Meme against Meme

But I do believe that cynicism is a meme in its own right, and has become totally reflexive, a kneejerk reaction. We need to fight that meme with a "killer meme" which destroys it.

People would be much happier if they started constructing virtuous circles instead of vicious ones. Positivity grows exponentially, just as negativity does. Actually, that observation is the basis of most religions and philosophies.


[Momus]
Taken from his blog, Click Opera.

Related posts:-
(Moronic) Cynicism
Hell in a basket
Optimism (as cultural rebellion)
Disenchantment
The Colour Wheel 
The Principle of Polarity

(Moronic) Cynicism

I've made quite a few passing references to "moronic cynicism", but never really defined what I mean by the term. Perhaps it's self-explanatory, but just in case it isn't, here are my Notes towards a definition of "moronic cynicism".

Moronic cynicism is a form of naivete. It's naivete turned inside out, naivete with a sneer. Imagine a child smoking a cigarette.

The girl on the left is not a moronic cynic.

Moronic cynics wonder why the girl's T shirt doesn't say "Hate" or "Cocaine" or "Fuck" or have a dead person's skull on it.

The moronic cynic uses cynicism as a way to prepare for the worst. The worst consequently arrives.

To be cynical is to be on the side of the worst, to think with its logic and to see with its eyes.

For the moronic cynic (and the shareholder) the bottom line is always money.

Moronic cynic, you will become the monster you claim to fight!

Passive aggression, self-destructiveness and negative capability are close cousins to moronic cynicism.

Moronic cynicism is still believing that there's a big simple thing called truth, then saying "They're lying to us!"

Moronic cynicism is splitting up with someone then sending 100 pizzas to their house rather than staying friends.

Moronic cynicism is telling the tale to your pals on a bulletin board and getting lots of applause for your malice.

"You should have kicked her in the teeth while you were at it!"

Moronic cynicism is taking a vaguely "No Logo" stance towards capitalism, but then working for a big marketing company, exacting your revenge on "the Man" and "the System" by frittering away your working hours on the internet and, when you're finally and understandably fired, stealing something.

"You should have set the place on fire!" say your pals on the bulletin board.

Moronic cynicism is attacking both the consumers and the companies that supply their needs. "Wake up!" you scream to people who are already awake, thank you very much!

Moronic cynicism is seeing the entire people, government and institutions of a nation as possessing some kind of "original sin".

Moronic cynicism is joining the mosque and carrying the bomb in your backpack because the world is evil.

Moronic cynicism is intervening in a contract because you think you understand the real needs of the participants better than they do themselves.

Moronic cynicism is thinking it's wrong to say bad stuff about women, but fine to say bad stuff about men.

Moronic cynicism is telling women of another culture that they're "exploited" because they're not as cynical as you are, and then finding yourself stereotyping them with words like "compliant" and "submissive" and "cute".

Hey, you're saying worse things about them than anybody in their culture does, and you still want them to be grateful for your advice?

Moronic cynicism wonders why the phone never rings.

Moronic cynicism is "enlightened false consciousness" as outlined by Peter Sloterdijk: "that modernized, unhappy consciousness, on which enlightenment has labored both successfully and in vain. It has learned its lessons in enlightenment, but it has not, and probably was not able to, put them into practice. Well-off and miserable at the same time, this consciousness no longer feels affected by any critique of ideology; its falseness is already reflexively buffered... To act against better knowledge is today the global situation in the superstructure; it knows itself to be without illusions and yet to have been dragged down by the "power of things." Thus what is regarded in logic as a paradox and in literature as a joke appears in reality as the actual state of affairs. Thus emerges a new attitude of consciousness toward "objectivity." Peter Sloterdijk. Critique of Cynical Reason, University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Moronic cynicism is thinking "empowerment" is acting on your own behalf rather than on the behalf of others.

Moronic cynicism is the narcissistic mindset of a fragmented individual in a culture where all individuals resemble each other, and everybody is secretly miserable.

Moronic cynicism is the secular version of Protestant "worldly asceticism". Hold back from the world, young puritan, for it is evil!

The moronic cynic flexes his muscles by criticizing marketing, then becomes a marketer himself. "I am evil," he says, and hates himself. His hate spreads out from the centre, from his wretched self-loathing, and becomes a concentric series of vicious circles, a whirlpool of pointless negativity.

The moronic cynic's pleasures are always guilty pleasures.

The moronic cynic cannot stand innocence because it reminds him of himself. He pisses on it as soon as he sees it.

The moronic cynic believed Michael Jackson was guilty all along. Of course! He would have corrupted those kids in the same situation.

The moronic cynic is not attracted to things because they are beautiful, but because they are forbidden.

The moronic cynic believes that [insert name of endangered species here] are already extinct and feels slightly disappointed to hear that populations are rising.

The moronic cynic would find the wholesomeness of this blog completely disgusting.

The moronic cynic suddenly falls in love one day with someone who isn't cynical at all.

The opposite of moronic cynicism is love.

[Momus]
Taken from his blog, Click Opera.

Related posts:-
Meme against Meme
Optimism (as cultural rebellion)
Disenchantment
Hell in a basket
Life Amongst the Rubble 
Postmodernist Soup
From Postmodern to Altermodern

The Sensual World

Eventually I started sleeping with Zoe (not her real name), the French ex-girlfriend of my Greek Marxist friend from university.

Zoe lived in Tufnell Park and was into dancing, aromatherapy, massage, and sex.

She was extremely thin and had a wicked sensuality.

When she was at home in Vence, in the south of France, Zoe would lie in the garden and cover her naked body with snails, just to feel them crawling across her skin.

[Momus]
Taken from his blog, Click Opera.

