On Wanting to be Great Again.

When you think about inspiring words of leadership, great speeches that stir the heart, they all have something in common. They evoke values which connect people to themselves and to their neighbour.

Their words touch on some universal recognition that the quality of life is more important than its width. There is a sense of lyrical poetry or a sudden cadence of imagination that invites the listener into some greater awareness of themselves and their purpose.

And sometimes its just the opposite…

The invitation to regress, to have permission to suspend the hard work and moral demands of critical thinking, to indulge Poor Me, can be mightily seductive.

“Thinking is difficult, which is why most people judge.” CG Jung

Judging ahead of time, pre-judice, is an attractive ticket because it invites us to sit back and bask in our own glory… provided of course that we can then find a scapegoat to carry the group shadow. None of which should be too difficult since judging ahead of time is precisely that we know what is going to happen next, a big plus in an age of anxiety.

So speeches reduced to sound bites and slogans appeal to a far older part of the hind brain than the lofty ideals of the neo-cortex.

” We ask little except that ye abstain from red meat and fornication”. Acts 15;29

Mr Trump has taken considerable critisism for both the content and the style of his speeches. Some say that his incoherence indicates the onset of senilty. They cite and compare a variety of speeches from his earlier years in which he seems to manage grammer and syntax perfectly well.

Of course this would be no great surprise for a man of 71, but there is a further consideration that has ramifications greater than the precise nature of his medical diagnosis….

…people speaking in tounges has been part of Bible Belt culture for some time. When folk get inflated they regress. This impacts coherence, but scarier than diminished diplomatic finesse, is the mind set that goes with it, which is that if you want to understand me you will just have to keep pace and figure it out. Listen better. Follow me as I flit from flower to flower.

The concept of Symbiotic Omnipotence, coined by psycho-analyst Masud Kahn, is useful for understanding the significance of incoherent narcissistic rhetoric. One of the key features of Symbiotic Omnipotence is that it is a double act, a folie a deux, a between, in which the psyche of both parties, starting with mother and child, stay in a partly fused state built on mutual superiority. In adult life this dynamic often plays itself out in co-dependent relationships where the glue is delusional shared specialness.

“Isnt it wonderful that we both hate the same things.” Seymour Skinner from the Simpsons.

The contribution of third parties is denigrated as insignificant or fake, eroding….

”…the perception of others as valuable or nourishing, through subtle collusion and indulgences”.  M. Khan

There is no real point in making oneself understood in any case since the world is reduced to Them and Us, fools who cannot comprehend and allies who already get it.

Under such circumstances correct grammer and lofty syntax come a poor second to the attitude which says ” I dont have to make sense and nor do you.”

People love this. You can get to be a very particular kind of baby all over again. Its an invitation to act out all the petty grievances and violent tendencies that had to be repressed the first time around, all of which then led to the sorry pass whereby identity has to be shored up with knowing what happens next and forging the kind of relationship with the world that….

”enables a person to both perceive and deny [reality]”. M. Kahn

useful, say, if you had some command codes and a red telephone.

Wanting to be great again is the secret wish to be the omnipotent baby in the room, without any constraint, seeped in specialness, but one which urgently needs the Symbiotic Other to define it, to manifest its hopes and dreams.

A classic instance of symbiotic omnipotence in the news concerns one Kevin Gugliotta, a Pennsylvanian priest who has recently been sentanced for peddling child pornography. He says he did this to punish God for not letting him win at poker.

“According to pre-trial records, Gugliotta told probation officers that he was an avid poker player, and he felt God was attacking him when he lost games.” RT Question More.

What is so scary about this is not just that friend Gugliotta assumes  Gods involvement in his loss, but that his own response to such divine wickedness doesnt have to make sense in the process, unless he perhaps had some personal wish to be the nasty thing that happens to nice people.

Permission to be above the law, both those of the land and those of linguistic coherence, is a dicey prospect for anyone, especially a leader. To succeed, he needs Others who will bite, in their millions, at the tempting invitation to be similarly unconstrained, having been seduced into the conviction of their own specialness, but still needing the Opioid Epidemic from Hell to manage the gap between the American Dream and the Nightmare of Hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Loss and Shame .

The bottomless, shameful pit

of the unmothered child,

trying to claw whatever he can to staunch his wound…..

seemed to me to be best expressed recently by the aside in some article I read that Donald Trump had claimed to own 9 billion when he only had 4.

Only 4 billion?!

For shame!

And suddenly despite every fibre of your body screaming out against it you start feeling sorry for the man.

Only 4 billion..what an embarrassing out, dude.

