Monday, January 20, 2020

#45 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Masculine cultural DNA #13)

Let's try to peel the onion of how archetypes might shed light on our wounds.

James Hillman writes these words about our complexes:
Our complexes are not only wounds that hurt and mouths that tell our myths but also eyes that see what the normal and healthy parts cannot vision. Andre Gide said that illness opens doors to a reality which remains closed to the health point of view. One understands what he meant about the psychological acuity and richness of culture during periods of historical decay; but why is the same phenomenon of psychological depth in period of personal decay—ageing, neurosis, depression—not recognized with the same respect?
The soul sees by means of affliction. Those who are most dependent upon the imagination for their work—poets, painters, fantasts—have not wanted their pathologizing degraded into the “unconscious” and subjected to clinical literalism. (“The unconscious,” and submitting the pathologized imagination to therapy, found favor with less imaginative professions: nurses, educationalists, clinical psychologists, social workers.) The crazy artist, the daft poet and mad professor are neither romantic clichés nor antibourgeois postures. They are metaphors for the intimate relation between pathologizing and imagination. Pathologizing processes are a source of imaginative work, and the work provides a contained for the pathologizing process.
The wound and the eye are one and the same. From the psyche’s viewpoint, pathology and insight are not opposite—as if we hurt because we have not insight and when we gain insight we shall no longer hurt. No. Pathologizing is itself a way of seeing: the eye of the complex gives the particular twist called “psychological insight.” We become psychologists because we see from the psychological viewpoint, which means by benefit of our complexes and their pathologizings.
Normal psychology insists that this twisted insight is pathological. But let us bear in mind that normal psychology does not admit pathologizing unless dressed in its patient’s uniform. It has a special house called abnormal. And let us also bear in mind that the ego’s normative view of the psyche is a cramped distortion. If we studied soul through art, biography, myth; or through the history of ways, politics and dynasties, social behaviour and religious controversy; then normal and abnormal might have to switch houses. But normal academic psychology eschews these fields and compiles its statistics so often from undergraduates who have not yet had the chance to experience the range of their madness….
Archetypal psychopathology finds the pathological inherently necessary to the myth: Christ must have his crucifixion; Dionysus must be childish and attract titanic enemies; Persephone must be raped: Artemis must kill him who comes too close….
Consciousness today is closer to its pathology. Psychopathology is no longer held behind asylum walls. The sickness fantasy is now so dominate that one sees disintegration, pollution, insanities, cancerous growth, and decay wherever one looks. Pathology has entered our speech and we judge our fellow and our society in terms once reserved for psychiatric diagnoses. And the ego falls apart….The soul moves, via the pathologized fantasy of disintegration, out of too-centralized and muscle-bound structures which have become ordinary and normal, and so normative that they no longer correspond with the psyche’s needs for nonego imagination realities which “perturb to excess.”(James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, Harper, New York, 1976, p.106-7-8-9)

Undoubtedly all of us experience something we would call disintegration.
Each of us too have experienced the overflow of what were formerly psychiatric diagnoses thrown around like “bullets” in conversations, character defamations and character assessments by people who have neither the credentials nor the right to do so. In too many psychiatrists’ offices, too, glib and flippant names are stuck like “sticky-memo’s” on the foreheads of patients, without so much as a complete biographical history being undertaken.

Feeling the impingement of potentially degrading pathologizing into the unconscious in the manner of those “less imaginative professions,” I am trying to embrace a more expansive, imaginative and mythical “eye” and “wound”…without continuing to be ensnared in the conventional, social, political framework. There is something both challenging and freeing in the exploration of multiple images as potential hints at what might be going on in my own ‘wound’.

The implications of refusing to “begin” with the prospect of either “sickness” or “evil” in what conventional psychology considers to be the two exclusive categories of abnormal behaviour, visions, and depictions are both freeing and, of course, profoundly unsettling for many. Overturning norms, normative assumptions and the detailed and complex manner by which those norms have become accepted (normalized, sanctioned and rewarded)  in our hospitals, our courts, our educational institutions, and our social agencies, poses a picture of reduced power over individuals by the professionals, and challenge to the perspective that informs and undergirds many of our educational curricula, social norms, justice-system practices and rules.
Elevating the poet, the artist, the ‘daft’ professor from the trash bin of ostracisism, to the lighthouse on the shore of our shared dark nights of the soul is just one of the many potential benefits of a new perspective.

Nevertheless, even a private exploration of some of these themes, begins to offer connections between the rich, deep, and cross-cultural mythologies that comprise the foundation of our literature and our art, and our much more complex beings that many reductionists would prefer.

