Monday, April 28, 2008

Conceptual Narcissism vs. Conceptual Integrationism

On 'Hegel's Hotel: DGB Philosophy-Psychology-Politics...'

Introduction: On The Difference Between Conceptual Narcissism and Conceptual Integrationism

Good day! My name is David Bain. For those of you who are not familiar with either me or my work here -- my essays are focused primarily within the integrative realm of philosophy-psychology. Knowledge-wise, I am supported by an Honours degree in psychology from many years back (1974-79), as well as a two year relationship with The Adlerian Institute of Ontario (1980-81) and an on again-off again relationship with The Gestalt Istitute of Toronto (1979-1991) -- this combined with about 20 years of self-education (reading and writing within the confines of my own personal library, bookstores, and/or the internet).

I am in the process of writing a very large integrative philosophy-psychology work consisting of a network of some 50 plus blogsites in various stages of development from almost finished to not started yet. The project is called 'Hegel's Hotel: DGB Philosophy-Psychology...'. Each 'floor' of Hegel's Hotel (blogsite) will have a varying number of essays on/in it -- ranging from about 10 to 30 essays. Using simple multiplication, that means I am shooting to finish about 1000 philosophical and psychological essays -- let us say by the time I reach 60 years old, touch wood, God willing. Each essay on each floor-blogsite will metaphorically be considered to make up a 'room' in Hegel's Hotel. Thus, I am shooting to finish 'construction' on a thousand rooms in Hegel's Hotel. (So far, I've probably completed between 100 and 200 full essays -- not including Floor 5 which has a growing number of 'DGB Aphorisms' to the tune of some 50 so far. The link here -- through Google -- is DGB Philosophy, Aphorisms.)

Within the confines of these some 50 plus different blogsites or floors of Hegel's Hotel, I will be -- and/or have been -- writing on a wide assortment of different topics from introductions to dialectical philosophy to freedom vs. determinism to awareness and contact to narcissism to the study of Ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy to the study of epistemology, the study of humanistic-existentialism, the study of ethics, the study of business and economics, the study of politics, the study of law, the study of the Enlightenment, the study of science and medicine, the study of romanticism and the arts, the study of spirituality and religion, and the study of psychology.

Obviously, I don't have enough time in my life to go hugely in depth into each and everyone of these different areas. However, within each realm, I will bring my unique, post-Hegelian, integrative approach to what I want to write about and connect each essay, each blogsite, to my overall thesis which is that 'integrative dialectical evolution' is a process that can be taught and applied to all areas of human culture, living, and activity in a way that is often if not usually superior to an 'adversarial form of righteous-either/or philosophy and lifestyle'.

This may not seem like a profoundly new or provocative thesis but I think that if you have the patience and perseverence -- fueled hopefully by more of my good writing than bad -- you will see that I have some unique contributions to offer the study of philosophy, psychology, politics, business, law, medicine, and more. I hope -- indeed expect -- that there will be good reading and value for both introductory and advanced philosophy and psychology students and professionals alike.

There is a sense in which I could very easily be called a 'Gestalt philosopher'. For a period of 12 years -- from 1979 to 1991 with 'gaps of non-involvement' at different times, I was very intensely and intimately tied up to what I was learning at the Gestalt Institute in Toronto. I had good contacts with a lot of friends I met there, and had/have a lot of respect for the teachings of Gestalt therapists Jorge Rosner (now deceased), Joanne Greenham (present head of the Institute to my last knowledge), Tony Key, and others.

However, there is a sense in which I am kind of like the Gestaltist 'prodigal son' if you will -- I left my involvement with them in 1991, and I haven't been back except, I believe, for one open house, since. So that is about 16 years now that I have not been involved with the Gestalt Institute in Toronto -- although I carry the knowledge I learned at the Institute in everything I write.

Now here I am writing a philosophical treatise and forum called 'Hegel's Hotel: DGB Philosophy-Psychology...'. The treatise and forum is being written entirely on the internet as I write, and consists of the growing number of associated blogsites I have already mentioned above.

Now, yes there is a heavy Gestalt influence in the work as a whole, and in each and every essay that I have written. However, there are many other influences as well: Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Adler, Korzybski, Hayakawa, Erich Fromm, Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand, Schopenhauer, Foucault, Derrida, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Jefferson, Diderot, Montasquieu, Kant, Fichte, Locke, Spinoza, the Han Philosophers, Heraclitus, Anaxamander...

