War Nerd Is Brilliant As Usual | Clarissa’s Blog

War Nerd Is Brilliant As Usual | Clarissa’s Blog: “I see your point in some respects. I would say that there should be much better self-understanding on the part of Western countries, because the sickness of the sick is perhaps an implicit critique of some imbalances within Western culture that need to be recognised and redressed. At the same time, if I am in a crisis situation, I will use the least amount of energy and achieve my own goals best if I do not obstruct people in pursuit of their destinies, but allow them to follow through on their actions.

This in itself can be a mode of purification and healing because it teaches the sick not to lean on the healthy. From experience I know that such a sense of the right to lean on others can become enshrined as part of a cultural dogma. But in teaching people to be adults we also need to resist their need to lean. That way we end up with an adult society.”

‘via Blog this’

Historical forces and psychological projection

I confess to quite an acute skepticism of psychoanalysis because its terms of reference have seemed to me limited to the late capitalist nuclear family, without taking into account social or historical events.    Because this kind of psychoanalysis is worse than useless to me personally, my skepticism had continued to grow and grow. Recently, however, I found this article and considered it embrace a balanced form of humanism.

I’ve learned to steer clear of traditional psychoanalysis because the paradigm it promotes seems to encourage people to believe that is one is suffering in some way, it is likely to be because one is “projecting something”.  I developed the impression that psychoanalysis was often, if not always, a means to expressing an unwillingness to deal with historical facts.   By not dealing with these and with the impact they can have on the psyche, one preserves a sense that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and that nothing  can or should be changed, apart from at the level of the individual.   That is, the person suffering should change themselves, but they should do so in a way that doesn’t implicate others or avoidable historical circumstances in the process of change.   They should just make the changes as part of their moral duty to society, above all by hardening up and not taking any nonsense from anybody.

While I’m sure that the imperatives of bourgeois society are not necessarily the imperatives of psychoanalysis, there seems to be an overlap.  According to the article I’ve linked to, the capacity to dig into emotional states, to find out what is there,  is a core part of psychoanalysis. But, psychoanalysis occurs in a context, which is that of contemporary society, the society of the bourgeois individual.  The functioning of the individual is important within this sort of system, but their individual mental states are not relevant so long as they perform their job effectively.  Forms of therapy that would try to coax a person into expressing a certain impersonal demeanor are particularly noxious, although perhaps quite common.   The article linked above outlines how psychoanalysis is supposed to simply make a person more aware of their hidden motivations, so as to have more control over their lives. The impressive aspect of the article was that it didn’t frame a person’s suffering in terms of individual moral culpability.

My resistance to psychoanalysis as a system has been on the basis that I must necessarily and rightfully defend myself against insinuations based on bourgeois concepts of moral culpability.   I don’t mean to imply that I’m a perfect little angel, in bourgeois terms.   I just want to get rid of the bourgeois framing of experience.   We are not guilty sinners, who suffer because of our mistakes or deficiencies.  This reductive way of viewing human nature does much harm.   Rather, we deal with issues the way we do, sometimes inadequately, because of emotional overload.

Sometimes the emotional overload is so strong that we demand others bear some of its weight.   That is known as ‘projective identification’.  One does not resort to this because one is immoral or lax, but more probably because one does not know how else to deal with the burning intensity of emotional pain apart from spreading it around.   By doing so, one survives, although if the emotions one has to spread are negative, this is highly costly to others.

We may often not come to  like people who project onto us, because they are giving us a burden not our own.   That tends to produce resentment and sometimes rage. If the project is negative, and not made up of overflowing joy, or if authority is not what’s being projected onto us, we may feel that we have no choice but to carry someone else’s pathology.  We might do this willingly or unwillingly, but it can be more difficult, when young, to develop the ego strength to resist powerful forms of projection.


I still have the notion that disaster can strike at any time, and it will be my fault.

I think I understand how that belief came about, but I would never have reached an understanding apart from  my belated awareness of some very specific historical circumstances.

My father’s rage was lit by his mother allowing her husband, his father, to be killed on a flying jaunt in World War 2.   Participating in the war was “the thing to do,” his mother had said.  It sounded frivolous.  He didn’t have to do it, but it was the flavor of the day.  My father said he didn’t “trust her judgement”.  Of course not — because a light tone ought not to be followed by a disaster.  The two aspects of the deadly outcome, the feeling before the world fell apart and the feeling afterwards, are incongruous.  There was much to distrust, including possibly, his mother’s judgement.

All the same, I know what she was feeling, because it was how I felt when harsh and critical judgement were projected onto me.  You see, my father didn’t ‘trust my judgement’ either, on the basis that I seemed like a person not to be trusted.   When I scan the past for anything I may have done to provoke such unwarranted criticism, I do not find it.  It is likely that my gender was the fundamental element that drew this fire.

My grandmother’s internal workings have become mine, to a certain extent, as a result of my father’s issues.  It is true to say that his relationship with her became his relationship with me.  I know how it feels to be blamed for something terrible that one can’t quite put one’s finger on.  I’ve had the responsibility to rectify historical wrongs, but without understanding their specifics.   I just felt guilty.  Also, it was very important for me that the world should know that I was deeply traumatized and not ‘hysterical’ — women of my grandmother’s era were often depicted as ‘hysterical’ and my father was inclined to handle his rage by displacing it — and condemning me.

The plane that went up and never came down was all my fault.   I didn’t realize the source of all the hostility and aggression, but had I understood it all much earlier, my ego would have still needed further years to develop to be able to take the strain of being targeted in this way.

Psychoanalysis may be a useful tool, then, if it helps people to understand the sources of their pains, but it surely takes a great deal more to overcome historically inflicted blows — and, if history is out of its picture to begin with, what then …?


3. The cure for a man who still believes in female hysteria is to wait until he has something very urgent he needs you to understand.

Then say: “I’m sorry. I’m not getting it. Would you try and say that again in a way I can understand? I encourage you to keep persisting, if you like. Or, by the same token, don’t persist. Either way, it’s all the same to me!”

My “flighty” but actually solid disposition

All good things approach their goal crookedly. Like cats, they arch their backs, they purr inwardly over their approaching happiness: all good things laugh.  –NIETZSCHE

I should confess: life is going pretty well for me now.

In the last year, I’ve removed from my existence those elements that didn’t belong there.   Perhaps life has become a little simple as a result?  I don’t know, for I can reach all sorts of depths of knowledge with very little effort.

I had absorbed too much that was alien to my nature. This was all part of my project toward “adaptation”, which was a goal that has defined my life for the past twenty years, although I have not consciously realized it until very recently.  It took letting go of that agenda to realize how much it had defined me.

The Buddhist principle that one is more likely to meet one’s goals when one isn’t aiming for them — that is, in an overwrought, over-conscious way — has much to recommend it.

You have to give up on what the apes think, too.

Nurturing that quality of indifference seems to go against the tenets of Western culture.  In fact, more so in my case, because I kept berating myself that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to what others thought.  I demanded of myself that if only I picked up this key to success, which I was reluctant to use, I would surely open all sorts of doors.  To this end, I tried very hard to develop my self-consciousness, so that I would become more aware of what others were thinking, and thus win.

Win what?

The problem was that the core of my identity is not in the advanced Capitalist mode.  That is to say, I have never been interested in gaining advantage for its own sake.   My own notion of success have entirely different parameters.   I had point related to morale to prove, and I was keen to prove it.   Once I latch onto an idea, or an agenda, I tend not to let it go.  I had come from far away in culture and in mannerisms and in action, and I had to land the plane.  I had to set the wheels on the runway, so I was no longer up in the air.

This proved impossible.  I am still flying.

Flying — though — is what a lot of people dream of doing.  I do it effortlessly, such that my weight hasn’t touched the ground:  I can’t seem to bring it to descend from here.  This is even to the extent that when people talk about their patterns of normality, which nowadays they’re keen to base on their biology, I can’t make any sense of this.

Why would someone relate to the world using their physiological drives as their basis for self-consciousness?    I cannot understand this. It’s not that I’m inhuman:  I know how to divert many of my drives along very interesting lines.  I can navigate the air with vast effectiveness.  I just can’t understand how being reduced to my being to flesh and blood alone would make things more — and not less — interesting.

