Saw a 2002 BBC documentary called Century Of The Self, which threads a story about how Freud’s idea of the power of the unconscious self has been used by marketers over the past century. The last program tells how this change to a very self-centered focus has affected the political system, starting with the “Reagan Revolution,” where the feelings of voters became dominant over the needs of the country. Keeping people immersed in unconscious desires makes them ideal consumers, with plenty of buttons marketers can use to sell products constructed to fill those emotional desires.
For me, this discussion illuminates my own struggle. Transpeople need to claim the self over social expectations, but we also need a society where we can’t be cut down by people who claim that their own desire for comfort is sufficent to erase people who challenge them.
I do the whole service thing, taking care of others with discipline. And I work very hard to make my own self conscious, clear and considered.
But people more immersed in the notion of their own unconscious and unexamined self find me baffling and challenging. How can I both claim my own truth and be committed to service? Shouldn’t it be one or the other?
Gwyneth listened to my collection of voicemail messages from my bad night after reading my post about it. She was interested in a glimpse into my process, how the raw pain she heard in my voice wasn’t as present when I write about it here with a contextual understanding.
My emotions are real, raw and compelling, but there has never really been anyplace I can just let them fly, so I have learned to understand and express them in a broader context, rational and compassionate. The emotions are still real, but they power the work of understanding rather than being a roller-coaster of drama by themselves. I really believe that pain shows where we need healing, and I want to talk about hurt and healing more than I want to talk about pain. That is my drive for growth and self-actualization.
How do we focus on needs and desires without being a puppet to anyone who wants to pull those strings or push those buttons?
I believe we can only do that with the power of the mind to understand and contextualize, seeing our own feelings and fears through more than just our own eyes.
But that is the move from dependence to independence to interdependence.
And so many still find that baffling, challenging and offputting, so much so that they have problems being there for someone who is working for that self.