Friday, March 24, 2017

Pessimistic therapy laws #3*


* I think it’s deplorable that people need therapy, that the profession of psychotherapy has to exist. This is the reason the work is needed: When children are hurt, their parents are too incompetent to help them. That’s it: The natural source of help is no help. And the generational wheel of deprivation defense and projection rolls on.

(Our exemplars-in-irony: Adam and Eve. The first two people on Earth, the blossom of humanity, and their nature is to sabotage each other.)

* Because therapy comes – unlike medicine’s more objective virtue – out of human lousiness, I bring a bit of radiant warm affection to my people that may be at least a little reparative. My particular vibe is positivity and buoyancy in response to a person whose sickness can’t be fully healed. That’s my particular sight, but I am married to it.

* I have noticed that deep beneath my remaining narcissism, the decent work I know I do, my love for my wife and pet and a scattering of benevolence, I feel that I am poison. Now that is a felt-sense at the birth or infancy root of my being, given a condemning label. Take a beginning-of-life visceral sense with no definition and feel it in adult living, and the incongruity is bound to make such labeling happen. Two examples: I sometimes feel that my presence poisons my dog as he knows my love is compromised by sickness; and I contribute to my wife’s depression merely by my existence. This is not drama, but being in touch with my loss of life at the very beginning. In almost every moment day to day that fact-feeling is buried, but is nevertheless as basic, true and ineradicable as A = A.

* If I am this self-contradictory (life mixed with death), I am guessing that most people are. This is what we’re doing therapy “to.” So doesn’t radiant warm affection make sense?

* We are holistic – mind, body and time a unity. Doesn’t that mean our poison must out one day in some physical act, as holistic justice? Is homicide or suicide or endless mayhem right, if we’ve kept the death-part unredeemed for the entirety of our life? Or should we be good forever, for goodness’s sake?

* I like to think that psychotherapy can turn the person just barely to the good, like a road that veers off to an apple orchard just before it reaches cliff’s edge.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

A rough-hewn working-through of the Narcissistic state (part 2)


I have to invoke my purest-oxygen feelings of Narcissism to try to understand this flaw. In my later adult life, knowledge and grief-cathartic feeling have dimmed the narcissism’s incandescent purity. But it’s still there in a small kernel that won’t die, and that’s what I have to study.

I begin by declaring it, then undermining it.

I know more than anyone else about psychology, human nature. It is my inner engine and depth of knowing that is the apex unreachable by others, not as much the particular facts or amount of knowledge. Someone else might discover a new observation or principle that I hadn’t conceived. But that is only because I haven’t yet, in my busyness, gotten around to that point. In fact, someone’s discovery couldn’t be anything that contradicts my own insights, because I have already grasped the essence that contains all future learnings.*

So what is it that I have to know, or be, to have the narcissist identity?

I see that I must have – always present, always part of every thought and experience – a felt image of myself as unique and wise and separate from humanity. I cannot simply feel something – excitement at seeing a comet cross the night sky, sadness after an argument with my wife, benevolence at helping a client, love when petting my dog** – without at least a minimum accompanying presence of grandiose self-awareness. Healthy children don’t need ego in every stimulus-response moment. Narcissists do. I’m sure this is because we did not have ego, identity, in the early formative years, but rather life-and-death emotional pain. I must say “I am” in every moment now, or else the child returns – “I am nothing.”

But why the need for perfection, difference (separateness), superior, best, unique? Why is the narcissist’s life-identity so shaped and colored? Why isn’t it sufficient for the ego-less man to say “I am a person”? Why is inferiority defeated by superiority, ego non-existence defeated by deepest existence?

And most enigmatic – Why do I know, in my sternum, that I am the best, and know, in my mind, I am not the best – both equally strong and certain, both always present, matter and antimatter coexisting in relative harmony?

This is very difficult to figure out. Maybe a better approach-question is: What is the narcissist’s feeling? “Perfection” and “superiority” are not feelings. What is the narcissist’s actual experience?

For me, if I allow a feeling of being ignorant, I feel there is no person that exists – there is no actor.

The narcissist has become an idea, because feeling itself brings him back to the underground conflagration, the disintegration of his child’s ego-identity. He does not feel human: In his growing adolescence – set adrift from the umbrella of parental dependency in which he has a borrowed identity – he observes other humans and, in the most evanescent spark that is quashed instantly, senses he is not them – he is a failure.