In some ways my skepticism about biological determinism rests on the support buffer of personal experience.    Achievements that make me happy don’t involve a biological construction of my identity.  I’m not prone to maternal life in any way.

I don’t fight for my biological rights, because I can’t imagine what they are. The Men’s Rights lobbyists contend for their rights to be respected on the basis that they’re biologically different from women.  Radical feminists likewise demand that there is something weak, as well as moving, about being a lady.  (I don’t distinguish the radical feminist agenda from the of the Women’s Temperance Union in its goals.   A ‘sober and pure world’ would indeed be …’sober and pure’.  I can’t imagine why that would be  good.

So, you can see that I still can’t become grounded, due to my lack of understanding.  I’m surely doomed to be up in the air, and flighty.

I promise you, however, that I do stick to my principles, which are written neither on my sleeve nor in hypotheses about the body.    In all, I want what I want and “hypergamy” isn’t it.  Unless you are a psychoanalyst, in which case it IS it … in which case it ISN’T.  Then it IS.  And it ISN’T.  IS too.


Why pick a metaphor of a plane that does not land…that cannot land?  If only it landed, then all my family would be happy, and I would pay off my debt — the guilt that has been handed down to me across three generations.

But it does not land; it cannot land.

If only you just land that plane, just come down to Earth, everything will be okay.  But that’s exactly what it cannot do.  You don’t accept the trauma of the husband and the father lost at sea.  You think it can’t be real. The plane he was in is still flying somehow.  It is searching and looking for a place to land.   That’s all it has to do to turn portending disaster into acceptable reality.   It is still up there, many years after World War 2, and we are still waiting to hear that the occupants have been found safe and well.

But it doesn’t land and so the span of inter-generational trauma is extended.

This all sounds far-fetched, but we are all waiting for something, some notification that has arrived but hasn’t been accepted.

It is better not to arrive if one is to arrive dead.   Better to keep flying from one generation to the next.  Each generation holds a candle then, and waits for the notification which one day must arrive.  That is the feared day when the one who is beloved is pronounced dead — and everything shatters.

But it will not shatter if the plane doesn’t land  — and if we can keep everything up in the air, we will never hear bad news that shatters us.

So, keep everything uncertain and unclear and don’t speak about what you know.  We are all waiting.  Our prolonged wait is to avoid hearing what you have to say.   We’re tired of hearing it already, so hush up.

And so the ghost plane glides through misty air, as we throughout the generations keep it buoyant.

Origins of my character

I’m able to make sense of some of my character in relation to how actual events occurred.  For instance, I consider how I was my mother’s strong support system whilst my father was at war.  He was often away on call up from the time I was born.

So I learned to see the ability to have the correct emotional response to every situation as a matter of life and death.  I consider emotions very, very important — but also, and above all, the non-expression of emotions if someone looks like they are flaking out.  I can distance myself very, very quickly when that happens — and always do so.   I don’t experience my emotions, using that method — but, above all, this is an act of charity, trying to prevent another person from experiencing their negative emotions.

So, stoicism is very deep in me, and it is also deep in Mike, who must have learned the same technique when he was five and his father died, crossing a road.

We both consider emotional management very important because it limits the damage that we could have caused our parents if we had not had strict control over our emotions.

I’m suited for a crisis — as is Mike.   But I’m not suited for everyday situations.  If a child cries, and it is not a matter of life and death, that doesn’t interest me.  I’ll wait until it is one, or I’ll let someone else take care of it.  I don’t have a subtle variation of emotional nurturing patterns.   It’s kind of boring.  But life and death issues pull me in.

To understand this is important, because I know I just react to emotional input differently from people who were not brought up in similarly pressing circumstances.  I don’t diagnose myself as having a problem I ought to set out to fix.  Rather, I see myself as having the capacity to adapt to extreme circumstances, but not to those where subtle and measured responses are required.   I have a character, not a pathology.

And, I think that is useful to know.

What is the unconscious mind?

I much prefer the unconscious being the relational side of the brain, rather than it being seen as the repressed vestige of the mind’s suppressed aggression and rage.  It just makes more sense not to condemn and vilify emotional experiences as such.  It’s the condemnation of emotion, common in certain cultures, that produces the repressed unconscious.   In reality, though, we can’t have any relationships without emotion.  The emotion we experience in relation to the other is, actually, the relationship itself.  Apart from this, there is no relationship, although there can be a formal agreement in place.

All relationships must be regularly fine-tuned, if they are to be maintained, and this is done by the relational side of the brain. If we are unable to maintain relationships through this fine-tuning, we end up with repressed aggression and repressed rage.  These, however, do not constitute the authentic nature of the unconscious.

My memoir and the theory behind it

An interview with Allan Shore


His training as a psychoanalyst was critical in highlighting the importance of the relationship between the mother and the infant. But there was a struggle within psychoanalysis – in particular between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein – about how much was really a creation of the infants mind., a phantasy. Bowlby began to fervently argue and bring in data from other disciplines to show that the real relationship, that the real events, not only were there but they were indelibly and permanently shaped there in a way that would affect the way that the personality would develop over the lifespan.  [EMPHASIS MINE]

This is precisely what I was interested in studying when I wrote my memoir!


an ape in the hand could be detrimental….

Why Do Some People Castrate Their Existences? « Clarissa’s Blog

A castrated existence must be very common — hence the logic of psychoanalysis, which I have never been able to understand, as it seems not to apply to me. The assumption that no matter what somebody is saying, they are lying, would apply as a general principle if everyone castrated their existence.

What I really don’t get is why there is no therapy for those who choose not to castrate their existence. The decision to move in the opposite direction is not without its problems, pitfalls and potential for chaos. Now that I’ve just written that, I realize these are precisely what I wrote my thesis to investigate. There are huge problems with choosing absolute freedom. Alternatively, you could re-interpret absolute freedom to mean the freedom to fit in, to make a buck and to get along with everybody . In that case, you probably wouldn’t encounter so many problems.

Anyway, the refusal to change is weird to me and, since I am rambling over my morning coffee, I will go on to say there are a number of reasons why I feel this way.

One is that I’m of a cultural group of individuals who selected themselves as wanting to live on the boundaries, to explore the unknown and to take risks. Those were the kind of people of whom colonial society  was made up. Secondly, I had no option but to start again, existentially from scratch, when my family pulled up roots and I was 16. So, normality and stability — what are those? I can genuinely say I don’t know how to take my references from any idea of these. More conservative people think I’m trying to put it on when I remonstrate that I have no experience of ‘normal’, or they assume this is a sign of internal instability. Nothing could be more wrong.

To be afraid of life — yes, I can understand that. I’ve often been afraid of certain facets of it and was traumatised many a time by overestimating others, because I have had a tendency to project my own characteristics into those around me, leading me to vastly overestimate other people’s capacity for change.

Any overestimation of their abilities can cause some people to get upset and attack like you would not believe.  I guess some people feel uncomfortable to be held to standards they have not chosen.

Entering a new phase

I recently determined that I had been trying to fit the mold of a Western personality. This hasn’t been working out for me at all, because it requires me to over-think everything before I speak, and then I get tied up in knots trying not to offend someone in a way that would make me seem a political monster. It also fed my creativity, though, in that it seemed desirable to compensate by saying monstrous things. What I lost on one side of the equation, I could gain on the other side.

Right now, I’ve decided not to bother anymore. I have accepted that I am rather insensitive to a lot of things that Western people consider important. I’m also very much in tune with aspects of reality they are oblivious to. I’ve understood that there is nothing I can do to change this. My force of will over twenty years has done nothing to change my innate tendencies, particularly what I am sensitive or insensitive to.

I don’t like being made sensitive to those things Westerners are generally attuned to. I even start to feel queasy and uncomfortable after a while, and much more quickly when I am cajoling myself into making an effort.

So I accept that I am going to automatically come across as anti-social at times, but not as much so as if I am intentionally sparring with myself and trying to bring myself in line with cultural values I consider to be inherently arbitrary. In those cases, I rebel against my own self-policing and become even more unrefined.

