When we try to understand why we emotionally suffer, we can look to the ever-growing, reliable knowledge that traumatic, overt emotional wounds of commission can surely cause our emotional suffering via depression, anxiety and even extreme states.
John Read’s groundbreaking research on the impact of traumatic childhood adversity in the genesis of psychosis, leads the way in refuting psychiatry’s disease model.
That disease-based model instead points to underlying genetic and neurological processes that both cause and sustain psychosis. It’s hugely important that research is showing that trauma is finally being broadly understood as a reason why almost all people become psychotic.
But in my experience of 35 years as a therapist while serving people in emotional suffering and/or extreme states, I’ve seen that there can also be a lack of awareness by mental health professionals, and even those of us in the reform movement chronicled here on MIA, about emotional wounds of omission that go unseen, wounds that have no guarantee of ever being clearly seen, let alone completely understood. Those wounds are caused by our intrinsic needs for empathy, compassion and love, not being met.
I’d like to encourage a dialogue about those wounds of omission with this essay.
I believe that our social-Darwinism-based and patriarchal/corporate mass market culture uses the emotional currencies of guilt, shame, fear and anger to motivate us, and by doing so, emotionally wounds us in many ways we aren’t easily aware of.
We are all vulnerable to being injured covertly from our culture by our needs for empathy, compassion and love not being sufficiently met in our daily lives. These needs certainly are greatest when we are children. If we don’t get enough empathy, compassion and love from our family, friends and social group as we’re growing up, we may be unable to negotiate the huge developmental milestone of young adult autonomy and self-support without becoming psychotic, even if we’ve had no overt trauma happen to us our entire lives until then.
As rebel psychiatrist RD Laing noted, our “normal ego” is in fact “that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality.” Laing advocated the caregiver response of love and compassion as the antidote to reverse the suffering of those in madness.
In this essay, I’ll mainly be drawing on my years of specializing in serving people in extreme states from a hybrid neo-Jungian and Laingian perspective, one that also relies on the caregiver giving empathy, compassion and love as the best practices response to others in extreme states. By exploring the etiology of psychosis from a heart-centered, transpersonal/depth psychology perspective, and from Laingian-social-impact perspective, we can find subtle contributing factors that are very important.
My followup 2002 doctoral research on the medication-free, first-episode psychosis program called Diabasis House showed that there was a therapeutic “way” of caregivers being with people in extreme states that relied on empathy, compassion and loving receptivity instead of the clinical detachment that is part of the disease model of care. This humanistic and heart-centered “way” of caregiver response to residents was the key beneficial variable in the successful treatment outcomes for almost 80 residents.
Writing this now may challenge both the conventional wisdom of the disease model of psychiatry, and the perhaps over-determined, overt trauma causation approach to the etiology of psychosis that has been so widely embraced here on MIA. In my view, all of our intra-psychic, personal and familial experiences and relationships occur in the often extremely toxic and stressful emotional crucible that our dysfunctional culture provides for all of us regardless of social class. Indeed, in my 28 years serving in an urban public mental health system, the ever- present effects of violence, poverty, racism and community fragmentation counted hugely in the suffering of all.
Our culture’s widespread “survival of the fittest” ethos has reduced the social contract in 2016 to a struggle for wealth, power and dominance that pits us against each other in fierce competition. Is it fair to say that in that competitive environment, the healing balms of love and serenity are rarely the consistent, normal portions we receive from others or from ourselves throughout the day?
If not, then what is our daily bread?
Fear, shame, guilt, despair and anger take up so much of the emotional space in the collective and solitary rooms we live in. Those painful emotions are the emotional currency of a culture that long ago lost its way from the ideals of altruism and justice. Such invisible injuries to our spirits and souls may come at us every hour of the day. We may become numb to their impact on us and not even be able to identify our huge unmet needs for empathy and compassion.
When the collective daily life of us all is a constant dog-eat-dog contest for success and status, is there ever enough time and energy for seeking and finding an abundance of love and nurturing peace of mind?
The destructive, modern-nation-state chaos that threatens us all with conventional and nuclear war, racism, environmental and economic disaster, terrorism, poverty, and loss of personal freedom has created an often loveless, dystopian world that is no longer imaginary. It feels like a hybrid blend has been created, one that draws on what both Orwell and Huxley prophetically imagined.
Signs of the times now include that one in 4 women are prescribed a psychiatric medication and countless toddlers, children and teens are medicated too.
In this atmosphere of social alienation and almost universal personal malaise, I’ve frequently been in rooms, over the past decades, with families and mental health professional people who earnestly wonder why some young adults they love and care about break down and crash, become psychotic or severely depressed, without ever having had an abusively raised voice or raised hand against them in their personal histories. No history of overt trauma. The recognizable, overt traumatic wounds of commission that could have caused the young adult’s madness or despair or terror were not present.
But still they have crumbled under an invisible weight.
Since I don’t believe they are victims of neuropsychiatric brain disease syndromes, I believe that they are casualties of the invisible wounds of omission that our culture inflicts on them and all of us. In my experience with these younger people who have become psychotic, without overt trauma, I came to see that not getting a minimum requirement of empathy, compassion and love was sufficient cause for their becoming psychotic.
They may have had very good hearted, non-abusive parents but those parents were often overwhelmed by the societal demands on them, demands that forced them to stumble through the door at night, emotionally exhausted after commuting and working long hours. It’s no surprise the warm empathy, compassion and love for their children—and for themselves—had long been in desperately short supply.