There is now no choice: The idea he becomes must be non-human: He must be different, possibly perfect, possibly superior. I say “possibly” because I do not know if all sociopaths feel superior or perfect, and the sociopath’s childhood is very similar to the narcissist’s.

What may seem like self-esteem and glory is really an identity outside of humanity.

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* The part-destruction of my narcissism has left me aware that I might be blind not only to some recondite truths in my own field, but may be completely blind to simple daily insights that most average, more mature people know.

** Post-narcissistic me has selfless love for puppy and wife, and sometimes selfless benevolence for clients.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Open letter to Narcissists* (part 1)


“If I cared to study physics, I know that I would see clear of the morass of silly theories about ‘spooky action,’ strings, and ‘a universe from nothing.’ I already know that these physicists are self-indulgent nincompoops, actually mistaking their flawed and uncertainty perceptions for the reality that they poorly perceive.

“If I weren’t turned off by the fact that the heart of a novel is an artificial arc and plot and that its characters must be false adults instead of the children they really are, I would write one of the greatest stories in the literature. Every reader would stop, stunned to be so found, so undermined. I wouldn’t be surprised if this planet, struck by the power of new truth, tripped into a different evolutionary orbit.

“My mind may seem normal. I use common words. But I have – or rather, I am – the capacity for deepest, timeless understanding. I don’t have every insight, of course, but the ones I care about and the ones that matter. It occurs to me there’s likely to be only one most perfect thing in this world of bigoted, shallow, blind and ego-filled people and the chaos of matter and the dumb mystery of the cosmos (the joke’s on you, universe: You can never, in your total mystery, tell your greatest secret to anyone!). That is the perfection of my mind, my sight. Like God, I grasp all, and rightly, because I Am. But God is bored – quite a flaw – and I am not. I feel good.”

Narcissists – There is something in our childhood that strips us of humanness and leads us to grow a substitute. It is the way we get value, otherwise described as the way we exist. There is only one natural way of being human, and many created and consolation ways. One of these is the Narcissistic self.

Either a child feels secure pride in himself when his parents made him both separate (they cultivated his separateness) and loved, or their neediness took him away from himself. They may make him a part of them: their ideas, their rightness, their approval and disapproval, their control. If their neediness is a very weak kind (where the parent-child dependency is reversed), with no center of power that pulls him in, he will recede to his lonesome, may self-soothe with tension-releasers and rituals: Tics and obsessive-compulsive behaviors become his substitute Self. Without them, he’ll feel he cannot exist, does not exist.

Narcissism, one form of the damaged self, may be planted when praise replaces love. That was my scenario. This was a family without warmth and love, but I was praised for my piano playing, which was unremarkable. Inside this praise was poison: My anxiety and immaturity were unacknowledged, so I was in essence complimented for being invisible, for not being myself. It was my parents’ own need to see me incorrectly (to protect their emotional balance) that they were adulating. But invisibility is depressogenic. Depression is the loss of the child’s real self. Praise – the limitless reflection lost between two mirrors, self and other – replaced it.

If you look back to your own childhood, aim a flashlight that searches for love. I believe it will cast its beam and not find any of it. You may have been elevated above reality, like me, and never touched with care. Or the atmosphere – possibly what our new president lived – was predatory and ego-heavy, with the leitmotif to feel one way about winners and losers, not to be a boy with his own feelings and sights. Like me, you may see that you did not actually grow with the other children – you over-grew them or under-grew them. And you may realize that, come age fifteen or so, Narcissism saved you from a state that none of us wants to think about: the failure to escape a failed childhood.

Narcissism saved us, though that’s not the reason we love it. It is, sadly, its own reason, its own love. It is self-trapped, imperiously and angrily so, because no one saw us, only themselves.

There is a method to question, to deeply deflate this disorder. Its first tool is to want to, as perverse as that sounds. To want to just be, not be perfect. To want to just feel, not feel ego; to feel the world, not the self. To risk non-being, for the sake of merely being part of the world, a regular person. This is all quite possible. I’ve tried it. I recommend it.

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* I intend to address the question of why a Narcissist needs to be not only excellent or one of the best, but the one best, in the next post.
 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hold everyone's hand


I just saw a television commercial advertising human goodness and loving-kindness. It was a big hospital system’s public service sales pitch. An infant stands up, seeming to want out of her crib. Dad redeposits her prone. She comes back to the rail but this time he climbs into the crib and they fall asleep together. We see many of these warmth lessons – Olympics brother- and sisterhood, pets forlorn or rescued, young teen advising his mom: “No kissing on the first date,” children holding hands, standing together, old folks thrilled with their caregivers.