His ability to make people sorry for him and the dramatic style employed by the man are narcissistically generated strategies of defence against shame or the prospect of shame. Like the flares released by fighter jets to put incoming missiles off the scent.

Problem is those flares are only partially effective..

and so you have to take evasive manouveres

alla time..

Shame is very different from Guilt. Guilt is about what you have done, so it can be atoned in some way. There’s always some possibility of redemption.

But developmentally deeper and more ancient than the Guilt and Atonement story is The Story of Shame and for feeling bad about what you Are, let alone whatever it was you did.

The Gnostics preserved some ancient fragments of the pre-biblical Myth of Sophia. They are an allegory of the degradation of the Goddess.

”She fell into the hands of bad men who passed her between them. Some raped her. Others seduced her with gifts. She became a prostitute. Overcome with shame she no longer dared to leave her abusers.” The Exegesis of the Soul

When the sacred feminine at the back of mothering ceases to be collectively honoured, what will the way she holds her child communicate to that infant?
What a baby experiences of its mother is what baby takes itself to be. If the mirror is  seen ‘through a glass darkly’ then what can baby make of its own reality?

The dishonour to the feminine becomes baby’s dishonour. His shame.

An’ yo 4 billion will NEVER be enough.

Balint calls it ‘the basic fault’. This gives rise to RD Laing’s ‘Divided Self’ or Lacan’s, ‘paranoid alienation’ all of which needs soothing with Winnicott’s ‘transitional objects’.
But not all cultures experience this. Liedloff (1986) describes the child rearing  of the Yekuana Indians in Venezuela and notes,

‘they grow up not experiencing any gap or having any empty space in themselves. They do not spend their entire lives, (as we do) trying to prove they exist or making up for the missing sense of self.’
Crucially for the Yekuana, Wanadi, the sky God, has a good relationship with his consort, the Goddess of the Nadir who lives in the bowels of the earth. She is symbolised as a four headed snake crowned with horns. Four-foldness represents wholeness. As snake she is eternally self replenishing and her horns denote divine power.

This earth goddess animates Nature.  The Yekuana  experience all acts of Nature as participating in the body of the Goddess. Motherhood and being with children is a sacred communion with Nadir. And so they do not experience paranoid alienation.
We are tempted to describe certain phenomena, alienation, paranoid anxiety, anomie, bad breasts and the like as though they were of universal significance rather than the culturally specific expression of something now passed out of memory but still so faithfully acted out over time they seem intrinsic to human nature.

In my view they are  outcome of  deep and profound spiritual loss. Yahweh  banishes Hokmah/Sophia  from the divine stage just after the time of Solomon (3000BC) and this is the last time in Judeo-Christian literature that we hear of Her without the new bride’s curses being thrown at her heels.

Given Her place in our imagination for the eighty thousand years or more before that and we’re scarcely over blowing our noses.

Of course the stamping of  ash and bone into the sacred places to eternally desecrate them was a bit unfortunate.

And the, you know, all the hacking down of stuff.

Yes, and the, you know..

killings

We are the children of cosmic divorce who now live with daddy. We don’t see mummy anymore. And nor do we have feelings about it.

But we do hit each other a lot..

and break each other ‘tings..
At the same time as Yahweh was tipping Sophia/Hokmah into the sea the Assyrian God Marduk slays the Goddess Tiamat and the Sumerian Enlil deposes the goddess Nammu. It happened so long ago we are only dimly aware of it, but like the early and forgotten traumas of our own individual childhoods we still collectively experience the consequences at a symptomatic, visceral level. We collectively mistrust the body and demonise the instincts formerly championed by Sophia/Hokmah.

Henri Wallon uses the term ‘confiscation’ (Wallon 1949) to describe the emptiness that seems to be, from a western point of view, an intrinsic part of the developmental process from true to false self that is a substantial region in the underbelly of western civilisation. Confiscation implies that something once present has been lost or taken away and indeed it has. Baby has yet to learn of Yahweh’s divine truculence but soon gets wind from the non verbal cues of shame and rejection intruded in mother. And like all babies he holds himself responsible for the split he experiences in mother and begins to identify with her  humiliation.

Confiscation is the felt result. ‘The loss which lies at the heart of confiscation’, says Berman (1989), ‘is no small matter. It amounts to a revolution of consciousness the crucial feature of which is the decision to mistrust the evidence of our senses.’ ie Nature.
Baby renounces the body as a way of knowing herself, sacrificing her own capacity to apprehend reality for one now rooted in shame.

With the loss of the continuum  to the divine feminine, not only is the Universe suddenly unsafe but we ourselves cease to experience ourselves as trustworthy and have to compensate for it to the point of parody.