The Myth of Negativity

A theme I have encountered regularly in nearly 30 years of practice as a psychotherapist is the request to help people ‘deal with negativity’. What consistently emerges is that the person concerned is at war with themselves.

And not just ‘in conflict’ as such..

but more of a campaign….

…a series of military strategies to counter that which fails to fit an ideal,  as though..

…on a crusade to exorcise the Devil himself.

Invariably, the ‘negativity’ was some shadow quality urgently needed by the personality to bring wholeness. The problem was not the ‘negativity’ itself but the refusal to give it time, credibility or discern its meaning.

Its a worrying trend. There are swathes of books out there to help you ‘deal’ with this demon, whole websites, FB pages, entire spiritual disciplines dedicated to the cause of suppressing, countering, warding off….. these vital shards of the Self.

The scary thing is that this is done in the name of spirituality.

A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: “Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?”

“You have something very strange,” replied Bankei. “Let me see it.”

“Just now I cannot show it to you,” replied the other.

“When can you show it to me?” asked Bankei.

“It arises unexpectedly,” replied the student.

“Then,” concluded Bankei, “it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. Think that over.”

The master is pointing out that the student’s anger and his desire to be rid of its discomfort are not spiritual matters. They are matters of pride and the wish for an easier life, let alone the failure to enquire into the meaning of his temper.

So, we shoot ourselves in the foot with all this high fallutin’ efforts to get rid of Negativity. The motivation to do so invariably comes from an idealised vision that compells us to devalue the rest of our lives.

”so that any time I’m not experiencing love, or not being joyful, [it feels like] I’m not being who I really am, and so I become only conditionally alive.” D Whitmore.

What we consider to be negative often actually…

”contains valuable, vital forces, they ought to be assimilated into actual experience and not repressed. It is up to the ego to give up its pride and priggishness…’ML von Franz.
When we label something inside us as negative we are in fact falling into an unconscious piece of prejudice, often derived from collective morality which is set against us carving our own unique path through the forest.

The negative thought or feeling is an aspect of personality that has been sacrificed to help us ‘fit in’, but without which there can now be no real self knowledge. It is up to us to be humble enough to find the context for such thoughts or feelings and give them the credibility that they are there in our psyche for some good reason.

For example, a young man thinks of himself as unattractive. In fact he’s disgusting. No-one could possibly want him. He counters these ‘negative thoughts’ with affirmations, telling himself over and over that he is handsome and desirable. But what we resist persists and so despite his endless efforts all he succeeds in doing is exhausting himself.

Moreover, the internal clash of opinions gives his ‘confidence’ a comical, wooden performance that no-one believes and winds up just reinforcing his deeper conviction.

A series of dreams begins to tease out the condemnation his mother had of anything to do with his body. Memories follow, being punished for using cologne, being mocked for combing his hair a new way, derision and sarcasm for thinking he could get a date to the prom.

In the absence of any support he identified with her neurotic attitude. Gradually he allowed the feelings of being so belittled to surface. His pain and anger were in fact the index of his own self-esteem. And as he gave an honourable place in his psyche to his grief and rage he began to feel better about how he looked.

“Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.” J Campbell.

When it comes to one another, judgements of ‘negativity’ are really shorthand for refusing to enter that person’s world or walk a mile in their shoes. Its actually lack of compassion and the unwillingness to stretch the comfort zones of our own self-constructs. In doing so we unwittingly keep ourselves small and pass up the opportunity for personal growth.

”The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” Krishnamurti.

To judge another’s attitude as negative demeans you both. The other is reduced to the cut of your own cloth so that a true sense of I and Thou is lost. The resolution of purpose required to undertake great things is eroded.

”Moral courage has it’s source in identification, through one’s own sensitivity, with the suffering of one’s fellow human beings.” Rollo May.

Moreover, getting caught up in the ego’s preoccupation with conventional morality and what it means to be good can rob us of spontaneity and trustworthiness.

We confuse being positive with being authentic.

Another Zen story refers to this..

Two Zen teachers, Daigu and Gudo, were invited to visit a lord. Upon arriving, Gudo said to the lord: “You are wise by nature and have an inborn ability to learn Zen.”

“Nonsense,” said Daigu. “Why do you flatter this blockhead? He may be a lord, but he doesn’t know anything of Zen.”

So, instead of building a temple for Gudo, the lord built it for Daigu and studied Zen with him.

If we are to be whole, grounded and fully in our bodies we need to debunk the Myth of Negativity. We must take all the thoughts and feelings that arise within us as equally valid, if perplexing, and to be so thoroughly aquainted with it all that it no longer impedes the goal of life, realisation of the Self.

The Hedge and the Stone Stile.

Much corporate greed, corrupt officials and institutionalised racism can be ascribed to the pathological narcissism that typifies consumer culture but there is more at work than this and it deserves exploring. Anxious accumulation of stuff you don’t need is for more than the vain attempt to fill an inner vacuum. It is also a pressure bandage over a form of psychic hemorrhaging endemic in western society that is little discussed. Borderline Personality Disorder.

We’ll be helped by looking at the different ways people manage the transition between what the Gnostic tradition calls ‘hylics’ and ‘psychics’. The Gnostics were entirely disinterested in race, creed or gender. According to them, whoever your god happened to be, there were three distinct types of people, that represented specific stages of consciousness.

The first was the ‘Hylic’, from the Greek word hyle meaning, ‘matter’, but also the hyle, the covering on a grain of wheat, the dry husk that is winnowed away as chafe.

The Hylic person is what we might call narcissistic. They value the hyle, the covering, the glamorous image, the route of least resistance..

”One may say of him that he lets himself live, rather than that he lives. He takes life as it comes and does not worry about the problems of its meaning, its worth or its purpose. He devotes himself to the satisfaction of his personal desires and ambitions.” R. Assagioli.

He may make religious observances, but its a form of going through the motions. He finds it almost impossible to reflect upon things because he only has one point of veiw. There is not enough Self for inner diversity. I cannot talk to me. And because there is no substantial sense of self neither can there be any real sense of other. He is ‘One Dimensional Man’.

”People recognise themseves in their commodities. They find their soul in their automobile, their hi-fi set, their split-level home, kitchen equipment.” H. Marcuse.

Sometimes the hylic person can seem very dynamic and motivated. They can seem brave and fearless, but its often that there is not enough sense of self to guage risk or comprehend loss. The stakes are only realised across the threshold into the second larval stage, the ‘psychic’, which is characterised by the awareness and acceptance not just of others in their own right, but of the inner other, the otherness of oneself personified by the Unconscious. The world is no longer what I know of it.

But this expansive transition poses a problem. The threshold from hylic to psychic, or if you prefer from pre-reflective living to ego identity, is hampered and characterised by shame, the inevitable experience of oneself as another’s object. Part of the deal with self-knowledge is that it come’s with other people’s perspectives.

”Shame is by nature recognition. I realise I am as the other sees me. J. P. Sartre

So the hylic has to give up his omnipotence, allow for deflation and being one-amongst-many and weather the shame which…

”..forces into awareness some aspect of oneself that one had not realised, thereby enlarging identity. ” P. Wright.

But the feeling of healthy shame that allows us to grow can be felt as crushing if the child’s world is already imbued with shame, particularly at its efforts to be its own person, and so the hylic child might well shy away from this developmental hurdle preferring to stay in part fusion with mother and collective dogma, like Pinnochio’s wish to be a real boy despite his predeliction for a grey area between truth and falsehood.

Its said of the narcissist that he’s a pathalogical liar but that’s paying him the compliment of knowing better. Sifting truth from fiction requires ego strength he doesn’t have. I recall my five year old brother proudly announcing to my mother that he’d taken ten pounds from her purse but that it wasn’t stealing because he had swopped it with the boy next door who’d done the same. He was aggrieved not to get away with it but learned an important lesson in mine and thine which served to tip him into the real world.

