Monday, April 7, 2008

"We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love, 
never so forlornly unhappy as when we have 
lost our love object or its love."     
- Sigmund Freud

There are some losses, some grief experiences, so profoundly painful, that there simply are no words to describe it- no sounds to express it- no vision that can shed light on it- for many, no God who can heal it. And certainly, no pharmaceutical company or magical pill that can assuage or vanquish it.

Freud's secondary process of the human experience is governed by the Reality Principle. The secondary process of the ego sets about obtaining the love object or brings it into existence through cognition and rules of the Reality Principle.  The ego is an executive agency of the system dedicated to thinking and problem solving.  The infant's ego will continue to learn and grow though the Reality Principle by testing, planning, acting, and judging what works and what does not work. The psychological growth stimulated from this process improves perception, thinking, memory, and action.  Perhaps ultimately, how this loss is managed affects the rest of our lives.

The Reality Principle is also the first grief experience of a human being. Grief, an emotion so often denied in our fast paced society, is one of the most fundamental of all the emotions and perhaps, as asserted by Freud, our very first emotion. It is the emotion upon which all other human emotions are built. To paraphrase Freud, an acknowledgement of loss initiates the authentic "work of mourning."

Yet, Western culture overwhelmingly has shunned the most basic, innate human experience so often and with such ignorance that in the process it has failed to foster the skills necessary to deal with the psychological impact of loss and sorrow. We ourselves have become the face-less grievers of history, looking for a "quick fix" for our sadness.  The loss of sadness in our society will most certainly have devastating effects, individually and collectively.

Healing cannot come in a bottle.

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The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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