So this is not all about Gestalt Therapy applied to philosophy. And yet in a partial sense -- a good size partial sense -- it is. It is not entirely by accident that many of my ..philosophical influences are the same ones who influenced Perls and the evolution of Gestalt Therapy -- for example, Freud, Jung, Korzybski, Hegel, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heraclitus...

It was through studying Gestalt Therapy that I first became seriously connected to Hegel's philosophical work -- and it was this connection, this bridge if you will, that led me backwards from the study of psychology into the study of philosophy. I largely left behind my study of psychology in 1991, and have been studying philosophy -- through books and the internet -- from 1991 to the present (May, 2008), still continuing.

There is a sense in which almost everything I have developed in this network of blogsites, in each essay, I learned either from watching or experiencing the 'hotseat' in Gestalt Therapy. However, the hotseat was a therapeutic invention by Perls that combined the Hegelian dialectic (thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis) with Nietzschean urgency and Kierkgaardian immediacy. The purpose of the hotseat and empty chair technique -- one chair with the therapeutic client in it, the other seat facing him, empty -- was to help a person to gain better contact with a person who wasn't present, or to gain better contact within the client's own personality between a dominant side and an opposing more suppressed and neglected side. Through this process, a person 'dialectically alienated' from either someone else (eg., husbqand, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, son, daughter, parent, employer, employee...)and/or within his or her own personality could work hard in the hotseat with openess, honesty, and immediacy to become more 'dialectically integrated' through the therapeutic synthesis of opposing parts in his or her personality in conjunction with finding better 'integrative closure' with 'the alienated other person' in the hot-seat person's outside life (and/or for that matter, someone inside the therapeutic group).

DGB Philosophy does not generally include the raw immediacy of a hot seat but it does contain the process of 'dialectical opposition, contact, negotiation, and integration'.

In DGB Philosophy, we are stepping away from the dynamics of the human psche in the rawest immediacy of the hot seat and empty chair work. However, we are expanding this process to each and every part of human culture and activity -- and then we will come back and connect what we have learned from this philosophical adventure into such areas as narcissism, epistemology, ethics, business and economics, politics, law, science and medicine, spirituality and religion with the DGB perspective (model, theory) on the structure and dynamics of the human psyche.

What goes around comes around. What is projected (viewed as if it is a 'movie' out there in the social world) is then introjected (identified with, internalized) within the 'projector's' own personality (and/or visa versa). The movie or 'psycho-drama' -- both external and internal -- is us.

How narcissistic can we get? The world -- and particularly man's culture both collectively and privately -- is very much a reflection of a man's character, and in both a good and a bad sense, at the same time, his or her personal narcissism.

Personal and collective narcissism very much dominates the human psyche and the human world. Which is not to say that there isn't an important place and a need for the balance and equillibrium of the opposite of human narcissism which includes such things as: altruism, generosity, caring, love, social sensitivity, empathy, helping one's friends and neighbours, caring about the state of the environment, and so on...

There is an important place for a good balance of both narcissism and altruism in both man's psyche, and in the projections of his or her psyche into his private and collective culture, including the structure and process of any human philosophy, psychology, politics, and the rest of culture that he or she may invent.

But still, looking around us for the most part, one cannot help to think and feel that human narcissism dominates -- both in and beyond our Canadian and American culture.

I watch politicians fight with each other in parliament, treat each other disrespectfully, as each and everyone of them chases after a narcissistic, either/or, right or wrong, ideology -- as if theirs was/is the only 'right' ideology on the face of the earth. Sometimes the 'game' they seem to be playing, the 'show' they seem to be putting on, reminds me of something I might see on television wrestling. But if it is not all 'game' and 'show' and politicians actually believe that they are being 'righteously real', then someone needs to show these politicians how to better work with each other, not always against each other -- and respectfully with an 'eye towards a common mutually influenceable gain that will be good for everyone involved, particularly the majority of civilians who are counting on their 'balanced, wholistic, leadership'.

The dialectic can be used righteously, manipulatively and maliciously --'narcissisticly' is the word I will generally use (see my essays on narcissism, google dgb philosophy, narcissism) -- or it can be used judiciously and integratively, utilizing a combination of reason, compassion, common sense, empathy, humanism, ethics, and a balance of personal assertiveness and social altruism(in this sense, is a positive factor in human growth and evolution to the extent that it is kept in line by giving room for the rights and wishes of others -- which is supposed to be what 'democracy' and 'equal rights' is all about.

