Posts Tagged ‘narcissism’

Waiting for the End of the World… on the couch

June 1, 2011

We’ve made it well past May’s doomsday prognostications and mercifully into June.  Recent Rapturous predictions of the world’s end have, once again, proven to be greatly exaggerated.  So, now that we’ve dodged yet another kooky bullet, is there anything beyond mirth, snarkiness or the need to invent a new-new-Armageddon math to be learned from this age-old trope?

The freaky guy with an “End is Near” sign is, arguably, an archetype.  If so, Jung’s thinking would suggest that a doomsday figure (Grim Reaper, for example) coils embedded in our individual and collective memories, in our bones or at least in our more esoteric metaphysical collective unconscious.  The power of this archetype (think Darth Vader) is one way to make sense of how much media coverage an unlikely, and now failed, prediction was able to generate; even for a hundred million bucks (what Harold Camping spent) it would be hard for most multinational corporations to get so many of us to be aware of the same thing, even if it was to collectively joke about the same joke.

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Singularity is forever, but it’s not for everybody?

June 14, 2010

A rather provocative article by Ashlee Vance in the New York Times, Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday, raised a host of intriguing questions.  Essentially the article is about the idea of technological “singularity” where humans and machines will, according to some, meld and then immortality (or at least dramatically extended lives) will be possible.

These ideas, being explored by the best and the brightest (at least in the realm of computer science and bio-technology), distill down, in the end, to incredibly un-modern, rather more of the same, ends:  an elite “school” in which elite connections are made to further capital ventures in a rarefied grab for power, money, control and the hubristic cockeyed quest to become God and live forever (how old school is that?  Think conquistadors, explorers and myriad seekers of fountains of youth, treasure and the like who basically annihilated native peoples everywhere they went).

Yes, technology is zooming forward but no, it will not allow us to live “forever.”  Firstly, “forever,” is a concept that rests upon the notion of its opposite—time.  Once we get past time, then there is no “forever,” there just is.  Secondly, being rather restless and childlike, I’m not sure what these boys would do with themselves if they had forever on their hands.  In fact it’s those inevitably idle robotic avatar hands that might likely become the devils playthings after all—out of sheer boredom and the angst resultant from the ego elevated above the Self (like a child who kills his parents and then panics at being an orphan).  Given how bored many people are with their short span of days, what would people actually do with immortality?  They would probably eventually meditate and learn non-action and transcend the illusion of matter altogether—yet one could do that without actually making the forever machine since… we’re already soaking in it.

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Abby Normal

June 11, 2010

I went to sleep last night with prayers for Abby Sunderland in my heart.

I awoke to learn that she is okay, and I am delighted and relieved for that.

What I wish to say today is that Abby’s situation is a perfect confluence of the opposites (the very place where the transcendent, sublime, even divine is most likely to show up).

Abby’s brother sailed around the world alone—the youngest to do it.  Abby wanted to do it too, to get the crown of youngest to sail around the world alone.  Note how many opposites this collective focal point conjures: life and death, over-protection and under-protection, bravery and fear, equipment and nature, togetherness and isolation, young and old, water and land, safety and adventure, “good” parenting and “bad” parenting, giving up and keeping on, ego and oceanic oneness.

Given that my aim is to enhance consciousness toward the benefit of the collective, my personal opinions about whether or not, as a parent, I would let my own sixteen-year-old sail around the world alone (I’m nervous for him to start driving lessons) is at least partially beside the point.

I went to sleep with images of “pitch-poling” and “submarining” in my mind’s eye—the experts conjectures of what 25 foot waves in 80 knot winds might do to cause a sailor to hit the rescue-me button (a forty foot boat flipping end over end; nose-diving straight down the face of giant waves and capsizing into 50 degree water).

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Middle School Masochism

May 27, 2010

A recent New York Times article, “Teenage Insults, Scrawled on Web, Not on Walls,” by Tamar Lewin looked at a burgeoning internet trend wherein subscribers to sites such as Formspring can get anonymous (i.e. uncensored and brutally honest… or perhaps cruelly dishonest) feedback from others, which they can then elect to delete from their private in-box or post to a public profile on themselves.  Interestingly, albeit depressingly for parents, many kids seemed all too willing to post mean things about themselves, leaving parents in dread about comments so horrible that they would get deleted, but not before leaving deep scars.

Of course middle school kids were then free to post all sorts of mean comments, everything from snarky comments about your leggings to withering critiques of breasts and teeth.

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Mothering Heights

May 9, 2010

It’s Sunday, I’m hosting Mother’s Day and I know that it’s not a good day for lengthy posts pondering mother meaning.

So, I’ll just say that when it comes to mothering, my mom has to get credit as a “good enough” mother—and at 49 I take the blessings and the wounds into an embrace trusting that all is perfect, I’m just tasked with figuring out how.  Particularly as a spiritual being I really love and appreciate my mom (even if her incarnate self has rooted more deeply than Narcissus by the still waters of the zeitgeist, even if she literally shot me down in a past life, per her own reckoning… or was it I who shot her down?).  In the spirit of this time, perhaps we might strive to allow the mother wounds and as well the hugs and kisses to be so much water under the bridge… provided we’re ready to sit under the bridge and hear the river laughing and crying.