These commercials, Scrooge-ishly, annoy me. It’s not just because they are artificial sweeteners – people are more layered than these moments. It’s not just that I don’t like the U.S. economy telling us what’s good. It’s that I don’t like society telling me anything. I don’t like society assuming we’re all connected.

I am, I suppose, insular in a way.

Does anyone else feel nagged by this fallacy? I already have enough of being forced into the same leaky PT boat by disturbed Captain Trump. My good is my own treasure. It’s not generic. It doesn’t send waves of golden meaning into other people’s lives. Not only is it quiet: It is unknown to others.

Whose self-medication is this? Who decided we’re all one? Maybe this honey in the air doesn’t actually turn people’s lives, but I think there is an implicit – very subliminal, a real collective unconscious – feeling or assumption in people’s brains that we’re all in this together. And that idea or feeling must take over true individuality. It prevents our knowing that while we can talk to others, our words end up not truly blending into the alien soil of their lives. Their lives are their own. After the cradle, just before the grave.

Yes, there are still times in my life when I’ve wanted that bond with another, where one exists yet fuses with the other. There are times in my therapies when I’ve offered to be a client’s home, her eternal parent to go to. I may get a few calls over the months post-termination. But then it stops: Everyone wants to be freer than that, despite their need and their loneliness.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Ramble of rambles


I’m tired of all the conflict. I’m tired of negativity. I’m even tired of all questions, except one: What is the universe? That question, of course, could be phrased as several questions. One of the most irksome to me is: Is there such a thing as nothing? Is there no space between somethings? This surely seems possible to me if we allow that everything is built of one base element which we’d have to accept was irreducible. But then, what if there really is just one element – one particle that gives the appearance of differentiating itself into many different things and energies, simply by contorting here and there? Might it not shape-shift – infinitesimal near-nothing to expanding universe (maybe with no “big bang” explosion)?

We are faced with many paradoxes: Human concept of existence must disintegrate at every turn. Large can never be largest. Small can never be smallest. Time can never be quickest or slowest, or ever begin or ever end. Another paradox is that human genius can know a lot yet know nothing. We only react by determinism (that seems like freedom), and we only react to perception to ones self. That’s not knowledge, though it seems so (another paradox).

I think these are natural sights and intuitions that everyone should have if they tried. But that would mean the human best understanding, alpha to omega, must totally miss the boat on the nature of the universe. We can’t grasp it, will never understand it. Fortunately, as Woody Allen said, we can still get a good steak there.

I dislike walking around so ignorant. Adding insult to injury, there are brief moments when I feel trapped in the universe: nowhere else to go! We are stuck in this box! That is obviously a psychological aberration, but a valid one. A valid aberration – a paradox. There is also the paradox of child and adult. A healthy, untraumatized child has a great sense of meaning – strong feeling, love, wonder, fascination. But he hasn’t been smacked by the stupid news of mortality, and is too limited to be resigned or deadened to routine: He is ignorant. The adult has this “wisdom,” but has mostly lost the child’s blind enthusiasm and meaning-as-feeling: He is meaningless.

I have felt sorry for trees and animals. They are so alive, yet so jailed: by being planted still, by their instinct and a non- or minimally conceptual mind. I think we people are luckier to be able to suffer meaninglessness and ask unanswerable questions.

Do I want to live forever? Probably, but in a tolerable way. That would be to have a long lifetime then sleep a long, long sleep, a few hundred millennia. Then awaken. But . . . would that actually be a refreshing absence? Or would the monotony of living pick up right where it left off, with all that hiatus unnoticed? We may get to find out, if after our death and countless eons, all our atoms chance together again. We are back! How would that be?

A good day for me is when life seems as meaningful as a piece of fine classical music – a certain Percy Grainger or Chopin or Rachmaninoff, or Arcangelo Corelli or some others. All: the ultimate meaning, all illusion.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Oedipus Mother


Here are two short and blunt case histories that illustrate psychological irony. Their theme is: “I vowed I would never become the kind of parent my mother was.”

Neglect

A sixty-year-old client lives with her husband, adult daughter and son-in-law and two grandchildren. She does everything for her husband. He is somewhat disabled and quite willing to be helpless. The woman manages all the household chores: shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, dog duty, minor home repairs. Adult daughter and her husband, home from their jobs, go upstairs to play video games. My client is essentially the parent to the two grandchildren. We don’t really know if the boys think of their parents as their parents. The daughter is lazy (depressed) and contemptuous and cold to her mother. Her husband is a non-entity.