Image from 'Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus'

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Related posts:-
Ways of being touched

Beware Agapanthus

"Man is always, I think, made fearful by what he does not understand. I heard the other day a story which illustrates the point and which may appeal to garden lovers. A lady wishing to keep people from crossing her lawn put up a notice BEWARE OF THE DOG. It had no effect. She then put one up BEWARE FIERCE DOG - still no effect - but when she put up BEWARE AGAPANTHUS no one dared come near."

Jim Ede - Founder of Kettle's Yard, Cambridge. ('Open House' Exhibition Catalogue)
The degree of aesthetic impact and emotional experience of the above quote varies dramatically depending upon whether or not the reader 'knows' what an 'Agapanthus' is. The quote is useful because it presents a few small challenges; to buy into, or believe in this story, we have to imagine, visualize, think and feel.

For those who do 'not know', the warnings of a dog, and a fiercer dog, set up the Agapanthus as something particularly fierce and dangerous. Finding out that an Agapanthus is a rather beautiful plant diminishes the fear of what it might be and enables us to understand one major point of the story, another point is that the realization also dashes the daydream created by our imagination.

For those who 'know' what an Agapanthus is, the quote presents a different challenge. When one 'knows' it is more difficult to imagine or create a daydream of what an Agapanthus might be. In many ways it is sensible and practical in life to trust in the reality we have tested, know and believe. However, the quote also makes more complex points, one being that there can be gains and benefits from using the imagination.

The 'lady' in the story uses her imagination to enhance reality - by activating the fear and imagination of others she gets the solution she wants. It is a consciously driven movement away from reality, a creative reversal of the process of realization.

There is also an implied warning that accompanies the process of immersing ourselves in the story - when we 'suspend our disbelief' (Coleridge, 1817) and our trust in things that are real, we make ourselves susceptible to being manipulated. It is like our reality anchor has been hoisted and we become vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of the sea. We identify with the lawn trespassers and the story makes us turn back in fear.

Significantly, those who 'know' and those who do 'not know' must both give up a sense of reality and accept the fictionalised story to be able to understand and have access to the benefits of the many points condensed within it.

Jim Ede recounted this viginette so that visitors to museums and galleries would enter and approach art and artefacts with open and creative minds, rather than expecting to find what is already known and what we feel safe with. There is a risk in embracing the unknown, the challenging, and the difficult, but without the risk there can be no development, creativity, or change. It is not difficult to see how crucial these factors are in learning.

The unfamiliarity of the 'Beware Agapanthus' sign forces a re-evaluation of habitual responses, momentarily we reconfigure our existing experiences to address a new set of learning parameters. We are forced to question and consider, or if the challenge is too extreme, we avoid. It is an important skill to 'know what to do, when we do not know' (Claxton 2003, p2) and it is something that is easily overlooked when there are so many prescriptive aspects of compulsory education.

[Karl Foster]

Related posts:-
Negative Capability
Entertaining Ideas
Art Frame of Mind
Are you sure?
Don't commit to it
Look again
Escaping Uncertainty

Open Wound

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Closed                               -                      Open
Certainty                           -                      Uncertainty
Solid                                 -                       Liquid
Known                              -                       Unknown 
Actuality                           -                       Potentiality
Rest                                   -                      Motion
Attach                               -                       Detach
Being                                -                       Becoming
Control                              -                       Chaos
Apheleia                            -                       Aporia


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[...] life cannot tolerate a standstill [...]

[C.G. Jung]
Psychological Types (CW 6, 1991), p. 479


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When we have a wound our bodies work to heal it; to close what is open, so that normality can be resumed. We have a tendency towards healing, closure and completion.

When wounds are left open - words left unsaid, projects left incomplete, problems left unresolved - it can cause tension, or pain. An open wound represents a halting point; it demands attention; demands that the status quo is put on hold for a while, so that something else can take place. Our rhythms and routines may have to change. In convalescing ("growing strong again") we must come to terms with our vulnerability. Our solidity is brought into question, and we enter a place of weakness, hesitancy, and uncertainty. We enter the unknown.

It can be an awkward place. We find ourselves shunted out of our rhythms, stumbling through no-man's-land: neither here nor there. We're unable to be what we were - or to be anything for that matter. For those who cannot tolerate uncertainty this place is not only awkward, but unbearable. "To hell with all this doubt!" they exclaim, as they tear off their dressing and wince on down the road.

Yet, looked at another way, it is a place of opportunity. No longer caught in the flow of life, we're able to stand back and reflect on things; to ask questions, and consider other possibilities. The wound becomes a womb; a latent and fertile place, from which - provided we can tolerate the tension long enough - new ideas and insights can emerge.

Ego-development can, it appears, be characterised by the increasing ability to tolerate the anxiety of ambiguity.


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The magnificatio that wounding brings is a way of entering archetypal consciousness, that is the awareness that more is going on than my reason can hold. One becomes an open wound, hurting all over, as consciousness is transfigured into the wounded condition.

[...] The wound announces impossibility and impotence. It says: "I am unable." It brutally brings awareness to the fact of limitation.

[James Hillman]
Puer Papers


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The removal of mystery from the arts is one of the ways in which our society tries to tame the occult and its offence. In all the stories which have been interpreted as bearing upon the presence of the artist in the world, there is a recurring pattern, a motif of strangeness.

[...] the god Heracles gave Philoctetes a bow which was uncannily accurate; it never failed to hit the mark. One day Philoctetes was bitten by a snake. The wound suppurated, and it became so loathsome in its smell that Philoctetes’ companions removed him to the island of Lemnos and sailed off to Troy without him.

He remained banished for ten years; the wound hadn’t healed.

But it was revealed to the Greeks that they would never defeat the Trojans without Philoctetes and his bow. So they brought him back, he defeated Paris in single combat, and Troy was taken.

