Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Slipping Through the Net of Normality: It's Always a Midwife Crisis

... now that we're down to just us three, we can finally get into the deeper stuff without fear of distortion and misunderstanding by all those other impenetrable readers. Good riddance! As long as I have an audience of One -- or multiples thereof -- that's all I ask.

Continuing with yesterday's line of thought: just what causes the tragedy of normality? You might say that it is the result of an immaculate conception, minus the conception part. Thus, it is a misconception. Except it isn't immaculate. A dirty misconception, I guess. A misbegotten bastard. Or, bitter yet, let's call it a postnatal abortion, because that's what it is -- unless, of course, man isn't subject to a series of births that constitute the totality of his life. But that would be absurd. We're all bornagain annagain annagain, 'til weewakes and our soily river finds its salty sea.

As Christopher Bollas explains, "it is striking how this person [the Normal] seems to be unborn" (emphasis mine). Such individuals -- and you all know at least one, probably more than one -- often appear to be "content and happy" on the surface, but are in fact "lost in the concrete," and therefore never make the full leap into what Bollas calls the "originating subjectivity which informs our use of the symbolic."

I hope that isn't too jargony, because Bollas is an exceptionally deep and lucid thinker who is as clear as it is possible to be in these dark maters. The takeaway point is that our originating subjectivity is prior to the symbolic (which is the realm of the Father). This flies in the farce of most contemporary thought, which essentially equates the two: in this metaphysic, we can have no stable or enduring essence, only a contingent bagful of symbols -- somewhat like an inescapable kaleidescope, in which a new image appears merely by rearranging the particles. While this is true of the tenured -- hence the compulsion to publish their ephemeral patterns -- it is not a general principle that applies to everyone.

Bollas goes on to say that since the Normal doesn't "perceive himself as a subject, he does not ask to be seen by the other," nor is he able to look deeply into the other. That italicized part is key, for these people have no conscious desire for true subject-to-subject contact. They cannot make real contact with themselves, and therefore, others.

But real contact always involves this two-way -- actually, three-way -- contact, consisting of knower-known-knowledge. Not only is it a kind of in-spiraling process, but -- as you might have anticipated -- none of the three can be radically separated from each other. They are siblings, as it were -- triplets.

This can be formulated in various ways. For example, it is a true Ism and Usm that knowledge of others is limited by self-knowledge. Indeed, we can go beyond this, and affirm that knowledge of anything is limited by self-knowledge, because if one doesn't even know what the self is, why should we care about what it pretends to know? And I'm talkin' to you, Charles Rhesus Darwin!

(As we've mentioned before, one of the reasons the Constitution is so durable -- why it amounts to "political scripture" -- is that it is rooted in a sober and accurate assessment of that scoundrel, human nature. Which is why job one of the left is to attack human nature as a means to change the plain meaning of the document.)

We can also look at it from the other angle, from the perspective of the known. This is one of the ways faith operates, in that it involves acceptance of truths that have the effect of shaping the knower, and saving him from all manner of potential falls. This type of truth is like the yeast in the bread, or better, the pesticide in the rathole of the skull.

In the past, we have discussed how rapidly one may determine the intersubjective depth -- or crapacity -- of the other, which will be felt as an almost physical constraint one cannot get past -- or, alternatively, a kind of expansive and liberating space. The latter type of relationship is quite literally a blessing, and in fact, the first blessing is the infinite com-passion of the m-Other, who reaches into us as we reach into her. It is within this fertile space that we are subjectively "con-ceived" (or in which our potential subject is first actual-ized).

Yesterday I cited the example of Tristan's friend, whose mother is slowly driving him insane. To be in her presence is to confront a wall -- a wall which her son will have to try to somehow get beyond later in life, by which time the damage will have been done. His growth will be stunted until he can have an intimate bond with an other who can relate to who he actually is. As things stand, his mother only relates to what she projects into him, which will be internalized as a bad and rejected self. Such a person will have difficulty loving others, because he will want to protect others from his bad and unlovable self.

The real tragedy is that in order to adapt to this kind of parent, the child must excise parts of himself, so that he too becomes a psychic stillborn.

Luckily for me -- although it was painful at the time -- I was consciously aware from an early age that my parents mostly interacted with an image of me instead of the actual me, and I think this is what saved me. Had I not been aware of this empathic failure on their part, I too may have met the fate of the unborn. Or, let us say that I suffered only a partial birth abortion, in that part of me survived the procedure and was able to resuscitate the rest.

