The process of adjustment, which , in my treatise Life and Life Energy (http://www.fermentmagazine.org/psychology.html) is called “The Rebirth Mechanism”, refers to the activity of a living psyche as it copes with and is reshaped by a perpetually unstable environment. As a creative process that “gives birth” to some greater entity, some extension or transformation of Being, it embodies several fruitful analogies with the physical process whereby children are engendered and born.
These comparisons bear little resemblance to what Freud meant when he asserted that the whole of our psychic life has a sexual basis, since he was talking about manifest external attachments to real fathers, mothers, siblings, etc. The result of this sort of fabulous thinking is a fantastic mish-mash of concrete and abstract, ,myth and fact, philosophy and pretentious, abusive psychology. In any case, it little matters whether Sigmund Freud’s insights were meaningless or profound. As a source of psychiatric methods that really cure people, they have been a spectacular failure, which is the final word for any and all medical therapies. One contrasts his legacy with that of Franz Anton Mesmer, who did not lack his own forms of charlatanism. The fact that Mesmer believed that his cures were related to the powers of magnetism under favorable astrological conjunctions of stars and planets, is of very little importance as a historical curiosity. What is important is that he was the author of numerous cures of psychosomatic symptoms, as testified by reliable witnesses (Including that of Mozart and his father! Here is a link to one chapter of my novel, “Hysteria and Enlightenment” (available as a Kindle E-Book from Amazon:
In Life and Life Energy 3 e states of emotion , or passions, are identified as the fundamental bases for all others: Anxiety, Anger (a form of counter-anxiety) and Depression. They reappear as the ingredients of the passions of Greed, Hatred and Delusion in classical Buddhism. In some sense the emotional states represent that phenomenon in the Buddhist passions, that their possessor is trying to escape: The “Greed Type” is in flight from the sufferings of a terrifying future, and drugs himself with sensual pleasures; the “Hate type” flees the inevitability of death and similar assaults by force, violence if necessary, and a fortress mentality; the “Delusion type” flees a deeply depressing, indeed imtolerable present through the indulgence in day-dreams, reveries and fantasies.
( contemplation of a situation prior to taking action) , will differ in its temporal mode:
Anxiety: Fear of and flight from the future.
(2)Depression: Fear of and flight from the Present (withdrawal)
(3) Anger: Fear of and flight, painful and unacceptable truths (denial), such as the certainty of death.
In analogy with the physical processes of engendering: we will designate the class of observations, experiences, conscious and unconscious memories, and general predispositions which are contemplated in a passive state prior to action, as the Father;
We will designation the transition from this to the next phase, (think of as the death of the some former conception of Self prior to the activity that leads to the creation of a new conception of Self) the activity in which one’s sense of self-image is restored or reformulated in a state of psychic pregnancy, that creative process, fraught with anxiety but also with excitement and adventure, the womb or workshop whereby a new redefinition of Being is being assembled, as the Mother.
Finally we will designate the result, fruit or consequence of this process, which in the case of the 3 fundamentally and insufficient mental states, is accompanied by a drastic separation from the originating self (this will be explained in more detail), may be as the Child.
Thus, contemplation leads to creative action through the passing away of the original state of Being, then transits to renewed Being through the process of Rebirth.
With regard to the familiar passions, this process can be along one of the 3 imperfect paths, or along a 4th path, that of complete or wholesome fulfillment.
For the 3 imperfect paths the contemplation of ideas and experiences (Being , the Father) is neutral; the activity of pregnancy (The mother, Becoming) is pleasurable; while the consequences, that is to say, the reborn Child, is one of suffering and disaster. They bear all the trappings in other words, of Greek tragedy, and chronicle the inevitable retribution against the various forms of hubris.
In this “false rebirth”, the “Child” is born from an agony of “separation” from the two initial states, contemplation and action. (Father and Mother) . In authentic rebirth the Child is an integrated extension of the two preceding phases: the child of the spirit is a true gift and does not occasion a rupture from the process that brought it into being.
A Note on the temporal modes
When speaking of the modalities of time, a distinction must be made between Past, Present and Future as presented in scientific or Newtonian time, and the contemplation by the living mind of past, present and future phenomena, ambitions, aspirations, disappointments, pains and pleasures. The contemplation or reflection on events that have happened , are happening , or may happen , is always “present” , which is in some sense, the “timeless mode” of consciousness. A Zen Buddhist writer has expressed this very nicely, in a way that in some sense, speaks to the essence of its philosophy:
“The only certainty we have is death; but all that we know is life.”
Referring once again to the language and concepts of “Life and Life Energy” : We refer to the sequence of stages and transitions of the fundamental emotional states of anxiety, anger and depression as “mechanisms” . Although these mental states in Buddhist psychology are given the names of Greed, Hatred and Delusion, we will avoid as much as possible use of moralistic terms, though we will be speaking of morality as well.
The Anxiety Mechanism:
Reflections of the anxious mind on memories, observations,
experiences and neutral data, combined with anxiety about an uncertain and potentially painful future, creates tendencies manifested in present behavior associated with the pursuit of sensual pleasure, a kind of intense pain medication applied to the suffering of mere existence: carnality, lusts, gratification of appetites, over-indulgence, a hedonistic existence in which one is at the mercy of one’s immediate passions.
