I have given you these "portraits of childhood" because I think they represent the kind of thought out of which religious and psychoanalytic conclusions are derived.
I have presented them so that you can be the judge of whether the religious or the psychoanalytic perception is correct. They cannot both be correct. They contradict each other on every major assessment of what is going on in the human mind.
Every attempt to reconcile them into a dialectical synthesis must eventually fail for this reason.
There will be a strong disposition on the part of adherents to unorthodox psychologies to claim that theirs are free from the criticism leveled at Freud. But. to the extent that they deviate from the mainstream of American Psychiatry. to that extent they have less profound influence on the thought of the American public.
To that extent they do less damage.
Freud is the man who coined and institutionalized the concept of the unconscious. Freud is the man who historically instituted what we now call psychotherapy in his work with Charcot and mesmerism. And Freud is the man who insisted to the end. and this remains a leading point of orthodoxy among professionals in the field. that the ontogenesis of all deviation has its basis in psychosexuality.
It is the mainstream of Freudian psychology that is accepted by the American Medical Association. And. it is the self-confessed intention of that system of thought to destroy our belief in God.
This it does in ways that are concealed enough and insidious enough that even the well-intentioned practitioners (therapists) of this psychology have little idea of the support they are destroying in their clients.
The net result of Freudian psychology. or any psychology that attributes to people motives of which they are unconscious. and which ultimately derive from the belief that we are animals on this earth. is to undermine every last shred of human dignity and self-respect.
Which is the true basis. the moral basis. on which we survive the onslaughts we are dealt in this life.
I have watched my mother go through every intelligent form of psychotherapy over the last ten years. and she is now kept alive by a complex chemical called MAO inhibitors. without which she would almost certainly commit suicide. She started her fall by traveling 3,000 miles to Boston to see a very classy psychiatrist there. Once she bought the line she was gone....into a hypnotic dream as seductive as a mother's kiss.
The seductive thing about therapy is that it makes you the center of the dramatic action. And. more often than not. it is just because you tend to look at things that way anyway that you are in the trouble you are in.
Your see. an organism's instinct is for survival. Right? Each little organism is in it for himself. (except when he has to compromise with other little organisms for his own self interest). Well. that is the law of nature. Isn't it? Each little organism. starting with all those little sperm going for mommy's egg. only one or so of which will make it.
You know the line.
We are taught it as reality from the minute we enter school.
Well. Freudian psychology is just a picture of the mental world that is just an offshoot of the physical world.
We buy that too. don't we kids?
There is. of course. a little point of magic involved here. where the physical transforms itself into the mental by a process completely unknown and unfathomable to any human being on this earth. Descartes speculated that the point of transformation was the pineal gland in the brain. largely because nobody knew what the pineal gland was supposed to do back then. and nobody has really improved on that since.
And. of course. once we make the transformation from the physical to the mental we find that the mental realm is bound by the same sorts of phenomena that we suppose to exist in the physical. Once we make the move we have the human mind bound by things like "laws," where the cause-effect relationships which explain human disasters are readily available.
(I wish to draw your attention to the fact that once you explain evil you are stuck with it. You have given it a legitimate reason for existence. The last thing we want to do with evil is to explain it and give it grounds for existence. We want to destroy it. not explain it.)
Indeed. the whole business of what I shall call medical psychology is that of a science: it is there to explain with law-like regularities the phenomena at hand. namely. the presence of pain. distress. hate. fear. tension. phobia. impotence. murder. incest. child abuse. homosexuality. rape. war. suicide. infertility. homicide. compulsiveness. mental retardation. infidelity. anomie. job disillusionment. menopause. frigidity. sterile relationships. juvenile delinquency. masturbation. unemployment. joblessness. satyrism. drug abuse. promiscuity. psychosomatic illness. hysteric reactions. reaction formation. catatonic schizophrenia. epilepsy. overeating. alcoholism. divorce. thumb-sucking. bed-wetting. male menopause. and many others. as you well know.
I submit to you that it would be an awful lot nicer to destroy these things than to explain them.
Which leads us to the root arrogance of this so-called science. and its pretension to beneficiality to the human race. This is the arrogance of the human will. under the guise of seeking to understand and help. but. only according to its own set of categories and laws. seeking its own ideals and purposes.
Why should this be so appalling? Because. left to its own devices the human mind. stemming from human will. will arrive at just the conclusions it has found today: we live. we die. there is no point to our being here; there never was any point in our being here. So we might as well break out a Schlitz and get all the gusto we can get out of life.
If that is your vision of life then I courteously invite you to try it on and live it.
Meanwhile. there are some books I want you to get for this course.
First. I strongly recommend that you pick up Freud's Future of an Illusion. which is the statement of his case against religion. I also want you to get a copy of Civilization and Its Discontents. which is a statement of the massive difficulty civilization has. and must have. maintaining the institution of morality in the absence of a belief in God.
Finally. for those of you who want to pursue
this in depth I recommend the classic statement of Freudian psychoanalytic theory in Otto
Fenichel's The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis.
I wish to clarify my position on just what it is that we are attacking in this course.
Once again we are after hypnotism. plain old simple hypnotism. only this time as it manifests itself in the form of the marble game of shrinkery.
We are not after people.
We are after the hypnotic games that destroy the legitimate aims and claims of people in the counseling profession.
For it is these same games that are at work in destroying our belief in God.
Hypnotism would destroy our belief in God: (1) the hypnotic belief that man is an animal. that man is subject to the laws of matter. and that the mind of man is an evolutionary offshoot. an epiphenomenal by-product. of his material substratum. and (2) that the medical profession has the slightest idea of how to handle what we call "disease" in the realm of the human mind. or that it has any business in the counseling profession.
