Saturday, July 18, 2015

Unpleasant questions #1: Maestro masturbator

Is a predominately sensual life regressive and neurotic?  If a scholar were to give a Ted Talk on his lifelong passion for masturbation and the varieties of subtle sensation possible to it, would we consider him a sophisticated aesthete or artist, a highly self-actualized person?  I think we would not.  Yet how could he be separated from the epicurean, the lover of books or the connoisseur of serious music?  All of them are basking in chemical and neurological sensation while enhancing that feeling with intellect, discriminatory powers and breadth of knowledge.  How could one be higher or better than the others?

This appears to be a question of psychobiological development.  Once an individual reaches then transcends one developmental plateau – baby’s sensation-feeling-based life; latency child’s emotional and concrete thinking status – on the way to the pinnacle of adolescent’s and adult’s “formal operations” conceptual thinking, it would have to be regressive pathology that causes him to be weighted down to a penultimate level.

Individuals, in other words, who are dedicated to sensual delight are masturbators, whether the passion is Bach, crème brûlée or Jane Eyre.

What could be the value in dethroning these higher enterprises?  Doing so helps us see more clearly – or see at all – the self-medicative nature of so much human life: We are seeking solace, cushions, distraction more than we are jazzed by challenge, mystery, the future.  Of course it is true that intellect itself can be masturbatory.  Just today a client, who knows she grew a fake-happy persona in childhood and has never lived a real self, said that “thinking” is her peace and pleasure.  Any thinking, all thinking, is her distraction from her missing life.

Now, is there any use in trying to distinguish masturbatory pleasure either from the organic imperative of human good feeling – our birthright – or from more developmentally arrived, outer-focused pleasures?  An astrophysicist is more interested in uncovering the cosmos than in feeling good, let’s say.  Richard Dawkins tells of a famous scientist whose pet theory, fifteen years cherished, was disproven by a younger researcher, and who congratulated him with pleasure for discovering the truth.  I think we should know that being connected by awe not ego to the world is better than being self-enclosed.  It’s a fine goal for psychotherapy, though terribly difficult to win.

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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.