The Psychology of Privilege.

My mate Kevin was a privileged white boy. He was so privileged that none of the rules applied to him, like wearing clothes in the street or pissing behind the dumpster if he had to go for a leak and pretty soon he got in trouble with the law. Last time I saw him he’d helped himself to my apartment while I was out and ‘rearranged’ it. It just seemed trashed to me so I threw him out..

oh the ingratitude..

but I was pretty pissed off so I went round to his house at the crack of dawn the next day to find him standing naked in the living room, knee deep in shredded paper, with a can of kerosene in one hand and a box of matches in the other.

Another day in the psychopathology of white privilege.

When I was old enough to look over the steering wheel my father bought me my first car, no MOT, no insurance, no license. Every breach of the rules lost in his bestowing gift.

I abandoned it on the road side within a month. It wasn’t running right so I left it mounted up on the curb, got my stuff out the back and went off to buy a motorbike instead. No license, no experience, no insurance, no helmet. I crossed the first junction on one wheel and very nearly killed a pedestrian on the far side.

I was privileged. I didn’t have to play by the rules. But the almost-accident bought me up short and made me begin to question my entitlement.

Entitlement was what held my parents together, and the racially segregated community of which we were a part. It was their legacy to me and so I soaked it up like you do…

…being all there was on offer.

I began to realize, not only that it was all a con, but that this special-ness and privilege and being exempt from the rules was compensation for lack of love. I was given a pile of ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ cards in lieu of affection.

It had a lot to do with the intensely patriarchal world in which I was raised. Colonial Rhodesia was an Edwardian garden party of Pimms, boaters and 9mm side arms. It was a man’s world in which women were pegged just a tad above livestock and Nature was just cover for gooks that hadn’t been cleared yet.

No surprise that the Sons of Empire mostly turned out pretty narcissistic, or completely barking like Kevin. Tin pot princelings who’d sell each other out, and their grandmothers, for any extension of rights and status, that would bring on suicidal gestures at the slightest frustration.

The motif at the local monument read, ‘ That Might have Right, and Have it More Abundantly.’

Thing is, such a compensation culture is only pitched a notch or two above what the rest of polite society is still up to. The Feminine is collectively devalued. Nature is there simply for the plundering and conventional religion is an old boy’s club that has been resting on its laurels for so long they’ve mashed it into the upholstery.

What all these Sons of Empire never got was that if the feminine is devalued then so is mothering. Their mothers. Their Ground of Being.

The problem for children in the West is that mother is invariably a dissatisfied woman.   S. de Bouvoir.

If mother is devalued but her face remains the primary mirror for a nascent sense of identity what is the child to experience of itself?

What a baby sees in its mother’s eyes is what baby takes itself to be. If the mirror is broken or distorted then baby is also broken/distorted.

‘The precursor of the mirror is mother’s face. What a child sees there is themselves. What she looks like is what baby takes itself for.’ Whitmont

Going-on-Being is interrupted. Baby cannot move forward. Its not safe enough. There isn’t enough containment. If baby is not in his rightful place, in arms, because Mum is drowning her sorrows, or back at work trying to prove her worth, or off at bingo trying to top up on some girl time, or holding baby but gingerly because she’s had her instincts and self confidence eroded to the point that she’s lost faith in her own abilities, then the need to be in his rightful place, is supplanted by entitlement as though it were the Promised Land…

Moreover, if baby is having to shoulder not only mother’s sense of inferiority,   but also projections of the Self (which mother must export given that society has afforded her no schooling or experience of owning this within her own psyche) then baby is landed with a heady cocktail of not being good enough on the one hand and Mother’s divine image on the other…

which is going to blow his own sense of self out of all proportion.

This ‘privileged child’ is then allowed to behave pretty much as he pleases,  desperate to make up for the very real but denied deprivation – and there you have a recipe for all the petty despotism imagination can conceive. Instead of individuation you have omnipotent fusion, feeling like you’re boss of the world whilst being too afraid to step out of doors, craving adoration whilst refusing intimacy, longing for love whilst not giving a shit about other people.

Its not sustainable and secretly the privileged child knows this. Which means the world feels hostile because something has to give and it sure as hell isn’t going to be himself. He’s managed to project all his shadow onto others but in the process has parted with all his decency and integrity into the bargain. So it seems like the next guy has all the goodies, even if he’s dirt poor.

The unfairness of it all eats him up till he just wants to bring the whole world crashing down in an orgy of envious spoiling. It looks like greed but actually its deeper and more dangerous, hate of anything wholesome, anything that doesn’t need or want his silver spoon, anything that can’t be bought and paid for, love, empathy, tenderness.

So its not just that he wants to be boss. He wants to burn the house down.

Healing the Narcissistic Wound.

Despite the prevelance of Narcissism in our culture, the literature offers little to help us understand how such things have come about.

We have to turn to more ancient, deeper sources of wisdom.

“Myths are a primordial language…  psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul…. healing the conflicts which threaten the child.” CG Jung

So we refer back to myths as a form of public dreaming in order to become reaquainted with our preverbal experience, that within our individuality that likewise seems lost in the mists of time.

”Myths are clues… that have to do with deep inner problems. They carry rich, live, vivifying information [so that] experience will have resonance to our own inmost being and reality.” J Campbell.

A myth that gives us some clues to the problem of Narcissism can be found in the story of Hercules. It describes not only the resolution to psychopathic behaviour but helps us to see how and why it manifests in the first instance.

We will turn to the well known  labours shortly but lets begin with the circumstances of Hercules early life in order to get a sense of the provisional life that besets Narcissism and why it is that creativity and relationships are so problematic.

Hercules’ problems start very young. He is the child of queen Alcmene of Tiryns and the God Zeus. Hera, Zeus’ wife, was none to happy about this. Even though he had been named after her as a gesture of appeasment she vowed revenge….