Second only to the teaching profession. the business of catching people when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable. when they are at a point in their lives when they could make a change or a breakthrough into something totally wonderful for themselves and the people around them. this is a profession that we should entrust to people who love.
That excludes doctors.
For the most part.
A physician. educated and trained in the United States. and the whole of at least Western Society. is processed through the most ruthless. singularly dehumanizing program of indoctrination to which we submit any of our eager young. Including the Marine boot camp.
Look at what happens to our pre-med college student.
He is taught to believe in the power of matter. disease. and death from his earliest recollection. He is forced into the most ruthless competition for the longest period of time. He is taught that money is worthwhile. He is taught that grades are the definition of him as a human being. He is taught that the ends of power and prestige always justify the means.
He submits himself to a spartan rigor in pursuit of these ends. to the exclusion. or at least the subordination. of everything else in his undergraduate education. including the people he is closest to. He studies courses in hard science. to the abandonment of everything else that might resemble a liberal arts education. if he can get away with it. Which has become such a problem that medical schools now require a broader and more balanced course load.
And. above all. he learns how to hurt without feeling.
He has to.
Only the callous survive.
I know. I have spent all my formal schooling. especially my years as an adviser and a teacher in a college. working closely with these poor bastards that are put through this grind.
I have spent hundreds of hours in my office listening to the tears. listening to the voices crying out for help. watching the leaden faces turn and go back to their organic chemistry lab.
I admire those who make it.
But I have known very few who could survive that terror without its destroying the light at the other end of the tunnel of medical school. residency. and specialization.
Yet these are the people. or. rather. this is the training. that is assumed required for people to head a mental institution. Precisely those who have had the most systematic training to knock all the love of life and love right out of them.
I couldn't imagine. if I were Mephistopheles himself. a worse class of people in whose hands to place the blind. the bewildered. and the suicidal.
Yet we do it.
For just one little reason.
Every argument you ever get on the necessity of having a psychiatrist supervise a psychiatric ward or clinic will reduce to the claim that you have to have somebody there who can discriminate whether the symptoms are physical or mental. i.e.. whether the etiology is somatic or functional.
It all comes down to the belief in matter.
What pill to prescribe.
But suppose. just suppose for a minute. that the whole thing really is all mental. That the physical disfiguration in the genetic code. the blood. the electron particles really are the product of mental causes. Suppose that all the training in matter and material methods for healing was for naught. except to entrench the hypnotic illusion that matter has power over man.
Which was the problem in the first place.
Suppose all of this (admittedly large mouthful); then what?
Then the people who do all the therapy anyway will be given credit. understood. and appreciated for the healing work that they do.
I have found in my fairly extensive contact with the therapy programs in the United States that there is something of an inverse ratio between real therapy done and degree of certified qualification. That is. the higher you go on the scale of pedigree. from nurse to counselor. to psychiatric social worker. to clinical psychologist. to psychiatrist. to psychoanalyst. the greater is the commitment to doctrinaire theory. and. conversely. the more brittle and resistant to letting out the Love that heals. This is not to say that there are not the best therapists in the world sitting on the top; but they are there in spite of their training. not because of it.
The best psychiatrist I have ever known in my life. the man who helped me through three years of crisis following my incarceration in the loony bin. healed me in spite of the Freudian and medical doctrine he had been taught. All I had to see was the love in his eyes. and trust in his voice. and I could go back to my work as a college professor while the wound of betrayal healed itself.
His theory. that I had overloaded on the affection of my students. that the love they gave me was something my digestive system couldn't handle coming from the childhood I emerged from. was ridiculous. And an entirely orthodox Freudian analysis.
But the love and trust he gave me. the listening attentive voice that spoke back to me at the end of those sessions; these were what kept me from suicide during my darkest days.
These were the Love and Power of God coming
to me through that still small voice in that still small office fifty miles from my home.
Let's take a look. now. at the medical model for the psychiatric analysis. diagnosis. and cure of psychological health. Please remember that I spent two years researching this question for my doctoral dissertation. Psychological Abnormality: A Philosophical Analysis of Its Normative Commitments. and I can assure you that there are literally dozens of models put forth in the literature today claiming to explain mental health.
What I am about to provide is a sketch of the bare bones of the model that is the heart of the mainstream of psychiatric thought today. Models that deviate from this are themselves considered theoretical abnormalities by the most influential professionals in the field.
I will give it my best shot; so listen and judge.
The pivotal concept in psychiatric thought is repression.
The organism spends most of its waking activity seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. This is true of the mental realm as well as the physical. When we itch we scratch. When we see a steak we eat it. if we are hungry. When we see a girl (or a boy). we go after her or him. if we are hungry; unless. for one reason or another. we stop ourselves.
We stop ourselves if and only if going after what we want is seen to bring us more pain than pleasure. Whether consciously or unconsciously.
The unconscious mind is the result of repression.
One of the ways that we as a species have adapted to our complicated environment. (i.e.. the size of our brain and the length of our childhood). is to have developed psychological defense mechanisms that protect us from damaging ourselves or those around us. These are unconscious for the most part. and. for the most part they are there to restrain us from doing or feeling or seeing things that we want to do or feel or see. or think we do anyway.
I restrain myself from killing my mother when she is a bitch by kicking my dog. or my little brother. if I can get away with it.
