YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

July 13, 2018

Aldous Huxley’s affinity to conservative values

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

robot_mainReread Huxley’s famous dystopian novel Brave New World (1932) with a Forward (1946) describing himself as “an anarchist,” (i.e., a counter-cultural mystic) but I was surprised to see how many of this “humanist and pacifist” writer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley) shared attitudes linking him to segments of conservative ideology: for instance, his opposition to “COMMUNITY,IDENTITY, STABILITY”* as well as to abortion, promiscuity, Marx and (strangely) Freud. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World).

[Wikipedia is incorrect to represent Huxley as “anti-family” for he stresses throughout lifelong attachments benefitting children through the characters of the “Savage” and his monstrous mother Linda.]

*On this website, I have dissected the notions of “community” as hostile to individual differences, while challenging the notion of “multiculturalism” (and “identity politics” as promoting groupthink, but Huxley’s notion of “stability” needs teasing out: as an “anarchist” with more than a touch of romantic primitivism, Huxley would be opposed to conservative or to liberal notions of wildness or lack of balance (i.e., “instability.”) This is contradicted by his Indian tribe’s tight (stable) attachments, including their rejection of progressive industrial society. (On relativism/primitivism, see https://clarespark.com/2014/03/13/what-is-cultural-relativism/.)
<img BraveNewWorld_FirstEdition

Advertisements

March 21, 2015

Great Goddess feminism: the Phyllis Chesler model

Stone Age Venus of Willendorf

Stone Age Venus of Willendorf

I have been rereading Phyllis Chesler’s Women and Madness (Doubleday 1972), and wonder if it is still relevant, and how Chesler’s Jungian, mythic approach to female sex-roles and role models fits into the second wave of feminism.

This blog will focus on the promise of sexual liberation as opposed to what experience hath shown are more realistic approaches to the demands of motherhood and the welfare of children.

Phyllis Chesler and son

Phyllis Chesler and son

First, we examine the context of second wave feminism. College-age women, active in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, deeply resented being relegated to waitresses and secretaries, serving the males coffee and typing manifestoes, while such heroes as black power advocate Stokely Carmichael relegated them to sex objects (though his intended meaning is contested by allies; in 1964 he had declared “”The position of women in the movement is prone”).

So the second wave of feminism came out of the Left, and then some argued about whether or not they should be “Marxist-feminists” or “Feminist-Marxists.” At the same time, real communists (Stalinists) were dismissing feminism as a bourgeois deviation. As I have suggested here, the intellectual ancestors of feminist stars were not 1930s leftists, so much as anti-killjoy womanizers of the 1940s social democratic “left”; i.e., anticommunist “liberals” who admired Jung, but not his mentor Freud, another killjoy with his settling for “everyday unhappiness” as opposed to the adrenalin rush of Romantic defiance. (See https://clarespark.com/2015/03/16/who-were-the-precursors-of-the-new-left-the-wasp-establishment-or-communists/. The New Deal-affiliated social psychologists I studied all identified Hitler with Romanticism,  e.g., with the arch-Romantic, Lord Byron.)

Enter numerous feminists (arguably the progenitors of the gay rights movement) who were averse to what was imagined as the humdrum life of MOM, stuck indefinitely in boring marriages and chained to motherhood. Unlike the leftist feminists, they were attracted to Goddesses and “spirituality,” and aroused the ire of the (materialist) Left. But whatever the flavor, feminists were of course reacting (indirectly?) to “attachment theory” as presented by John Bowlby in 1958. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory, and note that Bowlby was describing the infant’s need for object constancy, but not a jail for ambitious women that would last forever.)

