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I would like to turn to one of the many reasons for what Angyal (4) called the evasion of growth. We have, all of us, an impulse to improve ourselves, an impulse toward actualizing more of our potentialities, toward self-actualization, or full humanness or human fulfillment, or whatever term you like. Granted this, then what holds us up? what blocks us? One such defense against growth that I'd like to speak about specially because it hasn't been noticed much-I shall call the Jonah Complex. In my own notes I had at first labeled this defense the "Fear of one;s own greatness" or the "evasion of one's destiny" or the "running away from one's own best talents." I had wanted to stress as bluntly and sharply as I could the non-Freudian point that we fear our best as well as our worst, even though in different ways.. It is certainly possible for most of us to be greater than we are in actuality. We all have unused potentialities or not fully developed ones. It is certainly true that many of us evade our constitutionally suggested vocations (call, destiny, task in life, mission). So often we run away from the responsibilities dictated (or rather suggested) by nature, by fate, even sometimes by accident, just as Jonah tried-in vain-to run away from his fate. We fear our highest possibilities (as well as our lowest ones). We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under conditions of greatest courage. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities. I have found it easy enough to demonstrate this to my students simply by asking, "Which of you in this class hopes to write the great American novel, or to be a Senator, or Governor, or President? Who wants to be Secretary-general of the United Nations? Or a great composer? Who aspires to be a saint, like Schwietzer, perhaps? Who among you will be a great leader?" Generally everybody starts giggling, blushing, and squirming until I ask, "If not you, then who else?" Which of course is the truth. And in this same way, as I push my graduate students toward these higher levels of aspiration, I'll say "What great book are you now secretly planning to write?" And then they often blush and stammer and push me off in some way. But why should I not ask that question? Who else will write the books on psychology except psychologists? So I can ask, "Do you not plan to be a psychologist?" "Well, yes." "Are you in training to be a mute or an inactive psychologist? What's the advantage of that? That's not a good path to self-actualization. No, you must want to be the first-class psychologist, meaning the best, the very best you are capable of becoming. If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you''ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities." Not only are we ambivalent about our own highest possibilities, we are also in a perpetual and I think universal-perhaps even necessary-conflict and ambivalence over these same highest possibilities in other people, and in human nature in general. Certainly we love and admire good men, saints honest, virtuous, clean men. But could anybody who has looked into the depths of human nature fail to be aware of our mixed and often hostile feelings toward saintly men? Or toward very beautiful women or men? Or toward great creators? Or toward our intellectual geniuses? I t is not necessary to be a psychotherapist to see this phenomenon-let us call it "counter-valuing." Any reading of history will turn up plenty of examples, or perhaps even I could say that any such historical search might fail to turn up a single exception throughout the whole history of mankind. We surely love and admire all the persons who have incarnated the true, the good, the beautiful, the just, the perfect, the ultimately successful. And yet they also make us uneasy, anxious, confused, perhaps a little jealous or envious, a little inferior, clumsy. They usually make us lose our aplomb, our self-possession, and self-regard. Here we have a first clue. My impression so far is that the greatest people, simply by their presence and by being what they are, make us feel aware of our lesser worthy, whether or not they intend to. If this is an unconscious effect, and we are no aware of why we feel stupid or ugly or inferior whenever such a person turns up, we are apt to respond with projection, i.e., we react as if he were trying to make us feel inferior, as if we were the target. Hostility is then an understandable consequence. It looks to me so far as if conscious awareness tends to fend off this hostility. That is, if you are willing to attempt self-awareness and self-analysis of your own counter-valuing, i.e., of your unconscious fear and hatred of true, good, beautiful, etc., people, you will very likely be less than nasty to them. And I am willing also to extrapolate to the guess that if you can learn to love these qualities in yourself in a less frightened way. Allied to this dynamic is the awe before the highest, of which Rudolf Otto, has given us the classical description. Putting this together with Eliade's insights