Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Effective Love Requires More Consciousness

Originally posted on February 11, 2014

I recently read an email advocating the virtues of love of humanity and a quote from Albert Einstein about the ultimate unity of life. I agree, being a person of my time, subject to the idealistic paradigms of what civilization seemed to be reaching for. Yet it also stimulated in me a contemplation of why this ideal is not deeply accepted and enacted:

It occurred to me that our circle of caring has been expanding in the last century, but only gradually, in fits and starts. For much of the world, we-versus-they is the norm, and it’s an archetypal norm. These ideas are partly influence by my contemplations as I prepare a lecture on the history of Africa, and also I have been taking a class on the history of the Dutch peoples—all as part of the program of the Senior University Georgetown, a lifelong learning program for seniors.

In these classes I am reminded of the tendency of sub-groups to struggle, of humanity to quarrel, at every level from the international to the inter-familial. My tentative conclusion is that it takes a great deal of knowledge, maturation, and motivation in many different ways to make peace. It requires that we transcend our innate us-versus-them tendency, which in psychoanalytic thought is called "splitting."

It begins with the recognition of the fact as clear as day to us as children: It doesn’t seem fair how difficult life is, and how that seems so very unfair. Note the word “seem,” for that suggests the play of illusion. We don’t want it to be difficult, and that converts into believing that it should not be difficult—since the world should be the way we want it to be. We project our frustrated desire out onto the world. Obviously (to us as young children, with young children’s minds), this unfairness is caused by our parents, mainly; maybe also by siblings and a few others. Life would be rosy if they had not imposed arbitrary restrictions. Or so it seems. (The reality of course is that “fairness” is a human construct, is profoundly elusive and relative, and has little to do with actuality.)

As our species becomes aware of its own tendencies of mind—as it became aware of the prevalence of “germs” a century ago—only gradually will humans become aware that the perception of the “unfairness” of the world is to some varying degree a "projection" of our own anger at the world because it is indeed complex and demanding. Our sense that we are in conflict with the world is a displacement of our denial of our own resistance to reality! It’s as if we fully believe it when we say to ourselves, “Oh no, I’m a nice person, not angry. I just resent being a victim of all those hostile others!”

This is okay for a young child, of course—it’s normal childish egocentricity. However, people tend to carry it beyond childhood, disguised of course. (We wouldn’t want others to accuse us of being childish, now, would we?) These attitudes are—in disguised form—carried into our later childhood or beyond, into our teens or adulthood. That is to say, such attitudes are essentially immature, but it’s hard to see this because they are disguised and rationalized.

Nor are these displacements of the frustrations of life an innocent quirk. When acted out by adults, we may witness the most horrible forms of genocide, and this has happened a number of times in the last century! The underlying attitude is: “We’re good and we’re just trying to get rid of them, and what happens to them is their own fault for being so “bad,” so we don’t have to feel sorry for them.”

This is my analysis of the ways people treat each other terribly, and my thought is that it’s time we integrate our awareness of depth psychology in everyday life, just as we’ve woven in awareness of germ contamination in our general programs of purification of water and preparation of food. Basic mental hygiene follows physical hygiene by about a century.

To restate, much of the worst that humans do to each other and to other creatures in the world might well be this kind of acting out. We need to could use more knowledge of psychology, sociology, basic principles, along with many other kinds of knowledge. The culture as a whole needs to continue to struggle against its own base motivations.

Freud’s theory about the “death instinct” was a considerable overshoot. Yes, some people want it all to “just go away,” but I think most want things to just be non-problematic. It’s more inertia, laziness of mind, an entitlement to wanting things to be nice. If we imagine death to be one end of the spectrum, it’s more the points in-between, a tendency to want the world to be simple, manageable, non-demanding, etc. It reflects the childish fantasy that denies that life is hard and difficult. Saying it another way, there’s a built in instinct is to be stupid, by which word I define as a neurotic compromise of believing that one is "all growed up" while at the same time able to enjoy the privileges and prerogatives of early childhood, to be taken care of while at ease, free to play and fantasize. Humans do this, act it out, and commercials and demagogues play to it.

One way to play to this basic tendency toward stupidity is to make all the troubles externalized, scapegoat some group, class, others—poor people, certain races or groups, the wealthy, other nations, germs, etc. It’s all their fault, not our own. Ah, we feel clean.

Getting beyond this childish mode of thinking is true maturity and forms the basis for a more sophisticated notion of civilization. At a meta-level, it’s not easy to take on this more mature attitude without being crushed by guilt for daring to want what’s really foolish. Understanding that everyone wants this may relieve the guilt somewhat. The wisest approach is a balance of self-forgiveness and yet a firm resolve to take conscious responsibility. It’s not really more difficult than learning to ride a bicycle—it’s just a mental balancing act. We’ll get there more easily when it’s clear what the challenge is about, everyone faces it, and it’s not so bad once you get used to it. (It’s like using privies rather than pooping in the bushes, and then later on inventing toilets and sewer systems.)

One Response to “Effective Love Requires More Consciousness”

  • Rox says:

    Jai Ma, Adam! Thanks for the wonderful post.

    Love is a daily practice, I keep learning… a practice of focusing on my breath as it moves in and out of my body, of focusing that breath into my heart space as much as I can, even on the hardest of days. When I do this (and why this is my faith) is because on most days, in many moments, especially if I catch myself judging (or externalizing my inner suffering), I am able to see all beings and all life (all energy, really–the wind, the table, the cars, the leaking water out of the ceiling, everything) as love. That is, without the misperceptions of us vs. them, me vs. you, (the world of duality that can cause so much suffering).

    It is so easy to forget this, simple as it is, and get caught up again in duality and misperception. But I’ll tell ya, when I am in my heart, I know in my body what true love really is… everyone shines, just by being who they are, even if they are trying really hard to not be who they are. Essence, pure essence, I feel an euphoria wash over me, wave after wave…. It’s hard to explain, but it is glorious and it is true. I never thought anything like this would ever be my path, but these shifts in consciousness sneak up on you after years of Bhakti yoga, etc, drumming, all that stuff I rejected as woo-woo for so long because I relied way too heavily on my intellect (that believed us and them) and lost out on the love all around us all the time.

    I am grateful to my local teachers here in MN as well as teachers Ram Daas, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema, Yogananda, etc and of course my psychodrama trainer John Mosher who introduced me to spiritual psychodrama, without whom all this “knowledge” would still just be knocking around in my head without integrating into my whole body and being. As with so much, it all comes back to psychodrama!

    Hope to meet with you some day, Adam and drum, and chant, and do a little higher consciousness sociometry, whatever that might be… Jai Ma! Jai Ma! All love, Rox

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