A plant needs the perfect combination of nutrients and sun and water to bloom in the spring. It needs these things sustained over the summer to bring forth fruit in the season of harvest. We too need an abundance of love and safety and praise to grow up strongly and to flourish.
Without them in abundance we wither or spasm in pain.
We all long to be heard in a way that our precious words are lovingly welcomed by the ears we want opened to us; our eyes long to be seen into by eyes that adore us and glow with love for us. We want to be lovingly held with arms that hold us with tender and fierce devotion.
Where do parents, siblings, relatives, teachers and caregivers find the easily accessible aquifers of love and serenity to renew themselves in the socially arid 24 hours we all travel through that make up a typical day?
The good news is that those fountainheads of sustenance exist closer than we may imagine. We don’t have to spend all our time looking at our failed culture’s faulty design. Let’s instead take time to try and receive the healing balms we need from ourselves and each other.
It sometimes happens that people in an extreme state process will respond quite dramatically to a transfusion of empathy and compassion as highlighted in the two examples shared below. In most instances, a gradual process of healing and integration takes place over time, if people are provided the crucial relationship with a caregiver or loved ones where the transformative essence of empathy and compassion is consistently present.
Recently I was with a young adult without a trauma history who’d been hospitalized before but who hadn’t spoken a complete sentence in months, and yet started talking in complete sentences midway through our first hour together. For almost all that time, I sat quietly and looked at them with an open heart of caring, not a single thought about diagnosis clouding my mind or eyes, my eyes instead looking at them with warm delight. And then, the first sentence. A well-formed sentence that began our relationship in words exchanged, that has grown into conversations at times that sound completely normal.
Another young adult with no trauma history recently came to see me after spending a month in one of the most prestigious private psychiatric hospitals in the country. Their parents had read some of my articles on madinamerica.com and decided to bring the young person to see me. After a few minutes of quiet time sitting alone together, I said how sorry I was that the young person had been and was still suffering.
In response a floodgate of emotion and words came pouring out, keening wails of despair and fear, words grasping for meaning as I sat with my eyes in tears at the raw human emotion being shared with me. After 45 minutes, when I didn’t say a word but listened with my heart wide open, the emotional outpouring subsided. The young person then said, “Thank you Michael for caring and listening to me. I was in that hospital for a month and never spoke a word of this to anyone there. I did not believe I could trust them.”
I’m 70 now and still see people in extreme states every week. I have hope that the young people coming up now will create a future where the cultural wounds of omission that can be so hurtful are gone, and there will be a future society where those needs are met.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
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Lovely article thank you. Yes, severe neglect can be absolutely debilitating. WRD Fairbairn used to write about how “a bad object is better than no object”, i.e., having a bad relationship is better than existing in a black hole where one is not related, for better or worse, to anyone or anything.
Another extremely useful perspective comes from Heinz Kohut, with his focus on the crucial need for mirroring (support by external others of autonomy/independence) and idealizing (comfortable dependence on a supportive other) in the child and young adult… and older adult too. Failure of these needs to be met leads to the ontological insecurity that Laing wrote about, to fragmentation of what would have been a coherent self, and if the deficits are severe enough to psychotic defenses such as de-differentiation, psychotic projections (hallucinations), delusions, etc.
I hope you will see fit to write a book about your therapeutic work with psychotic youngsters in the coming years. A book with compelling stories of meaningful work with 10-15 psychotic young people from a person-centered approach, showing the contrast between your understanding of them with that of the disease model, could be very compelling… and would add to the small library of such books that we need more of, which includes works by such authors as Paris Williams (Rethinking Madness), Ira Steinman (Treating the Untreatable), Ty Colbert (Healing Runaway Minds), etc.
Thank you for your encouragement to write a book like that, BPDTransformation, B.A.. I’ve found the person-centered approach to also be helpful with people of all ages. I think the youngest child I spent time with who was suffering emotionally was 2 1/2 years old, and the oldest senior was in their 80’s. I guess we’re never too young or too old to need to be seen and heard and cared about.
Best wishes, Michael
Good article; agree with much. I “have” cptsd from severe life long abuse because I am intelligent and unique in my views . Big fan of the old Thomas Szasz theories, that labeling is societies way of control (see wikipedia, who i do not trust as I believe it is right and full now of disinfo on many topics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Szasz)
Also believe ala the participatory paradigm ( seehuman-inquiry,com) that all re;relationship is sacred.John Heron was a beloved mentor for many years btw.
Also consider Bessel von der Kolk’s The Body Reveals in which he apologizes for years spent medicating clients.
I am privileged/blessed to have a coach who gets cptsd, the underlying lack of love and as this article from Harvard suggests, the lack of empathy, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/greater-self-acceptance-improves-emotional-well-201605169546?utm_source=delivra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=BF20160516-PosPsych&mid=12175056&ml=149764
I am homeless now but creativity and self esteem actually rising. See 2 posts from my renewed blog. Nutrition, loving relationships, and no psych drugs have transformed me. http://www.livedlearning.net/spirit-shop/ and http://www.livedlearning.net/about-me-alive-and-well/
Good luck in furthering you work. Yes, love, especially for those that seem “different” is the correct “treatment”. Bravo!
Thank you very much npeden, for the link to your blog of personal sharing about how nutrition, loving relationships and no psych drugs have transformed you- and thanks for the other valuable resource links too..
You know that the predictable response to your argument of their inability to function like a civilized person is not excused because their mom did not love them enough.
Unfortunately many people were not loved by their parents, but have had to make it without someone to hold their hand through life.
They had to survive by adjusting to the unjust society, they do not see a ‘dog eat dog world’ as a bad thing but one that makes the world go around.