I secretly would like to kill my mother but the feeling associated with that idea is so totally repugnant to me that I do not ever let the idea surface in consciousness. That way I protect everybody concerned. Including me. mom. the family. the community. and eventually. the whole species.
But at a certain psychological cost to myself: I have to expend a great deal of psychic energy to keep this idea repressed. i.e.. out of consciousness. This psychic energy is readily available for me. as an organism seeking to satisfy my interests the best way I can. to use in any most expedient psychological way I can.
Sometimes. the most expedient way of using that energy is to turn it back in against itself. to restrain itself. because what it desires is simply untenable.
Hence I do not go out and rape. pillage. and murder. or even do what I impulsively would most like to do. because. the way I have been brought up. doing these things would conflict with the things that are most precious to me--mom's love. and home's security.
So I don't do "what I want to." Instead I compromise. and do what I can get away with doing for fun when it doesn't threaten my deepest needs and long range goals.
This is the beginning of conscience and morality.
Morality begins in our life when the old man. or some huge. gigantic authority figure around us says "NO! DON'T PLAY WITH THAT!" or "DON'T DO THAT!"
You've got to remember here that we are talking about a dinky little baby. or child. who is surrounded by these huge giants called "adults," or "grownups," upon whom we are totally dependent for everything we eat. live. and breathe. So far as we are concerned they are the source of every fear. every comfort. every pain. and every pleasure.
Whenever they say "NO!". for all intents that is God saying "NO!". and we. by God. learn about that real quick because our survival depends on it. And we sense that.
Now one of the best ways to deal with frustration is to put it out of your mind. At least that is one of the psychologically most expedient. and we. as human beings. have the capacity to do just that: we can put the forbidden wish so far from our conscious life that we are no longer aware of it. And then it doesn't bother us anymore.
And that is called "repression."
There is. however. a certain trauma that goes into our handling obstacles to our desires in this way. and. in fact. seen from the point of view of the secret recesses of the child's mind. the compromise he makes for the sake of getting along with his environment is very inexpedient indeed.
The child wants it his way; it is just that simple.
And he can't have it his way.
And in the ensuing psychic clash with his parents. the only real models he has around. he learns psychic procedures for compromising and getting his own way the best he can.
Albeit at great and disheartening psychological cost to his own possibilities of fulfillment.
The way that he learns. what in effect is his own survival game. is by incorporating the ideals and rules set down by his parents (or parent-like figures that are raising him).
The psychic mechanism that is set up to handle this is called the conscience. which is the sense of guilt that we feel when we violate. or come close to violating. one of the taboos. or. when we fail to live up to one of the ideals for achievement that has been placed in our thought as a condition for love. What guilt actually is is a turning around in upon ourselves the natural hostility that we feel toward those who obstruct or inhibit the fulfilling of our natural desires.
Which. one and all. relate to our life on this planet as social organisms.
Our existence as social organisms (i.e.. organisms whose existence depends upon one another for happiness and survival) actually derives from the evolutionary thrust of what we call "organic life" on this planet. "Organic life" is something that emerged from inorganic matter and is the vital life force of everything that lives. grows. multiplies. on the face of the earth. It pertains to everything that struggles not to die. and is manifested in human psychic life as the will to live. grow. and enjoy the experiences of life.
In fact. we could even say that there is a "life instinct," which derives from the observation of the tendency of living organisms to grow into ever more complex structures that sustain themselves in ever more complicated ways. It is a law of all living things that they seek to sustain and perpetuate themselves and their own kind.
There is also a "death instinct," although we are speculating about this in a controversial way. which derives from the fact that. for every tendency on the part of organic life to build up and grow. there is an equal and opposite tendency to catabolically break down and decompose into the simpler elements from which we came.
The result of these two huge forces. if you want to look at things this way. is the state of continuous tension in our lives between the desire to go out and have fun. to persevere and press on with some worthwhile project. and the desire to cash in. retire. go to sleep for the night. and rest.
Ultimately. of course. the death instinct triumphs. because we all do go to our final resting place; but meanwhile we put up all the resistance we can. with all the strength we can muster. to enjoy life. do something for others. and feel that somehow our presence here made a difference.
We could look at our lives as the battleground of the warring effort between the life instinct and the death instinct. with what we turn out to have been the net result of how these two forces battled it out in our case. In any case. let's recognize the fact that there are tremendous forces in our lives to build things and enjoy. and tremendous counter-forces to tear down. destroy and hate.
Watch the little kid on the beach sometime building a sand castle; how many have you seen it left standing perfectly intact when the child walks away? At least he will step back and watch the waves take it down.
And he will enjoy tearing it down. or watching it washed to pieces. as much as he did building it in the first place.
We enjoy things. the meaning of "enjoyment" or "pleasure" being what happens when we satisfy an instinct. or. more immediately. an "urge," that is derived from an instinct. The little "rush" of feeling we get is what happens when the instinct. say. to eat. has found its object in an ice cream cone.
In fact. the notion of an instinct needn't be a remote abstraction at all. An instinct is just something that has a bodily or somatic source. a certain level of intensity. or need to be satisfied. or brought to resolution. Expended. And it has an object. or what it seeks as the thing in its environment to satisfy itself.
The ice cream cone is a perfectly good model for what an instinct means to us in everyday life.
As organisms. we have all kinds of perfectly natural instincts. or drives. that stem from a bodily base. We are all familiar with most of them. From things as direct as blinking your eye because of a speck of dirt in it. to things as convoluted and remote as seeking to do well in school to think well of yourself.
This is the little model of motivation that
makes people tick. and the one upon which our psychic life begins to build.
