How we approach anything is how we do everything.
Our most pressing need in the twenty-first century is to exit from narcissism. I would say that the exit from narcissism is to this century what the discovery of neurosis and psychosis was to the previous turn of the century. Mental health and the social health of a people are intimately tied & the macro/micro argument that we remember from philosophy 101 is as pertinent in relation to the exit from narcissism as it is about any other universal comparison that we can make.
In light of this statement, that the exit from narcissism is our most glaring need, I will be looking more closely at secular spirituality, humanism and the laws of attraction as primary resources to this endeavor. First, I want to comment on the nature of consciousness just briefly to re-acquaint us all with my ideas of consciousness before proceeding.
Consciousness is loosely thought of as our subjective experience of ourselves experiencing life. In short it is a philosophical condition of awareness. I am conscious that I have just experienced a burning sensation in my mouth when I tasted the too-hot soup. My consciousness is almost a rendition in mental form of an experience in the physical form. It is clearly my mouth, my body that was burned by the hot soup; but, it is my mind, my consciousness that allowed for that sensation to register as a feeling/thought. The sensation occurs, but consciousness alerts up to the event in a mental way.
Classically, we pretty much think of consciousness as the limits of the self. The self has a consciousness of itself. I have an awareness that I exist and that awareness that I exist is separate from the actual fact of existence. My physical body lives as an accumulation of cells held together by some biological life force and my mind gives me the capacity to subjectively experience my body as it lives through the space time continuum.
The mind is the manifestation of the brain and as a manifestation it exist at the will of the brain, or as long as the brain is alive in form…Once the form of the body is no longer alive, the manifestations of that brain cease to exist in the time-space continuum as we know them. However, since it is possible for me to converse intelligently about the forms in the world that I have experienced, I am fairly confident that even when I die the forms and the colors and the shapes and the materials of life will continue to exist for other live brains & minds to experience.
In short, I am using the idea that the mind of man, his consciousness, has evolved over time. As the mind evolves, more and more functions of awareness become possible. In other words the mind as it evolves seems to bring about greater and greater awarenesses of what this universe is made up of. Consciousness seems to expand in such a way as to give us more clues as to the nature of the experience of life–an ever expanding mind in an ever expanding universe.
There is life-forms and there are consciousnesses of that form–these are separate one from the other. As we become more aware and more awake to the intricacies of the life forms, we become more curious on higher and higher levels of consciousness, and knowledge of the subjective become increasingly a legitimate aspect of scientific study.
Before the time of Freud, dreams and the unconscious were not thought to be legitimate aspects of scientific study. Freud had a great deal of trouble with his colleagues in the medical community of his day due in large part to the fact that science had not evolved far enough for his thoughts to be considered any more that a metaphor for how the mind/brain body co-exists and functions as a “one-thing-thing.”
Knowledge of form is different from knowledge of consciousness. Crudely, the more we know the more we want to know. Or, the higher we climb the higher we want to climb…perhaps there is some perverse correlation here in the building of ever taller skyscrapers. But that would be the topic of another essay. To stay on topic, I need to reel us back to the beginning.
As I have stated in earlier essays, I have become interested in what I would call the exit from narcissism. In order to have a respectable understanding of narcissism we need to be on the same page with certain other words from psychology, psychoanalysis and philosophy.
One of these important words is, “Ego.” Another word that needs some clarification is “narcissism” and a third word of interest to this topic is “regression.”
For Freud, the ego was the psychic apparatus that allowed the brain to perceive the world, while at the same time have a unique inward perspective. In addition the ego sat partially submerged in the unconscious. The ego is not the id but it sits with part of itself below the level of consciousness. This ‘below the level of consciousness’ he termed the unconscious. This arena contained not only autonomic functions, but also memories too hard to handle were repressed to this arena where the conscious mind no longer had access to the thought forms that are stored there.
Curiously, a very similar concept exist in traditional Buddhism. The idea of seed-consciousness is taken up by the prolific writer and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. In his discussion on eastern psychology, from his worked titled, Understanding Our Mind (2006) he talks of seed-consciousness as aspects of the world that exist in side our conscious mind but to which we have no access unless they are watered. The seeds of any thought need to be watered in order to “manifest” into consciousness. One quote from this brilliant monastic talks about the very quality of seed that lies in deep consciousness as the source of our ability and desire to manifest a freedom from suffering.
