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16: Self Reification

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Courtney Thomas

on 25 April 2018

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Transcript of 16: Self Reification

Nations & Nationalities
Lecture 17

The Process of Self-Reification
Consequences of Self-Reification
Examples of Self-Reification
The Self As a Prisoner to the Will
In self-reification identity becomes collapsed
So that the “many me’s” alive in the world
Become hostage to the paralyzed “I”
Now enclosed within the body
The self becomes a prisoner to the body and the body a prison to the will
In self-reification
Self-understanding becomes lost
In a sea of self-contempt and self-denial:
We detach from ourselves and thus are divorced from the possibilities of cosmic self-worth
We become concretized objects of disgust to ourselves

All human freedom is situated
The body and its mortality define our freedom and its limitations
To deny the situatedness of freedom
Anchored by the sense of personal presence in one’s body
Is to reject the fate of all
And to forget humility in the face of human destiny

The Situatedness of Freedom
The Fallacy of False Concreteness
Self-reification of the self leads to the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness”
In which a person reduces his or her own freedom to a contemptible “thing” as a way of rejecting the “possibility of possibilities” (Kierkegaard)
The reified self thus assumes that the situatedness his or her own freedom is more contemptible than the situatedness experienced by others and in so doing denies that ALL human freedom is situated
Persons caught in self reification fall into two traps of freedom
In mania the self lives in the infinity of possibilities as a way of denying the situatedness of freedom (Slacker)
In despair the self becomes fixed, paralyzed, consumed, or disabled by the situatedness of freedom as a way of denying that the freedom it has, though situated, is freedom nonetheless (Siker)

Willing the Unwillable and the Logic of Illogic
When we realize that the freedom we have is not the freedom we want
We will the unwillable freedom that we desire but can never have
We then create a “logic of illogic” that rationalizes and justifies
Self-contempt, self-rejection, self-disgust, and the denial of cosmic self-worth
The “internal dialogue” that constitutes an interior “logic of illogic” represents
What a we say to ourselves when we justify:
The inability to make a difference in the lives of others
The rejection of our courage to be in the world
And our refusal to live in hope and courage whatever our limitations

In introjection, the self directs contempt ,disgust, rage, hate inwardly in ways that paralyze the spirit
Introjection represents an ontological stage in the psychological/emotional dynamics of reification
In which a person with a detached sense of self-understanding attributes a frozen, fixed, given nature to its own “inadequate” being
In such a way as to judge its being futile, useless, without hope, and without meaning

The End of Introjected Hate
When the self becomes detached from the sense of its own freedom and loses courage and hope in the world it no longer has a reason to exist
The ontological consequences are painful and poignant
Substance Abuse
Eating Disorders
Self Mutilation and Cutting