Society sees those who can’t function without love as useless eaters, it is an unfortunate truth.
Good luck with helping others.
You say- “Society sees those who can’t function without love as useless eaters, it is an unfortunate truth.” I don’t believe that’s true jackdaniels. It looks to me that our culture is very conflicted over whether we view empathy, compassion and love as prized or not.
Because empathy, compassion and love are in desperately short supply in our daily lives, doesn’t mean they aren’t also desperately missed and longed for- even secretly so by the most Spartan of rugged individualists.
The culture believes in tough love, so there is no longing for empathy, compassion, and love by most people.
Maybe from your perspective they are desensitized to what you consider love, compassion, or empathy to be but they are not.
They believe it builds character not to complain about the problems in life that we all have, and to tough it out. They very well empathize with others, but they have had hard lives too so why do few complain?
Compassion to them is teaching someone to fish rather than handing them fish, meaning you don’t make them out to be victims and to embrace that victim-hood.
With all due respect society views what you believe is compassion, empathy, and love as coddling.
“I believe that our social-Darwinism-based and patriarchal/corporate mass market culture uses the emotional currencies of guilt, shame, fear and anger to motivate us, and by doing so, emotionally wounds us in many ways we aren’t easily aware of.”
Ah, you have said a mouthful here, Michael, and I wholeheartedly agree. So much I could say about this, practically a thesis, but I will attempt to streamline here.
Mostly, what strikes me as I read this, and how I interpret it, is that you are talking about mass social wounding. From post-WWII consumerism and media advertising blitzes, it’s been intensifying as the tech info highway grows vastly.
These emotions you mention, yes, we are programmed with these from so early on, as a way of separating us from our innate sense of self, so that we are not getting our own information, but instead from fear, shame, and guilt, we are easily manipulated by outside information, that we *need* something, or else. This kind of subliminal public relations-induced ultimatum creates false beliefs and illusions, because they are lies we are scared into believing. That creates an entirely illusory reality!
When we are in these states chronically, we cut ourselves off from our true nature and intrinsic self-love, which would, in turn, generate love outward without effort were we to be in synch with ourselves.
But instead, as a media-driven culture, we wallow in these constricting emotions thanks to the lies, deceits, illusions, holograms, etc., all those scare tactics, which the media puts in our faces all in the name of power and profit for a very few, at the direct expense of all others. This is a collective consciousness/cultural awakening issue, to my mind.
I think to share love, empathy and compassion, we must learn to feel this for ourselves. So how to achieve this in such a deeply dissociated society? What is real, in that we can depend on it unconditionally, and what is illusion?
Hi Alex, great to hear from you as usual and to share these pages in conversation as we’ve done for a few years now. I agree with every thing you wisely say above- and believe it’s true about the modern mass media and how we’re programmed by it, and wounded and emotionally manipulated by it.
But the necessary pre-condition for that modern instrument of oppression to have emerged, was the destructive power of thousands of years of patriarchal myth forms and male ruled culture shaping institutions, that have scorned our human needs for the healing and life renewing intimacies of empathy, compassion and love.
In the name of glorious war, through the fear and loathing of feminine sexuality via body shaming spiritual purity, and by the hunger to absolutely subjugate or annihilate whole nations, continents and races, the patriarchal aeon has proved itself a human species evolutionary error and dead end.
I believe we’re in the final death throes of that waning patriarchal mythic aeon- and finding sources now of love, compassion and empathy are like finding hidden springs in a tortured wasteland.
We’re literally dying of thirst.
Yes, we’ve had a patriarchal society which has gone to hell in a handbasket. I talk about the patriarchy in my film, Voices That Heal, and how this affected my family, and how it tanked my mental health and caused me to go on the dark night journey. All based on rage, aggression, intimidation, fighting, and oppression, without notion or concern about that is affecting the entire family community. I experienced the microcosm of this in my family. It affected my mother tremendously and she can still reel from it 8 years after my dad’s passing.
Although what made it so toxic is that, even though my mother lived in resentment of my father’s oppressive temper, demands, and emotional neediness, at the same time, she enabled it, and she actually defended my father when it was ME he was demeaning, shaming, and bullying! She was not fond of the fact that I was upsetting the apple cart by standing up in my defense, so in my darkest hour, I lived with the belief that I deserved to be punished. That was my worst delusion, from which I have since healed, via neural rewriting. Thank GOD for neuroplasticity!
I came into acceptance of who my parents were and how they judged and behaved, and my healing was about releasing their programming that I had internalized. What they taught me about life and what the responses they exemplified did not fit my own spiritual blueprint, I did not agree with their perception, and they took this personally, rather than giving me the same permission I gave them to be the people they are—that was a one-way street. Well, I was the better for it, because I was the one who lived with permission and gratitude, and free of the past.
So that’s my point, really, that learning forgiveness, permission, and gratitude is where I found my intrinsic sense of love. I could not count on my folks for unconditional love, it was all conditional to my agreeing with them and validating their negative perception of me, which I would not do of course, that would be spiritual and emotional suicide on my part.
In short, the virtues of releasing past resentments—and also all that I had internalized as a result of this resentment–in order to come into present time with myself in a validating and self-caring way, standing independently in my truth, regardless of how others felt about that, was how I found that internal love, which is what I feel is the God part that connects us all, at the core of our being, our heart consciousness. And to me, God is a perfect masculine/feminine blend. I believe at our core, this is who we are. When we integrate our masculine and feminine selves lovingly, then we feel our wholeness, beyond our physical gender.
