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.
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.
“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 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.
Bataille ‘s writing suggests to me that if we establish a direct relationship with terror, we will be able to resist the imposition of terror from the outside. Alternatively, not to face the terror of life is to remain intoxicated by false assurances as to our ability to escape our own demise. We all die. Also, when we are afraid, we find out what we’re really made of — what we are prepared to hold onto, and what we are willing to discard.
Marechera concurs by his rejection of the rest of humanity, to be alone with his own terror:
Nothing but blows and kicks
Greet the friendly eye of thought
Which bloodied muddied shakes the dust
To all humanity
And discovers terror the totem of truth.
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.
I’m not close enough to tell if American religiosity is hysteria. What I do notice is compared to British crime dramas, Americans tend to make out that there is such a thing as real, palpable, evil — and not just psychological states.
This assumption, that people are, at their baseline, nasty, appears to me to thread itself throughout American culture. For instance, see my conversation with cliff arroyo yesterday, where I was trying to get across the idea that men who are anxious to read women as highly emotional creatures will end up mis-reading any failure to confess all one’s emotions as signalling intent to willfully manipulate the other. Cliff constantly misread everything I’d written as if I were saying: “Yes, women are deceptive or manipulative.”
This is the effect of the weight of religiosity on America. It has entered even secular life, to the point that neutrality is hard to understand. I’m not saying America is the only country with this problem. Australia also has it to an alarming degree, in its embrace of identity politics, which does not allow anyone to take a neutral position without seeming to harbor some evil intent or manipulative orientation.
A truly secular view would dispense with the notion that we all have knowable but hidden motivations. Communication becomes hindered to the extreme when “demographic” or “identity” suffices to clue others in one “hidden motivations”, which do not actually exist, but are ascribed to one.
2. About the commonly held view that women are emotional and manipulative: this whole assumption makes communication seem to be redundant. Of course, the key word here is “seem”. If women externalize their minds, via the medium of emotion, one always knows what they are feeling. That would be logical. Any woman would be an open book. First, she’s crying, now she’s acting hysterical in another way, now she’s belly-aching about the other thing she belly-aches about. No need to ask her what she’s thinking, as it’s written all over her. That is, unless she is deliberately withholding something in a way that isn’t true to her emotional nature. Well, it’s true to her manipulative nature, but not to her emotional nature — that is, true to her evil side, but not to her good side, which is where she allows herself to be read like a book. She’s holding something back, probably acting “like a man”, and this necessitates that one attempt communication with her for the first time.
But communication on neutral premises is impossible for a religious mind-set. To such a mind, one must find out what has corrupted her true female emotionalism, giving the impression that she’s holding something back. One must find the hidden, nefarious motivation she is harboring.
This search for something evil is called “communication” by those tainted with religiosity.
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 shamanistic view is different from the psychoanalytic view that holds that psychological projection is an anomalous attitude of reprobates. In terms of shamanism, absolutely everything one sees, hears or encounters is a projection. Neurology makes it clear that perception is a function of the brain’s incorporation and rearrangement of data. According to Atul Gawande:
The information we take in from our ears and eyes is not the same as what we experience. The brain takes a huge amount of information from the senses and then rearranges it in such a way that a human being can gain advantage from it. We see what makes sense to us, often by adding to incomplete information by producing information from memory, so that we often encounter precisely what we expect to see. We are the creators of our own realities.
To go a step further, we don’t visually experience the far sides of the color spectrum that beetles and bats may do. But, had we the needs and desires of insects, our brains would have learned to give us a different range of information. We would have learned to sense a far wider spectrum including infra-red and ultra-violet. Becoming aware of these light waves perhaps does not serve us as humans, since this may not give an advantage in indicating food or sudden danger.
Humans and beetles inhabiting the same space will nonetheless experience different qualities to their environments. What comes to the foreground and what pales into insignificance will not be the same aspects of the terrain. A friend tells me that on taking LSD one hears all the background noises to life that would ordinarily be filtered from awareness.
To have the benefit of vision enables us to navigate our human worlds effectively as humans. A parallel world may exist for other species. Each takes from the sensory environment what will nourish it in terms of what it is. Taking in too much of reality would obstruct us in our normal activities. We do well to leave a lot unnoticed.
