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Existential questions

To be ontologically secure is to possess, on the level of the unconscious and practical consciousness, `answers' to fundamental existential questions which all human life in some way addresses. Anxiety in a certain sense comes with human liberty, as Kierkegaard says; freedom is not a given characteristic of the human individual, but derives from the acquisition of an ontological understanding of external reality and personal identity. The autonomy which human beings acquire derives from their capacity to expand the range of mediated experience: to be familiar with properties of objects and events outside immediate settings of sensory involvement. With this in mind, we can reinterpret Kierkegaard's description of anxiety as `the possibility of freedom'. 13 As a general phenomenon, anxiety derives from the capacity -- and, indeed, necessity -- for the individual to think ahead, to anticipate future possibilities counterfactually in relation to present action. But in a deeper way, anxiety (or its

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likelihood) comes from the very `faith' in the independent existence of persons and objects that ontological security implies.

The prime existential question which the infant `answers' in the course of early psychological development concerns existence itself: the discovery of an ontological framework of `external reality'. When Kierkegaard analyses anxiety -- or elemental dread -- as `the struggle of being against non-being', he points directly to this issue. To `be', for the human individual, is to have ontological awareness. 14 This is not the same as awareness of self-identity, however closely the two may be related in the developing experience of the infant. The `struggle of being against non-being' is the perpetual task of the individual, not just to `accept' reality, but to create ontological reference points as an integral aspect of `going on' in the contexts of day-to-day life. Existence is a mode of being-in-the-world in Kierkegaard's sense. In `doing' everyday life, all human beings `answer' the question of being; they do it by the nature of the activities they carry out. As with other existential questions to be mentioned below, such `answers' are lodged fundamentally on the level of behaviour.

In pre-modern contexts, tradition has a key role in articulating action and ontological frameworks; tradition offers an organising medium of social life specifically geared to ontological precepts. In the first place, tradition orders time in a manner which restricts the openness of counterfactual futures. People in all cultures, including the most resolutely traditional, distinguish future, present and past, and weigh alternative courses of action in terms of likely future considerations. But as we saw in the previous chapter, where traditional modes of practice are dominant, the past inserts a wide band of `authenticated practice' into the future. Time is not empty, and a consistent `mode of being' relates future to past. In addition, tradition creates a sense of the firmness of things that typically mixes cognitive and moral elements. The world is as it is because it is as it should be. Of course, in many traditional cultures, and in virtually all rationalised religious systems, explicit ontological conceptions are found -- although these may stand in considerable tension with the enactment of traditional practices themselves.

A second type of existential question concerns not so much the nature of being as the relations between the external world and human life. Here there is also a fundamental temporal aspect, in

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the guise of human finitude as compared to temporal infinity or the `eternal'. All humans live in circumstances of what I have elsewhere called existential contradiction: we are of the inanimate world, yet set off against it, as self-conscious beings aware of our finite character. As Heidegger says, Dasein is a being who not only lives and dies, but is aware of the horizon of its own mortality. This is the `existential awareness of non-being' of which Tillich speaks, `the awareness that non-being is part of one's own being'. 15 When seen in a purely biological sense, death is relatively unproblematic -- the cessation of the physiological functions of the organism. Kierkegaard points out that, in contrast to biological death, `subjective death' is an `absolute uncertainty' something of which we can have no intrinsic understanding. The existential problem is how to approach subjective death: `it is the case that the living individual is absolutely excluded from the possibility of approaching death in any sense whatever, since he cannot experimentally come near enough without comically sacrificing himself upon the altar of his own experiment, and since he cannot experimentally restrain the experiment, he learns nothing from it.' 16

In psychoanalytic theory, the existential horizon of finitude does not have a prominent place in the origins of anxiety -- or, rather, the unconscious cannot conceive of its own death, not for the reason given by Kierkegaard, but because the unconscious has no sense of time. Anxiety about death in Freud's theory comes primarily from fear of the loss of others, and is thus directly connected to the early mastery of absence. The discrepancy between these two interpretations, however, is more apparent than real. For if we cannot understand `subjective death', then death is no more or less than the transition from being to nonbeing; and the fear of non-being becomes one of the primal anxieties of the developing infant. Threats to the being of the infant in the first instance are feelings or presentiments of loss -- the realisation that the constancy of persons and objects is bound up with the stable relations provided by the caretaking agents. The possible loss of the caretakers provides the initiating framework from which fears of death and sickness emerge with regard to the self. It may be true that, on the level of the unconscious, the person cannot conceive of her death. As Freud says, unconsciously all of us think of surviving as spectators at our own

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deaths. But consciousness of finitude, which human beings develop with increasing cognitive mastery of temporal categories, is associated with anxieties of an utterly fundamental sort.

