Taking in the Environment

Perhaps the largest function that is not under conscious control is that which constitutes the taking in of the environment. To the extent that this does not happen, the person and the existence is said to be 'autistic'. As far as the experience of the individual goes, taking in has three spheres:

Being Affected By: This is any change in the body that is caused by the environment. People who are said to be 'sensitive' are probably affected by a lower threshold of environmental input. Think of a cat that acts strangely before an earthquake. At this level, awareness or understanding may or may not result. Spirituality seems to have some root in a low threshold of being affected. Armor seems to possibly distort 'being affected by" but not really block it.

Conscious Perception: This is the awareness by the ego of a bodily change caused by the environment. It is the realm of sensation, emotion, and affect.-- see the work of Antonio Damasio. Conscious perception may include most of 'being affected by" or only a small part. Armor seems to function mainly by reducing conscious perception.

Reality Testing: Conscious perception may or may not permit harmony with the environment. This is because the ego and the adaptive self are at liberty to distort conscious perception. Reality testing is not so much discerning a static set of facts as it is the ego flexibility and openness to accept the the effects of nature and the actually occurring human nature of others.

Self-possession seems to be the integration and optimization of all three categories above. Aggression seems to decrease sensitivity (being affected by) but increase reality testing. That is, a person with intact aggression is more usefully informed about his or her environment, but they may miss subtle elements in the environment. A person with less aggression may sense weaker forces in the environment, but be less able to realistically address this. The result may be mysticism or psychosomatic effects.


The opposite of taking in is denial. Taking in is the default biological mode; denial is an active defense against that.

Shutdown: This is an effort to not 'be affected by' the environment. Of course this is technically a response to stimuli, but it does work partially. That is because, in being an invariant and non-interactive response, it denies the uniqueness or particular qualities of the stimulus. Shutdown is mostly mediated by the dorsal vagal system, but some people learn to purposefully 'zone out' when they feel overwhelmed.

Not Knowing: There are two distinct 'prongs' to not knowing. Repression: Emotions normally arise from inside the body into consciousness. Simultaneously they rise to the surface for others to see. Not uncommonly, however, the conscious perception is blocked by character armor. Armor may also dampen the appearance on the surface of a person, but not as totally. This is how the body usually 'tells the truth' about a person. Refusal: Sometimes, external events that are related to the person in clear informational form may not be taken into consciousness. This is the 'classic' psychological defense. Something that mentally should be easily understood and retained simply isn't. Conscious perception is blocked so unnaturally that it is clear that 'being affected by' has happened, and that the effect is overwhelming. It usually happens about unwelcome news. "Never knowing' is rare; more common is forgetting quickly, or a mixture of not knowing and not accepting, as described below.

Not Accepting: When something is unwanted, it is common to accept its existence intellectually, but not emotionally. It may be treated in discussion or thought as an aberration or as a accident, when in fact it is a likely occurrence given conditions. The logical conclusions and information that could be gleaned from the unwanted occurrence are denied or minimized. In action, the situation is not addressed realistically and effectively. This is the opposite of good reality testing.

Not Owning: This is when the personal implications of an event are denied, usually because the called upon response is contrary to the person's self-image. Instead, others are blamed for not taking care of the situation.