Here is how Bollas describes it: "At the most fundamental level, the normotic was only partly seen by the mother and father, mirrored by parents whose reflective ability was dulled, yielding only the glimmer of an outline of self to a child." This is an example of something that is as deeply problematic as, say, the need to vaccinate all children against various diseases. But because it is in the realm of the subjective, no one really talks about it. Obviously, it is not as dramatic or visible as material deprivation, i.e., mere exterior poverty. Imagine a UN commission on the interior poverty of children. You know, since they've done such a good job with material poverty.

In terms of psychospiritual development, the problem is that "neither of the parents is inclined towards the celebration of the child's imaginative life." And when they do enter play, it has a kind of covert sadism that terminates the play and brings the child back to reality instead of further into imagination.

When the parent fails to respond to who the child actually is, the unrecognized parts become "negative hallucinations," or "not there" particles that float aimlessly around the psyche in search of being. Then, when the child reaches adolescence, he is suddenly thrust into "the horrifying dilemma of being unable to symbolize his pain." Predictable consequences follow, because the homeless pain will soon enough incarnate via the sexlink.

Surely you have been witness to an aggravating soul murder? As I've mentioned in the past, we've already lost friends because we not only allow but encourage Tristan's natural inclination to use imaginary guns to shoot real bad guys. With relish. To deny a boy his manly aggressiveness is a psychic castration. One may try, but the aggression won't just magically disappear; rather, it will return in a disguised and dysfunctional form. Imagine someone like a Keith Olbermann or Howard Dean or Paul Krugman, who just bristle with a kind of toxic, infantile rage. These shrill bullies are emblematic of the "new castrati" (as Vanderleun dubbed them), who make up for in hysteria what they lack in male logos. They are always "premenstrual," which is why they cannot conceive themselves and we must bear them.

There is a "dialectic of death" between the normotic parent and child, which results in suppression of "the creative expression of the inner core of the self." Bollas says he doesn't fully understand "why some children give in to such a family atmosphere and become normotic, and why others do not."

But psychology is not deterministic, nor can we account for the workings of grace. While most children are traumatized in varying degrees by abuse (both positive and "negative" abuse), some children seem to emerge unscathed. Conversely, some children are just so temperamentally sensitive that they are crushed by the most benign empathic failures on the part of the parents. Others are born with such a robust "destiny drive," that it seems that nothing can stop them from becoming what they were meant to be. Other people can be blessed with what looks like abundance and become nothing, like so many victims of graduate school.

Here is another subtle point that I am sure is accurate: "I think it is highly likely that the children who give in to the normotic element perceive in the parents' way of being a form of hate that we might conceptualize as a death instinct." It is not necessarily the case that the child feels hated by, or hatred for, the parent. Rather, "it may be more accurate to say that the child experiences the parents' attack on life itself, and that such a parent is trying to squeeze the life out of existence."

Bollas suggests that perhaps the children who escape normotic parents "find a way to be mirrored even if the parents are not providing this." I believe this is what happened with me. I found other models that served this mirroring function, and in looking back on it, I can see that it clearly wasn't a chance phenomenon, at least not totally.

That is, my unborns were looking for particular exemplars to assist in their own birth. A fair number of people have testified that this very blog you are now reading or more likely ignoring has been instrumental in helping to bring their unborns into the world, and for that I am profoundly grateful. Didn't Socrates consider himself to be nothing more than a humble midwife? So if anyone feels spanked along the way, that's why. Nothing personal. We just want you to breath the celestial air.

I am passing out. O bitter ending! I'll slip away before they're up. They'll never see. Nor know. Nor miss me. And it's old and old it's sad and old it's sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms. I see them rising! Save me from those therrble prongs! Two more. Onetwo moremens more. So. Avelaval. My leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still. I'll bear it on me. To remind me of. Lff! --From the last paragraph of Finnegans Wake, which, if it means what I think it means, well...


Blogger ted said...


You are not alienating everyone. In fact, those of us that like to be challenged because we are more drawn to truth than being right are introducing your writings to others: http://www.meetup.com/kenwilber-88/events/39678902/

Should be a good discussion tonight, although I know you would argue the premise of "Integral Politics". Sorry you can't make it, but you will be there in spirit :).

