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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Crane Wife.

There was a poor weaver who finally had so little that he could not even afford to buy thread for the loom. In despair he goes out into the woods to look for food where he finds an injured crane. He takes it home and nurses it back to health with what little he has left.

After he releases the crane, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. His new wife offers to weave silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her at the loom.

The cloth is wonderous.

So they sell the mysterious silk at a great price and live a comfortable life. But he soon makes her weave more and more. The house rattles and shakes with the shuttling of the loom. He fails to notice his wife’s declining health. His greed increases. His curiosity and wanting…

to know..

get the better of him.

Eventually he peeks in to see what she is doing to make the amazing silk. He is shocked to find the crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom.

The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns.

oops…

Like the western version of this story, ‘the Elves and the Shoemaker’, where the cobbler is likewise down to his last, at the end of his teather, but receives magical help from elves who make the finest shoes…

but make off when the people involved want to know to much.

Curiosity does not kill the cat.

Greed and narcissistic entitlement do that.

The weaver is not simply satisfying a whim, he’s betrayed a trust…

but why should the rule apply to him?

Narcissism is not at all the popularly construed puffing up of the ego, like some grandiose bag of wind though it can look like that..

Nature abhors a vacuum and what takes residence is not always home grown. We naturally take in the psychic undercurrents of family life along which pathways through the under-brush can run forced traffic.

This is why the term ‘Symbiotic Omnipotence’ (M. Kahn) is so useful in understanding narcissistic entitlement. The narcissist is one end of an invisible double act with an intrusive parent who trades off rental space in the child for the greater challenge of living their own life.

This smudgy ‘bond’ creates..

”an imbalance in the articulation  of the total ego-capacities. Mother’s selective sponsoring leads to (ego) retardation.” M. Kahn.

I an’ me not talking.

Jung gives the example of a girl from his village who became a prostitute. He knew the family scenario and helped her to see that she was living out the unconscious life of her profoundly prudish parents. She was being used as a vessel for the sexual shame in the family.

The girl got a a more ordinary job.

The internalised collusive parent lets us off the hook in respect of ordinary standards of behaviour. So the narcissist is really a kind of Gollem. Originally the Gollem were fashioned out of clay and made to do their master’s secret bidding. For all the cold clay of Narcissism the life being lived is not their own.

And so the peeking weaver is both above the law and a slave to the unmediated passions and restless spirits of a destiny not quite his own and out to spoil his experience.

He gets off lightly.

When Acteon  intrudes on Diana’s bath in Greek mythology she turns him into a stag and has his hounds tear him apart.

When Hippomenes ‘knows’ Atalanta in the sacred crypt the furious goddess Cybele..

”considered plunging both as they copulated into Styx, the tar pit of bubbling hell.

But that seemed insufficient to her.

Instead she dropped maned hides over their sweating backs. Hardened and hooked their clutching fingers into talons…

..their loathsome fangs obedient only to the bridle-bits of Cybele.” T Hughes.

Psyche fares slightly better when she intrudes upon the secret of Eros’ face whom she’s been forbidden to see.

Eros wakes from a wounding drop of hot oil from Psyche’s lamp and immediately leaves foreover…

a lover’s tiff that leads to much questing….

strangely rooted in the mud of betrayal and fear.

M L von Franz makes the brilliant observation that there is something lurking in all this, ‘wanting to know’.

”The real motive in this rational depreciation is fear.” M L von Franz.

And given all the gods and giant snakes and tentacled nightmares lurking in the  swamplands of  Psyche its hardly surprising..

In fact what do you expect…?

”Civilised man reacts to new ideas by errecting psychological barriers to protect himself from the shock of facing something new.” CG Jung.

and the stab of fear is the challenge, not just to your pride but to your ontological security. The new thing does not just add to your house..

it can tear it down.

And so the weaver sabotages his own good fortune in order to be rid of the uncanny running through his life, the mysterious and unknowable Other.

Out of fear and inner poverty of spirit he resorts to action designed to depersonalise and diminish, rather than be humbled by gratitude. The peeking is a defensive means to an end.

”Enlightenment is a destructive process. It is a crumbling away of untruth, seeing through the facade of pretense, the eradication of everything we imagine to be true.” Adyashanti

To be attended by your creative muse is to be riddled with perplexity, chaos and unknowing.

It’ll be ok.

The house can be rebuilt.

 

The Golden Child.

Stanford University professor David Rosenhan and some of his students decided to see what would happen if they feigned hearing voices to gain admission to  hospital, but then behaved completely normally once they were inside.

http://www.bonkersinstitute.org/rosenhan.html

Their ordinary behaviour was interpreted as schizophrenic in all but one case. Note taking was described by staff as, ‘engaging in writing behaviour.’

