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Paul Rosenfels Glossary

This glossary of Paul Rosenfels' terminology supports reading of The Nature of Psychological Maturity. The entries are in no particular order in part because many terms come in pairs, each related to analogous submissive or dominant behaviors and perceptions.

Diffuse experience

The real world. Our categories, theories and intentions are things that we impose on our perceptions, and not inherent in external reality. The real world may resist symbolic interpretation and categorization due to its complex and contingent nature. When our experience resists interpretation it can only be appreciated at the surface level, as a unique never-to-be-repeated situation.

Surface experience

Surface feeling

Loss of access to surface experience or surface feeling is one of the symptoms of the frustration of our core motivation to find truth or right action. It appears, partly based on reading some of his other work, that surface experience is direct sensory appreciation of real situations. Our perceptions become so clouded by the need to make the world fit theory or yield information that supports manipulation, that we lose grounding in reality. To avoid this, we must literally stop to smell the roses, or otherwise engages of the senses without applying much interpretation. Surface feeling is direct emotional response to external events, without interference by what we want to feel, how we think we should feel, or undue emotional coloration by our mood or past life experience. Learning surface experience and surface feeling seems similar to the concept of Mindfulness. At the surface level events take on an ad-hoc contingent character that resists explanation, justification or evaluation.



The primary appropriate ways for the submissive and dominant person to cope with frustration of their core motivation. The submissive person must withdraw from things that resist understanding, putting them out of their mind, choosing not to speak to that person, etc. This resembles psychological denial. The dominant person must cultivate indifference to things that resist their control, convincing themselves they do not care about that thing (a major goal of Stoic philosophy.) He says that choosing the coping mechanism unsuited to your personality is dysfunctional because the mechanism is applied in an unsuitably global way. The submissive person who tries to become indifferent becomes unselectively indifferent (depressed), while the dominant person who tries to withdraw, withdraws unselectively, for example by never answering the phone.



Rosenfels makes a distinction between hatred and anger, and claims that hatred is an effective warning sign to a submissive person that they must withdraw from something which frustrates their will to understand, while anger is an effective warning to the dominant person that they must make themselves indifferent to something that frustrates their will to find the right. He says that indulging the the wrong feeling for your personality is harmful, but he is not entirely clear on how the two feelings are distinguished. Inferring from context and based on standard definitions, hatred is a more concrete, globalized emotion. You hate something or someone because you believe that thing is somehow inherently hateful. Everything about it must be awful. Anger has a more direct coupling to behavior. You are angry at someone because they did something wrong, or failed to act properly. Due to the emphasis on changeable behavior rather than innate character, it makes sense that anger is more appropriate suited to the dominant person, and hatred to the submissive. There may be some analogy to the relationship between shame and guilt. Shame is an emotional state of being a bad person, whereas guilt is related to regret for bad behavior.



Warmth and pride are characteristic emotions for the submissive/dominant individual. Pride seems to have the usual meaning, but an analogous specific English term is lacking for the gratification of submitting oneself to another (of being useful or needed.) The normal usage of “warm” to mean friendly and engaging is not really what Rosenfels means. Love is broad term for a variety of distinguishable experiences (see Greek words for love.) Shame is the opposite of pride; submissive individuals are prone to it. A term for insufficient warmth is doubly lacking, but this is the pathology the dominant person is prone to. Warmth seems somewhat akin to elevation, though elevation has been conceptualized as the opposite of disgust.


The unnecessary elaborations of thought or action (obsessive/compulsive) which the submissive/dominant person tends to resort to as a way to manage the frustration of their core motivation to find truth/right. This behavior is socially reinforced, and can lead to positive social contributions, but cannot resolve the unavoidable underlying frustration (resulting from unknowable/uncontrollable reality), so is ultimately disappointing. There is however a gratification in understanding that which does not need to be understood (but is understandable), or controlling that which does not need to be controlled (but is controllable.) For example, this Wiki clearly had its origins as an obsessive/submissive embellishment. A compulsive/dominant embellishment might be taking weeks planning the perfect vacation or reorganizing your pantry.

Two-dimensional life

Third dimension

Two-dimensional life is our ordinary socially constructed, socially approved life. He claims that life takes on a third dimension when we take responsibility for our emotional regulation. Though he seems to see this in a basically materialistic way, possibly supposing that the third dimension is real, and he finds established religion a harmful distraction, it seems reasonable to correlate his third dimension with that of spiritual development.

papers/rosenfels_glossary.txt · Last modified: 2016/01/26 06:36 by ram