Alcmene, fearing Hera’s retribution, abandons the child Hercules in a field hoping the gods will take care of him.

The disenfranchisment of the Divine Feminine is sweeping across the known world. Everywhere the goddess is being unseated, cast out and humiliated. A wedge has been driven between women and their sacred counterpart so that mother/infant relations have become unbearably strained.

On the one hand Hercules is ‘special’, the son of Zeus. On the other he is deprived of nurture and care. Alcmene invests all her spiritual longing into her redeemer son. She needs him to fill the gaping hole in her psyche where once her sacred femininity was lodged and with which she is now hopelessly at odds.

Meantime Hercules struggles with being the contradiction of being the future lord of all Greece whilst being left forgotten in the dusty stubble.

By chance, Hera and Athene wander by and see the child. Hera, unaware of his identity, picks him up and suckles him, but he sucks so hard that she  throws him down in anger. Athene, more patiently, takes the child to Tiryns and gives him to Alcmene to be bought up as a foundling. Alcmene, overjoyed, hopes the three drops of milk that Hercules has managed to suck will preserve him from Hera’s ill-will.

Its not to be. Hera finds out what has happened. She’s furious and sends two pythons to kill the baby while he sleeps.

”One suspects that there is often a kernel of truth in paranoid delusion.”       S. Freud

The raging goddess, once the archetypal container of infancy, is now dead set against the child. Her devaluation by Zeus throws her into revolt and overwhelms the maternal instinct to care and protect.

Hercules becomes the proto-type of the deprived child.

As our story indicates, emotional deprivation is not simply the absence of nurture. The emotional vacuum is constued as an aggressive attack the best expression of which is paranoid fantasy. Something, somewhere is trying to get me.

”Maternal failures produce reactions which interrupt going-on-being and [constitute] a threat of annihilation.” D Winnicott.

The snakes symbolise the intrusive, cold-blooded, devouring quality of emotional deprivation lived out on a human scale by the curious detail that Alcmene now raises her son as if he were a foundling. She is a mother playing at being a mother which can only produce a child pretending to be himself.

This pretence is what RD Laing calls ‘elusion’. He quotes an example from Sarte of the waiter in a cafe who is not ‘in’ what he is doing. He is somehow not himself. Not that he is pretending to be someone else, which would be less confusing, but insofar as he is pretending to be himself. He is playing at being a waiter in a cafe and has that touch-me-not quality of Narcissus.

”He is never invested, never completely interested, never “all in”.  From fear and diffidence, he always keeps the essential part of himself out.” K. O’Brian.

I pretend I am not pretending to pretend….

Hera’s snakes are an envious double bind, an attack on both the  burdensome dependence and the dismissive autonomy of the child. Her devalued status makes her cling to him and try to live through the child whose own destiny and unique unfolding gets in the way. Whatever he does he cannot get it right.

In my family this took the form of the contradictory injunctions,

‘If you don’t ask, you don’t want.’

and

”I want doesn’t get.’

There is no way around such a double-bind. Like the twin snakes it can choke the life, or at least the aliveness out of you. Mother, in urgent need to elude ambivalence and pretend not to be pretending reads the ensuing ..

”extraordinary passivity and listlessness as satiation.” G Miller.

It gets worse. The child, faced with mother going through the motions of being herself must follow suit and tie himself up in the knots of pretending to be a small boy. Such pretense must exclude creative possibility since..

”any striving is construed as malign ingratitude..” ibid

I dreamt I was in a jail, like out of a spaghetti western with bars all down one side against which I was smashing a club, screaming to be let out. Behind me, lying down on a bunk with his hat pulled over his eyes is, ‘the-man-with-no-name’. He says,

”door’s open you know”…

I throw down the club and cower in a corner… terrified at the thought that I could leave at any time..

The dream shocked me. I thought I was mature. I thought I was free and creative, despite my substance abuse at the time and the fact that I had no greater aspiration than to turn admiring heads at the traffic lights with my expensive motorcycle….

I thought I was living the bohemian life..

and so long as the life I was living was not my own I could coast along unchallenged..

secure in the knowledge that family and friends would eternally excuse my narcissistic life style and save me from the real world.

The fact was that all this being let off the hook was not the loving indulgence I took it for but rather the active witholding of Life’s Rule Book in order that I continue to accept the constrictions with which I had been raised.

My abberant lifestyle was not ‘rebellion’ at all, but a profound yet hidden conformity that my own destiny was a taboo for which I was both under-resourced and had no permit.

May as well go and pilfer the drug store..

or start a fight.

There’s nothing else to do.

Hercules does not have to play by the rules. Its his compensation for having his soul hi-jacked. And because no-one will discipline him or be sufficiently involved to teach him the ropes he is effectively caged and feral despite being given ‘every advantage’. One day kills his music teacher Linus for daring to correct his playing and instead of having to face the consequences his family spirit him off to the countryside where he can continue to be symbiotically attached to mother by whom he is..

”worshipped like a god and denigrated like a demon.” D Mathers

Hercules is not allowed to grow up. His psychopathic behaviour increases. He goes mad and kills his children in a fit brought on by the hidden hand of Hera, determined that he should not have his own life or live in his own world.

Fortunately, Hercules now has to pay his dues. He becomes depressed and accepts being sent into the service of Eurystheus, his cousin, who makes him perform many labours, a metaphor for the hard work of the psychotherapeutic process.

He has to become aquainted with all his split off aggression symbolised by the Nemean lion, the Cretan bull, the Styphalian birds, his bullshit symbolised by the filthy stables of Augeus, the Hydra that hides in the swamps of his unlived potential.