Surviving the crisis of this transition is a real accomplishment. The origin of the word ‘Hag’, comes from the German for hedge and describes a person who can straddle the garden hedge so to speak and have a foot in two worlds, both the cultivated garden of ego consciousness and in the wilderness beyond. The hag was therefor the wise woman of the village. She knew stuff. She understood dreams. She read signs and had….companions.

But straddling the fence is an art form few of us make first time around or in a single bound. We get stuck in the hedge one way or another and wind up feeling that we don’t belong in either world, especially if your welly is wedged in some thorny privet and you’re all hooked up on barbed wire from which you are hemorrhaging like a bitch.

Bear in mind that if you are all caught up in the hedge you are also liable to be at the mercy of whoever, or whatever, may happen by, a situation in which paranoid anxiety might be an appropriate response not to mention the millenial apathy of borderline disorders which is bound to accompany hedge phenomenon typified by the long snooze of Sleeping Beauty, who’s got terrible hedge trouble.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is useful because it reminds us what is at the back of borderline entanglements, Thetis, the dark mother and more importantly, the uninvited guest at the princess’ earlier celebration. Whereas the narcissist idealizes himself, because that is all he has, the borderline personality, who has been at least partially initiated into the world by her ejection from the nest, defensively idealises others and lurches from crisis to emotional crisis as the shadow of each returns to roost , sinking into listlessness as each ideal crashes down..

Collectively we do this with royalty and celebrity. We project onto them our inner nobility and ideals which is not only bound to disappoint but has an enervating, depleting effect on consciousness which requires further shoring up. We also do it with partners upon whom are foisted impossible expectations that must both fail and prevent intimacy.

”Transforming this deadness requires the recovery of the imagination..” S-Salant

from the idealised other…

call it taking back your power.

for me it was cutting through the family myth that my mother was the one true artist in the family and realising that I am an artist in my own right, though not without much shaming for ‘failing’ to pursue my ascribed career.

”Healing requires recapturing the earlier mytho-poetic state in its imaginal essence.” ibid

taking refuge in the garden, regressing to find meaning in the stuckness, compulsiveness and addiction that attends pathological shaming not just for being other but for being the wrong kind of other..

The borderline person has issues with real or imagined abandonment because they really have been…

”the borderline is in limbo between two ways of experiencing the world. They have been prematurely thrust out of magical space.” ibid.

and so they get all caught up in the hedge because they were not really big enough to jump it when they were made to try.

Hedge splayed Borderline is a bit of a mess because there are always two things going on at the same time. He’s excrusiatingly aware of the Other whilst ignoring them entirely. I hate you don’t leave me.

which can be wearing…

but he has at least tackled the hedge.. and you might say that a plaguing preoccupation was preferable to cut-off disinterest.

The narcissist never makes it from the garden. He has no empathy because nothing and nobody really exists beyond the hedge unless they are inferiors there to enviously attack him.

and though he gets to be right all the time and way more presentable than the  chaotic ball of contradictory twine, the borderline does at least know that he can be really shitty, as well as not. The urgent bit is that he’s emotionaly bleeding from all the stabbing of intrusive otherness and is trying to staunch the gash without looking at the wound, which is trixy..

He might spend a life-time needing billions of dollars and endless stuff or just whatever drama he can manufacture to jam into it instead. Ongoing fueds, petty hatreds, some scandal. Sometimes, when animals are disembowled in a fight or by some mishap, they stuff their wounds with clods of earth and leaves. We do it with aspiring to be someone other, someone more successful, with more stuff, to stuff.

Most of us have to have several goes at the Hedge, if we try at all, before we can have a foot easily in both civilised and wild parts of themselves like the Hag who still had a way to go herself. See, the wily gnostics went further still, to the very great annoyance of those for whom the reality of the Gods was quite scary enough,

an’ got even more poetic…

show him the instuments!

…because there was also a third stage, the ‘pneumatic’, a stone stile in the hedge, going nowhere, doing nothing, a still point around which both native and cultured species grew. Marigolds and lettuce on one side, honeysuckle and ragwort on the other, all  happening about an axis which is neither.

The first time it occured to me that the gods themselves were satellites of consciousness, my hand went involuntarily to my mouth, as though I had just commited a great blasphemy..




Freedom’s Chains.

I was once sat alone in an open air restaurant on a Greek island, looking out to sea whilst I  waited for the menu. There was a family sat on the next table with two boys of about eight and ten. Something about them struck some deep chord in me. I began to pay attention. The boys were sat opposite one another, not speaking but using a torrent of nonverbal gestures and silent expressions packed in with meaning. It wasn’t quite sign language but it seemed just as rich.

The parent’s conversation stumbled overhead. The man seemed to constantly  take up more space than his seat permitted. He was loud. He’d put on a tone of insistance where it wasn’t required. He responded to his wife as though ticking some kind of inter-marital box in a contract he now regrets signing. Everything was too much effort. He speaks to the waiter with barely restrained annoyance that this Greek man, working in a Greek restaurant, in Greece, couldn’t perfectly understand his mumbled English that had a twange in it that I knew…

Meantime the woman is palcating the situation, lots of patting gestures and smoothing over her husband’s laval tantrum in a way that had the stamp of long practice, apologising for him to the world in a way that also suggested he was really quite right and justified in his contempt for it. And while she tutted she also offered him every opportunity to misbehave. I could almost smell my mother’s eau de Cologne.

I had an extreme childhood. Para-military boarding school in a post -imperial war zone. It was the kind of place you felt proud, not to have attended, but to have survived. It bred a very particular kind of person.

Eventually I turned to him and said, ‘excuse me, but did you attend Plumtree school, and were you in Milner house?’ He dropped his fork and turned white as a sheet, momentarily uncontained by the seat he’d spent the evening trying in vain to bust out of.

‘How do you know ?’ he gasped.

I shrugged, ‘they got me too.’

The fact was that I recognised his madness, all the compensatory gestures that go with being abandoned in the name of specialness, the aching emptiness that needs to big itself up all the time at others’ expense, the racial intolerance despite the fact that he had presumably been the author of his own holiday destination.

Then there was his accent and the mannerisms you begin to share after six years cooped up in a cage together, but the clincher was in his boys and the shock of realising that their interaction was precisely that of juniors in the prep-room, forbidden from speaking and having to resort to other means of communication.

Is racism a mental health issue? Of course it is. You could go further and say quite specifically that when it is systemic, it is the collective expression of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

If you look at the checklist in the DSM-5  diagnostic manual for NPD, Racism ticks every box because it has to do with a..

‘significant impairment of inter-personal functioning’. DSM-5

It is an enduring, inflexible, pervasive pattern over a broad range of social situations in which self esteem is derived from having power over others.

‘goal-setting based on personal gratification..’ibid

‘Failure to conform to normative (constitutional) ethics.’ibid

This impairment in its collective form can also be described both in terms of lack of empathy for the suffering of others and in the lowered capacity for intimacy which is severely restricted by a predominantly exploitative stance.

”including deceipt, coersion; use of dominance or intimidation to control others” ibid

Being in the same room as someone who has all this going on is hard enough even when you’re the same colour. When you’re not its hell,..

and then he gets into government.

”fabrication, lack of guilt or remorse about the harmful effect of one’s actions on others… vengeful behaviour.”ibid

You might wonder if there is something broken in such persons, or the traits of it within yourself, but Racism, like NPD, has its origins in something that was never formed in the first place. Its the defensive angry crust formed around an empty space where something should have happened but didn’t.

A threshold of development was never crossed, the threshold of separation from mother which allows baby to perceive others as beings in their own right, when Mom also has a destiny, when we relinquish the omnipotence of being at the centre of things in exchange for the richness of a many faceted inner world that can be excited and stimulated by difference rather than threatened and paranoid about it..