As a society, this is what I seek, that unity consciousness that integrates our parts, rather than keeps them in conflict with each other because we refuse to let go of our victim identity. A society built from victimization and anger is duality, that’s what we have now that is so not working.
Unity would see that our differences add up to much-needed diversity, the collective whole as a sum of each one of us, an aspect of God. That is where I feel the love and my thirst is quenched.
Thanks as always, Michael, for these very stimulating and inspiring discussions. I’ve grown a lot from them.
Btw, my folks were pillars of the community. My dad was a very well respected physician, worked for the county with indigent populations, and taught medical school. My mother kept an impeccable home, dinner was on the table at 6 sharp, and she drove the carpools. We took elaborate vacations to all sorts of exotic locations.
They were all image, and lived somewhat shame- and fear-based, from their own issues and beliefs, which is why they judged anyone that did not live up to their impossible standards.
And they were the ultimate consumers, not just of material things, but also of the news and media, they bought into it hook, line, and sinker, and felt we should all adhere to cultural norms. Yet, they complained and complained and complained about society.
These are the standards and beliefs (and horribly mixed messages) with which I was raised, which is what I would call the ‘elusive wound’ to borrow your phrase, both, emotional and spiritual. They wanted me to be someone else, that would fit their projection–to not *embarrass* them (or myself, they would warn me)–rather than allow me to be myself and evolve into the person I was meant to be. (Coming out was particularly interesting, and they labeled themselves as ‘liberal,’ but of course, not in our own backyard!)
I can’t imagine anything more personally constricting than being emotionally manipulated via shame to be other than what we are comfortable being–who we are meant to be–until we wake up to who we really are and living the life we are meant to live. No one, but no one, can tell us this. We have to trustingly follow our paths and inner guidance. Indeed, we have to love ourselves to find our best selves and create our most desired lives. Of this I am certain.
I’m grateful Alex, for you telling us all of your odyssey of transformation and quest for personal freedom- that really is a hero’s journey story as Joseph Campbell describes it.
That heroic struggle so often begins in the microcosm crucible of our families, that are themselves entities that are formed and exist in the surrounding toxic cultural macrocosm universe we’ve been discussing- where woundings of commission and omission are rampant.
It emboldens and soothes me to hear your story both for it’s defiance and for it’s soulful good news of freedom claimed by your loving heart now beating so wide open.
Thank you, Michael, that is so beautiful. You are such a gift to the humanity.
I love and appreciate my family very much for preparing me for the world. They represented it perfectly for me 🙂
True wisdom, and so beautifully expressed. Thank you so much for this and for the great article, Michael.
Thank you very much uprising, for sharing my comment response about the patriarchy that I wish I’d been able to think up and work into the article when I was writing it. But with you and the other wonderful commenters here, together we so often expand on the original blog posts in our conversations in ways that we co-create a living document that is enhanced.
Best wishes, Michael
Thank you, Michael! <3
You’re welcome Naas, thanks for reading. I hope everyone who hasn’t already, will check out your very valuable and inspiring blog posts here on MIA!
Best wishes my friend, Michael
You have gone so much deeper in your analysis and prose to help explain the more hidden forms of psychological and emotional trauma that pervades our culture and society. Since you mentioned Herbert Marcuse in a prior comment following the Bruce Levine blog, what has jumped into my mind is the Marxian concept and explanation for “alienation.”
Much of this alienation has its origins in a class based capitalist economic system. It is here where the various commodities produced via the human creativity, blood, sweat, and tears of those who labor with their hands and bodies (and all their labor value added to those commodities) are ultimately ripped away from their control as they leave the factory, only to later confront them in the marketplace. Here their wages (only a small portion of their own added value) may not even provide enough for them to actually afford to purchase their own human creations. Is this not where it all begins?
Unfortunately, in this kind of system many of our actual human interactions are based on some form of “commodity relationship”; the antithesis of human love and compassion.
We often meet and interact with each other as “commodities” to be bought and sold, or as some source or way to extract money or profit from one another in order to survive and exist. How alienating and overall psychologically damaging are these “emotional wounds of omission” that pervade every pore and fiber of our daily existence. They are so subtle and pervasive that we are barely aware of their presence and damaging effects.
Michael, thanks for these wonderful words and reminders of what is necessary and important in trying to achieve our human potential in this insane world.
Thank you so much for writing Richard. In response to your central question above- “Is this not where it all begins?’ I’d sadly say, no I don’t believe so.
In fact I wish the profound, unconscious alienation that the hugely liberatory Marxist analysis so powerfully explains, explained and captured the roots of the beginning of the path of immeasurable human suffering that empathy, compassion and love, thankfully can be the antidotes for- both personally and collectively.
If the revolutionary message of Marx could completely solve our culture’s tragic state of wasteland-like, planet destroying existence, then such a political and economic solution as Marx envisioned via the death of capitalism should be pursued with our every waking breath.
But the death of capitalism and the rise of a benevolent, egalitarian social/economic world can only be a partial solution to our culture’s dilemma in my view.
What I’ve been calling the patriarchy, that began in earnest thousands of years ago, recently and logically spawned capitalism, just as it also logically built up the institutions of science and it’s offspring and tool for deviance control, the disease model of psychiatry and likewise the obscene modern warfare tool , the atom bomb.
It sounds strange perhaps to confess that Joseph Conrad’s- “The Heart of Darkness”- is still my go to book for comfort. In it I see confirmed the dark vision that confronted me in my year of madness over 50 years ago.
Against that backdrop, to me the patriarchy is just a metaphor for the larger human potential tendency to hoard and abuse power 0ver others, and to revel in organized sadism, cruelty and to be hypnotized by the seductive malignant narcissism of mass leaders like Caesar. Hitler, Stalin and even our own amazing Trump.