I’m sticking to the path of least resistance. It’s kind of weird to enter that mode of relaxed indifference after all these years, instead of being on edge. I know that I will upset some people by being me, but since I am not trying to carve out a career for myself, in Western culture, the stakes are extremely low.

This more relaxed state does enable me to be much more efficient in what I ordinarily do. I can easily do my job without second-guessing myself, and I can engage with most people in that way without offending them. I used to doubt whether I had the right to speak authoritatively on any given topic, but suddenly this is gone.

I’m always going to be too African for my own good. People confuse me when they make assertions about the need for greater sensitivity. It even happened at the Reclaim the Night rally, where I gave a short speech on self defense. Afterwards a woman asked me to show her one of the techniques again, and she seemed really nervous. Then two guys also came up to us to talk about the technique and to explain it to her in finessed terms. I thought that was fine, but she later mentioned that this hadn’t been what she’d expected and she didn’t know how to tell them to go away. So I guess I wasn’t being territorial enough, which is something I’ve also decided to stop attempting, since I don’t find it very natural or harmonizing.

I guess there will always be problems with mis-communication in my sphere, but I think the best way to minimize those are to enjoy life is to accept that I will  end up doing things differently.

Blinded by the light

“We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead.”–Isaiah 59:10
“and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” Deuteronomy 28:29
“And the blindness of the blind one, and his seeking and groping, shall yet testify to the power of the sun into which he hath gazed,–did ye know that before?”–Nietzsche


Compare the quotes above Nietzsche gave a very non-Biblical (shamanistic) meaning to his aphorisms. He thought it was funny to take portentous Biblical words and change them into ideas that oppose Biblical trains of thought with more naturalistic ones. For instance, he thought that knowledge had to do with realizing just how necessarily and interminably irrational reality is.   The more one gazes into this fact, the more one loses one’s illusions about any overarching rationale for human existence.

In opposition to the Biblical views, which imply that blindness to the light is the result of not acquiescing to God’s will, Nietzsche maintains that blindness is the result of gazing too directly into reality — that is too much into “the light”.  One can see reality through the filtering device of metaphysics, as one employs a thin screen when gazing at a solar eclipse. However, this view of reality is not a direct view of it, because it is filtered by a fabric that changes what is really out there

Marechera must surely have read Nietzsche, as his parodic humor suggests that the blinding light of knowledge emerges out of the Devil’s ass, that is, from the capacity to confront danger/evil.

Bataille’s book, THEORY OF RELIGION

Bataille self-identifies as a proletarian, by contrast with Nietzsche’s aristocratic self-identification. For him, “religion” invokes a mantra of destruction. One destroys the surplus provided by the Capitalist system whenever one is not working to reproduce that system. This everyday destruction of the commodity (through use), and of oneself (through festivals, including drinking) is the enjoyment of God on the last day of the week, having invented everything. Nietzsche saw “God” in the human consciousness and its capacity to create. Bataille adds a Marxist twist and sees “God” in his capacity to DESTROY.

Much of Bataille’s writing urges us toward a retraining of the Superego for nonconformity in the face of servitude and slavery. Transgression is not for its own sake, nor to indulge whims and desire. It involves a reorientation towards the world on the basis of one’s individual strength to do that which was previously forbidden for one to do.

Destruction is transgressive and therefore freedom-inspiring. It is undertaken between the individual and himself (formerly his society’s mores, that have been introjected as Superego). There is much at stake here — much to lose. But every gain is an improvement in the range and power of one’s will. The territory that one ultimately conquers is one’s self. (That is a beginning.)

Nietzsche has a similarly defiant relationship to his Superego. Zarathustra desires to break the law tables of “the good and the just”. Such principled destruction also requires transgression of the Christian value judgements that had commanded European society. These values would probably have been internalised by his intended readers, meaning that, in a way, to destroy the value judgements of the “good and the just” meant destroying themselves, and recreating themselves anew:

It is not your sin-it is your self-satisfaction that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven!

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the frenzy with which ye should be inoculated?

Lo, I teach you the Superman: he is that lightning, he is that frenzy!-NIETZSCHE, ZARATHUSTRA

Whereas Nietzsche self-identifies as an aristocrat and wants to overcome his limitations, Bataille sets the stage for revolution.

Fairy floss

One of the more embarrassing aspects of my childhood: I didn’t want to be a princess, but I tried being a fairy, and I very much wanted to be an angel. The thing about being an angel is that you would become invulnerable and above all you would be able to fly. So, I made a card to God, and drew an angel on it, lest he be confused in any way about what I wanted to become. I wrote, “Dear God, please make me an angel before I wake up.” I put this rather badly drawn card at the end of my bed, above my feet, and went to sleep, in faith mode, that since I had decided to “act on faith” and be an angel, everything I asked would come to pass. To facilitate this transition from human to angel, I practiced flapping my arms really really hard, whilst jumping. I believed that by virtue of such flapping I had managed to stay in the air about a quarter of a second longer than if I had not flapped. Such empirical evidence gave me hope that my aspiration to become an angel was not unfounded.

When I woke up the next day, however, I had not been transported. Even the card was there as if God hadn’t even opened it and looked inside. I felt rather embarrassed that my gift, my petition, had been left unopened.

That was the morning of my first sneaking suspicion that God did not exist.

But it all had to do with trying to adopt one of the options available for femininity — which were all, in a way, a kind of death.

The courage to see what you see

My assessment of bourgeois society, after twenty years, is that it’s fundamentally passive.   You can see the ways in which it’s passive, and they’re numerous.

One is that people don’t address issues directly as social issues.  I’m sure I just read in Simone de Beauvoir’s Force of Circumstances, that when she was in a colony, people did not wait until blood was spilled to separate a fight. In France, she said, they would not have intervened.

So it is in bourgeois societies all over the place. I’ve just come from an amazing conversion on Facebook, where some insistent gentleman I’d never met before urged that women should not violently, and with lethal force, stop a rapist in his tracks, whilst he was raping them, but rather wait until he actually had succeeded.  Above all one should not kill a rapist.   One is obliged to restrain him.

This urge to passivity, to a wait-and-see mode, when we all know how it’s going to end up, is quintessentially bourgeois.  My statement, “If a man tries to rape you, kill him, did not express any ambiguity regarding a rapist’s intent.  The intent is already present in the words, “tries to rape you”.  If it’s just a misunderstanding, or if he isn’t trying to rape you, don’t kill him.

Exhorting someone to accept a sense of ambiguity, when there isn’t any, is a fundamental posture of those representing bourgeois mores.   Everything is always, necessarily, ambiguous, especially malicious intent, but not by virtue of the fact that the reality one encounters is ambiguous, or that any statements of fact have any inherent lack.    Rather, one reads ambiguity into situations that are anything but unclear.  One imposes one’s interpretation of lack of clarity on a situation because one is afraid to face what is obvious.

Facing facts has the drawback that one may then be compelled to act.   Acting is dangerous, because it immerses one in the mud and blood of the political world.   How much better, to remain clean!

The false assumption that passivity is goodness is really just a stance of plausible deniability.   I could go on and say it dangerously reinforces the rights of criminal to commit crimes, but who wants to go there? I plan to tread gently.

Bourgeois society!  Personally, I find it suffocating even when it’s not a jumble of evasiveness and incoherence.

If someone wants to make a clear statement into an incoherent one, I know that they have much to hide.  They may be afraid of themselves, simply because they haven’t tried and tested their own strength.  They may not understand ethics, or the imperative to be engaged in the real world.  Their fear of themselves may lead them to stand up for oppressors and violent individuals, for fear that changing the reality will make them feel uncomfortable.

An unambiguous depiction of the religious killing of a woman — But bourgeois  commentators want us to debate whether this reality poorly represents Islam.

An amusing jaunt

(Tongue in cheek:)  the first experience in the new tent — I tested it by sleeping in my back yard. Who would have known my back yard could have been so noisy?  One is sheltered from most of the noises that take place during the night by brick walls and glass windows.   Mike had warned me that it was pure madness to test my new equipment on a night when it was destined to rain heavily.  By virtue of his hefty warning, he put it into my head that I may go mad.  There is a thin line between insanity and normality.  I’ve always been intrigued as to where that is, and what exactly one must do to cross it.

That night was a test of my metal — if not my mettle.  I heard some funny noises.  The stirring wind that accompanied the heavy rain produced a lively clatter.  Planes passed over.  Loose debris in the neighbors’ yard seemed to ricochet from one position to the next.

I should mention that, whilst not exactly claustrophobic  I am acutely sensitive to the quality of air.  As a kid, there I had an outright hatred for large department stores, or Hypermarkets, due to the very bad quality of air below an adult’s leg span.  It’s likely that carbon dioxide and nitrogen sink, whereas oxygen rises.  In any case, I could never get enough of the good quality of air, and usually began to feel nauseous, ten minutes into the trip.  After that, I would feel deeply fatigued and refuse to go any further, much to the adults’ chagrin and assertions that I was just whining.   So, pulling the lid of the small tent (called a ‘swag’) over my head, whilst sleeping, was never going to be a good idea.  It wasn’t inevitably a bad one, either.  But fraught with uncertainty, it surely was.  Uncertainty is just subjective.  It doesn’t matter.   One gets over a fright, because it happens only in one’s mind.

There was the time I shut the bedroom door to sleep — and window, too. That was because we had a guest to stay, and the wind had rattled the blinds.  I woke up suddenly, with a screech.  I feared that square  white objects were falling off the wall behind me. I had to leap out the way, lest they land on my head.  Another time the window was almost shut and the air wasn’t circulating.  I screamed because someone seemed to be coming in the window.  Apparently my shriek was so piercing, I totally shattered Mike’s peace of mind. My heart was racing and I thought, when he grabbed me to reassure me, that I had stood up and he had led me back to bed.  I had not been standing up, in truth, for it would have taken him longer to lead me back to bed had that been so.  In fact, a lack of oxygen to my brain had led to another hallucination.

There were two more of this sort — and always with the common cause of air circulation being cut off.  In one case, there was a man standing over my head, wearing cowboy attire. In the other case, Mike and I were sharing a swag and had pulled over the lid to stop the rain from getting in. Whilst asleep I had imagined a large ant, waving its feelers at me.  I screamed and smashed the ant as hard as I could.  My finger remained jarred for several months after that:  I had lashed out at it pretty hard.

The night of the event where I became a kangaroo, due to my haunted swag, was that night when I did my testing.  This was in our own back yard.  This was the night a Melbourne woman was being murdered.  But that is irrelevant either way.  I’d shut the lid, due to the rain, then tossed and turned. The air quality was not good.  A small backyard, bounded by fences, does not allow the air to circulate.  A lid above my head does not improve this. I am in my coffin. I am dying of poor air quality.  I have to prove my metal and my mettle, otherwise I won’t be born again.

I stayed in the back yard with all the mysterious items racketing around.  I endured it for several hours, but my sleep was light, or not at all.  Suddenly, neither awake nor fully asleep, I had the feeling I should make a dash for it.  I could get back into the warmth of the house and cross from death to life.  I had to find my confidence, because once I reversed the process of dying and started living, I might find anything at all.  The first step was to open the lid and peer out at the sky.  But the sky was terrifying. I felt a predatory animal, no doubt a pterodactyl lurking just above my head, ready to swoop and take me as its prey the minute I revealed myself.  If I unzipped myself, I could die.

An image carried me forth, however. It was a mental image; a hallucination. I saw myself bounding to the back door and entering it.  I became a wild kangaroo, and my legs were carrying me, driven by pure animal terror, in through the back door.

But I was human — and so, limited.  As a kangaroo, I could enter the back door, but my human skills slowed me down.  What if the zipper did not unzip?  As a kangaroo, did I have the right to expect it would? Also, I would be using a human hand to turn the back doorknob.  What if the door knob did not respond to a human hand, because I had forever been condemned not to be human?

There was a huge risk in testing whether I was still human or not.  I decided to make a run for it.  I unzipped quickly, and like the kangaroo in my dream, bolted for the door.  In a weird way, two miraculous things happened.  One:  the zip that bound my lid unzipped in normal human fashion. Two:  the door knob turned and let me in.

I had escaped the radiant of evil.

It was unbelievable to be human again. I moved up near to Mike and reveled in the sheer humanity of it all.  Being human meant comfort, and protection, and solidarity, in a way I hadn’t recently understood.  I lay there basking in the warmth and wonderfulness of humanity.

This had not been my only experience of the kangaroo spirit that embodies my swag.  It may not be my last.  I had another, similar experience, on the recent trip. I’d put the lid down to protect myself from pollen, and was going asleep, when suddenly a kangaroo was standing above me.  I saw it in three flashes, the same outline of a kangaroo — and screamed.  Only, the scream may have been silent this time, even though my heart rate was high when I woke myself up.  Of course one does not see a kangaroo through an enclosing cover.

The body has an amazing way of alerting you when the quality for living isn’t all that good.  Supposing I had really been in danger of falling into death, due to a lack of air supply, my body would be doing an amazing job. I don’t condemn it for being alert.

At the same time, it is weird that I see kangaroos in every instance when I’m dying. Mike says he also thought a kangaroo was sniffing around us on that night.

Imagination and reality; these sometimes curiously combine.

Shamanism and identity

The old and new traditions of shamanism are linked by their idea of the psyche as being made of disparate elements that require integration if one is to function as a human being, without an integral loss of being or distortion of it.   Nietzsche depicts Zarathustra as being concerned with the selfsame issues:

When Zarathustra went one day over the great bridge, then did the cripples and beggars surround him, and a hunchback spake thus unto him:

“Behold, Zarathustra! Even the people learn from thee, and acquire faith in thy teaching: but for them to believe fully in thee, one thing is still needful–thou must first of all convince us cripples! Here hast thou now a fine selection, and verily, an opportunity with more than one forelock! The blind canst thou heal, and make the lame run; and from him who hath too much behind, couldst thou well, also, take away a little;–that, I think, would be the right method to make the cripples believe in Zarathustra!”

Zarathustra, however, answered thus unto him who so spake: When one taketh his hump from the hunchback, then doth one take from him his spirit–so do the people teach. And when one giveth the blind man eyes, then doth he see too many bad things on the earth: so that he curseth him who healed him. He, however, who maketh the lame man run, inflicteth upon him the greatest injury; for hardly can he run, when his vices run away with him–so do the people teach concerning cripples. And why should not Zarathustra also learn from the people, when the people learn from Zarathustra?

It is, however, the smallest thing unto me since I have been amongst men, to see one person lacking an eye, another an ear, and a third a leg, and that others have lost the tongue, or the nose, or the head.

I see and have seen worse things, and divers things so hideous, that I should neither like to speak of all matters, nor even keep silent about some of them: namely, men who lack everything, except that they have too much of one thing–men who are nothing more than a big eye, or a big mouth, or a big belly, or something else big,–reversed cripples, I call such men.

And when I came out of my solitude, and for the first time passed over this bridge, then I could not trust mine eyes, but looked again and again, and said at last: “That is an ear! An ear as big as a man!” I looked still more attentively–and actually there did move under the ear something that was pitiably small and poor and slim. And in truth this immense ear was perched on a small thin stalk–the stalk, however, was a man! A person putting a glass to his eyes, could even recognise further a small envious countenance, and also that a bloated soullet dangled at the stalk. The people told me, however, that the big ear was not only a man, but a great man, a genius. But I never believed in the people when they spake of great men–and I hold to my belief that it was a reversed cripple, who had too little of everything, and too much of one thing.

When Zarathustra had spoken thus unto the hunchback, and unto those of whom the hunchback was the mouthpiece and advocate, then did he turn to his disciples in profound dejection, and said:

Verily, my friends, I walk amongst men as amongst the fragments and limbs of human beings!
This is the terrible thing to mine eye, that I find man broken up, and scattered about, as on a battle- and butcher-ground.