I can’t think of a more suffering condition that that of mental narcissism. Narcissism is a condition in which the mind reverts or regresses to an earlier condition in the life of that mind. In modern psychoanalytic literature it is always referred to as a pre-verbal condition. By that we mean the depth of the condition is located in the recesses of the mind, or in the recesses of that mind’s history. Not all of our history is readily accessible, although one might argue that it is all stored and might be assessable under a favorable condition.
The Unconscious is a difficult concept to deal with as are many other concepts in science in which the actual event is hidden from view and can only be understood to exist by virtue of inductive reasoning. Examples like evolution, the electro-magnetic field and even gravity are understood because we see and feel the effects of the condition, but we never can actually see gravity–only conditions that make us think it most probably is a force operating in reality.
The unconscious is particularly important to understanding the narcissistic conditions. The idea of narcissism can only happen in the presence of pre-verbal feelings and pre-verbal feelings are by their definition feelings that we experienced before we had grown an ego sufficient in language proficiency. It is a feeling that we experience before we were old enough to orally process the experience. Although the experience did not have a word at the time to describe the experience, nonetheless the experience was registered by the mind and stored without words to categorize or describe the event.
Under a “favorable” condition; that is, when an event in real time happens that jars a pre-verbal memory, that memory is “remembered” without words. When that happens we experience feelings that seem to have no antecedent. The feeling appears to attack us from the inside and we are not quite able to point to what or where it is coming from.
The most common regression is a regression to pre-verbal or narcissistic rage. That is we are aware of a mood-like feeling that engulfs us and takes over our spirit, or our manner of looking at life. The mood-like condition may be experienced as gloom, or a lethargy, or a resistance to participate in life. Instead of the event before us causing anger, because it travels backwards in time, it causes us to recline into a mood that we seem to have very little control of changing. Actually, at the beginning, the mood may not even be recognized as a mood–the mind simply regresses to a condition that become who we are in the moment.
We have manifested from the unconscious a thought/feeling that existed in our mind many, many years before the current time or the current event.
The importance of this issue to psychoanalysis is profound. Our theories of development and our theories of the technique of treatment and even our theories of research are central to our understanding of the people who come into our clinical consultation rooms. Psychoanalysis exists on the premise that not all that we are is available to consciousness. The unconscious is central to our understanding of regression, transference and to our ability to work with the cognitive behavioral problems that present themselves as conflicts in life or conflicts with life. In psychoanalysis we understand all conflict to be within. That conflict occurs among the factions of the mind…the ego battles with the unconscious causing us to experience internal discomfort in the form of anxiety, depression or psycho-somatic ailments or illnesses.
In conclusion, the conscious mind is a manifestation of the brain/body matrix. Our consciousness is really the first order of manifestation that is considered under the Laws of Attraction. Who we are, the self that we carry around and the self that represents itself to both us and the rest of the world is one aspect of consciousness. But to consider that that aspect of consciousness is the only aspect of self makes not very much biological sense, not very much philosophical sense and not very much neurological sense.
As we evolved from the beginnings of the alligator brain through ever more complex conditions of human existence, we become more familiar with the multitude of manifestations that our brain can invent. Our consciousness works in oneness with the universe and as such the more we understand about the universe the more we understand about the universe within. As the universe expands so does our capacity for both understanding and destroying. We are more able to understand human differences than ever in the history of consciousness and at the same time we are more on the brink of being able to extinguish all human life from this planet. It is a piece of human synchronicity that our understanding exists in parallel form to our ability for destruction and self-destruction.
The unconscious in many ways is more a manifestation of the body than it is actually a manifestation of the brain. Of course, it is both, but in many ways its very existence is more closely tied with bodily functions than with psychic illuminations. Like breathing and the circulation of blood and our endocrine system, the system of the unconscious operates at a level below the level of consciousness and it is only through behaviors such as acting-out that we can see it is exerting a pressure on our lives, thought the exact nature from which the pressure is being exerted, like gravity is difficult to discern.
The exit from narcissism that so many of us yearn for can only be actuated by a cooperation between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the mind. The thought alone can not creates a situation from which narcissism can be exited. it is not enough to want to be free from these early regressive states, we must KNOW how to do this work of exiting.
The work of exiting from narcissism is a joint venture between what we know we know and what we must in ourselves deliberately set out to know.