Numerous activist women in the arts and humanities saw a chance for instant fame when they promoted a distinctive woman’s sensibility and the loveliness of free love, including lesbianism. Of all these book-writing young women, psychologist Phyllis Chesler remains relevant today, for she has not only offered a Goddess/Amazon book in her youth (who doesn’t enjoy the pagan, naughty Greek myths and Jungian archetypes?), but she claims expertise in the “new antisemitism” that speaks to renewed fears for the safety of Israel. But even more, Chesler saw Muslim abuse of women up close in her marriage to an Afghani (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllis_Chesler). So while her competitors are either mocked, deceased, or forgotten, Phyllis Chesler has developed an appreciative lay audience for the emancipation of women.

Amazonmom

Meanwhile, feminism seems to have adopted Chesler’s brand. The Hunger Games trilogy is a boffo success with youngsters and mothers alike (at least in my family), and the challenge of monogamous marriage and competent child-rearing is taken up all too rarely, and when it is, as in the NBC miniseries The Slap (the intelligent woman’s guide to motherhood: exhausting, negligent, over-indulgent in turn), it arouses howls of rage in television critics, who don’t want to tamper with archetypes of the Happy Mother and/or “likeable characters.”

happy-mothers-day-mothers-love-card-quotes

I helped promote the women artists’ movement on the radio, and considered myself to be one of them. I continue to believe that it is a man’s world, and bitterly resent all double standards.

It is only in retrospect that I have come to realize how intellectually and emotionally demanding motherhood (like marriage) really is. Moreover, the time frame when developing youngsters need ’round-the-clock mothering and fathering is shorter than young, single women realized in the salad days of second wave feminism.

salad-days-2343071

February 14, 2015

Fifty Shades of Romantic Necrophilia

Lygeia and  her familiar

Lygeia and her familiar

Today is Valentine’s Day, 2-14-15, and the times are bad for romantic love, which is misunderstood by such culture critics as Lee Siegel in the Wall Street Journal, which devotes two pages to the subject, contrasting pop culture and high art, concluding that Beyoncé’s cynicism is worthy of emulation. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB20840515299319003486204580458140764862972. (Lee Siegel’s “The Truth About Romantic Love” 2-14-15.)

What no one, even most feminists are willing to examine is the ambivalent relations between adolescent and grown-up sons and their middle-aged mothers. For Freudian-derived attachment theory is out, having been thrown overboard by cognitive behavioral therapy. (https://clarespark.com/2015/02/08/steven-pinkers-reciprocal-altruism/. For evidence that the middle-aged mother is the target of S-M addicted males, see https://clarespark.com/2009/07/13/eros-and-the-middle-manager-s-m-with-implications-for-multiculturalism/.)

Without the embarrassment of developmental psychology, it is easy to applaud the broad popularity of the just-released homage to sadomasochism, Fifty Shades of Grey, which has opened almost as enthusiastically as American Sniper. And for some critics, financial success is just fine, and then they may drop the subject without reflection. http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2015/02/14/box-office-fifty-shades-of-grey-spanks-spongebob-with-30m-friday/.

But even recognizing the [middle-aged woman] as the creature to be silenced, is not enough, for the remarkable popularity of the novel and the movie is susceptible to class analysis. How many shop-girls or working class women or house-bound wives are not dreaming of an ever more elusive upward mobility, personified in the black Knight to carry them off in a private plane or helicopter to a life of luxury, notwithstanding the bondage and humiliation, even death in life that is submissively endured in S-M sex. After all, didn’t Edgar Allan Poe write “Lygeia,” the epitome of romantic necrophilia, to be updated with Fox’s The Following?

And is not Linda Darnell’s double corset one of the most popular clicks on my website? (https://clarespark.com/2009/11/07/dream-girl/)

WSJ 019026

But perhaps the scariest image I have found today is in the Spring Fashion Magazine of the Wall Street Journal. The model is propped up against a painted tree (http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/tgen/painting-tree-trunks-white.htm), thus allying her with the latest Nature-preserving identifications. But to me, she is yet another Lygeia, especially the come-hither gesture combined with the blood-red shoes. Is she an image of the male’s own death?

