Tyranny and Spiritual Growth.

Perhaps, without poor leadership, we’d just get fat and lazy. The individuation process does somewhat depend on us being pitched into adversity. A Gnostic saying goes..

”there is good and there is bad and that is good’..

life is comfortable during the good times and you grow quickly during the bad.

Sometimes, people are no more than a-bit-peeved at their leader’s frantic efforts to accomodate this need to grow, for which he is a catalyst and for which unconscious reason he comes to power.

Under chiefs, even bad ones, you have ceremonial ritual, with the transforming power to contain and direct intense feeling. Under tyrant/kings you have a different incarnation of that initiatory archetype, Demonstration, which  has this same power to transform consciousness..

though perhaps with added broken windows.

The Peeved are allowed some expression of their annoyance at leadership’s failure to carry the projection of saviour and ultimate rescuer, without it leading to change or upsetting the status quo too much. Its said that Narcissists have ‘reduced feeling’, as though it were some side-effect, but what if this is the goal of Narcissism rather than a mere symptom….? What if ‘failure to learn from experience’, were actually refusal to learn from experience, a goal….?

And why? Because refusing to learn from experience magically stops the world from turning. Feeling is what evokes consciousness and transformation. The Narcissist is heavily invested in preventing change, like the lost boys in Peter Pan who live outside time in Neverland and don’t grow up.

The deflating world is dismissed with his contemptuous, ‘flattened affect’. Change can’t occur because authentic feelings are disallowed, a survival strategy from childhood used to exploit in adulthood. How powerful, to be the only one in the room not wracked with doubt.

Freedom of expression is trixy for the tyrant, whether in government or in relationship,  because its about the authentic expression of feeling which evokes consciousness of a person’s situation, and the last thing required by anyone invested in power is for people to become aware of themselves. Stick to being Peeved, the transforming energy of emotion, lost, swilled away.

Nor are we unequivocal in giving ourselves a voice. The passionate expression of feelings are disruptive to our own sense of self as well as to society because they awaken as well as inflame.

The visceral response is where you find out what you really stand for, who you really are and what you really care about. What strikes you to your core is a reminder that you have one.

”Emotion is where steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for emotion is the chief source of consciousness.” CG Jung.

So feeling and consciousness go together. Jung even conflated the terms and spoke about feeling/values. Its why the alchemists insisted that the seeker be emotionally involved with the chymical experiments and keep the fire, the emotional heat, well lit under the alembic.

Feelings often lead straight to some sort of creative process which also pounds identity on its anvil, inseparable as it is ..

”from the capacity for awe and wonder and from the courage to be genuinely available to any kind of experience however unfamiliar, new, bewildering or unknowable it may be.” Rosemary Gordon.

Sometimes a creative response to a feeling can be entirely life changing which is why the church is averse to our getting over-excited or leaping about.

A very elderly lady came to see me worried that she was going mad. What happened was that she was in the kitchen of her farm house when she become overwhelmed by a feeling of danger threatening her grandson and rushed down to the barn where he was working, to discover him unconscious having just been struck by a falling piece of timber.

She was a rational person. How could this happen? Suddenly her paradigm had a glaring anomaly which..

”violated deeply entrenched expectations.”  T. Kuhn

She couldn’t accept her own experience. We spoke at length about the many things that happen outside of comprehension and though unnerved she seemed somewhat reassured over the next weeks that she wasn’t simply crazy.

Strangely, I was driving in the area some months later. Suddenly I became intensely concerned for her welfare. So I drove over to her house where I found her in the kitchen, immobilised with a twisted ankle.

We laughed all the way to the hospital.

Reawakened feeling is the most powerful response to tyranny because it brings with it, as if from the depths, the Principle of Relatedness, embodied belonging, which connects people in a way that is impervious to all corruption.



The boy who wanted to know Fear.

Some post-doctoral research has recently been done titled, ‘Reconditioning the brain to Overcome Fear.   ”http://scitechconnect.elsevier.com/reconditioning-the-brain-to-overcome-fear/

How scary is that? I don’t fancy being reconditioned. I like me the way I am, warts and all , some of which has been shot at, stabbed and incarcerated. What I really hate is folk trying to get into my soft mushy parts with the AI equivalent of a monkey wrench.

We seem to have forgotten what fear is for.

A story that exemplifies this is, ‘The boy who wanted to know Fear’, or, ‘The boy who wanted to Shudder”.

A man had two sons. The eldest was smart. The youngest was supposedly stupid and made to feel the more so when he expressed as his deepest wish to learn how to shudder. His father and elder brother mock him and turn him out to seek his ‘foolish’ quest.

