Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Deffils (Part 1)

Originally posted on October 12, 2011

This word, “deffil,” describes a complex in the psyche that seems innocent and blame-free, at one level; at another level, this same complex may be recognized as foolish and naive; and at a third level, deffils in the long run have a thousand times more aggregate power to generate evil than clever, wicked, sociopathic, scheming, manipulative devils.

The deffil of course is not an external power, but the power of the residual inner child. Played with a little intensity, some might call this complex an “inner brat.” It is the seeming innocence of childish expectations that deny the actuality of the complexities of the real world.

One deffil might be the voice that sweetly and innocently—or perhaps with a little pout—protests, “Why does it have to be that way?” It “can’t” (or wont) recognize that life is difficult. Scott Peck’s opening line to his best-selling book in the 1980s?, “The Road Less Traveled” is “Life is difficult.” It’s obvious on one level, but many people really have not absorbed its implications.

The desire to make life less difficult is one of the sources of creativity in the world, but it requires first an acceptance of the idea that a given situation is indeed difficult. There is a short-cut process in the mind that says, “Oh, that’s just the way it is; can’t do anything about it” that numbs the creative impulse. The tendency to accept “the way it is” is another deffil.

Yet another deffil is a hidden sense of entitlement to life being easy. It is disguised as a seemingly innocent question: “Why does life have to be difficult?” By asking a question, the underlying protest is denied: “I don’t want this situation to be so complicated.” Too obviously foolish: Disguising folly is part of what deffils do.

This whole process is amplified in the mid-20th century among those raised in relative affluence. (Perhaps we should say “spoiled rotten,” but the idea of what is involved in “spoiling” is too often misunderstood and misused.) Anyway, there is not yet an alertness to the more-than-foolishness that inheres in feelings of entitlement.

The deffil of the entitlement to simplicity and ease is a particular affliction of the spoiled affluent mid-20th century populace. And part of that difficulty is not just in the realities of work to be done, but the reality also that things are far more complex than simple minds want to admit. It’s nobody’s fault—it really is complicated, and multi-perspectival—a big word that means that there’s no one truth as a formula, but everything is to be looked at from multiple perspectives.

(I hear a subtle voice of protest: “Yikes, it wasn’t that way when I grew up. We had right and wrong answers. Our grades were predicated on our knowing right answers. Did they lie to us?” and then I hear, “Yes, they did indeed lie. Life is not only more complex, but for much of life right and wrong answers don’t apply!”)

The thing about deffils is that those in their grip feel quite innocent, almost wide-eyed, child-like, sweet. They tempt us to almost whine, “But why can’t life be nice?”  Why-questions often disguise a more bratty pout: “I resent that life isn’t always nice.” It’s often paired with another seductive complex—“It isn’t fair!”

The deffil can pretend to be a victim when really it is disguising a tyrannical, egocentric attitude.  For example, imagine a five-year-old who feels that any game in which she is not the winner is “not fair.” Really, it can seem that way at an unconscious level. Entitlement and fairness can be distorted with surprising ease in the direction of egocentricity. And if something “feels” unfair, then it’s only a short hop to it actually “being” unfair—at least in the illusory world of the child’s mind. My subversive suggestion here is that far more than anyone wants to admit, the adult mind retains powerful and subtle residues of childish attitudes.

Another deffil involves the childish trust of the blandishments and all the rhetorical devices and logical fallacies used by demagogues—religious and political—that in turn allows it to become fanatical in the service of socially problematic movements. “But they said it was good!” seems to serve well as a form of self-justification. The obligation for personal critical evaluation doesn’t exists—and the lack of such skills in the general population, and the lack of the teaching of such skills—clearly indicating their value—also reinforces this.   (Okay, more about deffils in a blog tomorrow.)

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