The Bridge Home

the bridge home

 

When the holidays are upon us, the bridge home seems to be a more rickety bridge than usual.  Family life can encompass the best of days and the worst of days.  Remembering that what we fear in life is losing control of our selves, family can induce a loss of self and soul that has us wanting to scurry for the first rabbit hole that we find. It can also hold us in its embrace when the sorrow is too much to handle, and we are overwhelmed with grief.

Home for the holidays with Barbara Stanwyck  living in a perfect New England home, snow bound with a horse drawn sleigh at the front door to bring you into town for the last minute pound of butter or canned milk, was too pretty.  It creates in us a longing for something that does not really exist.  It always made me ask as a kid, “where do they go to the bathroom?”  You never saw in those idyllic movies where and of the “crap” happened.

christmas in connecticut

Life in 21st century America is a dollar driven life with things and events symbolizing an upward mobility and a sense of abundance that is not on the horizon for most Americans any more.  We have what we have, and we have to find a way to be content with that because the upward mobility american-dream-thing is a rapidly vanishing fantasy that is as equally unpalatable as Barbara’s dream in a 1950 Christmas in Connecticut movie.

Even our beloved states of longing seem to vanish with the advent of capitalism replacing democracy as not only the economic system of the american people, but as the form of government and the types of lives that are permitted under this new umbrella of global aristocracy. We have become income driven–not values driven.

As Americans we inherited a transcendental philosophy that was born out of the writings of Emerson, Alcott, and the 19th century Concord Literary Society that became know as the 1st revolutionaries in American Literature.  That period of American History became engrained in us, representing a value that was greater that what money could buy.  The early Transcendentalist saw the natural elements of life as the template to a free and loving society.  It used the natural to remind us of life and death.  It used humanity as the test center that attempted to illustrate that a society, a neighborhood was greater than the sum of its parts.

Communities and families died and suffered and lived and enjoyed life together.  The small town, dirt-road, trails always led to somewhere you wanted to be.  After all it was the the trotted road the got the wear.  Families are pretty much all that is left of this inter-dependent way of life; and families are hanging on by a thread as the holy dollar calls the older brother to Cleveland, and the younger sister to Huston and the parents had to retire to Florida as the Massachusetts economy became too expensive to purchase on a fixed-income.  So middle sister, who was fortunate enough to find a husband and a job in the home town, is now the only member of the family left in the home town.

Is it still home town when everyone you know has moved on or moved away?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is only food and companionship and love that make it happen.  It is not a commercial holiday.  Except for food, the stores have to be clamoring for your Christmas dollar there is no Thanksgiving gift.  And I am grateful for that fact.  Department stores and Big Box stores could starve to death on Thanksgiving and I would have one more things to be grateful for.

I want to make a wish today.  I want to wish that everyone who reads this essay will find a way to promote this message to everyone they know and meet.  I want this holiday to stay free of commercial broadcasting and that there will never be such a thing a thanksgiving music..  I want everyone to be as persistent as they can be to call families together for this once a year gratitude day.

I want the bridge home for Thanksgiving to be free and easy and spontaneous and not filled with expectations.  I want every one who wants to be home for the holiday to be able to get there.  I wish that this message get read by people who are just on the verge of wanting to get home to be spurred homeward by the sincerity and forgiveness that this holiday promotes.

 

Happy Gratitude Day, 2013

Charlestown, RI 02813

Home Sweet Home

I have done very little writing this summer.  I guess I am OK with that, but I do find myself searching for something and I think the search is for something as comforting as writing was earlier in the year.  It is so easy to blame summer.  There is sheer joy in just being in the world where the windows are open to a constant breeze and the birds sings and the water becomes holy and warm and healing.  I did spend a great deal of this summer healing and thinking about healing.

Before the summer ends I wanted to put some of these thoughts together in a cohesive essay because I think they might be helpful to other people who suffer from the chronic critical voice that lingers like a ticker-tape in the back of the mind, forever calling out some atrocity about to happen or warning us about some grievous fault that we have committed.