I had become obsessively preoccupied in particular with this disturbing interconnectivity of things, the way the most insignificant of decisions might have ramifications you could never know about when you made them. You stop for gas at the 7-Eleven and thereby miss getting hit by a car that runs the red light in the intersection you would have been crossing if you hadn’t stopped. At the last minute you decide to go to the movie and step into the lobby just as the disgruntled ex-boyfriend of the popcorn girl opens fire with his semiautomatic. I found it paralyzing difficult to make even the simplest decisions. So much hung in the balance, so many complicated parameters needed to be taken into consideration, yet always there was too little information, no way to know what outcomes could result. Life was a terrifying, invisible web of consequences. What mayhem might I unknowingly wreak by saying yes when I could have said no, by going east instead of west.
–Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game
Paralysis in the World
A Crime Against Nature
It “mortifies me now when I listen to women in the thick of it telling me how much better they feel when they barf, when they talk about the release, the comfort, the power, however illusory and short-lived, of being able to conquer nature. Of being able to spit in the face, or rather puke on the shoes, of this material realm. I remember that relief, that power. I miss it. It hurts like a sonofabitch. It’s disgusting but it was my safeguard, my sure thing, my security, my life for all those years. It was something I knew for sure, no question, that I was good at. I knew it would be there for me when I needed it.” She goes on to acknowledge that what she was doing was wrong. She explains, “Not wrong in the sense of sinful, but wrong in a human sense—a crime against nature, the body, the soul, the self…I had a clear, haunting knowledge that my eating disorder was cruelty. We forget this. We think of bulimia and anorexia as either a bizarre psychosis or as a quirky little habit, a phase, or as a thing that women just do. We forget that it is a violent act, that it bespeaks a profound level of anger toward and fear of the self.”
–Marya Hornbacher
“It had never occurred to me that the illness could be the outcome of such serious problems as poverty, addiction, and abandonment. In an odd way, it was a relief, because it made being anorexic seem less silly and perverse. In some circumstances, it was the only available outlet for distress…[Anorexia became] a source of comfort; a means of escaping from intolerable situations; a language, if a garbled one, in which to express our anger and unhappiness…When it comes to her body, as in many aspects of her life, the anorexic wants both to satisfy social expectations and to escape them. While I was anorexic, I believed that I saw myself accurately and that I knew I was too thin. I could see my bony wrists and the sad way that my jeans sagged where my butt should have been. But I observed these physical details with detachment. I would stand in front of the mirror and say out loud to my reflection, ‘You look terrible!’ In my mind, it was as though the girl in the mirror were another person, who persisted in her illness without my real, rational self having anything to do with it…when an anorexic says, ‘I feel fat,’ she is really trying to express something else: that she feels sad, or lonely, or angry.”
Kate Taylor, Going Hungry: Writers on Desire, Self-Denial, and Overcoming Anorexia
I Feel Fat
Dread of the Future
“The plan fact of it was that I was miserable—though my misery was not so much sadness as it was a shrieking unease, a gnawing despair, which I had been trying that morning to cut out of myself. I knew how I felt but I couldn’t come up with a good enough reason why I should feel that way…I could see myself tragic and tortured, wasted by some suitably novel madness or malaise that would leave me wanly luminous, a brave inspiration to friends and family…Life had cast me, however, for another role. I was the contract player, the antic sidekick, the supporting chorus, and it was only the lead players whose troubles counted in the plot…When parts were handed out, my sister was cast as the ingénue—emotionally delicate, quixotic, and temperamental—while I’d been cued as a Falstaff, forever bumbling about on the sidelines. Whether we’d chosen those roles, or whether we’d fallen into them by chance, or whether I was the only one who ever even saw them that way, to me these positions seemed as inevitable and inalterable as time itself…I needed to kill something in me, this awful feeling like worms tunneling along my nerves. So when I discovered the razor blade, cutting, if you’ll believe me, was my gesture of hope. That first time, when I was twelve, was like some kind of miracle, a revelation…All the chaos, the sound and fury, the uncertainty and confusion and despair—all of it evaporated in an instant, and I was for that moment grounded, coherent, whole…it didn’t take much to make me cut. Frustration, humiliation, insecurity, guilt, remorse, loneliness—I cut ‘em all out. They were like a poison, caustic and destructive, as though lye had been siphoned into my veins. The only way I could survive them, I thought, was to keep draining them from my body…I cut for dread of the future.” –Caroline Kettlewell
Addiction “is like fuel for a fire; you feed the fire with everything at hand, yet it is never satisfied. The embers devour everything you give and roar for satiety while you ache with an overwhelming urge to fill a void that cannot and will never be filled--as if your gut has been stripped away to leave little more than a hollow pit at your core. You yearn to fill the hole, of course, but somehow you simply can't. A craving is a desire to discover what is missing, to find that last piece to the puzzle. Unfortunately, we addicts attempt to fulfill our hunger by using. We empty needles into our veins and bottles into our stomachs to escape the pain of not being whole, of being incomplete. Ducking from the looming shadow of what we lack, in an alley we stifle our feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness only to have them reemerge ever stronger once the buzz wears off. These feelings inevitably morph in an all-consuming entity--just as our using does. And eventually, we suffocate under the weight of self-hatred and shame, ultimately losing any sense of who we are. And what do we do then? We run and hide. We cling to the illusory loyalty of our drugs, crawling to the deepest recesses of our bottle for refuge. Our spiritual growth is stagnant, and yet the progression of our disease becomes so powerful that we lose all respect for ourselves and for others. We become selfish; we cut off any attempts at salvation from friends and family. But the most tragic loss rarely involves parents, friends, or children—with addiction, we are left to grieve the death of ourselves.”
–Ronnie Steele
Grieving the Death of Yourself
All Consuming Despair
“It was one thing to know that she had been desperately unhappy, but the fact that she had wanted to die, that she had felt that she had no future before her, was crushing. She was not a dramatic, self-involved person, acting out to get attention. She was kind and sweet, generally thinking of others before herself. How had she lost the will to live While reading her sister’s journal she discovered that the deep pain of self-contempt and hopelessness had afflicted her sister for many years. She read, “I need out. Why doesn’t my chest stop hurting? I don’t think I have any tears left to cry. I wish I would get cancer or something so I could just die. I don’t want to live anymore this way. It’s too unsatisfying. All I am is unhappy, unsure, depressed. I need a way out. Please help!” Her sister continues, “Why can’t I be smart and beautiful and lovable? Why did his feelings change? What did I do that made him love me less? I think everyone needs some sense of security. To feel wanted by someone.”Bialosky writes of her sister, “She sees herself alone, separated from mankind, a ‘nobody,’ having already given up her name, her day-clothes, her responsibilities to society…Her world has become deeply internalized. Even her beloved family, like ‘smiling hooks,’ is dangerous because of how acutely she feels she has failed them. Yet, still she is attached, unable to escape their expectations. She sets up barriers between herself and those she loves, as if to protect herself from them, and them from her, in the process further alienating herself until her despair becomes all-consuming.”
Jill Bialosky, History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life
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