To accept the existential centrality of awareness of death for human actors does not necessitate endorsing the philosophy of `authenticity' which Kierkegaard and Heidegger have built upon it. For Heidegger, death is the `innermost possibility' of Dasein, a possibility which, in revealing itself as a necessity, renders `authentic life' an option. Finitude is what allows us to discern moral meaning in otherwise transient events, something that would be denied to a being with no finite horizons. The `call of conscience' which awareness of finitude brings stimulates human beings to realise their `time essence as Beings-unto-death'. What Heidegger calls `resolve' is the urgency which makes itself felt as the need to throw oneself into what life has to offer before time -- for the individual -- `runs out'. 17 This view is not offered by Heidegger as a moral philosophy, but as an account of the actualities of human experience. Yet it is surely a position that is difficult to sustain on a transcendental basis. It is above all an outlook addressed to a civilisation afflicted by what Kierkegaard terms the `sickness unto death' -- by which he meant the inclination to accept that, for the individual, death is indeed the end. 18 While anxieties about finitude, deriving from the psychological development of the individual, are universal, cultural representations of death are not. Religious cosmologies may play on such anxieties in developing conceptions of the afterlife, or cycles of rebirth. Yet they do not by any means always cultivate moral meanings primarily by emphasising the impermanence of the individual's existence.

A third category of existential question concerns the existence of other persons. No issue was more thoroughly explored in the early literature of phenomenology, but we have to be careful to avoid the philosophical errors to which that literature fell prey. Husserl drew on Cartesian rationalism in his formulation of interpersonal knowledge. Given this position, although the individual can perceive the body of another person, he or she cannot perceive that individual as subject. `I know my own soul better than my own body', Descartes wrote. But I can only know the body of the other, he continued, since I have no access to that person's consciousness. 19 According to Husserl, we are aware of

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another person's feelings and experiences only on the basis of empathic inferences from our own. As is well known, the inadequacy of this view proved to be one of the intractable difficulties of his philosophy. A transcendental philosophy of the ego terminates in an irremediable solipsism.

The difficulty is avoided in the position of the later Wittgenstein, as well as in the more sophistical versions of existentialist phenomenology. Self-consciousness has no primacy over the awareness of others, since language -- which is intrinsically public -- is the means of access to both. Inter subjectivity does not derive from subjectivity, but the other way around. How should we expand on this view in developmental terms, however, given that the early experiences of the child predate the acquisition of language? And in what sense is the existence of others an existential problem, if we break with Husserl's standpoint? The answers follow from the arguments already developed in the preceding pages. Learning the qualities of others is connected in an immediate way with the earliest explorations of the object-world and with the first stirrings of what later become established feelings of self-identity. The individual is not a being who at some sudden point encounters others; `discovering the other', in an emotional-cognitive way, is of key importance in the initial development of self-awareness as such. The subsequent acquisition of language would not be possible were not those early developmental processes well in train by that time.

The `problem of the other' is not a question of how the individual makes the shift from the certainty of her or his own inner experiences to the unknowable other person. Rather it concerns the inherent connections which exist between learning the characteristics of other persons and the other major axes of ontological security. Trust in others, in the early life of the infant and, in chronic fashion, in the activities of the adult, is at the origin of the experience of a stable external world and a coherent sense of self-identity. It is `faith' in the reliability and integrity of others which is at stake here. Trust in others begins in the context of individual confidence -- confidence in the caretaking figures. But it both precedes an awareness of those figures as `persons' and later forms a generalised component of the inter-subjective nature of social life. Trust, interpersonal relations and a conviction of the `reality' of things go hand in hand in the social

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settings of adult life. The responses of the other are necessary to the sustaining of an `observable/accountable' world, and yet there is no point at which they can be absolutely relied upon. Social reproduction unfolds with none of the causal determination characteristic of the physical world, but as an always contingent feature of the knowledgeable use of convention. The social world, moreover, should not be understood as a multiplicity of situations in which `ego' faces `alter', but one in which each person is equally implicated in the active process of organising predictable social interaction. The orderliness of day-to-day life is a miraculous occurrence, but it is not one that stems from any sort of outside intervention; it is brought about as a continuous achievement on the part of everyday actors in an entirely routine way. That orderliness is solid and constant; yet the slightest glance of one person towards another, inflexion of the voice, changing facial expression or gestures of the body may threaten it.

A fourth type of existential question concerns precisely: self-identity. But what exactly is self-identity? Since the self is a somewhat amorphous phenomenon, self-identity cannot refer merely to its persistence over time in the way philosophers might speak of the `identity' of objects or things. 20 The `identity' of the self, in contrast to the self as a generic phenomenon, presumes reflexive awareness. It is what the individual is conscious `of' in the term `self-consciousness'. Self-identity, in other words, is not something that is just given, as a result of the continuities of the individual's action-system, but something that has to be routinely created and sustained in the reflexive activities of the individual.

