Sunday, June 19, 2016

Splinters of a deep mirror (for M.G.)

Who knows why they “believe” in something, such as a conservative or liberal political philosophy? The shallowest reasons given will be thought reasons: “I believe we are our brothers’ keepers.” “I believe that individual freedom is the foundation of a humane society.” These explanations will be thin shellac because they point to deeper “why’s”: “Why do you place the right to own property over people’s suffering?” “Why do you think I should be forced, at gun point, to help someone whom you could help or who might help himself?”

Beneath the idea cloud will be a gut or feeling answer: “I care about people. But I can’t stand the super wealthy.” “I hate parasitical moochers, lazy people who want a handout.” “To me, humanity is One.” “To me, stay the hell out of my pocketbook.”

But we see that feeling answers must themselves be echoes of something else, some deeper place in the person. Along the way to searching for this something, we might find a world of phantasmagorical parts, splinters of a dark mirror.

The journey – blindfolded but touching things in that dark – might include:

“Personal freedom” brings up angry and frightened feelings in me. In my childhood, freedom was terrifying. I had extreme separation panic that was one with a core umbilical dependency. The image of being separate from my mother brought a calamitous surge of implosion horror. But there was never an emotional bond. Caesarian birth, weeks in an incubator, a stolidly depressed and probably unloving mother. I eventually set myself adrift, alone in feeling and thinking, always distant yet always dependent.

Dependency failed for a child who couldn’t reach out and whose incompetent world couldn’t reach in. My loss of my parents, and some unrecognized contempt for them, meant I wrapped myself in the bandage of “freedom” and “independence.” I remember conceiving “Insular!” as my self-enclosed rallying cry. The bandage became a banner.

But later, marital dependency, and looking back to childhood, made things better. I could lean on her and be a boy, sometimes. And because this is right – to be attached to a friend or partner or mother – the sense of human giving and sharing returned to me (there had been some seeds of it in my earlier childhood).

Yet (again), the connection has had grave limitations and I’ve remained mostly the insular island. And let’s not forget the contempt for powerful and clueless people, my parents; and the freedom, and the empty internal place where no nurturing had been given so no sustenance could later be given to others. Cold independence. Warm joining. Noble-desperate freedom. Needy love. All fused together. Were I less soft, less able to feel the mush underneath, I might label these feelings Libertarianism with a dash of ambivalence. That ideology has freedom, the aura of untouchable; it has contempt; it has the badge of honor; it has some heart. But I label myself nothing, no doctrine or political club, or identity. Nothing but the everything.

We can see that all of our convictions, not just political ones, are like this: thought made of feeling made of experience, sight made of blindness. A question: Is there some way to use this fact, that we think we are wise when we are atoms? I use it when I help clients see the source of their problems. But on a wide scale, for a society that does so many awful things, is there a way to show people their unknown mirror with its many pieces? Imagine if we all knew we came directly from childhood facts, birth errors, congealed bleeding, attitude-calluses formed. Wouldn’t there have to be some evolution of humility? Wouldn’t we step less cocksure, into that flammable fog?

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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.