I've written a few times about my "filters" - having my guard up and processing my feelings and thoughts through a layer of mental perspective-taking before speaking. When the filters are there but letting most things straight through, it feels like roleplaying myself. Or when I try to "not do" the performative bits, that can just turn out squelched.

When I'm in very safe environments, the filters/guards aren't active - if you're hanging out with a good friend, things flow easily. You're not doing or not-doing anything in particular, you just are with them in real connection. It's in other environments that I have my filters active - social situations, outgroup or unknown perspectives present, status differentials, protective emotions arising, or trying to engineer an outcome. My previous writing helped me to name and make an object of these filters, such that I can be aware of them and play around with how they move.

I've been able to, in practice spaces (not already-safe but intentionally there to support edge-work), bypass the filters a few times recently. I see a couple real differences when my thoughts bypass (vs passing through) those analysis filters - even if the same words end up coming out of my mouth. First, there's less lag: bypassing the filters avoids the "gears grinding" delay/slowdown effect. It feels like immediate flow, without the latency. Second, there's a higher fidelity and greater animated-ness of my expression. To catch everything, process it, and then replay it, inevitably some nuance and detail doesn't get re-added. The filters are lossy.

Being able to flow without those filters has felt great. I suppose it's not a thing that I want all the time: In genuinely dangerous situations, they do a good job of protecting me and it's good to have them. But I haven't been thinking about that situation - I hadn't gotten to that yet. I've been focusing on trying to let go of those filters entirely in situations which I intellectually judge to be safe but I have those habitual defenses up.

So I've been in a "filters bad, flow good" mindset recently as I try to practice this - and I realized this in a one-on-one coaching session with Josh Stein a week ago. He observed my relationship to the filters and the analogical mapping suddenly snapped into place: this is another transcend-and-include movement of subject-to-object personal development! The story arc has become familiar to me:

  • An uncomfortable feeling exists, part of my world feels bad
  • Why is that feeling there? Hey wait... I see this thing!
  • Thing becomes an object and gets a name, separate from the background world
  • I reject the thing, since it causes that feeling - run away from it!
  • Swing to the other pole of a polarity. Relish the positives
  • Discover the negatives of that other pole, realize first side had some good
  • Transcend perspective to see that it's a polarity and that both are needed
  • Accept and re-welcome that old thing back, as an object (has-a, not is-a)
  • Integrate the polarity and learn to live in that bigger space
  • Enjoy the freedom!

At this moment of realization, I found myself in the "reject" and "swing" stage of this journey. But realizing that, about the journey itself, opens up some new movement potential! What if I just don't fetishize "authentic no-filter flow" to the point of feeling its downsides? Can I skip straight to integrating the polarity and radically speed up this journey to more expansive consciousness? (Consciousness: the space in which awareness resides?) Seems like a delightful hack if this meta-awareness can radically boost the object-level-awareness learning.

Or would that kind of "integration" skip some fullness of bodymind integration? How does this integration line up with the therapeutic reconsolidation process? I wouldn't be surprised if the somatic aspect of "discover the negatives" is important to the polarity-becoming-object process. True acceptance requires full defusion from the emotional affect, which is another way of saying memory reconsolidation, which... yeah, it seems to me that the meta-awareness can still significantly speed up this defusion and integration process, though retraining the limbic system isn't free by any means.

Seeing the path doesn't mean that I've already walked the path, but does let me walk faster with more confidence. As for my filter, I'm looking forward to seeing and enjoying more situations where I can let go of them and just flow. But now I'm also looking forward to a future where I can somehow do both at the same time, whatever that synthesis will turn out to be. It probably won't be named "filter" anymore. Maybe the alts will all run on main, to use twitterspeak. Maybe the analysis will come inside the flow. Maybe I can bring out the right questions to collapse away the parallel simulations.

However it turns out, I've walked this path before in different locations. It's a path best marked by acceptance and self-love. It is what we were made to do.

Meme: [Earth replaced by "You in your entirety"] Astronaut 1: "Wait, it's all loveable?" Astronaut 2: "Always has been" [Gun is replaced by roses]