On the basis of being separate peoples and cultures, we also automatically impose filtering mechanisms. I see what I need to see to nourish myself according to my particular needs, desires and capabilities. I am convinced that others who enter the same environments would not see or experience the same network of meanings that are available to me. I switch off when confronted with young children, for instance. I can’t focus on them and my brain attempts to block them out. I’m learning to notice social tensions, but they don’t intrinsically interest me, so they are about the last thing I recognize when I enter a new environment.
When I began my life in Australia I didn’t “see” social relationships — only natural ones. When I began a new job many years ago, I didn’t “see” institutional relationships. I saw only postmodernist metaphysics, by virtue of which I had been trained to see the world. I began reading Marecheralater and had to get rid of a lot of postmodernist assumptions to understand him.
Contemporary humans get to move through their environments by throwing off one reality to enter another. Shamanism enhances the process of gaining knowledge of our worlds by encouraging us to switch off from what we think we know, which is just a neurological projection however useful. We can’t enter another environment so long as we are certain of what we know. This is only possible by entering a state of uncertainty. As Bataille says of Nietzsche, out of this striking moment of dissolution a philosophy is born:
Let no one doubt for an instant! One has truly not heard a single word of Nietzsche’s unless one has lived this signal dissolution in totality; without it, this philosophy is a mere labyrinth of contradictions, and worse; the pretext for lying by omission (if, like the fascists, one isolates passages for purposes which negate the rest of the work).
In terms of what I have described of shamanism, Nietzsche’s way of writing, whether intentionally or not, actually invites a radical rewriting of consciousness on the basis of a fundamental dissolution of reality. By means of such shamanistic reworking, one’s existing projection gets dissolved and is replaced by another, superior reality. This would be a result of including a different network of memories in one’s perspectives. This adjustment in seeing, however, leads to handling life more effectively.
The use of psychoactive drugs enables a shaman to discover a cosmology that would make us all connected to each other, in particular via a sense of unity with organic nature, as the prime source and origin of life. The insights gained through exploring this cosmology are useful. The sources of malaise can be ascertained, observed and come to terms with.
The range of possibilities for life may be greater and more widely varied than those observable in everyday existence. Thus, a shamanic journey can lead not only to healing, but to creative solutions to life’s difficulties.
Shamanic experience could also free one from idées fixes through a baptism into new experiences.
This is of course against the grain of Nietzsche, who feared, as Luce Irigaray pointed out, the element of water, including oceanic experiences.
Have no fear that water is “feminine”,as it is only so according to essentialist notions of identity. Patriarchal religion would urge us to see it in this way, but there is no need to trust patriarchal versions of anything, given that the patriarchal priest is invested in maintaining specific power relations. We should rather distrust anything essentializing — at least until we can test it for ourselves and work out what its value might be.
Even as an adult, I was often very insecure about my knowledge of the world. That was because everything I’d grown up with had been defined in extremely patriarchal terms. Both men and women had authority in every aspect of life in my childhood. Women’s authority was on a par with that of their male counterparts. The only difference was that men knew about politics in a way that women didn’t. The men went to war and it was forbidden to tell the women back home everything they had experienced. To this degree, women were on a par with children — although they were authoritative in public life, they were not expected to carry the emotional burden of war.
The structure of colonial society was hierarchical in terms of knowledge. As it seems to me now, there was a cabal who knew what was really going on with regard to the war and the likelihood of winning it. Then, there were those like my father, who went along with the program because it was the decent thing to do. As in the second world war, the lack of men around the place meant women had fairly high status, being those who were able to manage the running of institutions with an old-fashioned whip-hand.
They had greater power than women have today, when men are present and competing with them (which leads to gender war and psychological strategies to demoralize the other). Despite this, they did not speak of the war “we” were prosecuting, and indeed, in the high school I attended it was forbidden to speak of it.
That was how it came about that my peers and I grew up with a traditional British education, but remained wholly naïve about politics. We studied the history of Europe but we did not study recent, colonial history. When “Rhodesia” became “Zimbabwe” and an uncensored version of “The Herald” began to appear on the library lectern, we sometimes used to flip its pages with a sense of fascination and complete incomprehension. The tactile sensation of flipping the pages and observing the strange imagery in the late morning sun was enough for me.
