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Towards the feeling of emergence



Abstract:  Emergence is a multi-dimensional notion; the meanings it has acquired span the mythopoetic to the scientific, especially as found in complex systems. Examples of emergence in Navaho and Egyptian imagery underscore its diverse cultural origins and applications as well as suggesting an underlying archetypal quality to the core concept. A brief overview of the use of this term in science starting in the 17th century helps to locate the roots of modern emergent views in the philosophy of Leibniz. Jung's own use of early systems approaches was a part of his formulations of a ‘third’ position associated with the transcendent function.

As this paper was delivered at the 50th anniversary conference of the Journal of Analytical Psychology,1 aspects of the emergence of the Journal within the contents of the first issue are explored. Attention is drawn to several articles, especially a case of brief child therapy done by Robert Moody. His approach to working his case is strikingly modern and vividly demonstrates principles of emergence within the clinical setting.

Following this there is a discussion of some neuroscientific research on neural body maps, pointing to the experience of feelings as an emergent process. It is suggested that feelings derive from phase transitions in the brain's body mapping states. A reconsideration of a seeming impasse in the case described by Moody leads instead to a view of the initial phase of treatment as a pre-critical period. Research findings on mirror neurons are presented in terms of the feeling of empathy. Subjective feelings are then shown to be associated with moments of emergence, especially surprise and curiosity, exemplified by a case from the author's practice.