Let us turn to a specific concern of psychotherapy--the understanding of human love and how it works.
Please understand that I am not after psychotherapists in this discussion. I am after the hypnotic dream that psychotherapists get hooked into for the lack of anything better to explain the events that they have to deal with.
The psychoanalytic grasp of love comes from Freud. and it comes. unavoidably. from the belief in the power of matter. from which we seem to arise.
Look at the results of this hypnotically entrenched belief on our understanding of human affection.
We come from mother's womb.
That was the last time we felt real peace. real security. real satiety.
Everything we do in life now is an effort to regain the state of mind that we felt back then.
Short of that. we will settle for the feeling we had when we were being suckled at mother's breast. (or whatever facsimile thereof we came close to).
The smells. the warmth. the radiant affection. the full tummy. the gentle sounds. the attentive concern. the laughter and giggling. the absence of any knowledge of danger. the peace of mind that leaves nothing left in life but to curl up and go sound asleep--these are the forbidden fruits of babyhood. And once they have been tasted they are not forgotten. and are pursued throughout adult life. however they may be repressed or compromised.
The knowledge that we do have to compromise is the greatest trauma that happens to each of our psychic lives.
But we do.
And the dawning realization of this is the beginning of "growing up," and the beginning of the psychic structure that we later come to refer to as our "personality."
This process begins (in recognizable ways) at about the ripe old age of two. During what is called the "oral stage."
As we learn that we do have to compromise. that we cannot get what we need to satisfy our elemental instinctual wishes simply by wishing. picturing. or dreaming that they are so. we begin the development of the agency in our personality called the "ego."
The ego in our psychic life is in charge of "reason," i.e.. of figuring out ways of getting what is needed from the outside to satisfy the primordial "id," or the little cauldron of needs and wishes that inhabits our inner psychic life. which stems from the fact that our psyche is an offshoot of our body.
Growing up is really a process of strengthening the ego so that it can provide the id. in the most expedient manner possible. with the emotional supplies that it needs.
It does this by taking account (unconsciously for the most part) of a great many factors in the external and internal environments. and manipulating them. The more effectively and efficiently the ego does this. the stronger. more mature. the "healthier" is the person's resistance to the stress of everyday life.
Which is. after all. the essence of the medical concept of health: the ability of the organism to function adequately and effectively. even when under the stress and pressures of normal. everyday life.
The trouble is that the instinctual wishes of the organism would put it right back in the natal or pre-natal sack with mom. Or. at least back in the state of mind that it found in that relationship.
Consequently. there is. built into the human psychic life. another major source of conflict. besides that of the life and death instincts (or predispositions).
This trauma comes to a head. (forgive me) when the infant hits the phallic stage. which is after the oral and anal stages. and usually occurs between the ages of three and six. The child is a polymorphously sexual little critter in its infancy. There is nothing "bad" about playing with its body. all parts of its body. Indeed. its body is the center of its attention. There are huge "rushes" of feeling. called "libido," or psychic energy that are given off from the body (the energy put into the body in the form of food). and these undifferentiated rushes of excitement generally come from one or more of the autoerogenous zones--the oral. anal. or genital.
When the child enters the phallic stage of its psychosexual development it can turn to any of the three areas for pleasure and excitement. It was this phenomenon. the fact of infantile sexuality. that made it so difficult for Freud to sell his theory to the medical community during the early twentieth century. in what was still a period of hysterical Victorian prohibition against matters pertaining to the body.
In fact. Freud's first cases were instances where he (accurately) diagnosed hysterical paralysis. stemming from women's fear of their own sexuality.
(He didn't know it. but he "cured" these unfortunate women by the use of hypnotic suggestion. which eliminates the symptoms. but leaves the patient in worse mental shape than he would have been without it.)
The "Oedipus complex," whether you subscribe all the way to this notion or not. is essentially the fact that little kids. who have normal sexual attachment to the parent of the opposite sex. notice that their parent of the same sex is standing in the way of the relationship they would like to have. There isn't much the kid can do about this. since the parents are both insurmountable giants. [all puns are thrown in for free]. and since he certainly doesn't want to damage his relationship with his parent of the same sex. he does what we all do when we psychically have to punt: repress it. forget it. and turn away from it toward something less threatening. like masturbating and fantasizing about something you can relate to--your own world of inner thoughts.
Literal masturbation doesn't usually begin. of course. until we hit puberty. or what the hard-core Freudian shrinks call the "genital stage."
We may not recall the deep primordial wishes and dreams of infancy when we thought of having sexual contact with mom or dad. but we just might recall some memories during adolescence when these same thoughts resurface again in our fantasies and night dreams. It is during this period. following the latency period of middle and late childhood. that we tend to reshuffle our sexual and psychic identity in preparation for adulthood.
Of course the beneficiary of all this sexual development is the unconscious mind. where all the normal healthy sexual fantasies. that we are taught are excrementally poisonous to our wellbeing as healthy happy children. are deposited. never (or rarely) again to be entertained in conscious life. on pain of its being too overwhelmingly hideous to our own self concept.
This is the work of the super ego. or conscience.
The superego is a part of the personality. like the ego or the id; but it is a part that sort of breaks off from the ego to perform a special function.
The ego was evolutionarily set up to protect the organism. through the mechanism of the structure of consciousness. from the hazards in its environment. What was discovered. and this is the secret displayed in Civilization and Its Discontents that made it one of the most important books of the twentieth century. was that rational thought is not powerful enough to curb the organism into following what is in its own best interests.
The sexual (and aggressive) instincts are that strong.