And when mine eye fleeth from the present to the bygone, it findeth ever the same: fragments and limbs and fearful chances–but no men!  [emphasis mine]

Attaining wholeness — this was the project that Bataille read into Nietzsche in his introduction to his book, On Nietzsche.   Bataille thought the majority of his time was prevented from being whole due to the enslaving nature of work.  In other words, history has a structure that creates deformities in its subjects. One need not take up Bataille’s Marxist view explicitly to understand that history — and our responses to it — lead to the fracturing of identity.

Identity is, after all, not a tangible possession, but is an emotional relationship to one’s inwardness.   One is whole so long as one’s inwardness is integral, But force of circumstance may cause one to lose that relationship with one’s integral self.  In that case, one loses wholeness and becomes deficient as a human being.

The resulting deficiency is not precisely personal, but can be viewed in terms of one’s relationship to one’s environment, which will differ from individual to individual, whilst often also having some aspects that are held in common (depending on the nature of the historical dynamite that would be capable of separating limb from limb).

It’s easiest to give an example on the basis of one’s own experiences, since one can claim to know oneself the best.   In my case, I experienced a degree of emotional numbing after emigrated from Africa to Australia in 1984.   In shamanistic terms, this meant my inner sense of identity had become scattered and was less than integral.   Emotional scattering is also cognitive scattering, as Antonio Damasio suggests. It can lead to being unable to make the best decisions.  Due to my having become scattered, I became susceptible to many viruses, as well as to others’ misinterpretations of my identity.   I needed to restore the parts of myself that had become historically scattered, in order to restore my sense of wholeness.

My idea is that the fundamental goal of shamanisms, past and present, is to restore the individual’s human wholeness, by recovering the parts of the self that has been lost due to historical change.

Since shamanism deals with history and with political forces, it differs from psychoanalysis, which restricts itself to pathologies arising from family structures.

Intellectual shamanism today is concerned with strategies to restore an individual’s wholeness, through emotional integration of parts that were at times lost, due to the suddenness or violence of historical shifts.

After the Chimurenga

 | Clarissa’s Blog

People have tried to change me ever since the end of the Second Chimurenga, in 1980.  Both political leftists and political rightists have tried it for reasons best known to them.

This eventually caused me layer upon layer of traumatisation.

Once you get pulled into the power of evil people, the effect of their force field is hard to resist.  Other people won’t let you get away. I’ve even had people imply that because I was in such a hard place that I tried to accommodate all the demands for change, this meant I had an unstable sense of self.  If you try to give people what they’re forcing you to give, it means you had something wrong with you from the start.  The ideology of dominance and submission typically reverses cause and effect.   “If you comply with me, I will prove you are evil!” is the ideology of evil and self-hating people.

The good news is, I’ve finally found a way through — by giving up.

You know, if an assailant has you in a bear hug, you can find that difficult to resist, but if he grabs you when you have a lot of air in your chest, you can suddenly let all the air out and make your body go limp. You can then drop to the ground and escape.

This is what I’ve finally managed to do on a psychological level, because I had learned over the years that the more I resisted, the worse it would become for me.

Restoring lost things

People have said to me in not precisely these words, “How dare you go on about the same thing, this African thing?  Why not give it up?”

The answer has always been: “No! Impossible.  One cannot mingle mechanically in the realm of things and systems when there are those lost items missing.”

Now I understand — although I didn’t then — why I was hell-bent on recovering lost facets of reality; how this task preoccupied my every waking moment.   To recover lost possibilities — that was the meaning of my memoir and forms its basic structure.   These experiences were primarily those of my father, who had lost everything.

My allotted task, whether I denied it or not, was to be a better mother to my father than his mother had been.

That is why I had to find these missing items, which were facets of experience.   Once I found them, I would not only understand my task better, but I would be more effectively equipped for the main task.

The attempt to understand unconscious processes through writing led to the absurd result that I ended up writing a memoir that wasn’t really about me, but about “my task”, and if asked, even up to a couple of years ago I couldn’t define it.

“Restore what was lost.”  That is what my father had communicated to me via his subliminal language.

Something was very much lost and I had to find it.   Finding it would make things good again.  Find the lost elements; the lost facets.  Then you can restore everything.

My father’s lost childhood, then his lost brother, then his lost war, then his lost home from the backdrop to my writing.   Everything lost.

When I finished writing the book, I felt that I had begun the restoration process, which was far from finished. I had at least established, “things were lost”.  But then people confused me.  They said the book was about me, when I didn’t see so much of myself in the book, but rather my overwhelming project, the project that preoccupied me night and day, and made me feel on the verge of failure. I was getting older and still hadn’t found “it” yet.  That made everything seem more urgent.   Every email sent to me might have contained a clue.

I realize now, the sense of urgency I had come from the role of mother I’d been allotted.  The mother saves.  Only she didn’t.  She deposited her child in boarding school and left him at the mercy of his cold, adoptive father.  So, now I was given the task to save my father, part of whom had been left in boarding school, and part back in Rhodesia.   Yet, my father made me mad, very mad, and angry.

He was an unpleasant fellow to be around, viewing me very hazily as if I had been some ephemeral ghost, whilst making gender-stereotyping pronouncements.  He had a short fuse, and responding in unconventional ways to anything would be enough to set him off.

He liked to see everything about the world only in one way.   In this perspective, there were no problems or difficulties.   If you brought a difficulty to his attention, it was because you were being an undependable child, showing a lack of faith and trust in something higher than you were.   You were trying to tear down the social system with your little issue.   I deserved the severest censure, and no reprimand could be harsh enough.

My father also demanded that despite being worthless and a failure, it was still my job to save him.   I had to save him from his worthlessness and sense of failure, which was actually an emotional state.

My thesis was, in a way, trying to save him; my memoir, definitely so.

But then people said I was writing it about myself, and that confused me, since I couldn’t see where I appeared in this.

Ambient light: questioning the roots of psychoanalysis

I’m very interested in psychoanalysis as a cultural practice, which is to say, I have no doubt that in theory and under the right circumstances, psychoanalysis could be very effective. As you know, though, my background is in cultural studies, so I study everything in terms of main cultural understandings and mores.

From this perspective of about psychoanalysis as a cultural practice, I see that  inner psychology, what Freud calls the “psychical” dimension, is considered to be a fundamental force about mental health. As I have noticed, this clinical expectation about determination by “psychical” forces fits very well with a view that society is already organized just as it should be; that there are no systematic or indeed more localized injustices. Rather, the client is how they are because of events that happened a long time ago, before anything occurred in the present that could have upset them.

One can see the problem with this way of structuring reality right away, since it can be used to excuse any form of abuse that may happen in the present by making it seem to exist entirely in the client’s head, or to have happened a long time ago in a merely symbolic or unsubstantial way, such as when a child perceived something about its parents that necessarily turns out to be untrue, since a child’s perspectives are distorted.

So, my question is to what degree does psychoanalysis as a cultural practice allow that there can be significant problems in the here-and-now, that would be traumatic to an individual on their own terms? Is it possible that nearly all humans, no matter what their childhoods had been like, would find some things like bullying or inexplicable aggression to be deeply disturbing, especially if they persist for very long?

My view is that it’s all too easy to say, “Oh, well, that girl committed suicide because there was a seed of suicidal tendency already in her!” One could use the same form of reasoning for rape. “Oh well, that women was raped because she developed masochistic tendencies as a child. She had it coming, but we’ve only just found out that she was defective, thanks to an enlightened rapist.” This attribution of problems in later life to an earlier stage in childhood development has the same quality of attribution of original sin to humanity — a theological trope. Of course, if one is “born in sin”, one is likely to attract all sorts of negative consequences from those around one, who pick up on one’s innate defectiveness.

Therefore, let me ask:  to what degree is there actual reality that somehow stands apart from attributions of inner, psychical states, to the degree that we can take present day reality seriously?



*A teenage girl commits suicide, because she feels bullied*

I am interested in psychoanalysis in terms of its cultural context, so that means that it does have some relationship or connectivity to the society.

It may be that it also aims to ease the pain of the person, but it does so in a social context, where social assumptions abound, and in which theological assumptions may already be embedded.

