Sunday, July 11, 2010

Power, Reality & Narcissism

Definitions are a good place to start.

First, "reality." It's less a matter of the specific content or "what reality is" or what is "real" & what is "true." Let's begin with what Freud meant by the "reality principle." It's those things over which one has no control. The experience of reality refers to the Unexpected. The unexpected, unforeseen, and unguessed events in life lead to the inference and eventual discovery that some things are independent and even at odds with my wants, needs, and desires. Unexpectedness importantly provides an escape from the family and all-too-regular sequence of events that make up everyday life. Long ruminations on unexpected and unfamiliar events leads to the suspicion that familiar circumstances are happy accidents, and not the blessing of a benevolent deity, or of right living, or even of a positive attitude. More understanding, fewer surprises.

Second, "power." Power: capacity and ability to make things happen by rearranging and changing circumstances; ideally so as to lead satisfaction of needs, wants, and desires. The experience of reality leads initially to feeling of a want of power. Hence impotence, feelings of weakness, and more impotence. A modicum of power presents tempts to an arrangement of circumstances so as to avoid experiencing the limits of one's capacity to arrange circumstances. The "love of power for power's sake" misleads. The so-called love of power loves fruits of power consequent with mistrust and squabbling over a too meager harvest. Genuine love of power wants more power. The increase in power is pleasure and happiness itself. A power-mad person would live at the limits of their power: joy and suffering becoming indistinguishable.

Third, narcissism. Originally love of self. See the myth of Narcissus. Popular culture construes it to mean what used to be called egoism and selfishness. A lack of consideration of others feelings, desires, and needs. Thusly considered the embodiment of instrumental reason. Considered as a power problem the narcissist is in love with the fruits of power, fearing loss, impotence, and death. But only to the extent that the narcissist strives for equilibrium and a status quo. Could a narcissist strive for equilibrium only upend it so as to strive for an even more profound balance, even if only momentarily?

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