While Andy is not my mother, she is an amazingly good mom—engaged, sane, fun, fair and able to really think about what kids need (our own, but also other kids).  I’ve noticed that kids really like being around our house, sleeping over, etc.  And while they may “thank” me the way one thanks a driver who takes you somewhere, they thank her as a true host.  Whatever penchant for mothering that I may carry, the lioness’ share I’ve learned from her (and her mom Ellie, and my buby Rose, and her sister Karen—a true earth mother), and on this day I particularly want to celebrate the food, the touch, the light, the tears and the laugher… and ditch the ideas, symbols and words lovingly into the crying and laughing river.

We sit on the banks, we are the stones, and we are the river:  we are each other’s flesh and blood, and we are each other’s spirit.

“Mothering” is an attitude and not merely a gender—it is an ethic of nurturing, caring and transcending the individual Self—and in this spirit I want to appreciate the many wonderful “moms” that I encounter in the course of my life:  in my friendships, in my clinical work, in this blogosphere and in our expanding and awakening consciousness where, at least at the spirit level, the child and the parent are but passing reflections in a shattered mirror, rainbow images dancing upon a dazzling brook—a unity of opposites that every mother can love, but only the great oceanic Mother can possibly hold.

Namaste, Bruce

Los Angeles

April 30, 2010

I grew up in Chicago and I always loved Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago” (HOG Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat… City of the Big Shoulders”).  Yet I now live in LA where our anthems are perhaps Jim Morrison’s “LA Woman” (I see your hair is burning…”) and Randy Newman (“I Love LA…”).

Having been around the Hammer Museum lately and seeing a great crowd show up for discussions on Jung and depth psychology and the collective I, who is not a joiner by any stretch of the imagination, felt deeply heartened, encouraged and delighted with my city of the last twenty-two years.  A friend recently emailed me to say “I’m in your hometown this week,” to which I replied that we should have lunch, to which he corrected that he meant the City of Big Shoulders.  I suddenly realized that LA has truly become “home” at least for now, at least for my body.

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Putting the self in self-esteem

March 11, 2010

While self-esteem is terribly important for healthy functioning, the very concept hinges on having a solid and cohesive sense of “self” in the first place.  Having written on narcissism in this blog, I have worked to differentiate self-absorption and arrogance from cluelessness.  After all, how can one feel good about a self that one does not actually possess?

A recent article in The Atlantic by Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” references and quotes psychologist Jean Twenge (author of Generation Me) who suggests, that self-esteem in children started really going up around 1980, and, according to at least one survey, by 1999 91 percent of teens described themselves as responsible, 74 percent as physically attractive, and 79 percent as very intelligent.  Twenge chalks this trend up to “broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what.  As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem—and to decouple it from performance—have become widespread.”

This has made kids more “confident” and “individualistic,” Twenge suggests, yet “self-esteem without basis encourages laziness rather than hard work.”   Twenge asserts that, “the ability to persevere and keep going” proves “a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem.”

It’s not that I completely disagree with Twenge’s view, just that a re-think on the semantics of self and self-esteem could help us better parent our kids.  In other words, I don’t really believe that thinking we’re smart and pretty constitutes good self-esteem; thinking we’re dumb and ugly may well be a sign of low-self-esteem, but the development of a real self takes a bit more than being told we’re wonderful.

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Narcissism Misunderstood

February 28, 2010

A recent New York Times Op Ed piece by Roger Cohen, “The Narcissus Society,” makes some good points about health care and the importance of working together as a society.

In lamenting how community has eroded, Cohen says, “In its place have come a frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking and the à-la-carte life as defined by 600 TV channels and a gazillion blogs. Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection.”

As one of the “gazillion bloggers” I could imagine that the way things are changing might be experienced as a threat to the old order, especially if one had carved a niche within it, say as a provider of content in mainstream media that sees it’s viewers declining; however, I’m not sure that blogging and reading other blogs is necessarily more alienating that the non-connecting of the past—watching the nightly news and imagining that one was experiencing a sense of community… sponsored by Coca-Cola or Depends.

At least with an à-la-carte menu of potential connection we have many more people potentially experiencing and building community in a way that mass media may have killed more than facilitated.

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Fool’s Gold

November 6, 2009

BHParenting is great because it often challenges us to take an interest in what we do not feel consciously interested in (i.e. violent video games, baseball, Pokémon, elaborate and interminable board-games, etc.).  Part of me feels such things are a waste of time, and part of me feels like there’s just not enough time while another part of me feels Einstein and Buddha were both right in their own way—that time is an illusion by which we live, not a truth in which we dwell.

When it comes to the arcane art of waking up, parenting is to consciousness as is the Shaolin Temple to Bruce Lee—a place of deepening spirit and focusing power—a place to evolve.

While I might rather watch art films, or read, with a fifteen-year-old and a media precocious thirteen-year-old, the line on “appropriate” content has shifted drastically as of late… and so I’ve been catching up on the first seasons of “Entourage” with my boys.

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How is Narcissism like Footed Pajamas?

June 1, 2009

ninjasNarcissism is a widely used term in our society, and it is also widely misunderstood.  We typically think of someone who is “narcissistic” as being vain and self-centered, but if we recall the ancient myth from which the term comes, it is about a beautiful youth who has no idea who he is. While Narcissus does fall in love with his own reflection in the water, and stays there transfixed until he grows roots and becomes a Narcissus plant, the key point is not about self-love, it is about absolute lack of self.

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