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

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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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Me & My Dad: a selfie



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.

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For a New Beginning, a poem by John O’donohue

For a New Beginning


In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.


For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.


It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.


Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.


Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.


Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.


This is a poem written by a man from Ireland.  From what I understand he was a priest who studied philosophy and was drawn to the mystic, Meister Eckhart.  The man who wrote this poem is:  John O’Doanhue.

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I like the religious simplicity and I like how this simplicity dovetails nicely with information from the raw materials of the Law Of Attraction.  Of course, I have written in other places that the Law of Attraction dovetails nicely with the laws of the philosophy and science of modern psychoanalysis.  The package is a good beginning for a New Year.


“…where your thoughts never think to wander,” is a great phrase.  It reflects the idea that a thought could have a thought.  This is referred to as a meta-thought.  But we are awkwardly close to the medical model provided by John Sarno in his book, The Divided Mind.


Listening to ourselves think it is not difficult to subjectively assess that we have competing thoughts.  We call these competing thoughts “ambivalence”.  Ambivalence implies a sort of equal pressure to go this way and to got that way at the same time.  No one can for get the scare-crow who when asked directions by Dorothy picks up his straw filled arms and points them in opposite directions…he felt so ambivalent that he did not think that he had a brain.

Another great line is, “…waiting until you are ready to emerge”.  We are aware that desire and manifestation are nearly equivalent concepts, as one leads rather naturally from one to the other.  The act of wanting something activates in us an urge forward that begins to propel us in the direction of the person, place or thing that we are wanting.  He ends the poem with the very essence of human capability, “For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”  Again, we are able to approach this line from a number of perspectives.  Psychoanalytically the soul might be the unconscious aspect of being human—the emotional autonomic system, if you will.  It might also refer to the soul as that aspect of humankind that contains the ethics that have evolved from the beginning.  The Commandments’ of God made manifest so that human kind might live in societies and civilizations with the least amount of self-imposed destruction.


Finally, in Law of Attraction parlance, we hear the phrase, “to allow,” as meaning in addition to desire we must be prepared to let-in, to allow the manifestation to take place.  Wanting something as an empty wish is not at all like desiring in a way that will make the object much more likely to appear.


Empty wishes are probably the worst case scenario for we humans attempting to get something for ourselves from the universe.  An empty wish sounds more like a complaint than a desire…”gee, I wish I could do that……..”

A desire has aggression attached it.  I want one of those and I am going to find a way to get it.  I want more love in my life and I am going to find a way to apply more actions of love to the people, places and things in my life.


Desire is strong.  It is the first drive, libido, infused with the second drive, aggression.  The fusion of what we want and a motivation to get it creates in us an allowance for the thing to happen.


Practice this on something small that you want to acquire.  Practice this activated motivation over a particular food you may want to have.  “I have not had apple pie in ages, I want a piece of apple pie.”  Not, “I never get apple pie, everybody is always out of it when I want some.”


Can you hear the distinction, one is ready to search, the later is defeated before it starts.  So, let the unconscious through, allow yourself to let yourself know what you want and allow yourself to go for it, finally, prayer is a wonderful, soft and entirely inexpensive way of connecting to the Great Universal principles….don’t be afraid to pray.  It will not make you less of a man or less of a woman to allow yourself to connect with the soul of the matter—the solemnity of the great mysteries on the universe, all that we do not know.