The same goes for corporations vs. unions or non-union employees, natural health medicine vs. standard, orthodox Western medicine, sports owners vs. athletes taking into account the fans, indeed, any type of human conflict where people have a choice between acting reasonably with each other vs. going off ballistically with each other because they can't see past the noses on their own faces.

As for the issue of my 'classification' as a philosopher, and whether I can or should be called a 'Gestalt philosopher' -- someone who has learned from Gestalt Therapy and extrapolated on these lessons into the realm of philosophy, politics, medicine, religion, art, and the like -- well that is a dialect in its own right between me and members of The Gestalt Institute who I haven't really talked to since 1991. The prodigal son may one day return back to some of his main roots and foundations. Or not. As I learned back at The Gestalt Institute (which has philosophical roots back to the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (535-475 BC): 'Everything is subject to change.'

In the meantime, a lot of this 'labelling', 'conceptualization', 'classification' and 'boundary' business depends on where you want to draw the line, and why.
Property, money, narcissism, a personal belief in right and wrong -- or perhaps alternatively, an integrative, always expanding, vision of the enlightenment and evolution of mankind.

A distinction can be made between Gestalt Therapy the 'process' and Gestalt Therapy the 'structural content'.

Gestalt Therapy the process involves an unpredictable state of affairs, where nobody really knows what is going to happen or where it is going to end -- where the process of individual growth is going to 'dialectically evolve' to. 'Old boundaries' are constantly being broken down and 'new integrative boundaries' are constantly being formed. Call this life.

Now 'Gestalt Therapy, The School of Psychotherapy' as a network of systematic concepts, rules and directives (such as 'No interpretation or analysis please -- just here-and now, I and Thou, contact!' -- a good rule of thumb but partly restrictive when used without flexibility and context) is -- or at least can be -- quite a bit more 'anal-retentive' and 'narcissistically protective' than 'Gestalt Therapy as I view it as a 'Post-Hegelian, integrative, no school-based, narcissistic, restrictive concepts' process. Because, if for example, Hegel's Hotel: DGB Philosophy-Psychology starts to re-introduce other ideas from other schools of psychotherapy and/or visa versa, this may not please the 'hard-line Gestalt theorists' any more than it would likely please the hard-line Psychoanalysts, Adlerian Psychologists, Transactional Analysists, Jungian Psychologists, and/or whoever else it is that I plan to bring into this multi-integrative stew that I am calling Hegel's Hotel.

Gestalt Therapy has its own ideational space and boundaries which can be differentiated from Psychoanalysis or Jungian Psychology or Adlerian Therapy or Rational-Emotive Therapy or Behaviorism or any of a hundred different schools of psychology and psychotherapy.

Again, I make the distinction between 'either/or' evolution vs. 'integrative evolution'. Biologically speaking -- and here is where Hegel and Darwin start to meet -- When a man impregnates a woman and a baby is created there is a mixture of 'either/or' evolution and 'integrative evolution' going on here. The child may have the ears of the father, the nose of the mother. The child may look exactly like the mother or the father. This is 'either/or' evolution. Perhaps the father's genes dominate, or the mother's genes dominate and the child almost looks like a clone of the parent with the dominant genes. Or the child can be seen to have a mixture of both parents genes and here we can see the process of 'integrative evolution'. The concept of 'biological diversity' is very much tied up to what I am calling here dialectical integrative evolution -- or put another way -- 'conceptual diversity and a constant renewal of conceptually integrative processes'.

Now let us leave the world of biology and enter the world of philosophy, psychology, politics, law, business... The same two evolutionary processes in every domain of human culture that exist in biology and bio-chemistry -- with sometimes either/or evolution dominating, and other times integrative evolution dominating.

Indeed, the whole ideational evolution process becomes more complicated -- and unfortunately often strangulated into 'non-evolution' or 'negative evolution' -- when you introduce such factors as: capitalism, money, property, corporations, patencies, people's livlihoods, etc...

With the additions of such factors, people not only get narcissistic about their money and their property and their choices of what they want to do -- they also get narcissistic about their ideas. Somewhere back in the 1980s or 90s, I called this phenomenon 'conceptual narcissism'.

Now here is the point: often conceptual evolution and conceptual narcissism collide and conflict with each other, do battle with each other, and become a dialectic in its own particular right, either good or bad, or both. Metaphorically speaking, one might ask the question: 'Which ideational gene is going to dominate? -- the 'narcissitic-either/or gene' or the 'integrative-evolution' gene?