The story tells of the artist in a world which is alien to him. His gift is uncanny and perhaps for that reason it seems loathsome till it is needed: It tells a truth people don’t want to hear. In the story, the people realise at last that they need this truth, and they are ready to put up with the foul smell to have it.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 12-13


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Negative Capability

This is a concept Wilfred Bion developed from an expression first used by John Keats to describe a state of creative receptivity. It can be understood as a capability to hold an empty mental space. This means the ability to live with doubt, ambiguity, uncertainty, and, as Keats puts it, "without any irritable reaching after fact and reason". It is a space to hold back from thoughtless reaction.

The empty mental space is needed to be able to see and feel things clearly. It is a space where something can form, develop and emerge. When there is no solution or prescribed answer, one can be formed and shaped. When we do not 'know' we must learn to sit with 'not knowing'. This is not a kind of attention that is vacant or indiscriminate, this is wide-open attention with a specific focus. If we have Negative Capability, we may be able to stay open and receptive to change and difference. It is only by the accumulation of many such experiences that we begin to recognize the right conditions for creativity.

When trying to communicate Negative Capability we often use a big jar of buttons.

We usually pour the whole jar into an empty space on the floor. We like people to think that each button is a thought or an incident with an emotional charge. A button could be a criticism, or an unwelcome noise, or a happy thought, but the main point is that they are unprocessed stimuli.

The buttons spill in an uncontained way across the floor (it can be unpleasant to watch this happen) as they might in our minds. To establish a space where there is enough calm for reflection and where there is enough room for something to form, the buttons have to be pushed back.

As space appears between the buttons, Negative Capability emerges. The establishment of this creative space is dependent upon attention and calmness. When working in a group, a mobile phone ringing or somebody working on their laptop is like scattering a handful of buttons into the space that have to be pushed back to the sides again.

[Karl Foster]
Also see: Negative Capability, Wikipedia definition.


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Aporia (Ancient Greek: ἀπορία: "impasse, difficulty of passing, lack of resources, puzzlement") denotes in philosophy a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement and in rhetoric a rhetorically useful expression of doubt.

In a reference from 1657, J. Smith's Mystical Rhetoric, the term becomes "a figure whereby the speaker sheweth that he doubteth, either where to begin for the multitude of matters, or what to do or say in some strange or ambiguous thing" (OED).

In William Harmon's A Handbook to Literature [...] aporia is identified as "a difficulty, impasse, or point of doubt and indecision"

[...] critics such as Jacques Derrida have employed the term to "indicate a point of undecidability, which locates the site at which the text most obviously undermines its own rhetorical structure, dismantles, or deconstructs itself."

Julian Wolfreys, in his essay "Trauma, Testimony, and Criticism", characterizes trauma as aporia, a wound with unending trail.

Valiur Rahaman, in his book Interpretations: Essays in Literary Theory (2011), explained aporia as a creative force in both the artist and their art; it is, for the artist, an edgeless edge of the text or a work of art.

'Aporia'


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[An] important characteristic of perception is the tendency toward closure - that is, toward making meaning about a figure.

Presented with a circle of unconnected dots, for example, the perceiver instinctively fills in the gaps mentally to create a complete, bounded image.

When we do not take actions necessary for closure, our experiences remain “unfinished and uneasy” in the background of our mind, where they disturb present work that needs to be done. In Gestalt, this is referred to as unfinished business.

Change is a function of closing one experience and moving on to a new possibility. But we can only open to new possibilities when “the preoccupation with the old incompletion is resolved” - that is, when closure is reached.

"All experience hangs around until a person is finished with it."

Although individuals can tolerate the internal existence of a number of unclosed experiences, the experiences themselves, if they become compelling enough, will generate "much self-defeating activity," and will essentially demand closure.

Gestalt has a high regard for novelty and change and -- paradoxically -- "a faith-filled expectation that… [change] is inevitable if we stay with our own experiences as they actually form.”  This means not being so quick to impose old meanings on our experiences so we can put them on the shelf and be "done with" them (rush to closure); instead, it means listening, with creative indifference, to what they have to tell us.

[Herb Stevenson]
'Paradox: A Gestalt Theory of Change'


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Things that are finished have no changes left to make in themselves. Motivated by smugness or by despair, they 'got it right' or 'gave up' and stopped. The unfinished, on the other hand, constantly seeks new shapes.

Whole cities can feel finished or unfinished. Edinburgh, my hometown, is finished. There's not much left to do there. They got it right. They slapped conservation orders on all the buildings. Voila, bring on the tourists! Park the coaches! Paris, where I was living earlier this year, is finished. Don't litter, don't spoil it! Admire the Baron Haussman's vistas! Build new stuff only on the outskirts! Bring on the tourists!

Tokyo is totally unfinished. A flux, a blur [...] Berlin, where I live now, feels unfinished to me.

I vastly prefer the scaffolding to the stuff it's preparing. I prefer the demo to the final release. I like holes in the road better than smooth roads, and temporary exhibitions better than the buildings that contain them. I like unvarnished wood and stuff that's been hastily patched together with scotch tape. I enjoy not knowing the city I'm in more than knowing it like the back of my hand. I never, ever read handouts before watching the film.

My favourite of my own albums is always the next one, the Work In Progress, still unfixed, still changeable and improveable. I like uncertainty and irresolution.

[Momus]
'1998 Forever'


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Indeed, all that we know about human beings in various sorts of simple contests would seem to indicate that this is the case, and that the conscious or unconscious wish for release of this kind [a release of tension, comparable to orgasm] is an important factor which draws the participant on and prevents them from simply withdrawing from contests which would otherwise not commend themselves to "common sense."

If there be any basic human characteristic which makes man prone to struggle, it would seem to be this hope of release from tension through total involvement.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Bali: The Value System of a Steady State'), p.111


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Anyone acquainted with the life of Abelard will know how intensely his own soul harboured those separated opposites whose philosophical reconciliation was for him such a vital issue.

