How do we do psychological work? Where do we come across it, in order to be able to do it? Who can tell us how to do it? What’s the first step? Here straightaway we get stuck. When we want to work, we cannot work. When we want to find something to be able to genuinely work with, we cannot find it.
The reason for this is because wanting to work is itself ‘non-work’ (i.e. wanting to work is the avoidance of work). There is no way around this: wanting is always non-work because it equals ‘the attempted movement from a discomfort zone to a comfort zone.’
Wanted implies unwanted – if I want something then I must be rejecting where I am at the moment. I am rejecting where I am because I am uncomfortable there, and I want to be somewhere else because somewhere else seems more correct to me, more useful, more desirable. Wanting therefore means the attempted movement from discomfort to comfort, ‘wrong place’ to ‘right place’. The movement from discomfort zone to comfort zone, from wrong to right, is essentially an imaginary movement, i.e. it does not correspond to any change or movement in reality. The ‘right place’ is a mental projection, an imaginary destination, an expression of desire, a ‘pseudo-reality’.
Chasing pseudo-realities is what ‘non-work’ is all about. We are waiting for stuff to happen when we get it right, but ‘right’ is an illusion of the mind, a phantom. This is the state of conditionality, which is where we always include some clause of our own – we want to be real, but somehow we think that we know where to look for reality, we think that we know something about the shape or form in which reality will appear to us. As long as we insert a hidden clause of our own into the contract (which is what wanting inevitably comes down to) then we are guaranteed to remain in the state of non-work. Indefinitely.
This of course tells us exactly where it is that we can find psychological work. When I look for work, I can’t find it, since ‘looking’ takes me away from it. The work hasn’t fled away from me, I have fled away from the work. The work is being in the unwanted state, in my discomfort zone, and not turning my attention away to the wanted state, the comfort zone. Work means ‘no imaginary movement’, no movement within the mind, i.e. ‘no involvement in pursuing our mental projections’.
So, we don’t like not being able to work, and we wish we could work, and this wishing is ‘non-work’. Therefore, being in the space of ‘not being able to work’, without any imaginary movement (i.e. without the movement out of reality into unreality) equals work. The key thing here is not being continually confused between where I am (reality), and where I think I am (unreality). In order to not to be confused we need to be disidentifed with the mind and able therefore to tell self-deception for what it is. But suppose I just can’t tell the difference? Suppose I am constantly unsure, constantly doubting myself, constantly not trusting myself? Surely then I am jinxed right from the word ‘go’?
If I believe this, though, then that is only because I have fallen for the same old trap yet again. I am in one place (i.e. being confused or unsure) and I am wanting to be a place where I am not confused and unsure. I have a mental projection of ‘what would be needed before I can start work’, and because I can’t reach that particular comfort zone, I am defeated. But, the real problem is that I have created a duality, my mind has projected a duality onto the situation the same way it always does – the duality of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
This duality is pure distraction, it is utterly without substance or meaning. There is no duality outside my thinking mind. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – every place that I am is the right place. There are no wrong places, there never was and there never could be. The uncomfortable space of not knowing what is real work and what is mind-created ‘pseudo-work’ is the perfect place to be, in fact there never could be a more perfect place. That is exactly where the work is.
But suppose this doesn’t help me, suppose I still find myself going around in futile circles, convinced of the worthlessness of my present situation, trying as hard as I can to find a better or more suitable situation? Even though I may be intellectually willing to accept that I am already in the right place to do genuine psychological work, I find that I nevertheless still keep ‘wanting’ because now I want to be not wanting. I am now wanting things to be ‘different to the way that they are’ by ‘wanting not to be wanting’, so I’m still jinxed. So what can I do? How do I cure wanting?
In this modified situation, ‘wanting’ has become my new discomfort zone, and ‘not-wanting’ my projected comfort zone. I have, in other words, identified ‘wanting’ as wrong, and ‘not-wanting’ as right. Because of this duality I am caught up in the non-work of the imaginary movement from wanting to not-wanting. Which means that psychological work must in this case equal ‘staying in the wanting’ rather than being uselessly involved in the futile, imaginary movement towards the phantom idea of ‘not-wanting.
This may seem curious, since we have just a few moments ago said that wanting was non-work, and now we are saying that it is work, but in this situation it is the wanting where the work is, since it is the wanting that we do not want. In the normal everyday situation of wanting, I also want to not want, but the difference is that I hope to achieve the peaceful state of ‘not wanting’ by obeying the wanting, by acting it out successfully. I don’t want to think about the wanting, or reflect on it, I just want to end the pain of wanting quickly by successfully obtaining whatever it is that I want obtain.
Of course, what happens then is that we find ourselves in the position of wanting to be ‘not wanting to not want’, and so ‘wanting to not want’ becomes the new discomfort zone, and the state of ‘not wanting to not want’ becomes the projected comfort zone. Whatever we don’t want (whatever we want to reject) always becomes the work and so – as always – the work is right where we already are. We don’t have to wriggle and writhe (or twist and turn) to find it because everything we try to wriggle or writhe our way to (i.e. wherever we try to manipulate ourselves to be) is precisely where the work isn’t…
The work must be here, otherwise why would we busy plotting ways to change the situation? Whenever we want or plan for our situation to be different that is always because we are trying to escape discomfort – it is always because we are trying to avoid psychological work.
The motivation of the purposeful (or rational) self is always to escape from the necessity for psychological work – that is its motivation for everything, that is the only motivation it could ever possibly have! Nothing else makes sense to the everyday sense of self (i.e. the conditioned identity) – nothing else is of interest to other than avoiding work and the reason for this is that work means seeing through this false sense of self, this false sense of ‘who we are’.
The one thing the purposeful self is never going to be interested in is discovering that it is not really real, that it is not really who we are, and so it is inevitably going to be the case that the one thing the purposeful self is not going to be interested in is psychological work!
We have already said that it is in fact totally impossible to be somewhere where there is no possibility of work. This is because the purposeful or mind-created self is not real!
On one level we want to find reality, to come back to reality, but on another level we want to do this and yet at the same time hang onto the false idea of who we are. This is our dilemma. No matter what we try to do, or want to do, it is always because we want to seek advantage for ourselves. Even if we change our ways and seek disadvantage, that is only because we now think that disadvantage is advantageous! Why else would we pursue it?
Our situation is that we think we want to do psychological work, but really we don’t – but at the same time we desperately want to believe that we do, and so we ‘go through the motions’.
This is why it seems to us, to be impossible to work, utterly impossible to get back to Reality. It is however only impossible to find Reality because we are forever turning our back on it! We are in our own way the whole time. And yet this is just a ‘futile trick’ because it is actually impossible not to be in Reality. A trick is only ever a trick. This is admirably expressed in what James Moore (1999) calls ‘the primordial affirmation of Lord Krishna’:
The unreal has no being, the real never ceases to be.
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.