Something I wrote eons ago….sharing now, as it seems less threatening…
Long ago, in 1993 or thereabouts, I worked as a CIO at Sharjah Airport in UAE. One late evening , everyone had left as it was around 7:00pm. Being an IT professional, I – as IT professionals often do – often worked late, so I believed I was the only person in the in the whole building apart from the operations and nighttime crew that is part of an international airport and works in a restricted area. I saw a light in my bosses office, and wondering what was going on, I walked in to his office. My boss – the CEO of the airport – was only a couple of years older than me, and we shared a great rapport. It was the evening prior to Christmas eve, ie it was on the late evening on 23rd december. As I entered the room, I saw him hunched up at the head a of his very very loooooooong T shaped table. There was a foot high pile of documents on his table, and he was patiently ploughing thru them one by one. I was shocked to see him work so late, and so asked him if he intended spending this festive evening at work. He pointed at the papers, and said “If I don’t finish them today, you won’t get paid. And its Christmas, you and everyone else need to be paid !” My heart went out to him, and I muttered, “I wish I could help! It seems so lonely at the top!” He had smiled at me – a sad smile of acknowledgement, before he returned to his pile, ignoring my presence. I quietly and unobtrusively crept out of his office. There is nothing I could do, so like everyone else, I walked away. But that memory has become etched in my mind, and even after over 25 years, I still remember it as if were yesterday. He was the loneliest man I have ever seen in any professional setup ! Such is the destiny of gods.
The CAMFT Conference was a beautiful event. I was expecting an audience of around 30-40 for my lecture and almost had a stage fright when I heard the number of people who had signed up. But such a large audience oddly charged me up after a few minutes. My apologies for running out of handouts. I was asked to put the presentation up on CAMFT website. For reasons of professional and personal ethics, I am reluctant but I would be happy to email them to those who feel the need for it.
My topic was “Symbolic Quest for the Father.” A significantly more detailed and better version of what I had posted under a blogpost of the same name a few months ago. Although I m unable to post the paper here due to reasons of professional ethics and mandated requirements of the Board of Behavioral Sciences, I will briefly discuss the contents as they formed the base from which emerged a question of god and deity that I wish to explore today.
I had used the Jungian and Lacanian Psychoanalytic approach for conceptual model that defined the framework of a father’s role. As Lacan has said, the “Name of the Father” or the “Law of the Father” defines the character of the child in so many ways. And during the making of that presentation my mind would often wonder to the role of God, the symbolic and universal father, of which the biological father is but a representation, in forming the character of humanity. And the explorations into the realm of god were meaningful and profound for me, because I could see how the world is what it is today. I could also relate to the profound sense of power, coupled with isolation and sense of loneliness that gods of our world must experience – the gods that are heads of the world institutions that shape the future, the politicians of the world, the celebrities and all those that are in positions of authority.
Kalinich and Taylor discuss Michalangelo’s creation of God and Adam. In it, we see man and God lying facing each other, both pointing their index fingers at one another. A very small but visible space separates both fingers. The authors posit that this space is of extreme importance, forbidding any fusion between god and man, and compelling us to think of discontinuities between the deity and humanity, but also between people that belong to the different social and hierarchical structures. What does this separation entail, what is the outcome of the separation, and why is it necessary?
I wonder if god is aware of the power he/she/they/it wields on human beings. And I mean to talk about emotional power, not just the physical power. We humans grow up revering the gods, we carry their images in our hearts, we fantasize about them, we dream about them, we write about them, we imitate them and we yearn and strive to become like them. I often wonder if Dante had ended up marrying Beatrice, would he have ever been able to create The Divine Comedy ? She was his guide in paradiso, a guide that enabled his encounter with god. And so, it seems, this distance between the gods and the deities is necessary for psychological growth.
If that distance is bridged, if the gods become human, or if the humans attempt to manifest their godliness, all that is sacred becomes mundane, profane, with dire consequences.
