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Hassanah Briedis - The Latihan of Subud, Dissociation and the Neurology of Spiritual Experience

The difference between latihaning and dissociating. From Mike Higgins, August 6, 2007. Time 4:52

It's really not that difficult to tell whether you are actually doing the latihan or disassociating. If you are engaging in disassociation, your latihan will be unproductive. You will gain little or no psychological insights or value from the latihan, but will simply be spinning your wheels. If your local helpers cannot distinguish between disassociation and the latihan, they really shouldn't be helpers as they are hindering rather than assisting people to grow spiritually and psychologically.

Furthermore, the latihan is not a form of mental therapy and should not substitute for it. However, my experience is that, if you are actually doing the latihan rather than going into a trance-like or disassociative state, it can lead to greater mental and psychological integration and one's neuroses can simply drop away. Psychoses are another matter entirely and this is why Bapak advised us not to open people who suffer from more severe forms of mental illness. Admittedly, it is not always easy to recognize such people initially, but their dis-ease should become apparent before too long. Perhaps we should just remove the word "crisis" from our Subud lexicon as most helpers would not recognise a genuine spiritual crisis (versus a mental breakdown) if it called them by name. -{ :?o)

From Merin Nielsen, September 14, 2007. Time 9:49

G'day, Mike,

There's a semantic difference between what I mean by dissociation and what you apparently mean by the word. In your response to David Week on 'The Benefits and Risks of Dissociation', you refer to "going into a dissociated unconscious trance state rather than doing the latihan". This possibly occurs among Subud members -- I can't really say. But in my experience, the kind of dissociation taking place in the latihan need not be (and typically is not, as far as I can tell) unconscious or trance-like.

I consider my latihan to naturally and beneficially incorporate dissociation (without 'being' dissociation) such that it is very productive in terms of psychological insights and value generally. This is contrary to your opinion of dissociation as expressed above. Moreover, I don't regard this as mental therapy of any kind, although mental benefits certainly accrue, including "greater mental and psychological integration", along with 'guidance' (constructed, projected, received or whatever). I don't see any intrinsic link between dissociation (in or out of the latihan) and psychoses. Rather, I view dissociation as a healthy, normal activity in which human beings often engage in various ways, without necessarily recognising it as such, which also has pathological connotations for many people in a wide range of circumstances -- such is life.

Thus it seems we are not referring to the same thing, which is always a big danger in discussing psychological and/or spiritual matters. I think that lots of everyday human activities involve forms of dissociation at different levels. So what exactly do I mean by the word? It basically refers to detaching oneself from the immediate environment, which may well include one's own physical, emotional and mental states. It is about stepping outside of one's perspective as determined by particular 'holders' of attention. This happens frequently during dreams, but it happens consciously during the latihan. Indeed, it's central to my latihan. It can also happen during various types of activity; occasionally, for example, when I'm engaged in heavy physical labour, or when I'm dancing, or even love-making. For me, luckily, it entails no problems. But I would stress that dissociation is not limited to the context of someoneís physical presence -- it applies to a myriad of depths and facets pertaining to oneís inner life of feelings, thoughts, intuitions and other states.

Anyway, thatís roughly my take on the phenomenon.

Cheers,

Merin

From Mike Higgins, September 14, 2007. Time 22:39

"There's a semantic difference between what I mean by dissociation and what you apparently mean by the word."

Well, I was responding to the author of this article's definition of "dissociation," which may or may not match your own. She defined it in such clinical terms as the following: "In the field of psychiatry and psychology, the term "dissociation" is used in connection with trauma and its consequences," and, "A dissociated person compartmentalizes a given experience, keeping thought and feeling separate."

You're right that I shouldn't draw conclusions about the character or meaning of anyone's latihan except my own. For me, the latihan is not a trance state. (I have studied hypnosis and therefore am familiar with trance states.) I am aware of my thoughts, emotions and feelings while doing the latihan. For me, the latihan is an expanded state of awareness and in fact just the opposite of the dissociated state the author of this article described - my awareness is enhanced rather than suppressed in any way. So the bottom line is, nothing in this article matches my experience of the latihan. Thank you - Mike

From Merin Nielsen, September 16, 2007. Time 13:5

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that the latihan involves an expansion of awareness, not always, but certainly for me when I'm receiving truly. And accordingly, the phenomenon to which I refer is definitely not suppression. It's more like giving free rein.

Maybe I can describe this by illustration. During the latihan I may have an emotion, perhaps intensely, such that all of the parts of my being, those which are normally involved in generating that emotion, are actively so engaged. For that moment, it effectively is me, and I am it.

God willing, however, I surrender my being -- including that emotional state of being. The particular state may continue to be expressed in full-blown, unrestrained fashion, but then 'I' am not involved in it. My humanity 'unfolds' the emotion, even as I am somehow standing back from it. (Or above it? Below it? Around the side of it? ) It's an issue of identity, of who is really present. While I am not identifying with the state, it is expressed independently of 'me', and may be experienced deeply as never before.

Whether for a state of thought, feeling or emotion, the same process applies, although I'm aware of other processes also going on in my latihan. It is debatable whether the term dissociation should be attached to what I'm describing here, but it makes sense to me.

All the best,

Merin

From Mike Higgins, September 16, 2007. Time 22:1

"It is debatable whether the term dissociation should be attached to what I'm describing here"

I would say not. In my view you are describing a shift in the focus of one's attention - to one's thoughts, emotional state, etc. This is different than suppressing one's awareness of them because one does not want to recognize and deal with them. For example, one can acknowledge and accept an emotion, say anger, but choose how or if one wants to express it. However, if one simply suppresses it, pushes it out of one's awareness, one will never understand it's roots and learn to transcend it.

In his book, 'The Supreme Identity' (which I highly recommend), Alan Watts defined spiritual realization as (I paraphrase), "bringing all that is unconscious into consciousness." I would concur with that assessment.

Good talking to you, Merin - Mike

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