Libido: the psychoanalytic law of attraction

 erotic dance
Libido–in short, it is a type of energy associated with both the mental and the biological drives.  It is one of the two drives
upon which psychoanalysis was founded and continues to this day, as the foundational mechanisms that are responsible
for piloting sentient beings forward.  It operates in tandem with the aggressive drive also known as the death drive.
Life is busy holding itself up until it can no longer hold it self up and the decompensation process sets in.  In biology and
physics the terms anabolism and catabolism are the words that most reflect what Freud and subsequent drive theorists had in mind
when proposing the dual drive theory.
For our purposes in this essay my concentration will be on the libidinal drive.  Not only was it the first drive to be identified
by Freud, but it is essentially the kernel of his thinking that led to his seminal work, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”.  In beyond
the pleasure principle, Freud maps out the metaphor of the mind that we all recognize, the ego, the id and the super-ego.
In many ways we are seeing neurobiology catch up with what Freud induced from his observations of his early patients.  He had
earlier, in his writings said:  we will have to content ourselves with these subjective findings until chemistry gives us a more definitive
O.K. enough of the back ground….libido is the central concept on which psychoanalysis applies its concepts in research, philosophy
and clinical work.
Libido is desire.
Desire is also a foundational concept in new age philosophies. The most recognized of these theories is The Law of Attraction.  In the Law of Attraction
we are told that allowing ourselves to want what we want guides us to that wish.  It says, or implies, that there is a kind of personality
to “The Universe”.  This Universe is said to listen to our desires if we are sincere and we have the capacity to stay focused on what we want.
This is both similar and different from the analytic view of libido.  It is similar in as much as it requires the desire to be the focus
of the mind field; but it is different in as much as analysis does not claim that there is a Universe listening.  Instead psychoanalysis
is a theory of the mind that is and remains contained in the mind.  When we emotionally “cathex” with an object of desire, it is the
representation of that object of desire in the mind that is the object or the aim of the mental energy.  By infusing desire onto something
that is “Other” than us, we begin a process of aiming for that object.  Depending on the strength of the cathexis, another words on the
importance of the object, we begin a process by which we come to obtain the desired object.
To an alligator it might be the the lazy brown fox crouched among ferns, to a modern human it might be a new granite countertop.  We
want, we aim, and we go for it.
A cathexis is not to be confused with the other Freudian concept “catharsis.”  A catharsis is an expelling of energy that had been attached
to an idea or an emotion.  The catharsis happens when the object is no longer infused with emotional content.  We could almost use the word “relief”
as a substitute for catharsis.  An important insight that changes how we perceive something can be said to be a catharsis.  For example, a year after
a loved one has died, one can reasonably presume that the death of that person will not be as occupying or as charged a thought as it was when
the death first occurred.   Catharsis has to do with the amount or quality of affect that was released. Cathexis has to to with the amount of mental
and emotional energy that was infused into the event.
There is speculation about what Freud meant.  In fact when Freud could use a common word rather than a scientific term to describe
something he was witnessing he generally would use that word.  When we want something our mind is usually occupied or charged
with that desire.  Some Freud scholars seem to think that the word occupy or charge would have been closer to the idea he was conveying.
One of the things that has seriously changed in the last one-hundred years has to do with psychotherapies becoming less invested in the
disease model of neurosis, and instead has become occupied with a wellness model.  That is, most people today see a therapist with the
idea that some thinking need to be adjusted or some emotions need to be examined and understood.  At the time that Freud was writing
neurosis was seen as a mental disease that needed amelioration rather than remediation.
Nonetheless, Freud’s writings at the turn of the 20th century were seminal in the manner in which they came about.  Freud never said
do psychoanalysis like this.  Freud said that every psychoanalysis was unique in as much as the discoveries made by the patient and the doctor
were unique to that patient in that setting.  What was being looked at–the patient, was as likely to be seen from as many perspectives as
their were doctors doing the examining.  Each psychoanalysis was a new research project undertaken with a fresh new look because
no two individuals presented their problems with the same amount of emotional cathexis.  Single case study rather than statistical studies
remains the underpinning of modern psychoanalytic research.
It does not follow that if your house burned down when you were a child that therefore you would develop a “my-house-burned-down” syndrome.
Each child brought their own emotional charge or content to the event.  For one child a scaring trauma might happen and for another
it might not even register as an important event.
Central to Freudian thinking and central to The Law of Attraction is this concept of emotional cathexis.  This process of desiring is the
process of becoming invested in a particular outcome that we are wanting to attract.  It is not so far removed from [John 15:7],
“ask what ye will and it shall be done”.  We are looking at a convergence, a convergence of thought from more than one perspective pointing
to the same outcome.
When we pray, when we infuse libido or when we allow the universe to give us what we need we are following some kind of prescription
for truth.  We might hear this concept in a more Americanized way, “you have to work hard to be successful,” or in mindful way, “breath,
listen to your inner breath, breath with your heart.”  There are a multitude of methods and “secrets” and miracles that might get us
to this desired outcome.
In the end we are looking western civilization in the face and going against the grain of social civility.  Because regardless of what
method, secret or theory is employed you will need to selfishly put yourself in the number one position in order to accomplish getting
what you want.  Libido will have to infuse your wishes so that they can be aggressively pursued.  But for those of you reading who are
saying, “but selfishness is a bad thing, isn’t it?”  I want to say, “No, It is not a bad thing.”  The art and science of a a successful life
begins with the centrality of your own soul, your own self.  There, in the inner-sanctum, in the temple that is the manifestation that
is your mind, is where you will find the capacity to have the strength to place yourself in the number one position.  And you will
be able to do this because when you there in the depth of your inner world you are in the presence of truth and wisdom and knowledge–your own..
From that humanistically special place, you want what is best for you and you have no competition with the fact that your
neighbor wants what is best for himself/herself.  To Place oneself in the primary position only means that you are placing
your energy into your own vitality.  What we manifest from our own vitalities is always for the greater good.  Creativity is not an
act of aggression on someone else’s person.
In conclusion libido that perverted, sexually oriented concept is the seed of our humanity.  It is the drive that elevates pleasure and
comfort as a welcomed and desired state of being.  The wildness and primitive nature of our sexual urges are the first genuine sensations
that move us forward.  Like in the manner that a newborn infant placed on its mothers belly will navigate its mouth toward the breast,
the new born awakening that desire is nature’s way of guiding us to vitality, will navigate our wishes into manifested realities.  This
is the psychoanalytic law of attraction.