It requires the irrational force of repression. which fills the unconscious mind with a host of unfulfilled and unfulfillable fantasies. and which is done by the agency of the superego. in the name of morality.
The superego is what is magically created when your father says "NO!"
The child is put in a completely untenable position. Here he is. playing with himself. or better yet. someone else. an extension of himself. in perfectly harmless amusement. Along comes this giant. upon whom he is totally dependent. and who is a complete threat should he turn against him. and declares. out of thin air. that what he is doing is "wrong," "dirty," "not something he supposed to do."
What are the child's psychological options?
What occurs in the child's mind at this moment. and each reinforcing succeeding occasion. is the creation of a brand new category. and reality. Before. he just had the id and ego to worry about. Now. he has begun for him the whole new world of the "shoulds," the "oughts," the "rights," the "wrongs," the "goods," the "bads," and the "uglies," which never before even existed. and now suddenly become a traumatically most important part of his life.
Where did they come from?
Where did this whole dimension called "morality" psychogenetically emerge from?
Was it created out of gratuitously thin air?
To please the parent?
Who really doesn't want you playing with your feces finger painting on the wall?
No. says Freud.
The superego is a necessary structure in human life because. without it the whole fabric of civilization would collapse into a cauldron of seething. self-destructive. immediate self-gratification. Each little ego would be out to use every other ego for its own immediate. direct. and primordial satisfaction.
It would be each against all and all against each. according to the program of the pleasure principle gone rampant.
So what we have done in the human species at tremendous cost to each of us individually. is to have curbed the lascivious tendencies of our blindly lustful ids. not with the agency of the ego per se. but with a special part of the ego. a part that still serves the overall purposes of the ego. namely. satisfying the id. but which does this (paradoxically) by turning the energies of the id in upon itself.
This it does precisely to protect the id. only from its own worst enemy--itself.
Intuitively. perhaps. we can get a feel for the kind of energy we are talking about here. and the species-protective need to restrain it. if we dwell for a moment on the concept of "letting go." What happens in the kind of restraint that we (irrationally and unconsciously) exercise upon ourselves is that we "bind up" our feelings. or thoughts. or pleasures. Apply this concept to the autoerogenous zones and see how the notion of "letting go" applies to these. What about feelings. like hate and anger? What about money. and a certain kind of retentiveness? How about fear? If you don't let go of fear. let yourself feel it. what happens to it? It gets displaced to some part of the body or psychic life where it is expressed. however unconsciously. What about tears. sadness? Isn't the best thing to do with them to let them out? So they don't cause depression?
These are some of the ways that the power I am talking about gets expressed. They always come out in therapy. and the therapist just takes over the job of providing a controlled environment where they can get expressed. safely.
I hope you can get a feel for what I am talking about.
Because what we are struggling to see here is something that we normally keep repressed. namely. the fear of the power of our sexual life to overwhelm us. Normally we keep this deeply and safely buried in our unconscious mind. But sometimes our ego fails; and we sense our defenses weakening. and we are overwhelmed with anxiety that we might have to see all of this nightmare.
My psychiatrist told me. when he thought I was ready. that my students' affection was like gorging myself on mother's breast. and the reason I had my "psychotic episode" was because it was too much and I couldn't handle it.
That is the kind of power we are talking about.
The kind that can cause you to mentally collapse if your ego-defenses are not strong enough.
And that is the reason we need a force equal to and opposite from the desires of the omnipotent id. the source of all our instinctual desires.
So that is why what has been evolutionarily
created for us is the irrational power of the superego.
There is another major source of human thought. that derives from the death instinct. or the inclination toward aggression. destruction. and death. Whether or not you take this inclination as an innate. fixed biological drive in man. it is a given datum. and something that must be included in any scientific attempt to explain the behavior and psychology of man.
For the medical community most reasonable explanations of aggression and violence stem from the necessity of repression.
The Freudian picture of the necessity of repression is one which lesser psychologies may deviate from in various points of detail. We may. therefore. view the Freudian model as the most radical. or the purest. in its tenacious adherence to the facts discovered in depth psychology: it alone has been the most courageous in its refusal to water down the findings of psychoanalysis to make them more palatable for popular consumption.
Aggression is an ineliminable feature of the life of man. partly because of his fixed need for civilization. and partly because the inclination to self-destruct is built into the nature of organic life.
The baby organism. you may remember. is learning how to adapt and survive its primal family. It really seeks nothing more than to satiate its primary instincts. which have to do with things like eating. defecating. cuddling. tickling. and giggling. It loves excitement. and is the center of attention in its little universe.
The shocks that happen to it during infancy and childhood are necessary to awaken it to the fact that this is not really true. or that this is not going to remain true very long.
The mechanisms that are employed by the child for handling these psychological shocks set the pattern for how he handles his aggression.
Which is his instinctual and natural response to frustration.
Again. the species-protective way. which is the main purpose of childhood. is to learn how to turn it in on himself. to curb his natural appetites. in the way which will cause the least possible injury to himself and others around him.
This process is known as sublimation.
Again. the agency of the superego is employed for the work. because only the superego can command the huge resources of irrational energy from the id to curb the natural tendency on the part of the organism to destroy what threatens it.
A child can handle frustration by fantasizing the destruction of the threat. or by manipulating the parents.
But an adult must do something more circumlocutionous.
The frustration is there. the tension is there. and something psychological must be done about it. since. in most normal adult relationships. the preferred way of releasing it onto the external situation is completely untenable.
What happens to it?