”Given that the patient is in the hospital, he must be psychologically disturbed. And given that he is disturbed, continuous writing must be behavioral manifestation of that disturbance, perhaps a subset of the compulsive behaviors that are sometimes correlated with schizophrenia.” D. Rosenhan.

All the students were compelled to admit that they had mental illnesses and take antipsychotic drugs as a condition of their release.

Once the cat was out of the bag, one peeved hospital administration challenged Rosenhan to send them more pseudopatients which they would then detect and unmask, so to speak.

Rosenhan agreed.

Over the next weeks the hospital identified 20% of their admissions as Rosenhan ‘fakes’…..

but Rosenhan had sent no-one there…..

booyakasha….!

Our ‘guilty until proven innocent’, model of sanity, is rooted in Freud’s Drive Conflict theory, the jewel in the crown of Western Civilisation’s war of attrition against the Principle of Relatedness.

Drive Conflict theory eroded the significance of Mother, and common sense, to such a point that the quality of interaction with baby now became a factor that was secondary to the child’s inherent constitution.

cut to the chase, mon.

People no longer affect one another. You hurt yourself because you are weak and stupid. As for Mother…

DON’T SPEAK HER NAME…

We will no longer speak Her name. In fact we will refer only to her ‘object-relations’.

Mother doesn’t get front billing in early life… just a part of her, nor will she play much part,

or have any responsibility for how screwed up you are.

and that is the official theory, mon.

”..it was regarded as almost outside the proper interest of an analyst to give systematic attention to a person’s real experiences.” J Bowlby.

What this means for’ mad’ and ‘sane’ alike is that there is no legitimate suffering in life. Psychoanalysis’ central theory places itself outside the vales of sympathy and compassion required to heal grief, trauma and tragedy. To heal, the wound must first be given legitimacy, and second, meaning.

”My argument with psychoanalysis is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, when in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know have come out of people’s suffering.” Arthur Miller.

There is a line in Sophocles’,  ‘Oedipus Rex’, sung by the chorus and therefore almost certainly the philosopher’s own personal perspective on life..

”Life becomes death longing, if all longing else be vain”. Sophocles.

It means that life is not worth living for its own sake. Freud said that the purpose of his method was to return people to ordinary misery. Ordinary misery is not enough. There has to be involvement in life beyond individual gain and measure for it to be meaningful. There has to be connectedness with one another and meaning afforded to legitimate suffering.

Not to have this is worse than death.

The Divine Feminine is the keeper of such truths.

Without sufficient representation of Her in our lives we need a host of back up theories about the inevitablity of our isolation and how it is somehow intrinsic to experience. In fact it is a collective mallaise caused by the devaluation of the Goddess.

..and produces what Masud Khan calls ‘symbiotic omnipotence,” a mood of inertia, helpless dependence, and emotional manipulation in people….

”whose outward lives looked okay but who were empty inside.” Dale Mathers.

Here’s how it works…

The depleted mother tries to compensate for the absence of a sacred vessel for motherhood by idolising the child.

actively discouraging..

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

and keeping it from the real world.

She hides her sacred heart in her child. The child gets to be ‘special’, but carry’s this great burden of archetypal expectation, almost as a redeemer….. expected to do miracles… but denigrated like a demon when it all goes wrong…

”such a maternal relationship leads to dissociations…” M. Kahn.

The child can’t integrate his own personality. He’s been inappropriatley seduced into propping up something that is not his task to shoulder. His specialness is in exchange for mother’s use of him as a repository for all the archetypal material she’s been schooled to disown from her own soul. In the process he gets turned into a kind of golden idol..

”that we can then worship and adore so we have the illusion that everything is wonderful but actually have no real contact at all..” D. Mathers.

it’s a horribly split reality that leads to all kinds of superior, narcissistic behaviour and feelings of pathological entitlement on the one hand and worthlessness on the other.

The scary thing is that Yahweh’s Covenant with his  people ticks all the boxes for Symbiotic Omnipotence.

Exclusive attachment,

THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BUT ME..

active discouragement of other influences,

THOU SHALT NOT MAKE IDOLS

shared specialness,

THOU SHALT BE AS A BRIDE UNTO ME

poor communication,

BURN THEM ALL,

”failure to integrate aggression,” M. Kahn

BURN THEM ALL.

and prohibitive harmony…

BURN THEM ALL.

Kahn’s prognosis is poor…

”with maturity they became even more isolated, suffering a pervasive mood of diffuse anxiousness and apprehension.” Kahn

being special is a con.

”Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead.

The healing here is not particularly in any moral outrage that one might have in what being special pans out to be but in the longing and incompleteness at back of it all…

because that longing and incompleteness is another way of talking about love.

which is why longing has such great power in it.