Incidentally, this is the philosophy between prohibition of therapist-client dual relationship, and such relationships are a great metaphor for a relationship between deity and humans. The deity wields enormous psychological power on the mortals. The mortals, no matter how strong, resilient and powerful, are always vulnerable to the power of the deity – physical, emotional, political, social power. As long as the mandated distance is maintained, the two remain in the mutually enhancing relationship, for the deity needs a mortal to worship him, and the mortal needs a role model to worship and emulate. But in the realm of the gods, the deity is aware of his personal power on humans, and depending on the culture one is exploring, the gods are either benevolent, or spoilt, malevolent and punitive in their superiority over man.
The deity like person, on the other hand, is usually blissfully unaware of the power he wields. And this lack of awareness can be compounded by his need for connection, which makes him step down from his assigned role, the cross of success, and attempt to mingle with the common man. In that step down is humbleness, and need that is almost human, but not quite. The experience of his divinity stays with the person, regardless, of his attempts to bridge the gap.
From a very personal experience, I can vouch that the bridging of the distance has extremely, extremely negative repercussions. Long ago, I was in long term psychotherapy, and like every client in a psychotherapeutic relationship, I revered my psychologist. I believed we had a good rapport, which is a necessary requirement in psychotherapy. Unbeknown to myself, he was attracted to me. Which in itself is not a bad or a negative thing, as long as the psychologist can maintain the boundaries, and does not let the client know about it. Unfortunately this one did let me know, and a proposition followed. The sense of betrayal was so intensely traumatic for me, that it debilitated me for almost 3 years thereafter even though I had stopped my therapy. During this time I suffered physically thru severe sickness, emotionally thru depression, and financially due to inability to work due to illness caused by boundary violations. The psyche is incapable of distinguishing between emotional and physical acts. Something that is experienced, causing suffering. That experience could be physical, or mental. It is not uncommon to see people die of emotional shock. And all emotional betrayal of this kind is experienced as an incensuous relationships – as traumatic as a sexual relationship with a father. A god. A deity. (Buddha was right on with his teaching of RIGHT THOUGHT).
A god had dared to transgress into my personal space, and bridged the psychological distance between us. The ideal that I had nourished, and that which nourished me in turn was reduced to mundane in that moment. The heaven of that sacred psychological space was revealed to as ugly, as fallible as the earth. There was nothing to aspire to. I had nowhere left to go for healing. In that moment I realised there were no real gods. I was alone. I had only myself to depend upon. The issue that perhaps my psychologist saw as being carelessly local between me and him, became universal as I projected this incident on the world and the universe around me in a struggle to understand myself, these debilitating emotions, and the universe. Why was my body failing, breaking down? Because all dreams, all illusions I had – about life, about relationships, about humanity, about everything – were shattered, and had to be recreated. The words trust, faith, integrity, needed to be reassessed. Everything, each and everything needed to be redefined in the context of lack of ideal. New ideals needed to be set up. It is a HUGE and stupendous task. The sickness, and the low point that my life reached were actually a demolition of my conditioned thinking. Now I knew the reality of a god. A new world, based on reality, and new ideals, new relationships, had to be constructed before I could step into it. My relationships my surroundings had to be redefined in the light of this incident. I could either grow, or I could shrivel and die. I chose growth. But such growth has its disadvantages. It reveals true picture of the world, it robs one of innocence. If we have had a decent upbringing where our caregivers have been nice and loving, our psyche is protected from these true pictures of the world. But a faultline like this shatters those illusions of safety. I would not wish it on anyone.
That I ultimately grew from the experience is obvious. But it took every ounce of courage to remain rooted. I directed all my energy to self exploration and discovery – without which I would have scattered, and it would have been impossible to collect myself together.
Since then, this picture has held a great significance for me, and a sense of personal space has assumed importance that it never had. Because no one had ever breached that personal space, I had been impervious to it, I did not even notice it. But subsequently, the scarred psyche, terrified forever, now defends that space with a vengeance, constructing barriers to intimacy. Such adaptations of the psyche are in service of healing, caution and preservation of life – they are preventive. These adaptations are honorable and must be honored. However, they are irreversible.