When you take the normal amount of sexual desire. and completely destroy and inhibit the original aim and purpose of that. together with the normal amount of frustration which results from simply trying to get by in this so-called civilized state. having already compromised everything you would really like to be doing. that makes for one hell of a lot of psychic tension--continuous. dynamic. merciless. tension.
Where does it go?
What do we do with it?
How can a girl compromise her tenderest wishes. her childhood dreams and fantasies of youth. her most cherished ideal in life. which is to find and bring into being a true state of love?
How can a guy end up as trapped as he is. when he started out seeking only freedom. and a way to do something worthwhile with his life?
These things. these questions operating continuously in the inner recesses of our thoughts. are tremendous pressures that constantly work on us to crack and fall apart at the seams.
(Indeed. there is a truism in the psychotherapy business about how it is a wonder that more people don't fall apart.)
What do we do with it?
(1) We put it out of our mind (repress it).
And (2) we take all that energy that we have dammed up behind the reservoir of frustration and turn it into socially productive projects. projects. however. that symbolically remind us of what we would really like to be doing.
That is as close as we can get to it.
A great deal of the social revolution going on in Western Society over the past few decades can be attributed to a growing refusal to put up with this kind of needless self-defeating repression.
The key to the Discontents of Civilization can be found in the discontents of the individual ego. or psyche.
The individual ego. you will remember. is set up to satisfy itself. or the life of the organism as a whole. recognizing. all the while. that the interests of the individual are inextricably bound up with the needs and interests of the whole group. Our own well-being is necessarily caught up in the prosperity of the group(s) with which we identify ourselves--family. job. community. nation.
What happens. within the individual psyche. to get him to identify his interests with the whole?
When his interests are obviously so fundamentally incompatible with the interests of society as a whole.
The last thing we want to do is sacrifice all that precious psychic energy (libido) for some compromise that is only remotely related to our primordial (genuine) wishes.
What is crucial to recognize about sublimation is that built into the compromise of frustrating our natural desires and doing something socially useful (but symbolically related) instead. is the guarantee of permanent. continuous nonsatisfaction of our original innocent desires. What happens in sublimation is a substitute object for the original choice of the instinct. an object choice that is increasingly further removed from the original as we get older. more "mature," more "grown up."
Do you remember your last deep love relationship--in the sack?
How much good do you suppose two people in the sack making love are to society?
How many bridges do they build? How many children do they teach? How many PhD's do they earn?
Something happens very early in infancy to turn all that energy of the organism back in upon itself. precisely to curb what it would most like to do.
Ands this it does precisely for the sake of the species. which we all need for our survival and well-being.
The way the organism is psychologically set up it spends its whole life doing things that are totally self-defeating.
And most of you who are in this class know perfectly well what I am talking about and are looking for a way out of it.
Let's take a look at the ontogenetic cause for our answer.
When a child is faced with these two monsters that contradict his desires with fire and brimstone and threatening storms he has almost no psychological options. He must take their commandments. the only reality he has to work with. at face value.
There really is something evil and bad about his desires and he had better adapt to it. That is. change them.
How can he do this?
By setting up an agency in him. something that sounds like a "voice," that warns him about crossing one of the unseen barriers (taboos). The warning takes on the special form of anxiety. which is a vague fear of punishment for having done something that threatens one's survival or well-being.
A child is not very discriminative in these matters. What threatens is real. If you say that it's bad. and my stability entirely depends on your state of mind. then it is bad. for all intents and purposes. which are the only ones around.
What a child hears as a voice correcting him is something he learns to "introject," something he takes into his own consciousness and makes his own.
And this he does as a perfectly reasonable adaptation to an environment that he has to adapt to.
This is the seminal voice of morality. As we all know.
Later in our lives it is this and only this
that we will have to guide us.
The conclusion of this analysis. and of every major orthodox theory of psychotherapy that I have encountered. is that the direct cause of hostility and aggression in human beings is morality. (quite apart from whatever underlying causes there are for it).
This may startle some of you. but it is true nonetheless.
The reasons are obvious if you think about them.
How else can you restrict the two major drives in human life--sexuality and aggression? How else can you transform all that free-floating instinctual energy. which seeks its own self-satisfaction. into socially constructive channels? How else can you block drives which. if allowed to go free and unrestricted. would quickly destroy the foundations of civilization. the primary instrument man has devised for his own survival?
How else but by the introduction of one little word into his vocabulary. and into his sphere of thought and being: "guilt."
From the point of view of medical psychology. guilt is probably the precious word in our psychological life: it has made each of us what we are today.
I am the result of all the ways I inhibited. displaced. and sublimated all my major drives. which can be summarized under the headings of erotic and aggressive.
How did I do that? Through the mechanism of repression.
But what happens in repression to produce the psychological "me" that I take around in everyday life and call my "personality?"
(It's on the basis of how well I do my job of repression that back in school I was known for having a "good" personality. or a "bad" personality. or. as the recommendation forms for the students in my college put it. a "substandard" personality.)
What happens is that while we are growing up under the wing of our parents. this little process goes on called "identification," wherein we "identify" with the ideals and taboos laid down by our parents as our way of psychologically incorporating them.
We perceive the discrepancy. and here is where the great distinction in human life between the word "is" and the word "ought" originates. between what we are and what we should be: that difference is made very clear to us all the time by the messages from our parents.
How does a little kid handle this discrepancy? He seeks to become like what he is told he "really" is. He makes the ideals his own. They become ego ideals. in psychoanalytic jargon.
At first they are mythical. unreal. But because they are presented to him by his parents. the only source of love. protection. and satisfaction of his desires. as the unconditional conditions for their acceptance of him. they become pretty real pretty fast. The child loses little time in seeing that it is in his own best interests in making them his own.
