Saturday, July 12, 2014

Guilty Man again?

Kohut wrote that modern man had moved from the Freudian 19th Century  ‘guilty man’ [conflicted about libidinal and aggressive strivings, failing to live up to ideals] to ‘tragic man’ [blocked not only in strivings toward libidinal and aggressive pleasures, but blocked in creativity, expression, and in developing a selfhood, a defective and failed self, despairing and empty]. Stolorow invokes Heidegger’s authenticity and existential guilt as coexisting with one another, where existential guilt is to be accountable for and to own what is ‘mineness’.  If anxiety discloses authentic living, then Stolorow notes, shame belies it, for in shame we do not belong to the self but to the gazing other.

Heidegger expected authentic living to evoke anxiety because authentic living would own our mortality, finitude, our “being-toward-death.” Being absorbed in everyday life keeps inevitable, impending death from awareness. Stolorow posits that death and traumatic loss have similar effects. He notes how catastrophic loss shatters the “absolutisms of everyday life” and rips the veil to reveal our finitude, and the finitude of all whom we love, plunging us into anxiety. He writes, “authentic being-toward-death is always also a being-toward-loss.”

Bob Dylan may have written that ‘he who is not busy being born is busy dying’ but Heidegger and Stolorow might contend that in life it is both, simultaneously. I hold my lover in my arms, bittersweet knowing my arms will soon be empty. Do I savor the sweetness more deeply because it will soon be gone? or do I become embittered at the meaninglessness because soon we will both be gone from existence? or both?

Stolorow writes that a relational home helps us bear and integrate the eternal grieving.

No comments: