A UNIQUE OBJECT
AN INTERVIEW WITH JACK TRUE
MARCH 1, 2011. This interview with Jack took place, to the best of my memory, in the summer of 1990. Reconstructing it from my notes, I see Jack is describing one of many ways he worked with patients to move them into “a new way of seeing.”
Q: Why is it important to allow your patients to see “beyond ordinary reality?”
A: The answer to that is, of course, obvious. But I’ll try to give you a slightly different slant on it. You could say that everything a person believes or is conditioned to believe is held in place, held in one place, like a corral. The sheep in the corral are all his beliefs, and they stand there. There is a fence around the corral, and the gate is locked by the way he views reality. As long as he views reality in the same way, the gate is going to be locked. And his beliefs are going remain there. They’re not going to change. But if, for some reason, he begins to see reality in a new way, the lock on the gate is going to spring open, and the beliefs are going to scatter and disperse.
Q: So, in hypnotherapy, you try to get patients to–
A: Not through suggestions, but by other strategies.
Q: For example?
A: With certain patients who I feel are up to to it, I bring in the idea of a unique object.
Q: What’s that?
A: A unique object, for my purposes, is a one-of-a-kind thing that never existed before and will never exist again. It could be anything.
Q: There are lots of unique objects.
A: Depends on how you look at that meaning. I’m talking about a thing that isn’t composed of whatever everything else is composed of. So a unique object isn’t made out of atoms. It’s different.
Q: Like a very strange chair?
A: Why not? It could be anything. But it’s utterly unlike anything else.
Q: Not sure I follow you.
A: I put a patient in a light trance. That means he’s aware, and it also means he can focus. His mind is, for the moment, uncluttered. He’s not thinking fifteen thoughts. He’s in a sort of zero state. Calm. He can think and he can respond, but he’s not distracted. His consciousness is relaxed and open. He’s not overly receptive to suggestions. He’s not in a Pavlovian condition. He’s in the moment.
Q: Okay. Then what?
A: Then I describe, in general terms, what a unique object is. And I ask him to conceive of one.
Q: Does he?
A: It varies. Some people work at it but they don’t come up with anything. Other people give me lots of objects, but nothing much happens. In some cases, though, a very interesting thing occurs. The patient begins to see or imagine or think about a truly unique thing. An object of great significance to him. It’s not me who is telling him the object has great meaning. He comes upon that by himself. It’s all subjective. You see? I give them the general idea of what a unique object is, and then he takes it from there. And what he describes to me isn’t a startling revelation, in terms of the object itself. It’s how he sees it and how he feels about it. It’s like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. When it happens, the patient experiences a change in perception. Right away.
Q: Because he feels he’s really seeing something unique.
A: That’s right. He feels that. You know, people go through their lives and they see all sorts of things, and nothing much registers with any great impact. It’s often just cultural responses, like, “Well, I’m standing here on top of a mountain, and I’m supposed to be enthralled, so I’ll act like I am.” Or “I’m walking through a forest and I’m supposed to feel the majesty of the tall trees, so I will.” My idea is to have a patient actually experience something in a spontaneous way.
Q: Give me an example.
A: One patient was quiet for a long time. Then he began talking slowly about…it seemed to be a musical instrument. He got this look in his eye, as if he was feeling something he had never felt before. As if he was making a real discovery. As if this object wasn’t part of the known world.
Q: And then what?
A: The next day, he told me his blood pressure, which had been high, was down to normal levels. His low-level chronic headache was gone. He didn’t need his glasses.
Q: Was this change permanent?
A: The blood pressure never went all the way back to the high level. For about a week, he didn’t need his glasses. The chronic headache eventually became a once-a-month headache. But he also began to see his life differently. His marriage really underwent a revolution. He reconciled with his wife, and they became much happier. His overall mood changed.
Q: All from…
A: From that experience.
Q: And you would say his beliefs changed.
A: Absolutely. Until that point, he had a very restricted view of his possibilities. That all shifted.
Q: Because he glimpsed a unique object.
A: It sounds strange, doesn’t it. But yes. It was a moment in a session. The “gap” between what he believed and what he could see just…fell apart. Here’s how I would characterize it. Perception is often an apparatus where you have whole strings of things that are deemed to be similar. The person sees A and subconsciously thinks, “Well, A is like B and B is like C and C is like D…” He’s not really seeing A. He’s linking A to other things he’s seen or heard about. It’s not true vivid perception. It’s perception plus memory and thought. It’s a hybrid. And it’s dull. It’s really uninteresting. Which has emotional implications. The person’s level of feeling becomes dull, too. So what happened in this case with the patient was, that whole pattern was broken. For a few minutes, the perception, the seeing was direct. He saw a unique object. Or to put it differently, he saw uniquely.