Wyeth: Spring 1978

Wyeth: Spring 1978

Gone is grandma’s lacey Valentine; in comes a new era of the femme fatale/male double, enticing though dead to the world.

October 22, 2013

“Masters of Sex” and 70s feminism

masters-of-sex_[Update: December 10, 2013. This has turned out to be the most feminist show I have ever seen on television. Far deeper as it developed than anticipated when I first wrote this blog. Lizzy Caplan singing “You Don’t Know Me” in episode 11 said it all, for all women.]

This blog is not about porn, but about the la-dee-da attitude shown by some feminists not only with respect to the rigors of child-rearing, but without prior understanding of the emotional components and complications of human sexuality. I remember reading John Bowlby’s pioneering work on attachment theory and separation anxiety (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bowlby). I don’t remember which of his many books I read, but I remember thinking that the feminists of my acquaintance would probably hate his theories, as he emphasized the crucial role of mothering in early childhood, with lifelong dire effects if not properly managed (some of his theorizing was probably autobiographical, but what about Winnicott and Mahler?).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masters_of_Sex

http://www.npr.org/2013/07/30/206704520/pioneering-masters-of-sex-brought-science-to-the-bedroom

I. I will take a partly dim look at the new Showtime series Masters of Sex, created by a woman, Michelle Ashford. I have watched the first four episodes and see this effort as another docudrama that represents a hidden history of science and sex. The hint in the NPR summary is wildly mistaken that (the ubiquitous) Freud was displaced by a more accurate measurement of, to use the character Dr. William Master’s words, “What happens to the body during sex?” During my dissertation research, I was surprised to discover that the two of the three ogres of the 19th century, Marx and Freud (not Darwin), were not equally loathed and feared. The bourgeois Freud was far more controversial as progressives went about reconstructing the humanities curriculum. (Here is my index on Freud blogs: https://clarespark.com/2013/03/16/blogs-on-freud-and-anti-freudians/.)

Briefly, Freud saw repressed sexuality as the source of hysteria and other psychosomatic ailments, and leaned heavily on the Oedipus complex, but few had the money and time to indulge in the “talking cure.” And who wanted to recognize ambivalence within families, or lifelong troubled attachments to the parent of the opposite sex? Freud’s colleague Carl Jung was a different story: he saw Freud’s Id as a source of creativity (as opposed of everyday unhappiness), and many a Jungian analyst used Jung’s dubious theory of archetypes to treat their clients. In the battle of the titans: Jung versus Freud, the younger man penetrated school curricula and the practice of social psychology. (For my copious blogs on Jung and his followers see https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/.)

II. Michelle Ashford is the creator of the series. A brief internet search does not link her with the second wave of feminism, but the major demands of 1970s feminism—to celebrate liberated sexuality, to eliminate back-alley abortions, to establish day care centers in workplaces, to de-stigmatize homosexuality, to bring fathers further into the day-to-day burdens of child-rearing, to recognize prostitutes as “sex workers” and not pariahs, to rewrite history to emphasize the roles and condition of women (often in Women’s Studies departments), to break through the “glass ceiling,” to identify “science” with masculinity and the illicit penetration of Mother Earth—have at least partly been accomplished. (For an example of “feminist science” see the work of Donna Haraway and Carolyn Merchant. For a rehabilitation of domestic feminism see Kathryn Kish Sklar’s book on Catherine Beecher.)

Though network television does not show breasts and buttocks, female actors playing professionals often show their cleavage in the dead of winter. But on pay for cable networks like HBO and Showtime, sex acts are routinely demonstrated, though not with male frontal nudity or the details available in porn shops. The achievement of Masters of Sex, though it seems to be a defense of the liberated woman, is the separation of romance and sexuality. I.e., women are entitled to be as promiscuous and detached in their sex lives as men are imagined to be. As the series proceeds, I hope that more nuance is brought into the subject.

