From Egoic Identity to an Integrated Self
Cultures create, nourish, and defend modes of identity. An individual’s sense of self is dependent on the pathways to identity their culture allows.
Cultures have always maintained a duality between its members and outsiders. The present dominant culture has blurred this distinction. But not in the way we might assume. It has not become more inclusive. It has created a new class of predatory identity. It celebrates those with no allegiance beyond their own narrow and shallow self-interest. It nurtures, perversely, a Narcissistic self-identity that considers everything and everyone outside this alienated identity to be nothing more than a means to a selfish end. This Winners Mentality is an aspect of the defended identity of all who consider themselves a part of the dominant, dominating culture irrespective of whether that individual benefits directly and materially from this belief. This method blocks any other than an alienated and alienating cultural identity from taking root.
Through its overwhelming size, power, and the ubiquity of its cultural symbolism this civilization we suffer under has destroyed what had been refugia where other forms of identity could take hold. Where distinct cultures, each considering the rest to be other, allowed room, however unintentionally, for those others to hold and develop forms of identity clear of the power of any one culture to erase them.
This civilization, as it has done to every other form of life on Earth, has fragmented and destroyed cultural refugia. Anywhere electronic media and fossil fuel hyper-energy has reached has become fatally compromised as a potential refuge. The cultural winds, ultimately powered by these hypertrophied fuels, erode and destroy any other forms of self-identity other than the one that perpetuates the culture itself dominated by this wildly unbalanced access to power. This culture is tied to this power and both promotes it and cannot live without it. Since everyone’s self-identity is dominated by the cultural values that built and support this imbalance it becomes almost impossible for anyone to see their own existence outside of this narrow and destructive form of self-identity. In this way any challenge to the way the culture operates cannot help but be seen as an existential threat to the individual selves trapped in this form of identity.
Anytime we plug in a microphone or turn on a speaker we have done damage to the integrity of what is being said, giving this moment’s creation an augmentation that cannot be separated from the violence that makes that augmentation possible. This is even true of this feeble attempt to be heard past the tumult of the web. That this is true asks of us that we be aware of our complicity and be ready to deal with the consequences.
This self-regulating feed-back loop is of a piece with every other aspect of this culture of death. What is significant here is that this particular arrangement of a society has been able to block any viable alternative identities from establishing themselves or finding ways to nourish or maintain their existence inside or outside of its bounds. Bounds that now know no bounds.
In return for this tight lock on identity this civilization has also, just as it could not help doing, turned on its own.
Insanity, as opposed to innocuous self-deception, is a virulent form of delusion that disconnects its victims from reality in ways that make them a danger to themselves and to others. The dominant self-identity, one that cannot recognize any value outside of its predatory selfishness, is insane. This obsession forces those who believe in it to destroy the basis of their own continued existence while keeping them blinded to the causes of their growing unease as precarity spreads and overwhelms the means by which this same self-identity maintains itself. As their coping mechanisms, of projection and displacement, increasingly fail to protect them from themselves an even more dangerous condition arises. As it becomes unavoidably visible that the current self-identity is not viable and that there is no visible means of changing one’s identity to one that might be better suited, more integrated, whole, panic sets in. The only available course anyone can imagine is self-destruction.
When a small isolated cult reaches this point it is a tragedy: James Jones et. alia.
When a monoculture bereft of outsiders and refugia does it we have reached a much more dangerous point.
All the foment around what is termed Identity Politics on all sides of all the so-called issues are still-born attempts at dealing with an untenable situation brought about by the precarity of self-identity. What makes it clear that these attempts cannot bring any remedy to the underling anxiety that brought them about is that all of them are defined by those they exclude. This shows that these attempts are only reiterations of the dominant, divisive, and destructive self-identity and they do nothing to further an integration of the self beyond the norms of identity this culture gives us and enforces. These iterations of identity are allowed to exist because they do not ultimately threaten the culture’s acceptable range of self-identities. Integrated selves, on the other hand, cannot expect to be given any viable space in which to exist.
This seems an impossible situation. But only if viewed from within the cultural norm. A cultural norm that holds within itself all of what any of its inhabitants might consider abominations of the Left or the Right. By putting its enormous powers of amplification behind any voice that, while making a show of rebellion maintains its basic tenets, it has been able to drown-out any alternative and ensure that any turn-away decays into a re-turn to its own values.
This does not signal the impossibility of integration.
It makes integration possible.
At the current level of dysfunction this culture’s lessons of futility become more visible and harder to ignore. It is harder and harder to accept any doubt that every one of our culture’s values is totally corrupt. This frees an enormous internal energy that in the past was absorbed by incredulity.
When a labyrinth presents itself as having no exit there are two available responses: despair and clarity. Despair overwhelms and is an invariable sign that one suffers under a toxic identity. Clarity, however fleeting or partial, opens a window onto the possibility of integration. Despair only increases constraint. Clarity illuminates the possibility of movement. Despair keeps us bound. Clarity can be built upon. It presents itself as self-evident in ways that are markedly different from the mechanisms of delusion. Its pursuit leads towards increased integration and generates meaningful contact with reality and all that this increased engagement implies: sanity, effectiveness, energy, strength. It takes the closing of the door to any and all superficial roles and forms of self-identification for one to be able and ready to commit to integration.
Self-integration is not a process. The entire concept of process is itself an expression of the Ego-identity. One that it uses to turn us away from anything beyond its narrow horizons and turn us back into identifying solely with it.
Self integration is instantaneous and it also takes time to be embodied. It can never come to be within psychological time as an identity keeps giving itself time to turn whatever insight might threaten it back into a concept the Ego can use to continue to maintain itself.
Insight is embodied in a particular organism, embedded, entangled in the particular experiencing of the moment in which it arises.
Insight is not seduced into the illusion of providing a God’s eye view.
Whatever appears to provide a position outside and beyond the moment is an artifact of an Ego attempting to enlarge itself.
An Egoic Self-identity can only be maintained by holding onto a posture that only amounts to bad faith.
We would all like to stand for something, have our lives mean something, but so long as we are mired in bad faith that is impossible.
Loosening the grip of unrecognized self-identity unties us from limiting roles. We can accept that acting within a role might have limited usefulness. We learn to take up and drop roles as easily as we would pick up a hammer to pound in a nail and then put it down to comfort a child.
As this new year unfolds we do have a choice.