The “fruit” or “child” of carnality is anxiety, illness, fear of retribution, desperate measures to shore up an instable existence against real or imagined woes (hypochondria for example) . This translates into intense anxiety, even terror from the contemplation of all the dire possibilities that might arise in the future.
Note once again the analogy with the sequence of birthing stages associated with sexual activity and its consequences.
The Anger Process or Mechanism:
The reflections of a mind prone to anger, even hatred, dwell obsessively upon actions that must be taken to ward off dangers, threats, paranoid exaggerations of slights and insults, leading to the emergence of ambitions towards dominance, accumulation of power, envy, denial, projection of one’s own faults and vices on others, fears and prejudices. I know of no better portrayal of this state than what is Sophocles wrote in the script of Oedipus Rex .
The stage of contemplation (the Father), moves to that of Action (the Mother) . Effective and immediate action is taken against all threats, real or imagined from an uncertain future. These actions can be , either in terms of some spontaneous or rash act that is often regretted (Claudius’ murder of his brother in Hamlet . ) or in the the form of a lengthy working out of some scheme of revenge, a coup d’état, etc.
In this state, manifested in greater or lesser degrees in all human beings, the personality is dictatorial by instinct, yet at the same time plagued by a deep sense of inferiority, of being forced into opposition against superior odds.
The fruit, child, or consequence of this behavior will be in terms of regret, remorse, guilt, shame, grief at injuries done to others or oneself, a sense of having acted from blind folly, ruining all that one set out to accomplish. What is power without a power base, what is the rule over a country when that country has been destroyed? One looks for example at the present carnage in Syria, helpless to intervene in the intention of Bashir Al- Assad of destroying his entire country rather than relinquish power.
One thinks of another play by Sophocles, the Antigone. The tyrannical ruler of Thebes, Creon, sends his niece, Antigone, to her death. This leads his son to commit suicide and the ultimate overthrow of Creon’s rule. This is discussed in some detail in my essay on Antigone that can be read on Ferment Magazine:http://www.fermentmagazine.org/essays2/sophocles.pdf
Depression as Process and Mechanism:
The progression of stages is similar, but begins through the
planting of the seeds of action, in thought, derived from the contemplation of a painful present, combined with the recognition that rectification in the future has been sabotaged, blocked, or is simply not available. Reflections on hopelessness lead to morbid depression. The frustration of wishes, ambitions, goals, desires, gives way to states of reverie, dreaming, fantasy, imagination, nostalgia, and even delusions, that is to say, errors in the appraisal of one’s own being or situation.
The indulgence in day-dreaming, akin to nostalgia for an
imagined past, can result in a pleasurable withdrawal, and corresponds to the “active” phase of the phenomenon of depression.
The fruit, child or consequence of these activities, the result of
inaction, sloth, laziness or neglect, is that of the shock of recognition when brought face-to-face with reality. One thinks of the pitiable tragedy of the Earl of Essex, who, on the basis of nothing more than his own hubris, imagined that he could dethrone Elizabeth and make himself king o England. Yet he immediate consequence of his actions was imprisonment and execution.
This disjunction between imagination and reality is the ultimate
consequence (the stage of the “Child”) of retreat into the fantasy life of withdrawal as manifest in the depression mechanism. The frustration of one’s ambitions, desires and goals is palliated by dreams rooted in the past, followed inexorably, sooner or later, by the shock of recognition with the present.
The 3 stages, for the sequences of changes manifest in the mechanism of Anxiety, Anger and Depression, are therefore:
The passive contemplation of one’s impressions of reality.
In the 3 fundamental emotional states, these contemplations are directed to phenomena in one of the 3temporal modes: Anxiety Contemplates a neutral changeless Past; Acts in the Present; is seized by paralyzing terror when reflecting on the Future;
Anger contemplates the present; Acts to secure or prevent
threats from the future, fears the revelations of the consequences of destructive behavior caused by ambition;
Depression arises from frustration of goals and intentions;
transits into an indulgence in make-believe, and shuns the inevitable shock with confrontation with the facts of a current reality.
In terms of the ultimate consequence of a morbid or
unhealthy obsession with one’s thoughts and actions in these 3 paths , the bitter fruit, birth of the “child”, negative consequence of succumbing to one’s passions:
Anxiety fears retribution for selfish (even “sinful”) indulgence
Anger is consumed with regret, grief at loss and ruin: “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword”.
Depression faces the “shock of recognition” with reality (Example; The reactions of Mme Ranevskaya, in Chekhov’s play, “The Cherry Orchard”, when she realizes that her estate and its cherry orchard have indeed been sold to Lopatkin).
Obvious not all emotional involvement is unwholesome, nor are
the fruits always bitter. The 4th rebirth cycle, that of Fulfillment, is able to integrate all 3 stages in a seamless unity, one in which all the divisions and fractures of conflict are resolved in a way that truly “gives birth to new life”, without sabotaging the basis from which it is derived.
We cannot spend 24 hours of every day in some emotional crisis! For much, or even most of the time, we abide in this, the fourth cycle, the rebirth cycle of the enlightened mind.