He has also to realise his own spiritual gifts, all those aspects of his own soulfullness he’s had to put on one side in order to be a vessel for others. These are represented by his task to fetch the Golden Apples of the Hesperides whose whereabouts are hidden deep in the Unconscious that require a night sea journey in a great cauldron for a boat. The metaphor is one of being slowly cooked, being transformed and being able to be taken in.

But Hercules doesn’t quite make it. Despite his successful labours he is tricked by the centaur Nessus who gives his second wife Deianira a poison tunic to give him should his affections wane, which you could pretty much count on given his habitual lack of relatedness.

The tunic consumes him….

and he throws himself on a pyre begging for death.

Then, as now,  your clothes are statements of identity, embodiments of personae. The poison tunic is an identity not one’s own, that stifles soul and gives rise to self destruction.

”Unlived life does not sit idly on the shelf. It will turn around and bite you” ML von Franz.

The great tragedy for the narcissist is not just the poverty of his early years but that it renders him so hogtied when faced with the enormity of his own potential. The first words I ever said as a client in therapy were, ‘I have more energy than I know what to do with.”

”The possibility that a once great capacity for positive living and other potentialities may have played some part in the development of psychopathy.. is worthy of careful consideration…. in reverse they might deserve the estimate of genius.” H Cleckley.

So the narcissist is doubly burdened, firstly by all the split off rage, confusion and pain at being un-mothered and secondly by the creative tension in him that demands expression.

The bonus is that all the material he has to integrate is already his own authentic Self. The difficulty is that he is at one and the same time much smaller than his puffed up image of himself, yet much bigger inside than he could imagine.

If we can accept that our own labours are noble and redeeming, worth doing for their own sake, that our creativity will both unhinge and restore us, that there is meaning and aliveness in suffering, we might fare better than Hercules who at the very least gave us a template for our own experience.

The Soulful Sacrifice. 1.

When milk bottles were first introduced, Blue-tits learned how to take the tops off pretty quickly. But the truly impressive aspect of their door step robberies was that they managed to communicate the secret to one another faster than Blue-tits can fly.

How did they do it?

Whatever the answer, Blue-tits are not the only species to have this knack of manifesting collective change without crib notes or peeking over one another’s shoulder.

Give or take a few centuries, humans all over the world changed the structures of their societies without confering nicely or resorting to the pointy end of something more persuasive.

We invented kings and queens.

The characteristics of this new type of leader differed markedly from those that preceeded them. They may look like chiefs with their rides pimped but there are important differences that have an impact on culture and consciousness difficult to get your head around.

”This was not simply a quantative extension of a ranking system, it was a truly qualitative change by which society had entered a new realm.” P V Kirch

These new leaders emerged simultaneously in cultures that had no bearing or influence upon one another which suggests that something greater was at work than big hairy blokes with extra pointy beards wanting a crown.

But what?

Whether you take the Egyptian Pharaohs, or the ancient kingdoms of West Africa, early European lineages or the far-flung Aztec and Chinese emperors from whom they were entirely isolated, there are aspects of this new fangled system of resplendent dudes in metal hats so common to all that you’d think they’d copied each other’s homework.

All agreed, there was to be a fundamental change in how humans got on together with ramifications for Collective Consciousness we can scarcely suspect.

or is that scaredly?

or sacredly?

Superficially, kings meant centralised power, more rigid hierarchies, increased divisions of labour and more highly organised economies. But the most important difference, the most impactful on their subjects, was a shift in the value of human life and the rules about who you can kill without calling it murder…

so you’ll be pleased to know that Kings are only recent inventions.

”The way of life we now take for granted and on the foundations of which we have built civilizations, occupies but one percent of the time of the big-brain’s preoccupation.” R. Ardrey.

We tend to think of kings as something that belongs to history and by which we are no longer affected. In fact it’s the other way around. The institution is very recent and pervades the very viscera of modern life.

Far from being ousted by revolutions or the democratic aspirations of suitably frightened subjects, kings adapted as only the very youthful can. They went underground, as our serf like devotions to the rich and famous, as the farce of rule by deep state oligarchs, as the proliferation of corruption and being above the law whose daily tabloid shenanigins, violent exploits and eternal wars are just the kind of court intrigue you’d expect from period drama.

There are a number of important differences between chiefs and kings, with consequences for those grovelling nearest, but there is one that stands alone in its impact upon us because it affects our perception of what it means to be human.

Not only is the king a political ruler, he is also the high priest and most significant for those within reach, an incarnation of State-Your-Prefered-Deity-Here. Again, you might imagine this to be some amusing footnote of history, a witty anecdote from The Golden Bough and yet its widely accepted by considerable swathes of people in our time that might has right. The powerful are ordained by and represent God. In everyday life this trickles down and manifests in the wider populace as the feeling that, by virtue of your allegiance, you too are special and/or entitled to be exempt and above the law.

‘I like to be offensive”, said a Charlottesville supremacist. After all, what is the point of being above the law if you don’t demonstrate it once in a while? In fact what other way is there to make the point?

The archives of Ethography are rich in examples of how animals of all kinds obey a natural law which distinguishes between neighbour and stranger. This is so that the aggression necessary for survival within a species does not spill over into communal violence. Snakes won’t use their fangs when they fight. The anxiety of the young male baboon to join a new troop is not just for acceptance but for protection. Herring gulls will erupt into a frenzy of squawking and tear up great lumps of grass when anger boils over, without ever resorting to their rapier sharp beaks.

People are the same..

”All known societies make a distinction between murder, the killing of member’s of one’s own group – and the killing of outsiders.” G. Gorer.

In other words the Principle of Relatedness is more fundamental in its distinction of friend from foe than the inevitablity of violent outcome.

”It is the effect of natural arangments, not the inoffensiveness of natural disposition that minimizes violent behaviour in a natural world.” Ardrey

Latent violence is there, but it’s subject to the natural law that distinguishes friend from foe. In a society run by leaders who are not ordained by the gods, nor  believed to be so special that they may not touch the ground, everyone in the community is protected from each other by this natural law. Contact with those who fall outside this protection can be made safer by rituals of politeness, exchange, intermarriage and stylised etiquette..

We shake hands, give gifts, let you have the seat furthest from the lavvy…

For folk who have been chosen by God and doing His Will, this natural law works against the majority because the king is removed from the community by a host of taboos which means that everybody, subjects and strangers alike, are now Other, unprotected by the rule which says that even an angry wolf will instinctively muzzle his bite if a pup merely shows him its belly.

No-one is safe.

In 19th C Buganda, not saying thankyou properly, with just the right amount of dust poured on your head, could get you killed. Oh, and also if you were vaguely related, or caused his Maj’ to touch the ground..or if you were unlucky enough to see him eating…. or caught his eye…

and so life is suddenly very precarious…

security and belonging eroded..

defences kicking in.

The rats start to turn on each other.

The advent of King-ship spills contained aggression into explosive violence. Not just between the king and anybody that looks at him funny but between the subjects themselves who are now also objects just a shade higher in worth than a non-believer and scrabbling to secure their positions.

If just deserts are your thing it doesn’t end well for the king. He is inflated and so must die. Tradition has it that he comes to a very bad end.  In Dahomey, if he’s lucky, he just gets murdered for the crown. If he’s not so lucky he has to be chopped up in bits, sometimes having to do the job himself, while he can, before being ritually consumed by the next incumbent.

Sometimes the king’s violent demise is ritualised at the end of fixed terms. Scandanavian kings ruled for twelve years after which they were put to death or a substitute found to die in their place, for just the right kind of sacrifice might appease the gods… sacrifices in their ones and twos all decked out in costumed finery, but then… maybe it would cover all the angles if they were also made in their uniformed millions.

Parts 2, 3, and 4 to follow.

Anxiety and Depression.

What are anxiety and depression?

They are how life seems in response to trauma. We regress to where it’s safe, to Mother, even if it costs us our wings.

But what if the trauma itself is loss of Mother? And what if this loss has been eroding human contentment for millenia?

Loss of the Divine Feminine, stripping motherhood of sacred context, is going to damage baby and is bound to give rise to compensatory, narcissistic defences to bulwark raging inner emptiness.

Sincs we can’t (daren’t) blame God for this we blame the Enemy, the rival predatory suckling, the dark brother, a phantasy demon born of deprivation who holds, who must hold, the good stuff.

Our spiritual emptiness is then ameliorated by riteous hate of the rival whom we can then blame for all our ills.

But there is a problem with this. In order to cover over our anxiety and depression we have to be at war. With ourselves and one another.

We go to war so as to afford ourselves the means to smooth an eternal path of prejudice and depersonalisation over our neighbour, the hated rival, whom we must experience as inferior as well as unduly favoured.

This means that prejudice and paranoia are intrinsic to monotheistic culture. It begins with mockery and ends with napalm.

Reducing the divine feminine to a whore riding her beast in Revelations, paraded up and down like a condemned prisoner prior to execution, has resulted in the collective depletion of the Western psyche. It has had consequences that have washed down through the centuries, culminating in alienation, compulsive aggression, instant gratification and the analyst’s couch.

The narcissistic schism this creates in families is not simply that parents are preoccupied with themselves and the nagging sense of their own incompletness. The absence of the Principle of Relatedness means that they struggle to find value in their kids or pleasure in their company.

The ‘me, me, me,’ is a default position resulting from a de facto failure to attribute sufficient significance to one another or to derive real nurture from our relationships.

Without value inherently invested in the Other we become isolated and shut off, compelled to revisit the underlying and unacknowledged horror of Mother’s loss in any number of substitute situations whilst vainly keeping our heads above water by the power that riteous indignation and eternal sabre rattling has to keep the fragmenting psyche together.

Freud observed that people lose their neuroses during times of war. Why? Because, win or lose, they feel vindicated, can band together and have something other than the condition they were born into to feel anxious and depressed about.

I have been to war so I know about this stuff. We were always so upbeat about everything, even when we knew we were losing. Why? Because the issue of an outer victory was a secondary consideration next to the inner need to have others carry our inferior feelings….

even though they won….

yep, just goes to show how non-rational such things really are. The losers can still de-value the victors and collectively identify with one another in lieu of relatedness.

Or just go and start another war…

Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq.

And its not for oil, or political ideology. Its the need to aggressively ramp up the projection of the Dark Brother so that the fractured template of our spiritual paradigm can be knit back together just that little bit more than it might if peace broke out.

Our Collective Narcissism is caught in a trap. To get out we have to afford the other with value, or at least validity. All the feelings of deadness and loss then wing their way home across the nomansland that formerly separated us from those fragments of soul which give testament to our inner poverty.

What this means is that the resolution to narcissim is by way of anxiety and depression.

Our only health is the disease,

If we obey the dying nurse-

Whose constant care is not to please,

but to remind of our and Adam’s curse

That to be restored

Our sickness must grow worse. T.S. Eliot   East Coker.

Rather than fixing them or using behavioural techniques of suppression we are challenged to live with our affliction, find meaning in them, to acknowledge that there really is something going on to be anxious and depressed about.

‘We become enlightened, not by imagining beings of light, but by going down into the dark’. Carl Jung

Anxiety and Depression are dirty words for the most part. We spend billions annually combating them, little realising that it is our defensive attitude that exacerbates and causes the very condition we are wanting to diminish.

If we would heal our divided self it is by way of embracing the loss of relatedness and mutuality that our superior, holier-than-thou attitudes have bought us. Being ‘positive’ won’t cut it. We have to find a way of relieving what we consider to be ‘negative’ of the stigma we are so determined to attach to it. Only then will we find the humility and compassion to live peacefully with ourselves and with one another.

How Men are Made.

On the day I turned eighteen my father crossed the yard between our colonial house and the workshop I’d made into my room, all ceremonious, and formally shook my hand. ‘Congratulations, now you are a man.’

He thought he was doing me proud.

which made the empty pit in my stomach all the more gnawing. I was a man on account of the clock. Not because I had acheived anything or showed my mettle, nor because I had gone on some bold adventure but because it was Tuesday.

Of course he secretly knew it was a sham but continued in his proud role of conferring stuff upon me by sending me to war in the hope that being shot at would do the job where his handshake had clearly failed.

Toxic masculinity takes all kinds of forms, mostly noticeably in its impact on women, minority groups and due process, but there is a further privy of splashback, not so noticeable, that still deserves a mention.

A central pivot of the patriarchy’s inflation is the narcissistic and destructive notion that it is a father’s duty to initiate his sons into manhood.

Of course he must fail. It’s vain to believe we make men of our sons. It is a cover story for the often conflicted and occasionally murderous relationships typified by our role models of filial piety down the centuries, namely, kings who lost their heads to princes..

and vice versa.

or,  if you were Edward ll you got to have a red hot poker shoved up your bum instead..

So, I duly went to war and got shot at a lot…

which set me to wondering..

if the purpose of perpetual war, a covert yet shameless foreign policy of ongoing conflict wherever it can be created, doesn’t have some nuances to it above and beyond the obvious profiteering of the Deep State.

More subtle even than the visceral need to have a Dark Brother be the enemy, someone to pit your life against so that you can know you have a life, something to define you in an uncertain world, a bogeyman to help you conjour just the right degree of riteous hate to temporarily cement the fractured soul.

No, boys are sent to war because we collectively subscribe to the madness that it will make men of them. Its a scenario that has overtones of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac on the mountainside, with the added psychopathic sadism that he’s doing the boy a favour.

Not only is everyone expendable, they are expendable for their own good. So that those dispatching their sons in their uncountable droves can have butter instead of marge or marge instead of dripping and that ‘our way of life’, our comforts, can be maintained.

What  does such an attitude do to a person, you know, deep down?

The kind of splashback in store, in all its hideous glory, is amply personified by the true story of Mel Bernstein, ‘the most armed man in America.’ Mel has millions of dollars worth of legal military hardware on his Colorado Springs ranch. I caught a video of him saying whistfully to camera, ‘these are real men’s guns.’ They conferred masculinity on him in their lethal tonnage.

Unfortunately, Mel’s wife was accidently killed in one of many explosions on set whilst he was making a movie about himself for Discovery. He never says her name.

Now he lives in a bunker, a tardis from the 60’s, with four life size plastic dolls who do have names. ‘I put panties on them,’ Mel explains, ‘I’m a considerate boyfriend,’…

resolving once and for all the question of whether the compensatory need to play with guns affects your mental health, or more precisely, your capacity for relatedness.. Mel says of Discovery’s decision not to make the movie during which his wife is blown up on camera…’so, they cancelled and threw away the whole show.’

Durn fools. All they had to do was edit out the bit where she got kilt. Don’ make no sense….justa wastin my time..

Thankfully, a considerable chunk of a boy’s becoming a man has less to do with his father than the latter might like to think, so long as he manages to survive his pappy’s loving ministrations.

In indigenous cultures, though the various rituals into manhood may differ a great deal in content, what they all seem to have in common is that the youth be thrown back on his own resources, that he have an experience of death and rebirth as a result of an encounter with the Unconscious.

When an Ndebele boy is sent out into the bush with his peers, the presence of the elders, whilst loosely officiating, are not central to the drama at all. They are more witnesses than agents of anything.

What imbues the novice with a sense of the sacred is achieved by a series of ordeals they have to go through.

“And it is primarily these ordeals that constitute the religious experience of initiation – the encounter with the sacred.” M Eliade.

The ordeals are, more often than not, symbolic of death followed by resurrection or rebirth. The fathers wait patiently on the sidelines.

Because they know very well that no matter how enormous their dicks are, rebirth is the preserve of the feminine.

If the feminine is denied or undervalued, the transformation doesn’t take place. Change requires a uterus..

and so because we Western men are largely unwilling to afford the feminine with the role she has in the making of a man, he remains unmade.

What then are we to do? It doesn’t seem right to appropriate other culture’s methods of growing men and yet we have lost our own to vain and empty repetition. Luckily it’s not the form that counts. What seems to evoke change and growth most is precisely the authentic despair that you are stuck and don’t know what to do, because it is then that you are thrown back on your own resources and hidden depths.

So, at least crisis can be meaningful, its own trial of strength or endurance, its own initiatory experience.. The feeling of inner poverty and betrayal can be given some respect and credibility because these feelings are real, they bear testimony to some form of inner truth and can constitute the very death experience, the alchemical ‘mortificatio’, which begins the transformation process, the end of ideals that no longer hold marrow, from which rebirth will happen in Her own time and under Her own agency.

 

 

 

 

 

Of Bears and Presidents.

You might have seen J K Rowling’s reply to Mr Trump’s recent tweet,

‘..are now fighting back like never before… blah blah ..DO SOMETHING!.’.

She says, ‘Nothing expresses calm confidence better than a caps-lock scream of ‘DO SOMETHING,.

which is nicely tounge in cheek, not quite sarcasm but more bite than irony, though it does beg the question of what he might mean, given that the order is not directed at anyone in particular let alone devoid of content.

My inner conspiracy theorist, who is is rather unreliable, says that he’s wanting to mobilise his base into open revolt, a call to arms for white supremacists, further doubling down of the police state.

