Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Sense of Self

I feel that the sense of self is best thought of as an Emergent Property of a long series of what might be called "ping and response events".  You send a call out into the world, and an answer comes back. You do it again, and another answer comes back, reliably.

As time goes on, and you get older, the quality of the pings begins to matter more.  You send a specific sort of energy out into the world, and you get back an appropriate response, one which matches, or fits, your call.  You come to understand the quality of your calls as you, and the quality of the answers as others.  You realize you belong within a system.  You are both a self and a part of a larger whole.

Thus, in healthy individuation, one naturally learns to care both for oneself and for others.  Self nurturing and other nurturing are our genetic and evolutionary heritage.  They are, after all, life itself.  We are meant to sustain ourselves and to sustain one another.

Consider, again, what happens when this process breaks down, when individuation does not occur, when no healthy sense of self is possible, because the care-givers never respond appropriately, or perhaps at all.

The organism has an imperative to survive.  In some respects--and I certainly do not think this is a full explanation, but for its part I think it is accurate enough--we are stomachs which evolved bodies and brains to eat more and eat better. If the social brain does not develop properly, the appetites of the body do not disappear.  They come, rather, to seem to be all that matters.

Could we not locate in this mechanism irrational greed?  Sexual predation, made "necessary" by an inability (on some level) to conceive that a woman could consent?  A violence brought into being by an innate sense that the world is conspiring to kill you, a sense which is amplified by the reaction of the world to antisocial and aggressive behavior?

Could we not derive evil from a lack of good, the good of having been heard and seen, felt and nurtured, appropriately?  This point seems obvious, and I'm sure it is, but I am attempting to say old things in a slightly better way.

On another level, I am confronting my own evil, my own unmet needs, the stone wall I faced as a child in the way of contentment and a sense of safety.

And in the process, of course, I am trying to learn more about what it means to be human, to be here, in this body.

And I will add that in my previous post what I was alluding to was an interesting pendulation.  I cycle to abstraction--and speculating about ancient civilizations is abstraction--when I can't stay with feelings.  Emotional health is being able to stay with feelings for a long time, which is to say, the ability to be relaxed and not on edge, not on alert, most of the time.

And I wonder, too, about the personlessness--the radical devaluation of the individual--in "utopian" schemes and the failures to individuate of the intellectuals who obsess about such schemes.  Communism feels right to them because it is a world, in theory, where they belong, because you don't have to have any distinguishing traits.  Self evidently, such people often consider their politics to be their distinguishing trait, but at root I think many or most of them are sad children.

It is a psychopathology, and like all pathologies, worth explaining in as much detail as possible, at least when speaking in generalities.

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