“… one characteristic seems to be pertinent for all neuroses …
pride governs feelings.”[i]
The propagation and dictatorships of pride – from the personal pride to the national – is built out of a separation: the creation of borders between us and them; the manifestation of our need to measure ourselves and create an identity out of our differences (she’s got blonde hair, he’s got red hair, they’ve got black hair and the rest of us have all got brown hair). But the separation is also a superficial thing, created out of the obvious notion that we are all different in some ways and have certain similarities in others. However, in our societies there is a prejudice towards the differences via the superficial valuation that some differences are better than others (we would love to be blonde like her). However, once the difference has been established then, psychologically, it starts to get more serious and nasty. After making the separation we must conform to what seems to be ours. Certainly one can dye one’s hair, but, everyone knows that that is cheating. The rule of identities is that one must be proud of what one is, not what one should be or would like to be – and here begin all neuroses.
The sense of direction – where are we going? – is absent in the neurotic society because its “directive powers are weakened in direct proportion to the degree of alienation from self,” [ii] which is our alienation from humanity. Or, in other words, our pride in our identity, in that which makes us different from them, is denying us an identity with our real self, which is that we are all human beings.
The power of humanity, like Freud’s concept of the “ego” stands weak against the magnificent promises of the idealised society that is geared toward satisfying desires. Nevertheless, the macro-psychological ego, or true self that is humanity, may be the most positive and constructive force we could ever possess if it were allowed to be unleashed. Its weakness does not lie in its lack of potential, but rather in its lack of visibility. The problem with humanity is that we no longer perceive it: it has become a concept like “ghosts” or “flying saucers”, something that some of us may believe in, but hardly ever talk about, lest we be judged to be crackpots for having brought the subject up.
If, like a psychoanalyser, we were to examine society for traces of its humanity, we would find that very little of it is visibly operating. The structure of everything is built on division and differentiation. We might see possibilities; that certain beliefs and feelings seem authentically “human” and that the basic drives for progress and development contain an authenticity that transcends the simple selfish ones generated by the individual’s own pride, but, in general terms, “the human” remains shadowy; in the background.
However, if our analyses were to go deeper and we were able to draw society’s attention towards its humanity within our own individual psyche, then perhaps we could undermine the pride-based system, drawing it away from its own cynically defensive view of reality and instil in it an interest in the truth about itself.
Humanity must be allowed to assume responsibility for itself. This is the basic, but ignored, principle of democracy. Humanity needs to be allowed to make human decisions; feel human feelings; and develop beliefs and goals which further humanity.
In order for this to happen, awareness must be unleashed; an awareness that can only be created through an analytic process – we must put the System on the analyst’s couch and talk to it, question it; lead it towards a consciousness of its own positive force, which is its own authenticity. No matter how selfish it seems, the System is still basically a human one, and until humanity is rediscovered, it will remain a neurotic one, gasping for air in a stagnating ocean of ubiquitous pride.
[i] K. Horney, Neuroses and Human Growth, p.162
[ii] Ibid, p. 167