White Bears

Jason Lissel, modified 10 Years ago at 7/20/11 4:08 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 7/20/11 3:22 AM

White Bears

Posts: 105 Join Date: 8/11/10 Recent Posts
Has anyone read White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts, by Dan Wegner?

Attempt to suppress a thought and you end up thinking it, e.g. try not to think of a white bear, and you'll think of one
Attempt to feel good and you end up feeling bad
Attempt to drop a feeling and you end up keeping it
Attempt to be attentive and you end up feeling dull
Attempt to see something as silly and it ends up not seeming silly
Attempt to stay in a PCE and 'you' appear again

How does the actualism method overcome this characteristic of the mind? Or does it actually require people to become meditation experts first?
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Paul Anthony, modified 10 Years ago at 7/20/11 4:19 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 7/20/11 4:19 PM

RE: White Bears

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Hi Jason,

Yes, I've read it. Very interesting book and I think you're right to make the connection between the White Bear and the dharma, AF, etc.

As I understand it, the White Bear argument explains why certain strategies of behavioural control work poorly or not at all. For example the rule "avoid x" inevitably contains x. By invoking the rule we reference x and break the rule. Inner experience (thoughts and feelings) is particularly vulnerable to the White Bear effect. So we may have the sense of the mind as untamed, uncontrollable, tricky to pin down.

You could say that the White Bear effect has huge influence over humans because they are rule-governed language-dominated creatures. Practices that reduce the domination of rule-based behaviour, discursive thought, etc. may perhaps also reduce the dominance of the White Bear effect. In pure present-moment awareness, there would not seem to be any room for a White Bear effect.

Thanks, Paul
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Jon T, modified 10 Years ago at 7/20/11 4:36 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 7/20/11 4:33 PM

RE: White Bears

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
Or does it actually require people to become meditation experts first?


The ability to cultivate equanimity does seem to help. Both meditation practice and annata theory help out a lot of people in that regard. But 'experts' is overstating it. No one needs the 8th jhana to become virtually free, maybe the 1st jhana which, as I understand it, is simply highly directed thought which is similar to Richard and Peters 'reflective contemplation.' fwiw, i don't even have access concentration.
Jason Lissel, modified 10 Years ago at 7/28/11 10:20 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 7/28/11 8:22 PM

RE: White Bears

Posts: 105 Join Date: 8/11/10 Recent Posts
fred flinstone:
Because this body (or any body) is not-self I shouldn't have a stake in what happens with them. Any affect is simply letting your body know about the stake the self thinks it has in whatever situation, but this stake is always imagined. Since nothing actual is self, I have no stake in anything, so trying to influence things is silly.


When I used this idea it worked at first and I felt good about the success. But then the next day the white bear effect was kicking in and thinking of 'self' as not the body was an idea that 'I' was rejecting.

So I tried something else that kind of works with the white bear effect, and I think it's similar to something else fred wrote, but it really just seems like a game of 'whack-a-mole' in that it doesn't permamently prevent me from triggering the feeling I was just feeling...

1) When I feel a feeling I don't want, e.g. irritation, I feel it and try to get rid of it. This creates some tension (become fully aware of it)
2) I realise that trying to get rid of it does not work (the effort is silly)
3) Then I give up trying and relax (happy and harmless)

It is a bit like clenching your fist and then relaxing.
, modified 10 Years ago at 7/30/11 5:19 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 7/30/11 4:28 PM

RE: White Bears

Posts: 385 Join Date: 8/11/10 Recent Posts
Has anyone read White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts, by Dan Wegner?
No. [edit: I haven't]

Attempt to suppress a thought and you end up thinking it, e.g. try not to think of a white bear, and you'll think of one
Attempt to feel good and you end up feeling bad
Attempt to drop a feeling and you end up keeping it
Attempt to be attentive and you end up feeling dull
Attempt to see something as silly and it ends up not seeming silly
Attempt to stay in a PCE and 'you' appear again?


I see all of the above being fruits of the practice/effort. Without a steady practice (yours being actualism) there would be no way to see what sorts of concepts are welling up in your personhood.


Richard recommends practioners either nip those in the bud or investigate them.


How does the actualism method overcome this characteristic of the mind?
Overcome? This implies there is a leftover piece of defeat that will be in you. Actualism is fully digestive. Nothing gets leftover. Per events of the mind: some days one might be able to just re-enter absorption with all that is actually occurring, other days one might be heavy in adhesive feelings and need to chew a bit to see what is keeping the adhesion.

Or does it actually require people to become meditation experts first?
Actualism is absorption, and if absorption is not available, it is sensual attention, and if sensual attention is not available, then it is investigating, and if investigation is not available then it is a sort of self-safe operating mode (happy and harmless). Meditation is also these things though meditation is mostly seen as a cushion staging.


How is clinching and releasing relaxing going?

[edit: strike through]
Jason Lissel, modified 10 Years ago at 7/31/11 6:33 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 7/31/11 6:33 PM

RE: White Bears

Posts: 105 Join Date: 8/11/10 Recent Posts
I think it's better for me to have a proper understanding, such as the one fred flinstone has been trying to communicate, otherwise it ends up not being fun after a while, as usual.
fred flinstone, modified 10 Years ago at 7/31/11 10:48 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 7/31/11 10:47 PM

RE: White Bears

Posts: 50 Join Date: 6/12/11 Recent Posts
I think the logical understandings aren't too difficult, maybe try using a metaphor. Sometimes I think of myself in traffic banging my fists on the steering wheel, because I was trying to get somewhere and something was stopping me. No matter what that thing I'm trying to get to is, even if I was trying to stop some guy from blowing up the universe (this one hasn't happened yet), isn't that fist banging always silly? Does it ever help me get to my destination faster?

(the metaphor is that all that fist banging = chemical pumping)

Also I liked to combine in the thought that this universe turning into dust didn't really matter because it's all totally separate from me, I have no stake in what pattern of dust this universe is currently formed into.
Jason Lissel, modified 10 Years ago at 8/1/11 10:30 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 8/1/11 10:30 PM

RE: White Bears

Posts: 105 Join Date: 8/11/10 Recent Posts
The clenching and unclenching isn't what I like to do with too much frequency right now. I'm working more on thinking of this consciousness differently. I am happier and more harmless now that I have this understanding. Thanks for explaining to me emoticon