Getting Sick to Be Well, Part Five: Flaunting One’s Sickness Is Healthier Than Hiding It … Gen X, Goths, Pacifiers, and The Hierarchy of Healing
A Hierarchy of Healing?
This idea that those close to their unconscious conflicts are more likely to act them out blatantly goes completely against one of DeMause’s tenets. He wrote, “The higher the psychogenic mode of the psychoclass, the less it is necessary for it to act out its conflicts.” [Footnote 1]
However this is exactly the crux of my difference with his theory and is a central point I am making. For from my perspective, the higher the mode of child-caring equals the less the defenses. Hence, the more it is likely that that generation’s conflicts will be close to the surface, seeking resolution … like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. We might want to call it a hierarchy of healing theory. [Footnote 2]
In other words, our observing the supposed “acting out” of an underlying trauma does not mean that the group or person in question is actually or, at least completely, “acting it out” and defending against it. It may be that that group is resolving, healing, or integrating it—taking it inward rather than acting it out…in the world, on others…whether to a small or great extent. Using the analogy of Pandora’s Jar, described earlier, they are opening the jar, at least a little. And I disagree with deMause in that I wish to stress that it is healthier by far to do that. Let me explain:
The difference between acting out and resolving is whether the actions are done in total dissociation from the unconscious dynamics, that is to say, in a trance state—as explained earlier in regard to the World War Two generation and the Tea Party—or whether there is at least a modicum of insight into it occurring as a result of things inside of oneself, not completely projected onto the outside.
The attitude that leads to total dissociation and acting out was expressed in a recent 2012 military movie, Act of Valor, which depicted Navy Seals engaged in anti-terrorism activity. At the end, the manner of dealing with pain recommended for these American soldiers and “men of valor” was to (paraphrasing) put all the pain in a box, shut it tight, press it down till it is smaller and smaller, and never, under any circumstances, let it out!
However, in non-acting-out—“acting inward” or taking back the projection—there is a tad of insight, as, for example, in the “overexamined life” of the “uncommitted” and the “self-analysis” of the young radicals of the Sixties generation. Similarly, the rock concert revivication of all current generations except the Fifties and WWII ones, as I’ve mentioned, is about personal experience and growth, and it is not about acting out on another; whereas an example of the extreme other end of that would be engaging, trance-like, in a mass killing against a perceived political enemy, as Loughner did, and as we do as nations in wars.
Another example of complete dissociation are the anti-abortion folks. They don’t have a clue of the connection between their own unconscious prenatal pain and the feelings they have about unborn others. They are not wrestling with their feelings, they are trying to change the world to conform to their defenses around those feelings—that is, they want the world to suppress that womb time out of existence like they have done to it in their own minds. The proof that it is acting out is that it is all about changing others’ behavior, and it involves imposing one’s inner pain on others forcefully and aggressively—which we have seen in its extreme form with the murders of physicians committed by anti-abortionists
Flaunting One’s Sickness Beats Hiding It—Generation X
The self-analysis of the Sixties Generation was followed by a different mode of struggling with perinatal pain by Generation X, which continues in abated form with the Millennial Generation. It was manifest rather strikingly with the Goth phenomenon and the vampire fascination that began in the Eighties, coincident with Gen X’s coming of age. Goth and vampirism show blatant perinatal dynamics that are not unfelt and completely repressed as in dissociation with its trance-state aggression against others. An example of Gen X perinatal acting out of these dynamics in total dissociation and trance state was given above in the anti-abortionists. But Goth and vampire culture show folks feeling and immersed consciously in these pushes and pulls and wrestling with them, trying to work them out as opposed to act them out.
Hey, It Was Tough!
This is rather clearly shown in looking at the “regression” in Europe, described by psychohistorians, which occurred in the Nineties. This behavior showed a bit of insight…and resolution happening…in that the baby song being hummed was about the very real hardships of being a baby. Therefore, an actual truth about their own lives was being faced there by those singing along with it. The song was not being used to deny or defend against those traumas.
One might suspect that as well in carrying around such blatant examples of regression as a pacifier. For someone in a more defended mode would be highly threatened by such an obvious symbol that they are really needy children inside. More defended folks would be terrified such overt behavior would make them look wussy or sissified—that is, look like that vulnerable, frightened baby that they really feel themselves to be but are doing their damnedest to hide from everyone. Imagine how those Navy Seals described above would feel walking around sucking on a pacifier, for example.
So in actually carrying around a pacifier these youth were not only displaying an insight into their feelings of sometimes being needy babies, on the inside, but are actually flaunting this awareness, as if to shame, or slap the face of, or be “in the face” of a generation of their parents—the Fifties Generation for the most part—who did not see their needs when they were babies—however effortfully and obviously they sought to demonstrate them. Thus the symbols needed to become more and more shocking and obvious.
Look at What You Did to Me!
For example: the jeans with requisite holes around the knees was screaming out, “You did not take care of me; you made me feel like a poor, orphaned, ragamuffin child.”
The piercing of mouths, nose, ears, and even tongues shouted,
“I am in pain, dammit! Can’t you see that when you stick needles in me as a little baby that I hurt? How can you be so insensitive? Can’t you see that when you refuse to breastfeed and thus nurture me orally that I am forever damaged there, ever painful there? What does it take, my sticking pins—safety pins make the point even more that it was when I was in diapers—in myself to make you see that I hurt there?”
“Look, you might think we’re a wonderful family and everything is hunky-dory here; but I wish I were dead! I’ve felt so much pain, from in the womb, at birth, and right after birth, that I wish I’d never been born.
“Also, somehow in courting death, I have the feeling that I might somehow be reborn again into a good life, not like this place of torture and tears, right from the beginning, where my welcome into the world consisted of being drugged, handled like an object or piece of meat, blasted by bright lights, scrubbed by rough cloths, having needles and suctions stuck in me, blasted with noise, made to lie on cold stainless steel surfaces, and then bundled like a tamale so that I could not move…making me feel again like I was back in the hellish womb where in the later stages, for a time that felt like an eternity, I felt unable to move and was suffocating for lack of sufficient oxygen…and the only action that was possible was for me to scream my bloody head off for long periods of time or go into a stupor—which is what I did, alternating between them.
“Can’t you see that I’d rather be dead than live in such a world of insensitive zombies like you. Hell, in fact, to further drive the point home, I’ll even look and act like a zombie, I’ll try to appear as unfeeling and morose as you all seemed to me, especially at my birth. And I’ll go a step further and mirror yourselves back to you by becoming enamored of vampires….
“Can’t you see that you sucked my very life force, my blood, and turned me into an unfeeling vampire like you, by suffocating me in the womb, poisoning me with your toxic blood which you both sucked from me and then forced down my throat!”
1. Lloyd deMause, The Foundations of Psychohistory. New York: Creative Roots, 1982, p. 139. See also “Are Some ‘Sick’ People More Healthy Than Normals?”
2. See also “Are Some ‘Sick’ People More Healthy Than Normals?” on the Primal Spirit site.
Continue with The Consciousness Revolution They Don’t Want You to Notice. It’s Inconvenient for Them, Initially Hard for Us, and Hopefully Not Too Late: Healing Crisis, Part 6
Return to Millennials and Their Opposites – Fifties Generation Tea Partyers … How OWS and Tea Party Movements Are Generationally and Perinatally Different: Healing Crisis, Part 4
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