The looming evolutionary dead end for our species loosely named patriarchy, really hit it’s stride with the creation of the city state and the creation of agriculture. Until then our hunter gatherer homo sapien brain pans couldn’t come up with the organized people power and hi-tech to eventually blow up the planet.
That’s why I’m a fan of Dionysus who never strayed inside the city walls except to call folks back into the mountains to wild freedom.
So, my swan song is just to keep it simple and say I know empathy, compassion and love can heal, can help us night and day.
There is a heart of darkness and unspeakable horror, there is a heart of light and unimaginable love. That heart is one undivided heart there inside each of us and there inside everyone.
To readers here I’d write-
“Try and choose more light today in your heart than darkness, more love in your heart today than cruelty- before it’s too late and your very short life is over. You may need some help doing that from a higher power. I did.”
You said: “…but the death of capitalism and the rise of a benevolent, egalitarian social/economic world can only be a partial solution to our culture’s dilemma in my view.”
I agree that the issues we face as a human species are much more complicated than simply revolutionizing property relationships and the way human necessities are both produced and distributed in our society.
However, I would argue that as a species we cannot even begin to SERIOUSLY address these problems without such a fundamental economic and political shift on a global scale.
Unless and until ALL people have the same opportunities to access life’s necessities and be both “doers”and “thinkers” we will inevitably be divided into classes. This creates the material conditions for all forms of human exploitation (including patriarchy in all its manifestations) and the types of competition that ultimately leads to plunder, war, and the destruction of the planet.
I feel and support what you’re saying as the main thrust of your article. Still I think the following is not just picking at hairs:
If the revolutionary message of Marx could completely solve our culture’s tragic state of wasteland-like, planet destroying existence, then such a political and economic solution as Marx envisioned via the death of capitalism should be pursued with our every waking breath…but
the death of capitalism and the rise of a benevolent, egalitarian social/economic world can only be a partial solution to our culture’s dilemma in my view.
As to the last point I would say that ending capitalism is not the “solution” but the precondition for the creation for the sort of just society you envision, and for people collectively reclaiming our innate but repressed spiritual qualities.
The first part of the statement is more ambiguous: Are you saying that if socialism is not the complete answer to every human problem that we should not pursue it with every waking breath? Or just saying we shouldn’t get our hopes up too high too soon in terms of concrete results?
There’s always those chicken-egg style theories about what is the origin and prototype for all succeeding forms of oppression — patriarchy, racism, etc. It’s not unimportant, but borders on the metaphysical. I think we can safely say though that, whatever may have come first, in the present day sexism, racism and other “isms” are all used to keep the populace divided against itself and unable to confront the forces of fascism in a unified and effective way.
Societies biases can change the fundamentals that assist in determining its outcome in any given time.
It is human nature to capitalize on others just as in the animal kingdom with lions eating weaker animals.
It is in human nature to help each other for a mutual benefit, where trade built modern civilization and technology.
Finally it is in human nature to love and help selflessly, and not expect anything in return for good deeds.
You said“It is human nature to capitalize on others just as in the animal kingdom with lions eating weaker animals.”
Analogies that compare human beings to other mammals, and then draw conclusions about the nature of our society based on these comparisons, is NOT scientific and only serves the interests of those who profess various forms of genetic determinism.
Science and history indicates that human nature is very adaptable and malleable, and is very much dependent on the way society is organized and on the existence of scarcity or abundance in the necessities of life.
Under capitalism and its related culture it is no accident that many people adopt a “look out for number one and stab people in the back to get ahead” mentality. This is a direct reflection of the “expand or die; eat up your competition before they eat you up” economic survival approach that directly flows from the capitalist law of value.
When human history reaches a point where social and economic classes no longer exist and society is organized on the principle of “from each according to his/her abilities to each according to their needs,” then human nature will have developed and adapted to a place where all forms of violence and exploitation will no longer be necessary and will have simply withered away.
[Making] analogies that compare human beings to other mammals, and then draw conclusions about the nature of our society based on these comparisons, is NOT scientific and only serves the interests of those who profess various forms of genetic determinism.
It is also very insulting to animals.
Is this not where it all begins?
My 2 cents — I think the onset of capitalism is where alienation starts growing exponentially, but I’m sure feudal society was just as “maddening” for those who longed for freedom and were prohibited from openly complaining about the policies of the king.
Hi oldhead, thanks for your great comments. I do think the patriarchy in the broadest sense, because of it’s inherent values that reify power over others, naturally birthed feudalism and capitalism- and as 2016 capitalism morphs into an ever more blatant oligarchy, it almost is like a return to feudalism is happening.
The Citizen’s united supreme court ruling set the stage where just a couple of days ago, multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson pledged $100 million dollars to multi-billionaire Trump’s campaign for president.
Our daily bread of alienation does to a huge degree flow from our modern serfdom. We may be able to more freely complain about the polices of the ruling capitalist oligarchy than the serfs could about the king, but I think until we practice a person by person subjective form of Marcuse’s “great refusal”- that capitalist economic oppression will keep the upper hand.
Previews of a very grassroots wave of person by person, subjective great refusal, came in the 60’s when holding a heart-centered personal inner commitment to peace and love and ant-war beliefs were extolled as themselves being revolutionary acts.
I guess what I’m writing here about the cultural wounds of omission that deprive us all of the necessary abundances of empathy, compassion and love that we all need, really does come from those younger days for me when hearing John Lennon sing -“All you need is love” said it all.