Without crossing this threshold, feelings of infantlike entitlement are harnessed to shining ideals divested of conscience. This is done via the projection of one’s personal limitations onto now shadowy others in order to consolidate the failing bulwarks of internal cohesion. The secret fledgling charges itself with talons of riteous indignation…

”If the Jews did not exist we would have to invent them.’  H Goerring.

The individual Narcissist has been subjected to what Masud Kahn calls ‘Symbiotic Omnipotence’, an early bond with mother that is characterised by shared specialness. The child is billed as a kind of saviour and is loaded down with all kinds of archetypal expectations by a mother who has been deprived of the freedom to reach her own potential.

One of the features of this scenario is that everyone outside their bubble is regarded with contempt, as though they were second class citizens, denial…

”that others could be potentially valuable or nourishing.” M. Kahn

Unfortunately, Western Civilisation is imbued with this toxic dynamic. Like the folie a deux of mother and child locked in Symbiotic Omnipotence we have the insistent collusion of Mother Church refusing the validity of other people’s Gods and beliefs. Even the benign end of the spectrum has a secret chuckle reserved for the ignorant foolishness of anyone who comes from further away then the next block in their city.

The way a child responds to a mother who has a destiny already written out for him/her, even if it is a glittery and shiny thing, is to create inner walls to seal off the feeling of inner deadness this actually gives rise to. Carrying a host of sparkly expectations gets in the way of being together as ordinary people where ordinary feelings and ordinary interactions give rise to the sense of being real..

‘If the mother’s face is unreflecting, damage is done to the child who becomes walled off from his own emotional self..’ P. Wright.

The problem for the special child is that he is not seen for who he actually is and no matter how glorious the vision of him might be in his mother’s eyes its still not real or alive. His inner walls are necessary to defend himself from the reality of being unloved. Unfortunatly, he’s liable to deal with this by thrusting his inner reality onto the external world and build walls between people in order not to suffer further cognitive dissonance of being a walled off person in an open world.

The saviour child who has been charged with bringing meaning and fruition to mother’s unlived dreams must fail. Even if he could magically wave the wand that would save her, he is still a self-as-object rather than self-as-subject which gives rise to a sense of dislocation from oneself.

What Mother looks like is the source of the child’s emerging self concept. If what baby sees is impassive or dead, that’s what he takes himself for.

‘Her look freezes the subjective feeling of life.” D. Winnicott.

This breeds not only terrible emptiness but also terrible shame which the child is then left eternally trying to shake off by means of either shaming others or by claiming that this is somehow their intention.

Shame, being a self-as-object in another’s world..

”is the feeling of an original fall, not because of the fact that I may have commited this or that particular fault, but because I [still] need the mediation of the other in order to be what I am.” J. P. Sartre.

Racism ameliorates this shame and the isolation of narcissistic encapsulation. It gives the damaged person Others, clan, with whom to entirely identify and still further Others to entirely hate, a neurotic solution to the endemic damage engendered in cultural patterns of mother/infant relations characterised by Mother’s loss of value and freedom.

The Frog in the Milk Churn.

There was once a poor frog who, quite unknowingly and entirely by accident, leapt into a pail of milk. He just couldn’t get out no matter what he did. The sides were too steep and the level of milk too low… A passing rat looked on mockingly and said, ‘You should just give up and die. Nothing can save you. Why prolong the agony?”

”Well, you never know”, said the frog and kept on swimming.

”Ha,” said the rat,” any fool can see your fate.” He laughed unkindly and scampered off.

Frog kept swimming and as he swam he wondered about all kinds of things. Sometimes it was about juicy slugs. Sometimes it was about the meaning of Life and the Universe, but mostly it was to remind himself that the secrets of life and death are meant to remain so and that if he could once have been a wriggling tadpole there was no saying what might be about to unfold.

Frog held out for the possibility that he didn’t have all the facts pertaining to his situation. Life was still a mystery and having more questions than answers was a good thing. It left room for the Unexpected and held the tension between longing and despair.

”There is no consciousness without the discrimination of opposites.” CG Jung.

By morning he was still alive, perched upon the island of butter he’d churned during the night.

So, sometimes its better to have the problems of the Neurotic than the solutions of the Narcissistic…… who have an answer for everything but won’t make it through till dawn.

Rat has to have the answer, even if its suicide. Everything must be cut and dried. Get with the programme or call yourself a taxi. Its like that because his identity is so fragile. Even a little tension or dissent will tear the fabric of Being apart let alone entering into life’s mysteries like how life can still be worth it in the face of the inevitable..

The unshakeable belief that you know what’s going on and what must happen next is compensation that’s essential to Narcissism’s going-on-being. Its like having a super strong patching over an otherwise rickety picket fence, sections of the Great Wall of China interrupted by square miles of open badlands that require sentry posts and somewhere safe to water your horse..

What makes Narcissism malignant is when the sentry posts are overun, when there are major border incursions by perceived ‘wisdom’ and how-things-are-done. Identity gets so destabilised it now requires more aggressive solutions to maintain inner sovreignty. It borrows from the chess strategy of offence being the best method of defence and goes looking for situations to accomodate such a gambit, to justify explosions of temper, to give himself a rush of adrenalin and the unifying zeal of prejudice. All done as if poor impulse control and paranoia were in fact riteous indignation and moral outrage.

There is nothing that quite consolidates a shaky sense of identity like an emergency, especially if you can become adept at creating them yourself. Its as close to an infant magically producing the breast as you can get to in later life without first meditating  for forty years. All the disparate shards of selfhood begin to pull together out of situational necessity, as if by magic.

”People lose their neuroses during times of war.” S. Freud.

What’s particularly dangerous about Malignant Narcissism is that conflict then becomes an Ontological Necessity. It needs conflict in order to know itself and without which is thrown into anxious crisis.

…does not play nicely with other children…

In ‘Chrome Yellow’, Aldous Huxley makes the observation that the protracted wars between the South American countries that had all been given independence by Spain about the same time needed their conflict with one another because they had lost their cultural identities. There was not enough tribal culture left to tell a Venezualan from an Ecuadorian. National conflict gave the people an immediate and made-to-meaure sense of patriotic identity.

One sure fire way of staying in conflict and the comfy internal cohesion it provides is to have more than you need or at least to aspire to it. Having or wanting wealth beyond a certain point cannot help but take bread from the mouths of aggrieved others, though they may be a continent away and tucked out of sight. In any case, the distant rumble of insurrection is music to his ears. The Malignant Narcissist needs to be hated.

It is said in the trade that psychopaths can only be loved once they are hated. Objective hate..

”is part of the healing process. It gives a person a sense of individuality and separation which allows him to start feeling real.” D. Winnicott 

and only thereafter..

”being able to feel love and love others.” ibid

Of course, this doesn’t mean acting out our hate in some clumsy splurge. In the West we tend to think of hate as simply negative and destructive. But it has a developmental function. For the child to have a sense of belonging it is necessary….

”not [just] for unconditional love and acceptance but for parents to experience the child as a nuisance – hate him for it if need be- and then by giving the child time to become loveable again.” A. Phillips.

The child needs to be a nuisance. His belonging depends upon it.

The formal voice, the hard look, the annoyance at intrusion, are all there to tell the other that they’ve crossed a line and are currently not the centre of the Universe, something an emerging sense of individuality depends upon.

The Narcissist rarely has these boundaries set and so he will unconsciously seek out hate producing situations and provoke triggering behaviours in others out of the developmental need to experience the authentic boundary setting and angry protest that gives rise to selfhood.

I once saw a young boy of eight or so at a wedding flicking up the ladies’ dresses and getting roundly told off every time. I was about to say something to his father when the boy ran over and threw himself into his father’s lap oblivious to the presense of others, demanding sweets. His father replied, ”you can have anything you want..’ and suddenly the situation was explained.