An anchoring discursive feature of self-identity is the linguistic differentiation of `I/me/you' (or their equivalents). We cannot be satisfied, however, with G. H. Mead's formulation of the I/me couplet in relation to self-identity. In Mead's theory, the `me' is the identity -- a social identity -- of which the T becomes conscious in the course of the psychological development of the child. The `I' is, as it were, the active, primitive will of the individual, which seizes on the `me' as the reflection of social ties. We can agree with Mead that the infant begins to develop a self in response to the social context of its early experience. But the I/me (and I/me/you) relation is one internal to language, not one connecting the unsocialised part of the individual (the I) to the

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`social self'. `I' is a linguistic shifter, which gets its meaning from the networks of terms whereby a discursive system of subjectivity is acquired. The ability to use `I', and other associated terms of subjectivity, is a condition for the emergence of self-awareness, but does not as such define it.

Self-identity is not a distinctive trait, or even a collection of traits, possessed by the individual. It is the self as reflexively understood by the person in terms of her or his biography. Identity here still presumes continuity across time and space: but self-identity is such continuity as interpreted reflexively by the agent. This includes the cognitive component of personhood. To be a `person' is not just to be a reflexive actor, but to have a concept of a person (as applied both to the self and others). What a `person' is understood to be certainly varies across cultures, although there are elements of such a notion that are common to all cultures. The capacity to use T in shifting contexts, characteristic of every known culture, is the most elemental feature of reflexive conceptions of personhood.

The best way to analyse self-identity in the generality of instances is by contrast with individuals whose sense of self is fractured or disabled. Laing provides an important discussion of this issue. 21 The ontologically insecure individual, he points out, tends to display one or more of the following characteristics. In the first place she may lack a consistent feeling of biographical continuity. An individual may fail to achieve an enduring conception of her aliveness. Laing quotes a character from Kafka who says, `There has never been a time in which I have been convinced from within myself that I am alive.' 22 Discontinuity in temporal experience is often a basic feature of such a sentiment. Time may be comprehended as a series of discrete moments, each of which severs prior experiences from subsequent ones in such a way that no continuous `narrative' can be sustained. Anxiety about obliteration, of being engulfed, crushed or overwhelmed by externally impinging events, is frequently the correlate of such feelings. Secondly, in an external environment full of changes, the person is obsessively preoccupied with apprehension of possible risks to his or her existence, and paralysed in terms of practical action. The individual experiences what Laing calls an `inner deadness' deriving from an inability to block off impinging dangers -- an incapacity to sustain the protective cocoon of which

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I spoke earlier. People engulfed by such anxieties may seek to `blend with the environment' so as to escape being the target of the dangers which haunt them. Thirdly, the person fails to develop or sustain trust in his own self-integrity. The individual feels morally `empty' because he lacks `the warmth of a loving self-regard'.23 Quite often, paradoxically, the actor subjects his behaviour and thoughts to constant scrutiny. Self-scrutiny in this guise is obsessional; its experiential outcome is much the same as in the other instances, a feeling that the living spontaneity of the self has become something dead and lifeless.

A normal sense of self-identity is the obverse of these characteristics. A person with a reasonably stable sense of self-identity has a feeling of biographical continuity which she is able to grasp reflexively and, to a greater or lesser degree, communicate to other people. That person also, through early trust relations, has established a protective cocoon which `filters out', in the practical conduct of day-to-day life, many of the dangers which in principle threaten the integrity of the self. Finally, the individual is able to accept that integrity as worthwhile. There is sufficient self-regard to sustain a sense of the self as `alive' -- within the scope of reflexive control, rather than having the inert quality of things in the object-world.

The existential question of self-identity is bound up with the fragile nature of the biography which the individual `supplies' about herself. A person's identity is not to be found in behaviour, nor -- important though this is -- in the reactions of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going. The individual's biography, if she is to maintain regular interaction with others in the day-to-day world, cannot be wholly Active. It must continually integrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing `story' about the self. As Charles Taylor puts it, `In order to have a sense of who we are, we have to have a notion of how we have become, and of where we are going.' 24 There is surely an unconscious aspect to this chronic `work', perhaps organised in a basic way through dreams. Dreaming may very well represent an unconscious selection and discarding of memories, which proceeds at the end of every day. 25

A stable sense of self-identity presupposes the other elements of ontological security -- an acceptance of the reality of things and of others -- but it is not directly derivable from them. Like the

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other existential dimensions of ontological security, feelings of self-identity are both robust and fragile. Fragile, because the biography the individual reflexively holds in mind is only one `story' among many other potential stories that could be told about her development as a self; robust, because a sense of self-identity is often securely enough held to weather major tensions or transitions in the social environments within which the person moves.

As with the other existential arenas, the `content' of self-identity -- the traits from which biographies are constructed -- varies socially and culturally. In some respects this is obvious enough. A person's name, for example, is a primary element in his biography; practices of social naming, how far names express kin relations, whether or not names are changed at certain stages of life -- all these things differ between cultures. But there are other more subtle, yet also more important, differences. Reflexive biographies vary in much the same ways as stories do -- in terms, for instance, of form and style. As I will go on to argue, this issue is of fundamental importance in assessing mechanisms of self-identity under conditions of modernity.