1/03/2012 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Oh my. That's a little distressing. Misconceptions are guaranteed. We would not express ourselves in the bobnoxious manner we do if we were in mixed company. A Raccoon abhors impoliteness. We always assume we are speaking to the tribe, not to the Others.

1/03/2012 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Well, I wouldn't be too distressed. I am not looking to create division but to challenge the "Others". Many have read your book, and are open to these ideas. I find the bobnoxious humorous, so I don't know what tribe that makes me part of.

1/03/2012 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

" As long as I have an audience of One -- or multiples thereof -- that's all I ask."

Lol, thats always been my goal as well. It's good to succeed at something, isn't it?

1/03/2012 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, good luck, but anything I say requires the context of everything I've said. It's a whole interlocking cosmic system based upon principles that I regard as necessary. To isolate one part from the rest can only stir up passions. People have a way of reacting to what they think I've said, but if I'm there to deal with the reaction, I can always defuse it by explaining what I mean....

1/03/2012 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Understood, and I will attempt to lay out the context. I have much gratitude and respect with your work.

1/03/2012 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ted -- I think one important point to bear in mind is the distinction between liberal and left, which are at antipodes. I am a classical liberal, which is at odds with both leftism and libertarianism (and which is why a Ron Paul garners support from each of the latter groups).

1/03/2012 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If people want to understand my politics only, they should listen to Dennis Prager, because he has had the biggest influence on my political thinking, plus he presents it in a low key and thoughtful manner, always rooting things in first principles as exemplified in particular examples, absent polemic and bombast.

1/03/2012 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Right, I was going to have them read this blog post (http://onecosmos.blogspot.com/2006/12/lets-hear-it-for-dead-amber-males.html) because I think it is a good general critique of Integral Politics and lays out the classical liberal view well. I realize it's 5 years old and somewhat polemical, but it is a good reaction to the audio we will be listening to that lays out Ken's notion of Integral Politics. Again, this is more to introduce these ideas and not to create unnecessary reactivity against your work. You at least understand the Integral model (unlike Prager), even though you don't align yourself with the community. It's a fairly open group, who don't hold "Integral" too tightly.

1/03/2012 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"And when they do enter play, it has a kind of covert sadism that terminates the play and brings the child back to reality instead of further into imagination."

But enough about our public school system, aka, the intervenal partial birth abortion support system.

1/03/2012 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ted said "Should be a good discussion tonight, although I know you would argue the premise of "Integral Politics""

Best of luck with that... I assume you are prepared to wear a colorcordoned id tag?

I... don't think you can can the canonical... can you?

1/03/2012 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I kind of agree. In my experience, the left is so blinded by hatred of conservatives, that they literally don't hear what we're saying, and even if they do, they assume we mean something else. I mentioned Howard Dean in today's post, because last night I heard him mention that Rick Santorum will naturally appeal to conservatives, since they are such racists. That is typical.

1/03/2012 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

You're right. I did enjoy this one.

...that such a parent is trying to squeeze the life out of existence.

That line alone is worth the price of admission. And I admit to all of it.

My oldest granddaughter paid me the highest possible compliment the other day. She called me a "kid magnet." A few days before that, I was in the floor playing with the five-year-old daughter of one of my wife's nieces. The child's mother, who is now in her thirties, laughed about me doing the same thing when she was little. I even ended up with my picture on BaceFook because I was in the floor playing with another little drooler. The only difference now is that I stay in the floor longer since getting up and down is more of a chore.

1/03/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

They do teach us what we need to learn -- or reinforce what we need to remember -- don't they?

1/03/2012 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Which is to say, perpetual neoteny, or neonaty...

1/03/2012 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Gagdaddy, I have not missed a post since the first one that slapped me square on me Happy Birthday 27 Jan 2007. The date shall be forevers tatooed on the inside of my bathtub ring.

1/03/2012 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ted -- why don't you take along copies of today's and yesterday's posts, which might give a better idea of the full range of high weirdness and good humor of the blog, just in case anyone's interest and not outrage is piqued...

1/03/2012 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick -- I hope you remove your bathtub ring before taking one, otherwise it might fall down the drain.

1/03/2012 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Bob @ 9:54,

Boy, do they ever. I had no idea I needed to know so much about trucks ;)

Re. T's friend,

Imagine a UN commission on the interior poverty of children.