There is no love and compassion until there is pain first, your utopia is an illusion.
We need human nature to reveal it’s primal animal instincts of capitalizing on others through capitalism, before society can have any sort of compassion with socialism.
No such thing as your perfect socialism, as we saw in Nazi Germany when resources are scarce people will eliminate the competition in that society as well to survive.
“Try and choose more light today in your heart than darkness, more love in your heart today than cruelty- before it’s too late and your very short life is over. You may need some help doing that from a higher power. I did.”
Yes, if we make this intention and follow through, little by little, day by day–regardless of whatever else we are doing and how we are living–it would transform each of us, humanity, and the entire world.
Thank you, Michael.
And here’s my love offering. Michael, I have a feeling you might enjoy this. I know you’re a music-lover…
Thank you Alex- this is very awesome!
Thank you so much, Michael 🙂 I’m a big believer in BE the change you want to see.
I take very much to heart your messages about love. These are not fanciful clichés, but truly where our power lies, and particularly our power to heal ourselves, our lives, and our communities. Our shining light–that I truly believe each of us is, at our core–can permeate the globe, were we to allow it to channel through us. That was my discovery, as well, and from where I feel true change will occur.
Great post Michael.
When I think of your use of the term, ‘omission’, I thought of Winnicott’s maxim about those ‘things that should happen and don’t happen. And when the things that are happening are ‘fast food’ psychological development process, so to meet the demands of a Darwinian, It society, people end up never having the very nurturing qualities-you so succinctly wrote about- they need to fully develop.
Thank you plebtocracy- Yes, Winnicott nailed it!
What a thoughtful, insightful essay. You may be chronologically 70, however despite your youth, you write from a sage and energetic essence and ageless vitality. Thank you so much for engaging this topic especially at a time in our world history when the scientific zeitgeist insists upon conducting research into how we might be able to use more than 10 percent of our brain rather than 10 percent of our heart, the true epi-centre of our energetic essence and vitality. It is wonderful to read your essay here, highlighting your heart based values of empathy, compassion and love.
Everyday I read critical research and political news events that I feel are important to keep up with, but that render me bewildered at times. To echo what you have already stated, politics and other economic events sabotage our way of living naturally and cohesively, whether that is through the freedom to choose things such as the quality of food we eat or the safety and necessity of the medicine we sometimes physically require. This low humming fear and anxiety I feel (also growing yearly) is set within the modern nation state of chaos you so very accurately identified. I loved this passage especially,
“Where do parents, siblings, relatives, teachers and caregivers find the easily accessible aquifers of love and serenity to renew themselves in the socially arid 24 hours we all travel through that make up a typical day?”
I feel your work amplifies the virtues of empathy, compassion and love, and is itself an “aquifer of love”. It reminds me that these virtues can be an antidote for the elusive emotional wounds of omission about which you write; but perhaps one must first become aware of their elusive emotional wounds of omission. The way you describe how you hold the space for others who suffer painfully as they open to you, may be how they first become aware of such omissions. I imagine this is when they begin healing and this is what empathy, compassion and love is. In my opinion, this short essay is an opus on real healing.
“In my view, all of our intra-psychic, personal and familial experiences and
relationships occur in the often extremely toxic and stressful emotional crucible that our
dysfunctional culture provides for all of us regardless of social class”
…could well serve as a basis of teaching newly minted therapists how to understand the complex nature of such cultural effects (many have not begun to understand the effects of such cultural exposure due to their limited training; or how the elusive emotional wounds of omission play a role in the integration of such cultural effects). Such lack of awareness may be a sign that the therapist may not be able to confront, understand, or even see their elusive emotional wounds of omission, much less those of the person sitting across from them. As you say, such hidden pain is the residual of our most fundamental needs for love, empathy and compassion not having been met. I wonder, is this the wounded healer’s unconscious need to heal?
You succinctly describe from your rich experience in this area, “All of our intra-psychic, personal and familial experiences and relationships occur in the often extremely toxic and stressful emotional crucible that our dysfunctional culture provides for all of us regardless of social class”.
It is quite challenging to understand and separate how such chaotic cultural effects are experienced in a relationship with early attachment figures, including the “emotional need’s deficits” that parents unknowingly pass down from generations before, and how this may ultimately manifest into emotional overwhelm. This has stirred me to think about other dysfunctional cultures such as the Catholic Church, which in my view, historically directly contributed to today’s modern nation state of chaos as we see such inequality between men and women, which often begins in the family home through the rules of the Church; paradoxically a far cry from the true teachings of Christ.
I was born into and raised by an immigrant mother from a country where the Catholic Church was very much in control of her society. I have also had the good fortune of studying Catholicism from an academic, historical perspective which opened my eyes as to how the Church affected how my family operated and existed. I really had no idea how embedded the Catholic doctrine was in my otherwise liberal family system until I studied the message and values my parents unconsciously followed and blindly handed down to us.