The first bit conjurs images of beleagured trenches, the hand to hand kill or be killed of desperate combatants…’are now fighting back like never before’.. It is a call for backup, mobilising the Reserves…

and there are lots of them….

But the fact that the ‘DO SOMETHING’ is more of a bear growl than anything else is important. Bears are dangerous. They can swipe your head off.

They say that a grizzly’s personal space is 55 feet. If you’re that close it is gonna come at you teeth first. It’s a rather precise figure and makes you wonder how such data was retrieved. After all, the bear has to be sorely provoked in order to find out.

When I was a kid I really wanted to find out how fast I could ride my bike down the hill and still make the bend at the bottom. It never occured to me that finding out could be that painful.

Testing stuff to destruction seems to be a thing with us white folks, or perhaps better said, with any Single System System. The reason is that a ‘holier than thou’ attitude is rooted in First and Only, being so special that you lose sight of where you begin and end so great is your Wonderfullness, so seeped in They that I and Me no longer talk and know themselves thereby…

So boundaries have to be fortified, built and tested to destruction to claw back some sense of Self, even if you get scragged by the bear or come off your bike in the process.

Knowing where your edges are can feel more important than longevity, or a full term in office…

..which is why having leaders who are not magical and know enough about bears to go round them can be extremely useful.

You could also say that ‘DO SOMETHING’ is a kind of magical invocation of the breast by one whose symbiotic omnipotence with mummy is so great that her teat still constitutes personal property.

Since the spotlight is always fixed on the Narcissist in the equation, as you would expect, its often missed that Narcissism is a folie a deux, a game for two, a collusion of exclusive shared specialness whose fin you might indeed expect to see as it breaks the surface in stressful moments.

And you’d be right to scoff at a president who calls for his Mama just because the other kids won’t play nicely, but then what do you expect from a culture that idealizes youth and condenses it into a narcissistic value system built on the values of adolescence?

While we subscribe to fantasies of eternal youth, endless choice, perrenial summer nights and exotic destinies, how can our leaders not be petulant and demanding brats?

And you can’t really call the tyrant out for behaving like a two year old if you spend half your time playing by the same rules, even if its as petty as being ashamed of your ride or are losing sleep over what you don’t have.

A culture of Instant Gratification and bottomless pit must produce First and Only, all imbued with the feeling of having been cheated in some way despite being top of the heap.

Which is why, to paraphrase Socrates, Democracy must recind itself. The freedom to be a kid all your life is a burden, the endless sweeties, the eternal  preoccupation with goodies and treats wears thin. And so when you’ve everything of what you’re told and believe you want… and still you nurse a gnawing pit…

then that is the moment when either your paradigm collapses rather painfully or you reach down to that last resource, the promise of symbiotic omnipotence, the magical covenant that lets you be a bear.

Do Something. Make the magic happen. Make the frustration go away. We had a deal. I would let you pour all your expectations into me, be the golden child and long for nothing but would triumph over my enemies in return as promised.

Do Something!

Release the Behemoth of Zaldar!

Convene the Satanic Hordes of Gilgamesh!

Cast a binding spell with the sacred amythest of Middle Earth.

What is so scary about neo-Nazis is what motivates them, a secret fascination with power that can be conjured, something that sets the seal on any questions about supremacy and silences any quibbling at the back of the class.

The way you have to deal with both bears and malignant narcissists has its own kind of magic, an apotropaic gesture which has the power to stop a half ton ball of spitting fury in its tracks.

Don’t run.

You won’t get far.

The trick is to stand your ground, but in a very particular way. You have to face the bear and hold up your arms full stretch to say..

i am big and i am here…

but you also look down at an interesting bit of grass as if to say ‘I show you respect. You are the boss.’

a bit like taking a knee.

Gestures and objects that contain opposites are magical. They are both of this world and yet not. They confirm what you know whilst including something new, so change occurs, which is a kind of magic.

The Lure of Automatic Pilot.

Pizza Hut have bought out a trainer. Embossed on the tongue of the shoe is a button that you can press to order pizza. It sends out a GPS location to your nearest convenient franchise and..

boom..

pepperoni at your fingertips.

In Greek mythology the magical shoes were Hermes department. He had a pair of winged sandals that allowed him to pass between Olympus and the Mortal Plane. The magical shoes mediated between worlds just as they did for Dorothy in her travels between Kansas and Oz.

Very handy.

The capacity to mediate between worlds with enchanted footwear is the nub of a developmental stage in childhood characterized by symbol formation which magically uses transitional objects to manage the gap between Self and Other. It is the essential condition for passing from “first-and-only”, wherein hell is other people, to “being-amongst-others”, where we not only learn to tolerate otherness but are redeemed by it.

“You are therefor I am.” Satish Kumar.

This shift of perspective, is from what the Gnostics called “hylic consciousness”,  It comes from the Greek “hyle”, meaning husk, the unnourishing and winnowed part of an ear of wheat and is characterized by the person who simply lets themselves live without reflection or enquiry…

” He takes life as it comes and does not worry about the problem of meaning, its worth or its purpose. He devotes his time to the satisfaction of personal desires, enjoyment of the senses, riches, ambition.” R. Assagioli.

Transition from ego as landlord to the experience of no longer being master in ones own house is expressed in the Alchemical tradition as “the problem of three and four”.

..as taxing as divvying up a pizza between an odd number of people..

because three into four wont go. The conscious mind and the denizens of the deep Psyche are like oil and water. Making it across a threshold that demands acknowledgement and valuing of the Other without being swallowed up by them..

and with Pizza trainers instead of Hermes sandals for help…

is a way more tricky business than you might imagine..

“Not a few have perished in our work.” Alchemical saying.

A modern fairytale that expresses this sense of crisis and shows how it is resolved comes from an unexpected source, Robocop.

