Jessica’s Paradox

To unravel Jessica's paradox: apprehend one moment at a time

Posted Oct 17, 2011

Last time I described Jessica's paradox: Jessica has millions of complexly multiple fragmented experiences and yet she doesn't know that she has complexly multiple fragmented experiences.

Q: If Jessica's paradox really does apply, how can you know about it? If you ask her whether her experience is frequently complexly fragmented, the paradox requires her to say No. If you give her a questionnaire that asks her to rate the complex multiplicity of her experience, she has to rate 0-Not at all. There's no neurophysiological measure that can identify complexly multiple fragmented experience. Therefore it's impossible to discover complexly multiple fragmented experience.

A: I agree with everything except your conclusion, which I believe overlooks the important distinction between generalization and observation. You can give Jessica a beeper that beeps at random times and some training about how to use it: when the beep occurs, she is to attend to her ongoing experience and then immediately jot down some notes about it. Then you can inquire about those random moments of her ongoing experience, one moment at a time.

You might discover that at 5:47:33 pm Jessica was thinking about Scrubs and had two simultaneous streams of her own inner voice, one in the front of her head and the other in the back (see my previous blog "Inner experience in bulimia nervosa" or Chapter 2 of my book Investigating Pristine Inner Experience: Moments of Truth). Jessica describes the two multiple word streams, and when you ask whether those stream were simultaneous, she says, "I know this is weird, and it seems strange even to me! I'm telling you something about my experience that is obviously impossible, but that's the way it was!"

Then at 6:34:41 Jessica was thinking that her boyfriend is a jerk and simultaneously wondering whether there is MSG in Fritos. Yes, Jessica tells you, she is confident that both thoughts were ongoing at the same time.

You continue to interview Jessica (over, say, eight days) about 48 random samples, and in 30 of them, one by one, she describes simultaneously ongoing multiple experiences. After 48 samples you say something like, "Jessica, in lots of your samples there was multiplicity," and Jessica says something like, "I've noticed that, too. I'm surprised by it, because I didn't know that about myself, but that's the way it is."

Q: So the unraveling of paradox is to help Jessica directly to apprehend her experience one moment at a time, and only then to generalize about that stream of directly apprehended experiences?

A: Exactly. We call Jessica's experiences at 5:47:33 and at 6:34:41, etc., her pristine experiences-what was actually present to her ("before the footlights of her consciousness") at 5:47:33 and at 6:34:41. Jessica's paradox says that whereas Jessica is quite capable of apprehending her own experience moment by moment, she is likely to be quite mistaken about the overall characteristics of her own experience.

Jessica's paradox is widespread. Most people (including probably you, dear reader) don't know important features of their own inner experience even though they are quite capable of apprehending their experiences one moment at a time.

Q: OK. I'll start paying closer attention to my experience moment-by-moment.

A: The method is not quite as simple as that. More about method later.