Monday, September 21, 2015

My end-of-life search for the meaning of the universe

“Meaning in life” is a matter of psychology, in health and in sickness.  In health, it is a feeling.  In sickness, it is a need.  A normal child, before trauma or the vitiating effects of parents, feels life and it therefore means everything to him.  An adult, shut down, has no meaning but feels its absence and needs it.

There would be many fewer books – contrived ideas and meanings – were the human species robust.  Instead, ascendant would be the urge to discover the world with our eyes and our hands, the mysteries below us and above us.  We wouldn’t be “social metaphysicians,”* so hooked into strangers’ and fictive lives.  Writers wouldn’t scribble innumerable fantasies of heroes, antiheroes and horror, crime and romantic struggle.  They wouldn’t be creating all the philosophical systems or spinning endless webs of exegesis.  They wouldn’t desire nameless audiences for their thoughts.  We wouldn’t need so much entertainment.  They, we, would be living.

Don’t we know that feeling is meaning?  That is really why so many of us keep certain childhood memories or the memory of childhood on a unique pinnacle.  Not because they had more colorful emotion, but because they were actual meaning.  Why don’t we have that now?

It is lost to many adults (and even adolescents).  I believe a good chore for psychotherapy is: How do we get it back, or something like it back?  One answer, the lesser, is that our shutdown, our submerged self, requires a thunderclap of the brightest colors to reach it.  Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, true love, the messiah’s return – or the expectation of it.  The greater answer is that we have to have the will to be our child again: the strength to be weak, the courage to be afraid.  In Him or Her rests our meaning.

It is regrettable to me that so few people have that will.

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* “Social metaphysics” was an idea created by psychologist Nathaniel Branden.  Immersed in the Randian Objectivist philosophy that equated individualism, egoism, atheism, capitalism, rationality and morality, he formed a psychology that condemned people’s “obsessive concern with gaining the approval, and avoiding the disapproval, of their fellow men.”  In my work, I have retooled the concept to mean individuals whose ego is based not in themselves and in nature, but in a ground of people – often young Borderlines.  Listen to Branden’s odd Big Brother voice at:

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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.