Something you will often find is that the family of the Malignant Narcissist are all saints. No-one ever says a cross word or speaks ill of the dead. Mother in particular is a paragon of virtue though beneath the surface she has had her femininity so undermined that the ordinary reality of petty annoyance, an angry look or a harsh word in the right place has to be suppressed in favour of a gilded fantasy. An alternative fact.

If mother can’t feel her hate, mediate it, chew on it, make it intelligible, then no-one can know what the rules are. A just scolding, even a look of disapproval from someone who loves you, invites the child to experience a bigger picture of life, a greater sense of proportion and of its place in the world, as well as the possibility of feeling honest shame and of making reparation for it.

That’s why we value and remember teachers from school years who had that quality of being ‘firm but fair.’ A good teacher will not only educate the mind, they will also usher souls into being.

My woodwork master was called D. Mudge. It was an unfortunate name because of the ease with which you could run it together as ‘Damage’, which is what he was, very damaged, shell shock as you’ve never seen it, including running for cover at the sound of any and all light aircraft and a curious tendency to be attacked by bees. But he was a great mentor because he had this alchemical blending of kindness and severity. So even though he’d fly off the handle, he’d also invite us to tea as equals and talk about fascinating things.

In my first year someone  wrote an annoymous poem about him for the school magazine..

Dust is rising through the air..

Sound of mallets everywhere

A Cornish voice shouts, ‘Ere’ Ere’..

Watchya doin’ over there?”

Calling the child to account for itself does more than correct its behaviour. It acts as a mid-wife to the child’s shadow, compelling the child to develop a relationship with that part of itself and blossom as a result.

So whilst the Narcissist is seduced into the ‘priviledge’ of being so above the rules, he’s actually been deprived of the building blocks of selfhood. His mother’s oppression has given rise to a great storehouse of unlived potential in her which she cannot help but secretly hope he will manifest on her behalf albeit at the expense of his own unfolding. Specialness is traded off against having his own path through life, a dynamic to be endlessly repeated in adult relationships as the contradiction between feeling special and yet of being somehow eternally thwarted.

This contradiction is all too easily attributed to outer situations. I was moved by a detail in Donald Trump’s biography where the children would be taken to their father’s building site of a Sunday to collect and straighten bent nails in the yard. But… they were millionaires and lived in a twenty-three bedroom mansion..!  No holding of opposites but rather a wild collision of realities! Having more than you need and yet there never being enough….

So there is no slow churning of milk into butter to make an ‘I’ land. Its said that Narcissists have big egos but the problem is quite the reverse. They have yet to churn one. The rat in our story only has the brash persona of, ‘why don’t you just drown already?’ Its an attitude that requires others to carry his inferior feelings and personal clumsiness for him, something a healthy ego can shoulder for itself.

Such a dismissive attitude is dangerous for everyone else, not just because it is heartless or unfeeling, but because it flourishes best in an increasingly Apartheid environment where the inferiority of newly designated second class citizens becomes enshrined and concretised in law. Narcissism thrives on inequality which it not only imagines but must also create and if necessary, conjure.

So he becomes a kind of magician still caught at the childhood stage of wishing making it so..

Its gonna be great, trust me..

but still needing the hateful experience of the milk churn which the Fates are increasingly liable to provide in the form of corrective sanction.

The Secret of Happiness.

There is a Russian folktale about a magnificent horse who lived deep in the endless forest. It was wild and free. It was said that it could never be caught or tamed.

The prince of the land was secretly put out that the wonderful creature was not his to possess. He had every other material thing his heart desired. Why not this? And so he dragged his long face around the castle all day, muttering and complaining that this one treasure eluded him.

It seemed to him that his misery was the wild horse’s fault because he would not be caught and tamed. Just the thought that it was out there somewhere being all wild and free filled him with frustration and bitterness. He gritted his teeth and hardened his heart, resolving to capture the beast or die trying.

So he saddled one of the stable nags and rode out into the forest to begin his search. He searched and searched. His fine clothes got torn in the undergrowth. Thorns scratched his arms and face. He lost his crown. He lost his way..

Days became weeks and the weeks became years. His beard grew long and his hair became matted. Still he rode on, forcing the poor stable nag deeper and deeper into the endless forest.

One day, as he urged the  stable nag on, he caught a fleeting glimpse of his quarry. He charged forward and gave chase but no matter how fast he rode or how hard he kicked the poor stable nag, the wonderous creature of the forest stayed just out of reach. In fact, the faster he rode the more the wild horse seemed to gain the lead.

He rode all day. Then he rode all night. Then he got very, very tired. He hurt all over. His bum was numb and his bones all ached. He was finding it hard just to think straight. All his muttering to himself began to mutter back. As he chuntered about how unfair life was being, the muttering pointed out that life wasn’t supposed to be fair.

When he complained about how unprincely it was to be shaken about like a bag of bones, the muttering reminded him of the simple delights of a feather bed. When his hunger clawed at his belly the muttering reminded him how delicious a piece of bread could be. When he moaned about the wickedness of the wild horse, the muttering drew his attention to the terrible state of the stable nag.

And the muttering had a wicked chuckle in it.

It began to pull his leg. It drew his attention to the fact that his servants were all happier than him despite his mountains of stuff. His muttering asked what difference one more thing mounted up on his great pile of things might make to his life. It dug him in the ribs and told him he was a tyrant.

The prince looked down at the poor sweaty stable nag gasping and clawing for breath. He suddenly felt ashamed and stopped, slid out of the saddle and heedless of his own pains, unbuckled it and let it fall to the floor. The stable nag was raw and bleeding. He felt a sudden wave of sorrow and shame. He realised how true and faithful the stable nag had been all this time, how little he had appreciated her efforts, what company she had been, how he had depended on her.

He stood still for a moment and looked up at the sky. He took in the green of the great and endless forest as if for the very first time and allowed himself to marvel at it all. Softly he led the stable nag to a quiet pool and let her drink while he rested. He began to reflect upon how fortunate he was, how wonderful it was just to be alive. He thought about how even the bad things in life drew people together and helped them find what they were made of.

And then he heard the soft footfall of unshod hooves behind him, warm breath suffused the back of his neck and the soft mane of the wild horse fell against his face.

Several years ago a book, ‘the Secret’, sold millions of copies. It got rave reveiws and was endlessly quoted but was little understood. Its message got distorted into the notion that if we imagine what we want in life hard enough, made out that it was already ours, then it would somehow magically appear. Its message was lost and after a brief fireworks show, it sank without trace.

We are so imbued with the idea that our happiness is somewhere over the rainbow that even profound teaching to the contrary is simply hitched to the wagon of  pursuing ‘the dream’. Our western culture is so ridden through with the idea that happiness is just around the corner so long as you work hard enough for it that we cannot see how impoverishing such a belief system can be and how we flog ourselves to death in its name. The ‘pursuit of happiness’ is even written into the American constitution as an inalienable right, forgetting that we alienate ourselves from happiness itself as soon as we look for it in somewhere other than where we are right now.

Happiness cannot be gained or worked for. We can’t make it happen. Wishing doesn’t make it so. The essence of ‘the secret’ is so contrary to our ideas about how life should be that we can’t see what’s right in front of us.

Life’s abundance is rooted in gratitude.

Try this… take five minutes to sit quietly and run through all the things you are grateful for. Notice how your heart is lifted in the process…. and then keep tabs on how your day pans out. Like attracts like. Its one of the few rules the Universe is ordered by.

Abraham’s Children.

In ancient times, the Ark of the Covenant, housed in the first temple of Solomon, was protected by two immense images of the Divine made of olive wood and covered in gold leaf. They represented Yahweh and Hokmah/Wisdom, his consort.

After the destruction of that temple, these images were interpreted as male and female aspects of Yahweh alone. With the building of the second temple their significance was changed further to mean the union of Yahweh and his new bride, the people of Israel. Over centuries the Goddess was deposed, made secular and excluded from Divinity.