into sacralization and desacralization, we become more aware of the universality of the fear of direct confrontation with a God or with the godlike. In some religions death is the inevitable consequence. Most preliterate societies also have places or objects that are taboo because they are too sacred and therefore too dangerous. In my last chapter of my Psychology and Science, I have also given examples mostly from science and medicine of desacralizing and resacralizing and tried to explain the psycho=dynamics of these processes. Mostly it comes down to awe before the highest and best. ( I want to stress that this awe is intrinsic, justified, right, suitable, rather than some sickness or failing to get "cured of.") But here again my feeling is that this awe and fear need not to be negative alone, something to make us flee or cower. These are also desirable and enjoyable feelings capable of bringing us even to the point of highest ecstasy and rapture. Conscious awareness, insight, and "working through," a la Freud, is the answer here too I think. This is the best path I know to the acceptance of our highest powers, and whatever elements of greatness or goodness or wisdom or talent we may have concealed or evaded. A helpful sidelight for me has come from trying to understand why peak experiences are ordinarily transient and brief. The answer becomes clearer and clearer. We are just not strong enough to endure more! It is just too shaking and wearing. So often people in such ecstatic moments say, "It's too much," or "I can't stand it," "I could die." And as I get the descriptions, I sometimes feel Yes, they could die. Delirious happiness cannot be borne for long. Our organisms are just too weak to endure hour-long sexual orgasms, for example. The word "peak experience" is more appropriate than I realized at first. The acute emotion must be climactic and momentary and it must give way to nonecstatic serenity, calmer happiness, and the intrinsic pleasures of clear, contemplative cognition of the highest goods. The climactic emotion cannot endure, but B-cognition can. Doesn't this help us to understand our Jonah Complex? It is partly a justified fear of being torn apart, of losing control, of being shattered, and disintegrated, even of being killed by the experience. Great emotions after all can in fact overwhelm us. The fear of surrendering to such an experience, a fear which reminds us of all the parallel fears found in sexual frigidity, can be understood better I think through familiarity with the literature of psychodynamics'''' and depth psychology, and of the psychophysiology and medical psychomatics of emotion. There is still another psychological process that I have run across in my explorations of failure to actualize the self. This evasion of growth can be also set in motion by fear of paranoia. Of course this has been said in more universal ways. Promethean and Faustian legends are found in practically any culture. For instance, the Greeks called it the fear of hubris. It has been called "sinful pride," which is of course a permanent human problem. The person who says to himself, "Yes, I will be a great philosopher and I will rewrite Plato and do it better," must sooner or later be struck dumb by his grandiosity, his arrogance. And especially in his weaker moments, will say to himself, "Who? Me?" and think of it as a crazy fantasy or even fear it as a delusion. He compares his knowledge of his inner private self, with all its weakness, vacillation, and shortcomings, and with the bright, shining, perfect, and faultless image he has of Plato. Then, of course, he'll feel presumptuous and grandiose. (What he doesn't realize is that Plato, introspecting, must have felt just the same way about himself, but went ahead anyway, overriding his doubts about himself.) For some people this evasion of one's growth, setting low levels of aspiration, the fear of doing what one is capable of doing, voluntary self-crippling, pseudostupidity, mock-humility are in fact defenses against grandiosity, arrogance, sinful pride, hubris. There are people who cannot manage that graceful integration between the humility and the pride which is absolutely necessary for creative work. To invent or create you must have the "arrogance of creativeness" which so many investigators have noticed. But, of course, if you have only the arrogance without the humility, then you are in fact paranoid. You must be aware not only of the godlike possibilities within, but also for the existential human limitations. You must be able simultaneously to laugh at yourself and at all human pretensions. If you can be amused by the worm trying to be a God, then in fact you may be able to go on trying and being arrogant without fearing paranoia or bringing down upon yourself the evil eye. This is a good technique. May I mention one or more such technique that I saw at its best in Aldous Huxley, who was certainly a great man in the sense I've been discussing, one who was able to accept his talents and use them to the full. He managed it by perpetually marveling at how interesting and fascinating