an
article by Dean Sluyter about seeing the popular TV series Lost as an ongoing metaphor for Buddhist practice in quest of enlightenment:

“To plunge into lostness is to plunge into mystery, to run off the narrow rails of reason into the wide realm beyond, where one hand can clap and jungles can harbor polar bears. It’s a setting forth, out of the insulated palace of the comfortable and familiar, into the (initially) scary actual world, where nothing is permanent or certain. This is what, in another tradition, is called the fear of the Lord and the beginning of wisdom.”

I watched a couple of early episodes of Lost while my wife and I and my cat were hanging out in an extended stay motel waiting to move in to our house here in Sacramento, but I wasn’t exactly up to giving the show the attention it deserved at the time, and I never got into it from there. I think I should rent the first season on DVD and give it a real chance.

Another Beliefnet
article is by conservative Rabbi Shmuley Boteach titled “It Takes Two.” In it, Boteach argues that people shouldn’t masturbate because it saps the sexual drive that makes abstinent single people want to get married and keeps the passion alive in married relationships. My first thought was that this is a ridiculous argument. But then I thought about it some more, and it still seems ridiculous. Or is it? At least it’s a step above saying that masturbation is wrong because God says it is and reinforced his prohibition by slaying Onan, or because the male leaders of one’s church, temple, or synagogue say so. At least the good Rabbi, misguided as he might be by a dubious set of religious beliefs, is providing a practical and even testable reason for his counsel that can be accepted with or without belief in any kind of God.

This morning I watched another great episode in the short-lived legal drama set in the future called Century City. How I wish this show had stayed on the air longer! Today’s episode was about a woman suing a man for raping her in a novel way. This man furtively planted nanobots in the woman’s husband’s drink, these nanobots were able to vividly record the husband’s sensual and emotional experience of making love to his wife afterward, and this man was able to play back the recording of the husband’s experience for his own enjoyment and vicariously experience everything the woman’s husband did during the encounter. When the woman found out about it, she felt violated and retained counsel to sue the man. The trial raised the issue of just what constitutes rape. Is it actual sexual contact forced upon someone against her will, or is it very intimate carnal knowledge of someone without her consent? Counsel for the plaintiff ended up having to play the “tape” for the jury to show them just how intimate the defendant’s knowledge of the plaintiff was via the recording. It was a very thoughtful and well-crafted episode that explored not only the implications of ever more lifelike virtual reality, but also the definition and emotional consequences of rape.

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