De Rémusat in his book characterizes him as an eclectic, who criticized and rejected every accepted theory of universals but freely borrowed from them what was true and tenable.

Abelard's writings, so far as they relate to the universals controversy, are difficult and confusing, because the author was constantly engaged in weighing every argument and aspect of the case. It is precisely because he considered none of the accepted standpoints right, but always sought to comprehend and conciliate the contrary view, that he was never properly understood even by his own pupils. Some understood him as a nominalist, others as a realist.

This misunderstanding is characteristic: it is much easier to think in terms of one definite type, because in it one can remain logical and consistent, than it is to think in terms of both types, since the intermediate position is lacking.

Realism as well as nominalism if pursued consistently lead to precision, clarity, uniformity. But the weighing and balancing of the opposites lead to confusion and, so far as the types are concerned, to an unsatisfactory conclusion, since the solution is completely satisfying neither to one nor to the other.

[C. G. Jung]
Psychological Types, p. 47


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Vaihinger observed that the sense of 'as if' involves a "condition of tension ... a feeling of discomfort which quite naturally explains the tendency of the psyche to transform every hypothesis into a dogma".  

To be rid of the tension of ambiguity, we move toward the insanity of literalism, and into some kind of action.

The acting-out, heroic, "masculine protest" cannot bear the innate tension, elsewhere described by Adler as psychic hermaphroditism. Here we feel close to our inferiority .

This is the condition of tentativeness, where our hypotheses feel less certain and positive and our beliefs are vulnerable. If we can stay with this condition of ambiguity we are less able to be literal about anything, and so less likely to move into the delusion of neurosis and insanity.

Thus psychic health requires remaining within psychic hermaphroditism, because it constellates those feelings of inferiority which prevent literalism.

The image of the hermaphrodite keeps the tension ... an image which, like humour, like metaphor, prevents antithetical literalism.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.112

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[…] the amount of uncertainty that an individual will experience in any given situation emerges as a function of the degree of constraint that is placed upon the interpretation of sensory information and the selection of behavioural responses. As indicated by Shannon’s formula, the amount of uncertainty (expressed as entropy) will increase in proportion to the number of competing possibilities that must be selected from.

[...] because individuals will be motivated to reduce the experience of uncertainty to a manageable level, psychological discomfort will increase along with the degree of perceptual and behavioural ambiguity within a situation.

When the affordances of a given situation are equipotential, meaning that no interpretive framework or behavioural response is clearly the most appropriate, there will be a parallel activation of many different perceptual and motor response options.

What this suggests is that situations with the fewest constraints can be the most anxiety producing as a consequence of their inherent uncertainty (reflecting the large number of possible interpretive frames and response options). 

[Jacob B. Hirsh, Raymond A. Mar, and Jordan B. Peterson]
'Psychological Entropy: A Framework for Understanding Uncertainty-Related Anxiety'


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There is anxiety in any actualising of possibility. To Kierkegaard, the more possibility (creativity) an individual has, the more potential anxiety he has at the same time.

Possibility ('I can') passes over into actuality, but the intermediate determinant is anxiety.

[Rollo May]
The Meaning of Anxiety, p. 27


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Positive - move forward
Negative - get away
Indeterminate - stop

STOP! That’s anxiety. Stop! You’re not where you think you are. Your map isn’t producing the desired outcome.

[Anxiety is] very, very demanding psychophysiologically, and that’s something that’s really worth knowing. Anxiety isn’t just a psychological state, it’s unpleasant; you’re revved up, and you’re burning resources like mad, and you’re in a biochemical state that’s optimised for quick action, but is toxic if you inhabit it for any length of time.

So not knowing what to do, that is not good. And it isn’t just that it makes you feel bad - it hurts you, it damages you, it can kill you; it will make you age; it’ll make you fat; it’ll give you diabetes; it’ll suppress your immune system so you’re more likely to develop cancer; it’ll damage your brain, your hippocampus; it’ll increase the probability that you have altzheimers

[…] you’re running your machinery faster than you can replenish it, so its not a state that you can be in [or] tolerate [or] live in.

“I don’t know where I am” means everything’s relevant and I have to ramp up my capacity for action to deal with that […] people do not like that, do not like not to be where we think we are.

[…] and we structure almost all of our environments constantly so that never happens […] we’re all dressed the same, with tiny variations; we all follow the same traffic laws; everybody is behaving according to the proper code in this room, and everyone is this building is doing the same thing - we’re doing everything we can to make sure that everyone knows exactly where they are and what they’re doing all the time.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'2017 Maps of Meaning 6: Story and Metastory (part 2)'


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To some degree, it is human nature to feel stressed when we aren’t sure what to do or when faced with making a difficult or frustrating decision.

Experiencing something unusual or surprising causes stress.

Researchers studying chimpanzees found that familiar and unfamiliar objects generally did not cause stress. But familiar objects shown in unfamiliar ways scared them. This reaction appeared to be innate; it was not based on a previous experience.

[Ben Martin]
'Stress and Personality'


[...] we define stress as a state of threatened homeostasis (physical or perceived threat to homeostasis). During stress, an adaptive compensatory specific response of the organism is activated to sustain homeostasis.

Psychological stressors profoundly affect emotional processes and may result in behavioral changes such as anxiety, fear, or frustration.

[Karel Pacák & Miklós Palkovits]
'Stressor specificity of central neuroendocrine responses: implications for stress-related disorders'


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There’s plenty of bullying that goes on behind the scenes amongst women. It can’t manifest itself in naked physical aggression, and I actually think that’s hard on women in some ways.

My daughter, for example, is always mad at my son because he’d have a dispute with one of his friends, and maybe it would get physical - and that would be the end of it, and they’d be friends again. There was a way of bringing it to a conclusion. And without that, things can smolder on forever.