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Body and self

The self, of course, is embodied. Awareness of the contours and properties of the body is at the very origin of the original explorations of the world whereby the child learns the features of objects and others. A child does not learn that it `has' a body, because self-consciousness emerges through bodily differentiation rather than the other way around. Wittgenstein again has a good deal to teach us about the relation of body and self. The child learns about its body primarily in terms of its practical engagements with the object-world and with other people. Reality is grasped through day-to-day praxis. The body is thus not simply an `entity', but is experienced as a practical mode of coping with external situations and events (an emphasis also of Merleau-Ponty). Facial expressions and other gestures provide the fundamental content of that contextuality or indexicality which is the condition of everyday communication. To learn to become a competent agent -- able to join with others on an equal basis in the production and reproduction of social relations - is to be able to exert a continuous, and successful, monitoring of face and body. Bodily control is a central aspect of what `we cannot say in words' because it is the necessary framework for what we can say (or can say meaningfully).

The works of Goffman and Garfinkel in many ways represent an empirical exploration of the themes Wittgenstein raised on a philosophical level. They show how close, complete and unending is the control that the individual is expected to sustain over the body in all settings of social interaction. To be a competent agent, moreover, means not only maintaining such continuous control, but being seen by others to do so. A competent agent is one routinely seen to be so by other agents. He or she must avoid lapses of bodily control, or signal to others by gestures or exclamations that there is nothing `wrong' if such events should occur. 26

Routinised control of the body is crucial to the sustaining of the individual's protective cocoon in situations of day-to-day interaction. In ordinary situations, the person preserves a bodily orientation showing what Goffman calls `easy control'. 27 Bodily experience and skills are influential features relevant to what an individual senses as pertinent dangers and therefore treats as alarming.

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As Goffman succinctly remarks, `almost every activity that the individual easily performs now was at some time for him something that required serious mobilisation of effort. To walk, to cross a road, to utter a complete sentence, to wear long pants, to tie one's own shoes, to add a column of figures -- all these routines that allow the individual unthinking, competent performance were attained through an acquisition process whose early stages were negotiated in a cold sweat.' 28 A person's ease in any given situation presumes long-term experience in confronting the threats and opportunities it presents. Actors acquire a `survivably short reaction time': a brief interval needed to sense alarm and to respond appropriately. Bodily self-management, however, has to be so complete and constant that all individuals are vulnerable to moments of stress when competence breaks down -- and the framework of ontological security is threatened.

The issue of the body in recent social theory is associated particularly with the name of Foucault. Foucault has analysed the body in relation to mechanisms of power, concentrating particularly on the emergence of `disciplinary power' in circumstances of modernity. The body becomes the focus of power and this power, instead of trying to `mark' it externally, as in pre-modern times, subjects it to the internal discipline of self-control. As portrayed by Foucault, disciplinary mechanisms produce `docile bodies'. 29 Yet important though Foucault's interpretation of discipline may be, his view of the body is substantially wanting. He cannot analyse the relation between the body and agency since to all intents and purposes he equates the two. Essentially, the body plus power equals agency. But this idea will not do, and appears unsophisticated when placed alongside the standpoint developed prior to Foucault by Merleau-Ponty, and contemporaneously by Goffman. Bodily discipline is intrinsic to the competent social agent; it is transcultural rather than specifically connected with modernity; and it is a continuous feature of the flow of conduct in the durée of daily life. Most importantly, routine control of the body is integral to the very nature both of agency and of being accepted (trusted) by others as competent.

This double significance of the body in respect of agency may explain the apparently universal character of the I/me differentiation. Regularised control of the body is a fundamental means whereby a biography of self-identity is maintained; yet at the

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same time the self is also more or less constantly `on display' to others in terms of its embodiment. The need to handle both of these aspects of the body simultaneously, which originates in the early experiences of the infant, is the main reason why a feeling of bodily integrity -- of the self being safely `in' the body -- is so closely tied to the regular appraisals of others. What Goffman calls `normal appearances' are part and parcel of routine contexts of interaction. Normal appearances are the (closely monitored) bodily mannerisms by means of which the individual actively reproduces the protective cocoon in situations of `normalcy'. `Normal appearances mean that it is safe and sound to continue on with the activity at hand with only peripheral attention given to checking up on the stability of the environment.' 30 They are the bodily manifestation of that `bracketing out' process described earlier. Like all aspects of interaction in day-to-day life, normal appearances have to be managed with immense care, even though the seeming absence of such care is precisely a key feature of them.