everything was, by wondering like a youngster at how miraculous things are, by saying frequently, "Extraordinary! Extraordinary!" He could look out at the world with wide eyes, with unabashed innocence, awe, and fascination, which is kind of admission of smallness, a form of humility, and then proceed calmly and unafraid to the great tasks he set for himself. Finally, I refer you to a paper of mine relevant in itself, but also as the first in a possible series. Its title, "The need to know and the fear of knowing," illustrates well what I want to say about each of the intrinsic or ultimate values that I've called Values of Being (B-Values). I am trying to say that these ultimate values, which I think are also the highest needs, or metaneeds, as I call them in Chapter 23, fall, like all basic needs, into the basic Freudian schema of impulse and defense against that impulse. Thus it is certainly demonstrable that we need the truth and love it and seek it. And yet it is just as easy to demonstrate that we are also simultaneously afraid to know the truth. I predict that we will find a similar dialectic for each oof the intrinsic Values of Being, and I have vaguely thought of doing series of papers on e.g., "The love of beauty and our uneasiness with it." "Our love of the good man and our irritation with him." "Our search for excellence and our tendency to destroy it," etc., etc. Of course, these counter-values are stronger in neurotic people but it looks to me as if all of us must make our peace with these man impulses within ourselves. And my impression so far is that the best way to do this is to transmute envy, jealousy, presentiment, and nastiness into humble admiration, gratitude, appreciation, adoration, and even worship via conscious insight and working through. This is the road to feeling small and weak and unworthy and accepting these feelings instead of needing to protect a spuriously high self-esteem by striking out. And again I think it is obvious that understanding of this basic existential problem should help us to embrace the B-Values not only in others, but also in ourselves, thereby helping to resolve the Jonah Complex.
-------------------- Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.
Quite an eyeful, but very true. I sometimes find myself afraid to make positive changes in my life. Sometimes it's a fear of the unknown or a fear of failure or success, but it's also something that I am trying to overcome to make myself a stronger being. Strong words you speak there...
-------------------- "The only unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain and everything is changeable."
What is that from? It sounds like you tape recorded a philosophy professor's lecture and typed it up or something. Or maybe you are a philosophy professor?? It reads like a lot of the articles in these old philosophy journals I've been trying to read through.
It has a lot of interesting ideas, but the writer supposes a lot when he uses the words 'we' and 'us'. I need to read it again more thoroughly when I have the time and concentration, and I might add some more detailed replies to some of the concepts talked about in the piece. A lot of them have actually been on my mind lately, and I was a bit weirded out when I first started reading this because of how timely a post it was.
Quote: the best way to do this is to transmute envy, jealousy, presentiment, and nastiness into humble admiration, gratitude, appreciation, adoration, and even worship via conscious insight and working through. This is the road to feeling small and weak and unworthy and accepting these feelings instead of needing to protect a spuriously high self-esteem by striking out.
a great post indeed! ...but how does one overcome one's self? Won't their always be some "tension" in us from our former self?
I'm young and new to spriitual teachings and have just become enlightened in the possiblilites of change and surrendering your ego. But I have found myself having to work hard on keeping my ego quiet inside... shhh! I'm not going to worry about it now... I really don't have a point to make here anymore other than...
Thanks for the insightful post!
-------------------- "as your attourney I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top, and you'll need the cocaine.."
"well.. why not? I mean if anything's worth doing, it's worth doing right. THIS IS THE AMERICAN DREAM IN ACTION"
This is from one of the many books I've read, "The Farther Reaches of Human Nature", by Abraham Maslow. Maslow was also close friends with Timothy Leary. Every week or so, I share some fruits from my tree of wisdom and knowledge, sometimes it's just a simple quote, or like the one you see above, a deep, insightful, lecture =), Whenever I read something I find useful, helpful, insightful, I share the information with those close to me weekly....I call these my "Weekly Freaklys"....because these are meant for all my freaks out there, and for their benefit and so on. So I now officially announce you all as my freaks...so call me Freakzilla. Holla if you hear me!And heres last week's Weekly Freakly....