Sometimes the simplest solution is a fight.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Joe Rogan Experience #958 - Jordan Peterson'


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Blue [Spiral Dynamics]

[Blue] follows tradition, convention and policy; values certainty, structure and order; is motivated by duty; is loyal; is responsible; is careful; and promotes fairness and  traditions.

Stress is caused by ambiguity and uncertainty; chaos is feared; and change is avoided.

[Maretha Prinsloo]
'Consciousness Models in Action: Comparisons'



Conformist (E4)

Loevinger describes this stage of having 'the greatest cognitive simplicity. There is a right way and a wrong way and it is the same for everyone...or broad classes of people [...]'


Autonomous (E8)

Loevinger described this stage as marked by the freeing of the person from oppressive demands of conscience in the preceding stage'. People at this stage are "synthesizers" and are able to conceptually integrate ideas [...] The stage might also see a 'confrontation with the limitations of abilities and roles as part of deepening self-acceptance'.

'Self-fulfillment becomes a frequent goal, partly supplanting achievement', while there may well be a wider 'capacity to acknowledge and to cope with inner conflicts', such as between needs and duties.

'A high toleration for ambiguity... [and] conceptual complexity' - the capacity to embrace Polarity, Complexity, Multiple Facets, and to integrate ideas - is a further feature of the Autonomous Stage [...]'

'Loevinger's stages of ego development'


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What can we say, if something is called for, about an anxious object?

Of course, the object is not anxious, but it is such that we, looking at it, feel anxious and project our anxiety upon it. We feel anxious not so much about the status of the object as about our helplessness in its vicinity. It is dismal to feel that our mind is disabled.

One answer is: if you feel anxious, well and good, keep on feeling so, don’t indulge yourself in the opportunism of clarity. Anxiety, according to that admonition, corresponds to moral scruple; we may not be clear in the head, but at least we are conscientious.

A critic, thus admonished, would accustom himself to living in doubt; either he would assume that at some level of existence everything coheres, or he would postpone indefinitely the question of coherence and live meanwhile with the doubt of appearances.

Another answer is provided by the tour de force; we think of the work as a purely picturesque event which doesn’t call for judgement. Observation is enough. Otherwise put: we think of it by analogy with a force of nature which calls for acknowledgment but not for evaluation. We distance ourselves from the event, and wonder at it.

But it is a hard question how long we can continue in this stance. Can we remain in such a relation to the event that it never stops being spectacular, a matter of awe or wonder; or, at some point, are we bound to look for a category, a genre of such events, so that we can release ourselves from it?

Much of our understanding is a determination to be done with its object.

The normal way of being done with it is to find for it an appropriate slot or bin, even if it is called the sublime or the uncanny. The uncanny is a genre we maintain by keeping our distance from the object. We know that we don’t really dispose of an event by assigning it to a category; it may be different in some way or ways from the other events in there same category. But the mind is assuaged by consigning it to the slot.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 110-11


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Related posts:-
The Middle Path
Entertaining Ideas
Where language ends and art begins
Beware Agapanthus
Shades of gray
Escaping Uncertainty
Stay with the Image
Familiar Territory
Making Connections
Playing With Your Self
In-between
Art as In-between
Everything and Nothing
Are you sure? 
Sailing the turbulent seas
Empty Container 
The Healing Process 

The Pursuit of Happiness

Hillman: ... Also, I see happiness as a by-product, not something you pursue directly. I don't think you can pursue happiness. I think that phrase is one of the very few mistakes the Founding Fathers made. Maybe they meant something a little different from what we mean today — happiness as one's well-being on earth.

London: It's hard to pursue happiness. It seems to creep up on you.

Hillman: Ikkyu, the crazy Japanese monk, has a poem:

You do this, you do that
You argue left, you argue right
You come down, you go up
This person says no, you say yes
Back and forth
You are happy
You are really happy

What he is saying is: Stop all that nonsense. You're really happy. Just stop for a minute and you'll realize you're happy just being. I think it's the pursuit that screws up happiness. If we drop the pursuit, it's right here.

[James Hillman]
with Scott London
Online interview, you can find it here
.

Related posts:-
Process vs Outcome

Hear the Calling

I have come to be convinced that the parental fallacy itself has harnessed [a] Father's spirit to a false image, and his daimon turns demonic in kicking against the traces. He is trapped in a construct called fatherhood, a moral commandment to be the kind of good guy who likes Disneyland, and kids' food, gadgets, opinions, and wisecracks.

This bland mode betrays his necessary angel, that image of whatever else he carries in his heart, glimpsed from childhood into the present day ... The man who has lost his angel becomes demonic; and the absence, the anger, and the paralysis on the couch are all symptoms of the soul in search of a lost call to something other and beyond.

And so his absences - physical, mental, spiritual - call him away from the cage of delusions that crush the angel's wings. Without inspiration, what's left is bare, aimless ferocity. Without the desire for an ideal, what's left is lustful fantasy and the seduction of free-floating images that find no anchor in actual projects.

Present in body and absent in spirit, he lies back on the couch, shamed by his own daimon for the potentials in his soul that will not be subdued. He feels himself inwardly subversive, imagining in his passivity extremes of aggression and desire that must be suppressed.

Solution: more work, more money, more drink, more weight, more things, more infotainment, and an almost fanatic dedication of his mature male life to the kids so that they can grow up straight and straight up the consumer ladder in the pursuit of their happiness.

... the parental fallacy has trapped the parents also in providing happiness, along with shoes, schoolbooks, and van-packed vacations. Can the unhappy produce happiness?

Since happiness at its ancient source means eudaimonia, or a well-pleased daimon, only a daimon who is receiving its due can transmit a happy benefit to a child's soul. Yes, I am saying that "care of soul," as Thomas Moore has written, may thereby help the child's soul prosper.