How far normal appearances can be carried on in ways consistent with the individual's biographical narrative is of vital importance for feelings of ontological security. All human beings, in all cultures, preserve a division between their self-identities and the `performances' they put on in specific social contexts. But in some circumstances the individual might come to feel that the whole flow of his activities is put on or false. An established routine, for one reason or another, becomes invalid. For instance, a husband may conceal from his wife the fact that he is having an affair and plans to divorce her. Ordinary routines then become false performances, staged routines from which the person feels a certain distance -- the individual has to continue with ordinary appearances by acting as though nothing were up. What is habitually structured into practical consciousness becomes contrived, and probably unconsciously problematic. Playing the part of the dutiful husband in effect represents a false persona, but not one that seriously compromises the individual's own self-image.

Where the dissociation is more thoroughgoing, and less contextual, however, a more severe dislocation is likely to result. A person feels he is continually acting out most or all routines, rather than following them for valid reasons. If Laing is correct,

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such a situation characteristically leads to an `unembodied' self. Most people are absorbed in their bodies, and feel themselves to be a unified body and self. Too radical a discrepancy between accepted routines and the individual's biographical narrative creates what Laing (following Winnicott) calls a false self -- in which the body appears as an object or instrument manipulated by the self from behind the scenes. Disentanglement from the body -- or perhaps a complete merging of self and body -- in the form of spiritual ecstasy, is a common ideal of the world's religions, and appears there in a positive light. But when this dissociation happens as an unwanted feature of personality, it expresses existential anxieties impinging directly upon self-identity.

The disembodied person may feel unimplicated in bodily desire, and experiences dangers as though they were threats to another person. He or she may in fact be able to weather assaults on the physical well-being of the body more easily than an ordinary individual can; but the price of this capability is intense anxieties of other sorts. The narrative of self-identity in such instances is woven in a manner which allows the individual to witness the activities of her body with neutral detachment, cynicism, hatred or ironic amusement, as the case may be. Kierkegaard wrote of this phenomenon, speaking of the `closure' of the self from the body; the individual's actions are as if under remote control. 31 Disembodiment has connections with reality inversion, mentioned in the preceding chapter. Prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps during the last war, subjected to horrendous physical and psychological pressures, experienced states of dissociation of body and self. For them, feeling `out' of the body -- a condition described as `being like a dream', `unreal' or `like being a character in a play' -- seems to have been a functional phenomenon, allowing distance from the physical deprivations which the body suffered. 32 Feelings of unreality on the part of schizoid individuals frequently have a similar form, and perhaps even involve parallel defence mechanisms. Disembodiment is an attempt to transcend dangers and be safe.

Disembodiment in more minor versions is a characteristic feature of disruptions in ontological security experienced by everyone in tensionful situations of daily life. The splitting is a temporary reaction to a danger which passes, not a chronic

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dissociation. It is not fanciful to discern a close connection between Winnicott, Laing and Lacan on this point. For if the hypothesis of the mirror stage is valid, perception of the body as separate -- in the imaginary -- is central to the formation of self-identity at a particular phase of child development. A narrative of self-identity cannot begin until this phase is transcended; or, more accurately, the emergence of such a narrative is the means of its transcendence. Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that, in circumstances of strain, feelings of separation from the body should be common. The individual enters a temporary schizoid state, and becomes detached from what the body is doing or what is being done to it.

Mirror image and self can effectively become reversed in more pronounced and semi-permanent schizoid personalities. The experience of agency is withdrawn from the body and attached to a fantasy world of narrative biography, separated from the intersecting of the imaginary and the reality principle upon which ordinary social activity depends. Self-identity is no longer integrated with the day-to-day routines in which the person is involved. The individual may in fact feel invisible to others, since the body in action ceases to be the `vehicle of the self'. Freud notes that children often play at being invisible, and that the game may take place in front of a mirror. The child finds a method of making itself disappear -- by ducking away from the mirror or moving out of sight of its own reflection. The game touches on deep anxieties. The fear of being invisible is connected to the early relations with parenting figures -- and especially the fear that the absent mother might never return. The child's exploration of its own disappearance is closely associated with the difficulty of grasping that the absent parent has not `gone for good'. 33

Feelings of invisibility are liable to become chronic if the threat of the parent's disappearance becomes linked to defences against being fully `there' in the body. We see here again the central importance of the fact that, in `normal' psychological development, the body is much more than a device for conveying minor feelings to others. The whole self is never to be seen on the surfaces of the body or in its gestures; but where it is not visible at all, ordinary feelings of embodiment -- of being `with' and `in' the flow of day-to-day conduct -- become dislocated or dissolved.

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Laing identifies four characteristics of the pathology of such a false-self persona:

1 The false-self system becomes more and more enveloping and all-pervasive.

2 It becomes more autonomous from bodily routines.

3 It becomes `harrassed' by compulsive behaviour fragments.

4 The actions of the body become more and more `dead, unreal, false, mechanical'. 34

The sense of more or less complete detachment from everyday routines is well conveyed in a case description Laing gives of a young schizophrenic man. This individual came to feel that the thoughts in his `brain', as he expressed it, were not really his. He felt himself to be `staging' all his reactions to the conventions of day-to-day social life, in respect of which he felt his body to be either machinelike and `in neutral', or gripped by an unfathomable compulsion. For example, his wife would pour him a cup of tea, and in response he would smile and utter a word of thanks. Yet he would then immediately be overcome with revulsion: his wife had acted mechanically, and he had reacted in terms of the same `social mechanics' (his phrase).