Just so; it would result in psychic slavery on a grand scale.

I was thinking yesterday how sad it is that under such circumstances, there's pretty much nothing one can do aside from trying to be a mentoring influence. There is no state organization that could possibly help; the only solution is relationship.

1/03/2012 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Likewise for Leslie, it has been a priceless initiation into the mysteries of male nature. Most people would be surprised at how many women do not love men.

1/03/2012 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

May do. And I'll have an update in the morning.

1/03/2012 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And if it all goes wrong, just assure them that it's all just one big comedy anyway, a la Finnegans Wake or Dante. That way they can laugh at the jokes without being offended by the substance.

1/03/2012 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And if any sincere newbies should come a-commentin', please let's all be on our best behavior, and not act like the scary fascists we are.

1/03/2012 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

@ 10:13,

I wouldn't be at all surprised; the way most women treat most men (in my experience) is fairly deplorable.

Me, I love men in general, and mine in particular. Seeing my little boy develop in his own way is one of the deepest joys of my life. I can't wait to see what the next one will have to teach...

Re. the newbies, does this mean we have to put out the fine china, too?

1/03/2012 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Most people would be surprised at how many women do not love men.

Right. At the feminine-ization indoctrination centers known as government schools they substitute Ritalin for Recess.

We were at our daughter's house for Christmas. Our grandson was sliding down the stairs on his stomach which I thought was pretty cool. His mother yelled at him.

1/03/2012 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Julie, I saw that comment you made about Robin's picture, and I thought that's what you meant. That's great.

1/03/2012 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I remember Harmon Killebrew at his Hall of Fame induction speech, reminiscing about his late father. When he and his brother were playing and tearing up the yard, his mother told them to stop. But his father intervened and said, "we're raising boys, not grass!"

I think of that every time I look at the house, which is more of a gymnasium/hockey rink/basketball court, etc.

1/03/2012 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks, Mush :) It's very early yet. We get to see the heartbeat on Friday.

Re. the stair sliding, that's too bad. I have fond memories of going down ours in one of those nylon sleeping bags (for extra slip on the stairs), and I sometimes wonder why nobody makes a slide that can fit over a staircase, because that would just be awesome.

1/03/2012 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "Re. the newbies, does this mean we have to put out the fine china, too?"

I think I have a way of putting the China out

1/03/2012 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "We get to see the heartbeat on Friday."

Guffah-ha! Coongratulations Julie!

1/03/2012 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@julie. That's great news!

1/03/2012 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks, John and Van! It's probably a bit early to be telling people, but there are some secrets I just can't keep very well. Too excited, I guess :)

1/03/2012 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie! That's great!

1/03/2012 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

it was via a ken wilber readers site some years ago that i discovered this blog [the referrer grokked the spiritual side of coondom more'n the 'political'...as if they could be separated?] i felt right at home from the Theodidactic Neotraditional Retrofuturism... masthead on.

i was never really much a KW fan [more of a bubba free da, then western esotericism reader] but elias' fora were some informative fun hang-out zones while they lasted

1/03/2012 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Back to the topic at hand, the description of the normotic reminds me of what life must have been like for most of mankind through most of time. That is, in most times and places, people are born not so much to be individuals seeking their deustiny as they are rollers in someone else's play. Born to further the family business, or work the farm, or do whatever it is that the local culture deems narcissary for that extra mouth to earn its feed. And in plenty of places, even today, if the child is insufficiently normotic, it's considered perfectly acceptable to actually, not just metaphorically, kill him.

That mankind has evolved to conform is no surprise. The wonder is that man is also clearly meant to transcend that conformity, and has managed to do so often enough to produce the world we have now, which for all its flaws is still miraculous.

1/03/2012 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Atheists. Is there nothing they don't know?

1/03/2012 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Only the One thing...

1/03/2012 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Is there a free will? Not a chance.

That's pretty funny.

1/03/2012 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"He asserts, as would anyone who does not live in Congo, that “most people are nice most of the time,” because “we were selected for niceness,”"

Selected by whom?

How does that statement not require a "whom"?
Chance does not select. Chance does not prefer.

1/03/2012 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

"This is one of the ways faith operates, in that it involves acceptance of truths that have the effect of shaping the knower, and saving him from all manner of potential falls."

I have just finished Chesterton's Orthodoxy, for perhaps the eighth time, and this sounds so, well, "Chestertonian"! I love it!

