The Words of the Chance Family
"We must live in the world as we find it," begins Rollo May in his book, Love and Will, and he describes this world as now experiencing an era of radical transition. From the point of view of twenty-five years as a psychoanalytic therapist, he sees that love and will, rather than being the solution to our problems, have become our problems.
In our society today, anxiety is rampant. We deny will out of fear and insecurity. Without a feeling of significance we are unable to influence others. The next step is apathy, the suspense of commitment, the withdrawal of love and will. This is followed by Violence, as a response to the numbing experience of powerlessness. The personal meaning of love is lost.
During the '50s, the concept of anxiety as a normal state had become accepted, accompanied by apathy and lack of feeling as a defense against anxiety. In the last decade, however, alienation, "playing it cool"' and estrangement added to the maturation of apathy as a character state; a Protection from the over-stimulative aspects of a cultural barrage of words, noises, collectivized industries and a world in tumult.
The result has been to create a "schizoid world", one that is out of touch with close relationships, lacking in feeling. This is the general tendency of our transitional ages': helplessness and disregard coming from every aspect of our culture. What must occur in this new knocking on the door is to frankly admit and confront the schizoid characteristics of men's present state, and to find a constructive use for it based upon a new basis of love and will the chief casualties of contemporary apathy.
Reality has the ontological character of negative and positive polarity, a process of dynamic movement through polarities. The existence of male and female is one expression of the fundamental polarity of all reality. Besides their procreative function, each sex accentuates the characteristics of the other. May candidly remarks in this day of birth control pills we have never fully accepted the psychological and personal responsibility for the freedom and power to procreate willfully and purposively.
The term "Eros" means the power which drives men towards God, a state of being seeking to expand, the longing to establish union and full relationship, not only with the opposite sex but with truth, and a transcended sense of self. May uses the terms Eros, the daimonic, and intentionality, as the avenues for this process of confrontation, self-realization, and return to feeling and relationships.
Feeling is intentional, that is, serving a definite purpose. The regressive side of emotions has to do with the causality and determinism of one's past experience, including the infantile and archaic. The progressive emotional side starts in the moment, and points toward the future. We participate in the forming of the future by virtue of our capacity to conceive of and respond to new possibilities and to bring, them into actuality, a process of active response. Eros is the pulling toward the future in which the way, or past, of one's behavior, and purpose, or progressive side are unified.
Freud recognized that fully gratified libido led via the death instinct to self-destruction. Eros, the spirit of life, opposes this downward pull. Dr. May feels that when the release of tension takes the place of creative Eros, the downfall of the civilization is assured.
By his use of the term "daimonic", Dr. May attempts to describe tendency for "any natural function to take over the whole person." This can be either creative in its outcome. The daimonic is the urge within to affirm and assert one's self. The daimonic becomes evil when it usurps the total self regardless of the integration of the self, or of the unique forms and desires of others and their need for integration. It then appears as excessive, aggression, hostility and cruelty. This is the reverse of the same assertion which empowers our creativity. All life is a flux between these two aspects, which we can repress, but we cannot avoid the toll of apathy repression brings in its wake.
Initially experienced as a blind push, it is the purpose of psychotherapy, asserts Dr. May, to make the daimonic personal and constructive. The constructive use of the daimonic involves first a confrontation with the dilemma of how to use it with a sense of responsibility and significance for human life.
Not to recognize the daimonic turns out to be itself daimonic, it makes us an accomplice on the side of the daimonic possession. What is necessary for the cure is not to fight it off, but to take it into yourself for it represents a rejected element within-which will always threaten to take over if repressed. The denied part is the source of hostility and aggression through consciousness you integrate it into your self-system to become the source of energy and spirit that enlivens you. This integration of the self overcomes the split, removes aloofness, frees one from morbid ties to the past, and is a helper towards self-realization.
The consciousness of this process operates on another level, which Dr. May calls the level of intentionality. Intentionality is a common term in phenomenology, the study of the way consciousness perceives objects. Intentionality is the structure that gives meaning to experience, enabling us to see and understand the objective world.
The dichotomy of subject and object is partially overcome by intentionality. Based on the thinking of Husserl and Franz Brentano, Dr. May states that consciousness is defined by the fact that it points towards something outside itself it intends the object. Every meaning has with it a commitment. Intentionality is the constructive use of normal anxiety or potentiality. Pronounced neurotic anxiety destroys it.
Intentionality is reached through an encounter of decision and responsibility: the act is in the intention; the intention is in the act. It is a willing of participation rather than an opposition of it. Perceptions and memory are functions of the intentionality of being. The planning, the forming, the imagination, the choosing of values are the intentionality of human freedom.
Eros has much in common with intentionality. Both presuppose that man pushes toward uniting himself with the object not only of his love, but of his knowledge. This process implies that man already participates to some extent in the knowledge he seeks, and the person he loves. Eros is the reach of human intentionality and imagination.
Dr. May concludes his book with a discourse on the awareness of human intentionality as it relates to love and will, to the meaning of care, and the communion of consciousness. The awareness of the reach of intentionality is the reach of Eros, of an openness of response, a dynamic give and take, centered on a compassionate state of being. This striving for harmony, within and without, is through tenderness for others and affirmation of the self. Humility in the face of destiny, side by side with faith in one's own capacity."