Should the onus of soul-making in the parent shift to making the soul of the child, then the parent is dodging the lifelong task set by the acorn [their "calling"]. Then the child replaces the acorn. You feel your child is special, and you care for it as your calling, seeking to realize the acorn in your child. So your daimon complains because it is avoided, and your child complains because it has become an effigy of the parents' own calling.

Parents' deficient attention to the individual call they brought with them into the world and the hyperactivity of their distraction from this call betrays their reason for being alive. When your child becomes the reason for your life, you have abandoned the invisible reason you are here.

Any father who has abandoned the small voice of his unique genius, turning it over to the small child he has fathered, cannot bear reminders of what he has neglected. He cannot tolerate the idealism that arises so naturally and spontaneously in the child, the romantic enthusiasms, the sense of fairness, the clear-eyed beauty, the attachment to little things, and the interest in big questions. All this becomes unbearable to a man who has forgotten his daimon.

[James Hillman]
The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling, p.82, 83, 84, 85

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Men became neurotic at the mid-point of life because, in some sense, they had been false to themselves, and had strayed too far from the path which Nature intended them to follow. By scrupulous attention to the inner voice of the psyche, which manifested itself in dreams, phantasies, and other derivatives of the unconscious, the lost soul could rediscover its proper path.

[in reference to middle-aged patients suffering from depression] Such patients are often people who, because of the demands of their careers and families, have neglected or abandoned pursuits and interests which, at an earlier point in time, gave life zest and meaning.

If the patient is encouraged to recall what made life meaningful to him in adolescence, he will begin to rediscover the neglected side of himself, and perhaps turn once again to music, or to painting, or to some other cultural or intellectual pursuit which once enthralled him, but which the pressure of life's business had made him abandon.

[Anthony Storr]
Solitude, p.191, 192, 194

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I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life [...]

[...] Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears. For that reason the idea of development was always of the highest importance to me.

A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them [...] Whenever we give up, leave behind, and forget too much, there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.162, 307

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Jung thought that the cause of neurosis usually lay in the present [...] When the natural course of a man's development through life was held up, either by misfortune or by his failure to face life's obligations, his libido became turned in upon himself and reactivated the attitudes and feelings of childhood which would normally have been left behind him.

Jung believed that there was a natural and proper path of development for each individual; and that neurosis might actually be a valuable signal which indicated when, through intellectual arrogance, a false set of values or an evasion of responsibilities, a person was straying too far from his own true path.

Just as pain might make a man realize that there was something wrong with his body, so neurotic symptoms could draw attention to psychological problems of which the individual was unaware.

[Anthony Storr]
The Essential Jung, p.17

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Too much social security and equality breed individual restlessness and frustration: hazard starvation and variety starvation. The nightmare of the welfare state is boredom.

The higher the standard of living, the greater the need for variety. The greater the leisure, the greater the lack of tension.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos, p.118

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Geezerz need excitement
If their lives don't provide them this they incite violence
Common sense simple common sense

[The Streets]
Geezerz Need Excitement

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Related posts:-
Go Your Own Way
Healthy Risks
Future Proof
Walk a Straight Line

Silence

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Words                                 -                     Silence
Solid                                  -                      Liquid
Ordered                             -                      Random
Known                               -                      Unknown
Closed                                -                      Open
Control                               -                      Chaos


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Nonverbal communication among Navajo Indians

* Nonverbal communication styles have different connotations within each tribe.

* Navajo Indians, for example, may be comfortable with long periods of silence, and may not share inner thoughts and feelings with anyone outside their clan.

* Interest in what an individual says is shown through attentive listening skills.

* To establish a positive social relationship, the rule of silence is considered a serious matter that calls for caution, careful judgment, and plenty of time (Chisolm, 1983, as cited in Purnell and Paulanka, 1998).

* A person may be considered immature if answers are given quickly, or if he/she interrupts another who is forming a response.

* It is important to allow time for elderly Navajo to respond to questions. Not allowing adequate time for information processing may result in an inaccurate response, or no response (Wilson, 1987, as cited in Purnell and Paulanka, 1998)

* Navajo Indian family members may show support to family members during doctor appointments not through talking, but by simply being present. For Navajo Indians, silence is being supportive.

Cultural Competency - Multicultural Health Generalizations By Culture
Lifted from here.


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Trappist monks will generally only speak when necessary, and idle talk is strongly discouraged. As described by St. Benedict, speech disturbs a disciple's duty for quietude and receptivity, and may tempt one to exercise one's own will instead of the will of God.

Speech which leads to unkind amusement or laughter is seen as evil and is banned.

In years past, a Trappist Sign Language, distinct from other forms of monastic sign language, was developed to dissuade speaking. Meals are usually taken in contemplative silence, as members of the order are supposed to listen to a reading.

Wikipedia
Trappists



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Our actual conversations are now modeled on telephone talk. No pauses, because if there is a moment of reflection, a moment of silence, you wonder if the other person is still there. Manic. Keep talking, like I'm doing now.

The culture expects one to be manic: hyperactive, spend and consume and waste, be very verbal, flow of ideas, don't stay too long with anything - the fear of being boring - and we lose the sense of sadness.

So the whole structure that you mentioned: aggressive, dominant, power, sadistic, we can also call manic. And that quality of the psyche is our ego development. It's so ego identified that we don't even see it as a syndrome! What we see as a syndrome is slowness, sadness, dryness, waiting. That we call depression, and we have a giant pharmaceutical industry to deal with it.

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.13


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Silence is a major value in Native American culture, for silence is the token of acceptance, the symbol of peace and serenity, and the outward expression of harmony between the human and natural worlds.

[Diane Long Hoeveler]


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Connection is also involved in that special sense of oneness that a Native person, or indeed any other sensitive individual, feels in the presence of nature.

