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Notes Psychology

Chapter 7: The Spell Cast by Persons – the Nexus of Unfreedom (The Denial of Death)

Within man, there is a kind of innate slavishness, a need to worship something bigger than themselves. Many people later question how they could have been fooled by the magnetism or aura of someone great. How they could lose control of their critical faculties so easily?

Freud called this phenomenon “transference” – it was when a person would overestimate the authority and power of someone who seems competent. It may be their doctor or a friend. The person, returning to a childlike state of consciousness, sees this person as godlike and infallible.

It is easy to see why this way of thinking is so pervasive. The truth of reality is too heavy a burden, man is a small, helpless creature who is at the mercy of random processes beyond his control – when someone in a position of authority gives him an illusion that is more satisfying, that assures him that he Is more than that, he can barely resist.

This is especially true when the leader is non-conflicted. When the leader is open and comfortable, he gives his followers the freedom to express themselves fully and this has a mesmerising effect. They become addicted to this feeling.

It was not only Freud who wrote on transference, so did Jung, Adler, and Fromm.

The more helpless the person, the more they will engage in transference.

But man has two natures. On one hand, he wants to merge with the rest of nature, but on the other hand, he wants to be unique. The motive to merge with the rest of nature comes from fear of the unknown and of isolation, he feels helpless in the face of nature. The feeling of kinship with all has a word in Christianity, “Agape.”

Man can extend his nature through Agape, but he can also do so with the other ontological motive: Eros. He can choose to cultivate his own uniqueness, to stick out in nature and shine, that is what individuation is known as in psychology.  

This brings us to the tragedy of man. If he gives in too much to Agape, he fails to cultivate his individuality and uniqueness. But if he gives in too much to Eros, he severs himself from the feelings of gratitude and humility that he must naturally feel for being created. Individuation creates the kind of aloneness that one cannot stand.

Becker argues that morality could be the result of two things, and both come from the feeling of being bad and unworthy that is experienced from being unique and isolated. One is to conform to the rules of society, and to engage in transference – while the second is to cultivate a very special talent that one can benefit society with.

It should be no wonder that constant self-criticism is a main feature in human beings. How can it not be? It is the only way man can appease feelings of his hopeless limitation. Dictators and sadists know that people like to be lashed with accusations about their own unworthiness. The sadist does not create the masochist, he finds him ready-made.

You can see that man wants the impossible: He wants to lose his isolation and keep it at the same time. He can’t stand the sense of separateness, and yet he can’t allow the complete suffocating of his vitality.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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