Children were a step below “women” in the Rhodesian hierarchy, so we occupied a world of our own. We were not to know anything at all, but to be protected from it. That was the role of the strong Rhodesian male — to protect the (white) women and children from too much knowledge.
The structure of the antiquated society explains everything about my attitudes as I became an adult and understood that I was suffering from a knowledge deficit. I had a number of strategies to try to cope with this, most of which failed me.
One was to try to get adults to tell me what I was missing — to fill in the gaps that comprised my knowledge failures. This was a wholly failed strategy. Whenever I went to see a psychological counselor of person of that nature (which I did sporadically, at various points in time), I generally wanted to draw from them the knowledge I’d been lacking. I had a feeling that if I could get the knowledge I didn’t have, I’d be able to piece together all sorts of aspects of my reality that didn’t make sense before.
Needless to say, the psychological counselors I saw were not trained to fill in the gaps of your missing knowledge and it was hard even for me to try to gauge what knowledge I had to get to make reality into a coherent whole. A lack of substantive knowledge can become a psychological problem, interfering with one’s way of interacting with the world, but contemporary psychology doesn’t recognize this as a fact. I would inevitably talk at cross-purposes with such helpers — and then leave feeling that I hadn’t obtained much of what I’d hoped for.
The problem was: I never had a psychological problem so much as a deficiency in understanding, which made me seem like an idiot, walking into walls that others already seemed to know were there. I’d tripped up on too many barriers due to my worldly ignorance (which also related to sexual matters).
Much of what had led to this was that my Rhodesian engendered superego defined my limits. I couldn’t do the work to find out what was “out there” because to be quiet and accepting of all sorts of boundaries was my acculturated norm.
To “transgress” authoritative boundaries, whilst defying the superego, became my means to escape from the Rhodesian cultural identity that had failed me.
Metaphysics is essentialism. In other words, it involves positing that eternal essences pertain to things — be they individuals, groups or sexes, or to humanity itself. The idea of “human nature”, if unqualified by a recognition that this is influenced by historical change, chance and contingency, is metaphysics.
Metaphysics has the capacity to develop into whole philosophical and cultural systems, nonetheless its ideas are not provable by science. Indeed science may provide the basis for disproving many metaphysical notions.
The common assumption that men are the essence of rationality, whereas women are the essence of emotionality can be questioned by science at a very basic level, by presenting the physiological fact that both men and women have both the capacity to experience emotion and to use reason.
Since metaphysics furnishes our lives with meaning even though these meanings are without substantiation, metaphysical assumptions can be hard to root out of our thought processes.
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.
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.
There’s no bliss in participating in groups for the sake of firming up collective identities. For one, there is always a cost or some form of sacrifice required by the superego on the basis of its becoming accustomed to group enforced norms. Secondly, many a “community” in itself is not all that endearing as it engages in backbiting, threats and all sorts of unpleasant behavior in order to keep its order. Communities are often enclaves for regressive and stupid outlooks.
A an organisation M was in is being attacked from the inside by a sub-group who propound identity politics as the only way forward. They attack others who disagree with them and then they claim that others are victimizing them because of their own particular identities. I was thus attacked by one of these who wanted to set up a women’s enclave. I made a flippant, but good natured comment in support of M, and I got put down by one of those (who was demanding women should be treated differently, because she said they had separate problems). She hid behind patriarchal rhetoric by implying that I was a “wife, talking about her husband”. Her deeper, patriarchal insinuation was that I was simply being an female airhead and was therefore not funny.
So, I did what any intelligent person would do under such circumstances, and decided to use their identity ammunition against them. “You are against women per se,” I insisted. I was severely reprimanded for saying that in a private email by a male of the group who had taken on the role of pater. He had a lot of scolding to do.
I replied, (keeping in the vein of identity politics and its poor form of logic): “How can you say that to ME, a woman?” After that, I got this very private and particularly unhumorous email from pater:
Nice attitude. Good to know that concern for others is high on your list of priorities. Who the fuck do you think you are, the Queen of Sheeba? Being a woman doesn’t give you the right to say whatever the fuck you feel like regardless of the consequences for anyone else. What exactly is it about you that makes you think that it does? If you talk shit which you do I call it out. What is it about being a woman that makes you think you’re above being held to account for the consequences of your actions? [emphasis added]
From this I learned that contemporary identity politics is nothing if not inconsistent, also that jokes have “consequences” (meaning that I would be charged with having adopted the immoral stance of not caring about others).
To be on the receiving end of a stern patriarchal scolding, whether from a man or a woman, is no joking matter!
Click to engorge
Try to ignore the images, in the first instance, which I supplied to show the ramifications of this conservative’s agenda.On the surface of it, the speaker is simply calling for honesty and for balance in our thinking. We could read his words as saying, “Let’s not get all overwrought just because a boss, or other male representative does something wrong, sinning a bit. Instead, let’s open our hearts and realize that he does more good than harm.”
In fact, this seeming call for leniency and kindness hides a fundamental patriarchal ideological structure which is directly patterned by those right-wingers in the US who argue that it’s not so bad to be raped because at least that brings a child into the world.
So, Tony Abbott, our opposition leader, is implicitly arguing that male energy, no matter how forcefully or wrongfully applied, is always for the good. His words appeal to a traditional, metaphysical view that female energy is only ever passive and reactive, so it requires male energy to give it meaning, force and shape. That is why having a rapist’s child might be a good thing in the dark minds of sordid fellows — because a rapist is the embodiment of male energy and women allegedly need male energy if they are to become something other than dark matter.
Similarly, even a vicious boss or wife-battering husband could be considered to be doing women some good, by exposing women to the necessary male energy that she needs to come into being in a meaningful way. This is actually the conservative ideology that underlies a text that could otherwise seem benign or genteel to some ears.
2. “Metaphysical” means imaginary. It means it has no relationship to reality. Nonetheless, many people live their lives as if metaphysical notions about the world were true. If enough people do that, it can change the real texture and experience of reality for a lot of people. To take one example, if women believe they are inherently passive they will wait for men to act, and not enjoying life on their own terms. That is why metaphysical precepts are so insidious.
Patriarchal types always complain that nobody ever manages to explain to them in a logical or coherent way what patriarchy is and why it must be abolished. Some of those more contemporary ones may in fact read the words of feminists, but these words have no meaning to them, or if they do, the words seem “hysterical”, “crazy”, “emotional”, “reactive”, “oversensitive” and “exaggerated”.
In every one of these descriptions, we have precisely the patriarchal perception of WOMAN. Patriarchal readers, some of whom may be women themselves, are unable to register any range of experience that is not already part of their conscious self-identity. They wish to identify themselves with the opposite characteristics to those listed above. Those opposite expressions to this are what patriarchal people view as “masculine”.
When a patriarchal fellow is unable to understand the substance of the words he is reading, but instead finds himself tripped up by pejorative expressions that enter his mind, guess who is tripping him up? He is responsible for reading the characteristics he doesn’t want to be identified with into the written word, to the extent that he cannot make coherent sense of what is written, but keeps asking for another explanation.
Such a fellow has no doubt already been told many things by feminists, but he cannot remember any of them, because he has been so intent on projecting the qualities he considers to be negative out of himself and into the text he has been reading. After that, he can feel disgusted with the text, but not disgusted with himself. So far as he is concerned, he is empty, free, an undefined essence floating above everything. Nothing moves him. He is a human being without emotion, without physical body.
Such is the nature of patriarchal projection. Patriarchal people have been rendered insane by their ideologies, but it is always a woman who are viewed as being “mad” whenever a patriarch cannot digest her words to him.
What is projected into women by the patriarch is actually and precisely the insanity engendered in the patriarch’s mind as a result of his patriarchal ideological training.
Anything one feels strongly about reveals something about one, but it could be something about one’s history, not one’s character, etc., blah blah.
Of course that’s the way it SHOULD be, when psychology isn’t being treated as metaphysics.
But psychology is metaphysics if one starts with metaphysical premises. These could be:
1. We all have individual and discrete “souls”.
2. We are here on Earth to morally perfect these discrete souls
3. Continual growth towards perfection is not only necessary but realizable.
4. There are no overwhelming forces. The “soul” rises above all.
5. Others are on Earth to indicate to us how to morally perfect ourselves. We fail to listen to their views to our own demerit.