The Native person may talk to trees or rocks. Yet, as I understand it, this talking is something very different from our own notion of a conversation - which is our way of bridging the gap between persons.

For the Native there may be no original separation, no distance to be bridged by interaction.

[F. David Peat]
'I've Got a Map in My Head'


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Silent discourse prevails where people are deeply involved with one another. The collective awareness is developed to such an extent that it becomes a religious experience, and it can be neither uttered in sound nor communicated in words.

People committed to the silent way are highly integrated with the symbolic, for whole, unstated realms of culture act as extremely effective conveyors of information. Loyalties are concrete and people work together to settle their problems.

By screening the flow of information that comes into the community, and by developing a sensitivity to signs and symbols, the society expresses its traditions in life rather than in words or written records.  

Since this kind of religious experience tends not to be communicated verbally, other forms of expression are sought. Those forms are human conduct.

Verbal discourse, or preoccupation with words, whether spoken or written, prevails amongst those who emphasize literacy, rationality, and individuality [...] Instead of collective unity there is a multiplicity of thought, which leads to individualistic revelations and knowledge.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 388, 390


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In Amish life, silence has many functions [...] Prayers before and after meals are periods of uninterrupted silence. Sundays at home are spent in relative silence - hammering, building, boisterous noises, and other workday sounds are prohibited. Relaxed conversation, resting, and walking are silences that blend with attitudes of worship.

Silence is a way of living and forgiving, a way of embracing the community with charity and the offender with affection. The member who confesses all before the church is forgiven, and the sin is never spoken of again.

Silence can aid in the restoration of good human relationships. By remaining silent when others would ask questions, one avoids the ugly subjects that would introduce disharmony.

In Amish life, silence is an active force, not a sign of introspection [...] The person who is possessed of silence (as distinguished form solitude) lives above verbal contradictions. The Amish are spared many of the arguments about words of Scripture or theology over which others haggle.

For them absolutes do not exist in words, whether in creeds or in position papers, for all such arguments are silenced by the character and example of Christ himself. 

The Amish person who is content with moderation does not need to order everything consciously. Much is ordered without conscious knowledge, and in silence there is room to work out ambiguities. The Amish may have quick and ready insights without having to explain them in categories used by intellectually sophisticated people.

Silence is a resource that is always at one's disposal. 

Many noises, including "needless chatter," are a displeasure to God, for once they are spoken, words can never be taken back, never stricken from the record. They will surface again on the day of judgement.

Amish sermons routinely stress scripture passages related to speech behaviour, especially from the Letter of James: "you must be slow to speak" (1:19) and "quietly accept the message planted in your hearts" (1:21). "The tongue ... represents ... the world with all its wickedness; it pollutes our whole being; it keeps the wheel of our existence red-hot, and its flames are fed by hell" (3:6). "It is intractable evil, charged with deadly venom" (3:8) (New English Bible).

Humility and quietness are the acceptable attitudes in the redemptive community. "Do not go babbling on like the heathen." [...] (Matt. 6:7) [...]  Attributes of cleverness, longwindedness, eloquence in words, and wordiness belong to the proud and wicked.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 388-90


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Related posts:-
Everything and Nothing
Where language ends and art begins   
Native Wellness
The Importance of Rituals 

Growing down

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Roots                                 -                       Branches 
Deflation                            -                       Inflation
Tethered                             -                       Free floating
Earth                                   -                      Sky
Real                                    -                      Ideal


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Plato's tale of descent is the Myth of Er which I shall condense from the last chapter of his Republic:

The souls are all hanging around in a mythical world, having arrived there from previous lives, and each has a lot to fulfill. This lot is also called a portion of fate (Moira) that is somehow representative of the character of that particular soul.

For instance, the myth says the soul of Ajax, the intemperate and mighty warrior, chose the life of a lion, while Atalanta, the fleet young woman runner, chose the lot of an athlete, and another soul chose the lot of a skillful workman.

"When all the souls had chosen their lives according to their lots, they went before Lachesis [lachos = one's special lot or portion of fate]. And she sent with each, as the guardian of his life and the fulfiller of his choice, the genius [daimon] that had been chosen."

Lachesis leads the soul to the second of the three personifications of destiny, Klotho (klotho = to twist by spinning). "Under her hand and her turning of the spindle, the destiny of the chosen lot is ratified." (Given its particular twist?) "Then the genius [daimon] again led the soul to the spinning of Atropos [atropos = not to be turned, inflexible] to make the web of its destiny irreversible.

"And then without a backward glance the soul passes beneath the throne of Necessity," sometimes translated as the "lap" of Necessity.

The Platonic myth says the soul descends in four modes - via the body, the parents, place, and circumstances. These four ways can be instructions for completing the image you brought with you on arrival.

First, your body: Growing down means going with the sag of gravity that accompanies aging. ([Josephine] Baker told people she was sixty-four while she was still in her mid-fifties; she wore old clothes and gave up covering her baldness.)

Second, admitting yourself to be one among your people and a member of the family tree, including its twisted and rotten branches.

Third, living in a place that suits your soul and that ties you down with duties and customs.

Last, giving back what circumstances gave you by means of gestures that declare your full attachment to this world.

[James Hillman]
The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling, p.44, 45, 62


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If we began with Saturn, we would be far more reconciled with our givens, including everything that doesn't work and is imagined to be a trauma, a curse and bad luck, and we would be far less impatient about our growth.

As I've grown older, I've come to realise that the curses, the frustrations, and the character faults visited on me by Saturn mean something completely different than what I thought when I was younger. 

I took them literally as curses, and I cursed my stars for not giving me what I believed I needed and wanted. That is, I cursed Saturn, to use the old language.

