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A Species In DenialResignation

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A history of analysis of resignation

Resignation is the most important psychological event to occur in human life and yet it is very rarely acknowledged and almost never discussed and analysed.

In the extremely insecure, evasive, alienated times we currently live in, resignation is almost totally denied. Only recently on an Oprah Winfrey program titled, Is Your Child Depressed?, Dr Siegler, author of the latest evasive, mechanistic book on adolescence, The Essential Guide to the New Adolescence: how to raise an emotionally healthy teenager, arrogantly proclaimed to depressed adolescents sitting before her that their depression was nothing more than their ‘puberty hormones…overwhelming them’ (15 May 2000). Similarly, a recent newspaper article was published under the heading ‘Lost GenerationAdolescence is a vulnerable stage of life. But in Australia, it is potentially fatal. Youth suicide is on the increase’. It gave the following explanation for youth suicide: ‘“They [adolescents] are having to come to terms with a huge amount of change”, says Bronwyn Donaghy, author of Leaving Early, a book on youth suicide. “From the changes going on with their bodies; the transition into sexual beings; changing relationships with parents; exams and looking for employment”’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Aug. 2000). There is no acknowledgment in these words of the real issue involved of resignation. What has been said is all evasive ‘bullshit’ or ‘cave speak’, to use Plato’s allegory.

The reason depression and youth suicide are increasing worldwide at such a rapid rate is because of the equally rapid increase in alienation around the world. The level of dishonesty that humans are now practicing is so great that new generations arriving in the world find it almost unbearable. Resigned alienated people are blind to their level of falseness but it is visible to the innocent and to young people who have not yet resigned.

A 1999 book by clinical psychologist Dr Michael Yapko, titled Hand-Me-Down Blues, records that ‘someone born since 1945 is likely to be up to 3 times more depressed than their parents and 10 times more than their grandparents’. A recent book about depression states that ‘Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people over the age of five’ (Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon, 2001).

Jeff Kennett, former Premier of Victoria, recently established a Page 230 of
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National Institute for Depression in Australia. It is obvious that without any acknowledgment or awareness of the real issue of the human condition this institute can hope to achieve little beyond offering comfort and support. In fact to young, pre-resigned adolescents it will be just another fraudulent adult enterprise that they will have to endure, another brick in the wall, another load of ‘bullshit’.

Humanity is approaching end-game, the situation where the mind cannot adapt to any more dishonesty without going completely mad. Despite the necessary brave front humans have put on, the truth is that alienation/ depression/ loneliness is now an epidemic on Earth. As Nobel laureate Albert Camus observed, ‘This world is poisoned by its misery, and seems to wallow in it. It has utterly surrendered to that evil which Nietzsche called the spirit of heaviness [depression](The Almond Trees, an essay, 1940; first pub. in Summer, 1954, p.34 of 87).

There has been scarcely any truthful acknowledgment and analysis of resignation in our society. The following is the full collection of analysis of the phenomenon of resignation that I have found since 1975 when I first started to actively write about the human condition.

In his 1974 book, He: Understanding Masculine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson, a highly regarded practitioner of Jungian principles, describes firstly the agony of resignation, then life in the soul-destroyed, schizoid, alienated world of reality, and finally the hope of eventual reconciliation and return to an upset-free, healed state of unity of self. ‘It is painful to watch a young man become aware that the world is not just joy and happiness, to watch the disintegration of his childlike beauty, faith, and optimism. This is regrettable but necessary. If we are not cast out of the Garden of Eden, there can be no heavenly Jerusalem…According to tradition, there are potentially three stages of psychological development for a man. The archetypal pattern is that one goes from the unconscious perfection of childhood, to the conscious imperfection of middle life, to conscious perfection of old age. One moves from an innocent wholeness, in which the inner world and the outer world are united, to a separation and differentiation between the inner and outer worlds with an accompanying sense of life’s duality, and then, hopefully, at last to satori or enlightenment, a conscious reconciliation of the inner and outer once again in harmonious wholeness…we have to get out of the Garden of Eden before we can even start for the heavenly Jerusalem, even though they are the same place. The man’s first step out of Eden into the pain of duality gives him his Fisher King wound…Alienation is the current term for it’ (pp.10,11 of 97). (The ‘Fisher King’ referred to is a character in the great European Page 231 of
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legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table.)

In his 1949 book, The Origins and History of Consciousness, Erich Neumann, an analytical psychologist who has been described as Carl Jung’s most gifted student, fully recognised the battle of the human condition that took place when consciousness first emerged in our human ancestors; namely the battle between their already established non-understanding, ‘unconscious’, instinctual self and their newly emerging ‘conscious’, intellectual self. Since then this battle has been re-fought in each human’s life at the time of resignation, and as such the following account can also be applied to what occurs at resignation. Neumann wrote: ‘Whereas, originally, the opposites could function side by side without undue strain and without excluding one another, now, with the development and elaboration of the opposition between conscious and unconscious, they fly apart. That is to say, it is no longer possible for an object to be loved and hated at the same time. Ego and consciousness identify themselves in principle with one side of the opposition and leave the other in the unconscious, either preventing it from coming up at all, i.e., consciously suppressing it, or else repressing it, i.e., eliminating it from consciousness without being aware of doing so. Only deep psychological analysis can then discover the unconscious counterposition’ (p.117 of 493).

While Neumann understood the essential conflict involved in the human condition he did not explain the reason for the conflict. That explanation is given in the preceding essay in the section, ‘How our soul became corrupted’. Essentially, while unconscious instincts can orientate animals’ behaviour so that they survive, the conscious intellect needs to understand cause and effect for it to be able to know how to behave. When the conscious intellect sets out to find understanding of existence, the already established instinctive orientations unwittingly, as it were, challenge that search, try to stop it, and a battle between the instinct and intellect, the ‘unconscious’ and ‘conscious’, arises. For any who are interested, I have written an essay about Neumann’s book, The Origins and History of Consciousness, which the WTM is happy to make available.

For Robert A. Johnson and Erich Neumann to have been so penetrating of the issue of the human condition they must be denial-free thinkers, contemporary scientist-prophets.