Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

How Great “We” Are

Originally posted on November 3, 2013

Reading a chapter in a book on Jung and Moreno (edited by Craig E. Sephenson), I was struck not only by the general theme of the ways different approaches are finding some common ground, but in particular one part of Chapter 11 by Emilijah Kiehl. She is an analytical psychologist in the London area, but was raised in Serbia—formerly Yugoslavia. She described a few aspects of her childhood and, more to the point, the glories of her ancestry, the ancient history of Serbia. Aside from the focus of the chapter—which dealt with the title of the book, two great contributors to psychology—what struck me about these few paragraphs was the richness and pride and mixed attributes of stories of her “people.”

I realized that many if not most people construct a myth of who “we” were, partly in contrast to “them,” and how that is a source of pride. I related this to loyalties of all kinds, from one’s school and its teams (in contrast to its rivals), one’s state or region (in contrast with other regions), and so forth. It applies not only geographically, but racially, religiously, sub-culturally, class, and so forth. It’s sort of built in to identify with certain qualities and contrast them with the lack of or opposite qualities. It takes practice to open one’s heart to a circle of caring that expands beyond these limits. Was that what Jesus meant by “love your enemies”?

We cannot help but be moved by these tendencies and often they’re harmless. Sometimes, though, clinging to such sentiments or taking them too seriously does blind us to the greater good, which involves working for an inclusion of a wider range of peoples in a common enterprise, such as building a more civilized culture. In such cases, we must become aware of our preferences and sacrifice sentiment to judgment, justice, equality before the law. We can still prefer to be with selected others who seem more like “our kind,” but that need not justify extra privilege to the disadvantage of those who are not “like us.” So this calls attention to acts that move against prejudice and for the greater good.

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