`Going on' in the contexts of daily social life involves constant and unremitting work on the part of all participants in social interaction. For ordinary individuals, much of this labour passes unnoticed, so deeply engrained is it in practical consciousness in terms of bodily control and facial expression. But for the schizoid or schizophrenic person, who cannot sustain such an unthinking acceptance of bodily integrity, the effort to keep up normal appearances may become a terrible burden -- he or she may in the end be literally unable to `go on' (in the double sense this phrase has) and retreat more or less wholly into an inner life of fantasy.

Of course, the body is not only a localised medium of action. It is a physical organism that has to be cared for by its possessor; it is sexed; and it is a source of pleasure and pain. A fundamental aspect of the human condition is that human beings cannot care for themselves during the first years of life. Routines of caring are elemental to the circumstances of trust in the life of the infant: the adult caretakers are also providers. Modes of providing food and other basic organic necessities are best regarded as regimes -- the child learns early on that nourishment is not forthcoming on

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demand, but only periodically. Regimes are always partly a matter of individual influence and taste: even the neonate actively conditions the responses of the caretakers, sometimes in a very substantial way. But regimes are also always socially or culturally organised. How far food regimes, for the adult, are standardised and closely regulated, or left open to individual inclination, depends on the nature of a given culture. The same comments apply to sexual regimes, whether in respect of child or adult behaviour. Dress is another type of regime. In all cultures, dress is vastly more than simply a means of bodily protection: it is, manifestly, a means of symbolic display, a way of giving external form to narratives of self-identity.

Regimes differ from the ordinary routines of `going on'. All social routines entail continuous control of the body, but regimes are learned practices that entail tight control over organic needs. With the partial exception of dress, regimes are enforced by the physiological character of the organism, no matter what symbolic elements they also acquire. Regimes centre on gratification/ deprivation, and hence are a focus of motivational energies -- beginning, as Freud made clear, with the earliest unconscious adjustments to the reality principle. The types of regimes individuals build up as habits of behaviour, therefore, remain as unconscious conditioning elements of conduct, and are tied into enduring motivational patterns. Regimes are modes of self-discipline, but are not solely constituted by the orderings of convention in day-to-day life; they are personal habits, organised in some part according to social conventions, but also formed by personal inclinations and dispositions.

Regimes are of central importance to self-identity precisely because they connect habits with aspects of the visible appearance of the body. Habits of eating are ritual displays in themselves, but they also affect bodily form, perhaps indicating something about the background of the individual as well as a certain self-image which she or he has cultivated. Eating regimes also have their pathologies, and are connected with various persistent kinds of positive accentuations of bodily discipline. Asceticism, involving fasting and other forms of bodily deprivation, is commonly linked to the pursuit of religious values, as is the following of certain kinds of bodily regimes generally. On a more personal level, self-deprivation of physical resources is a frequent feature

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of psychologial disorders in all forms of society -- as is indulgence. Much the same can be said about sexual regimes. Celibacy is a form of bodily denial prized in some religious orders, but can also be an expression of personality difficulties, as can sexual obsessions of different sorts. Regimes of self-adornment are similarly linked to key dynamics of personality. Dress is a means of self-display, but also relates directly to concealment/revelation in respect of personal biographies: it connects convention to basic aspects of identity.

How should we think of the body in relation to its sexual characteristics? Nothing is clearer than that gender is a matter of learning and continuous `work', rather than a simple extension of biologically given sexual difference. In respect of this aspect of the body, we can return to the central themes of ethnomethodology as elaborated by Garfinkel. Ethnomethodology has become so closely identified with conversation analysis that it is easily forgotten that Garfinkel's work developed out of a direct concern with the managing of gender. The case of Agnes, the transsexual discussed in Studies in Ethnomethodology, shows that to be a `man' or a `woman' depends on a chronic monitoring of the body and bodily gestures. There is in fact no single bodily trait which separates all women from all men. 35 Only those few individuals who have something like a full experience of being a member of both sexes can completely appreciate how pervasive are the details of bodily display and management by means of which gender is `done'.


Reasons for action, as explained at the beginning of the chapter, are an intrinsic part of the reflexive monitoring of action carried on by all human agents. Reasons form an ongoing feature of action -- rather than being linked as sequences or aggregates. All competent agents routinely `keep in touch' with the grounds of their behaviour as an aspect of producing and reproducing that behaviour. Reasons are distinguishable from motives, which refer to the wellsprings of action. Motives do not impinge chronically on action in the manner in which reasons do. Many aspects of routine behaviour are not directly motivated -- they are simply

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carried on as elements of day-to-day life. Motives do not exist as discrete psychological units, any more than reasons do. We should regard motivation as an underlying `feeling state' of the individual, involving unconscious forms of affect as well as more consciously experienced pangs or promptings.