He spends a night beneath hanged men whom he tries to warm by his fire. He kicks the local sexton down the stairs who’d dressed up as a ghost in the attempt to frighten him. He plays with and kills ghostly cats and dogs that attack him. He plays skittles with skulls and ninepin bones. Corpses revive and try to choke him… Nothing works.

Finally he marries the king’s daughter because of all this ‘courage’. She, on the advice of her chambermaid, fetches a cold bucket of water from the stream full of tiny wriggling minnows and soaks him while he sleeps. At last he learns how to shudder.

The story suggests that there is something about fear that is necessary to human development, that to know fear is a kind of quest.

”Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.” Kierkegaard.

The obvious bit is that fear warns us of danger. It flags up our fight or flight response. It reprioritises. And if its spiders that scare its  because we’ve already ‘reconditioned’ ourselves not to be afraid of some legitimate childhood horror and  have had to crush authentic being for the sake of going-on-being, an effective strategy that manages to project and concretise undigestible experience.

Our story says that there is something essential about fear, and not just of circumstantial things, but also of objectless…

”…anxiety from below, calling out to each one of us concerning our very being. Learning to be anxious in the right way will involve coming into dialogue with this messenger.” A.S. Soderquist.

The process of growing up means an encounter with the Other, with Not-me. Both the Not-Me out there in the world and the Not-Me in ‘here’, that wells up from beneath, that informs while we sleep, that leaves its trail all through your backyard.

”He who seeks, let him not cease seeking until he finds; and when he finds he will be troubled.” Gnostic gospel of Thomas.

The plague of psychological enquiry is its insistence on trying to understand. Jung himself confessed to..

”..wanting to understand above all else.”

which, given the vastness of the Unconscious, is a bit like being captured by a fascination for cream crackers at a gourmet dinner. All in lieu of the spine tingling realisation that what you are looking for is also looking for you… and won’t be understood precisely because it transcends comprehension.

”It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand.” S. Kirkeggard.

Which is why characters from the bible are always in mighty dread of one form or another and Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita begs Vishnu to hide his true face.

”When I see you touching the sky, blazing with many colours, with large fiery eyes, my heart trembles in fear and I can find neither courage nor peace. Be gracious, O Abode of the Universe.”

In the Grail legend we find Lancelot attracted to a room in the castle from which emanates a bright glow. He sees the holy vessel on a silver table, approaches too close and is scalded by a hot wind that stikes him deaf, blind and paralysed for twenty four hours.

So there is something intrinsically scary, something awe-ful, about encounter with Not-Me, and not simply because its bigger than us but because we are changed in the process.

”The hallmark of the transpersonal is that it acts upon us.” S. B-Perrera.

Our hero is not initiated into trepidation by his father, who both fails and rejects him. The contempt of this father is thinly based hostility at the boy wanting his own destiny. Its also the inheritance of a social model based on kingship where father/son relations are mared by power struggles you don’t find in societies that have chiefs.

In modern times we may not resort to the excesses of Edward the third who stuck a red hot poker up his dad’s bum, or even an Abraham willing to slit his son’s throat cos god told him to, but we have ‘lost’ the initiation of sons by their fathers which might better manage life’s fears and prevent us from approaching fear as if it were synonymous with illness.

I went to see my analyst once, shoulders hunched and all sorry for myself, ”I feel so disillusioned, ” I proclaimed. He hesitated a bit and then said, ‘..but that’s a good thing.”

Learning the meaning of fear is essential to resolving any narcissistic adaptation. Fortunately for our hero he realises this and goes looking in the world for what his father cannot provide.

The DSM specifically mentions this curious absence of fear in the Narcissistic personality. The reason is that the Narcissist hasn’t yet had the initiatory encounter with Otherness. Everything is an extension of his world. So there is no loss, abandonent or death. He has yet to experience what Fordham calls ‘de-integration’, the structural unbundling of the Self that is encounter with any altering Other. Jung was fond of saying that good therapy is when the analyst is changed as well….

Our hero does not learn how to shudder from his own efforts. He’s even asleep at the time. But his longing to discover the secret brings him into relatedness with his wife and the ‘Nursemaid’ who sees what is needed and kindly rains on his parade. This sudden awakening is rude and unexpected. It can’t be otherwise since what’s at stake is a paradigm shift in consciousness from self-as-centre to being one-amongst-many, the psychological equivalent of Galileo’s shock that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around.

Such realisations are bound to be resisted even while we do our best to enquire into them because of the ground breaking consequences to our perception of reality that is involved. So if you feel stuck you might cut yourself a little slack. Growing is a scary business.

And anyway what could two PhD’s in Engineering and Telecommunications do with research that suppressed fear? I mean, other than weaponise it….

How scary…





There is something compelling about people scribbling in the margins of their own books. Its as though it were some disavowed part of the narrative that still somehow managed to make it onto the page. Its only partially conscious, very private, something that both wants and does not want to be known.

