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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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An Invitation to Deliberate Discourse

En-visioning the future & living in the present
while hearing the ghosts of our ancestors speak
to us of wisdom from the soul, these are a few of
our most revered human characteristics.

The ego gives us an organizing principle by which to categorize
and interpret the cosmos. So busy have we become
evolving our kind, that the source of our energy
is forgotten hidden in the shadow of the object.

cracked sun light

Everything that I have deliberately sought has
found me in juxtaposition to who “I” am. “I” as
a conduit of perception fools my mind into thinking
that “I” am alone in who is me.
But, the “I” has a self that is wider and deeper in
Consciousness then is the “I” alone. The “I” needs
our antiquity and it needs the histories
of our yesterdays to accomplish becoming the creative
being that, we are attempting to cultivate.

A spiritual humanism is one view of the totality
of self & I. The very fact that I can hold a
conversation with myself points to the ambiguity
of the human condition. Language as the vehicle
of evolution has run off rapidly into categorical
cubicles that function to protect the growth of
the species, and in so doing has often turned
against the same organism it professes to protect.

Perception from the ego’s position includes all the
rational and emotive perspectives on the world, our
universe. But the wider self brings the dimension
of unconscious symbolism to consciousness. The
analytics of the subjective provides not only the
emotions as an intrusion into the psyche, but provides
a wider and deeper meaning that geminates from
A position of source. The greater self in which the ego
swims is enlightened rather than knowledgeable. The
deeper meanings are encoded messages from the body
informing the psyche only if the self can over-power the
ego who always has first dibs and commentary on every
and all situations.

Our deeper selves need to be invited into deliberate
discourse with our personas. This dialogue brings
forth a merger of enlightenment and knowledge.


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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/


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The Problem with our problem is that we think we should not have problems.

The Problem with our problem is that we think we should not have problems….other than that I think most of us do fine with our problems.

We awaken each day with one of two goals in mind–I am here to make it through this day and I am here on a mission to find and sustain joy to the best of my ability.  I will run into problems that will attempt to de-rail me and I will run into problems that do de-rail me; but I want to remain deliberate about my belief that joy is in me waiting to be employed by my decisions to aim for well-being.

Or, we awaken a fuck’en miserable mess, put the covers back over our heads and lament that it is cold, it is too early, it is dark or what ever the lamentation of the day happens to be.  We think we are obligated to do something that we hate and we are victimized by our inability to console ourselves and we proceed to be unhappy (out-loud) and hope that we can snag at least one somebody to drag into the gutter with us.  Misery does love company.

That about sums up the two positions on waking up.  Now, let’s examine awakening for a moment.

Hoping that you as reader are interested in the former, I want to spell out a few guide-posts for you to keep in mind while you begin your meanderings through the day.  First, there are only two states that you need to be aware of:  1)  I feel good, and 2)  I feel awful.  Each of these are paradigms that exist in the mind and are there fully formed waiting to be employed.  If you are aware that you are in a negative state, say anywhere from 0 to 90 on an applause meter, you must deliberately decide that you want to bring that number up somewhere between 90 and 180 on the applause meter.  The closer you get to 180 degrees the more likely you will be chosen as Queen for a Day.

The glimpse that we have a positive state within, ready made and ready for us to use, is the perception that is necessary to shift from under-the-covers to into-the-light-of-day.  All you need to know is that you want out of the negative state and some aspect of the positive side of life will appear.  I have a friend who calls these apparitions angels.  But, regardless of what we call them, we recognize it by its benign, comfortable and casual nature.  In this state nothing is right or wrong, perceptions are about effectiveness not judgement.

So, we need awareness–subjective awareness.  Next, we need a glimpse of the better feeling state, and after that we need to make a deliberate decision that that positive state is the state that we want to be in.  It is the state from which we want to watch our problems develop, emerge, and fade.  Problems follow the course of life, they are a seeds that grows, have a life, flowers and begins to wither and eventually decay.  Problems are no better at life or no worst at life than we are.  Problems have a life of their own and we need to respect that problems will arrive and depart like the tides, and the morning sun.  Problems come and go they have a life cycle. There is nothing unusual or abnormal about a problem.

Do not be afraid of a problem, its purpose is to educate you about your character and to give you clues about the nature of your drives.  So, give yourselves a loud round of applause and watch that meeter climb and surpass even your most unexpected dreams.

Queen-For-A-Day-March-1958

The choice that is ours to make has to do with nudging the negative numbers below 90 degrees into the positive numbers on the other side of the radius. We get connected with our more perfect self by deliberately wanting to be rid of what ever the misery is.  We get connected by being persistent in our yearnings and in believing that allowing ourselves to let in the good will eventually over-power and eradicate the negative. We know there is a positive state in the mind someplace.  You have to find it.  It shows itself as a smile over a thought, or a scent that has you recalling a day in the third grade, or perhaps you hear a song that recalls a man you loved or a pet you lost.  The positive state is not loud or even jubilant; it is a murmur, a whisper, a breeze.  It can be anything as long as it reminds you of something pleasant.