1/03/2012 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


1/03/2012 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

So if anyone feels spanked along the way, that's why. Nothing personal. We just want you to breath the celestial air."

Thank you sir, may I have another?

1/04/2012 03:16:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, sorry I missed yesterday. I did read your post but...well, let's just say I had to deal with one of those known unknowns.

I shall remedy that haste post.

"Other people can be blessed with what looks like abundance and become nothing, like so many victims of graduate school."

Then there's the sabotage of mind parasites.
As I have learned more about my own it seems as if I see them more clearly in others (particularly my wife).

Kind of scary because they know I'm on to them.
This makes for...interesting conversations when some of the meds my wife takes repress what I call her "main" self, and give temporary control to some of the strongest mind parasites.

I mean, what do you say to them? I know how to deal with my mind parasites, although it's certainly a struggle to say the least.

Then there's times I'm actually communicating with her unconcious.
As if she's in a dream state where time means nothing, so I am talking to her past, so to speak as far as childhood.

But I can't have any coherent or logical communication when she's in that state of being.

Quite troubling at times because she doesn't recognize me in the now if at all.

It happens the most when she takes effexor and seroquel as prescribed.
I suspect it's too much or the wrong combination but her psychiatrist doesn't seem to think so.

Anyhow, these are known unknowns and unknown unknowns as Rummy would say.

One Cosmos sure has helped tremendously in every aspect of my life, Bob and for that I thank you.

Gotta cut this short for now.`

1/04/2012 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Congratulations Julie! :^)

1/04/2012 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


The best you can do under the circumstances is to use it as a test to maintain your center while manifesting a kind of calm but firm and dispassionate empathy. She may hate it, but the alternative is worse, i.e., getting too involved in it. Not much you can do but ride out the sh*tstorm, especially if she's in midst of an acute irritable manic phase, which is what it sounds like. At high doses seroquel helps with agitation and emotional control, while at low doses it's used for sleep, so it's doubtful that it would be the cause of anything....

1/04/2012 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...


For the most part last night went well, however, I would consider changing the locks and rearranging the spelling of your name. Jesting of course. The reaction to your writings were a mix of uncomfortable silence to a spattering of laughter with some who got the humor. It was a challenging discussion, and yes most of the group had left leanings. One thing I have come to realize is it difficult for people on the left to express the philosophical underpinnings of their political beliefs. It comes down to a feeling-sense that most have for government safety nets and against corporate greed. Nevertheless, the discussion did make some headway when we explored the meta-values of liberty and equality and where one may side with. At least some were able to take a hard look at their own beliefs, and make some attempt to understand why others may see things differently.

1/04/2012 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


I have only to project myself back to that state to remember how impervious I would have been to any alternative point of view. My first principles were not only undefended (and indefensible), but unknown to me. It took many years of hammering away (especially by Prager) for me to undo the damage. Remember, I was not only a child of the '60s and '70s, but a victim of seven years of graduate school!

1/04/2012 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In fact, I think I'm still dealign with the damage, for example, by trying to convert my cynicism to something higher. And funnier.

1/04/2012 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

"It took many years of hammering away (especially by Prager) for me to undo the damage. Remember, I was not only a child of the '60s and '70s, but a victim of seven years of graduate school!"

Yes, I am probably where you were at some point in the transition, but still unwilling to jump in completely and attempting to reconcile the polarities. Makes me kind of schizophrenic, and as such my cross to bear at this time.

1/04/2012 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You've given me an idea for a post: how to transcend irony, jadedness, and cynicism -- or to use them to transcend themselves. Maybe tomorrow...

1/04/2012 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Bob!

Yeah, probably a coincidence with the drugs.
Sh*tstorm is a good description.
Hopefully I can avoid becoming see sick when it hits see state five.

You're also right about her (or part of her) hating the dispassionate empathy.
Like a rebellious teenager sometimes she wants more emotional reactions from me, or uncontrolled emotional responses like hers.

I gotta remind myself not to take it personally and that the answer isn't 100cc's of thorazine (anyone got some I can buy? JK).

It helps knowing what's going on beneath the surface and that's invaluable advice you give and have given over the years about mastering our emotions and not letting it master us.

Dispassionate passion IIRC is what you have written before or some variation thereof.

1/04/2012 01:29:00 PM  

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