Friday, January 11, 2008
The Masks We Wear
Carl Jung said : Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, psychiatrist Scott Peck observes that we build the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality.
Clinical insanity, can therefore , be defined as a reduced inclination/ability to face reality. A man abandoned by his father at a young age may claim that he is dead. A bereaved child might find it easier to believe that the parents have gone on a long trip. A loyal wife might turn a blind eye to the promiscuity of her husband, clinging to the delusion that he is still in love with her. A love that he has traded for the flesh of another woman. All these make-believe can ease the pain of facing the truth momentarily. But nourished with time, the substitute itself becomes more painful than the legitimate suffering it was designed to avoid.
It is very difficult to say "I am a survivor" or show one's wound in public. In another extreme case, the subject might take an egomaniacal interest in exhibiting it in front of others. Both are, if not neuroses, strong contenders for eccentricity or at least unhealthy attitudes towards life. I can't appreciate the average. But trying to make peculiarity your USP is vulgar.
Drugs, fornication, excessive sleep are just a few forms of escapism. ( Watch The Libertine to see the decadent 17th Century society in London under the reign of Charles II ) What is it that can help us lead a balanced life? History directs us that any self indulgent society will fall prey to objective decline. The ancient Rome is a conflagrant example. I guess the same holds true for an individual or an artist. When we see our joys or sorrows to be bigger than life itself , or pretension elevates over effort or talent, it pronounces decay. Something worse than instant death.
I started a private blog to keep a record of my dark secrets. But was pleasantly surprised to find that I am a brighter human being than I give myself credit for. I could not scribble one word of spite or of vengeance. In fact, I found that I was filling my pages with my dreams, with happy moments or simply with my aspirations about my career.
I suppose that we all are beautiful in the inside. No matter, how much we feign ruggedness or indifference on the outside. I have found myself falling in love with some of the least likeable people. A teacher at school whom everyone steered clear of or a colleague at work who was infamous for her caustic remarks- each had a reason to be unhappy. And their unkindness was not the disease - it was just a symptom. Once, I walked past that, I could see the core of the person - a lot more adorable than the popular chums.
I don't dream of a world where everyone loves everyone else. Or a society that is free of social prejudices. We will have our differences- in colors of skin, in languages, in food habits, in what we perceive to be music to our ears. We will also believe that our taste or culture is superior to those who are different. And those different from ours will think the same. We are being similarly decadent by refusing to embrace what is not our own. What we believe is not our own.
I have heard great many a lofty word about the Western culture corrupting the young minds in India. The saffron brigade thinks that holding hands or kissing in public is the negative effect of media and the policemen have a gala time blackmailing such couples. While the truth is, some of these self-styled guardians of morality rape their own wives behind closed doors. I have nothing to say about the sexual preference or perversion of people about my father's age. But consider this- I know of a family whose daughter was not allowed to wear "western clothes", which I think are convenient when you are running behind a bus or a train, because that was not in their "culture". She was never given a chance to develop her own taste in her attire. What would you call this?
A country where hypocrisy is an art, needs a lot of growing up. I am not unpatriotic or an assimilationist trying to uphold one moral environment over another. I am not even trying to justify what I am trying to say here. My claim for the day is: Give us individual freedom. The right to be ourselves; to judge what is good or bad for us. We don't need to live the life of someone else or spend a lifetime taking dictation from our fathers/husbands/brothers. I am not a feminist. I am not trying to ask for equality. I am defending that we deserve to give it to ourselves.
Now, don't rush to the nearest Victoria's Secret's outlet to show how liberated you are or have an affair with a random guy on the street to say you are not 'tied down' to your husband. Look at yourself and see what you lack. Why do you seek affirmation from others? Why can't you respect yourself? Why let past experiences haunt you? Why not burn the old bridges and start afresh? Why not begin now?