Example. In the 1970s Jeffrey Masson was a fast-rising psychoanalyst and writer. He worked his way up the steep ranks of the many different Psychoanalytic Institutes in both North America and Europe. He got right up to the top -- to Anna Freud -- and was given free access to the Freud Archives. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Masson got into the Freud Archives and he didn't like what he was reading. The issue was Freud's abandonment of his 'traumacy and seduction theory' around 1896-1897. In its place, Freud developed his more (in)famous inter-related theories of distorted childhood memories, childhood sexuality and the Oedipal Complex.

Masson basically came to the conclusion that these latter three theories were garbage -- and that worse than that -- they tended to perpetuate the traumacy of female childhood sexual assault by 'non-legitimizing' them. That is, according to post-1900 Classical Psychoanalytic and Oedipal Theory, a woman's 'memory' of a childhood sexual assault and/or seduction would be taught by and to psychoanalysts to be generally and stereotpically 're-interpreted' as a 'childhood fantasy and distorted memory' due to the young girl's and/or later teenage girl's standard romantic and sexual infatuation with her father. Thus, very few female childhood sexual assaults were being interpreted as what they were -- real assaults. In Masson's words, they were basically being 'clinically suppressed -- and denied existence in the phenomenonology of the client'.

Thus, from a 'clinical interpretation' standpoint, there would be 'no more childhood sexual assaults' in Psychoanalysis because most, if not all, of them were being re-interpreted by psychoanalysts everywhere as 'distorted memories based on underlying female childhood sexuality fantasies'.

Masson broke this scandal open, first in the New York Times in the late 1970s, then in his hugely controversial book, 'The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory'. (1984, 1985, 1992 by Jeffrey Masson)

Not unexpectedly, Masson's book didn't go over very well at all with the many different Psychoanalytic Institutes. He was evicted from some and resigned from others. And now he is living in New Zealand and writing books about emotions in animals. No real resolution -- no dialectic conclusion and/or integration -- to the controversy.

Psychoanalysts defended themselves saying that they had the freedom to interpret childhood assaults as being real if they believed that one happened. Aside from this 'real and/or bogus resolution', the conflict seems to have bascially gone underground again. I cannot say for sure because I have not followed the various evolutions and/or non-evolutions of various Psychoanalytic schools of thought. I think many of them have discarded classical Oedipal theory and moved on to different schools of Object Relations and Self Theory. Some -- I do not know what percentage -- have remained loyal to Freud's original Classical/Oedipal theory.

Obviously, if you are a woman who knows that you were sexually assaulted as a child or young teenager, then I would probalby be thinking twice about engaging in Classical Psychoanalysis. There is definitely, in my mind, some element of truth in Masson's book -- the 'proportion' of truth to my present knowledge is still the subject of significant controversy.

In my opinion, the many Psychoanalytic Institutes should not have pushed Masson's book and thoughts aside so quickly without a full and democratic playout of the dialectic controversy. Indeed, writing as a post-Hegelian philosopher, I believe that they should have embraced the dialectic and brought a stale, stagnant sexist Orthodox, 'Classical' Psychoanalysis out of the Victorian age -- and into the age of feminine equality.

Some may say this has happened. Others may say that the whole issue was swept under the carpet. I tend to believe the latter. I have nothing to believe that Orthodox, Classical Psychoanalysis didn't simply retreat to its chauvanistic, paternalistic chambers -- and pretend that Jeffrey Masson's re-awakening of 'The Seduction Theory Controversy' never happened. They acted like most guilty politicians act in the midst of a narcissistic political scandal. Using the 'wait til it blows away' tactic, they try/tried to pretend that nothing happened, avoid/ed all journalists and news reporters -- and hope/d that the scandal will/would blow away from the headlines of all media outlets and public attention.

It has been about 17 years or so since I read Masson's 'Final Analysis': The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst (1991)-- a great read in my opinion about Toronto trained Jeffrey Masson's hugely successful and then completed thwarted attempts to breath fire and oxygen into 'a stagnant old men's patriarchal club'. I'm not sure whether it was coincidence or not -- but I left The Gestalt Institute (1991) close to the same time that I finished reading Masson's book, 'Final Analysis'. For better or for worse, I was through with psychology (at least until now) and moving into philosophy. But I would be back -- I am back -- as I start to plough my way through the blogsite/section of Hegel's Hotel called: 'DGB Integrative Personality Theory'. (Google DGB Philosophy, Personality Theory)