We have a mind that we can to some extent control.  That is the mind we think with.  “I think I want to go to the marketplace and purchase some vegetables for tonight’s dinner.”  That statement is a thought that will most likely propel me into an action at some point so that I am able to accomplish the object of my desire:  buy vegetables.  The sound from that voice in my head was as clear as if I had spoken it out-loud.

But, what about the voice that speaks in a dimmer tone, the one that says:  “you can’t do that, you are not smart enough, you have no culture and if you go out everyone you want to impress will know what a supreme jerk you are….”  That voice is also a communication from the mind but it seems to have a more autonomic sense about it.  It is not a thought that i decided that I wanted to have, rather it is a thought that stays suspended in a sub-conscious state and though we have no desire to listen to it, it may well propel us to action or passivity like the first example about the vegetables.

We are frequently guided by a force that seems to come from nowhere.  We put our heads on the pillow and instead of a list of gratitudes, what comes out is a list of outlandish criticisms that seek to prevent us from going after what we want.

This summer I wanted to stay home at the Lake.  The voice was very loud on many occasions telling me I was lazy, but I was able to overcome the voice by continuously reminding myself that following my desire is a more noble effort than sulking.  It occurred to me many time this summer that if I was going to have a pleasant, free and easy summer that I was going to have to invite in the peace that comes from deliberate intention.

It remains amazing to me that the negative thoughts springing from some repetition in the ego are so easy to access, while the peaceful, calm, deliberate serenity that I get from writing, or reading or a multitude of other activities that I enjoy; these must be invited in.  I like to use a “zen” like singing bowl, tap its side and listen to the vibrations that last into a long fading silence.  This reminds me that I need to listen deliberately and that I must be conscious about inviting in gratitude….

Summer was great!

Gratitude, and the ego as a seed in the soul

Gratitude and greed occupy the same space in the psychic apparatus.  If the container is filled with greed or envy there is no room for gratitude.  If the container is filled with gratitude there is no room for greed or envy…It is that simple.  It is a law of physics.  Two piece of matter can not occupy the same space and by extension it appears that two pieces of information can not occupy the same psychic space.  The Greek word  “Psyche” is our word “Soul”.   Contrary to what many think, Freud dedicated his life to the study of Man’s soul.  In this later part of my life, as I begin to have time to open my self to newer 21st century models of mental conditions, I find that the earlier wisdom acquired in the study & practice of modern psychoanalysis have bearing, if not direct implications on these principles.

Our souls are the most important part of us while we are alive and living in form. The soul of man gives us our humanity at the only place where it touches our divinity.  Through religion we have learned to associate the term soul with that part of us that will transcend life and perhaps attains a life everlasting.  But for my purpose in this essay I will use the more generic aspect of the word.  I mean by the soul of man, the very essence of man.  I mean to refer to the totality of the experience of man. My soul is my experience of me at exactly the psychic location where it touches my connection with the cosmic.

Our experience known as the soul is often not experienced directly.  Rather it points to as a location or a phenomenon that is concerned with as Bruno Bettelheim say, ” not just man’s body — but most of all with the dark world of the unconscious which forms such a large part of living man — or, to put it in classical terms, with the unknown netherworld in which, according to ancient myths the souls of men [and women] dwell.”

As human beings we experience ourselves first and foremost by identifying with the part of the psychic apparatus know as the “ego.”  The ego of the human mind  is not directly connected to the soul.  The ego is detached from the field of consciousness that is our more profound existence or experience of being.  The ego, although not discoverable in time and space as a physical entity is a construct that we use to explain a host of primary  and secondary functions of the brain.  We can not open the brain and locate the ego.  The ego, like the soul does not exist in form.

The ego ought not have a bad wrap.  It is a cluster of functions which contribute to our essential humanness.  For example, language is thought to be the highest function of the ego.  The ego is responsible for our being able to develop language. The ego is also responsible for other functions such as perception and motility.  It is a cluster of brain functions rather than a specific location.  And as such remains an important aspect of our ability to function in civilization and society.  Some say it is actually the aspect of man directly responsible for his ability to build civilization and culture.  But again, it is important that we see it for what it is, not a location in the brain as much as the name given to a cluster of functions.