On the point of victim-hood, I think the notion that there are in fact “perennial victims” is a cultural one. It has the force of right-wing rhetoric, and I don’t buy it. I severely doubt there are perennial victims, who would remain victims no matter where they went, or what their circumstances were.

Also, I asked you to what degree a person has their innate defectiveness AKA “psychical” issues to blame for their demise and to what degree a problem may be actually “out there”, in reality, as it were.

Your [interlocutor’s] answer was to create a dichotomy, where one either was a completely helpless victim or one believed only in psychical forces and put all the emphasis (and perhaps blame) on them.

I don’t agree that this is a useful dichotomy. I think it is a very interesting question to decide where psychical forces and social forces meet, and which ones are more determinant for mental health outcomes. Even the way I have formulated the problem here is vastly oversimplified, since psychical forces and social forces are not isolated entities, but synergistic.


Psychoanalysis is a cultural product in my view. Culture is more like the water we move through than like sitting in a dentist’s chair after you’ve already been told what the dentist is about to do. Culture is far more unknown, far less controllable. In a sense, it forms part of our unconscious states of being. One might well do a meta-analysis on psychoanalysis, which is what I have done.

As for why a teenager commits suicide, I can only guess, but I have already suggested a view that takes into account the degree to which theology is deeply embedded in society. She may have felt like male gods were toying with her, gods of immense power in relation to her small femininity.  This is a Judeo-Christian formulation, so if she had been exposed to such a culture, or was swimming in it, Amanda Todd may have felt this way because she was aware of her cultural environment.

If one wonders why someone may commit suicide when the waters one is swimming in become worse due to bullying, one might also question the purpose of having any human relationships at all. Humans are just emotional creatures who shouldn’t be allowed to affect us. We should ignore them. Ignore the emotion. Don’t have any. This makes as much sense as committing suicide more slowly. On the other hand, you could reason that social relationships do matter, and that for cultural and emotional reasons, some events may be more triggering for some people than for others.

That seems to me a more logical view than trying to make out that psychoanalysis has nothing to do with cultural experiences, because it is hard and unemotional like a dentist.

4. I could give a better account from my own experiences…

I was brought up in a patriarchal culture and had internalized some patriarchal values, which facilitated patriarchal men to project their worse qualities onto me. I have written about this extensively on my blogs.

I eventually was able to pinpoint the nature of the projections from my father, which had kept me struggling in a state of being divided against myself for so long. I was using every amount of my psychic force to fight against this internalization of patriarchy.

Then I visited a therapist whose response effectively conveyed to me, “No, no, your father’s projections onto you are actually correct estimations.”

To me, that was like a knock out punch. I have recovered gradually, but this takes time.

There are some things that devastate us because the attack is so unexpected, from a direction we had hoped might be friendly, and because they reinforce another’s determination to keep projecting, in a pathological way, onto us.

When a war is going on inside one’s head, a war that came about through a culture, and continues via cultural ideas and means, one needs help to push against what is pathological. One doesn’t need to be pushed over and forced to accept another’s pathological states.

Otherwise, one loses one’s energy and one may die a little, inwardly.


What I concluded from my experience is that therapy is a very fraught and dangerous enterprise, which is best avoided. Moral support is much superior to therapy, if that can be obtained, because one is then encouraged to push against what is pathological and one’s healthy tendencies are reinforced.

Even better than moral support would have been the practical support and cultural logic of my original society. Since my father’s madness originated in that other culture and society, under a specific set of historical and cultural circumstances, there would have been people who could have read his behavior better. My original culture also had a counterbalancing matriarchal side to the warlike and crazy masculine side of the culture. The older women in the society kept the men in check when they were acting up, and the men accepted this and perhaps felt reassured by it.

I am fully aware that my father’s madness could have been kept in check early on by some firm words from a stern matriarch.

But no. He had to go on acting out, and everybody had to go into an extremely passive mode around me, as if we were dealing with something branded into ‘human nature’, that could never be changed so there was no point trying.

So I have genuine, not merely ideological or (god forbid) “psychical” reasons for feeling resentful of Judeo-Christian culture.

The implicit injunction to ‘sort oneself out’, when something could have been done more simply, logically and practically at a community level (that certainly would have been done had my whole society not fallen apart) gets my goat.

Bullying, narratives and ideology

I’ve just read an article on Huffington Post regarding thick and thin skins. The writer was, perhaps inevitably, of a religious persuasion. He counseled prayer and dependency on “God” as a solution to stressors.

I’m inclined to think that those who differentiate between having thick or thin skins oversimplify a great deal.

For instance, there are people who do not know their own stories, and who thereby become “thin-skinned”. Their histories have been erased and they are desperate to learn their story from anyone who will give them a hint.

A fifteen-year-old Canadian girl recently committed suicide after being bullied at school and online. It seems her story was hijacked to make her look like something she was not. Since the story of the bullies became psychologically bigger than her original internal narrative, she committed suicide. She had learned from her bullies that she was a bad person. Her understanding of what sort of person she actually was had not developed sufficiently for her narrative to be the dominant one.

Being thin-skinned is a necessary part of the process we all experience in order to learn about ourselves from others. Those who are capable of the greatest learning might be the thinnest skinned of all. If their educators are ethical, educated and wise, these people can learn magnificently. If not, they will be cast onto their own resources, which may be few. They may be overwhelmed by the narratives of others, which may be false or misleading.

Being able to know how much of what others say ought to be taken to heart depends on already having a good level of knowledge about oneself. One is not born with that knowledge, and many of us are still growing and learning. We are, at least, not stagnant.

The Marecheran genre and the importance of history

Imagine if you had begun your life in a country which began a civil war when you were in primary school. You were exceptionally smart, but “civilization” was identified as the capacity to speak English and act in a British way, whereas liberation was identified as the ability to renounce British values, including the English language? Imagine your parents were on the side of the “liberation”, but to be on that side meant you couldn’t liberate yourself personally from a state of extreme poverty and repression, since the only means to do so was by getting an education in a missionary school? The psychological conflict this would produce would be tremendous. It would probably tear your mind apart.

And then, someone comes along and presumes to analyse your psychological torment in relation to your comments about how your mother had become a prostitute to support the family. “What a terrible thing to say about one’s mother!”

Well, this is to suppose that the writer was just alleging prostitution and that his mother hadn’t actually needed to make money in this way. Why doubt the writer? It must be important to make it seem like all of his psychological torment was a result of having “mummy issues”, but why does a critic need to see it that way?

Psychoanalytical theories and perhaps especially academic versions of those, do not take into account political and social issues. They make those who have used every amount of ingenuity to survive tremendous waves of upheaval seem like blathering idiots who brought their problems on themselves. The same applies to my memoir, which is in the Marechean genre. One cannot separate the individual from the historical and social context of the times without losing meaning.

This is partly a response to the following post, which I endorse:



As I come to the end of the era and one particular writing project, I have achieved so much psychological distance that I’m genuinely surprised to read some of the material I had, myself, written. Whereas I can rate the writing in terms of abstract, formal, criteria, I’ve lost the sense of the original drive that pushed me into a flurry of investigation — first emotional, and then intellectual.

I’m genuinely satisfied with my life, although as Camus notes in The Rebel, sometimes this can be a negative factor, as in the sense that I’m not driven, at the moment, to prove anything in particular, or to discover something that has eluded me.

I’m also a little resigned. I have limitations, I’ve concluded. One is that my health is always delicately balanced. Who knows? Maybe I frolicked in DDT as a child.  It was widely used in Africa back then. I’m like others who have had underlying difficulties — Bruce Lee took up martial arts to overcome childhood frailty, and Cecil Rhodes gapped it to Africa, to escape the British climate that exacerbated his tuberculosis. Similarly, I impose a regimen involving lots of exercise and being careful to attend to the subtle messages of my body as regards shifts in need for diet, rest and fresh air. Ignoring these issues for a few days, I tend to succumb to my intolerance for certain foods and allergies, which lead to a depressed immune system. For me, vigorous exercise is an absolute antidote — and it has been for the past twenty years.