The hero Murphy has his humanity stripped from him and is largely reduced to robotic functioning, a fate suffered by many who adopt the first-and-only stance because it…

” contains the archetypal, omnipotent, defensive and mechanical, as well as the manipulative and destructive nature of Robot.” Lederman

The robot adaptation of the narcissistic character is, however, not entirely negative. Robocop can be redeemed by a combination of two factors. One is that his partner, Lewis, continuously reflects his humanity back to him. Her unflagging faith that he is in there somewhere gives him the courage to explore his obscure situation. Second, he finds his own dramatic solution to the problem of three and four.

Robocop has three protocols, 1) Uphold the law. 2) Serve the public trust. 3) Protect the innocent. As you might expect in any fairystory there is a hidden fourth directive which is entirely incommensurable with the first three..

Do not rise up against your masters.

Becoming conscious of this contradiction throws Murphy into turmoil. The law must be upheld… depending on who is involved. Serve the public trust, for as long as it serves the masters to do so. Protect the innocent, if its expedient…

Murphy realises hes been forced into a catch 22 situation that he cant win. Unless.. he plunges his hands into a massive electric generator that wipes out his programming but also nearly kills him.

Wright speaks of,

“the traumatic birth of self-consciousness, erupting into the still intact (and mechanical) symbiosis with mother.”

Realising that you harbour hidden and contradictory injunctions is shocking. Rewriting the inner script means first realising that you are being run from within by something so old, so habitual, so not-self that you can lose sight of its operation.

Folk simply clank through the day on automatic pilot fulfilling ancient expectations which may once have ensured survival but now serve the demoted purpose of simply keeping oneself on an even keel, maintaining the comfort zone, making sure reality does not intrude or question the preferred construct.

People will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the automatic pilot going because what they are up against is not a mere addition of information, another nut for the store house, but a shift of paradigm that threatens to bring the storehouse down.

Be careful what you wish for…

A good example of this is the story of Hiroo Onoda a Japanese soldier who continued to fight WW11 untill 1972 in the Phillipine jungles. He did this because he absolutely refused to believe that Japan could have surrendered. It was inconceivable. Surrender was more ignoble than suicide, something he had been expressly ordered against. Could his superiors be any the less accountable?

And so he fought on.

Many people have an inner Hiroo, an old soldier still fighting yesterdays battles,  disrupting the present with archaic material, fused to the Motherland, crushing the possibility of change or anything unscripted.

Over the years great efforts were made to persuade him that the war was over. Leaflets were dropped, photos and newspaper articles, all regarded by Hiroo as propaganda, fake news.

He was finally persuded only by hearing of Japans surrender from the lips of his own commanding officer, Major Taniguishi.

“Suddenly everything went black. A storm raged inside me. What had I been doing for all these years?” Hiroo Onoda.

Hiroo got a big shock, but he also went on to become a philanthropist and even donated some of his considerable back pay to local Phillipine projects as well as setting up a school Japan.

Many folk never get out of the Jungle. They remain omnipotently fused with the mother/land, content with the replacment of their autonomy by rows of endless choice, something to keep you occupied, hey, how about these new shoes you can get. They order pizza.

Bluebeard, the Secret Hell.

The reason that we arrange to be led by folk we know don’t care about us is that there is an X in the equation which swings things away from what you might think was a more desirable outcome.

We acceed to authoritarian management because there is a covert pay-off. No-one has to do the difficult work of self-realisation.

‘It seems good to Us not to burden you with too many requirements.’ Acts 15;28

It’s okay, you don’t have to find your own way or fulfil any driving ambition. Its alright to be curtailed and told what to do…

because the part of us that minds it has a cunning plan…

to take refuge in the strong arm of he who’d beat you and so, in a very real sense, not be at home when he comes calling. The great thing about abdication is that you get to hold the torch when the castle is burned to the ground.

Alice Miller calls it ‘Identification with the Aggressor’, a process by which a child or subjugated person defends against the precarity of their situation by disocciating from it and forming a psychological alliance with the source of their suffering.

It was named ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ after bank raiders in Sweden took hostages that then became their fervent supporters, even writing to the Prime Minister asking to go with their captors. Hieress Patty Hearst became a gang member of the group that kidnapped her. Natascha Kampuch wept at the death of her jailer and rapist Wolfgang Priklopil, moved into his house and ran his car…

Levy-Bruhl called it participation-mystique, a process of  merging with another, initially observed..

‘in so-called primitive cultures where certain objects treated as holy artifacts were seen as filled with the spirit of their owners or worshipers.’ Gifford

 Without such meaningful totemic relationships that allow a person to be in the presence of their own mystery without being contaminated by it, we in the West do the same with pop stars and celebrity, reality TV and the cult of personality, which despite the high of being one with your hero..
‘can influence a person or group of persons into acting against their own best interest’. (ibid)
Identification with the Great Leader makes all kinds of heroic feats possible though you may not survive them. It wipes out all your troubles back home and replaces them with a fizzing riteousness so potent it can transcend the fear of death and calmly walk wave upon wave of unfaltering youth to the grave.
Sometimes the battlefield’s turf is the quietly carpeted drawing rooms
of gentility rather than the crack and thump of conquest at any price, but still….
‘a person caught up in this spell would rather die or injure him or herself than consider new information that might upend their thinking.’ ibid

Most people know the story of Bluebeard. He murdered his wives one after another and kept them in a secret locked room. He forbids his most recent bride from entering the room on pain of … well, a lot of pain, but she is unbearably curious and sneaks in while he is away…

just a peek…

Too late!

The room is a charnel house of former wives. She drops the key to the floor in horror where it becomes stained with blood that will not wash off no matter how she tries…

Bluebeard finds her out, and sets out to do just what he said he would do…  though she is saved in the last moment by her brothers who show up in the nick of time…

an’ cut ‘Ol Bluey down…

The traditional meaning is that of a cautionary tale,

‘Oh curiosity thou mortal bane, spite of my charms thou causest oft pain and sore regret..’ Charles Perrault

followed swiftly by reassurances that men are not so bad..