But it isn't Saturn who curses us; we curse him. We make him into that poor, shunned, limping old God because we don't understand his mode of blessing. What a curse it must be to keep giving gifts that are received as punishments!

The faults and frustrations he visits on us are his way of keeping us true to our particular image. No way out.

The old lore attributed the last years of life to Saturn. That makes sense. Only now can I begin to reconcile myself with and not rebel against what I am and what I am not.

[James Hillman]
with Michael Ventura
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse


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By the expression asceticism, which I have already used so often, I understand in the narrower sense this deliberate breaking of the will by refusing the agreeable and looking for the disagreeable, the voluntarily chosen way of life of penance and self-chastisement, for the constant mortification of the will.

[...] suffering in general, as it is inflicted by fate, is also a second way of attaining to that denial.

Indeed, we may assume that most men can reach it only in this way, and that it is the suffering personally felt, not the suffering merely known, which most frequently produces complete resignation, often only at the approach of death.

For only in the case of a few is mere knowledge sufficient to bring about the denial of the will, the knowledge namely that sees through the principium individuationis, first producing perfect goodness of disposition and universal love of mankind, and finally enabling them to recognize as their own all the sufferings of the world.

We always picture a very noble character to ourselves as having a certain trace of silent sadness that is anything but constant peevishness over daily annoyances [...] It is a consciousness that has resulted from knowledge of the vanity of all possessions and the suffering of all life, not merely one's own.

Such knowledge, however, may first of all be awakened by suffering personally experienced, especially by a single great suffering, just as a single wish incapable of fulfilment brought Petrarch to that resigned sadness concerning the whole of life which appeals to us so pathetically in his works; for the Daphne he pursued had to vanish from his hands, in order to leave behind for him the immortal laurel instead of herself.

If the will is to a certain extent broken by such a great and irrevocable denial of fate, then practically nothing more is desired, and the character shows itself as mild, sad, noble, and resigned.

We cannot help but regard every suffering, both those felt by ourselves and those felt by others, as at least a possible advance towards virtue and holiness, and pleasures and worldly satisfactions, on the other hand, as a departure therefrom.

This goes so far that every man who undergoes great bodily or mental suffering, indeed everyone who performs a physical labour demanding the greatest exertion in the sweat of his brow and with evident exhaustion, yet does all this with patience and without grumbling, appears, when we consider him with close attention, somewhat like a sick man who applies a painful cure.

Willingly, and even with satisfaction, he endures the pain caused by the cure, since he knows that the more he suffers, the more is the substance of the disease destroyed; and thus the present pain is the measure of his cure.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.392, 395-7


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Adulthood, one could say, is when it begins to occur to you that you may not be leading a charmed life.

[Adam Phillips]
On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, p.82


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The way my people take care of something that we're not happy with is to honor it and say, "Thank you, you've taught me a lesson." If it's anger, if it's hate, if it's a drinking problem: "Boy, you've been with me for a long time. Now I'm going to try something else. But I want to thank you for teaching me something about myself."

Never try to just get rid of it. You can't, it's too strong, it's too embedded. Instead, honor it and say, "Thank you."

[Bear Heart]
The Wind is My Mother: The Life and Teaching of a Native American Shaman, p.113


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Time To Leave (2005)

Becoming vulnerable, and 'giving in.'

His illness becomes a spiritual experience, his head-shaving a form of tonsure; a symbolic act signaling an inner shift.

In 'giving in' to a higher power, the ego is finally, mercifully, put in perspective. It has taken this illness to remind Romain that there are things bigger than he, things that are out of his control; but from his forced surrender he is able to discover a new way of relating to the world, one not so dominated by the self-aggrandising concerns of his ego.

His illness unites him with his vulnerability, allows him to "grow down" into the earth. He becomes a part of things, connected in a way that he wasn't previously; his ego in its place, no longer pulling at the leash.

From the position of surrender he is able to experience things anew; to smile, to listen, to look.


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No doubt about it, the things that once had been natural and a relief, a jubilant cry to the birds in a tree, a marching song chanted aloud, swinging along the road in a light, rhythmical dance-step - these would not do any more.

They would have come out stiff and forced, would have been foolish and childish.

He felt that he was a man, young in feelings and youthful in strength, but no longer used to surrendering to the mood of the moment, no longer free, instead kept on his mettle, tied down and duty-bound [...]

As he engaged in this sudden self-analysis, he realised that he had incomprehensibly grown into the hierarchy, become part of its structure. His constraint came from the responsibility, from belonging to the higher collectivity.

This it was that made many young men old and many old men appear young, that held you, supported you,  and at the same time deprived you of your freedom like the stake to which a sapling is tied. This is was that took away your innocence even while it demanded ever more limpid purity.

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 179


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Stefania, mother and woman, you’re 53, with a life in tatters, like the rest of us.

Instead of acting superior and treating us with contempt, you should look at us with affection. We’re all on the brink of despair. All we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little. Don't you agree?

['Jep Gambardella']
Dialogue from 'The Great Beauty' ('La grande bellezza')


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Living by principles is not living your own life. It is easier to try to be better than you are than to be who you are.

If you are trying to live by ideals, you are constantly plagued by a sense of unreality. Somewhere you think there must be some joy; it can't be all "must," "ought to," "have to."

And when the crunch comes, you have to recognize the truth: you weren't there.

[Marion Woodman]
Addiction to Perfection, p. 61


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Related posts:-
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You laugh at my back, and I'll laugh at yours
Status Quo
I'm in Control
Do you have control (or does control have you)?
Live the straight and narrow
Small Mind/Large Mind
Taking the rough with the smooth
Incursions of the Unknown  
Guiding Fiction
Lost Tribe 
Firm Foundations
What are the people saying?
Know your place
The Mature Individual
Maturity
A Higher Power 
Rooted in blood and soil 
Frozen in time