There I discovered much of what you refer to as the elusive emotional wounds of omission, similar to what I had read from historically critical views of the Catholic Church, and how this negatively affects many families, likewise causing states of chaos. There is a silent unspoken unnatural rule of a reticent order to all things in the Catholic family such as about marriage, divorce, social presence in the community, and a value assigned to children by gender, including according to their rank in the family. All of this is on a subconscious level. If any of these rules are accidentally broken, denial and shame often become the only means of coping with the broken rule. Moreover the Church, lead by men only, inform the congregation of issues related to all family matters without any women having been consulted which then translates to the father of the family being ‘head of the household’, someone who is usually absent due to work commitments. Rarely would the mother have an important say on major decisions despite her normally greater role and presence. Additionally, the sons are often glorified while the daughters are often kept in the background, meant to keep the house, etc. The indoctrination of the Church’s patriarchal austerity unconsciously happens in many families where any questioning of power and control is determined by the family’s level of commitment to their faith. The greater the commitment to their faith, the less likely any questions would be asked or answered. A scenario for example is, if a girl questions any of the unequal treatment she receives, she is likely to be hushed and dismissed. However, if she possesses a wilful intellect that questions things further, she likely gets branded as a radical child for questioning the order of things. Thus, the dye is cast and the daughter is seen as troubled, unable to fit in with a completely unnatural society, and cannot accept such oppression in exchange for salvation. Your reference to Laing is most applicable here. The son, meanwhile, becomes upheld as what may be described as somewhat of a messiah, depending on the parent’s devotion to the church. He becomes enabled with divine rights that only the boys of such doctrine are afforded such as not participating in domestic house keeping, no curfew, full access to joining sports, higher education, and in some families, the sons receive the entire inheritance while the daughters receive nothing. The inequality of values created and silently enforced by the Catholic
Church really is quite profound, and contributes to emotional states that are incongruent with living healthily, yet are conducive to modern states of chaos.
I see this dogma as a major influence not just on social culture in some countries; but on the expression of psychosis for those who have been subconsciously affected adversely by the Church. Its important to note that some families are not affected adversely by Church rules; however many are. For example, a manifestation of psychosis that I have personally witnessed was the delusional belief by the male person who was suffering emotional overwhelm of having to save the world from WWIII; or the delusional belief that they were the second coming of Christ. As I tried to understand the metaphorical structures I saw the delusion had a very important function of protecting this person from even further turmoil. When I saw this possibility, it allowed me to become more empathic in my response to him. The delusion seemed to function as an important natural resource for alleviating what had become the intolerable. I saw how these psychotic social and cultural expressions (of metaphorical structures) represented not only the effects of violence, poverty, racism, and community fragmentation, but also how they represented the huge deficits created by the lack of empathy, compassion and love from the family and closer social circle upon which he relied. Questions surfaced for me as a result of having witnessed such powerful delusions, such as, “Who in the family represented WWIII to the person that experienced the psychosis” and, “Who/what was the family member/threat that needed saving, so much so that the person who suffered the psychosis became the second coming of Christ in order to save them?”
I feel there is a real need for understanding more social and cultural elusive emotional wounds of omission, their origins, and an even stronger calling to employ 100% of our heart to embrace empathy, compassion, and love as a natural source of lasting healing.
Thank you Michael for an excellent essay, it’s been a privilege to read and discuss!
Thank you for your very valuable comment NewPC, and for raising the question about how one of our most powerful patriarchal social institution, organized religion, may impact us via causing the kinds of wounds of omission I’m suggesting happen to us all, in this article..
Best wishes, Michael
[This is a continuation of one or two threads above which was getting difficult to navigate.]
Thanks for giving me some brain exercise here, it’s been a bit boring lately…you mentioned something about “patriarchy” having a more archetypical meaning to you than one specifically referring to concrete sexual politics. Or something like that. In a spiritual/metaphysical sense, that search for the origin of oppression could even go back to the yang principle itself perhaps somehow going out of balance and predominating over the yin. Or even the “big bang.” I’m not being sarcastic, it is something to ponder, as there is probably an answer.
I don’t see a return to feudalism, what’s happening seems to me to be a totally predictable pattern of monopoly capitalism snowballing out of control, and taking on more and more aspects of out and out fascism along the way. What to do about it is the question that should be on everybody’s minds.
I’m interested in hearing more about Marcuse’s “Great Refusal,” I’m not familiar (sounds like a spontaneous general strike against business as usual). Eros and Civilization is one of my all time most significant books, though it’s been a long time. I remember the concept of “surplus repression.” Also (unless I’m thinking about Reich) I believe Marcuse raised the issue of how populations on the verge of revolutionary transformation tend to collectively sabotage themselves at the last minute out of, primarily, fear of the unknown (and perhaps in awe their infinite potential). Any thoughts on any of this would be most welcome.
I also love to quote song lyrics but don’t want to raise copyright issues for MIA or myself. 🙂
Check this out:
“But whereas at the beginning yin and yang were perfectly balanced, the Han scholar Dong Zhongshu (179 – 104 BC) reinterpreted the idea to make yin inferior to yang. Giving yang a male essence that took precedence over yin – the female essence – became part of the Confucian cannon. The inferiority of women was now the natural order of things, and patriarchy wasn’t mad-made; it was divinely ordained.” – Amanda Foreman, The Ascent of Woman (TV series), Episode 2
Though I can’t make an obvious joke considering the circumstances, this sounds like typical male behavior religion-wise. But Confucianism can’t be blamed for the rest of the “civilized” world, of course. Undoubtedly there are “western” parallels. What other historical turning points were there during the same period, I wonder.
I was just offering that as a fun-fact because of what you had said about yin and yang. Clearly, patriarchy developed much earlier. I think the following explains its development in Europe:
“The Beginnings of Patriarchy in Europe: Reflections on the Kurgan Theory of Marija Gimbutas ”
Certainly thought-provoking — is archeology/anthropology one of your specialties?
Nope. My only specialty is in trying to make it through each day.
Thanks for this great info uprising! I took a grad school course from Marija Gimbutas where she really made a strong case based on her decades of field work to support her ideas about the genesis of patriarchy.