Remaining pockets of those faithful to the Goddess were systematically persecuted. Hilltops to which the Goddess had effectively been exiled were defiled with bones and ashes. Even groves of trees within a certain distance of Jerusalem were cut down to prevent Her taking refuge there.(Exod 34 13-14).

Later still, the bible itself was purged of any book relating to the power of women.The Apocrypha, those books that managed to escape the flames, all have something in common. They are feminine. They are either about women, the books of Esther and Judith, about the Goddess Herself, (the book of Ben Sirach), or, as in the Song of Solomon, the unashamed delight of man in the Queen of Heaven, Wisdom. The Apocrypha is what remains of those works that celebrate Yahweh’s consort.

At one time it was included in the Bible, at the back. Then it was published separately, though it was freely available. When I researched it myself I had to order it from an inter library loan because there was no copy on the shelves and when it arrived after two weeks it had a stamp on the fly leaf saying, ‘last copy in the county’. The Goddess is in the final throes of banishment.

What will happen to us all if She disappears altogether?  Both the extremist factions of the Islamic and Christian camps have this in common, a deeply ingrained contempt for the feminine that then brings out the worst in men. Solomon’s Wisdom is degraded to being a mere attribute of the man himself. Such inflation must end in disaster. ‘Inflation’, say the Alchemists, ‘beckons the raven’s claw’.

When the male psyche is sufficient to itself and devalues the feminine he loses his anchor in Nature. He becomes so puffed up he feels he can do no wrong and dispenses with his conscience. He ceases to care about what kind of legacy he leaves for his children and is overcome by the kind of ennui that only adrenaline and the cry of battle can momentarily relieve.

I have had all kinds of people with all kinds of problems come through my doors over the years. I have noticed something consistently throughout. When a person develops a sense of the Divine Feminine or simply feels the void in themselves for want of it, their issues are more readily resolved. To have a living relationship with the Great Mother makes all kinds of suffering tolerable and brings balm to many a wound.

Perhaps psychotherapy itself only becomes a necessity in cultures with belief systems that uphold the disrespect of other faiths as a virtue. We have to love our neighbours not for their sake but for our own. For as long as we demonise others our own devils will get the better of us. When our successes are at the expense of others we can never really enjoy them or be fullfilled. If we are to live well, it has to be on the basis of equality with others. And it is not enough to agree in principle. We have to root out the extremism in ourselves that says our religion, our way of life, is better than the next.

God, after all is, not a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. When we can celebrate the wonderous diversity of the Divine and honour the variety of all religions that are nothing less than the many faces of God then there will be peace in the world and fellowship between nations. My mosaic project ‘Abraham’s Children’ (above, and  ) which contains elements of all the world’s religions, symbolizes this equality and represents my own fervent hope for atonement between his estranged offspring.

Narcissism and the Bottomless Pit.

In thirty years of practice as a psychotherapist I never came across an indigenous person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The reason is that native people generally have a way of raising their kids that is  radically different to parents in the ‘civilised’ West.

This does not mean that Western women are bad mothers, but that they have to contend with a split reality endemic in our culture that makes it difficult for baby to cross certain developmental thresholds.

On the one hand the child, as depicted in the majority of psychoanalytic literature, is a voracious power hungry little monster who battles mother for dominance and has to be brought to heel at all costs.

”Babies have become a sort of enemy to be vanquished by mother…on the premise that every effort should be made to force baby to conform when it ’causes’ work and ‘wastes’ time.’ J. Liedloff

On the other hand, and by way of compensation, we have the effusive and liberal face of Dr Spock, whose sales of his book ‘Baby and Childcare’, come second only to the Bible on the best seller list. Spock advocated ‘childcentric’ households which effectively have children ruling the roost. Detractors claim he cultivated Narcissism in millions as the most trusted name in childcare and parenting since 1940 and even hold him personally responsible for the moral decline of  western culture.

”When a society becomes out of control, it is because its members elevate self-indulgence and lack self-control…and [have] come to see gratification as a right.” R. Bradley.
 These radically polarised veiws of parenting presented by Freud and Spock, often operating without reference to one another under the same roof, have something strangely in common. Both the liberal, anti-authoritarian mandate of currying entitlement in children and the cold hearted philosophy of ‘you did it to yourself’ inherent in Freudian theory, marginalised the fact that women have been having babies for seven million years without the input of opinionated men in lab coats.
 Both men’ knew better’ than the feminine soul. To the extent that these theories were imposed upon women’s natural instincts, their innate knowing, their connection to their own mothers and to the Divine Feminine that presided over childbirth and motherhood, so too was their role undermined, ancient wisdom eroded and intrinsic understanding of what was right and proper, subverted and injured.
So whilst it may be true that excessive permissiveness fosters narcissistic tendencies and a sense of entitlement, it is also the case that narcissistic wounds are inevitable when the bond between mother and child is intruded upon by someone who thinks they know better than Nature herself, irrespective of the received ‘wisdom’ under consideration.
You’re probably familiar with the educational maxim ‘would you teach a fish to climb a tree?’ but we forget that its even more undermining to teach a fish to swim.
A centiped was happy, quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, ‘pray which leg follows which?
This raised her doubts to such a pitch
She fell exhausted in a ditch,
Not knowing how to run.
“If we have learnt certain [things] so that they have sunk below the level of conscious control, then if we try to follow them consciously we very often interfere with them so badly that we stop them”. Carl Popper.
It follows that if mother has it instilled in her that she doesn’t know her job  without instruction from a clipboard wielding MD then baby will be similarly confused and struggle with developmental tasks, understandably preferring the relative safety of remaining partly fused with mother in a state of  ‘symbiotic omnipotence’. (M. Kahn).
This interupts the process of separation and healthy growth, preventing the child from crossing the threshold associated with ‘symbol formation’. This is significant because it is symbol formation that is responsible for the experience of others as persons in their own right, and for the development of values associated with feelings about others having their own purpose and destiny. The child can get eternally caught  in the concrete thinking of symbolic equations where, for instance, worth is measured in terms of money,  loveability in terms of sexual conquest, power in terms of domination of others, all the things we recognise as symptoms of NPD.
‘No-one loves me, because you don’t wipe my chin.’ Liedloff.
The figurative representation of ideas, conflicts or wishes cannot be experienced and so metaphorical notions of honour, faithfullness, duty, empathy and so on remain conceptual ideas rather than lived and experienced realities…
”from which intellectualism is only to ready to emancipate itself.” C.G. Jung
This is most obvious in our relationships because Narcissism does not really experience the Other as such. Their humanity remains conceptual. The notion that others have equal rights is an abstract idea to be rationally concluded without actually being lived.
Racism and sexism are the most common outcome of such a mind set, but the irony is that the Narcissist has equal trouble conceiving of ‘his own’ in fully human terms unless they remain entirely joined at the hip. Humanity is not experienced, it is deduced, much as Socrates ‘worked out’ that one day he would die.
‘Socrates is a man. Men are mortal. Therefor Socrates will die.’
On the basis of such abstract deduction ordinary instinctual care for one another is occluded. One’s own self barely exists in its own right, how shall another fare any better?
The developmental threshold of symbol formation affords not only the recognition of the otherness of the Other, it also affords value and significance to the otherness of oneself, in other words to the fantasies, intuitions and aspirations emerging from the archetypal layers of the psyche that take over the job of feeding the child, as it were, from within.
This leads to a lack of faith, not only in others but towards life itself which cannot be trusted to provide. The child becomes a consumer…
‘clinging to objects and people, investing them with magical powers, ferocious in [the] demand to possess and control.” Liedloff
Asking Narcissism to share is thus experienced as an attack on all that is holy because money and resources have been imbued with a kind of spiritual manna. Losing hegemony over it is tantamount to desecration. The paranoid tendency of the Narcissist  is not simply that someone is out to get him, but that all he holds sacred is under attack.
And so the predominant experience of life is one of being a victim, no matter how much one has, nor how much there is available. It is like being a planet without a sun, or worse, having a black hole to revolve around which threatens to drain and crush at every turn. Without the inner ‘other’, there is nothing to mediate the dark forces of the cosmos.
”Our connection with a sacred centre [gives] a sense of real existence that counters the terror of chaos and nothingness, helps [a person] find their bearings and makes order of the Universe’. Bizint
Since what we cannot integrate is invariably projected it will seem to those who stub their toe on at the threshold of symbol formation that some illegitimate other has stolen the key to happiness. He lives, not only in a state of lack but as if his divine inheritance is being withheld. And because he’s in the bind of having to deny what he needs, his lack and being witheld from is acted out in the world, which perhaps explains the conundrum of how it is possible for the richest and greatest nation in the world to sweep one of its most powerful men to high office on the shirt tails of the  slogan, ‘make America great again’, as though it were a mere dispossesed guttersnipe on the fringes of the stage.