"I was maybe seven years old. My brother Rob was around 8 or 9 I guess. We were outside playing in front of our house in suburban Berkley, MI. I remember it was a regular summer afternoon, we were hanging out in the yard or whatever when my brother Rob screamed "Joe I caught a giant butterfly! I caught a giant butterfly! Hurry up and get the jar!" I grabbed the jar off the steps and ran over to him. Somehow, some way, he had actually managed to catch one of them big ass, pretty, orange, and yellow and black butterflies right out of the air with his bare hands. unbelievable. If you remember anything about being a kid, you remember them things are un-catchable. They'll fuck sit there and dance, slow motion, in the air style, right around your fuckin face whole you bust your ass trying to catch it. Somehow, on this regular summer afternoon, Rob happened to scoop it right out of flight with his bare hands. "Hurry get the jar opened and ready, I can feel its wings trying to get away!" Finally we had it safely and sound in the jar with the fresh poked holes in the lid and everything. We knew that we'd better let it go soon though. We looked at this creature as an animal more than an insect. Plus being that age, this animal was more than just a bug to us. It was our homie. We decided we would just have it spend the night with us and we'd let it go in the morning. Plus we figured a whole family of giant butterflies might even come looking for it if we didn't I mean this butterfly was so big, and colorful in that jar. It even looked like it had fur on it. It was absolutely awesome. That night, as usual it was hot as hell in our room, so we took the fan and pointed it right into the holes of the butterfly's jar. We didn't think much of it at the time other than hopefully the butterfly will be comfortable while he's spending this night with us. The following morning, much, much, to our sadness, the Butterfly was dead. Our guess was it had to be the fan blowing on it all night. We didn't mean to harm this beautiful, giant Butterfly at all. We were painfully crushed. We had a funeral right there in our backyard for it that morning, We buried it in this lil empty box on top of some napkins and stuff. As we were paying our last respects to this butterfly, both me and my brother Rob made a vow-right then and there we made this vow: "One day, we both will make it to Heaven and apologize to the Butterfly, face to face." We made that vow when we were just two lil young ass kids, but what better time than then? that was us at our cleanest and purest form. We were so loving, only because we were still so untouched and unscathed by the real world. That yard was the only world we knew back then. We didn't know any real negatives or realties even, because they are kept from most young children. We were at our cleanest points that morning. Ready for the world with our first vow and goal to complete in life. We didn't know the difference between white, black, or Asian people, boys or girls, east sidaz or west sidaz, Jewish or Muslim people. None of that shit mattered to us then, and it still shouldn't. We just looked for smiling faces back then and we still should. Look at us all now. It was the world around us that instilled all the hatred and wacky beliefs upon us all. We became one with the world as we walked through it. Once we live some life, our souls ain't as clean anymore. We all got a lil bit older, we didn't care as much anymore about butterflies or what colors their wings had. We learned who we are supposed to hate, who we should love and even flat out how we should be as people. All of which is taught to us by other people! And who the fuck are they? We spend our entire lives trying not to do what ever is considered "stale" by everybody else. Well fuck that! Consider us stale as fuck then. We some four-week-old, desert-dried-Wonder-Bread, stale-ass individuals then. We will one day complete our vows before we pass. I want to be as clean as I was when I was 7. I want my own heart telling me what to do and how to live. WE will rid our soulds of this garbage that was pounded into it, and we once again respect the beauty of some fresh ass shit like a Butterfly's wings. one day, we will get to heaven and apologize to the Butterfly, just like we said we would. We're going to Shangri-La, baby. Sorry if that upsets you...wait, no we ain't! Fuck off it that upsets you. The bottom line is we want nothing more out of the rest of our lives but see you all Juggalos there in Shangri-La with us."
-VIOLENT J....INSANE CLOWN POSSE
-------------------- Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.