Wow, neat! 🙂
Should have been “man-made.” Brain damaged by psychiatry here…
A quick Google search provided the following on Herbert Marcuse and his “great refusal”.
While freedom as life without anxiety is another example of his implicit therapeutism, he doesn’t stop there. This “great refusal” would make Marcuse a more interesting writer than I’ve taken him for, and would give us one aspect of his thinking, at least, that was worth exploring.
If he had said “life without fear” would that be less implicitly therapeutic?
The “great refusal” sounds more anarchistic than Marxist, I wonder what he had to say about that.
One of things I object to in Marxism is Scientific Materialism, but you’ve got to give it to Marx and Engels, how convenient to draft the philosophy to which the future is, being destiny, according to that philosophy, indelibly wed? It may be materialistic, but it isn’t scientific in the slightest. Scientific Materialism is a form of determinism, and as such, it denies the concept of free will much as does bio-psychiatry.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the subject, I’m by no means an anti-Marxist. I just think of Marx as a 19th century thinker who can’t manage the transition into the 21st century without a great deal revision. Of course, revisionists abound. With the fall of Soviet Union, I definitely think the time has come for people to think outside of the Marxist Leninist, etc., box.
Sure, Lenin was the architect of what has been described as the 1st successful proletarian revolution way back in 1917 (if the proletariat be the intelligentsia), but there was also the example of the struggle that took place against Franco in 1930s Spain that is inspirational.
I also think there are ways of changing things without waiting for world revolution to change everything suddenly and dramatically that we can look at, and some of these changes have been taking place, slowly but surely, for some time. Much of this change represents progress as well. Nobody has to be a slave to corporate imperialism if they don’t want to be, however there is always a price to be paid. If you listen, you can hear the piper. Her music is charming.
You forgot Mao, who brought revolutionary ideology to the 3rd World, excoriated the USSR for reverting to the capitalist road, and supported liberation struggles around the world until the late 70’s. He also broadened and expanded Marxist-Leninist theory in many ways. One was his identifying the principle that, following the victory of a revolutionary movement against the bourgeoisie, the former ruling class will re-emerge from within the structures of the new government unless this is recognized and nipped in the bud. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful at the latter, which was the impetus for the much-maligned “Cultural Revolution,” and socialism in China was essentially overthrown following his death. Nonetheless peasants in rural China still have his photo in their homes, just as the Vietnamese do that of Ho Chi Minh.
I didn’t forget Mao. I’ve got his little red book on my bookshelf. Ho’s prison verse, too. You’ve just got to contend with the inevitable as far as revolutions are concerned. Reality overtakes rhetoric and propaganda. The luster wears off the illusion. If poor peasants have his photo in their homes, that’s kind of like Jesus in other places, isn’t it? Only as far as Jesus goes it isn’t even a real likeness. What can you do now the guy’s 2 millennium dead? There are people in eastern Europe who are nostalgic for the good old days when Stalin ruled Russia with an iron fist. There are also people who remember those same old days with something less than affection. I’ve also got Emma Goldman on my bookshelf. The problems that have plagued Russia in recent years were in a sense there in germ when Lenin took hold of the reins of power. There are certainly other, and perhaps better, ways of doing things.
Running out of reply buttons & don’t want to divert this too far.
My point is, Marxism is a set of observations & principles which can be reified to the extent of becoming dogma or applied to the situation at hand.
As long as we have the rule of the bourgeoisie/1% based on the exploited, alienated labor of others the economic basics which originally engendered Marxism remain intact.
I understood Marcuse’s great refusal to mean that subjectively, person by person a defiance to oppression is individually realized and that organic process then creates a collective political wave of revolution.
“The personal is political” was a feminist rallying cry in the 60’s and 70’s.
A recent blog post I wrote here on MIA called- “For me, self-love requires both defiance and mercy” draws on the need for a great refusal of sorts to accept any outer or inner oppression, while at the same time claiming the right to give and receive empathy, compassion and love, as a way to redress the wounds of both commission and omission I believe our culture inflicts on us.
The personal remains political, though the concept is subject to abuse and sketchy interpretations.
So anyway, I guess we’re basically talking about achieving critical mass?
I remember another quote from Marcuse that has always been a favorite, again I believe from Eros & Civilization; something like “The destructiveness of the present is revealed not in terms of past eras, but of its own unfulfilled potential.” That’s the gist anyway, I think it speaks to the subject at hand.
We can’t easily feel and give empathy, compassion and love to ourselves or to another if we are in the grip of guilt and/or shame and/or fear. We can’t easily receive empathy, compassion and love from ourselves or from another if we are in the grip of guilt, and/or shame and/or fear.
A patriarchal culture’s defining myth form can induce much guilt, shame and fear. The belief in Divine judgement can elicit emotions of guilt, shame and fear.
A 2014 Pew Research Center, Religious Landscape Study found that roughly 72% of Americans say they believe in heaven- defined as a place “where people who led good lives are eternally rewarded.”
58 % of US adults also believe in hell- a place “where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.”
According to this study, 70% of Christians believe in hell, 22% Jewish Faith, 76% Muslim Faith, 32% Buddhist Faith, and 28% Hindu Faith also believe in hell as described above.
Nothing to disagree with but…not sure what the above is responding to.
The overarching myth forms that historically emerge that various cultures embrace to create their cosmologies, theologies and social structures and cultural institutions- (that include their economic and political institutions, like feudalism or capitalism)- are patriarchal if a male deity is the creator of it all and rules over it all in any cultural aeon myth form.
That’s what I was referring to Oldhead, when I wrote about the mythic and archetypal roots of our own patriarchal culture.