Getting Smaller and Quieter

Once, when I was lying on the floor in a hotbox of a room, one of my friends was leaving, and she said “Goodbye! I’m going to get smaller and quieter now!”

This was surprising to me at the time, but years later ended up being a great example of the sort of translation I find ideal – view things as close to granular perception as possible.

I don’t think ‘smaller and quieter’ is sheer perception itself, really – you still have to have the constructed concepts about smallness and quietness in the first place – but it’s at least a good stone’s throw down the scale. Here’s some examples of shifting down the spectrum:

* “Killing is evil” —> “Killing makes me feel bad”
* “I prefer objective facts over feelings” —-> “The sense of my beliefs matching something outside of myself is something that makes me feel safe”
* “I am such a disgusting person” —-> “I fear the rejection of others”

The idea is that all upper-level thoughts can be broken down into more basic emotion building-blocks; fear, love, pain, pleasure, etc. – it is the idea that, at the core, thinking is just sensation. It takes exercise to realize this regularly, to have the realization of it continually present in thought. It is not immediately obvious that someone walking away is “getting smaller and quieter”, much in the same way it is not obvious that our preference for “objective facts” is a learned frame to explain “a feeling of predictability.”

Communication feels much easier and covers a broader range with people who tend to shift to the “smaller and quieter” side. The building blocks are easier to share and harder to misinterpret, and if you can communicate more basic sensations, it is easier to trigger corresponding upper-level frames.

5 thoughts on “Getting Smaller and Quieter”

  1. >thinking is just sensation

    I’m not sure I agree with this – I get the idea but perhaps not the phrasing. Certain thoughts and beliefs can just be conveying internal feelings, but the act of thinking itself isn’t ‘sensation’. If I’m ruminating on the meaning of life or on the application of exemptions on my tax returns – those aren’t ‘sensations’.

    Your list of examples are all ‘thoughts’, i.e. the noun, not really the verb ‘thinking’.

    1. I think what she’s getting at is that sensation is the raw material from which cognition is constructed, and that which thought represents. But of course, ceci n’est pas une pipe.

      1. I second this.

        There is a state of mind in which thought (memories, etc.) are plainly seen *in the metaphoric sense* to be received perception in precisely the same way as *literal* sight, hearing, etc. What was more surprising about this state of mind, actually, was how the so-called physical senses are themselves obviously mental-ish. In fact, there is no difference at all between mental stuff and other senses – they are all modes of the same thing, that thing being perception / sensation.

        To help grok this, consider sight. If you see a field of red, or blue, or yellow, each is obviously a different experience from the others, but each share the underlying similarity of being *seen*. So it is for each sense-type: a sonata and nails on a chalkboard are very different, but both sorts of hearing. Well, the same holds true *between* varieties of sense perception also. There is some sort of underlying sameness between all of them.

        Interesting that acid makes this show up. I wonder how long / how much it took before this became the norm?

    2. As with AtaraxJim I would argue that thought is a sense, which if you are familiar with Descartes is really a simple extension of some of his philosophy. Suffice to say you must have some metacognition [cognition on what you are cogitating] to consider a topic yourself. This consideration, derivation and detail are all orients and symbols derived from sensations. That we have come to feel these so naturally as to presume any form of sensation devoid of it is a strong support for the strength of attention and distraction, or simplification if you will.
      In accord with your thoughts on consideration, one might argue it is not sensation which is part of moving. Or, that pain itself is not a sensation as we may recognize it, it is instantaneous and can be felt without any external stimuli.

      I would also suggest to Atarax that acid is not the route, but a route that gave Aella a change to alter her perspective. For each person the avenues we avail ourselves is different.

      1. Agree that acid is not required to get here. If you’re smart & weird, I think you’ll pretty much necessarily get here, eventually… though I do think psychedelics are helpful, useful tools.

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