‘This a story is of time long pass’d; No husbands now such panic terrors cast; Nor weakly, with a vain despotic hand, Imperious, what’s impossible, command:’ (ibid)

More recently its been given socio-political attention with BB in the role of Patriarch enforcing gender roles with violence, or more psychologically with BB in the role of pathological narcissist. Clarrisa Pinkola Estes calls him,

‘the predator of the Psyche, wanting to sever intuition, a malignant force at odds with the instincts of the natural self.”

Von Franz amplifies this theme, BB is the destructive, murderous animus which must be encountered in order to grow..

”If a woman hasn’t gone through the experience of being trapped by a demon animus she only has unconscious thoughts.”

All well and good but there is a curious detail in the story that snags my attention.. Most of the interpretations are based on later versions of the tale in which the youngest of three sisters falls for his charms because she is naive, or she marries him against his will. But in the original by Perrault there’s neither foolishness nor abduction…

Bluebeard goes to one of his neighbours…

‘a lady of quality, whose two daughters were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage, leaving to her the choice which of the two she would bestow upon him….

‘I want one of your children, it doesn’t matter which…’

None of this phases anyone. There is no outrage, no injunctions never to darken her door again. Mother colludes and passes of her kid like a mail-order bride who gradually identifies with BB rather than face how she has been betrayed.

There was nothing then to be seen but parties of pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth and feasting. Every thing succeeded so well, that the youngest daughter began to think the master of the house not to have a beard so very blue, and that he was a mighty civil gentleman…

A six year old child, having been persuaded onto her parent’s lap rather than explore the nearby swings and play area, is trying to extricate herself in an ungainly way whilst mother chides her softly like Nursy from Blackadder..

‘Oh you.. banana-brain…’

child’s inaudible muttering…

What are you?… a banana-brain.

more muttering..

‘banana-brain, that’s what you are.’

And you could say its just harmless fun and the mother is ‘joking’ in an extroverted and jovial way. ‘Its just people being what they are,’ you say, but actually its the worst kind of cruelty.. making a child feel stupid for wanting a go on the swings, feeling like a banana-brain in adult life for wanting to explore, embittered and muttering in old age for the life that’s been denied her.

Such throw away lines are how lives are poisoned. Often repeated they become the kernel around which identity is built because our survival compells us to adapt to expectation. So even when she’s free she stumbles, can’t get co-ordinated, making a hash of her liberty, just like… a banana-brain.

Her inner life is destroyed, not by showdowns, punishments or overt rejection but by one thing parodying  another, by the wicked cleverness that can say you are stupid and I hate you with a smile. What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?

Life is what you make it but more importantly its what you believe it to be. Life will faithfully offer us up our expectations of it, rising to manifest and mirror back to us all our prejudices, secret fears and covert assumptions.

‘We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” Torah

That which we cannot face on the inside comes at us from the outside. Having had her inner life attacked by her social-climbing mother, our heroine learns to attack herself, killing off her sponteneity, deadening her sexuality, stringing up her feelings and hobbling the discriminating function that feelings are there to serve.

When she intrudes upon BB’s inner chamber she is bound to find there some expression of this violation. She is going to find her worst nightmares in the little room because she has entered into this arrangement in terrible bad faith, having sold out her integrity and the possibility of true love for the sake of a life of easy luxury.

BB is certainly a villain, but never pretending to be more or less than he is. There is no deception. ‘I want one of your daughters, I don’t care which.” The poor bride masks over the awful injury this constitutes by following suit, pretending that people and privacy don’t matter, but has to kill off her aliveness and subjugate herself to the tyranny of life’s baubles which will extract their pound of flesh from her one way or another. Her inner world will be attacked on a regular basis.

Life presents us with the face we show it and mirrors back to us inner states normally occluded from veiw.

I once comforted a woman whose husband had just had a heart attack and was at death’s door in hospital… but I withdrew my hand from her shoulder as if bitten by a snake when she wailed, ‘who will help me now?” Her thoughts were not of him, nor her tears about him, but about the burden of her middle-class chores.

Through her tears she then told me a dream that wild dogs had gotten into her lovely white Mercedes convertible and torn all the upholstery to pieces. Her inner life had been ripped out by her paltry material concerns and the utter failure to transcend her own petty troubles.

”We thought it was the outer event that had happened to us, but now see that it is we who have happened to ourselves.’ F. Wickes.

Its curious how much sympathy the heroine evokes, how villainous BB seems to be, polarised utterly with the Soldiers of Light, the brothers who finally do him in. Yahweh fairs much better in the popularity stakes when he puts Eve to the same test. Her curiosity gets her eternal damnation wheras Mrs BB just inherits everything and comes up smelling of roses.

There is no transformation. The dead wives are as much a part of her world as BB himself and killing him off still leaves her with the problem of life denied and the damage done to her personal destiny by the spell which compells her to identify with toxic values rather than her own gut feeling…

which says that people come before stuff.

 

 

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.
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 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.
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 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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“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.
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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).
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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.
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‘No-one loves me, because you don’t wipe my chin.’ Liedloff.
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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…
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”from which intellectualism is only to ready to emancipate itself.” C.G. Jung
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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.
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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.
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‘Socrates is a man. Men are mortal. Therefor Socrates will die.’
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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?
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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.
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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…
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‘clinging to objects and people, investing them with magical powers, ferocious in [the] demand to possess and control.” Liedloff
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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.
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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.
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”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
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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.

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’. http://andywhiteblog.com/2016/06/11/abundant-delicio…ot-off-the-press/