Quantum Physics and the Doctrine of Signatures.

You would think that the Church would grasp with both hands at anything that seemed like a proof of God and yet the closest we have come to it, the ancient and profound wisdom rooted in the Doctrine of Signatures, was suppressed without mercy.

The Doctrine of Signatures, initially propounded by Greek physicians Discorides and Galen in the first century, says that plants resembling various parts of the body can be used to treat ailments pertaining to those parts.

”Nature marks each growth… according to its curative benefits.” Paracelsus.

Lungwort looks like the lungs and is good for bronchial conditions. Kidney beans are good for those organs. Carrots, the cross section of which looks like an iris, are good for eye infections and so on.

It seems like a pretty innocuous belief, and useful enough to have persisted in medical and herbal practices for centuries, surviving to this day in homeopathy and Bach flower remedies. So why were healers persecuted for its practice? Surely the notion that divine intervention had given humanity a helping hand is good PR…

Not so.

Modern medicine wanted its cures devoid of divine meddling and the church preferred that Nature was not something sentient in its own right.

Somehow the notion that Nature might be helpful and intelligent undermined religious convictions about who was running the show. It was the wrong kind of divine intervention.

The problem for the authorities was that the Doctrine of Signatures represented a challenge to the official position on Salvation, you have to deserve it. Not only was the veiw of Nature according to these early gnostic philosphers and healers  lacking in blood thirstyness it was decidedly benevolent, irrespective of a person’s moral rectitude. Not only was Nature sentient, it was unconditional, happy to heal saints and sinners alike.

Moreover, it encouraged folk to have their own relationship/dialogue with Nature which marginalised the intercession of earthly powers.

The Doctrine of Signatures was duly deemed blasphemous and could cost you a great deal more than your health because it went further than affirming the existence of God. It also begged the question of divine disposition.

The notion of divinity unconcerned with sin or retribution, positively helpful to all regardless of upstandingness and offering redemption from suffering in the here and now rather than in an anxious future beset with fears was, err..


So you can imagine how the church fathers’ abject consternation might increase as they considered and mused over its further implications..

because it meant that life itself was full of useful signposts and synchronicities   that helped people, not only freely laid before us and not just as a system of unconditional connecting principles, but as a means by which we might actually experience ourselves in continuity with the natural world.

and if we are not separate from Nature then we need have no fear..

and we have no fear then we cannot be controlled, threatened or manipulated.

oh dear.

One of the stories I like best about plants is the native discovery of Curare, a deadly poison used by Amazonian Indians to tip their blow darts. It is made by combining, in specific quantities, the leaves of three or four entirely unrelated plants, each of which is entirely benign on its own.

The chances of finding this out accidently is about as likely as waking up one morning and deciding to vapourize mayonnaise in the presense of Lithium dichloric oxide and snorting the results as a remedy for gout.

So how did they find out about it?

Simple, the forest told them.

The discovery of Peyote is better documented. For those who haven’t tried it, allow me to assure you that Peyote, a small desert cactus in central Mexico that has strong psychoactive properties, is the most disgusting, bitter, rancid, vomit inducing substance you could ever encounter. It contains natural emetics that make you puke so hard you will wish for imminent death; but before that, a taste so foul your entire body mitigates against it. Imagine the worst childhood medicine topped with dog shit and sprinkled with the contents of Mr Twit’s beard.

apologies to Roald Dahl.

Yes, its that bad; the point being that no-one in their right mind would ever try it unless they also had a taste for paint stripper by the pint with chasers of albatross guano cut with baboon snot.

Legend has it that two young brothers got lost in the desert. Their elder sister became worried once night fell and went in search of them. She too got lost and had to sleep out in the cold. As she slept she dreamt. A voice told her that when she woke she’d find that she’d used these low lying cacti as a pillow. She must eat them. The visions that followed would lead her to her brothers and that’s what happened.

The brothers were saved.

Unless we call such things miracles and subsume them under God’s Will, neither church nor science has much use for them. The reason is that we have been led to believe that our sinful egos are all we are, or, at best that if there is an unconscious then it is derivative, and ‘nothing but’ the garbage heap of the mind.

This maintains the ego as master of its own house but disconnects it from Nature and stops us from experiencing the vastness of Psyche, much of which we are bound to experience as ‘outside’ us.

‘Some think that fish contains the sea, but actually the sea contains the fish.’    C. G. Jung.

This formulation of things, a central pillar of the gnostic world veiw, is expressed by the Sanscrit, ‘Tat Tvam Asi’, ‘thou art that which thou perceivest’ and again in the Talmud as, ‘We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.’ It is  expressed in the buddhist tradition by the saying, ‘you cannot cover the sky with your palm,’ and invites us to completely re-think, to re-experience, our relationship with the Universe.

More recently quantum physics concurs. When asked what the fuss was all about by a journalist at a press conference convened to discuss Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Niels Bohr is reputed to have said, ‘ I’m not sure, except that you may throw yourself down on Mother Earth in the sure knowledge that you are one with her and She with you.’

The story goes that the chemist Kekule had spent years trying to figure out the shape of the carbon molecule. He just couldn’t get it until one day he was passing a school yard thinking about something else when he saw a group of children holding hands and singing ring-a-ring-a-roses and suddenly he had it, the carbon ring, and the Universe had helped him find it.

We might pooh-pooh such things, and resist giving up what we consider to be the separateness of the ego, from ego’s point of veiw its very sovereignty, and yet we need only look at a person describing the day as miserable to know they are talking about themselves. When bidden a good day by a neighbour, Dutch mystic Miester Eckhart replied joyfully, ‘every day is a good day’.

In the absence of such experience life has to be ruled by moral codes of conduct which assume our separateness from one another with the subsequent need to bring these disparate others into line. ‘Love thy neigbour as thy self,’ is then taken to mean ‘be as nice to others as you are to yourself’. Its a moral injunction, a thou shalt. Very different to, ‘love thy neighbour who is none other than thyself’, wherein compassion for others is no mere moral goodness but a recognition of the other as oneself, a shard of the universal hologram.

Hello me.

This does not mean that the ego is an illusion or that we have to get rid of it, but that it is mere garnish to the banquet of life which ordinarily we’d give little more attention than a sprig of parsley…

which, incidently, is very good for gall stones….





Attack on the Child.

In order to understand the pathological need for wealth, fame and consumption that typifies Western Culture, we need to look further than mere greed. Having the moral high ground is not enough. You might still miss what’s so interesting about wanting more than you need….

The Rule of Intention says that the way things pan out has to do with the intentions of those who are involved.  If children in their millions are starving then someone is witholding the spoon. If thousands have no education then that’s by design. If families are living on the streets someone put them there.

So then what does it mean that we collectively aspire to more than we need? Why is it that we regard excessive consumption differently from obesity? You’d be shocked if a person’s goal was to gain a hundred pounds…

and yet

”We are screwing the planet to make solar powered bathroom thermometers and desktop crazy golfers.” G Monbiot.

