Who controls the vertical? Who controls the horizontal?

Recently I've been investigating a phenomenological distinction between two different kinds of vision.

The first is horizontal, peripheral, reactive, associated with "shifty-eyed" lateral eye movement, evasive behavior, functioning socially as a sort of stimulus-response machine, treating bids from others as a kind of social threat to be either hidden from or deflected by making the appropriate response. Herd and prey animals have widely spaced eyes, the better to see threats from many angles. Call it Epimetheus.

The second is more vertical, centered, involves activation of the area around the "inner/third eye," has better lookahead both visually and mentally, and can have active preferences and intentions around the future. It feels "taller," like it sticks out more. Call it Prometheus.

Prometheus is photopic, Epimetheus is scotopic.

Rods in the retina are more prevalent on the periphery, are better able to detect signal under low-light conditions, and cannot distinguish colors. Cones are more prevalent at the center of vision, require more light to detect features, and can distinguish colors. When people describe a depressed state as gray and colorless, I wonder whether this corresponds to a generally elevated sense of threat emphasizing colorless peripheral vision; the depressive tendency to stay in dark rooms is also broadly consistent with this.

Most mornings I wake up in peripheral mode. A few days ago I decided to see what happened if I tried entering and staying in lookahead mode. Immediately it felt energetically draining, and when I introspected on the nature of the energy leak, it resolved into a sense of danger. I was worried that if I stayed in this mode, I'd stick out by revealing preferences, and get attacked. But the only other person present was strongly supportive of my staying in vertical mode, supportive in fact and not just in word. Because she didn't react defensively at all to my state, I was able to hang out in vertical mode long enough to get some experiential reconditioning.

The morning I wrote this, I woke up in an avoidant state again, thinking of my tasks for the day as a kind of story I had to participate in, and wanting to get it over with. I took a half hour or so to think about this, and ended up switching to a frame where there were problems to solve*, which is much more exciting and can engage my move-towards motivation, not my move-away motivation.

* David Deutsch occupies this frame most strongly of anyone I've seen:

7 thoughts on “Who controls the vertical? Who controls the horizontal?

  1. related to

    from The Experience of No-Self, Bernadette Roberts

    If I had never had a self, I would not be able to understand why man clings so tenaciously to the certitude of its permanence. Whoever was responsible for the idea of dividing the self into lower and higher parts committed a serious crime against humanity. This division has given rise to the notion that the lower (ego and immature) self must be overcome while the higher (unitive and whole) self must be sought as the goal of human realization.

    The center of the affective system is the will, and since the will is an energy or power, the affective system takes its energy from the will. So long as the will does not move, does not want this or that, neither does the affective system move. Underlying the will, however, is the divine still-point, and thus when the will is still and quiet, it has optimum access to the still-point. This is why the desire for this and that inhibits access to the divine still-point, and why a "desireless" state is of particular value in the contemplative life. This desireless state, however, is not the end or goal, but rather the means by which the beginner has access to the still-point.

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