When my client was young, with three siblings, she fell into a role. Her mother was a member of several bowling leagues and golf clubs and was rarely home. Her father was building a business by himself and, standoffish and busy, abdicated the parent role twice over. The little girl became her younger and older siblings’ caretaker. Psychology kicked in and ate away at her at the speed of desperation. Self-esteem, collapsed in her parents’ purposive absence, became her servant-doer persona. This is who she was: uncared for and caring. There was no time for insight there, but for one kind: She knew that when the time came, she would never be the neglectful mother that her mother was. She would always be present for her child.

As a parent, she remained what she had become: the selfless, helpful controller of all things. This need-identity dovetailed perfectly with her earlier promise to herself. She did everything for her baby – infant – child – teen daughter, supplanting her as central actor in her own life. Pampering became the kiss of death; initiative was unborn. The sense, a subterranean din, that her daughter was an autonomous self, independent of her, brought a terrible panicky death feeling: I am nothing. Neglected. Abandoned.

So the woman who knew she would not be the absent parent became fully absent in an unforeseen way: She was blind to her daughter’s personhood, her need to think, act on her feelings, be her own initiator. She left her child unparented.

Failure

The fifty-three-year-old woman has felt, from her earliest childhood to now, that she is a failure. She was sexually abused “on the living room floor” at two and three years old. She was “thrown away from a young age,” and so abused and shredded that “now I can’t recognize abuse.” Her mother left; she went to foster homes. “I could never please her.” Her name was “bitch” at age nine. Father called her “whore” for getting raped in junior high school. She and a sister, transplanted into father’s new family, were the identified slaves: fed last, if there was any food left; asking permission to go to the bathroom. She “never felt I was good enough,” was told no one would ever want to be with her. One day in middle age her body began to speak its peace – as so many women’s bodies fail – psychosomatically from an opportunistic injury. All the heart-murder converted to “regional pain syndrome,” “fibroid tumors,” “neuropathy, neuritis, neuralgia,” “polycythemia vera, diabetes, R.A., chronic diarrhea,” “they’re checking for pre-leukemia.”

What she wanted for her daughter was that she not feel like a failure. So my client never let the girl quit anything – any sport mid-season, musical instrument no matter how undesired, hobby, class, youth group. The child was forced to finish, to succeed. But you can see this wasn’t guided by the mother’s bright inspiration, happy and loving encouragement. It was guided by fear and sublimated anger. It was the mothers running away from her immanent sense of worthlessness. The girl also saw her mother – daily – beaten red by her father. You can look a little deeper and see that each success forced would conceal a fear of failure: That was the spirit behind it.

My client realized, in therapy, that she probably “confused” her daughter by her own poisons and contradictions. The young woman, almost thirty, is both a deep alcoholic and a highly valued worker. She is angry and controlling of her mother – threatening to have her ejected from the house – and weepy and clingy like a little girl when the panic floods her. Can she not feel like a failure, getting drunk nightly, pushing herself to succeed every morning?

These two histories aren’t meant to suggest there is some special, ineluctable force that makes us liars or traitors to our own purposes. Rather, that the widest principle – the past inhabits the present – is so valid it can be deducted to even the most painful, unfair scene: betrayal of oneself and another. A woman may not swear: “I won’t be like my mother.” But she will carry her unnurtured, ungrown self into her adult life, making her too empty, needy, blind and angry to nurture her child right. Her dependent will become, as deMause describes, a “poison container.”* The principle says: We are made healthy in early relationships, we are made sick in early relationship, we are made in early relationships.

I suppose there is something special about a mother who declares she will not fall into her own parent’s mistakes. She has a good goal, already an improvement on the previous generation. But I find it especially frustrating that she (and most people) will continue to live on their surface, a surface of hope and intentions, justice-making thoughts, resolutions. That is not where we live. Our engine is underground. Our blueprint is hidden in our history. We may say what we want – I’ll be a good parent, I’ll be a writer, next job I get I’ll stay with it and not quit. But we’ll be speaking a dream, a cloud blown away in the wind, until we awaken into our unconscious.

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* Lloyd deMause’s psychohistory website’s article – “The History of Child Abuse” at – http://psychohistory.com/articles/the-history-of-child-abuse/.