Infants do not have motives, but only needs or wants. A baby, of course, is not a passive organism, but one which actively and urgently prompts caretakers to respond to its wants by its reactions to whatever regimes they might seek to impose. Needs are not motives, however, because they do not imply a cognitive anticipation of a state of affairs to be realised -- a defining characteristic of motivation. Motives are essentially born of anxiety, coupled with the learning processes whereby a sense of ontological security is engendered.

Motivation thus has to be analysed in terms of the characteristics of the basic security system, as portrayed earlier. More specifically, motives are bound up with the emotions linked to early relations of trust. Trust relations can be understood in terms of the formation of social bonds -- emotively charged ties of dependence with other persons, beginning with the ties developed with caretakers. 36 Bonds established with early caretakers, which leave resonances affecting all close social relations formed in adult life, involve emotive gestures of various kinds. Although what `an' emotion is has to be learned -- and is substantively contextual, as the constructivist interpretation of emotion has demonstrated 37 -- emotive reactions are intrinsic to the life of the very young infant. Emotional gestures, involving crying and facial expressions of contentment on the part of the child, and bodily expressions of care on the part of caretakers, are integral elements of developing social bonds.

Handling the emotional involvements of early life necessarily entangles the child in tensions affecting its bonds with caretakers. Guilt is one manifestation which the anxieties thus stimulated provoke. Guilt is anxiety produced by the fear of transgression: where the thoughts or activities of the individual do not match up to expectations of a normative sort. As Klein has persuasively demonstrated, the experience of guilt occurs much earlier in the life of the child than Freud implied. The mechanics of guilt have been very widely explored in the literature of psychoanalytic theory, but in respect of problems of self-identity, shame, which

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has been less extensively discussed, is more important. The obverse of guilt is reparation; guilt concerns things done or not done. Guilt experienced as a pervasive feature of the unconscious may affect more aspects of self-identity than shame, but its prime emphasis tends to be on discrete elements of behaviour and the modes of retribution that they suggest or entail.

Shame bears directly on self-identity because it is essentially anxiety about the adequacy of the narrative by means of which the individual sustains a coherent biography. It originates as early as guilt, since it is stimulated by experiences in which feelings of inadequacy or humiliation are provoked -- feelings that long antedate the mastery of differentiated language. Some have argued that while guilt is a private anxiety-state, shame is a public one. Yet this is not the most appropriate way to distinguish the two since both, in their most pronounced forms, concern introjected figures -- particularly on the level of the unconscious. Thus Sartre treats shame as essentially a visible phenomenon, giving as an example a man who makes a vulgar gesture when a particular event causes him some annoyance. He then realises that he is being observed: seeing himself suddenly through the eyes of the other, he feels shame. 38 But one might feel shame while entirely alone; indeed shame may be a persistent and very deep-lying form of affect, which signs that are visible to others do no more than trigger. 39 Shame depends on feelings of personal insufficiency, and these can comprise a basic element of an individual's psychological make-up from an early age. Shame should be understood in relation to the integrity of the self, while guilt derives from feelings of wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis has distinguished two general states of shame, one of which she terms `overt, undifferentiated', the other of which she calls `bypassed' shame. 40 Overt shame refers to feelings experienced by a child when it is in some way humiliated by another person. Bypassed shame is the correlate of unacknowledged guilt: it is shame that comes from unconsciously experienced anxieties about inadequacies of self. As described by Lewis, bypassed shame links directly to feelings of ontological insecurity: it consists of repressed fears that the narrative of self-identity cannot withstand engulfing pressures on its coherence or social acceptability. Shame eats at the roots of trust more corrosively than guilt, because shame is involved in a fundamental way

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with the fear of abandonment in infancy. Trust in others is the key to the development of a sense of ontological security in the young child; yet its inevitable accompaniment is the worry that absence induces.

Shame and trust are very closely bound up with one another, since an experience of shame may threaten or destroy trust. Where, for example, a person interprets -- correctly or not -- a response from another as indicating that her assumptions about others' views of her are false, the result might be to compromise a whole set of trust relations which has been built up. Basic trust is established in the child as part of the experiencing of a world that has coherence, continuity and dependability. Where such expectations are violated, the result can be that trust is lost, not only in other persons but in the coherence of the object-world. As Helen Lynd puts it, once this happens, `we have become strangers in a world where we thought we were at home. We experience anxiety in becoming aware that we cannot trust our answers to the questions, "Who am I?" "Where do I belong?" ... with every recurrent violation of trust we become again children unsure of ourselves in an alien world.' 41

Shame is a negative side of the motivational system of the agent. The other side of shame is pride, or self-esteem: confidence in the integrity and value of the narrative of self-identity. A person who successfully fosters a sense of pride in the self is one who is able psychologically to feel that his biography is justified and unitary. Sustaining feelings of pride has effects which go further than simply protecting or enhancing self-identity, because of the intrinsic relations between the coherence of the self, its relations to others, and the sense of ontological security more generally. Where central elements of self-identity are threatened, for reasons analysed earlier, other aspects of the `reality' of the world may be endangered.