Has 'dialectical determinism and/or freedom' led to any further evolution in Classical, Orthodox Psychoanalysis? I cannot tell you. It certainly needed to be 'feminized' in order to bring it into touch with the evolution of the female psyche, female philosophy, and equal rights in the latter part of the 20th century. I doubt very much that this happened which leaves me with the perhaps outdated impression that Classical Orthodox Psychoanalysis is going the same way as the dinosaur -- towards extinction. Left untouched, it was becoming more and more theoretically irrelevant -- if not downright toxic. This is a generalization to be sure -- perhaps an out of touch one if things have changed significantly since 1991 -- but as I said, I doubt if things have. Obviously, this depends on which 'sub-school' of Psychoanalysis we are talking about -- and/or whether we are talking about the evolution of Psychoanalsyis as a whole vs. the 'relative non-evolution' of the old school, hardline, anal-retentive, boundary protecting, Classical Psychoanalysts...If little had been done to revise the old school, Classic Psychoanalytic perspective on 'libido theory', 'The Oedipal Complex', 'childhood sexuality', and 'distorted unconscious memories' since Freud's death (1931), why would anything and/or anyone likely change Classical Psychoanalysis since 1991? If Masson couldn't do it, who else would?

It is important to make some distinctions here. I am certainly not saying that Psychoanalysis as a whole is irrelevant or toxic. There are many different divisions and sub-divisions of Psychoanalysis some of which are developing more meaningful lines of thought than others in my opinion. From a DGB Philosophy perspective, there are at least eight different divisions of Psychoanalysis that are worth talking about from 1. Traumacy Theory; to 2. Seduction Theory; to 3. Childhood Sexuality and Oedipal Complex Theory; to 4. Death Instinct Theory; to 5. Ego, Id, and Superego Theory; to 6. Melanie Klein Early Object Relations Theory; to 7. Ronald Fairbairn later Object Relations Theory, to 8. Kohut and the beginning of 'Narcissistic Transference' and 'Self-Object' Theory.

By 1897, Freud was starting the process of abanadoning Traumacy-Seduction-Sexual Assault Theory altogether -- or at least in main part. Was 'the kitchen getting too hot' for Freud -- as Masson has suggested. Or did Freud find worthy clinical evidence to suggest that these 'so-called female adult memories of childhood seductions and/or sexual assaults' were simply not true? Or elements of both? I believe in the latter. I believe that there was a series of human 'psycho-dramas' that were going down involving Freud and his female patients that contained a mixture of true and false memories, traumatic and narcissistic memories, traumatic and narcissistic adult short, a snap shot of human life in general with all its myriad of intertwining complexities.

Life and nature do not believe in 'one-sided, compartmentalized, narcissitic theories' made up by any one man or woman -- even if the man's name was Sigmund Freud who is still idealized and worshipped by many unconditional, Classic, Orthodox Psychoanalytic followers today for the creative brilliance of his ideas, some of which are worthy of this degree of respect, others of which should be 'committed to flames' (to once again use David Hume's immortal words) before they propogate any more forms of toxic psychotherapy into our society today -- just as 'The Traumacy and Seduction Theory' taken too far can as well.

When I am talking about Classical, Orthodox Psychoanalysis then, I am talking about 'the oldest of the old, orthodox guardians of Freud'; I am not talking about Melanie Klein's brand of Psychoanalysis (Object Relations), nor Ronald Fairbairn's brand of Psycoanalysis (a second brand of Object Relations), nor Heinz Kohut's brand of Psychoanalysis (the beginning of Self Psychology in Psychoanalysis -- some of my present ideas on 'healthy' vs. 'unhealthy' narcissism were being developed in the mid to late 1980s just about the same time I first bumped into Kohut's work on narcissism. Kohut had already developed this line of thinking well before me -- he died in 1981 -- nevertheless, it was reinforcing that some of my ideas were going down the path of more 'liberated', current, rebellious psychoanalysts.

Once again I believe in the value of the dialectic and in smart theorists and therapists using the dialectic to full functional advantage. From my perspective -- and I am far from the first person to say this -- it seems that Classical Psychoanalysis if it wants to stay alive and to have any kind of credibility and trust with the general public, especially women, needs to 'feminize' itself and to discard all ideas and practices that discriminate against women in order to bring it into the 21st century. Today, Orthodox, Classical Psychoanalysis is about as culturally relevant as most strict, orhthodox forms of religion are. Living in a past that has long passed them by.