Ashford’s heroine, “Virginia Johnson” as played by Lizzy Caplan, is represented as “ahead of her time.” She is the mother of two, both in the series and in Johnson’s real life. That is, like many women today, she believes that she  can “have it all.”

I wish that it were that simple. Perhaps robots will be devoid of the feelings that we have yet to master. But such fantasies do get eyeballs to the television set, and the actors (Michael Sheen is outstanding) are fine.

[Added 10-23-13: Upon thinking it over and considering what crappy jobs many men hold, a woman is lucky to be a wife and mother if she has a good man to support her. When babies are tiny, it is undoubtedly strenuous, but there is no greater intellectual, physical, and emotional challenge than holding a marriage together and raising functioning children who go on to successful relationships in every sphere of life. I include self-direction and independent thought as desirable in offspring. I don’t think that this judgment disqualifies me as an advocate for women’s rights.] [Added 10-29-13: Episode five was well done, since it showed the mother of Masters in complete denial as to her son’s mental problems. She socialized him to be a stoic, and “Virginia Johnson” touches him with words, understanding that nobody could be so strong as to be detached from the loss of a child (and other distorted relationships), and Michael Sheen does a persuasive job in acting out a man cracking up with hitherto repressed grief. Everyone should watch this episode, for the series is about much more than acceptable porn for the middle class.]

For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2014/07/06/the-hobby-lobby-decision-and-the-war-on-women/.

The real Masters and Johnson

The real Masters and Johnson

March 19, 2012

Links to feminist blogs

Bocklin’s Medusa

https://clarespark.com/2009/07/13/eros-and-the-middle-manager-s-m-with-implications-for-multiculturalism/.

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/.

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/23/she-who-gets-slapped-the-magic-of-middle-aged-boomerdom/

Feminist in love series (3 collages): https://clarespark.com/2011/01/06/feminist-in-love-1/,

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/06/feminist-in-love-2/,

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/06/feminist-in-love-3/.

https://clarespark.com/2011/11/12/the-woman-question-in-saul-bellows-herzog/

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/07/feminism-and-its-publicists/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/02/13/feminism-on-the-docket-2/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/18/history-as-trauma-2-rosebud-version/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/01/sex-sex-and-less-sex/ (On Shulamith Firestone and second wave feminism)

https://clarespark.com/2012/11/15/female-genitals-as-red-flag/

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/31/nell-painters-history-of-white-people/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/22/3760/ (on the Great Dumbing Down)

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/02/hair-and-make-up-megyn-kelly-smackdown/

November 16, 2009

Panic Attacks and Separation Anxiety

Manipulative Mother 1923 This slightly revised version of a Pacifica radio talk fits well into our recent discussions about the continuing relevance of Freud, and how liberal mental  health professionals thought about anxiety disorders in the early 1990s. I refer the reader to Freud’s Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego for a stimulating remark on “neurotic dread.”* I was asked to repeat the KPFK talk, and it was subsequently read by a practicing historian-psychoanalyst Peter Loewenberg. I got no criticisms from listeners who showed it to their therapists. I am not a therapist, but sufficiently well-read in the history of medicine and psychiatry.

KPFK program Panic Attacks, hosted by Dr. Etta Enzyme, December 12, 1994. First in a projected series exploring the ways specific historical explanations (especially the causes of World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the Cold War, ecocide etc.) affect mental and physical health, hence the possibility of constructive social change.

1.What is a panic attack?  Panic attacks are not fear responses to immediate threats like earthquakes.  Rather, harmless but symbolically laden internal body signals stimulate terror: of isolation, of loss of support, of loss of balance, of descent into madness; it is the state of mind most desired by practitioners of psychological warfare.  Persistent anxiety weakens the immune system.  Clinicians often see panic attacks as one instance of separation anxiety, itself symptomatic of an underlying narcissistic personality disorder.