Founded in the social bond, pride is continually vulnerable to the reactions of others, and the experience of shame often focuses on that `visible' aspect of self, the body. Freud in fact specifically linked shame to fears of bodily exposure and nakedness: shame originates in being naked in front of the gaze of the onlooker. Fear of being caught naked, however, is primarily a symbolic phenomenon, expressive of the tension between pride and shame

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in social interaction. The difference between guilt and shame, in terms of their salience for self-identity, is indicated by the fact that guilt has no positive correlate corresponding to pride or self-esteem.

Before continuing the discussion, it may be useful here to adapt the work of Erikson and Lynd and contrast the `guilt axis' with the `shame axis' of the personality in a categorical way -- while recognising that each enters into the attitudes and behaviour of the individual, often in the same situation.

Shame tends to have been relegated to a minor place in the psychoanalytical literature, partly because Freud wrote only sparingly about it, but more importantly because it bears on concepts -- precisely those of self and self-identity -- which are not easily integrated into mainstream psychoanalytic theory. 42 Piers and Singer link guilt and shame to the super-ego and ego-ideal

Guilt axis Shame axis
Concerned with discrete acts related to the violation of codes or taboos Concerned with the overall tissue of self-identity
Involves cumulative processes, in which autonomy is developed by surmounting repressions Involves insight into the nature of the narrative of self-identity, which does not necessarily progress in a cumulative way
Exposure of misdemeanours or transgressions Exposure of hidden traits which compromise the narrative of self-identity
Concern about violation of codes of `proper behaviour' in respect of the body Concern about the body in relation to the mechanisms of self-identity
Feeling of wrongdoing towards a respected or loved other Feeling that one is inadequate for a respected or loved other
Trust based on absence of betrayal or disloyalty Trust based on being `known to the other', where self-revelation does not incur anxieties over exposure
Surmounting of guilt leads to sentiments of moral uprightness Transcending of shame leads to secure self-identity

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respectively. 43 Guilt is anxiety brought about whenever the constraints of the super-ego are transgressed, while shame derives from a failure to live up to expectations built into the ego-ideal. According to Piers and Singer, guilt is generated `whenever a boundary is touched or transgressed', while shame `occurs when a goal ... is not being reached' and `indicates a "short coming"' 44 Rather than using the notion of ego-ideal, however we can draw on the work of Kohut to relate shame to the ideal self, a more encompassing and valuable concept. The ideal self is the `self as I want to be'.

Shame has its roots in the `archaic environment' in which the individual originally develops a sense of self-identity separate from those of the caretaking figures. The `ideal self' is a key part of self-identity, because it forms a channel of positive aspirations in terms of which the narrative of self-identity is worked out. In many instances, early omnipotence becomes moulded into a reliable sense of self-esteem, through acceptance of the imperfections and limitations of the self. A `gradual diminution of the domain and power of the grandiose fantasy', as Kohut puts it, `is in general a precondition for mental health in the narcissistic sector of the personality.' 45 The experience of shame plays a basic role in this process. However, in some circumstances, specifically in the case of narcissistic personality disorders, the sense of pride in oneself and one's accomplishments becomes overdeveloped (although hiding feelings of inferiority) or fractured. This situation Kohut describes as

the struggle of the patient who suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder to reassemble himself, the despair -- the guiltless despair, I stress, of those who [for example] in late middle age discover the basic patterns of their self as laid down in their nuclear ambitions and ideals have not been realised ... This is the time of utmost hopelessness for some, of utter lethargy, of that depression without guilt and self-directed aggression, which overtakes those who feel they have failed ... 46

Shame is directly related to narcissism, but should not be seen as necessarily accompanied by an ideal self that is overbearing in terms of its ambitions. Shame connects to difficulties individuals have in separating out their self-identity from their original

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`oneness' with the caretaking agents, and with poorly constrained omnipotence. Lack of coherence in ideals, or the difficulty of finding worthwhile ideals to pursue, may be as important in relation to shame anxiety as circumstances in which goals are too demanding to be attained.

Erikson has observed that `the patient of today suffers most under the problem of what he should believe in and who he should -- or, indeed, might -- be or become; while the patient of early psychoanalysis suffered most under inhibitions which prevented him from being what and who he thought he knew he was.' 47 In the following chapters of this study, I shall try to illuminate why such should be the case, and also indicate why, in conditions of modernity, shame rather than guilt tends to come to the fore as a feature of psychic organisation.

Date: 2016-04-22; view: 535

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