Friday, June 20, 2008

What the hell is going on

Shh. Sue finally got to sleep. Let's give her a sweet kiss on the cheek, turn off the light and tiptoe out the door so we can chat without disturbing her.

Okay. About yesterday. The reason I dragged us through Sue's emotional hell was to provide a visceral experience of the hallucinatory power of emotionally charged thought. Although simplified and condensed, Sue's story is a fair depiction of what goes on behind the scenes when someone seems to spontaneously flip from love to hate, from happiness to desperation or from sweetheart to stalker. It sheds light on how humans who take avatar form in virtual worlds can experience rapid shifts in self-image, personality and emotional intimacy.

Personal identity is shaped through an ongoing interplay between self-conception and environmental feedback. Sue's response to early traumatic events suppressed feelings of love, connection and intimacy. As she grew up, her inner identity manifested in body language, dress, speech patterns, etc. Her social environment responded in kind, creating a reinforcing feedback loop. By the time she entered Second Life, her human personality felt solid and defined.

As Sue spent time Second Life, Jana's identity was shaped by radically altered environmental feedback. Instead of seeing frumpy Sue walking around a small Midwestern town, she was saturated with images of sexy Jana dancing in futuristic hot spots surrounded by flirtatious beauties. When Jana met Jolene, the subconscious guardians at the gate of Sue's buried emotions dropped their guard. The feeling of intimate connection hit her like a bolt of lightning.

All of the other more unpleasant thoughts, emotions and memories Sue had suppressed were also unblocked. So when Jolene didn't show up one night, Sue's uncertain separation from her intimate connection unleashed the desperate consciousness of an abandoned two year old. She was as overwhelmed by the negative thoughts and feelings as she had been by the blissful story that came before it.

Here's the good news. With the right tools and support, the powerful emotions and thoughts unleashed through virtual experience can be used to awaken us. The emotional hurricane Sue experienced uncovered the exact fictitious thoughts that had blocked her experience of love and intimacy since childhood. When we return to Jana and Jolene, they'll demonstrate a practice that can dissolve the power of troubling thoughts by exposing them to the light of conscious inquiry.

Until then, if someone suddenly freaks out on you for no apparent reason, I hope you will remember Sue's story. Especially if you're the one falling into the deep end.


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A beautiful thought experiment personified through the imagined perspective of a self-aware avatar. My creator's site can is at