Are we then simply diplaying our wealth? Is there some arcane connection between wanton destruction and attractiveness? I think not, but whatever the answer it  lies deeper than our greed or stupidity.

Symptoms of dis-ease are never arbitrary or simply unfortunate. They are the unconscious expression of something yet to be named. There is hidden meaning in desperately pursuing stuff you don’t actually need, stuff whose production enslaves and destroys into the bargain. Calling it addiction doesn’t quite work either, despite the added caveat to greed that there is more at work than mere self indulgence.

Believing we can convert the rhythms of work into cash so that real life might then begin may feel worth the price to be paid by aliveness, but what many of us do in our leisure time is just more of the very same consuming of life from which we most need to a break. In our millions we become even further absorbed…..

”in the electronic reproduction of life, the passive consumption of the twittering screen.” A Watts.

So we save up for our hols, to get away from it all, when proper enjoyment can get under way, only to find that it too is also somehow pasteurised, with boxes to tick and schedules to fill. Been there, done that…  We wait to be amused, wonder what’s  next and if we’ve had our money’s worth.

All of which..

”gives rise to a culture devoted not to survival but to the actual destruction of life.” ibid

So is our devouring of life a form of collective suicide, a Chomskian rushing to the precipice?

No, its scarier than that.

It is an attack, not just upon ourselves, but on our children. The planet that their parents are pillaging is, after all, their inheritance. The spiritual malaise and attendant acting out of the developed world is far greater, far more malicious, than mere apathy, denial or disinterest.

”Once you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Sherlock Holmes.

If we want to understand consumerism and its attended ravaging of the planet we need to ask what it is that people are really hoping for with the must-have item on their bucket list. Irrespective of its concretisation, the new car, the fancy vacation, the latest gadgetry, what people seem to be striving for is a sense of worth, of being safe and held and fed.

Collectively we are seeking the in-arms experience of infancy which, as a culture, we have simply not yet had.

‘When the expected does not take place, corrective or compensatory tendencies make an effort to restore stability.’ J. Liedloff.

Consumerism is a parody of contented infant satiation. We want life dribbling down our chin. We want to be in the ‘lap of luxury’. We want the safety of maternal embrace whose alternative is the poor substitute of being gripped by her dark and compulsive sister, (mater)ialism.

‘The infant (like the guru) lives in the eternal now, in a state of bliss; the infant out of arms is in a state of longing, the bleakness of an empty Universe. Want is all there is..’ ibid

Amassing the unnecessary to the detriment of  life on Earth looks entirely crazy until we consider it in a symbolic light, the unfulfilled need of a culture seeped in denial about what is truly indispensible. Mother.

This denial reaches its acme in psychoanalytic theory with Freud’s Drive Conflict theory which entirely marginalises Mother as relevant to baby’s health or illness.

According to this theory dis-ease is not down to how we are treated, whether we are held and loved, but on dysfunctional ‘object relations’. You did it to yourself, a doctrine of victim blaming that also constitutes the final eradication of Mother’s relevance to life. In thirty years I have never found Freud to use the word ‘mother’ even once.

This denigration of life’s most important role impoverishes our entire culture but it does far more and has consequences you might not have considered.

Not only does the dominant form of spirituality in Western Culture fail to nourish, but our anxious preoccupation with and eternal focus on the future with its promise of salvation…at some point…does have the appeal  that the indiscretions of today may be swept under the carpet, but in the process of ducking conscience we are also bound to be gripped with envious spoiling for those who are able to be in the moment where real life happens, where all bliss, joy, gratitude and celebration are to be found.

Much of the West’s ferocious subjugation of the ‘childlike’ third world has to do with this same improbable truth, that we envy them. Despite their poverty they seem to have something we do not, a living for today where the real riches of life are to be found. And so they are happy. For all our wealth and power in the West we are miserable. Our worrying about tomorrow means we cannot  enjoy our mountain of stuff  today because all enjoyment is Now.

I once asked an African man on a dusty savannah roadside in tropical heat when the bus he was waiting for would arrive. ‘Today”, he answered contentedly.  By contrast and half a world away, commuters on Stuttgart railway station platform follow the digital clock ticking over, . At the exact same moment they all look in disappointed unison at their watches and turn to stare down the track as if they were practicing impatience for a show.

Our collective obsession with time and tommorow means that the aliveness gets sucked out of today.  We become chorus lines to celebrity others whose lives have somehow become more real than our own. The togetherness, the gratitude for simply being alive can’t be entered into and like the uninvited guest, ‘Now’ turns cold, vengeful and wooden.

”Unlived life will not sit idly on the shelf, it will turn round and bite you.” M.L. von Franz.

If a sense of Self that transcends self-interest can’t be embodied it will be projected. The recipients will invariably be the next generation who are as yet untutored in guilt, whose feeling of belonging has yet to be eroded, who have yet to know alienation.

and who are handy…

The child..

‘will arouse certain longings in the adult. . . longings which relate
to the unfulfilled desires and needs of those parts of the personality
which have been blotted out. . .’ C. G. Jung.

Whilst we idealise, cosset and run around endlessly with compensatory gestures of slavish devotion,  so too do we silently envy and spoil. The secret bit about narcissistic brats is that they were made that way by parents who first loaded them down with not only their own unfulfilled expectations but with all the potentialities in today that we can’t shoulder for the sake of insuring ourselves against tommorow.

The horror of growing old and dying without first having properly lived is all too much and become split in our affections.

I will pat you on the head whilst I poison your earth.

My father personally favoured random electrocution as a means to express his envious grievance at my blossoming youth. Bare mains wires ran down the walls both inside and outside my room. They would set window frames and brickwork alive, especially when it rained. You might say that most parents are not so pathological and yet the quest for more than you need means you have to go out and take it off someone else, perpetual warmongering for which youth in their millions are most necessary.

I once spent three days as part of a tiny force of  green berets sitting under a tree waiting for the go ahead to take on 300 defected enemy soldiers who’d changed their mind and taken their new commander hostage as a prelude to melting back into the bush with shiny new G3 semi automatics. We all knew it was a suicide mission should the order finally came through, but the predominant feeling amongst us was one of quiet acceptance, the calm of sacrificial beasts under a stone knife, as though fulfilling some preordained narrative.

Saturn is eating his children.

Behind closed doors it’s usually less flamboyant than electrified bedrooms or going to live in a war zone but after three decades of being a psychotherapist I have to say that everyone who ever came to see me had the same issue. Their true self had been attacked and their destinies subverted by someone they were entitled to trust.

Which is why having more than you need is a form of poison. Its not just greedy. It’s a blow aimed at those who would be better stewards of this earth than ourselves, our children.

this article contains excerpts from my new book ‘Abundant Delicious.. on attaining your heart’s desire’.…ot-off-the-press/







Those that Offend Us.

Its not uncommon for people to feel as though they have fallen into another’s power. Some childhoods are defined by it. But when it comes out of the blue in later life, when there is someone out there who wants to crush you and has the means to do it, life gets interesting in the same vein as the blessing, ‘may you live forever.’

I was once in the grip of a judge in a series of custody hearings, where not only did I lose my horrified child but I was threatened with arrest and  imprisonment for refusing to comply with a court order.

The court refused the testimony of my 12 year old boy who I raised pretty much single handed, nor the testimony of the townsfolk that he was settled and happy living with his father. Experts, later disgraced and fired, attacked my character in lengthy documents which her honour snapped up with eyes aglitter.

We had to meet secretly in the woods at a special tree. Months rolled by.  I’d bring hot chocolate and muesli bars for the cold weather. I kept fighting and eventually he was returned. He’s now a fine young man, studying for his ‘A’ levels and doing well.

There were many things that helped me through the most difficult days of being at the mercy of this powerful other. One was a dream that I had been called by some third party to go visit this woman. I was escorted to a great stone built Keep. It was guarded by armed men standing either side of massive wooden door studded with huge iron rivets. The door was inched open and I was shown inside, down a long stone flagged corridor.