Which is why people collect Marginalia. They are brief, potentially voyeristic glimpses into private space. Some trickster at work serves to reveal a deeper, more intimate, contrary struggle with post hoc content otherwise denied the light of day.

More interesting still is the annotation of lawbooks, since what is consigned to the fringes of the page is also liable to be relegated to the fringes of civil liberty. And when this phenomena occurs around the making of laws that pertain to human freedoms we’re obliged to sit up and take notice.

In June last year the American President signed the National Defense Authorisation Act which contained a tiny section of just a few paragraphs waaay at the back giving him the powers to detain whom he liked indefinately and without trial. Yes, you can now officially disappear without recourse to due process. America, the land of the free, made itself less free.

This in itself is a puzzle, but what the President wrote in the margin next to article 1020 and 1021, which effectively placed him beyond the law and all accountability is scarier still. Next to the provision made to do away with anyone he chose, the President wrote in the margin,

”this is a terrible power and I promise never to use it”. B. Obama.

Critics made the obvious point that..

”Any president who says a power is so terrible he’s not going to use it should not be on the books”. R Paul.

But party politics and what ‘should’ have happened aside for a moment, what’s interesting psychologically is that this happened at all.

The most powerful man in the world has even further powers seemingly thrust upon him.  These powers place him above the law. He knows that it is unconstitutional, so much so, that he cannot agree to it. And yet he signs it, which is to agree with it. So the document contains two signatures, one bringing unprecedented centralised power into effect that can only erode civil liberty and another signature disclaiming and denouncing it. The irony is his refusal to be accountable for signing the law is then protected by the law he just signed.

But the most curious and interesting part of all this is that it happened without a whisper… There were no barking dogs. You would expect people to go crazy but nothing happened, all of which suggests a number of things….

Firstly, that freedom is not all its cracked up to be and that despotic powers somehow serve an as yet unaddressed aspect of our collective psyche, that deep down we are deeply divided about the burden of freedom…

”Modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”  E. Fromm.

Given how highly we value our freedom is it not incumbent on us to ask how easily we give it away? How easily we accept that scrawl in the margin, the mind bending cognitive dissonance, a double message which impacts on the most basic of our human freedoms like a 3am cudgel at the door…

trick or treat..

without even making the morning papers…

Its said that we get the leaders we deserve which suggests we are not unequivocal in our desire for freedom. The fact is that the tyrant offers his oppressed people two great gifts, the route of least resistance in that you need accomplish no more, and by identifying with him, also being above the law.

Aren’t we clever!

In fact there is something of a tradition in Western Civilisation for leaders to be above the law. The Pope is infallible. The Queen of England can’t be arrested. Any number of petty officials regularly claim diplomatic immunity from their misdeeds and politicians make laws to protect them from prosecution…

and all at the same time as you and I are made subject to other laws which say we can be spirited away forever without so much as a ‘by your leave’.

What gives? What does it symbolise? On the one hand we relentlessly pursue status, on the other, we give away the freedom that seems to come with it. It doesn’t make sense, until you consider the unconscious factors involved.

People will tolerate loss of freedom if they are allowed to identify with celebrity others and experience life’s fruits vicariously. We don’t miss or feel the loss of our freedom because we’ve already been persuaded to give it away to some public figure or life style which then seems to have it all. The Self is projected onto an outer figure who must now fascinate and intrigue. The fact that you can now be carted off in the dead of night never to be seen again is ofset in the margins of selfhood by secretly aspiring to be above the law ourselves.

Which is a bit like wishing to still be baby, protected and in-arms, where nothing applies to you and everything comfortably….. is.

Damage at this stage of development is endemic in the West, which struggles so to touch and hold, who’ve even lost the longing for it except in its symbolic, concretised and compulsive form. Western Civilisation has a borderline personality disorder. The kind of disorder that is perfectly comfortable with split reality and double think. Even our holy book is split into halves so incommensurable that there was an early Christian movement, Marcionism, which argued the gods of Old and New Testament had to be different.

All gone now..

killed for their own good.

One of the defining characteristics of the borderline personality according to DSM 5 is prone to , ‘dissociative states under stress.’  In other words where opposing things can concur without conflict. The toublesome trait is deposited in another, or on a people, or in the margins of history, one’s own inner contradiction acted out in lieu of integration.

So as not to play favourites, the current President has had a brush with Marginalia himself. On the 11/1/17 he held a brief press conference garnished with documents purported to be legalese signing over his business interests to his sons. Trevor Noah on the Daily Show was sharp enough to notice that all the sheets were blank. Nothing in the margin and nothing inside. If it were a dream, what would it mean?


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.