2.Comment on Dr. Joycelyn Elders firing: how have journalists explained opposition to masturbation?  For instance, see Gina Kolata, “America Keeps Onan in the Closet,” The New York Times, 12/18/94, p. E5 for an ooh-la-la description of masturbation phobia since the 18th century “when sex became medicalized.”  Laughable consequences are listed, but none resembles the fear of critical thought (i.e., of separation from abusive authority) in D.H. Lawrence.  In a Letter to the Editor 12/20, Frederic C. Thayer writes, “Traditionally, masturbation is condemned because it wastes energy and sperm necessary for procreation, and is for selfish pleasure rather than social duty.  Masturbation is described as “self-abuse” that causes mental derangement.”

The hostile conservative response to masturbation is more complex than some timeless resistance to (anarchic) pleasure by ascetic, corporatist thinkers.  In Pornography and Obscenity Handbook for Censors, D.H. Lawrence rants on about the “self-abuse” he attributes to mass culture which, while apparently promoting “sex-secrecy,” “stealthily” inflames the flesh: the “mental energy” sometimes released leads solely to the “futility…nothingness…sentimentalities…self-analysis…impotent criticism…suppressed rage” which characterize (solipsistic) “modern literature” and “work[s] of science.”  “[Masturbation] is the deepest and most dangerous cancer of our civilization.”  Lawrence’s is a class-bound reactionary response to the “the grey ones left over from the nineteenth century,” i.e.,, to Victorian culture; his panicky diagnosis of [narcissism] reminds me of more recent, equally pessimistic  criticism.  What (other than the family) are the political and institutional sources of this anxiety?  How have mental health professionals accounted for panic attacks and related anxiety disorders, and what are some of the debates in the field?

3.Object inconstancy and its discontents.  Since the pioneering work of Bowlby, Winnicott, and Mahler, new thinking in clinical psychology and social work stresses the lifelong salutary effects of a strong and reliable maternal bond, experienced as object constancy.  Should there be a lack of steady parenting in early childhood, the damage may manifest itself later in panic attacks and related phobias and symptoms, especially during adolescence; appropriate separation is sometimes impeded by parents who ask their growing children to befriend them so as to contain the parents’ anxieties.  At all ages related symptoms may include insomnia (there is no internalized representation of the protective parent: only a surrogate close at hand will allow relaxation); hoarding; fears of being poisoned (e.g., by mass culture); school phobia (clinging to mom or exposure to “secular humanism”?); drug use to deaden the pain of loss; self-mutilation and adolescent suicide (only a violent act directed against the self can restore the maternal bond); agoraphobia; compulsive “taking care” of others to control them; clinging to masochistic relationships; the inability to cope with divorce; and in borderline personalities (close to psychotic), oscillations between depression over lost attachments and fears of being swallowed up and disintegrating.  One psychologist notes a common wish: the longing for the golden fantasy of a symbiotic [i.e., not draining?!!]) relationship with mother where all needs are met, hallowed by perfection.  (None of the dozens of psychology abstracts I consulted specifically alluded to authoritarian ideologies and peasant societies of the Right or Left where individuation would not force young people into agonized choices; cf. D.H. Lawrence, or T.S. Eliot and his hatred of “worm-eaten liberalism” aka “freethinking Jews,” the catalysts or enzymes of social disintegration.)

Professionals disagree about the efficacy of antidepressants, or whether or not separation anxiety in infancy and early childhood explains panic attacks in adulthood.  To me, the most sensible suggestions for treatment were historical and sociological in approach: psychiatrist Terry Kupers says mental health professionals must be activists to provide public funding for the treatment of anxiety disorders; meanwhile in short-term care the patient should record the circumstances of every parting to detect lifelong patterns of separation anxiety in relationships.  Another stressed the need for family therapy to scrutinize the ways in which their interactions impede autonomy.  Another writer, in a similar vein, reminded me that the problems in separation cannot be described schematically, that particular families shape the difficult problem of growing up in their own unique and awful ways. [I doubt that there is an infinite variety of  histories.] In other words, individuals and their families are being taught to read themselves and the often subtle messages they communicate around issues of maturation and difference, to discover the patterns which contribute to serious mental and physical health problems, and which in turn will affect social action.