There were no windows, just hand held pitch and pine torches. The guards were silent. We walked on, down stone steps, down and down, the roof getting lower, the atmosphere hotter, oppressive, musty, damp.

Eventually we arrived at a low wooden door which the guards opened. Inside was a small cell. She sat on a small stool beneath a dim bulb dangling on a flex above her. She sat impassively, hands folded in her lap, with lowered head. The guards waited at the door.

I went in, called her name quietly to announce my presence but she did not respond. I walked over, taking in the squalor and stench of the small room. I stood in front of her and called her name again. There was no response.

I leant forward, gently taking her head in my hands and kissed the top of her forehead, then stepped back, turned and quietly left.

After that I stopped feeling like a fugitive. Nor did I want her ‘power’. I lost the desire to reverse our roles, to be vengeful. I began to realise that she was a kind of inadvertant teacher, challenging me to stay with my own reality, compelling me to dig deeper within myself for the resources I needed to manage my new situation.

”Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous times would have lain dormant.” Horace.

But the main thing, the thing the dream wanted me to see, was the inner, hidden reality of this person I otherwise experienced as so powerful,  like Dorothy’s discovery of the real wizard of Oz.

This helps us not to envy and so the spell is broken. You cannot defeat someone who doesn’t want your stuff.



Freedom and The Fates.

It’s said that the Moirai, the Three Fates of ancient time who determined both a person’s quality and span of life, had but a single eye between them. They squabbled over which should have it, the two blind ones eternally conspiring against the sighted third. In the form of millenial sisters, State, Church and Capitol, this bitchy pattern spills over into mortal affairs.

When Capitol and State team up against Church, Fascism will have a dark spiritual underbelly, religious bigotry.

When Church and Capitol collude without State, then you’ll have Empires without respect for Sovreignty.

When State and Church get chummy, then Jihads of Aquisition brew. Despite oneself,  the ‘must haves’ of life assume an almost mystical quality. Spirit and Stuff get mangled in the deification of the dollar. Consumption, like prayer, becomes an end in itself.

According to which sisters are pally at any given time, people get to be controlled in a particular way. Capitol/State favour  Big Stick. Capitol/Church use Guilt. State/Church prefer Propaganda.

Sometimes allegiances can change over night when The Girls are in a bad mood. But on one thing they agree. Democracy is rule by the Great Unwashed.

In 1921 influential American thinker W. Lipman coined the phrase, ‘the Manufacure of Consent’, a necessary technique for controlling the democratic electorate since,

”the general concerns of all people elude the public.’ W Lipman

People don’t know what is good for them. Their fates are too random.

Then came Bernay’s, Freud’s nephew, head of US post-war, ‘Dept of Public Relations’,

”I decided that if you can use propaganda for war you can certainly use it for peace. But propaganda got to be a bad word because the Germans were using it so what I did was to find some different words.” Bernays.

and so began the truly organised perception of Reality as commodity-to-the-highest-bidder. Bernays was instrumental in the US media portrayal of Guatamala as a nest of Russians in 1954, sufficient to overthrow democratically elected Arbenz.

The Russians did not even have diplomatic relations with Guatamala at the time. So how do you so pull the wool over people’s eyes like that?

Bernays was using the four principles of Lipman’s Manufacture of Consent. These four principles are also the weak spot in the Single System system. They show how its possible to bring the cyclops down.  And its not by force of arms. No monster makes rules of engagement and strategy unless it also has vulnerability. We may find its weakness in the rules that it makes.

One, Create Fear

Up until the collapse of the Russian federation it was ‘The Reds.” After 1990 it quickly became Islam, once…

”threats to our interests… and the serious problems we face, can no longer be laid at the Kremlin’s door” N. Chompsky

Recognising attempts to frighten you for what they are takes courage in any situation. The deliberate manufacture of fear is more scary than the fear of some random and arbitrary event because it involves betrayal. Someone you trusted is trying to make you feel bad and so its tough to point to its efforts.

Two, fuel a Two-Paradigm Debate.

So, find common ground. The  greatest wish of our lords and masters is to see us get embroiled in arguments about race and religion. Divide and rule. Corporate power feeds from it and rears up to its most unrestrained during times of martial law. Wasting spit on partisan divisiveness is playing the game. .

“We should be cautious about putting too much faith or fear into elected officials, we have to create it ourselves.”  E. Snowden.

Three, Create a Diversion.

Bread and Circuses for the people. Selotaste and plastoslurp. And for as long as you’ll settle for life’s consolation the Fates have you by the short and curlies will fFill you with entitlements, couch you on routes of least resistance.

If life can’t be easier then at least say that it should be and let a silent grudge be formed, an invisible resentment that life should be other, if only it weren’t for the Other, fueled by framing it as payback, maleable into a force of oppression overnight.

”the devil doesn’t come with a red cape and pointy horns, but as everything you ever wanted.” T. Max.

What the Media does best is never stated out loud. It’s implied, its the thread that joins all the sensational stories and the fear mongering. You should have it better. You poor thing. Your inheritance has been stolen. And while you are learning to grind your axe and mutter under your breath, you don’t notice that burglars are making off with your stuff there and then, nor that you are shackled to your grindstone.

The invitation to regress, to be babied, to have no more demanded of us than the cosy simple values of wanting dens cached with chocolate, makes for citizens that are entirely controllable.

‘Christian children all must be, mild obediant good as He.’ C. F. Alexander

And that means you,

but its okay,

especially if you can be eternally rewarded, not just with one product or another but anything in the name of your narcissistic entitlement. Something that when you stick it in your belt says, ‘I’m big.’

No lonely desert wandering, no shitty soul searching, no struggle to find words or slice yourself on the edges of critical thought.

And if you can be fed the idea that you are a poor misbegotten child into the bargain then so much the better…

except that you might have a shotgun under your coat.

The need to be given everlasting priviledge and be treated as special can undermine even the smartest person. This is because being seduced into believing in your own rightness is so tempting that if you have to forgo a healthy adaptation to reality in the process, waa’l… so be it.

I once made a clinical appointment with a highly qualified man for the following week. He said he would call on the day to confirm, as if offended at having to be pinned down to a particular time.

He neither rang nor showed up. I waited a day and then said something. His infallibility was so strong that he was finally compelled to assert, despite his intelligence, that he still intended to confirm the appointment which had not only passed but whose existence he now also denied.

When I said, like a terrible witholding mother, ‘you can’t have both confirmation and denial’, he fled.

Four, Keep Telling The Lie.

People will suck in all kinds of shit without any discrimination, so long as it is the same old shit. We do it to keep our worlds from turning too much, from having to be re-invented by what we come to realise. We collude with the Lie, bend ourselves out of shape to believe it.

I recall at about fourteen hanging out in a gang of white supremacist lads who suddenly realised that the ‘kaffir-boy’, the black servant in the house, spoke five languages. The confusion as to how this was possible was clearly visceral, they were contorting themselves with ad hoc explanations and rationalisation. For me, it was simple. He was smarter than us. Yes, a moment of clarity, but I suddenly felt very lonely and had to leave.

”Assimilating a new sort of fact demands a more than additive adjustment of theory, and until the adjustment is completed- until you have learned to see nature in a different way- the new fact is not quite a fact at all.” Thomas Kuhn.

And so what is truth and what is a lie become confused if it means making a paradigm shift in order to come to a conclusion.

So we believe the lie…

but pay for it by having to lurch collectively from crisis to crisis in order to make it through the day, like an addictive, accident prone histrionic, twisting to the twine of the Fates. The policy of, ‘never let a crisis go to waste’, means that our fingers must always be in Someone Else’s Pie. Always take at least one side and preferably both. Never be the moderator. Never be the voice of reason. It won’t pay the bills or fill the holy coffers. Be free, under Our control.