It is different than a normal rape. In an episode of rape, if the perpetrator is a person that is unknown or despised by the victim, the psychological harm is still intense, but the fact that someone you trusted would do this to you, adds layers and layers of intensity and untold misery to the already traumatic event.
I often wonder how people who impose emotional, physical or financial hardship on others are able to look themselves in the mirror for the rest of their lives. I often wonder what kind of defenses they build to prevent themselves from dissolving in their own shame. The same barriers that people who molest their children build up to keep on keeping on. Some kind of justification that I did nothing wrong, that it was nothing that it did not affect her or him, I was just joking….and lastly – she is weird/mentally unstable….or the children brought it onto themselves, the children did not refuse, or protest….(I even heard one parent I know say – “the children still like me!” Duh! ) Blaming the victim is not uncommon in these circumstances… ….I guess I will never know how a perpetrator feels….mercifully, thankfully, I will never know…I don’t want to know……and thank god I will never know…
Personal spaces are created for a reason. They are meant to protect you from psychological harm. It is imperative that we each revere our personal space, and guard it with vengeance, that we allow no one, not even a god, to cross into that space. For this sacred space is the space within which trust, faith, confidence as well as the intellect grows. The distance and the stretch actually enhances the internal space where imagination and all symbols foster and make themselves felt. Breach this space, and the chance that you have of growing, is lost forever. What was an asset, becomes a liability. It is equally important that no matter how lonely, and isolated we feel within our own world, we must remain aware of the personal space of others, and always respect and honor that space – no matter what the emotional cost to us. For in that space, they are nurturing their trust, faith and confidence. They are stretching the wings of their imagination and reaching out to heavens. It is best that heaven always remain out of reach. The real world is an uncertain, nasty, ugly place, its people are liars, cheats, thugs, rapists, murderers. So dream about perfection are a necessity to create a compensatory balance. It is important that we dream about perfection, about beauty. About faith and trust. About certainty. It is necessary that we trust. Something, someone. Absolutely. For it is that trust which we then assimilate within, and that which allows us to trust humans despite the fact that humans are essentially untrustworthy. The beauty and allure of the gods, and the heavens is preserved by the fact that these are ideals, they inspire human beings to strive, they are absolutes, never to be achieved, never to be attained. In our imaginations, they are incapable of ugliness that we see around it. As Jung would say – we are healed by believing in something greater than ourselves. And so, attaining the unattainable, mingling with gods is a violation of the personal space. It reduces them in stature, they become of this world. As imperfect, as fragile. Such a movement is disillusioning. It causes the fear of certainty as the ideal is now demolished, and we know for sure that the god is fallible. What will we now believe in? How will our faith be restored? Who will protect us? Who will guide and inspire us? What is lost, can never be restored, there is no going back. Such violation of space may bring temporary sexual relief to one party, or even to both, but often the costs associated with such violations are horrendous. Especially for the aspiring mortal. The one lower in the hierarchy. For the one higher in the hierarchy, they are debilitating in that they breed narcissism, sociopathy, and a sense of false victory.
So here is to someone whose ideals have let them down – build new ideals that are realistic, and that are based on your internal strength. Thou Art That. You are the god. You do not need external ideals.
And here’s to all those who step into the personal space of others – pick someone your own size, pick another god, someone who is not emotionally vulnerable to you and does not hold you in awe. Isolation and loneliness is not a reason to transgress someone else’s space. Remember the story of Apollo and Daphne. Times have changed. The malevolent gods of the Greek rape culture died a well deserved death long long ago. Even Yehweh did not survive and was replaced by a more compassionate and just Jesus Christ. And so, it is incumbent on you to be aware and sensitive about personal spaces of others and no matter how hard it is to remain rooted in a personal sense of ethics, that is what you must do to prevent harm to others, and to yourself.