Another example. What would happen if a psychoanalyst ever decided to abandon his or her use of the 'therapeutic couch' and borrow instead the 'hotseat' from Gestalt Therapy? Would this psychoanalyst still be called a psychoanalyst? Probably not by his psychoanalytic peers and superiors. Would he or she more appropriately be called a 'Gestalt Psychoanalyst'? Perls went this direction -- trained originally I believe in Kleinian Psychoanalysis (the beginning of Object Relations) -- until he decided at some point to dump the 'couch' and develop the 'hotseat and empty chair technique. In doing this, Perls 'existentialized' Psychoanalysis. Soon he would call himself a 'Gestalt Therapist'.

Integrative evolutions have happed often enough in the psychotherapy business, as much as they are often discouraged, even blacklisted and scandalized. Some theorists and therapists have integrated Adlerian Psychology and Psychoanalysis. Some theorists and therapists have integrated various forms of Cognitive Therapy with Gestalt Therapy. Perls partly did this himself. He liked Korysbski and General Semantics.

Back in the 1980s, I was integrating Gestalt Therapy, Adlerian Psychology, and Psychoanalysis -- which is how I got 'GAP' Psychology. Cognitive Therapy, humanistic-existentialism, and Jungian psychology also eventually had an impact on my thinking.

Conceptualizations, classifications, and labels can be stretched or re-tightened according to our wishes and agenda. It could be argued that Freud was a Gestalt Therapist before he was a Psychoanalyst -- much of Freud's early work in the 1990s on traumacy theory could easily be viewed as the real foundation of Gestalt Therapy (before Freud decided to go a different theoretical direction). Freud's Traumacy Theory is just as relevant today as it was when he created back in the late 1880s and early to mid 1890s. It should not have been abandoned, just modified -- which many Psychoanalysts say is exactly what happened. I don't believe them. The 'modification' if that's what it was at the time, became a more or less 'fixed theoretical reality' over time. By the early 1900s, the traumacy was being left further and further behind. It shouldn't have been. Using the Hegelian dialectic, I would have developed a 'narcissistic-traumacy' theory. In fact, I will develop this theory as I move along here. Psychoanalysis needs to integrate; not 'compartmentalize' into a increasing number of 'either/or' theories.

What is the moral of everything that is being said in this essay. How about this?

When you are all ready to get your shorts tied tightly in a knot and turn purple with rage over protecting an idea, a concept, a theory, a philosophy, a paradigm, an ideology, a religous belief, ask yourself this: Can integrative evolution take me to a better place that is better for me and better for the people around me? And if so, then why am I holding on so tightly, so emotionaly, to an idea that may be a better idea once it is blended with other different and maybe even opposing ideas.

Every seen a parent and a child fighting over 'curfew'? Being a taxi driver at one time, I have seen or heard of some of the worst fights you can possibly imagine when it comes to teenage girls battling with parents over 'freedom vs. control and safety (curfew)' isues. 15 year old girls evicted from their homes. Come on, what's with this? Rage is probably usually the best personal indicator that it may be time to think 'negotiate, compromise, integrate'; not get stuck in the personal egotism and/or ethics of 'I am right, you are wrong'. If you want to save your relationship with your teenage son or daughter, maintain your ethical boundaries unless they are seriously outdated in which case you might want to re-think them. But regardless, be willing to negotiate without 'caving in' on your principles, and choose 'contact and immediacy' over maintaining your inflexible, righteous, 'either/or' pride.

A Post-Script: I initially wrote this paper almost a year ago. Now I feel at least partly like a hypocrite. Last August I got into a very stupid but severe argument on the internet with my 18 year old daughter over the end of my support payments to her mother because she was out of school and working. Not reaching any common ground on our beliefs and principles, the fight has left us more or less estranged since then. That's where pride takes you when two stubborn people -- or groups of people -- cannot negotiate and integrate any common ground between them.

The conflict is between holding on hard to your strongest beliefs and values vs. being open-minded enough to look for and find that place in the middle -- or conversely, simply to agree to disagree -- with someone who's ongoing relationship with you is important enough not to jeopardize and sabotage based on an unwillingness on the part of both of you to find some meeting ground in the middle.

On the other side of things, left unbridled by compassion, empathy, and ethical fairness, human righteousness and narcissism knows no boundaries. The irony is this: The tighter and harder a person's conceptual boundaries are, the more all-encompassing is likely to be the extent of his or her personal righteousness and narcissism -- and in this regard, his or her unwillingness to even listen to people, let alone meet them somewhere towards the middle.

-- dgb, originally written May 20th, 2007; modified and updated April 27-28th, 2008.
-- dgb, originally written May 20th, 2007; modified and updated April 27-28th, 2008.

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