6. There is some system of natural justice in the universe, whereby accurate self-analysis has a direct (not loose or indistinct) correlation with personal success.
I would say that most Australians of middle class status and higher think about themselves in these terms.
It goes without saying that under certain circumstances some of these would be healthier postulates to adopt than others. This does not make them metaphysically true, though, just as it does not make them suitable ideas to maintain in all situations.
Consider number 1. A lot of those people who would swear that they move through the world as nothing but individuals can very easily get drawn into playing a role in terms of pack mentality. They think they are being persuaded to adopt a particular stance by others’ valid reasons and perceptions, but in actual fact they’re just going with the flow and being used by astute manipulators to reinforce conformity.
So, even though it is ideal to be an individual, and this is my own ethical stance, I see that our individual surfaces are very porous indeed and that we can take on all sorts of shades, depending on what mood is in the air.
My point is that we should differentiate between ethical or ideal states and statements of faith or what I all “metaphysical postulates”, because the world does not conform to the statements of faith, not unless we have the tools, insights and methods to enforce those.
According to the principles of shamanism, what one says doesn’t have to be True, but it has to work. By contrast, patriarchal reasoning demands that something has to be true when it is based on authority. However, it can neither show that its principles work, nor produce its authority. One may not be better off with shamanistic texts, but at least one is not worse off.
I had cause to revisit my knowledge of the so-called “death instinct” after reading the following article.
Herein, a very beautiful ape expounds:
The life instincts are those that deal with survival, reproduction, pleasure—in other words, instincts that are crucial for sustaining a person’s life, as well as the continuation of the species: thirst, hunger, pain avoidance, love, human interaction and other prosocial actions.
Freud posited that “the goal of all life is death”, concluding that humans hold an unconscious desire to die—and that self-destructive behavior is an expression of the energy created by the death instincts.
According to this theory, then, if you are not a self-destructive person, your death wishes are under control because they overridden by healthier life instincts.
I shall both add and subtract from this formulation on the basis of my shamanistic understanding.
The “death instinct” is not a self-destructive drive that kicks in automagically in the same ways cells are biologically programmed to die. Instead the death instinct is the underside of the life instinct, and its constant monitor and guarantor. The death instinct makes sure the life instinct is on-track, or if not, it withdraws its support for whatever you are doing and forces you to reformulate your goals:
Even in your folly and despising ye each serve your Self, ye despisers of the body. I tell you, your very Self wanteth to die, and turneth away from life.
No longer can your Self do that which it desireth most:- create beyond itself.
That is what it desireth most; that is all its fervour. But it is now too late to do so:- so your Self wisheth to succumb, ye despisers of the body.
To succumb- so wisheth your Self; and therefore have ye become despisers of the body. For ye can no longer create beyond yourselves. And therefore are ye now angry with life and with the earth. (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)
Nietzsche speaks of those who have succumbed to the death instinct, because they have embraced a lie about the nature of reality. They think reality is spiritual and not physical, and therefore the death instinct has taken charge and is forcing them to either rethink their proposition or to get out of life altogether.
As I have outlined via my interpretation, the death instinct serves the life instinct. These are not two distinct instincts that could gain the upper hand. The reality is close to Taoism and far removed from Manichean formulations.
That the death instinct is always in service of the life instinct is very good. Wilhelm Reich, by the way, also noticed that when one does not believe in oneself enough, one sacrifices oneself to those whom one more easily believes in. This is the death instinct at work, functioning as an evolutionary principle, and removing those who don’t believe in themselves so that they do not clutter the scenery.
Why does one not believe in oneself? Because one is on the wrong track, because one has turned against what is ecstatic, vital and good about life, and has adopted negative formulations.
The intervention of the death instinct is not supposed to be final, except in the worst of cases. Mostly, it is just death tapping you on the shoulder, telling you that you have gone off-track. It may be difficult to figure out where one has erred. When I received my warning from death, I was in a mode of extreme conformity and emotional repression. That’s when death alerted me that I had to change my ways. I’ve since done so, and nothing has been the same since. All my relationships are extremely positive.