What I need now, having attained this precipice of maturity, is another project. I do have a couple going on: one has sorted out my ideas as regards my thesis, so that I can put forward the issues in an increasingly simplified way. I’ve also been working on my father’s memoir. His reflections debunk much of the mythology circulating about the colonial settlers in Africa — that we all had wonderfully privileged lives. My father’s life was one of emotional and material deprivation — especially during the childhood years.

The incongruity of how things actually were, as opposed to how they have been seen to be on a mass level contributes much to my exasperation in looking back. This fact doesn’t reduce my sense of success in having tackled difficult issues to understand them to my satisfaction. That was entirely worthy and necessary, and I would do it again, under force of necessity and compulsion and at once.

It would have been useful if I had trusted my own instincts instead of leaving so much to fester as an “intellectual question”.

For instance, if someone seems not to understand you,  despite their belonging to what you’d taken to be a more advanced culture than your own — they probably don’t. It’s not an intellectual puzzle, in that instance — it’s a different culture. Secondly, I should never have given credence to anyone who plays with the fire of identity politics. It’s a political propensity all dressed up neat and tidy and seems to make a genuine appeal to goodness, but its goal is not political equality. It seeks revenge.

Had I found a way around my notion that my original state of mind was not sophisticated, and had I managed to see through the nature of revenge politics in time, I would not be feeling so depleted.

I’ve picked myself up and I have moved on. The sea is altogether motionless now.

In time, I plan to catch another wave.

Limits to an individualistic therapy

When I first read Erich Fromm‘s ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM, I was enlightened as to some of the psychological dynamics that make less than free, should we succumb to them.  Fromm charts an historical movement from the European  medieval social context in which everyone knew his or her place, to 20th Century Modernity, where protestant Christianity had provided the ideological backing for the development of the private individual.

Fromm’s strongsuit is his understanding of European culture and history and how its changes cause the development of different sorts of psychological states.  Yet, he neglects to suggest any social solution to the alienated psychological states of consciousness he analyses.  Indeed, he says one cannot expect to return to an earlier state of communal consciousness, since centuries of historical development have taken us beyond this level of communal connectivity. My experience has been otherwise.  Upon my return to my birthplace in Africa,  I felt a very strange, invisible hand of coordination, where everybody was somehow operating in unison and surviving against the odds, with an incredible amount of grace and rhythm.

Despite the fact that Fromm’s views are Eurocentric, the overall moral critique is sound.  It is expressed in the form that we ought to transcend any desires to form symbiotic relationships, especially those based on power, since we fail to stand independently to the degree that we adopt this solution to our alienation.

Fromm states that sado-masochistic relationships are best avoided.  At the same time, he underestimates the role of knowledge and of the need to create meanings that are held in common. As humans, we are mimickers and learners from an early childhood upwards.  We may seek relationships with power in order to better know something.  Fromm does differentiate between unhealthy forms of authority and healthy ones.  He says that be equalized once knowledge is shared.  This makes logical sense.  However, Fromm’s emphasis on a moral solution to the problem of human hierarchies is not persuasive.

Knowledge and morality entail two separate modes of evaluation and tend to part ways.  Their relationship with each other is complicated and extremely fraught.  To know something, it is not enough to learn from a teacher, to accept his authority and wait for the appropriate time to grow into one’s own authority.  One must first know that the teacher is worthy.  How does one implicitly know that? An individual can submit on the basis of faith in one’s community or faith in one’s parents and their values, but this provides no verification that one’s trust in the knowledge that the teacher has to impart will be vindicated.

One can enter the relationship of learning with the teacher and still not gain the kind of knowledge that would serve one best.  The capacity to stand alone also has no meaning as a purely moral stance.  When one seeks after knowledge, one enters a realm of moral ambiguity in relation to oneself and others.  How could it be otherwise? One has to learn whether the knowledge one has is worth having.  To be able to draw conclusions as to the value of something, one must first enter a phase of moral doubt.  This state of readiness to learn implies tolerance of moral ambiguity. One gives one’s conditional trust to another, in order to create situations that light up with meaning.  That is the role of the student.  To seek after knowledge in the realm of moral ambiguity and with an understanding that this involves great risk is the only available means to obtain individualistic knowledge.

Fromm offers no solution, apart from a moral one, as to how to obtain individual self-assurance.  Nietzsche and Bataille do suggest the means.  Through giving up one’s moral certainties and by trial-and-error, one can finally attain the ability to stand alone without relying on others.  Nietzsche and Bataille, thus, provide the method by which one can finally be truly moral in Fromm’s psychological sense.  Fromm, however, makes no mention of toleration for ambiguity — or, the void of meaning that we have to enter before our knowledge of the world becomes individualized.  Instead, we are cajoled into simply standing independently.

Freud and Failure

Why say that psychoanalysis has elements of Judeo-Christian metaphysics in it that are logically consistent with a witchcraft continuum?

For a start, when one looks at the structure of psychoanalysis, along with one of Freud’s significant cases, one sees that how guilt is always at the source of any psychological tension, not in the sense of the patient having committed a crime in real, tangible reality, but rather that lying and self-deception is considered to make up the fundamental part his/her being.   In this sense, the patient is always the criminal, Oedipus, having killed his father and had sexual intercourse with his mother, and consequently blinded himself.   That this crime is held to be true on a metaphysical level, rather than a real one, doesn’t mitigate the logic that one must seek the cause of one’s problems in one’s own actions. The patient is always the quintessentially guilty party.   Outsiders may be relatively innocent, unless they turn the torchlight on themselves and thus reveal their similar, primeval guilt.

Let us now consider the case of Dora, one of Freud’s significant cases and noted therapeutic failure.   Dora’s parents were wealthy Austrians.   My understanding is that her father was having an affair with another woman and in order to keep quiet someone who had noticed this, he was attempting to palm his daughter off onto that guy for her to have a sexual relationship with him.   Here’s the story from the point of view of a Freud researcher:

In 1898, when she was fifteen, Dora was brought to Freud by her father. Alongside her physical symptoms and general sullenness, she had developed, according to her father, an irrational belief that his close friend Herr K. had made sexual advances toward her. Freud’s initial response to Dora was not at all what her father expected: Freud concluded that her account of Herr K.’s behavior was accurate, and he agreed with her that her father had in effect handed her over to Herr K. as the price for his own affair with Herr K.’s wife. Freud’s response to Dora also seems to surprise Masson, who, in The Assault on Truth, alleged that, having abandoned the seduction theory, Freud routinely attributed his patients’ stories to fantasy, thereby excusing the abusive actions of adults. In this instance, however, Freud initially took the side of reality against fantasy, and of the child against the parent.

But, Masson complains, Freud’s loyalty to Dora was short-lived, his original alliance with her soon giving way to opposition. Instead of accepting that she simply found Herr K.’s attentions unwelcome and was understandably angered by her father’s self-interested betrayal, Freud insisted that Dora’s hostility to Herr K. was unreasonable and her anger against her father excessive. Indeed, Freud regarded both her intense aversion and her anger as manifestations of her hysteria. After all, Freud reasoned, Herr K. was a prepossessing man still in his thirties: Dora should have been aroused, not disgusted, when he embraced and kissed her (at age fourteen), just as she should have been flattered by his serious romantic interest in her. Freud even suggested that the whole matter could have been satisfactorily resolved had Dora married Herr K., which would of course have freed Frau K. to marry Dora’s father.

[Paul Robinson Freud and his Critics  UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS Berkeley · Los Angeles · London © 1993 The Regents of the University of California]

According to Freud, there is nothing wrong with being sold into patriarchal sex-slavery, whereby one’s own views, timing and intentions are overruled by one’s father.  Rather, one should welcome it whenever it happens instead of being “hysterical”.  Here is more from Robinson, who writes sympathetically on behalf of Freud:

Freud suggests, in particular, that Dora was unconsciously in love with Herr K. and very much desired a romantic relationship with him. Her unconscious attraction explains why she reacted so violently both to Herr K.’s sexual advances and to her father’s contention that she had merely fantasized them. There was in fact an element of fantasy involved in her situation: the advances were real enough, but they were not entirely unwelcome. Dora’s extreme disgust disguised feelings of self-reproach. She had, in effect, gotten what she could not admit she wanted.