In my ramblings about psychoanalysis and man’s soul, i seem to find myself always contending with a duality.  As much as I acknowledge the oneness of the mind/body matrix, it seems that in experience I am always struggling with a concept that can only be explained by forming comparisons of by juxtaposing one experience against another.

Even in the concept of greed vs gratitude it seems that the experience of one is felt to be one thing and the experience of the other quite another thing.  However, if I were only concerned about the comparisons of two things it would seem logical, (they are different because they are different).  But, what  I am trying to understand  is if the experience of one comes from a different place than the experience of the other.

I have rambled or, if you wish, free associated, to this notion of duality in our experience of ourselves in many of my writings through the years.  I keep doing so because i have experience in me what I would like to call, an exit from narcissism. In my years of practicing my own brand of dynamic psychoanalysis, I have run up against classical conditions in this science that seem to take over the definition and attempt to make it fit the science rather than pursue what appears to me the more logical approach which is to follow the experience into a phenomena that is no longer science, but is nevertheless a direct outgrowth of the science and may point to a newer model or theory of human existence.  And although not science, nonetheless an important dimension of humanness that can only be arrived at with subjective conclusions. The scientific “objective” can only go so far in helping us to understand our humanity.  Poetry, music, & our relation to nature and to animals, for example,  point to a subjective awareness that provides a profound acquaintance with the subjective that can not be quantified objectively.

As I ponder gratitude, I am aware that the very experience of gratitude fills my consciousness with a sense of expansion, with a feeling that is both grand and humbling at the same time.  Gratitude is connected not only with me experiencing myself but with me experiencing a wider sense of connectedness that includes a feeling of well-being and a feeling of inter being with all of creation.  To put it more simply gratitude is a sensation that consequenses a feeling of totality and oneness and well being all laced with that kind of giddiness that one feels as a joyful child.  By comparison greed feels very intra- psychic. I shrink to greed, not expand to it.  Greed is small minded.  Greed worms it way through me and settles into a corner of my life and i experience it as an undigested piece of toxic lead.  I think about it and i can experience the thought as mental, as a calculation, perhaps even as a manipulation of truth.

But, the profound difference is not in the verbal attributes that i can ascribe to the difference between gratitude and greed, but rather in the felt location from which each experience comes.  I want to give one more example of the experience of the objective vs the experience of the subjective:

Charlotte, my youngest granddaughter,  is falling asleep in my arms… That is an objective statement of a experience I might be having in a given moment.

However, the experience of having my beautiful, angelic, sweet and loving granddaughter in my arms being so comfortable that she is soothing herself to sleep, is a subjective experience that comes from an entirely different location in my experience.  And no amount of objective verbal data or description can convey the experience.  In other words my human experience in that moment can not be objectified.  It is as if my soul, the aspect of me that is closest to the divine is activated and a flood of emotions and sensations converge on me and provide me with a feeling not representable through the ego.

As I write my free associations, I am conscious of my intention.  I am hopeful to find a verbal way of describing the long, slow and at times painful way for an adult to emerge from the condition of narcissism.  Having spent the bulk of my career specializing in the treatment of narcissistic disorders, I am interested in the specific manner in which one can successfully emerge from this human condition.

As I begin to write more seriously about this topic, I keep on returning to Freud’s works and specifically to his treatment of the psyche in his writings.  Of great concern is the notion that Freud meant for the entire backdrop of his science to be understood as an ego growing in a field of consciousness that he understood to be the soul of man.  But when his translations to english took on a more generic term than “soul” Freud did little to challenge this mistranslation.

As a result we have been seeing the ego as a mental construct that was to have some kind of physical, brain-like antecedent. When we attempt to locate the ego in the brain, of course, there is no such organ.  But if instead we were to consider the ego as an outgrowth of the soul, then the entire apparatus of the ego could be worked with as a metaphor for a seed found in a large, wild, field of cosmic consciousness that every human being has access to.  This line of thinking has many possible ramifications including its intersection with eastern philosophy.