But what happens as he evolves through the psychosexual stages of infancy is much more than just an implantation of the ideals and mythical realm of value and morality. which is puzzlingly a matter of teaching somebody to create a sense of what is not the case. to make it more real than what is the case. and correct what is the case by what is not the case. namely what ought to be the case.
What more that happens. in addition to getting one to learn about this mythical reality. is that it is given POWER.
When I said "It always came down to this. didn't it dad?" as I clenched my fist in front of his face. by God it did come down to that.
Imagine the shock and surprise on a little kid's face when he learns about the distinction between what he is doing and what "shouldn't" be done: which are the same thing.
How does this happen?
The more surprise the better.
Or. at least the more effective.
That is how we learn morality. at the end of something that makes it perfectly clear. in any language known to man. that what we are doing is a direct threat to our well-being. In no uncertain terms. And if you don't believe it. here. I'll show you.
Ouch. that hurts. Mom. Okay I'll be good. I'm sorry. No. I won't do it again.
What happens to the fundamental contradiction that who he is and what he is doing and who he should be and what he should be doing are not the same thing?
Where can the child punt?
The answer to this question--and this is the greatest puzzle of psychoanalysis. manifesting itself as the major problem in psychotherapy as it is practiced today. all psychotherapy--is that there is no answer.
The discrepancy between who the child is and who he ought to be is a discrepancy that cannot be reconciled by psychotherapy. as it is practiced today. for the simple reason that the medical model of psychological health to which this therapy logically subscribes is fundamentally and irreconcilably at odds with the real nature of man.
Look at the picture of the utterly irreconcilable tension that we are left with in our understanding of the unconscious mind. Look at what the unconscious is composed of. which forms the bottom of the iceberg that we are trying to surface in therapy.
(Which is a pretty good metaphor for just what we are trying to do in psychotherapy as it is understood today.)
The child cannot stand his own self-concept. so it is repressed. And the model of what he should become replaces it. (to satisfy his parents). This he grudgingly (yet cheerfully and eagerly) follows throughout his childhood. trying to live up to what mommy and daddy think of him. and secretly sure (a)that he never can live up to what they want. and (b) that what they want has nothing to do with what he knows he really wants.
This causes a certain point of tension. Both in childhood. and in the therapeutic session after the kid (the child inside the adult) has broken through. and the patient has started what will become a "nervous breakdown" if allowed to follow its course.
The tension comes. not only from the life and death instincts. not only from the sexual and aggressive taboos. not only from the brittle dichotomy between the "ideal" self and the "real" self that the patient so desperately feels. but mainly through the way he is taught to look at himself.
That is through the mechanism of guilt.
Next to fear. guilt is probably the biggest hypnotic dream on the market.
Whether you believe in it as a power in somebody else or yourself. or whether you believe it ought to be a power in somebody else or yourself. Guilt is the single largest cause of psychiatric breakdowns in Western Civilization. It simply eclipses the sun in individual life.
The psychiatric explanation for how it arises. and what the reasons for its necessity are as follows:
Civilization. the species. has got to set up powers within the individual that will curb his sexual and aggressive instincts. and that will keep him producing for the sake of civilization rather than for his own interests. This it does in two ways.
First. it turns all the nightmarishly aggressive sexual tension against him if he should even think about transgressing the taboos laid down for him in childhood. This it does through the agency of the superego. which (magically) takes the transgression which was real and dangerous in childhood. and pretends that it remains real in later life. in adulthood. and makes the (now adult) individual sweat out the anxiety of transgressing the same kind of taboos today that it did in childhood.
Second. civilization. (the immediate family and society in which the child is raised). persuades the growing child and young teenager that the ideals of civilization (society) and his own are identical. Which is preposterous....by the very theory that provides us with this understanding.
The poor. haggard. guilt-ridden wreck that comes out of all this analysis to face life in suburban America (if he is lucky) is quite rightly viewed a remarkable character by psychotherapy. for not having more breakdowns than he has.
He is the product of an entire social
system. medical. moral. political. and educational.
which subscribes 100%. whether it is
conscious of it or not. to the insanity of viewing human life on this planet in this
Good morning. Let me give you the most effective argument I have been able to garner against the belief in God from the world of mental health. I will take everything I know about psychotherapy and apply it to the case at hand to show that the belief in God as I have presented it is not only logically unfounded. but logically irrational.
These claims are much more powerful than those of simple atheists. like Nietzsche and Sartre. who merely declare that the belief in the fourth dimension is without reason and cowardly. With the aid of psychoanalytic thought. buttressed by the (perhaps unwitting) aid of the social institution of "mental health," we have the thoroughly undermining claim that it is neurotic.
The roots of the belief are simple and easy to see.
When a child is left alone in a crib. there comes a time when he recognizes the dark. He associates this recognition with the absence of his mother. or. what is symbolically understood later as his separation from her.
He cries out for her in the dark.
Either she comes back in and picks him up or she doesn't. (In my day it was fashionable for mothers to let their babies "cry themselves to sleep.")
Either way the crucial recognition and its solution have occurred. There is the recognition that we are alone. the intolerable fear that this generates. and the personal cry to the universe for help.
One later learns how to manipulate that universe in whatever way one has to to secure relief from the separation. and the fear. pain. and primal scream associated with it. Later events don't have to come very close to the original prototype to evoke any kind of avoidance behavior to prevent a recurrence of the original shock. Later. too. this "parent"-child relationship shifts to the father. as the child matures enough to recognize that he is the controller of the security. peace. and protection of the universe of the household.