Dora had desired to be metaphysically raped by both her father and Herr K (and subsequently by Freud).  Of course this is not a physical rape of the mind, but a psychological one.   When a witch says, “I wasn’t cavorting with Satan and I strenuously protest the assertion that I ever wanted a dalliance with the Dark Lord,” she is in fact admitting her guilt.   She wouldn’t be over-reacting to an honest question by a respectable Christian gentleman concerning her alleged fantasies unless she knew that the assertions made by the Inquisitor were — quote — “really true”.  Or does that even make any sense?  She no doubt felt guilty about not following the patriarchal mores of her culture.  Freud would have known that that is the nature of Superego — to induce social conformity and makes us feel badly when we breach it.  But, defying social convention is not the same as lying to oneself.   Dora defied her father because she was true to herself and she nevertheless felt guilty because by being true to herself, she was going against social convention.   In other words, as hard as is for the patriarchal mind to imagine, Dora and her father were two different people.  What’s more, Dora had a different idea about social conventions than her father did, even though the weight of public opinion was in line with “father knows best”.

Freud is of course no inquisitor of the middle ages as he never professed to read minds nor take the side of rape apologists. If that were so, it would be enough to tip us all over the edge of hysteria*. [joke]


*It should be noted that I do believe in an unconscious mind.

The fact that many people will not perceive the deep nature of patriarchal hostility toward women, but opt for the easier path of attributing hysteria to those who point it out, is a function of their unconscious minds’ displacement and projection.  

Don’t trust the mob

A Small Observation « Clarissa’s Blog
I had the opposite experience to Clarissa and I am also not a narcissist. I tried to get explanations for a number of unfortunate circumstances in my life, and people said, “It’s down to you as an individual. There is something wrong with you. You’re not trying hard enough to succeed.” So, I tried even harder. I became hyper-conscious of every word I said and every action I did, and whether it was a prelude to failure or not. My self-consciousness and capacity to analyze myself became extreme. I gave supreme credence to the views of those around me, who perhaps saw something in me that I hadn’t seen. Nothing changed, except that actions that should have been natural and intuitive on my part became orchestrated and deliberate. This was exhausting. I became extremely fatigued, but still the implications were that I was unintelligent and not trying hard enough. I couldn’t figure it out at all.

As I pursued my PhD and gradually became more educated, bit by bit I realized that other people didn’t really know what they were talking about with regard to their “expertise” on my life. There was a turning point — around 2009 — when I realized the “impartial” observer was not necessarily more intelligent than I, either.

In the past few years I’ve been consolidating the knowledge that most of what people assumed to be true about me was based on their own cultural experiences along with their own self-serving psychological projections. This new understanding leads me to consider that I don’t need to get myself all worked up in order to succeed. I’m already highly motivated enough, without adding fuel to my fires. To the contrary, I need to learn to pull back and relax and accept things as they are. Above all I need to stop taking direction or advice from narcissists.


When it comes to trying to figure ourselves out, we often don’t find the answers in any place resembling common sense, especially not in the common sense of the masses. They’re the ones most likely to reinforce a false perception of reality that keeps you operating in the same old ways. I couldn’t work out what daunted me until I realized I was projecting the better part of myself into others. So, when they came up with random pronouncements or critiques, these seemed to be imbued with the authority of someone who really took intellectual ideas seriously, who was very concerned with accuracy and rigor and who had deeply humanitarian impulses…. And yet, if these were the attitudes behind some of the comments, why would those comments have been made at all?

This incongruity between expectation and actuality used to confuse me a great deal, and then, one day, VOILA! — I realized that people were speaking much more impulsively than I would do, and from a cultural rather than intellectual base. In other words, other people were rarely “like me” at all. I’d been projecting my own qualities into them, and then critiquing myself on the basis of what they’d had to say.

Freud, Christianity and Patriarchal illogic

The following extracts are from « Broken Daughters, starting at part 7 and working backward.  I selected them because they reveal the internal logic of patriarchal thinking.  One sees this kind of thinking in Freud, in secular authorities and in many systems of religious beliefs.  They are not restricted to fundamentalism, although in that case they become more obvious, less dilute.

1.  Love. Love isn’t an emotion. Our hearts are evil. They are so inexplicably evil that you should never, ever, under any circumstances, trust it. If your heart says left, you better go right.
“Love” in a fundamentalist sense means that you submit to your husband fully. You put up with him abusing you. That’s love. You put up with him not making enough money, having his babies every year, cleaning his house and washing his laundry, cooking his food and fulfilling his sexual needs not because of affection but because of “love”, the love that doesn’t know affection for each other, only duty and submissiveness to an authority.

2.  Why did [my father] not give [my mother] praise then? I stumbled over yet another idea. My mom might not be submissive enough. …..

3  Another suggestion of the book [To Train Up A Child by Michael Pearl] is that spanking produces happy, cheerful and content kids. In reality that means: If your child has a bad day, is grumpy and whiney, spank it until it laughs again. I don’t know if that makes sense for you, it certainly doesn’t for me.

 4.  My mother read a lot about raising children God’s way. Though I was spared by the horrors of “To train up a child”, the Pearl’s guidebook to send your child through living hell at this point in my life, my parents were defenders of spanking. A lot, and early. Sin was a child’s nature and you could only get rid of it by beating it out of your kids. I was a nice baby, but that changed soon enough. At a few months age, I apparently started showing signs of terrible sin. I was crying – a lot. I didn’t sleep through the night anymore. My mother was helpless. At that point, my mother was a few weeks pregnant again. I did not stop being a bratty baby. She had a miscarriage a few weeks after I started this “sinful behaviour”. My mom was devasted. He and dad met up with a few elders of the fundamentalist church we went to to get council. They concluded that my sin had brought evil into the house and the Evil One had caused the miscarriage.

Let us work out how these patriarchal principles reverse cause and effect and obfuscate logic.

1.  In the first passage, logic is obfuscated by the idea that your internal coordinates are all wrong.   Whatever you have a natural inclination to do, you should do the opposite.  That is the only way to rectify evil.  Personally,  I once acknowledged that I could tell what would be beneficial for me to do in life by what a particular fundamentalist Christian strongly demanded I ought not to do.   My life has come out very well as a result of using my own instincts and accepting that I had to read his injunctions in the reverse.

2.  The second passage.  We can see once again a reversal of logic so that it flows in exactly the opposite direction it would naturally flow.   If the appointed leader isn’t do his job look for the answer in those he has power over.   The powerless are to blame for those having power not expressing it appropriately.

3.   Violence produces happiness — this is expressed as an explicit principle of life.   If someone is having problems, if they are down, it is possibly because they haven’t been kicked enough.  Kick a person enough when he is down and he will rise up again, and thank you for it.

4.  Children are inherently sinful and their sin is a disease that can spread to contaminate the whole family, causing misfortune to their parents.  Children really are that powerful.  By comparison to children, parents seem to have no power at all — the exact opposite to what we all know is actually true.

I hope I have elucidated the outrageous and calamitous nature of patriarchal reasoning and how it reverses cause and effect necessarily and consistently.

From my own experiences having been brought up in a Christian household, and from ongoing experience and studies, I have concluded that patriarchal ideology of any sort is wholly dependent on turning things back-to-front, to make reality look inside-out — the opposite to what it should.

I’ve also discovered that this way of thinking is so widespread that often we invoke patriarchy’s back-to-front reasoning without even realizing it.  Many secularists are as guilty of this as their raging fundamentalist brothers and sisters.

Even Freud is not devoid of mental gymnastics, in contempt of plain logic.   I believe I have finally understood the core Freudian notion of the Oedipus Complex as a prohibition against following your heart — for you will surely f*ck your mother and kill your father, if you do so — the worst outcome possible and the most evil.  Priestly reasoning illogically enjoins one to follow the opposite of what one’s heart dictates, or at least submit to the priest and his form of “reason”. Failing to submit to patriarchal authorities (who obfuscate logic), you will only end up physically proving how evil you actually are. Herein lies the quintessentially patriarchal double-bind.