Shamanistic death and regeneration works in the same way. One has to face death in order to learn where or how one might have strayed from life’s purposes. Once one has discovered this, one can get back on track. Death no longer has its hold, and Eros (the life instinct) takes over.
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.
Nietzsche is a psychological thinker. Sometimes he extends his psychology into political theory, sometimes in a way that seems to give psychological insight to political movements. More often than not, his psychology cannot be generalized into political statements, although Nietzsche wants to do this.
In his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he is at his best since he is a psychologist and not a social critic. (Where he dabbles too much into issues of politics and gender, he is inclined to err.)
Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is a prophet for a secular era. It’s very interesting how much the ideas in the book parallel those later discovered by Wilfred Bion, especially in terms of the psychology of group dynamics. Nietzsche had insights into the ways that groups unconsciously coördinate their members to reinforce conformity and compliance. There is no place for a self-reliant person where there is a “herd”. Creativity is even less respected by the “herd”, because it disrupts the unconscious mechanisms of herd organisation. Without needing to have any intellectual grasp of a reality outside of the herd, those who partake of group dynamics are still capable of annihilating anyone who thinks and acts differently from the group. The attacks by the herd against the one who stands alone and the counter-struggle for survival have psychological origins at a subliminal level.
Nietzsche makes visible these otherwise hidden phenomena: he shows that generally those who stand alone are destroyed, that nobody has to say anything for these attacks to begin to occur. They happen automatically without overt provocation. It’s group psychological dynamics at work.
Nietzsche’s solution to those who are likely to be attacked for their qualities of independence is that they should prepare for this to happen. They should also throw all their weight into the creative side of their characters, and forget about conforming. If you have intellectual qualities, or creative qualities that distinguish you from the herd (not in your own mind, but in theirs), you may as well invest in these totally, even if it means willing your own destruction — because the greater your ability, the more likely you are to disquieten those who have chosen to relinquish their independence for the sake of being protected by the group.
The shamanistic endeavor I’ve embarked on is my own. The origins of my invention took me from making my own emotional investigations, through putting myself in the shoes of Marechera, via my own African experiences. Along with this, I simultaneously moved from Nietzsche’s notion of viewing one’s life in terms of power to Bataille’s notion of inner-experience. I superseded, but did not erase the previous ways of looking at the world. My exposure to those first authors gave me ideas, methods, certainties and questions, which I took on through to the next level. More definitively as regards “intellectual shamanism”, I also brought my own needs and questions to the issue of how meaning is established by my own departing from what was already known and attempting to go beyond the theoretical structures of Nietzsche and Bataille as well as the structures of meaning implied by Marechera’s creative formulations.
575. We aeronauts of the spirit! All those brave birds which fly out into the distance, into the farthest distance it is certain! somewhere or other they will be unable to go on and will perch down on a mast or a bare cliff-face and they will even be thankful for this miserable accommodation! But who could venture to infer from that, that there was not an immense open space before them, that they had flown as far as one could fly! All our great teachers and predecessors have at last come to a stop […] it will be the same with you and me! Other birds will fly farther! This insight and faith of ours vies with them in flying up and away; it rises above our heads and above our impotence into the heights and from there surveys the distance and sees before it the flocks of birds which, far stronger than we, still strive whither we have striven, and where everything is sea, sea, sea! And whither then would we go? Would we cross the sea? Whither does this mighty longing draw us, this longing that is worth more to us than any pleasure? Why just in this direction, thither where all the sums of humanity have hitherto gone down? Will it perhaps be said of us one day that we too, steering westward, hoped to reach an India but that it was our fate to be wrecked against infinity? Or, my brothers. Or?
[Nietzsche, THE DAWN THOUGHTS ON THE PREJUDICES OF MORALITY]
I’ve gone as far as I can go. I’ve established “the void” as a feature of intellectual shamanism. This also defines the proximity of my mode of thinking to Buddhism. In the process of my flight, I’ve learned that there are many ways of thinking that circumscribe the realm of experience, so that we are certainly not free to investigate the world on one’s own or determine what one’s morality should be. Priests of all sorts shield one from this direct experience of the world. One’s conclusions, if derivable from authorities, are not able to be made through an encounter with nothingness, which is the blank canvas on which on draws one’s own meanings.