Friday, January 24, 2014

Passion of the gums


I thought I would write about some areas of my psychological ignorance and impotence.  That is not a statement of “humble grandiosity,” but of real humility sans secondary gain.  Though there may be post-secondary gain if sitting in a mountain cave of no-mind opens me up to greater wisdom someday.

The main ignorance could be named Passion of the Gums.  My happy, healthy and successful older cousin R— has been a periodontist and world traveler for decades.  I assume (though I have never asked him) that he chose the dental profession in his late adolescence, and the gum disease specialty soon afterwards.  Family legend – at least what I believe I remember hearing in my childhood – is that R knew from his single-digit years that he wanted to visit all the exotic places shown in that simultaneously compelling yet excruciatingly boring magazine, National Geographic.  In my own teens, my hyper-neurotic antenna wobbled in consternation, in angry alarm, at the idea that someone would choose to dedicate his life to gums.  And still, over forty years later, I remain completely baffled by what I assume, from my cousin’s example, is a quality of mentally healthy people – the ability to choose a necessarily arbitrary aim and displace most of one’s natural energies into it.  Gum disease.  I cannot understand it.  I can equally not understand having a more credible passion – travel (though for many that desire could easily be entirely neurosis-driven) – then making a “practical” decision to finance it by giving oneself to a life of bad breath and medicine’s red-headed stepchild.  While I can see that genetic and environmental factors might, in the rare case, plant a positive or negative oral fixation in the baby or infant’s psycho-template, I doubt that this is what happened in R’s case.

So to summarize, my number one ignorance is: How does a healthy individual choose a happy self-sacrifice, a giving up to an extrinsic purpose?  I look at human nature and cannot see any continuum, only beast and beauty.  Sick, or empty, or average individuals fall arbitrarily into the world’s slots and categories of work, or are neurotically drawn to a harmonious self-medication or defense (social worker, psychiatrist, hedge fund manager).  Passionate souls, some geniuses, are one with the world: young Einstein magnetized by a compass, later by a beam of light.  But . . . What is in the middle?

Two areas of my felt-incompetence are the treatment of dependency and anxiety.  “Felt,” because I know I have helped people by means of the complex overt and subliminal armamentarium of psychotherapy.  But in the main, I’ve assumed defeat to change an adult’s dependency on his abusive and guilt-injecting parents, and to smooth her lifelong anxious nervous system and thoughts, and remove her frightened taboos.  These adults will not leave a parent as they call their umbilical chain guilt or love or money.  They will not leave because it is healthy to need.  Can I really ask them to need me instead?  The child raised to fear will eventually become, through anxiety, a monument to her fears.  This monument, too, commemorates her true dependency on parents who could not quell the fears.  What will she depend on now, if not these links to her childhood?


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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.