Considering the spice of a Saturn, or an Eros, or a Dionysus mixing with the cocktail shaker of one’s life, seems, at least to this scribe, to be far more enlightening and accepting, tolerant and enriching than a simple “depressed” and in need of a pill. Individual human perception of the complexity, the sensibilities, the sensitivities, the patterns of the gods that just might be playing out in lives thousands of years after their original imaginative conceptualization, is not only a fresh perspective of how we might see ourselves but also potential universal link to all of humanity.

Individual complexity, diversity, ethnicity, language, it seems reasonable, extends far beyond the confines of an ideology, a religions dogma, a politically “incorrect” judgement, and perhaps also a “criminal intent” as the starting point for all law enforcement. Reducing a cancerous tumour, for example, to a diseased piece of matter in need of excision, too, precludes what that tumour might/could/would say if we were willing and able to “listen” to its deep and profound anguish.

While it is inappropriate to project any specific “wound” onto a group of people, there is enough evidence around us to speculate that many men in North America seem to walk around in a state of self-perceived and believed “unworthiness”. There are a zillion potential reasons for such a cultural wave. Proving one’s self, in, the eyes of a parent, teacher, coach, professor, boss, (not to mention God) is an integral component of how men operate. Competition with other men, as an part of this path only fuels the fire to do even better, more, more skillfully, more efficiently, more fluently, and in a more disciplined way. The conventional arguments supporting this cliché abound: higher marks, more degrees, higher income, higher status, social approbation and even adulation. Classical conditioning taken to its logical conclusion: extrinsic rewards will motivate all competitors….

Except that the research is not unequivocal about that assumption. Long past the Maslow hierarchy, many men are coming to realize that our relationships, our sense of being valued and respected, our capacity to father, and to husband, to create and to imagine are at least as important as those medals, trophies, bonuses and stock options and corner offices. Evidence suggests too that, in an environment  in which the corporate culture continues to depend almost exclusively on those extrinsic rewards, the creeping toxins of greed, excessive ambition, personal demonization of competitors have a greater tendency to influence events.

Just this week, we have learned, for example, that Boeing’s business model on the debacle known as the 737 Max 8 jet, two of which have crashed, relied on greed, and omitted the requisite critical examination, evaluation, inspections, caution and extended time. Nevertheless, the CEO, after being relieved of his post, left with a reported $62 million severance package. The other real danger, according to some reports is that no one will ever be held accountable for the multiple tragedies, loss of life and serious and warranted hit to Boeing’s stock and reputation.

There is another side to the “unworthiness” syndrome: and that takes the shape of over-confidence, super-human perceptions, beliefs and risks (that no one will find out about). Hercules still lives apparently at Boeing. Hillman writes:

"(I)t is also possible to insight the ego and ego psychology, by reverting it to the heroic myths of Hercules with whose strength and mission we have become so caught that the patterns of Hercules--clubbing animals, refusing the feminine, fighting old age and death, being plagued by Mom but marrying her younger edition--are only now beginning to be recognized as pathology." (Hillman, op. cit. p.102)

Are we to be under any delusion that there will be a transforming tidal wave of psychological insight flowing in the upper power-and-wealth echelons of a culture in which 2100 billionaires own more than 60% of the world’s wealth (according to CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria) or in the U.S. where a mere 4 families own more than 40% of the wealth in that country? No.

In fact, the Hercules myth has such a hold on the culture, especially in the last decade, that it is becoming engraved in the political and corporate mind-set.
What might be feasible is for more of us to begin to reconsider how we see ourselves, and how we see others, especially when we are suffering deep and profound anguish. Rather than link it exclusively to a single piece of behaviour, (our own or another’s) and then sliding into a pattern of denial, avoidance, and self-loathing, we might consider reflecting on the myth, and/or the god, or the hero or heroine whose story might be finding another iteration in our life.

Whether we are trying too hard, flying too close to the sun (and melting the wax that holds our “wings” together, or whether we are desperate for love, or experiencing something like hysteria, or impulsiveness, we are likely to be treading on paths previously trod by mythical figures whose stories might just shed some light on the situation.

And, just as importantly, if and when we witness what we might have considered bizarre behaviour, or a piece of incomprehensible art, we might reject our previously “impulsive” judgement of both the behaviour and the person behind it as “sick.” Instead, we might try to think/look/reflect/inquire/speculate as to what “story” is being enacted before our eyes, ears, and our unique and mythic perspective.

I’m just saying!!!!..........

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