4. The larger institutional environment in which anxiety disorders have emerged.  Because the transition from pre-modern to capitalist social relations is incomplete, the humanities lag behind the hard sciences.  There are some sociologists, political scientists, and cultural anthropologists whose work is avowedly anti-science; Harold Lasswell was part of the moderate conservative movement of academics who explicitly separated the methodologies of the social sciences from the physical sciences in the 1920s.  In a related move, the history of science as an academic discipline was contrived by Harvard’s Robert Merton to demonstrate the socially constructed character of scientific knowledge; Merton’s project was candidly counter-Enlightenment.

The legitimacy of the exploring, self-directing individual is advocated by only a minority of liberal and Left intellectuals; scientists are necessary but suspect, like rationalism in general.  We give lip service to “cultural freedom,” but few of us are willing to live with its consequences.  Yet our official ideology in “the West” asserts numerous civil rights and obligations to participate in democratic processes.  What critical tools are required to make popular sovereignty rational and humane?  How have threatened élites discouraged the development of critical skills through psychological warfare in popular culture?  Have upper-class radicals, in the name of socialism, served reaction, not popular education?  What public policy demands should be advanced by liberals to educate citizens for mental and physical health?

5. On narcissism theory and recent prescriptions for its cure.  The derogatory term “narcissistic” denotes the selfishness of yuppies; for instance, some social democrats claim that “the culture of narcissism” (Christopher Lasch) has produced Generation X: abandoned, empty, confused and self-destructive.  The narcissistic disorder as I see it, is less moralistic in its diagnosis: Perhaps narcissism results from unreliable attachments in early childhood, and the repeated exposure to ambivalent systems of support inside and outside the family, in schools and other socializing institutions, including the media.  Because communication is often dishonest but unchallenged (“Be yourself, be original, but don’t make me too angry”), youthful egos are weakened while the source of domination is obscured.  Hence narcissists lack a sense of inner balance, competence in defending their interests (who dunnit to me?), and self-worth that would make them self-directed and socially responsible: creative, curious, lovable to others and effective reformers.  They may depend on omniscient others who feed their weak egos with flattery/conspiracy theories (we alone are the cognoscenti).  To restore the Golden Age, they will fuse with such heroic agitators, or with a glorified racial past, or with fetishized luxury goods.  As repressed facts of the material world return, idealizations are shattered.  The all-nurturing other (the object) may become a killer who must be destroyed (Otto Kernberg). [My reading:]  The switch occurs at the moment of disillusion, as artificially inflated self-esteem (grandiosity) ebbs or rushes away, leaving in its wake emptiness, uncontainable fear and anger.  The fear and anger (if suppressed) triggers the adrenalin that begins the panic attack; the ghastly irony lies in the misdirection of our anger toward the self; we may remain politely fastened to an object that was never there for us in the first place.  (Or perhaps as children we believed our anger caused the death of domineering or negligent parents and/or sibling rivals or the breakup of a family in divorce: any eruption of anger is unmanageable and world-destroying.)

By contrast, some romantic conservatives account for the pervasive “narcissism” and related social problems (including the rise of fascism, a narcissistic disorder) as the result of weakened paternal authority in the family.  The newly triumphant figures of modernity have sapped the authority of the paternalistic father: vampirish specters appear as Goldfinger the international Jew (designer and profiteer of mass culture and consumerism) in cahoots with mad scientists, femmes fatales, and perfectionist puritan mothers.  Feminized and jewified, modernity has produced, what else?  The Masturbator!  Similarly, the terror-gothic genre (horror movies and gothic fiction) confronts the viewer with appalling images of the inquisitive, wandering, goal-directed imagination exploring the sensuous material world (D. H.Lawrence’s “nosy Hebrew”).  Persistently feeling one’s own unhappiness and the common pain of suffering humanity, asking authority “why” it devises particular damaging social policies, demanding access to state secrets, can lead only to bloody revolution, ripping and shredding of the social fabric, and finally, the Bomb (e.g., the theme of Pandora’s Box in Kiss Me Deadly, a classic of film noir).