Q: And what caused his beliefs to change?
A: Well, if perception is dull, feeling is dull. If feeling is dull, then a person begins to adopt beliefs that will go along with that level of dull feeling. Limited beliefs. Limited ideas about the possibility of his life and even existence itself. So when that whole pattern broke apart, the sun came through. He perceived uniquely. He did it himself. Not through my suggestions. Not through drugs. He did it. And so, automatically, his dull beliefs began to slip away, because there was nothing to hold them in the corral.
Q: He perceived uniquely, so he felt uniquely, and then his beliefs, which were based on, as you say, dull feelings, were unsupported.
A: Right. Life tends to form into an un-unique pattern. That’s what characterizes it. The un-uniqueness is the glue that holds the pattern together. When you melt that glue, you get a chance at liberation.
Q: This reminds me of preconceived knowing. A person has a set of assumptions, and then anything he comes across—information, ideas, concepts—he fits them into the assumptions he already has and…grinds out a conclusion about whether these ideas are of value or not.
A: Yes, it’s the same thing, but what I do with patients relates to direct perception. Direct spontaneous experience.
[At this point, we took a long break. When we came back, we continued the conversation. Jack reiterated some of things he’d been saying, adding a few twists.]
Q: You were talking about political structures.
A: Yes. They are built in relation to public blindness.
Q: What does that mean?
A: To the degree that people think they are blind to what is going on in the world, the political structures that act on their behalf become larger.
Q: Governments are people’s eyes?
A: Absolutely. So the more complex the world becomes, the more people think they are blind, and they allow governments to expand. The formula works from both ends. Government is an apparatus of perception.
Q: Of course, what governments “see” is colored by their agendas.
A: Sure. I didn’t say the government is a reliable set of eyes. I just said it substitutes for people’s blindness. It’s second-hand perception. But I bring it up because it’s very much like what happens within an individual.
Q: How so?
A: A person tends to believe he can’t see what’s really going on, in front of his own eyes. This comes about because of disappointments the person suffers. He sees something and he wants it, and he tries, but he doesn’t get it. So he begins to believe there is something wrong with the way he sees.
Q: That’s a strange idea.
A: Yes, but it’s true. People start out with a simple formula—if I can see it and I want it, I can get it. When that formula doesn’t work enough times, the person begins to believe he isn’t seeing correctly. So he enters into a complex process with his mind, where he appoints a structure, an internal structure to see for him.
Q: A proxy.
A: Yes. And this structure is based on comparisons. A is like B, and B is like C, and C is like D. A person begins to see in categories. He doesn’t perceive directly. Instead of seeing A directly and uniquely, he sees the things A is compared to. He sees a concept. And he gets into cultural norms, seeing what the culture tells him he is supposed to see.
Q: You’re talking about a habit.
A: A deeply ingrained habit.
Q: Aside from the technique of “the unique object,” how would it be broken?
A: You’re the one who told me how.
Q: Through imagination.
A: Yes. Because imagination throws a monkey wrench into the apparatus of second-hand perception. It doesn’t go along with A is like B and B is like C. It comes from a different place. I once did an experiment with ink blots. You know, the ink blot test psychologists use. I took a small group of people and told them I wanted them to look at a few cards with ink blots on them and write down what they could imagine when they saw them. It was all imagination. The people knew that. So first, they wrote down a number, before they looked at any of the cards. The number represented their estimate of their “feeling of well-being” at that moment. It was a scale from 1 to 20, with 20 being highest. Then, after I showed them the cards, and they spent about an hour writing down what they imagined…they wrote down another number—their state of well-being at THAT moment. And in all cases, the second number was higher than the first. The well-being index. (laughs) Imagination raises the level of emotion. It raises energy. And it creates perception. That’s the most important thing. So, essentially, imagination shreds the apparatus of second-hand perception by creating new perception.
Q: The culture isn’t set up to accommodate that.
A: The culture is all about showing people what they’re supposed to see, through sets of definitions and categorizations. That’s what a culture IS. An apparatus of perception. Imagination works at cross purposes to that.
Q: Because imagination doesn’t care what the culture says or thinks.
A: Right. When you imagine something, you see it right away. You see what you imagine. Your perceive THAT. So it’s a different way of seeing.
Q: And it only applies to the individual.
A: Of course. As soon as it becomes a group enterprise, you’re building a culture. You’re building another second-hand perception apparatus.