Monday, March 08, 2010

Maximizing Our Potential with Rollo May 11

Chapter 11 of Rollo May's book is entitled Courage, the Virtue of Maturity. This is an excellent title. As one gets older, and hopefully more mature, the easier it is to be authentic, or at least it should be. This growing maturity brings personal growth with it. It becomes easier to say "no," to be able to know what one likes and dislikes, to be able to not feel obliged to join this group or that, to say X or Y, to do A or B, to decide not to get annoyed when R or S play power games or mind games. We learn that we can decide what our attitudes are going to be. I have decided not to let A annoy me about person B or this or that problem. In other words we can always decide how we are going to feel about certain issues.

Returning to Rollo May's words: "Courage is the basic value for everyone as long as he continues to grow, or move ahead. It is, as Ellen Glascow remarks, 'the only lasting virtue.'" (May, op.cit., p. 168) We need courage to many things: courage to face the day, to face others, "to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet" as T.S. Eliot put it in his wonderful poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. We also need courage to face ourselves. As soon as the courage in dealing with one's self is achieved, "one can with much greater equanimity meet the threats of the external situation." (Ibid., 169) May goes on to define courage as "the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom." (Ibid., p. 169) Because authenticity is so important in any relationships, and so is courage. It takes real courage to be authentic and real courage, then, is the basis of all creative relationships. I remember hearing a priest of my aquaintance quip once: "If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything!" How true this quip really is. Let us return to Dr. May's insightful words on creativity and courage: of the reasons creative activity takes so much courage is that nto create stands for becoming free from the ties to the infantile past, breaking the old in order that the new can be born... Every act of genuine creativity means achieving a higher level of self-awareness and personal freedom, and that, as we have seen in the Promethean and Adam myths, may involve considerable inner conflict. (May, op.cit., p. 172)
May goes on to state that every subsequent act of courage is a new birth for the person - the constant birthing of the self.  At each of these transitional periods or steps of growth, it is as if the person suffers anew the pangs of his own birth,  He goes on to argue that at then end of the day all courage is essentially moral courage.

Narcissism - The opposite Pole to Courage

May defines narcissism as the compulsive need to be praised, to be liked, and that for this base reason people give up their courage.  After all, it will take great courage to be authentic, to be your real and true self, to be able to say honestly what you think about issue A, B or C, real courage to say "no" to a person and to cease being "fawning" in one's behaviour, either towards colleauges or bosses.  Indeed, both vanity and narcissism undermines one's courage because then "one fights on someone else's convictions, not one's own." (Ibid., p. 177)

Insight into God

I have felt for the past 12 years since I gave up all practice of religion that God is more of a psychological projection of humankind's needs than actually a being existing in some outer space or inner space or beyond space realm.  To this extent, I can heartily agree with May where he contends that God is quite simply a metaphor for my inner self or for my very centre of personhood or the very locus of my value system:

Imagine what would have occurred if Socrates at his trial had tried to argue against his Athenian accusers on the basis of their assumptions, their laws.  All the difference in the world is made by his presuppositions, 'Men of Athens, I will obey God rather than you,' which as we have seen above, meant for him finding his guides for conduct in the inn ermost centre of himself. (Ibid., p. 179)

To be continued.

Above I have uploaded another picture I took in the Musei Vaticani Eebruary, 2010. Egyptian figureens - wouldn't Freud have loved these?

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