One would hope that progressive intellectuals would be alert to such right-wing tactics, but no.  As one KPFK listener put it, intellectuals today latch onto traditions which make them comfortable; the idea of the detached, disinterested seeker following the truth wherever it leads is held to be a bourgeois illusion, the Big Lie of objectivity and positivistic science that delivered scientific racism.  Some poststructuralists say that (relatively) accurate readings of the world are impossible, that there is only “intertextuality” for ballast, that the goals of “objectivity,” or of universally valid moral standards are (in fact!) a stealthy imposition of a totalitarian ideology.  Such irrationalist  [1] ideas should be vigorously opposed in the culture wars raging in our universities, and not just by the libertarian Right. Liberal Freudians are not irrationalists; rather they believe that rational processes (historical memory and the reconstruction of power relations in socializing institutions) can at least diminish the extent to which we are misdirected by self-destructive behavior. (Irrationalists have said that such fantasies are disseminated by Jews, consummate peddlers of false utopias; see the excellent description of the right-wing agitator in Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, 1949).

Are panic attacks a health risk of middle-management?  Historians revise and reconfigure the past, finding material causes for socially-induced catastrophes; we seek clarity and balance, not chaos, but threaten illegitimate authority.  Because democratic pluralists seem to support critical thought (but in practice are unevenly committed to it), institutions are vague and abstract in their demands.  Be original, but not too destabilizing, we are advised, echoing the family.  But how far to go too far?  We don’t know the rules until we break them.  So, to keep our jobs, we may betray the real and the good, not daring to hold authority accountable; all relations remain shallow and there is, in fact, little reliable support.  In such a deceptive and self-deceptive society, anyone and everyone can turn on us–whenever we demand that our arguments be engaged, calling love and support into question.  People too attached to their creative work must be “monomaniacs,” like Melville’s Captain Ahab.

If my analysis is valid, what are the implications for the treatment of anxiety disorders?  As long as institutions are unwilling to be tested and challenged, as long as they blunt critical tools, no amount of individual or group therapy or pills will alleviate our distress; perforce we will adjust to a world without many enduring attachments.  The fearful may continue to follow false friends and false prophets: screaming, hysterical demagogues and paranoids who will divide us when only species cooperation can protect the planet.  Idealizing the father-driven family will not solve the problems conservatives are (often rightly) worried about.  Accurate readings of our bodies, our histories, our loves and friendships, the origin and development of all institutions and of the natural world which we are fast destroying, should be the goal of education.  Workers in mental health cannot neglect these aspects of their training, lest the good work they do be nullified by the strange world outside the clinic. [12-27-94]

* From Freud (1922): “Dread in an individual is provoked either by the greatness of a danger or by the cessation of emotional ties (libidinal cathexes [Libidobesetzungen]); the latter is the case of neurotic dread. In just the same way panic arises either owing to an increase in the common danger or owing to the disappearance of the emotional ties which hold the group together; and the latter case is analogous to that of neurotic dread.” Group Psychology and the  Analysis of the Ego, Chapter V, transl. James Strachey. Apply this suggestion to the assimilating immigrant or upwardly mobile ethnic individual or group. This view eliminates the problem of separation from the mother, but rather extends panic and anxiety to other situations in any society with fluid class boundaries. Imagine the fear of loss of status or the fear of abandoning one’s neighbors and ancestors. (For another blog on this topic, see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/03/eros-and-the-problem-of-solidarity/.)

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.