“Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief…”

   bathing-parrot-cesar-badilla“…that way deep down they are different from everyone else.”[1] In recovery meetings they say that a person who thinks they are different suffers from “terminal uniqueness.”  We also like to see people like this as narcissistic.  This to me is a perfect expression of the tension of the opposites in our culture. On the one hand, as James Hillman said, we are put here as “acorns,” to grow into the Oak tree that only we can be.  No one can be like us.

But one of the things we are taught in therapy and other places is that we are not any different than anyone else.  Where do these messages come from and what are the ramifications of them both?

scarlet-ibisesThe thought that comes to mind is the the concept of form and its opposite, no form.

When I want to say I am like others I look to the form we are, our physical self.  Yes we have a lot of similarities in form; arms, legs, etc.

But when I think about what is truly me, what is that which makes me different than you and all other people  and I have to be unique.  I have to be that acorn Hillman referred to.  Here  is an example.

flying-snow-egret-tiny-birdsI say that no one was where I was on  April 1, 1962. (choose whatever day you want to put in your here as it is not the particular day that matters,) Since no one can say they were where I was on that day, I am nothing more than an accumulation of my own unique experiences, am I not? Bob Earll, an early mentor in my “recovery,” used to say that you could cut off his arms, his legs and even his body from his head but he would still be the accumulation of his emotions and thoughts and experiences. He would be those memories, dreams, reflections.

If I accept that premise, there is no way that anyone can be like anyone else.  It is physically impossible.  What you are seeing right now is not what I am seeing right now.  So therefore I am different than anyone else because no other person is seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking what I am write now.  I am accumulating those images that those sights, sounds, feeling and thoughts are instilling into my mind and unconscious!

How is this related to “mental health,” or what I truly believe is the cause of my/our problems?

fast-food-risquillo“Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference?[2]  As long as I am going to have those deep seated emotional conflicts persisting below the level of my conscious, and driving a lot of my thoughts and actions, I am going to see my Self as defective.  My experiences(the images of reality that I collected) of harming others(according to them and my mind)  is going to dominate my psychology and self image.  When if we all get really honest, we all hurt and are hurt.  But I cant let go of the fact that I was not the perfect father/husband/son/brother/etc. [3]

atlantic-puffin-massimilano-sticca“How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?”[2]  This is what my mind absolutely loves to grab a hold of.  If I am being loving and kind, my mind says I am bullshitting everyone and really just doing it for my selfish reasons.  But if I am not being kind, it says that it is just because that is the way that I truly am.  So do you see how much effort it takes to truly be the acorn I am.  That to truly become who I was put here to be is going to have it’s ramifications?  Hell, all I  have to do is go against all of the norms of my culture to do so.

Celebrate other’s uniqueness, because if they didn’t have it, we would all be alike!  BORING*

123 RV, SA, JW, RW, PA, PH, TN!

[1] David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest [2] David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays  [3]  Therese Borchard wrote wonderfully about this yesterday. http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/guilt-or-shame-whats-keeping-you-down/

*I wont even get into my ideas about the pedagogical/theological basis for the cultural paradigm of disavowing being unique.  Something about sheep following the “one,” to their slaughter.

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8 thoughts on ““Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief…”

    • Monika,
      I am trying to express this whole theory from the tapestry of the depths.in us revitalizing as a cultural strength the uniqueness we all bring..
      However, I live in a monotheistic culture which says that there is only one way. That was my subtle reference to the sheep concept at the end of the piece. But please, please dont tell anyone!!
      Warmly
      Jim

  1. To add to your very insightful post, and to what Monika says, I think Jung saw our psyche as having different layers.

    There is a level of our awareness that comes from collective sources, both historically and culturally. But as I think you are saying here, we bring a unique perspective and response to life through both our physical make-up and personal experience.

    When I was in therapy, my analyst worked with me to separate out messages that I carried around with me, or internalized, that were coming from more collective sources and were harmful to my individual nature. He helped me to hear those messages more clearly, giving me permission to disagree with them and to argue with them as if they were not me. So, messages that are replaying over and over like a broken record, eventually can be seen as “not me.” In time and totally immersing myself in the pain of how these messages were messing up my life and choices, I began to understand that the messages from collective or family sources were not representative of the person I feel called to be and that it is okay to reject them, and disown them.

    I think this process is what Hillman describes as immersing oneself in your own subjectivity so that eventually you can practice objectivity. Does this make any sense? I find it difficult to speak of, because it is my experience, and it’s hard to put into words. 🙂

    Debra

    • My dear friend,
      It makes perfect sense to me,(but remember who/what I am!) –
      “When I was in therapy, my analyst worked with me to separate out messages that I carried around with me, or internalized, that were coming from more collective sources and were harmful to my individual nature.” This to me is from our cultural sources (Family, religion, etc.)
      Our collective sources value the individual as a necessary part of a mosaic, a tapestry. NECESSARY.
      We have lost the idea that all are necessary and that uniqueness is going to collectively help the community.
      We are taught at an early age in this culture to not stand out. That is part of what is the demise of our culture. We are not celebrating small hole in the wall restaurants. We eat at McDonalds or Taco Bells.
      We are becoming more and more monochromatic.
      You put the tension of the opposites that we struggle with so well .
      Thanks
      Jim
      PS. You said it so wonderfully when you said ” I find it difficult to speak of, because it is my experience, and it’s hard to put into words.” Isnt it weird. I have all these ideas of what to say, but they dont come out so easily.

      • Thanks Jim!

        Great point about the homogenized culture! So sad, and it does give us a message not to stick out doesn’t it? I had not looked at it like that before.

        I am currently reading one of Hillman’s earliest books, and the big surprise to me is how different the language is. His writing voice certainly did come through much clearer as the years went on. Maybe there’s hope for us too?

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