The warmth that we get when we run to mommy or daddy to protect us from the frightening elements of our lives is what we seek (unconsciously) when we hit the early teenage years. recognize our father's and mother's face for what they are--fallible and mortal--and begin to replace them with a relationship to God.
The belief in God restores all the precious elements of childhood that are torn away from us when we are introduced to "reality," and recognize the scientific realities of life. We are made of matter. some kind of substantive material "stuff," even if we aren't quite sure what it is. We decompose at death. our consciousness separated from those we have loved all our lives; in what manner we are not sure. The cause of our death will have been disease or accident; which we are not sure. Nor will it matter. All of those witnessing our death will die also. and each is really more concerned about his own death than he is about ours. We will die as we were born; "dust to dust. ashes to ashes," and our being here really will not have made any difference to any but those whom we have touched. and they are all dying too. In fact. the whole planet from which we arose is decaying and changing its material state. The crucial thing to realize is how totally insignificant I am in the whole cosmic scheme of things. It really doesn't matter anyway. So. relax. take it easy. and enjoy the few precious moments of life that I am lucky enough to have.
This train of thought. which I am sure has never crossed the minds of any of you. is a pretty fair statement of the case for creating psychological defenses for protecting ourselves from the pain of seeing things in this morbid way. a way which guarantees that all the frightening things of childhood are going to come true.
Now where in the past have we handled this kind of terror before?
Only one place.
In our relationship with our folks.
What we did there. when we first greeted the nightmarish terrors of reality. like the fact that we are going to die. was to identify the power of the universe as personal. i.e.. the power in our universe was in the form of two people--mom and dad. And. from earliest dawning memory we learned to treat the power in our lives as coming from human beings. people. whom we learned how to handle and manipulate to our own advantage and protection.
We learned things like penance.
We learned things like humility.
We learned respect. obedience. love. and just reward for well spent effort.
We learned to treat others as we would have them treat us.
We learned to seek shelter and comfort in their benevolent care.
We learned about mercy and freedom and peace. which are largely freedom from guilt.
We learned about the pecking order of authority.
But. more than anything else. we learned about how to pacify the wrathful figures of force in our lives. And this we did by learning how to recognize. understand. and manipulate them as people.
Little kids don't have a natural sense of guilt: they have to learn it. Like dogs. except more complicatedly.
My dog. when he pees on the rug in my house doesn't know that it is wrong. In fact. he has no idea that it is in the faintest way a "naughty" thing to do.
The only time that it becomes "naughty" is when my bellowing voice and a humiliating kick in the buns create "naughtiness" out of thin air. Then he knows naughtiness. and can begin to employ the concept. not to advance his education about the universe. but to help him protect himself in the universe in which he has to live.
He doesn't actually feel guilty at first; he pretends to feel guilty. Later. because it helps him respond to the situation more adaptively he learns to feel guilt. which is really no more than feeling fear of anticipated punishment.
But he is a "good dog," a well-behaved dog. or appears to be a good dog. only because he has learned how to be to save his own bacon.
The dog has developed a sense of morality. a sense. a knowledge. of right and wrong by manipulating his master.
So far as I can glean from all the literature that I have studied on the field of mental health. little kids do exactly the same thing.
Morality is the technique used by children to pacify the storm. It is their strongest tool for controlling the forces that control their lives--their parents. If they are "good little children" they will have (seemingly) ensured. not only their protection from dangerous forces outside the home. but also from the single most traumatic source of danger in their lives--their parents themselves.
All of which works fine in childhood. where the technique of pacifying the parents really does suit the adaptive interests of the child.
But what about later?
What about when he later tries the same technique of personifying nature. and trying to tame the forces that threaten him by personifying them. casting up an anthropomorphic God. and relating to him in a personal way in the same manner in which he tried to handle his parents.
This would not be the activity of a rational man squarely staring at the universe.
This would be the act of a frightened. irrational child.
Say. for example. one who couldn't stand the sound of his parents killing each other downstairs with their fighting. One who was starved enough for love in his childhood that he had to invent a mythical being to overcome the terrors of the night and comfort him. One who. when he found the realities of the harsh world of scientific materialism too cold. intensified his conviction that something else was controlling things. Even though there was no evidence whatsoever to support that contention except a quiet intuition that spoke to him reassuringly when he most needed it.
One who was so traumatically frightened by life in his childhood by his father. that the only way he could possibly cope with life outside the home when he left it was to deify it. the way he did his father. and then spend his life serving the same high goals imposed upon him at home. in hopes. eventually. of pacifying Him by serving out a life in service to the high ideals set as a condition for His love.
One who made his place of employment. an institution. into a surrogate mother. for whom he was willing to do almost anything to secure her love and appreciation.
One who. receiving the natural affection from his students for his efforts on their behalf. has a complete mental breakdown because he has not learned to cope with the normal give-and-take of affection between adults. having lived in a world of fantasy. seeking unrealistic goals in the pursuit of idealized love all his life.
And. finally. one who has been prescribed a lifetime supply of lithium carbonate. to medically control his delusions of grandeur and persecution stemming from his episode of (something like) manic-depressive psychosis. which he stopped taking over a year and a half ago. and now has a messianic complex.
This is clearly the behavior of an irrational child who cannot cope with reality.
The pressures of life are so great that he can do no other than fantasize the existence of a personal God.
Unless. he is being led out of the labyrinth of the third dimension by all this pressure. and his only virtue has been that of open-mindedness.
It is your choice.