The Psychoanalyst Kierkegaard

“The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from those fantastic ideas and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. And this is the simple truth – that to live is to feel oneself lost – he who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing farce. He who does not really feel himself lost, is without remission; that is to say, he never finds himself, never comes up against his own reality”

Awesome. I’ve been feeling lost since 1988.


Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death”, Depression and Myself

I am currently reading Ernest Becker’s “Denial of Death” and I just can’t seem to put down the book. At last, a piece that ignites a fire in my sullied mind. A book that gets those creative juices flowing once again. I am not yet halfway into the book and there are many topics I’d like to expound and share my insights and thoughts about but I will start today with one. The topic of Depression. Ok, I know, I’m being a debbie downer but depression, is not something we can ignore. It is also a sickness, just like cancer or fever or a wound. Without attending to it, it’ll just spread its infection. It needs attention.

Before that let’s sidetrack a bit. The chapter I am reading now is “The psychoanalyist Kierkegaard”. I am in love with this chapter since Kierkegaard has always been one of my favorite philosophers. His analysis of religious stories and the human psyche greatly contribute to the subject of psychoanalysis. He is my favorite because most existential philosophers in my opinion disregard the existence of a higher being, and I needed the comfort of a God in my life whilst trying to make sense of alienation, suffering, the burden of freedom and irrationality. The teachings of Kierkegaard on the absurd and faith is what made him appeal to me. I’d like to explicate more on why I love him but this post will be too long. Maybe I will write about him some other time. Back to the topic of depression. I recently watched a TED talk video on it, which I will briefly talk about in the last paragraph:

Kierkegaard illustrates the duality of man which Ernest Becker talks about in “Denial of Death.” Man is dual in that he is free to decide whether he will metaphorically speaking, be an angel or an animal. Man is dual since he has a consciousness of his finitude (mortality/body) and infinitude (imortality/soul).  Since man is the only creature who is self conscious of both his instincts (animal like) and super ego (godlike) he is a contradiction. He can acquire two illnesses with this duality.

One is schizophrenia. He states that the schizophrenia demonstrates the unattachment of the inner self to the bodily self. Schizophrenia is a psychosis that represses too much of what is necessary or what is reality. Hence schizophrenics live in a fantastic world. I quote Becker: “The full blown schizophreniac is abstract, ethereal, unreal; he billows out of the earthly categories of space and time, floats out of his body, dwells in the eternal now, is not subject to death and destruction. He has vanquished these in his fantasy, or perhaps better, in the actual fact that he has quit his body, renounced its limitations.” This makes me go back to the movie “Fight Club”. Tyler Durden is the product of renouncing body’s limitations and so he/the nameless narrator inflict destruction to the body. If you’ve watched it you will understand.  Schizophrenia portrayed this way is actually very mystifyingly beautiful. It also reminds me of John Nash whose life is portrayed in a great film “A Beautiful Mind”.

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind – my favorite scene in the movie

The second neurosis is depression. This is when the bodily part of the self denies and represses too much of the possibilities, or the inner self. This is when someone lives their life with too much necessity. I quote Becker again: “If schizophrenic psychosis is on a continuum of a kind of normal inflation of inner fantasy, of symbolic possibility, then something similar should be true of depressive psychosis. And so it is in the portrait that Kierkegaard paints. Depressive psychosis is the extreme on the continuum of too much necessity, that is too much finitude, too much limitation by the body and the behaviors of the person in the real world, and not enough freedom of the inner self, of inner symbolic possibility…The depressed person is so afraid of being himself. So fearful of exerting his own individuality, of insisting on what might be his own meanings, his own conditions for living, that he seems literally stupid. He cannot seem to understand the situation he is in, cannot see beyond his own fears, cannot grasp why he has bogged down. One of the unconscious tactics that the depressed person resorts to, to try to make sense out of his situation, is to see himself as immensely worthless and guilty. This is a marvelous invention really, because it allows him to move out of his condition of dumbness, and make some kind of conceptualization of his situation, some kind of sense out of it– even if he has to take full blame as the culprit who is causing so much needles misery to others.”

This whole insight of Becker speaks volumes to me. It has unearthed so many realizations, awareness and emotions in myself. I have battled with depression for approximately 5 years. I have come to understand it more now. I was overwhelmed with my reality. My dad’s death, my sister’s absence, my mother’s ignorance of the impact of marrying a psychopath, my first breakup, my declining  sense and purpose in the world, in All these realities hit me. I tried to make sense of the situation by self loathing. By blaming it all on myself. I am lucky that the dark ages of my life has somehow gradually come to an end. I have been blessed to have come out of it alive.

 I can relate so much with depression because I have gone through it. I have been at the bottomless pit that it is. I do not want to be dramatic about it but depression is a real issue and Kevin Breel (the speaker in the video above) is right in saying that it is unfortunate that people shy away from this topic. This is something serious and people should understand more about it to acknowledge what a destruction it is to every individual. It isn’t something glamorous or shallow. It is in every way evil and ugly and I do not want anyone I care for to experience this kind of hell. It’s a first step on healing if we were to understand this illness.

Fight Club and Maturity

I watched Fight Club when I was around 19 years old. It spoke to me in so many ways saying how my life sucked. I needed and wanted a Tyler Durden. I needed my alter ego to save me from my boring life and create that spark and chaotic beauty of living dangerously. I once wrote about it. Instead of Tyler Durden getting killed, I’d kill the narrator. The unnamed Edward Norton.

Past 6 years and I watch Fight Club again. I realize how I’ve matured in relation to having watched this movie once more. I saw pointless anarchism in Tyler’s actions. His lack of heart towards Robert Paulson repulsed my sympathies. Yes he was revolutionary. Yes he was sexy, confident, and a lot of things Edward and I weren’t. However he is in Edward all along. The narrator just had to resurrect the protagonist  to change his mundane, decaying life. The ending had to be Edward killing Tyler because he was a nuisance to society. Yes he uplifted the spirits and brought new life. Too much of him would also be a waste just as too much of Edward was a waste. Their getting to know each other balanced the ideal life that was yet to come,  For the narrator, for marla and the protagonist’s new viewpoint of others and the world.

Fortunately, I wasn’t graced with having schizophrenia. I don’t have to struggle with another me that I adored and despised. I am just saying that now my view has changed. I wouldn’t change the movie at all, unlike 6 years ago when I wanted Tyler to live. There was a scene wherein Tyler threatened to kill an employee if he didn’t do what he wanted to do in his life, be a veterinarian. Edward wanted to see the point in it. Tyler replies by saying that what he did was a good thing for the employee. His goals were clearer, he would feel better after a long time in his banal life. His breakfast would taste better than all the other breakfasts he’s had.

 I am glad my Tyler has asked me that question just months ago. I know what my purpose is and everyday, I’ll find ways to pursue it. Be a psycotheapist, travel, live life extremely with satisfactory amounts of moderation and self reflection.  When all is good in that list, Have a family. I am confident. I have a Tyler Durden in me all along. Who succeeds is the real me, turning the revolution to good, controlling the intense, mischievous, playful chaotic and sexy thing Tyler Durden in me is.