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Thoughts on Christopher Bollas’s, “Generational Consciousness”*

Version 2

My grandmother left Canada with hope. The potato famine and poverty of Canadian farming pushed them south at the end of the 19th century. Her generation came here with opportunities to cultivate, and with full knowledge that she was leaving the previous generation behind, a loss taken to ensure survival. There must have been great strength garnered from the courage it took to migrate, leaving family, home, and all that is familiar behind for better prospects.

They arrived in America at a time of great innovation and rapid advances. There were no airplanes, no cars, electricity was a new technology when they got here in the late 1800’s by their new millennium

My parents, on the other hand, arrived to their 20’s and, saw the failure of that generation to be able to sustain the progress. They arrived to their generational subculture at a world of a Great Depression, soup lines, stock market crash and a most devastating world war, culminating by the dropping of two atomic bombs.

My folks inherited the failed dreams of their immediate past. I was born in a time of prosperity. Though my family was poor, the world felt promising. We were the generation that could have its cake and eat it too. We inherited the hope of peace, but just as your generation arrived in the world, our radical peace movement and hippie communes failed to sustain itself, and the cycle started over again where like my mother you were born into a generational failed dream. Generations are defining,  we shape the generation and the generation shapes us.  We bring individual goals and ambitions to the world but in addition to our individual view of our times, the times that we live in have a kind of sociological perspective that become a part of our psychic experience.

Bollas points out that it is not until young people are in their 20’s that they begin to identify with the cultural norms of their generation. At about this age, children begin to see themselves as belonging to the future generation. They are accomplishing a transition between where they came from and where they are going in the outside world and in the subjective world of the self.
Christopher Bollas says this:  “The sense of isolation can be severe, but solace may be found through recognizing that he or she is part of a mass sub-culture, a new adolescent subculture forming out of the abyss between generations.” When you are exit-ing your family of origin; and at the same time emerging into an adult, the process is almost entirely an unconscious one.  The experience is as much about loss as it is about forward movement.

The norms of the New Generation must be incorporated or the child becoming an adult fails the transition process and begins to doubt their ability to become capable participants in the New World order.  When the anxiety to separate from one generation is difficult to tolerate, the individuation of the child suffers. This process then settles itself into the consciousness as a lack of confidence and low self-esteem.

The massive difference between generations is not perceived except in retrospect. In hindsight we radically recognize the difference between the 1950s and the 1960s; yet, 1958 at the time did not look all that different from 1962.  Likewise, if you were born in the 60’s you have a memory of your parents generation and a sense of belonging and remembering first- hand the 70’s and the 80’s. The future decades all seem about the same save for a few technological advances that may stand out.

Christopher Bollas seems to be saying that there is a collective consciousness that assigns us to the generation that we belong too.  If a child assigns himself to the wrong (previous) generation because of fear of separation, success in the new generation becomes more difficult.

To this very difficult but natural set of complexes, we can add, in some cases; the generation that you came from makes it difficult for the transition to run smoothly. A consciousness of differences between generational norms allows a parent to assist rather than hamper the transitional process.  On the other hand, jealousy of youth, or fear of separating in the parent can retard the child’s development. The child may fear reprisal and abandonment from the parent’s generation and then attempts to remain the child of the previous generation rather than an adult in his or her own generation.

The consequences of not moving forward, of not letting go, obscure the possibilities of the future, and security and a false sense of safety are sought to mitigate the affects of fear and loneliness.

Christopher Bollas has written a bold new sociological take on the psychoanalytic process of separation and individuation.  His essay goes on to describe, in beautifully written language, the multitude of facts, fictions and symbols that enter the consciousness of a human during this delicate, but at time violent attempt to become a self….

From readings in, On Being a Character, 1992, “Generational Consciousness”.


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poetry in motion

Leonard Cohen has a way of summing things up for me.  Not much more to be said about a life well lived, albeit, very heavy at times; and often, more mindless than mindful.

First there was the meditation involved with creating the template–totally mindless.  I was absorbed in the quality of the feel, as the pen and ink dug into the paper and at times seems to effortlessly glide over the page so that a single stroke felt like it went clear across the pad and down the center to the very bottom of the page.

Then there were those comments when what to write went blank.  It went blank for months.  Gibberish. Then one day the journal was open to this unfinished page and Cohen’s meditation looked like it would barely fit on the page but it did. I thought it might sit well as an edited image.  It comes together as text-and-image and combines a number of moods while fulfilling its mission to be published.

Serenity is the outcome, but it seems too far away when I am carrying a grand-piano down a mountain of theory.  I am sitting with a young girl, fair and beautiful as she crawls to the couch.  I almost do not want to let her go there; but I do, and she emerges walking, maybe a half-inch taller than when she arrived; but how much growth can we really expect in an hour.  I hope she waters a few of the seeds awakened while we sat by the sea, chatting and untangling backlashes from yesterday’s fishing lines.  The wind seems to blow westerly in every season, and to every season we attach a new moment adding them up with an abacus left dusty besides the slide-rule, made of wood and brass. But here, I am the instrument of research.

Her life opened like a book on our laps.  I don’t count the way I use to. I don’t count on things and other objects–no, I think on myself now. And, I  thank myself graciously for the compassionate care that I often find capable of giving to myself.

I settle into that place of relative silence and slowly she enters, tentative at first, willing, ambivalent and scared.  But, she is strong and she does not want to let on that she is so vulnerable that she does not think she can take one more step.  Exhaustion and fear and insomnia and disease and helplessness and hopelessness will devour her if she takes even one more step toward life.  The piano is too heavy to carry.

She is addicted to the tune, that is how I know she will come back.
poetry in motion in brown


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Group as a Community Garden

If you have a supportive sangha, it’s easy to nourish your bodhicitta, the seeds of enlightenment. If you don’t have anyone who understands you, who encourages you in the practice of the living dharma, your desire to practice may wither. Your sangha—family, friends, and copractitioners—is the soil, and you are the seed. No matter how vigorous the seed is, if the soil does not provide nourishment, your seed will die. A good sangha is crucial for the practice. Please find a good sangha or help create one.
From Cultivating the Mind of Love, © 2008 by Thich Nhat Hanh.
complete article at http://www.tricycle.com/insights/fertile-soil-sangha

a garden

Community is a necessary stage in the progress of self actualization. To be actualized is much like being well-analyzed, the process allows us to move toward our selves in a more open and intimate manner. The Sangha or the group is a family of supporters that we can rely on. In the case of the group it is a replacement for a family that is either not available or non-existing.

Like the sentence above suggests, we can’t do it alone and find the kind of environment that feeds us when we are in our lower-most positions. Group and community remind us, when our mind wanders into a dark place, that there are others among us who know all to well the dark place and from their experience they help guide us back toward the light.

I appreciate the word cultivation and the metaphor of the garden because it is grounded in the material of life.

Life is messy. Life can induce chaos. Life is a divided experience in which we think and feel with different aspects of our mind/body matrix. Knowing both sides of the equation is necessary for a balanced algebra.

Groups assist with encouraging balance and encouraging health as the place from which we make our individual decisions.

 

 


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Me & My Dad: a selfie

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What are the bridges from low-self worth to the real self.

The real self, the authentic self is equally neurotic in grandiosity as he or she is in self-defeat.  Fearing that we are not enough we strive to meet an ideal that we create for ourselves.  This ideal is filled with over-compensation and is therefore as unreliable as our fearing self in relation to giving us the feeling that we are enough and therefore prideful in who we are.

The chronic question of who we want to be over-shadows the who we are in such a way as to blur reality.  In the state of chronic striving we miss the importance of the nuances of life and miss, as well, the feeling of warmth that we get from the experience of life.

Moving from cold toward our real selves is a movement toward warmth–life is warm.  Death is cold.  In this equation it is our task to live as well as we can within the boundaries of human limitations.  We can want to be better, we can want to learn a new skill, we can want more things and even a happier life; we just can not want as a chronic condition.

At some point in the process of a psychoanalysis we face who we are with certainty.  This is not the end of the process.  While at the still point of facing ourselves it becomes important to make the choice that is most comfortable with the self…This is fundamentally different from what we hear about in the media and what we grew up believing.

The comfortable choice allows for the thoughts to come from the ego, but does not buy into the idea that the ego’s voice is the only alternative.  Listening more closely to our body, the anxiety that arises, the lethargy that may impose itself; or the somatic complaints that we may have, need to be heard.  Because these sensations are often un pleasant we at times try to ignore and dismiss the feeling.  When we chose this option the voices of the body come back in a louder and stronger manner.

A question oriented toward self-understanding is the better option.  What am I trying to tell myself with the activation of this anxiety?  Am I on target?  Am I aiming for well-being?  These questions posed to the anxiety can shed light on an otherwise very dark place within our subjective self.

If we are aiming to please others rather than aiming for our well-being first we will lose focus and the lack of clarity actually exacerbates the power of the anxiety or the power of the somatic complaint.

It is important to remember that the idealized version of ourselves is as important to dismantle as is the condition of low self-confidence.

 

Below is an article written by a counselor in Texas.  It is short and it is accurate in its mission.

Happy reading.

 

 

http://www.bettertherapy.org/blog/low-self-esteem/